How can I live above average? Part 3

“Oh, … that Your hand would be with me.” I Chronicles 4:10ac

We are learning how to live about average by looking at four principles found in the simple, yet profound prayer of a man named Jabez. The first principle we learned was to seek God’s blessing in our lives (I Chronicles 4:9-10a). As God gives us His blessings, He wants us to share those blessings with others. So we are to ask God to increase our territory or influence for Him (I Chronicles 4:10b) so we can pass His blessings on to other people.

But as God increases our territory or influence for Him, we may start to feel overwhelmed with all the opportunities He gives us to impact others for His glory. Perhaps the expansion of your business opportunities starts to deplete your energy and resources. Maybe the ministry opportunities God gives you seem to be more than one person can handle. If you prayed for your family to impact more people, you may start to see more teenagers gathering in your dining room than you thought possible. And you notice their negative influence seems to be greater than your positive influence. When this starts to happen, Christians can start to feel misled, inadequate, scared, frustrated, or even angry with the situation.

When this happens, we need to pray like Jabez prayed: “Oh, … that Your hand would be with me.” (I Chronicles 4:10c).As God gives us more opportunities to influence others for Him, we start to realize, “This is more than I can handle. This is beyond my abilities and resources.” This is a good place to be because it shows us our dependence upon God.

Hence, the third principle for living above average is to ASK GOD FOR POWER TO ACCOMPLISH HIS DREAM FOR YOUR LIFE (I Chronicles 4:10c). God loves to use ordinary people who trust Him. Jabez’ faith caused him to believe that God would help him with his goals and dreams. There is something more important than being talented or educated – it is faith. It is believing that God will work in and through you.

Even though Jabez’ mother named him “Painful,” his faith kept him going. He may have had some kind of handicap or disability to be given this name. But he did not let his painful past keep him from looking ahead in faith and being used by God. What is your handicap? Is it physical? Spiritual? Emotional? Is it a traumatic childhood? A frustrating job or problem in your marriage? Is it a health limitation? An illness? Whatever it may be, Jesus says, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” (Mark 9:23).

When we pray, “Oh, that Your hand would be with me,” “we release God’s power to accomplish His will and bring Him glory through all those seeming impossibilities… Notice that Jabez did not begin his prayer by asking for God’s hand to be with him. At that point, he didn’t sense the need. Things were still manageable. His risks, and the fears that go with them, were minimal. But when his boundaries got moved out, and the kingdom-sized tasks of God’s agenda started coming at him, Jabez knew he needed a divine hand—and fast. He could have turned back, or he could have tried to keep going in his own strength. Instead, he prayed.” 1

In Acts 11:21 the Bible describes what happens when the hand of the Lord is with His people: “And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord.” As we surrender to God and rely on His Holy Spirit, we can receive “a fresh spiritual in-filling of God’s power” 2 that enables us to accomplish His will for His glory. God’s presence is manifested in supernatural ways as we look to Him to supply the strength that is needed to fulfill His plan for our lives.

Jesus promised in Matthew 28:19-20, “19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations… 20 and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” No doubt Jesus’ followers felt overwhelmed when He commanded them to “make disciples of all the nations.” That was a “God-sized” task for these first century disciples and it still is for us today. But Christ guaranteed them (and us) His presence (“and lo, I am with you always”) to provide all that they needed as they made disciples of the nations.

Even today, if we need more people, Christ’s presence can provide more people. If we need courage or protection, His presence can provide them. If we need wisdom in making decisions, Jesus’ presence can give us that wisdom. If we need more resources, the presence of our risen Lord Jesus can supply them. Whatever we need to fulfill His dream for our lives, His presence is more than adequate to provide.

Can you picture God doing this where you live? Can you see His hand causing people to believe or trust in Christ alone for His gift of salvation and begin to experience a new life as His disciples? It all begins when we seek God’s blessings, we ask for more influence, and we rely on His presence to give us the power to accomplish His will all for His glory.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we admit we have a great need for Your presence in our lives as You pour out Your blessings to us and give us opportunities to share them with others. Without You, Lord, we can do nothing of eternal value. We cannot do what You have called us to do in our own strength. We desperately need You to supply what we lack. Thank You so much for God the Holy Spirit Who dwells in us the moment we believe in Jesus. This same Spirit Who brought Jesus back to life can give us resurrection power. Through Him we pray You will enable us to continue to share Your blessings with those You bring into our lives. Thank You for being with us, Lord God. Thank You for wanting to use us for Your glory. In the matchless name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Bruce Wilkinson, The Prayer of Jabez: Breaking Through to the Blessed Life (Breakthrough Series Book 1, The Crown Publishing Group, 2010 Kindle Edition), pp. 48-49.

2. Ibid., pp. 55-56.

How do I defeat my worst fears? Part 4

11 So the Lord said to him, ‘Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the Lord? 12 Now therefore, go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say.’ ” Exodus 4:11-12

In Exodus 3-4, we are learning from Moses’ interaction with God how to defeat our worst fears. The Lord told Moses to go back to Egypt to lead His people to freedom. But Moses had many fears that impeded him from doing God’s will. Those fears included the fear of inadequacy (Exodus 3:11), embarrassment (Exodus 3:13), and rejection (Exodus 4:1). God diffused these fears with His responses (Exodus 3:12a, 14-15; 4:2-3).

But this still wasn’t enough for Moses. “Then Moses said to the Lord, ‘O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.’ ” (Exodus 4:10). Moses was also struggling with THE FEAR OF COMPARISON (Exodus 4:10). Moses is saying, “I am not a good speaker.” Compared to whom? His only audience is sheep. How does he know he is not a good speaker? It is not like he has other shepherds to listen to on the TV channel. How does he know? He is comparing himself to others.

Or perhaps he is comparing himself to when he was living in the palace of the king of Egypt for forty years and received the best education in the world (Acts 7:20-23). But after listening to sheep the last forty years “baaaaing” in the wilderness (Acts 7:23, 30), he had lost his eloquence and confidence.

All of us have a lot of abilities and talents to serve God with, but we don’t know that yet because we have not tried to use them. People have said to me in America, “Jeff, I can’t talk about the Lord in America. Why in the world should I go overseas to do it?”

How does God respond to this fear of comparison? 11 So the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the Lord?” (Exodus 4:11).

“When God commanded Moses to speak to Pharaoh on his behalf, God was not unaware of Moses’s weaknesses. Similarly, when he calls you to kingdom service, he knows about your fears and your shortcomings. This, in fact, is a reminder that God didn’t choose you to serve him because he desperately needed your qualities on his team. He chose you so that you could reflect his glory to the world. Paul told the Corinthians, ‘Consider your calling: Not many were wise from a human perspective, not many powerful. . .. Instead, God has chosen what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen what is weak in the world to shame the strong . . . so that no one may boast in his presence” (1 Cor 1:26-29).’ ” 1

God wasn’t concerned about Moses’ eloquence or lack thereof. Moses was God’s man regardless of how Moses felt about it. Therefore, God said to him, “Now therefore, go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say.” (Exodus 4:12). The deliverance of God’s people from Egypt did not ultimately depend upon Moses, but on God.

But you may say, “That is great, but that is Moses. What about me?” Did you know that God has made the same promise to you and me? Jesus said, “Don’t worry about what you’ll say or how you’ll say it. The right words will be there; the Spirit of your Father will supply the words.” (Matthew 10:19-20 MSG). That is a promise to you and me if we are doing what God calls us to do. By God’s grace, I have experienced this promise repeatedly, and you can too if you do what God calls you to do.

