Luke 14:31-35 Jerusalem & the Will of Our City

Luke 14:31-35 Jerusalem & the Will of Our City

Luke 14:31-35 Jerusalem & the Will of Our City

by Paul Renfroe – September, 2021

Luke, whose gospel is not chronological, put the events and teachings of chapter 13 together, but why? Because in Jesus’ mind, it was the same message. Luke 13 is about judgment, and Jesus presents Himself as The Judge.

Six principles from verse 33-35 will guide our citizenship in our cities and participation in our people groups. Our city has a will, and the Bible holds the residents accountable for it.

33 Nevertheless, I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following, for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.

Jesus pointedly says in 33, Jerusalem is the place that kills prophets. His lamentation and project over Jerusalem in 34-35 follows that train of thought.

34 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city…Throughout the Bible, God reveals that He deals with cities—usually in judgment. God’s dealing with cities as entities is a key to understanding many Bible prophecies and laments like this prophetic one of Jesus.

In Genesis 4, God reveals to Cain that Sin is a personal entity. Later in Romans 7, Apostle Paul described Sin’s personal attributes, and Sin’s persistent persuasion to agree with Darkness against God. Picture a city as a collection of people all dead under this entity of Sin. So much agreement with the kingdom of darkness, so much rebellion against God, creates a “whirlwind” entity of Sin concentrated in that city. Consider a contrast from the Bible: God’s pillar of fire by night and cloud by day over Israel in the wilderness. That pillar was not only for their guidance and protection. It also signified that there was a vastly different, Holy entity shepherding them across their generations.

A city’s unified Sin entity spans the generations of city residents, and while one dies and another is born, the will of the city remains, reinforced by the successive agreement and conformity of its inhabitants to the Sin ruling their lives. Jesus soon refers specifically to that unified Will in this prophecy.

God’s dealing with Babel (Genesis 11) contains this truth about Sin as an unseen principality. The confusion of language was effective not only to scatter the people, but also to disarm the Sin entity that resulted from a united humanity attempting to supplant God.

That a city, people group or nation can have a Will is a precondition for understanding most of the OT prophecies, which are overwhelmingly to cities and people groups. Creation itself in its frustration bears the imprint of the city’s will—its garbage, debris, pollution, and weariness. The city’s residents in generations to come will have the boost to continue the long-preferred sins, simply from being in the geographical place and physical structures where the previous generations cemented the agreement with Sin.

Jesus’ hearers in the moment may not have recognized this biblical theme about cities, but it is clearly the background from which Jesus spoke. They shared that same schooling, and would have thought of Sodom, Babylon, Arnon, Damascus, Memphis, and Nineveh, the one city given opportunity to repent.

It may also have summoned the Psalmists’ encomiums to Jerusalem, where God’s favor is cited as the basis for her prosperity. And they may have identified in Jesus’ lament the approaching fulfillment of prophetic judgment such as Isaiah 29 where God’s judgment on Jerusalem is pronounced, using her nickname Ariel.

The repetition of Jerusalem, Jerusalem rhetorically introduces a lament. The statements following this repetition tell us how it would have sounded to hear it. Any hearer would have immediately known this to be a lament with judgment in it.

…that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it!
So these words confirm it is a lamenting they hear. Any listener would have accepted this statement without dispute, although not gladly. For all the division in Judaism at that time, there was unity concerning the special place Jerusalem held in God’s heart and plans.

Jesus’ reference to prophets and people sent affirms the city’s special place in God’s heart; what other city could list so many that God had sent? But here Jesus fingers the failure. They rejected God’s emissaries, even killing them. Jesus thus prefigures His vineyard tenants parable in Luke 20:9-19.

The Old Testament does not contain the record of rejection that Jesus references. No prophet is described in the OT as killed in Jerusalem. But Jesus’ hearers knew the history. Previously in 11:51 He had referred to Zechariah’s murder in front of the Temple. Hebrews 11 alludes to them also, though not by names. (It is as if only one manner of death is allowed to echo throughout Scripture: the Cross of Jesus.)

