“2 Keep my commands and live, and my law as the apple of your eye… 5 That they may keep you from the immoral woman, from the seductress who flatters with her words.” Proverbs 7:2, 5
The man who “keeps” or obeys God’s “commands” will “live” and experience God’s protection in his life. The phrase “the apple of your eye” refers to the pupil which is the most sensitive and carefully guarded part of the human body (7:2a). When God’s “law” becomes our most important focus, when it is what we pay the closest attention to (7:2b), it will “keep” or guard us from the many allurements of “the immoral woman” and “seductress who flatters with her words” (7:5). God’s Word instructs us to…
1. Avoid where and when the sexual temptation is waiting – “the path to her house in the twilight… in the black of the night” (7:7-9). Establish guardrails that keep you from being tempted such as no searching online when you are alone at night, lock up your digital devices using internet filters to give you accountability when accessing the internet, avoid massage parlors, strip clubs, bars, etc.
2. Avoid women online or in person …
Who dress seductively – “attire of a harlot” (7:10a)
Whose hearts are “crafty” or secretive/deceptive (7:10b)
Who are defiant (“loud and rebellious”) against God’s Word and the sanctity of marriage (7:11a)
Who are promiscuous – “her feet would not stay home…” (7:11b-12)
Who are overly aggressive, sensual, and shameless – “she caught him and kissed him; with an impudent face she said to him…” (7:13)
Who minimize wrongdoing by referring to their religious activity (“I have peace offerings with me; today I have paid my vows”) and entice men with a meal in her home (the animal sacrifice usually included leftover meat which must be consumed the same day in her home – 7:14; cf. Lev. 7:15)
Who seek to build your ego up with flattery – “So I came out to meet you, diligently to seek your face, and I have found you” (7:15)
Who seek to entice with you with a sensuous description of their bedroom – “I have spread my bed with tapestry, colored coverings of Egyptian linen. I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon” (7:16-17)
Who proposition you – “Come, let us take our fill of love until morning; let us delight ourselves with love” (7:18)
Who reassure you of your safety from their husband – “For my husband is not at home; he has gone on a long journey; he has taken a bag of money with him, and will come home on the appointed day” (7:19-20)
Who disarm you with their “flattering lips” (7:21)
3. Avoid seductive women online or in person because…
They will lead you to far-reaching consequences including bondage and death – “Immediately he went after her, as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as a fool to the correction of the stocks, till an arrow struck his liver. As a bird hastens to the snare, he did not know it would cost his life.” (7:22-23)
We are living in a very sexualized society today whereby pornography is very accessible, affordable, aggressive, anonymous, and appealing. Solomon’s description of the seductress is much like the digitalized pornographic women online. Satan uses the beauty of women (in person and online) to entice Christian men away from God and His design for purity in marriage and family, so he can “steal, kill, and destroy” (John 10:10a) their lives today (1 Pet. 5:8).
Solomon concludes these warnings by inviting us to listen to his advice (7:24):
Guard your heart. “Do not let your heart turn aside to her ways” in your imagination or fantasies (7:25a; cf. Matt. 5:28). We are already in danger if we are fantasizing about having sex with a woman outside of marriage. When we are tempted to fantasize about her, turn to the Lord and pray for her salvation (if she is not a believer in Jesus), or for her purity (if she is a believer). Reach out to a brother in Christ to confess your struggle and pray with each other (Jas. 5:16).
Guard your body. “Do not stray into her paths” (7:25b). Avoid where the seductress is waiting for you whether it be online or in person. Do not go or stay near to someone (online or in person) who resembles the immoral or seductive women that Proverbs 7 describes. Ask God what your first step must be to do this. Locking up your digital devices? Getting a flip phone? Changing jobs or locations? Joining a men’s recovery group that deals specifically with porn and sex addiction?
Guard your future. “For she has cast down many wounded, and all who were slain by her were strong men. Her house is the way to hell, descending to the chambers of death” (7:26-27). No matter how “strong” we think we are, we must take seriously the consequences of yielding to her seductive ways. To be in “her house” and in her bed in our thoughts or in person will place us on a fast speedway to “hell” (Sheol) or the grave. If we pursue sin long enough and hard enough it will lead to physical “death.” Possible causes of death could be punishment from an angry husband, from poverty, from STDs, or from spiritual and emotional anguish.
While King Solomon wrote Proverbs 7 warning of the allurements of seductive immoral women, he did not follow his own advice later in life. The Bible tells us, “When Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the Lord his God, as was the heart of his father David” (I Kgs. 11:4). Even though God had warned Solomon not to marry foreign wives because they would turn away his heart after their gods (11:2), Solomon disobeyed the Lord and “had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned away his heart” (11:3). Solomon did not just worship their false gods, he also built worship centers for the people of Israel to worship the false gods of his foreign wives (11:7-8). As a result, God “became angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned from the Lord God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice, and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods; but he did not keep what the Lord had commanded” (I Kgs. 11:9-11).
Solomon’s sexual immorality led to widespread idolatry. In many ways, viewing pornography is idolatrous. What is an idol? An idol is turning to something or someone other than God when we are anxious, bored, depressed, exhausted, lonely, self-doubting, stressed, or even wanting to celebrate. More and more Christians are turning to pornography  instead of the Lord to medicate or celebrate their feelings. Pornography is an idol that is destroying the sons and daughters of God around the world.
As long as we are living in these fallen physical bodies, there will always be the danger of being seduced by immoral women in person or online which can cause us to fall away from the Lord our God. Solomon ignored God’s design for marriage (one wife for life or until the death of one’s spouse – Gen. 2:24; cf. Mark 10:6-12; Rom. 7:2-3; I Cor. 7:10-11), and married hundreds of wives and had hundreds of mistresses.
May none of us think we are beyond the reaches of sexual immorality and the idolatry that often accompanies it.
In Solomon’s case, it is better to do what he says, not what he did. We must guard our hearts, our bodies, and our futures from the dangers of sexual immorality (Prov. 7:24-27). God the Holy Spirit can empower us to do this as we yield to Him in the context of a recovery community of believing brothers in Christ (Rom. 8:10-11; 2 Tim. 2:22).
No matter where we may find ourselves in our dealings with sexual temptation, there is always hope in the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus is not uncomfortable with our sin or shame. He already knows about it, and He wants us to approach His throne of grace with confidence or boldness because He understands and is sympathetic towards our weaknesses (Heb. 4:15-16). Satan wants to convince us that God is against us and condemns us (Rev. 12:10).
Jesus tells us that His heart is “gentle and lowly” (Matt. 11:29), not condemning (cf. John 3:17). When in the temple, Jesus read Isaiah 42:3 which described the coming Messiah: “A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench.” (Matt. 12:20). Jesus, the Messiah, will not treat those of us who are “bruised” with sin and shame harshly (“break” them). He comes along side of us to strengthen and heal us with His presence rather than step on us to advance His own plans. He will not “quench” what little hope (“smoking flax”) we have left inside of us. He wants to rekindle our love and passion for Him and for life itself. He does this with His gentle and gracious presence in our lives which heals our wounds and replaces our shame with dignity.
God says He is for us and demonstrated this by giving us His best – His only perfect Son – when we were at our worst (Rom. 5:8, 10) – to take our condemnation when He died in our place for all our sins and rose from the dead (Rom. 8:31-32, 34). If God gave us His best when we were at our worst, how much more will He do for us now that we are His beloved children!?!
Prayer: Father God, thank You for addressing sexual temptation and sin in these verses. Christian men are being sexually assaulted by the enemy in our society today. Most if a not all of us have mobile devices where we can easily access the allurements of seductive women via online pornography without anyone knowing about it but You. Before it is too late, please Father God, rescue us, redeem us, and restore us to close fellowship with You through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Heal the pain that often drives us to turn to sexual sin. We all have wounds that need Your healing touch. Thank You, Lord Jesus, for being gentle and gracious with our brokenness and shame so we can let down our guard and permit You to heal our wounds and replace our shame with dignity. Please break the chains that keep us bound to our shame. Help us set our minds on the things of the Holy Spirit Who reminds us that You are for us and not against us. The proof? You gave us Your best (Jesus) when we were at our worst (Your enemies), so that now as Your beloved children we can expect Your best for us daily. Please transform our ashes into beauty so we may proclaim the praises of Him Who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light. In the mighty name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.
 Statistics indicate that 60-70 percent of men, 50-58 percent of pastors, and 20-30 percent of women in evangelical churches are sexually addicted – see Jeremy & Tiana Wiles, Conquer Series Study Guide Volume 1 (Stuart, FL: KindgomWorks Studios, 2017), pg. 21.
“When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, ‘Do you want to be made well?’” John 5:6
In this chapter, we are going to address a deadly, dreaded disease. It is important that you listen closely because you could have this disease and not even know it. This disease can spread rapidly and render an entire church body spiritually bedridden. It is called spiritual paralysis or the loss of the ability to walk with God. Those stricken with this disease find themselves spiritually paralyzed…unable to do what God wants them to do. They are unable to make disciples – to lead others to Christ and train them to do the same. They may be unable to overcome a past hurt, habit, or hang up.
As Christians, it is essential that we know Jesus Christ is our greatest Advocate when it comes to recovery from past hurts, habits, or hang ups. When Jesus arrived in Nazareth, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath day and read from the prophet Isaiah a description of the Messiah’s ministry, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed.” (Luke 4:18). The verses Jesus read (4:18-19) were taken from Isaiah 61:1-2 which describe the promised Messiah’s ministry on earth.
There is a progression in Isaiah’s description of the Messiah’s gospel preaching ministry that is relevant to those of us struggling with things outside of God that are controlling us. We have learned to medicate our pain and shame with unhealthy coping behaviors. But Jesus came to “heal the brokenhearted,” resulting in “liberty” from that which we could not break free. Shame imprisons us, but the Savior liberates us. His gospel grants spiritual “sight” to us so we can begin to see ourselves through His eyes and no longer be “oppressed” by shame-based lies.
The biblical text does not tell us if Jesus read verse 3 of Isaiah 61, but this verse is a continuation of the Messiah’s ministry on earth. His healing grace will “console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” Our brokenness brought great sadness (“ashes… mourning”)to us, but Christ’s grace will “console” us, changing our sadness and “heaviness” of shame into “joy” and “praise.” This inward transformation will make us a blessing to others, like oak “trees” flourishing in “righteousness” because of the outrageous grace of God.
Jesus was and still is, all about setting people free from brokenness, chains, blindness, and oppression. He is committed to liberating people from the things in their lives outside of God that are controlling them.
And we all have something in our lives outside of God that is controlling us. It may be alcohol, busyness, a cell phone, drugs, fear, gambling, intellectualism, jealousy, materialism, peoples’ approval, pornography, sex, social media, sports, tobacco, unforgiveness, work, or worry to name a few. I believe the third miracle of Jesus recorded in John’s gospel teaches us important truths for overcoming spiritual paralysis which is often manifested in the form of addictions.
If you feel helpless to overcome things outside of God that are controlling your life, then you are invited to go with the Doctor on a poolside call to see how this dreaded disease of spiritual paralysis can be cured. Just how can we overcome spiritual paralysis?
RESOLVE to Get Well (5:1-6). You must want to get well. 5:1-2a: At the start of His second year of ministry, Jesus went to the Passover “feast” (cf. 6:4) in “Jerusalem,” where He would heal a certain invalid. This miracle took place to the north of the temple area at the “pool” of “Bethesda” near the “Sheep Gate” on the northeastern wall of the city of Jerusalem (diagram 1), which was built by the high priest, Eliashib, with his brethren (cf. Neh. 3:1, 32; 12:39).
Bethesda” means “house of outpouring” or “house of mercy.”  This pool was near the “Sheep Gate” so that sheep coming to be sacrificed in the temple could be brought through this gate after being washed in this pool.
Today, Jesus Christ is our High Priest, and because of His all-sufficient sacrifice on the cross as the Lamb of God (John 1:29), we can be washed clean of all our sins by His blood which enables us to approach God with confidence in His heavenly throne room to worship Him (cf. Heb. 10:1-25; 13:10-16).
Excavations of this part of the temple area have shown there were two pools with a covered colonnade or porch on all four sides of the complex and a fifth colonnade that separated the two pools, confirming the description John gives concerning the “five porches” (John 5:2b) which would shelter the disabled and sick.  Five is the number of grace. Why were all these needy people gathered here?
5:3b-4: Some scholars reject these verses stating that they are not found in older Greek manuscripts and are not consistent with John’s writings.  But there are convincing arguments to include these verses in the original text of the gospel of John. 
All known Greek manuscripts of John’s gospel include these verses except for less than a dozen.
Christian apologist Tertullian confirms the authenticity of the passage in the third century.
The reading was widely distributed in both the East and West as evidenced in the versions and writings of the church Fathers.
The stylistic pattern of this passage is consistent with the unique content and probable connection with the traditions of Bethesda.
The absence of these verses in older manuscripts can be explained by a falsely perceived “pagan tinge.”
The statement about the multitude of sick assembled under the five porches in verse 3 and the response of the lame man in verse 7 demand the presence of verses 3b-4.
