How can I respond to skeptics who deny that Jesus is God? Part 5

41 Then many came to Him and said, ‘John performed no sign, but all the things that John spoke about this Man were true.’ 42 And many believed in Him there.” John 10:41-42

We have learned from Jesus’ response to His Jewish audience, several ways to respond to skeptics who deny Jesus is God in John 10:32-42:

– Confront them with questions (John 10:32-33)

– Communicate biblical truths with relevance to them (John 10:34-36).

– Call them to believe in Christ because of the evidence of His miracles (John 10:37-39).

Consider our beginnings (John 10:40).

Jesus found it necessary to leave Jerusalem and Judea because of the growing hostility toward Him (John 7:30, 44; 8:59; 10:31, 39). So He crossed over to the other side of the Jordan River to Bethany of Perea where John the Baptist started his ministry and where Jesus was baptized which also was the start of His ministry (John 10:40; cf. 1:28).

From Jesus’ time in Bethany of Perea we learn the final way to respond to skeptics who deny Jesus is God – CONVEY THE TRUTH ABOUT JESUS TO OTHERS WITH YOUR LIFE AND LIPS (John 10:41-42). While John the Baptist had already died by this time (cf. Matthew 14:1-12; Mark 6:14-29; Luke 9:9), his ministry had not died. “Then many came to Him and said, ‘John performed no sign, but all the things that John spoke about this Man were true.’ ’’ (John 10:41). Many people were now seeking Jesus. Why? Because the witness of John the Baptist earlier had prepared the people of Bethany to seek out Jesus. While John had performed no miraculous “sign” at Bethany, he did bear witness to Jesus and his witness was “true.” What had John said? Let’s look back in John 1:15-18, 29-34:

15 John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, ‘This was He of whom I said, “He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me. 16 And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him…’ 29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, ‘Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is He of whom I said, “After me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me.” 31 I did not know Him; but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water.’ 32 And John bore witness, saying, ‘I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him. 33 I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, “Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.” 34 And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.’ ”

John spoke the truth about the greatness of Jesus Christ. He drew an accurate picture of Jesus Christ through his witness. Then when Jesus came, the people recognized the original truth John had given to them. John had been dead for some time now, but his influence continued. His words were still treasured by others. John had prepared the people to believe that Jesus was the Son of God, God Himself.

“And many believed in Him there.” (John 10:42). After realizing that Jesus was the Son of God, God Himself, many of the people believed in Christ there. Remember, it was John the Baptist who said to the people of Bethany a few years earlier, “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). These people now believed or trusted in Jesus alone for His gift of everlasting life! John’s influence led people to seek Jesus out, but their faith in Christ was because of their contact with the Lord Jesus Himself.

Notice the contrast between the Jews back in Jerusalem who had miraculous signs, and the people of Bethany here who had no miraculous signs. The Jews refused to believe even though they had sufficient evidence through Christ’s words and works that He was their promised Messiah-God. But the people of Bethany did believe the word of Jesus without any miraculous signs. What made the difference between the receptivity of these two groups? The witness of John the Baptist.

One big difference between growing churches and stagnant churches is that growing churches who are winning the lost to Christ are sowing the seed of God’s Word in the lives of unbelievers, but stagnant churches are not.

When I was a young believer working in an orthopedic trauma unit as a nurse’s assistant in a hospital in Iowa, I loved to share the gospel with all my patients. One of my patients was a retired doctor who simply did not like me because of my Christian faith. He claimed to be an atheist and did not want to hear about Jesus. He would greet me with a scowl when I entered his room and start complaining about my work. But the Lord gave me favor with his wife who sat by his bedside every day. She would say to him, “Be nice to this young man. He is here to help you. He has been so good to you, the least you could do is show him some respect.”

Every work day the Lord enabled me to show His love to this grumpy, unbelieving doctor. With a smile and with gentleness, I would daily give him his bath and change his bedding. I would clean his wounds and help him use the commode on his bed. Gradually, this hard-hearted doctor began to change. After a few weeks of caring for him, he would crack a smile as soon as I entered his room because he knew I was there to care for him. God used acts of kindness to open this doctor’s heart so that he was prepared to hear the gospel. Eventually, both the doctor and his wife discovered the truth about Jesus Christ and said they believed in Him for His gift of eternal life!

Many of you are preparing others, including skeptics, to believe in Christ by the truth you convey about Jesus to them through your words and works. What kind of picture are you drawing of Jesus with your life? Will people recognize Jesus when they see Him in the Word because of the picture you have drawn of Him with your life and lips? God is not looking for perfection in us. But He is looking for us to share Christ’s faithfulness to us with unbelievers in our lives.

There are many hurting people in the world today and God wants to use you to extend His healing grace to them. You may not see them come to faith in Christ just like John the Baptist did not see these people of Bethany come to faith in Jesus during his lifetime. But one day at the Judgment Seat of Christ, you will know who does believe in Jesus because of your influence while you were on earth. That day will make all the sacrifice and suffering you invested in that person’s life worth it all! Christ will faithfully reward you for your faithfulness to Him (Revelation 22:12)!

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I can be so impatient when I do not see instant results! I want to see people believe in Jesus now, not later! Forgive me for being so demanding and proud. Right now I want to surrender to You to use my life and lips to prepare people to believe in Jesus for His gift of everlasting life. Like John the Baptist, I may not see those people come to You in faith during my lifetime, but what matters is that they do come to You before it is too late for them. Please use me to sow the seed of Your Word in peoples’ lives now so You can reap an abundant harvest of souls. I claim Your promise which says, “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11). To You my Lord and my God be all the glory! In Your mighty name I pray. Amen.

How can I experience security forever? Part 2

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” John 10:27

A second way I can experience security forever is when I BELIEVE IN JESUS ALONE FOR HIS FREE GIFT (John 10:27). Jesus said to His Jewish audience, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” (John 10:27). What characterized those Jesus called “My sheep” was that they listened to His voice. By listening they gave the response of faith to His words and works.

This reminds me of a true story about a man in Australia who was arrested and charged with stealing a sheep. But he claimed emphatically that it was one of his own that had been missing for many days. When the case went to court, the judge was puzzled, not knowing how to decide the matter. At last, he asked that the sheep be brought into the courtroom. Then he ordered the plaintiff to step outside and call the animal. The sheep made no response except to raise its head and look frightened. The judge then instructed the defendant to go to the courtyard and call the sheep. When the accused man began to make his distinctive call, the sheep bounded toward the door. It was obvious that he recognized the familiar voice of his shepherd. “His sheep knows him,” said the judge. “Case dismissed.

Jesus’ sheep are intimately known by their Shepherd. You might have expected Jesus to go on to say, “and they know Me.” But He did not. It is the knowledge that Jesus has of His sheep that is the important thing. Because Jesus knows His sheep they are drawn to Him. They trust the One who cares enough to know them.

When Jesus says, “and they follow Me,”some insist this means if a person truly believes in Christ he perseveres in discipleship or obedience to Christ. They say that a true Christian will continue to obey Jesus the rest of His life. But the context does not support this understanding. Jesus is using the word “follow” as a figure of speech referring to belief. Just as Jesus’ reference to sheep, is a figure of speech, so His reference to following Him is the same. Christ was not talking about literal sheep which physically follow a literal shepherd in this verse. Instead He was illustrating salvation by picturing Himself as the Good Shepherd and believers as His sheep (cf. John 10:1-27).

In the context, Jesus addresses the unbelief of His Jewish audience, who questioned if He was the Messiah (John 10: 24). Jesus replied to them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me. But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you.” (John 10:25-26). People who are not of His sheep do not believe. What then do His sheep do? They believe He is the Christ – the One who gives eternal life to those who believe in Him. They hear His voice and respond in faith like sheep follow a shepherd (cf. John 10:4-5). They trust Him. So in this context the unbelief of His Jewish audience (John 10:25-26) is set in contrast to His sheep following or believing in Him (John 10:27).

