Lesson 1 Part 2 – Sharing the Gospel (Video)

This video provides practical instruction on how to share the good news or gospel of Jesus Christ with those who do not have Christ in their lives. If you are eager to introduce people to the Savior of the world, this video will equip you to do just that! This video is also great for those who do not know for sure they will go to heaven when they die. The contents of this video will clearly show them from the Bible what they must know and believe to go to heaven.

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 find peace under pressure? Part 1

“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.” John 14:1 

Opinions about heaven vary in the United States and around the world, but the facts are made clear in the Bible. What the Bible says about heaven is very important for people who find themselves in deep distress. Perhaps someone close to you dies or is near death. Maybe someone dear to you has an injury, an accident, or disease and may not pull through. You may have stress at home, work, with money or the lack thereof, and you are deeply troubled by this. Life has pain and pressure in it and we cannot escape that fact. During these times of deep distress, only words spoken from the very heart of God can meet our deepest needs and comfort our aching hearts.

The disciples of Christ, like we today, found themselves deeply troubled. The disciples’ whole world seemed to be crumbling around them. They had just been told by the Lord Jesus that one of them would betray Christ (John 13:21-30) and that their leader, Peter, was going to deny three times that he ever knew the Lord (John 13:38). Imagine the reaction of some of the disciples when they were told this about Peter. “Not Peter. He is our leader! We look to him for leadership and yet You say he is going to fail You, Lord!?! If Peter stumbles, what about the rest of us?” (cf. Matthew 26:31). Jesus had also announced that He was leaving them and it would be impossible for them to go with Him (John 13:33, 36).

During their three and a half years together, the disciples had grown to depend upon the Lord Jesus to meet their every need. Jesus had assumed a role much like that of a father – providing, protecting, guiding, and instructing these men as children. Now the Lord tells them He is about to leave them? Everything seems to be happening at once. Everything seemed to be on the verge of collapse. Yet Jesus’ words to them remain to give everlasting comfort and revelation to those in distress. In John 14:1-6, we will find peace under pressure by focusing on…

CHRIST’S PROMISE OF A PEACE OF HEART (John 14:1). Jesus looks at the stunned look on His disciples’ faces and with a gentle and compassionate voice He said, “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.” (John 14:1). Jesus is saying, “Stop being troubled.” This word means “to shake together, stir up, disturb, distress.” A storm was raging in the hearts of these men. Their hearts were tossed like waves in the wind by the words of Jesus, and why not? He had said He was leaving them (John 13:33, 36), that He would die (John 13:31-32), that one of them was a traitor (John 13:21), that Peter would disown Him (John 13:38), and that all of them would fall away (Matthew 26:31). They sensed something major was going to happen and their hearts were afraid.

Jesus did not condemn them for this as He knew what it was like to have a “troubled” heart (cf. John 11:33; 13:31) where this same word was used of Him. Our Savior experienced every emotion that we experience (John 11:33). He wept with those who grieved. He experienced the sorrow that death brings. He felt angry when His Father’s temple was corrupted (John 2:13-16). He felt the pain of being rejected by one of His own disciples (John 13:21). He understands and wants us not to be troubled, but to trust Him, to lean upon Him. Christ does not condemn us for having troubled hearts. He offers relief by trusting in Him. How do you spell relief? T-R-U-S-T.

The solution to a troubled heart is faith in Jesus. Christ says, “You believe in God, believe also in Me.” Christ is making two statements here: “You believe in God, you also believe in Me.” These eleven believing disciples already believed “in God” by believing in the One whom God sent for everlasting life (John 5:24), 3  since Jesus has the same divine nature and purpose as God the Father. 4 But now they were to “keep on believing” in Jesus to find His peace in their hearts.

When we trust in Jesus, He promises peace of heart. As we take our minds off of what is troubling us and redirect them on to Christ, His peace fills our hearts. This is peace that surpasses all human understanding (Philippians 4:6-7).

In 1999, my wife and I learned that her father was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, a very aggressive form of cancer. He was only given two weeks to live. In all the time my wife and I had been with her father, he never talked about his faith. His generation considered this to be a very private matter and did not usually speak openly of such things.

Being very concerned about his eternal destination, we drove four hours from central Iowa to St. Paul, Minnesota, to visit him on his deathbed in the hospital. When we arrived there, both his family and the hospital staff were amazed at the peace Pat’s father displayed even though he was in great pain and facing imminent death. When we were alone with him, Pat and I asked him if he would go to heaven when he died. He paused and began to shake in his hospital bed. At first, I thought he was crying. But as I watched him, it became obvious that he was laughing so hard no sound was coming out of his mouth. After his laughter calmed down, Pat’s father assured us he had trusted in Christ when he was a child and that he knew he was destined to be with Jesus in heaven when he died. My wife and I were overcome with joy as we learned of this wonderful news!

Many times in life, human understanding fails us because we cannot see as God sees. But as we trust in Jesus, He gives us perfect peace, peace in the midst of our deepest pain, peace in the midst of our greatest fears. Jesus brings us peace because we know that something much better than this life awaits us after death.

Pat’s father had this assurance. Do you? If not, you can find this assurance by transferring all your trust onto Jesus Christ for His free gift. Jesus said, “He who believes in Me has everlasting.” (John 6:47). Jesus is not asking you to live a good life or pray every day, because He did NOT say, “He who lives a good life or prays every day has everlasting life.” He is asking you to BELIEVE IN HIM because He said, ““He who believes in Me has everlasting.” Everlasting life is a free gift because Jesus paid for it all when He died in our place for all our sins and rose from the dead (I Corinthians 15:3-6). All you must do is believe or trust in Christ alone for His free gift of everlasting life. If you have never understood and believed this before, but now you do, you can tell God this through prayer.

