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.

8 Keys to Fighting Fair


A36W5JI want to talk to you today about fightin’. I don’t mean fist-fighting but verbal fighting, arguing. This is not a lesson designed to tell you to stop arguing per se. No, I want to share with you some wisdom from the Proverbs on how to fight fair. The truth of the matter is we fuss and fight with one another. We fight with our spouses. We argue and disagree our family and friends. We spat with neighbors and co-workers, and it’s no secret, we fuss and fight and argue with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Since we engage in verbal disagreement with others, let’s learn the keys to fighting fair. 

#1 – Don’t go looking for a fight.

The first rule for How to Fight Fair is that you don’t go looking for a fight. As Christians we don’t want to be the kind of person who is quarrelsome, argumentative or just plain disagreeable. God describes these kind of people as “warped and sinful” (Titus 3:10-11), as well as “foolish”:

“A fool’s lips walk into a fight, and his mouth invites a beating. A fool’s mouth is his ruin, and his lips are a snare to his soul.” Proverbs 18:6-7 (also: 3:30; 14:17; 17:27; 29:22)

I’ve noticed that the times I’ve gone looking for a fight, you know those times when you’re mad and you just want to unload on someone, well it’s those times that I don’t fight fair. That’s when I’m angry and I sin (ref. Ephesians 4:26; James 1:19). Let’s not do that, so key number #1, Don’t go looking for a fight.

#2 – If one comes to you, try to diffuse it.

However, there are times when a fight comes to you. So key #2, as best you can, try to diffuse a fight by employing this strategy:

“A soft answer turns away wrath.” Proverbs 15:1 (also: 15:4, 18; 17:14; 20:3)

So, when your spouse comes home angry and wants to take it out on you, or your co-worker wants to use you as a verbal punching bag, do your best to diffuse the situation with a soft word. Remember, God wants you, “if possible, so far as it depends on you live peaceably with all” (Romans 12:18). However, that’s not always the case, so let’s turn our attention on the keys to fighting fair during a fight:

#3 – Listen before you speak.

First, listen before you speak. Do you like it when someone is not listening to what you’re saying because they are formulating a rebuttal. I can’t stand it when people do that to me either. Well you know what? I’m sure others do not like when you or I do the same thing to them. Listen to what God has to say about the matter:

“If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.” Proverbs 18:13 (also: 10:19; 12:18; 13:10; 25:11)

Simply treat others the way you want to be treated (ref. Matthew 7:12). Do you want to be heard? Then give them the same courtesy. “Be quick to hear, [and] slow to speak” (James 1:19a). By doing this, you will demonstrate to the other person that you care about them and their concerns (ref. Philippians 2:3-11) and you will be well on your way to quickly resolving the issue at hand.

#4 – Keep it clean.

Before a fight, boxers are told (at least in the Rocky movies) to, “Keep it clean.” This also applies to verbal arguments and fights as well, so keep it clean. Sarcasm, name-calling, personal insults, belittling, making exaggerated statements, and verbal sucker-punches have no place in our discourse with others. The wise man said,

“Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding remains silent.” Proverbs 11:12 (also: 12:25; 18:19, 21; 27:3)

Often times, those who lace their arguments with vile, hurtful insults do so out of desperation. They do this because they feel threatened, or they think they are losing the fight. Their argument can’t stand on its own merits so they resort to verbal sucker-punches in an attempt to crush the spirit of the one on the receiving end, thus making reconciliation even harder. Many a marriage and friendship have been irreparably severed because someone verbally hit below the belt. So, fight fair by dropping the personal insults. Keep it clean.

#5 – Stick to the subject at hand.

Next, and this is a cousin to our last point, stick to the subject at hand. For instance, if you’re fighting with your spouse over finances, that’s no time to resurrect something that happened a year ago and throw it back into your spouse’s face. Stick to the subject at hand. If it’s the bills, then talk about the bills, not a broken promise from a year ago to fix a leaky faucet. Wisdom says,

“An ungodly man digs up evil: and in his lips there is a burning fire.” Proverbs 16:27 NKJV (also: 10:12; 17:9; 29:11; 29:20)

Now this doesn’t mean that there might be related issues that need to be discussed. However, digging up the past, by “keeping a record of wrongs” (1 Corinthians 13:5 NIV) readily at your finger tips is a tactic of those who do not want to face the present. When you’re arguing with someone, fight fair by sticking to the subject at hand and resolve the issue that is under discussion before you bring up any others.