Bob Wilkins writes that “the picture of sheep hearing their shepherd’s voice and following him is a picture of childlike faith. In his book The Gospel Under Siege, Zane Hodges says concerning that illustration, ‘That is to say, they [the sheep] commit their safety and well-being to the Shepherd who has summoned them to do so‘ (p. 44). He goes on to say that this is clearly an act of faith, not discipleship.

“Hodges points out two other points which further prove that the figure refers to faith in Christ: the sequence of the coordinate clauses and the analogy of John 5:24.

“The verses in question have five clauses joined by the word and. A definite progression is evident. The sequence of the clauses shows that ‘following Him’ is the condition—not the consequence—of eternal life. Jesus did not say, ‘I give them eternal life and they follow Me.’ Instead He said, ‘They follow Me and I give them eternal life.’ Since faith in Christ is the sole condition of salvation in Scripture and in John’s Gospel, ‘following Him’ must be a figure for faith in Christ.

“In addition, John 5:24 is parallel to John 10:27-28. Both refer to hearing, believing, the giving of eternal life, the guarantee against eternal judgment, and the promise of the permanence of the relationship. The only difference between the two verses is that in John 10:27 believing is expressed by means of the figure of sheep following a shepherd.” 1

Throughout the gospel of John, figures of speech are used to illustrate saving faith such as receiving (1:12; 5:43; 13:20), looking (3:14-15), drinking (4:14; 7:37), hearing (5:24; 10:16, 27), coming (5:40; 6:35, 37, 44, 65; 7:37), eating bread (6:50, 51, 53, 54, 56, 58), entering (10:9), and following (10:27). Christian author Charlie Bing writes: “These pictures of faith all denote receptivity, agreement, or trust. All are essentially simple activities and essentially passive. None communicates the idea of merit, work, effort, or achievement. Neither do they communicate an exchange of one’s life or the ongoing submission of one’s life to Jesus as Master in order to obtain eternal life.” 2

However, following Christ through obedience is necessary to be a disciple of Christ (Mark 1:17-18; Luke 5:10-11; 9:23), not a possessor of Christ. For example, Jesus did not call His disciples to follow Him as His disciples (Mark 1:14-18) until about a year after they believed in Him (John 1:35-2:11).

When you examine all four gospels, it becomes clear that the disciples whom Jesus called to follow Him in Mark 1:16-18 were already believers. In the Spring of A.D. 26 Peter, John, Philip and Andrew met Jesus for the first time (John 1:35-51) and believed in Him. When Jesus invited Philip to follow Him (John 1:43), He was asking him to accompany Him to Galilee, not make a discipleship commitment. Philip trusted in Christ because of spending time with Him (1:45).

Four days after that first encounter, Jesus’ other disciples believed in Him after He turns water into wine (2:1-11). Several days later during the Passover Feast in Jerusalem, Jesus cleanses the temple (2:13-22). During the next several months, Christ instructs these new believers in the fundamental truths of salvation and assurance as He evangelizes Nicodemus, the Samaritan woman, and the city of Sychar (John 3-4). John 4:35 mentions 4 months until harvest. The harvest takes place in the months of April or May. Four months prior would be January or February. Thus, between the mention of the first Passover (John 2:13) which is in April, and the time mentioned here (John 4:35), almost one year has passed. During these months, John the Baptist is evangelizing Judea (John 3:22-36) and baptizing. So, several things have already taken place before we come to Mark 1.

Mark 1:14 informs us that John the Baptist is now in prison.  In John 1-3, John the Baptist is still ministering publicly. Now, we see that he is in prison in Mark 1. So, these disciples have known Jesus for at least a year when Christ approaches them in Mark 1:16. Peter is a believer. He has evangelized the city of Sychar with Christ. But now he is fishing for fish.

The gospel of John distinguishes the freeness of salvation (John 4:10-14) from the costliness of discipleship (John 8:31-32). The only condition for everlasting life is belief in Jesus Christ alone for His free gift (John 3:14-18, 36; 4:10-14; 5:24; 6:40, 47; 7:37-39; 11:25-27; 20:31), but there are many conditions for discipleship including following Christ (John 8:12; 12:24-26; 21:19-22), abiding in Jesus’ word (John 8:31-32), loving one another (John 13:34-35), and bearing fruit (John 15:1-8).  

The apostle John uses the word “believe” ninety-nine times in his gospel. 3  The word “believe” means to be convinced that something is true, and then trust in that something. Trusting in Jesus is like riding on an airplane. When you ride on an airplane, do you need to push the plane to get it off the ground? No, of course not. Do you need to flap your arms to keep the airplane in the air? Absolutely not. All you must do is trust a person, your pilot, to take you to your destination. In the same way, the gospel of John invites non-Christians to trust in Jesus Christ alone through no effort of your own for His gift of everlasting life. The moment you do, Jesus guarantees you have everlasting which can never be lost (John 10:28-29). Your eternal security is not based upon your good works or your faithfulness, but upon Jesus’ finished work on the cross and His faithfulness to His promise. That is security that lasts forever!!!

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, You are the Good Shepherd Who laid down His life for the sheep. Like a sheep that hears the voice of its shepherd and trusts him for its safety and security, so You are my Good Shepherd. The moment I heard Your voice say to me when I was nineteen years of age, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life,” I believed or trusted in You alone to give me Your gift of everlasting life. You guaranteed then that I had everlasting life and that I would never be judged for my sins. My relationship with You is permanent because I had passed from death into life. You gave me security that can never be taken away from me! That security is not based on my faithfulness, but on Yours to keep Your promises to those who believe in You. Thank You so much my Lord and my God. I worship You for Who You are and what You have done for me. In Your name. Amen.   

ENDNOTE:

1. Dr. Bob Wilkin, “Is Following Christ a Condition of Eternal Life?” Grace in Focus (Grace Evangelical Society, April 1990).

2. Dr. Charlie Bing, “The Condition For Salvation In John’s Gospel,” Journal Of The Grace Evangelical Society, Vol. 9:16, (Spring 1996): 31.

3. John 1:7, 12, 50; 2:11, 22, 23; 3:12(2), 15, 16, 18(3), 36(2); 4:21, 39, 41, 42, 48, 50, 53; 5:24, 38, 44, 46(2), 47(2); 6:29, 30, 35, 36, 40, 47, 64(2), 69; 7:5, 31, 38, 39, 48; 8:24, 30, 31, 45, 46; 9:18, 35, 36, 38; 10:25, 26, 37, 38(3), 42; 11:15, 25, 26(2), 27, 42, 45, 48; 12:11, 36, 37, 38, 39, 42, 44(2), 46, 47; 13:19; 14:1(2), 10, 11(2), 12, 29; 16:9, 27, 30, 31; 17:8, 20, 21; 19:35; 20:8, 25, 29(2), 31(2).

How can I experience security forever? Part 1

“Jesus answered them, ‘I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me.’ ” John 10:25

People today may feel extremely insecure and rightly so. Eleven percent of the world’s population are undernourished and 697 million people in the world are severely food insecure and do not know if any food will be available for them to eat. 1

Since the onset of COVID-19, we see a growing economic insecurity with the loss of jobs and businesses. Many people fear their financial situations will only get worse. There is also insecurity attached to the rise in social unrest, with peaceful protests turning into rioting. Violent conflict and crimes are on the rise throughout the world which is a tremendous source of insecurity for people today. 2

Psychologists have identified that the kind of childhood you had, past traumas, recent experiences of failure or rejection, loneliness, social anxiety, negative beliefs about yourself, perfectionism, or having a critical parent or partner can all contribute to our insecurity. 3

Some people feel insecure because they perceive that they are lacking or they have been told that they are lacking. For example, you may feel too fat, skinny, tall, short, old, young, educated or uneducated. We may try to compensate for our insecurities by telling ourselves, “If I had a nice house or a new car or a better job or was more popular, I would feel more secure about myself.” So, thinking that we are lacking something or someone may cause insecurity.

One of the most insecure feelings is not knowing where you will go after you die here on earth. The truth is all people die (unless of course you are a Christian and the Rapture or sudden removal of the Church takes place – I Thessalonians 1:10; 4:13-18). Not being certain of your eternal destiny produces deep seeded insecurity in people. People take extreme measures to avoid thinking about death. They color their gray hair, go on extreme diets and exercise programs trying to delay the inevitable.

