Receiving Life Freely – Part 5 (Video)

This is the fifth 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 fifth miracle of Jesus recorded in the gospel of John involving His miraculous walking on water (John 6:15-21).

The movie clip subtitles are from the Good News Translation. All other Scripture 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, Sweet Publishing / www.FreeBibleimages.org, Good News Productions International and College Press Publishing / www.FreeBibleimages.org, David Padfield / www.FreeBibleimages.org, The Edge Group and Lion Hudson Ltd. / www.FreeBibleimages.org, or they are creative common licenses. The Revelation Art is used by permission of Pat Marvenko Smith, copyright 1992. To order art prints visit her “Revelation Illustrated” site, http://www.revelationillustrated.com. The Gospel of John movie clip is used with permission from Jesus.net. You may view the entire Life of Jesus movie at https://jesus.net/the-life-of-jesus/.

How can we overcome fear in evangelism? Part 1

“Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.” John 16:7

Evangelist Larry Moyer writes, “If most of us were honest, we would admit we enjoy evangelism the most when:

• The person we plan to talk to is not home.

• God allows us to do the praying and someone else to do the talking.

• The individual we are approaching has laryngitis and therefore, it would be impolite to ask him about his relationship with Christ.

• The waitress explains to our friend that she has a phone call just as we are preparing to approach her about spiritual things.

• We unintentionally oversleep the morning of our breakfast appointment with a non-Christian.

• As soon as we approach an individual about spiritual things, he tells us he is a Christian and we of course do not want to insult him by telling him what he probably already knows.” 1

The reason for these responses is one four-letter word – FEAR. Fear does more to hinder our witness for Jesus Christ than any other single thing. As Christians, it’s not that we don’t want to share Christ with others. I believe most believers would love to lead someone to the Lord. Think about this for a moment: What would happen if each of us led someone to Jesus Christ this Christmas season? Wouldn’t that be exciting?! To see the church grow exponentially as the gospel goes out from here and changes peoples’ lives. Nothing would bless your church more than to see new believers sitting next to you because you had the courage to share Christ with them.

But it is not going to happen until we overcome this fear of sharing our faith with others. Before we talk about how to do that, let me address two things. First, if you are afraid to evangelize, raise your right hand above your head. (Pause). Now put your hand behind your head. Now pat yourself on the back. You are normal. It is normal to be afraid in evangelism. After all the apostle Paul was afraid to evangelize. When entering the city of Corinth to evangelize, Paul admits, “I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling” (I Corinthians 2:3).  I’ve been sharing Christ with others for over thirty-five years and I still get butterflies in my stomach before I approach a non-Christian about spiritual things. So it is normal to be afraid in evangelism.

Second, the issue is overcoming fear, not removing it. I believe this side of heaven, there will always be times of fear. In Ephesians 6:19, Paul asked, “Pray for me, that the power to speak may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel” (MEV). Why did Paul ask for prayer for boldness? Because he still struggled with fear. When Paul wrote this prayer request for boldness, he was a prisoner in Rome. He already had many years of evangelistic experiences planting churches. Yet he understood, that moments of fear will always be there. Yet he shared Christ constantly not because he was never afraid, but because he learned to overcome his fear with boldness.

How can we overcome fear in evangelism? For the next few days, Lord willing, we will look atJohn 16:5-15 where we will discover some principles for overcoming fear in evangelism. The last time in the gospel of John, we saw Jesus forewarn His disciples of the world’s coming hostility and persecution of them (15:18-16:4). The disciples were now preoccupied with their own problems in the future and none of them were concerned about Jesus’ future. Christ wanted them to bear witness of Him to an increasingly hostile world. How eager would you be to speak up for Christ if your audience was likely to mistreat you, imprison you, or even kill you? Being stricken with fear is understandable with that kind of a warning from Christ (John 15:18-16:4).

If we want to overcome fear in evangelism GRASP THAT YOU ARE NOT ALONE WHEN YOU WITNESS (John 16:5-7), because God the Holy Spirit is with you and in you always. Jesus told His disciples, “But now I go away to Him who sent Me, and none of you asks Me, ‘Where are You going?’” (John 16:5).Peter had asked this question earlier (John 13:36), but then he was only concerned about how Jesus’ departure would affect him. Peter and the other disciples did not understand the significance of Jesus’ departure at this time. They did not realize Christ would have to suffer and die and be resurrected before ascending to heaven to be with His Father. Like the disciples, we tend to think only of ourselves instead of others when we are facing trouble. 2

Next Christ said, “But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart.” (John 16:6). Understandably, “sorrow” filled the disciples’ hearts at the news of Jesus’ departure and their coming persecution and there was room for nothing else in their hearts. 3 To the disciples, Jesus’ departure and their upcoming persecution, was an awful disaster in the making and they were deeply distressed by this. Parting is painful especially when you are very dependent on the person leaving. The disciples depended on Jesus for guidance, instruction, protection and provisions, and now He was leaving them, and they would be hated by the world. We would have felt the same way.

Perhaps we would try to hide our sadness, but we would still feel the sense of loss. We can hide our grief and pain from each other, but not from the Lord Jesus. He knows our hurts and He wants to offer comfort to us.

Jesus then offers hope to His hurting disciples, “Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.” (John 16:7).This is a reality check – “I tell you the truth…” Jesus says. It may feel bad, but let’s do a reality check. In reality, Jesus’ departure (His death, resurrection, and ascension) would be profitable and beneficial to the disciples and to all of us! What “advantage” would Jesus’ departure give to the disciples?

First, Jesus’ return to the Father meant He would send  “the Helper,” the Holy Spirit, to indwell all believers everywhere forever (cf. John 14:16-17, 26; 15:26). Evans observes, “The Father sent the Son into the world (see 3:17), and the Son would send the Spirit into the world (16:7). Thus, the Trinitarian God is at work, each Person carrying out the next phase of His kingdom program. The coming of the Holy Spirit would benefit the disciples because his presence would not be physically limited (as Jesus’s was). He would dwell within each of them (14:17) and go with them wherever they traveled (see Eph. 1:22, 23).” 4

Jesus’ stay with them was temporary, but the Holy Spirit’s stay would be permanent. They would never be alone again! And nor shall we if we have believed in Christ for everlasting life and received the Holy Spirit at that moment of faith (John 7:37-39; Romans 8:9, 11, 13; Galatians 3:2, 26-27; Ephesians 1:13-14).