#6 – Know when to stop.

There’s nothing worse than someone who wants to keep an argument going on forever. You’ve heard the old adage, don’t go to bed angry. Well that is good advise, not just for married couples for all of your relationships. Arguing is not bad in and of itself, however, fighting longer than is needed is unfair and destructive. Heed Solomon’s advise and know when to stop because,

 “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent” Proverbs 10:19 (also: 15:2; 17:27-28; 26:20)

Knowing when to stop is perhaps the most important key to learning the art of fighting fair. The apostle Paul described those who keep on fighting as “warped and sinful” (Titus 3:11). You don’t want to be this kind of person, so stop when the other person has had enough, or when you’ve had enough. By stopping you can quickly squelch overheated emotions and begin to find common ground for reconciliation.

#7 – Seek a resolution.

Arguing can be a healthy part of any relationship. It simply is a means of resolving conflict. However, at the end of every fight, you must seek a resolution. The one who doesn’t want to resolve a fight doesn’t fight fair. So, whatever the fight was about resolve it. Remember,

“Better is a dry morsel with quiet than a house full of feasting with strife.” Proverbs 17:1 (also: 15:16-17; 21:9, 19)

The good life is found in a lack of confrontation, not an abundance of material possessions. If you enter into an argument with the goal of resolving the issue, then you will fight fair. Don’t forget, unresolved issues are ticking time bombs that will explode later on and will damage the tranquility of any home and threaten the bond of any relationship.

#8 – Keep it private.

The world doesn’t need to know that you and your spouse, or co-worker, or family member had a fight. There’s no need to blab about it on Facebook, or call and complain to your momma, or get your best friend on your side, or rundown your opponent to your bud at work. After the fight is over, keep it private. Solomon offers sound advise when he said:

“Argue your case with your neighbor himself, and do not reveal another’s secret, lest he who hears you bring shame upon you, and your ill repute have no end.” Proverbs 25:9-10 (also: 12:15; 16:28; 26:17)

I’m certainly not saying you can’t share with your spouse, or a councilor. Nor am I saying underage child shouldn’t tell his/her parent about an argument. Rather, I’m challenging you to check your motives in telling others about the fight you had with someone. If you’re seeking wise council, then by all means share the fight with someone. ? However, more times than not, seeking wise council is a front for gossip, which is soundly condemned by God (ref. Romans 1:29b-32; 1 Timothy 5:12-13). So examine your motives, and fight fair by not revealing the secrets of an argument. Keep it private.

Fighting and arguing is just a fact of life. It’s my hope that this short lesson will help you to fight fair in the future.

There’s An All Seeing God Watching You


“The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good.” Proverbs 15:3

We serve a real God, an active God, and an all-powerful God. Unlike the idols of men, our God our God is alive and working in the lives of men (cf. Psalm 115:4-8). One facet of His power is His omnipotence. For the believer, Proverbs 15:3 is a comforting verse, here is why:

Our All-Seeing God:

• This is referred to as omnispective and is a commonly cited attribute of God (Genesis 1:31; 2 Chronicles 16:9; Proverbs 5:21; Hebrews 4:13).
• The richest explanation of our God’s all seeing abilities is in found in Psalms 118:13-16; 139.
• God is not an idle observer; rather, He is an active “watchmen” over His people (Psalms 34:15-19; 121:3-4; 127:1).

He Keeps Watch Over the Evil:

• Evil loves the darkness to hide their wicked deeds (John 3:19, Psalm 139:11; Job 24:14-15).
• Yet, God’s eyes pierce through even the deepest darkness (Job 34:21-22; Jeremiah 16:17; 23:24; Psalm 139:12)
• What this means for us is that we do not have to seek vengeance against those who harm us. By faith we know God saw it and that He will hold the wicked accountable for their deeds (Hebrews 4:13; 1 Peter 4:1-7; Romans 12:14-21).

He Keeps Watch Over the Good:

• God keeps watch over His people (Isaiah 40:11; John 10:11, 14, 27-30).
• His watchful eyes do not negate our responsibility to watch ourselves (Matthew 26:41; Ephesians 5:15; 2 Peter 3:14).
• What this means for us as Christians is that we can boldly practice our deeds in secret because God is all seeing. Rather than trumpeting our deeds, as if God cannot or will not see them, we can by faith know our God will see and He will reward our good deeds done in secret (Matthew 6:1-18; 1 Corinthians 15:58; Hebrews 6:9-12; 11:6).

