Is Jesus Christ Alive Today? (Video)

This video is about the everlasting hope that is found in the risen Lord Jesus Christ. Why do millions of people around the world celebrate Easter? What evidence is there that Jesus Christ is alive today? Discover the answers to these questions and much more. Please share this video with those you want to see in heaven.

Scripture are from the New King James Version unless otherwise noted. The song “Because He Lives I Can Face Tomorrow” by Jesusman, is Public Domain Mark 1.0 and is therefore not subject to copyright. Pictures are used with permission from Good News Productions International and College Press Publishing/ www.Freebibleimages.org, www.Goodsalt.com, or they are creative common licenses.

Lesson 1 Part 3 – Assurance and Eternal Security (Video)

This is the third video of our Lesson 1 discipleship training. It addresses the foundational truths of assurance of salvation and eternal security. Assurance of salvation is the certainty that you have eternal life based solely on the promise of everlasting life Jesus Christ makes to all who believe in Him. Eternal security is possessing Jesus’ gift of everlasting life which can never be lost. The believer in Jesus is secure forever.

God’s Grace and Suicide

Living during a global pandemic makes it especially difficult to connect with one another. There is a great emphasis on social distancing. People cannot connect with one another as easily as before because of all the COVID restrictions and the fear of getting sick. The additional stress caused by COVID increases the chance of conflict with one another which can also become a barrier to connecting with one another. Emotional needs are much greater during this pandemic. There is more fear and depression which can lead people to isolate themselves from others. More people feel hopeless and think of taking their own lives.

A question that may arise during this pandemic is, “Will a believer in Jesus Christ who commits suicide still go to heaven?” The answer to this is strongly related to one’s view of God’s grace.

WHAT DOES GOD SAY ABOUT A BELIEVER WHO COMMITS SUICIDE?

In Romans 8:31-39, God answers four questions or accusations that can arise in cases of suicide:

1.MAN’S ACCUSATION: Doesn’t such a death as suicide prove that God works against us, not for us? Isn’t this what prompts a believer to take his life?”

GOD’S ANSWER: “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 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 8:31-32) God says, “Since I am for you (and no one is greater than Me), no one can successfully oppose you, including yourself.” When the unexpected happens, you need to ignore the lie that God is against you. He is on your side. God does not work against us. How wrong it would be to believe that God turns His back on the believer who commits suicide. God is FOR US – on our side – deeply interested in our needs, our hurts, our pain, our failures and loneliness. 

Proof of this: God gave His Son to die for our sins, including the sin of suicide (Romans 8:32). 

2. MAN’S ACCUSATION: “Doesn’t the suicide of a Christian confirm the fact that Christianity really doesn’t have the solutions to man’s problems?” 

GOD’S ANSWER: “Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.” (Romans 8:33) God says, “No one can successfully press charges against a believer in Christ because I have declared him totally righteous on the basis of his faith in My Son.” No one can successfully accuse any Christian who commits suicide because God does not even accuse him – He declares him totally righteous or not guilty the moment he believed in Jesus Christ. No one can bring an accusation against the Christian who commits suicide that will stand. But how difficult it is at times to realize God’s interest and presence! It’s like the sun – every day – it shines. No one could EVER say – the sun isn’t shining! We may say, “I can’t feel it or see it”…but fly high enough and there it is!

3. MAN’S ACCUSATION: “Doesn’t such an act as suicide deserve condemnation?” 

GOD’S ANSWER: “Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.” (Romans 8:34) God says, “No one can successfully condemn the believer who commits suicide because My Son – 

“… was condemned to death for his sins, removing his guilt (8:34b).

“… was raised to life, satisfying My demand to punish his sins (8:34c). 

“… is at My right hand defending him against all accusations (8:34d).” When Satan comes to God’s throne with accusations against the believer who commits suicide, God looks to His Son, and Jesus says, “Father, I paid for that sin.”

“… intercedes for him (8:34e).”

Now let me make something quite clear. I am not suggesting that such a death is condoned in Scriptures… for God assures us that He has not only designed LIFE but LIFE MORE ABUNDANTLY for His children (John 10:10). However, the struggles and pain are often too great for a person who commits suicide. But God does not condemn him because Christ has taken his or her punishment. 

4. MAN’S ACCUSATION: “Doesn’t such an act separate a person from God’s love and presence? Isn’t this the classic act of rejection?”

GOD’S ANSWER: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? …Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35-39) Nothing, including suicide, can separate a Christian from the love of God. Even though others may stop loving us or we may stop loving ourselves, God’s love will never abandon us. Nothing you do, say, or think can separate you from God’s love. Absolutely nothing. 

Listen to Jesus’ own words: “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them…and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.” (John 10:27-29) That includes the believer who commits suicide!  

Who shall oppose us? NO ONE. Who shall accuse us? NO ONE. Who shall condemn us? NO ONE. Who shall separate us from God’s love? NO ONE. The believer who commits suicide is in God’s presence – no more tears, crying, pain, death or darkness… all that is gone. His body awaits that incredible moment when it will be raised and changed—NEVER TROUBLED AGAIN WITH INNER DISTURBANCE  …CONFLICT …INSECURITY…UNREST…

HOW CAN I OVERCOME THOUGHTS OF SUICIDE?

  • Aim to work on the causes of your emotional pain, not just the symptoms.
  • If your depression is due to guilt, admit your sin to the Lord (Psalm 32:1-5; I John 1:9).
  • When you are depressed, place your hope in God (Psalm 42:5; Lamentations 3:20-25).
  • Avoid being isolated (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10). Stay connected to loving and supportive friends.
  • Seek help from others (Galatians 6:2; James 5:13-16).
  • Listen to uplifting Christian music and sing (I Samuel 16:14-23).
  • Identify and replace the lies underlying your suicidal thoughts with God’s truth. Jesus came so you could have life, but Satan came to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10). Suicidal thoughts often stem from some of Satan’s lies.Focus on the truth of God’s Word, not Satan’s lies (John 8:31-32). If you are not aware of the lies you believe, journal your thoughts and feelings, relying on the Holy Spirit to reveal the underlying lies. Then ask God to remove the lies that cause you to have suicidal thoughts and graciously replace them with His truth (Psalm 119:28-29).

WHAT IF I SUSPECT SOMEONE I KNOW IS HAVING THOUGHTS OF SUICIDE?

  • Don’t be afraid to talk to them about it. We are only as sick as our secrets. Ask questions like: “Are you thinking about taking your life? Do you have a suicide plan as to how you would do it? Why do you think that’s the only answer?” Talking about suicide does not plant suicidal thoughts in someone who is already depressed. Talking about suicide actually decreases the possibility of that person taking his or her life because it diffuses its power. (If someone has a plan to kill themselves, make sure they get medical assistance immediately!)
  • Obtain a verbal “non-suicide” contract or commitment not to do anything that would be harmful or self-destructive without first talking with you or with a counselor, pastor, or another trusted person. 
  • Ask them to think through these questions: “If you died and came back to life, could you find other reasons for being glad to be alive? Would the Lord’s promises of love and guidance though your trials still be in place? Would the sun still shine and water still be cool and refreshing? Would there still be adventures in life and growth in relationships? Could some positive reasons for living, as opposed to dying, be developed?” Yes, yes, a thousand times yes! There is hope for the hopeless!


