How will you respond to Christ crucified? Part 3

“Then they all cried again, saying, ‘Not this Man, but Barabbas!’ Now Barabbas was a robber.” John 18:40

In John 18:28-19:4, we are looking at different responses to Christ crucified. So far we have learned that …

– Like the Jewish leaders, we may refuse to believe in Jesus because of our self-righteous religious pride (John 18:28-32).

– Like Pilate, we may refuse to believe in Jesus because we are too busy with life to truly live (John 18:33-38a).

The third possible way we might respond to Christ crucified is the best way. SIMILAR TO BARABBAS, WE TRUST IN JESUS’ DEATH IN OUR PLACE FOR OUR SINS (John 18:38b-40). When Pilate declared to the Jews, “I find no fault in Him at all” (John 18:38b), it was a reminder that Jesus would die like a Passover lamb, a male in its prime without blemish (cf. Exodus 12:5; I Corinthians 5:7; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; I Peter 3:18). Jesus, the innocent Lamb of God, would die for you and me so we would not have to die forever in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:11-15). But we must come to Jesus on His terms which means believing in Him alone for His gift of everlasting life to escape the eternal punishment of the lake of fire (John 3:36; Revelation 20:15).

Pilate said to the Jews, 39 But you have a custom that I should release someone to you at the Passover. Do you therefore want me to release to you the King of the Jews? 40 Then they all cried again, saying, ‘Not this Man, but Barabbas!’ Now Barabbas was a robber.” (John 18:39-40). Rather than releasing Jesus on the basis of His obvious innocence, Pilate sought to avoid insulting the Sanhedrin by appealing to the Jewish custom of releasing a prisoner during their Passover feast. Pilate’s main concern was to minimize trouble rather than secure justice. If He pronounced Jesus innocent, he would offend the Jewish leaders. But if he pronounced Jesus guilty, he would offend Jesus’ followers. So he tries to satisfy everyone by implying Jesus’ guilt and releasing Him on the basis of the Passover custom. 

Pilate puts forward Jesus, whom he rightly calls “the King of the Jews,” and a notorious “robber” named “Barabbas.” Pilate is thinking that this crowd that had just days before spread palm leaves on Jesus’ path and shouted “Hosanna” as He passed (John 12:12-15; cf. Luke 19:28-38) would select Him to be released. But John tells us, “Then they all cried again, saying, ‘Not this Man, but Barabbas!’ ” (John 18:40a). Barabbas was more dangerous to people than to property. He committed murder in connection with insurrection (Mark 15:7; Luke 23:18-19). Barabbas did what Jesus refused to do – take the lead in an armed revolt against Rome. The Jews ignored the obvious innocence of Jesus and freed a murderer. “Don’t miss that the leaders preferred a criminal who had fought for physical deliverance from Rome because that’s all they cared about. They wanted political deliverance from Gentile rule, when what they needed was spiritual deliverance from sin.” 1

Barabbas’ freedom was at Christ’s expense. That is the gospel message. The guilty is released and the innocent is condemned. The Jews were so hostile toward Jesus that they ignored His innocence. Their minds were so made up that the facts about Jesus’ innocence did not matter. Christ did not deserve this condemnation, yet He willingly subjected Himself to it for our sakes (cf. 2 Corinthians  5:21; I Peter 2:22-24; 3:18).

But let’s not overlook how this must have impacted Barabbas. Imagine Barabbas waiting on death row in a Roman prison for the verdict knowing that he could be executed any day. Prisoners didn’t have any rights in those days. It was over for him. There was no hope. He was a murderer who deserved death, and deep down he knew it. Each passing day was one day closer to certain death. He may have been imagining it—the flogging, mocking, and eventual death. It was coming.

And then the day comes. He can hear the shouts ringing throughout the courtyard: “Not this Man, but Barabbas!” Perhaps he was thinking to himself, “They are coming for me.” The guards open the door to his cell and drag him outside. But then something amazing happens. Everyone is celebrating his new freedom. His chains are released, and he is set free. The murderer is set free.

Put yourself in his sandals for a minute. You are walking to your death in chains and then all of a sudden, when you least expect it, you are a free man. Then you hear the words begin: “Crucify Him, crucify Him!” (Mark 15:13-14; Luke 23:21). And you see another man walking by. Those chants are not for you. The guards are dragging another man to his death – Jesus of Nazareth. He is beaten and flogged and is forced to carry His cross to His death. It’s the very cross you had imagined yourself carrying only moments earlier. You think to yourself, that’s my death He’s dying. Barabbas is the one person in history who could say that Jesus literally carried his cross. Jesus took his death, and Barabbas was given the freedom Jesus deserved. Jesus bore the guilt and shame and curse and disgrace and death that Barabbas deserved. Barabbas received the release, the freedom, and the life that Jesus deserved. It was an incredible scene. 2

And the truth is, Barabbas represents all of us. 3  He should have been on the cross instead of Jesus because he was guilty and deserved to die. You may protest, “But I’m not a robber!” But we have all robbed God of His rightful glory and control over our lives. You may come back, “But at least I’m not a murderer!” But Jesus said that if we are wrongfully angry with our brother, we are guilty of murder in God’s sight (Matthew 5:21-22). “But,” you still protest, “I’ve never led an armed rebellion against the government.” True, but we are all rebels against the King of the universe. We have all sinned against God and His rightful rule in our lives.

Also, Barabbas did nothing to earn his pardon. He wasn’t pardoned because of his good behavior or promises to change. If anything, he was pardoned because of how notoriously evil he was. He couldn’t brag after he got out about how he deserved to be pardoned. He couldn’t claim that he was pardoned for his exemplary behavior. In the same way, the Bible says that God justifies the ungodly not through their good works, but by faith alone in Christ alone (Romans 4:4-5). None of us can boast in ourselves when Jesus saves us because our salvation is based on His finished work, not our works (John 19:30; Ephesians 2:8-9). 