We serve an all-seeing God. Let’s take comfort in this truth and by faithfully serve Him, by not taking vengeance when wronged, and by not trumpeting our good deeds. If I can help you with any spiritual matter, email me at clay@claygentry.com.

6 Lessons From Hitting Rock Bottom


Rock BottomThere are two powerful emotions that motivate people to make dramatic changes in their lives:inspiration and desperation. It is often the case; a person finds their greatest inspiration in the most desperate of situations. When a person hits rock bottom, and they reach the lowest point in their lives, they are awakened to the reality that their lives must change. God’s word is full of examples of men and women who hit rock bottom:

David – 2 Samuel 11-12:23

Elijah – 1 Kings 19:1-18

Manasseh – 2 Chronicles 33:10-13

Jonah – Jonah 1:1-2:10

Judas – Matthew 27:3-10

The Rich Young Ruler – Mark 10:17-31

Tax Collectors and Sinners – Luke 5:29-32

The Sinful Woman – Luke 7:36-50

The Prodigal Son – Luke 15:11-24

Peter – Luke 22:31-34, 54-62

Paul – Acts 9:1-19

There are 6 lessons that we need to learn from these Biblical examples of hitting rock bottom:

#1 – Different People Have Different Rock Bottoms:

In recovery circles there are what are called, “low rock bottoms” and “high rock bottoms.” Let me explain the difference. The “low rock bottom” describes a situation where a person, because of their actions, has lost all their stuff: job, possessions, and relationships. On the other hand, a “high rock bottom” describes a situation where a person has not lost their stuff, but a crisis has forced them to evaluate the consequences of their actions. What is consistent in both situations is that a person has hit rock bottom, and they are saying to themselves, “I’ve got to change.”

We see those differences reflected in the examples we citied in the introduction. Elijah’s rock bottom was different from Jonah’s, which was different from the Prodigal’s, which was different than Paul’s. Some rock bottom moments come after incredible highs; sometimes they are the result of our own stubbornness or pride. While other times, rock bottoms can be merely crisis of conscience. Just as we have been endowed by our Creator with individual personalities (Psalm 139:13-16), we have different rock bottoms. I say all that to set up our next point.

#2 – Do not Judge Others When They Find God at Their Rock Bottom.

Because we all have different rock bottoms, there is a great temptation to judge others based on our own experience. If you experienced a “high rock bottom”, the temptation is to judge those who find God at a “low rock bottom.” For example, if your rock bottom was a crisis of conscience that you experienced on a church pew, there is a great temptation to judge those who found God when they hit rock bottom in jail as being less than genuine in their repentance and unworthy of receiving forgiveness. This was the modus operandi of the Pharisees that Jesus condemned time and time again.

When the tax collectors and sinners hit rock bottom and came to Jesus, the Pharisees complained (Luke 5:29-32). However, Jesus simply said,

“I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (v. 32).

Who are we to judge? Jesus came to call the repentant, not the one who contemptuously looks down at others. On another occasion, a sinful woman (prostitute) hit rock bottom and came to Jesus. Simon the Pharisee judged her as unworthy of forgiveness (Luke 7:36-50). Nevertheless, Jesus simply said,

“I tell you her sins, which are many are forgiven – for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little” (v. 47).

The sin-laden person who finds Jesus in the lowest of situations is the one who will love Him the most, not the one who believes his sins are few.

Finally, Jesus drives home the point of why we shouldn’t judge others when they find God at their rock bottom in the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector in Luke 18:9-14. When we hold others in contempt for finding Jesus in their rock bottom, it is a sure sign that we are trusting in ourselves for our own righteousness (ref. v. 9). While the Pharisee was thanking God that he was not like the tax collector, the tax collector was finding God at his rock bottom. Luke says,

“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!'” (v. 13).

Jesus concludes by saying,

“I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other” (v. 14).

Do you see the irony of this situation? The Pharisee was thanking God that he was not like the very man he needed to be. Listen to our Lord’s conclusion,

“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (v. 15).