How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings,…
Jesus cannot be speaking of Himself. The statement He makes has a long history of generations. In His thirty years He was never once in a position to gather your children together. Nor did He in His flesh have the hen’s position to mother and shelter the chicks of Jerusalem. Therefore we have to treat this as a prophetic word Jesus gave, a prophetic lament of God in the same style as God’s laments through Jeremiah and Ezekiel. He is speaking the long-suffering of God’s heart for the city, spanning generations.

and you were not willing!
A simple declaration of fact. The city has a will. It was not willing then, and it will not be willing in Jesus’ time. It is the tacit repetition of His statement that they kill the prophets and those God sent—the actions by which the will of the city was repeatedly revealed. His recognition of the fact explains His rationale for journeying to Jerusalem in 13:33—where else could a sent one go, who has been sent to die? The city that was unwilling is the obvious choice.

Her occupants in His day have their individual accountability, as His previous parable of being locked out shows. Yet this lament lumps all of Jerusalem’s past residents with those of His day. It is His contemporaries who will suffer the judgment for all the past generations’ rejection of God’s prophets.

Is Jesus presuming that they are unable to repent? That the repentance of His contemporaries can’t wipe out the sin of the previous residents? The answer is no; in fact He conditionally prophesies their repentance (more to come).

35 Behold, your house is forsaken.
The previous statements were descriptive; now comes the predictive. Jesus makes a declaration, not lightly. He would know from Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 that “forsaken” would be His own cry from the Cross. Of all people, Jesus understood the dread abandonment to hell’s machinations contained in that word. Jesus chose “forsaken” because He is giving a prophetic word of judgment. He uses the verb is rather than will be because it is an unconditional, unalterable, settled judgment that is certain to occur. Although forty years will pass prior to its execution at the hands of Rome, the forsaking of Jerusalem is as good as done.

And I tell you, you will not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’
Jesus ends His prophetic judgment lament with an invitation to repent and a conditional promise of restored favor upon the city. The vocal welcome for Him that He describes represents a complete reversal of killing prophets and stoning those sent. It is a city’s welcome, a will of the city to bless one sent by God.

This invitation to repent will be fulfilled in part in His soon-coming entry into Jerusalem, when this exact welcome will be shouted by the masses. Yet their shout that day will not fully signify the repentance Jesus is speaking of. The same masses will call for His crucifixion just 5 days afterward. The city’s leaders never endorse the welcome or support it; to the contrary they identify the crowd’s welcome as a threat to Jerusalem. The high priest himself declares that Jesus must be killed (John 11:49).

Therefore we pray for a future time when Jerusalem does repent, when from top to bottom she welcomes the One God sent her.

Because the promise of restored relationship is conditional upon Jerusalem’s repentance and welcome for Him, Jesus is not saying it will happen. In fact, nowhere in the New Testament is such a reunion prophesied or promised—or even described. The closest thing is the approach of the New Jerusalem, the bride of Christ in Revelation 21.

What did Jesus’ apostles hear from Him, and repeat? The apostles’ preaching presumed the will of cities, and cities’ complicity with their Sin rulers. Their targets are individuals, but they address cities to find them. For effectiveness Paul went to places of influence when he penetrated a territory. He recognized the will of people groups (such as the Jews and the Gentiles) in the patterns of his listeners’ responses.

But the apostles neither teach it specifically, nor use it in their persuasive efforts. They preach judgment across the board, and Jesus as the Judge. They call for individual repentance. The NT introduced a new power that resides in individuals, the poured out Holy Spirit of God. This is the focus of the apostles. All the description they give to cities, nations, and other people groups is entirely the result of its redeemed citizens’ individual wills.

Six principles from Luke 13:33-35 undergird our own city’s will, and our own influence as its residents.

First, we consecrate ourselves to Him as His disciples, with every other value or priority a distant second. We do not come to our city or group only as citizens of our country or members of people group. We follow Him. He was quite clear in Luke 9:23. If any man would come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. Denying our personal preferences and eschewing our personal aggrandizement, we exert our influence for His name’s sake.

Second, we must exercise diligence that we do not contribute to our city’s agreement with its Sin ruler. From the words we speak, to our business and household behaviors, to our pet sins and rationalizations, far greater is at stake than whether we are good people and go to heaven, or whether we can fall back on repenting and forgiveness for the sins we choose. Our city has a will. Are we reinforcing its choice of Sin’s rule?

