SHARING GOOD NEWS IN A FAKE NEWS SOCIETY

“Even if I bear witness of Myself, My witness is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going; but you do not know where I come from and where I am going.” John 8:14

We are living in a “post-truth” era whereby objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than emotional appeals (see Tony Watkins’ article entitled, “CONTENDING FOR THE TRUTH AMIDST THE FAKE NEWS EPIDEMIC,” LAUSANEE GLOBAL ANALYSIS, July 2017, Volume 6/Issue 4). I am amazed at how much influence the media has over people today. People are more interested in fake news on social media than they are facts offered up by established news sources.

When emotional appeals take over from truth, a society is in big trouble. Katharine Viner says, “This does not mean that there are no truths. It simply means … that we cannot agree on what those truths are, and when there is no consensus about the truth and no way to achieve it, chaos soon follows.” (https://www.theguardian.com/media/2016/jul/12/how-technology-disrupted-the-truth).

The religious leaders that Jesus spoke to in the temple were not interested in the facts about Christ. They were more interested in themselves and keeping their followers. So rather than examine the facts about Jesus, they wanted to relate to Him according to their preconceived thoughts which were not based upon the truth. They were not about to adjust their beliefs about Christ to align with the facts.

With this said, we are now going to look at three implications from Jesus’ wonderful claim to be the light of the world (John 8:12). First, CHRIST’S CLAIM DEMANDS THAT WE DEAL WITH THE FACTS (John 8:13-20). In the verses that follow we can see something of the darkness that was keeping these men from coming to the light of Christ. It is interesting to note that the Pharisees do not focus on Jesus’ claim, but upon a legal technicality. “The Pharisees therefore said to Him, ‘You bear witness of Yourself; Your witness is not true.’ ”(John 8:13). The Pharisees said that Jesus’ witness was not valid, because He was bearing witness of Himself. Therefore, the testimony had no weight and was of no legal worth. But, was that the real issue? Was Jesus at court? No.

You know, it is hard to get the facts right when you don’t have the right information beforehand. This is definitely a problem the Pharisees had. And it is time they got the facts right. Like the Pharisees, millions of people are held in darkness due to ignorance of the facts about Jesus. Many have never heard of Jesus, and many of those who have heard of Him have heard a distorted, twisted, unreal picture of Him that makes Him appear to be what He is not in the Scripture. This should not surprise us because the Bible warns that in the latter days there will be many false teachers and prophets who misrepresent Jesus Christ and mislead people away from Him (Matthew 7:15-23; 24:4-5, 11, 23-26; I Timothy 4:1-2; 6:3-5; 2 Timothy 4:1-4; I John 2:18-19, 22-23; 4:1-6). Because of this, it is very important that we see the true Jesus… that we get the facts right about Him.

Christ responds to the Pharisees, “Even if I bear witness of Myself, My witness is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going; but you do not know where I come from and where I am going.” (John 8:14). Jesus says,“First of all, My testimony is valid because it is true. Even if I claim to be God Himself, that is no reason to reject Me. What you need to do is look for more evidence. Secondly, My knowledge about Myself is much greater than your knowledge about Me. I know more facts about Me than you do. I know who I am. I know where I have come from, and I know where I am going, but you are ignorant of these things”.

Have you noticed that people who know who they are, where they are from, and where they are going, always seem to have a sense of confidence and security that enables them to stand up against the assaults and even the accusations of others? But people who don’t know who they are, who are not sure exactly where they came from and where they are going are wobbly and wishy-washy, uncertain and undependable. This is certainly true of Christians.

When Christians really believe what God says about them, when they refuse to listen even to their own feelings that lie to them about who they are, but they believe God has made them new creatures in Jesus Christ and they are free from the old life, the old sinful habits, they always have a tremendous sense of security and effectiveness in their lives. This is what our Lord had. What marvelous assurance He displayed as He moved with confidence and courage through all the opposition and strife that He lived through! That is why He can say to these Pharisees, “I know who I am but you do not.”