Second, as long as Jesus was with them in Person, His work would be localized, and it would be impossible for Him to communicate with them equally at all times and in all places. But the coming “Helper” would equip them for a wider and more powerful ministry! There is no place they could go where the Holy Spirit would not be with and in them.

For example, in Matthew 10, when the disciples were sent out to minister, it was necessary for them to be separated from Christ. Jesus could not physically accompany them in their ministry everywhere they went. If Jesus had remained on earth with them, He would not be able to accompany them to all the places God would lead them. But the Holy Spirit could. He would indwell them and empower them to reveal Jesus to a much greater extent than Christ would have done if He had remained with them.

This is why Jesus could promise His followers who go out into the world to make disciples, “And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20b). There is no place we can go on earth where Jesus is not with us through the indwelling Holy Spirit. His presence can overcome our fears.

Third, while Jesus was on earth, the disciples were sometimes afraid (cf. Mark 14:50; John 6:20), but after the coming of the Holy Spirit they testified of Jesus with great confidence and boldness (cf. Acts 2:14-47; 3:11-26; 4:5-31; 5:1-11, 28-32, 40-42; et al.).  If the disciples got their way, there would be no gospel because Jesus would not have died and rose from the dead. There would be no payment for our sins. If Jesus had not departed, there would have been no glorified Lord to send the Holy Spirit to apply Jesus’ death and resurrection to peoples’ hearts. The Holy Spirit’s coming depended on Jesus’ petition to the Father to send the Spirit. Christ could not ask the Father to send the Spirit until He had returned to the Father. Without the Holy Spirit, it would be like Old Testament days when the Spirit’s indwelling presence was temporary. With all things considered, believers today are more privileged spiritually than those who lived and walked with Jesus in the first century. 5

Knowing we are not alone when we share the gospel with unbelievers can replace our fear with boldness. Through the Holy Spirit, we have a power that is not our own. God’s power is manifested as we begin to share the truth of Jesus’ death and resurrection!

Many times, before I share the gospel with people, I have fears streaming through my mind: “What will they think? How will they respond? Will they reject the message and me? Will I be able to answer their questions or objections?” Knowing the Holy Spirit is with me and in me to give me the words to speak, calms my fears. After warning His disciples of severe persecution, Jesus told them,  19 But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; 20 for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.” (Matthew 10:19-20). Believing Christ’s promise can dissolve our fears in evangelism.

A few years ago when we were speaking at a church in the USA, I was very nervous about sharing the gospel with the congregation because I knew that the beliefs of this particular denomination were much different than ours. Hence, I spent additional time in prayer beforehand asking the Lord to guide me and empower me. That morning, God the Holy Spirit directed me to share from Acts 16:25-31 about what the Bibles says to do to get to heaven if we only have 60 seconds to live.

At the end of the message, I gave a gospel invitation, and about 10-12 adult leaders raised their hands indicating that they were now trusting in Christ alone as their only hope of heaven. After the service, three or four people came up to me, thanking me for sharing this message with them. They told me they used to think that going to heaven was based on their works, but now they were resting in the finished work of Christ. Others said no one had ever told them God cared about their eternal destiny, but now they know He does, and they were trusting Christ to get them to heaven. After talking with these people, I bowed my heart before the Lord, thanking Him and His Spirit for His guidance and power to share this message. All the glory goes to Him!

Prayer: Lord Jesus, Your words offer such hope and empowerment as we go out into a hostile world to share Your life-giving gospel message. Thank You for not leaving us alone when You ascended to the Father in heaven. Thank You for God the Holy Spirit Who indwells us permanently the moment we believe in You for Your gift of everlasting life. I appreciate being reminded that it is normal to feel afraid in evangelism. The goal is not to remove the fear, but to overcome fear with Holy Spirit-driven boldness as we yield to Him. Thank You for giving us everything we need to be effective in sharing Your gospel message with a broken and hostile world. Knowing that there is nowhere we can go without Your Spirit accompanying us gives us great peace and power to share Your death and resurrection without shame or fear to a world that is perishing! Please open the door for us to boldly and compassionately share Your life-giving gospel message with as many people as possible while there is still time. In Your mighty name I pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. R. Larry Moyer, Larry Moyer’s How-To Book On Personal Evangelism (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1998), pg. 53.

2. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 287.

3. The word for “filled,” peplērōken, is a perfect indicative active verb and conveys the idea that there was room for nothing else in the disciples’ hearts – Ibid.

4.  Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B&H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1809.

5. Laney, pg. 288.

How can we calm our troubled hearts in a chaotic world? Part 1

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” John 14:26

Fear is a normal human response. It is a part of every person’s life – perhaps more so in some people than others – but still everyone has to deal with fear at some time. There are many things that can cause unexpected fear to grip our hearts. The nuclear build up in North Korea has caused nations to fear the possibility of the use of nuclear weapons. Parents fear for the safety of their children with so many reports in the news of people who would want to harm them. We are afraid to leave our homes unlocked, or to walk in the dark at night. We fear failure so we scramble to meet our tight schedules, duties and obligations. Many people are afraid of COVID-19 which may take their health, their job, or a loved one. And where there is fear, there is no peace.

Earlier in John 14 Jesus told His disciples, “Let not your heart be troubled” (John 14:1a). The word “troubled” (tarássō) in the Greek is a picture of a stormy sea. Has that ever happened to you?  Have you ever had a heart that just feels like there is a storm surging inside of you? You talk to it, you tell it things, you read it Scripture, and you bring it to church. But the storm just keeps stirring inside of you.

Jesus understood that a storm was surging in the hearts of His disciples. Their hearts were troubled. Why? The same reasons our hearts are often troubled. They had troubled hearts because of failure. Remember what Jesus had said just before this? He had just looked at Peter and said, “Peter, you think you are going to follow Me even if you have to lay your life down for My sake?! No. You are going to deny knowing Me three times” (John 13:38). Christ had also told them that one of them would betray Him (13:21). So their hearts were troubled.

The disciples were also troubled by confusion. Not knowing what God is going to do next can be very troubling to us. Or not knowing why the circumstance is happening. Jesus was talking about going somewhere else and His disciples not being able to go with Him (John 13:33, 36). That was confusing. The disciples’ world was turning into chaos.

It was also very disappointing. They had a dream. When they marched into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday they waved palm branches, dreaming that Jesus was going to stay in Jerusalem to sit on the Davidic throne to rule over Israel and the entire world. And they would sit next to Jesus as His right-hand men, right? But Jesus was saying, “I’m going somewhere, and you can’t go with Me.”What does that mean?” the disciples must have wondered. “Is Jesus not going to be our King? Or He is going to be King and we are not going to be His right-hand men?” So they are very disappointed. Their dream is being shattered this very night. God’s got a different dream than their dream. Their dream seemed to be turning into a nightmare.

