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 can I overcome condemnation? Part 4

“And Jesus said to her, ‘… Go and sin no more.’ ” John 8:11c

So far we have looked at three ways to overcome condemnation:

– Rest under Christ’s gracious teachings (John 7:53-8:2)

– Redirect those who condemn me to their own sin (John 8:3-9)

– Replace my guilt with Christ’s forgiving grace (John 8:10-11b)

Today our final and most important way to overcome condemnation is to RELY ON CHRIST TO OVERCOME SIN (John 8:11c). After forgiving the woman’s adultery, Jesus said to her, “Go and sin no more.” (John 8:11c). Is Jesus talking about sinless perfection here? No, because that would contradict other Scriptures (cf. I John 1:8, 10). He is not referring to sin in general or to sinless perfection, but He is referring specifically to the sin of adultery. Jesus forgives and forbids in the same breath.

Christ did not condone, rationalize, or excuse her sin. He forgave her so she could live the way she was created to live… for God’s glory. This was probably the first man who was more interested in saving her than exploiting her, and in forgiving her than condemning her. Jesus provided the assurance and motivation she needed to live for Him now.

And He does the same with us. Christ did not forgive you so you could continue in your sin. He forgave you so you could live for Him now (2 Corinthians 5:15). You must rely on His Spirit and Word to resist temptation and obey His commands (Matthew 4:1-11; 26:41; John 8:31-32; 16:13-14; Romans 8:11; I Corinthians 10:13; Galatians 5:16-17).

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

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

You know, none of us deserve to be forgiven. We haven’t earned it. Nor have we paid the price ourselves. Yet, in His grace, when Jesus forgives our sin, He forgets (Hebrews 10:17). Our past ended one second ago. Once you have experienced grace, it is now time to show it to others. We are to be gracious with others as Christ has been gracious with us (Ephesians 4:32).

What stones are you holding onto today? The Stone of unforgiveness, bitterness, anger, hatred, or prejudice? Whatever stone you are carrying, it is time to lay it down. Whether you meant to throw it at yourself or someone else, don’t you think it is time for you to lay down your stones? Why not take this opportunity to give your stones over to Jesus?

When I shared this message at the provincial jail near our home in the Philippines a few years ago, some musicians played a song while several inmates came forward to drop their stone that was given to them at the beginning of the chapel service into a bucket labeled “Grace.” I then challenged them to trust Christ to build something beautiful with what their stone represented. It was wonderful to watch each person drop his or her stone into the bucket of grace and then look up with a huge smile on their face as if to say, “I’m free! I’m free from condemnation because of Jesus’ grace!”

I got goosebumps watching this unfold. After they were finished surrendering their stone of condemnation to the Lord, we prayed this prayer:

“Lord Jesus, we confess that nothing we do makes us deserving of Your magnificent grace. Lord, some of us have been carrying these stones around… stones that were weighing us down. Stones that were keeping us from experiencing Your grace. But today, we are giving You those stones. Take them, Lord, and use them to build something beautiful in our lives. We are so glad that when You forgive us, You forget. And You are not only willing but pleased to use any vessel – just as long as it is clean today – at this moment. It may be cracked or chipped. It may be worn or it may have never been used before. But we can count on this – because of Your grace – our past ended one second ago. From this point on we can be clean and filled with Your Spirit. Use us for Your glory, Lord. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

How can I overcome condemnation? Part 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do I stay focused on what is important to God? Part 4

“Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” John 7:24

The final way to stay focused on what is important to God is to ATTEND TO RELATIONSHIPS MORE THAN RULES (John 7:24). Jesus said to His Jewish audience in the temple,Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” (John 7:24). Christ doesn’t confront His listeners for judging His actions. He confronts the basis on which they judge His actions. “Stop judging people according to your superficial, legalistic rules. Instead judge according to what is right, according to the biblical facts. Nowhere does the Bible forbid healing on the Sabbath. So don’t take a superficial view of what I did when the lame man was healed and took up his bed and went home, but take a right view of the lame man who was mercifully healed and could walk again. Show more concern for relationships instead of your rules. Focus more on meeting the needs of people instead of yourselves,” Jesus says.