“DearLord Jesus,I come to you as a sinner who is deeply distressed. My life seems so out of control. I believe You demonstrated Your love for me when You died on a cross in my place for all my sins and rose from the dead. I am now trusting in You alone, Jesus (not my good life, my prayers, or my religion) to give me everlasting life. Thank You for the peace I now have with You. Thank You for everlasting life. In Your name I pray. Amen.”

For those of us who believe in Jesus, please join me in this prayer to Christ.

“Lord Jesus, like Your disciples, there is much in our world that causes a storm to rage in our hearts right now. Many of us are distressed with an increase in COVID cases, social unrest, political divisions, and numerous other factors that are out of our control. Thank You for bringing us back to You so our fears can be replaced with faith in You – the Beginning and the End, the Alpha and Omega, the Creator of the Universe, the One Who calms the wind and the waves of turmoil in our lives. Thank You for Your peace which is independent of our circumstances and feelings. We love love You, Lord Jesus. In Your peace-giving name I pray. Amen.”

ENDNOTES:

1. The present imperative verb tarassesthō (ταρασσέσθω) with the negative particle mē (μὴ) means to “stop being troubled” – see  J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 253.

2. Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures In the New Testament, Vol. V, (Grand Rapids, Baker Book House, 1932), pg. 248.

3. Robert N. Wilkin, “The Gospel According to John,” The Grace New Testament Commentary, Vol. 1: Matthew – Acts (Denton, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 2010), pg. 443.

4. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (pg. 1801). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

How can we impact our hate-filled world for Christ? Part 3

“Jesus answered him, ‘Will you lay down your life for My sake? Most assuredly, I say to you, the rooster shall not crow till you have denied Me three times.’ ” John 13:38

We are learning how to impact our hate-filled world for Christ. So far we have discovered we must comprehend God’s love (John 13:31-33) and commit to loving others as Christ loved us (John 13:34-35). The final way to impact a hate-filled world for Christ, is to CLING TO JESUS SO HE CAN LOVE OTHERS THROUGH US (John 13:36-38).

Jesus’s announcement of His departure and consequent separation from His disciples raised concerns in their minds (John 13:33). Peter spoke up first. “Simon Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, where are You going?’ Jesus answered him, ‘Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but you shall follow Me afterward.’ ” (John 13:36). Peter loved the Lord so much he wanted to go with Him. Jesus gently tells Peter it would not be possible for him to be with Jesus right then, but He did encourage Peter when He said, “you shall follow Me afterward.” Perhaps Christ was referring to when Peter would die and go to heaven to be with Him.

“Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, why can I not follow You now? I will lay down my life for Your sake.’ ” (John 13:37). Peter was perplexed about the Lord’s destination. Because of the opposition of the religious leaders on previous visits, Jesus had departed from Jerusalem. Peter supposed on this occasion that Jesus would depart to another region outside of Jerusalem.  The disciples had accompanied Jesus on other departures from Jerusalem, why couldn’t Peter accompany Him this time? Peter concludes that Jesus was departing alone because it was too dangerous for the Eleven to follow Him. On this occasion Peter was not afraid to go with Jesus in the face of danger. He would be loyal to Christ even unto death! Notice Peter’s self-reliance: “I will lay down my life for Your sake.” He does not say, “By God’s grace or with God’s help I will lay down my life for Your sake.”

Peter had good intentions, but it is much easier to express them in a secure room after good food than in a darkened garden with a hostile mob. We can be a lot like Peter. In our minds we envision ourselves as better followers of Jesus than we actually are. Pride can cause us to think too highly of ourselves and then we fall flat on our faces.

“Jesus answered him, ‘Will you lay down your life for My sake? Most assuredly, I say to you, the rooster shall not crow till you have denied Me three times.’ ” (John 13:38). The Lord knew Peter better than Peter knew himself. He knew Peter would disown Him when his life was threatened. Peter needed to learn to rely on the Lord to remain loyal to Him. Jesus would lay down His life for Peter, but Peter in no way would lay down his life for the Lord at this time.

How do you think Peter felt when he heard Jesus predict his three denials of knowing Christ? Confused? Shocked? Peter was certain he would be faithful to Christ even when threatened with death. “I’ll show You, Lord, how loyal I am to You!” Peter thought he could remain faithful to Jesus in his own strength. Perhaps he thought he could love the other disciples like Jesus loved him by using his own abilities. “Lord, I love these guys so much, I will even lay down my life for them!” “No Peter,” Jesus says, “You must learn to rely on Me to do this in your life.”

We cannot love one another as Christ has loved us unless we trust Him to love others through us. It is not a natural desire to wash dirty feet, especially when those dirty feet belong to someone else. Nor is it natural for us to want to cleanse the dirt in our own spiritual lives. God must work in our hearts to enable us to do this.

Jesus is calling us to let Him live a supernatural life through us so we can love the undeserving as He has loved us. This coming week, you will probably have opportunities to love other believers with dirty feet. You may learn that someone has gossiped about you and said some very hurtful things about you. You may be tempted to do the same to him or her. Someone at your work or school may push your buttons and test your patience. You will be tempted to get angry and retaliate.

Like Peter, John is reminding us that we cannot love Jesus’ way in our own strength. We must rely on Christ who can give us the power to love others selflessly, sacrificially, and unconditionally as He has loved us. Today will you make a commitment to obey Jesus’ new commandment and love one another as He has loved you? You won’t regret it and it may encourage an unbeliever to investigate this Person by the name of Jesus Christ. The world desperately needs disciples of Jesus who love like Jesus loves.

