Receiving Life Freely – Part 1 (Video)

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

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

How 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.

Faithful to the end

“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” I Corinthians 5:58

It is important to understand the argument of the entire book of I Corinthians before we look at the end of I Corinthians 15. All of the failings of the Corinthians – their divisiveness, pride, insensitivity to immorality, idolatry, taking each other to court, etc. (1:11; 3:1-3; 5:9-6:20; 11:21-32) – each expressed a tendency to pollute God’s truth with human wisdom. This tendency is again evidenced in I Corinthians 15 by some in the Corinthian fellowship who were doubting the future resurrection of believers from the dead (15:12).

It is no mistake that Paul both begins and ends this epistle with arguments concerning the content of the gospel. In 1:18-25, he showed that their divisions were caused by a misunderstanding of the gospel. Human wisdom said that the message of Christ crucified was foolishness; Paul countered that while the gospel is foolishness to those who are perishing, it was God’s power for those being saved (1:18). At that point in his letter, he only focused on Christ’s crucifixion (1:17, 18, 23; 2:2).

Now, he addresses the questions of some concerning the bodily resurrection of believers, again pointing to the gospel message, focusing here on the resurrection of Christ – to show the error of their thinking (15:1-19). Again, Paul points out that mixing human wisdom with the gospel message, does not result in clarity, but in confusion. In this case, it is the blessed future hope of resurrection that is sacrificed on the altar of human wisdom. The historical bodily resurrection of Christ was central to the gospel message the Corinthians believed. The Corinthians knew the gospel; in fact, they received it, and were standing firm in it (15:1). What Paul really wants to make known to them is that by denying the doctrine of the bodily resurrection of all believers, they are actually denying the resurrection of Christ, and thus the gospel! This had escaped their notice.

Paul wants his readers to know that the good news (euangellion) of Jesus’ death and resurrection is foundational to healthy Christian living. Christians cannot live a victorious life for Christ if they stop believing in any aspect of the good news, especially Jesus’ substitutionary death, His bodily resurrection, His soon return, and their own bodily resurrection and acquisition of glorified bodies (15:1-57). This is why Paul concludes I Corinthians 15 by saying, “Therefore…” (15:58a). The word “therefore” refers to all that Paul wrote about the centrality of the bodily resurrection of Christ to the gospel message, Jesus’ soon return, and our own bodily resurrection and acquisition of glorified bodies (15:1-57).

Paul refers to his readers as “my beloved brethren” (15:58b). They were dearly loved by the apostle and by Christ Himself. Knowing we are very much loved by someone gets our attention and opens our hearts to hear more from him.

Paul challenges them (and us) to “be steadfast, immovable” (15:58c). The primary meaning of these two words is to be faithful to the gospel message Paul has handed down to us. Paul is telling us not to stop (“be steadfast”) or move away (“immovable”) from preaching the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Even though many theologians, seminaries and churches are mixing good works with the gospel message, we must not move away from the pure gospel of grace message which proclaims faith alone in Christ alone who died for our sins and rose from the dead. No matter how difficult it is to proclaim Christ’s death and resurrection, we must remain firm and unwavering in our commitment to preach the clear and simple gospel message given to us by the Lord Jesus and His apostles.

But there is more. Paul writes, “always abounding in the work of the Lord” (15:58d). The word “abounding” means to serve Christ above and beyond the expected measure. When it comes to preaching the death and resurrection of Christ to a lost world, we are to give Jesus our very best effort, not our leftovers. Notice that this all out effort for Christ is to be given “always,” not just occasionally.

Why are we to always give Christ our very best when we preach His gospel message? Paul tells us in the last part of the verse. “Knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (15:58e). Since Christ’s resurrection guarantees our own (15:1-57), our service(“labor”) for Christ is not “in vain” or of no value because at the Judgment Seat, Christ will richly reward those who remain faithful to preach the gospel of His death and resurrection (cf. I Cor. 3:8-4:5; 9:24-27; 2 Cor. 5:9-11).

