1-2 Peter and Jude Bible Study Guide


1-2 Peter, Jude Cover

How does a Christian behave when surrounded by a hostile world? Peter and Jude wrote their epistles to remind hard-pressed Christians, those who were facing the threat of increased persecution and false teaching, to encourage them to face their adversaries with a Christlike character. These three epistles are like beacons of hope for making it through hard times. You will see that the wisdom of these letters is just as applicable today as they were then. All the while you will be reminded that in the midst of suffering that the God who deserves all praise is still “able to keep you from stumbling and present you blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy” (Jude 24).

The latest edition to the Devoted To The Word Bible Study Series is 1-2 Peter & Jude. I pray this work will help you better understand God’s word and navigate through the traps of Satan, persecution and false teaching.

1-2 Peter Jude Bible Study

By Faith… You Can Receive Your Commendation


faithIf those of old had not received their commendation based on their faith (Hebrews 11:2), then Hebrews 11 would have read very differently. Rather than being the Hall-of-Fame of Faith, it would be the Hall-of-Shame of the Faithless. Instead of being remembered as the Heroes of Faith, they would be the Zeroes of Faithlessness. Consider with me the possibilities: 

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By carelessness Noah got drunk and his nakedness was exposed by his son Ham (Genesis 9:20-27).

By fear Abraham lied about his relationship with Sarah, calling her his sister instead of his wife (Genesis 12:10-20).

By fear he did it again (Genesis 20:1-18).

By impatience Sarah took matters into her own hands and offered her servant Hagar to Abraham so that he might have an heir (Genesis 16:1-16).

By favoritism Isaac loved his son Esau more that his son Jacob which resulted in all kinds of problems for his family (Genesis 25:28).

By deceit Jacob tricked his blind father Isaac and stole his brother’s blessing (Genesis 27:1-46).

By rage Moses murdered an Egyptian taskmaster, hiding the body in the sand and fleeing into the wilderness (Exodus 2:11-22).

By anger Moses struck the rock to bring forth water instead of speaking to the rock as the Lord had commanded. Consequently, Moses was barred from entering the Promised Land (Numbers 20:10-13).

And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of the sins of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David, and the prophets – who through faithlessness erected an idol for Israel to worship (Judges 8:22-27), who refused to fight for the Lord (Judges 4:8), who not only made a rash vow but carried it out (Judges 11:29-40), who was a womanizer (Judges 16:1-22), who took another man’s wife and then murdered the man (2 Samuel 11:1-27), and who out of depression and fear ran from his responsibilities (1 Kings 19:1-18).

Some played the whore with idols, even burning their children in sacrifice, and made the streets of Jerusalem flow with the blood of the innocent (2 Kings 21:1-18; 2 Chronicles 33:1-20).

All of these were condemned because of their sins.

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Praise God, the story of the salvation is very different. Rather than being condemned for their sins, the men and women of old were commended for their faith (Hebrews 11:2). Praise God, the Spirit said, “Without faith it is impossible to please Him…” not “Without fault” (Hebrews 11:6). Praise God, real Heroes of the Faith are men and women who fall and fail and are flawed, but in the end receive God’s approval, because through it all, they stayed true to Him by faith. That, my friends, should give us hope.

One of the great qualities of God’s word is that the men and women that are highlighted within its pages are unnervingly real. God does not hide their flaws, nor does He sweep their weaknesses under the rug. The good, the bad and the ugly are presented with unflinching honesty for all to see. I firmly believe God did this so that we might learn from their examples (cf. Romans 15:4). When they fell down, they did not abandon their faith, rather, with God’s help they got back up and pressed on.

The race of faith is a difficult course to run. The terrain the Christian must traverse as we make our way to the finish line of heaven can be rough and steep, difficult and treacherous. All along the course we stumble and fall… and fall again. So often is the case, the pain from those falls is intense, almost beyond bearing. We feel spent and depleted, weak kneed and feeble. We think we cannot go another step, or run another mile. We question ourselves and wonder why we are even in this race to begin with. “What’s the use” we say, “I can’t make it.” There are times when we stop running.

But then suddenly, from some unknown place you hear a clap, then two, quickly followed by a shout, “Come on, you can do it!” Then all at once, a sound like thunder rings in your ears. It is the sound of a mighty chorus calling out your name, cheering you own, and encouraging you to keep on running. There before your eyes is a “great cloud of witnesses,” men and women who have run the same course, who have stumbled and fallen the same way you have, who have been hurt the same way you have been hurt, who have doubted the same way you have doubted. But they are also men and women who know how to trust God through it all; they know how the race is won, not by perfection, but by faith. Like them, we too can receive a commendation from God, by faith. Press on my friends. Keep running.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, thinking nothing of the shame, and is seated at the right hand of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

If I can be of any help to you in your spiritual race, feel free to email me at clay@claygentry.com. May God bless you as you serve Him, by faith.

This article was recently featured in Pressing On magazine.

The Calling of the Twelve Apostles


Question: How did Jesus go about calling the men who would later become the apostles?