We must not forget that the Bible records many miraculous interventions of angels in the lives of ordinary people (cf. Gen. 19:1-11, 21-24; 2 Kings 6:16-18; Dan. 6:22; 10:8-13; Matt. 28:2-4; Acts 5:17-21; 12:5-10; et al.). God in the outpouring of His mercy granted miraculous healings at the Pool of Bethesda to heal some of the sick (diagram 2).
5:5:But there was“a certain man” at this pool who had not received this mercy or grace for “thirty-eight years” (John 5:5). This lame man lay forlornly in a place where God’s mercy and grace seemed to always touch others but never himself. There had been no mercy at the house of mercy for this needy man. Imagine how he must have felt to witness so many people being miraculously healed, but not once did he experience such healing. It would have been easy for him to conclude that God must not love him because if He did, he would be healed by now. For thirty-eight years he had been confined by paralysis to a bed, leaving him weak and hopeless.
Like the lame man who had lost hope, addicts can become so lost in their addiction for so long of a time that they give up on any type of recovery. They hear the testimonies of other addicts which speak of finding freedom from what once held them in bondage. But that freedom of which others testify had escaped them. The hopeless addict can easily conclude that their addiction or the pain that drives it must be too great to overcome. Hence, such an addict has no hope of lasting change because their chains have not been broken.
5:6: Of all the sick and disabled people at the pool that day, Christ chooses the one (diagram 3) who had probably been seeking healing the longest.  All the previous healings at the pool went to the least needy among the invalids (5:4-5, 7).  Now it was time for healing to come to the one who needed it the most. Christ chose this man because He knew “he already had been in that condition a long time” and had lost any hope of being healed.
We may think it strange that Jesus asked this man, “Do you want to be made well?” Surely anyone who has been chronically ill wants to be healed, right? Not necessarily.
“The reality is, most of us – especially addicts – are more comfortable with a familiar sickness than an unfamiliar solution. Jesus was really asking the man, ‘Are you desperate? Are you willing to do whatever I’m about to ask? Are you willing to do whatever it takes? If you are the only one to get well today, are you still all in? Do you really want it?’”
“Do you want to be made well?” That’s a question we may need to answer, as well. The first step to overcoming spiritual paralysis or an addiction is to resolve to get well. Do you want Jesus to heal the parts of your life where you have been deeply wounded or is it easier to hold on to the hurt? Do you want Christ to overcome your fears or are you more comfortable playing it safe and not taking any risks because you are ruled by the fear of what could happen? All too often we hold on tightly to the things that keep us stuck.
To the one crippled by past hurts, Jesus asks, “Do you want to be healed?” To the one chained by secret sin Jesus asks, “Do you want to be set free?” To the one battling addiction Jesus asks, “Do you want to overcome?” To the one who is paralyzed by fear, Jesus asks, “Do you want to admit you are not in control and learn to trust Me?” To the one who has not yet believed in Christ alone to get them to heaven Jesus asks, “Do you want to be saved?” To all of us who need His healing touch in any part of our lives, He asks, “Do you want to be made well?”
The lame man responded to Jesus’ question. 5:7: He seems to be complaining, “Every time the water bubbles up, no one is here to help me into the pool. It’s always the stronger ones who reach the water first. It’s a shame those of us who need it the most get the least amount of help. It’s been that way for thirty-eight years.”
We do the same thing today. How often do we hear people say things like, “I’d stop drinking if my wife would quit nagging me!”“I’d work harder, but no one appreciates my effort.” “I’d stop doing drugs if my friends would stop pressuring me.” “I’d make better grades, but my teacher doesn’t like me.” “I’d come to church, but there are too many hypocrites there.” “I’d give up porn and sex if it wasn’t so accessible and appealing.” “I would forgive him if he would change.” We have such a difficult time saying, “I am responsible for my choices.” We blame heredity, environment, circumstances, the past – everything except ourselves.
Hence, the second way to overcome spiritual paralysis (our addictions) is to REFUSE TO BLAME OTHERS AND TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR OUR OWN CHOICES (5:7). When Jesus asks, “do you want to be made well?” what is our response? When Jesus asks, “do you want to be healed from your past hurts?” Do we reply, “you don’t know how badly they hurt me”? When Jesus asks, “Do you want to be freed from the chains of your secret sin?” do we counter, “I just can’t control myself”? When Christ says, “Do you want to be saved?” will you excuse yourself, “I’m not nearly as bad as other people I know.” When Jesus asks, “Do you want to become more effective in reaching the lost?” do we say, “I’m happy with the way things are?” When Jesus asks, “Will you try new ways to minister to the lost?” do we say, “I’m afraid of what could happen?” Jesus said to the cripple “Do you want to be made well?” And he replied, “I don’t have anyone to put me in.”
To receive the healing Jesus has for our lives, we must refuse to blame others and take responsibility for ourselves. Christ is eager to help us, but we must be willing to let Him. Living in denial only makes our addictions worse. We must break out of denial and stop blaming someone else for the choices we have made. It is time to face the pain in our lives so we will recognize our need for Jesus. Denial can stop today! Healing can begin today!
Jesus ignored the excuse of the lame man and out of love He gave him some strong medicine. 5:8: Christ does not preach to this man. He did not correct his theology. He did not expound upon God’s love and grace. He didn’t tell him to be more thankful. Nor did He recite the promises of God to him. People who have lost hope do not need knowledge. They need compassion and direction. 
First, Christ asks an impossible thing; secondly, He removes all possibility of a relapse; and thirdly, He expects continued success. All these are involved in the words: “Rise, take up your bed and walk.”
From these words, we discover the third way to overcome spiritual paralysis (our addictions): RELY ON CHRIST ALONE FOR HEALING (5:8). Notice that the first thing Jesus says to do is what the man could not do for thirty-eight years – “Rise.” On what basis does Jesus say these words to him? It is important to see this. Perhaps the lame man was thinking, “If this Man tells me to rise (and I cannot rise), it must mean that He intends to do something to make it possible.” Thus, his faith is transferred from his own efforts to Jesus: “He must do it. I can’t.” The man must also have reasoned somewhat along these lines, “If this Man is going to help me then I have got to decide to do what He tells me to do.”
Jesus does not say, “Try to build up faith in your mind. Pray for months first. Form a committee. Go to rehab and then you will be able to walk.” Overcoming addictions is not based on a Twelve-Step program or trying harder. Instead, Christ tells him (and us) to do something: “Rise! Stand up!” Obviously, it was Jesus’ will that this man should do what He told him to do, and the moment the man’s will agreed with the Lord’s will, the power was there. I don’t know whether he felt anything or not. All I know is that strength came into his bones and into his muscles and he could stand. He knew he could stand, and he did. By faith in Jesus this man stood up.
Twelve Step recovery programs begin with admitting one’s powerlessness to overcome their addictions. Every addict promises never to go back to their addictive behaviors after a relapse. But that does not happen until they come to grips with the fact that they are powerless to stop their unwanted behaviors. Jesus is asking this lame man to do something he has been unable to do the last 38 years. To do this, he must admit he is powerless, and Jesus is powerful. He must shift his focus from himself or other people around him to the only One Who has the power to do what is humanly impossible.
The apostle Paul said something similar when he writes, “10 And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” (Rom. 8:10-11). Do we realize that every Christian inhabits a spiritually dead body? We often forget this because we are physically alive. We are not naturally inclined to regard our physical body as dead. But from God’s point of view that is exactly what it is.
We might have expected Paul to say, “If Christ is not in you the body is dead because of sin.” But he does not. He says, “If Christ is in you…” (Rom. 8:10). When we are born again by believing in the Lord Jesus Christ for His gift of eternal life (John 3:15-16, 36; 6:40, 47), our inward nature changes (I John 3:9), but our physical body remains the same (Rom. 7:13-28; I John 1:8, 10; 3:2-3). It is still infected by the deadly virus of sin, and as a result is completely unresponsive to the new life the Christian now possesses. The Christian is inwardly alive, but his physical “house” is dead, that is, totally unresponsive to the new life within.
The good news is “the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in” every Christian though their physical body is dead or unresponsive to the eternal life within them (Rom. 8:11a). The same Spirit “who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies” (Rom. 8:11b). It is God’s Spirit, not our own determination or willpower, which can grant the power to “resurrect” our spiritually dead physical bodies on earth. Thus, the key to overcoming addictions is not through our own determination and strength, but through the power of God’s Spirit indwelling us. 
Perhaps this is why the average secular recovery program only has a 3-10 percent success rate for addicts whereas a Christian-based approach to overcoming addictions has a 70 percent success rate.  Secular approaches tend to focus on the addiction or symptoms rather than the root cause or pain that drives the addictions and the power of God’s indwelling Spirit to heal that pain. Our dependency must be on God’s Spirit within us, not our own determinations, strength, or willpower.
Jesus may ask us to do things as a Christian that we have never attempted before. It may not make sense to us. It may seem impossible to us. But instead of trying to figure everything out, we just need to do it! Overanalysis leads to paralysis.
What does the Lord say next? The Lord did not merely say, “Rise,” He said, “take up your bed.” Why did He say that? I like the way G. Campbell Morgan has put it, “In order to make no provision for a relapse.” The man might have said to himself, “I’m healed, but I had better leave my bed here; I may need it tomorrow.” If he had said that he would have been back in it the next day. But he did not. Jesus said, “Take up your bed. Get rid of it; don’t leave it there. Don’t stay stuck.”
“Wherever your bed is, that’s where your home is. Thus, this man would no longer be sleeping in a place of despair. His home was changing.”
Christ is saying something very important to people and churches who need to be healed: do not make any provision to go back on what you have done. If you do go back, the consequences will be worse than the first time. That’s why Jesus says to the man, “See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.” (John 5:14). This man’s paralysis was due to personal sin. This is not always the case with physical ailments, but sometimes it is. And when Jesus enables us to overcome that sin, He says not to make provision for a relapse. Many people fail right here.
If Christ has enabled you to stop drinking, go home and pour out the alcohol! If you are off drugs, go home and get rid of the drugs! If you have stopped looking at porn, stay offline or at the very least, get an internet filter such as covenant eyes or canopy. Burn your bridges behind you. Say “No” to the friends you used to drink with or do drugs with or had sex with. You will probably find that some of them will come with you. Burn your bridges. Cut off any possibility of going back.
Let somebody know the new stand you have taken so that he or she will help hold you to it. Join an accountability group. Get involved with discipleship. You were wounded in the context of relationships and now you can heal in the context of healthy relationships. You cannot overcome your addictions in isolation. Satan will try to isolate you from Christians who can help you in this recovery process. He uses fear and shame to do this. Ask God to help you push through the fear and shame so you can ask safe believers for the help you need. Remember, “9 Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. 10 For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up.” (Eccles. 4:9-10).
Burn your bridges, is what Jesus is saying. If you have forgiven someone, don’t rehearse the hurtful things they did to you. Let go and move on – burn your bridges. If you have been paralyzed by fear, cling to the promises of God and don’t rehearse those fearful “what ifs.” This is so important. Our Lord knows what He is talking about – “take up your bed.” Remove all possibility of a relapse.
The third thing Jesus said to the lame man is, “walk.” Don’t expect to be carried – walk. Many people want to be carried after they are healed. They expect everybody to gather around them and keep them going – a common area of failure. But if Jesus gives you the power to rise, Jesus is the One who can give you the power to walk every day, to keep going. That is an important thing to see – you and the Lord. Your eyes are not on your friends, your pastor, your recovery group, your counselor, or on yourself; your eyes are to be on Christ now. “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:2). That is how this man kept going. It is how you as a believer can keep going in your Christian life.
It is important to see God’s part and our part in the healing process. Who healed the man at the pool? Jesus. Who had to walk? The man. Who saves us from our sins? Jesus. Who must believe in Him? We must. Who makes us more like Christ and gives us the power to to overcome our sinful addictions? Jesus. Who must decide day by day to follow Him and live life on His terms? We must.
The fourth way to overcome our addictions is to REDIRECT OUR FOCUS AWAY FROM LEGALISM TO CHRIST’S HEALING AND EMPOWERING GRACE (5:9-13). 5:9: The Bible tells usthat “immediately” this invalid’s body responded to the power of Jesus Christ, and he was “made well, took up his bed, and walked.” John’s description of the man’s healing is probably a deliberate understatement. After being unable to walk nearly forty years, no doubt his limbs had atrophied, and his hope had withered. When Christ’s power made him well, this man must have jumped up off the ground, skipping and dancing, and doing cartwheels all around that pool of despair.  The outpouring of God’s mercy and grace had finally come to him.
But the apostle John reminds us in his reference to that day of healing being on “the Sabbath” (5:9b), that there were killjoys at this pool of mercy. 5:10: “The Jews” or religious leaders scolded this ecstatic man who had just been healed (Diagram 4), saying, “It is the Sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your bed.”
“According to the prevailing Jewish interpretation of the law, it was not legitimate to carry anything from one place to another on the Sabbath (cf. Neh. 13:15; Jer. 17:21-27). Doing so constituted a capital offense that could result in stoning. The rabbis allowed for exceptional cases, such as moving a lame person, for compassionate reasons.” 