Prayer: Precious Lord Jesus, thank You that I am dearly loved by You. Thank You for entrusting me with the privilege of proclaiming Your death and resurrection to a lost world. Let me not stop or move away from preaching Your clear and simple gospel message. Knowing that Your resurrection guarantees my own future resurrection and appearance at the Judgment Seat, motivates me to do my very best for You each and every day. Lord, I long to hear You say to me, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.” Gaining Your approval means more to me than anything else. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

What kind of person does God welcome into heaven?

“But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.” Romans 4:5

1. God welcomes into heaven the person “who does not work.” Getting to heaven is not based upon your works. It is not based upon going to church, praying a prayer, confessing your sin, persevering in good works, confessing the Lordship of Christ,  surrendering to the Lordship of Christ, or promising to commit your life to Christ. God does not welcome the person on the basis of his or her works. This is what distinguishes Christianity from world religions. World religions teach that getting to heaven is based upon what you “DO.” Christianity teaches that getting to heaven is based upon what Christ has already “DONE” when He died on the Cross (John 19:30).

2. God welcomes into heaven the person who “believes on Him who justifies the ungodly.” Getting to heaven is not based upon behaving, but upon believing in Jesus Christ “who justifies the ungodly.” It does not matter how well you have behaved, you are still “ungodly” before a holy God. You may say, “Well, I’m not as bad as him or her.” You need to understand that God is not comparing your life to other sinful people. He is comparing your life to the only perfect Person who has ever lived on earth – Jesus Christ. The Bible says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Jesus never told a lie, but you have told many. Jesus loved everyone, including His enemies. But you have days you cannot stand to be with your own family. The good news is that the moment you believe or trust in Christ alone who paid the full penalty for your sin when He died on the Cross and rose from the dead (I Corinthians 15:3-6), God “justifies” you which means He declares you to be totally righteous as if you had never sinned.  

3. God welcomes into heaven the person whose “faith is accounted for righteousness.” The fact is that all people are “ungodly” sinners who deserve to be separated from God forever in a terrible place called the “lake of fire” (Romans. 3:9-23; Revelation 20:15). But the moment you believe in Jesus Christ alone, God gives you a right standing before Him as “your faith is accounted for righteousness.” 

Conclusion: What kind of person does God welcome into heaven? He welcomes the believing person, not the behaving person. He welcomes the ungodly person who trusts in the only Savior of the world, Jesus Christ. And He welcomes the person whose faith in Christ gives him or her a right standing before a holy God.

Must I continue in doing good to receive eternal life?

“God, who will render to each one according to his deeds:’ eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality.” Romans 2:5b-7

A casual reading of these verses has led some to include that one must continue in doing good in order to receive eternal life. But how does one harmonize such an interpretation with the many verses that clearly teach that eternal life (salvation) is a free gift which one receives by believing in Jesus alone (John 3:15-16, 36; 4:10-14; 5:24; 6:40, 47; 11:25-26; 20:31; Acts 10:43; 13:39; 16:31; Romans 3:22-26; 6:23; Ephes. 2:8-9; I Timothy 1:16; I John 5:13; Rev. 22:17)?

A more consistent way to understand these verses is to realize that Paul is speaking to the self-righteous moralist who thinks he is good enough to enter heaven on the basis of his own morality (Rom. 2:1-4). Paul warns the self-righteous person that he is as guilty as the person whom he condemns because the longer he persists in his self-righteousness, the more guilt God will add to his record until the day His wrath is poured out on the unbeliever (Rom. 2:5; cf. Rev. 20:11-15). On that day God’s judgment of the unbeliever will be perceived as “righteous” because He will “render to each one according to his deeds” (Rom. 2:6). 

Those who patiently continue doing good would receive eternal life (Rom. 2:7). It must be noted, however, that Paul later shows that no human being on earth will do that (Rom. 3:10-12, 23), and therefore, would need to be justified by God through faith alone in Christ alone (Rom. 3:22-5:9a). Why? Because Jesus Christ is the only Doer of the Law (Matt. 5:17, 48; Rom. 8:3-4). Jesus never broke the law and He never will. So guess what happens when you put your faith in Christ who kept all of the Law?  You are made “perfect forever” through His sufficient sacrifice on the Cross (Heb. 10:10, 14). There will be no charges or condemnation against the Christian to determine his or her destiny in eternity (John 5:24; Rom. 8:31-34) because God has already declared him righteous (Rom. 3:22-4:5). 