Prayer: Lord God, I cannot give to others what I do not have. This is why it is so important to spend time with You so I may receive Your love for me. Like a water bucket under a faucet, I need You to refill my love bucket under the fountain of Your love when I am running on empty. I can tell when I need to be refilled. I tend to be easily irritated or angered, and it is difficult to let go of past hurts and be available to love others. Thank You for reminding me that I cannot love others in my own strength. I need to spend time with You, talking to You in prayer and listening to You as I read and study the Bible. The more time I spend with You, the more You enable me to love those who matter to me. I give myself to You, my Lord and my God, to be a channel of Your love to others. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

How can we respond to those who refuse to believe in Christ? Part 2

“ ‘While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.’ ” These things Jesus spoke, and departed, and was hidden from them.” John 12:36

In our study of the gospel of John we have come to Jesus’ final words to the public before His death on the Cross. The people to whom He spoke had important decisions to make before Christ left them. In John 12:23, 32-33, Christ said that the “Son of Man” was to be lifted up on the Cross rather than be lifted up as a Ruler over the nations. This confused many of the people of Israel. We are looking at how Jesus responds to them to learn how we can respond to those who refuse to believe in Christ. Last time we learned to challenge them to seek God while there is still time (John 12:34-35). The second way we can respond to them is to COUNSEL THEM TO BELIEVE IN CHRIST ALONE WHILE THERE IS TIME (John 12:36).

Jesus said to the crowd, “While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” (John 12:36a). These people needed to “believe in the light,”Jesus Christ, as soon as possible (“while you have the light”), before the Cross. After the Cross, when the Light was no longer with them, it would be more difficult for them to believe. No person is promised tomorrow on earth, so it is important for them to respond in faith to Christ while they still have time.

Notice that Christ says they can become “sons of light” simply by believing or trusting in Him alone for His gift of salvation. This verse does not say they become “sons of light” by going to church, being baptized, confessing their sins, keeping the commandments, or praying. The only condition is to believe in the light which is Jesus Christ.

How often today do you hear a Christian use the word “believe” when inviting a non-Christian to respond to the gospel of Jesus Christ? It rarely happens. Search the internet and see how many Christian churches and organizations use the word “believe” or its synonym “trust” in their plan of salvation as the sole condition for obtaining eternal life from Jesus Christ. It is very seldom. Instead they use unclear clichés and phrases such as “accept Jesus, give your life or heart to Jesus, ask Jesus into your heart, repent or turn from your sins, confess Jesus as Lord, or submit to Jesus as your Lord.” Lost people are being told to do everything but believe in the Lord Jesus for eternal life. I am convinced that the greatest need in evangelism today is for Christian workers to return to using the words that God uses most in evangelism – the words believe and faith.

Some people confuse the use of the word “believe” in the Bible with common uses of the English word “believe.” For example, we may hear people say these common phrases in English:

– “I believe it is going to snow today.”

– “I believe I voted for the wrong candidate.”

– “I don’t believe voting makes any difference.”

– “I believe I gave her the wrong directions.”

So when people hear us use the word “believe” in relation to Jesus Christ, they may think it only conveys speculation. But the use of the word “believe” in the Bible communicates absolute certainty. When Christ says, “believe in the light” (John 12:36a), He is inviting people to be convinced that He is God Who is “the light,” and then to trust in Him alone. John writes in his epistle, “This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.” (cf. I John 1:5). There was no darkness or sin in Jesus Christ because He is God (I John 5:20; cf. Hebrews 1:8; 4:15). Therefore, only Jesus could give them life that never ends. Jesus does not direct unbelievers to the Father to receive everlasting life. He directs them to Himself for this gift (John 5:21, 40; 6:40, 47). Christ proclaimed, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6).

Sometimes I will encounter non-Christians who think they must do something in addition to believing or trusting in Christ alone to give them everlasting life. For example, when I ask a person, “What does God say you must do to get to heaven?” He or she responds, “I must believe in Christ and … be baptized or live a godly life or love others or take communion or confess all my sins.” And the list goes on and on and on. But is that what Jesus says?

Christ said to a religious leader named Nicodemus, 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever BELIEVES in Him should not perish but have eternal life. 16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever BELIEVES in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. 18 He who BELIEVES in Him is not condemned; but he who does not BELIEVE is condemned already, because he has not BELIEVED in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3:14-18).

According to John 3:14-16, who has everlasting life? The one who “believes in… the Son of Man,” Jesus Christ, Who was “lifted up” on a Cross (cf. John 8:28; 12:23, 32-33). According to John 3:17, Who is the one Person by which one must be saved? “Through Him,” God’s only begotten “Son,” Jesus Christ. According to John 3:18, what is the basis upon which a person is condemned or not condemned? Belief or unbelief in God’s “only begotten Son,” Jesus Christ.

It does not matter what your religion or denomination or pastor or priest teaches. What matters is what Jesus Christ taught. Repeatedly Jesus teaches that believing in Him alone is the only condition for everlasting life (cf. John 3:14-18; 5:46; 6:29, 35-36, 40, 47; 7;38; 8:24, 45; 9:35; 10:37-38; 11:25-26; 12:36, 46; 13:19; 14:1, 11-12; 16:9; 17:20; et al.).

When Jesus was hanging on the Cross, He said, “It is finished!” (John 19:30). The Greek word translated “finished” is tetelestai. It means “paid in full.” Receipts in New Testament times were stamped with this word which meant that the debt had been paid in full. Christ did not make a down payment for our sin when He died on the Cross so that we must pay the remainder of our sin debt to God. God does not accept us on the basis of our good life, our keeping of His commandments, our water baptism, or the sacraments we have taken. We are accepted by God on the basis of the full payment for our sin debt to God when Jesus Christ died and rose again on our behalf. God was completely and forever satisfied with Jesus’ full payment for our sin. The verb tetelestai is in the perfect tense. This means Christ made the full payment for our sin debt when He died on the cross and it remains paid in full to the present.