Prayer:  Almighty God, thank You for reminding us that Your presence in our lives will provide all that is needed to accomplish Your will. As our Creator, You not only know all our fears and weaknesses, but You also have the power to overcome them and display Your glory through them. We are humbled that You would even choose us to be a part of Your redemptive plan for the world. Thank You Almighty God. In the matchless name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 198.

How can I overcome my fears? Part 4

“And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’ ” John 20:22

We are learning from Jesus’ appearance to His ten disciples the evening of His resurrection day how to overcome our fears. We have discovered we must…

– Rely on Jesus to calm our fear with His peace-giving presence (John 20:19).

– Redirect our focus to the evidence of Jesus’ resurrection to convince our doubting hearts (John 20:20).

– Renew our sense of purpose (John 20:21).

The ten disciples of Jesus had been calmed, convinced, and commissioned, but they were still paralyzed by fear. They were still  sitting in the locked room for fear of the Jews. They lacked power to overcome their fear, so Jesus prepares them physically and visibly for what would come to them spiritually at Pentecost, fifty days later (Acts 2:1-21). 1  “And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’ ” (John 20:22).

Some see this verse as a temporary filling of the Holy Spirit to give the disciples the knowledge, understanding, and enablement they would need to continue Christ’s work until Pentecost when they would receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit.2  But the weaknesses of this interpretation include the following:

“Two bestowals of the Spirit seem unusual, in view of Jesus’ earlier promises to send (not impart) the Spirit (7:39; chs. 14—16), and the importance in Acts of the Spirit’s coming at Pentecost (Acts 1:5; 2:4; 11:15). Also, opponents of this view claim that there is no indication that this temporary infusion with the ‘Spirit’ had any effect on the disciples.” 3 The disciples do not go out and share their faith. Rather, they hide, and on occasion go fishing (21:1-11).” 4  “Furthermore, there is no evidence that when Thomas returned to the scene, Jesus gave him the Spirit—as one would expect if the Spirit’s presence was essential for the disciples then (v. 26-29).” 5

It is better to see John 20:22 as a physical and visual preparation for the coming of the Holy Spirit fifty days later on the Day of Pentecost in Jerusalem (Acts 2:1-21; 11:15-16). This “was a demonstration of what Jesus would do after He returned to the Father, and which He did do on Pentecost. He was not imparting the Spirit to them in any sense here. This interpretation accounts for Thomas not receiving the Spirit before Pentecost. It also explains why this event may have had no permanently changing effect on the disciples comparable to that of Pentecost. Evidently there was only one coming of the Spirit on these disciples, and that happened on Pentecost.” 6

Also in favor of this view is that an aorist imperative, which is used in John 20:22 (Labete – “Receive”), is used by Jesus in this way elsewhere. For example in John 2:19, Jesus said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19). It was three years before that imperative was fulfilled. 7  Likewise, the coming of the Holy Spirit to indwell Jesus’ disciples would take place fifty days later. Keep in mind that the time of Acts 1:5 is forty days after John 20:22, and the baptism of the Holy Spirit was still future. In Acts 11:15-16, the apostle Peter explains that the Gentiles in Acts 10 had received the baptism of the Holy Spirit “as upon us at the beginning.” That means that the beginning of the baptism of the Holy Spirit was on the day of Pentecost as recorded in Acts 2. Therefore, John 20:22 is not referring to the baptism of the Holy Spirit, but to the preparation for it.

The word “breathed” (emphusáō) in John 20:22 is also used in the Greek Old Testament in Genesis 2:7 where God “breathed” into Adam the breath of life. John seems to be connecting the disciples’ experience with Adam’s to show that Jesus is the Giver of both physical and spiritual life.

After the early stages in Acts when some received the Spirit after being born again by believing in Jesus (cf. Acts 2:38; 8:14-17; 19:6), reception of the Holy Spirit always occurred at the very moment a person believed in Christ for everlasting life (e.g., Acts 10:43-48; 15:7-8; 19:2; cf. Mark 1:8; I Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:2, 26-27; Ephesians 1:13-14).

Overcoming our fear, especially in carrying on the work of Jesus Christ, is not something we do in our own strength. The Holy Spirit must empower us. So the fourth way to overcome our fears is to RELATE TO THE PERSON OF THE HOLY SPIRIT (John 20:22). The power for overcoming our fear is not found in our personality or our performance. It is found in the Person of God the Holy Spirit. Get to know the Holy Spirit.

The Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit is God, since lying to the Holy Spirit is equal to lying to God (Acts 5:3-4). But the Holy Spirit is not only God, He is a Person. He is not an impersonal force or influence. Like God the Father and God the Son, He possesses the same characteristics of a Person that they have:

1. He has knowledge or intellect. The Bible tells us, 10 But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. 11 For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God.” (I Corinthians 2:10-11).  The Holy Spirit “searches” (ereunaō) all things which means He has the ability “to examine or investigate.” 10 This implies He has personality. He searches “the deep things of God” and reveals them to believers in Jesus. He “knows” (eídō) the things of God. This means he has the capacity “to grasp the meaning of something or to understand.” 11  The Holy Spirit has the ability to think and know things which are attributes of personality.

2. He has emotions or the ability to feel. The Holy Spirit not only thinks like a person, He feels like a person.The Bible says, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” (Ephesians 4:30). Christians can “grieve” (lupéō) or cause severe emotional distress 12 to the Holy Spirit with our hurtful communication to one another (Ephesians 4:29). The fact that He can be “grieved” or offended reveals personality since one cannot hurt an influence or an impersonal force. The Bible also instructs us that the Holy Spirit has the ability to give and receive love (Romans 5:5; 15:30). The fact that the Holy Spirit responds emotionally the way that a person responds, demonstrates that He is a Person.

3. The Holy Spirit possesses a will or the ability to choose. After referring to various spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit, the apostle Paul says, “ But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.” (I Corinthians 12:11). The Holy Spirit not only empowers these gifts, He also distributes them “to each one individually as He wills.” The Holy Spirit has the ability to choose which is also a mark of personhood. Just as God the Father and God the Son have a will, so does the Holy Spirit.

We also see in the Bible that the Holy Spirit acts like a Person. He teaches (John 14:26; 15:26-27; I Corinthians 2:13), gives guidance (Romans 8:14; Acts 16:6-7; 20:22-23), helps or comforts (John 16:7), convicts (John 16:8-11), gives commands (Acts 8:29; 10:19-20), He appoints believers to leadership (Acts 20:28), gives understanding (John 16:13), speaks (Acts 13:2), He intercedes or speaks on behalf of people (Romans 8:26), performs miracles (Acts 2:4; Romans 15:19), gives spiritual gifts (I Corinthians 12:8-11), raises the dead (Romans 8:11), creates (Genesis 1:2), provides companionship (John 14:16-18), testifies and bears witness to Jesus (John 15:26-27), and glorifies Jesus (John 16:14). All of these actions demonstrate that the Holy Spirit is a Person. He does things that only a Person can do. But keep in mind that He is Spirit, which means He does not have a physical body like we do. He is a Person without a physical body which enables Him to indwell believers in Jesus (John 14:16-17; Romans 8:11; I Corinthians 6:19).

In conclusion, I want to share an illustration our pastor shared with us at church a few weeks ago. 13  It involves a woman who just graduated from Harvard University. She went to the Amazon River area of South America and was given a choice. She could either have a perfect map to navigate this area unknown to her or she could choose a guide to enable her to reach her destination. She said, “I just graduated and I’m pretty smart, so I will choose the map.”

The map was perfect and she was smart. So the first couple of days went fairly well using the map to navigate the area. But after three days or so, things got rough. It began to rain extremely hard. She tried using the map, but she didn’t know what to do. She was extremely confused about which way to go. Suddenly, she hears the voice of the guide. He says, “Hey, come this way. Follow me.” So he helps her navigate her way through that mess and confusion. He asks her, “Do you want me to stay with you?” She says, “No, I’ve got my perfect map.”