So in that context of Romans 2:5-11, the meaning of verse 7 is that “if he continues in doing good, and no one does, he would receive eternal life.” On the other hand, “those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek; but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God” (Romans 2:8-11). The emphasis of this paragraph (Rom. 2:5-11) is stated at the beginning and the end, namely, that God will judge everyone equally and without partiality. 

If anyone continues to seek good (and no one does – Rom. 3:10-12), he will receive eternal life. If anyone continues in disobedience (and all will – Rom. 3:23), he will fall under God’s wrath. So each one will receive what he deserves. Hence, the self-righteous moralist must repent or change his mind and understand that God will judge him or her righteously according to what they have truly done or not done. Not what they hoped or intended to do. But according to what they actually did or did not do. Therefore, the self-righteous moralist is just as deserving of condemnation as the worst sinner because he or she falls short of the glory of God. The solution to this problem is to trust in Jesus Christ Who alone was a Doer of the Law and could pay the full penalty for our sin (John 19:30; Rom. 4:5; 5:8; I Cor. 15:3-6). 

Failure to understand these verses in their rightful context leads to misinterpretation such as all true believers will persevere in good works. Or those who profess faith in Christ but fail to persevere in good works were never genuinely saved. That is not what the text says in this context.  

Peace through Grace

“To all who are in Rome, beloved of God called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 1:7

In his greetings to the Christians (“saints”) in Rome, Paul extended God’s “grace” and “peace” to them as he did in all of his New Testament letters (1:7; cf. I Corinthians 1:3; 2 Corinthians 1:2; Galatians  1:3; Ephesians 1:2; Philippians 1:2; Colossians 1:2; I Thessalonians 1:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:2; I Timothy 1:2; 2 Timothy 1:2; Titus 1:4; Philemon 1:3). This reference to grace and peace summarizes the “gospel” or good news of Jesus Christ in all of Paul’s epistles. 

“Grace” refers to God’s unmerited favor whereby He gives us what we do not deserve. We do not deserve to be “justified” or declared totally righteous before God the moment we believe in Christ (Romans 3:21-4:25), but God’s grace makes this possible through “God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” who died in our place and rose from the dead (Romans 1:7b; cf. 1:3-5). 

God’s “peace” is the condition that results from God’s “grace” to us. Paul writes, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (5:1).  We can have peace with God because “when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son” (5:10). Jesus’ death provides the basis of our peace with God. Christ satisfied God’s holy demand to punish sin by taking our punishment when He died in our place on the cross and rose from the dead. All God asks is that we “believe in Him who justifies the ungodly” (Romans 4:5). 

Many people today are trying to find peace with God through their own religious efforts. An example of this in the New Testament is a Roman centurion named Cornelius (cf. Acts 10). He is described as “a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people and prayed to God always…a just man, one who…has a good reputation among all the nation of the Jews” (Acts 10:2, 22). Cornelius’ piety did not save him. His fear of God and righteous works did not give him “peace” with God (10:35-36). All of his prayers, fasting, and alms giving were expressions of his restlessness to be right with God. The apostle Peter correctly perceives this, so he speaks of Christ “preaching peace” (10:36). After declaring Jesus’ death and resurrection to Cornelius, Peter invites this religious man to “believe” in Christ for the forgiveness of his sins (Acts 10:43). What Cornelius could not find in fearing God, prayers, fasting, and alms giving, he found in the name of Jesus Christ! 

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

The moment you believe this God forgives all your sins so you can have peace with Him. The Bible says, “Now to him who does not work, but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness” (Romans 4:5). No amount of your good words or works can make you right with God. Only Jesus can do this for you through His grace the moment you believe in Him alone (Romans 3:24-26). The result is “peace with God” (Romans 5:1). Peace through grace is only possible through a relationship with Jesus Christ, not through a religion.

