“Self-doubt is perfectly justified”: meditation on Psalm 59:9-10

May 31, 2019

For at least a few nights in a row, I’ve had the the same academic-related nightmare: I’m back at college (Georgia Tech, in my case), taking classes I’ve taken before—except this time I feel lost, confused, and overwhelmed. I have final exams coming up with seemingly no time to prepare for them. I’m going to flunk out.

Of course, the reason why I’m taking these classes again isn’t clear. Even in my dream I’m still a full-time pastor. And each morning I wake up, after a few moments, feeling a sense of relief: I’m not back in college. I don’t have to re-take these classes.

I can probably psychoanalyze myself enough to know at least a couple of the reasons for my dream: First, I’m an itinerant United Methodist pastor who has a new church appointment starting in late June. I’ll be the senior pastor of Toccoa First United Methodist. Aside from literally packing up, moving, and unpacking, I’m looking forward to the new appointment. I know that God is protecting me and taking care of me. Still, the old, familiar fears haunt me: What if I don’t measure up? What if I don’t succeed? What if the new church doesn’t like me?

Second, I’m afraid for the future of my denomination, and my place within it. While I still hold the same theological and doctrinal convictions I held nine years ago—when I defended them before the Board of Ordained Ministry and was ordained—I’m reminded almost daily of how out of fashion some of these convictions are among the leadership of today’s United Methodist Church.

If worst comes to worst and the UMC asks me to compromise my convictions (and the Council of Bishops and I likely disagree over what “compromise” looks like), what will I do? Where will I go? To say the least, I’ve forgotten all engineering knowledge. If I can’t preach and teach God’s Word with integrity, what else can I do? I may be a lousy pastor, but I’m better at being a pastor than I am at anything else I’ve ever done! So pity me!

Anyway, I know what you’re thinking: “Brent, you need to trust Jesus. You need to have faith.”

Well, yes… But isn’t that always the hard part? Like that fine Taylor guitar collecting dust in the corner of my bedroom, faith is a fine thing to possess without ever having to practice.

So I need a word of reassurance from God.

If only there were a book in which God’s words were written down! Oh, wait…

Psalm 59:9-10: “O my Strength, I will watch for you, for you, O God, are my fortress. My God in his steadfast love will meet me; God will let me look in triumph on my enemies.

I wrote the following in my journaling Bible:

“my Strength”: David coins a new name for God: my Strength. As I consider the challenges that lay ahead of me, how desperately I need the Lord to be “my Strength.” I feel fear in the pit of my stomach. I worry that I’m inadequate. But I need you, Lord, to be adequate for me… more than adequate! My Strength, I need you to make me “more than a conqueror” (Romans 8:37). I need you to prevail against my chief enemy, Satan—who causes this self-doubt within me.

But not so fast: as always, what Satan intends for evil, you intend for good (Genesis 50:20). Why is self-doubt a bad thing if it moves me to a deeper trust in you, my Strength?

Let’s assume, from this point forward, that my self-doubt is perfectly justified! I am weak and inadequate. Therefore, I will trust more fully and confidently in you, my Strength.


Sermon 05-26-19: “Permission to Pray with Power”

May 29, 2019

In today’s scripture, Jesus encourages us to pray bigger and bolder prayers than many of us are comfortable praying. What prevents us from praying the way we should? That’s what this sermon is about.

Sermon Text: Luke 11:1-13

I also podcast my sermons! You can subscribe to my podcast in iTunes, Google Play, and Stitcher.

We learn more about the prayer life of Jesus from Luke’s gospel than any other gospel. For example, all four gospels describe the Spirit’s descending on Jesus after he was baptized by John, but only Luke adds the detail that the Spirit came upon Jesus while he was praying.[1] Matthew, Mark, and Luke each describe Jesus’ call of the twelve disciples, but only Luke tells us that Jesus had been up all night praying before he called them.[2] Matthew, Mark, and Luke each describe Peter’s great confession of Jesus as the Messiah, but only Luke tells us that it happens after Jesus had been praying by himself.[3] 

And again, those same three gospels describe the Transfiguration, but only Luke tells us that this miracle occurred while Jesus was praying.[4] All four gospels describe Peter’s three denials of Jesus, but only Luke tells that because Jesus prayed for Peter in advance, Peter’s faith did not ultimately fail, and that he would later be used by God to do great things for the kingdom.[5] Read the rest of this entry »


“God has a purpose for my life, and he means to fulfill it”: meditation on Psalm 57:2

May 27, 2019

I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me. Psalm 57:2

Pastor John Piper makes this point about Paul in Acts 23:12-22, that unbeknownst to the more than forty men who plotted to murder him, Paul was “immortal”—literally un-killable—until he fulfilled God’s purpose for him, which, as the Lord had just revealed to Paul in v. 11, included testifying about Jesus in Rome.