Answer: Thanks for the question; I’ll do my best to answer it for you. The call of the apostles can be seen in three distinct phases.

First Contact and Part-Time Discipleship:

the 12 apostlesThe first contact between Jesus and any of the apostles is recorded in John 1:35-51. It’s here that Andrew, John, Peter, Philip and Nathaniel meet Jesus for the first time. These encounters occurred in the wilderness where John the Baptist was preaching at the start of Jesus’ ministry. The text reveals that these men were first disciples of John who had heeded his preaching in preparation for the arrival of the Messiah (cf. John 1:15-34; Mark 1:4-5). When John identified Jesus as “the Lamb of God” (v. 35), Andrew and an unnamed disciple (presumably the apostle John) left John the Baptist and followed Jesus (v. 36). Later that day, Andrew brought his brother Simon to meet Jesus and it is at this time that Jesus began to call him Peter (vv. 40-42). On the next day, as Jesus was leaving the area, He called Philip and Nathanael to follow Him (vv. 43-51). It is generally understood like John, Andrew and Peter, Philip and Nathanael were disciples of John the Baptist as well. While these five men “followed Jesus” (vv. 37, 43) they were not full-time disciples, that is, they had not left their day-jobs to follow Him around. They were part-timers we might say, coming and going as Jesus was in or around Galilee. That is why we will later find them fishing and mending their nets while Jesus is off preaching.

A Call to Full-Time Discipleship:

Phase two of the apostles’ calling was a call to full-time discipleship. This is where the dramatic scenes of Matthew 4:18-22; 9:9-17; Mark 1:16-20; 2:14-22; and Luke 5:1-11; 27-32 come into focus. These disciples had already encountered Jesus through the work of John the Baptist. They had accepted Him as the Christ and they had spent some time with Him (cf. John 2:2). However, their time with Him was brief and they went back to their lives of fishing, tax collecting, etc. It is within the context of this second call of Peter, Andrew, James and John that Jesus performs the miracle of the large catch of fish (Luke 5:4-7), extends the call to be “fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19; Mark 1:17; cf. Luke 5:10) and we read venerable phrase, “immediately they left their nets and followed Him” (Luke 5:11; cf. Matthew 4:20, 22; Mark 1:18, 20). In a less dramatic way, Matthew (Levi) was called to full-time discipleship, but the result was the same, “and leaving everything, he rose and followed Him” (Luke 5:28; cf. Matthew 9:9; Mark 2:12). Judging from Peter’s words in Mark 10:28, “See, we have left everything and followed you” it appears that all twelve apostles were called in similar fashion as those who’s calling were recorded in the gospels (perhaps even the seventy-two where called in the same manner; cf. Luke 10:1). During this short phase, these men would live, travel, aid and learn from Jesus like so many others. But their greatest call still lay ahead.

The Call to Apostleship:

The last phase of the disciples’ calling was to designate them as apostles or the sent ones (Matthew 10:1-4; Mark 3:13-19; Luke 6:12-16). Jesus’ teaching and work was met with great resistance by the Pharisees and scribes (cf. Luke 5:17-6:11; Mark 2:1-3:6). As it reached a climax, Mark graphically records, “The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against Him, how to destroy Him” (Mark 3:6). It was with this back drop, that Jesus selected the apostles. Because of the importance of the role this office would play in the church (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 2:20; Revelation 21:14), Jesus spent all night in prayer before He selected the twelve (Luke 6:12). From the ranks of His disciples (there must have been hundreds), our Lord “chose twelve, whom He named apostles” (Luke 6:13). Using Luke’s account we find their names were: “Simon, whom He called Peter, and Andrew his brother, and James and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot, and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor” (Luke 6:14-16; cf. Matthew 10:1-4; Mark 3:13-19). For roughly a year and half, these twelve men would live and learn from Jesus. He would teach and train them to be the bearers of His gospel message. Through triumph and failure, these men will come through the crucible (sans Judas), ready to spread the gospel of Christ to the ends of the earth (Matthew 28:16-20).

Did that answer your question? I hope it did and thank you again for the question. If I can answer any other questions for I would be happy to do so or, if I can be of any help to you in your spiritual race, feel free to email me at clay@claygentry.com. May God bless you and remember, share the good news of Jesus with someone today.

An Alternate Reading of Hebrews 11


faithIf those of old had not receive their commendation based on their faith, then Hebrews 11 would read very differently. Rather than being the Hall-of-Fame of Faith it would be the Hall-of-Shame of the Faithless or instead of the Heroes of Faith they would be the Zeros of Faith. Consider the following examples:

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By recklessness Noah got drunk and his nakedness was exposed to his son Ham (Genesis 9:20-27).

By fear Abraham lied about his relationship with Sarah, calling her his sister instead of his wife (Genesis 12:10-20).

By fear he did it again (Genesis 20:1-18).

By anxiousness Sarah offered her servant Hagar to Abraham so that he might have an heir (Genesis 16:1-16).

