How can Jesus transform our grief into gladness? Part 5

“Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you.” John 16:22

We are learning from Jesus’ instructions to His eleven believing disciples how Christ can transform our grief into gladness. So far we have discovered He does this when we …

– Ask Christ to help us properly understand His word as it relates to our situation (John 16:16-19).

– Accept that pain and suffering are part of life (John 16:20a; cf. 16:33).

– Assess our circumstances with an eternal perspective (John 16:20b-22).

– Allow our grief to direct us to the Father in prayer (John 16:23-24).

The final way Jesus transforms our grief into gladness is not based on a specific verse in this passage, but on the example of Jesus Christ. Jesus transforms our grief into gladness when we ACQUAINT OURSELVES WITH THE PATTERN OF TRANSFORMED PAIN. This pattern finds its fullest expression in Jesus. He transformed the bad into the good.

Because of Jesus, we can never say about a person, “He or she must be suffering because of some sin he or she committed.” Jesus, who never sinned, also suffered. God never promised that typhoons or twisters will skip over our houses on the way to our non-Christian neighbors or that COVID-19 will flee from our Christian bodies and invade a non-Christian’s body. We are not exempt from tragedies in the world just as God was not exempt. Christ was willing to suffer in order to accomplish a higher goal. He trusted His Father to use His death for good. And God took the worst thing that could happen – the brutal execution of His only Son and turned it into the final victory over sin, death, and the Devil (I Corinthians 15:1-58; Colossians 2:13-15; Hebrews 2:14-15). God turned the design of evil into the service of good, an act that holds in it a promise for all of us.

Because God transformed Jesus’ suffering into good, He can do the same for us. Jesus’ resurrection transformed the pain of His disciples into joy. No trial, illness, unemployment, broken relationships, death of a loved one, or grief extends beyond the range of Jesus’ transforming power. He transforms pain, using it to teach and strengthen us, if we allow it to turn us toward Him.

Childbirth is ironical – an event that causes some of the greatest physical pain, but also opens the doorway to one of life’s greatest joys – new life! Someone once said, “The more grief inflicted upon you, the better fitted you are to appreciate joy. More often than not the so-called negatives are assets. There cannot be a front without a back, an up without a down, a cold without a hot, a love without a hate.”

When speaking of the effects of His own death on His disciples, Jesus compared it to a woman in labor. She travails until the moment of delivery, when suddenly anguish is transformed into ecstasy. Death is like birth – it causes great emotional pain, but in reality, it opens a doorway into the great joy of eternity because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ!

Author Philip Yancey writes, “Imagine birth from the perspective of the fetus (unborn baby). Your world is dark, safe, secure. You are bathed in a warm, cushioning liquid. You do nothing for yourself. You are fed automatically, and a murmuring heartbeat assures you that someone larger than you is meeting all your needs. Life consists of simple waiting – you’re not sure what to wait for, but any change seems faraway and scary. You encounter no sharp objects, no pain, no dangers. A fine, serene existence.

“One day you feel a tug. The walls seem to press in. Those soft padded walls are now pulsing, wildly, crushing you downward. Your body is bent double, your limbs twisted and wrenched. You’re falling, upside down. For the first time in your life, you feel pain. You’re in a sea of roiling matter. There is more pressure, almost too intense to bear. Your head is squeezed flat, and you are pushed harder, harder into a dark tunnel. Oh, the pain. Noise. More pressure.

“You hurt all over. You hear a groaning sound and an awful, sudden fear rushes in on you. It is happening – your world is collapsing. You’re sure it’s the end. You see a piercing, blinding light. Cold, rough hands grasp at you, pull you from the tunnel and hold you upside down. A painful slap. Waaaahhhh!

“Congratulations, you have just been born.

“Death is like that. On this end of the birth canal, it seems a scary, dark tunnel we are being sucked forward by an irresistible force. None of us looks forward to it. We’re afraid. It’s full of pressure, pain, darkness… the unknown.

“But beyond the darkness and the pain lies a whole new world outside. When we awaken after death in that bright new world, our tears and hurts will be mere memories.” 1

Perhaps you have lost a love one recently who believed in Jesus or was too young to believe in Him, and your heart is numb with grief. Christ’s resurrection guarantees you will be reunited one day in His presence (I Thessalonians 4:13-18). Knowing this can comfort and sustain you during this dark and painful time. Jesus wants you to take heart because the day is coming when the darkness will be gone forever and your pain will be transformed into endless joy (Revelation 21-22).

Prayer: Lord Jesus, You never promised that suffering would not be part of our lives. In fact, You promised just the opposite if we follow You. But it is not a hopeless kind of suffering. Your resurrection guarantees to all of us who believe in You a hope-filled beginning when we die and go to be with You. A perfect, sinless, world awaits us in Your presence when we take our last breath. Knowing this empowers us to endure the darkness and pain before us with the confidence that something much better and greater lies beyond our time here on earth. Thank You, my Lord and my God, that the hurts and tears we have now will be transformed into endless joy and laughter in the world to come where we will be reunited with You and those who have gone before us. Please help us to lean into You when troubled times come. Your presence can calm our hearts when we surrender to You. In Your hope-filled name I pray. Amen.  

ENDNOTE:

1. Philip Yancey, Where Is God When It Hurts? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1990), pp. 258-259.

Receiving Life Freely – Part 5 (Video)

This is the fifth video in a series about the gospel of John – the only book of the Bible whose primary purpose is to tell non-Christians how to obtain eternal life and a future home in heaven (John 20:31). This video looks at the fifth miracle of Jesus recorded in the gospel of John involving His miraculous walking on water (John 6:15-21).

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

How can we overcome the fear of abandonment? Part 2

“… The Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.” John 14:17-18

COVID-19 not only affects the physical health of people but also their emotional well-being. During this global pandemic, restrictive measures are being taken to contain the transmission of this virus by mass indoor quarantines and social distancing. Add to this the changing of plans, loss of structure, routine, and isolation, and you have a plethora of triggers for the fear of abandonment in many people. 1

All of us have a need to connect with people, but when that need is threatened by multiple restrictions, the fear of separation and rejection can easily overtake us. Day-to-day tasks can become burdensome because of our preoccupation with abandonment. This feeling of being left alone can overwhelm us.

How can we overcome the fear of abandonment? We are learning from Jesus’ interaction with His eleven believing disciples how this can be done. Last time we discovered we can overcome the fear of abandonment when we focus on the promise of another Helper, God the Holy Spirit (John 14:15-16). Today we see the second way to overcome this challenge is to focus on THE PERMANENT INDWELLING OF THE SPIRIT OF TRUTH (John 14:17-18).