When we communicate the gospel with non-Christians, we must be clear that all people have sinned against God and deserve to die forever in the Lake of Fire (Romans 3:23; 6:23; Revelation 20:15). No amount of our good thoughts, words, or actions can change the fact that we are sinners before a holy God (Isaiah 64:6). Because Jesus finished paying the penalty for our sins when He died in our place, that means we do not have to work for our salvation (Romans 4:5; Ephesians 2:8-9). All God asks of us is to believe in Jesus alone and His finished work on the Cross as sufficient payment for our sins (John 3:14-15; 19:30). When we do, He gives us everlasting life and forgives all our sins (John 3:16; Acts 10:43).

Those who are trusting in their good works or in Christ plus their good works to get them to heaven, are telling God the Father that Jesus’ death on the cross failed to pay their sin debt in full. However, since God was forever satisfied with His perfect Son’s payment for the sin of the world (Isaiah 53:11; John 19:30; I John 2:2), we must also be satisfied with what satisfies God. God cannot accept anything we do as payment for our sins because He has already accepted His Son’s complete payment for all of our sins when He died in our place on the Cross.

Those who “believe in the light [i.e., in Jesus]… become sons of light” (John 12:36; cf. Ephesian 5:8). Every believer in Jesus is defined by the “light” of Jesus Christ instead of by their sin or shame. Christ, Who is Light, lives inside us now (John 8:12). Our sinful hearts have been made new and are good and noble (Luke 8:15). God says, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statues, and you will keep My judgments and do them.” (Ezekiel 36:26-27).

We have been given a new identity and a new nature defined by Christ’s light. A passion resides deep inside us that can be stronger than our passion for sin when we yield to the Holy Spirit inside us (Rom. 7:21-25; 8:1-7). It is a passion to love God and walk in His ways, just as Christ did. Because we are defined by the light of Christ, it is important to pay attention to the God-given passion He has given us to live for Him.

When Christ finished speaking He “departed, and was hidden from them” (John 12:36b) supernaturally. He seems to have vanished, reminding us that He is in control. His death will take place in God’s time. This departure of Jesus was an example of what He had just predicted (John 12:35) and should have motivated them to believe in Him while there was still time.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, please give me Your clarity and wisdom when communicating Your gospel message to non-Christians. So many people today are confused about what they must do to get to heaven.They are being told to do many different things in addition to believing or trusting in You alone for Your free gift of everlasting life. Satan is such a deceiver. He is not against any religion that leaves out a Christ-alone salvation because he knows it will lead them into an eternal hell. By Your grace, please bring all Christians back to Your basic promise that “whoever believes in Him [Jesus] should not perish but have everlasting life.” The more clearly we communicate Your gospel message, the more people can understand and believe in You alone for Your free gift while there is still time. Thank You, my Lord and my God, for making this message so clear and simple. In Your matchless name I pray. Amen.  

Why does the Lord allow a situation to grow worse after we pray about it? Part 7

“Jesus said, ‘Take away the stone.’ ” John 11:39a

As we study through the seventh miraculous sign recorded in the gospel of John (11:1-44), we are learning why the Lord may allow a situation to grow worse after we pray about it. He may do this to …

– Display more of His glory (John 11:1-4).

– Declare His love toward us (John 11:5-6).

– Deepen our sensitivity to His will (John 11:7-10).

– Develop our faith in Him (John 11:11-16).

– Disclose more of Christ’s identity to us (John 11:17-27).

– Discover Christ’s compassion (John 11:28-37).

The seventh reason why the Lord may allow a situation to grow worse after we pray about it is to DEMONSTRATE THAT OBEDIENCE TO CHRIST ACCESSES HIS RESURRECTION POWER (John 11:38-44a). “Then Jesus, again groaning in Himself, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it.” (John 11:38). Again, Christ felt the same angry emotion (“groaning” – cf. 11:33) as He approached the tomb. He may have been angry that the Jews who came to comfort Mary did not believe He could raise Lazarus from the dead (John 11:37). They thought He could overcome sickness but not death.

Tombs were often cut into limestone making a cave in the side of a wall of rock. A large stone was placed over the entrance. “Jesus said, ‘Take away the stone.’ ” (John 11:39a). To do so was to risk defilement according to Jewish law and customs. But Jesus is not bound by man-made laws or customs. The people standing next to Jesus may have thought, “Doesn’t He have the power to move this stone?” Yes, He does, but He did not use that power to move the stone. Why? Because their obedience was necessary for them to realize and experience Jesus’ resurrection power.

“Martha, the sister of him who was dead, said to Him, ‘Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.’ ” (John 11:39b). Lord, Lazarus already stinks. Nothing can be done. It’s hopeless!” When we see death, we see no further. But Jesus sees beyond death to life. 

“Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?’ ” (John 11:40). Christ called Martha “to demonstrate her faith in Him by her action – allowing the stone to be removed. Jesus didn’t want her explanations about bodily decay; He wanted her to walk by faith, putting one foot in front of the other. Faith is acting like God is telling the truth. Then, demonstrating the “glory of God” would be up to Jesus. Faith must precede sight if we want to see God’s supernatural intervention in our circumstances. We can never know what God plans to do in secret until we obey what He has clearly revealed.” (Dr. Tony Evans, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition), pg. 1791. All the people there would see this miracle. Only those who believed would see God’s glory revealed in the raising of Lazarus.

41 Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, ‘Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. 42 And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.’ ” (John 11:41-42). Jesus had already pleaded Martha, Mary, and Lazarus’ case to the Father. This is the second time He had prayed about it. He states this so those around Him can believe the Father sent Him.