Jesus died in Barabbas’ place. Barabbas, whose name means “son of the father,” should have been on the cross that day. Instead, the One Who is the eternal Son of the eternal Father hung there in Barabbas’ place. Jesus died in his place – and in your place and mine.

Let me ask you something. Suppose you were a pilot of a plane that became disabled. Your course is headed straight toward a residential area as the plane descends. You have a parachute and could jump to safety, but you must do it at an altitude allowing the plane to crash and kill many. Your other option is to fly the plane and guide it toward a vacant area, but there would be no time to jump to safety. You would die, but others would be spared. Which would you do? Let me tell you what one man did.

Twenty-four-year-old Vinson Kyle Perdue, a United States Air Force pilot, died when his disabled warplane crashed. Instead of parachuting to safety, Perdue apparently stayed with the plane to steer it away from a residential area.

Amy White, who lived near the crash site, was quoted as saying, “I know he went down with that plane so it wouldn’t hit anyone’s house. It would’ve hit my house if he didn’t maneuver that plane.” (Adapted from Dallas Times Herald, August 26, 1981). 4

Jesus Christ could have parachuted and jumped. In other words, He could have escaped His persecutors and refused to die for Barabbas and for us. Instead, He took the punishment for our sins and died so that we could live. He substituted His life in our place.

But Barabbas’ pardon was not automatic. He could have spit in Pilate’s face and said, “I don’t need your pardon! Crucify me!” And, he would have been crucified, while a different prisoner would have been released. In the same way, the pardon that Christ offers to all is only applied to the person who receives it by faith. Jesus promises, “Whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.(John 3:16). Like Barabbas, the guilty rebel, you have got to appropriate by faith the pardon that Christ’s death offers you.

Some people use the word “believe” in our English sense of the word. They mentally assent to the fact Christ died and arose, but they are still depending on their works to get them to heaven. The word “believe” in the Bible means that if a person mentally assents to the fact that Christ died for his or her sins and arose, they trust in Christ alone to get them to heaven. 5

Let me share an illustration. “Picture a luxury liner cruising in the Pacific Ocean. It begins taking on water and lifeboats become a necessity. Three passengers find themselves in different situations. The first has no knowledge that lifeboats save and therefore never steps into one. The second understands that lifeboats save but for some reason refuses to step into one. The third passenger not only understands the ability of a lifeboat to save, but accepts as being true that the lifeboat has the ability to save. The passenger therefore steps into the lifeboat and in so doing relies upon it as the means of salvation.

“Which of the three is saved? The answer is obvious. The last passenger had knowledge and used it. A person is saved when he or she understands the ability Christ has to save and acts on that knowledge by trusting Christ. That is saving faith. One is not saved by simply understanding that Christ died and arose or even mentally assenting to that being a fact of history while depending on one’s good life for salvation. One is saved when as a sinner deserving of hell, one has trusted Christ alone for salvation.” 6

If you have never understood this before, and now you are transferring all your trust onto to Christ alone Who died in your place for all yours sins, you may tell God this through prayer. Keep in mind that praying a prayer is not what gets us to heaven. Only believing or trusting in Christ alone gets us to heaven. This prayer is a way of telling God you are now trusting in His Son.

Prayer: Dear Jesus, I realize that I am like Barabbas. I was hopelessly condemned. I deserved to die on that cross because I have sinned against You with my thoughts, words, and actions. But Your love broke through for me when You bore the curse, the disgrace, the guilt, the shame, and the death that I deserved when You took my place on that cross. You were completely innocent, yet out of love for me, You took the abuse, the beating, the insults, and humiliation that I should have received. Thank You so much for dying in my place and rising from the dead. I am now trusting in You alone, Jesus (not my good life, my prayers, or my religion), to forgive all my sins and give me everlasting life. Thank You for the forgiveness and eternal life I now have. Thank You that I am now free from eternal condemnation and slavery to sin. Use me as You deem best to fulfill Your purposes for Your glory. In Your life-giving name I pray. Amen.

To help you grow in your new relationship with Jesus, please download our digital “Pressing On” discipleship training materials (see above) to go through with others who do not know Jesus as their Savior.   

ENDNOTES:

1. Tony Evans, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary, pg. 1821.

2. Dave Furman credits this descriptive scene in his article on March 28, 2018 entitled “We Are Barabbas”at https://www.crossway.org/articles/we-are-barabbas/ to Timothy J. Keller, Mark 15:1–15, King’s Cross: The Gospel of Mark, Part 2: The Journey to the Cross” (New York: Redeemer Presbyterian Church, March 11, 2007).

3. Adapted from Steve J. Cole’s message on June 7, 2015 entitled, “Lesson 95: What Will You Do With Jesus? (John 18:28-19:16)” at www.Bible.org.

4. R. Larry Moyer, Show Me How To Illustrate Evangelistic Sermons (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2012) pg. 235.

5. R. Larry Moyer, Free and Clear: Understanding & Communicating God’s Offer of Eternal Life (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1997), pg. 41.

6. Ibid.

How will you respond to Christ crucified? Part 2

“Pilate therefore said to Him, ‘Are You a king then?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.’ ” John 18:37

In John 18:28-19:4, we are looking at different responses to Christ crucified. The first way is like the Jewish leaders, we may refuse to believe in Jesus because of our self-righteous religious pride (John 18:28-32).

