How can we recover from rejection? Part 5

“Jesus answered, ‘It is he to whom I shall give a piece of bread when I have dipped it.’ And having dipped the bread, He gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon.” John 13:26

Before we address the next way to overcome rejection, it is important to understand the cultural situation. “In first-century Palestine the triclinium was coming into use. A triclinium was a low, rectangular dining table around which couches were arranged on three of the four sides. The fourth side, the ‘foot’ of the table, was left open so that food could be served. Guests would eat in a reclining position around the table. A cushion would be provided for the left arm. The right arm would then be free to reach for food on the low table. Of the three positions around the table, the middle position (opposite the ‘foot’ of the table) was regarded as the most honorable. It was here at the ‘head’ of the table that the principal guests would recline.” 1  Laney writes, “It is safe to assume that Jesus would be situated at the head of the table as the principal guest. To His right and left were the principal places of honor (cf. Mark 10:35-37). To His right, in the place of special honor reclined the apostle John (John 13:23) On His left, in the next highest place, was Judas, the betrayer (13:26).” 2

With this in mind, we are prepared to look at the fifth way to recover from rejection: LEAN ON JESUS FOR HIS POWER TO FORGIVE (John 13:22-26). After Jesus announced to His disciples that one of them would betray Him (John 13:21), we read, “Then the disciples looked at one another, perplexed about whom He spoke.” (John 13:22). Jesus’ announcement about His betrayer took the disciples by surprise. They could not imagine any of them betraying the Lord. No one suspected Judas. He had covered his tracks very well.

“Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved.” (John 13:23). John informs us that “one of His disciples whom Jesus loved” is described as “leaning on Jesus bosom.” This disciple “whom Jesus loved,” is identified in John 21:20, 24, as the author of the gospel of John, the apostle John.

John experienced an intimacy with Christ that arose through his obedience to Christ. He writes later that those who are closer to the Lord through obedience, receive a special intimate love from Him: “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). There is a sense in which John is closer to Jesus through obedience and this can be seen in his writings. When we obey the Lord Jesus, He discloses more of Himself to us, including His love.

“Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask who it was of whom He spoke.” (John 13:24). Peter was overcome with curiosity to know the identity of Jesus’ betrayer. Maybe Peter’s loyalty to Christ was coming out now and he wanted to take preventive measures. Luke 22:38 says Peter had access to two swords. John and Judas were reclining next to Jesus, but Peter’s position at the table was not close enough to Jesus to ask Him privately, so he asked John to ask Jesus to identify the traitor.

“Then, leaning back on Jesus’ breast, he said to Him, ‘Lord, who is it?’ ” (John 13:25). John was relining next to Jesus on His right so all he had to do was lean back on Jesus’ chest and ask Him, “Lord, who is it?” By leaning back in this way, he could speak very quietly and still be heard by Jesus. Both Peter and John are concerned for Jesus’ well-being.

“Jesus answered, ‘It is he to whom I shall give a piece of bread when I have dipped it.’ And having dipped the bread, He gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon.” (John 13:26). Christ tells John that He will identify His betrayer by giving him “a piece of bread”that He has “dipped.” “The dipping of a piece of bread was a significant part of the Passover ritual. In the course of the paschal meal, the master of the feast would pick up some unleavened bread, which was a flat cake. He would put bits of lamb on the piece of bread, sprinkle some bitter herbs on it, and then roll it. Then he would dip the bread containing the meat and herbs into a bitter sauce. This bread would then be handed to a guest. The ritual would be repeated until a piece of bread had been provided for each guest…

“The lamb anticipated God’s Lamb, who would provide God’s salvation for sinners. In preparing the bread with the meat and herbs dipped in sauce, the master of the feast was reminding the participants of God’s promise to provide salvation. In receiving the piece of bread, each participant acknowledged his sin. Each also reaffirmed his faith in God’s promises that He would send a Messiah to take away sin by the sacrifice of Himself, and each professed his willingness to receive salvation which Messiah would offer…

“It is significant that Christ gave the first piece of bread to Judas Iscariot (John 13:26). It was customary to offer the first piece to the most honored guest at the feast… This was an evidence of the love and the grace of the Lord, who knew what was in Judas’ heart before the seats were assigned around the table. Further it is to be noted that since the giving of the bread was in effect an offer of salvation, Christ was offering forgiveness to Judas if he would accept the offered salvation and put his faith in Him. This was grace exemplified. Perhaps no greater demonstration of the love and the grace of Christ can be found anywhere in Scripture than in this scene, for the One who would be betrayed was offering the betrayer forgiveness of sin if he would accept it.” 3

Even though Jesus had been deeply hurt knowing that Judas would betray Him, He still lovingly offered Judas His forgiveness. Similarly, if we are to recover from rejection by others, we too must offer forgiveness to those who have rejected us. Refusal to forgive others hurts us more than those who reject us. Refusal to forgive our offenders leads to bitterness. And bitterness builds a wall around our lives because no one likes to be around a cynic – someone who is always resentful and complaining.

Jesus wants to teach us to be a better person, not a bitter person. Each of us has a choice as to how we respond to those who reject us. We can choose to focus on our feelings or we can choose to focus on the truth. The truth is we are to be “kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave” us (Ephesian 4:32). Forgiveness keeps our hearts tender and sensitive to the Lord and others. We cannot do this in our own strength. We must lean on Jesus’ power to enable us to forgive those who have deeply hurt us. The moment we choose to obey God and forgive our betrayers, God will supply us with the power to do exactly that. Remember, we also have caused hurt to others by rejecting them. We also have sinned against others, especially God. The more we realize our own need for forgiveness, the more forgiving of others we will become.