How can we endure difficult times? Part 6

“Then the detachment of troops and the captain and the officers of the Jews arrested Jesus and bound Him.” John 18:12

In the first twelve verses of John 18, we are learning how to endure difficult times. So far we have discovered we can do this when we…

– Learn about the love of Christ (John 18:1a).

– Look to the Lord in prayer (John 18:1b).

– Lean on the power of Christ (John 18:2-8a). 

– Listen to the command of Christ (John 18:8b).      

– Let Christ protect us now (John 18:9-11).

The sixth and final way to endure difficult times is to LET CHRIST HAVE YOUR BURDENS BECAUSE HE UNDERSTANDS (John 18:12; cf. Hebrews 4:15). The apostle John writes, “Then the detachment of troops and the captain and the officers of the Jews arrested Jesus and bound Him.” (John 18:12). Although the disciples were not arrested, Jesus was “arrested… and bound.” The word “arrested” (synelabon) means “to grasp together or seize.” 1 Since Jesus offered no resistance, it is not clear why they “bound” the Lord. Perhaps they were afraid Jesus might use His supernatural powers and attempt to escape.

This verse is especially powerful for those who are incarcerated. They have been arrested. Jesus was also arrested. Christ was arrested even though He was innocent. There are some in prison today who were arrested even though they were innocent. Jesus was falsely accused. Some prisoners may have also been falsely accused. Christ has much in common with those in jail or prison. As some of you reading this article know, being arrested is not a pleasant experience, especially if you are innocent. Christ understands what it is like to be arrested. He knows what it is like to be falsely accused. He understands how you feel, and He wants to help you. He has a greater capacity to care for you because He understands what you have gone through (cf. Hebrews 4:15).

The Bible says, 6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, 7 casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” (I Peter 5:6-7). Christ cares more for you than any other person in the universe. Let Him have your burdens and worries. 

John wrote his gospel so non-Christians “may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:31). As you read this, you may not know for sure that you will go to heaven when you die. We have learned several truths from John 18:1-12 about Jesus that compel us to believe in Him for everlasting life:

1. Believe in Jesus because He loves you and paid the full penalty for your sins (John 18:1a; 1:29; 19:30). When Christ crossed over the Brook of Kidron which was soaked with the blood of the Passover Lambs, He was reminded that as the Lamb of God, He would be sacrificed on a cross for the sin of the world (John 1:29). Christ could have turned around and run to safety. But He did not. Why? Because of His great love for you and me. Jesus continued up to the Garden of Gethsemane knowing that He would be arrested and crucified for you and for me. That’s how much He loves us! Christ loves you and me whether we are a good moral person or a person who has spent more time in jail than out of jail. Even when we are at our worst, God still gives us His very best. The Bible tells us, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8). Jesus loves us and wants to begin a forever relationship with us. Believe in Him.

2. Believe in Jesus because He has prayed for you (John 18:1b; cf. 17:20-26; Luke 22:39-43). When Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane, He was thinking of our sins being placed on Him when He would die on the cross. This is why the Bible tells us that  “He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed.” (Matthew 26:37). Christ was overwhelmed by the thought of being separated from His Father in heaven as our sins would be placed upon Him. Yet Jesus prayed, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup [of suffering] away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42). Through prayer, Jesus submitted to His Father’s will which included dying for our sins in our place.

3. Believe in Jesus because there is power in His name to give you eternal life and keep you secure forever (John 18:2-8a; cf. 10:28-29; 20:31). Since Jesus has the power to make an army fall down before Him, He also has the power to give us eternal life which can never be lost. The Bible tells us, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12). “No other name” – not Muhammed (Islam), Buddha (Buddhism), Confucius (Confucianism), Joseph Smith (Mormonism), Charles Taze Russell (Jehovah Witnesses), Ellen G. White (Seventh-Day Adventist), Theophilus Lindsey (Unitarianism), Rubin Ecleo (PBMA), Apollo Carreón Quiboloy (Restoration Church/ Kingdom of Jesus Christ), Felix Manalo (Iglesia Ni Cristo), Eli Soriano (Ang Datin Daan) – nor any other religious founders can save us from our sins. Only Jesus Christ can save us from our sins because He paid our sin debt in full when He died in our place on the cross and rose from the dead (John 19:30; I Corinthians 15:1-8), proving that His claim to be God is true (Romans 1:3-4). Believe in Him.

4. Believe in Jesus because He has the power of command (John 18:8b). When the Roman soldiers and temple guards came to arrest Jesus, Christ tells them what to do and they follow His orders. They don’t arrest any of His disciples because He has the power of command. If we are going to go to heaven when we die, we must listen to and obey the command to believe in Christ for everlasting life. “And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ…” (I John 3:23). There are many religious leaders commanding us what to do to go to heaven – pray toward the east five times a day. Go to church. Turn from your sins. Confess your sins. Meditate. Pray every day. Be baptized with water. Give to the poor. Keep the Sabbath. Love your neighbor as yourself. Do to others as you would have them do to you. But none of these are things Jesus commanded us to do to have everlasting life. What did Jesus say to do to have everlasting life? “Whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Do you believe this? If you do, Jesus guarantees that you now have everlasting life.

5. Believe in Jesus Who will protect you forever (John 18:9-11). Just as Jesus protected Peter and the other disciples physically from the well-armed soldiers and guards, He will also protect us spiritually forever the moment we believe in Him (John 10:28-29). No one will be able to overpower Christ and take His eternal life away from us. We are secure in His hands forever.

6. Believe in Jesus because He understands your need for eternal life (John 18:12; cf. Romans 3:23; 6:23; Revelation 20:15). All of us deserve to be in a spiritual prison forever in a place called hell because all of us have sinned against God (Romans 3:23; Revelation 20:15). Our sin separates us from God because He is holy and righteous and cannot be around our sin (Isaiah 59:2; 64:6; Romans 6:23). Just as Jesus understands what it is like to be arrested and falsely accused, He also knows how it feels to be separated from God because the sin of the world was placed on Him when He died on the cross, causing Him to be temporarily separated from His heavenly Father (cf. Matthew 27:46; 2 Corinthians 5:21).

Christ does not want you to die forever in hell (I Timothy 2:3-4). This is why He died in your place and rose from the dead – so you could live with Him forever in heaven. All He asks is that you believe or trust in Him alone for His free gift of eternal life. Jesus said, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life.” (John 6:47; cf. John 4:10-14; 11:25-26; Romans 6:23b).

When you believe in Jesus for His gift, Christ gives you everlasting life starting at that moment of faith (John 6:47). How long does everlasting life last? Forever! Does eternal life ever end? No. So even if you sin tomorrow, next month, or next year, do you still have everlasting life? Yes, because Jesus remains faithful to His promise of everlasting life (John 3:16; 6:47) even if we are unfaithful to Him (cf. 2 Timothy 2:13).

The Bible also says that when you believe in Jesus for eternal life, you become a member of God’s family forever. John 1:12 says, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” So if you believed in Jesus for eternal life, God is now your Father and you are His child forever. If God is your Father and He is my Father, what does that make you and me? Brothers and sisters in Christ because we now have the same Father in heaven. It does not matter what color of skin you have or what culture you are from. If you believe in Jesus, we are family because of the shed blood of Jesus Christ. The color of His blood is the same as yours and mine.