“The Lord instituted the Sabbath as a gift. He ordered a day of rest to rejuvenate the bodies and minds of His people. More importantly, it was given in order to break the day-in, day-out cycle of routine so that people would not forget that God is the ultimate source of their sustenance; their labors are but a means of His provision. The Sabbath gave people permission to stop work so they would not neglect a vital need: worship. We are created for worship; therefore, worship is good for us. But the Pharisees turned this wonderful gift of God into a burden, an occasion for severe criticism, an excuse to exercise power, and yet another opportunity to remind themselves and everyone else of their superior moral worth.” 
Tragically, the religious leaders were more concerned about the infringement on their Sabbath rules than about Christ’s healing grace in this man’s life. Sadly, this is true of many churches today or Christian recovery groups. They are more concerned about their man-made rules than they are about sinners encountering the healing grace of Jesus Christ. Their focus is more on the behavior of an addict rather than the addict’s heart and way of thinking. That is the spirit of legalism. Legalism will render an addict spiritually paralyzed and defeated. The constant emphasis on behavior will reinforce the addict’s cycle of shame. The lame man did not know Christ. Jesus healed him regardless because of His GRACE. Grace is not restricted by rules and regulations or how much one knows. Grace expands in the context of loving relationships.
Jesus was more concerned about this man’s need to be healed than He was about breaking the Sabbath rules of the religious leaders. Grace puts relationships ahead of rules. Legalism puts rules ahead of relationships. God’s grace teaches us that an addict cannot change his behavior until He looks to Jesus to change his heart (cf. Mark 7:14-23).
5:11-13: The former lame man’s response to the religious leaders shows that he preferred to listen to this unknown Man with supernatural power, not these leaders who were practicing religion. These men had known he laid there as an invalid for thirty-eight years, but they never offered him any assistance. So, when an unknown Healer restores his legs and commands him to carry his mat, there was no question in his mind about whom he would listen to.
If you have been in a recovery program or church that lack the healing grace of Jesus Christ from within because of their focus on external appearances, will you stay there or take up your mat and go home to a place off healing and hope? It is not an easy choice to make if legalism is all you have ever known.
Here is the dilemma. When Jesus wanted to do something new, the religious leaders were still caught up in the old. They were in a rut. Someone once said the difference between a rut and a grave is depth and length. And that is the dilemma for many of us today. We try to fit God into our safe set of rules. And like the legalists, we think that everyone else should also conform to our safe and comfortable box. But God is not contained in a box. The moment you think He is, He will do something new to burst that box you tried to contain Him in. God is looking to do something new in our lives and churches (cf. Isaiah 43:19).
I wonder what may be in our lives and church that simply cannot co-exist with the new thing that God wants to do? God is looking for someone who will step out in faith and say, “I don’t know what’s going to happen – but I want to join God in the new thing He is doing.”
We then discover the fifth way to overcome our spiritual paralysis (our addictions) which is to REMEMBER THERE ARE STILL CONSEQUENCES FOR OUR CHOICES (5:14). 5:14: The word “found” suggests that Jesus was looking for the former lame man (Diagram 5), He did not just happen to see him. Christ continues to pursue us after He heals us. Jesus came back to reveal Himself to this man. He wanted him to have more than just a healthy body. He wanted the former lame man to be healthy spiritually as well. He not only healed him of his physical affliction, but He also now wants to save this man from a “worse thing” which is possibly a reference to eternal suffering in the lake of fire. 
For this lame man to avoid returning to his sin, he needed Jesus in His life. John tells us in his gospel, “37 On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. 38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ 39 But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” (John 7:37-39). Believing in Christ for eternal life not only saves us from eternal suffering in the lake of fire, but it also results in God’s Spirit living inside us to give us the power to resist temptation and progressively experience victory over our sinful addictions. Christ shares His identity with this man now so he can know the Giver of eternal life and ask Him for it (cf. John 4:10).
It is also possible that Jesus is thinking of the consequences of going back to the sin that led to this man’s physical disability. I am not suggesting that all disabilities are because of personal sin. But in this man’s case it was.
How does this relate to overcoming addictions? It is possible to become sober for a long time and still be spiritually and emotionally unhealthy. Especially if you do not replace the addiction with Christ and His Word. When speaking of the spiritual condition of the wicked generation of Israelites in His day, Jesus said, “43 When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none. 44 Then he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. 45 Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first. So shall it also be with this wicked generation.” (Matthew 12:43-45). We can sweep our house clean by becoming sober. Like the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, we can look good on the outside talking about the length of our sobriety. But inwardly we can lack love, joy, peace, patience, and kindness. If we do not fill the void in our lives with Christ and His Spirit, we are opening ourselves up to something far “worse than the first” addictions we had. We will experience greater demonic influences in our lives.
The final way to overcome our spiritual paralysis or addictions is to RENDER ALL THE GLORY TO CHRIST (5:15). 5:15: This man gave all the credit to Jesus for his healing (Diagram 6). Some interpreters think the man was giving his allegiance to the religious leaders instead of to Christ. But I understand this verse to confirm that the former lame man was giving Jesus the glory for his miraculous healing.
I am reminded of a story about a woodpecker that was pecking away at a huge tree. Suddenly a bolt of lightning struck the tree and split it from top to bottom. The woodpecker flew off in a flash. Minutes later he returned with several other woodpeckers. Pointing to the tree, he said, “There it is. Look at what I did!”
Are we quick to take credit for what God is doing in our lives and in our church? Or when God works in another believer’s life, are we quick to give the glory to that Christian instead of giving all the glory to God? When we humbly submit to Christ’s authority and give Him all the glory for the work He is doing in our lives, He gives us special power to continue to walk with Him.
Do you as an individual want to be made well today? Perhaps you are a Christian and you have been unable to live the way God wants you to live. You may be crippled by past hurts or a present habit or hang up or something else. Do you want to be made well and walk with the Lord Who has the power to set you free from your addictions? If so, you can say this prayer to God…
Prayer: “Lord God, I want to get well. I am tired of living in fear and shame all my life. I admit I do not have what it takes to overcome my addictions without You. Please make me willing to do whatever You ask of me. Please forgive me for blaming others, including You. Right now, I take responsibility for my own actions, and I trust You alone to heal me. Please give me the power to overcome the sin in my life that has crippled me. Help me burn the bridges that lead back to that sin so I can keep my eyes on You, walking with You the rest of my life. Please provide a group of loving Christians who can help me on this journey of healing and recovery for I cannot do this alone. Replace my fear with a radical faith that trusts You to do the impossible. In Jesus’s name. Amen.”
 Tom Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on John, 2023 Edition, pg. 149 cites John Wilkinson, Jerusalem as Jesus knew it: Archaeology as Evidence (London: Thames and Hudson, 1978), pp. 95-104; Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 174.
 Edwin A. Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Gospels, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 582.
 Gordon D. Fee, “On the Authenticity of John 5:3b-4,” Evangelical Quarterly 54 (October-December 1982): 207-218; Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (London: United Bible Societies), pg. 209; Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John, NICNT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971), pg. 203.
 Zane C. Hodges, “The Angel of Bethesda – John 5:4,” Bibliotheca Sacra 136 (January-March 1979): 39.
 Robert Wilkin, “The Gospel According to John,” The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society. 2019 Kindle Edition), pg. 190.
 Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on John, Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 4 (Tyndale House Publishers, 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 112.
 Mark Denison’s July 29, 2021, article entitled “Jesus on Recovery: 3 Keys to Overcome Addiction” at covenanteyes.com.
“And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.” I John 5:20.
This will be our last lesson on the book of I John. As we have stated several times before, this book is about fellowship with God (1:3-4). Being in fellowship with God depends on walking in the light as He is in the light (1:7), confessing our sins (1:9), keeping God’s commandments (2:3-5; 3:24), loving one another (2:9-11; 3:11-23; 4:7-5:3), hating the world (2:15-17), acknowledging Jesus is God’s Son (2:23; 4:2-3, 4:15), practicing righteousness (2:29-3:10), listening to and obeying apostolic teaching (4:6), and avoiding idolatry (5:21).
As the apostle John concludes his letter, he is seeking to encourage his Christian readers (2:12-14; 5:13) who may be moving deeper into darkness along the path of sin or they may know of other Christians who are, and therefore, may be in danger of a premature physical death (5:16-17; cf. Acts 5:5-10; I Cor. 3:16-17; 5:5; 11:30). John already presented two unchanging certainties in 5:18-19 beginning with the phrase “we know that…” (oidamen hoti). He wants his readers to know that no matter how far down into darkness a Christian brother or sister has traveled, they are still God’s child at the core of their being because His sinless seed remains in them (5:18; cf. 3:9) and he or she is on God’s side whether they consciously sense that or not, and will therefore feel like a foreigner in this Satanically controlled world (5:19; 2:16-17). 1
We are now ready to look at the third encouragement from the apostle in 5:20. This is one of the clearest verses in the Bible concerning the deity of Jesus Christ. “And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.” (I John 5:20). Again, we see the phrase, “we know that…” which reminds us that what John is about to say is absolute truth from God the Holy Spirit.
What is it we can know with certainty? “That the Son of God has come…” (5:20a). John and the other apostles were eyewitnesses to the coming of God’s Son in the first century (cf. 1:1-5; 2:7; 4:14). Jesus is not some mythical person. History attests to the fact that Jesus Christ was a real Person Who was born before King Herod’s death.
Luke 2:1 states that Jesus was born in the reign of Caesar Augustus (who reigned from March 15, 44 B.C. to August 19, A.D 14). Matthew 2:1 and Luke 1:5 inform us that Christ’s birth came before King Herod’s death. Herod’s death can be determined with certainty. According to the Jewish historian, Josephus (Antiquities 17.6.4), an eclipse of the moon occurred on March 12/13, 4 B.C. before Herod’s death. 2 Josephus also records (Antiquities 17.9.3; The Jewish War 2.1.30) that the Passover celebration that took place after King Herod’s death occurred on April 11, 4 B.C. 3 Hence, Herod must have died between March 12 and April 11, 4 B.C. Therefore, for these reasons Christ could not have been born later than March/April of 4 B.C.
Every time we write down today’s date, it goes back to Jesus. Today is May 11, 2023. Two thousand twenty-three years from what? From A.D. which stands for Anno Domini, which is Latin for “year of our Lord,” and it means the number of years since the birth of Jesus Christ.
“It might sound strange to suggest that Jesus Christ was born no later than 4 B.C. since B.C. means ‘before Christ.’ But our modern calendar which splits time between B.C. and A.D. was not invented until A.D. 525. At that time, Pope John the First asked a monk named Dionysius to prepare a standardized calendar for the western Church. Unfortunately, poor Dionysius missed the real B.C./A.D. division by at least four years!” 4
In addition to the historicity of Christ’s birth, there is also ample historical evidence for the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Josephus also wrote of Jesus’ death,“Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men among us, had condemned him to the cross.” 5 Roman historian,Cornelius Tacitus, wrote, “a wise man who was called Jesus…. Pilate condemned Him to be condemned and to die.” In addition, he said that Jesus’ disciples “reported that He had appeared to them three days after His crucifixion and that He was alive.” 6
A Roman writer,Phlegon, referred to Christ’s death and resurrection in his Chronicles, saying, “Jesus, while alive, was of no assistance to himself, but that he arose after death, and exhibited the marks of his punishment, and showed how his hands had been pierced by nails.” 7
In addition, Phlegon spoke of “the eclipse in the time of Tiberius Caesar, in whose reign Jesus appears to have been crucified, and the great earthquakes which then took place.”8
The historical evidence for Jesus’ death is so overwhelming that even a Muslim scholar, Reza Aslan, who wrote the book, Zealot, was persuaded to conclude Jesus “was most definitely crucified.” 9 Despite the fact that the Quran denies Christ’s death (Sura 4:157),the historical evidence persuaded Aslan to conclude that Christ truly did die on the cross. “He believes so strongly in Jesus’ death by crucifixion that he uses it as the foundation for his entire theory of Jesus’ life.” 10
Just as history proclaims that George Washington was the first President of the USA, so history proclaims that Jesus Christ was born in 4 B.C., and thirty-three years later died and rose from the dead. The resurrection of Christ is the most attested fact of ancient history. Thomas Arnold authored a three-volume history of Rome and was appointed to Oxford’s Chair of Modern History. Concerning the evidence behind the resurrection of Jesus Christ, he said, “I have been used for years to study the histories of other times, and to examine and weigh the evidence of those who have written about them, and I know of no one fact in the history of mankind which is proved by better and fuller evidence of every sort, to the understanding of a fair inquirer, than that Christ died and rose from the dead.” 11
Frank Morison, a British trial lawyer, vowed to write a book disproving Christianity and committed to base his book on a collection of facts. Using a critical method of evaluation and despite his initial beliefs, he concluded that Christianity is true. The resurrection convinced him, and he wrote a book entitled, Who Moved the Stone? which begins with the chapter, “The Book that Refused to Be Written.”