It is important to understand that forgiving someone does not mean you trust him or her. You can forgive someone in a moment based upon Christ’s positional forgiveness of you (Ephesians 1:7; 4:32), but trusting that person will take time. Trust must be earned from the person who betrayed or rejected you. For example, a Christian wife is commanded to respect her wayward husband, but she is not commanded to trust him (I Peter 3:1-6). He must earn her trust.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, my heart was deeply touched by Your final offer of grace and forgiveness to Judas the night before Your death on the cross! Even though You knew his actions in advance, You did not stop loving him. I am reminded that all of us are like Judas in that we have betrayed You with our thoughts, our words, and our actions. And all of us, like Judas, desperately need Your forgiveness for all the times we have betrayed you. Thank You for extending Your forgiving grace to me. Please help me to extend this forgiveness to others who have rejected me. I pray Your Spirit will also enable others to forgive me for the wounds I have caused them. In Your precious name I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Ralph Gower, The New Manners and Customs of Bible Times (Chicago: Moody, 1987), pg. 247; J. Robert Teringo, The Land and People Jesus Knew (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1985), pg. 53.

2.   J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 246.

3. J. Dwight Pentecost, The Words & Works of Jesus Christ, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981), pp. 430-431.

How can we experience the blessedness of clean feet? Part 4

“If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” John 13:14

As we continue to study John 13:1-17, we are learning how we can experience the blessedness of clean feet or intimacy with Christ. So far we have discovered that we must…

– Recognize Jesus’ loyal love for us (John 13:1-2).

– Reckon who we are in Christ (John 13:3-5).

– Receive Jesus’ cleansing grace (John 13:6-11).

The fourth way to experience the blessedness of intimacy with Christ is to RESOLVE TO APPLY JESUS’ CLEANSING GRACE TO OTHERS (John 13:12-15; cf. Ephes. 4:32). “So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done to you?’ ” (John 13:12). This was a searching question especially for Peter and Judas. Jesus had just demonstrated His love for them and the benefits of that love. Now Christ turns to deal with the attitude that had characterized them when they came to this meal. In view of their contention for a position in which they would be served by others, Jesus said: “You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am.” (John 13:13). The implication of the title “Teacher” is expanded in verses 14-15 as is the implication for the title “Lord” in verses 16-17. These were titles of respect and honor. They were correct to perceive Him as their Teacher and Lord.

Christ then says,14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.” (John 13:14-15). As their Teacher, He has given them an example to follow. “Students,” Jesus says, “you ‘ought’ (to owe a debt or be obligated) to do this assignment for Me. If I can do it, then so can you.” As students of their Teacher, the disciples are to serve one another just as their Teacher served them. As students, they were not to sit around and be served, but rather they were to take the initiative in meeting the needs of others. In other words, they were to be teachable.

Foot washing was common in the first century culture. But not now. Is this meant to be a church ordinance? I do not believe so because the New Testament church did not practice foot washing as an ordinance. Nowhere in the New Testament do the writers treat foot washing as another ordinance in addition to Water Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. The main idea from Christ here is that of humble service.

The practice of humility often means doing what others refuse to do. This is a timely word for the church today. Just as a spirit of entitlement and competition had overtaken the disciples at the Last Supper when they were arguing about who was the greatest (Luke 22:24), so too, it can overtake believers in the church today. “The world asks, ‘How many people work for you?’ but the Lord asks, ‘For how many people do you work?’” 1

Believers may be growing in their knowledge of the Bible, but are they growing in humility? Are they willing to do what no one else will do? Christ washed the feet of His disciples after giving them an opportunity to do so. They did not want to perform a lowly servant’s task. They were too proud to perform such a lowly service.

The Lord wants us to take off our garments of pride and selfishness and put on His love and serve others especially when things get dirty. Humble service is most needed when people are hurting and suffering. This may mean dealing with the dirty feet of other believers just as Jesus dealt with the dirty feet of His disciples. Ephesians 4:32 instructs us, “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” The way to keep our hearts tender is to be forgiving of one another as God forgave us in Christ Jesus. We cannot have an intimate relationship with one another if we are unforgiving. Why? Because all people have dirty feet or sin in their lives and they will offend us. But let’s not forget that we also have dirty feet or sin which offends others. The key is to share the same forgiveness with one another that Christ has freely given to us. None of us deserve this, but all of us desperately need it.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, as my Teacher, You have given me an example to follow when You knelt down and washed the dirty feet of Your disciples. I am realizing that You want me to humbly serve others especially when things get dirty. When people are hurting or suffering, they do not need a lot of Bible knowledge. They need to know they are loved and cared for, especially if they have experienced spiritual failure in their lives. Thank You for reminding me of the importance of passing on the same kindness and forgiveness to others that You freely gave to me. None of us deserve these things, but oh how greatly we need them. In Your gracious name I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTE:

1. Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, Vol. I (Wheaton: Scripture Press, Victor Books, 1989), pg. 347.

How can we experience the blessedness of clean feet? Part 3

“Jesus said to him, ‘He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.’ ” John 13:10

We are learning in John 13 how we can experience the blessedness of clean feet or intimacy with Christ. So far we have discovered that we must…

– Recognize Jesus’ loyal love for us (John 13:1-2).

– Reckon who we are in Christ (John 13:3-5).

Today we discover we can experience the blessedness of clean feet when we RECEIVE JESUS’ CLEANSING GRACE (John 13:6-11). In Jesus’ day, people wore sandals without any socks or stockings on their feet. Since the roads were dusty, their feet would become dirty and need to be washed. It was the host’s responsibility to provide a servant to wash the guest’s feet. But Jesus did something that was unheard of in that day. He, a Rabbi, got up from the table and took the position of a servant and began washing His disciples’ feet.

John informs us, “Then He came to Simon Peter. And Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, are You washing my feet?’ ” (John 13:6). Apparently there was nothing said as Jesus washed the other disciples’ feet until He came to Peter. Peter did not understand the significance of what Jesus was doing. “Jesus answered and said to him, ‘What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this.’ ” (John 13:7). Jesus asks Peter to submit to Him by permitting Him to wash his feet. He assures Peter that he will understand the significance of this foot washing later.