Christian author, Charlie Bing, writes, “Legalism is the abuse of grace that seeks to bring Christians either back under the Mosaic law or [under] some artificial standard for acceptance with God that has been created by others. The legalist insists on following a list of do’s and don’ts …. Legalistic Christians can easily fall under the expectations of others that make them feel guilty falsely. For example, they can be made to feel that they are not spiritual because of what Bible translation they use, how they dress, what they eat or don’t eat, what movies they see, what music they listen to, what church meetings they do or don’t attend—or any other issue which the Bible does not address directly.

“What the legalist fails to realize is that Jesus not only set us free from the Old Testament law (Rom. 6:14; 7:4-6; Gal. 3:13; 4:4-7) but He also set us free from artificial man-made standards that are not in the Bible. We are accepted by God because we are His children by grace (Gal. 4:7). We stand accepted by grace (Rom. 5:1-2) and are thus secured by His grace until the time that we see Him (Rom. 8:29-39). Since every believer is accepted on the basis of grace we should accept other believers who differ on issues not clearly defined as right or wrong in the Bible (Romans 14).” (from http://www.gracelife.org/resources/ gracenotes.asp?id=12).

We need to look at life from God’s point of view, so that what He values is what we value, and we can make decisions that are in line with His. God doesn’t just smile at the old hymns; He also smiles on country… classical… Christian rock and rap music. We can approach God with just as much confidence in cut offs or blue jeans as we can in a suit and tie. God is more concerned about our hearts than our hair, our character more than our clothes, our motives more than our music, our disposition more than our decorations.

Chuck Swindoll writes in his book, The Grace Awakening, “One of my favorite stories comes from a man who used to be in our church. He and his wife were close friends of our family, but they have now moved to another part of the country. We really miss their joyful presence.

“When he was a youth worker many years ago in an ethnic community, he attended a church that had Scandinavian roots. Being a rather forward-looking and creative young man, he decided he would show the youth group a missionary film. We’re talking simple, safe, black-and-white religious-oriented movie. That film projector hadn’t been off an hour before a group of the leaders in the church called him in and asked him about what he had done. They asked, ‘Did you show the young people a film?’ In all honesty he responded, ‘Well, yeah, I did.’ ‘We don’t like that,’ they replied. Without trying to be argumentative, the youth worker reasoned, ‘Well, I remember that at the last missionary conference, our church showed slides-’

“One of the church officers put his hand up signaling him to cease talking. Then, in these words, he emphatically explained the conflict: ‘If it’s still, fine. If it moves, sin! You can show slides, but when they start moving’, you’re gettin’ into sin.’ ”

That church had lost sight of what is really important. This can happen to us as well in our Christian lives. When we lose sight of what God values we become more intolerant and prevent honest seekers from approaching God. We can stifle believers from growing in God’s grace. Love gets replaced by a long mental checklist so that the joy of friendship is fractured by judgmental attitudes. As a result, mere differences become right or wrong issues. So instead of the length of your hair or the type of music you like being just a difference, it suddenly becomes a right or wrong issue… a measure of spirituality.

May God help us to major on the majors… to focus on what’s really important to Him. May we be people who…

AVOID Hiding Behind Foolish Stereotypes

ASCERTAIN God’s Will By Doing It

ASSESS Those Who Teach US

ATTEND To Relationships More Than Rules

During this season of challenges, let’s focus on the Gift that matters most – the One Who gave His life so that those who believe in Him may have life that never ends!

Prayer: Father God, thank You for the gift of Your Son who offers everlasting life freely to those who trust in Him alone. Teach us to be more like Him by majoring on the majors. Forgive us for our misplaced priorities, and enable us to focus on the One who died in our place and rose from the dead. Keep us trusting Your word, understanding it, and seeking to obey it that we might focus our lives around what is most important to You – a living relationship with Jesus Christ and other people. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

How do I follow God’s Plan? Part 4

“The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it that its works are evil.” John 7:7