Why was the Pharisee not justified? Because he exalted himself above the tax collector. The consequence of his sinful action is that he will be humbled in eternity. Do you want to be right before God? Do you want to enjoy the eternal blessings of our Father? Then do not judge those who find God at a lower rock bottom than you. Rather, humble yourself, and in due time God will exalt you (ref. James 4:6, 10).

#3 – Rock Bottom is a Place to Begin to Build.

Before a contractor begins to build a building of any type, whether it is a house, or a skyscraper, he first must construct a strong foundation made of rock. In the case of large buildings, builders sink deep pilings down to bedrock. The reason for this is simple: if the building is to withstand settling and the forces of nature, it must have a solid foundation. Jesus illustrated this perfectly in Matthew 7:24-27 when He said,

“Everyone who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall because it was founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mind and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

After Manasseh hit rock bottom, with God’s help, he began to rebuild his life and his kingdom on the Rock he found at rock bottom (2 Chronicles 33:14-16, 19). When the Prodigal Son came to his senses in the pigpen, he too began to rebuild his life on that solid foundation of rock bottom (Luke 15:16-21). And do you know what Jesus expected Peter to do once he hit rock bottom? Build. Our Lord said to Peter,

“I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:32).

Even though Peter failed miserably, his faith was never overthrown. In essence, Jesus is telling Peter, “you are going to hit rock bottom, and once you do, I want you to begin to build off that experience and strengthen your brothers.” Before Peter hit rock bottom he was building on himself, as was the case with the Prodigal Son and Manasseh. However, building on self is like building on sand, and those who do that will fall and great will be their fall. There is only one place where we can build upon that is our rock, Jesus Christ, and that is at rock bottom (cf. Matthew 5:3-6).

#4 – Do not Protect Others From Hitting Rock Bottom.

We have just established that the benefit of hitting rock bottom is that it is the perfect place to begin to rebuild our lives. We know this is true, yet too often, we try to protect our loved ones from hitting rock bottom. This is the classic behavior of an enabler. The enabler protects their loved one from hitting rock bottom, and therefore, keeps them from thing they need in order to change their lives. In the process, the enabler becomes their loved one’s foundation. As we have already established, we are like sand, and if our spiritual house is built on sand, it will fall and great will be its fall.

It is interesting to note that the book of Proverbs offers all sorts of advice on parenting, yet never once does it instruct parents to keep their children from hitting rock bottom by fixing the children’s problems. God did not keep Manassah from hitting rock bottom, and neither did the father of the Prodigal. Even Jesus did not keep Peter from hitting rock bottom when he denied knowing Him. Rather, God, and the Father in Luke 15, and Jesus, knew their loved ones had to hit rock bottom in order to change.

I think we fear what will happen to our loved ones if they hit rock bottom. I understand that. There is a real possibility that when they hit rock bottom they will not recover. That happened to the Rich Young Ruler (Mark 10:17-31) and to Judas (Matthew 27:3-10). However, we must put all of that into God’s hands and not protect our loved ones from the very thing that will help them: hitting rock bottom.

#5 – Finding God at Rock Bottom Does not Remove the Consequences of Your Actions.

I remember once helping a friend through a rock bottom moment. His finances were in shambles, wife had left him, and she had taken the kids with her. He told me that he had been praying to God that if God would just make everything all right, he would serve Him forever. What my friend failed to realize was that finding God at rock bottom did not remove the consequences of his actions. He needed to serve God no matter if his wife came back or not. Sometimes we have to live with the consequences of the actions that drove us to our rock bottom.

Even though King David had bitterly repented at his rock bottom moment in 2 Samuel 11-12:23 he had to live with the consequences of his action: the sword would never depart from his house (12:10-12) and the death of his newborn son (12:14-23). Manasseh is another example. While at his rock bottom, he had found God and turned his life around. But it was too late for Manasseh to reverse the evil example he had set for his son. The text says,

“And [Amon] did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, as Manasseh his father had done. Amon sacrificed to all the images that Manasseh his father had made, and served him” (2 Chronicles 33:22).

Even the apostle Paul had to live with the fact that at first other Christians did not trust him because of his past sins (ref. Acts 9:13; 26).

Just because we turn to God at rock bottom does not mean that He will bar us from suffering the consequences of our actions, and that is okay. Rather than being discouraged, let us take on the spirit of Job as he was hitting rock bottom,

The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).

