Overcoming Satan’s Accusations

“If God is for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31

One of Satan’s primary weapons against Christians is his accusations (Revelation 12:10). Satan delights in accusing believers of wrongdoing because this is the way he achieves victory over sinners. He knows these accusations can increase our sense of shame which increases his control over us. He uses these accusations to keep us from drawing near to God and trusting in Him. Accusations that say, “God could never love you in light of what you have done. You have done too many wrong things for God to ever forgive you. God is against you. You are worthless and unwanted in the sight of God. Serving God does not pay. God will not keep His promises to you because He only cares about Himself.” Do you ever have thoughts like these? I certainly do.

An important truth God has given us to combat these accusations is found in Romans 8:31 where the apostle Paul writes: “If God is for us [and He is], who can be against us” (8:31)? When we think God or someone else is against us, God says, “Since I am for you (and no one is greater than Me), no one can successfully oppose or accuse you!” This includes those in authority over us, family, friends, and even the devil and his demonic armies. As a preacher once said, “One plus God is always a majority.” Does it always feel this way? No. But our feelings do not always tell the truth.

You may respond, “But God, how do I know You are for me?” Paul writes, “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32). When we were enemies of God, He gave us His only perfect Son to die in our place (Romans 5:6-8). If God gave us His best when we were at our worst, how much more will He give us now that we are His beloved children!?!

The Cross of Jesus Christ guarantees the enemy’s defeat because Satan achieves victory through accusing sinners. But through the Cross, Jesus would deal with sin once and for all. 13And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, 14 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the Cross. 15 Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.” (Colossians 2:13-15).

We can never fully comprehend all that Jesus accomplished for us on the Cross. The Cross is infinite in its depth, because it is the total expression of God’s grace to us in Jesus. Before we became Christians, we were “dead in” in our “trespasses,” but God “has made us alive together with” Jesus. How? “Having forgiven” us “all trespasses” (Colossians 2:13). Think about this for a moment. God says “all” our sins are “forgiven” through Jesus’ death on the Cross.When Jesus died in our place nearly 2,000 years ago, we were not even born yet. So all of our sins were yet future in the mind of Christ when He hung on that Cross. The forgiveness Jesus provides for believers includes our past, present, and future sins. But that is not all.

The Bible tells us that Jesus’ death “wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the Cross” (Colossians 2:14). The word translated “wiped out” (eksaleíphō) means “to completely erase, obliterate, remove, or wipe away.” It refers to the process of washing a piece of parchment clean for reuse. 1  Not only was the parchment clean enough to be written on again, it showed no evidence of ever having been written on in the first place.

When a person was executed under Roman law, the sentence was attached to the accused’s Cross (see John 19:19). But Jesus took our sentence away, effectively nailing our certificates of debt to His Cross. He paid our penalty in full; He died for our guilt. 2  God “made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Jesus’ blood washed away any record of our previous sins and accusations against us. This is why the Cross of Jesus Christ is the only answer to the shame that lies at the core of our being. All of our sin and shame was dumped on Jesus as hell unleashed its deepest fury upon Him while He hung on that Cross. Satan can no longer refer to the list of charges against us because it was nailed to the Cross forever! So what Satan does is make up his own accusations which are lies from the pit of hell.

Jesus’ death on the Cross “disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it” (Colossians 2:15). The First Coming of Christ accomplished a spiritual victory over Satan and his kingdom. A fallen angel is no match for the Son of God, who took away Satan’s rulership. Satan is actually the transliteration of a Hebrew word meaning ‘adversary’ or ‘accuser.’ He is ‘the accuser of our brothers and sisters’ whom he ‘accuses . . . before our God day and night’ (Rev 12:10). He accused Job (see Job 1:9-11; 2:4-5) and Joshua the high priest (see Zech 3:1). But in light of the atoning sacrifice of Christ, Satan’s accusations are empty.

“If somebody has a gun pointed at you, whether or not it’s loaded is a huge deal. The devil doesn’t want you to know that his gun has been emptied by the Cross of Christ. Now, if you don’t know that, you’re still going to cower and run, living in fear and shame. But you don’t have to listen to him. Though he is right about your sin, your debt has been paid by Christ. You are free to live for God. Satan still has power, but he no longer possesses final authority in history.” 3

The Cross of Christ is the only answer to the accusations of Satan and the shame that accompanies them. The death of Jesus is the only thing that can set us free. It has for all time declared our infinite value. We truly do matter to God!

Unfortunately, churches can shame people for struggling with sin and shame. When they do that, they are becoming Pharisees of further condemnation instead of priests of hope. We can deepen the shame of believers with the bony finger of a critical god, instead of revealing the open arms of the crucified Savior. We may think we have to defend God’s purity even though Christ took the filth of our sins upon Himself.