The next possible way we may respond to the crucified Christ is seen in Pilate’s response to Jesus. LIKE PILATE, WE MAY REFUSE TO BELIEVE IN JESUS BECAUSE WE ARE TOO BUSY WITH LIFE TO TRULY LIVE (John 18:33-38a). In the following verses we see the majesty of Christ confront the proud majesty of Rome’s representative. After speaking to the religious leaders outside the Praetorium, “Then Pilate entered the Praetorium again, called Jesus, and said to Him, ‘Are You the King of the Jews?’ ” (John 18:33). Pilate went back into Herod’s residence to question Jesus to see if He was a threat to Caesar. According to Luke 23:2, the religious leaders accused Jesus of three things: subverting the nation, opposing payment of taxes to Caesar, and claiming to be “Christ, a King.” 1

Jesus answered Pilate’s question with a question. “Jesus answered him, ‘Are you speaking for yourself about this, or did others tell you this concerning Me?’ ” (John 18:34). One commentator suggests that Jesus seems to be giving Pilate a chance to develop personal spiritual interest in Him.Are you speaking for yourself?’ If he were, this might well suggest Pilate would have received more revelation about Jesus and the life He gives.” 2   

But Pilate was not interested in learning more about Jesus spiritually. He says to Christ, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered You to me. What have You done?” (John 18:35). When Pilate says, “Am I a Jew?” he is saying he has no personal interest in this matter. He sees it purely as an ethnic issue. Pilate wants to know what Jesus has “done” to stir up the Jews’ hatred toward Him.

Christ seems to answer Pilate’s earlier question about whether He was a King (John 18:33) when He says, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.” (John 18:36). Jesus says, “Yes, I am a King.” But He assures Pilate that His “kingdom is not of this world” like Rome’s political kingdom. If it were of this world, Jesus would use the world’s methods to establish His kingdom, that is, His “servants would fight, so that… [He] should not be delivered to the Jews.”

Let’s think about this for a moment. The truth of the matter is that Jesus is the King of the Jews and He is also the King of the Romans. In fact, He is King of the entire universe!!! But the source of His authority and kingship is in heaven, not on earth.

Remember, one of Jesus’ “servants,” Peter, did fight in the Garden of Gethsemane and Christ rebuked him and healed the man Peter had wounded (John 18:10-11; Luke 22:51). But Peter was using worldly methods to establish a kingdom, not the methods of Jesus. This is a good reminder that if we are going to be Jesus’ servants, we have got to use His methods – not the methods of this world. Worldly methods “won’t work when your source is spiritual.” 4  

When Jesus says, “but now My kingdom is not from here,” this implies (especially the word now) that His being “delivered to [the will of] the Jews” is a necessary step toward His future rule as King of the Jews. One day Jesus’ kingdom will be on earth. However, that will be a revitalized world. It will not be ‘this world,’ a world whose god is Satan. In addition, Jesus will reign forever on the new earth (Revelation 21-22).” 5

Pilate realizes Jesus’ claim to kingship when he says to Christ, “Are You a king then?” (John 18:37a). Only a king would claim a kingdom. Ironically, Pilate recognized what the Jews refused to believe – that Jesus is Israel’s King. Christ confirms Pilate’s conclusion and proceeds to explain the nature of His mission and ministry. “Jesus answered, ‘You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.’ ” (John 18:37b). Jesus was “born” to be a King.

Jesus understood His purpose. Do we understand ours? God has a purpose for our lives that is complete in every detail. It is impossible for the God of the universe to allow any of His plans to be executed haphazardly. The life of Jesus is a prime example. His coming as a Babe in Bethlehem, His earthly ministry, His death and resurrection, all took place according to God’s eternal purpose. Christ was born for Kingship. He came to earth to reveal the truth about Himself.  

Do you realize that your life, if you are a believer in Jesus, has been designed by your heavenly Father to fulfill a specific purpose? C.H. Spurgeon said, “But let us all do something for Christ. I will never believe there is a Christian in the world who cannot do something. There is not a spider hanging on the king’s wall but hath its errand; there is not a nettle that groweth in the corner of the churchyard but hath its purpose; there is not a single insect fluttering in the breeze but accomplisheth some divine decree; and I will never have it that God created any man, especially any Christian man, to be a blank, and to be a nothing. He made you for an end. Find out what that end is; find our your niche, and fill it!” 6

Jesus said He “came into the world” to “bear witness to the truth” of His Person (cf. John 14:6). I believe Christ is appealing to Pilate to recognize His Divine Person when He says, “Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” In the gospel of John, hearing Jesus’voice (John 5:25, 28, 37; 10:3-4, 16, 27) is “a metaphor for saving faith. It has the same sense here. The point is either that all who are now ‘of the truth’ have come to believe in Jesus, or that those who will be ‘of the truth’ will believe in Jesus (before they die).” 7 Christ sought Pilate’s salvation, not His own defense. He is saying to Rome’s representative, “Pilate, do you want to be a part of My spiritual kingdom? If so, listen to My voice – believe in Me.”

“Pilate said to Him, ‘What is truth?’” (John 18:38a). What did Pilate mean when he asked Jesus this? There are many possible interpretations. Was it a wistful desire to know what no one could tell him? Was it philosophical cynicism concerning the problem of epistemology? Was it indifference to anything so impractical as abstract thought? Or was it irritation at Jesus’ response?” 8

Sadly, Pilate’s question is repeated by this fallen postmodern world today. Many in our culture reject the notion of absolute truth. ‘Truth’ to them is relative—that is, what’s true for one person isn’t necessarily true for another. But this is preposterous. Truth is the absolute standard by which reality is measured. It’s not something that changes based on feelings or perspective. A person can deny that gravity is true, but if he decides to jump off a building to prove it, he’s going to find that truth doesn’t care about his feelings or perspective. Truth exists whether you embrace it or not.” 9

Less than twenty-four hours earlier, Jesus had said to His disciples, “I am… the truth” (John 14:6). All of us need absolute truth. And His name is Jesus Christ. The One Who is the embodiment of “truth” now stood before Pilate. 10  The One Who could best answer Pilate’s question about truth was standing before him. And what does Pilate do? “And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews, and said to them, ‘I find no fault in Him at all.’ ” (John 18:38b). Pilate turns away from the One Who is “the truth,” instead of waiting for Jesus’ answer to his question.