Former atheists Josh McDowell and Lee Strobel set out to disprove the resurrection of Christ only to be persuaded by the historical evidence that Jesus did indeed rise from the dead. You can read about the evidence that persuaded them to believe in Jesus in their books: McDowell ‘s The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict (1999) and The Resurrection Factor (1981); Strobel’s The Case for Christ Revised (2013) and The Case for Easter (2004).
John states that Christ came “and has given us an understanding” (5:20b). The Greek word for “understanding” (dianoian) refers to “comprehending,” or “insight, intelligence.” 12 This is the only time John uses this word in his epistle. Christ’s coming provided the giving of the Holy Spirit or “the anointing” (2:21-20, 27) to all who believe in Jesus (John 7:37-39; Acts 10:43-48; 11:15-17; 15:7-11; Rom. 5:5; 8:9; I Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:2-3; Ephes. 1:13-14; et al.).
In his gospel, John records that the night before His crucifixion, Jesus promised His disciples that the Holy Spirit would “dwell… in” them (John 14:16-17; cf. I Cor. 3:16; 6:19), “teach” them and bring to “remembrance all” that He taught (John 14:26), and “guide” them into “all truth” to “glorify” Jesus (John 16:13-14).
John informs us that this “understanding” the Holy Spirit gives believers (cf. I Cor. 2:9-16) enables them to “know Him who is true” (5:20c). The word “know” (ginōskōmen) refers to experiential knowledge (see comments on 2:3-4, 12-14). The coming of the Son of God has given believers the comprehension or intelligence necessary to “know Him” experientially “who is true.” This experiential knowledge is the result of obedience to God’s commands (2:3-4; c. John 14:21, 23). 13
“Christian love (obedience) is never absent where God is truly known (cf. comments on 4:7-8). There could be no true understanding of love or of God had not the Son of God come and died to reveal God’s love. Through His death the Son has given us an understanding (an intelligence) by means of which we may know God. The obedient Christian possesses the necessary spiritual capacity to know God.”14
When John states “and we are in Him who is true” (5:20d), we are reminded that he equated being “in Him” (God) to “abiding” in Him (cf. 2:5-6), just as Jesus taught the branch is to abide in the vine (cf. John 15:1-8).Christ said that “abiding” is necessary to be a “disciple” who “bears fruit,” experiences answered prayer and “joy,” and glorifies “the Father” (John 15:1-11). To be “in Him” is equated to having fellowship with God. 15 Hence, John is not talking about our position or salvation in I John 5:20 when he speaks of being “in Him,” he is talking about our condition or fellowship with God. Being “in Him” refers to “abiding” in Him. 16
John then identifies the One “who is true” when he writes, “in His Son Jesus Christ” (5:20e). John heard Christ say the night before His crucifixion, “I am… the truth” (John 14:6). There is nothing false or misleading about Jesus Christ. He is the truth.Some suggest that the first “Him” in 5:20 refers to God the Father (“that we know Him who is true”) and the second “Him” refers to Christ(“and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ”).
“But to be in Him, that is, to abide in Him, is not only to abide in Him who is true (as John has just described God), but it is also to be in His Son Jesus Christ. There is no and between the phrases in Him and in His Son. To abide in God and to abide in Christ are the same thing.” 17
John then makes one of the clearest proclamations of the deity of Christ in all the Bible in the last part of the verse. “This is the true God and eternal life.” (5:20f). Clearly the nearest antecedent in 5:20 for the pronoun “this” (houtos) is Jesus Christ (Iēsou Christō) which agrees in gender (masculine) and number (singular). Christ is the main focus of this verse. John clearly states that Jesus Christ is “the true God and eternal life.” There is no other possible antecedent in this verse.
Someone might ask, “Didn’t Jesus deny that He was the true God when He prayed to His Father in heaven and addressed Him as the only true God in John 17:3?” Christ prayed to His Father in heaven, “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (John 17:3). Jesus was not denying He was the “true God,” but was praising His Father as such.
The very next words after this verse are: “I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.” (John 17:4-5). Jesus said He shared the glory of God the Father before the world was. But the Yahweh of the Old Testament says, “I am the Lord, that is My name; and My glory I will not give to another.” (Isaiah 42:8). How can Jesus claim to have the glory of His Father before the world was if Yahweh says He will not give His glory to another?
Because Jesus is the Yahweh of the Old Testament. He has the same divine nature as His Father. Jesus identifies Himself with the Father. Jesus “is in” the Father, and the Father “is in” Jesus (John 10:38). Jesus is “one” with the Father (John 10:30). They are not divided in essence. So, in one sense Jesus is in the Father; and if the Father is the only true God, then Jesus is also the true God.
The Greek word translated “only” (monos) in John 17:3 does not always refer to absolute exclusivity. For example, monos is used in Jude 1:4 of “the only” Lordship of Jesus Christ, “For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only [monos] Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.” Jude is not excluding God the Father when he refers to “the only” Lordship of Jesus Christ. Other verses in the Bible confirm the Lordship of God the Father (Psalm 2:7; 110:1; Isaiah 63:16; Mark 13:20; Luke 10:21-22) and God the Son, Jesus Christ (Psalm 110:2; Luke 6:5; 19:31; John 13:13; 20:28; Acts 2:36; 10:36; 16:31; Romans 10:9; Philippians 2:11; Revelation 17:14).
To say that Jesus denies He is God in John 17:3 would contradict the entire message of the gospel of John which begins (John 1:1-18) and ends (John 20:28-31) with the fact that Jesus is God.
In John 17:3, Jesus was not creating a point of distinction between Himself and the Father in the expression, “only true God”, but between the Father and any other “so called god” such as idols. Christ had lived among the Romans with their many competing gods and Jesus was addressing the Father with these idols in mind.
This understanding is substantiated further by John in his epistle when he identifies Christ as “the true God” (5:20f). John clearly states that Jesus Christ is the true God. He then writes, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.” (I John 5:21). John affirms that Jesus “is the true God” and then immediately warns his readers to guard themselves “from idols” or false gods.
In I John 5:20 the apostle also declares that Jesus Christ is “eternal life,” which connects back to the prologue (1:1-4) where the subject matter of John’s epistle was identified as “that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us.” (1:2b). This supports the final statement in verse 20 as a reference to Jesus Christ. Taken together, 1:2 and 5:20 provide bookends for what John wrote. By saying Jesus is the “eternal life,” John has fulfilled his intention to “declare” to his readers this “eternal life” (1:2). 18
“He has shown them that by ‘abiding’ in Him who is true (which is also to abide in His Son Jesus Christ), they can experience eternal life. That life, expressed in love toward their Christian brothers and sisters, springs out of the sinless inner self (5:18). It marks their life and experience as being of God rather than of the world (5:19), and expresses the spiritual understanding that the Son of God came to give them (5:20a).”19
As we mentioned in our previous lesson, some of you may have a Christian spouse or child whohas pursued the lusts of this passing world (2:16-17). They have been so twisted by the godless values of this world system that they are doing things that are contrary to their Christian beliefs and values. Because of their prolonged plunge into the deep darkness of sin, you have lost hope that they will ever return to fellowship with God and His people.
John wants to encourage us in 5:20 with this “spiritual radar system or search light the Holy Spirit uses to direct us to the true God. There are many false gods in the world (as the next verse warns), which can lead us far from the path of God. This internal guidance system can help bring us home. It’s what Paul would call the ‘mind of Christ’ (1 Cor 2:15-16).” 20
In stark contrast to the Lord Jesus Christ who is “the true God and eternal life” (5:20), John concludes his epistle with a final admonition to avoid false gods: “Little children,keep yourselves from idols. Amen.” (I John 5:21). John begins this verse with “Little children” (teknia, “born-ones”; cf. 2:1, 12, 28; 3:7, 18; 4:4) 21 which expresses his fatherly love and concern for these believers.
This concluding verse may seem out of place to us at first, but in view of John’s previous discussion on prayer for a sinning believer (5:16-17) and his three encouragements (5:18-20), the last of which uses the word “true” three times to describe our “God” (5:20), this is a very pertinent conclusion to the apostle’s epistle on fellowship with God and other believers.
The opposite of true is false. Our God is true (5:20), but “idols” are false gods (5:21). “There is no need to take ‘idols’ in a figurative sense. In the Greco-Roman world of John’s day, any moral compromise with worldly perspectives was likely to lead to some involvement with idolatry, since idolatry permeated pagan life at every level.”22
Our spiritual radar system (intelligence given to us by the Holy Spirit – 5:20), can help us recognize the true God (Jesus Christ) in contrast to the false gods of this world. False gods can destroy our fellowship or closeness with God and other Christians. 23
Anderson observes that “we don’t have to study the Old Testament long to see that while kings ruled in Israel, idolatry reigned in the temple more years than Yahweh. God used the Assyrians and the Babylonians to purify His people from their idols. And since it was King Solomon who introduced idolatry into Israel through his intermarriage with foreign wives, we see how easily idolatry can creep into the life of a wise man who was even used by God to write inspired revelation.
“Idols are usually good things. The bronze serpent (Num. 21:4-9) was initially used by God to heal the Israelites from snake bites. But eight centuries later (2 Kgs. 18:4) Hezekiah had to destroy the bronze serpent, for it had become an idol called Nehushtan (piece of bronze) to which they burned incense. Our idols are usually not evil things, but rather good things: our possessions (cars, houses, even yards), our retirement accounts, our bodies, our success—you name it.” 24
How do we identify an idol? It has been said that “an idol is like an eclipse of the sun— the moon gets in the way. When something gets between us and God’s light, then darkness creeps in and whatever is blocking that light is an idol. Beware! Solomon was no dummy. He thought he was doing something good by expanding the land of Israel out to the borders promised by God to Abraham. But he had to compromise the guidelines laid down by God for a king (Deut. 17:17) in order to do it.”25
Ask yourself the following questions:
Is it taking the place of God in my life? Is it becoming more important to me than spending time with the Lord Jesus?
Is it more important to me than my family, my Christian friends, and my ministry?
What do I turn to other than God to medicate my feelings of anxiety, boredom, depression, exhaustion, loneliness, self-doubts, or stress?
What do I turn to other than God to celebrate or reward myself for an accomplishment or achievement?
If you answered these questions honestly, you probably have a good idea of some idols in your life. An idol could be alcohol, your cell phone, drugs, entertainment, fame, feelings, intellectualism, novels, pleasure, possessions, power, sex, social media, sports, success, work, etc.
I believe one of the most dangerous and destructive idols for believers of all ages in the church today is pornography.26 Yet most churches do not know how to address it in a way that offers hope and healing for those enslaved to it. 27 Churches often preach against the problem of pornography without providing a safe environment to address the real problem which is a deeper hurt in the hearts of those hooked on porn. Pornography is simply a surface coping mechanism for a deeper wound. Unresolved pain or trauma from our past is often what drives addictions of any kind.
The solution to overcoming pornography or any addiction for that matter, is to look to Jesus Christ, the true God and eternal life, to heal the pain that drives the addiction (I John 5:20). This is done through the discipleship process whereby a believer in Jesus learns to abide in Jesus’ word along with other believers so they can know the truth that sets them free from the lies that drive their bondage to sin and shame (John 8:31-36). As a believer identifies the lies that drive their addiction, they can learn to replace those lies in the power of the Holy Spirit with the truth of God’s Word that brings freedom from bondage to sin (cf. Psalm 119:28-29). This is to be done in the context of a loving community of like-minded believers who can encourage and empower each other on their journey to freedom (2 Tim. 2:22).
If you do not know for sure you have eternal life and a future home in Jesus’ heaven, you need to start with understanding that Jesus Christ is the only source of eternal life. The bookends of I John (1:1-3; 5:20) have informed us of this. To have eternal life in one’s life, you must have Jesus Christ, Who is eternal life (5:20), in your life (5:11-12). How do you get Christ in your life? John wrote, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.” (I John 5:13). To “know” with absolute certainty, not guess, or hope that you “have eternal life,” you must “believe in the name of the Son of God.” There is no mention of having fruit, obedience, or a changed life to know you have eternal life. The only condition is to “believe in the name of the Son of God.” This is so simple that many adults miss it.
In this context, to “believe in” (pisteúō eis) the name of the Son of God means to be convinced or persuaded that Jesus Christ is the true God and eternal life (5:20) Who will give you eternal life as a free gift the moment you believe in His name. 28 Are you convinced or persuaded that this promise of God is true? If so, then you can “know” with absolutely certainty that you now have eternal life. And you can be just as certain of heaven as the people who are already there. Knowing we are going to heaven is not a guess; it is a guarantee from Jesus Christ Who is the true God and eternal life (I John 5:1, 13, 20; cf. John 14:1-6). Christ cannot lie (Titus 1:2; Heb. 6:18). His promise is as true as He is true.
If you or a fellow believer close to you find yourselves moving deeper into darkness on the pathway of sin and there seems to be no hope of returning to fellowship with God and His people, I pray that God’s encouraging promises in John’s final words in his letter (5:18-21) will give you the assurance and guidance you need. These promises include… 29
1. God’s sinless seed (divine nature) remains in youor your loved one so that you (or he/she) are still the same holy child of God who remains untouched or harmed by evil or the evil one no matter how badly or long you (or he/she) have sinned (5:18; 3:9). This unchanged seed remains a base from which the Holy Spirit can work within you (or him/her) to bring healing to you (or him/her) so you can return to fellowship with God and His people.