I am not suggesting that churches accept the world’s standards of behavior. But in our efforts to keep the church pure, we have beaten up the souls of broken men and women who are crying to be free from the shackles of shame. We have become modern-day Pharisees and we do not even realize it. God’s most powerful weapon is grace; but it has been cast aside in our efforts to be spiritually pure. The irony of this is that the modern-day Pharisee is just as obsessed with sin as the one who is consumed by it – one to avoid it, the other to live in it. Both need to come back to the Cross to find lasting freedom.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I am eternally gratefully for the Cross. For it was at the Cross that You proved that God is for me and not against me. It was there that You declared my infinite value. It was there that the list of accusations against me was nailed and rendered powerless. It was at the Cross that Satan was defeated and sentenced to die forever in the lake of fire. It was there that Your love for me was clearly displayed. And it was at the Cross where freedom from sin and shame was achieved forever!!! Thank You, my Lord and my God, for the Cross which is the basis for victory in my Christian life. To You, Lord Jesus, be all the glory both now and forever! Amen.  

ENDNOTE:

1. A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vol. IV (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1931), pg. 494.

2. Tony Evans, Evans, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary, (B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition), pg. 2148.

3. Ibid.

How does Jesus lead us to victory? Part 2

14 Then Jesus, when He had found a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written: 15 ‘Fear not, daughter of Zion; Behold, your King is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt.’ ” John 12:14-15

God wants to lead us to victory through His Son, Jesus Christ. We saw last time that He does this through Jesus’ resurrection power (John 12:9-11). Today we see that He also does this BY PROVIDING A SPIRITUAL TRIUMPH (John 12:12-15). The following verses (John 12:12-19) are traditionally known as Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. All four gospels record this event (cf. Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:28-44).

“The next day a great multitude that had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem.” (John 12:12). “The next day” probably refers to Monday when the Passover lamb was selected and set aside to be slain and eaten for the Passover. 1 Jesus was going to Jerusalem to be sacrificed as our Passover Lamb, the Lamb of God (John 1:29; cf. I Corinthians 5:7). To His disciples, this did not seem like a Triumphal Entry. They may have thought to themselves, “Yes, Lord there are many who have believed in You, but the religious leaders, the ones with a lot of power, do not believe in You. In fact, they want to kill You and Lazarus. How can this be a triumphal entry when there is a warrant out for Your arrest? Where is the victory in this?!”

Prior to Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, Luke tells us that Jesus, 31…took the twelve aside and said to them, ‘Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man will be accomplished. 32 For He will be delivered to the Gentiles and will be mocked and insulted and spit upon. 33 They will scourge Him and kill Him.’” (Luke 18:31-33). Now Jesus is saying, “Let’s go up to Jerusalem and have a Triumphal Entry!” The disciples are saying, “Wait a minute, Lord. You call this a Triumphal Entry?”

John informs us that “a great multitude… had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem.” (John 12:12). Ellicott describes the scene as the Lord entered Jerusalem:

“It is not hardly possible to form a just conception of the appearance which Jerusalem and its vicinity must have presented at the season of the Passover. All the open ground near the city and perhaps the sides of the very hill down which our Lord had recently passed were now, probably, being covered with the tents and temporarily erected structures of the gathering multitudes, who even thus early would have most likely found every available abode in the city completely full. We are not left without some data of the actual amount of the gathered numbers, as we have a calculation of Josephus based upon the number of lambs sacrificed (256,500), according to which it would appear that even at the very low estimate of 10 persons to each lamb the number of people assembled must have been little short of 2,700,000, without taking into consideration those who were present but incapacitated by legal impurities from being partakers in the sacrifice… There would thus have been present not much short of half of the probable population of Judea and Galilee… These observations are not without importance considered theologically. They show that our Lord’s rejection and death is not merely to be laid to the malevolence of the party of the Sanhedrin and to the wild clamors of a city mob, but may justly be considered, though done in partial ignorance (Acts 3:17), the act of the nation. When Pilate made his proposal, it was to the multitude (Mark 15:9), and that multitude we know was unanimous (John 18:40).” 2

The Passover “feast” would be followed by the seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread. When this “great multitude… heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem” they were eager to see what was going to happen. Perhaps it seemed to some of them that Jesus was defying the Sanhedrin who were plotting to put Him to death (cf. 11:53). “When they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, and cried out: ‘Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! The King of Israel!’ ” (John 12:12b-13).