Jesus’s prayer for His Father’s supernatural intervention also illustrates His current intercessory work of deliverance for believers when we respond in faith and obedience (cf. Hebrews 7:25). This is why we pray to the Father in the name of Jesus. The Father responds to what the Son endorses. When we face disappointments, Christ prays for us (cf. Luke 22:31-32). He can overcome our circumstances even when there seems to be no hope.

Earlier Jesus had said that men would hear His voice and come out of their graves (John 5:28) and that His sheep hear His voice (John 10:16, 27). “Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come forth!’ ” (John 11:43). If Jesus had not said Lazarus’ name, all the dead would have come out of their graves. “And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with graveclothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth.” (John 11:44a). The One who is the Resurrection and the Life revealed His power by summoning Lazarus from the grave. Lazarus did not come out by his own power, but by the power of the One who commanded him to come out. This is the glory of God! Only God could reverse the process of decay and restore Lazarus from death to life.

If the people with Jesus had not obeyed His command to remove the stone over the entrance to Lazarus’ grave, they would not have witnessed the resurrection power of the Lord Jesus. Likewise, we must obey the Lord Jesus to experience His resurrection power in our daily lives. The apostle Paul reminds us in Romans 8:11, 13: 11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you…13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”

As believers live “by the Spirit”through obedience to Christ (Romans 6:1-14; 8:1, 4-5; Galatians 5:16-26), they can experience Christ’s resurrection power to put to death the sinful deeds of the body. We cannot overcome sin and its consequences unless we walk in obedience to Christ. We cannot access Christ’s resurrection power unless we obey Him. When we face disappointments, we may not “feel” like obeying the Lord, but this is key to experiencing His resurrection power in our lives. Step out in faith and obey Christ so He can manifest His power in your life.

This resurrection miracle is a beautiful picture of conversion. Lazarus was unable to raise himself from the dead. None of his friends or religious leaders could reverse his death. Likewise, before we become Christians, the Bible tells us that we are dead in our sins (Ephesians 2:1-3) without the life of God. And our sin separates us from God (Romans 6:23). We are unable to come to God apart from His drawing (John 6:44a).

When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, He was giving us a foretaste of what is to come. One day, Lazarus would physically die again. But he would eventually participate in a future everlasting bodily resurrection whereby He would live with Jesus forever along with all who believe in Christ alone (John 11:25-26; cf. I Thessalonians 4:14-17)!  

Only Jesus Christ can give eternal life to people, and this gift is based upon His finished work on the cross, not our works (John 19:30; Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5; cf. Isaiah 64:6). We cannot save ourselves. Other people or religions cannot save us. Only Jesus can do this. We receive eternal life by faith alone in Christ alone (John 3:15-16, 36; 6:40, 47; 11:25-26; et al.). Each time God saves a sinner He reveals His glory.

Prayer: Father God, thank You for this incredible miracle which demonstrates that Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life. As the Resurrection, only Jesus can guarantee a future bodily resurrection that lasts forever to all who believe in Him. And as the Life, only He can give spiritual life that that never ends to all who believe in Him alone. Father, thank You for demonstrating that my obedience is necessary to experience Your resurrection power daily in my Christian life. I cannot overcome sin and its consequences unless I walk in obedience to Jesus. When I am tempted to sin, please help me to step out in faith and obey Christ so He can manifest His resurrection power in my life to say “No” to sin and “Yes” to You. I also ask You to use me to share this good news of Jesus’ resurrection power to all who are dead in their sins and separated from You. Please persuade them to believe in Jesus alone as the Resurrection and the Life so they may have eternal life in His name. In Jesus’ powerful life-giving 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 grow closer to the Good Shepherd? Part 2

“I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own.” John 10:14

I can also grow closer to the Good Shepherd when I REALIZE HIS INTIMATE KNOWLEDGE OF ME (John 10:14-15). “I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own.” (John 10:14). It was important for a shepherd to know his sheep. He must know their needs, weaknesses, and their problems. Without this kind of knowledge, he would not be able to adequately provide for the needs of his sheep. Christ is the Good Shepherd not only because He lays down His life for us, but because He has an intimate knowledge of us.

Jesus repeats His “I AM” statement when He says, “I am the good Shepherd.” “I AM” was the name of the Self-existing God who had revealed Himself to Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3:14). Since Jesus is the Self-existing God, He knows everything about us – the good, the bad, and the ugly – and He still loves us. It is also important that the sheep know their shepherd. They must know his voice so they can respond when he calls them. They must learn to trust their shepherd so he can provide for their needs.

In this technological age, it is easy to begin feeling like a number on a computer instead of a person. We are identified by our Social Security number rather than by our name. We receive junk mail addressed to “Resident” instead of personalized correspondence. Such impersonal methods may cause some people to conclude, “No one cares about me. No one knows where I am or how I am feeling.” But that is not true. Jesus cares. He knows you by name (John 10:3). He knows you intimately (John 10:14).

We never need to feel like the young student who felt slighted when Edward VII, the king of England from 1901 to 1910, was visiting a city to lay the cornerstone for a new hospital. Thousands of school children were present to sing for him. Following the ceremony, the king walked past the excited youngsters. After the king was gone, a teacher saw one of her students crying. She asked her, “Why are you crying? Did you not see the king?” “Yes,” the young girl sobbed, “but the king did not see me.” King Edward could not have taken notice of each child in that throng. Jesus, however, gives individual attention to each of us. Christ knows who you are. You matter to Jesus.

You may think God has forgotten you and that He is a thousand miles away. But He is not. He has got His eyes on you. There has never been a moment when God took His eyes off you. Never. He has seen every breath you have ever taken, every thought you ever had, every word you have ever said, everything you have ever done good or bad, and He has constantly looked at you with eyes of love. 