And when you believe in Jesus, He comes to live inside you (Galatians 2:20) through His Holy Spirit (Romans 8:11; Galatians 3:2; Ephesians 1:13-14). And He promises never to leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5). So if Jesus always lives inside you, do you ever have to feel lonely? No. You may feel lonely at times, but your feelings can lie to you. Focus on the truth of God’s Word instead of your feelings.

The Bible also says that when you believed in Jesus, you now have a future home in heaven (John 3:16; Revelation 21-22). So there is no need to be afraid of death. Even if people threaten to kill you for sharing Christ, you do not need to be afraid because Christ guarantees to take you to heaven the moment you take your last breath (John 11:25-26; 14:2-3; cf. 2 Corinthians 5:6-8; Philippians 1:21-23).

If you have never understood and believed this before today, but now you do – you can tell God this through prayer. Praying this prayer is not what gets you to heaven. Only believing in Jesus alone for His gift of eternal life gets you to heaven. This prayer is simply a way to tell God you are now trusting in His Son. If you would like, you can say to God:

“Dear Lord Jesus, I come to you now as a sinner. I cannot save myself. I believe You died in my place on a cross and rose from the dead. I am now trusting in You alone, Jesus (not my prayers, my religion, or my good life), to give me everlasting life and a future home in heaven. Thank You, Jesus, for the everlasting life I now have and for the future home I will have in heaven. In Your powerful name I pray. Amen.”

Diagram 1

To help you grow in your new relationship with Jesus Christ, please download our free digital discipleship materials on this website (see diagram 1) to go through with other people who are seeking to know Jesus. Thank you, and may Jesus richly bless you.

ENDNOTES:

1. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 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. 776; Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures in The New Testament, Vol V: John and Hebrews (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1932), pg. 286.

How can we endure difficult times? Part 5

“…That the saying might be fulfilled which He spoke, ‘Of those whom You gave Me I have lost none.’ ” John 18:9

In a world that seems to be increasingly filled with evil, it is important for us to seek God’s wisdom and protection. We are reminded of this today in John 18:9-11. In the first twelve verses of John 18, we are learning how to endure difficult times. So far we have discovered we can do this when we…

– Learn about the love of Christ (John 18:1a).

– Look to the Lord in prayer (John 18:1b).

– Lean on the power of Christ (John 18:2-8a). 

– Listen to the command of Christ (John 18:8b).      

After Jesus commanded the well-armed army that came to arrest Him to let His disciples go their way (John 18:8b), John informs us that this fulfilled what Jesus spoke earlier in John 17:12: “that the saying might be fulfilled which He spoke, ‘Of those whom You gave Me I have lost none.’ ” (John 18:9). In John 17:12, Jesus affirmed that none of His disciples were spiritually lost, except Judas, but here Christ is talking about not having lost any of His disciples physically. 1  Jesus wants to make sure His disciples would be safe before His captors lead Him away. Some suggest that this is a preview of Jesus’ substitutionary work on the cross. 2  Christ preserved the lives of His disciples as He laid down His own life on their behalf.

Christ’s ability to keep His disciples physically safe in this dangerous situation validates His promise to keep them spiritually safe for eternity. If Jesus had failed to keep His disciples physically safe, His promise in John 10:28-29 would be empty and unfulfilled. 3  If Christ could not protect His disciples against the Roman soldiers and temple guards, how could He protect them from greater spiritual forces who would threaten to snatch them out of His hands eternally!?! Knowing that Christ has the ability to protect us physically in this life and eternally in the life to come, teaches us the fifth way to endure difficult times – LET CHRIST PROTECT US NOW (John 18:9-11).

Christ’s protection in this circumstance is even more amazing when we look at what happens next. “Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant’s name was Malchus.” (John 18:10). Peter had promised He would die for the Lord earlier (John 13:37), and now he senses Jesus is in danger and he courageously comes to His defense. Peter draws “a sword” (machairan), which is a ceremonial dagger used to prepare the Passover lambs earlier 4  and strikes the high priest’s servant, cutting “off his right ear.” John is the only gospel writer who mentions the names of “Peter” and “Malchus” in this circumstance, which underscores the nature of his eyewitness account.

Peter’s actions show that he did not understand that it was necessary for Jesus to die in their place. Peter and the other ten disciples had already believed in Christ for everlasting life (John 2:11; 13:10-11; 17:12), but they did not understand how Jesus could give them eternal life (John 2:11; 13:10-11; 17:12). They did not realize He had to pay for their sin debt in full by dying in their place on the cross and rising from the dead in order to freely give them eternal life.

It must have been a very tense moment when Malchus’ ear dropped to the ground and Peter, the fisherman, stood there facing this army with a bloody knife. Somebody needed to stop Peter before he gets himself and the other disciples killed. But it is not the army nor the army’s commander who stops Peter. It is Jesus. “So Jesus said to Peter, ‘Put your sword into the sheath. Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me?’ ” (John 18:11). Jesus stopped Peter from attacking the rest of the army by telling him to put his “sword into the sheath.” Jesus reminds Peter and the other disciples that His arrest, trials, and death were all part of “the cup” of wrath and judgment His “Father has given” Him to drink. One writer puts it this way, “Peter had a sword in his hand, but our Lord had a cup in His hand. Peter was resisting God’s will but the Savior was accepting God’s will.” 5

Luke tells us that not only did Jesus command Peter to put the sword away, but He also picked up the ear and put it back on the servant’s head and healed him (Luke 22:51). In His moment of greatest need, Jesus has compassion for one of His enemies and heals his ear. This shows us Who Jesus really is. Even in His arrest Christ is thinking of others. Healing the servant’s ear probably saved Peter’s life. Have you ever cut off somebody’s ear trying to do what’s right for the Lord? I have. We all have. We may resist God’s will thinking that we have a better plan to deal with things than the Lord has. We can so easily try to do what we think is right and in our zeal, we do the wrong thing. Yet Jesus is there to heal and protect. Do we deserve this? No, of course not. None of us deserve His grace. But that is why it is grace – undeserved favor from our Lord.

From these verses we learn the following – Who do we look to for protection? Why not look to the Lord of lords? There are so many places in this world that we could look to for protection that we need. I’m not saying we don’t need to have locks on our doors and those practical things. But the protection most of us need is inside where we struggle. Who saves us from worry? Is it only when the circumstances get better? Jesus Christ wants to protect us from worry. Who saves us from fear? Who saves us from doubts? Jesus Christ wants to protect us from these things that rob us of the joy and peace He wants us to have. Who saves us from temptation? Jesus Christ taught His disciples to pray to the Father, “do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” (Matthew 6:13a). Christ wants to protect us from temptation. He wants to use His power to do that.

Think of how different our lives would be if we turned to the Lord for the protection we need instead of to substitutes which always seem to disappoint us. Only the Lord can protect us at all times. Let’s look to Him for protection twenty-four hours a day, three hundred sixty-five days a year.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for showing us in the Garden of Gethsemane how able You are to not only keep us safe from physical dangers in this world that is filled with evil, but spiritually safe for eternity after we believe in You alone for Your gift of everlasting life. Like Peter, we can try to take things into our own hands thinking that we have a better plan than You do, only to make matters worse. Thank You for giving us grace during those times which is often manifested by bringing healing and restoration to relationships that we have damaged. Thank You for the many times You have intervened in our lives to save us from ourselves and the foolish decisions we have made. Lord, only You can protect us at all times. Help us to turn to You for the protection we need instead of to substitutes which in the end always seem to disappoint us. Please enable us to make wise decisions that lead us down the path You want us to take. Thank You in advance for hearing our prayers. In Your safekeeping name we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. 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. 463.