Please understand, no matter how insecure you may feel right now, God does not want His children to be insecure. He has given us incomparable security in the Lord Jesus Christ and He wants us to share this security with a lost world that is becoming more and more insecure.

In the context of our passage today, there is a stark contrast between the false shepherds of Israel who brought death and insecurity to God’s people and the Good Shepherd who brings life and protection (John 10:1-21). This is Jesus’ last act in His public ministry. Let’s look now at how we can experience security forever. I CAN EXPERIENCE SECURITY FOREVER WHEN I …

IGNORE THE BLINDNESS OF CHRIST’S OPPONENTS (John 10:22-26). “Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter.” (John 10:22). The Feast of Dedication is now known as Hanukkah or the Feast of Lights. Although it was not one of the feasts prescribed in the Mosaic Law, it was still an important and popular celebration that brought many Jews to Jerusalem.

The historical basis for this festival was the cleansing of the Temple in Jerusalem in 164/165 B.C. three years after their desecration by the Greco-Syrian Antiochus IV Epiphanes. Antiochus, in his zeal to Hellenize his realm, persecuted the Jews, plundered the temple treasury, and erected an idolatrous altar and sacrificed a sow to Jupiter. The Hasmoneans led by Judas Maccabeus revolted and eventually overthrew the forces of Antiochus. The festival commemorates this last great deliverance that the Jews had known and symbolized their hope that the Messiah would again deliver His people from their enemies, the Romans. 4

During the eight days of the Feast, the Hallel (Psalms of praise) was chanted, both in the Temple in Jerusalem and in private homes. During the rededication of the Temple in 164/165 B.C., tradition said that only one unpolluted bottle of oil was found, just enough to provide light for one day, but it was miraculously replenished for eight consecutive days. For this reason, the Feast lasts eight days and is called the Feast of Lights. 5

What is the significance of this Feast to the dialogue within this passage? Because of this feast, a large crowd had gathered for Jesus to teach. The regular synagogue readings nearest to the Feast of Dedication were concerned with the theme of shepherds and sheep (cf. Ezekiel 34). Some scholars suggest that the mention of the Feast was designed to connect Christ’s teaching with the hopes associated with the Maccabean deliverance. 6 “It was the last great deliverance that the Jews had known, and therefore it must have been in people’s minds a symbol of their hope that God would again deliver his people.” 7 Little did the people know that their prayers for another deliverance would be fulfilled through Jesus.

The Feast of Dedication took place in the middle of December. It had been three months since the Feast of Tabernacles in John 7:1-10:21. So the teaching in John 10:22-39 was three months following the teachings in John 7:1-10:21. The mention of “winter” in verse 22 explains verse 23. “And Jesus walked in the temple, in Solomon’s porch.” (John 10:23). Winter was the colder rainy season in Israel. In warmer weather, Christ would have taught in the courtyard of the temple. But because it was “winter,” He took shelter from the wet and windy weather in “Solomon’s porch” which was a long walkway covered by a roof supported on pillars on the east side of the Temple facing the Kidron Valley. One writer suggests that John mentioned that it was “winter” because it resembled the spiritual climate in Jerusalem, namely the frigid spirits of the Jews. 8

Then the Jews surrounded Him and said to Him, ‘How long do You keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.’ ” (John 10:24).  As Jesus walked down Solomon’s porch “the Jews surrounded Him” with hostile intent. The word translated “surrounded” (ekyklōsan) means they “besieged” Him. They pinned Him in so they could obtain a clear reply from Him about His identity. The question “If You are the Christ…” is in the first class of the Greek language and assumes for the sake of argument that Jesus is the Messiah-God. By asking for a plain statement that He was the Messiah they were implying that if they rejected Him, it was His fault and not theirs because He had not clearly stated that He was Israel’s Messiah.

Jesus responds. “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me.” (John 10:25). The Jews asked Jesus if He was the Christ, their Messiah-God, and Jesus says, “I told you again and again Who I am, yet you refused to believe Me.” They had His Word as to His Person, but they also had His works or miracles which testified that He was their Messiah. Even though Christ’s words and works provided sufficient evidence that He was their promised Messiah-God, they still refused to believe in Him. Why? Was it because of the lack of a clear statement from Christ about His identity? No.

“But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you.” (John 10:26). Their unbelief was because they “were not of His sheep.” They did not listen to His Word, like sheep will listen to the voice of their shepherd. They were like the thief and hireling, bringing death and caring only for themselves (John 10:8, 10a, 12-13). So, the fault of their unbelief, was not His, but theirs.

If you and I are going to possess security forever, we must ignore the spiritual blindness of Christ’s enemies. Jesus gave them more than enough evidence that He was the promised Messiah-God, but they were determined not to believe in Him. They had no interest in becoming His sheep.

There are many skeptics today who ignore the sufficient evidence concerning Jesus’ identity as the Messiah-God. Even though the historical evidence overwhelmingly points to Jesus as the Messiah-God Who lovingly died on the cross for the sins of the world and rose from the dead, skeptics continue to deny these historical facts. They undermine the clear promises of Jesus which state that all you must do to possess eternal life is believe in Him (John 3:15-16; 4:10-14; 5:24; 6:40, 47; 10:25-27; 11:25-26). God wants us to ignore these impostors and focus on the promises of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13).

Some of you reading this article have been taught that Jesus never claimed to be God and never died on a cross to pay the penalty for all your sins. But still you are here wanting to learn more about Jesus. Your soul is restless and you have no security about your future. Give Jesus a chance. He has drawn you here to reveal more of Himself to you.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd, but you have experienced spiritual leaders that care only about themselves and use their religion to meet their own needs instead of care for the people entrusted to them. Jesus loved you so much that He laid down His life for you and me on the cross. When the Messiah-God died in our place as our Substitute, God was satisfied with His perfect payment for all our sins (cf. I John 2:2; 4:10). That is why Jesus said while hanging on the cross, “It is finished!” (John 19:30). The Greek word translated “finished” (tetelestai) means “paid in full.” Receipts in New Testament times were stamped with this word which meant that the debt had been paid in full. Jesus finished making the full payment for all our sins when He died in our place. There is no more payment to be made because God was satisfied with Jesus’ payment.

This is substantiated further when Matthew tells us at the time of Jesus’ death on the cross, “the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.” (Matthew 27:51). This “veil” or curtain separated the holy place from the holy of holies in the Jewish temple (cf. Exodus 26:33; Hebrews 9:2-3). The fact that this occurred “from top to bottom” signified that God is the One who ripped the thick curtain. It was not torn from the bottom by men ripping it. God was showing that the way of access into His presence was now available for everyone, not simply the Old Testament high priest (Hebrews 4:14-16; 10:19-22), because God was satisfied with Jesus’ payment for our sins. No other animal sacrifices or payments were necessary to enter God’s presence in heaven.

Jesus Christ laid down His life for us so we may have life that never ends the moment we believe or trust in Him alone. Since God was satisfied with the sufficient sacrifice of His perfect Son to pay the penalty for all our sins (Isaiah 53:11; John 19:30; I John 2:2; 4:10), we must also be satisfied with what satisfied God – Jesus’ death on the cross. God cannot accept anything we do as payment for our sins because He has already accepted His Son’s payment for all of our sins when He died in our place on the cross.

Jesus did not say, “Whoever does good works… prays every day and lives a good life should not perish but have everlasting life.” No, Jesus said, “Whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16). Being secure forever is not faith in Christ PLUS something else. It is faith in Christ alone.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, all of us in the world today have many reasons to be insecure. We may have external reasons and internal reasons for our insecurity. But You do not want any of Your children to be insecure about Your identity. You have given us Your Word which never changes to provide security that lasts forever. Because You experienced opposition to Your identity as the Messiah-God when You walked on the earth 2,000 years ago, we can know that You understand and sympathize with us when we encounter opposition to Your identity today (Hebrews 4:15-16). When the ruler of this world and his false shepherds attack Your identity, help us to focus on Your voice of truth. Because You, Father God, were satisfied with Your Son’s payment for the sins of the world when He died on the cross, we must also be satisfied with what satisfied You. I pray in Your name, Lord Jesus, that Your Holy Spirit will persuade lost and insecure people to believe the truth about You – that Your are the Promised Messiah-God, Whose death on the cross satisfied God’s demand to punish sin. And now whoever believes in Jesus alone may have never-ending life in His name. Once this life is received, it can never be lost because it is eternal and it is based on Your faithfulness to Your promises, not ours. Lord Jesus, You are the truth and You cannot lie. Thank You my Lord and my God for security that lasts forever! In Your name I celebrate. Amen.  