It is hard for us to imagine that Jesus pays that much attention to us because we don’t pay that much attention to Him. We don’t notice God twenty-four hours a day. But every moment of every day God has His eye on you. Jesus said in Luke 12:6-7 “…  God never overlooks a single sparrow. And He pays even greater attention to you, down to the last detail – even numbering the hairs on your head!” For some of us that is not very difficult! God loves you with a love you have never imagined. He has always paid attention to you. He has never taken His eyes off you.

The more we understand how intimately Christ knows us and loves us, the more we will want to “know” our Shepherd on a more intimate level like the Son knows the Father. “As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.” (John 10:15). The Son must know the Father to follow His will, just like the sheep must know the Shepherd to follow Him faithfully. Jesus taught that the relationship the sheep enjoy with Himself is unique, as His relationship with His Father is unique.

Jesus’ intimate relationship with His Father is what enabled Him to obey His Father even to the point of death on a cross (Philippians 2:6-8). He laid down His life for the sheep. When Jesus was verbally and physically abused by His enemies, He did not retaliate. Instead, “He committed Himself to Him Who judges righteously” and He “bore our sin in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness – by whose stripes you were healed.” (I Peter 2:23-24). Peter explains further why Jesus bore our sins in His own body. “For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” (I Peter 2:25). When Christians face injustice and suffering, they can be reassured that they have a good “Shepherd” who cares for them and provides for them. This Good Shepherd is the “Overseer” of their souls who protects and watches over them.

I am reminded of a story I heard about a Christian woman who invited her unbelieving feminist female friend to church one Sunday. After the pastor finished preaching about the role of men and women in marriage from Ephesians 5:22-33, the feminist looked at her friend and said, “I could follow a man who is willing to die for me.” The Christian woman replied, “There is such a Man and His name is Jesus Christ.” Knowing the love that Christ has for us draws us closer to Him as our Good Shepherd. When you know that Someone genuinely loves you enough to die for you, you can trust Him to lead you and care for you.

Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, living in this time of COVID and social unrest, it can be easy to feel alone and unimportant. We may feel that You have lost our address and do not even care about us. But Your Word reminds us that this is not even close to the truth. You are our Good Shepherd and You know Your sheep intimately. Our feelings may tell us that we are all alone and unimportant to You, but Your voice of truth reminds us that You are always with us and Your eyes and ears never take their focus off of us. Your love for us is constant regardless of our past. You demonstrated this when You died for us even though we were still undeserving sinners (Romans 5:8). The more we focus on the truth of Your constant love and care for us, the more we will want to draw close to You. Your love casts out fear. Your love removes the barriers we have erected to protect ourselves. Though we were once lost sheep, we have now returned to You, Lord Jesus, the Good Shepherd and Overseer of our souls. We can now trust You to provide, protect, and guide His precious sheep so we can live to please You alone. The more we know You, the more we want to make You known. In Your matchless name we pray. Amen.  

How can I trust the Lord Jesus as the True Shepherd? Part 2

“To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name.” John 10:3ab

A second reason why we can trust Jesus as our True Shepherd is because HE HAS THE DOORKEEPER’S CONFIRMATION (John 10:3a). “To him the doorkeeper opens.”  (John 10:3a). “The doorkeeper” watches several flocks at night and then opens the door to the fold in the morning for the authorized shepherd to enter.

I believe the identity of the doorkeeper in the gospel of John is John the Baptist. He opened the door for Jesus to enter the fold of Israel as their True Shepherd. John identified himself as “‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.” (John 1:23). He points to Jesus and says, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). As Jesus’ popularity increased, John pointed his jealous disciples to Jesus and said, “He must increase [in popularity], but I must decrease [in popularity].” (John 3:30). Then He pointed to Jesus’ greatness in His origin – “He who comes from above is above all” (John 3:31a), in His teaching – “33 He who has received His testimony has certified that God is true. 34 For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God does not give the Spirit by measure” (John 3:33-34), and in His gift – “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).

John did not introduce one of the Pharisees or Sadducees to the nation of Israel as a shepherd, but rather John condemned them and their legalistic systems. Nor did John introduce some other religious leader as the True Shepherd. Instead, John the Baptist introduced Jesus Christ as the True Shepherd because He came through the door of the Messianic prophecies (John 10:2). He opens the door of Israel to Jesus so He can call His sheep out of the fold.

The third reason why we can trust Jesus as our True Shepherd is because HE HAS PERSONAL CONCERN FOR EACH OF US (John 10:3b). “…and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name.” (John 10:3b). There are many different flocks in the fold. When the shepherd comes to retrieve his flock in the morning, his sheep “hear his voice.” The word “hear (akouō) refers to “attentive appreciation.” The sheep are familiar with their shepherd’s tone of voice. This tone of voice makes the sheep want to follow their shepherd. Why? Because “He calls his own sheep by name.” A shepherd would give names to each of his sheep based on the sheep’s behavior or appearance. He might have a Tiger, a Blacky, a Sleepy, etc. The shepherd had a tender affection for each of his sheep.

Likewise, our true Shepherd, Jesus Christ, knows each of us intimately. He knows our likes and dislikes. He knows our strengths and weaknesses. He knows everything about us and yet He still loves us. The fact that He knows me and still loves me answers some of the fundamental questions that I have: “Does God know me? Does He know I exist? Does He care about my problems or are they too unimportant for Him?” 

Nothing is too unimportant for God. Matthew 10:30 says, “But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.” Psalm 145:8-9 instructs us, “The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and great in mercy. The Lord is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works.” Circle “all.” That includes everyone. God knows me and still loves me. His love for us is not based on whether we respond to it or not. God is love. His love is unconditional. No strings attached. God would love us as if there were only one of us to love. The Bible teaches that God feels for each of us and loves us. When God is loving you right now He does not stop loving you. That’s the way it works.

