True spiritual courage comes from freely confessing our sins, fearing God more than we fear other people, trusting the watchful care of the Father, knowing that Jesus will defend us at the final judgment, and depending on the help of the Holy Spirit.
The sufferings of all the prophets would culminate in the death of Jesus Christ. His crucifixion would be the nadir of their persecution. Jesus of Nazareth was the greatest of all the prophets and the clearest revelation of the gospel. As the Son of God, he was the Word of God. In his public ministry he proclaimed the true gospel message of repentance and faith.
Can you see how deadly your own hypocrisy is? Trying to be one thing on the outside when you are another thing on the inside; focusing on the little things but missing the big things; craving more recognition—these things are spiritually deadly, not just to you, but also to others. Even if nobody knows it, the corpse inside is corrupting your family, your friends, and your church.
What we need is not some other sign, but the spiritual ability to see the sign that God has already given: Jesus Christ, crucified for sinners and raised again with the power of life. We can see Jesus by asking for the Holy Spirit to come and open our eyes. Jesus has promised that God will give the gift of his Spirit to anyone who asks. The Spirit’s work is to reveal the light of Jesus Christ to the eyes of our faith, so that we may see the glory of God.
It is dangerous to be satisfied with any religious change that falls short of complete conversion by the Spirit of God. Moral reformation without spiritual regeneration even leads to demonic domination. People who try a little harder to live a little better need to know this: it will never work. In order to experience real and lasting spiritual change, we need something more than personal advice, or a self-help program, or a recovery group. Not even casting out a demon is enough. What we need is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus has promised that the Father will give to anyone who asks. We need to pray for the Stronger One to gives us the supernatural, transforming grace of the Holy Spirit, who alone can replace our lust with purity, our worry with trust, our greed with contentment, our anger with patience, our profanity with peace, and our addictions with selfless zeal for the glory of God.
Prayer is not a way of getting God to do what we want, or of persuading him to do something that he does not want to do. But prayer is an audaciously bold request for God to do what he has promised to do. So when we ask God to hallow his name, to establish his kingdom, to give us bread, to forgive our sins, and to save us from temptation, we may do it with shameless persistence.
When we pray as the Lord’s Prayer, we are standing against the prevailing values of our fallen world. In a culture that is increasingly secular and profane, we pray for holiness. In a culture where people want to promote their own agendas, we pray for the kingdom of God. In a culture that fosters its independence and lives for its luxuries, we trust God for daily bread. In a culture that is convinced of its own righteousness, we beg forgiveness. In a culture that revels in its temptations, we ask God to lead us away.
Jesus is the perfect antidote for all the unattractive attitudes that poison our service when we turn our attention away from him. His gospel is the cure for our distraction, as we are drawn to the beauty of his grace. His peace is the cure for our anxiety, as we trust him through the worries of life. His love is the cure for our self-pity, as we forget ourselves in serving others for his sake. His mercy is the cure for our resentment, as we offer others the same forgiveness that Jesus has given to us. This is the good portion that God offers to Marys and Marthas everywhere: Jesus himself, in all his grace.
Whatever else the law may be able to do for us, it cannot make us love our neighbors, especially if God demands that we count our enemies among them. The story of the good Samaritan is a law parable, therefore, that shows us how much we need the love God has for us in the gospel. The good news of the gospel is that through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God has loving grace for law-breaking sinners who are not good neighbors.
The doctrine of election, which proves God’s sovereignty in salvation, is a doctrine of joy. We find this on Christmas night, when the angels sing “Glory to God in the highest!” and bless the people who are in God’s pleasure. We find it in Romans 9 to 11, where Paul’s exposition of election ends with a grand doxology of praise. We find it in Ephesians 1, where the fact that God has chosen us in Christ is celebrated with high praise to God. We also find it in Luke 10, where God’s sovereignty in salvation brings joy to the very Godhead.