Jesus now answers the question, “Who is the Helper?” Christ explains that the Helper is  the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.” (John 14:17). The Helper or Holy Spirit is “the Spirit of truth.” Jesus identified Himself as “the truth” in John 14:6. Hence, the Holy Spirit communicates “the truth” about Jesus (cf. John 15:26). Jesus identifies the truth as the Father’s “word” (John 17:17). The Holy Spirit guides us into all truth about Jesus through God’s Word. It is through the Word that the Holy Spirit tells us what to do. He does not speak audibly to us, He speaks through the truth of the Bible. The Spirit of God will not lead us to act contrary to the Word of God. He will give us the ability to do what the Word says as we depend upon Him. We need the Holy Spirit to empower us to keep Jesus’ commands (John 14:15).

In a sense the Holy Spirit replaces Jesus’ physical presence. This Helper would be unknown to “the world” (John 14:17) because He would be unseen and unrecognized. For example, without a radio, radio waves go unnoticed. So too, the Holy Spirit is unnoticed by the unsaved because they have no spiritual life. Why would we expect non-Christians to obey God? They do not have the ability to understand God’s Word properly without the Holy Spirit (cf. I Corinthians 2:11-15), let alone obey God’s Word. Jesus promised His disciples that they would “know(ginóskō) the Holy Spirit from personal experience because “He dwells with you and will be in you” (John 14:17b).

Keep in mind that in the Old Testament the Holy Spirit was not given to every believer. Those called by God to do a special ministry were clothed or empowered by God’s Spirit (e.g. Gideon, Judges 6:34; David, I Samuel 16:13). Also, the Holy Spirit was temporarily given and could be withdrawn (e.g. Samson, Judges 13:25; 16:20; Saul, I Samuel 10:10; 16:40; David, Psalm 51:11). Before Pentecost (Acts 2), the Holy Spirit generally dwelt with believers (by their side), just like Christ had been with His disciples in bodily form. The Spirit’s indwelling was selective and temporary. But Jesus is now saying that the Holy Spirit would permanently indwell all believers forever after the day of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit can dwell individually in each of us, but Jesus could not do that when He was in a human body while on earth.

Then Jesus said, “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.” (John 14:18). Christ promises that He will not leave them as “orphans” who are deprived of their parents. Jesus had been like a father to the disciples – comforting, protecting, providing, guiding, and instructing them as His own children. And now He was leaving them. But He would not leave them as “orphans.” He says, “I will come to you” through God the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit would fill the void left by Jesus’ departure. The Holy Spirit would comfort, protect, provide, guide, and instruct them. He would function as their Divine Parent.

In his book Living Faithfully, J. Allen Bair tells of a man who was struggling to get to Grand Central Station in New York City. The wind blew fiercely, and the rain beat down on him as he lugged his two heavy suitcases toward the terminal. Occasionally he would pause to rest and regain his strength before trudging on against the elements.

At one point he was almost ready to collapse, when a man suddenly appeared by his side, took the suitcases, and said in a strangely familiar voice, “We’re going the same way. You look as if you could use some help.” When they had reached the shelter of the station, the weary traveler, the renowned educator Booker T. Washington, asked the man, “Please, sir, what is your name?” The man replied, “The name, my friend, is Roosevelt. Teddy Roosevelt.” What a thrill it would be to have the assistance of a such a famous person!

But how much greater is the Helper God has sent! The God of the universe now indwells every person the moment he or she believes in Jesus Christ for everlasting life (cf. John 7:37-39; Acts 11:15-17; Galatians 3:2, 26-27; Ephesians 1:13-14). At the moment of faith in Jesus, the Holy Spirit moves in to stay so that your physical body is now a temple of the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 6:19). In Romans 8:9, the apostle Paul tells us that if we do not have the Holy Spirit indwelling us, we do not belong to Christ. When we believe in Christ for His free gift of eternal life, we receive all of the Holy Spirit, so there is no need to seek a second blessing or experience. The God of the universe now lives inside of you and will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5)!

One day Jesus will return for His church to take them to the place in His Father’s house that He has prepared for them in heaven (John 14:2-4). The Holy Spirit’s seal on every believer guarantees their safe and secure delivery to this heavenly home. “In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.” (Ephesians 1:13-14).

When we “heard” and “believed” the “gospel… of salvation” we were “sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession” (1:13-14). The word “sealed” (sphragizō) was used in the ancient world to refer to a legal signature which guaranteed the promise or contents of what was sealed. It signifies ownership and security caused by the backing of the owner.

The word “guarantee” (arrabōn) was a regular feature of the Greek business world. The “arrabōn” was a part of the purchase price of anything paid in advance as a guarantee that the rest of the price should in due time be paid. The seal of the Holy Spirit guarantees that the remainder of our “inheritance” blessings will eventually be given to us. The primary aspect of our inheritance involves life in heaven with the Lord Jesus.

Registered mail is a good example of the seal of the Holy Spirit. When something is registered at the post office it is sealed until delivered. Actually only two persons can open registered mail – the sender (if it is delivered back to him) and the recipient. When we believe in Christ for eternal life, we are sealed by God the Holy Spirit until we go to heaven. God is the One who sends us on our way to heaven, and God in heaven is the Recipient on our arrival. There is no power greater than God Who can break the Holy Spirit’s seal. Only God can break this seal and He promises not to do so “until the redemption of the purchased possession” which is when the church is delivered safely and securely to God in heaven.  

No matter what I do or don’t do after being sealed by God the Holy Spirit, I am guaranteed a safe and secure delivery to God in heaven. Therefore, I do not need to look to anyone or anything besides the Holy Spirit to give me security in this life. My security is found in God the Holy Spirit, not in achievements, affluence, appearance, or the approval of others. This amazing truth must not be neglected or misrepresented because it is intended to bring “praise” and “glory” to our great and gracious God!

The Holy Spirit is not limited by COVID or government restrictions. When churches are not allowed to gather in one place, God the Holy Spirit can still meet with us and minister to us. And we can minister to Him as we worship the Lord Jesus Christ Who is the truth.

There are many physical orphans today in the world. They have been abandoned by their parents or by guardians. They are all alone. Some of you reading this article are all alone. Your family, your church, your friends, your co-workers, and neighbors have abandoned you. They act like you do not exist. But listen to what Jesus is saying: God will never abandon you! He will never give up on you. He is in your life to stay. Take time to get to know Him. Talk to Him through prayer about whatever is on your heart. Listen to Him as you read and study the Bible. He will help you understand what you are reading so you can apply it to your life.