This great crowd “took branches of palm trees,” which signified a triumph or victory. This was a way of honoring and respecting a conqueror. 4  Perhaps they were honoring Jesus because He conquered death by raising Lazarus. When the people “cried out: ‘Hosanna!’ ” (Ὡσαννά), this originally meant “Save now we pray.” 5  They wanted Jesus to deliver them from the domination of Rome! The words, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! The king of Israel” are from Psalm 118:26 which speaks of the presentation of Israel’s Messiah-God. They see Jesus as their Messiah because of the manifestation of His Messianic power when He raised Lazarus from the dead.

“Then Jesus, when He had found a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written…” (John 12:14).  John informs us that Jesus “found a young donkey.” Imagine what the disciples are thinking. “You want to find a young donkey?! I thought conquerors ride a stallion or war horse? Instead of riding a stallion, You are going to ride a young donkey? We are not sure we understand this triumph You are bringing to us. The prophet Daniel (Daniel 7:13-14) says the Messianic Son of Man will come on the clouds, not a young donkey. What kind of triumph are you bringing to Israel?”

The donkey was a symbol of peace and gentleness. In Luke’s account of the Triumphal Entry, we read that the people cried out, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” (Luke 19:38). Christ came to bring “peace in heaven” at His First Coming by suffering on the Cross. Remember when Jesus was born, the angels said, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:14). Peace on earth will take place when Jesus returns to earth as King at His Second Coming. The First Coming of Christ brought spiritual peace in heaven through the cross. The Second Coming of Christ will bring peace on earth when Jesus rules as King of kings and Lord of lords! The first triumph of Christ was a spiritual or an inward triumph in the heavens. The second triumph of Christ will be on earth and it will be an outward, material triumph, subjecting the nations of the earth to His rule so that there will be universal peace among all people.

Before Jesus entered Jerusalem, He told His disciples, “Go into the village opposite you, where as you enter you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Loose it and bring it here. And if anyone asks you, ‘Why are you loosing it?’ thus you shall say to him, ‘Because the Lord has need of it.’ ” (Luke19:30-31). By doing this, the Lord is letting His disciples know that He is in control. It was like the Lord already talked to these people and set the whole thing up. “I have planned this entry into Jerusalem even though I am going there to be crucified.”

John tells us that Christ’s entry into Jerusalem on a donkey had been planned for centuries. “Fear not, daughter of Zion; Behold, your King is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt.” (John 12:15). When Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem, He fulfilled Zechariah 9:9. God is in control. He had this planned hundreds of years earlier. He planned on bringing a spiritual triumph through His Son’s death on the cross to establish peace in heaven.

We may be looking for a material triumph instead of a spiritual triumph. That is not God’s primary concern right now. We are not going to defeat the world. Christ will do that at His Second Coming (Revelation 19:11-21). He will subject the world to His rule then (Psalm 2; Revelation 20:1-6). You and I are not going to bring the entire world under the will of God. Christians may try to force a material triumph, but that will only lead to more frustration.

Two times the word for “triumph” (θριαμβεύω) is used in the New Testament. Colossians 2:15 says, “Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.” The death of Jesus did three things to the spiritual rulers of darkness. It disarmed them, displayed them, and dethroned them. One Bible commentator says this about the verse: “The picture, quite familiar in the Roman world, is that of a triumphant general leading a parade of victory…” 7 Another commentator writes: “It is more natural to view the principalities and powers here as the defeated foes, driven in front of the triumphal chariot as involuntary and impotent witnesses to their conqueror’s superior might.” 8

The cross of Jesus Christ provided a spiritual triumph, not a material triumph. Jesus is Head of a new humanity, a new group of people called the Church, who can respond to evil differently than the rest of the world. As the Son of God, He defeated the spiritual forces of darkness. We are now “in Christ” as believers and we are meant to enjoy this triumph.

The second use of this word for “triumph” (θριαμβεύω) is found in 2 Corinthians 2:14 which says: “Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.” God is the One who takes us and leads us into the triumph of Christ. What am I supposed to do then? Start thanking God for your spiritual triumph. As we yield to the Lord and thank Him, He is going to lead us into the triumph of Jesus which is a spiritual or inward triumph. We may want a material triumph. We tell ourselves, if I could just be released from jail or have the perfect car, job, health, spouse, family, friends, and church, then I will be fulfilled. But there is no life in that kind of existence.