2. Tom Constable, Notes on John, 2017 Edition, pg. 325; Edwin A. Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, New Testament Edition, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1983), pg. 335.

3. Wilkin, TGNTC, pg. 463.

4. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 319.

5. Warren Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, Vol 1., (Wheaton: Scripture Press, Victor Books), 1989, pg. 374.

How can we pray more like Jesus prays? Part 6

“Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.” John 17:24

In John 17, we are learning to pray like Jesus prays. So far we have discovered that like Jesus, we are to pray…

– For God to be glorified when we face trials (John 17:1-5)

– For those we disciple (John 17:6-19) which includes…

  ~ Praying for their receptivity to God’s Word (John 17:6-8).

  ~ Praying for their protection from the world and the evil one (John 17:9-15).

  ~ Praying for their purification through God’s Word (John 17:16-19).

– For future believers in Christ (John 17:20-26) which includes…

  ~ Praying for their unity, so the world can believe in Jesus (John 17:20-23).

The second thing Jesus prayed for future believers is THEIR PRESENCE WITH HIM IN HIS COMING KINGDOM WHERE THEY WILL SEE HIS GLORY DISPLAYED BEFORE THEM (John 17:24-25). Christ prayed, “Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.” (John 17:24). When Jesus prays for these believers to “be with Me where I am,” He may be referring to His Millennial Kingdom on earth where they will “behold His glory” as He reigns over all the earth from Jerusalem as King of kings and Lord of lords (cf. Psalm 72:19; 102:15-16; Zechariah 14:1-21; Matthew 6:13; I Timothy 6:14-16; Revelation 17:14; 19:16-20:6). 1

Prior to the reign of Christ on earth, the church will be caught up to heaven to live with Jesus (John 14:2-3; I Thessalonians 4:13-5:11), while those left behind will go through the seven-years Tribulation period on earth (Daniel 9:27; Revelation 6-18). At the end of the Tribulation period, King Jesus will return to earth with His church to defeat all His enemies who were gathered together to make war with Him (Revelation 19:7-21). Then Christ will set up His kingdom and reign from Jerusalem for a thousand years (Zachariah 14:1-21; Revelation 20:1-10).

Do you ever buy something new that you are very proud of? Or an accomplishment occurred in your life that was one of the top things in your life? When that happens there is always somebody that you want to share it with. Somebody that you want to show it to. Jesus is saying, “Here is My family. All who have believed in Me. They know about the cross and they know how I was born in a manger in Bethlehem. But there are some things they don’t know about Me. They don’t know some of the best parts of Me. They don’t know what it is like for Me to be glorified, sitting on My throne in glory as King of kings and Lord of lords. I want them to be there. I want them to see that. When I am sitting on My throne in My eternal kingdom, I want them to see My glory.”

Christ’s prayer for His followers to be “with” Him in His coming kingdom on earth to see His “glory” will come to pass because the Father always hears and answers His Son’s requests (John 17:24; cf. 11:41-42). This underscores the eternal security of every believer in Jesus. Our arrival in Christ’s kingdom is not based on our prayers or faithfulness, but upon the prayers and faithfulness of Jesus Christ.  

The Father gave Jesus this great glory because of His eternal love (“for You loved Me before the foundation of the world”). There has never been a time when the Father has not loved Jesus. Think about that! Together, the Father and Son have been working side by side for all of eternity past. And you know what is also amazing? It is the Father’s love for us which is also constant. Nothing we can do or not do causes the Father to stop loving us. We are secure in His unending love for us forever!

Next Christ prayed, “O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me.” (John 17:25). By addressing God as His “righteous Father,” Jesus was expressing His confidence that His Father would do what was right and grant what He just asked for in prayer. “The world” did not know the Father because they did not believe that Jesus came from the Father. So we see that the Father is right (“righteous”) and the world is wrong (“the world has not known You”). 2  But Christ’s disciples knew the Father and believed He “sent” Jesus.

What about us? Do we also know the Father and believe that He sent Jesus into this lost world to save sinners? If we do, we are guaranteed to be taken to heaven by the Lord Jesus where we will be able to behold the unveiled glory of King Jesus and bathe in the love He shared with His Father before the foundation of the world. What could be better that that!?!

Prayer: Father God, thank You so much for Your Son, Jesus Christ, Whom You sent into this world to pay the price for the sins of the world when He died in our place on a cross and rose from the dead. Thank You for the gift of everlasting life and for the future home in heaven we will have with You where we can behold the glory of King Jesus both there and when He comes back to earth to reign as King of kings and Lord of lords over all the earth. Please keep this vision of His glorious reign in the front of our minds and in front of those we disciple so all of us can live for that special day when we will see His glory and bathe in the love that You shared before the foundation of the world. In Jesus’ glorious name we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Robert N. Wilkin, “The Gospel According to John,” The Grace New Testament Commentary, Vol. 1: Matthew – Acts (Denton, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 2010), pg. 461.

2. Edwin A. Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Gospels, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition.), pg. 680.

How can we face challenges with courage? Part 5

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Growing up in the 1960s, sports were a major part of my life. I remember watching the introduction of the TV show called “ABC’s Wide World of Sports.” Every week, the host of the show, Jim McKay, would say, “Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sport … the thrill of victory … and the agony of defeat … the human drama of athletic competition … This is ABC’s Wide World of Sports.” To represent “the agony of defeat,” a film clip of Vinko Bogataj was played of him crashing off a ski-jumping ramp. For decades viewers watched this terrible crash. Thankfully, Bogataj was not seriously injured. But his wipeout representing the  “agony of defeat” was immortalized by this show.

Can you imagine having your failure replayed for decades before millions of viewers!?! None of us want our names to be connected with “the agony of defeat.” We would much rather be associated with “the thrill of victory.” With this in mind, we are going to look at the fifth and final way to face challenges with courage. So far we have learned from Jesus’ instructions to His disciples, that we can face challenges with courage when we…

– Resolve to go directly to the Father in prayer (John 16:25-26).

– Receive the Father’s special love for us (John 16:27).

– Recognize that Jesus is in control (John 16:28-30).

– Rest in the Father who will never abandon us (John 16:31-32)

The final way to face challenges with courage is to RELY ON CHRIST WHO HAS CONQUERED THE WORLD (John 16:33). Christ said to His eleven believing disciples,These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33). When Jesus says, “these things I have spoken to you,” He is probably referring to the many promises He has given to His disciples in the Upper Room discourse which included preparing a place for them in His Father’s house (John 14:1-3), answered prayer (John 14:13-14; 15:7), the sending of the Holy Spirit (John 14:16-17, 26; 16:5-15, 26), fruit-bearing (John 15:1-17), and unending joy (John 16:16-24). Christ ends His discourse on a note of peace and victory.