Pilate represents people in the world today who are too busy with life to truly live. Imagine being in Pilate’s sandals. He experienced a close encounter with the Son of God. It was a great opportunity for Pilate to learn more about Jesus and put his faith in Him for the gift of salvation. But Pilate was interested in getting past this Jewish squabble so he could return to his own affairs. He asked Jesus, “What is the truth?” but he did not wait for Jesus’ answer. Instead he went out to the Jews. Jesus may have thought at that time, “Pilate, slow down so I can speak the truth to you.” Ironically and sadly, Pilate was too busy with life to live.

What about you? Are you moving at such a high speed that you are too busy to hear God’s voice? Have you slowed down enough to receive the never-ending life Jesus Christ freely offers to those who believe in Him (John 11:25-26)? Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6). Apart from “the way,” there is no going to heaven. Apart from “the truth,” there is no knowing how to get to heaven. And apart from “the life,” there is no living in heaven.

Like Pilate, many people refuse to believe in Jesus because they are too busy with life to truly live. My friends, please don’t make that mistake because it has eternal consequences. Jesus spoke of one such man who was very wealthy and too busy with his own affairs here on earth to help a poor man named Lazarus (Luke 16:19-22). But the day came when both Lazarus and the rich man died. Lazarus represents those who believe in Jesus. When Lazarus died, God’s angels received him and took him to dwell in Paradise with God (Luke 16:22a). He did not die alone, but he died in the presence of God.

But the rich man represents those who do not believe in Jesus. When the rich man died, he was all alone – no family, no friends. When he died, he went immediately to a place called “torments in Hades” (Luke 16:22b-23). People who refuse to believe in Jesus during this life will go to this temporary holding place after they die until they receive their final judgment at the Great White Throne and are assigned to the lake of fire forever (Revelation 20:11-15).

Jesus tells us that Abraham said to the rich man in torments in Hades, “Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented.” (Luke 16:25). This tells us that people in hell have the capacity to “remember” the events of this life and that they are forced to deal with those memories eternally. They will remember every gospel message they heard and rejected. They will remember how God manifested Himself in thousands of ways to draw them to Himself. They will remember and they will know that they have no one to blame for their situation but themselves!

If you have never believed in Jesus as your Savior, I wonder what you will remember when you get to hell? Will you remember this message? Will you remember all the Christians who witnessed to you and prayed for you? Will you remember how you wasted your life on temporary things and condemned your own soul to hell’s everlasting fire? Will you remember how busy you were and never took time to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ? Will you remember how good and gracious God was to you and how you rejected His great love?

You do not have to experience this kind of turmoil in eternity. Jesus invites you right now to come to Him as the embodiment of truth. And because He is “the truth,” you can come in complete confidence knowing that He will keep His promise to forgive you and grant you eternal life the moment you believe in Him. Jesus promised, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life.” (John 6:47b). Do you believe this? If so, you now have His everlasting life.

Prayer: Precious Lord Jesus, thank You for revealing Yourself to Pilate and to me. Like Pilate, I can be so busy with the affairs of life, that I do not take time to hear Your voice of truth. But I am now realizing that You are never too busy for me. You are always available to answer my questions and keep Your promises. I now believe that You are the only way to heaven because as the truth, You were the perfect and sinless sacrifice to pay the penalty for all my sins and then rise from the dead. You are the true God and eternal life. And as the life, You offer eternal life freely to those who believe in You. Right now, as best I know how, I am believing or trusting in You alone, Lord Jesus, to give me Your never-ending life so I can live eternally with You in Your coming kingdom on earth. Thank You for the everlasting life I now have and for the place I will have in Your future kingdom on earth. Please use me now to advance Your spiritual kingdom by speaking the truth of You to those who are perishing without You. In Your marvelous name I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Edwin A. Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Gospels, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 686.

2. Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 555.

3. Tony Evans, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary, pg. 1820.

4. Ibid.

5. Robert Wilkin, The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition, pg. 555.

6. C. H. Spurgeon’s January 11, 1857 message entitled “The War of Truth” at https://www.spurgeon.org/resource-library/sermons/the-war-of-truth/#flipbook/ .

7. Robert Wilkin, The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition, pg. 556.

8. Edwin A. Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Gospels, pg. 687.

9. Tony Evans, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary, pp. 1820-1821.

10. Robert Wilkin, The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition, pg. 556.

God uses little things to make big things happen

“But when the children of Israel cried out to the Lord, the Lord raised up a deliverer for them: Ehud the son of Gera, the Benjamite, a left-handed man… Now Ehud made himself a dagger (it was double-edged and a cubit in length) and fastened it under his clothes on his right thigh.” Judges 3:15-16

After Joshua died, Israel started to compromise their commitment to drive out the inhabitants of the land of Canaan (Judges 1:21-36). And so began the following cycle: departure from the Lord, discipline by Israel’s enemies, the Lord has pity when His people cry for help, God raises up a deliverer (judge) who defeats their enemies, their deliverer dies, and Israel returns to the false gods of the pagan inhabitants of the land (Judges 2:11-19).