Where do you think the resurrection life of Jesus is seen? It is more often seen in the things that do not go the way we want them to go. That is where God works. That is where we will see resurrection life. God resurrects that which has died, including our attitudes. His resurrection power wants to transform our negative attitudes into positive ones which emit the fragrance of Christ.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I must admit that I am a lot like the disciples. I also can look for a material triumph instead of a spiritual triumph. I can look for victory in my external circumstances instead of in my internal attitudes. I can so easily believe the lie that says, “If you are a Christian, everything will go smoothly in life. You will have no more difficulties or trials.” Please forgive me, my Lord and my God, for looking in the wrong places for Your victory. Your First Coming provided a spiritual triumph on the cross whereby peace with God in heaven was made possible through Your shed blood. Thank You, that I now have peace with the Lord God of heaven and earth through faith in You, Jesus. You now live inside me through Your Holy Spirit Who can enable me to respond in a God-honoring manner to the evil that is flourishing in the world today. I am now trusting You to lead me into this spiritual triumph that can manifest Your fragrance or attitude in all I think, say, and do. Yes, I am looking forward to Your Second Coming which will usher in Your material triumph whereby all nations will be brought under Your rule, and there will be peace on earth among all cultures and countries forever! But until then, my focus remains on You to lead me into spiritual victory! In Your matchless name I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 224.

2. C. J. Ellicott, Historical Lectures on the Life of Our Lord Jesus Christ (London: Longman’s Green, 1896) pg. 289, footnote.

3. Laney, pg. 224.

4. Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures in The New Testament, Vol V: John and Hebrews (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1932), pg. 220.

5. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature [BAGD], compiled by Walter Bauer, trans. and adapted by William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, 2nd ed., rev. and augmented by F. Wilbur Gingrich and Frederick W. Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979),  pg. 899; cf. Laney, pg. 224.

6. Robert N. Wilkin, “The Gospel According to John,” The Grace New Testament Commentary [TGNTC], Vol. 1: Matthew – Acts (Denton, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 2010), pg. 432.

7. Curtis Vaughan, “Colossians.” In Ephesians-Philemon. Vol. 11 of The Expositor’s Bible Commentary. 12 vols. Edited by Frank E. Gaebelein and J. D. Douglas. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1978), pg. 202.

8. F. F. Bruce, “Colossians Problems,” Bibliotheca Sacra, 563:298-99.

The Providence of God or the Plots of Man? Part 2

51 Now this he did not say on his own authority; but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, 52 and not for that nation only, but also that He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad.” John 11:51-52

After Jesus miraculously raised Lazarus from the dead in front of many Jews who had come from Jerusalem to console the family of Lazarus (John 11:28-44), many of those Jews believed in Jesus for everlasting life (John 11:45) while some began to plot against Christ (John 11:46-48). We are learning from this conflict over Jesus’ miracle how the providence of God and the plans of people work together for God’s glory. The first principle we learned is that plans to oppose Christ can arise from fear and jealousy (John 11:45-48). Today we learn the second principle which is to REALIZE THAT GOD USES THE PLOTS OF MAN TO ACCOMPLISH HIS PURPOSES (John 11:49-53).

“And one of them, Caiaphas, being high priest that year, said to them, ‘You know nothing at all.’ ” (John 11:49). No man comprehended the situation better than Caiaphas, the son-in-law of Annas. He was the high priest “that [fateful] year.” He served as high priest from 18-36 A.D. Originally the high priest held his position for a lifetime, but the Romans were afraid of letting a man gain too much power. So the Romans appointed high priests at their convenience.” 2 Caiaphas’ first words reflect rudeness to his fellow Sanhedrin members, “You know nothing at all.” Rudeness was common among the Sanhedrin members. He correctly observes that they have no solution to their problem.

Caiaphas then proposed a solution to their problem. “… Nor do you consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish.” (John 11:50). The Sanhedrin could not figure out that it would be to their advantage, and that is what they cared the most about, that Jesus die at the hands of the Romans instead of the entire nation. Caiaphas proposed the death of Christ as a solution to the immediate political problem. Politicians are often willing to sacrifice the other guy for their own benefit. Ironically, “their rejection of Jesus did not solve their problem. The Jewish people followed false shepherds into a war against Rome (A.D. 66-70), which did in fact destroy their nation.” 3

John then explains that Caiaphas’ words were prophetic. “Now this he did not say on his own authority; but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation.” (John 11:51). What Caiaphas meant to be cynical political realism; God meant to be understood in a deeper, more significant way. Caiaphas only had political interests in mind, whereas God had spiritual interests in mind (Acts 4:27-28). The prophetic quality of Caiaphas’ words is attributed to his priestly office, not his personal character. Because of Caiaphas’ office, God spoke providentially through him even though Caiaphas was not conscious of his word’s spiritual significance. Jesus’ death would be in place of the Jewish nation. If He would die, they would live. Christ would be their Substitute.