Using only a map to guide her, she starts going again. Three days later, she ends up in another confusing situation in a bog and gets lost. Finally the guide comes again and asks her, “Do you need help?” Ashamed, she says, “Yes, I need help.” As they are walking, the guide asks her, “Do you want me to help you?” She says, “Yeah, that’s fine. You can help me and guide me.” Then she says, “Do you need the map?” He replies, “No, I don’t need the map. I wrote the map.”

The Holy Spirit wrote our map, the Bible (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20-21). He enabled holy men to record God’s Word without error in all of the Bible (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:19-20), so that every word in the Bible is from the mouth of God. As “the Spirit of truth” (John 14:17; 15:26; 16:13), the Holy Spirit guides us with the Bible. We must have the Holy Spirit to understand the Bible (I Corinthians 2:10-16).

The way we receive the Holy Spirit, is to believe in Jesus for His gift of everlasting life (John 7:37-39; Acts 10:43-48; 15:7-8; 19:2; I Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:2, 26-27; Ephesians 1:13-14). Every believer in Jesus has God the Holy Spirit indwelling him or her (John 14:16-17; Romans 8:11; I Corinthians 6:19) to guide them into all truth (John 16:13; Romans 8:14; Acts 16:6-7; 20:22-23) and empower them to live a life that glorifies Jesus Christ (John 16:13-14; Galatians 5:22-23). Learn to listen to the Spirit’s guidance through the Scriptures. Rely on His powerful presence to overcome your fears and become more like Jesus Christ (Romans 8:26-29; 2 Corinthians 3:16-18).

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You so much for sending Your Holy Spirit to indwell us and empower us to become more like You. We could never overcome our fears in our own strength. But You have given us the Person of the Holy Spirit to enable us to not only overcome our fears, but to replace our fears with Your courage and boldness. Holy Spirit, teach me to hear Your voice through the holy Bible so I can know You more intimately and experience the joy that You, the Father, and Jesus created me to have. Forgive me for neglecting my relationship with You. Please renew my love relationship with You so I can not only overcome my fears, but become more like my Savior, Jesus Christ. In the matchless name of Jesus Christ I pray. Amen.  

ENDNOTES:

1. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1829. 

2. Edwin A. Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Gospels, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 699; J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 366; Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John: Revised Edition (New International Commentary on the New Testament series. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), pp. 747-48.

3. Tom Constable, Notes on John, 2017 Edition, pg. 379.

4. Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 565.

5. Constable, pg. 379.

6. Ibid.

7. Wilkin, pg. 565.

8. Ibid.

9. Ibid.

10.  Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 389.

11. Ibid., pg. 694.

12. Ibid., pg. 604.

13. Adapted from Pastor Tim Agrimson’s April 25, 2021 sermon entitled, “The Spirit of Peace” at https://www.newlifedsm.com/episode/the-spirit-the-spirit-of-peace/ .

How can I overcome my fears? Part 1

“Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ ” John 20:19

The right part of the human brain known as the limbic system reacts with survival responses to three areas: food, sex, and safety. One of those survival responses is fear. In the limbic system of the brain, pain results in fear. We may fear abandonment, criticism, disrespect, embarrassment, inadequacy, rejection, shame, and vulnerability. 1

In a world of insecurity and uncertainty, we are going to experience fear. But it is important to understand that whatever we fear, we give power and control to. When we fear the things of this world, including humans, we give authority and control to the god of this world, Satan (John 12:31). 2

Most fear is based upon lies and can give the father of lies (John 8:44) control in our lives. This is why some of the most often used commands in the entire Bible are, “DO NOT BE AFRAID,” “DO NOT FEAR”, “FEAR NOT,” “DO NOT BE TERRIFIED,” “DO NOT TREMBLE.” I counted these commands appearing one hundred forty-four times in the NKJV of the Bible. 3

For the next few days we are going to discover how to overcome our fears by looking at how Jesus enabled His disciples to overcome their fear. The first way to overcome fear in our lives is to RELY ON JESUS TO CALM OUR FEAR WITH HIS PEACE-GIVING PRESENCE (John 20:19). After appearing to Mary Magdalene early on the day of His resurrection, Jesus then appeared to other women (Matthew 28:9-10), to Simon Peter (Luke 24:33-35; I Corinthians 15:5), and to the two disciples on the Emmaus road (Mark 16:12-13; Luke 24:13-32). It was late in the evening of that most memorable day when Jesus appeared to ten of His closest disciples (John 20:19-23).

“Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ ”( John 20:19). On one of the greatest days in the history of the world, when Jesus’ Eleven disciples minus Thomas should have been dancing in the streets, they were trembling behind “shut” (kekleismenōn) or “locked” doors. 4  The verb kleiō is in the perfect tense, meaning “the doors” were locked in the past and they remained locked to the present.

Notice also the word “doors” is plural, suggesting that the door into the room and a door into the house entrance were locked. Why? “For fear of the Jews.” It is understandable why the disciples were afraid. The Jews had managed to put Jesus to death and the disciples were His closest companions. A rumor was being spread by the Jewish leaders through the Roman soldiers that Jesus’ disciples had stolen His dead body from the tomb (Matthew 28:11-15). Now that Jesus was removed, the Jews may focus their bitter hatred toward His followers. After all, Christ had warned them of coming persecution (John 15:20; 16:1-2).

The disciples were paralyzed with fear and understandably so. We too can experience paralyzing fear. We are no different than the disciples. We may not share Christ with others because we are afraid of failure, rejection, or what others will think of us. Remember whatever we fear, we give power and control to. When we remain silent in our witness for Christ because of fear, we are giving Satan control over that area of our lives.

While the disciples were hiding in isolation, Jesus suddenly and supernaturally appeared to these ten disciples. Keep in mind that the doors remained shut and locked when “Jesus came and stood in the midst” of them. This phrase can be translated, “Jesus came and stepped into the midst” of them. “Jesus’ resurrection body had passed through grave clothes and a rocky tomb. Now it passed through the walls of this structure.” 5

Now, clearly, Jesus had a physical body. Mary touched him (20:17); Thomas would touch him (20:27); later he would eat with his disciples (21:12-13). He was no mere phantom (see Luke 24:39). He had risen bodily from the grave. But his resurrected body no longer had material limitations. Apparently, he could pass through locked doors if he wanted. And later he would ascend on a cloud into heaven (see Acts 1:9). The apostles tell us that our resurrection bodies will be like his (see 1 Cor 15:45-57; Phil 3:21; 1 John 3:2).” 6

Even though the disciples took security measures, they could not prevent the appearance of Christ in their midst, for He materialized before their eyes. 7 Likewise, human governments and religions can outlaw Christianity, but all of their security measures cannot keep Jesus from revealing Himself to people in those countries or regions. Jesus still comes “to seek and to save that which was lost(Luke 19:10).

For example, “For decades, a well-documented phenomenon has been occurring in the Muslim world—men and women who, without knowledge of the gospel, or contact among Christians in their community, have experienced dreams and visions of Jesus Christ. The reports of these supernatural occurrences often come from ‘closed countries’ where there is no preaching of the good news and where converting to Christianity can invoke the death sentence. But these are more than just dreams… A common denominator appears to be that the dreams come to those who are seeking—as best they can—to know and please God.” 8

When Jesus appeared to the disciples, He said to them, “Peace be with you.” (John 20:19b). The Greek word for “peace” (eirḗnē) arises from a life of faith in God. It refers to a calmness “that would come to their hearts from trusting God and from knowing that He was in control of all events that touched their lives.” 9

Before we can possess this kind of peace, we must first receive “peace with God” through faith in Jesus for eternal life (Romans 5:1). Why do we need peace with God?