2.You (or he/she) are on God’s side and will never be completely comfortable living for this world (5:19). As a child of God, you (or he/she) are totally separate from the whole world that lies under the influence of Satan, and to some degree you will never feel completely comfortable in this sin sick world. God can turn your (or his/her) discomfort into disgust so you (or he/she) will turn towards home (God).
3. God’s search light (inner, spiritual intelligence) within you (or him/her) can be used by the Holy Spirit to guide you(or him/her) back to the true God and eternal life, Jesus Christ (5:20-21). God’s Spirit can whisper what is right in the ear of a wayward believer whose fellowship with God and other Christians has been cut off by their focus on the idols of this world, so he or she will return to the only true God Who alone can give them fullness of joy as they resume fellowship with Him and His people.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for the book of I John which was written to help believers experience the joy of close fellowship with You and Your eternal Son, Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, there are many false gods or idols in the world that seek to draw us away from You and Your Word. Some of us or those we love, have become enslaved to these idols and we are in desperate need of Your Spirit to turn our discomfort in this sin sick world into disgust so we may return to the true God and eternal life, Jesus Christ. Forgive us Father for turning to the things of this world to medicate our pain instead of looking to Jesus, Who can heal us and satisfy our deepest needs. Thank You for the encouraging promises You have given us at the end of John’s epistle which offer us assurance and guidance. Help us to express our new nature and separateness from this Satanically controlled world system by guarding ourselves from the false gods of this world. Rescue us, restore us, and renew us, we pray. In the mighty name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
1. David R. Anderson, Maximum Joy: I John – Relationship or Fellowship? (Grace Theology Press, 2013 Kindle Edition), pg. 265.
2. Retrieved on May 11, 2023, from Daniel B. Wallace’s article entitled “The Birth of Jesus Christ,” at bible.org and from the Biblical Archaeology Society Staff’s December 15, 2022, article entitled “Herod’s Death, Jesus’ Birth, and a Lunar Eclipse at biblicalarchaeology.org.
4. Wallace, “The Birth of Jesus Christ,” at bible.org.
5. Norman L. Geisler and Abdul Saleeb, Answering Islam: The Crescent in Light of the Cross,Second Edition (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2002), pg. 236 cites Flavius Josephus, “Antiquities of the Jews,” 18:3; trans. William Whiston, Josephus: Complete Works (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1963), pg. 379.
6. Ibid. cites Cornelius Tacitus (A.D. 55? – after 117), Annals, 15.44.
7. Ibid., cites Phlegon, “Chronicles,” as cited by Origen, “Against Celsus” from The Ante-Nicene Fathers, trans. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1976), vol. 4, pg. 455.
9. Nabeel Qureshi, No God but One: Allah or Jesus? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2016 Kindle Edition), pg. 179 cites interview with Lauren Green.
11. Thomas Arnold, Christian Life, Its Hopes, Its Fears, and Its Close, 6th ed. (London: T. Fellowes, 1859), pp. 14-16.
12. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 234.
13. Zane C. Hodges; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 604.
14. Ibid., pg. 606.
15. See Dillow’s thorough discussion of John 15 in Joseph Dillow, Final Destiny: The Future Reign of The Servant Kings:Fourth Revised Edition (Grace Theology Press, 2018 Kindle Edition), pp. 611-626.
16. Anderson, Maximum Joy, pg. 265.
17. Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 606.
20. Anderson, Maximum Joy, pg. 265.
21. Zane C. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 4130.
22. Ibid., Kindle Location 4130 to 4135.
23. Anderson, Maximum Joy, pg. 266.
25. Ibid., pp. 266-267.
26. Statistics indicate that 60-70 percent of men, 50-58 percent of pastors, and 20-30 percent of women in evangelical churches are sexually addicted – see Jeremy & Tiana Wiles, Conquer Series: The Battle Plan For Purity Study Guide, Vol. 1 (Stuart FL: KingdomWorks Studio, 2017), pg. 21; young people are also struggling with watching pornography online as young as four years of age and older because it is so accessible, addictive, aggressive, anonymous, and appealing (see Christian apologist and author Josh McDowell’s very informative and staggering videos on October 7, 2018 at Denton Bible Church entitled, “Breaking Free from the Porn Epidemic w/ Josh McDowell” at https://vimeo.com/294241982 and on August 3, 2021 with Pure Desire Ministries entitled, “The Effects of Pornography with Josh McDowell” at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y3sRmLFarZc .” Christians who are hooked on pornography have less spiritual interest in attending church, reading their Bibles, prayer, and hanging out with other Christians.
27. Less than 7% of pastors in America provide solutions to help their people break free from porn (see Ted Shimer, The Freedom Fight: The New Drug and the Truths that Set Us Free (Houston: High Bridge Books, 2020), pg. 89 cites Barna Survey at https://www.charismnews.com/us/73208-15-statistics-about-the-church-and-pornography-that-will-blow-your-mind. However, Shimer also provides practical suggestions in his book on how churches can overcome the obstacles that keep them from addressing pornography in helpful and healthy ways (pp. 91-99).
28. The phrase to “believe in” (pisteúō eis) basically means to be convinced or persuaded that something is true and therefore is worthy of your trust – see Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, pp. 816-817.
This is the fourth video in a series entitled, “Real Solutions to Real Problems.” In this presentation you will learn from the Bible several transforming principles for overcoming loneliness.
All Scriptures are from the New King James Version Bible unless otherwise noted. Digital images are used with permission from FreeBibleimages.org, Goodsalt.com, Good News Productions International and College Press Publishing, John Paul Stanley / YoPlace.com, Sweet Publishing / FreeBibleimages.org or they are creative common licenses.
“But hold fast what you have till I come.” Revelation 2:25
The ascended Lord Jesus addresses the fourth church next. “And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write, ‘These things says the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet like fine brass.’” (Revelation 2:18). “Thyatira was the smallest and least significant of the seven cities, but it was the one that received the longest letter.”1
“According to legend, Thyatira was first established as a shrine to the sun god Tyrimnus and named Pelopia.”2
This town stood about forty-five miles to the southeast of Pergamum. It was famous for its textiles, but especially for its production of purple dye (cf. Acts 16:14) and its trade guilds (or social clubs). 3
Sadly, these guilds were also steeped in blasphemous worship and sexual sin. The church in Thyatira had a woman, Jezebel, who supported such guild practices. If a Christian refused to participate in idol worship, he or she would often be excluded from the guild, and therefore be unable to conduct their business. 4
The Lord Jesus describes Himself as “the Son of God,who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet like fine brass.” This description of Christ is like that in 1:13-15, but here He is called the “Son of God” rather than “the Son of Man,” since this situation required a reaffirmation of His deity and the authority or right to judge this church. 5
“Eyes like a flame of fire” refers to Jesus’ blazing anger against sin and His ability to see beneath the surface into the inmost being of a person’s heart. 6 The Greek word used to describe Christ’s feet like “fine brass” is a rare word chalkolibanō, also used in 1:15. It seems to have been an alloy of several metals characterized by brilliance when polished. 7 This speaks of the risen Christ’s inflexible, immovable strength and power 8 and His readiness to execute judgment (cf. Revelation 19:15). 9
Although much was wrong with the church in Thyatira, Christ commends this church when He says, “I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience; and as for your works, the last are more than the first.” (Revelation 2:19). These believerswere strong in good “works,”“love” for others (not mentioned in the other letters), “faith” in God, “service” of their Savior, and “patience” or perseverance in trials. This church was doing more as time went on (“the last are more than the first”)in contrast to the church at Ephesus which did less. 10 Often churches stop growing over time, but not the church in Thyatira. Their “works, love, service, faith, and…patience” continued to increase more that what they had at “first.”
But despite this evidence of Christian growth, the church in Thyatira had some serious flaws and needed a Judge. “Nevertheless, I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols.” (Revelation 2:20). Whereas the church in Ephesus would not allow false teachers, this church did. The risen Lord Jesus rebukes them for permitting a false teacher named “Jezebel” to entice them to practice “sexual immorality” connected to idolatrous worship (“to… eat things sacrificed to idols”).
“It is likely that Jezebel’s immorality involved teaching God’s people that it was acceptable to engage in the activities of the guild feasts that took place in pagan temples. The pressure on the workers of that day to give in was great because failure to attend these feasts could threaten their livelihood.”11
“Though perhaps this was her real name, Jezebel also brings to mind the wife of Israel’s King Ahab (see 1 Kgs 16:31; 2 Kgs 9) and represents an entire category of immoral and idolatrous women.” 12
A modern-day practice of Jezebel’s doctrine is connected to pornography which involves sexual immorality and idolatry. Pornography is one of the most destructive practices in the church today and most churches do not know how to address it in a way that offers hope and healing for those enslaved to it. The majority of churches preach against the problem of pornography without providing a safe environment to address the real problem which is a deeper hurt in the hearts of those hooked on porn. Pornography is simply a surface coping mechanism for a deeper wound. Statistics indicate that 60-70 percent of men, 50-58 percent of pastors, and 20-30 percent of women in evangelical churches are sexually addicted.13
“Pornography is the number one addiction for men. One out of two internet hits have to do with sex and pornography. Pornography can ruin normal sexual relationships because no real person can live up to pornographic images and fantasies. Research has shown that the limbic system bonds with whatever you are visualizing at the time of orgasm, so the next time you have sexual cravings they will be focused on that image or fantasy. This is why pornography is so addicting. Pornography is not really about sex; it is about zoning out, getting high on your own neurochemicals. Sex addicts report having withdrawal symptoms similar to cocaine withdrawal.” 14
Pornography is not just an adult addiction. Young people are also struggling with watching pornography online as young as four years of age and older because it is so accessible, addictive, aggressive, anonymous, and appealing. If you don’t think it’s possible for your children to get hooked on porn, you need to listen to Christian apologist and author Josh McDowell’s videos. 15If you are struggling with pornography, contact Pure Desire at www.puredesire.org to obtain hope and healing from your addiction.
What is an idol? An idol is turning to something or someone other than God when we are anxious, hurting, lonely, stressed, or even wanting to celebrate. More and more Christians are turning to pornography instead of the Lord to medicate or celebrate their feelings. Pornography is an idol that is destroying the sons and daughters of God around the world.
Christ’s patience toward this false teacher in Thyatira is seen when He says, “And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent.” (Revelation 2:21). God is very gracious and patient. He gave Jezebel “time to repent” of her false teaching that promoted “sexual immorality.” But she refused to “repent.” Understand that “a refusal is different than a struggle. At times, believers fight sins but cannot stop committing them on their own power. Jezebel was unwilling to make any effort.”16 She knew she was doing wrong, and she chose to keep doing it. This does not mean that Jezebel was unsaved. It is possible to be a Christian and drift from sound doctrine (cf. I Timothy 1:19-20). 17
Since Jezebel did “not repent,” the Lord Jesus promised to discipline her and her followers when He said, “Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds.” (Revelation 2:22). Since she encouraged lying on beds of adultery, the risen Jesus would cast her on a different kind of bed: a bed of sickness. 18 And because her followers joined her immoral ways, they would experience God’s painful discipline in the form of “great tribulation” or distress.
Another group in this church would experience a more severe judgment. “I will kill her children with death, and all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works.” (Revelation 2:23). This group is referred to as “her children” because they fully embraced her teaching and lifestyle. 19 They would experience physical “death.” This may sound extremely severe, but it is not the first time in the New Testament that God disciplines His people in this way (cf. Acts 5:1-11; I Corinthians 11:29-30).
“Immediately before pronouncing, ‘It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God’ (Heb 10:31), the writer of Hebrews declares, ‘The Lord will judge His people’ (v 30, emphasis added). The Lord’s discipline would cause His people to know that He is serious about sinful activity and false teaching and that no one is exempt from His discipline (cf. Gal 6:7).” 20
This judgment would be so intense that “all the churches shall know” that the ascended Christ is the One “who searches hearts and minds.” Nothing escapes His notice. False teachers may be able to deceive their followers, but they are not capable of fooling the risen Lord Jesus. These seven churches (and any of us today) reading these messages would be reminded to take sin seriously because God is partial to no one. He says, “I will give to each one of you according to your works.”
Not all the believers of the church in Thyatira followed Jezebel and her false doctrine. Jesus says to them, “Now to you I say, and to the rest in Thyatira, as many as do not have this doctrine, who have not known the depths of Satan, as they say, I will put on you no other burden.” (Revelation 2:24). Apparently Jezebel claimed that her “doctrine” (that Christians can indulge in immorality without consequences) was deeper than the teachings of the apostles’ when in reality they extended to “the depths of Satan.” 21Christ says that those who did not follow Jezebel’s teaching would be subject to “no other burden” just listed.