ENDNOTES:

1. See https://ourworldindata.org/hunger-and-undernourishment#severe-food-insecurity

2. https://www.un.org/en/un75/new-era-conflict-and-violence

3. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-mindful-self-express/201512/the-3-most-common-causes-insecurity-and-how-beat-them

4. Dr. Tom Constable, Notes on John, p. 192.

5. J. W. Shephard, The Christ of the Gospels (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans), 1946, p. 400.

6. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 193.

7. Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John. New International Commentary on the New Testament series (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1971), p. 459.

8. John G. R. Beasley-Murray, Word Bible Commentary series, Second Ed. (Waco: Word Books, 1987), p. 173.

How can I grow closer to the Good Shepherd? Part 5

“Therefore there was a division again among the Jews because of these sayings.” John 10:19

The final way in this passage that we can also grow closer to the Good Shepherd is when we IMPART A CONSISTENT AND CLEAR WITNESS TO THE LOST ABOUT CHRIST (John 10:19-21). Jesus’ claims to be the Messianic Shepherd of Israel received a mixed response from His Jewish audience (John 10:1-18). “Therefore there was a division again among the Jews because of these sayings.” (John 10:19). Because of what Jesus taught about being Israel’s Messianic Shepherd and yet dying for His sheep, His audience continued to be divided over Him. In the mind of the average Jew this was a contradiction. The Israelites expected a political Messiah to deliver them from political oppression, but Jesus came to be a spiritual Messiah to deliver them from the penalty of sin. The people rejected Christ because He did not live up to their expectations.

Even Christians can succumb to a similar kind of thinking that says if you are following Christ, you will have fewer problems and less suffering. In fact, believers may be quick to reject other believers who are suffering or display weaknesses because of this false expectation.

“And many of them said, “He has a demon and is mad. Why do you listen to Him?” (John 10:20). Some of Jesus’ listeners concluded that He “has a demon and is mad” or insane to say such things! They questioned why anyone would “listen” to such a man. His teachings seemed unreasonable and impossible to them.

Yet others were impressed with what Jesus was saying. “Others said, ‘These are not the words of one who has a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?’ “ (John 10:21). Christ’s gracious teaching did not resemble that of a demon nor did His miraculous healing of the man born blind (John 9:1-41). This group says what Jesus is not but they make no attempt to say who Christ is.

Throughout his gospel, John emphasizes the two opposite conclusions that people draw from Jesus’ teaching, even though Christ’s witness to His identity as God was sufficiently consistent and clear. This should be an encouragement to all Christians who tell others the truth about Christ. Not even Jesus Himself convinced everyone that He was God’s Son. When believers openly identify with Christ by telling others who He is and what He has done for them, they can experience a closer relationship with Him regardless of how others respond to the message. After all, Jesus is our Good Shepherd Who has entrusted us with His Good News (gospel) to share with others. As we proclaim this good news to others, we are also proclaiming it to ourselves. And in a world that is filled with bad news these days, it does our souls good to hear the good news of our Good Shepherd! And let’s remember that as disciples of Christ, our responsibility is to be clear and consistent in our witness for Christ to the lost; however, it is Jesus’ responsibility to save them.

It is also true that the lies of the Devil can keep believers from being a consistent and clear witness to the gospel of Christ. After all, Satan is “the father of lies” (John 8:44). In EvanTell’s Evangelism Study Bible, it reads, “He [Satan] misrepresented what God said to Eve since only one tree was off limits (see Gen. 2:16-17; 3:11). He even cast doubt over God’s character, implying that God would hold back what was best for them (see Gen. 3:4-5).

“Satan still uses lies to hinder believers in evangelism today. Here are five he commonly uses:

“1. ‘Non-Christian aren’t that approachable.’ Some aren’t, but some are. How do we know unless we approach the subject of spiritual things? One person who wasn’t open doesn’t represent everyone. Additionally, a person completely closed yesterday may be open today. God can use a single day’s events to get someone’s attention.” 1

For example, when I was flying back to Manila from a mission trip to the southern Philippines five years ago, I sat next to a Filipino businesswoman and asked her if I may show her from the Bible how she can know for sure she has eternal life and will go to heaven when she dies. She told me she was not interested. I thanked her for her honesty, and then I prayed a silent prayer to the Lord asking Him to open this woman’s heart so she can be saved.

As we approached the Manila Airport, the pilot told us that weather conditions were not favorable but they would still try to land. There was a lot of turbulence as we descended toward the airport. As our plane tried to land, it had to pull up at the last minute because the winds and rain were too strong and the pilot could not see. A wave of panic swept across the passenger area. Our plane circled around to make another attempt at landing. I was praying for the Lord to keep us safe and open the hearts of the people on the plane. As the pilot made another attempt to land in Manila he had to pull up again at the last minute because of poor visibility. There was a nervous hush among the passengers. The pilot then announced that our flight would be diverted to Clark Air Base about a fifteen-minute flight (three-hours’ drive by car) away.

The Lord prompted me to share with the passenger who earlier did not want to talk about how to get to heaven. I now asked her if she would like to know what she must do to get to heaven if she only had five minutes to live. She said, “Yes.”  So I introduced Acts 16:31 to her by telling her the Philippian jailer thought he had a short time to live, so he asked a missionary what he must do to be saved from hell. I then shared Acts 16:31 with her and explained it to her. I asked her, “Do you believe in Jesus now to save you from hell so you can live with Him forever in heaven?” She said, “Yes. Thank you.” I briefly explained to her that she now has everlasting life which cannot be lost. The Lord then enabled me to share the same thing with the passenger across the aisle from me. As I was sharing I noticed the passenger directly behind me was also listening. So when I finished with this passenger, I did the same thing with the one behind me. Praise God for the typhoon which got people to think about life and death and where they will spend eternity.

Continuing with lies that Satan commonly uses in evangelism, is “2. ‘You may end up doing more harm than good.’ That’s not possible. God honors obedience, so you never go wrong by serving Him in evangelism. Suppose you say the ‘wrong things’ in the mind of someone else or were not as tactful as you needed to be. God is more honored by someone who attempts to evangelize and makes mistakes than someone who doesn’t do anything. Ultimately God is in control even if we make a mistake, He is bigger than our mistakes.

3. ‘You might not be able to answer their questions.’ You may not be able to answer every objection, but who said you have to? That’s certainly not something Jesus ever said. Should the non-Christian ask a question you can’t answer, it’s honoring to God to say ‘I don’t know.’ Then look up the answer and you will be better prepared the next time. New converts tend to lead more people to Christ than anyone else, yet they know very little and often can’t answer most questions an unbeliever would ask. God often uses their zeal and excitement to convince non-Christians of their need for Christ.

“4. ‘Your life isn’t what it ought to be.’ It may not be. But keep in mind two things. First, Satan is a master of intimidation. No believer’s life is a perfect example of Christ. If you wait till your life is everything it ought to be, you will never evangelize. That’s what Satan prefers. Second, God doesn’t use perfect believers. There are none. He uses imperfect believers who are trying to be who God wants them to be. Seek to live the life you should, but don’t wait till you are ‘there’ to evangelize.

“5. ‘There is probably a better time than today.’ Satan doesn’t care what you do as long as you do it tomorrow. Procrastination is one of his tools. How do people know what the best timing is unless they attempt to evangelize today?