The Bible tells us, “And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled” (Colossians 1:21). Before we become Christians, we are God’senemies. “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, everyone, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6). We need to be reconciled to God because of our sin. God does not need reconciling to us, we need reconciling to God. We turned away from God. He never moved. We moved. The people God created rebelled against their Creator and sinned so that death spread to all people because all sinned (Genesis 3:1-7; cf. Romans 3:23; 5:12-14, 18a).

The Bible tells us, “Having made peace through the blood of His cross” (Colossians 1:20b) means causing God’s former enemies to become His beloved children by faith in Jesus Christ. The Bible says, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1). Notice that “peace with God” is not through our good life, our prayers, or our religion. Peace with God is “through our Lord Jesus Christ.” The moment we believe in Jesus Christ and His death on the cross for all our sins, we are “justified” or declared totally righteous before God as if we had never sinned.

To be justified before God means to be declared the opposite of what we are. If I was hateful, I am now declared loving. If I was impatient, I am now declared patient. If I was impure, I am now declared pure. If I was selfish, I am now declared selfless.

When you believe in Jesus, He comes to live inside you through His Holy Spirit (John 7:38-39; Romans 8:11; Galatians 2:20). Christ now lives in you and promises never to leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5). Through His death on the cross, Jesus conquered Satan’s control of death (cf. Hebrews 2:14-15). Satan can no longer use your fear of death to enslave you to his will. Christians can now face death with the same confidence in God the Father that Jesus had (cf. I Peter. 2:21-24). Believers are assured of peace with God forever (Colossians 1:19-21).

Christ’s peace does not mean an absence of pain or conflict in our Christian lives. Jesus Himself was “troubled” (John 12:27) when He looked ahead to His crucifixion. He was “troubled” when He focused on Judas’ betrayal (John 13:21). The peace that Jesus speaks of in John 20:19 refers to a deep-seated calmness that stems from trusting in the Lord and His presence. This peace is not the absence of problems, but the presence of Christ in the midst of those problems. Jesus is aware of our difficulties. He is present with us in our problems. We fear not, because He is with us and He is in charge. People who have discovered this have a quiet peace in their hearts even when things are going wrong.

No matter how troubled your heart is, and some of us may be deeply troubled – Jesus’ peace can calm your heart. Talk to Him. Keep your mind focused on Him. The Bible says of the Lord, “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You” (Isaiah 26:3). Jesus’ presence brings us peace. In Matthew 28:20, Christ promises, “and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Jesus guarantees to be with us always as we make disciples who follow Him. In Philippians 4:6-7, God assures us that as we pray, His peace, “which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Christ can calm us with His presence and His peace just as He did for His disciples.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, for so much of my life I lived in fear behind the locked doors of my broken heart. I was afraid if people really knew me, they could not possibly love me. But the day came when You revealed Yourself to me behind my walls of protection. Your love dispelled the darkness of sin and shame in the depths of my soul. When You invited me to believe in You for Your unlimited forgiveness and everlasting life, I quickly responded in faith and You freely forgave all my sins and gave me everlasting life. You took up residence in my body through Your Spirit. And You kept Your promise to never leave me nor forsake me since that time. Your presence continues to calm my fears and give me Your peace. I pray You will continue to reveal Yourself to others as the Prince of Peace. Please use me as You deem best to share Your peace with those You place in my life. In Your peace-giving name I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Michael Dye, The Genesis Process (Michael Dye, 2012), pp. 45-46.

2. Ibid., pp. 95-96.

3. See Genesis 15:1; 21:17; 26:24; 35:17; 43:23; 46:3; 50:19, 21; Exodus 14:13; 20:20; Numbers 14:9; 21:34; Deuteronomy 1:17, 21, 29(2); 3:2, 22; 7:18, 21; 18:22; 20:1, 3(4); 31:6(2), 8; Joshua 1:9; 8:1; 10:8, 25; 11:6; Judges 4:18; 6:10, 23; Ruth 3:11; I Samuel 4:20; 12:20; 22:23; 23:17; 28:13; 2 Samuel 9:7; 13:28; I Kings 17:13; 2 Kings 1:15; 6:16; 17:25, 35, 37, 38; 19:6; 25:24; I Chronicles 22:13; 28:20; 2 Chronicles 20:15, 17; 32:7; Nehemiah 4:14; Job 5:21, 22; 11:15; Psalm 23:4; 27:3; 46:2; 49:16; 56:4; 64:4; 91:5; Proverbs 3:24, 25; Isaiah 7:4; 8:12; 10:24; 12:2; 35:4; 37:6; 40:9; 41:10, 13, 14; 43:1, 5; 44:2, 8(2); 51:7(2); 54:4, 14; Jeremiah 1:8; 10:5; 23:4; 30:10; 40:9; 42:11(2); 46:27, 28; Lamentations 3:57; Ezekiel 2:6(3); 3:9; Daniel 10:12, 19; Joel 2:21, 22; Zephaniah 3:16; Haggai 2:5; Zechariah 8:13, 15; Matthew 1:20; 10:26, 28, 31; 14:27; 17:7; 28:5, 10; Mark 5:36; 6:50; Luke 1:13, 30; 2:10; 5:10; 8:50; 12:4, 7, 32; 21:9; John 6:20; 12:15; 14:27; Acts 18:9; 27:24; I Peter 3:6, 14; Revelation 1:17; 2:10.

4.  Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 547; J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 365.

5. Tom Constable, Notes on John, 2017 Edition, pg. 375.

6. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1828.

7. J. Dwight Pentecost, The Words & Works of Jesus Christ, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981), pp. 504-505.

8. Retrieved on May 21, 2021 from https://lausanneworldpulse.com/perspectives-php/595/01-2007.

9. Pentecost, pg. 440.  

Connecting in a Disconnected World of Covid (Video)

Although this video was prepared for a church anniversary in the Philippines, its biblical principles can apply to any culture. We will not only look at the challenges of connecting with other people during this age of COVID-19, we will also turn to the Bible to discover how we can connect with one another in more effective ways. If you are feeling all alone and without hope, this video is for you.

How can we endure difficult times? Part 1

“When Jesus had spoken these words, He went out with His disciples over the Brook Kidron…” John 18:1a

All of us face stressful times, but how do we handle them? Some people spend time serving those less fortunate than them. For example, one psychologist says, “Every Friday for ninety minutes at lunch, I become the Beverage Lady at a local soup kitchen. I serve coffee, tea, and juice to people whose problems are much bigger than mine – poverty, homelessness, paralyzing disabilities. Having direct contact with folks with real problems is a big stress-reliever.”

A physician comments, “Staring into our aquarium with its Angelfish and Fantail Guppies, puts me in touch with another realm. And whenever I get especially upset, I spin the globe in my office. San Jose, CA, where I live, is just a tiny spot. California is a sliver. There’s a huge world out there, and even my worst problems are just a microscopic part of it.”

Retreating to the bathtub is where one psychologist goes to prepare herself to deal with stressful times. “A long hot bath is a luxurious way to relax. In addition to the soothing effect of the steamy water, bathing gives me time to catch up with all the little things I do for myself. Sometimes I read cookbooks or magazines. Other times, I shop through catalogues. I might bring in a TV and watch sitcoms or videos.”

When stressful times approach us, how do we respond? In John 18, Jesus Christ was about to face the most stressful time of His earthly life. We saw in John 14-17, Jesus and His disciples making their way from the Upper Room to the Garden of Gethsemane. It is in the garden where Jesus prepares Himself to face His arrest, trial, and crucifixion. We are going to learn more about who Jesus is and what He can do for us in the first twelve verses of John 18. So how we can endure difficult times?