Instead, this godly remnant was to “hold fast what you have till I come.” (Revelation 2:25). These faithful believers were simply to continue to do what they had been doing – to stand against false teaching and to “hold fast” to purity of doctrineuntil Christ comes for His church at the Rapture (cf. Revelation 4:1-4; cf. John 14:2-3; I Thessalonians 4:13-5:11). 22
Walvoord observes, “Perhaps because the church was small, Christ did not command them to leave it but to remain as a godly testimony. Judgment on Jezebel and her followers would come soon and would purge the church. In modern times Christians who find themselves in apostate local churches can usually leave and join another fellowship, but this was impractical under the circumstances in Thyatira.
“The parallels between Thyatira and other apostate churches throughout church history are clear. Some compare Thyatira to believers in the Middle Ages when Protestantism separated from Roman Catholicism and attempted a return to purity in doctrine and life. The prominence of Jezebel as a woman prophetess is sometimes compared to the unscriptural exaltation of Mary. The participation in idolatrous feasts can illustrate the false teaching that the Lord’s Supper is another sacrifice of Christ. In spite of the apostasy of churches in the Middle Ages, there were churches then which, like the church of Thyatira, had some believers who were bright lights of faithfulness in doctrine and life.”23
The ascended Lord Jesus then gives this godly remnant a challenge and promised reward if they fulfill that challenge. “26 And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations – 27 ‘He shall rule them with a rod of iron; they shall be dashed to pieces like the potter’s vessels’ – as I also havereceived from My Father; 28 and I will give him the morning star.” (Revelation 2:26-28). The eternal rewards for remaining faithful to Christ and resisting Jezebel’s false teachings “until the end” of their lives was ruling with Christ “over the nations” in His earthly kingdom and enjoying a special intimacy with the Morning Star Himself, Jesus Christ (cf. 2 Peter 1:19; Revelation 22:16). 24 The morning star (usually the planet Venus) appears in the night sky, just before the dawning of a new day. Jesus Christ will guide faithful believers in the future, as the new day of His rule dawns (cf. Titus 2:13; Daniel 12:3). 25
“Thus, the reward for a pure life is a greater experience of Jesus during His millennial reign andfor eternity. Naturally, a co-ruler of the universe will have greater access to the King than a common citizen.”26
The Lord intended the prospect of this promised blessing to motivate the unfaithful in the church to return to God’s will for them, and to encourage the faithful to persevere. Believers who are faithful (“he who overcomes”) will receive “power” (authority) in heaven from Jesus Christ and will “rule” (lit. “shepherd”) others during the thousand-year reign of Christ on earth (cf. Matthew 16:24-27; 19:28-29; Luke 19:11- 27; Romans 8:17b; 1 Corinthians 6:2-3; 2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 3:21; 20:4-6). Some believers will receive greater authority for being faithful, than others who have not been as faithful (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 22:12). While not all Christians will remain faithful to the Lord (2 Timothy 2:12), Christ evidently described believers as faithful (cf. Revelation 2:19) to motivate them to remain faithful. 27
We see that the rewards of ruling with Christ and enjoying a special intimacy with Him in His earthly kingdom are reserved only for individual believers in Jesus who remain faithful to Christ until the end of their lives on earth. The Lord Jesus says, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Revelation 2:29). Not all Christians are “overcomers” who hold fast to Christ till the end of their lives on earth. Only those who “hear what the Spirit says to the churches” and appropriate Jesus’ promise will be able to live as “overcomers” and receive these perseverance rewards.
Since Christ will reward each Christian “according to his works” (2:23; cf. 22:12) and not all Christians do the same amount or quality of works, there will be varying degrees of rewards among believers. When Jesus evaluates our Christian lives at the Judgment Seat (Romans 14:10-12; I Corinthians 3:8-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 22:12), He will look deeper than the works themselves, since He “searches the hearts and minds” of His people and knows what motivates them to act (Revelation 2:23; cf. I Corinthians 4:5). His rewards will also take into consideration the motivation for our works (cf. Matthew 6:1-4; Hebrews 4:12-13). Have we served Christ with our very best to bring honor to Him (cf. I Corinthians 10:31; Colossians 3:22-25)? 28 Only Jesus Christ is qualified to make such judgments of believers (cf. I Corinthians 4:1-5; Revelation 1:12-20; 2:23; et al.).
To summarize: Christians who succumb to false teaching and the sinful lifestyle it promotes, can expect God’s discipline in their lives even unto physical death (2:18-23; cf. Acts 5:1-11; I Corinthians 11:29-30). Believers who resist false teaching and remain faithful to Christ until the end of their lives will receive the reward of ruling with Christ in His coming Kingdom and enjoy a special intimacy with Him, our Morning Star (2:24-29).
Prayer: Precious Lord Jesus, thank You for loving us enough to tell us what we need to hear. Like the church in Thyatira, You have commended us for having more good works, love for others, faith in God, service for You, and perseverance in trials than we had at the first. But You know our hearts and minds better than we do. You know that we have tolerated false teaching within our churches that compromises the truth of Your gospel by adding works to Your finished work on the cross. Such an unstable foundation has led to an infiltration of sexual immorality and idolatry in Your churches. Those of us who fall prey to this teaching of Jezebel’s spirit are those who often seek spiritual enlightenment apart from You and crave eternal life without believing on Christ’s sacrificial death. We can consider ourselves superior to the rest of the earth’s population and are ever learning some new ‘mystical’ spirituality, which is contrary to the truth of the gospel. Please help those of us who have embraced Jezebel’s teaching to return to Your will lest we experience Your painful discipline. Empower those of us who have rejected her teaching to remain faithful to You until the end of our lives so we may receive Your eternal rewards of ruling with You in Your coming Kingdom on earth and enjoying a special intimacy with You then as our Morning Star. May we hear and practice what Your Spirit says to us. In Your glorious name we pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.
1. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 41.
2. Ibid., cites David E. Aune, Revelation 1—5 (Word Biblical Commentary series. Dallas: Word Books, 1997), pg. 201.
3. Constable, pg. 41.
4. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1508.
5. John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 164.
6. Constable, pg. 42 cites, William Barclay, The Revelation of JohnVol. 1 (The Daily Study Bible series. 2nd ed. Edinburgh: Saint Andrew Press, 1964), pg. 128; Vacendak, pg. 1508.
7. Walvoord, pg. 164.
8. Constable, pg. 42 cites Barclay, pg. 128.
9. Vacendak, pg. 1508.
10. Walvoord, pg. 164.
11. Vacendak, pg. 1508.
12. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2374.
13. Jeremy & Tiana Wiles, Conquer Series: The Battle Plan For Purity Study Guide, Vol. 1 (Stuart FL: KingdomWorks Studio, 2017), pg. 21.
14. Michael Dye, The Genesis Process: For Change Groups Book 1 and 2 Individual Workbook (Michael Dye/Double Eagle Industries, 2012), pp. 206-207.
15. See Christian apologist and author Josh McDowell’s very informative and staggering videos on October 7, 2018 at Denton Bible Church entitled, “Breaking Free from the Porn Epidemic w/ Josh McDowell” at https://vimeo.com/294241982 and on August 3, 2021 with Pure Desire Ministries entitled, “The Effects of Pornography with Josh McDowell” at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y3sRmLFarZc .
16. Evans, pg. 2374.
17. Vacendak, pg. 1509.
18. Constable, pg. 43.
19. Vacendak, pg. 1509.
21. Constable, pg. 43.
22. Ibid., pg. 44; Vacendak, pg. 1509.
23. Walvoord, pg. 164.
24. Vacendak, pg. 1509.
25. Constable, pg. 45.
26. Evans, pg. 2374.
27. Constable, pg. 44.
28. Joseph Dillow, Final Destiny: The Future Reign of The Servant Kings:Fourth Revised Edition (Grace Theology Press, 2018 Kindle Edition), pp. 771-772.
“Bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas when you come—and the books, especially the parchments.” 2 Timothy 4:13
We live in a world of 7.9 billion people, 1 many living right on top of each other in crowed cities. We are wired together through incredible communication devices. Yet, despite all these circumstances that you think would inspire community, more people than ever feel alone in the world today. Research has shown that loneliness is especially on the rise among older teens and young adults due to the coronavirus pandemic. 2
Loneliness is one of the most miserable feelings a person can have. You may feel that no one loves you or even cares if you exist. Can you be wealthy and lonely? Ask the Donald Trump’s and Bill Gates’s of the world. Can you be popular and lonely? Ask the Kim Kardashian’s and Dwayne Johnson’s of society. Can you be beautiful and lonely? Ask the beauty queens who have attempted suicide. Can you be married and lonely? Ask the people who marry because of loneliness and then get divorced a few years later for the same reason.
All of us experience loneliness at one time or another, but there are specific causesand cures for it. Sometimes we bring loneliness on ourselves and other times we are in situations that are uncontrollable. The apostle Paul found himself in the latter as he wrote his second letter to a young pastor named Timothy. In 2 Timothy, Paul was a dying old man as he wrote from prison in Rome to Timothy and urged the younger man to visit him because he was lonely.
For the next few days, we are going to look at the causes and cures of loneliness. The first cause is THE TRANSITIONS OF LIFE (2 Timothy 4:6-8). Life is full of transitions and stages. Growing older is a series of changes, and any change can produce loneliness. We are lonely when we are born, and we cry until we are cuddled. We are lonely when we attend our first school or get a new job. Moving to a new community can be a lonely experience as can entering retirement. The death of a loved one is lonely. COVID has been a huge transition for the entire world which has resulted in many experiencing more loneliness.
The apostle Paul is now in the final transition of life, and he knows his time is short. He is feeling alone. “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand.”(2 Timothy 4:6). Paul is saying, “Timothy, I don’t have much time left. I may be executed by Nero soon or I may die from old age.”
As Paul spends his last days alone, he says “7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Finally, there is laid up for me the crown ofrighteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, andnot to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:7-8). Paul is saying,“I have fulfilled my ministry and now I am ready to receive my reward of ruling withChrist along with all who have loved His appearing.” The first cause of loneliness is simply the transitions of life. Any new experience we must face, can be lonely.
There are healthy ways and there are self-defeating ways to deal with loneliness. One self-defeating way is to become a workaholic. You burn the candle at both ends and end up not being nearly as bright as you thought. It takes its toll on you physically and emotionally.
Some people try to overcome loneliness throughmaterialism. They buy everything around them. They tell themselves, “If I can just get those things I want, then I will be happy.” But things don’t satisfy. We need people. We need acceptance and love, not things. Some people have an affair – they look outside their marriage to cure their loneliness. But this only leads to more pain and shame. Others may turn to alcohol or drugs. Some people lose themselves in afantasy world by reading novels or watching pornography online. Others do absolutely nothing but sit around and have a pity party. These responses to loneliness are self-defeating. They only create more loneliness and pain.
The apostle Paul did none of these self-defeating things. He did several things to overcome his loneliness which are just as relevant today as they were when Paul went through his days of loneliness. The first cure is UTILIZE YOUR TIME WISELY (2 Timothy 4:13). Make the best of your tough situation. Resist the temptation to do nothing. Loneliness can paralyze us if we just sit around and do nothing. If life gives you a lemon, think of creative ways to make lemonade. This is what Paul did.
“Bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas when you come—and the books, especially the parchments.” (2 Timothy 4:13). Paul refused to sit around and feel sorry for himself. He didn’t complain, “God, is this what I get for thirty years of ministry? Is this my reward for starting many churches, for being the person most responsible for taking the gospel to the Roman world? Is this what I get – to die in a damp and dark prison in Rome all alone?” No, Paul did not throw a pity party. Instead, he says, “If I am going to be alone, I might as well be comfortable. I’m going to make the best of a bad situation. Bring my cloak so I can at least be warm.”
Often lonely people don’t take care of themselves. They don’t eat right, they don’t exercise, and they ignore their personal needs. My grandparents were just the opposite. They were constantly walking, reading, and serving others. That is probably why my grandmother lived to be over a hundred and my grandfather lived to be almost ninety-nine.
It is important to pay attention to your physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. Learnto take care of yourself. When Paul admonished husbands to love their wives as they love their own bodies, he wrote, “For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church.” (Ephesians 5:29). Other than those with mental illness, people naturally take care of their physical bodies. 3 Men are to care for their wives just as they care for their own physical bodies. This is precisely what “the Lord” Jesus “does for the church” – He nourishes and cherishes it.
Are we taking care of our physical bodies? Are we eating properly, exercising, getting adequate sleep, and participating in activities that are life-giving? During times of loneliness, we can easily neglect our personal needs.
Paul did not ignore his personal needs. He says, “Bring my coat and my books, and I will take advantage of this solitary time; I will use it for writing and study time.” This was a big change of pace for Paul because he was a doer, a church-planter. More than anything else, he wanted to be in the Roman coliseum preaching the gospel to hundreds instead of in a prison studying. But sometimes God can use loneliness for our good. If Paul had been in the coliseum he would have been preaching, but God left him in prison and we got part of the New Testament instead, which has impacted far more lives for Jesus Christ! You know, probably the only way God could get Paul to sit still was to put him in prison. And Paul’s response was, “If I cannot be where the action is, I will create action right here.”
Since COVID restrictions were put in place early in 2020, the Lord led me to begin this online ministry to the world. Rather than moping around and feeling sorry for myself, I asked the Lord to show me how to utilize my time and talents for Him. And He led me to start See You in Heaven online to multiply disciples of Jesus around the world until all hear His gospel of grace.