Third, in denying ourselves to follow Jesus, we must accept that we are sent to our city. The identity of being sent ones is an essential one for Christians. As the Father sent me, so I send you. (John 20:21) As the prophets and Jesus were sent to Jerusalem, so are we sent to our city and region—and so, like them, must we accept persecution. Jesus promised a great reward, and gave us the strategy of dusting our feet and leaving to the next place when rejected. (Matthew 5:12-13, 10:14, 23)

Fourth, we must expect and prepare for His judgment of our individual influence in our city. All our deeds are recorded in God’s books for reading at our judgment (Revelation 20:12). Each of our deeds and all our words will be weighed. Did our sin lend power to the Sin over our city and region, and continue the corruption of Creation under our feet?

Not only our contribution to our city’s Sin will be recorded and read. In one of Jesus’ telling of the three stewards parable, they are entrusted with cities and rewarded with cities. He taught that we who follow Him shall rule the earth on His behalf. If we bear the trust well with His help, our influence will be expanded from our city to other cities, and to regions.

Fifth, the conditional promise in His lament guides us into actions of civic influence. The first and foremost is evangelism, as was the apostles. If our city or people group is to welcome Him, we have to lead others to follow Him individually, and be filled with His Spirit individually. By persistent diligence in this way, we seek to counteract, castrate and replace the Sin ruler that has been created over the city’s history of spirit-death and its generations of willful sin.

Influence like this also calls us into political activity, that our leaders may not be like Jerusalem’s those fateful five days. If our city is to give a welcome to Jesus from top to bottom, we must be influential in elections. Our electoral system places the accountability for our leaders upon us. If we disdain political influence as dirty, then we default to the continuing rule of Sin over our city and people group.

Most civic influence occurs outside electoral politics. Parent organizations for schools, prayer walks, chambers of commerce, industry and professional associations, and hobby clubs all provide a place for our influence.

If we do wield the influence, that is. Sixth, with meekness we self-identify as the appointed rulers. We come not as mere contributors to our civic and political actions. We come not as cogs in the wheels of the existing leaders. We come instead as the ones who will inherit the earth for our meekness (Matthew 5:5).

As the inheritors of earth and the delegated rulers of God’s kingdom, we carry ourselves with all the filling and boldness He gives (Acts 4:31). And like Paul in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23, we evidence the meekness of servants—I have made myself servant to all, that I might win the more.

Holy Spirit, please fill us with Your boldness, and Your power to influence our city for Your Kingdom.

34 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing! 35 See! Your house is left to you desolate; and assuredly, I say to you, you shall not see Me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ”

8 Sinful Ways to Pray That God Won’t Respect

8 Sinful Ways to Pray That God Won’t Respect

8 Sinful Ways to Pray That God Won’t Respect

by Paul Renfroe – January, 2019

The Bible teaches surefire ways to pray sinfully—and how to avoid them. But if you do want your prayers respected by God, don’t pray in these ways.

1. Cajole to show up. The prayers of the Baal prophets in 1 Kings 18 were idolatrous, so there was no one home to answer. But to poison your prayers, you too can dishonor the true God like they did. Like us, they wanted their God to “show up” believing that He was an unfaithful, come-and-go, capricious God. They demonstrated their sincerity in costly ways, ways different from ours, of course, but still the same manipulative behavior toward God.

In contrast stands Elijah, who simply desires God to make Himself known and call back Israel. Elijah actually makes it three times harder for his prayer to be answered—not manipulative. His prayer lasts about 1 minute, not 9 hours like the others. It all shows his faith in God’s faithfulness. But don’t be like that if you don’t want your prayers answered.

2. Act sanctimoniously to others. To turn God against your prayers, be like Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar. They accused Job and found fault in Job’s relationship with God. God speci cally rebukes them.

Yes, Job said mean things about God, misinterpreting God’s motives. Yet God saw in Job’s tempestuous argumentation an uninterrupted faith in Him. God affrmed that Job’s prayer for the three “friends” would be answered if they repented.

3. Rely on the presence. Relying on “the presence of the Lord” cuts off our answers also. In Jeremiah 7:1-27 God speci cally rebukes reliance upon any “presence” concept such as the temple, filled 550 years before. Like the Baal prophets, they believed some security was needed to ensure He hadn’t left them. “The presence of the Lord” even enabled them to justify their sin.

In contrast stands Jeremiah, who never relied upon “the presence,” not even when he was sinking in the dungeon mud (Jer. 38). Like Job’s, Jeremiah’s tempestuous words with God stand in the Bible as examples of true faith, knowing God was not come-and-go, but fully engaged at all times with all individuals through thick and thin.