The fourth way I follow God’s plan is when I CHALLENGE THE STATUS QUO (John 6b-7, 9). When Jesus’ brothers tried to encourage Him to go to the Feast of Tabernacles to make Himself known as the Messiah, Jesus said to them,“My time has not yet come, but your time is always ready.” (John 7:6). They could come and go to the feast any time they pleased because they would only be fulfilling what everybody expected of them. They could go to the feast without fear of arousing antagonism or opposition because they were a part of the world. They were non-believers and thus friends with the world. That is why Jesus says, The world cannot hate you…” (John 7:7a). “Because you are living according to the way the world thinks; you are not raising any questions; you are not challenging anything.” Jesus continues, “…but it hates Me because I testify of it that its works are evil.” (John 7:7b). “The world hates Me because when I speak I expose the hearts of men; I call sin, sin; they hate Me because I tell them the truth.”

This is surely why our modern world loves euphemisms – polite ways of describing sinful things. We change the label on the bottle of poison and think we have changed the power of the poison. That’s why we call Grouchiness “executive tension;” we call Gossip “concern”; Drunkards want to be called “alcoholics”; Prostitutes want to be called “businesswomen”; Rich snobs are called the “upper class”; Abortion is called “pro-choice”; Homosexuality is called an “alternative lifestyle.”

More recently we have seen government intrusion into common Christian worship practices in the name of health concern. Most churches in America have complied with generalized healthcare guidelines to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading. But a few churches refused to comply with government demands, claiming that their allegiance to God outweighs their allegiance to Caesar. So they refused to cancel live worship services and opened their doors for those who were led to attend. Some churches even offered “drive-thru” worship services for people to attend while observing social distancing from the comfort of their cars.

But some elected leaders deemed these measures too risky. For example, Kentucky’s governor, who mandated the closure of all Christian worship services while declaring the state’s abortion clinics and liquor stores “essential services,” sent law enforcement officers to record the license plate numbers of every vehicle that attended unauthorized church services. California’s governor and local officials have banned churches from singing and playing wind instruments in their services. While some people may label these measures as “healthcare practices,” I wonder what the Lord Jesus would call it?

Christ doesn’t play these kinds of games. Jesus calls sin, sin. He came to tell the truth and that is why the world hated Him. And if we are going to be like Him, we must do the same. If we find ourselves fully accepted by the world it is cause for concern. We are to be loving, kind, sensitive, and understanding. But if our lives do not challenge the wickedness of the world around us, if our lives do not provoke some persecution, criticism, and/or opposition, something is probably wrong. We have probably become too friendly with the world around us (cf. James 4:4).

Ask yourself, “Does my life challenge the status quo of wickedness around me or am I a chameleon who simply adapts to whatever environment I find myself in?” Jesus went to Jerusalem and when He got there He upset the status quo. Thus, He says to His brothers: “You go up to this feast. I am not yet going up to this feast, for My time has not yet fully come.” (John 7:8). Christ was not going up with His brothers, but He would eventually go up. “When He had said these things to them, He remained in Galilee.” (John 7:9). Christ would remain in Galilee for a time while His brothers and other pilgrim travelers made their way to the feast. But eventually He would go in the Father’s time, and when He did He would challenge the status quo.

Prayer: Lord God, we need Your wisdom and strength during these times when people are doing what is right in their own eyes instead of doing what is right in Your eyes. Please give us a balance between grace and truth as we interact with those who are friends with the world. Instead of focusing on the response of others before we speak, help us to focus on what pleases You, my Lord and my God. May we live so closely to You that our lives will challenge the wickedness of this world to pay attention to You, Lord. Please use our voices to call people back to You, the only true God and eternal life. Forgive us for withholding the truth because of our longing for the approval of others or in an attempt to keep the peace at the expense of Your truth. Without the truth, people will not see their need for You. And without Your grace, their needs will not be met in You. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen. 

How can we overcome spiritual paralysis? Part 4

The fourth way to overcome spiritual paralysis is RENDER ALL THE GLORY TO CHRIST (John 9-15). The Bible says, “9 And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked. And that day was the Sabbath. 10 The Jews therefore said to him who was cured, ‘It is the Sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your bed.’ 11 He answered them, ‘He who made me well said to me, ‘Take up your bed and walk.’ ” 12 Then they asked him, ‘Who is the Man who said to you, “Take up your bed and walk’?” 13 But the one who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, a multitude being in that place.” (John 5:9-13).