By favoritism Isaac loved his son Esau more that his son Jacob and this caused all kinds of problems with his family (Genesis 25:28).

By deceit Jacob stole his brothers blessing by tricking his blind father Isaac (Genesis 27:1-46).

By rage Moses murdered an Egyptian taskmaster, hiding the body in the sand and fleeing to the wilderness (Exodus 2:11-22).

By anger Moses struck the rock to bring forth water instead of speaking to the rock as the Lord had commanded (Numbers 20:10-13).

And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of the sins of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David, and the prophets – who through faithlessness erected an idol for Israel to worship (Judges 8:22-27), who refused to fight for the Lord (Judges 4:8-9), who made a rash vow (Judges 11:29-40), who was a womanizer (Judges 16:1-22) who took another man’s wife and then murdered the man (2 Samuel 11:1-27), and who out of fear ran from his responsibilities (1 Kings 19:1-18).

Some played the whore with idols and burned their children in sacrifice, even making the streets of Jerusalem flow with the blood of the innocent (2 Kings 21:1-18; 2 Chronicles 33:1-20).

All of these were condemned because of their sins.

—-

But PRAISE GOD, the story of the salvation is so very different. Rather than being condemned for their sins, those who put their trust in God were commended for their faith (Hebrews 11:2). “Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He is, and that He rewards those who seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). Real Heroes of the Faith are men and women who fall and fail and are flawed, but in the end receive God’s approval, because through it all, they stayed true to Him by faith. That, my friends, should give us hope. This same commendation from God can be yours and mine in the very same way, by faith (Ephesians 2:1-10; 1 John 5:4; Revelation 2:10). “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, thinking nothing of the shame, and is seated at the right hand of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

May God bless you friend. If I can help you in your spiritual journey, please email me at clay@claygentry.com. And as always, share the good news of Jesus with someone today.

You may also like: By Faith You Can Receive Your Commendation. It’s similar to this article but with a different ending.

Phantom Bible Verses


Phantom Bible Verses

Recent surveys by both Gallup and the Barna Group[i] reveal that bible literacy in America is at an all time low. For example, Fewer than half of all American adults can name the four gospels. Many professed Christians cannot identify more than two or three of the disciples. According to data from the Barna Research Group, 60% of Americans can’t name even five of the Ten Commandments. Worse yet, Barna’s work revealed that at least 12 percent of adults believe that Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife. Another survey of graduating high school seniors revealed that over 50 percent thought that Sodom and Gomorrah were husband and wife. A majority of respondents to one poll believed that the Sermon on the Mount was preached by Billy Graham. Since bible illiteracy is so prevalent what passes for bible teaching and bible verses is distorted. Because of this, there is a plethora of proverbial sayings that are called Phantom Bible Verses.

What is a Phantom Bible Verse?

A phantom bible verse is any saying that sounds biblical in wording and/or concept, but in fact is not biblical on one and/or both accounts. Because bible illiteracy is so prevalent, people really don’t know the truth from error. We can categorize Phantom Bible Verses into five groups:

Condensed Verses: “Pride goes before a fall” is not in the Bible. It’s a distillation of Proverbs 16:18, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” Another example would be, “Spare the rod, spoil the child.” Again, it’s a slightly condensed form of the biblical proverb, “Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him” (Proverbs 13:24). Condensed Phantom Bible Verse capture the essence of the verse, in a tweet like form, just not the wording.

Summarized Verses: A close cousin to Condensed Verses is Summarized Verses. Again, these are not sayings found in the Bible, but they do capture biblical principles quite nicely. For instance, “You’re to be in the world but not of the world” encapsulates the teaching found in John 17:11, 16 and Romans 12:1-2. Or how about this venerable favorite, “God will never give you more than you can handle” which captures one application of 1 Corinthians 10:13. 

Embellished Verses: These verses are embellishments added to well know Bible stories such Adam and Eve eating an apple, when in fact it was an unnamed fruit (Genesis 3:1-7) or Jonah being swallowed by a whale instead of a “great fish” (Jonah 1:17). Perhaps the granddaddy of them all, the three wise men visiting baby Jesus in the manager. The wise men brought three gifts but their number of men is never mentioned (Matthew 2:1-11). This kind of Phantom Bible Verse stems from man’s desire to explain the unexplained, or add detail when part of the picture is missing. 

Misquoted Verses: “Money is the root of all evil” is a misquotation of 1 Timothy 6:10, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” We might also add, “The lion shall lay down with the lamb” is a Phantom Bible Verse. It is a misquotation of Isaiah 11:6 which states, “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb.” These subtly changes can be rather benign, as with Isaiah 11:6, or they can be rather serious by altering the meaning of Biblical teaching, as with the example of 1 Timothy 6:10.

Forged Verses: This kind of Phantom Bible Verse will be the subject of this lesson. In my opinion these are the most dangerous kind of verses that we have looked at thus far, because the wording sounds biblical, as does the meaning. Furthermore, these verses are generally accepted by those in the world and those who profess to be Christians. With that in mind, let’s examine for of these Unbiblical Phantom Bible Verses:

“Forgive and Forget.”