“Lies- Satan’s tool. Recognize lies for what they are and don’t allow him to hinder you in your evangelism outreach.” 2

As I traveled on mission trips throughout the Philippines, I experienced various responses to the preaching of the gospel message. The majority have been very responsive to the gospel of Christ and have publicly indicated that they are now trusting in Jesus alone for His gift of eternal life. Some, however, have expressed indifference or even animosity toward the gospel. Regardless of how people respond, God asks me to be a faithful steward of His gospel (I Corinthians 4:1-2; Colossians 4:4; I Thessalonians 2:3-10).

When we are faithful to preach the gospel clearly and consistently in season and out of season, we can experience a closeness to our Good Shepherd whose witness was always consistent and clear during His earthly ministry. Even Jesus, the perfect Messiah-God, could not convince everyone that He was God in human flesh and nor will we. Our responsibility is to be faithful to our Lord’s command to preach the gospel to everyone (Mark 16:15). It is Jesus’ responsibility to give them everlasting life and transform them into His likeness (John 5:21; 2 Corinthians 3:18).

Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, it still amazes me how divided people are concerning Your identity both now and when You walked on the earth. Even though You gave a clear and consistent witness to Your identity as the promised Messiah-God, people formed different conclusions about You. I am realizing more and more that the primary reason for this is because Satan, the father of lies (John 8:44), has deceived people into believing his lies about You to keep them from having life in Your name (John 20:31; 2 Corinthians 4:3-4). Regardless of how people respond, Lord Jesus, please enable me to preach Your gospel message clearly and consistently to everyone who is perishing without You. You could have chosen angels or billboards to proclaim Your life-giving message. But instead, You entrusted Your precious gospel with imperfect sinners like me to share this life-changing message. Thank You that You are in me and with me through Your Spirit to help me do this in a way that brings You glory and draws me closer to You. In Your name I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. The Evangelism Study Bible (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, copyright 2014 EvanTell, Inc.), p. 1174.

2. Ibid.

Receiving Life Freely – Part 1 (Video)

This is the first video in a series about the gospel of John – the only book of the Bible whose primary purpose is to tell non-Christians how to obtain eternal life and a future home in heaven (John 20:31). This video looks at the first miracle Jesus performed at a wedding feast in Cana of Galilee.

All Scripture in slides are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted. Gospel of John pictures are used with permission from www.GoodSalt.com, www.FreeBibleimages.org or www.LumoProject.com. The gospel of John movie clip is used with permission from Jesus.net.

How can I overcome spiritual blindness? Part 1

“Therefore some of the Pharisees said, ‘This Man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath.’ Others said, ‘How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?’ ” John 9:16

A woman named Rose Crawford had been blind for 50 years. “I just can’t believe it!” she gasped as the doctor lifted the bandages from her eyes after her recovery from delicate surgery in an Ontario hospital. She wept for joy when for the first time in her life a dazzling and beautiful world of form and color greeted eyes that now were able to see. The amazing thing about the story, however, is that twenty years of her blindness had been unnecessary. She didn’t know that surgical techniques had been developed, and that an operation could have restored her vision at the age of thirty. The doctor said, “She just figured there was nothing that could be done about her condition. Much of her life could have been different.” 1

Why did she continue to assume that her situation was hopeless? Had no one told her about the wonderful advances in eye surgery? Then I thought of the plight of those unreached by the gospel. How many will go on living in spiritual blindness unless we bring them to the Savior? Millions will never know anything but spiritual darkness because no one has shared with them the Light that has come into the world.

All people are born spiritually blind to Jesus Christ because the devil has blinded them to their need for Christ (2 Corinthians 4:3-6). The next few days we will see how spiritual blindness expresses itself and how one can overcome spiritual blindness. We will look at the symptoms of spiritual blindness and the solutions to spiritual blindness. 

In John 9:1-12, when Jesus, as “the Light of the world,” gave physical sight to the man born blind, it caused many mixed reactions. “They brought him who formerly was blind to the Pharisees.” (John 9:13). “They” refers to the blind man’s neighbors – those who were close to him (cf. John 9:8). The neighbors of the blind man brought him to the religious experts, “the Pharisees,” hoping they could explain what happened. The problem with this decision to go to the Pharisees is that these men were spiritually blind.

“Now it was a Sabbath when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes.” (John 9:14). John points out that Jesus healed the blind man on the “Sabbath,” a troublesome issue to those who are spiritually blind. “Then the Pharisees also asked him again how he had received his sight. He said to them, ‘He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.’ ” (John 9:15). The Pharisees again asked the man born blind “how” Jesus had healed him to discredit Christ’s healing grace.

When the man born blind told them the facts, some of the Pharisees concluded “This Man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath.” (John 9:16a). They concluded that Jesus is not from God” because He did not keep the Sabbath according to their understanding of keeping the Sabbath. In other words, Jesus did not live up to their spiritual standards. The Pharisees strictly followed Jewish traditions about the Law, not just the Law Itself. Jewish tradition developed a long list of things that could not be done on the Sabbath in an attempt to keep the Law’s command not to work on the Sabbath (Exodus 20:8-11).

The first symptom of spiritual blindness is to DENY YOUR OWN SINFULNESS BY FOCUSING ON MAN-MADE TRADITIONS (John 9:13-16a). The Pharisees concluded that Jesus could not be from God because He did not obey their man-made Sabbath laws which forbid mixing saliva with clay. That was considered work. Their adherence to legalistic traditions blinded them to the miracle of the blind man’s healing. But Jesus focused on meeting this man’s “real” need rather than focus on keeping their rules and formulas.

Those who are spiritually blind do not want to admit their own sinfulness and need for a Savior. So, they focus on the performance of others because it will make them look good and help them avoid their own sense of guilt and shame. By focusing on the performance of others, they can avoid the performance of Jesus Christ when He died for their sins on the Cross (I Corinthians 15:3-4). This preoccupation with man-made traditions enables them to avoid the scrutiny of the Cross which reveals the only way to obtain acceptance before a holy God. Today, following religious traditions keeps many people from understanding the simplicity and truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

What is the solution to this aspect of spiritual blindness? Look in the next part of verse 16. “Others said, ‘How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” And there was a division among them.’ ” (John 9:16b). Others among the Pharisees knew that a sinner could not perform such a miraculous sign. Only someone from God could conduct such a supernatural healing. Perhaps Nicodemus was among this group of learners (cf. 3:2). The first solution to spiritual blindness, then, is to DIGEST THE FACTS ABOUT JESUS (John 9:16b-17). These observers realized that an ordinary person (“a sinner”) was not capable of performing such a creation miracle as this. This man was born blind and needed God to intervene to create the physical sight that he had never possessed. Only God can create something out of nothing.

To overcome spiritual blindness, an individual must honestly assess the facts about Jesus Christ. His life and miracles point to His origin as being from God. Only God could give physical sight to a man born blind. People who are dishonest with the facts about Jesus are seeking to avoid concluding that He is God. For if Jesus is not God, then they do not need to admit their sin against Him and believe or trust in Him alone for their salvation.

The blind man’s neighbors question him further to help resolve the dispute among the Pharisees. “They said to the blind man again, ‘What do you say about Him because He opened your eyes?’ He said, ‘He is a prophet.’ ” (John 9:17). They would not normally question an illiterate beggar but because he did know what happened they want to know what the former blind man concluded about Jesus. He boldly said, “He is a prophet.” Apparently, his gratitude for Jesus’ healing was greater than any fear he had toward the Pharisees. This is more than what he said earlier when he referred to his healer as “a Man called Jesus” (John 9:11). His understanding of Jesus is growing. Eventually the man born blind would believe that Jesus was “the Son of God” (John 9:35-38).

Some of you reading this article may be spiritually blind and you do not even know it. Perhaps you have been focusing on the performance of others who do not measure up to your religious standards. You are quick to say they are sinners or infidels because they do not dress, pray, eat, or worship like you do, and you conclude that they are unclean or evil. Have you ever considered why you do this? Is it possible that by focusing on the religious performance of others you are able to avoid your own shortcomings and sinfulness? And more importantly, you are able to avoid what Jesus Christ did on the Cross?