They also faced fear. The fear of not knowing what would happen next. The fear of the Roman Empire persecuting them. They knew that the Jews were plotting to kill Jesus. The disciples were afraid of losing their beloved Shepherd.

All of these things combined to give them troubled hearts. Jesus could see this in their eyes and in their hearts. He then begins to share truths with them to calm their troubled hearts. Jesus can also see what is troubling us.

How do you deal with what is troubling your heart? Do you ignore it? Do you pretend it is not there and that everything is going to be okay? Do you hide from the storm that is stirring in your heart? There are many ways to hide from it. We can hide from our troubled hearts in alcohol, drugs, and sexual relations. We can even hide from our heart trouble by staying busy at work. Or we bury ourselves in a book, in the computer, or in the television. We hide from our heart trouble because we do not want to face it. But is that the best strategy?

No, for the next few days Jesus will teach us truths to calm our troubled hearts. We can calm our troubled hearts by focusing on THE PROMISE OF INSIGHT FROM THE HOLY SPIRIT (John 14:25-26). Christ said to His eleven believing disciples, “These things I have spoken to you while being present with you.” (John 14:25). The phrase “these things,” refers back to Jesus going away to a place where the disciples could not follow now (John 13:33). He would go prepare a place for them in heaven (John 14:1-3) and while He was gone the Holy Spirit would permanently indwell them (John 14:16-17). The idea in verse 25 was that Jesus was physically “present with” them now, but that would soon change because of His departure. Christ now speaks about the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” (John 14:26). This verse identifies “the Helper,” the One called alongside to help, as the “Holy Spirit.” We observe in this verse that the Holy Spirit is closely related to God the Father and God the Son. The Father had sent Jesus to reveal Himself and now He is sending the Holy Spirit in Jesus’ “name.” The phrase “in My name” means in Jesus’ place and for Him. In this one verse we see all three Persons of the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (cf. Matthew 28:20; John 14:16; 15:26).

The Holy Spirit will continue the teaching and work of Jesus Christ after Christ’s departure. Jesus promises that the Spirit “will teach you all things” that you need to know. We see that the Holy Spirit is not an impersonal force. He is a Person because He teaches. The Holy Spirit would provide insight into the meaning of Jesus’ teaching. He would cause Christ’s disciples to understand those aspects of Christ’s instruction that had remained beyond their comprehension. The disciples did not fully understand all of Jesus’ teaching at this time, especially concerning His going away, that is, His death and resurrection.

In addition, Jesus promised that the Spirit will “bring to” their “remembrance all things that” He taught them. It is likely they would forget the things they did not understand. We do that, too, don’t we? If we don’t understand something, we tend to let it slip away from our memory. But God wants us to rely on the Holy Spirit to give us understanding and remembrance. Jesus is telling us that the Holy Spirit will supply what we lack.

Did you ever wonder how John remembered all those things that Jesus said in the Upper Room? The Holy Spirit reminded him. The Holy Spirit would remind the disciples of the precise things Jesus had spoken to them. The Spirit would not start teaching something contrary to what Jesus taught. He would cause the disciples to recall Christ’s exact teaching, so they could write it down years later to form the New Testament Scriptures. The Holy Spirit would not only bring to their remembrance exactly what Jesus said, but He would also teach them what Jesus meant. When the apostles wrote the New Testament, the Holy Spirit empowered them to remember precisely what Jesus had said so that it was without error in the original manuscripts (cf. 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:21; 3:15-16). These verses provide a strong argument for the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible.

This truth was not limited to the apostles back then. “The Spirit also helps believers today, enabling us to recall Scripture at the appropriate time and helping us to understand its meaning and its application to our lives, as He activates ‘the mind of Christ’ in us (1 Cor 2:10-16).” 1 There is comfort, strength, and hope in the Holy Spirit’s ministry to us when we are troubled.

The Holy Spirit continues His teaching ministry today by enlightening Christ’s followers as they study Jesus’ teachings. The Spirit of God knows and understands the deep things of God (cf. I Corinthians 2:10-16). He is to be the true Guide and Teacher of every believer, with human teachers serving in a secondary role (cf. 1 John 2:27). 2

Before I got saved, the Bible did not make much sense to me. It seemed like a boring text book. But when I came to faith in Jesus Christ at the age of nineteen, the Bible came alive because of the teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit in my life. God’s Spirit provides direction for His church through His Word. He will not contradict God’s Word. If we let Him, He will lead us into a better understanding of the Bible. So many times, I come to God’s Word not knowing what is meant and I ask the Holy Spirit to help me understand and He does. Sometimes He uses other believers to give me more insight into His Word and sometimes He fills my mind with insight as I study.

We are told in I John 2:27, “But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.”“The anointing” or Holy Spirit is a sufficient Teacher. As we grow in our spiritual lives, we become less dependent on human teachers. Do not always take what a pastor or teacher says as truth without checking it out in the Bible. Learn to depend on the Holy Spirit for insight, not human teachers. Many times, churches have a pastor or teacher move on and as a result, God’s people flounder because they were depending too much on that pastor or teacher for insight instead of the Holy Spirit. When our hearts are troubled, we must depend more on the Holy Spirit for comprehending and applying God’s Word to our lives. The Spirit’s insight into the Bible can calm the storm in our hearts.

I heard one preacher say that “the Holy Spirit is like a personal trainer in our lives. He’s not some video that you watch on TV where you find out how. He actually comes into our lives to be a personal, spiritual trainer. You know how you want to have discipline and do it on your own but if you could just get a personal trainer to come alongside you to encourage and tell you what to do? Wouldn’t that make it easier? Jesus is saying, that’s what the Holy Spirit is. So when you’re trying to pray and it’s like push-ups – You can’t do any more. The Holy Spirit comes alongside and says, ‘I’ll help you out. I’ll even pray for you.’ And He does” (cf. Romans 8:26-27).3 

When we feel so discouraged to the point of wanting to quit living for Christ, the Holy Spirit comes along side and He helps us and He encourages us in our hearts where we most need Him. Jesus said that is Whom My Father will send to you (John 14:26a).