Origin: An old saying popularized in Shakespeare’s King Lear and Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote. The present day version has been condensed and reversed from, “Let us forget and forgive injuries” (Don Quixote) and “Pray ye now, forget and forgive” (King Leer). 

Meaning: The implications of this saying is that in order to forgive, one must also forget the wrong infringe upon them. How often have we ill advised an injured person to, “forgive and forget”? Or, on the flip side, how many times have you heard someone declare, “I’ll forgive but I’ll never forget!”? Or even still, how many people have decided they won’t forgive someone because they knew they could never forget? 

The Truth: The truth is God never joined forgiveness of a wrong with the forgetting of the wrong. Notice the absence of forgetting from such passages as:

“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will you father forgive you your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:14-15) 

“Then Peter came up to and said to Him, ‘Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven time?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven. Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from you heart!’” (Matthew 18:21-35) 

“You should rather turn to forgive and comfort… or he may be overwhelmed by excessive grief.” (2 Corinthians 2:5-11) 

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32; cf. Colossians 3:13)

To condition forgiving with forgetting is to add to God’s word, to go beyond what He requires (cf. Proverbs 30:6). Now you might say, “But we’re not supposed to keep a record of wrongs. Isn’t that talking about forgetting?” (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:5 NIV). No, that’s talking more about being resentful, than forgetting (see ESV; NASB translations of this verse). If sins are to be forgotten in conjunction with being forgiven, then Paul erred in bringing up Peter and Barnabas’ sin of hypocrisy in Galatians 2:11-14. The forgetting of sin, or better yet, not remembering sin, is an ability that only God possesses, it’s one of His divine attributes (Psalm 25:7; Isaiah 43:25; Hebrews 8:12; 10:16-17). He never requires us to purposefully forget, because we can’t. The more we try to forget, the more we remember. Now it doesn’t me we can be resentful, or hold a grudge, or be bitter (cf. Ephesians 4:31-32). This is not a license to sin (cf. Romans 6:1). I’m simply saying, let’s not be fooled by this Phantom Bible Verse, God requires us to forgive as we have been forgiven by Him, but He never demands we forget.

“Moderation in all things.”

Origin: Aristotle from his work the Doctrine of the Mean. His desire was to find the middle ground between excess and deficiency. An example would be courage as the middle ground between rashness and fear.

Meaning: However, it’s original meaning and application is lost in our modern world. Now “moderation in all things” is generally applied to indulging in bad or unhealthy activity so long as one does it in moderation.

The Truth: Now you might be saying to yourself, I know this isn’t in the bible per se, but the concept is because my KJV says in Philippians 4:5, “Let your moderation be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.” And Paul told the Corinthians to be “temperate in all things” (1 Corinthians 9:25). Let’s take the Philippians passage first. A better translation is found in the NKJV which reads, “Let your gentleness be known to all men.” The idea is “gentleness” or “patience” as used in 1 Timothy 3:3; Titus 3:1-2; James 3:17 and 1 Peter 2:18. In regards to the Corinthians passage, Paul indeed is emphasizing self-control in not committing sin, which is in fact the opposite of how “moderation in all things” is used by people today. The truth is, no where does the God allow for moderation in all things, whether it’s sinful or otherwise. A little sin, even in moderation, is like “a little leaven [which] leavens the whole lump” (1 Corinthians 5:6; Galatians 5:9). Is it okay to lust, so long as it’s done in moderation? Is it okay to use foul language, or take the Lord’s name in vain, so long as it’s done in moderation? Is it okay to ________________ and you fill in the blank with your sin of choice. Is it okay to do that so long as it’s done in moderation? Well the answer to these questions is no. The flipside of this coin is, do we to show moderation in love, joy, forgiveness, compassion, etc. etc.? Well no, rather, we give ourselves wholehearted to these things. Let’s not be fooled by this Phantom Bible Verse, God doesn’t allow moderation in all things. If it’s evil, don’t dabble in it. If it’s good, give yourself totally to it.

“To thine own self be true.”

Origin: From Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Polonius, the older counselor of Prince Hamlet’s uncle, King Claudius, is in the midst of dispensing advice to his son Laertes (who was about to leave Denmark and return to France) when he speaks forth the famous line: “This above all things: to thine own self be true.”

Meaning: I’m confident Polonius’ intent, or its Elizabethan meaning, is different than its modern interpretation. Today, “To thine own self be true” means: be loyal to yourself by being who you are, or following your heart, or doing what you think is right. Perhaps because it has a King Jamesy kind of ring to it, it’s believed to be a bible verse.