And so it is with David in Psalm 57:2. God has a purpose to fulfill through him, and until he fulfills it, David is also invincible. God won’t let anyone or anything stop him from carrying out this purpose.

And so it is with us who are in Christ. O God, let me live every day with purpose. I am not here by accident. You have given me the gift of every moment to glorify you (1 Corinthians 10:31). You’ve given me gifts to be used in ministry. Suppose that every day I resolved to live with purpose, with urgency, knowing that you have given me each day for a reason?

Of course, the moment I resolved to live this way, I would be tempted by the Law: “How are you doing at it? Where is your fruit? Are you making progress? What do you have to show for yourself?” But those questions are irrelevant. I need to follow Paul’s example: “I do not even judge myself” (1 Corinthians 4:3b). We simply don’t have a frame of reference to know the extent to which we’re making a difference for eternity. Only God can judge.

Dear Lord, I don’t know whether you’ve given me five talents, two talents, or one talent (Matthew 25:15). Maybe you’ve given me a small fraction of one talent! But whatever I have, please let me return a profit—whatever profit you see fit.


Sermon 05-19-19: “Jesus the Good Samaritan”

May 22, 2019

The Parable of the Good Samaritan, found in Luke 10:25-37, isn’t primarily about what we need to do. If it were, given how far short of this standard of love that we usually fall, we would all be in trouble. No, more than anything the parable is about what Christ has done for us. He is our Good Samaritan, and he continues to be.

Sermon Text: Luke 10:25-37

When you get to know me, you’ll learn that my all-time favorite TV show is The Office. And one of my favorite episodes on this, my all-time favorite TV show, is episode 14 of season five, entitled “Stress Relief.” And it’s great in part because of the “CPR Training” scene. You can google it and watch it on YouTube. In this scene, an instructor from the Red Cross is teaching the office employees how to do CPR—using one of those CPR dummies to demonstrate techniques for chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. And Michael Scott, the boss of the office, is the first volunteer to practice CPR on the dummy. 

At first, he’s doing chest compressions too quickly. So the instructor tells him that one rule of thumb is to do the compressions to the beat of “Stayin’ Alive,” by the Bee Gees. So Michael is singing, “Ah-ah-ah-ah, stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive” [mimic compressions]” And Andy, another office worker, starts singing the verse. And Kelly jumps up and starts dancing. Pretty soon, everyone in the conference room is singing and dancing… and then Michael stops doing compressions and joins them—oblivious to the fact that if this were an actual human being, he or she would now be dead.

It’s funny… And helpful! Because earlier this year, this episode literally saved someone’s life. 

It happened in Tuscon, Arizona. A young man named Cross Scott was working at a tire shop. He had replaced and balanced tires on a vehicle and was taking it out for a test drive. He noticed a sedan on the side of the road with its hazard lights on. He stopped to see if he could help. He came close and saw a woman slumped over in the front seat, unconscious. The doors were locked. So he broke open the window with a rock, checked for a pulse—no pulse. She wasn’t breathing. He called 9-1-1 and started administering CPR.

The only thing is… he’d never been trained to do CPR. But he did watch The Office. So he did chest compressions while singing “Stayin’ Alive”! About a minute into it, the woman came to! The paramedics arrived, took her to the hospital. And she’s fine! One paramedic interviewed for the story said that the man’s heroic intervention probably saved the woman’s life. 

We have a name for people like this who go out of their way to rescue or save someone else. We call them “good Samaritans,” and they are true heroes. But… I would argue that most people we call good Samaritans don’t come close to measuring up to the actual Good Samaritan that Jesus describes in today’s scripture. Read the rest of this entry »


“God wants me more than he wants anything I can do for him”: a meditation on Genesis 22:1

May 14, 2019

This morning, during my quiet time, I saw a connection between Genesis 22, the Sacrifice of Isaac, and God’s words to Israel in Psalm 50. Most of what follows comes from handwritten notes in my ESV Journaling Bible, Interleaved Edition.