Prayer: I come to You now, God the Holy Spirit, and I thank You for permanently indwelling me the moment I heard and believed the gospel of Jesus Christ. Even though there are many restrictions in our world today that hinder me from connecting with other people, I can still connect with You at any time and place about anything. I am so appreciative of Your presence in my life which provides everything I need to live for Jesus. Thank You for never abandoning me nor giving up on me. Thank You for sealing me the moment I came to faith in Christ. I am eternally grateful for the assurance that You will safely and securely deliver me to my Father’s house in heaven. I praise You that no one and nothing can break Your seal on my life except God the Father. And this will not happen until You safely deliver me to Him in heaven. Knowing this teaches me not to look to counterfeit substitutes for my security, but to solely rest in You for this deep need in my life. I give You all the glory, God, for this precious truth! In the mighty name of Jesus I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. See https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7179484/; https://themighty.com/2020/03/coronavirus-fear-of-abandonment-borderline-personality-disorder/.

2. https://www.biblestudytools.com/pastor-resources/illustrations/faithful-servants-11544480.html.

How can we find peace under pressure? Part 4

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’ ” John 14:6

We live in a world today that teaches there are many different ways to God. Many people insist that all religions lead to the same God (Universalism). Is this true? The God of the Bible has told us Himself  that “besides Me there is no savior” (Isaiah 43:11). If God had said there are many ways to Himself, then, yes, there are many ways to Him. But He has not said that. He says that He alone is the “savior.” 

In our verses today, the Lord Jesus Christ makes it very clear that He is the only way to God the Father in heaven. This is essential for us to understand if we are going to find peace under pressure. So far we have learned that we can find peace under pressure by focusing on Jesus’ promises of peace of heart, a prepared place in heaven, and His presence in heaven. The fourth and final way is to focuson Jesus’ PROMISE OF A PREPARED PATH TO HEAVEN (John 14:4-6) for those who believe in Him.

Christ makes it clear in response to Thomas’ question that for anyone to enjoy the prepared place in heaven, he must know the prepared path to heaven. “And where I go you know, and the way you know.” (John 14:4). Jesus affirms that the disciples “know” both “where” Jesus is going and “the way” to get there. Throughout His ministry Jesus had taught His disciples the way to heaven.

Now Peter had an answer to his question, “Lord, where are You going?” (John 13:36a). Christ was going to His Father’s house. Even though He must first go alone, He would return and take them to His Father’s House where they would be with Him forever. This seems to have satisfied Peter as he asked no further questions. But Thomas did not fully understand what Jesus was saying.

“Thomas said to Him, ‘Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?’ ” (John 14:5). Thomas did not understand Jesus’ reference to His Father’s House. Thomas renews the doubt about Jesus’ destination including the path that would take one there. Thomas was honest and uninhibited as he expresses his confusion. Jesus had said they could not come with Him at this time (John 13:33, 36b). How then can they know the way?

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’ ” (John 14:6). Since Jesus is going to the Father’s House, He now makes it clear that He is “the way” to His Father’s home. Jesus did not rebuke Thomas for his lack of understanding and we must not either. We are to be gracious with those who may not see things as we do.

The Lord explains to Thomas, “I am the way” to My Father’s House. Jesus did not say He was “a way” to heaven, leaving open the possibility of other ways to heaven which is commonly taught today. There is only one “way” to heaven and that is through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone (John 3:5, 15-16; 10:9; Acts 4:12; I Timothy 2:3-5).

Many people today think there is more than one way to God. They are placing their trust in people or religions that will only lead to eternal destruction (cf. Matthew 7:13-23). Jesus warned His disciples that there are many “false prophets” (Matthew 7:15) who stand in front of the “broad… way” that “leads into destruction” (Matthew 7:13). These false prophets are dressed in “sheep’s clothing” (Matthew 7:15) and appear to be Christians.

But Jesus will refuse to let them into heaven because they were trusting in their confession of Jesus’ lordship (“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ ”Matthew 7:21) and their works that they did in Jesus’ name for His glory (“Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’” – Matthew 7:22). They were not permitted entrance into “the kingdom of heaven” because they failed to do “the will of” the “Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21) which is believing in Christ alone for everlasting life: “And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:40; cf. Matthew 18:3; 21:31-32).

Jesus said you may know these false prophets by “their fruits” (Matthew 7:16-20) which are their “words,” not their works (Matthew 12:33-37). Any teacher who says you can go to heaven through some other way than faith alone in Christ alone, is a false prophet and must be avoided (cf. I Timothy 6:3-5).

When Jesus said, “I am the truth,” He is referring to the truth about the Father. Even though the disciples may have felt strange going to His Father’s House because they had not met the Father, yet since they knew Jesus, they did know the Father as well because Jesus and the Father “are one” (John 10:30). To see and know Jesus was to know and see the Father because Jesus is the perfect reflection of the Father as God the Son (John 14:7-11; cf. 1:1; 12:44-45).

As “the truth,” we can believe in Christ’s promise of everlasting life to those who believe in Him (John 3:15-16; 36; 5:24; 6:40, 47; 11:25-26) because He never tells a lie. He is always faithful to keep His promises.

When Jesus said,“I am the life,” He was saying that He is the only Person who can provide “the life” or relationship (John 1:4, 12; 5:21; 17:3) that is needed to come to the Father’s House. Jesus claims that He is the exclusive way to the Father, “No one comes to the Father except through Me.” The path to heaven is a Person – Jesus Christ Himself. You can begin a personal relationship with Him simply by believing in Him alone for His free gift (John 3:15-16; 17:3).

Jesus’ claims in this verse are very personal. Jesus did not merely claim to know “the way, the truth, or the life” as if it is some formula to give to the ignorant. He claims to be “the way, the truth, and the life.”

One continuing concern about American tax structure is the problem of loopholes. Some people spend more time looking for loopholes than they do figuring how much tax they owe. Corporations hire experts to look for legal ways to avoid taxes – and they find them. The result for the U.S. government is the loss of millions of dollars – all because of loopholes.

Some people develop a “loophole mentality” in their relationship to God. For example, when comedian W. C. Fields (1880-1946) was on his deathbed, a visitor found him reading the Bible. Asked what he was doing, he replied, “Looking for loopholes, my friend. Looking for loopholes.” 1

The Bible says that Jesus is the only way to heaven, and that we must believe in Him alone as our Savior (John 3:15-16; 10:9; 14:6). But some people secretly feel that when they die and stand before the judgment seat they will find some other way to get in. They refuse to believe the Bible’s teaching that salvation is through Christ alone (John 3:5, 15-16; 14:6; Acts 4:12) and that eternal punishment awaits those who reject Christ (John 3:36; Revelation 20:15). They have convinced themselves that they will somehow escape the final judgment and its terrible consequences.