What does the Lord want you to do with the time and talents He has given you? Take time to ask Him and wait quietly for His response. Write down what He impresses you to do. I believe we do not have much time left here on earth before Jesus returns for His church. Let’s focus on His leading and use our time and talents in a way that honors Him and fulfills His purpose for our lives.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You so much for the example of the apostle Paul. Even though he was facing a huge transition in his life, he did not sit around and feel sorry for himself. Instead, he took care of his personal needs and utilized his time and talents for You. As a result, we now have a part of the New Testament that continues to change countless lives for Your glory. Like Paul, help us to take care of our personal needs so we can be more available to be used by You to impact this world for Jesus Christ. All of us have time and talents that You have given us. Please show us how to best utilize them all for Your honor and glory. In Your mighty name we pray, Lord Jesus Amen.
“Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day.” Genesis 32:24
What would you most like to change about yourself? If you could change one thing what would it be? Would you like to have more confidence? Be more relaxed? Organized? Perhaps you would like to be more outgoing, more self-controlled, more flexible, less anxious, less fearful or less controlling? One of the greatest tragedies is a person who is never willing to change. Change is a necessary part of the Christian life. If you are not changing, then you are not growing. We need to change in order to remain fresh and to keep moving forward in the Christian life.
Most of us are interested in changing because we recognize there is always room for improvement. Many of us admit we want to change and try to change, but it doesn’t happen. We try to go on a diet, but it lasts an afternoon. We join health clubs and our excitement runs strong for a few weeks. Then we fall back into the same old rut. We go to seminars or counseling, but we keep falling back into old patterns of behavior. We want to be more positive and outgoing, and complain less, but it doesn’t work. The main reason is because we work on the exterior – our outside behavior – instead of working on the interior – our heart. Any lasting change must begin on the inside. Before we can make lasting changes to our behavior, we must first experience a change in our hearts. And this is a work of God!
During the next few days, Lord willing, we are going to look at a process that God uses in changing us – in making us more like Jesus Christ. God wants to change us and if you are a growing Christian, you will want to change as well. Turn with me to Genesis 32:24-30 where we will see how to change by looking at the life of Jacob, the father of Joseph. The incident in this passage was a turning point in Jacob’s life. It illustrates how God can change us as individuals.
Jacob was somewhat of a shifty guy. At birth he grasped his twin brother Esau’s heel and was given the name “Jacob” which means “heel-holder” (Genesis 25:26). Later Jacob deceived his father, Isaac, into giving him Esau’s blessing, and Jacob’s name came to mean “supplanter” – “one who takes the place of another by trickery.” (Genesis 27:1-29). His name took on the meaning of a “cheater, schemer.”
But a wrestling match transformed Jacob into a new person (Genesis 32:24-30), and he became “Israel,” the man whom the entire nation of Israel would be named after. In this passage we see the process God uses to change us into the kind of people He wants us to become. It communicates to all of us that we don’t have to stay in the rut where we are: God will help us to change and overcome the weaknesses in our lives, if we will just let Him.
How do we let Him? After Jacob sent all his family and possessions across the river on the edge of the Promised Land (Genesis 32:22-23), Jacob had a wrestling match with an angel (Genesis 32:24-30). What does a wrestling match with an angel (Hosea 12:4) several thousand years ago have to do with changing you and me today? There are four steps in these verses that God uses to change us into the people He wants us to become.
First, we discover that GOD USES THE PROCESS OF A CRISIS (Genesis 32:24). We read, “Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day.” (Genesis 32:24). An unidentified man assaulted Jacob, and he had to fight for his life. The “Man” was the Angel of the Lord. The Bible tells us, “3 When he [Jacob] became a man, he even fought with God. 4 Yes, he wrestled with the Angel [of the Lord] and prevailed.” (Hosea 12:3-4 LB). Notice that God took the initiative in wrestling with Jacob, not vice versa. Why?
God was bringing Jacob to the end of himself.“The fact that the match lasted till daybreak is significant. For the darkness symbolized Jacob’s situation. Fear and uncertainty seized him. If Jacob had perceived that he was to fight God, he would never have engaged in the fight, let alone have continued all night. On the other hand the fact that the wrestling lasted till daybreak suggests a long, decisive bout.”1
Jacob had an all-night wrestling match with an angel, and the angel was really struggling, but it was a no-win situation for both of them. By dawn Jacob was getting tired of the struggle because he saw that he could not win. It was a situation beyond his control which was something Jacob was not used to. Jacob had been able to handle his problems using his own craftiness until now. Now Jacob is facing a crisis he cannot control with his scheming.
When God wants to change us, He begins by placing us in a frustrating situation that is totally beyond our control. We cannot win, and we just keep getting more and more tired. If we are in a crisis now, it may be because God is getting ready to change us for the better. We rarely change until we get uncomfortable and dissatisfied enough to let God do something in our lives.
The Bible tells us, “Sometimes it takes a painful experience to make us change our ways.” (Proverbs 20:30 GNT). God loves us so much that He makes us uncomfortable if that is what it takes, to make us willing to change and grow. He will allow a crisis or problem in our lives to get our attention. He needs to do this because we won’t change until our fear of change is exceeded by the pain we are experiencing.
Prayer: Father God, thank You for loving us enough to allow us to face a crisis so we become willing to change and grow. We often don’t like the pain associated with it, but we realize that were it not for the pain, we would probably continue down the path of self-destruction. You understand us better than we do. You know that our fear of change must be exceeded by discomfort before we are open to change. Thank You our Lord and our God for pursuing us and giving us opportunities to grow. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.
1. Allen P. Ross, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Law, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 147.
“So Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.’ ” John 20:21
When Adam and Eve disobeyed God by eating the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden of Eden (Genesis 2:16-17; 3:1-6), they experienced shame for the first time. The complete innocence and vulnerability they once had with God and one another were now lost. “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings” (Genesis 3:7). They were now self-conscious and ashamed of their nakedness before one another, so they tried to remove their shame by covering themselves with fig leaves.
But their sin and shame also adversely affected their relationshipwith God. “And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.”(Genesis 3:8). Instead of being open and vulnerable before God, they now hid themselves from His presence when He pursued them. God is presented in this verse as pursuing His fallen children by walking in the garden in the cool of the day as if this was something He had always done to connect with them.
We might assume that God came to them to punish and shame Adam and Eve for the wrong they had done, but notice that God does not seek to punish or shame His fallen children. He seeks to restorethem. “Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, ‘Where are you?’”(Genesis 3:9). Why would an all-knowing God ask Adam a question to which He already knows the answer? Because the Lord wanted a confessionfrom Adam. “Where are you in relation to Me?” God asks. God knew where Adam was, but did Adam know where he was in relation to the Lord?
When Adam told God, “I was afraid because I was naked” (Genesis 3:10), God replied, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?” (Genesis 3:11). God never told Adam and Eve they were naked. This was the natural consequence of their sin.
Satan also reveals our shame to us when we sin (true shame) or don’t sin (false shame). His accusations against believers produce shame in their lives. The Devil uses fear and shame to isolate Christians from God and one another. Like a roaring lion who focuses on those who are isolated and weak, Satan focuses on believers who are alone and weak (cf. 1 Peter 5:8).
Would Adam and Eve believe God is still the same loving and merciful God that He had always been prior to their disobedience? Or would they believe the lie of the serpent who implied that God could not really be trusted (cf. Genesis 3:1-5)? The Lord did not abandon Adam and Eve when they sinned and felt ashamed. He seeks them out to restore them to fellowship with Himself.
But instead of trusting the Lord, Adam and Eve were now afraid of Him. “So he said, ‘I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.’” (Genesis 3:10). Their fear and shame now became a barrier to His loving and merciful pursuit of them. Not only were they self-conscious of their nakedness before one another, they were now self-conscious of their nakedness before God. By covering themselves with fig leaves and hiding themselves among the trees of the garden, Adam and Eve hid themselves from being able to receive God’s love, grace, and mercy which He was freely offering to them. Their faith in God had now changed to fear. Unfortunately their fear and shame pushed them away from the Lord instead of drawing them near to Him. And fear and shame can do the same to us today.
We are learning from Jesus’ encounter with His ten fearful disciples in the evening of His resurrection day how to overcome our fears. The disciples were afraid of opposition from the Jews so they were hiding behind locked doors. I wonder if they may have felt ashamed too since they had abandoned Jesus in His hour of suffering after promising to remain faithful to Him even unto death (Matthew 26:35, 56).
Like He did in the garden of Eden with Adam and Eve, Jesus sought out His disciples who were afraid and ashamed. And from this we are learning how to overcome our fears. So far we have discovered we must…
– Rely on Jesus to calm our fear with His peace-giving presence (John 20:19).
– Redirect our focus to the evidence of Jesus’ resurrection to convince our doubting hearts (John 20:20).
Today we see that we must also RENEW OUR SENSE OF PURPOSE (John 20:21). After calming and convincing His fearful disciples, they were still paralyzed by fear. They still remained behind locked doors. Amazingly, Jesus remains calm and gracious. He does not give up on them even though they may have given up on themselves.
Christ believes so much in these frightened men, that He commissions them. “So Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.’ ” (John 20:21). Why does Jesus repeat His extension of peace to His disciples?
“Because they were terrified of the Jews. That’s why they had locked the doors (20:19). Yet Jesus gave them his peace. Notice that their situation hadn’t changed. The Jewish leaders would still oppose them in the days ahead (see Acts 4:1-24; 5:17-42). But Jesus can speak peace into trouble. Though your circumstances are unstable, he can provide the internal stability your heart needs.”1
Christ wants to reassure these frightened men of the deep and lasting peace that could be theirs. Peace prepares them for His commissioning. Notice that Jesus’ peace is given to them before they are commissioned. Sometimes we can mistakenly conclude that we must work to gain God’s peace. But Jesus reminds us that this peace comes from His presence in our lives, not from our service for Him. Christians can easily make the mistake and conclude that peace is based upon their performance instead of the peace-giving presence of Jesus Christ. And when they do this, the peace for which they are working so hard to gain, constantly escapes them.
Can you relate to this? Instead of ministering to others out of the peace Christ’s presence has given to us, we minister to others out of fear. The fear of not measuring up. The fear of being disapproved or rejected. The fear of failing. The fear of not having what it takes to be a God-honoring follower of Christ. We can even use ministry as a way to medicate our fears. Ministry can function like an addiction. It becomes our fig leaf to cover up our fear and shame.
But when we understand that Christ’s peace comes from His presence in our lives, we can minister to others out of our identity in Christ, not out of a desperate attempt to earn God’s peace or to prove that we have what it takes. The latter leads to ruin. The former leads to fruitfulness and glory to the Father (John 15:1-8).
After extending peace to them, Jesus begins the commissioning of His disciples. Keep in mind that this is regarded as the first of Christ’s commissionings in the Gospels and Acts. It is followed by Mark 16:15-16, then Matthew 28:19-20, and finally Luke 24:46-48 and Acts 1:8 which seem to be two versions of the same commissioning. 2
Christ begins by stating that the Father had sent Him. The Greek word for “sent” (apostéllō) in the phrase, “As the Father has sent Me,” refers to an official or authoritative sending. It is in the perfect tense (apestalken), indicating that the mission of Christ is not being regarded in its historical fulfillment, but in its permanent effect. The form of the fulfillment of Christ’s mission was now to be changed, but the mission itself was to be continued.
The Greek word translated “send” (pempō) in the phrase “I also send you,” is a general word for sending. It is in the present tense. The disciples were not to start a new work, but were to carry on Christ’s work. Just as Jesus was the Father’s Representative on earth, so Christ’s disciples would be His representatives on earth.
It is much like a baton exchange in a relay race at a track meet. One relay runner passes a baton to another runner. He receives the baton, and runs with it. And when he finishes his leg in the race, he places it in the hands of another who is to continue the race.
“Since believers no longer belong to the world (15:19), it was necessary for Jesus to ‘send’ Hisdisciples back into the world to complete the mission. Our mission does not replace Jesus’mission, however. He carries out His present mission through us.”3
“. . . what is central to the Son’s mission—that he came as the Father’s gift so that those who believe in him might not perish but have eternal life (3:16), experiencing new life as the children of God (1:12-13) and freedom from the slavery of sin because they have been set free by the Son of God (8:34-36)—must never be lost to view as the church defines her mission.”4
Christ responds to their fears by pointing them to His mission for them to carry out. Remember, whatever we fear, we give power and control to. Christ wants them (and us) to renew their sense of purpose and replace their fears with His mission in their lives. For this to take place, they must give power and control to Jesus.
Christ gives us His peace so we can give Him power and control over our lives. He will not take advantage of us or misuse our trust in Him. He is a good Shepherd Who radically loves His sheep. His death and resurrection prove this. Will we trust and follow Him?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, I praise You for giving me Your peace before giving me Your purpose for my life. I can now operate out of Your peace-giving presence instead of operating out of fear. I don’t have to minister to others as a way of avoiding my fears. I can now minister to others out of the peace Your indwelling presence gives to me. Thank You for entrusting me with Your mission to proclaim the gift of eternal life so that those who believe in You should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16). I praise You for the new life believers can experience as children of God (John 1:12). Thank You for the freedom from slavery to sin they can experience as they learn to abide in Your word (John 8:31-32). Please renew Your church all around the globe with the urgency of this mission. In Your mighty name I pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.
1. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1828.
2. Tom Constable, Notes on John, 2017 Edition, pg. 377.
3. Ibid., pg. 378.
4. Ibid., cites Donald A. Carson, The Gospel According to John (Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, and Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1991), pg. 649.
“Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” John 16:24
We are learning from Jesus’ instructions to His disciples how He can transform our grief into gladness. Christ can do this when we…
– Ask Him to help us properly understand His word as it relates to our situation (John 16:16-19).
– Accept that pain and suffering are part of life (John 16:20a; cf. 16:33).
– Assess our circumstances with an eternal perspective (John 16:20b-22).
The fourth way the Lord can transform our grief into gladness isto ALLOW OUR GRIEF TO DIRECT US TO THE FATHER IN PRAYER (John 16:23-24). Christ’s resurrection would change relations. Jesus said to His eleven believing disciples, “And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you.” (John 16:23). “In that day” after His resurrection and ascension, Jesus would not be with His disciples physically and so they would not be able to ask Him questions. But the Holy Spirit would teach them and answer their questions (John 16:13-15).
We also see that Christ’s resurrection and ascension provided unlimited access to the Father in prayer. During Jesus’ earthly ministry, the disciples had often asked the Lord to meet their needs while they were with Him, but they had not asked the Father in heaven for anything in His name. Christ promises that after His ascension to heaven, the “Father …will give” them “whatever” they ask in Jesus’ name.
Praying in Jesus’ name is not a magical formula that we add at the end of our prayers. To pray in Jesus’ name means we pray what Jesus would pray to accomplish God’s will and bring Him maximum glory. When we pray according to God’s will, He will hear and answer our prayers to magnify the name of Jesus (cf. I John 5:14-15).
Next Christ says, “Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” (John 16:24). “Now,” because of Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, the disciples would be able to approach the Father directly in Jesus’ name. The word “ask” (aiteite) is a present imperative verb and conveys the idea of asking God continually and persistently. Christ assures them that the Father would “give” them whatever they prayed in Jesus’ name to accomplish His will. The purpose of all of this was so that their “joy may be full” or complete.
No matter what pain or sorrow we experience, it is essential that we stay connected to Jesus because God the Father is still in the prayer-answering business when we love and seek to honor His Son. 1 A disciple of Christ centers his or her life around Jesus (cf. Philippians 1:21), so when Jesus is glorified, his or her joy will “be full” or complete. Nothing is more enjoyable or satisfying for a follower of Christ than to see his or her Lord magnified.
When we go through painful times as did Jesus and His disciples, we have a choice to make. Will we turn away from the Father and pout or will we turn to the Father and pray? If we turn to the Father in prayer, He can fill our hearts with joythat the world cannot take from us. Our joy is connected to prayer. It cannot be made complete in any other way. Isn’t this exciting!?! God desires to make us glad by working in and through us as we pray to Him.
How do you respond to trials? Do you allow pain in your life to turn you to God or away from Him? Many of us want to take matters into our own hands when we experience pain. We may try to medicate our pain with different behaviors, feelings, people, or substances (e.g. alcohol, anger, anxiety, cell phones, depression, drugs, friends, gossip, lust, ministry, music, pornography, rage, romantic relationships, shopping, sports, TV, video games, work, or worry, et al.). But the Lord wants us to turn to Him as we face painful times. He is waiting to hear from us, so He can fill our hearts with gladness.
What keeps believers from turning to the Lord in the midst of their pain? I believe much of it has to do with the lies we believe. Let’s look at some common lies and the corresponding truth with which to overcome them:
Lie #1: God must not love me to allow all this pain in my life.
Truth #1: No one and nothing can separate me from the love of God (Romans 8:38-39).
Lie #2: God is against me, not for me.
Truth #2: God is for me and He proved it when He gave His only Son for me (Romans 8:31-32).
Lie #3: God will not understand my feelings.
Truth #3: Christ experienced the same feelings as you, so He could understand your feelings and help you process them (Hebrews 4:15).
Let’s lean into the Lord especially during these uncertain times. He longs to fill us with His joy that cannot be taken from us.
Prayer: Father God, I come to You now through the Lord Jesus Christ Who loved me and gave Himself to die in my place on a cross for all my sins and then rose from the dead. Please forgive me for embracing lies that lead me away from You instead of the truth that brings me closer to You. I am so thankful that I now have direct access into Your presence because of the shed blood of Jesus Christ. I can talk to You at any time about anything knowing that You understand and are listening. Right now my Lord and my God, I give everyone and everything to You. I surrender everyone and everything to You, Lord. You are a good, good Father Who wants to bless His children. Thank You for the safety and security that I find in Your everlasting arms of love and mercy. Hold me, Lord. Hold me…. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
1. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B&H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1811.
“Jesus said to them, ‘Loose him, and let him go.’ ” John 11:44b
Today we will look at the final reason why the Lord may allow a situation to grow worse after we pray about it. It is to GET CHRISTIANS TO HELP ONE ANOTHER DISPOSE OF THEIR GRAVE CLOTHES (John 11:44b). Jesus had just commanded a dead man to come out of his grave (John 11:43). And a living Lazarus walked out of his tomb wrapped from head to toe in burial clothes. Only Jesus can bring life to dead churches, marriages, families, and individuals. That is Jesus’ job. But look at the end of verse 44: “Jesus said to them, ‘Loose him, and let him go.’ ” (John 11:44b). Could Jesus have caused the grave clothes of Lazarus to drop off? Absolutely! If He could raise Lazarus from the dead, He could certainly cause his grave clothes to drop off. But why didn’t He do this?
That would have left Lazarus naked and caused him a lot of humiliation and shame. By having those around him unwrap Lazarus, Jesus was providing an opportunity for people close to Lazarus to help him lose his grave clothes without losing his dignity. Likewise, Christians need to help one another get free from their spiritual and emotional grave clothes.
Jesus gives life to people. That is His job. But it is our job, the people of God, to help one another get out of the grave clothes that keep reborn people from acting alive. We may still have the grave clothes of shame and self-righteousness. We may view ourselves and God in a way that keeps us from experiencing His resurrection life. There may be deeply ingrained habits or thought patterns that prevent us from living resurrection lifestyles. Or we may have the grave clothes of unconfessed sin or an unforgiving spirit which keep us from experiencing true freedom in our Christian lives.
The church needs to be a safe place where we begin to peel away the grave clothes that keep born again people from experiencing the resurrection life of Jesus Christ. We cannot live victorious Christian lives in isolation from other believers. We need each other to experience the resurrection power of Christ in our lives.
How can churches become a safe place for believers to remove their grave clothes?
1. Ask others to help you remove your own grave clothes. Instead of jumping in like a spiritual superior to help remove the grave clothes of others, church leaders are to give others permission to help them remove what is keeping them from experiencing Christ’s resurrection power more fully. After all, how can church leaders expect others to be vulnerable about their struggles if they are not vulnerable about theirs? This kind of mutual vulnerability conveys the gospel message that we are all imperfect sinners in need of God’s grace (Romans 3:23; Ephesians 2:8-9). If Christians will live in humble vulnerability with one another, they will create an atmosphere that gives every believer in the church the safety and freedom to shed their grave clothes on the pathway to experiencing Christ’s resurrection power.
2.Extend the same grace to others as Christ has given to you (Ephesians 2:8-9; 4:32). None of us deserved salvation, but God freely gave it to us by grace through faith alone in Christ alone. We must create an atmosphere of this grace that invites imperfect sinners to come out of the darkness into the light of Jesus’ love. I have attended Christian churches and/or ministries where believers were treated harshly for having grave clothes that kept them from experiencing Christ’s resurrection power. They were belittled and bullied for having struggles, which only increased their fear and shame. They were viewed as an embarrassment to the church or ministry. According to them, since “true Christians” have no serious problems, no provisions were made to help them.
This is the exact opposite of what Jesus did with those who were broken and wounded. Christ fulfilled the Messianic prophecy in Isaiah 42:3 which says, “A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench” (cf. Matthew 12:20). Jesus did not deal harshly with those who were already hurting nor did He extinguish what little hope a broken heart possessed. He came along side of them to strengthen them with His presence rather than step on them to advance His own plans. He wants to rekindle our love and passion for Him. Unlike the religious leaders of His day, Jesus had compassion for the weak and vulnerable. He extended gentleness and humility to the harassed and helpless (Matthew 9:36) as well as to the weary and burdened (Matthew 11:28). He gave forgiveness to the fallen (John 8:11). Likewise, the more churches have this Christlike mindset, the more they will expect “true Christians” to have obvious problems and provide ministries that provide the safety and security to promote transparency, healing, and growth.
3. Focus more on the heart instead of behavior. God is not uptight about our sin and shame. People are the ones who are uptight about our sin and shame. God still loved us even though we were undeserving, ungodly sinners without any strength to reconcile ourselves to Him. He did not wait for us to clean ourselves up before He loved us and died in our place. The Bible says, “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6). “Christ died for the ungodly,” not the godly. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Christ died for us “while we were still sinners,” not saints. Christ looked beyond our sin to our hearts. He loved us no matter how often or badly we sinned.
Do our churches communicate this same kind of love to those the Lord brings to us? No matter how stinky a believer’s grave clothes are, do we love and accept that person as Jesus loves and accepts him or her? Do we take time to get to know the person, or do we stay preoccupied with their behavior and avoid them or judge them? It is Christ’s love that will embolden believers to remove their grave clothes and be transparent with one another, not focusing on behavior. After all, God’s “perfect love casts out fear” (I John 4:18). And fear and shame are two of the most common obstacles that keep people from being vulnerable with one another. But when we experience God’s incredible love for us through other believers who love and care for us no matter what we have done, we will respond with love toward our Lord and toward His children (I John 4:19).
4. Define believers by what God says about them, not by what they do. Christians are not defined by their grave clothes. They are defined by what God says about them. For example, the apostle Paul wrote the book of Ephesians to Christians who were living in the city of Ephesus, a sex-saturated society that was the home of the temple Diana. Christians were enticed by temple teachings to live without restraint. Paul countered this godless culture by emphasizing the Christian’s new identity in chapters 1-3, followed by a call to live in a way that is consistent with who they are in chapters 4-6.
An example of this is seen in Ephesians 5:8-10. Paul writes,“8For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), 10 finding out what is acceptable to the Lord.” Notice that Paul starts with who they now are in Christ – “you are light in the Lord” (5:8a). The light of Jesus Christ now defined who they are, not the darkness of their sin. Paul then concludes, “walk as children of light” (5:8b). Jesus is the “light of the world”(John 8:12) and His followers are defined by His light.
Christian speaker and author, Dr. Tony Evans, writes, “His followers must reflect Him the way the moon reflects the sun—not as crescent-moon Christians but as full-moon Christians. And we can’t reflect His light unless we’re in the light. So, if you want to reflect Christ, you have to be absorbing Christ through cultivating an intimate walk and relationship with Him (see John 15:1-16).” (Dr. Tony Evans, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary, B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. pg. 2110).
As we grow closer to Jesus and learn how He sees us, we will begin to live like children of light who produce “goodness, righteousness, and truth” as we discover what is “acceptable to the Lord” (5:9-10).
If we want to see believers shed their grave clothes and experience the resurrection power of Jesus more fully, we must focus on what God says about them instead of on what they have done. Why? Because the more they see themselves as God sees them, the more He will transform their lives. After all, we act in the way we perceive ourselves to be. The Bible says, “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.” (Proverbs 23:7). Our behavior does not determine who we are. At the very core of our being we are God’s children and God wants us to learn to start acting in a way that is consistent with who you are.
For example, if you see yourself as an addict at the core of your being, what will be the most natural thing for you to do? To stay sober or practice your addiction? Practice your addiction. What will be the most unnatural thing for you to do? Stay sober. But if you see yourself as a child of God at the core of your being (John 1:12; I John 3:1-2), what is the most natural thing for you to do? Stay sober. Satan wants to convince you that you are a sinner. Why? Because sinning is accepted as natural. But if you realize and believe you are a child of God at the core of your being, then you will come to the conclusion that sinning compromises who you are. Sin is inconsistent with who you are in Christ. The more a believer sees themselves as God sees them, the more they will realize their grave clothes no longer define who they are. In fact, wearing their grave clothes will seem unnatural and restrictive to them.
Prayer: Wow, Lord Jesus! Many times I have read the raising of Lazarus from the dead, but I had not noticed the last part of verse 44. What a powerful application this is for the church today. Yes, You gave life to Lazarus as only You can do. But You want Your people to help him remove his grave clothes so he can experience his new life more fully. Oh Lord, please awaken Your church to see their role in helping other believers remove their grave clothes in a way that preserves their dignity and enables them to more fully experience Your resurrection power in their lives. In Your life-giving name I pray. Amen.