May I suggest that you take time this week to read John 14:1-31 right before going to sleep. Then set your Bible aside, turn off the light, and go to sleep. Review the verses in your mind as you fall asleep. See what the Holy Spirit does for your heart the next morning as you put His word in your heart.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, we thank You that You understand us. You know what it is like to have a troubled heart. You did the night before Your crucifixion. And we praise You, Jesus, for giving us answers when we talk to You in prayer. We are so grateful we can talk to You about anything. Father God, thank You for sending the Holy Spirit so we are not left alone. Holy Spirit, we praise You for helping us remember Scripture at the appropriate time and for giving us understanding so we can apply Your Word to our lives. Lord God, when we look at the trouble in our lives and what it does to our hearts, the storms that it brings, there is part of us that thinks nothing can calm them. But we put our faith in You and Your Word right now. Thank You in advance, Holy Spirit, for the insight You will give to us that can calm our troubled hearts. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tony Evans; CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1804.

2. Tom Constable, Notes on John, 2015 Edition, pp. 253-254.

3. Tom Holladay’s message, “Calming Your Troubled Heart” – John 14:1-27, May 29, 1996.

How can we overcome the fear of abandonment? Part 3

“He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.” John 14:21

So far we have learned that the way to overcome the fear of abandonment is to focus on…

– The promise of another Helper, God the Holy Spirit (John 14:15-16).

– The permanent indwelling of the Spirit of truth (John 14:17-18).

The third way we can overcome the fear of abandonment is by focusing on THE PROSPECT OF LOVE FROM THE FATHER AND THE SON TO THOSE WHO OBEY (John 14:19-24). Jesus says to His eleven believing disciples, “A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also.” (John 14:19). Jesus says that “a little while longer” when He goes to the Father’s house after His death and resurrection (cf. John 13:33, 36; 14:2-3; Acts 1:9-11) “the world will see” Him “no more,” but His disciples will see Him through the revealing ministry of the Holy Spirit. Just as Jesus had revealed the Father, so the Holy Spirit will reveal Christ (cf. John 15:26; 16:14, 16). The coming of the Holy Spirit would be evidence that Jesus was alive and in heaven with His Father (John 16:7).

When Jesus said, “Because I live, you will live also,” He was saying that His bodily resurrection would guarantee the bodily resurrection of all believers in the future (cf. I Corinthians 15:1-58; I Thessalonians 4:14-17). Since Christ rose from the dead and had conquered sin and the grave, He could share His resurrection life with His followers through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit would connect them to the Trinitarian God.

Christ explains, “At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.” (John 14:20). “At that day” when the Holy Spirit comes at Pentecost (Acts 2), the disciples will know by experience the indwelling of the Trinitarian God: “I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.” Through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, Christ would live in them and the disciples would “see” Him (John 14:19).

Because the Holy Spirit would soon indwell His disciples, Jesus anticipated a new intimacy with them. “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.” (John 14:21). Observe the progression in this verse – “has… keeps… loves Me.” Before we can “keep” Christ’s commandments, we must “have” them. In order to “have” Jesus’ commandments, we must spend time with Him to be aware of what He has said.

When a believer “keeps” or obeys the Lord’s commandments, God the Father and God the Son will “love” him or her more intimately and Jesus will “manifest” or reveal more of Himself to them. God’s love is not static or unchanging. It is a growing experience in our relationship with the Lord. “God so loved the world” (John 3:16), but He also loves the obedient believer in a special sense (John 14:21, 23; cf. 13:23). God rewards obedience with a special experience of His love. Hence, when a believer obeys, Christ will reveal more of Himself to him or her leading to a deeper intimacy with the Father and the Son.

“If you listen to a radio station in your car, you know that the further you get from the broadcast station, the worse your reception of the signal gets. Many people have difficulty connecting with God because they’ve wandered too far away to pick up his signal. But if you come back home in obedience, relating to God through Christ in love, He will disclose more of Himself to you.” 1

“Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, ‘Lord, how is it that You will manifest Yourself to us, and not to the world?’ ” (John 14:22). “Judas,” the son of James (Luke 6:16; Acts 1:13), expected Jesus to manifest His Davidic rule to the world. He was looking for a political and physical manifestation of Christ. But Jesus was referring to a spiritual manifestation through the Holy Spirit.

“Jesus answered and said to him, ‘If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.’ ” (John 14:23). Christ would only reveal Himself to those who loved Him by keeping His “word.” Not only would the Holy Spirit take up residence in them, but so would God the Father and God the Son. The reality of the Father and Son indwelling a believer was conditioned upon obedience. This is a picture of fellowship or closeness with the Godhead – “and We will come to him and make Our home with him.” The issue here is not salvation. A believer’s disobedience does not take away salvation. Christ is talking about discipleship in this verse. The more we love and obey the Lord, the more we will enjoy close fellowship with the Trinitarian God.

The word “home” (monḗ) is the same word Jesus used of the “many mansions” in the Father’s house in heaven (John 14:2). The link between verse 2 and verse 23 is that the current dwelling of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit in an obedient believer’s life is a foretaste of God’s dwelling with us and in us in His eternal kingdom on the new earth (Revelation 21:1-3). 2 “Salvation means we are going to heaven, but submission means that heaven comes to us!” 3  Notice that the indwelling of the Holy Spirit was not based upon obedience, but upon belief in Christ (cf. John 7:37-39).

Christ then said, “He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me.” (John 14:24). If there is no love for Jesus, there is no obedience. Love to the apostle John is not an abstract emotion, but an action. Those who disobey Christ will miss out on knowing Him more intimately. Their relationship with Him will be more superficial. If you disagree with Jesus, He informs you that you also disagree with His Father who “sent”Him because Jesus’ teaching originated from His Father in heaven.

How many of you are married? How many of you believe you know your spouse better today than you did on your wedding day? How did that come about? Through shared time and experience and communication. Jesus says if we keep His commandments, He will “manifest”or reveal more of Himself to us (John 14:21, 23). This is much like a friendship with another person. Through shared time and experience, the person opens up to you in a more intimate way. Also, as we obey Jesus, we will experience God the Father’s and God the Son’s love for us in a deeper way. So to know God intimately is to know His love more intimately since “God is love”(I John 4:8). If we are not developing a more intimate relationship with Jesus, it is probably because we are not living in obedience to Him. If that is the case, simply confess your sin to God (I John 1:9) and trust Christ to help you obey Him.