4. Pray many words to be seen. Jesus used the Jewish religious leaders to show how to pray sinfully (Matt. 6:5-14). “They think they will be heard for their much speaking” (v. 7b)—just like the Baal prophets. Those were only responding to public pressure, but Jesus’ contemporaries went out of their way to be seen by men.

They grimaced during fasts and prayed ostentatiously on street corners. This is an excellent way to avoid answered prayer. In contrast stands the pure motive Jesus commended: to be seen by God. Also contrasting is the same underlying faith of Job and Jeremiah, that God is always fully engaged with each of us. In the place of many words to be seen by men, the Lord’s Prayer commends the attitude of a Beatitude person.

5. Don’t forgive. In the same passage, Jesus states that not forgiving someone turns God against our prayer. This is an unseen attitude of the heart, in contrast to the visible praying described above. God knows if you are not forgiving. Of course, if you do want your prayers answered, keep a constant vigilance to spot any unforgiveness in your heart.

6. Have sort-of faith. James 1:6-8 plainly shows us how to turn God against our prayers: pray with doubt in God, and doubt whether He gives liberally to all men without distinction. In contrast stands prayer with faith in God’s trustworthiness. Reserving His right to determine the best answer to our prayers is not doubt in His magnanimous generosity.

7. Be self-centered. Pray to spend what you get on yourself, a sure way to cut off the answers (James 4:3-5). Comfort-seeking, pain avoiding people can pray that way which shows our primary friendship is not with God. This provokes God’s jealousy for our prime loyalty. Treating God as your butler will usually keep your prayers unanswered.

8. Don’t be meek. Jesus’ parable in Luke 18:9-14 is plain. Like the Pharisee, you can use your manipulative religious compliance to make God indebted to you—a very effective method for preventing answered prayer.

The tax collector’s prayer was answered. How? He recognized his own poverty of spirit, beat his breast with mourning about it, expected nothing because of it, and only pled for God’s mercy. He was a Beatitude person. Of course you do not want to pray sinfully, so be vigilant to spot it. Like the tax collector, recognize your poverty of spirit, mourn about it and lower your expectations in meekness because of it. Such people have an exalted standing with God.

Paul Renfroe is an ordained minister with Christian International as well as a businessman. His book, The Pains of the Christian, is available on

5 Reasons Believers Should Yield to Jesus’ Off-Ramp

5 Reasons Believers Should Yield to Jesus’ Off-Ramp

5 Reasons Believers Should Yield to Jesus’ Off-Ramp

by Paul Renfroe – December, 2018

Christians sometimes stop loving Jesus Christ, and stop walking in the Spirit. They can abandon their faith in the authority of the Bible; they explain away God’s clear commands. How can this be?

The list includes our own children. Three ministers last night discussed six children who’ve turned away from the Lord—children raised in His nurture and admonition. Widely recognized leaders are on the list also. This week’s list included a prominent Christian author. Why does this happen?

To defend our faith, we can look for causes. To support our conviction, we even blame flaws in the other person’s faith, which Job’s three friends did. And we can doubt our own understanding of the Bible when a respected person waters down its authority. These reactions are not the best.

Jesus built the off-ramp. His effort to reduce the number of His followers was well-documented in the Gospels. Our best reaction is to permit Him to continue doing so.

We want everyone saved. He does also. He wants everyone saved from damnation, but that’s not the standard.

He wants people saved for following Him wholeheartedly (Luke 9:57-62). It’s His to judge who is, and who isn’t, so we defer to Him. To everyone who confesses His name, we are generous with the benefit of the doubt. But all of us recognize varying degrees of love for Jesus in the people around us—not to mention, in our own hearts.

He spits out the lukewarm, He said in Revelation 3. He announced in John 6 that eating His flesh and drinking His blood was necessary for life—a really weird thing to say.

Why did He do this? He was showing people the off-ramp, and the 5,000-plus He had miraculously fed the day before walked away from Him. Only 12 were left.

These thousands had just traversed the shore of Sea of Galilee to find Him on the other side. They clamored to make Him king. You or I would have started the church right then and there, and it would have been mega. He showed them the off-ramp, and they took it.

What about when a respected Christian leader calls people to follow him or her down the off-ramp? This hurts even worse. The brief letters of 2 & 3 John give guidance as well as Paul’s 2 Corinthians responses to the “super-apostles.” The fact remains:
Jesus made that off-ramp.

When someone at any level elects the off-ramp, Jesus permits it. So, what do you do?