The first way is to LEARN ABOUT THE LOVE OF CHRIST (John 18:1a). This may not seem obvious to you at first, but please allow me to explain how the Lord showed me this principle. John tells us, “When Jesus had spoken these words, He went out with His disciples over the Brook Kidron…” (John 18:1a). After finishing His High Priestly prayer in John 17:1-26 (“spoken these things”) on the west side of the Kidron Valley, Jesus and His disciples crossed “over the Brook Kidron” to go up to the Garden of Gethsemane. The Kidron Valley lies east of Jerusalem and separates the city from the Mount of Olives. The valley has a small stream that flows during winter and spring rains, but it is dry most of the summer. 1 None of the other gospel writers mention Jesus crossing the Brook Kidron, but John does. Why?

One major reason for including this detail is because the apostle John is presenting Jesus as the New Passover Lamb in his gospel (cf. I Corinthians 5:7). In John 1:29, John the Baptist says of Jesus, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” If you read through the Old Testament, you will find it is filled with many blood sacrifices. Abel, the son of Adam, offered a lamb to God and God smiled upon that sacrifice (Genesis 4:4). Later Abraham made offerings to God (Genesis 15:9-21).

While slaves in Egypt, the children of Israel were instructed to sacrifice a lamb and sprinkle its blood on their doorposts, so the angel of death would see the blood and pass over their family without killing the firstborn (Exodus 12:1-13). To commemorate His deliverance of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, God instituted the Passover feast to be observed every year (Exodus 12:14-51). But this feast also pointed to the coming Deliverer and Savior of all people – Jesus Christ.  

John wants his readers to know that Jesus Christ is our Passover Lamb. Just as “the blood of the lambs served as a substitute for the blood that the people should have shed as punishment for their sins (see Leviticus 4:32-34; 5:6),” 2 so Jesus is our Substitute Who died in our place to satisfy God’s demand to punish the sin of the world (John 1:29; 19:30; cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21; I Peter 3:18).

Consider these similarities between the Passover lambs and Jesus: 3

  • Passover lambs had to be a young male “without blemish” (Exodus 12:5). Jesus was also a relatively young adult male without blemish or sin (Luke 3:23; John 19:38; 19:4, 6; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; I Peter 1:19).
  • Passover lambs had to be examined four days from the selection to the sacrifice (Exodus 12:3, 6a). Christ lived a meticulously examined life.
  • The Passover lamb had to be slain in public (Exodus 12:6b-7). Jesus also died publicly (John 19:16-30).

Beginning with John 19:24 and continuing to verse 37, John the apostle records four events that demonstrate Jesus truly is our substitutionary Passover Lamb which the Old Testament animal sacrifices foreshadowed: 4

  • They cast lots for His garments (John 19:24)…………… Fulfillment of Psalm 22:18
  • His legs were not broken (John 19:33)……… Passover fulfillment of Exodus 12:46
  • He was pierced (John 19:34a-37)………………………… Fulfillment of Zechariah 12:10
  • Blood and water came out (John 19:34b)…………………………… Fulfillment of what??

Why did John record this last detail involving “blood and water” coming out of Jesus’ side when He was pierced with a spear? John’s reference to Zechariah 12:10 says nothing of the “blood and water” flowing together. This is an important detail because John writes, 34 But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out. 35 And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you may believe. 36 For these things were done that the Scripture should be fulfilled, ‘Not one of His bones shall be broken.’ 37 And again another Scripture says, “They shall look on Him whom they pierced.” (John 19:34-37). John testifies to these events so his readers “may believe.” John recorded this blood and water coming out as a proof of Who Jesus was by what He fulfilled. But there is no Old Testament verse referring to lamb’s blood and water streaming in unison. So what did Jesus’ blood and water coming out of His side fulfill?

“John was also thinking of the Passover in his day, not the Egyptian Passover only. What is the difference? In the first Passover there was no temple. Even its predecessor, the tabernacle, had not been set up; this did not occur until the Israelites crossed the Red Sea and encamped at the foot of Mount Sinai where they received Torah, the Law. At the first Passover the lambs were slain at home and eaten at home, Exodus 12:1-8. Since there was no tabernacle or temple, there was also no central sacrificial altar for the slaying of such animals. However, in John’s and Jesus’ time centuries later, there was a resplendent white limestone temple atop Mount Moriah (today’s Temple Mount in Jerusalem) where hundreds of lambs were slain.

“As a result, thousands of gallons or liters of lambs’ blood had to be disposed of. But how? By being poured into a drain at the ‘base of the altar’ (Leviticus 1:11, 13; 4:7, 18, 25, 30, 34), a rule that applied to both tabernacle and temple. For instance, the First Temple ( i.e., Solomon’s ) required ten lavers of water for rinsing blood from sacrificial offerings, II Chronicles 4:6. Therefore in the Second Temple of John’s day, voluminous amounts of water were poured into the altar’s drainage system to flush away the blood of lambs. Since the Temple Mount was a hill with a flat limestone surface, where did the drains empty? They spewed into the Kidron Valley below. The Temple’s drains are referred to in various sources such as the Jewish Talmud and in archaeologist Leen Ritmeyer’s, The Temple and the Rock, p. 57.5

Only John records that Jesus compared His own body to the Temple:  19 Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ 20 Then the Jews said, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?’ 21 But He was speaking of the temple of His body. 22 Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said.” (John 2:19-22).

According to John, Jesus not only became the New Atoning Passover Lamb, but also the New Temple through whom the Divine Spirit – symbolized by water (cf. John 7:37-3) – could now flow to the masses, as had been symbolized by the gushing drains of King Solomon’s Temple and later by Herod’s Temple. To John, at least, “the blood and water” was proof that the Temple building and its sacrifices paralleled Jesus’ body and His crucifixion (John 2:19-21). Hence, the “missing” fulfillment verse is not an Old Testament one, but rather one spoken earlier by Jesus, which implies that Jesus saw Himself as the Temple personified, and John the gospel writer is the only one who recorded this. 6

  • Blood and water came out (John 19:34b)……………… Fulfillment of John 2:19-21

At the risk of being redundant, one of the possible reasons why John included the detail of Jesus crossing “over the Brook Kidron” was because the people in Jerusalem would have known that during the time of Passover something significant would have happened if Jesus would have crossed over the bottom of this valley to the top of the other side. William Barclay writes, “All the Passover lambs were killed in the Temple, and the blood of the lambs was poured on the altar as an offering to God. The number of lambs slain for the Passover was immense. On one occasion, thirty years later than the time of Jesus, a census was taken, and the number was 256,000. We may imagine what the Temple courts were like when the blood of all these lambs was dashed on to the altar. From the altar there was a channel down to the brook Kidron, and through that channel the blood of the Passover lambs drained away. When Jesus crossed the brook Kidron, it would still be red with the blood of the lambs which had been sacrificed; and as he did so, the thought of his own sacrifice would surely be vivid in his mind.” 7

So Jesus, the Lamb of God, Who was going to be slain for the sins of the world (John 1:29), had to step over this brook which by this time was soaked with the blood of the Passover lambs (cf. Luke 22:7). As Jesus and His disciples stepped over this brook, no doubt they saw and smelled this water mixed with the Passover lambs’ blood. What a foreshadowing of what Jesus was going to do for them, and for you and me. What a beautiful picture of His love for us (cf. Romans 5:8). He was willing to go up to the Garden of Gethsemane where He would be arrested even though He knew what was going to unfold that night. That is love! When people are at their worst, God stills gives us His very best. He gave His only begotten Son to die in our place for our sins.