A former Thai navy seal diver, Saman Gunan, heroically died on July 6, 2018, while placing oxygen tanks along the twisting passageways of a cave flooded by monsoon rains in Thailand where twelve boys (ages 11 to 16) and their soccer coach were trapped since June 23, 2018. Eventually the entire soccer team was rescued between July 8 – 10, 2018. Saman died so this soccer team and their coach could live. Out of love for these boys and their coach, he laid down his life for them. Likewise, Jesus Christ loved you and me so much that He died on a cross as our Substitute for our sins so we could live forever the moment we believe in Him (John 3:14-16).

But there is more. Caiaphas continued, “And not for that nation only, but also that He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad.” (John 11:52). Caiaphas’ words were not just for Israel, but for the whole world. John has a world-vision in mind. This refers to uniting Jews and Gentiles around the world into“one” body, the church (cf. John 10:16; cf. Ephesians 2:14-18; 3:6). Sin scatters people, but the Savior unites them. Only Christ can unite the nations and cultures of the world into one body. Governments cannot do this. The United Nations cannot bring world peace nor can Black Lives Matter. But Jesus Christ can because He changes people from the inside out.

“Then, from that day on, they plotted to put Him to death.” (John 11:53). The Sanhedrin concurs with Caiaphas’ proposal. They seriously plot to kill Jesus. An old purpose (John 5:18; 7:19, 44-45; 8:59; 10:31, 39) was revived with fresh energy due to the raising of Lazarus from the dead. What these wicked men planned for evil, God providentially intended for good.  

Do you remember the story of Joseph in the Old Testament? After Joseph’s father, Jacob, died, his brothers fear that the only thing that has kept Joseph from taking revenge on them has been his respect for his father. So, they come to Joseph begging for forgiveness – even though he gave them that forgiveness many years earlier. How does Joseph respond? Does he avenge the wrongs that they did to him?

He said, “You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20a).  Joseph doesn’t try to rewrite history saying, “Oh, I know you guys didn’t mean it.” He is honest – “You guys tried to harm me – but God intended your harm for good.” Romans 8:28 says, “We know that God causes all things to work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” This “all things” means “all things” – including people’s evil intentions, their desire to cause harm, and sin. This is an absolutely amazing promise from God! Nobody can do anything to you that God cannot bring good from.

We see it clearly in Joseph’s life – sold into slavery, falsely accused and imprisoned – which was exactly where, in the strangest kind of way, Pharaoh, would be able to hear about him. Then Joseph says, “God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive” (Genesis 50:20b). Joseph experienced tremendous pain – heartache, difficulty, problems, but God used all of that for incredible good – the saving of many lives. And as it turned out, not just the people of Egypt, but also his own family – including the very men who did him wrong – his brothers.

Can you relate to Joseph? Perhaps God has used the most painful experiences in your life involving believers who betrayed you to help and bless others. He has used your weaknesses and failures much more than He has used your so-called strengths. It is important for us to see God’s ability to do far more through our trials or failures than through our successes. God causes all things to work together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. That means that many can gain through our pain!

The religious leaders had evil intentions toward Jesus, but God intended to bring good from their rejection of His Son. Jesus’ death would unite Jews and Gentiles into one body, the Church. Christ’s substitutionary death on the cross would pay the penalty for the sins of the world so that all who believe in Him may be reconciled to God and have everlasting life (John 3:14-16; Romans 5:10; Ephesians 2:16).

Christ’s work in our lives can turn enemies into friends. He can bring men and women back into harmony with each other. But it begins by resolving our conflict with God. The Bible says that before we come to Jesus Christ we are in conflict with God. “For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son.” (Romans 5:10). Before we became Christians, we were God’s “enemies” because of our sin. God hates sin (Genesis 6:5-7; Deuteronomy 25:16; Proverbs 6:16-19; Romans 6:23; Hebrews 1:9), but He loves the sinner (Romans 5:8). Jesus Christ came to this world to make peace between humanity and God, to resolve this conflict. This is the key place to begin in resolving conflict in all of our relationships. Jesus died in our place to pay the penalty for our sins so we could be “reconciled to God.” The moment we believe in Christ “we have peace with God” (Romans 5:1). Once we gain peace with God we can learn to live peacefully with one another.

“As parts of the same body, our anger against each other has disappeared. For both of us have been reconciled to God and so the feud ended at the cross.” (Ephesians 2:16 – TLB). Paul is talking about conflict between nations in this verse, but this works between people too. “The feud ended at the cross.” God is able to resolve the conflicts in our lives. Many conflicts between people could be solved overnight, if both parties involved would come to know Christ because of the power that He has to resolve those conflicts we face in our lives.