The third thing Jesus tells these men is, “You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one.” (John 8:15). Jesus is saying,“You reject My claims because you look only at appearances. You judge according to the flesh. You think I came from Nazareth, in Galilee, and for that reason you say I am not the Messiah. But you never investigated and found that I was born in Bethlehem, according to the word of the prophet. You don’t know Me at all. You judge by superficial things. You think that as the Messiah I am supposed to lead a revolt against Rome – and I will, in God’s time – but you never read the Old Testament that says many things have to come before that. I did not come to judge, but to save people.” Like many people today they were saying “No” to Jesus because of their ignorance of the facts.

Jesus continues,16 And yet if I do judge, My judgment is true; for I am not alone, but I am with the Father who sent Me. 17 It is also written in your law that the testimony of two men is true. 18 I am One who bears witness of Myself, and the Father who sent Me bears witness of Me.” (John 8:16-18). “Yet even if I do judge, My judgment is true because I do not act alone but in oneness with My Father. According to your Law, two witnesses are needed for a valid testimony in a court of law (Deuteronomy 17:6; 19:15). I do have two witnesses – Myself and My Father, who is always with Me. If the witness of two men is valid, how much more the witness of God the Father and God the Son? So even if we do this according to your own rules, My testimony still proves valid,” Christ says.

Now Jesus has thoroughly answered their complaint. What will they do?  Will they humble themselves and say, “Surely this is the Son of God, I will bow to Him and trust in Him as the Messiah?” No, they try again to trap him. “Then they said to Him, ‘Where is Your Father?’ ” (John 8:19a). “Well then, let’s see Your witness, let’s see Your father—if He’s the one validating your testimony.”

“Jesus answered, ‘You know neither Me nor My Father. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also.’ ” (John 8:19b). “You wouldn’t know Him if I did show Him to you because You don’t know Me. Your mind is made up and you are not seeking the truth.” Their ignorance of Jesus proved that they did not know His Father. We know at that point their hearts were completely hardened against Him and they had every desire to kill Jesus on the spot. But they couldn’t – “These words Jesus spoke in the treasury, as He taught in the temple; and no one laid hands on Him, for His hour had not yet come.” (John 8:20). The “treasury” was part of the court of the women where thirteen trumpet-shaped collection boxes were kept for receiving the half-shekel temple dues. Even though Jesus spoke out in public right in the temple courts where the offering was taken, where everybody had to pass through, yet no one could arrest Him because the Father was with Him.

One of the amazing things about this account is that, although these men were claiming to know God, they really did not know Him. I find this is the problem with many people today. They say they know God, but the god they are talking about is a god of their own imagination. They are merely projecting an idea about God that is not real; consequently, they do not know God at all. Neither do they worship God; they are worshiping a figment of their imagination.

People will say, “I cannot believe that God would ever punish someone for eternity because they never believed in Jesus.” In other words, God does what they believe He ought not do. This is a false and blasphemous view of God! It is utterly untrue and unworthy! Yet this is the new paganism of today.

We have religious leaders reconstructing a different Jesus than is presented in the Bible. They have created a Christ that is made in their own image instead of the One portrayed in the Scripture. Why? I believe the primary reason is pride. If they accept the facts about Jesus – that He is fully God and fully Man (John 1:1, 14) Who died for their sins and rose from the dead (I Corinthians 15:3-6) – then they are accountable to Him for everything. They must come to grips with their own sin and its penalty (Romans 3:23; 6:23). And they must trust in Someone outside of themselves to save them (Acts 16:31) from an eternity separated from God in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15). And many people are too arrogant to accept this.