A story in Leadership magazine illustrates how the Holy Spirit can help us when we feel all alone. “Jackie Robinson was the first black to play major league baseball. Breaking baseball’s color barrier, he faced jeering crowds in every stadium. While playing one day in his home stadium in Brooklyn, he committed an error. The fans began to ridicule him. He stood at second base, humiliated, while the fans jeered. Then, shortstop Pee Wee Reese came over and stood next to him. He put his arm around Jackie Robinson and faced the crowd. The fans grew quiet. Robinson later said that arm around his shoulder saved his career.” 4

How often has our Helper, the Holy Spirit, given us the support we needed when we felt abandoned and all alone? Maybe we were discouraged and ready to quit, but then we sensed His comforting presence. Or perhaps He gave us the support we needed through a Christian friend. Jesus wants us to know that we can be certain the Holy Spirit is always standing alongside, ready and able to help. If you have the Holy Spirit on the inside, you can stand any battle on the outside.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for the free gift of everlasting life which is received simply by believing in You alone. But to enjoy deeper fellowship with You, I must obey Your commands. Lord, You know my heart better than anyone, including myself. You know that I like to be in control because I feel so vulnerable when I am not. Because I long to know You and Your love more intimately, I want to surrender all control to You. Right now, I voluntarily surrender everyone and everything to You, my Lord and my God. The more I love and obey You, the more I can experience closeness with You, the Father, and the Holy Spirit. Thank You for disclosing more of Yourself to me as I live for You. Although I sin every day, Your shed blood on the cross makes it possible for me to enjoy close fellowship with You the moment I confess my sins to You (I John 1:7, 9). Thank You for Your cleansing truth and grace. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tony Evans; CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B&H Publishing Group: Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1803.

2. Robert N. Wilkin, “The Gospel According to John,” The Grace New Testament Commentary, Vol. 1: Matthew – Acts (Denton, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 2010), pg. 446.

3. Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, Vol 1 (Wheaton: Scripture Press, Victor Books, 1989), pg. 353.

4. https://bible.org/illustration/2-timothy-18.

How can we respond to those who refuse to believe in Christ? Part 4

“42 Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” John 12:42-43

The people to whom Jesus spoke had important decisions to make before Christ was crucified.  We are learning from Jesus’ response to this crowd how we can respond to those who refuse to believe in Christ. So far we have discovered we must…

– Challenge them to seek God while there is time (John 12:34-35).

– Counsel them to believe in Christ while there is time (12:36).

– Contemplate the Scriptures’ explanation for their unbelief (John 12:37-41).

The fourth way to respond to those who refuse to believe in Christ is to CONSIDER THAT SOME ARE SECRET BELIEVERS (John 12:42-43; cf. 7:50; 19:38-39). John does not want to leave us with the impression that none of the Jewish leaders believed. “Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue.” (John 12:42). Although much of the nation of Israel was spiritually blind, “many” of its rulers believed in Christ for His gift of salvation. They became “sons of light” (John 12:36). But now they tragically refuse to walk in the light of fellowship with Christ. They choose not to “confess Him” to others because they are afraid of being “put out of the synagogue.” They were not willing to follow Jesus’ example of enduring trials to glorify God. Why did they refuse to openly identify with Christ?

For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” (John 12:43). Because they cared more about what people thought of them instead of what God thought of them. They were people-pleasers, not God-pleasers. They chose to walk in the darkness by refusing to confess Christ before others. They wanted the approval of men more than the approval of God. Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea were like this (cf. John 7:50; 19:38-39).

Does this sound familiar to you? We do not want to speak up for Christ because we are afraid of what people will think or do to us. When we refuse to openly tell others about Jesus’ saving grace, we are no longer walking in the light. We are hiding in the darkness because we are ashamed of the precious cleansing blood of Jesus Christ. When we turn away from God to please people, we are telling God, “I don’t want Your praise, Father. I don’t need it!” In other words, we are out of fellowship with God (cf. I John 4:15).

God’s praise and opinion of us is more valuable than anyone else’s. God is the most important Person in a believer’s life. What matters the most is what He thinks of us, not what other people think of us. We cannot have everyone’s approval anyway. Trying to only makes our lives worse. There are believers working extremely hard to please others in the church, or more often than not, they are still trying to please their own parents. They are not trying to please God. God does not put those kinds of standards on us. God has not called us to serve others in a way that wears us out. He has not called us to do it all. He has called us to only do our part. We need each other to do our part.

The verb “confess” (hōmologoun) is not just telling others about our conversion, it also refers to calling upon the name of Jesus publicly when praying or seeking deliverance (Romans 10:9-15). It involves experiencing Jesus’ presence and power to save us from the power of sin in our lives!

It is important to understand that confessing Christ before others is not a condition for receiving eternal life. Only believing in Jesus is necessary for salvation from hell (John 3:14-18, 36; 6:40, 47; 11:25-26; Acts 16:31; Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 2:8-9; I Timothy 1:16; I John 5:1, 13). God can see our faith in Christ alone apart from any good works or outward manifestation (Romans 3:21-4:5; Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:4-7).

But confessing Christ before others is necessary to grow in our Christian lives. Romans 10:9-10 is referring to believing in your heart “unto righteousness” which is justification (Romans 3:21-5:9a) and confessing with your mouth for salvation from the present-day wrath of God (Romans 1:16-32; 5:9-10) which is sanctification (Romans 5:9b-8:39). Failure to confess Christ before others now, will result in the loss of eternal rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ, particularly, the loss of ruling with Christ in the world to come (Matthew 10:32-39; Matthew 25:21; 2 Timothy 2:12).

Loving “the praise of men more than the praise of God” now will result in forfeiting the praise of Jesus at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Jesus said, 32 Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. 33 But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 10:32-33). If we confess or publicly identify with Christ before people now regardless of the cost, Jesus will give us a good confession before His Father in heaven when we stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ (e.g. “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord,” Matthew 25:21). But if we deny Jesus our confession of Him before people now, He will “deny” us a good confession before His Father in heaven at the Judgment Seat of Christ (e.g. “You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest,” Matthew 25:26-27).

In summary, when people do not seem to believe in Christ when we share the gospel with them, keep in mind that they may be secret believers. They have truly believed in Jesus for His gift of eternal life, but because they love the praise of people more than the praise of God, they are not willing to make their faith in Christ known to others yet. Continue to meet with them and disciple them. As they grow in their new relationship with Jesus, they will learn to put Him first in their lives instead of the opinions of other people. Pleasing Jesus will become their top priority so that their fear of people will fade away.