But they are wrong. Jesus is the only “way” to heaven. According to Jesus Christ, there are no other ways to God the Father. You may ask, “What right does Jesus have to make such an exclusive claim?” The Bible affirms that Jesus was “declared to be the Son of God with power… by the resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1:4). The proof that Jesus rose from the dead was that He was seen alive after His death by over five hundred eyewitnesses (I Corinthians 15:5-8).

The resurrection of Christ is the most attested fact of history. Thomas Arnold authored a three-volume history of Rome and was appointed to Oxford’s Chair of Modern History. Concerning the evidence behind the resurrection of Jesus Christ, he said, “I have been used for years to study the histories of other times, and to examine and weigh the evidence of those who have written about them, and I know of no one fact in the history of mankind which is proved by better and fuller evidence of every sort, to the understanding of a fair inquirer, than that Christ died and rose from the dead.”  2 

The early followers of Jesus made it clear that “there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12) other than Jesus Christ (cf. Acts 4:10-11). The Bible, God Himself, and His followers teach that there is only one way to God and that is through the Lord Jesus Christ. To believe or teach something else means you must deal with the authority of the Bible and the credibility of Jesus Christ. 3

If you have never understood and believed this, listen to what God says in Isaiah 45:22: “Look to Me, and be saved, all you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.” God the Son, Jesus Christ, now invites you to believe or trust in Him alone to save you from eternal death and give you His free gift of everlasting life. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die” (John 11:25-26). When you believed in Jesus, the Bible says you can “know” you have eternal life. “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.” (I John 5:13).

When you believe in Christ, He comes to live inside of you through His Holy Spirit (John 7:38-39; Romans 5:5; 8:9-11; I Corinthians 6:19; 12:13; Galatians 3:2; 4:6; Ephesians 1:13-14). Then you can begin to experience His promise of peace of heart and look forward to a prepared place in heaven where you can enjoy His presence forever unhindered by sin and shame. But it all begins when you realize and accept that the only way to heaven is through a Person – Jesus Christ Himself.

If you have never made the decision to believe in Christ alone for His gift of everlasting life, you can do so right now because there are no loopholes. You can simply tell God through prayer that you are now believing in His Son, Jesus Christ, as your only hope of heaven.

Prayer: Dear Jesus, I come to You now as a sinner who deserves to be separated from You forever. I now realize that You are the only way to heaven. You proved this through Your words and works, the greatest of which was when You died for the sins of the world and rose from the dead. Lord Jesus, I am now believing or trusting in You alone (not my religion, my prayers, or my good life) to give me everlasting life and a future home in heaven. Thank You for the everlasting life I now have and the future home I will have in heaven. In Your precious name I pray. Amen.

If you just believed in Jesus as your only hope of heaven, we would love to hear from you. Simply send a message to us through the “Contact Us” page. To grow in your new relationship with Jesus Christ, please explore this website or www.knowing-jesus.com. Thank you, and may Jesus richly bless you.

ENDNOTES:

1. See Our Daily Bread, October 5, 2002 – https://odb.org/2002/10/05/looking-for-loopholes/.

2. Arnold Thomas, Sermons on the Christian Life – Its Hopes, Its Fears, and Its Close, 6th ed. (London: T. Fellowes, 1859), pg. 324.

3. See EvanTell’s The Evangelism Study Bible (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2014), pg. 776.

How can we find peace under pressure? Part 3

“I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” John 14:3b

We are learning from John 14:1-6 how we can find peace under pressure. Not only can we find peace under pressure by focusing on Jesus’ promise of peace of heart (John 14:1) and a prepared place in heaven (John 14:2-3a), but also on the PROMISE OF HIS PRESENCE IN HEAVEN (John 14:3b). Jesus had briefly referred to the mansions He would prepare for us in heaven (John 14:2-3a). We might have expected Jesus to give more details about His preparations, relieving any anxiety His disciples might have felt. Instead He emphasized His presence, not His preparation.

Christ said to His eleven believing disciples, “I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14:3b). In Jesus’ mind, what would make heaven so special is that they would be with Him and He with them. Yes, Jesus is preparing a wonderful place for us in heaven. But all the beauty of that place will not match the beauty of His presence.

One Saturday, a dentist went to his office to give treatment to a patient and took his dog along with him. Leaving the dog in the waiting room, the dentist examined his patient. After treating him, he spoke to him about the Lord. As they talked, the patient commented, “Sometime I wish you could show me what heaven is going to be like.” The dentist answered, “I think I can and I think I can do it now.”

Going to the door, he called his dog who immediately came running and sat down at the dentist’s feet. As the dentist cupped his hands beneath the dog’s head, the dog rested his head in his owner’s hands and stared into the face of his lord and master. The dentist said to his patient, “This is what I think heaven will be like. We will be looking in to the face of our Lord and Master.”

The greatest blessing of going to heaven is not the splendor of that wonderful place, but being in the presence of our precious Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Enjoying ceaseless personal fellowship with Christ is what will make heaven so special. This is why the apostle Paul said, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21). Life on earth for Paul was focused on the all-consuming Lord Jesus Christ. But he saw death as “gain” or an advantage because then He would be face-to-face in the presence of the most important Person in his life – Jesus Christ. This is what Paul lived for and it is what we can live for as well.

I love the chorus in the hymn, “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus,” written by Helen Howarth Lemmel:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,

Look full in His wonderful face,

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,

In the light of His glory and grace.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You so much for emphasizing Your presence in heaven, not Your preparation of that incredible place. We were created to enjoy a personal relationship with You more than anything else. Lord, it is difficult for me at times to rest my head upon Your shoulder because I believe the lie that my value comes from doing instead of being. Please teach me to calm and quiet my soul in Your loving presence. I want to know more deeply the rest and security of being in the presence of Your tender care. Oh how I look forward to being with You in heaven where sin and shame will no longer be present and I will be overcome with Your perfect love. Please help me to keep my eyes on You now so the darkness of this world will grow strangely dim in the light of Your glory and grace. In Your marvelous name I pray. Amen.

How can we find peace under pressure? Part 2

“In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself.” John 14:2-3a

With the rise in COVID-19 cases recently, it is no surprise that the primary complaint among people in the United States is stress. Add to this the social and political unrest along with the effects of COVID (ex. loss of jobs/income, more isolation, cancellations or postponements of vacations/travel, etc.), and you have a recipe for deep distress. We need to find relief from the constant pressure we are facing every day.