The religious leaders were more concerned about the infringement on their Sabbath rules than about Christ’s healing grace in this man’s life. Sadly, this is true of many churches today. They are more concerned about their man-made rules than they are about sinners encountering the healing grace of Jesus Christ. That’s legalism. Legalism will render a church spiritually paralyzed. The lame man did not know Christ. Jesus healed him regardless because of His GRACE. Grace is not restricted by rules and regulations. Grace expands in the context of loving relationships. Jesus was more concerned about this man’s need to be healed than He was about breaking the Sabbath rules of the religious leaders. Grace puts relationships ahead of rules. Legalism puts rules ahead of relationships.

Here is the dilemma. When Jesus wanted to do something new, the religious leaders were still caught up in the old. They were in a rut. Someone once said the difference between a rut and a grave is depth and length. And that is the dilemma for many of us today. We try to fit God into our safe set of rules. And like the legalists, we think that everyone else should also conform to our safe and comfortable box. But God is not contained in a box. The moment you think He is, He will do something new to burst that box you tried to contain Him in. God is looking to do something new in our lives and church. I wonder what may be in our lives and church that simply cannot co-exist with the new thing that God wants to do? God is looking for someone who will step out in faith and say, “I don’t know what’s going to happen – but I want to join God in the new thing He is doing.”

“Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, ‘See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.’” (John 5:14). Jesus came back to reveal Himself to this man. He wanted him to have more than just a healthy body. He wanted the former lame man to be healthy spiritually as well. “The man departed and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.” (John 5:15).This man gave all the credit to Jesus for his healing.

I’m reminded of a story about a woodpecker that was pecking away at a huge tree. Suddenly a bolt of lightning struck the tree and split it from top to bottom. The woodpecker flew off in a flash. Minutes later he returned with several other woodpeckers. Pointing to the tree, he said, “There it is. Look at what I did!”

Are we quick to take credit for what God is doing in our lives and in our church? Or when God works in another believer’s life, are we quick to give the glory to that Christian instead of giving all the glory to God? When we submit to Christ’s authority and give Him all the glory, He gives us special power to walk spiritually with Him.

Are you plagued by spiritual paralysis? Are you unable to live as God wants you to live? Are we as a church unable to reproduce disciples as God wants us to? Follow Christ’s prescription for godly living…

– Resolve to get well

– Refuse to blame others

– Rely on Christ alone for healing

– Render all the Glory To Him.

Do you as an individual want to be made well today? Perhaps you are a Christian and you have been unable to live the way God wants you to. You may be crippled by past hurts or a present habit or hang up or something else. Do you want to be made well and walk with the Lord? Say to God, “Lord, I want to get well. Right now, I take responsibility for my own actions and I trust You alone to heal me. Please give me the power to overcome the sin in my life that has crippled me. Help me burn the bridges that lead back to that sin so I can keep my eyes on You, walking with You the rest of my life. In Jesus’s name. Amen.”

As a church, we need to ask ourselves, “Do we want to be made well? Do we want to become more effective at making disciples of Christ? If so, pray to the Lord, “Father God, we want to get well. We want to take responsibility for our own actions and trust You to heal our church. Forgive us for blaming others and becoming paralyzed with fear. Give us the power to replace our fear or whatever holds us back, with a radical trust in You to do the impossible. Take us to new heights as a church so that You are most glorified. In Jesus’s 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.

How do I share the gospel with a religious person? Part 3

14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:14-15

In addition to confronting a religious person with the truth about his need for new birth (John 3:1-8) and the origin of Jesus Christ (John 3:9-13), we must also confront them with Jesus’ grace (John 3:13-15).

No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven.” (John 3:13). Jesus had authority to teach about heavenly things because He lived in heaven. No one has ascended to God. Instead, God has come down to us in the Person of Jesus Christ. Jesus knows best how to get to heaven because He lived there. No one knows better how to get to your home than you. To find out how to get to heaven ask the One who lives there, Jesus Christ. What does He say?