There are three contrasts in the first half of this verse which have incredible significance:

1. “in Me” vs. “in the world” – Jesus depicts the disciples as living in two spheres. The first is spiritual and eternal (“in Me”)and the second is physical and temporal (“in the world”).The phrase “in Me” points back to the intimacy Christ spoke of in the vine and branches imagery (John 15:1-8). Disciples of Jesus can “have peace” in Christ who never changes, not “in the world” which is ever-changing. We are not going to find peace in the world. Only Christ can give us the peace we yearn for. If our focus is on Christ, then peace can be our experience. If our focus is on the world, then we can expect “tribulation” (thlipsin). This word refers to “pressure or distress brought about by outward circumstances.” 1

2. “you may have” vs. “you will have” – in the spiritual realm the disciples “may have”  peace. The verb translated “may have” (echēte) is in the subjunctive mood which means it is possible or desirable 2  they may have peace, but Christ did not guarantee their peace in this life. If they abide in Christ (“in Me”), then they can have peace. But it is not certain they will abide in Him. But Jesus does guarantee they “will have” tribulation in the world. The verb translated “will have” (echete) is in the indicative mood which conveys certainty 3  that the disciples will experience tribulation in the world. The disciples (and we) will not be able to escape the tribulation that is in the world. Perhaps the disciples still did not believe persecution was imminent (cf. John 15:18-16:4). They expected to rule with Jesus soon in His coming Kingdom (cf. Matthew 16:21-28; Luke 22:24-30). Their expectations kept them from receiving more truth from Christ that they found to be contrary to what they wanted – this is something all of us must guard against. 4

3. “peace” vs. “tribulation” – If the disciples (and we) abide in Christ and stay focused on Him, they can experience internal “peace” (eirēnēn) or a deep-seeded calmness that is given to obedient believers (cf. John 14:21, 23, 27a) even though they will definitely have “tribulation” in the world. This peace of Christ arises from a life of faith in God. It refers to a calmness “that would come to their hearts from trusting God and from knowing that He was in control of all events that touched their lives.5

The world cannot give this kind of peace to believers. The world gives Christians “tribulation” because the world opposes Christ and His followers (John 15:18-16:4). The word “tribulation” (thlipsin) “is used in a general sense to speak of the ‘pressing affliction’ that the disciples must endure as they identify with Christ in an unbelieving world (cf. 15:18-25). This is the pressure believers experience when they take a stand for Christ or speak out on a sensitive moral issue. Yet although believers face intense pressure from the world, they can enjoy internal peace in Christ.” 6

Some teach that if you are doing God’s will everything will go smoothly. This is contrary to what Jesus promises. Even if you are living for Christ “you will have tribulation,” because the world hates Jesus and those who follow Him (John 15:18-16:4). If the world does not hate a believer, it may be because that believer is being conformed to the world instead of being transformed by the Word.

After the disciples forsook the Lord at the time of His arrest (cf. Matthew 26:56; Mark 14:50), they may have felt ashamed and uneasy whenever they thought of Jesus. But Jesus predicted their desertion in the very saying where He also assured them of the peace He would give them (John 16:32-33). Christ loved them despite their shortcomings. In the future when they looked back on their desertion, they would reflect that Jesus predicted it. And even though He knew full well they would abandon Him, He had promised them peace. That is grace. Christ would give them peace even though they did not deserve it.

The world would definitely bring the disciples distress, but they could “be of good cheer.” The word translated “be of good cheer” (tharsaeite) means “to have courage.” Why could the disciples face these upcoming challenges with courage? Christ explains, “I have overcome the world.” The word “overcome” (nenikēka) means “to overcome, conquer, be victorious” and it is in the perfect tense. So Jesus speaks of His victory over the world as though it is an accomplished fact with continuing results to the present!

It was no accident that Jesus spoke these triumphant words, “I have overcome the world,” even as the Roman soldiers were buckling on the weapons for His arrest. That is confidence, isn’t it!?! But this is a confidence that would be lacking in the disciples that night. At first, when the soldiers came to arrest Jesus, Peter, the ring leader of the disciples, pulled out a sword in Jesus’ defense (Luke 22:50-51; John 18:10). But by the next day, all eleven disciples had lost faith. Those triumphant words from the previous night must have haunted the disciples as they watched from a distance as Jesus agonized on the cross. It appeared to them that the world had overcome Jesus. But on Sunday morning, their faith would be reignited and strengthened by the resurrection of their Lord!

To an unbeliever, the cross of Christ seems like total defeat for Him. But Jesus sees it as a complete victory over all that the world is and can do to Him. Christ goes to the cross, not in fear or in gloom, but as a Conqueror! Because Jesus won the victory over the hostile world and Satan through His death and resurrection (cf. John 12:31-32; 1 Corinthians 15:51-58; Colossians 2:13-15; Hebrews 2:14-15; 1 John 2:13-14; 4:4; 5:4-5), we can also win with Him as we face difficulties with His courage! Because Jesus has already won the battle, we can claim the victory as we face trials triumphantly. Have you heard this before? It is true, but it is not quite as simple as it sounds. One does not become an overcomer by simply saying with confidence, “I am an overcomer!”

The verb “to overcome” (nikáō) is used by John only here in the gospel of John, but he uses it six times in I John (2:13-14; 4:4; 5:4-5) and sixteen times in the book of Revelation (2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21; 5:5; 6:2; 11:7; 12:11; 13:7; 17:14; 21:7).

John’s use of the word “overcome” in I John is used of all Christians who are “overcomers” through their single act of faith in Christ at the moment of salvation which overcomes the world’s system’s hostility toward saving faith (I John 5:1, 4-5; cf. 2 Corinthians 4:3-4). However, the statements in I John about overcomers are not the same as Revelation’s statements about overcomers.

In Revelation there is the call to hear (Revelation 2:7a; cf. 2:10, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22). Only those Christians who hear the call and appropriate the promise will be able to live a victorious life for Christ. Jesus is addressing the whole “church” consisting of believers in the letter (Revelation 2:1; cf. 2:8, 12, 18; 3:1, 7, 14), but the call is to the one “who has an ear” and to the one “who overcomes.”

The Book of Revelation deals with persevering in works (Revelation 2:2, 9, 13, 19; 3:1, 8, 15) and not a single act of faith for salvation from Hell. For example, access to the “tree of life” (Revelation 2:8) is not based on a single act of faith in Christ (I John 5:1, 4-5), but upon obedience to Christ’s commands. “Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life.” (Revelation 22:14a). Revelation is talking about Christians being “overcomers” through obedience to Christ until the end of their lives, so they can gain eternal rewards such as eating from the tree of life or ruling with Christ in His coming Kingdom on earth (cf. Revelation 2:8, 26-27; 3:21; 22:14).

In John 16:33, we see that victory begins when, through the resurrection power of Jesus Christ, we find peace in living life for Him. Christ has already won the victory over the world and the ruler of this world. Knowing this can give us much courage as we face intimidating challenges.

In the Philippines when I would watch NBA basketball, I enjoyed the Dallas Maverick’s team. Since we were fourteen hours ahead of CST in Dallas, Texas, I was not available to watch their games in the mornings while living in the Philippines when they were televised live in the States. So I would watch the replay of their games in the evening. Before I did that, I liked to check the final score on ESPN, so I would know if the Mavericks won before sitting down to watch them. Knowing my team had already won the game, gave me confidence even though I may watch my team make several mistakes and fall behind in the score. I did not give up on them though because I already knew they would win the game.