In John 14:1-6, we are learning to find peace under pressure. The first way is to focus on Christ’s promise of a peace of heart (John 14:1). Today we discover that we are to focus on CHRIST’S PROMISE OF A PREPARED PLACE IN HEAVEN (John 14:2-3a) for those who believe in Him.

Jesus said to His eleven disciples, “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” (John 14:2). Jesus explains why His disciples can trust in Him even during His absence. The separation which would result from Jesus’ departure would not be permanent, it was only temporary: “A Jewish betrothal meant that a man and woman were legally bound in marriage. Before the actual presentation of the bride to the bridegroom, the bridegroom would busy himself preparing a place in his father’s house for the bride. Using this imagery Christ said to these men,” 1 “In My Father’s house are many mansions.”

Where is God the Father now? We know from Jesus’ model prayer that He is in heaven. Christ taught, “Our Father in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). Heaven is where God now resides and rules (2 Corinthians 12:1-4; I Thessalonians 4:13-18; Revelation 4:1-5:14). The Bible teaches that believers in Jesus will experience heaven in three stages:

1. With Christ in the third heaven before or after the Rapture – the sudden removal of the church from the earth (2 Corinthians 5:6-8; 12:1-4; Philippians 1:21-23; I Thessalonians 4:13-5:11; Revelation 4:1-5:14). At any moment the Lord Jesus could come for His church to snatch it off the earth to be with Him in the third heaven. Following the removal of the church, there will be seven years of terrible tribulation on the earth (Daniel 9:27; Revelation 6-19). At the end of the Tribulation period…

2. The Earthly Kingdom of Christ will be established when the church will return with Christ and be on the earth for a thousand years (Revelation 20:1-6).  At the end of that thousand years there will be a…

3. New Heaven and New Earth where all believers in Jesus will be with Christ for eternity (Revelation 21-22).

Jesus describes our future home as a large house in heaven where there are “many mansions” (John 14:2). The word translated “mansions” (monē) comes from the verb “to abide” (menō) which would mean an abiding place of permanent rest. This could refer to apartments or suites in God’s house. Cook shares, “The picture is of each child having a suite of rooms in the Father’s house. All will be with the Father, enjoying His hospitality and sharing His love.” 2

Jesus is referring to literal homes or dwellings that will be in the New Jerusalem which will descend from heaven to the new earth (Revelation 21-22) after the thousand-year reign of Christ on earth (Revelation 20:1-6). The New Jerusalem will be fifteen hundred miles high, long, and wide (Revelation 21:16). God promises that in our future home “there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4). What a great source of comfort this provides for those who are deeply troubled by the death of believers today.

Christ does not have any doubts about the existence of our future home in heaven when He says, “If it were not so, I would have told you.” In the Greek language, the phrase “If it were not so” expresses that the condition is unfulfilled. In other words, if heaven were otherwise, and it is not, Jesus would have told them. Christ took for granted that there would be plenty of rooms for all the saved people in heaven.

In anticipation of their reunion with Him, Jesus said, “I go to prepare a place for you.” Yes, Jesus was leaving them, but He would not forget them. He would occupy Himself preparing a real place where He and they would dwell together forever. He was going to make ready the place where He would welcome them permanently. Certainly, Jesus would not go to prepare rooms in heaven for His disciples if He did not expect that they would finally arrive there. He was sure they would make it to heaven. He would see to it.

Then Jesus says, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself.” (John 14:3a). Just as the first century bridegroom in Palestine would send for his bride when all was ready, 4  so Christ would do the same when He had completed His work of preparing a place in His Father’s house for His bride, the church (cf. Ephesians 5:22-24; Revelation 19:7-9; 21:1-3).

When I went on a mission trip to a province in the southern Philippines (July 2016), I went to an evacuation center where refugees lived whose homes were destroyed in the recent Muslim war. As we walked around the center, we noticed that the people were not only homeless, but they were also hopeless. After obtaining permission from a village leader to share with these seventy-five people, my translator and I told them that God loves them so much that He wants to give them a permanent home in heaven which no one can destroy nor take away from them. The people listened intently but showed no emotion as we talked about our problem that separates us from God (Rom. 3:23; 6:23) and God’s only solution through the Lord Jesus (John 14:6; I Corinthians 15:3-6)!      

After explaining that Jesus now invites everyone to believe or trust in Him alone for His free gift of everlasting life (John 3:16b), we then told them they could tell God they were now trusting in Jesus (Isa – the Muslim name for Jesus) by repeating this prayer after us. As we began to pray, we noticed that the people would not repeat the prayer aloud. Instead, they raised their hands toward heaven – something Muslims normally do when they pray to God.

I got goose bumps later when I saw a photo of them raising their hands during the prayer because I had no idea they did this while we actually prayed because my eyes were closed. After praying with them, we asked the people to raise their hands if they just trusted in Jesus (Isa) for their eternal home in heaven. My heart was filled with joy as sixty-five of the seventy-five people lifted their hands! What a thrill to be able to assure them that because of their faith in Isa, they now have everlasting life which can never be lost or taken away from them (John 6:47; 10:28-29). No one is more powerful than God so that no one can destroy or take away His home for them in heaven (John 10:28-29; 14:1-3).

Think about this! God created the universe in six 24-hour days (Genesis 1), but Jesus has been preparing our place in heaven for almost two thousand years! Remember, Jesus was the Son of a carpenter (Mark 6:3) and no doubt He was a perfect learner growing up. He would know how to build some incredible mansions in heaven. So heaven is going to be a fantastic place – a real place! We will live in mansions made of gold and walk on streets of gold (Revelation 21:18, 21). It will be an incredible place of splendor. The glory of Jesus will shine and light everything, not even a shadow exists there (Revelation 21:22-23). Jesus is the center of heaven and all praises will ring to Him. The joy shall never end there. Heaven is a place of inhabitants. It is not empty. It is filled with people who have believed in Jesus Christ alone for His gift of eternal life (John 3:5, 15-16; Revelation 21:27).

Christ said, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself.” Christ assures His disciples (and us), that His separation which had so distressed them, would not be permanent. They could look forward to a blessed reunion with Jesus. One day He would come as a Bridegroom for His bride, the church, and take them to the place He had been preparing for them in heaven during His absence. His return was as certain as His departure. He would take them with Him to His Father’s house.

The phrase, “I will come again and receive you to Myself,” is not a reference to the Resurrection or the death of a believer, but to the Rapture or sudden removal of the church from the earth (cf. I Thessalonians 4:13-5:11). At any moment, Jesus Christ could come back for His church with believers who already died to meet living believers in the clouds. This truth is intended to comfort and encourage believers whose loved ones have died in the Lord.