How can I have more joy in my Christian life?

“But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” Acts 20:24

While in Miletus, the apostle Paul gave his farewell address to the elders from Ephesus (20:17-35). After reviewing his past three years of ministry among these elders (20:18-21), Paul expressed his commitment to go to Jerusalem even though the Holy Spirit had warned him of the trouble (“chains and tribulations”) that awaits him there (20:22-23). 

Paul’s main concern was to be faithful to the Lord and to His message of grace, not to be physically comfortable or safe, so he says, “But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself” (20:24a). Paul was willing to sacrifice his comfort and physical safety to “finish” his “race with joy, and the ministry which” he received from the Lord Jesus” which is “to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (20:24b).

All Christians have a “race” or course to run that God has “set before” them (cf. Hebrews 12:1). Your race will be different than mine, and my race will be different than yours, but all of us are called by God “to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” This good news we are to preach revolves around “the grace of God.” “Grace” is receiving from God what we do not deserve. We do not deserve to be saved from hell forever, but God’s grace makes it possible through faith alone in Christ alone who died for our sins and rose from the dead (cf. I Corinthians 15:1-6). “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). 

The Devil does not want this gospel of grace to go out into the world, so he will do all he can to hinder the spread of this message through false teachers and churches (cf. John 10:1b, 8, 10a; Acts 19:21-20:3, 19, 29-30; 2 Corinthians 11:3-4, 11-15; 2 Thessalonians 3:2-3; I John 2:18-23; 4:1-6; et. al). Satan’s teachers and churches despise the grace of God.

Like the apostle Paul, however, we must remain focused on this message of grace that God has given to us. This is what Paul “counted dear” to himself (20:24a), not his own comfort or physical safety. The word “dear” (timios) refers to that which is precious or valuable. Our hearts follow what we value (cf. Matthew 6:21). So the more we grasp this message of grace and its value, the more our hearts will be vested in this message. And the more vested our hearts are in this gospel of grace, the more “joy” we will have as we see it spread it around the world. No amount of opposition or sacrifice can keep us from testifying to the gospel of the grace of God. 

Conclusion: The more we understand and grasp this message of grace, the more we will value its proclamation to a lost world. And the more we value this message, the more joy we will have in our Christian lives as we see this gospel spread to the ends of the earth! Salvation is free because Jesus Christ paid our sin debt in full when He died on the cross and rose from the dead (cf. John 19:30; I Corinthians 15:1-6; Ephesians 2:8-9)! Believe it and make it known to others before it is too late for them.  

If you only have 60 seconds to live, what does the Bible say you must do to go to heaven?

The answer to this question can be found in Acts 16:25-31 where a prison guard thinks he has a short amount of time to live. Missionaries Paul and Silas had been thrown into prison and as they were praying and singing to God, there was a great earthquake which caused all the doors of the prison to be opened and everyone’s chains to be loosed (16:25-26). The jailer awoke from his sleep seeing the prison doors opened, and assuming that the prisoners had escaped, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself (Acts 16:27). Under Roman law, a prison guard who allowed his prisoners to escape was liable to the same penalty the prisoners would have suffered – death by execution. So to avoid the shame of a public execution, he was about to commit suicide.

Paul and Silas showed great love and concern for the jailer both by remaining in prison when they could have escaped and by preventing the jailer from committing suicide (Acts 16:28-29). This love for the jailer seems to have won him over. Thinking he only has a short amount of time to live, he asks them, “Sirs what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30).

Do Paul and Silas tell him to confess his sins? Be baptized with water? Turn from his sins? Obey God’s commands? Give his life to Christ? Surrender to the control of Christ? Ask Jesus into his heart or pray the sinner’s prayer? No. They said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). 