In a world that pursues feelings more than truth, I believe Christians can make a big difference by pursuing God’s truth and wisdom once again. Will we lovingly share the facts about Jesus Christ with those who are perishing without Him? Or will we allow fake news to shipwreck our own Christian faith? Abiding in the truth of Jesus Christ will be uncomfortable and it will take courage in this “post-truth” world. But it will bring freedom from the lies that keep people enslaved to their sinful and shame-filled patterns of living (John 8:31-32). We must be ready to confront the many false assertions about the Jesus of the Bible and offer the hope and purpose that only He can give. This is only possible as we rely upon the Holy Spirit to empower and guide us into all truth (John 14:16-17, 26; 15:26; 16:13-14; Acts 1:8).

Prayer: Lord God, so many people have misinformation about Jesus Christ today because there are more false teachers sharing their fake news about Christ than there are Christians sharing the truth about Him Who is the truth (John 14:6). Please raise up a passionate army of believers who know who they are, where they are from, and where they are going so that Christ is boldly shared with a world that is driven by emotions. In Jesus’ name, I ask that You give us the boldness and strength to make Christ known to our families, neighbors, co-workers, and acquaintances, and to people online. May we love Jesus more than our own lives. May we long for His approval more than peoples’. May we know Him and His Word so well that we are ready to answer the questions that people have about Him. In Jesus’ powerful name I pray. Amen.

Christ’s clarity in a confused world – Part 2

“The officers answered, ‘No man ever spoke like this Man!’ ” John 7:46

When the Lord Jesus Christ spoke to people in the temple on the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles, those listening to Him were confused. Not because Jesus was unclear, but because their hearts were unprepared. After Jesus had promised that those who believe in Him would have rivers of living water flow out of their hearts (John 7:38), we read, “Therefore many from the crowd, when they heard this saying, said, ‘Truly this is the Prophet.’ ” (John 7:40). These people were impressed with Jesus’ words and concluded that “truly this is the Prophet” whom Moses had promised in Deuteronomy 18:15-18.

“Others said, ‘This is the Christ.’ ” (John 7:41a). These people dared to go further and said Jesus was the promised Messiah. But a third group objected to this. “But some said, ‘Will the Christ come out of Galilee? Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the seed of David and from the town of Bethlehem, where David was?’ ” (John 7:41b-42). “Jesus cannot be the Messiah because He came from Galilee, but the Scripture tells us the Christ will be from the lineage of David from the town Bethlehem.” This group had overlooked the facts about Christ as many opponents to Christianity do today. 43 So there was a division among the people because of Him. 44 Now some of them wanted to take Him, but no one laid hands on Him.” (John 7:43-44). Divided opinion about Christ postponed Jesus’ arrest. No one touched Him because it was not the Father’s time for His Son to be crucified.

45 Then the officers came to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, ‘Why have you not brought Him?’ 46 The officers answered, ‘No man ever spoke like this Man!’ ” (John 7:45-46). Can you imagine how these religious leaders felt when the very officers whom they sent out to arrest Jesus returned, having been arrested by Christ? “Where is He?” the priests demanded. “You knew where He was. Why didn’t you bring Him?” We can almost hear the response of the officers, “Well, it is hard to tell exactly what happened, but as we were listening to Him He somehow got through to us. We became so wrapped up in what He was saying we forgot what we set out to do. We must say that we have never heard anybody speak like this man. Jesus is the best Teacher ever!”

Let me ask you, do you know Jesus in this way? Do you get so caught up in His words that you forget what you are supposed to be doing? Do you think through what He is saying to you? Have you found yourself arrested by the One whom men sought to arrest?

“Then the Pharisees answered them, ‘Are you also deceived?’ ” (John 7:47). “You haven’t let Him deceive you, too, have you?” Do you hear the anger and contempt in those words? “Have any of the rulers or the Pharisees believed in Him?” (John 7:48). Their question expects a negative answer and reflects their pride. “No one who is spiritual or intelligent (like us) would believe in Jesus!” These religious leaders assumed no one could be right except themselves. If they didn’t believe in Jesus, then He must be a fraud. “But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed.” (John 7:49). The leaders are saying those in the crowd who believe in Jesus are too ignorant to realize that Jesus was a deceiver. “No one with any intelligence would believe in Christ.” Sometimes people become too educated to come to Christ. They have intellectual barriers that keep them from seeing who Jesus really is.