For me, this is the most everyday advice I could give anyone. In my relationships with people, my relationship to Jesus Christ more than anything else sets the tone for the ability to handle the conflicts that we face. He gives me the ability to think in a different way and relate in a different way. Finding the love of Christ helped me find the forgiveness in my life that built the foundation of strength for all of my relationships. Finding the love of Christ also gives me the strength to forgive others. If you are going to resolve conflicts you have got to have that strength. 

What relationship in your life still has walls to tear down? Whom do you despise? Maybe you dislike the way they look, talk, walk, laugh, and work. You detest being near to them. How can Christ slowly take down those walls one brick at a time so you can live peacefully with them? Ask Him to show you. He is our Peace (Ephesians 2:13-14) and He can teach us to live in harmony with others.

Prayer: Dear Lord God Almighty, Your ways are so much higher than ours. While evil politicians proposed the death of Jesus to advance their own plans and welfare, You providentially intended Jesus’ substitutionary death to save the nation of Israel and the entire world from eternal death. And not only that, Christ’s death would unite Jews and Gentiles into one body, the Church. Over and over again we see throughout history that sin divides people, but our Savior died to unite people of all colors, cultures, and countries. Many of us are not able to resolve conflicts with people because we are still in conflict with You. Our sin separates us from You, Oh Lord. But Your only Son, Jesus Christ, died in our place for all our sins and rose from the dead to reconcile us to You. Oh Lord, I pray that those who are still in conflict with You will recognize that Jesus can resolve that conflict by freely forgiving all their sins and giving them eternal life the moment they believe in Him alone. Then He can give them the strength to love and forgive those they are in conflict with. And if we are all honest with ourselves, we must admit that there are people in our lives that we despise for whatever reason. Please show us today how we can begin the process of taking down those walls we have built so we can live peacefully them. It may begin with the words, “I am truly sorry for what I have done. I was only thinking of myself. Help me to see things as you do.” In Jesus’ name. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 215.

2. Edwin A. Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Gospels, (David C Cook: Kindle Edition, 2018), pg. 640.

3. Ibid, pp. 640-641.

How can I grow closer to the Good Shepherd? Part 4

“Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.” John 10:17-18

We can also grow closer to the Good Shepherd when we INITIATE OBEDIENCE TO HIM (John 10:17-18). Jesus said,Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again.” (John 10:17a). God the Father has a special love for His Son who sacrificially obeyed His will. Jesus did not mean that the Father’s love resulted from the Son’s performance. The Father’s love for Jesus would still have existed if Jesus had failed to obey Him completely. The Father loved the Son unconditionally in eternity past (John 17:23-24). However, the Son’s full obedience to the Father’s will resulted in the Father having a special love for the Son that obedience under testing brought out.

Likewise, God loves all believers unconditionally, but when they obey Him, they enjoy an intimacy with Him that only obedience can produce. Christ said in John 14:21, “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.” For Christ to disclose or “manifest more of Himself to a believer, the believer must be trustworthy and obey Him. Intimacy or friendship with Christ is conditioned upon obeying Him. “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.” (John 15:14). This friendship refers to Jesus disclosing His thoughts to those who obey Him. Thus, Jesus’ friends are those to whom He entrusts Himself. Intimate fellowship with Christ requires obedience to Him. When believers initiate obedience to Christ, they draw closer to Him and experience an intimacy with Him that is absent among disobedient believers.

Some people may ask, “If Jesus is God, how can He die? God does not die.” I like to respond to this question by asking a question. “When humans die, do their spirits or souls stop existing?” They respond, “No our spirit or soul does not die,” to which I reply, “So even when we die as humans, it is the body that dies, not our spirit or soul. We do not stop existing altogether.” The same is true of Jesus. Though His physical body died on the cross, He did not stop existing as God. Just before Jesus died on the cross, He cried out with a loud voice, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.” Then “He breathed His last” (Luke 23:46). John writes, “bowing His head, He gave up His spirit” (John 19:30). Jesus’ spirit went to His Father in heaven when He died. Therefore, He did not stop existing as God.

Then Jesus said to His Jewish audience, “I lay down My life that I may take it again.” (John 10:17b). The purpose of Jesus’ death was to rise again, enriched with resurrection power. From Jesus’ perspective, death was only the beginning, not the end. Christ knew He would not remain dead. Christ said, “No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.” (John 10:18). We see that Jesus’ death was voluntary (cf. John 10:11, 14, 17-18). Jesus was under no obligation to sacrifice Himself for sinners. That’s why it’s called grace.