Has Christ ever asked you to do something that does not make any sense to you? But later on, the Lord showed you what He was doing in your life or in the lives of others? Maybe He is asking you to do something that no one else will do. When Christ tells us to do something, we must be willing to do it whether it seems reasonable to us or not. This is one of the keys to experiencing the blessedness of intimacy with Jesus!

“Peter said to Him, ‘You shall never wash my feet!’ ” (John 13:8a). Peter may be saying, “You shall never wash my feet for eternity!” Peter felt that Jesus should not degrade Himself by performing such a lowly task. Or perhaps he was thinking, “Never, Lord. My feet are not dirty, and even if they were, I certainly cannot permit You to clean them.” Peter’s words reflect pride and false humility. Our humility does not begin with giving service to others. It begins with a readiness to receive it. It is easier to have pride and a condescending attitude when we receive service rather than when we give it. For example, we may not hesitate to take a meal to a church member who has taken ill. But it is more difficult for us to receive such a meal if we are the one who is sick.

“Jesus answered him, ‘If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.’ ” (John 13:8b). Jesus is not talking about social fellowship here as Peter was thinking, rather He is talking about spiritual fellowship (closeness) as the context will reveal (cf. 13:10-11). “If I don’t cleanse you from the effects of sin (dirt on your feet), you can have no part (fellowship) with Me,” Jesus is saying. The word “part” (meros) is a term for fellowship (cf. Luke 10:42) in the New Testament.Hodges states, “This truth, of course, is more fully elaborated in I John 1:5-10 where fellowship is related to the question of the believer’s ‘walk’ (which one’s ‘feet’ suggest) and it is conditioned on the cleansing that comes in response to confession of sin (I John 1:9).Peter could not have fellowship with the Lord until He was willing to receive His cleansing ministry.

The same is true for all believers in Jesus. We cannot enjoy fellowship or closeness with our Lord until we are willing to let Him cleanse our dirty feet (the effects of sin in our lives). We must be honest with the Lord about sin, which John refers to as “walking in the light” (I John 1:7), and “confess” that sin to Him and God promises to be faithful to forgive us of that confessed sin and cleanse us of all unrighteousness or unknown sin in our lives (I John 1:9).

“Simon Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!’” (John 13:9). Peter’s outburst reveals his deep need for intimate fellowship with the Lord Jesus. “If fellowship with You, Lord, depends on cleansing, then wash not only my feet but my hands and head, too!” Peter seems to be telling the Lord what to do instead of submitting fully to Him.

“Jesus said to him, ‘He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean.’” (John 13:10a). In the first century, there were no bathing facilities in small houses. So a person had to go to a public bathhouse to bathe. When invited to a meal, a person would first go to the public bathhouse and bathe, and then put on clean clothing, anoint himself with fresh oil, and proceed to the home where he would be served a meal. On the way from the bathhouse to the home, the guest’s feet got dirty. Hence, the host provided a basin of water so that the one who already had a bath and cleansed his entire body could sponge the dirt off his feet. 4

Jesus is referring to two types of cleansing in this verse. The first type of cleansing refers to the complete cleansing of regeneration or salvation which takes place at the moment of faith in Jesus (cf. Titus 3:4-5; Revelation 1:5). This is seen in the word “bathed” (louō) which refers to bathing the entire body. This verb is in the perfect tense which conveys the idea of a permanent cleansing. A person only needs one complete bath spiritually. This is a one-time experience. The Holy Spirit performs this complete cleansing at the moment of faith in Jesus for eternal life (Titus 3:4-5). Some believers think they need to be totally bathed over and over again. They fail to understand that God’s water or soap is guaranteed for eternity.

Have you experienced this one-time permanent cleansing? If not, Christ invites you right now to believe or trust in Him alone for it. Jesus said, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life.” (John 6:47). Once you trust in Christ, you will need the second type of cleansing that He speaks of next.

This second type of cleansing refers to daily forgiveness in order to have fellowship or closeness with God. This cleansing is represented by the word “wash” (niptō) which means to wash parts of the body. This fellowship forgiveness (cf. Matthew 6:14-15; Luke 11:4) is based upon the confession of sin (I John 1:9). So Christ is saying in verse 10, “He who is bathed [regeneration] needs only to wash his feet [fellowship], but is completely clean.” Every bathed person (Christian) needs daily cleansing of his dirty feet to have fellowship with Christ.

For example, “just as our children may sin within our family, the believer may sin within God’s family. Our child is always our child, but until he confesses [his sin], our fellowship is not good. In God’s family, the same principle applies. There is a forgiveness for salvation and a forgiveness for restoration. The Lord referred to this second kind of forgiveness when He said to Peter, ‘If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me’ (Jn. 13:8). Peter told the Lord to wash him all over if that was the case. To this Jesus replied, ‘He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean’ ” (Jn. 13:10).” 7

“Jesus said to him, ‘… and you are clean, but not all of you.’ ” (John 13:10b). All but one of the disciples were “completely clean” in their position before God and could have fellowship with the Lord. “For He knew who would betray Him; therefore He said, ‘You are not all clean.’ ” (John 13:11). Judas had not experienced the cleansing bath of salvation because of his refusal to believe in Christ (cf. John 6:64, 70-71; 17:12). Nothing in the text suggests that Jesus did not wash Judas’ feet. Christ cleansed the feet of His greatest betrayer. This teaches us not to be selective about whom we will love. Christ loved everyone, including His enemies. And He commands us to do the same (cf. Matthew 5:43-48).

As I have thought about Jesus washing the feet of His disciples, including the feet of Judas, I realized that Jesus did not ask them why they walked through the mud and got dirty. That is a part of life. Water was there regardless of the amount of dirt on their feet. The Lord does not seek to condemn us. He seeks to cleanse us (cf. John 3:17; I John 1:5-10). All Christians have a need for daily cleansing because we all sin (Romans 3:23). We all have dirty feet. As we appreciate God’s cleansing grace in our lives both at the moment of salvation and daily for fellowship, we will grow deeper in our intimacy with Jesus and be more eager to humbly serve Him by serving others.