The Truth: Of all the sayings we are looking at in this lesson, I do believe this one, unlike the others, has a sliver of truth. I need to know who I am, and not be someone I’m not, especially in areas of my personal strengths and skills. Nevertheless, in the modern world we live in, “To thine own self be true” is the motto of a narcissistic society. Where people are encouraged to be whatever their twisted minds will allow them to be. Just last week I read a news story about a 6 year old transgendered boy, that is, he is a boy who lives as a girl[ii]. His parents are suing their child’s school because he was not allowed to use the girl’s restroom. According to the parents, as early as 18 months their son expressed a desire to be a girl and as the behavior persisted they allowed it. Why, because they have believed the lie, “To thine own self be true.” I don’t want to be true to myself because I’m sinful flesh. I don’t want you to be true to yourself, because you too are sinful flesh. Our Lord doesn’t say, “Be true to self” He says just the opposite:

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” (Matthew 16:24-26).

Listen to the words of Paul,

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

Notice the example of the Corinthians:

“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)

Today the Corinthians would be told to embrace who they are and their lifestyle. However, they didn’t believe the lie, “To thine own self be true.” Therefore, they accepted to call of Christ and renounced their allegiance to self, and died to their own self wills, and gave themselves wholly to Him. Until you and I follow this example, we will not be pleasing to God. That’s the truth. Friends, don’t buy the lie of this phantom bible verse, believe our Lord’s truth.

 “God helps those who help themselves.”

Origin: For American, this phrase was coined by Benjamin Franklin, but it has its roots in ancient world, even being the moral of a story in Aesop’s collection of fables, namely Hercules and the Waggoner. In the story a waggoner has become stranded in a ravine. When he cries out to Hercules for help, Hercules responds,

“Put your shoulders to the wheels, my man. Goad on your bullocks, and never more pray to me for help, until you have done your best to help yourself, or depend upon it you will henceforth pray in vain.”

In essence Hercules was saying, “Don’t pray to me for help until you’ve done all you can do for yourself, because, you might be able to take care of it yourself and not need me.”

Meaning: This is the motto of self-reliance. Meaning, you’ve got to get the ball rollin’ before God will even think about helping you. The irony of this is that Benjamin Franklin was deist. He didn’t believe that God even played a role in man’s life. Therefore, when he said, “God helps those who help themselves” at best he was saying man earns God’s favor and at worse he was saying, God has no part in helping man because man can help himself. I would defer to the latter.

The Truth: Sadly, as a boy, this concept shaped my understanding of salvation more than anything else. It came through the medium of the 1974 film Where the Red Fern Grows. In the movie young Billy wants a couple of coon dogs. He tells his grandfather, that he’s been praying for a couple of dogs but since God had given him any dogs he concluded God didn’t want him to have any dogs. The camera then zooms on the face of the grandfather as he says, “if you want God’s help you’ve got to met him half-way.” That was burned into my mind and my heart. I can recall as a young man preaching, “that if you want God’s help in anything, you’ve got to met Him half-way.” And you know what sadder still, people in the audience were shaking their heads yes! I am so sorry I ever preached anything like that. For reference, here’s the clip. To see what I’m talking about watch the first 1.15 minutes.

The Barna Group says the phrase “God helps those who help themselves” is one of the top well known Bible verses, problem is it’s not in the Bible. Moreover, 75% of teenagers thinking this is the central message of the bible. A similar study by Barna found that 68% of “born again” Christian agree with and think the statement is biblical. Nevertheless, it’s not biblical in content or in principle.

Rather than emphasizing man’s need to work his way to God, the bible emphasizes God’s grace and mercy that reaches down to man. Listen to what Paul says in Ephesians 2:1-10:

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of the this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience – among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming age he might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by His grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is a gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared before hand, that we should walk in them.”

Did you hear what Paul said? We were dead. We were pitiful. We were helpless to do anything for ourselves. When God looked down upon us he was moved with pity because of our helpless state. For if we have received anything from God as a result of works, and then we can boast before God and others about how awesome we are. Does that sound familiar? Jesus addressed this kind of attitude in the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18:9-14):

“He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: ‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God I thank you that I’m not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.’”

If God truly helps those who help themselves, then Jesus didn’t get the message. According to Benjamin Franklin the Pharisee had the inside tract and the tax collector didn’t have a prayer (pun intended). If this were the case then the tax collector needed to get his life right and then come to God for salvation. But praise God, Jesus said it was the one who was justified wasn’t the one who worked his way to God. Rather, it is the one who, in his humble and weakened state, cries out to God for help. God doesn’t help those who help themselves… He helps those who surrender to Him.

In the Old Testament, it is recorded for us by the prophets that the nation of Judah was destroyed and the people were in slaved “for a lack of knowledge” (ref. Isaiah 5:3; Hosea 4:6). As we have mentioned, bible literacy is at an all time low in America. I have to wonder if it is also at an all time low among God’s people. I hope this lesson challenged you to reexamine God’s word, and you believe God’s word teaches. It would a terrible thing for the Divine to say… “___________________ (insert your name) was destroyed for a lack of knowledge.” Get into God’s word today. I’m here to serve you and if I can help you with any spiritual need email me at clay@claygentry.com. God bless and remember share the good news of Jesus with someone today.