The reason a person must believe or trust in the Lord Jesus alone is because we all have a problem called sin (Romans 3:23) that separates us from God (Romans 6:23). Because all of us have sinned against God, we all deserve to die forever  in the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:15). But God does not want us to die forever in the Lake of Fire, so He sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, Who lived a perfect life and died on the cross for all of our sins and rose from the dead, proving that He is God (John 3:16; Romans 1:3-4; I Corinthians 15:3-6). Jesus is alive today and He has the power to save us from hell forever and give us eternal life which can never be lost (John 10:28-29). He now invites everyone to believe in Him for His gift of everlasting life (John 3:16). No amount of our good works can save us from the Lake of Fire because they are all stained with sin (Isaiah 64:6; Ephesians 2:8-9). Only Jesus can take away our sins (John 1:29). Believe in Him and the Bible guarantees “you will be saved”(Acts 16:31). 

If you only have 60 seconds to live or 60 years to live, the Bible says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31) and you will go to heaven when you die. Nothing more and nothing less. This is good news! Please believe it and share it with others.

Must I lose or hate my life to go to heaven?

“He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” John 12:25

After Jesus used a grain of wheat analogy to show that He must die to produce life in many others including both Jews and Gentiles (12:23-24), He then applies this to discipleship when He says, “He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (12:25). The issue here is rewards, not salvation from hell. The believer who “loves his life” by selfishly living for him or herself, “will lose” the fullness of that life both now and in eternity in terms of the loss of rewards. Christ goes on to say that “he who hates his life in the world” by making his or her love and loyalty to Christ a priority “will keep it for eternal life,” that is, they will enjoy a deeper and fuller experience of eternal life both now and in eternity. So, the issue is not salvation, but the quality of a believer’s life both now and in the world to come.

When Jesus mentions hating one’s life, He is not talking about self-abuse or mutilation. That would be contrary to His other teachings about loving others “as yourself” (Matthew 22:39; Mark 12:31; Luke 10:27; cf. Ephesians 5:29). While self-denial is implied in the phrase, “he who hates his life” (cf. Matthew 16:24-25; Mark 8:34-35; Luke 9:23-24), this does not mean we are to deny our humanity which includes our physical and emotional needs. 

For example, in a helpful article, entitled “Self-care and Self-Denial,” Amie Patrick talks about when we go through stressful seasons of life, we may have a greater need for sleep, nutrition, exercise, and emotional refreshment. Denying self does not mean we overlook these needs. She emphasizes that it is important to accept our God-given limits and receive the Lord’s gifts of rest, food, recreation, and solitude which are also acts of worship and obedience. While Jesus was fully human and fully God—He often set aside time in His ministry to be alone or to enjoy meals with friends (cf. Matthew 11:19; 14:13a; Mark 2:15; 6:31-32; Luke 5:15-16, 29; 7:36; 10:38-42; John 12:1-2). 

The expression “he who hates his life” refers to Jesus being a priority in your life over self and the material things “in this world.” Our devotion to the Lord Jesus makes our interests in the material affairs of this life appear by comparison as hatred. Those who are dedicated to Christ will “keep” or preserve that lifestyle for eternal rewards. Our earthly experience becomes a part of “eternal life” in that it contributes to the quality of our future life in eternity. But if we put our material things and selfish ambitions ahead of Christ, we will decrease the quality of our life in the world to come. 

The Bible teaches that eternal life as a future acquisition is always a reward  that is based upon works (cf. Matthew 19:29-30; Mark 10:29-30; Luke 18:29-30; John 4:36; 12:25; Romans 2:7; Galatians 6:7-9; I Timothy 6:12, 19), but when eternal life is presented as a present possession it is always received as a free gift by faith alone in Christ alone (John 3:16; 4:10-14; 5:24; 6:40, 47; Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:8-9; Revelation 22:17). If we die to self and make Jesus a priority in our lives, we can also experience His quality of life now. So, the way to truly live is to die to self and live to Christ.

Jesus explains further what it means to “hate” one’s life when He says, “If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor” (12:26). He is referring to self-denying service to Christ. If you want to serve Christ, you must follow Him. He is to be the number one priority in your life. Just as Jesus denied Himself and died for the world (12:27-28a), His disciples are to deny themselves and serve Him. When Christ says, “and where I am, there My servant will be also” in glory and honor is the main idea here as confirmed in the next part of the verse. “If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor.” The verb “will honor” refers to honoring faithful Christians with rewards. If you serve Jesus, you will receive “honor” or reward from His Father. If you want to be rewarded in the future, you must earn it by serving Christ now. Rewards are not a free gift. We must work for them to receive them in the future.