As a parent, when you are videotaping your kids, maybe in a school play or in a church choir,  and you zoom in just on your child? You just want to see your son or daughter. That’s what God does with each of us. He zooms in on you as an individual because you are important to Him. You may be checking this whole Christianity thing out today. You’re thinking “I’m going to come in a crowd, because I can hide in this crowd and investigate Christianity.” You can hide in this crowd but you can’t hide from God. You think you are a seeker but God is also seeking you out.

Jesus loves you. He knows you. He knows your pain. He knows your past. He knows your sin. You don’t have to hide from Jesus. You don’t have to work so hard to cover up your sins and shortcomings. Jesus knows them already and He still loves you and cares about you. When you know someone loves you deeply, you are more inclined to trust him or her.

The problem for many of us is we have been disappointed by false shepherds in the religious community who cared more about themselves than God’s people. If you have come out of a Pharisaic system, perhaps you were mistreated by religious leaders. Maybe they shamed you and placed burdens on you that were too difficult to carry. They cared more about your performance and outward appearance than they did about what was going on inside of you. Consequently, you have a difficult time trusting anyone connected with Christianity or anything religious.

Jesus, the True Shepherd, knows everything about you and He longs to be in a personal relationship with you. Jesus is calling you by your name. Can you slow down enough to hear Him? He wants to heal you of the wounds that were inflicted upon you by religious leaders who cared only about themselves. Since you were wounded in the context of relationships, your healing will also take place in the context of relationships. Only this time, Jesus will facilitate your healing in the context of loving relationships within His family. Are you willing to give Jesus a chance? He is waiting to hear from you. He will not force His way into your life. His love gives you the freedom to choose. You can choose to do life on your own or you can invite Jesus to be a part of your healing journey. I pray you will choose Jesus.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, my True Shepherd, I am so glad You called me by my name after I gave up on religion. I was disillusioned by the hypocrisy of the religious establishment that I grew up in. I perceived You to be a cold and distant deity because of my experiences with religious leaders. I was taught that God is love but I was bad, and I had to try harder to follow Him if I was going to make it to heaven. The good in my life had to be much greater than the bad if I was going to be accepted by You. Even though I thought I was too bad for anyone to love me, including You, You still pursued me and called me by my name. Thank You for never giving up on me, Lord Jesus. I am so grateful that Your Word exposed the many lies that kept me from trusting You as my True Shepherd. Thank You for Your people who loved me despite my many failures and sins. Knowing how much You love me enabled me to trust You for life that never ends. Now I want You to use me to share Your love with those who have given up on religion because of the wounds inflicted upon them by religious establishments. Please help them to discover that You are the True Shepherd Who knows them intimately and wants them to know You in the same way. In Your powerful and loving name I pray. Amen.

How can I trust the Lord Jesus as the True Shepherd? Part 1

“But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.” John 10:2

Throughout Israel’s history, false shepherds have mistreated the people of God (Ezekiel 34:2-6). These shepherds only cared about themselves and neglected to care for the people God had placed in their care. They exploited the sheep instead of meeting their needs. Instead of gathering them safely together, they scattered God’s people, making them vulnerable to the enemies of God’s flock.

In view of Israel’s false shepherds, the Lord promised a faithful Shepherd who would care for His flock. That shepherd would be God Himself. 11 For thus says the Lord God: ‘Indeed I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out. 12 As a shepherd seeks out his flock on the day he is among his scattered sheep, so will I seek out My sheep and deliver them from all the places where they were scattered on a cloudy and dark day. 13 And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land; I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, in the valleys and in all the inhabited places of the country. 14 I will feed them in good pasture, and their fold shall be on the high mountains of Israel. There they shall lie down in a good fold and feed in rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. 15 I will feed My flock, and I will make them lie down,’ says the Lord God. 16 ‘I will seek what was lost and bring back what was driven away, bind up the broken and strengthen what was sick.’ ” (Ezekiel 34:11-16). These verses provide the background for John 10 where Jesus is introduced as the True Shepherd among the false shepherds of Israel called Pharisees.

Earlier in Matthew 9:36 we are told, “But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.” The Pharisees misused their spiritual authority and demanded that the people follow them instead of the Lord. In other words, the Pharisees were the contemporary false shepherds of Jesus’ day. They were persuaded that Jesus was a false Messiah and so they tried to convince the people of Israel to reject Christ. Christ came to demonstrate to the nation of Israel that He was the true Shepherd that God promised to send to the nation to lead them in paths of righteousness and bring them into their long-awaited kingdom. 

In chapter nine of John, the healing grace of Jesus was contrasted with the spiritual pride of the Pharisees. We observed the Pharisees (false shepherds) mistreat the sheep of God’s fold, particularly the man born blind. Instead of rejoicing when the man born blind was healed, they were more concerned that Jesus had violated their religious rules on the Sabbath (9:15-16). The Pharisees disbelieved the former blind man’s testimony (9:18) and kept trying to discredit him by repeatedly asking him how he was healed (9:15, 19, 26). They used their power to keep the people in fear, threatening them with excommunication if they confessed Jesus to be the Christ (9:22). They reviled or verbally abused the man born blind when he asked if they wanted to become Jesus’ disciples (9:28). When they could not overcome the man’s logic and the evidence of his miraculous healing, with arrogance they said to him, “You were completely born in sin, and are you teaching us?” (9:34). By asserting that this man’s blindness was due to specific sins in his life they intended to shame him into silence and discredit his testimony. These Pharisees were not faithful shepherds over the Lord’s flock.