 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:14-15). Why do you suppose Jesus used Moses and the serpent illustration from the Old Testament? Perhaps Nicodemus had just finished teaching the passage in the synagogue? Whatever the reason, Jesus turns Nicodemus’ attention to Numbers 21. The people of Israel were on the way to the Promised Land. They were complaining against God and were dissatisfied with the manna He sent them. To discipline them, God sent poisonous snakes among the people, resulting in many physical deaths (Numbers 21:4-6). Moses then asked God to remove the snakes. God told Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten when he looks at it, shall live.” (Numbers 21:8).

In a similar fashion, all of mankind has been struck down by sin. Sin has sunk its fangs in our spiritual souls and the venom has made its way to our hearts and we are dying in our sins. But God saw our hopelessness, and lifted up His Son on the cross to die for our sins. To be born again and experience eternal life, Nicodemus needed simply to “look and live,” just as in Numbers 21 one had to “look and live.” Jesus explained their “look” as simply believing in Him. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:14-15).

To Nicodemus, the admonition to look and live would have been both personal and effective. Having fasted, prayed, faithfully attended the synagogue, observed the feasts, and honored the Sabbaths, he was tempted to look at what he had done to give a him a right standing with God. Instead, now he discovered he must look to Christ alone for eternal life. He must believe in Him. Being born again is all about a personal relationship between a holy God and a sinful people. How can this be? How can a holy God have a relationship with a sinful people? Because GOD came down to earth (John 3:13). And why did He come down? That He might be lifted up on the cross (John 3:14) to die for our sins so that those who look up or believe in Him, should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:15). Faith alone in Christ alone gets you to heaven.

Have you been born again? Is there anything keeping you from trusting in Christ now as your only hope of heaven? Four hindrances almost prevented Nicodemus from coming to Christ. These are four obstacles that can prevent any religious person from coming to Christ:

1. Pride. A religious man was told he must be born again. Religious people don’t like to be told this because they want to look to what they have done, not what someone else has done to get them to heaven. When I tell a religious man all he must do to get to heaven is believe in Jesus, he says, “But I’ve lived a good life.”

2. Tradition. We often hear a religious person say, “What will my family and friends think if I go against what we have been taught and trust Christ for eternal life?”  Nicodemus was a ruler of the Jews, a teacher, a religious leader. He couldn’t trust in this miracle-worker. His colleagues would reject him.

3. Ignorance. “No one ever told me this before.” Many religious people have not been told that all they must do is look to Christ in faith to get them to heaven.

4. Misunderstanding. Many religious people have said, “Don’t you think I’ll get to heaven if I believe in Christ plus my good life?” The only condition for eternal life is belief or trust in Christ (period), not plus something else.

I think we underestimate Satan’s strategy. Satan is a deceiver. You won’t recognize him by his dress or conduct. He might even wear the suit of a preacher. He’ll probably encourage you to be as much like God as possible without being related to God. Satan is on the side of religion; he’s not opposed to it, as long as religion leaves out a Christ-alone salvation. That way, he can deceive people into an eternal hell.

Nicodemus reminds us that the best of people is not so good they can earn their way to heaven. God takes us to heaven on the basis of His Son’s performance, not ours. He offers eternal life only on the basis of grace – favor we do not deserve. Grace with anything added to it ceases to be grace (Romans 11:6). If we trust in anything in addition to Christ for salvation, then we’ve fallen victim to Satan’s deception. Christ and Christ alone saves.

When presenting the gospel to the religious, confront them with the truth of their need for a Savior – they are sinners who deserve eternal separation from God. Then share God’s grace with them – that Christ died for them and rose again and they can have eternal life simply by believing in Christ for it.

Do you have religion without Christ? Why not turn from religion to a relationship with Jesus?  Jesus invites you to believe in Him for eternal life. The word “believe” means to trust or depend upon Christ. Several years ago, a friend of mine visited the Houston Astrodome. Suspended three hundred feet above the playing field was a twenty-seven thousand-pound gondola. That gondola was held in place by five cables which are each 5/8 of an inch thick. When a newscaster sat in that gondola, he was trusting the cables to hold him. Everything he has done and everything he is means nothing. He must depend on them to hold him.