The religious leaders had denied that any important leaders had come to Christ and immediately Nicodemus, who came to Jesus by night (John 3:1), speaks up. 50 Nicodemus (he who came to Jesus by night, being one of them) said to them, 51 ‘Does our law judge a man before it hears him and knows what he is doing?’ ” (John 7:50-51). The leaders said the crowd was ignorant of the Law and Nicodemus points to their ignorance of the Law. He is saying that it is unfair to condemn Jesus before hearing His side of the case. Now this is a very courageous act on Nicodemus’ part. We see that Nicodemus is starting to confess Christ and make his relationship with Jesus known to others in the midst of a hostile crowd.

The leaders respond sarcastically. “They answered and said to him, “Are you also from Galilee? Search and look, for no prophet has arisen out of Galilee.” (John 7:52). They thought only someone from Galilee could be sympathetic with Christ. Their anger toward Jesus blinded them to the fact that other prophets had come from Galilee including Jonah. But what strikes me the most about the various crowd responses is Nicodemus’ courage which says, “I will speak up for Jesus no matter what!” Jesus had given Nicodemus eternal life back in John 3. And now Nicodemus is starting to speak up for the Lord.

Do you know Jesus in this way? Are you willing to stand up for Christ in the face of opposition? May God empower all of us to speak up for Jesus in the midst of a confused and hostile world. From this study we learn that the best way to overcome confusion is to abide in the TRUTH. The less time we spend in God’s Word, the more confused we will become in our world today. But focus on God’s Word, and the fog of confusion will disappear.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I thank You for Your clarity in the midst of a confused world. Your Word is what causes me to forget what I was going to do or say because it captivates my thoughts and breathes new life into my soul. Thank You for giving me perfect peace when nothing else on this planet will. Please grant me the courage to speak up for You when no one else will. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

When the Lord is my Shepherd I have no want for courage

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me.” Psalm 23:4a

As we have seen the last few days, the greatest king the nation of Israel ever knew, David, pictured his relationship with God as that of a sheep to a shepherd. David placed himself in the position of a dependent, defenseless, and dumb sheep when he wrote in verse 1, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” When David trusted the Lord as his Shepherd, he had no want for:

– Rest because his Shepherd made him lie down in green pastures.

– Refreshment because his Shepherd led him beside still waters.

– Restoration because his Shepherd restored his soul when he wandered away from Him.ui

– Righteous living because his Shepherd guided him in the right paths.

Probably the most familiar verse in this Psalm is verse 4. When David wrote the words of this verse, he was probably thinking of an actual place in Palestine called the valley of the shadows or “the valley of the deep darkness.” This was a deep and dark ravine with steep sides and a narrow floor.

Notice how the beginning of verse 4 is related to the end of verse 3. David wrote in verse 3b, “He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” But then he goes on to say in verse 4a that one of the paths of righteousness that the Lord leads him in is “the valley of the shadow of death.” Early in the year in Palestine, the flocks graze in the lowlands. But as the summer comes and the hot sun melts the snows on the mountainsides, the shepherd leads his flock to better grazing on the mountains high above. To take the flock to this better land on which to graze, he must lead them through some dangerous and dark ravines.

On one side of the ravine, huge trees reach up to block out the sun, making noontime as dark as twilight. On the other side, a deep precipice leads down to a riverbed where the water foams and roars, torn by jagged rocks. Hidden in the shadows of the dark pathway are dangers such as poisonous snakes coiled to strikeand wolves or mountain lions ready to pounce upon a sheep to destroy it.

Yet the sheep go through this dangerous ravine of darkness because the shepherd has led them there. It took courage for a sheep to follow the shepherd through this dangerous ravine and the sheep gained courage by relying upon their shepherd. The sheep’s only safety lay in keeping close to the shepherd’s side and in obeying his commands.