Prayer: Gracious Lord Jesus, thank You for the complete cleansing bath You gave me the moment I believed in You alone for Your gift of everlasting life (Titus 3:4-5)! Thank You that I do not need to repeat that bath because it permanently cleansed me of all my sin and shame positionally. But my feet still get dirty – I still sin as I walk with You in this sin-stained world – and I need cleansing from You daily. I praise You because You are faithful to forgive the sin I confess to You (I John 1:9)! And not only that, You graciously cleanse me of all my unknown sin at that time as well! I am doubly blessed by Your faithfulness to me! Please use me, my Lord and my God, to serve You by serving others even when it may not make sense to me or be the popular thing to do. Serving You in light of all You have done for me is one of the greatest privileges I could ever do. In Your grace-filled name I pray. Amen.  

ENDNOTES:

1. Zane C. Hodges, “Untrustworthy Believers – John 2:23-25,” Bibliotheca Sacra 135:538 (April-June 1978), pg. 147; Joseph C. Dillow, The Reign of the Servant Kings: A Study of Eternal Security and the Final Significance of Man, (Hayesville: Schoettle Publishing Co., 1992), pp. 326, 353, 401,593-594; Robert N. Wilkin, “The Gospel According to John,” The Grace New Testament Commentary, Vol. 1: Matthew – Acts (Denton, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 2010), pg. 438.

2. Hodges, “Untrustworthy Believers,” pg. 147.

3. Literally “the sins,” tas hamartias.

4. J. Dwight Pentecost, The Words & Works of Jesus Christ, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981), pg. 429.

5. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature [BAGD], compiled by Walter Bauer, trans. and adapted by William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, 2nd ed., rev. and augmented by F. Wilbur Gingrich and Frederick W. Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979), pp 480-481.

6. Archibald Thomas Roberston, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vol. V. (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1932), pp. 238-239.

7. Dillow, The Reign of the Servant Kings, pg. 353.

How can we respond to those who refuse to believe in Christ? Part 5

44 Then Jesus cried out and said, ‘He who believes in Me, believes not in Me but in Him who sent Me. 45 And he who sees Me sees Him who sent Me.’ ” John 12:44-45

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).

– Consider that some are secret believers (John 12:42-43).

The fifth way to respond to those who refuse to believe is to CONFRONT THOSE WHO REFUSE TO BELIEVE WITH THE TRUTH ABOUT JESUS (John 12:44-50). “Then Jesus cried out and said, ‘He who believes in Me, believes not in Me but in Him who sent Me.’ ” (John 12:44). Jesus cried out” to get the crowd’s attention as He makes one last appeal for them to believe in Him. Jesus is the perfect reflection of the Father because He also is God (cf. 1:1, 14; 5:18; 8:58; 10:30-36). To believe in Jesus is to believe in the Father “who sent” Christ. This emphasizes the oneness of God the Father and God the Son. You cannot say you believe in God and at the same time reject Jesus Christ because Jesus is equal with God the Father (cf. John 5:18-47).

Jesus explains, “And he who sees Me sees Him who sent Me.” (John 12:45). When a person “sees” Jesus, he or she “sees” the Father “who sent” Him because Christ perfectly mirrors His Father since they are equal in essence. They both have divine natures capable of giving eternal life to those who believe in Christ. Therefore, to behold and believe in One, is to behold and believe in the other. Jesus is claiming to be God here! He is capable of giving eternal life to them if they would behold and believe in Him.

Then Christ said, “I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness.” (John 12:46). Christ came into the world as the Light so that those who believe in Him “should not abide in darkness.” This may refer to positional or experiential truth. 1  If it is positional truth, it means that those who believe in Christ are now “sons of light”(12:36) and are no longer a part of the kingdom of darkness and eternal death (cf. John 5:24; Colossians 1:13). If this phrase refers to experiential truth, it would mean that Christ came into the world so that those who believe in Him should have fellowship with God. The word “abide” (menō) is a fellowship term in John’s writings. To “abide in darkness” refers to being without direction and alienated from the Lord. Believers are not to remain out of fellowship with God. They are to walk in the light by being open and honest with God (I John 1:5-10).

“And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world.” (John 12:47). If a person hears Christ’s message and does not believe” it, Jesus says He will “not judge him; for” He “did not come to judge the world but to save the world.” Jesus will not condemn those who refuse to believe in Him because He came to save sinners by His grace. Christ explains, “He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him — the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day.” (John 12:48). But “in the last day” Christ’s message will condemn those who refused to believe in Him. These verses are excellent to show those who accuse God of being unfair when He sends people to hell. The truth is, if a person goes to hell it is not because Jesus rejected him or her, it is because that person rejected Christ.

What is the word that Jesus had “spoken”? Christ said, “he who believes in Me has everlasting life.” (John 6:47). Have you believed in Christ for His gift of everlasting life? If yes, then you will live forever with Him in heaven. But if you do not ever believe in Christ, then His message will condemn you to the Lake of Fire forever on the last day at the Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20:11-15). Part of an unbeliever’s agony in the Lake of Fire will be the remembrance of the missed opportunities they had to get right with God by believing in Jesus. Christ’s message of everlasting life will torment the unbeliever throughout eternity.

How can Jesus say that His word will be the fitting judge of people on the last day?! “For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak.” (John 12:49). He can say this because His message did not originate from Himself, but from His Father. If anyone has a problem with what Jesus teaches, then his or her problem is with God the Father because He told Jesus what to say. Christ is totally dependent upon His Father as to what to teach. His Father commanded Him what to say.