For you see, if you were to focus on what Jesus Christ did for you on the Cross, you would be confronted with your own sinfulness. The Bible tells us that the gospel by which we are saved is “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.” (I Corinthians 15:3). Jesus did not die because He did something wrong. He died in our place as our Substitute for our sins “according to the Scriptures.” The prophet Isaiah prophesied this hundreds of years before the Romans invented crucifixion when he wrote, “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5).

Why did Jesus die on a Cross? The Bible tell us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23). All of us deserve to die or be separated from God forever. The Bible says, “The wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23a). The penalty for our sin is death or separation from God. Jesus took what was causing us to die – our sin – and He died in our place on a Cross so we could live.

Let me explain with an illustration I was taught by evangelist Larry Moyer who founded EvanTell, a wonderful evangelistic ministry dedicated to keeping the gospel clear and simple (see www.evantell.org). Suppose you are in a hospital dying of cancer. I come to you and say, “Let’s take the cancer cells from your body and put them into my body.” If that were possible, what would happen to me? Yes, I would die. But what would happen to you? Yes, you would live. I would die in your place.

The Bible is telling us that Jesus Christ took what was causing us to die – our sin – and placed it on Himself and died in our place so we could live. Three days later, Jesus came back to life to prove that sin and death had been defeated and that Christ’s claims to be God were true. In order for us to live eternally, we must simply believe or trust in Jesus alone Who died in our place and rose from the dead, to give us everlasting life. Jesus said, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:14-15).

Instead of focusing on the religious performance of others to avoid your own sinfulness or to avoid the finished work of Jesus Christ on the Cross for you, take a moment before God in prayer to admit your need for Him.

Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, I come to you right now admitting that I have been running from You by focusing on the shortcomings of others. I was afraid to admit my own sinfulness to You for fear that You would punish me. For years I believed that You were merely a prophet and a good moral teacher. I hated You and Your followers. But now I am realizing that Your miracles and teachings point to You as Someone Who is far more than a prophet or teacher. You are God in human flesh because only God could do and say the things You did. As much as I know how, Lord Jesus, I believe You took my punishment for my sins when You died on the Cross and rose from the dead. I am now believing or trusting in You alone (not my religion, my prayers, or my good life), to forgive all my sins and give me everlasting life. Thank You Jesus for the forgiveness and everlasting life I now have. Thank You for hearing my prayer. In Your name. Amen.

To learn more about your new relationship with Jesus, please visit www.seeyouinheaven.life or www.knowing-Jesus.com.

ENDNOTE

1. http://www.biblestudytools.com/pastor-resources/illustrations/spiritual-blindness-11544395.html on 1-3-2017).

How can I overcome opposition to the truth about Jesus? Part 5

“Jesus said to them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.’ ” John 8:58

So far we have learned that to overcome opposition to the truth about Jesus we must…

– Analyze Christ’s opponent’s accusations with God’s Word (John 8:48-49)

– Aim for God the Father’s approval (John 8:50)

– Ask those who oppose Christ to believe in His promise of eternal life (John 8:51-53)

– Appeal to our relationship with God A (John 8:54-55)

The fifth and final way we can overcome opposition to the truth about Jesus is to… AMPLIFY JESUS’ CLAIMS (John 56-59). Earlier Jesus’ unbelieving audience said to Him, “Are You greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? And the prophets are dead. Who do You make Yourself out to be?’” (John 8:53). Jesus will now reveal to them how much greater He is than Abraham and all the prophets. “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” (John 8:56).

Their father Abraham had a preview of Jesus’ “day.” On more than one occasion, Abraham encountered the preincarnate Jesus Christ (Genesis 15:1-21; 17:1-22; 18:1-33). When Abraham offered up his beloved son, Isaac (Genesis 22:1-18), he received an object lesson of Christ’s coming death and resurrection. Hebrews 11:17-19 informs us, 17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, 18 of whom it was said, ‘In Isaac your seed shall be called,’ 19 concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense.” Abraham was willing to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, because he believed God could raise him from the dead. Hence, the physical ancestor of Jesus’ critics, Abraham, looked forward by faith to Jesus’ death and resurrection when he offered up Isaac. He rejoiced in anticipation of Jesus fulfilling the promise to him in Genesis 12:3, “And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Jesus is claiming to have fulfilled what Abraham looked forward to.

Christ’s critics’ overlook the fact that Jesus is God and say, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?” (John 8:57). “A man not yet fifty years old could not have been seen by Abraham.” This does not mean Jesus was close to fifty years of age. Luke tells us that Jesus was thirty years old when He began His ministry (Luke 3:23) and it only lasted about three and one-half years. The main point of Christ’s critics’ is that it was unthinkable to suggest that Abraham could have seen Christ’s “day”since over two thousand years separated these two men.

Christ responds to their skepticism with one of His most profound claims to be God. “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” (John 8:58). The verb, “was” (genesthai), is in the aorist tense and means “entrance into existence.” The verb translated, “I AM” (eimi), is in  the present tense and means, “continuous existence.” Jesus is saying, “Before Abraham came in to being, I eternally was, am, and will ever be.” Jesus could have said, “Before Abraham was, I was.” That would simply have been a claim of preexistence. But Jesus did not say that. What He said was very clear. Jesus was not only claiming to have existed before Abraham two thousand years ago, but He was also claiming to be the eternal “I AM.”

When Moses asked God his name so that he could tell the Israelites who had sent him to them, God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.’ And He said, ‘Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ” (Exodus 3:14). Thus, Jesus identified himself as the God who had spoken to Moses. Jesus is the One who redeemed Moses and Israel out of Egypt! “I AM” is an emphatic form of speech and could not be normally employed in ordinary conversation. Jesus was claiming to be the Self-existent God. That is an amazing assertion. But it simply confirms what John has already said, “The Word [Jesus Christ – 1:14, 17] was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1).

Many attempts have been made to describe eternity. One such attempt states “imagine a steel ball the size of the earth. The amount of time it would take an ant to walk around the earth so many times to wear a groove through to the point of cutting the ball in half” is only a fraction of eternity. Jesus said, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.” (Revelation 1:8). Jesus is without beginning and without end because He is the eternal “I AM.” To be in a personal relationship with an eternal God, we must receive His eternal life. We do this by believing in Him. Jesus said, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:14-15). If we want to live forever with God the Son, Jesus Christ, we must receive His forever life by believing in Him alone (not our prayers, religion, or good life), for His free gift of everlasting life and a future home in heaven.

The Jews’ response to Christ’s claim is telling: “Then they took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.” (John 8:59). To the Jews this was blasphemy, meaning they understood Jesus to claim to be God. Thus, they prepared to stone Christ in accordance with Leviticus 24:16. Ironically the Jews were not willing to stone an adulteress (John 8:9), but now they were willing to stone their Messiah-God (John 8:59)!

In May of 2015, when I was in northern Mindanao of the Philippines, we did some house-to-house evangelism in a neighborhood close to my host family’s church. Two of the women we shared with were Jehovah Witnesses. When they tried to persuade us that Jesus never claimed to be God, I pointed them to John 8:59, and asked them, “Why did the Jews want to stone Jesus?” They paused and just stared at me. When they would not answer my question, I answered it for them. “They took up stones to throw at Jesus because they understood His claim to be God. That is what blasphemy means. If the Jews could understand that Jesus claimed to be God, why can’t you?” Again, they were silent. I then said to them, “You are not able to understand and accept Jesus’ claim because you do not have God the Holy Spirit to give you that understanding. Jesus loves you and wants to give you everlasting life. He simply asks you to believe in Him for His free gift and He will save you forever from your sins and come to live inside you through His Spirit.”

When the Jews took up stones to throw at Jesus we are told, “but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.” (John 8:59b). The word “hid” is in the passive voice and means “was hidden.” Christ was protected by His Father. It was not the Father’s time yet for His Son to die. The Light of the world now “went out of the temple” leaving His countrymen behind to go to people in general, represented by the man born blind (John 9).