When we face difficult times, we may doubt that God loves us. We may feel like He has abandoned us. We may accuse God of being unfair when He allows us to suffer. But please understand there was a time when God was unfair. It is when He sent His sinless Son to die in the place of guilty sinners. “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21).

The perfect Son of God was punished on the cross instead of guilty sinners. Was that fair to Jesus!?! Of course not. But thank God for His love and grace which sent His perfect Son to pay the debt for our sins that we could never pay – “the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God” (I Peter 3:18). We can endure these difficult times when we ponder our Savior’s great love for us. Christ knew what was going to happen that night before His crucifixion, yet He still crossed the Kidron Brook because of His love for you and me. Learn about His infinite love. It will give you the hope you need to endure trials.

The Bible tells us, 3 And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4 and perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5). As Christians suffer, they learn to “glory in tribulations, knowing” that their sufferings develop spiritual growth (“perseverance… and character, hope”). 

As Christians faithfully endure difficulties, it results in a sense of “hope” or confidence that God will see them through to the end of their sufferings. This “hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” the moment we believed in Jesus for everlasting life (cf. John 7:37-39; Romans 8:9; Galatians 3:2; Ephesians 1:13-14). Our hope does not disappoint us because it is the hope of God’s love. God’s love gives us this hope. Knowing He loves us and has our best interest in mind, increases our hope. Tony Evans writes, “Even in our suffering, God’s Spirit provides a fresh experience of God’s love to us and for us.” 8 Hope is the confidence that we will receive good from God. Without this hope, we would not be able to remain faithful to God when we face difficulties in life.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, Your Word is so powerful and relevant to us today. All of us are facing difficult times. And all of us need to know You still love us when we face these hardships. You understand what it is like to suffer for a greater cause. The night before Your horrible death on a cross, You crossed over the Brook Kidron which was still red with the blood of the Passover lambs which had been sacrificed in the temple above, and as You did this, You were probably thinking of Your own upcoming sacrifice on the cross when both blood and water would flow from Your pierced side after You would die. Jesus, thank You for going up that hill to the Garden of Gethsemane to be arrested. Even today You still give us Your best when we may be at our worst. Knowing Your amazing love for us empowers us to endure difficulties without fear or shame (I John 4:18). O Lamb of God, thank You for being our Passover Lamb!!! In the matchless name of Jesus Christ I pray. Amen.  

ENDNOTES:

1. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 316.

2. The Evangelism Study Bible (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, copyright 2014 EvanTell, Inc.), pg. 1161.

3. The NKJV Study Bible, General Editor Earl D. Radmacher (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2007), pg. 108).

4. See Tony Badillo’s article at http://templesecrets.info/jnbldwtr.html.

5. Ibid., also on the Temple drains, see also Hastings, A Dictionary of the Bible, Vol. 5, p. 696, and the Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Middoth, Chapter III, Mishnah 2 Soncino 1961 Edition, page 12; and Babylonian Talmud: Tractate ‘Abodah Zarah, Folio 4.

6. Ibid.

7. William Barclay, William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible, Commentary on John, 1956-1959, vs. 18:1-14. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dsb/john-18.html.

8. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B&H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1930.

How can we pray more like Jesus prays? Part 1

“Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: ‘Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You.’ ” John 17:1

In 1952, a brilliant guest lecturer was asked, “What is there left in all the world that has not been done for a doctoral dissertation?” The lecturer replied, “Find out about prayer.”  The lecturer happened to be Albert Einstein.

It has been said that, “Prayer is conversation with God that arises out of communion with God.” The closer we grow to the Lord, the more intimate our prayer life will be with Him.

Do you believe in prayer? Honestly, do you believe God hears us when we talk to Him? Can He be trusted with our deepest longings and most troubling fears? I would like to think that the majority of people in the world today may consider praying to a Supreme Being more than ever before during this global pandemic. But there are probably some people who want nothing to do with a Higher Power because of the suffering that is taking place in the world today.  

Jesus Christ frequently turned to His heavenly Father in prayer (cf. Luke 5:16; 22:39). After warning His disciples of tribulation and comforting them with the promise of His victory (John 16:25-33), Jesus turned to His Father in prayer in John 17. In this prayer, we have one of the most intimate glimpses anywhere in Scripture of the heart and mind of the Lord Jesus. This is the longest of our Lord’s recorded prayers. It is the longest in length and it is also the longest in span of time. It includes the time of Jesus’ day and reaches all the way to our lives today.

John 17 is like the holy of holies of the book of John. Remember the holy of holies in the temple where once a year the high priest could go in and make the sacrifice for the people and pray for the people (cf. Exodus 30:10; Leviticus 16:1-34; Hebrews 9:7)? It was such a holy place because it was God’s presence. John 17 is a chapter like that. Dr. David Anderson understands the outline of John’s gospel to be parallel to the temple (see diagram 1). 1

Diagram 1

The first twelve chapters are about evangelism whereby John presents seven miraculous signs so non-Christians might believe in the name of Jesus (John 20:31). When we come to the Upper Room Discourse (John 13-16), there is a shift from evangelism to intimacy or fellowship with God. This truth is not for unbelievers.

Anderson writes, “That is why in John 13:1-30, Judas must be sent out of the room as one of the two steps to prepare Jesus’ disciples for the intimate truth He wishes to share. The second step of preparation was to wash the feet of the remaining believers. Judas had no place in this setting because he was not a believer. Unbelievers had to come into the temple/ tabernacle through the blood, but believers could only go into the Holy Place through the laver of cleansing. The truth Jesus wished to share in the Upper Room was for the ears of believers only. But even these believers needed to be cleansed of their daily sins in order to be in fellowship with the Lord. If they were not in fellowship with Him, they would not be able to comprehend the truth He wished to share.” 2

“It is in the Holy Place that we find the table of shew-bread and the candelabra of light. Here is food and light for the believer who has been cleansed by the blood (relationship) and the water (fellowship). So if we have Preparation in John 13:1-30 (the unbeliever is sent out and the believers are cleansed with water), then we have Preaching in John 13:31-16:33. It is no coincidence that we find Prayer in John 17. Here the High Priest intercedes for those who are His own, His disciples and all who would believe through their ministry. The High Priest has entered the Holy of Holies to intercede for His people. But this High Priest does more than intercede in prayer. He actually became our mercy seat (Rom 3:25) as He loved His own to the uttermost (John 13:1). Thus in the Passion and Resurrection narrative of John 18-20, Jesus has become the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. His sacrifice was accepted by the Father as fully sufficient, as proved by His resurrection. Then leads His own out of the tabernacle and into the world (John 21) to complete the mission.” 3

So John 17 is Jesus’ High Priestly prayer for us. As we study this chapter of John, I hope we will embrace the fact that we are with Jesus entering into God’s presence. It is an incredible privilege. Just like the high priest used to enter into the temple where God’s presence was, Jesus Himself entered into God’s presence and prayed for us. The sense of this prayer is we are in a very holy place where we listen to Jesus pray.

This prayer is commonly known as the High-Priestly prayer of Christ or the Prayer of Intercession. Intercession refers to praying to God on behalf of others. This prayer is a picture of Jesus’ current ministry of intercession in heaven as our High Priest (cf. Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25). Jesus prays this prayer in front of His Eleven disciples to summarize His relationship with the Father and the relationship He wants them to have with Him and the Father. Repeatedly Jesus had connected His going to the Father with their new life of prayer (John 14:12-14; 15:16; 16:23-24, 26). The power of prayer in Jesus’ name would be connected to His intercession for us in heaven. This prayer will teach us what it means to pray in Jesus’ name. It will also show us Jesus’ love and concern for His disciples, including you and me.