Is Your Faith Your Own?


Is Your Faith Your Own

Full-length Sermon Audio: Is Your Faith Your Own – MP3

Let me start by asking you a question: Is your faith your own? By that I mean, is the body of beliefs, the faith, that you hold dear is it based on your understanding of God and His word or is it based on someone else’s understanding of God and His word? There’s a big difference between the two. Let me illustrate this by looking at Joash, the 10th king to sit on the throne of David. He reigned for 40 years in Jerusalem and life was marked by several important characteristics:

  • A Child Of Providence – He was providentially saved from the murderous rampage of his grandmother Athaliah (2 Chronicles 22:10-11a). He was the only male descendant of the line of David left alive, thus ensuring the continuation of the Davidic bloodline by which the Christ would come.
  • Raised By Godly “Parents” – He was reared by his uncle the Jehoiada, the High Priest, and his wife Jehoshabeath within the “house of God” (2 Chronicles 22:11b-12). Here he would have been taught to love God and His law. It had been a long time since a king of Judah loved God and His laws.
  • A Restorationist – Sometime after Joash took the throne at the tender age of seven, he began to restore the temple and reform the priesthood (2 Chronicles 24:4-14). Years of neglect had taken their toll on God’s house and the priesthood has become negligent in their duties.
  • Spiritually Hollow – In the process of time Joash’s adoptive father and spiritual mentor “grew old… and died” (2 Chronicles 24:15). It is then that something very interesting happens, Joash “abandoned the house of the Lord… and served idols” (cf. 2 Chronicles 24:17-18). In fact the usual summary statement of the kings reflects this, “And Joash did what was right in the eyes of the Lord all the days of Jehoiada the priest” (2 Chronicles 24:2).

What do we see in Joash? We see a man who was spiritually hollow, faithful in doing what the Lord desired so long as Jehoiada lived. Yet, sadly, Joash’s faith was not his own. Therefore, as soon as Jehoiada died, the under-girding of Joash’s faith was stripped away and his faith collapsed. This inspired story begs the question, Is Your Faith Your Own? If this could be true of Joash, then it could be true of us as well.

Many Professed Christians Their Faith Is Not Their Own. Rather, it is based on: 

Accepted Church Beliefs: This person faith is solely based what the church they attend teaches. If their church believes something to be right and true, then so do they. If their church believes something to be wrong and false, then so do they. All these people are doing is matching their faith to their church’s doctrines. Consequently, this kind of person would be at home just about anywhere. Now, the church is the “pillar and buttress of the truth” (cf. 1 Timothy 3:15). That is the church upholds God’s revealed truth through His word. Nevertheless, the standard of truth is not the beliefs and practices of a congregation, rather, it is the God breathed words of scripture (cf. 2 Timothy 3:16-17). For example, your belief in baptism as a work of faith should not be founded on the fact your congregation believes it to be so, instead it should be because God’s word teaches that it is so (cf. Mark 16:15-16; Acts 22:16; Romans 6:1-11; 1 Peter 3:18-22; et. al.). If your faith is based on your church’s beliefs, then your faith is not your own. 

Family Traditions: In this scenario, a person basis their faith on his or her families’ religious traditions. If great-grandpa Jones was a member of the church of Christ, then it reasons that all good Jones’ will forever be members of the church of Christ. Whole families lean on the faith of one person but when that person is gone the faith of the family is gone as well. Now don’t get me wrong, as parents, grandparents and aunts and uncles, we have a responsibility to teach God’s word to our young (cf. Deuteronomy 6:4-7; Ephesians 6:4). But, note what Paul said about Timothy’s faith in 2 Timothy 1:5, “I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.” Lois and Eunice were tasked with the duty of teaching young Timothy the faith, but they also had the responsibility to push Timothy to move from the family faith to making his faith his own. If your faith is based on family traditions, then your faith is not your own. 

Personal Loyalty: In this case a person’s faith is practiced out of personal loyalty. Perhaps they are loyal to the one who converted them or to a beloved role model.  We see this demonstrated in the relationship some have with preachers.  Their faith is based on whatever the preacher says or thinks.  Much like our first example, if their preacher says it is right or wrong then this person believes it is right or wrong. I believe if Paul could speak to directly to this kind of person he would ask, “Is Christ divided? Was [your preacher] crucified for you?” The church at Corinth was divided along personal loyalties (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:10-17) and sadly we see far too many Christians dividing themselves along the lines of what their favorite preachers think on a particular subject. Yet, Paul said he went to great pains to ensure that his listener’s faith did “not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:1-5). Our faith must rest in God, not men. If your faith is based on personal loyalties, then your faith is not your own. 