Christ paid for our sins by dying on the cross. God now comes to you and asks you to depend upon Christ as your only way to heaven. It doesn’t matter if you are a child who is nine or an adult who is ninety. It matters not if you are a morally good person or if you’ve spent more time inside a jail than outside, you must trust in Christ to save you. Perhaps you can identify with Nicodemus – you’ve always believed the way to heaven was by living a good life or by believing in Christ plus something else. But now you understand you were mistaken and you want to trust Christ alone as your only way to heaven. Again, the promise is “Whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:15). If you are now believing in Jesus alone for His gift of everlasting life, you can tell Him through prayer.

Prayer: Lord Jesus thank You so much for abandoning everything in heaven to come to earth to offer Yourself as a sufficient sacrifice for all of my sins. I am simply amazed that You would love me that much! I am now trusting in You Jesus (not my good life or my religion) to give me everlasting life and a future home in heaven. Thank You for Your grace that gives me what I could never deserve. Thank You for the everlasting life I now have and for the future home I will have in heaven. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

A greater miracle than changing water into wine

“This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him.” John 2:11

Mary’s initial request to replenish the wine was fulfilled (John 2:3) – not in her timing or in her way – but the result was far more than quenching thirst or saving the hosts from embarrassment. The result was eternal. “This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him.” (John 2:11). The Bible tells us that Jesus’ disciples put their faith in Him because of what they saw Jesus do. We don’t know which disciples these were, but if they had never believed in Jesus, they now had eternal life (cf. John 3:36). If they were already saved, this miracle simply reconfirmed the conclusion the disciples had drawn from their previous conversations with Jesus in John 1:35-51.

Two miracles happened on that day at a wedding in Cana of Galilee. The first was the changing of water into wine so that a celebration could continue for the rest of the week. But the second was the changing of fallen sinners into forgiven saints so that a celebration could continue for the rest of eternity. You tell me. Which was the greater miracle? This first miracle of Jesus is a beautiful picture of salvation. Let’s look at some ways this miracle is like salvation:

a. It happened at a point in time. It was not a process. It did not take Jesus days or weeks or years to change the water into wine. It happened in an instant. Likewise, the moment you believe in Jesus Christ, you become a child of God forever (John 1:12). 

b. It had permanent results. The wine never turns back into water. Likewise, when you become God’s child the moment you believe in Christ, you can never stop being His child no matter what you do from that time forward (John 1:12; 6:35-40; 10:28-29).

c. It was a total change. Just as the transforming grace of Christ can change water into wine, so Jesus’ grace can change sinners into saints, “set apart” from their sin and shame forever (Ephesians 1:1; Philippians 1:1; Hebrews 10:10, 14)). God’s grace transforms you into a new person in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). No longer are you defined by your sin and shame. You are defined by being in Christ. Now when God looks at your life, He sees the perfection of His Son (2 Corinthians 5:21; Ephesians 1:6). Only God could do this.

d. It benefited others. The making of water into wine not only benefited the couple and rescued them from a legal and social disaster, but it also benefited all the guests. Everyone enjoyed its taste. Likewise, when Jesus Christ gives you eternal life, He starts a new work in your life. His forgiveness enables you to forgive others. His love enables you to love others. His self-control enables you to control your tongue and temper. His patience allows you to be patient with others. His generosity enables you to be generous with others. See how this can benefit not only you, but the people in your life?

e. It was a total work of Jesus – nothing else. Could the servants change the water into wine? Of course not. Only Jesus could and He did! Can we get ourselves to heaven? Never. Only Jesus can do that when we put our trust in Him alone for His free gift of everlasting life.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for showing me an even greater miracle than changing water into wine.Your grace transforms guilty sinners like me into forgiven saints. This great salvation is not because of our deservedness, but because of Your goodness to us. And no one, including ourselves, can undo what You have done for us and in us. Your salvation is permanent and it is designed not only to benefit the recipient, but also the people around him or her. Use me my Lord and my God, to spread Your transforming grace throughout this world one person at a time. To You be all the glory. In Jesus’ name. Amen.