One such deliverer that God raised up was a “left-handed man” named “Ehud,” who would deliver Israel from the oppressive rule of “Eglon king of Moab” (Judges 3:12, 15). We are told, “Now Ehud made himself a dagger (it was double-edged and a cubit in length) and fastened it under his clothes on his right thigh” (Judges 3:16). Ehud’s “double-edged” sword was sharp on both sides and would be an effective weapon against Israel’s enemies. The fact that Ehud “fastened” this sword “under his clothes on his right thigh” would make it difficult to be detected.

When Ehud delivered “the tribute to Eglon” who “who was a very fat man,” he “sent away the people who had carried the tribute” and told the king he had “a secret message for” him (Judges 3:17-19a). This prompted the king to send “all who attended him” out of his “private chambers” so he could be alone with Ehud (Judges 3:19a-20a). After Ehud told the king, “I have a message from God for you,” he “arose from his seat” and took the king completely off guard when he “reached with his left hand, took the dagger from his right thigh, and thrust it into his belly” (Judges 3:20b-21). After killing king Eglon, Ehud led the tribe of Ephraim to victory over the Moabites and Israel enjoyed “rest” in “the land…for eighty years” (Judges 3:25-30).

It is important not to miss the fact that God not only providentially moves in the course of history to accomplish major events, but He also uses a string of little things like a “left-handed” man who wears his “double-edged sword… under his clothes on his right thigh” to bring about those major events.  

God uses little things to make big things happen. Like when a team of six short-term American missionaries and six Filipino evangelists went to a spiritually dark island called Dinagat in the southern Philippines in January of 2012. After arriving on the island which had a reputation for driving missionaries off the island or even poisoning them, one of the older mission team members began to preach the gospel outside a marketplace. An older woman said the Americans on the mission team fulfilled an ancient prophecy on the island which spoke of white-skinned people coming to the island and bringing many blessings.

As result, the Lord opened up many doors, including a radio/television station, for the gospel to spread throughout the island. The Lord used the skin color of a small team of American missionaries to help spread the gospel throughout the island. Let us not forget that God can string together little things (e.g. the color of your skin, your left-handedness, the size of your nose, your love for fish, etc.) to make big things happen for His glory.

Prayer: Lord God, thank You for reminding us that You can use little things in our lives to make big things happen for Your glory. Help us to pay attention to how You fit together the little things to make major events take place. You can use our looks, mannerisms, and interests to advance Your gospel message in a world that is becoming increasingly dark without Christ. We surrender all we have to You for Your glory. In the matchless name of Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.

Is Jesus Christ Alive Today? (Video)

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

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

Lesson 1 Part 2 – Sharing the Gospel (Video)

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

Lesson 1 Part 1 – Plan of Salvation Introduction (Video)

This video introduces the Pressing On discipleship training. It provides an overview of the eight lessons which include the Plan of Salvation, Prayer, Daily Time with God, the God Who Saved Us, the Church, Fighting Shame, God’s Will for Your Life, and Abiding in God’s Word. Get started today in learning to multiply followers of Jesus Christ until all hear His gospel message. Additional lessons are currently being revised and should be available in the near future. It is recommended you download the English digital Pressing On materials under the “discipleship training materials” dropdown menu to take notes as you listen to the video.

Transforming a nation and world

“Therefore hear the parable of the sower.” Matthew 13:18

Jesus explains His parable of the sower (Matthew 13:2-9) to His disciples to prepare them for the different types of responses to the preaching of God’s Word (Matthew 13:18-23). Each soil in this parable represents a different response to God’s message. Some to whom we share the gospel are like “the wayside” soil (Matthew 13:4, 19) who will not receive or believe in Jesus (Matthew 13:19; Luke 8:12).

Others are like “the stony places” (Matthew 13:5-6, 20-21) who “believe [the gospel] for a while” (Luke 8:13) but never really make a commitment to follow Christ as His disciple and “fall away” because of adversity (Matthew 13:20-21; Luke 8:13). They are “hearers only” of the Word like James talks about (James 1:22). They deceive themselves into thinking they can grow spiritually simply by hearing God’s Word without doing what it says. They are not willing to follow Jesus regardless of the costs.

A third type of person we will discover is like the seed that “fell among thorns” (Matthew 13:7, 22). These are those who believe in Jesus and start to follow Him, but they never bear much fruit because they are so distracted by worldliness and wealth (Matthew 13:22; Luke 8:14).

So far this has been disappointing. If this is the kind of response we can expect to get from many people, why go on? Jesus tells us why! He tells us not to become discouraged because eventually we will come across the fourth kind of person, a person who bears much fruit after believing the gospel (Matthew 13:8, 23; Luke 8:15). Unless we are willing to endure those who reject His message, those who fall away, and those who are too distracted, we will never discover the pure joy of finding those who are fruitful!

And notice that Jesus tells us that some of these fruitful ones will bear fruit “a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty” (Matthew 13:23). One of the blessings we will experience if we continue to faithfully sow the seed of God’s Word, is that we will begin discovering these amazingly productive believers. These fruitful believers are “super spreaders” because they are super at spreading the seed of God’s Word. These are the “doers of the word” (James 1:22). They will far exceed us in witnessing and planting new churches.

The way to discover these “good soil” believers, is to train everyone in discipleship who believes the gospel! The “good soil” believers will quickly emerge. They will immediately become doers of the Word of God. As these super spreaders emerge among us, we will begin to see a more significant movement take place in our country and world as well. But the whole process begins with those who are faithful to sow the seed – to preach the gospel and train in discipleship those who believe in Jesus (Mark 16:15; Matthew 28:19-20).

This is the key to a transformed life and nation, not the political process. I believe more than ever, that Jesus is calling His church to return to the discipleship process in order to see our nation and world change for His glory! Christ implores us, “Hear the parable of the sower.” (Matthew 13:18). Will we hear and obey our Lord and Master! Perhaps today is when some of us begin  to sow the seed of His Word!!! Please know that His Word will not return to Him void, but it shall accomplish what He pleases, and it shall prosper in the thing for which He sent it (Isaiah 55:11)!