I am reminded of the Civil War General “Stonewall” Jackson who received his nickname at the First Battle of Manassas on July 21, 1861, by Confederate General Bernard Bee. Inspired by Jackson’s courage in the face of the enemy, Bee called out to his men to inspire them: “Look, men! There is Jackson standing like a stone wall!” Regarding his faith in God, Jackson said it mattered not if he were exposing himself to danger in battle or cowering in bed, when God’s chosen time came for him to die, he would die and not until then. His courage was based upon this belief in God’s timing for him to die. Until that time came, no one could kill him. It was this bravery that compelled his men to follow their leader into battle.

Likewise, until God says it is time for a Christian to go home to be with the Lord Jesus in heaven, no one can take his or her life. Knowing this, can give believers great courage when faced with opposition to the truth about Jesus – the Eternal I AM.

Lord William Russell knew this truth about the Lord Jesus Christ very well. When on the scaffold about to be beheaded, he took his watch from his pocket and gave it to Dr. Burnett, who was attending him, and said, “My timepiece may be of service to you. I have no further occasion for it. My thoughts are fixed on eternity.” Knowing the Eternal, I AM – Jesus Christ –  prepares us for eternity.

Are you ready to face death? Do you have peace with God through the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1)? If not, you can receive the forever life of Jesus Christ, the Eternal I AM, right now by believing His promise, “that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16). If you now understand and believe His promise, you can tell Him this through prayer.

Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, I now understand that You are the Eternal I AM Who was, is, and will ever be. You are so much greater than Abraham and all the prophets from Adam to John the Baptist. I now realize that I have sinned against You with my thoughts, words, and actions. I cannot save myself to enter Your heaven. I believe You died for all my sins on a cross and rose from the dead. You are alive today! Lord Jesus, I am now believing or trusting in You alone (not my religion, my good life, or my prayers) to forgive all my sins and give me Your eternal life that never ends and can never be lost. Thank You, Jesus, for the complete forgiveness and never ending life I now have. Thank You for the future home I will have in Your heaven. Please give me the courage to share this wonderful news with all who will listen. In Your name. Amen.

How can I overcome opposition to the truth about Jesus? Part 3

“Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death.” John 8:51

So far we have learned that to overcome opposition to the truth about Jesus we must analyze Christ’s opponent’s accusations with God’s Word (John 8:48-49) and aim for God the Father’s approval (John 8:50). Today we discover that we are to ASK THEM TO BELIEVE IN CHRIST’S PROMISE OF ETERNAL LIFE (John 8:51-53). Christ says to His unbelieving audience, “Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death.” (John 8:51). This does not mean that a person must completely obey all of God’s Word to earn eternal life because that would contradict what Jesus has already taught in the gospel of John about how to receive eternal life (cf. John 3:15-18; 4:10-14;  5:24; 6:35-40, 47; 7:37-38; 8:45-46). Nor is Jesus saying believers will never experience physical death. In the context, the word “keeps” (tēréō) means to pay careful attention to what Jesus says about receiving eternal life.

For example, in John 6:47, Jesus said, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life.” In John 11:26, Jesus promised, “Whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.” The apostle John also writes in I John 2:23, “And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ.” Christ promises that those who keep His word by believing in Him for everlasting life shall never see eternal death. When a believer in Jesus dies physically, he or she (their spirit) is immediately taken into the presence of the Lord.

“We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:8). Christians can be confident that the moment they die (“be absent from the body”) their spirit will go to “be present with the Lord” while their body sleeps in the grave (cf. I Thessalonians 4:13-17). I can be assured, that “for to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.” (Philippians 1:21-23). Physical death for the believer in Jesus is not the end. It is actually a new beginning for Christians as they transition into eternity in the presence of our Lord where there will be no more sin or death for them (cf. I Corinthians 15:51-57; I John 3:2-3).

Non-Christians cannot understand the things of God because they do not have the Spirit of God (cf. I Corinthians 2:11b-14). Thus, the best place to start with unbelieving opponents to the truth about Jesus, is to share the gospel with them so they can be saved and receive the Holy Spirit who can enable them to understand and believe the truth about Jesus (cf. John 14:16-17; 15:26; 16:13-14; I John 2:20, 27).

Jesus’ unbelieving audience mistakenly think He is claiming that those who keep His word will never die physically. They respond to this invitation with more unbelief toward Jesus. “Now we know that You have a demon! Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and You say, ‘If anyone keeps My word he shall never taste death.” (John  8:52). They think their previous accusation against Jesus has just been confirmed (cf. John 8:48). “Only a demon-possessed man would claim to have more power than Abraham and the prophets who all died, yet in the face of these facts Jesus claims that the one who keeps His word ‘shall never taste death’ or experience physical death? If these righteous ones to whom God gave great privileges were not delivered from physical death, such deliverance was impossible.

They continue, “Are You greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? And the prophets are dead. Who do You make Yourself out to be?” (John 8:53). Their question expects a negative answer and means, “Surely, Jesus, You are not greater than our founding father, Abraham, or the prophets, who are dead. If keeping Your words prevents physical death, then You are claiming to be greater than those who died.” Ironically, Jesus was greater than Abraham and the prophets as we shall see in the next few verses.

Before I became a Christian at the age of nineteen, the claims of Jesus did not make much sense to me because I did not have God the Holy Spirit inside me to help me understand the meaning of Scripture and how it applies to my life. But the moment I believed in Jesus for His gift of everlasting life, the Bible came alive for me. As I read the Bible each day, certain truths would jump off the pages of my Bible and burn in my heart. Jesus’ gift of everlasting life was my new norm and reality.

One of the most important ways we can overcome opposition to the truth about Jesus is to invite unbelievers to believe Christ’s promise of everlasting life to all who believe in Him so they can receive the best Teacher in the universe – God the Holy Spirit (cf. John 14:16-17; 15:26; 16:13-14; I John 2:20, 27). He can remove Satan’s blinders (2 Corinthians 4:4) so they can see and embrace the truth about Jesus Christ – that He is much greater than Abraham and the prophets as we shall learn in the next few verses.

Prayer: Lord God, thank You so much for showing me that I do not need to be afraid to share the truth about Jesus with those who are hostile to the truth. For I am guaranteed never to taste eternal death the moment I believe in Him Who is greater than Abraham and the prophets! Thank You Holy Spirit for removing the blinders from my heart and my mind so I could see Jesus for Who He truly is! He is the promised Messiah-God! He is the Alpha and the Omega! The Beginning and the End! He is Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace! Please give me the wisdom and boldness to point people to Jesus Who alone can rescue them from sin and death the moment they believe in Him. I love You, my Lord and my God. Though I long to be in Your presence in heaven, I also know You are not finished with me yet on earth. Please use me to introduce millions to Your Son. In His everlasting name I pray. Amen.

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How can I overcome opposition to the truth about Jesus? Part 1

“Jesus answered, ‘I do not have a demon; but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me.’ ” John 8:49

In John chapters 7 and 8, the Lord Jesus has encountered substantial opposition from unbelievers, including His brothers, Jewish pilgrims, Jerusalemites, religious leaders and others. In John 8:31-37, Jesus taught how He could free His audience from bondage to sin. But much of His audience were children of the devil because they sought to kill Christ and refused to believe in Him (John 8:38-47). From Jesus’ interaction with His opponents in John 8:48-59, we will learn how to overcome opposition to the truth about Jesus in our own lives.

How Can I Overcome Opposition to the Truth About Jesus? First, we want to ANALYZE THEIR ACCUSATIONS WITH GOD’S WORD (John 48-49). “Then the Jews answered and said to Him, ‘Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?’ ” (John 8:48). Since the Jews had no answer to Christ’s arguments, they resort to name calling. Their question, “Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?” expects an affirmative answer in the Greek language.

Samaritans were despised by the Jews because they were a mixed race. When Assyria conquered the Northern Kingdom of Israel, many Jews were exported and many foreigners were imported. Jews who stayed and Gentiles who came, intermarried. The offspring were half-breeds called “Samaritans.”Samaritans were lax in Judaism and did not observe all their traditions. Perhaps the Jews were responding to Jesus’ denial that they were children of Abraham (cf. John 8:42-47), and were saying, “You are no better than Samaritans.” After Jesus tells them that their father is the devil (John 8:44), they say that Jesus is demon-possessed.