Prayer: Father God, I want nothing more than to hear Jesus give me a good confession before You in heaven when I stand before His Judgment Seat. So many believers in the world are afraid to make their faith in Christ known to others because they are afraid of the consequences. They still have everlasting life, but they will lose rewards in heaven if they value the praise of men more than the praise of God. There have been times when I was ashamed to confess Jesus before the unsaved for fear of rejection or persecution. Please forgive me for thinking only of myself instead of You. I pray Your Holy Spirit will stir up the warrior in me that will boldly proclaim Christ to a lost world regardless of the cost. Use me, Father God, to equip and empower Christians around the world to boldly make Jesus known so they will receive His praise when they give an account of their lives to Him in heaven. In Jesus’ most precious name I pray. Amen.

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.  

Where to turn when we are weak and afraid

“Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them: for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6

To prepare the new generation of Israelites to enter the Promised Land, Moses presented Joshua to the nation as God’s chosen leader who would take over the leadership of Israel very soon (Deut. 31:1-5). He charged the people to “be strong and of good courage” and to “not fear nor be afraid of” the pagan nations who inhabited the Promised Land (31:6a). Why? “For the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you ” (31:6b). Israel’s strength and courage was based upon God’s continual presence, promises, and power in their lives.

Where do we look for strength when we are weak? Where do we turn when we are overwhelmed with fear? Today’s verse encourages us to look to “the One who goes with” us. God is always with us even though we may not believe or feel His presence at times, especially when we are overwhelmed with our enemies (i.e. Satan, the world, and our own sinful flesh).  Just because others have abandoned us or rejected us does not mean God is like them. He promises never to abandon  (“leave”) us or reject (“forsake”) us. And He never breaks His promises because He cannot lie (cf. Titus 1:2). The Lord has an endless supply of strength and courage to give us in our time of need.

It may be difficult for us to admit when we are weak and afraid, but God already knows this about us. It does not take Him by surprise. So let’s lower our guard and let our good good Father comfort and strengthen us with His unwavering presence and promises. Remember, 1 + God = a majority so there is no reason to be afraid or overwhelmed by the battles we face.

“The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (Psalm 118:6). The Psalmist reminds us thatGod watches our back when we are doing His work. Since no one is more powerful than God, we don’t have to be afraid of what people think or do. For example, in between my second and third year of seminary, I had an evangelism internship in the inner city of Dallas, Texas. I would go house to house or apartment to apartment sharing the gospel with pimps, prostitutes, drug dealers, and addicts. Knowing that my heavenly Father was on my side and would not abandon me, emboldened me to go to some “shady” places. God was faithful to give me the strength and courage needed to share His gospel message with whomever would listen.Prayer: Abba Father, I can be strong (not weak) and courageous (not afraid) in the presence of my enemies because You are always with me and will never abandon me nor reject me. Please lead me to victory over my enemies so the world may know that You alone are God and are worthy of all praise! My hope is in You and Your unfailing presence in my life. I pray Your Spirit will renew my mind with the truth that says one plus God is always a majority. With You in my life, I can never be outnumbered by my enemies. Therefore, there is no need to be afraid. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Facing fear with faith

“The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid.” Psalm 27:1

What daunting challenge are you facing or about to face? Some of you are about to take final exams in school or in life. Perhaps you or a family member is facing a terminal illness. Maybe some of us are looking for a new place to live or work. Perhaps God has called you to serve in a capacity that exposes your inadequacies and insecurities. Whatever challenges we are facing, I believe Psalm 27 offers us unending encouragement. 

The writer of this Psalm, King David, is facing a difficult circumstance. Some Bible students think he wrote this when he was fleeing from his son, Absalom (cf. 2 Sam. 15:1-37; 17:15-29). Imagine having to run for your life to avoid being killed by your own rebellious adult child? This may have been David’s challenge when he wrote this Psalm.

Instead of choosing to respond with fear, David chose to respond with faith in the One who is the source of his hope (“light”), deliverance (“salvation”), and “strength.” Notice the personal pronoun “my” in this verse. The Lord was not just “a” source of hope and deliverance to David, He was his source of hope and deliverance. David’s relationship with God was personal and dynamic.

What about your relationship with the Lord? Is God simply a theological thought or idea to you? Is He just a distant and uncaring deity? May be you think God is a figment of the human imagination or a superstitious “crutch” for those who need a coping mechanism? But for David, God was a personal Savior Who offers unwavering hope and strength to those who will look to Him in faith? Can you say that the Lord is your light and your salvation, and the strength of your life? If not, what is keeping you from saying that?

If you are not in a relationship with the Lord, please understand that God has revealed Himself to us in the Bible. If you want to know what God is like, read the Bible with an open mind like you would read a newspaper. The Bible is God’s love letter to us. God longs to have a personal relationship with us. But He will not force Himself into our lives. He is waiting for us to come to Him just as we are, and He will welcome us into His family and give us everlasting life (John 1:12; 3:16; 6:35). All He asks is that we believe in His perfect Son, Jesus Christ, Who died on the cross for all our sins and rose from the dead (I Cor. 15:1-5) to give us everlasting life (John 3:14-16).

When God is my light, my salvation, and my strength, there is no one and nothing for me to fear or be afraid of. Why? Because one plus God is always a majority. Since God is for me and not against me (cf. Rom. 8:31), no one and nothing can successfully oppose me. Therefore, there is no need for me to live in fear.

Let’s remember that fear takes us to places that do not exist. It either takes us to a past that is over or to a future that has not happened yet. Neither of these places can bring peace to our lives.

A wise man once told me, “In Jesus we have nothing to prove, nothing to lose, and nothing to hide.” Let that sink in for a moment. Since in Jesus, I have nothing to prove, there is no need for me to live in fear of failure. And because in Jesus, I have nothing to lose, there is no need for me to live in fear of abandoment. And finally, since in Jesus, I have nothing to hide, there is no need for me to live in fear of rejection or shame. Let’s ponder these truths as we go to the Lord in prayer.

Prayer: Lord God, You are not just “a” light or “a” source of salvation, You are “my” light and “my” salvation, and this gives me everlasting hope and security. I pray Your Holy Spirit will persuade me to rest in the truth that says, “In Jesus, I have nothing to prove, nothing to lose, and nothing to hide.” Therefore, there is no need for me to fear anyone or anything. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

How can we overcome fear in evangelism?

One of the greatest challenges we face as believers is fear in evangelism. It’s not that we don’t want to share Christ with others. Nor is it due to a lack of commitment. I believe most Christians would love to share the gospel with non-Christians, but they are overcome with fear. They are afraid of rejection. They are nervous about not knowing what to say. It is important to understand that fear in evangelism is normal. Even the apostle Paul was afraid to share the gospel at times. This is why he asked believers to pray that he would have boldness in preaching the gospel (Ephesians 6:18-20; cf.  I Corinthians 2:3). The issue is not having no fear in evangelism. The issue is how to overcome fear with boldness. How can we overcome fear in evangelism?