“And I know that His command is everlasting life. Therefore, whatever I speak, just as the Father has told Me, so I speak.” (John 12:50). Christ knows that His Father’s “command is everlasting life.” What God the Father commanded Jesus to say resulted in eternal life for those who believed it. Therefore, Christ was very careful to “speak just as the Father has told” Him. Christ’s teaching leads to “everlasting life.” He concludes His final public teaching with an invitation to receive His message and believe in Him for eternal life.

Jesus did not come to the world to condemn the world, but to save the world by His grace. So many unbelievers think that Christianity is a religion filled with dos and don’ts. “Don’t drink and don’t chew. And don’t run around with girls who do.” Christ did not come into the world to condemn us. He came into the world to cleanse us through His matchless grace.

Picture if you will, a giant eagle soaring majestically above the Niagara River, his great wings spread in flight. As he glides silently overhead looking for prey, he spies the carcass of a bird floating upon a block of ice on the river below. He swoops down, lands on the ice, and begins to devour the dead bird. From time to time, while he eats, he looks up and sees the river’s width is increasing — a sign it is nearing the falls — but hastily he returns to his meal, waiting until the ice is about to go over the falls when he will spread his wings and fly to safety. Why worry about the falls? Here is a great feast. There’s plenty of time. So the ice floats onward carrying its strange cargo closer and closer to the gigantic falls. The roar of this great spectacle of God’s handiwork grows louder and louder as if crying out a warning that death is near, but to no avail. At last, as the block of ice is about to plunge over the falls, the eagle lifts his wings to take flight. But, while he has been engrossed in eating, his long talons have become frozen in the ice. He is unable to free himself, and goes screeching over the falls to his death. 4

The same can be said of many people in Jesus’ day and today. They go floating along on the river of life interested only in material things. “The Judgment Day Falls” cry out, but they pay no attention. Oh someday, when they are lying on their death bed, when they are about to breathe their last breath, when they have tried all the world has to offer, then, when they have no other way to turn, then they intend to trust Christ. They intend to fly into the safety of His everlasting arms. But they wait too long. The world has frozen their hearts and they plunge over “Judgment Day Falls” unsaved. Please do not let that happen to you. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ while you still have time and He will give you everlasting life (John 3:16).

Prayer: Father God, thank You for sending Jesus into the world not to condemn us, but to save us and cleanse us of our sins. Please help me to speak Your words in the Bible just as Jesus was careful to speak what You spoke to Him. Your words give live everlasting, Lord God. Father, I am deeply burdened for those who continue to reject Jesus as the Giver of eternal life. Please work in and through their circumstances so that they will become more open to Your message of grace. Help me not to give up on those who have repeatedly rejected Your message, just as You never gave up on me after I initially ignored Your gospel message that others shared with me. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Dr. Robert N. Wilkin, “The Gospel According to John,” The Grace New Testament Commentary, Vol. 1: Matthew – Acts (Denton, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 2010), pg. 436.

2. John 1:32, 33, 38, 39 (2); 2:12; 3:36; 4:40 (2); 5:38; 6:27, 56; 7:9; 8:31, 35 (2); 9:41; 10:40; 11:6, 54; 12:24, 34, 46; 14:10, 17, 25; 15:4 (3), 5, 6, 7 (2), 9, 10 (2), 16; 19:31; 21:22, 23; cf. I John 2:6, 10, 14, 17, 24, 27-28; 3:6, 14, 17 24; 4:12-13, 15-16.

3. Dr. Tom Constable, Notes on John, 2015 Edition, pg. 246.

4. On July 4, 2017, taken from http://winsome.org.previewmysite.com/E_ Illustrations.htm.

Overcoming Satan’s Accusations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ENDNOTE:

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

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

3. Ibid.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ENDNOTES:

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

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

3. Ibid, pp. 640-641.

How can I overcome condemnation? Part 3

“And Jesus said to her, ‘Neither do I condemn you.’” John 8:11b

How can I overcome condemnation? I can overcome condemnation when I rest under Christ’s gracious teachings (John 7:53-8:2) and redirect those who condemn me to their own sin (John 8:3-9). The third way I can overcome condemnation is to REPLACE MY GUILT WITH CHRIST’S FORGIVING GRACE (John 8:10-11b).

The woman caught in adultery could have slipped away with the rest, but she remained with Jesus. “And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman…” (John 8:9b-10a). The leaders had felt the merciless exposure by the Son of God, but the woman had felt His warmth. So she remains with Jesus. The warmth of Jesus’ love and grace draws broken people to Himself.

Jesus then asks her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” (John 8:10b). She said, “No one Lord” (John 8:11a).  The leaders condemned themselves now instead of the woman. Now that the jury is gone, the woman awaits her verdict. And the One who can condemn, does not. Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you.” (John 8:11b).

What a contrast between the religious establishment’s condemnation and the Lord Jesus’ forgiving grace. If you have been deeply wounded by religious people, please understand that they do not represent the Jesus of the Bible. He is compassionate and forgiving no matter how good or bad you have behaved. He cares far more about your heart than He does your behavior. He invites you to come and be, not come and try harder.

Jesus wants to replace our guilt with His forgiving grace. It is a gift. God doesn’t give us what we deserve, but He does give us what we need. We deserve to be condemned, but we need His cleansing forgiveness.

We have such a difficult time understanding this as humans because this is not how we treat one another. Nor is this how we treat ourselves. This is not how we live in society. You mess up, you pay for it. In the states where you deserve death, you will be put to death by lethal injection in most states where they still have the death penalty.

But not in the state of Gods’ grace. In the state of grace, the penalty for our sin is already paid for us. The courtroom was a wooden cross and the debt that was paid was suffered by Jesus Christ. When He hung on the cross it was as if He was saying to us, “You deserve to be here because of your sin, but I’m going to die in your place because I love you and I don’t want you to die eternally. I want you to have a relationship with Me so I’m going to pay for it so I can look at you and say, ‘Not guilty.’” That’s grace. And He wants to take our guilt and give us grace. All He asks is that we believe in Him alone for His gift of eternal life and forgiveness (John 3:16; Acts 10:43).