The fact that Jesus has been gone almost two thousand years preparing our future home in heaven leads me to believe that we cannot begin to imagine how wonderful that place will be. In America at the turn of the twentieth century, people who were poor and homeless were moved into “poorhouses.” These institutions were considered to be just about the worst place a person could live.

A doctor was visiting an elderly woman who was dying in such a home. Because of her surroundings, he was greatly surprised to hear her whisper, “Praise the Lord.” So the doctor leaned over and said to her, “How can you possibly praise God here in a poorhouse?” She responded, “That’s easy. I just keep thinking about the move into my heavenly mansion.”

The assurance that a wonderful home, the “Father’s house,” awaited her – in contrast to the depressing poorhouse – gave her cause for praise in spite of her poverty. Heaven is so glorious that human language cannot adequately describe it. Even though the apostle John described the heavenly city in Revelation 21 and 22, our finite minds fail to comprehend the full splendor of what he saw. Jesus loves us so much He is preparing a magnificent place for each of us who have trusted in Christ alone for everlasting life. The more we focus on this prepared place, the more peace we will find while living under pressure.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I am so thankful that this earth is not my final home. What a wonderful place you are preparing for believers to live in the future. I cannot begin to imagine just how magnificent that place will be! Thank You for Your promise to come back again and receive me to Yourself. What a glorious day that will be when I can be with You forever in the Father’s house. Knowing that You could come back at any moment to take me to be with You in heaven, motivates me to live for You right now. The splendor of that place overshadows the darkness that is on this planet right now. In the Father’s house sin and shame will not be present. The Father’s love will overflow into every room. Death will be gone and life will abound. Hallelujah, Lord Jesus! Hallelujah! In Your matchless name I praise and pray. Amen.  

ENDNOTES:

1. P J. Dwight Pentecost, The Words & Works of Jesus Christ, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981), pg. 436.

2. W. Robert Cook, The Theology of John (Chicago: Moody, 1979), pp. 229-230.

3. ei de mē is a second class condition which expresses that the condition is unfulfilled – see Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures in The New Testament, Vol V: John and Hebrews (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1932), pg. 248.

4. Pentecost, The Words & Works of Jesus Christ, pg. 436.

How can we impact our hate-filled world for Christ? Part 1

 “So, when he had gone out, Jesus said, ‘Now the Son of Man is glorified, and God is glorified in Him. If God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and glorify Him immediately.’” John 13:31-32

Do any of you remember the beautiful song that Dionne Warwick made famous in the 1960’s? “What the world needs now, is love, sweet love, it’s the only thing there is just too little of.” Fifty years later I don’t think anything has changed. In this hate-filled world of terrorism, social unrest, and fear, a little love would go a long way. And it’s not just the world and nations that need love. I believe more than ever that Christians need love today – lots of love.

It has been said, “You cannot give what you do not have.” Most of us grew up in homes where we talked about love. A few of us grew up in homes where we experienced true, deep, unconditional love. As we’ve grown up, what many of us are finding is that it is really difficult to love if we have never received love. One of the great problems of our world is that many people are walking around these days trying to give and receive something they have never experienced for themselves.

In the last several articles in our study of the gospel of John, we observed Jesus with His disciples at the Last Supper before His death (John 13:1-30). The disciples were arguing about who was the greatest (Luke 22:24). Jesus showed them greatness when He humbly served His disciples by washing their dirty feet (John 13:1-17). When Christ announced that one of His disciples would betray Him, He was troubled over it and the disciples wanted to know the identity of Jesus’ betrayer (John 13:18-29). Judas then went out into the night to carry out his betrayal (John 13:30). From the verses that follow (John 13:31-38), we will learn how we can impact our hate-filled world for Christ. 

First, we must COMPREHEND GOD’S LOVE (John 13:31-33; cf. I John 4:9-10). Jesus’ upcoming death is not to be viewed as a humiliating defeat, but as a glorious triumph!Death was not part of God’s original design. Adam and Eve chose death (Genesis 3). God became a Man without ceasing to be God to conquer death. 1 “So, when he had gone out, Jesus said, ‘Now the Son of Man is glorified, and God is glorified in Him.’ ” (John 13:31). Judas’ departure was very significant. Now that Judas was gone, there would be less tension for our Lord as Satan in Judas was not present with Jesus and the Eleven. Christ could instruct them about how to carry on His mission. Now that the betrayal was underway, the events leading to Jesus’ death could “quickly(John 13:27) unfold.

Since the betrayal was already in progress, the glorification of the Son and the Father could take place. Five times the words “glorified” (edoxasthē) and “glorify” (doxázō) are used in John 13:31-32. The first three occurrences refer to the manifestation of God’s character through Jesus’ death. Christ’s death will magnify the love of God the Father and God the Son. All three uses are in the past tense. Jesus’ glorification through His death is so certain it is viewed as already being complete. Christ’s crucifixion will reveal His glory as the Lamb of God and it will glorify His Father because it makes His love known to humankind. The cross displays the loving heart of both God the Father and God the Son.

Later in his first epistle, John writes, “9 In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”(I John 4:9-10). These verses tell us what God’s love is like.

1. GOD’S LOVE IS SELFLESS. His love gives without expecting anything in return. Often times we give to get. That is not God’s love. If Jesus had been selfish He would never have left heaven or if He had come to earth, He would have packed His bags and left at the first sign of rejection. But He didn’t. He endured incredible suffering because He came to give, not to get. If God’s love is controlling our lives, we will be givers, not takers.

2. GOD’S LOVE IS SACRIFICIAL. He not only gives, but He gives sacrificially. He “sent His only begotten Son into the world.” Most of you are probably familiar with the mass shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada, on October 1, 2017. A gunman opened fire on over 22,000 people at a music festival on the Las Vegas Strip, leaving sixty people dead and four hundred eleven wounded. The shooter, sixty-four-year-old Stephen Paddock, fired thousands of rounds into the crowd from his hotel suite on the thirty-second floor before he took his own life. 2 

Suppose that Paddock had not killed himself, but, instead, had fled the crime scene and later was captured, tried for his crime, and sentenced to die for it. If it were possible, would you sacrifice your only child so that Paddock could live? “No way!” Nor would I. But that’s exactly what God did when He sent His Perfect Son to die for undeserving sinners like you and me. Who else would die for you except someone who loves you that much!