In Acts 4:12-31 there are four principles for overcoming fear in evangelism. In the context of these verses we see that as a result of healing a lame man in the name of Jesus Christ, Peter and John were brought into the custody of the Jewish supreme court of Israel known as the Sanhedrin (Acts 3-4). Instead of standing before the wealthiest, most intellectual and powerful group in the land as a victim, Peter and John stood before them as their judge. Peter accuses them of crucifying not only the One Who was innocent, but also the One Who was the long-promised Messiah (4:10-11). Ouch! That is boldness! Do you want that kind of boldness to speak up for Jesus?  Then…

GRASP THAT YOU HAVE THE RIGHT MESSAGE (4:12). Peter said, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (4:12).  Do you believe that? If you do, it will increase your boldness to share Christ with others. He is the only One who can save people from their sins. The more you are convinced that the gospel is true, the more boldness you will have to speak up for Christ. 

Who should have more boldness, a Christian talking about Christ, or a Buddhist talking about Buddha? A Christian, of course! Why? Because unlike the Buddhist, the Christian has a message from God (cf. I Thessalonians 2;2-4). It contains no error. We have only truth and Good News, not error and bad news to give peopleOnly a Christian has the message that proclaims Christ’s name as the only name by which God will save those who come to Him in faith. 

Why is Jesus’ name the only name by which people can be saved from hell forever? Because He alone is God (John 1:1, 14; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 1:8; I John 5:20) and He paid the full price of admission into heaven when He died on the cross and rose from the dead. All other religions, whether it be Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witness, Iglesia Ni Cristo, etc., are spelled D-O. Their message centers around a false gospel – what the person must DO for God to get to heaven. Christianity, however, is spelled D-O-N-E. The work of paying the full penalty for all of our sins was“finished” or DONE when Jesus Christ died in our place on the cross and rose from the dead (John 19:30; I Corinthians 15:1-6). This is the true gospel based on what God has done for us, not what we have done or will do for Him. Knowing that we have the only message in the world that guarantees a future home in heaven for all who believe in Jesus Christ alone can give us more boldness in evangelism. 

GROW CLOSER TO JESUS (4:13). As Peter and John boldly spoke of Jesus before these educated and powerful opponents, their listeners could discern that these men had spent time with the Savior. “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus” (4:13). These two lowly fishermen were not intimidated by all the intellectual knowledge and training of these men. They were more impressed with Jesus and they wanted this group to know Him in a personal way. This elite religious group acknowledges the boldness of Peter and John while noting their lack of education. 

Often a person’s boldness for Christ shrinks as his education increases. He or she becomes “too sophisticated” to be bold for Christ!! It’s better to possess boldness and lack learning, than to possess learning and lack boldness. And it is one thing to be bold with our social equals, but it is an entirely different thing to be bold – as Peter and John were  – with our social and educational superiors. True boldness knows no respect of persons. 

Boldness in evangelism does not arise from having a theological degree or a vast knowledge of the Bible. The key to boldness in evangelism is spending time with Jesus Christ. Peter and John had been in a discipleship relationship with Jesus for over three years. His heart became theirs. So the closer we get to the heart of Christ, the closer we get to the people for whom He died. His heart bleeds for the lost. Luke 19:10 explains: “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” The heart of our Lord is a seeking heart. Aren’t you thankful for that? We would still be lost in our sins if Jesus did not seek us out. Look at God’s heart. First Timothy 2:3-4 say, “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” God created hell for the devil and his angels (cf. Matthew 25:41), not for people. God desires that all people go to heaven and He wants to use you and me to introduce people to the Savior who can get them there.

Those who live close to Christ capture His heart for the lost. They bleed for the same people He bleeds for. And the more they experience Jesus’ love and grace in their lives, the more compelled they will be to tell others about Him and what He can do for them. 

Also, as we grow closer to Christ, we can approach people with a clear conscience (cf. I Thessalonians 2:10-12). We don’t have to consider witnessing to a lost person thinking, “I sure hope he doesn’t find out how I live or treat my family.” Instead we can walk up to someone who doesn’t know Christ knowing we are attempting to live a consistent Christian life. Notice, I said “consistent,” not perfect. If we are living with unconfessed sin, it will reduce our boldness for preaching the gospel since our fellowship with the Lord will be broken (I John 1:3-10). I cannot be bold for Christ if I am out of fellowship with Him. 

GIVE CHRIST OUR OBEDIENCE, NOT OUR OPINIONS (4:19-20). Overcoming fear in evangelism is not done in a classroom or convention. It is cultivated through obedience. Peter had just accused the Sanhedrin of crucifying the long-promised Messiah named Jesus. These leaders did not want to hear this, so they commanded them not to preach Christ any longer (4:18). To share Christ now would be to go against the highest authority of the land. What would they do? It’s one thing to share Christ in a friendly environment such as in the church, but what about sharing Christ with those who could take your life? What would Peter and John do? Would they hover in a corner… pray for the rapture…or plead with God to send someone else? No. Their response was immediate. There was no, “Would you allow us a day or two to pray about this?” 

19But Peter and John answered and said to them, ‘Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. 20For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard’ ” (4:19-20). The apostles had made their decision. Obedience to God must come first, not a surrender to the fears and threats presented by people. They made their decision; their accusers could make their own. The apostles were so gripped by the message of the gospel that everything else became immaterial in comparison. They had the attitude, “If you miss this, you have missed everything.” Peter and John are compelled to make the truth of Jesus known and they continue to do so. 

God honors obedience. The humble, dependent heart that says, “Lord, I’m afraid to preach the gospel, but you are my Master. I am Your disciple. I will do it for You, Lord Jesus, with Your help” (cf. Luke 5:5). We cannot overcome fear in evangelism apart from obedience to a simple God-given command. 

The more you know Jesus, the more You want to please Him instead of people. Jesus is not interested in hearing our opinions about why we lack boldness in preaching the gospel. Some of those opinions may include :

“But, Lord, I don’t know what to say to these people. I don’t want to be embarrassed.”

“These people may ridicule me or reject me.”

“Lord, I could lose my life.” 

What’s at the center of all those opinions? The word “I” or “me.” Focusing on ourselves becomes distracting at the least and defeating at its worst. Instead of focusing on ourselves, let’s shift our focus to Jesus and what would please Him. He is more interested in our obedience to His command, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8; cf. Mark 16:15). 