The same is true in our Christian lives. We already know the outcome of this battle between Jesus and the world and the ruler of this world. Knowing Christ has already won the victory over the world and the devil can enable us to have courage when we face intimidating challenges. At times it may seem that the world and Satan are winning the battle when we fail, or other believers fail, but the truth is Christ has already won the war through His death and resurrection! Therefore, we can fight “from” the victory Jesus has already won, not “for” the victory as though it was completely dependent upon us.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, regardless of how the world beats us down, we have reason to live with courage because You are the Sovereign King over the world. You have defeated sin, death, and Satan through Your death and resurrection! Because of this, our eternity is secure in You if we have believed in You for Your gift of eternal life. We can now fight “from” the victory You have already won, instead of fighting “for” victory as though it all depended on us. Lord Jesus, You have the power to overcome our circumstances here on earth. Knowing this truth and staying connected to You in an intimate relationship will greatly change our perspective as we face challenging times on earth. Thank You for giving us peace and courage in the midst of life’s storms. You are an amazing Lord and God! In Your victorious name we pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. 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. 362.

2. https://www.blueletterbible.org/help/greekverbs.cfm.

3. tps://www.blueletterbible.org/help/greekverbs.cfm.

4. Robert N. Wilkin, “The Gospel According to John,” The Grace New Testament Commentary, Vol. 1: Matthew – Acts (Denton, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 2010), pg. 457.

5. J. Dwight Pentecost, The Words & Works of Jesus Christ, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981), pg. 440.

6 J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 297.

7. BAGD, pg. 352.

8. Ibid., pg. 539.

Finding security in this insecure world

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.” Micah 5:2

This year people are reeling from pandemics, hurricanes/typhoons, volcanoes, social unrest, political battles, wild fires, and riots all of which leave us feeling insecure. Many of us may be wondering what in the world is God doing?

The people of Israel may have felt a similar type of insecurity in the time of the prophet Micah. Micah admits that the situation his people were living in was gloomy: the nation was in extreme distress, Jerusalem was under siege, and the king has been humiliated. Much of the distress of the people was caused by the misuse of authority by the nation’s leaders (Micah 3:1-12).

In contrast to the wicked and greedy leaders of Israel in Micah’s day, there would come forth from the insignificant town of “Bethlehem Ephrathah… the One to be Ruler in Israel.” Dr.Tony Evans writes, Hundreds of years later, God would sovereignly ensure the fulfillment of this prophecy through a Roman census that took Joseph and his pregnant bride, Mary, to his ancestral home of Bethlehem. There, in the humblest of circumstances, Mary gave birth to the One who would one day rule the world (see Luke 2:1-7).” 1

The name “Bethlehem” means “house of bread.” How fitting that “the Bread of Life,” Jesus Christ (John 6:35, 51a), would come down from heaven to be born in Bethlehem, the “house of bread,” which had also been the home of King David (cf. 1 Samuel 16:1, 18-19; 17:12). The name “Ephrathah” means “fruitful.” Only through Jesus Christ, “the True Vine” (John 15:1), can believers be enabled to be fruitful and fulfilled for the Father’s glory (cf. John 15:1-8).

The One born in this most insignificant town would be the most significant Person to ever live on earth. He is the One “Whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.” He is not just any “Ruler,” He is a Divine Ruler Who is the “everlasting” God! When Mary and Joseph looked into the face of the Child of Bethlehem, they were looking into the face of God.

Thank God for sending His only begotten Son, “the Bread of Life,” to the “house of bread” so that “if anyone eats of this bread [i.e. believes in Him – John 6:35], he will live forever” (John 6:51a)! Only Jesus Christ can satisfy our hunger for eternal life (cf. John 6:35) and give us security that lasts forever (John 10:28-29).

The reason? Because, as Micah says, only Jesus Christ is fully God (“from everlasting” – cf. Isaiah 9:6-7; 44:6; John 1:1, 14-18, 34, 49; 5:16-47; 6:69; 8:57-59; 14:7-9; 10:30-33; 11:27; 20:28, 31; Acts 16:31, 34; 20:28; Romans 1:3-4; 9:5; I Timothy 3:16; 4:10; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 1:8; I John 5:20; Revelation 1:17; 22:13; et al.) and fully Man (“Bethlehem… out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel” – cf. Matthew 8:24; 9:11; Mark 6:3; John 1:14; 2:12; 4:6; 7:3, 5; 11:35;12:27; 19:28; 21:12; Philippians 2:6-8; I Timothy 2:5; et al.), Who died for all our sins and rose from the dead, so we can have eternal life the moment we believe in Him (Micah 5:2; cf. John 3:14-16; I Corinthians 15:3-6).

Micah shared this hope-filled message with people who were overwhelmed with life and God wants to use us to do the same. Thank the Lord that the Bread of Life was born in the House of Bread so the world may have life in His name!

Prayer: Father God, thank You for sending the Bread of Life to be born in the House of Bread so we may have everlasting life in His name the moment we believe in Him! Just as Mary held You, Jesus, in her womb in the beginning of Your life on earth in human form without ceasing to be God, so You will hold us in the end because You remain faithful to Your promise (John 10:28-29). Thank You for security that lasts, especially in this insecure world. Please use us to spread this hope-filled message to those who are desperately in need of Your love and grace. In the mighty name of our God, Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTE:

1. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B&H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1414.

How can we become more fruitful for the Lord? Part 5

“If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.” John 15:6

The Bible makes a distinction between salvation and discipleship. Salvation is a free gift based on the finished work of Christ that we receive by believing in Christ alone (John 3:15-16; 19:30; Acts 16:31; Ephesians 2:8-9). But discipleship is based on our good works and it is costly (John 8:31-32; 13:34-35; 15:1-8). In John 15:1-8, Jesus is not talking about how to get to heaven. He is talking about how to bring heaven down to earth through the bearing of fruit in a discipleship relationship with Christ. We are learning from Jesus in John 15:1-8 how to become more fruitful for the Lord. We can become more fruitful for the Lord when we….

– Realize that Jesus is our only source of life (John 15:1).

– Receive Jesus’ encouragement from His word (John 15:2a).

– Recognize the pruning process (John 15:2b-3).        

– Remain in Christ by obeying His word (John 15:4-5).

Jesus instructed His disciples, “Abide in Me.” (John 15:4a). This command to “abide” implies the alternative – it was possible not to abide in Christ or obey Him. What happens if a believer continues to disobey Christ? This leads to the sixth way we can produce more fruit for the Lord and it comes in the form of a warning: REPENT WHEN YOU LOSE YOUR DISCIPLESHIP RELATIONSHIP (John 15:6).

Jesus said to His eleven believing disciples, “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.” (John 15:6). This cannot refer to the loss of a believer’s salvation because that would contradict what Jesus has already taught about the eternal security of a believer in the gospel of John. Christ promised that everyone who comes to Him in faith will never be “cast out” (John 6:37). A believer in Jesus can “never perish” (John 10:27) nor is anyone able to “snatch” him or her out of the hands of God the Son and God the Father (John 10:28-29). If a believer could lose eternal life, then it was not eternal to begin with and Jesus would have failed to do His Father’s will (John 6:35-40). Also, it would contradict the context which addresses discipleship (not salvation) with Jesus’ believing disciples (John 13:30-15:8).