From John 17,  we will answer the question, how can we pray more like Jesus prays? After Jesus’ Upper Room Discourse (John 13-16), He prepared for the cross by turning to His Father in prayer. Notice that He taught His disciples first, and then He prayed for them to internalize what He had just taught them. We would be wise to do the same. Peoples’ lives will not be transformed through the preaching of God’s Word alone. We must pray for those people to apply what they have heard from God’s Word.

Diagram 2

We see in this prayer that Christ first prays for Himself (John 17:1-5), then His followers (John 17:6-19), and finally for future believers (John 17:20-26). His prayer is like circles that grow wider and wider (see diagram 2).  He starts with Himself, then He widens the circle beyond Himself to pray for His Eleven believing disciples. Then He widens the circle a lot more by praying for all future believers that His disciples (and others) would reach. So He begins with His own need, then prays for the needs of the disciples, then He prays for the world that they would reach.

As Jesus prays this prayer, we will learn what is really important to Him – desperately important. Here Jesus is. He is about to die. He knows that these disciples are going to have tremendous needs in their lives. He loves them, so He prays for them. How can we pray more like Jesus prays?

LIKE JESUS, WE ARE TO PRAY FOR GOD TO BE GLORIFIED WHEN WE FACE TRIALS (John 17:1-5). We might think this is selfish to begin by praying for Himself, but when we look at the content of this part of His prayer, we will realize this is not selfish because Christ’s motivation was to glorify His Father. Jesus prays for two things in this first part of His prayer: His resurrection (John 17:1-3) and His glorification (John 17:4-5).

“Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said…” (John 17:1a). The word for “eyes” (ophthalmous) is where our English word ophthalmologist is derived from. 4  Christ does not bow His head or close His eyes as we are accustomed to doing in our western culture. There is more than one posture to take when we pray. You can pray while you are walking or driving( just make sure to keep your eyes open). You can pray when you are standing or kneeling with your hands raised, or you can pray sitting or laying down. There is no one way you have to pray. If you are in the habit of taking only one posture when you pray, you may want to change that up from time to time. It could revolutionize your prayer life.

Christ prayed aloud so His disciples could hear what He prayed to His Father. Likewise, as we disciple new believers in Jesus, it is important to pray aloud with them because God can use that to teach them how and what to pray. I am not exactly sure where Jesus prayed this prayer. It may have been in the Upper Room (cf. John 18:1) or on their way to the Garden of Gethsemane (John 14:31).

We are told that Jesus “lifted up His eyes to heaven.” He was not discouraged or downcast as He approached the cross, He was hopeful and expectant as He looked up to His Father in prayer. He had just announced that He had “overcome the world” (John 16:33), and now He engages in a prayer of victory!

The first thing Jesus prays is, Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You.” (John 17:1b). Jesus prayed, “Father, the hour has come…” By addressing God as “Father,” He expresses His childlike relationship to His Father and His submission to Him. His long-anticipated “hour has come” for His death, resurrection, and ascension to His Father in heaven (cf. John 2:4; 7:6, 8, 30; 8:20; 12:23, 27-28, 31-33; 13:1, 31).

Jesus is not being selfish here when He prays for the Father to “Glorify Your Son,” because it serves a higher purpose –  “that Your Son also may glorify You.” The word “glorify” (doxason) is derived from the word “glory” (doxa) which “refers to the estimation or opinion in which one is held. Here Jesus prays regarding His own reputation and attributes. His words ‘Glorify Your Son’ petition the Father to bring into full display Jesus’ divine character and attributes through His impending death and resurrection.” 5  Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension would also “glorify” the Father by enhancing His reputation and attributes through Jesus, since Jesus is a perfect reflection of the Father (John 12:44-45; 14:9-11) and was sent by Him (John 4:34; 7:16; 8:18; 14:24; 17:8, 18).

We see in this verse how much “the Father and Son love one another and desire to make much of one another before a watching world. Those who come to God through Jesus Christ are called to participate in this intra-Trinitarian love, bringing glory to God through our faith in and obedience to the Son.” 6

Jesus’ words remind us that suffering precedes glory (Matthew 16:21-27; 20:19; Philippians 2:5-11; Hebrews 2:9-10; 12:2). 7  Through His suffering and death, Jesus brought glory to Himself and to His Father. Likewise, when we suffer for Christ’s sake, we bring glory to Him and He promises that God will give glory and honor to us in the form of eternal rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ (John 12:26; cf. Matthew 16:21-27; Romans 8:17; I Corinthians 3:11-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10; I Peter 1:3-11; 2:11-25; 4:12-5:4; Revelation 2:10, 25-29; 22:12).

We may ask, “How did the Father glorify Jesus?” Jesus prayed, “As You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him.” (John 17:2). The Father glorified Christ by giving “Him authority over all flesh” so Jesus would “give eternal life” to those the Father had “given Him.” Only God can give life that never ends to people which means Jesus must be God! Notice Christ has authority to give eternal life to “all flesh”! There is no such thing in the Bible of only a select group of people that are savable. All people are savable because Christ is drawing all people to Himself (cf. John 12:32), He desires all people to be saved (I Timothy 2:3-4), and He died for all people (cf. I Timothy 2:3-6; I John 2:2).

Five times in this prayer, Christ refers to believers as those whom the Father had given Him (John 17:2, 6 [twice], 9, 24). Does this refer to the elect from the foundation of the world? Does it mean a person cannot believe in Christ if the Father has not given him or her to Jesus? No, this is a reference to the Father giving Old Testament believers in the Dispensation of Law over to Jesus at the beginning of the dispensation of Grace (see John 6:37 for discussion). 8  The Eleven disciples were believing Jews who belonged to the Father, but now the Father transfers them into the Son’s hands for His use and safe keeping at the beginning of the Church Age (cf. John 17:6-12). Now they belonged to Jesus. 9

Someone may ask, “What is eternal life?” Jesus explains. “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (John 17:3). “Eternal life” is knowing “the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom” the Father “sent.” The word “know” (ginōskō) refers to an intimate knowledge of God, not just an awareness of certain facts. 9  Notice that the primary focus is on one’s relationship with God (“life”),not the duration (“eternal”).This is not just a future promise, it is a present reality for all believers in Jesus.  Eternal life is knowing the true God personally in one’s experience forever. Eternal life is not static or unchanging. It can be experienced at deeper and deeper levels as we grow closer to the Father and His Son.

In fact, when we examine the uses of “eternal life” in the New Testament, we discover that when eternal life is referred to as a present acquisition, it is received as a free gift by believing in Jesus (cf. John 3:15-16, 36; 4:10-14; Romans 6:23; I Timothy 1:16; I John 5:13; Revelation 22:17), but when eternal is referred to as a future acquisition, it is received as a reward for sacrificial service to Christ (cf. Matthew 19:29; Mark 10:29-30; John 12:25-26; Galatians 6:8). 

Some have argued that John 17:3 shows Jesus is not God because Jesus distinguished God the Father as “the only true God” from “Jesus Christ whom” the Father sent. But Jesus did NOT say, “I am not God” in this verse. You will not find that anywhere in the Bible. Jesus was not denying He was the “only true God,” but was praising the Father as such. The very next words after this verse are: “I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.” (John 17:4-5). Jesus said He shared the glory of God the Father before the world was.