The power and boldness of the Holy Spirit is given to those who obey. When we seek to please Jesus Christ instead of ourselves or others, we will always have boldness in our preaching. It won’t matter if our audience is receptive or not because our most important Audience is seated at the right hand of God the Father in heaven, not next to you at work or school or on a bench at a film showing. Keep looking unto Jesus (Hebrews 12:2). Seek to please Him, not people (Colossians 3:23-24). In order to renew our boldness in evangelism, we must resolve to obey Christ at any time. He may ask you to share the gospel when it is inconvenient or uncomfortable or even when it does not make sense. But when Jesus tells you to share His gospel with someone, JUST DO IT. He will give you the words to say through His Spirit (cf. Matthew 10:17-20). He will give you the boldness with which to say it (Acts 1:8; 4:29-31).

GO TO GOD IN PRAYER (4:23-31). When Peter and John returned to the rest of the church, they did not brag about how they stood up to the Sanhedrin. They reported all that the religious leaders said to them (4:23). The apostles were afraid and together with the rest of the church they laid their fears before God (4:24-30). Often times we tell one another about our lack of boldness in evangelism, but seldom do we talk to the Lord about it. God ought to be the first Person we talk to about our lack of boldness in evangelism, not the last.

As these believers looked up to God in prayer, they focused on four  things…

God’s Strength (4:24): They prayed,“Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them…” (4:24). Threatened by the rulers of Israel, these believers now turn to the Ruler of the universe who also created these rulers. The majesty of God’s creation dwarfs the earth and its problems. We must not let our problems dwarf our concept of God but let our concept of God dwarf our problems. Since God can create the universe in six days, He will have no problem giving us the strength to renew our boldness for preaching the gospel. 

God’s Scriptures (4:25-26): They prayed, 25Who by the mouth of Your servant David have said: ‘Why did the nations rage, and the people plot vain things? 26The kings of the earth took their stand, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord and against His Christ.’” (4:25-26; cf. Psalm 2:1-2). These Christians are praying the Scriptures found in Psalm 2:1-2, which describe a future day of rebellion when the nations will gather against Christ under the Beast of Revelation at the end of the Tribulation period (cf. Revelation 16:12-16; 19:19). They were so familiar with the Bible that they could see the relevance of Psalm 2 to their situation. The more we know God’s Word and its relevance to our situation, the more boldness we will have in evangelism.

God’s Supply (4:25-26): When these Christians focused on Psalm 2 which talks about a future day of rebellion when the nations will gather against Christ under the Beast of Revelation, do you know how the Lord will respond to their opposition? Psalm 2:4 says, “He who sits in the heavens shall laugh.” This is like the laughter of a father whose three-year old boasts that he can outrun him or beat him in a wrestling match. It’s not going to happen. Likewise, God knows the boundaries of power among the nations and He is amused by their attempts to overthrow Him. That, my friends, is boldness! If God laughs at this spirit of rebellion among the nations, it would be inappropriate for you and me to be afraid of those who oppose the gospel. God has an abundant supply of boldness to give us if we will ask Him for it. 

God’s Sovereignty (4:27-28): They prayed, 27For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together 28to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done” (4:27-28). These believers apply the future spirit of rebellion to those who crucified Christ. They understood the sovereignty of God – that everything happens according to His plan. And the more you believe this, the more confidence and boldness you will have. God allows difficulties in our lives to teach us that He is in control and that nothing is impossible with Him. Have you ever met people you think even God cannot save? That person you think will never become a Christian? Bring him or her to God in prayer and he can melt that heart of stone. 

Look what happens next. 29Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, 30by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus” (4:29-30). They don’t say, “Lord, would You remove these troublemakers… save us from prison or death.” No, they don’t pray that. Instead they ask God to give them the boldness and the power to share His Word with those who could take their lives. We often ask God to remove our problems rather than pray for God to be glorified in them. Thank God these believers prayed in this way, otherwise the church would not be here today. If we don’t pray in this way, the church may not be in our communities for future generations. 

What happened after they were done praying? “And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness” (4:31). The more we look up to God in prayer, the less fear we will have in evangelism and the more we will boldly speak up for Christ with others!

Someone once said that in Acts 1-2 they pray for ten days, Peter preaches for ten minutes, and three thousand get saved. Today, churches pray for ten minutes, preach for ten days, and three people get saved. A.C. Dixon once said:

“When we rely upon organization, we get what organization can do; when we rely upon education, we get what education can do; when we rely upon eloquence, we get what eloquence can do, and so on…But when we rely upon prayer, we get what God can do.” How much bolder would we be in evangelism if more were happening in our prayer lives?!

If we want to overcome fear in evangelism…

GRASP that we have the right MESSAGE (4:12).

GROW closer to JESUS (4:13).           

GIVE Christ our OBEDIENCE, not our OPINIONS (4:19-20).

GO to God in PRAYER (4:23-31)

How do we overcome the fear of inadequacy?

“And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him, and said to him, ‘The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor!’ ” Judges 6:12

When God first approached Gideon, He addresses him as the man he would become (“you mighty man of valor”) by God’s grace in his life (“the Lord is with you”), not the man he was at that time (6:12). Gideon did not understand how God would use him to save Israel from the Midianites since his family “clan is the weakest in Manasseh,” and he perceives himself to be “the least in” his “father’s house” (6:14-15). Gideon perceived that his own background and position in his family disqualified him from being God’s instrument of deliverance for Israel. 

Do you ever feel like Gideon? You say to yourself, “I don’t think I can measure up to what God wants me to do. I’m insecure. I don’t have what it takes. I don’t know enough. I don’t have the right background. How could God use me?” Often when God says He has something for us to do, it seems much bigger than us! We don’t feel adequate. But listen closely! It doesn’t matter whether we feel adequate or not. What matters is God has chosen us. If God has chosen us, it is going to work whether we think we are qualified or not. Our life message is not about us. It is about what God chooses to do in our lives.  

How did God respond to Gideon’s fear and sense of inadequacy? He assured Gideon by telling him,  “Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat the Midianites as one man” (6:16). This is God’s answer to our fear of inadequacy. Because one plus God equals a majority. If God is near, we will lose our fear. Because of God’s presence in our lives, we can do anything He calls us to do! But the fear of inadequacy should not keep us from doing what God has called us to do because God says, “I will be with you.” God’s adequacy is the answer to our inadequacy and God’s presence is the answer to our panic.