Jesus responds, “Jesus answered, ‘I do not have a demon; but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me.’ ” (John 8:49). Were Jesus’ claims like those of a demon-possessed person? Of course not. Rather than seeking His own self-exaltation like a demon, Jesus sought to honor and exalt His Father. By seeking to dishonor Jesus, these opponents of Christ were dishonoring God the Father (cf. John 5:23).

When people make accusations against Christ, it is important to analyze those charges with God’s Word. In this case, Jesus was far removed from having a demon as He aims to give honor where it is due while His Jewish audience did not. They sought to honor their father, the devil, who embraces lies and despises the truth.

Throughout the world, there are many religious groups that deny that Jesus is God. This assertion ignores the many verses in the Bible that point to the deity of Christ (cf. Isaiah 9:6-7; Daniel 8:13-14; Mark 14:61b-64; John 1:1, 14, 17; 5:17-18, 23-24; 8:59; 9:35-37; 10:30; 11:25-27; 12:44-45; 14:7-9; 20:28; Acts 16:31-34; Romans 1:3-4; 9:5; Philippians 2:5-11; Colossians 1:15-17; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 1:1-3, 8-12; I John 5:20; et. al).

The Bible makes it clear that those who deny that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah-God, are liars and they are antichrist. “Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son. Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also.” (I John 2:22-23). Antichrists deny God the Father and God the Son. Their goal is to oppose and replace Jesus Christ with gods of their own making. They want to deceive and derail Christians from pursuing Christ. But when Christians submit to the Lord and stand upon His truth, the devil and his followers will flee (I John 2:19; cf. James 4:8).

Prayer: Lord God, we are living at a time where there is so much deception in the world. People are being dominated by emotions instead of truth. The ruler of this world, the devil, is using anything and everything to mislead people away from the truth about Jesus Christ. Please renew my mind with Your truth so I may honor You with my response to those who oppose the truth about Jesus Christ. I want to know Your Word so well that I will be able to identify lies in an instant because they are contrary to what I know to be true. I need Your Holy Spirit to empower me to give an answer to those who seek to replace Jesus as the true God with false gods of their own making. Please grant me boldness and clarity to lovingly share Your Word in season and out of season with all people, regardless of their country, culture, or color. Thank You for the hope I have in Jesus Who has already defeated the father of lies through His death and resurrection. In the matchless name of Jesus Christ I pray. Amen.   

Words you do not want to hear from Jesus

“Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” John 8:24

The second implication of Jesus’ claim to be the light of the world is this: CHRIST’S CLAIM DEMANDS THAT WE DEAL WITH THE FUTURE (21-24). “Then Jesus said to them again, ‘I am going away, and you will seek Me, and will die in your sin. Where I go you cannot come.’ ” (John 8:21). Those words will ring in their minds for all eternity! “You… will die in your sin.” The word “sin”(hamartia) is singular and refers to the sin of rejecting Christ (cf. John 16:9). Can you think of anything more horrifying than to hear such a statement from God Himself? To die without forgiveness of sins? Jesus says, “Where I go you cannot come.” Where did Jesus go when He died and rose again? He went to heaven to be with His Father (Mark 16:19; Acts 7:55; Rom. 8:34; Col. 3:1; Heb. 10:12; 12:2).

But in the after-life those in hell cannot transfer over to heaven (cf. Luke 16:26). Once the door is shut on that prison cell there is no escape. It is not like these work release programs where a criminal is free to go out during the day to work a job as long as he is back in his cell that night. There is no work release program in hell. The Pharisees would not be able to join Jesus in heaven because of their refusal to believe in Him for everlasting life. 

But the Pharisees don’t get it. Their response reveals another obstacle that keeps people from coming to the light – self-righteous pride. “So the Jews said, ‘Will He kill Himself, because He says, ‘Where I go you cannot come’?” (John 8:22).The Pharisees believed that those who committed suicide went to the deepest place in hell, where there was a special torment reserved for them. Hence, they thought Jesus was talking about killing Himself and going to hell, and therefore they would never follow Him there because they were too good and decent for God to send them to hell or shut them out of heaven. But listen to how Jesus responds to them:

“And He said to them, ‘You are from beneath; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.’ ” (John 8:23). Jesus exposes their basic problem. Jesus was born from above; they were born in sin from below as a part of fallen humanity. They were a part of the ungodly world system; Jesus was not. They were born sinners who deserved to be separated from God for eternity.

Just as you cannot mix oil and water or light and darkness, you cannot mix that which is from above with that from below. Though they could not recognize it they were going to meet the supreme disaster… Jesus told them, “Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” (John 8:24). Jesus says that if you do not believe that He is the light of the world, the only One who can give you eternal life, then you are going to die in your sins, separated from God forever. 
           

This is what many people today say they don’t want to hear – they do not want to hear anything about hell. But, in the New Testament Jesus is the one who says the most about hell (cf. Matthew 5:22, 29-30; 13:40, 42, 50; 18:8-9; 23:15, 33; 25:41, 46; Mark 3:29; 9:43-48; Luke 12:5; 10:28; John 3:18; et al.). In this passage He says, “Where I go you cannot come.”These Jews could not go to heaven where Jesus is going because they have rejected Him and His provision for their sins.

Hell is a place of eternal separation from Christ. In other words, hell is the opposite of being with Christ. It is the absence of God, it is the absence of all that is beautiful, true, lovely, exciting, living ,and fulfilling. But please understand – God does not send anyone to hell. People send themselves there by refusing to hear and believe the claims of Jesus Christ (cf. John 3:18).

Isn’t it amazing to see how much Jesus deals with these men in their blindness. These are not words of anger or accusation or condemnation from Christ. This is an earnest pleading on Jesus’ part: “You will die in your sins unless you trust in Me alone as your only hope of heaven.” But in their pride, they were blinded to the truth of Christ’s claim. They rejected Jesus’ word because they thought they were good enough already; they thought they did not deserve any rejection from God.

Imagine coming to the end of your life and you hear Jesus say, “You will die in your sins” without forgiveness or everlasting life. Why? Because you refused to believe or trust in Christ alone to forgive all your sins and give you everlasting life. Once you die,  there is no second chance. The Bible says, “It is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.” (Hebrews 9:27). Are you prepared to face Jesus Christ as your Judge?

If not, He invites you to come to Him in faith just as you are right now. Why would you want to put this off? What could possibly be more important than where you live after death? Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.  And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this” (John 11:25-26). Christ guarantees a future resurrection  and a never-ending life to all who believe in Him alone. He promises that those who may die physically will live spiritually (“though he may die, he shall live”) if they choose to believe or trust in Him alone. He guarantees that those who believe in Him will never die spiritually (“whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die”). They will live with Him forever in heaven.

Do you believe this? Do you believe that Jesus guarantees a future resurrection and never-ending life to all who believe in Him? He alone has the power to do this because He died for all our sins on the cross and rose from the dead (I Corinthians 15:1-6) ,proving that He is God (Romans 1:3-4). No amount of our prayers or good works can take away our sins (Isaiah 64:6). But because God loves us so much, He sent His Only Son, Jesus Christ, to earth over two thousand years ago. Christ lived a perfect life and died a criminal’s death on the cross to pay the full penalty for all our sins (John 19:30). Three days later He rose from the dead and He is alive today offering eternal life freely to those who will believe in Him.

Make this the best day of your life by taking Jesus at His Word when He said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.  And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this.” (John 11:25-26).

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I beg You to rescue those who are perishing without Your gift of everlasting life. Many people think that heaven is a reward for doing good. They fail to understand that their performance cannot save them from eternal punishment. Only Your shed blood on the cross can save them. Heaven is reserved for those who trust in You and Your finished work on the cross alone as the only basis for entrance into heaven. Lord, You do not desire that anyone will perish in hell, but that all will change their minds about whatever is keeping them from believing in You, and then believe in You alone to provide a future bodily resurrection and never-ending life. Then and only then can they avoid hearing You say, “You will die in your sins.” In Jesus’ precious name. Amen.