Some Bible students interpret verse 6 as an explanation of verse 2. “The viticulture process that Jesus described in verse 6 took place in the fall, whereas the process He mentioned in verse 2 happened in the spring. In the fall, the vinedresser would prune (Gr. kathairo) the vines for the winter by cutting off the dead wood. He would not cut off the unfruitful branches that could produce grapes the next season, but only the branches that did not have a healthy connection to the vine. The point of the verse is that branches with other serious problems, not just non-fruit-bearing branches (v. 2), also experience pruning.” 1

When we knowingly disobey the Lord (“If anyone does not abide in Me”), look what happens to our relationship with the Him. First, we break contact or fellowship with Him – “he is cast out [of fellowship] as a branch.” We cannot be close to Christ if we are living in disobedience to Him.

If we continue in disobedience to Christ, we lose our spiritual vitality and freshness –“is withered.” The process of withering suggests a lapse of time prior to the experience of “fire.” As we continue in disobedience to the Lord, we want little to do with Christ or with other believers. We may dread being around God’s Word or other Christians.

If we continue to disobey the Lord, Jesus says we will experience being “burned.” The word for “burned” (kaiō) is used twelve times in the New Testament. Two times it refers to burning in hell (Revelation 19:20; 21:8) and ten times it refers to temporal judgment or discipline on earth (Matthew 5:15; Luke 12:35; 24:32; John 5:35; 15:6; I Corinthians 13:3; Hebrews 12:18; Revelation 4:5; 8:8, 10) which is the way it is used here in verse 6. 

Wilkin observes, “Since the Lord did not use the verb to be burned up, but rather the less intense verb to be burned, He is holding open the possibility that the unproductive believer may respond to the burning and return to fruitfulness. The grace of God is not a license to sin. Believers who play with sin will experience fiery judgment that may well culminate in death.” 2

The “fire”(pyr) in this passage is not literal just as the vine, branches, and fruit are not literal. The word “fire” often symbolizes God’s discipline or temporal judgment of His people in the Bible. Some examples:

“Take heed to yourselves, lest you forget the covenant of the Lord your God which He made with you, and make for yourselves a carved image in the form of anything which the Lord your God has forbidden you. For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.” Deuteronomy 4:23-24

“Therefore, as the fire devours the stubble, and the flame consumes the chaff, so their root will be as rottenness, and their blossom will ascend like dust; because they have rejected the law of the Lord of hosts, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel. Therefore the anger of the Lord is aroused against His people; He has stretched out His hand against them and stricken them, and the hills trembled. Their carcasses were as refuse in the midst of the streets. For all this His anger is not turned away, but His hand is stretched out still.” Isaiah 5:24-25

“For thus says the Lord to the men of Judah and Jerusalem: ‘Break up your fallow ground, and do not sow among thorns. Circumcise yourselves to the Lord, and take away the foreskins of your hearts, you men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, lest My fury come forth like fire, and burn so that no one can quench it, because of the evil of your doings.’ ” Jeremiah 4:3-4

“For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.” Hebrews 10:26-27

“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.For our God is a consuming fire.” Hebrews 12:28-29

Since Jesus is talking to His believing disciples about discipleship in this passage John 15:1-8), it is best to understand this “fire” as a reference to the trial of God’s discipline in a disobedient believer’s life (cf. I Peter 1:6-7; 4:12-13; Hebrews 10:27; 12:28-29). God uses discipline in the disobedient believer’s life to remove sin. This discipline may take the form of difficulties with work, family, finances, guilt, and health, etc.

If the believer does not repent, his disobedience could lead to physical death (cf. I Corinthians 11:29-30). Although the analogy of the vine and branches does not deal with restoration, what is not possible with nature is possible with God. He can restore a wayward disciple back to fellowship with Himself.

It is also possible that the reference to “fire” could refer to the loss of rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ (cf. I Corinthians 3:11-15; 9:24-27). Believers who continue in disobedience to Christ will suffer the loss of more rewards, but they themselves will be saved from an eternity separated from God in hell. “If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.” (I Corinthians 3:15). The more disobedience characterizes our lives, the more painful the Judgment Seat of Christ will be for us in the future.

Another way to view verse 6 is to see the burning not as judgment, but as uselessness resulting from failure to abide in Christ. 3 At the beginning of the dormant season in a vineyard, anything not attached to the vine is useless and discarded. A part of the discarding process at the end of the productive season is the burning of dry materials.

If we disconnect from the vine for too long, we may find ourselves experiencing God’s discipline, getting burned, and seeing our spiritual life withering. Such a believer is useless to himself, God, and others. So, if we find such things happening to ourselves, repent, so our fellowship or discipleship relationship with the Lord can be restored! “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” (James 4:8). 4

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You that I am guaranteed a place in Your house because Jesus freely gave me eternal life the moment I believed in Him. Thank You for placing me in the Lord Jesus Christ so I may bear fruit for Your glory as I learn to abide in Him. I appreciate the warning given in today’s verse that speaks of the consequences of continued disobedience to Jesus. I do not want to lose my closeness to You. Nor do I want to be useless to You or to others. I need You in my life for without You I can do nothing that honors Your name. Please help me to abide in the True Vine so much fruit is produced in my life to the praise of Your glory. In the beautiful name of Jesus Christ I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Constable, Notes on John, 2017 Edition, pp. 286-287;  see also Gary W. Derickson, “Viticulture and John 15:1-6,” Bibliotheca Sacra 153:609 (January-March 1996), pp. 50-51.

2. 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. 535.

3. Bruce Wilkinson, Secrets of the Vine: Breaking Through to Abundance (Colorado Springs: Multnomah Books, 2001), pp. 97-98.

4. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B&H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1806.

How can we become more fruitful for the Lord? Part 1

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.” John 15:1

In the state of Iowa in the USA where I grew up, there are an increasing number of vineyards and wineries. All of these vineyards make this part of the country similar to the land of Israel in Jesus’ day. Back then, growing grapes was a very important industry – it was vital to Israel’s economy. Everyone knew about growing grapes, and so Jesus used this as a picture to describe a very important condition for discipleship in John 15.

The beautiful and profound analogy of the vine and the branches in John 15:1-8 has encouraged Christians for centuries. Unfortunately, it has also become a controversial passage regarding the eternal security of believers.

There are three popular approaches to this passage. Some say the person who “does not bear fruit” (John 15:2a) cannot be a Christian because all true Christians bear fruit. 1 This position says it is impossible to be genuinely saved and not manifest any fruit or good works in one’s life as a result of regeneration. Others say the branches “in Me” that are taken away refer to Christians who lose their salvation. 2  In this view, when a believer stops producing fruit, he forfeits salvation. So if a believer experiences prolonged failure in his or her Christian life, he or she loses eternal life according to this view. Others say that verses 2a and 6 refer to Christians who do not produce fruit and who will therefore experience divine judgment in time and the loss of reward at the Judgment Seat of Christ. 3

In this chapter we will look deeper into this passage and discover secrets to being more fruitful for our Lord Jesus. In the context of this passage, Jesus is preparing His disciples for His departure (John 13:33-14:30). John 14:31 suggests that the Lord’s final supper with His disciples has come to an end. John 18:1 says that Jesus had crossed the Kidron Brook or Valley to enter the Garden of Gethsemane. It is possible that after John 14:31, Jesus and His disciples left the Upper Room and made their way toward Gethsemane. Perhaps Jesus is overlooking the Kidron Valley that would be covered with vineyards on the way to the garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives. As they look at the landscape decorated with grapevines, Jesus spoke the words of John 15:1-8.