If you have already done that, but are still struggling with guilt, ask the Lord to show you if you have any unconfessed sin in your Christian life. If you do, confess it to Him, and the Bible says God “is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:9). If you still have guilt, then you are probably being accused by Satan who wants to plague you with false guilt. Dismiss his lies and claim God’s truth which says you are totally forgiven in Christ (cf. Colossians 2:13-14)! This includes the forgiveness of your past, present, and future sins.

When it comes to forgiving yourself, put a dot on the line (diagram 1) to indicate where you are between these two extremes – “I always put myself down” or “I’ve learned to accept Jesus’ forgiveness.” If you are more to the left you were probably mistreated or neglected, and therefore need to experience Jesus’ forgiveness on a horizontal level with other loving believers. We tend to see ourselves the way authority figures saw us when growing up. Since we were wounded in the context of relationships, we will also need to heal in the context of relationships. We can let Christ replace our guilt with His forgiving grace as we relate to other believers who love us and care for us no matter what.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, You are the only One who can replace the guilt and shame of my sin with Your forgiving grace. Forty-one years ago I came to You in faith and You forgave all my sins – past, present, and future – the moment I believed in You for Your gift of forgiveness. Since that time, I have struggled to believe I am forgiven. Other people forgive me sooner than I forgive myself. Much of my life I have been my worst critic. Thank You for showing me that it is time for me to lay down the stones I have thrown at myself. It is time for me to give You those stones to build something beautiful in my life. I need other brothers and sisters in Christ to help me in this healing process. Please lead me to them so they can help me and I can help them. In Your matchless name I pray. Amen.

How can we experience Jesus’ cleansing truth in our lives?

You may recall that in John 1:14 we saw that Jesus was “full of grace and truth.” He was the perfect balance of grace and truth. Earlier in John 2:1-11, we saw Jesus express His grace by transforming water into wine at a wedding banquet in Cana of Galilee. He replaced something old with something new. New wine replaced old water. Today we will see His truth at work replacing a dirty temple with a clean one. From this we will discover how we can experiencing Jesus’ cleansing truth in our lives. The first way is seen in 2:12-16.

“After this He went down to Capernaum, He, His mother, His brothers, and His disciples; and they did not stay there many days.” (John 2:12). Jesus spends some quiet time at Capernaum with friends – those closest to Him. As important as time with friends is, Jesus did not want to miss going up to Jerusalem to worship God during the Passover. “Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.” (John 2:13). The Passover was a Jewish festival celebrating God’s deliverance of Israel from slavery in Egypt, when the angel of death passed over every home where the blood of a lamb was applied to the doorposts of the home (Exodus 12-13). It also initiated the Feast of Unleavened Bread, so the entire celebration lasted over a week. Jews from all over the world came to Jerusalem to meet with God and be obedient to His commands.   

While Jesus tried to make His way into the Temple, He discovered that it had become a place of peddling instead of a place of prayer. “And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers doing business.” (John 2:14). This temple money system was known as Annas’ Bazaar. Annas gave up his priesthood to run this temple money system. He placed his three sons in the priesthood, and God killed them. Then he placed his son in-law Caiaphas, in the priesthood so Annas could run the temple business.

Let’s say you come to Jerusalem to worship the Lord. You bring an animal to sacrifice to the Lord, because that’s the way you worshiped God then. Your children had cared for this animal for months and he had become a cherished pet – though he was about to become the family’s sacrifice. You go into the temple courtyard and there is a “booth of approval” manned by one of the strictest of the Pharisees. Before you could offer your family’s lamb for sacrifice it had to be approved. But this inspector finds defects in your lamb. “Hey, we can’t accept this animal as a sacrifice – it has too many things wrong with it. You need to go to the venders’ booth, over there. There you can buy a lamb pre-approved for sacrifice.” Think of how your kids feel. “What about our lamb? Doesn’t God care about that? How do we get to God?” So, you go over to the vendors’ booth and pay ten times the real value for a pre-approved lamb. (Just like when you go to the theater and a 50-cent bag of popcorn costs you $4.) So, you get your money out to buy one of his animals.

And he says to you, “Wait a minute. We can’t accept that currency. You need to exchange your coins for temple money over here at the money-changers’ table and that will be an extra fee.” Therefore, you go up to the moneychangers’ table and give them a silver dollar and they only give you 25 cents of temple money. Just like if you went to a pawn shop with a $1000-dollar ring and the broker would only offer you $100. Wanting to show your love for God you pay all these fees. And by the end of the day, you didn’t know if you were pleasing God or just pleasing the religious leaders. Meeting with God seemed too far beyond your reach.

This scene is what Jesus saw when He entered the temple. How does our Lord respond? “When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables.” (John 2:15). This is not the soft spoken, gentle Savior that so many of us often think Jesus was. Here we find Jesus angry and aggressive as He drives out animals, overturns tables, and creates a scene. I mean it must have been like being in one of those villages in Spain when they let the bulls run loose in the streets. Cows and sheep are running loose. People are yelling and screaming, “Help! Out of the way! The Carpenter has gone crazy!”

 Whenever Jesus sees one of the merchants, He points the finger and says. “Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!” (John 2:16). The temple was designed by God to be a place where people could meet with God. But it had become a place where people were abused in the name of God! The tragic truth was this had become the least likely place where you could meet with the Lord. Jesus must remove the religious pretenders before He can truly minister to those who need Him.

For many people today, this is still a reality. There are people today who long to meet with God in a place of worship, but when they go, all too often they discover a system that gives them more work to do to be “close” to God. The problem with this is they never know if they are pleasing God or the religious leaders. You say to yourself, “Something feels wrong with having to follow all of these rules – but it is God’s House. It says so on the sign.” And they get worn out or they leave and give up on God altogether.