Although the Jews would hand Him over and the Romans would crucify Him, this was only possible because He let them (cf. John 19:10-11). An unbelieving observer may conclude that Jesus was overpowered by the Jewish authorities and crucified. But Jesus makes it clear that no one took His life from Him. He chose to lay it down. He also had authority to lay down His life and take it up again. Christ had the power to call upon thousands of angels to destroy His enemies and deliver Him from death (Matt. 26:53), but He chose to endure the cross out of love for us and His Father (Romans 5:8; Philippians 2:6-8). The Father commanded Jesus to lay down His life and take it up again and Jesus submitted to His Father.

Anyone can lay his or her life down in death sacrificially, but only Jesus Christ could “lay it down” and then “take it [up] again” in resurrection! This is what separates Jesus Christ from all other religious leaders and founders. All other religious leaders and founders in history are still dead in the grave. But Jesus Christ is the only One who had the authority to take up His life in resurrection, proving that He is God (Romans 1:4) and that He has defeated sin, death, and the Devil (cf. Romans 6:5-14; 8:11; I Corinthians 15:54-57; Colossians 2:15; Hebrews 2:14-15). The New Testament writers attributed Jesus’ resurrection to all three members of the Trinity: the Father (Romans 6:4), the Son (John 2:19), and the Spirit (Romans 8:11).

The One Who voluntarily laid down His life for us and took it up again in resurrection loves each of us very much. He wants to give us the same power that raised Him from the dead to enable us to live a life that obeys and honors Him (cf. Ephesians 1:18-20)! The more we give Him our obedience, the more He will reveal Himself to us in intimate ways.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, there is no one like You. You loved me so much that You voluntarily laid down Your life for me and took it up again in resurrection to honor Your Father’s will. Your obedience to the Father reminds me that when I give You my obedience, You will reveal more of Yourself to me. Right now my Lord and my God, I want to give You everyone and everything I have. I look forward to what You are going to teach me about Yourself today. In Your everlasting name I pray. Amen.

Christ’s claim demands that we embrace the Cross

“When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He.” John 8:28

The third implication of Jesus’ claim to be the light of the world (John 8:12) is this: CHRIST’S CLAIM DEMANDS THAT WE EMBRACE THE CROSS (John 8:25-30). When Jesus said, “If you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24b), the religious leaders are disturbed by His words, “I am He.” The word “He” is not in the original Greek which is why it is in italics in the New King James version. When Jesus said, “I am,” He was claiming to be the Self-Existent God who spoke to Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3:13-14). So these Jews ask Him, “Who are You?” (John 8:25a). “Who are You to be saying such things to us?” And Jesus said to them, “Just what I have been saying to you from the beginning.” (John 8:25b). Jesus assures them that He was saying nothing different from “what” He had “been saying”about His identity since “the beginning” of His ministry.

“I have many things to say and to judge concerning you, but He who sent Me is true; and I speak to the world those things which I heard from Him.” (John 8:26). Jesus knew His audience better than anyone. He tells His listeners that He has “many things to say” to them, some of which will “judge” them for their unbelief. However, all that He would say would be “true” because it all comes from the Father who “is true.” His message was for “the world” of unbelieving humanity.

When believers are witnessing to the unsaved, it can be easy to get sidetracked from the central message of the gospel, that is, Christ died for our sins and rose from the dead (I Corinthians 15:3-6). This is especially true when sharing the gospel with members of a growing cult or false religion. Members of these groups often try  to steer the conversation away from Christ crucified to focus on the central part of their beliefs. Although there is a place for the study of false religions and cults, the best way to expose what is false is to preach the truth about Jesus Christ.

A few years ago I had the privilege of baptizing a new believer in the Philippines who had been a member of the Jehovah Witnesses cult for thirty years. When I asked him how he got saved, he said that a caring believer shared the gospel clearly and simply so he could transfer his trust onto Christ crucified alone for his salvation. You don’t have to know a lot about a cult or false religion to effectively share the gospel with their members. But you do need to know Christ crucified and His gospel message (I Corinthians 2:2)!

The apostle John tells us, “They did not understand that He spoke to them of the Father.” (John 8:27). Christ’s audience “did not understand that” He was referring to “the Father.”At this point in Jesus’ conversation with the Jewish leaders, it looks hopeless for them, doesn’t it? If I had been Jesus, I would have thought, “Why bother with these guys?” But He doesn’t.

Knowing their ignorance, blindness and pride, He graciously says to them28 Then Jesus said to them, ‘When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things. 29 And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him.’ 30 As He spoke these words, many believed in Him.” (John 8:28-30). Many of these very men who had been rejecting Him now believed in Him.