Remember the promise of God is that He will work all things together for good for those who love Him (ref. Romans 8:28). Therefore, when we hit rock bottom, our concern must be on serving the Lord, regardless of whether or not we will suffer the consequences of our sinful actions.

#6 – Never Forget Your Rock Bottoms.

There is no doubt that all of our rock bottoms are painful moments in our lives. However, we should never forget the emotions, or the pain of those times. I say this for two reasons:

One, you can use your rock bottom moments to teach and strengthen others so they can avoid the pain and hurt that you experienced. That is the gist of David’s words in Psalm 32:8-9 and Jesus’ words to Peter in Luke 22:32. This would be in keeping with what I’ve always called, The Commission for the Rest of Us in Mark 5:19,

“Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”

Rather than burying your rock bottom moments, share with others how the Lord raised you up from your rock bottom.

Second, if we forget what it was like to be at rock bottom, we are doomed to repeat the behaviors that sent us there in first place. Rest assured we will hit rock bottom again, and the second time around will be worse than the first. Peter drives this point home in 2 Peter 2:20 when he says,

“For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first.”

Hitting rock bottom is hard. However, those moments of desperation can be the catalyst for great inspiration if we will turn to Christ. If you have not come to Jesus, let today be your rock bottom. You do not have to be like the Manasseh or the Prodigal; you do not have to go that low before you open your eyes to Christ. You can be like Paul or the Philippian Jailer, have a crisis of conscience, and give your life to Christ today. Wherever you are at in this world, Christ desires you, and if I can help you in any spiritual way email me at clay@claygentry.com. God bless.

Be Imitators of God


Ephesians 5:1 is rather plain, “Be imitators of God.” As God’s children, we have no higher calling or purpose in life than to be like of heavenly Father. The Way of Christ is designed to reproduce godliness in our lives and therefore mold us and shape us into the image of God. Let’s examine four areas of our lives where we are specifically called to imitate God:

Be Imitators of God by Comforting One Another:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our afflictions, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

God is the ultimate source of comfort, but His comfort is not a means to an end in itself. According to Paul, God’s comfort has a twofold purpose. First, God’s comfort sustains us through our own afflictions. And second, the comfort God gives us serves to empower us to comfort others during their afflictions. When we comfort others by “weep[ing] with those who weep” (Romans 12:15) we are imitating God.

Paul takes the idea of comforting one another, one step further when he reminded the Corinthians that:

“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ… [Therefore] If one member suffers, all suffer together… Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” (1 Corinthians 12:12, 26-27).

The Hebrew writer builds on this sentiment when he said:

“Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body” (Hebrews 13:3).

Why do we comfort one another during times of affliction and grief? Because God has comforted us and because God has united us together as a body of believers through His son, therefore, we comfort one another.

Be Imitators of God by Loving One Another:

“‘A new commandment I give you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.’” (John 13:34; cf. 15:12)

The commandment to love one another was not new; Leviticus 19:18 commanded loving one’s neighbor as oneself (cf. Matthew 22:34-40). However, Jesus’ command was dramatically different. His command called for His disciples to model their love for one another after His love for them. In essence Jesus is saying “imitate my kind of love.” There’s no doubt that the ultimate expression of Jesus’ love for His disciples was His willingness to lay down His life for them. So if we are going to imitate His love, then we must be willing to die for one another (cf. John 15:12-13; 1 John 3:16). But we don’t encounter this situation every day, perhaps, we may never have to express our love for one another this way.

So let’s explore this on a practical, day-to-day level. Again, Jesus said, “Love one another as I have loved you.” Look at how Jesus loved them. He loved Philip even when Philip, after all the time they spent together, just didn’t understand who Jesus was (ref. John 14:8-9). He loved Peter, even though Peter rebuked Him (ref. Matthew 16:21-23). Jesus still loved them all even after they had abandoned Him (ref. Mark 14:27, 31b, 50). So on a practical level, Jesus is saying love one another even when others disappoint you, rebuke you, or turn their back you. Why? Because that is how Jesus loved, and that is how He loves still. But you might be saying, “I can’t do that.” Then you need to hear the Spirit’s word from 1 John 4:20-21:

“If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this command we have from Him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.”

A claim to love God is a delusion if not accompanied by unselfish love for others. If we are going to be imitators of God, then we must love one another as God loves us. There’s no other way around it.