3. GOD’S LOVE IS UNCONDITIONAL“not that we loved God, but that He loved us.” God’s love was not a response to our love. He loved us even if we never loved Him. God loves you when your walk of faith is weak or when it is strong. He sticks with you in the good times and the bad. Nothing about us makes God love us. He loves us because it is His nature to love. If God waited for us to love Him first, He would still be waiting. Thank God that He loved you and me first. His love does not require that you love Him back. The more we comprehend and experience God’s love for us through Jesus, the more we will be able to share that love with others.

Jesus said, “If God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and glorify Him immediately.” (John 13:32). In this verse John also uses the word “glorify” (doxasei) in the future tense. This points beyond the cross to the eternal glory of the Father which His Son will share in heaven. The word “glorify”means “to honor, magnify, or clothe in splendor.” 3  God the Father would restore His Son to a state of glory and splendor in heaven without delay (“immediately”).From God’s perspective, Jesus’ sufferings and death were not a tragedy, but a triumph. They would result in the glorification of God’s Son.

That Jesus’ glorification in verse 32 refers to His glory in heaven is alluded to in verse 33 as He speaks of His departure. “Little children, I shall be with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come,’ so now I say to you.” (John 13:33). Jesus refers to the Eleven disciples as little children” (teknia) which literally means “little born ones.” 4 This word is always used by John of children of God. This is the only time John uses this word in his gospel, however, he does employ its use several times in his epistle (cf. I John 2:1, 12, 28; 3:7, 18; 4:4; 5:21). Why does Jesus wait until after Judas departs before He addresses His disciples as “little children?” Because Judas had not believed in Jesus for everlasting life, and therefore, was not born of God (cf. John 6:64, 70-71; 13:10-11; 17:12).

Christ knew that His teaching would be difficult to hear for His believing disciples, so He wants them to be certain of His tender loving concern for them. His departure does not mean that He no longer loves them. But in “a little while,” He would leave them and it would not be possible for them to “come” with Him both in His death and ascension to heaven after His resurrection. He must go alone.

Do you ever long to go to heaven to escape your problems here on earth? As I get older and experience more pains in my body, I tend to think more about heaven where there will be no more pain (Revelation 21:4). Jesus explains to His disciples, whom He greatly loves, that they “cannot come with” Him to heaven just yet because their work on earth is not done. While it is wonderful to eagerly anticipate the soon return of Jesus at any moment (cf. I Thessalonians 4:13-5:11), we must also cherish the great privilege we have of fulfilling God’s call in our lives to serve Him here on earth by serving others.

Christ’s announcement of His departure may have overwhelmed the disciples at this time. During the last three and a half years, they had come to trust Christ for every need in their lives. He had been like a father to them – providing, protecting, guiding, and instructing them as “children.” They had developed intimate fellowship with Jesus. They must have asked themselves, “What will we do while He is gone?” We will discover what Jesus tells them in our next article.

Prayer: Father God, one of the biggest challenges we face in the world today is the amount of hatred that exists between people. What the world truly needs more than anything is Your love which You demonstrated when You sent Your only begotten Son into the world to die for all our sins so we may have everlasting life through faith in Him. Your love is not a feeling. It is an action that seeks the best for others. I pray you will use me to glorify Your name and Jesus’ name as You manifest Your love to others through my life. In the matchless name of Jesus Christ I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Wilkin, Robert; Bond, J.; Derickson, Gary; Doskocil, Brad; Hodges, Zane; Hunt, Dwight; Leach, Shawn. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (pg. 524). Grace Evangelical Society. Kindle Edition.

2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2017_Las_Vegas_shooting.

3. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, compiled by Walter Bauer, trans. and adapted by William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, 2nd ed., rev. and augmented by F. Wilbur Gingrich and Frederick W. Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979), pg. 204.

4. Jody C. Dillow, The Reign of the Servant Kings: A Study of Eternal Security and the Final Significance of Man, (Hayesville: Schoettle Publishing Co., 1992), pp. 378-379.

Receiving Life Freely – Part 3 (Video)

This is the third 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 third miracle of Jesus recorded in the gospel of John involving the healing of a lame man (John 5:1-9).

The movie clip subtitles are from the Good News Translation. All other Scripture are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted. Gospel of John pictures are used with permission from John Paul Stanley/ www.YoPlace.com/ www.FreeBibleimages.org, and www.GoodSalt.com. The Gospel of John movie clip is used with permission from Jesus.net. You may view the entire Life of Jesus movie at https://jesus.net/the-life-of-jesus/.

A Look into the Future – Part 7 (Video)

This is the seventh in a series of videos about the future as recorded in the last book of the Bible, the book of Revelation. This video focuses on the New Heaven and New Earth.

The Revelation Art is used by permission of Pat Marvenko Smith, copyright 1992. To order art prints visit her “Revelation Illustrated” site, http://www.revelationillustrated.com.  Other digital images are used with permission from Good News Productions International and College Press Publishing (www.FreeBibleimages.org) and GoodSalt (www.goodsalt.com). The music and video scenes in this video are used with permission from the producers of the video entitled “The Free Gift.”

How do I share the gospel with a religious person? Part 2

“Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak what We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness.” John 3:11

After Jesus confronts Nicodemus about his need to have two births, both physical and spiritual (John 3:1-8), Nicodemus is still confused. Nicodemus answered and said to Him, ‘How can these things be?’” (John 3:9). Nicodemus wants to know how this spiritual transformation takes place. “Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things?’” (John  3:10). Jesus says, “Nicodemus, you are one of the main guys. You have given your life to the study of the Scriptures, and yet, you can’t wrap your mind around this very basic spiritual truth? You don’t know what it means to be born from above?”

Jesus continues, “Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak what We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness.” (John 3:11).Nicodemus had begun his conversation with Jesus by humbly referring to himself as one of many authoritative figures who believed that Jesus had come from God when he said, “we know.” (John 3:2). Now Jesus describes Himself as one of several authoritative Figures who was speaking the truth, when He says, “We know.” (John 3:11). Jesus states that His teaching about new birth can be relied upon because it is based upon what He knows and has seen with His Father and the Holy Spirit in heaven. Jesus claimed to be speaking the truth as an Eyewitness along with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit, but Nicodemus was rejecting Their witness at this time (“you do not receive Our witness”).

John’s purpose in this gospel, similarly, was that his readers would accept his witness that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God (John 20:30-31). Nicodemus had rejected this witness at this time, and Jesus saw him as representing many other Jewish religious leaders who also did as the word “you” in John 3:11 is plural. Nicodemus had failed to understand (John 3:9), but his more serious error was his refusal to believe Jesus’ testimony at this time about the new birth. It reflected a refusal to acknowledge who Jesus really was, the Christ and the Son of God, which His signs and insight into Scripture revealed (John 20:30-31).