22:1: “God tested Abraham”: After all that Abraham has been through, what more—one might wonder—does God need to learn? Hadn’t Abraham done everything he needed to do to ensure that God’s plan of salvation through Christ was set in motion? Hadn’t he accomplished his mission? One warning for me here is that God’s testing of us will not necessarily cease, even after we’ve reached what we believe is a sufficient level of Christian maturity. As if!

Besides, this test demonstrates that there’s something that God wants far more than any service we render to him: he wants us! He wants our love. He wants to possess us entirely. “I will not accept a bull from your house or goats from your folds. For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills… If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and its fullness are mine” (Psalm 50:9-10, 12).

In other words, if God can’t have our hearts—our wholehearted devotion, our love (as expressed in the psalm through the thanksgiving offering)—God doesn’t want anything else!

This test proves it. It’s as if God were saying, “I know you’ve served and sacrificed for 25-plus years to serve me, but I want your love more than I want your service! Because if I don’t have you, Abraham—if I don’t have your love, your whole heart—I don’t want anything that you can do for me. I want you more than I want my mission. In fact, I’m willing to set my mission aside—even at the risk of jettisoning it altogether—in order to have you.”

As in Psalm 50, if God can’t have Abraham’s heart, he doesn’t want anything Abraham can do for him.

As astonishing as it is to say, God values his relationship with Abraham more than he values the most important task that Abraham, or any person in history up to this point, has ever accomplished for him. Does Abraham value God in the same way? That’s what this test will determine.

But I know what you’re thinking: “Sure, God may value his relationship with Abraham like that, but who am I in relation to him? I’m a nobody compared to him!”

But that’s where you’re wrong! First, the gospel proves that your value isn’t determined by anything that you do. (Even Abraham, as Paul labors to point out in his two most theologically rich letters, was justified by faith, not by works.) And the doctrine of imputation says that you’re infinitely valuable to God! If you’re in Christ, you’re a beloved “son” of God;[1] you’re highly favored by God. You stand before God perfectly righteous—not through your own efforts, but through Christ’s; he has made you righteous with his righteousness.

When you read about saints in the Old Testament like Abraham, and the favor that God showed them, resist the temptation to think that they possess or enjoy something you don’t have! If anything, on this side of the cross and resurrection, you have infinitely more! Tell yourself something like this: “If this is true for Abraham, then it’s at least as true for me! Because I have Jesus!”

By all means, we must decrease in relation to Christ, and Christ must increase (John 3:30), but we never cease to loom large in God’s love, God’s esteem, God’s affection. Do I dare believe that God loves me this much?

If so, then the ways I poor-mouth myself, denigrate myself, put myself down are completely incompatible with God’s view of me!

Another implication for me (and us Christians): In my haste to “get things done,” I must never forget why I do them in the first place: to love God! Before I do anything else, I must foster my love for God.

Also, Brent, God wants you to love him more than he wants you to succeed as a pastor.

Let me repeat that: God wants you to love him more than he wants you to succeed as a pastor.

Do you believe that? Because nothing you accomplish for him is more important than that.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

1. I’m not being sexist. All Christian believers, male or female, are “sons” of God, because sonship in that first-century world (unlike “daughtership”) implies full inheritance from our heavenly Father. Being called a “son of God” should bother women as much as men are bothered to be counted among the “bride” of Christ!


Sermon 05-05-19: “The Most Important Healing”

May 8, 2019

I’m happy to report that I will once again be preaching regularly! For the next seven Sundays I’ll be preaching at the Lavonia United Methodist Church in Lavonia, Georgia. After that, in late June, I will be appointed senior pastor at Toccoa First UMC. I’ll be posting sermons here and on my podcast each week.

You can subscribe to my podcast in iTunes, Google Play, and Stitcher.

Sermon Text: Luke 5:17-26

The following is a manuscript I prepared from my outline. It will differ slightly from the sermon I delivered, which you can listen to above.

Last week I listened to a podcast from the Gospel Coalition, an evangelical Christian ministry. It featured an interview with New York Times columnist and political writer David Brooks. Brooks was raised in a secular Jewish family. Throughout most of his adult life he would have identified as either an atheist or an agnostic at best. But recently something changed, and in this interview he described his conversion to Christianity.