If your faith is not your own, then the blessings that accompany faith are not yours as well: 

God’s Comfort is not yours. Perhaps no other passage has provided comfort to troubled heart like the 23rd Psalm. Yet, have you ever noticed that the promises of comfort this passage provides are predicated on the fact that you can truthfully say, “The Lord is my shepherd.” Not my churches, not my families, not my preachers but mine. If the Lord is not your shepherd then you shall want (v. 1) and your soul will not be restored (v. 3). You will walk through the valley of the shadow of death and you fear because the Lord is not with you (v. 4). If your faith is not your own you cup will be empty (v. 5), and you will never dwell in the house of the Lord (v. 6). Making your faith your own is serious business. 

Justification, Peace and Grace are not yours either. Paul says in Romans 5:1-2, “Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” If your faith is not your own, then you have not been declared righteous before God. Therefore, you are His enemy and you do enjoy the grace needed for salvation. I cannot stress this enough, you must make your faith your own.

If your faith is not your own, then neither is the Assurance of Salvation. Listen to what Peter says in 2 Peter 1:5-11 (NKJV), “But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Did you notice our key words, “Your faith…”? If your faith is not your own, then you will be barren and unfruitful, shortsighted and blind. Your call and election will not be sure, and you will surely stumble. Have I made the case that your faith must be your own? Then let’s learn how to do that. 

Four simple ways to make your faith your own: 

Get Into God’s Word: I can remember being in Bible class all the way back in the little church in Waverly, TN where we attended as children, “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing the word of God” (Romans 10:17 KJV). What lesson was Sarah Parchman trying to teach me from this verse? Well, quite simply, faith comes for getting into God’s word. Do you want to make your faith your own then get into God’s word. Read the stories of old, tales of faith, courage, and obedience. Read the exhilarating accounts of our Lord, His miracles, His teachings, His interactions and His dying and resurrection. Read the letters, delve into the deep thoughts of Paul’s mind, learn applications from Peter and James and be amazed at the stories of your faithful brothers and sisters in Christ as they fought the spiritual battles of the early church. You’ll never make your faith your own without first getting into God’s word for yourself. 

Pray For More Faith: Who doesn’t recall the agonizing plea of the helpless father who cried out to Jesus, “Lord I believe, help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24). You remember the story, a desperate father had brought his demon possessed son the Jesus to be healed (vv. 17-18a). But Jesus was not there, so the disciples decided they would take care of this little problem, however they were not able (v. 18b). The boy is brought to Jesus (v. 20), Jesus questions the father about the boys situation (vv. 21-22a) and pleads “If you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us” (v. 22b). “If you can!” Jesus replied, “All things are possible for one who believes” (v. 23). It is at this point the father admitted the imperfection of his faith, mixed as it was with doubt, the desperate father pleaded with Jesus to help him to have the greater faith the Lord demanded. Jesus answered that man’s plea for more faith and healed his son (vv. 25-27). When was the last time you prayed for more faith? If you are anything like me, you’re good at praying for all sorts of things and yet, terribly neglectful to pray for this one thing, more faith. Our Father is a good God; He will answer your prayer for more faith. Start by admitting to Him you have an imperfect faith. Ask Him to give you your own faith as you get into His word and as you endure trials. 

Be Purified By Trials: Nobody likes trials of life. Yet, Peter said, “Rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:6-7). There are many aspects to why the Christian rejoices during trials, many more than we can cover in this lesson (cf. Matthew 5:11-12; Luke 6:23; Acts 5:41; 2 Corinthians 12:7-10; James 1:2-4). The focus of Peter’s admonish to rejoice in trials is because trials purify your faith. Just as fire purifies gold by burning off all the impurities, so trials purify your faith by burning off those things that are weighing you down (cf. Hebrews 12:1-2). When you face trials with a view that this is good for you faith (so often we simple want them to go away), because it will purify you faith, then you can begin to make your faith your own. 

Share Your Faith: The last way for how to make your faith your own, is share your faith. The blind man of John 9 is the perfect illustration of this point. His faith was strengthened by virtue of sharing and defending His beliefs in the Lord miracle. Notice the progression with me: When first questioned by his “neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar” (v. 8) as to how he regained his sight he responded “the man called Jesus” (v. 11) healed him. Next as he is examined by the Pharisees he said Jesus was “a prophet” (v. 17). As the blind man’s defense continued he argued Jesus is “from God” (v. 33). This was too much for the Pharisees, so they threw him out of the synagogue and it is then that he comes face-to-face with Jesus and declares to Him, “Lord, I believe.” (v. 38). The more this man shared his faith, the more his faith became his own. The more you share your faith, the more you defend the gospel, the more you faith will become your own. A friend recently told me that he has asked a Mormon missionary what their conversion rate was. The Mormon man said, “less than 1 in 10,000 door knocks.” My friend was stunned and followed up with, “Well then why are you doing it then?” To which the man replied, “It makes us Mormons for life.” We can learn something from that. I want you to share your faith for two reasons, to make disciples of others, and to make your faith your own. 