Please understand, that if you came out of a church where you had to pay and pay and pay some more to get close to God, you have come to the right place. You have come to a place where Jesus fights for you just like He did back then. And He wants to heal your hurts and lighten your load. He wants to make it so easy for you to come (just as you are) and meet with Him. Jesus does not charge you to meet with Him. It’s free just like salvation. Jesus does not want anything at His church to make it difficult for people to worship Him …to draw closer to Him.

Jesus warns all of us who are spiritual leaders: Woe to you if you shut off the kingdom of heaven from men. We need to ask ourselves are we door-openers or door closers? Are we making it difficult for people to come to Christ or simple? Sometimes the Lord must remove religious pretenders before true worship can take place…before Jesus can truly minister His grace to those in need. I truly believe when Jesus is free to minister His grace in a church – look out! It will explode with people who need His healing touch.

So the first way to experience Jesus’ cleansing truth is to Rely On Christ To Cleanse Your Life (John 2:12-16) from sin and corruption. According to the Bible, where is the temple of God located today? The answer to this question is in 1 Corinthians 3:16. The apostle Paul is writing to Christians, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” The temple of God is no longer located in Jerusalem. It is now located in every believer in Jesus Christ. The temple is located in our bodies. In the Old Testament, God’s temple was a sacred place. It was a place where God Himself resided and where people came to worship Him. Today, God’s temple is still a sacred place where God dwells.

The truth is all of us are like those religious leaders who were robbing the people of their money. All of us are thieves. Now you may say, “Wait a minute pastor. I’m not perfect, but I am no thief.” We probably all agree that we are not perfect, but are we all thieves? Maybe we wouldn’t break into our neighbor’s home to steal his stereo, but we rob him of his reputation when we gossip about him. Maybe you’ve never stolen a woman’s virginity, but you rob her future husband of the gratification that God intended only him to have when you lust after her. You don’t have to steal money to be a thief. If Jesus came today and looked at the temple of God in you, would He have the same reaction as He did in Jerusalem with the corrupt merchants? Would He get angry at what He saw or would He be pleased with what He sees in your life? Friends, if we have pollution in God’s temple, then it’s time for us to allow Jesus to clean it out and stop trying to hide and cover up our sins.

One day a man purchased a white mouse to use as food for his pet snake. He dropped the mouse into the snake’s glass cage, where the snake was sleeping in a bed of sawdust. What did the terrified mouse do? He quickly set to work covering the snake with sawdust chips until it was completely buried. With that, the mouse apparently thought he had solved his problem. Listen, no matter how hard we try to hide or deny our sins, it’s futile. Sin will eventually awake from its sleep and shake off its cover and eat us alive.

So how do we allow Jesus to cleanse our lives from sin and corruption? If you are not a Christian, you must trust in Christ alone to forgive your sins. The Bible says: “All the prophets say it is true that all who believe in Jesus will be forgiven of their sins.” (Acts 10:43). Before we become Christians, our lives are contaminated by sin. This sin separates us from God. And since God is holy and perfect, He cannot dwell in our contaminated bodies until we trust Christ to forgive us and cleanse us of all our wrongdoings. So, the moment you put your faith in Jesus Christ for salvation, God removes the barriers of sin and comes to live inside you forever.

If you are already a Christian, the Bible instructs you to confess your sin to God: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9). To confess means to agree with God that what you did, said or thought was wrong. When you do this, God is faithful to forgive you and cleanse you from all sin, even that which you are not aware of.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, as I read the Scripture this morning, I found myself sitting in judgment over the religious leaders of Israel who had turned the temple of God into a place of peddling instead of a place of prayer. But Your Spirit convicted me that I am no better than those religious leaders. I also have stolen from others, especially from You, my Lord and my God. Instead of giving You my time, talents, and treasures, I keep them to myself, taking from You what is rightfully Yours. I have also stolen from others with my words and my thoughts. Like the religious leaders, I also have made it difficult for others to approach You in worship by being less than Christlike towards them. Oh my Lord and my God, I agree with You that I have sinned against You and others with my thoughts, my words, and my actions. Thank You for forgiving me and cleansing me of all my sins including those I am not aware of. Thank You for fighting for me so I may approach You just as I am when others have made it difficult to do so with their various regulations and rituals. Thank You for being for me and not against me. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

No one can successfully condemn me

“Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.” Romans 8:34

Are you living under condemnation? Are you weighed down by guilt and anxiety about your past? Maybe you have done things which would embarrass you if they became public knowledge. You may have committed a terrible and tragic sin that was never traced back to you. You may have a criminal record or a moral charge or a domestic conflict that, to this moment, is private information. You may wrestle with a past that has been fractured and wounded by a mental or emotional breakdown. Futile attempts at suicide may add to the previous scar tissue and increase your fear of being labeled “sick” or “nervous.” It’s possible you live with memories of an immoral relationship, a financial failure, a terrible habit, a divorce or a scandalous involvement. You may be your worst critic of your past.

Or perhaps you are living under the condemnation of another person. Critical comments from a parent, a friend, an employer or a spouse have continued to haunt you. No matter what you do, you cannot seem to live up to their expectations. Nothing you do can seem to please them.  Does that describe you?

Worse yet, you may think that God will condemn you for something you have done in your past. Perhaps you have committed such a heinous sin that you are convinced that there is no possible way God could ever forgive you because He is holy and just. His justice could never overlook what you have done.

Before you surrender your situation as hopeless, please understand that if you have believed in Jesus Christ for His gift of everlasting life, God will not condemn you nor reject you. So there is no need to be paralyzed by your guilt and condemnation any longer. The assurance that no one can successfully condemn you is established in Romans 8:34.

The apostle Paul writes, “Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us” (8:34).

God is saying that no one can successfully condemn you because His Son…

“died” in your place for all your sins, taking the condemnation that you deserved so all your guilt is removed (8:34b).

“is risen” from the dead, satisfying God’s demand to punish your sins (8:34c). Jesus is alive to give life everlasting to all who believe in Him (John 11:25-26).