The Pharisees replaced rest in Jesus with demands for spiritual performance. People under a Pharisaic system today can develop a distorted image of God. Instead of viewing God as someone they can trust, they do not trust God because they have been mistreated by God’s representatives known as spiritual leaders. In John 10:1-10, we will learn over the next few days how to trust the True Shepherd, Jesus Christ, who is on our side and not against us in contrast to the self-centered shepherds called the Pharisees. I CAN TRUST THE LORD JESUS AS THE TRUE SHEPHERD BECAUSE…

HE HAS PROPHETIC CREDENTIALS (John 10:1-2). Jesus had come to the fold in the way God said His Shepherd would come. Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.” (John 10:1). The apostle John begins Jesus’ teaching with no indication of a different audience or location. The words “Mostly assuredly, I say to you” usually follow up some previous teaching by Christ. So, it is important to understand that the events in John 9 are closely connected to what happens here in John 10.

At night, the sheep were herded into “the sheepfold,” a walled enclosure or pen that was partially roofed or in a cave. The pen had stout walls about four to six feet in height and one gate which was guarded by a door keeper. The door keeper allowed authorized people to enter through the gate, but he would prohibit unauthorized people to enter lest they try to harm or steal the sheep. The person who climbs over the walls instead of using the proper entrance is identified by Jesus as “a thief and a robber.”

We can make a distinction between a “thief” and a “robber.” A “thief” steals subtly and in secret. They break into your house when you are gone or when you are asleep and steal without you knowing it. Robbers are more aggressive. They hold you up at knifepoint and force you to give up your valuables. In both cases, they do not care about you. They want to use you for their own gain. The false shepherds of Israel, the Pharisees, were both cunning like a thief and oppressive like a robber toward the sheep of God. They cared only for themselves and not for God’s people.

In contrast to the thief and robber is the shepherd. “But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.” (John 10:2). Notice it says he is “the shepherd,” not “a shepherd.” The True Shepherd uses the lawful method of entry into the sheepfold. He uses the gate. “The door” or gate refers to the way God said the True Shepherd would enter the sheepfold of Israel.

Jesus came to the sheepfold in the way God predicted in the Old Testament:

– The Messiah would come from the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10).  

– The Messiah would be a descendant of David (Jeremiah 33:16-17).

– The Messiah would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2).

– The Messiah would be born to a virgin (Isaiah 7:14).

– The Messiah would come to Jerusalem after sixty-nine “weeks” of years  (483 years) from the time of the rebuilding of the temple in 444 B.C. (Daniel 9:24-27).

–  The Messiah would be presented to the nation of Israel through a forerunner (Malachi 3:1).

– The Messiah would give sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, and cause the lame to walk to authenticate His Messianic identity (Isaiah 35:5-6).

– The Messiah would be the Prophet greater than Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15).

– The Messiah would be a light to shine on the Gentiles (Isaiah 42:1-6).

There was a wealth of objective evidence which could be tested to determine if Jesus was indeed, the True Shepherd. Christ was inviting those who doubted the evidence to reconsider it. He wanted them to see if He had entered the sheepfold, the nation of Israel, the way God prophesied that He would come.

Math professor, Peter Stoner, in his book, Science Speaks, takes just eight Old Testament prophecies about Christ and asks, “What is the chance that any man might have lived from the day of these prophecies down to the present time [88 billion people later] and have fulfilled all eight?” He comes up with the answer of one in one hundred quadrillion or 10 17.

Then he helps us picture this huge number. If you take 10 17 silver dollars and spread them all over Texas, they would cover the entire state two feet deep. Mark one of the silver dollars, mix it into the whole, blindfold a man and tell him that he can go as far as he wants, but he must pick the one marked dollar. That is the same chance that Jesus could have fulfilled just eight Old Testament prophecies.” 1 The reality is that Jesus fulfilled over a hundred prophecies at His first coming!

A false shepherd could not fulfill the Old Testament Scripture to authenticate his claim to be the True Shepherd. In fact, many people have claimed to be the True Shepherd, but none of them came to the nation of Israel the way the Old Testament predicted. Only Jesus came to the nation of Israel the way God said He would come. This means that only Jesus is the True Shepherd who entered through Israel’s door as the Messiah-God!

Before you can believe that Jesus is the True Shepherd, you may need answers for your mind. The Old Testament prophesied how the True Shepherd would enter through the door of the sheepfold of Israel, and Jesus fulfilled all those prophecies. Did Mohammed, Buddha, or Confucius fulfill all of those Old Testament prophecies? Did anyone other than Jesus Christ fulfill all the Old Testament prophecies about the coming of the True Shepherd to Israel? No. Not even close. The evidence for Jesus coming the way God said He would is overwhelming! The question is, “Will you accept the evidence or reject it?”

The majority of Israel’s religious leaders rejected this prophetic evidence. They knew the Scriptures, but they were not willing to come to the Messiah-God of Whom the Scriptures testified (John 5:39-40). They were unwilling to admit their sinfulness and their need for the True Shepherd Who would lay down His life for His sheep. I pray you will not make the same mistake as those leaders did because the consequences are eternal (John 3:36b; Revelation 20:10, 15).

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for exposing the false shepherds in my past who cared only for themselves and not for the people they were entrusted to shepherd and point to You. Those hurtful religious experiences in my past distorted my view of You. Thank You for revealing Yourself to me through the Bible so I can begin to see You for Who You truly are. I am amazed by how many Old Testament prophecies You fulfilled at Your First Coming which indicates You came into the sheepfold the way God said You would! No other person in history can claim to fulfill all those Old Testament prophecies. Your prophetic credentials point to You as the True Shepherd, and therefore, I can trust You with my eternal life. In Your name I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTE:

1. Peter Stoner, Science Speaks: An Evaluation of Certain Christian Evidences, (Moody Press, 1953), pp. 99-112.