1. Don’t be like Job’s three “friends,” blaming him. Instead, be like Elihu, defending God’s prerogatives.

2. Don’t be threatened. Job saw they viewed his experience as a threat to themselves (Job 6:21). Your safety in Jesus is unaffected by what any other person may do.

3. “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.” Keep praying and declaring restoration of the person. Put your faith to work, overcoming doubt and declaring the Scriptural and prophetic promises that apply.

4. Exercise amplified personal vigilance that your own heart doesn’t stray. Identify other Christians who want to relate to each other in mutual support for faithfulness (Heb. 3:12-13).

5. Yield to Jesus. He didn’t say you would build His church—He said He would do it (Matt. 16:18). So, let Him do it ,and stay in your assigned lane.

Paul Renfroe is an ordained minister of Christian International and an entrepreneur as well as author of the book Christian, What Are You? Removing the Blindfolds and other books available at

4 Lessons God Wants to Teach You When You’re Sick

4 Lessons God Wants to Teach You When You’re Sick

4 Lessons God Wants to Teach You When You’re Sick

by Paul Renfroe – November, 2018

Apostle Paul instructs us: Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit (Gal. 5:25). We easily imagine this when times are good or when our hopes are being realized. It’s much harder when you’re sick or your body is out of order. In fact, that may be the hardest time to keep in step with the Spirit.

I have lived with sickness my entire 62 years. The many periods of health and happiness are persistently punctuated by reminders of my mortality. I have learned the meaning of keeping in step with the Spirit even while sick. Those lessons may benefit you also or someone that you

Recently, a man we’ll call Mr. L B shared a hospital room with me—a man with the same problem there to receive the same procedure as I was. Although a sizable, vigorous looking man, his voice was shaky; his posture was hunched. With him were his much younger passive aggressive wife and vicious rebellious home schooled 13 year old son. Joining me was my wife.

It was rapidly evident in our three hours together that Mr. L B needed his sickness. For one thing, he clearly wanted a certain relationship with reality—him and his needs as the center of attention, being pitied and receiving sympathy. For another, he needed to be sick to justify an identity of deserving numerous government benefits: SSI, VA disability, pension enhancement, tuition discounts. He was like the lame man by the pool in John 5.

Lesson One: There is competition to determine your identity. Only God gets to say what your identity is (Ps. 139, Jer. 1). But He allows you to give that right away. When sick, your body wants to dictate who you are. A study of Ezekiel 28 and Isaiah 14 shows that when Lucifer rebelled, he thought he could keep his externals (which God had given him) once he succeeded and replaced God. He made the mistake of thinking his externals were his identity. The outcome of that mistake is well known. If how you feel or symptoms or what doctors say determines your identity, you are not in step with the Spirit.

Lesson Two: Your choice affects many. His wife was very capable but always the tail on everyone else’s dog. This man’s son was verbally vicious, observably disdainful. When their son spoke, she kept shushing him with that nagging, useless begging tone of voice—no authority. His daughter away in college was coming down with a chronic disease at age 19. The wife spoke of the burden upon her with such sick family members. “Hey, I need a problem too!” This man had chosen a sick identity. Everyone around him made poor choices also. Your choice of attitude about sickness brings down those around you.

Lesson Three: The honor of the Lord is at stake, more than what happens to you. During conversation, Mr. L B revealed that he was at a Baptist college, in training to become a minister. This was truly frightening. My spirit was vexed, so I asked the Holy Spirit the right words. Opportunity came first when his wife and son left for lunch.

“Mr. L B, may I share something with you that I have learned from my heart issues?” He assented with a reluctant, wary tone. He knew—he knew. “Mr. L B, I can see you love the Lord Jesus. But when I hear you, it’s evident that you have a need to be sick, more than a desire to be well. And especially for a minister in training, I believe that dishonors the Lord. Would you please give that some thought?” He assented weakly as if glad to see his wife and son re entering, relieving him of the Spirit’s correction.

Lesson Four: You can minister more effectively while sick if the above are in proper order. Because of the training God has given me at being sick in the Lord, one nurse said to me, “it’s a delight to be here with you; I hope I am not talking too long. It’s just that so few people have your attitude.” I said, “Thank you,” and again realized that it’s easier to be a light in the darkness when you are sick.

Paul Renfroe is a life insurance agent and entrepreneur, completing his doctoral work through the college affiliated with Christian International in Santa Rosa Beach, founded by bishop Bill Hamon.
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