– “who is even at the right hand of God” defending you against all accusations (8:34).

“makes intercession for” you so that your faith won’t fail, you won’t give up, and that you can encourage others” (8:34e; cf. Luke 22:32).

How many times have we listened to Satan’s accusations or the accusations of others, all the while forgetting that God knows our sin, and has forgiven us any way!?! Jesus is sitting at God’s right hand right now defending us. When we sin and we are condemned by others, God looks to His Son Who says, “Father, I paid for that sin.”

So many of us live with negative labels. Sometimes they are not our own fault. But so many times they are of our own doing. And thus, we think that our story is one of failure and shame. But you know, it doesn’t have to be that way. Because our story can be a story of grace. For it is grace that fixes broken lives. It is grace that heals broken hearts and restores estranged sinners.

Jesus points us to what we are meant to be. We don’t have to live in our past. We don’t have to live with condemnation. We don’t have to live a life that is powerless in the face of temptation and sin. We are chosen for something more.

You know, none of us deserve to be forgiven. We haven’t earned it. Nor have we paid the price ourselves. Yet, in His grace, when Jesus forgives our sin, He forgets (Heb. 10:17). Our past ended one second ago. Once you have experienced grace, it is now time to show it to others. We are to be gracious with others as Christ has been gracious with us.

Prayer: Father God, thank You for removing all grounds for my condemnation through Jesus’ death, resurrection, ascension, and intercession so that I am totally accepted by You. I am so glad that when You forgave me, You forgot what I had done as if I had never sinned. And You are not only willing but pleased to use any vessel – just as long as it is clean today – at this moment. It may be cracked or chipped. It may be worn or it may have never been used before. But I can count on this – because of Your grace – my past ended one second ago. From this point on I can be clean and free from condemnation. Use me for Your glory, Lord. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

How can I know God is for me when all this bad stuff is happening?

As conditions worsen with regard to the coronavirus, many people are panicking. In large part, it seems to me that the media is highly responsible for a lot of fear-based decision making. God does not want His children to be driven by fear. He wants us to be driven by faith (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:7). With so many negative reports in the news today, it is challenging to maintain a life of faith. We may succumb to this bombardment of sensationalism and begin to doubt if God is really on our side. A lie that the enemy likes to whisper in a Christian’s ear when bad things are happening is, “God is against you.” Do you ever have thoughts like that? I certainly do.

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

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

God the Holy Spirit wants to apply these truths beyond our thoughts to the depths of our soul and spirit so that even when bad and painful things happen to us, we will still know deep down inside that God is for us. He is on our side. God is our biggest fan despite what we hear from our antagonists, including our own flesh. Therefore, there is no longer any reason to live in fear.

How do we replace this lie (and others) with God’s truth? Second Corinthians 10:3-5 instructs us. First, we must rely on God’s power, not our own. This battle for our minds is not “according to the flesh” (10:3). Nothing in our own flesh will help us to live victoriously or draw us closer to the Lord. Since the weapons of our warfare are “mighty in God,” then we must rely  upon the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome Satan’s lies (10:4).

Second, recognize the erroneous thought. This battle is located in our minds because it involves “strongholds,” “arguments,” “knowledge,” and “every thought” (10:4-5). The word “strongholds” pictures a fortress with high walls and towers surrounded by a moat. God says these strongholds must be destroyed which means that God did not build them. A “stronghold” then, is a negative, destructive pattern of thinking that Satan has built in our minds through repetition, trauma, or circumstances. Satan does not put thoughts in our minds. He uses other people’s voices to insert thoughts in our mind. Ungodly thoughts come from us. Christ lives inside us and He does not give us these ungodly thoughts (Galatians 2:20). We will not get very far in this battle for our minds until we acknowledge these satanic strongholds.

Third, release the lie. “Casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God” (10:5a). Dismiss the lie and say, This is not true, therefore, it is a lie and I am not going to pay attention to this. I am not going to entertain these thoughts that say God is against me.”

Fourth, reprogram your mind with the truth, “bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (10:5b). How do we bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ? Jesus told us: “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). The devil is a liar by nature and he cannot handle the truth (John 6:44). This is why the devil tries to distract us from the truth so that it never gets deep down into the areas where he has a stronghold in our lives.

Persevere in this truth: “God is for me and not against me. The proof? He gave me His best on the cross when I was at my worst.” Review this truth daily. Say it out loud. Find a picture or image that represents this truth and review it throughout the day. This will help download the truth of God’s Word into your right brain where lies are attached to wounds from your past.

Neuroscience teaches us that it takes 2-5 years to develop new neurological pathways in our brain that contain the truth. So keep telling yourself the truth even when you don’t feel like it or see it so you can create and strengthen the new pathway in your brain. Our bodies create new brain cells the more we tell ourselves the truth. The more we tell ourselves the truth, the stronger the pathway becomes between brain cells. When we ignore the lie, the old pathway weakens – those brain cells containing Satan’s lies have less power and strength. You can continue to create new brain cells throughout your life by speaking the truth to yourself. When Paul said, “do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom. 12:2), perhaps he not only had a spiritual transformation in mind, but a physiological transformation in mind as well.

Prayer: Father God, by Your Spirit, please heal my soul of the wound that has the lie attached to it that says, “You are against me.” I cannot heal this wound myself. No doctor, pastor, or therapist can heal me. Only You, Lord God, can heal me. I will need Your grace to replace this lie with Your truth that says, “You are for me. And since no one is greater than You, no one can successfully oppose me.” When I doubt that You are for me, please remind me of the cross that says You gave me Your best when I was at my worst. And since You gave Your best to me when I was at my worst, how much more will You give me through Your Son Jesus now that I am Your beloved child through faith in Him!?! Thank You that I no longer need to live in fear. I can awaken each morning expectant of Your best for me through the Lord Jesus Christ. In His name I pray. Amen.