He said he knew he had a profound spiritual problem 15 or 20 years ago… when his dreams came true; when he satisfied what he believed was his heart’s deepest desire; when he wrote his first New York Times-bestselling book. Isn’t this what all aspiring authors dream of? To land a book on top of the bestseller list! Brooks thought, “If only I could write and publish a #1 bestseller, my problems would be solved. My life would change dramatically! I could have lasting happiness and joy. If only...” Yet he said that when his publisher called to give him the good news that he had a bestseller, he felt “completely empty.” It didn’t make him happy. It didn’t change his life for the better. It didn’t fulfill him—even though it meant greater fame, more career opportunities—not to mention more money.

He needed something more… something else… Someone else to satisfy him.

And I believe the paralyzed man and his friends in today’s scripture aren’t so different from David Brooks. They undoubtedly had an “if only” condition as well. I’m sure that before he encountered Jesus, the paralytic thought something like this: “If only I could walk again, then I would be truly happy, then my life would be everything I want it to be, then my problems would be solved.” Read the rest of this entry »


“Behold, your servant has found favor”: a meditation on Genesis 19:18-22

May 2, 2019

I’ve appreciated the following words about prayer from pastor Tim Keller since I first heard them many years ago:

“God will only give you what you would have asked for if you knew everything he knows.”

Among other things, this idea helps explain “unanswered” prayer—or, more accurately, prayer that God answers by saying “no.” We simply can’t foresee the myriad consequences that would result from God’s giving us what we ask for. To say the least, each petition that God grants us would have a ripple effect through time and space that would affect many lives, including our own. We don’t know the extent to which these ripples would be helpful or harmful. God knows; we don’t. And God’s Word promises us that in all things, including our prayer life, God is working for our good (Romans 8:28).

Moreover, the Holy Spirit is praying through our prayers: “For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (Romans 8:26). So even when God doesn’t give us what we pray for, he will—without fail—give us what his Holy Spirit prays for. In other words, God always answers his own prayers for us—and we can be confident that what he prays for us is always for our good.

Keller is helpful here, too: I’ve heard him also preach that God always answers the “prayer underneath the prayer.” I believe this idea does justice to what both Jesus and the rest of scripture teach.

All that to say, Keller’s maxim is true, as far as it goes. But for my own sake, if not yours, Dear Reader, I would add this corollary:

God will only give you what you would have asked for if you knew everything he knows—and you had bothered to ask.

In other words, in order for God to grant us the “prayer underneath the prayer,” there has to be a prayer to begin with!

I’ve heard otherwise faithful Christians justify what amounts to a lazy prayer life by appealing to the pious-sounding idea that we want God’s will, rather than our own will, to be done: “I don’t need God to do anything for me; he’s done so much for me already.” Perhaps they don’t ask for God to do anything because, too often, they don’t believe he will! (Believe me, I’m preaching to myself, too!) This hardly accords with Jesus’ own example and teaching about prayer (one passage of which, Luke 11:5-13, I’ll be preaching on on May 26).

Just yesterday, I was journaling my way through the story of Abraham’s nephew, Lot, in Genesis 19:15-22. In this passage, the two angels who have come to rescue Lot and his family from the imminent destruction of Sodom, urge him, “Escape to the hills, lest you be swept away” (v. 17).

And Lot said to them, “Oh, no, my lords. Behold, your servant has found favor in your sight, and you have shown me great kindness in saving my life. But I cannot escape to the hills, lest the disaster overtake me and I die. Behold, this city is near enough to flee to, and it is a little one. Let me escape there—is it not a little one?—and my life will be saved!”

I was indignant when I read this: Lot’s request is bold to the point of brazenness! After all, I thought, when firefighters rescue you and your sleeping family from an inferno, you don’t also ask them to clean the soot off the carpet!

But not so fast, Brent…

Lot acknowledges that he has “found favor” in the sight of these angels (and the God on whose behalf they’re working); God and these angels have shown him “great kindness.” He isn’t exactly presuming upon God’s grace; he recognizes that the angels could tell him no.

Besides, if we follow the logic of my objection all the way through, on what basis could I ask God for anything? God has given me my life in the first place, and he sustains it at every moment. Even more, he has redeemed my life through the infinitely valuable blood of his Son Jesus. Isn’t it presumptuous of me to ask God to do anything else? Hasn’t he done enough? Am I not being ungrateful in asking?