What about you? Do you receive Jesus’ witness about your need to be born from above spiritually? Or do you think your own goodness and religiosity is enough to get you to heaven? Please do not make the same mistake that Nicodemus did at this time. You will regret it for eternity.

Jesus goes on to say, “I should not be shocked, Nicodemus…” If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” (John 3:12). In other words, it should come as no surprise that your sinful mind does not grasp this spiritual truth. Only the one born from above can understand God’s truth.

Jesus had authority to teach about heavenly things because He lived in heaven. He said to Nicodemus, “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 is explaining to Nicodemus why He could speak authoritatively about heavenly things. No human teacher had “ascended into heaven” bodily and returned to teach about heavenly things.

The reason no human had ascended to heaven was because believers did not ascend to heaven until Jesus ascended to heaven after His resurrection (Ephesians 4:8-10; 2 Corinthians 5:8; Philippians 1:21-23; Revelation 4:1-4; 19:7-9, 14). Before Jesus’ ascension to heaven, believers went to Paradise or Abraham’s bosom (Luke 16:22; 23:43). They could not ascend to heaven until Jesus’ blood was shed and removed their sins forever (John 1:29; Ephesians 1:7; Hebrews 9-10).

In John 3:13, Christ was referring to being personally present in heaven since, obviously, many prophets had received visions of heaven (e.g. Isaiah 6; cf. 2 Corinthians 12:2-4; Revelation 1:10-20). However, the “Son of Man . . . descended from heaven” so He could teach about heavenly things. The apostle John is contrasting no human who could have ascended bodily into heaven, with the God-man who really did descend from heaven. Jesus claims to be the Messianic “Son of Man” (Daniel 7:13-14) who had come “from heaven” to reveal God to humankind (cf. John 1:18, 51). Throughout this his gospel, the apostle John insists on Jesus’ heavenly origin. This is one way in which he brings out his point that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God (John 20:31). Here, His heavenly origin marks Jesus off from the rest of humanity as the Messiah-God.

Because Jesus is from heaven, He alone can get those who believe in Him to heaven (John 14:2-3, 6). When sharing the gospel with a religious unsaved person, we need to confront them with the truth of their need for two birthdays (John 3:1-8) both physical and spiritual – and confront them with the truth about Jesus’ heavenly origin (John 3:9-13). Jesus is God who descended from heaven to share with us how to get to heaven. Next time, we will focus on what Jesus says we must do to get to heaven.

From Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus, we learn the following:

Being born again is not about human efforts. If anyone “deserved” eternal life, it would appear that Nicodemus had all of the right qualifications. He was a “Pharisee” (John 3:1), who was extremely devoted to studying and applying the Scriptures to his life. He seems worthy of eternal life. But this conversation reminds us that salvation is not about human effort or merit. We are also reminded that:

Position does not get you to heaven. Nicodemus was “a ruler of the Jews” (John 3:1), one of the seventy-one who comprised the Sanhedrin – the Jewish Supreme Court. He was a part of the religious elite. He had a distinguished religious position. But a certain position does not get you to heaven. Being a pastor, a Sunday School teacher, a member of the board at a non-profit organization, an imam, a priest, or a monk does not save you. Being born again is not about human efforts. It is not about positions.

Popularity does not get you to heaven. The name “Nicodemus”  means “a conqueror or victor of the people”. Nicodemus was well liked or popular. Here was a man who won the approval of the people. He was well known and respected in the community. He was popular. He was recognized as a spiritual leader. Mothers pointed to Nicodemus and told their children, “There is a good man. You grow up to be like Nicodemus.” He was extremely popular. But popularity does not save you. Being recognized as a “Christian” person or as a spiritual leader does not save you. Being born again is not about popularity.

Prestige does not get you to heaven. Jesus identified Nicodemus as “the teacher of Israel” (3:10).  He was the one to whom people turned for spiritual answers. He was recognized as the spiritual adviser, the religious guru, the one who spent his life studying the Scriptures, but he did not possess eternal life. He knew the Scriptures, but he did not know the Author of the Scriptures. Nicodemus was “the” man when it came to religious matters but he was not saved. He was not born from above because prestige does not save you.

Piety does not get you to heaven. Nicodemus possessed great religious knowledge. As a member of the Pharisees, he knew and lived what was considered right and wrong. His first words to Jesus, “we know” (3:2) express a certain level of spiritual knowledge. Yet the reality is that Nicodemus did not know Jesus personally nor did he possess eternal life. He was ignorant of spiritual truth, yet he was religious to the core. The Pharisees went to drastic measures to make sure they obeyed the letter of the law. They fasted and prayed and studied the Scriptures. They lived spiritually disciplined lives, but they were lost. Why? Because piety does not save. You can go to church, to a mosque or to a temple, and practice spiritual disciplines daily and still be without Christ. Piety does not save. Why?

Because all of us have disobeyed God with our thoughts, our words, and our actions. The Bible tells us, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Regardless of how good we are, we have still sinned against God. You may not agree with this, but God is the One we must answer to and His Word says, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way…” (Isaiah 53:6a). Each of us has gone astray from God and His Word. We have all chosen our own way instead of God’s way.

Even though we have rebelled against God, He still loves us and paid the penalty for all of our sins when He died on the cross. “And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6b).  Three days after Jesus died on the cross, He rose from the dead (I Corinthians 15:4-6) and He is alive today. Jesus invites you right now to trust Him alone to save you. Jesus said, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life.” (John 6:47).

So being born again is not about human efforts. It is not about position, popularity, prestige, or piety. It is about recognizing your own sinfulness and inability to save yourself and then believing in Christ alone who died for your sins and rose from the dead to give you everlasting life and a future home in heaven. If you just trusted in Jesus for His free gift of everlasting life, you may tell Him this in prayer.

“Dear Jesus, I realize that I have sinned against You in so many ways. I did not want to admit it before because I thought I was good enough to get to heaven on my own. My human efforts, my position, my popularity, my prestige, and my piety do not change the fact that I am a sinner who needs a Savior. Lord Jesus, I believe You died for me and rose from the dead. I am now trusting You alone, Jesus (not my human efforts, position, popularity, prestige or piety), to give me everlasting life and a future home in heaven. Thank You, Jesus, for the everlasting life I now have and the future home I will have in heaven. I want to thank You by living for You now. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

To help you grow in your new relationship with Jesus Christ, please explore www.seeyouinheaven.life or www.knowing-Jesus.com or www.evantell.org.

Jesus does not want you to keep this good news of new birth to yourself. He wants you to “testify” or share what you have “seen” and now “know” (John 3:11) with others who do not know Jesus as the only Giver of everlasting life. So 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.