Prayer: Lord Jesus, all authority has been given to You in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18). Your one and only plan to reach the world for Your glory is the discipleship process whereby we preach Your gospel message to everyone in the world, and then call those who believe Your gospel to commit to follow You as a disciple through water baptism. Then we are to teach them to obey all Your commands (Mark 16:15; Matthew 28:19-20). Please enable us to be faithful to spread the seed of Your gospel message to this world which is perishing without You, Lord Jesus! Thank You for explaining the different types of responses we can expect from our audiences as we proclaim Your Word. By Your grace, enable us to endure those who reject Your message, those who fall away, and those who are too distracted, so we may discover the pure joy of finding those who are super at spreading the seed of Your Word to others!!! Your discipleship process is what transforms individuals, nations, and the world, not a political process. Please forgive us for looking in the wrong places for transformation. I beg You to bring us back to the basics of the Bible and the discipleship process, my Lord and my God. May Your Holy Spirit give us the boldness and vision to pursue You and Your discipleship process until all hear Your gospel message!!! Thank You for the assurance that You are always with us as we make disciples for Your glory (Matthew 28:20b). In Your matchless name I pray Lord Jesus. Amen.

Receiving Life Freely – Part 1 (Video)

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

All Scripture in slides are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted. Gospel of John pictures are used with permission from www.GoodSalt.com, www.FreeBibleimages.org or www.LumoProject.com. The gospel of John movie clip is used with permission from Jesus.net. You may view the entire Life of Jesus movie at https://jesus.net/the-life-of-jesus/.

How do I stay focused on what is important to God? Part 3

“He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who seeks the glory of the One who sent Him is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him.” John 7:18

So far in our discussion about how to stay focused on what is important to God, we have learned to avoid hiding behind foolish stereotypes (John 7:14-16) and to ascertain God’s will by doing it (John 7:17). Today we learn to ASSESS THOSE WHO TEACH US (John 7:18-23). We all have teachers. We should have those who disciple us. However, we must be careful to whom we entrust ourselves. In Matthew 7:15, Jesus warns us to watch out for false prophets or teachers who are wolves in sheep’s clothing. Outwardly, they may appear to be Christians. They may be very gentle, kind, loving and quite popular, but if they are teaching a message that is contrary to Jesus’ message, they are false teachers and they are to be avoided.

Jesus gives us a clear warning – “He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory.” (John 7:18a). Jesus gives us several things to look for in a teacher:

1.  Who is the teacher seeking to glorify? Himself or God the Father? Jesus sought to glorify the One who sent Him by teaching the doctrine His Father gave Him (John 7:16; cf. 5:19-20; 12:49-50). Jesus did not seek His own glory. What Jesus taught was always true. What Jesus taught was always consistent with what His Father taught. When a person advances the ideas of another person, it glorifies his teacher rather than himself. However, when he advances his own ideas instead of his teacher’s, it dishonors his teacher and glorifies himself. When we distort or mishandle God’s Word, we are seeking our own glory instead of God’s.

For the sake of illustration, let’s say my earthly father told me to invite people to meet him for a free meal at Mullets Restaurant in Des Moines at 8 am this Saturday by using the Dart Bus local route 6, but I told everyone I knew to meet him there at 8 am this Saturday by taking the Dart Bus route 52 because it is a more popular route (which does not go to that destination). Imagine the consequences!

First, no one would make it to the right destination because I had not communicated my father’s directions correctly. Second, all of them would miss out on a free meal. Third, they would think less of my father for sending them on a bus that took them to a destination where he was not present, thus wasting their time. By failing to communicate my father’s message accurately, I would damage his reputation and cause many people to miss out on his blessings. In addition, it would draw much attention (albeit negative) to myself from both my father and those I invited. On the other hand, if I had communicated his message accurately, many would enjoy a free meal and look up to my father for being so generous and gracious.

This is much more than semantics or splitting hairs. God has chosen specific words to communicate how to spend eternity with Him in Heaven (cf. John 3:16; Acts 16:31; Ephesians 2:8-9; et al.). His word is truth (John 17:17), not our opinions. When we distort or mishandle His saving message by inserting unclear clichés such as “give your life to Christ,” “invite Jesus into your heart,” “surrender to Christ” instead of the words Jesus taught about how to obtain eternal life (believe or faith), we do not please the Lord even if that is our sincere desire. In addition, we are also making it easier for people to arrive at the wrong eternal destination. However, when we tell people the same condition for obtaining eternal life that Jesus taught (believe in Him – John 3:15-18; 5:24; 6:40, 47; 7:38-39; 11:25-26; et al.), we are glorifying Jesus Christ and the Father who taught Him, and we are giving lost people the Good News they desperately need to hear.

2. Are they telling the truth about Christ and our need for Him? Jesus claimed something about Himself that could not be said about any other person – “But He who seeks the glory of the One who sent Him is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him.” (John 7:18b). Jesus is the sinless Son of God. He is fully God and fully human. He never said, did, or thought anything wrong. Even His motives were sinless. He always sought to glorify His Father. Jesus’ listeners were the opposite of Him. They were sinners. “Did not Moses give you the law, yet none of you keeps the law? Why do you seek to kill Me?” (John 7:19). This is true of all of us. None of us can keep all of God’s laws. “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.” (James 2:10). No matter how well you keep the rest of God’s laws, if you fail at one point, you are considered a lawbreaker and deserving of eternal punishment. And the Bible tells us that all of us fall short of His glory or perfection (Rom. 3:23).  