No… As in the case of Lot and so many other Old Testament saints who are as badly flawed as I am (including David and the psalmists, who frequently ask God to show favor, to rescue, to vindicate, and to make prosperous), we Christians can rightly tell ourselves something like this: “If it’s true that someone like Lot has found favor in God’s sight, how much more true is it for me? After all, unlike Lot, through faith in Jesus and his atoning work on the cross, I am a beloved child of the Father with whom he is well pleased; I am the one ‘on whom God’s favor rests’ (Luke 2:14); I am a brother [or sister] of Jesus himself (Mark 3:34-35; John 20:17), loved by my Father exactly as much as he loves Jesus (John 17:23, 26), entitled to a full inheritance befitting a son of the Father (Luke 15:22-23; Romans 8:17; 1 Peter 1:4-5).

I have exchanged my unrighteousness for Christ’s righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21; Philippians 3:9). The blood of Jesus cleanses me from all sin (1 John 1:7). Therefore I stand before God as holy and righteous, not because of who I am and what I’ve done, but who Christ is and what he’s done. On this basis alone, I approach the throne of grace with confidence (Hebrews 4:16) and ask my Father for what I want or need—believing that he will give me what I ask for (Mark 11:24).

(Or don’t I?)

Indeed, Jesus says that unless we become like little children, we will “never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3). One characteristic of children is that they ask their parents for things—with boldness, with importunity, with no expectation of earning it or paying it back. The relationship of parent to young child is one of utter grace!

So be like Lot! Be as righteous and God-honoring as Lot is! Ask!


“Behold, I have two daughters”: a meditation on Genesis 19:8

April 27, 2019

The following reflection on Genesis 19:8 comes in part from handwritten notes in my ESV Journaling Bible, Interleaved Edition.

Genesis 19:8: “Behold, I have two daughters”: Lot proposes a wicked, callous, and cowardly solution—inexcusable even if, as some commentators believe, he were only “bluffing” (knowing, perhaps, that the men of Sodom would reject his offer). From our perch on the moral high ground, we say, “Lot should have laid down his life to save the lives of both his two visitors (who were angels in disguise) and his two daughters!”

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

But what about me? I’m a preacher who believes nothing less than heaven and hell are at stake in people’s decisions concerning Jesus and his gospel. I believe that hell in eternity is far worse than any hell on earth—which this scripture passage describes. Yet every day I encounter people who haven’t yet received God’s gift of salvation through Christ. Unless they change course and believe the gospel, I believe they are bound for hell.

Yet how often do I share with them God’s rescue plan through Christ? How do I even pray for opportunities to share the gospel? Do I not believe that the gospel itself has power through the Holy Spirit to effect transformation, as Paul implies in Romans 1:16?

If Paul is right in Acts 20:26-27 (“Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.”), at what point is the blood of others on my hands? Would I sacrifice people to hell for the sake of my comfort, my respectability, my desperate desire to blend in? How could I say otherwise given my own cowardice and indifference about evangelism?

See, not only am I afraid of dying for my faith, I’m afraid of dying of embarrassment for my faith.

Holy Spirit, give me the power to change!


“Release to us Barabbas”: a meditation on Luke 23:18-25

April 24, 2019

This is the second in a series of posts on Good Friday and Luke 23. The following reflection on Luke 23:18-25 comes, in part, from handwritten notes in my ESV Journaling Bible, Interleaved Edition.

Last week, I reposted this article from The Gospel Coalition on my Facebook feed with the following comment:

If you are skeptical of penal substitutionary atonement (as I once was), please consider reading this brief defense. To be sure, there are caricatures and distortions to guard against, as this author rightly notes, yet our Sunday school teachers and youth ministers, often lacking the nuance, the subtlety, and the vocabulary that a theological education affords, were not ultimately wrong.

Besides, let me tell you the truth about me (your mileage may vary): the older I get, the more readily I affirm that everything I believed about the gospel when I first responded to that preacher’s altar call to accept Christ as my (yes!) personal Savior and Lord at age 14, I still believe. It was all true—however more deeply I now understand those truths.

Anyway, this article is beautifully written. Please read it.

“It’s no use pitting ‘vindictive God’ against ‘innocent Jesus,’ for the one nailed to the tree is himself the sin-hating, sinner-saving God. The Son’s complicity in his own condemnation as our substitute is one of the gospel’s most glorious truths. Being clear about this truth doesn’t just safeguard our faithfulness; it displays Christ’s beauty and love.”