Bear in mind that Jesus is talking to the Eleven believing disciples. Judas has already left to betray Christ (John 13:30). He is not talking about how to get to heaven or how to know you are going to heaven. To get to heaven, we must simply believe in Christ alone for everlasting life (John 3:15-16, 36). In John 15:1-8, Jesus is talking about discipleship or growing in the Christian life. “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciple.” (John 15:8). Jesus is talking about bearing fruit as a condition for discipleship, not salvation.

You may ask, “What is the fruit?” In this passage, Jesus identifies Himself to be the “Vine” and His Father is the “Vinedresser” (John 15:1). “The branches”refer to Christians in fellowship with Christ. Since Jesus is the Vine and believers are the branches, the fruit is the result of the life of the vine flowing through the branches. Hence, the fruit in this context refers to 1. CHRIST-LIKE CHARACTER. We see in the verses following this passage that the fruit Jesus wants His disciples to produce is connected to loving one another as He has loved them:

 “12 This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. 14 You are My friends if you do whatever I command you…16 You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. 17 These things I command you, that you love one another.” (John 15:12-14, 16-17). So the fruit refers to Christ-like character, especially as it relates to loving one another.

The word “fruit” (karpos), is also used in John 4:35-36 to refer to 2. THE FRUIT OF EVANGELISM or winning people to Christ: 35 Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest! 36 And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together” (John 4:35-36). The “fruit” refers to people who receive eternal life as a result of the believers sowing or sharing the gospel with them. In summary, “the fruit” that Jesus speaks of in John 15:1-8 refers to Christ-like character and the people who come to faith in Christ as a result of sharing the gospel with them. How can we become more fruitful for the Lord so that He gets more glory?

The first way is to REALIZE THAT JESUS IS OUR ONLY SOURCE OF LIFE (John 15:1). Christ said to His eleven believing disciples, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.” (John 15:1). No fruit can be better than the vine that produces it. Jesus calls Himself the “true Vine”(ampelos hē alēthinē). This is the last of His seven “I AM” statements in the gospel of John whereby Jesus claims to be God (cf. John 6:35; 8:12; 10:7, 9, 11, 14; 11:25; 14:6). Jesus is the “true” (alēthinē = authentic, real, or genuine) God (cf. I John 5:20).

In the Old Testament, the nation of Israel is referred to figuratively as a vine (Psalm 80:8; Ezekiel 15:1-8). 4 Christ often referred to Israel metaphorically as a vine as well (cf. Matthew 20:1-16; 21:23-41; Mark 12:1-9; Luke 13:6-9; 20:9-16). 5 The nation was intended to be like a productive vine that bears much fruit. Instead it was like an unproductive, fruitless vine. In contrast to Israel, Jesus fulfilled what God intended in that He was “the True Vine” Who perfectly obeyed His Father and revealed His will to the people. 6

All other gods are counterfeit or fake including Buddha, Allah, the Hindu gods, Confucius, Mother Mary, the god of Iglesia Ni Cristo, Quiboloy, Jehovah Witnesses, Mormons, etc. None of these so-called “gods” can give our lives fulfillment. They leave us empty and without purpose.

For some people, their god is not in the form of a religion. Their god can be anything that replaces the true God, Jesus Christ, in their lives. We call these things an idol. How do we know it is an idol? When you are in pain, you go to your idol. When you are in need, you go to your idol. When you are hurt, you go to your idol. When you want to celebrate, you go to your idol. Some people have replaced Jesus with achievements, alcohol, drugs, food, politics, pornography, possessions, power, shopping, video games, or their work. They are turning to these things when they are in pain or in need or simply want to celebrate, instead of turning to the Lord Jesus Christ. But these things cannot meet their deepest needs.

Only a relationship with the true God, Jesus Christ, can give us life and fulfillment. Just as a vine is the only source of life and productiveness for its branches, so Jesus Christ is the only source of life and productiveness for His disciples. Other religions or things cannot supply this fruitfulness. Only Jesus can do this for us.

To become fruitful for the Lord Jesus we must begin a relationship with Him. The Bible tells us we must recognize our need for a Savior. Romans 3:23 tells us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” We all have disobeyed God with our thoughts, words, and actions. The penalty for our sin is “death”or separation from God (Romans 6:23). We all deserve to be separated from God forever in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15). But God does not want us to die forever in Hell, so He sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, the True Vine, to earth to die for all our sins and rise from the dead (I Corinthians 15:3-6). Only Jesus can save us because only Jesus has paid the penalty for our sins in full when He died and rose from the dead. Only God can give life that never ends. Therefore, Jesus must be God because He gives everlasting life to all who believe in Him (John 10:28).

God now invites you to believe or trust in Christ alone for His gift of everlasting life. “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” (John 3:36). Look at the eternal contrast here. The one who believes in Jesus “has”everlasting life. The one who does not believe in Jesus has God’s “wrath” that “abides” on him forever (cf. Revelation 20:10, 15)! The decision is yours: Believe or not believe in Jesus? Heaven or Hell? The moment we believe in Jesus we are saved forever from hell and we have eternal life which can never be lost (John 10:28-29). Christ guarantees that no one can snatch a believer out of His and the Father’s hands. We are secure forever the moment we believe in Jesus.

Christ also identifies His “Father” as “the vinedresser” (John 15:1b). A vineyard had a “vinedresser” or farmer who was an expert at growing grapes. The success of raising grapes depended largely on the competence of the vinedresser who was to care for and protect the grapes to that they will produce the maximum fruitfulness. So too, God the Father would provide the necessary care and protection to produce the maximum fruitfulness in believers.

If we are going to produce fruit for the glory of the Father, we must be rightly related to “the true vine,” Jesus Christ. Once we believe in Christ for His gift of everlasting life, we can get to know Him more intimately as we spend time with Him in prayer and in the study of His Word, the Bible. We will learn more from Jesus about how to do this in the next few verses.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You so much for coming to earth and revealing Yourself as the True Vine Who gives life and fulfillment to those who believe in You. Before I came to know You as the Giver of eternal life, I was seeking fulfillment in man-made religions which left me feeling empty and dissatisfied on the inside. Having You in my life now gives me fulfillment and purpose every day which I do not deserve. But because of Your grace, I can experience the best life connected to You. Please show me how to let Your life flow through mine. In Your life-giving name I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. J. Carl Laney, “Abiding is Believing: The Analogy of the Vine in John 15:1-6,” Bibliotheca Sacra 146:581 (January-March 1989): pp. 55- 66; and John F. MacArthur Jr., The Gospel According to Jesus, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, Academie Books, 1988), pp. 166, 170-71.

2. C.K. Barrett, The Gospel According to St John: An Introduction with Commentary and Notes on the Greek Text. 2nd ed., (Philadelphia: Westminster Press” 1978), pp. 470-477.

3. Tom Constable, Notes on John, 2017 Edition, pp. 280-289; Joseph C. Dillow, “Abiding Is Remaining in Fellowship: Another Look at John 15:1-6,” Bibliotheca Sacra 147:585 (January-March 1990), pp. 44-53.

4. 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. 533.

5. Constable, Notes on John, pg. 280.

6. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B&H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1805.