What David is saying is that he had courage to go through the fearful experiences of life because he had a Good Shepherd Who led him into those experiences and Who would defend him from their dangers. Most of us may be afraid of tomorrow because of the coronavirus. Afraid that we may lose our jobs or keep them. We may be fearful of losing our health or loved ones. Afraid that government officials may make poor decisions. Afraid that our children may turn out wrong or if they grow up, that they may be blown up in a war. Afraid of disapproval or rejection. Afraid to live and afraid to die.

Where do you get your courage? Where do you get the stamina to stand up to life? For David, courage does not come from whistling in the dark or from believing that we can defend ourselves. As sheep, we are helpless to fight our enemies. The most courageous sheep in the world would be an easy meal for the smallest wolf or mountain lion.

As sheep, we need courage to trust our Good Shepherd. When a mountain lion comes to attack the flock or a wolf lurks close by, the sheep needs only to look up to be sure that the shepherd is near. Then it can go back to grazing. And that takes courage! We must learn that we cannot fight our spiritual battles by ourselves. We are just helpless sheep, and unless the Shepherd defeats our enemies, we will be found some place out in the desert of life, torn and bleeding. When we encounter the frightening events of life, we must learn to trust our Shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ. We must turn the struggle over to Him and go back to feeding again. That takes courage; but it also gives courage.

As I read through this Psalm, I noticed the change of pronouns in the middle of these verses. In verses 1-3, David has been talking ABOUT the Shepherd. But suddenly in verse 4, David begins to talk TO the Shepherd. The Psalmist has changed his song from praise to prayer. When David felt the clammy hand of terror squeezing his heart, he wrote, “I will fear no evil; For You are with me.” When David thought about the rest, refreshment, and sunny green pastures, he talked ABOUT his Shepherd. But when he thought about the dark ravines in his life through which he had passed and through which he was sure to go, he spoke directly TO the Lord.

Are we any different? It is nice to talk about the Lord as long as things are in the sunshine. But when the darkness comes we no longer talk ABOUT the Lord, we talk TO Him. What are you going through today? What shadows seem to lie across your tomorrows? The Shepherd knows them all, and you can have courage as He leads you through the dark valley – if you trust Him. Talk to Him about your fears so that His presence can give you courage.

Death is the darkest valley that lies before us. We are fearful when our loved one goes through it and more fearful when we face it ourselves. Of all our enemies, death is not only the last, but the worst. We show fear by not facing up to death. We spend a lot of time thinking we won’t go through death. As our age climbs, we fight to push it back by going to hairdressers and health clubs, and by applying lotions and dyes. We try to disguise death at funerals with flowers and soft music.

In Revelation 1:17b-18, the risen and exalted Lord Jesus Christ, our Good Shepherd said, “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am He Who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.” The exalted Lord Jesus “laid His right hand on” the apostle John and commanded him, “Do not be afraid” because He is the eternal God (“the First and the Last”), the resurrected One (“I am He who lives, and was dead, and … I am alive forevermore”), and the One with authority over death and the dwelling of the dead (“I have the keys of Hades and of Death”). This same Jesus wants to give us courage to live triumphantly through His presence in our lives, both here and in the hereafter. Will you let Him?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, it gives me great confidence to know that as my Good Shepherd, one of the paths of righteousness that You lead me in goes through dark and dangerous ravines. I realize now that You do not abandon me in those dark places of life. You are there with me to give me courage and strength. My greatest safety and security is staying close to Your side. Right now I invite You into the places of my soul where fear has frozen my feelings and hardened my heart. Your loving presence casts out my fear. Thank You gentle and loving Shepherd for not leaving me or rejecting me when I am afraid. Please help me focus on Your powerful and loving presence today. You are in control of all that happens. My trust is in You my loving Shepherd to lead me triumphantly through the valley of the shadow of death. The battles I face today belong to You. My hope is in You. In Jesus’ name. Amen.