As if on cue (thank you, Jesus), the episode described in Luke 23:18-25 paints a beautiful picture of penal substitutionary atonement.

23:15: “release to us Barabbas”: Substitutionary atonement is literally enacted in the life of this one man, Barabbas [literally “son of the father”], a terrorist and murderer. Unlike Jesus, Barabbas deserves death; to say the least, he’s sinned against God and harmed others in the worst possible way. Yet because Jesus dies in his place, Barabbas goes free. Moreover, Barabbas does nothing to deserve this grace.

Barabbas is a living illustration of what Jesus will soon accomplish on the cross for all of us who have become “sons of the Father” through faith in the Son:

Jesus receives the guilty sentence that we deserve. He bears the punishment that our sins deserve. He suffers and dies in our place.

Meanwhile, like Barabbas, our representative, we are released from our sins. We are forgiven under the law. We are treated as if we never broke the law.

Perhaps God even uses his name, “Barabbas,” as a providential clue to our change in status before God: Just as Barabbas is a “son of the father,” so we Christians become, through Christ’s atoning death, “sons” (and daughters) of our Father and siblings of Jesus (John 20:17).


“Are you the King of the Jews?”: a meditation on Luke 23:1-5

April 22, 2019

Today I’m beginning a short series of meditations on Good Friday as described in Luke 23. The following reflection on Luke 23:1-5 comes, in part, from handwritten notes in my ESV Journaling Bible, Interleaved Edition.

Then the whole company of them arose and brought him before Pilate. And they began to accuse him, saying, “We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding us to give tribute to Caesar, and saying that he himself is Christ, a king.” And Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” And he answered him, “You have said so.” Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no guilt in this man.” But they were urgent, saying, “He stirs up the people, teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee even to this place.”

Why do we sympathize with Pontius Pilate?

After all, to the credit of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish ruling council who turned Jesus over to the Romans on Good Friday morning, they were correct to see in Jesus a threat to their very way of life. From their perspective as unbelievers, this man, Jesus, was “misleading our nation,” saying that “he himself is Christ, a king” (23:2). Granted, they misunderstood the nature of the Messiah’s kingship: he would never be king—one king among others—but the king—the King of Kings.

But at least they understood the danger that Jesus posed.

Not so Pilate: “I find no guilt in this man” (23:4).

Pilate is wrong to dismiss Jesus’ kingship so lightly. As Jesus tells his disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before, “Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? (Matthew 26:53) (Twelve legions would be 72,000 angels: If these angels chose to protect Jesus from Pilate and his military might, they would have wiped the Roman Empire off the map!) Also, in his conversation with Pilate he tells him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been give you from above” (John 19:11). So even one of the world’s most powerful men is doing nothing more than what Jesus’ own Father wants him to do. So much for Pilate’s great power!

Pilate should have fallen on his knees and begged Jesus for mercy!

But still we sympathize with Pilate. Why?

Perhaps because his view of Jesus isn’t so different from our own. Jesus is a “king,” we may say, but he isn’t one to whom we owe absolute allegiance. This king won’t require us to change our lives or make any sacrifices. This king poses no threat to our own little “kingdom.” Jesus will be “king” over one small part of our life rather than the One to whom we owe our entire lives; the One who owns us because we were “bought with a price” (1 Corinthians 6:20).

How has my own life failed to come to terms with Jesus’ kingship?

Is Jesus someone to whom I offer everything because, after all, he’s my greatest treasure (Matthew 13:44)? Is he a King for the sake of whose honor I would be willing to die? Are Jesus and his kingdom, and his gospel, and the words that his Spirit guided the biblical authors to write down, the Rock on which I can build my life? (Matthew 7:24-27). Do I trust that this Rock will support my weight—and the weight of every other concern in my life?

Sure, like Pilate, I have “said” that Jesus is “King of the Jews” (v. 3). And like Pilate that acknowledgment too often makes little difference.

Lord Jesus, forgive me for being like Pilate, for acknowledging with my tongue that you’re the King, yet so often failing to let that truth penetrate to the core of my being. No more half-hearted devotion to you! Give me, by the power of your Spirit, the ability to surrender to you. Don’t wait for me to “want” to do it, either; you’ll be waiting forever! Or, better yet, just change what I want. Bend my will to your will. Besides, it’s not like my efforts to be “king”—to be in charge of my own life, to dictate to others, to pursue my own interests ahead of your own—have made me happy. I need you to take over. Please! Amen.