What made the difference? Christ presents three proofs of His identity as God. The first proof is the cross. What does Jesus mean, “When you lift up the Son of man” (8:28)? When you see Jesus on the cross then you begin to understand the facts about His true identity as the Messiah-God – “You will know that I am He.” Christ’s enemies will realize that Jesus is the Self-Existent God when they crucify Him. That is what He is saying. When He is lifted up on the cross He gives Himself for the sins of the world (I John 2:2). He laid down His life for us. So look to the cross. For at the cross is the Lord of Glory (I Corinthians 2:8). At the cross is the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). At the cross is the One Who infinitely loves us and washes away all our sin and shame (Romans 5:8; Revelation 1:5b). At the cross is the innocent Son of God (Matthew 27:54). At the cross is the Redeemer of our sins (Ephesians 1:7).

A second proof of Jesus’ claim to be God is His message which did not originate with Him, but from His “Father” (John 8:28b). Christ’s teaching was not independent of His Father’s. He continually depended on His Father to give Him the words to say. He did this to provide an example for us. We cannot live the Christian life without depending on the Lord moment by moment (John 15:5; Romans 8:11-15; Galatians 5:16-18).

Then Jesus repeats that His Father “sent” Him which does not mean that He is “alone” (John 8:29a). Even though Jesus’ countrymen had rejected Him, His Father had not abandoned Him. Likewise, our Father in heaven and Jesus and the Holy Spirit will never abandon us (Hebrews 13:5). They are constantly with us to provide all we need to live for them (Philippians 4:19; 2 Peter 1:2-4).

The third proof of Jesus’ claim to be God is His perfect obedience to the Father (John 8:29b). Christ “always” did those things that please” His Father. Jesus is not only sinless (2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15), but on every occasion, He does what pleases God the Father. Only God could obey God’s commands at all times. The proof of Jesus’ deity is His perfect obedience to the Father. No one before or after Him has ever lived a sinless life on earth.

A few years ago on a three-hour flight to the eastern United States, I sat next to a young woman who claimed to be an agnostic. When I asked her if anyone ever took a Bible and showed her how she could know for sure she would go to heaven when she died, she said that no one had and that there was no need to do that with her. When I asked her why, she gave me several reasons why she did not need Christianity, including all religions lead to God, Christians are nothing but hypocrites, the Bible has been translated so many times that it is no longer accurate, and that Christianity is incompatible with science.

When I attempted to respond to each of her objections, she seemed disconnected from what I was saying. The more I talked, the less she responded and I began to realize that only the Holy Spirit could lift the blindness from her heart and mind (John 16:7-11; 2 Corinthians 4:4). I then pointed her to the cross of Christ, explaining how much He loved her. I told her Jesus would meet her where she is at and answer her questions about Christianity if she is honest about her search for truth. He is not threatened by her questions any more than He was with the apostle Thomas’ questions. I don’t know if she ever made the decision to believe in Christ, but one thing I do know, Jesus loves her and proved it when He died in her place for all her sins (cf. Romans 5:8)!

In conclusion, Christ’s claim demands that we GET THE FACTS RIGHT … for when Jesus said, “I am the Light of the World” (John 8:12), He was stating unequivocally that He was God in human flesh.

Christ’s claim also demands that we BE SURE ABOUT OUR FUTURE. Have you believed in Christ alone to provide a future resurrection and never-ending life for you (John 8:24; 11:25-26)? Or have you rejected Him? There is no middle ground. You will either be with Jesus for eternity (John 3:36a; 11:25-26) or forever separated from Him in the lake of fire (John 3:36b; Revelation 20:15).

And finally, Christ’s claim demands that we EMBRACE THE CROSS. Jesus gave up His life for us on the cross. He forfeited His life so we can live for Him now, so that His light can shine through us to help others. 2 Corinthians 5:15 says: “And He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.”

When I preached this message at the provincial jail chapel in the Philippines a few years ago, we provided candles for each inmate. At this time, our ushers lit the candle of each person at the end of a row in the chapel. Then we focused on Jesus’ words, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” (John 8:12). I then said to the inmates, “Look what happens to this room when each of us follows Christ and allows His light to shine through us (other candles were lit by those with a lit candle). The light dispels the darkness, doesn’t it? Together we can make an eternal difference here at the provincial jail and in our country and world. Have you decided to follow Jesus? Do you want God to use you to lead others to Christ and disciple them?

What about you? We are seeing unprecedented expressions of darkness in the USA and world. More now than ever, our world needs the light of Jesus Christ!!! Will you let Jesus shine in and through you as you follow Him and make disciples of Him? A single light penetrates 50 miles of darkness. Darkness cannot overcome light (John 1:5). We are on the winning side. Let’s live like winners!!!      

Prayer: Lord Jesus, please shine Your light through us so that others can receive the hope of everlasting life by believing in You. Please raise up armies of Your disciple-makers around the world who will shine brightly for You and Your glory! In Your name I pray. Amen.