Well we’ve been asking a very important question, “Is Your Faith Your Own?” We started with the example of a man who had everything spiritually going his way, yet his faith was hollow and it lead to his downfall. We explored various incorrect foundations on which people establish their faith such as church, family and men. From there we explained that if you build your faith on any one of those foundations then you do not enjoy the blessings that accompany faith. And then finally, we established how to make your faith your own. So is your faith your own? It needs to be. Friends, my heart’s desire is to help you on this spiritual journey to heaven. If there is anything I can do to assist you in make your faith your own, then email me at clay@claygentry.com. It will be my pleasure to aid you in this journey.

Lessons From the Four Views of David


four veiws of DavidPerhaps the best know story from the life of David is the account of him slaying the giant Goliath found in 1 Samuel 17. There are many valuable lessons to be found in this great passage. However, I would like to focus on how David was viewed by the other characters in this passage and make some application to ourselves.

To set the scene, the battle lines have been drawn between Israel and their archenemy Philistia (17:3). Rather than have the two armies fight it out and sustain heavy losses, the Philistines propose a match between the two best fighters from each army with the loser’s army becoming the slaves of the winner (17:8b-10). Fighting for the Philistines was the giant Goliath (17:4-8a), while on the Israel’s side was… well, no one. Fear had gripped the men of Israel and they fled and the sight of this man (17:11, 24). Even the reward of riches and the king’s daughter were not enough to encourage any of the Israelites to fight Goliath (17:24-27). However, one day young David, the future king of Israel, happened to be bringing supplies to his brothers (17:17-23). Upon hearing the Philistine taunt the armies of God, David resolved to fight for the honor of the Lord. Let’s explore four views of David from 1 Samuel 17:1-18:5 as he fights and prevails over the Philistine. These four views of David and his response to them will form the basis of our application at the end of this lesson.

The Critical View:

Eliab, David’s brother, was critical of David’s motives for being present at the battle and for talking to the other seasoned soldiers about fighting Goliath.

“Now Eliab his eldest brother heard when he spoke to the men. And Eliab’s anger was kindled against David, and he said, ‘Why have you come down? And with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your presumption and the evil of your heart, for you have come down to see the battle.’” (17:28-29)

Rather than allowing this unfair criticism distract him, David stayed on course (17:30).

The You Can’t View:

The next view of David came from Saul, the king of Israel. When no one else was willing to fight for the Lord, David volunteered but Saul was quick to say David couldn’t possibly be victorious:

“When the words that David spoke were heard, they repeated them before Saul, and he sent for him. And David said to Saul, ‘Let no man’s heart fail because of him. Your servant will go and fight the Philistine.’ And Saul said to David, ‘You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him, for you are but a youth, and he has been a man of war from his youth.’” (17:31-33)

Nevertheless, David didn’t allow Saul to stop him from fighting for the Lord (17:34-40).

The Contemptuous View:

Within a short amount of time, David found himself facing Goliath mano a mano. Goliath was rather unimpressed with David and the text records,

“And the Philistine moved forward and came near David, with his shield-bearer in front of him. And when the Philisitine looked and saw David, he disdained him, for he was but a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance. And the Philistine said to David, ‘Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?’ And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. The Philistine said to David, ‘Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the beast of the field.’” (17:41-44)

Yet, David didn’t allow Goliath’s view of him cause him to back doubt his God (17:45-47), nor back down from the challenge. So, when Goliath drew near to David, David ran quickly and struck and killed the Philistine “with a sling and a stone” (17:48-54).

The Courageous View:

Following David resounding defeat of Goliath, the people hailed him as a courageous hero and leader.

“And David went out and was successful wherever Saul sent him, so that Saul set him over the men of war. And this was good in the sight of all the people and also in the sight of Saul’s servants. As they were coming home, when David returned from striking down the Philistine, the women came out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tambourines, with songs of joy, and with musical instruments. And the women sang to one another as they celebrated, ‘Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his ten thousands.’” (18:5-7)

Nonetheless, David didn’t let this fame and glory change him (18:18). He remained the same humble person who went out to meet Goliath “in the name of the Lord” (17:45)

Let’s make some applications for today:

Some people are going to be Critical of your service to the Lord, but don’t let this distract you from doing God’s work. Such was the case when Mary anointed Jesus feet with an expensive ointment (Mark 14:3-9). She was criticized by the apostles for the costly service, but she didn’t let that stop her from serving her Lord, and neither should you.

Other people are going to say You Can’t walk with the Lord faithfully. Don’t allow them to stop you from doing what you can do. Remember, “[You] can do all things through Christ you strengths [you]” (Philippians 4:13).

Still others are going to hold you in Contempt because you follow the Lord’s teachings, but don’t let them get you down. Find strength in the words of our Lord, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on My account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12).

But on the flipside, some people are going to say you’re Courageous in your work for the Lord. But, don’t let their accolades change you, stay humble and remember the words of our Lord, “When you have done all that you are commanded, say, ‘[I am an] unworthy slaves; [I] have only done what was [my] duty” (Luke 17:10).

Just like David, people are going to say a lot of things about you; some good, some bad. The key is to rise above their words by remembering who you are: a child of the Most High God. If I can help you in any way with your spiritual walk please email me at clay@claygentry.com. God bless.