So maybe you have never murdered anyone or committed adultery, but have you ever misused God’s name or have you ever failed to love Him more than anyone or anything else? Our innocence in one area does not excuse us in other areas. All of us are sinners and sinners need a Savior. Instead of looking to Jesus to save them, Jesus’ listeners were seeking to kill Him. If a teacher depreciates the Person and work of Christ (denies He is fully God who took the punishment for all our sin and rose from the dead) and denies their own sinfulness, and therefore denies the need to trust in Christ alone for salvation, they are not from God and should be avoided.

First Timothy 6:3-5 tells us: 3 If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, 4 he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, 5 useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself.” In other words, there is a fungus among us and they need to be avoided. If a church or denomination ever goes down this slippery slope of depreciating the Person and work of Christ by denying His deity or distorting His gospel, it will be decision time. Will we follow Jesus and His teachings or will we follow people’s opinions and traditions?

We are living in an age similar to what Paul describes: “For there is going to come a time when people won’t listen to the truth but will go around looking for teachers who will tell them just what they want to hear.” (2 Timothy 4:3 Living Bible). We need to ask ourselves when we listen to teachers at church, on TV, the radio, the internet or even in a book, “Are these teachers telling us the truth, (which is sometimes painful) or are they telling us what they think we want to hear? Are they teaching salvation by grace through faith alone in Christ alone or are they teaching a faith plus gospel?” If a teacher is focused on glorifying God, if they seek to get across what God has said so that people might be delivered from sin’s penalty and obtain the free gift of eternal life simply by believing in Jesus alone who is the true God and eternal life, then you can trust that kind of teacher.

3. Are they living by a double standard? Instead of admitting their desire to murder Jesus, the crowd lies: “The people answered and said, ‘You have a demon. Who is seeking to kill You?’ ” (John 7:20). Because Christ’s grace conflicts with their legalistic understanding, they accuse Jesus of having a demon. 21 Jesus answered and said to them, ‘I did one work, and you all marvel. 22 Moses therefore gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. 23 If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath, so that the law of Moses should not be broken, are you angry with Me because I made a man completely well on the Sabbath?’ ” (John 7:21-23). The religious leaders accused Jesus of violating the Sabbath by healing a man who had been lame for 38 years (see John 5). However, these same people did not feel it was a violation of the Sabbath to circumcise a child on the Sabbath. According to their logic, it was right to make one part of the body right before God, but not the entire body. Their logic was falling apart. Jesus did more for that lame man than the religious leaders did for the boy who was circumcised. They thought their act was consistent with what God desired but they couldn’t see that with Jesus. That’s a double standard.

When I was having a discussion with another pastor a few years ago, he said to me that if I was humble, I would agree with his understanding of a particular passage of Scripture. And I did agree with him about that passage. And then I asked him if he was open to understanding another passage in a way that may be new to him, and he said, “No.” This same person, who was ready to accuse me of being proud for not agreeing with his understanding of Scripture, turned around and was very close-minded to a different interpretation of Scripture. That kind of double standard inhibits growth. If we are not teachable and open to learning new insights from God’s Word, we are going to remain spiritually stunted like the legalistic Jews that Jesus was encountering.

If we are going to stay focused on what is important to God, we must avoid hiding behind foolish stereotypes (John 7:14-16), ascertain God’s will by doing it (John 7:17), and assess those who teach us (John 7:18-23). If the person who instructs us does not magnify the Person and work of Jesus Christ for the glory of God, then we are to avoid his or her teaching so we may remain focused on what is important to God.

Prayer: Lord God, help me to be wise in terms of whom I place myself under to receive instruction. Also, please enable me to resemble You in my teaching of others. May all of us who teach be consistent in teaching what You taught so You are most glorified and people will be most satisfied in You. Help us to magnify the Person and work of Jesus Christ. He is fully God and fully Man Who paid our sin debt in full so all anyone must do to have everlasting life is believe in Him alone. If other Christians depart from sound doctrine to follow those who teach what they want to hear, help us to remain faithful to Your words which give eternal life. Forgive us for closing our hearts off to Your instruction. Please give us an open heart that longs to gain new insights from Your Word so we may continue to focus on what matters most to You – Your glory and Your gospel. In Jesus’ name. Amen.  

Everyone needs John 3:16

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

Every Christ-centered church supports missions. When I speak of missions I am referring to “the sending of authorized believers to people of non-faith or other-faiths for the purpose of making disciples of Jesus Christ.” Why does a local church have missions? Let’s look at John 3:16. This is one of the most familiar verses in all the Bible. It has been used by God to lead millions of people to Christ. It has sparked revivals around the world.

This verse falls in the middle of a conversation between Jesus and a religious ruler named Nicodemus. Nicodemus thinks the way to heaven is by living a good life. But Jesus confronts him with the truth that he must be born again by believing in Christ alone for eternal life (John 3:1-15). It’s not what you do that gets you to heaven, it’s what Christ has already done for you on the cross and simply trusting Him to get you to heaven. Jesus explains further. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16).

Why does everyone need John 3:16?

BECAUSE GOD LOVED EVERYONE. Jesus said to Nicodemus, “For God so loved the world…” The first two words, “For God,” refer to the Creator of the heavens and earth (Genesis 1:1), the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End (Revelation 1:8, 17; 22:13), the Great I Am (Exodus 3:14), the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Exodus 3:6).

“For God so loved the world.” No one has ever loved to the degree that God has loved. Look at the extent of His love. He loved “the world.” He did not limit His love to one country, culture or color. His love extends beyond Filipinos to Americans… Africans… Australians… Chinese… Russians… Europeans…  Brazilians.

God loved everyone. Red and yellow, black and white, we are all precious in His sight! No one can love like God loves. His love is unlimited. His love is no respecter or rejecter of persons. He loves black skin as much as white skin… tattooed skin as much as freckled skin… shaven as much as bearded… long hair as much as no hair… poor as much as rich… boxing fans as much as basketball fans… Rap music fans as much as ballroom dancing fans.