Be Imitators of God by Forgiving One Another:

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” (Colossians 3:12-13)

Because God, the model of forgiveness, has completely and totally forgiven us of our sins, then as believers we must be willing to forgive one another. This is really about dispensing mercy. Jesus said in Luke 6:36, “Be merciful, even as your heavenly Father is merciful.” James builds on this by saying, “For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment” (2:13). The one, who shows mercy, by forgiving one another, will themselves receive forgiveness from God and avoid His judgment (ref. Matthew 6:12, 14-15).

Additionally, in the parable of the Unforgiving Servant (Matthew 18:21-35), Jesus taught that we must forgive because we have been forgiven. In Matthew 18:15-20, Jesus established principles for dealing with a brother who has sinned against you. In response to this teaching Peter asked, “‘Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?’” (18:21). Perhaps Peter thought he was being generous in forgiving his brother seven times, but Jesus turns Peter’s generosity on its head by replying that Peter should forgive “seventy times seven” (18:22). To illustrate His point, Jesus tells the parable of the Unforgiving Servant (18:21-35), in which one servant owes his master an astronomical amount of money, an amount he could never repay (18:24-25). However, out of pity his master forgave him the debt (18:26-27). Upon being released, the forgiven servants found another servant who owed him a paltry amount of money (in comparison to what the master had forgiven) and seized him, threw him in prison and would not show his fellow servant the same mercy that was shown him (18:28-30). As things go, word got back to the master; he summoned the forgiven servant and said to him:

“‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all the debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’” (18:32-33)

In anger, the master had the previously forgiven servant delivered over to the jailers until he could repay what was established as being an unpayable debt (18:34). Jesus ends His lesson by saying,

“‘So also my heavenly Father will do to everyone of you, if you do not forgive you brother from the heart.’” (18:35)

The sin debt that we owe God is one that we could never repay. In comparison the sin debt that others owe us is minuscule to what God has forgiven us of. Therefore, we can, and must, imitate God by forgiving one another as we have been forgiven. Extending mercy, just as mercy has been extended to us.

Be Imitators of God by Sharing With One Another:

“Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. As it is written, ‘He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; His righteousness endures forever.’ He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase your harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.” (2 Corinthians 3:6-11)

According to Paul, God was the source of the Corinthians’ abundance of material goods. However, these physical comforts were not given to them to squander on themselves. God blessed them with so much, so that the Corinthians would have an abundance for “every good work” (3:8b) and so that they could experience a great “harvest of… righteousness” through their good works (3:10b). This is the same sentiment in another of Paul’s letters where he said,

“As for the rich in the present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up for themselves a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.” (1 Timothy 6:17-19)

And who are we supposed to share our possessions with? Everyone, enemy and friend alike. Listen to Jesus’ words from Luke 6:35-36:

“But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for He is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your heavenly Father is merciful.”

When we share our possessions with others, whether they are enemies, or brethren (ref. Galatians 6:12) we are imitating God, because He is merciful and kind to all men (cf. Matthew 5:44-45). Therefore, we should be as well.

As we conclude, let’s consider Jesus’ words from Mark 5:19, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how He has had mercy on you.” Let’s be people who tell those around us of God’s comfort, love, forgiveness, and how He has blessed us richly. But equally important to telling others about these great things is showing others, by being imitators of God, by comforting, loving, forgiving and sharing with one another. May God bless you as you seek to serve Him.

In God We Trust. Really?


Late Tuesday night (November 1, 2011), the United States House of Representatives voted 396-6 to reaffirm the phrase, “In God we trust” as our nation’s motto. The motion (H.CON.RES.13) not only reaffirmed “In God we trust” as our official motto but also encouraged the public display of it in all public buildings, public schools and other government institutions. (You can read more about this story from: FOX; Washington Post; and the New York Times.)

While this is a laudable measure, God has a word for us through His Son:

“Why do you call me Lord, Lord and do not do the things I tell you?” (Luke 6:46)

America, wake up. There’s more to trusting God than just paying lip-service to Him by putting His name on our money and our buildings. We have to first put His name in our hearts, and do what He says to do, before any of this other stuff matters.

Don’t let “In God we trust” be a hollow declaration of allegiance to God. Rather, make it the summation of a faithful life of obedience to Him.

Do you agree or disagree? Let me hear from you by either leaving a comment below or emailing me at clay@claygentry.com.

Until next time, keep the faith.

Here is a link to a longer article that I wrote on this subject: In God We Trust?