Jesus chose the way of the cross because of His desire to please His Father (cf. Philippians 2:5-11). Likewise, every follower of Christ must face a similar choice of taking the way of the cross. For example, a woman was told that the baby in her womb would be mentally impaired, but she refused the early abortion recommended by her doctors because she believed this would be wrong. An investment salesman lost his job because he insisted on being honest about the risks. And before the revolution in Romania, a lawyer lost his professional status and had to do menial labor because he openly confessed Christ as his Savior. These three Christians chose to take the way of the cross. They took seriously the words of Jesus, “If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me.” These two verbs, “serves” and “follow” are in the present tense and convey the idea of “keep on serving Me” and “keep on following Me.” Disciples of Christ who faithfully serve Him are promised His companionship (“where I am, there My servant will be also”) and those who faithfully serve Him are promised the Father’s “honor.”

We can often be busy “for” the Lord instead of being busy “with” the Lord. Jesus promises that when we serve Him, He will be there with us (John 12:26; cf. Matthew 28:20). When we serve the Lord, not others or ourselves, we are never alone. Christ guarantees “where I am, there My servant will be also” (12:26). 

The world says to put your material things or earthly life and self, first. It says, “There’s no need to take God seriously.” But if you don’t take God seriously, then there’s no need to take your marriage seriously, or the rearing of your children seriously, or such character traits as submission, faithfulness, sexual purity, humility, repentance, and honesty seriously either. If we don’t take God seriously, if we don’t make Jesus Christ our #1 priority now, it will cost us in the future. Oh, we will go to heaven, but the quality of our life there will be less than it could have been if we took Christ seriously. You see, the things we do now will prepare us for what we do in eternity. How I live on earth now will contribute to the quality of my life in heaven. If I live for Christ now by His grace, death will not interrupt that lifestyle. It will continue in eternity without interruption. 

First John 2:17says, “And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” John reminds us that the world is passing away and therefore, it is a totally unworthy object of our sinful lusts and longings. If I am a laborer on earth, an architect, a musician, a secretary, a farmer, a teacher, a scientist, a physician – however skilled I may be at any of these activities – none of these designations will survive the present age. The term “abides” (2:17) is a fellowship term. The believer who is doing God’s will possesses a lifestyle that will not be interrupted by the passing away of this world. He experiences uninterrupted fellowship with God. He will experience “boldness” at the Judgment Seat of Christ (I John 2:28; 4:17) where the eternal worth of his earthly Christian life will be evaluated (I Corinthians 3:11-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10). But the believer who lives out of fellowship with the Lord does not “abide” forever in that his worldly lifestyle will be radically interrupted when he goes to heaven. His worldly lifestyle will not abide forever. It stops at heaven’s gates. But a dedicated lifestyle to Christ really has no ending.  

Conclusion: Must I lose or hate my life to go to heaven? Absolutely not! The only condition for going to heaven is believing in Christ alone for His free gift of everlasting life (John 3:15-16, 36; 4:10-14; 5:24; 6:40, 47; 11:25-26; 20:31; Acts 16:31; Romans 4:5; Ephesians 2:8-9; I Timothy 1:16; I John 5:1, 13; et al.). But to experience eternal life as a reward in a deeper and richer way both now and in the future, I must faithfully and sacrificially serve Christ as His disciple (John 12:24-26; cf. Matthew 19:29-30; Mark 10:29-30; Luke 18:29-30; John 4:36; Romans 2:7; Galatians 6:7-9; I Timothy 6:12, 19). Such a Christ-centered lifestyle will be richly rewarded by Jesus at the Judgment Seat of Christ (Matthew 25:20-23; I Corinthians 3:12-14; 2 Corinthians 5:9-10; 2 Peter 1:5-11 ).