This first phrase, “For God so loved the world…” has motivated people to leave their families and their homes to share God’s love on the other side of the world. Why? Because God loves everyone. His love cannot be earned. God loves us now, not when we get better. He loves us regardless of what we’ve done or not done. Do you realize that nothing you do can make God love you any less? He loves us even when we offend Him. God has designed us to be loved by Him. Only His love can meet our deepest needs. Unfortunately, we often look in the wrong places for this love, don’t we? We look for it in our occupation, paycheck,  in athletics, a bottle of booze or a dose of drugs, or in a brief romantic relationship. God’s love isn’t found in these things. His love is found in the Person of Jesus Christ.

The second reason why everyone needs John 3:16 is BECAUSE GOD GAVE HIS PERFECT SON FOR EVERYONE. Jesus said, “that He gave His only begotten Son.” God’s love gives. It doesn’t take. It gives sacrificially. What did He give? He gave what was most precious to Him – “His only begotten Son,” Jesus Christ. The phrase “only begotten Son” does not mean Jesus had a beginning like a baby that is birthed by his parents, as many false religions teach today. The compound Greek word translated “only begotten” is monogenḗs, which literally means “one (monos) of a kind (genos).” Jesus Christ is the only One of His kind. He is fully God (John 1:1-3) and fully Man (John 1:14). This is the message of the gospel of John.

God gave His only begotten Son to die in our place on a cross for our sins and rise from the dead (I Corinthians 15:3-6). Could you kill your child to save others? I certainly would not. Our love is pale compared to God’s love for us. Somebody might say to you, “I love you. Here’s my house. I’ll give it to you.” But how do you know that person doesn’t own ten homes so that giving up one is no sacrifice? Another person could say to you, “I love you. Here’s a million dollars.” But how do you know he does not have a billion dollars? When God says, “I love you. Here’s My perfect and only Son,” that is love. The greatest proof of His love is that He would allow His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ to die for our sins.

Did Jesus die for one country…culture or color? Did He die only for the elect? No, His death was for “all” nations of the world and all people (Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:15; John 1:29; 4:42; I Timothy2:3-6; I John 2:2). Jesus died for all people groups everywhere. Does that include drug addicts and prostitutes? Yes. Does that include Atheists, Buddhists, Catholics, Hindus, Muslims, and Protestants? Yes. Jesus died for all of them.

The third reason everyone needs John 3:16 is BECAUSE JESUS’ INVITATION IS FOR EVERYONE. Jesus said, “that whoever…” When we hear that God loves the world we may think, “Wow, that’s over 7.8 billion people. God may lose sight of me among that many people in the world today.” “Sure,” we say, “God loves the world in general, but what about me? What’s to keep Him from forgetting about me?” This is why God has placed the word “whoever” in this verse. When God looks at the world, He sees individuals, including you and me.

Thank God for that word “whoever.” If this verse read, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that when Jeff Ropp believes in Him, he should not perish, but have everlasting life,” I might be inclined to think He was talking about some other Jeff Ropp because this Jeff Ropp is such a filthy sinner; but whoever means this Jeff Ropp and that Jeff Ropp, and all the other Jeff Ropp’s in the world, and everyone else, whatever his or her name may be. This invitation is for everyone. What is Jesus inviting everyone to do?

This leads to the fourth reason why everyone needs John 3:16: BECAUSE EVERYONE NEEDS SUCH SIMPLICITY. Jesus said, “believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”Jesus is inviting us to believe in Him for everlasting life. He did not say, “whoever … does good in the community… lives an obedient life… denies himself and follows Me… confesses his sins… asks Me into his heart…  promises to serve Me… or is baptized.”  He simply says, “whoever believes in Him…” What does it mean to believe? To believe simply to accept something as true and then trust in that something.

Jesus says a person “believes” and “have.” You have what you take, correct? For example, if I were to say to you, “This $100 bill is yours if you will take it.” You cannot enjoy that $100 until you take it. If you take it, you have believed my promise to give it to you. Jesus asks us to take by faith the eternal life that He is freely offering to us. The moment you believe His promise to give everlasting live to all who believe in Him, you “have” everlasting life. Jesus guarantees that you will “not perish” in hell, but “have” everlasting life both now and forever. This is so simple that children often believe it much sooner than adults.

In John 3:16, Jesus is saying, “I love you. I died for you and rose from the dead. Will you trust Me to give you the never-ending life I bought for you with My own blood?” This is an invitation to believe or trust in Christ and Him alone – not ourselves or our good works. If you have just believed or trusted in Jesus Christ alone to give you everlasting life, you can tell Jesus this through prayer. Praying this prayer will not get you to heaven. Only believing or trusting in Jesus alone gets us to heaven. This prayer is a way of telling God you are now trusting in His Son.

Prayer:Dear Jesus, thank You for John 3:16 which tells me that You love me just as I am and that You want to be in a relationship with me forever. Lord Jesus, I admit that I have sinned against You and that I cannot save myself. I believe You died in my place on a cross for all of my sins and rose from the dead. I am now trusting in You alone, Jesus, (not my good life, my prayers, or my religion) to give me everlasting life and save me from hell forever. Thank You, Jesus, for the everlasting life I now have. Thank You for saving me from hell forever! Please help me to share John 3:16 with others before it is too late for them. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

To grow in your new relationship with Jesus Christ, please visit please visit www.seeyouinheaven.life or www.knowing-Jesus.com or evantell.org.  If you found this article to be helpful, please share it with those you want to see in heaven.Thank you and may Jesus richly bless you as you make Him known to others.