But the Yahweh of the Old Testament says,  “I am the Lord, that is My name; and My glory I will not give to another.” (Isaiah 42:8). How can Jesus claim to have the glory of His Father before the world was if Yahweh says He will not give His glory to another? Because Jesus is the Yahweh of the Old Testament. He has the same divine nature as His Father in heaven. Jesus identifies Himself with the Father. Jesus is in the Father, and the Father is in Jesus (John 10:38). Jesus is one with the Father (John 10:30). They are not divided in essence. So, in one sense Jesus is in the Father; and if the Father is the only true God, then Jesus is also the True God. In John 17:3, Jesus was not creating a point of distinction between Himself and the Father in the expression, “only true God”, but between the Father and any other “so called god” like idols. Jesus had lived among the Romans with their many competing gods and Jesus was addressing the Father with these idols in mind.

This understanding is substantiated by the same writer of John 17:3 when he writes in his epistle, “And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.” (I John 5:20). John clearly states that Jesus Christ is the true God and eternal life. He then writes, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.” (I John 5:21). John affirms that Jesus “is the true God” and then immediately warns his readers to guard themselves “from idols” or false gods.

Also the Greek word for “only” (monos) in John 17:3 does not always refer to absolute exclusivity. For example, monos is used in Jude 1:4 of “the only” Lordship of Jesus Christ, “For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only [monos] Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.” Jude is not excluding God the Father when he refers to “the only” Lordship of Jesus Christ. Other verses in the Bible confirm the Lordship of God the Father (Psalm 2:7; 110:1; Isaiah 63:16; Mark 13:20; Luke 10:21-22) and God the Son, Jesus Christ (Psalm 110:2; Luke 6:5; 19:31; John 13:13; 20:28; Acts 2:36; 10:36; 16:31; Romans 10:9; Philippians 2:11; Revelation 17:14).

To say that Jesus denies He is God in John 17:3 would contradict the entire message of the gospel of John which begins (John 1:1-18) and ends (John 20:28-31) with the fact that Jesus is God. The burden of proof rests upon those who deny Jesus is God. John calls them “antichrists” in his first epistle who reject that “the Christ,” the Messiah-God,has come in human “flesh” (I John 2:18, 21-22; 4:1-3). They willingly reject the historical record of the Bible which clearly and consistently proclaims that Jesus is fully God (cf. Isaiah 9:6-7; 44:6; John 1:1, 14-18, 34, 49, 5:6-47; 6:69; 8:57-59; 9:35-38; 10:30-39; 11:27; 14:7-9; 17:5; 20:28, 31; Acts 16:31, 34; 20:28; Romans 1:3-4; 9:5; Philippians 2:6, 9-11; Colossians 1:15-20; I Timothy 3:16; 4:10; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 1:8; I John 4:2-3; 5:20; Revelation 1:17; 22:13; et al.) and fully Man (Genesis 3:15; Isaiah 9:6-7; 7:14; Daniel 7:13-14; Matthew 8:24; 9:11; Mark 6:3; John 1:14; 2:12; 4:6; 7:3, 5; 11:35; 12:27; 19:28; 21:12; Philippians 2:7-8; I Timothy 2:5; I John 4:2-3; et al.)!!!

Our privilege is to know God personally now and forever through Jesus Christ (John 17:3). If this is true, and it is, then the one thing that will last beyond this life and the one thing that deserves our utmost attention is our daily life and fellowship with God. Many of us have known the Lord for a long time, but has our knowledge of the Lord grown deeper as a result of spending time with Him and obeying Him (cf. John 14:21, 23)? What are we doing today to know God more intimately?

Next Jesus prayed, “I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do.” (John 17:4). As Jesus faces the cross, He has no sense of failure, but rather fullness of attainment. He had “glorified” His Father “on the earth” and “finished the work which” the Father had given Him to do – revealing the Father by His words and works (cf. John 1:18).

“And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.” (John 17:5). Christ does not pray for new glory. He prays, “Glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.” The words, “the glory which I had with You before the world was,” affirm the eternality of Jesus Christ and His preexistence as God before He became a human being on earth. Notice that Jesus clearly affirmed his pre-existence. “Before the incarnation, before Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of Mary, before the creation week even began, God the Son eternally existed in the glorious presence of God the Father. And to this glory He would soon return.” 10

These words also affirm Jesus’ equality with the Father, because in the Old Testament, God said He would not share His glory with anyone: “I am the Lord, that is My name; and My glory I will not give to another” (Isaiah 42:8; cf. 48:11). Since the Father and the Son share their glory, they must both be God.

Christ’s human flesh had veiled this glory He shared with the Father in eternity past during His earthly life (Philippians 2:6-8), and now He prays that that same glory may be restored in His Father’s presence. As Jesus had glorified the Father on earth (John 17:4), now He prayed to be restored to His heavenly glory with His Father (John 17:5).

Like Jesus, we are to pray for God to be glorified when we face trials. Christ faced His sufferings and death with the desire to glorify His Father in heaven. He submitted to His Father’s timetable and agenda. This takes humility. Jesus went through terrible pain and suffering to honor His Father. Are we willing to do that? Are we willing to submit to God’s timetable for us? If not, pray for that willingness. When we are struggling and in pain, it is easy to obsess on ourselves and it is especially difficult to focus on others and on what God wants. Through prayer, we can obtain the power to focus on God’s will for us and glorify Him even though we may be in pain. The best way to face calvary (suffering), is to spend time Gethsemane (prayer).

Keep in mind that Jesus is praying for us now in heaven (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25). He is praying for us to glorify our Father in heaven as we face difficulties. Sometimes when we face difficult situations, we do not know how to pray, so the Holy Spirit intercedes for us and prays according to God’s will on our behalf. “26 Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:26-27). So we have both God the Son and God the Holy Spirit praying for us, especially when we face trials in life. What an encouragement this is for us as we seek to glorify the Father during these challenging times!

Prayer: Precious Father in heaven, thank You so much for Jesus’ prayer in front of His eleven believing disciples. We are given an incredible glimpse into the intimate relationship Jesus had with You during His earthly ministry. And just as He prayed for You to be glorified when He faced His hour of suffering and death, help us to yield ourselves to You in prayer so You are  glorified when we face difficult times. And like Christ Who submitted to Your timetable and agenda, may we humbly submit to Your timetable and will for our lives. Please make us willing when we are unwilling to do this. We can so easily focus on ourselves when we are hurting or in pain, instead of focusing on others and what You want to do in our lives. But praying to You gives us hope because as we talk to You, You can give us the power to focus on Your will for our lives and glorify You in the midst of our struggles. Thank You, my Lord and my God, that God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are also praying for us in addition to You. Knowing this greatly encourages our hearts. In the beautiful name of Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. David R. Anderson, Maximum Joy (Irving, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 2005), pp. 16-17.

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid., pp. 18-19.

4. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 300.

5. Ibid.

6.  Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B&H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1813.

7.  Robert N. Wilkin, “The Gospel According to John,” The Grace New Testament Commentary, Vol. 1: Matthew – Acts (Denton, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 2010), pg. 457.

8. Anthony B. Badger, Confronting Calvinism: A Free Grace Refutation and Biblical Resolution of Radical Reformed Soteriology (Anthony Badger, 2013), pp. 185-186.

9. Ibid., pp. 116, 186.

10. Tony Evans, pg. 1814.

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 fear in evangelism? Part 3

“However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.” John 16:13

After Jesus forewarned His disciples of the world’s coming hostility and persecution of them (15:18-16:4), He began to encourage them with the Holy Spirit’s ministry that would take place while He was gone (John 16:5-15). From Christ’s instruction, we are learning how to overcome fear in evangelism. We can do this when we…

– Grasp that we are not alone when we witness (John 16:5-7).

– Give unbelievers the truth of the gospel and let the Holy Spirit convince them it is true (John 16:8-11).

The third and final way to overcome fear in evangelism is when we GET GOD’S GUIDANCE THROUGH THE HOLY SPIRIT (John 16:12-15). Jesus now focuses on the Holy Spirit’s ministry to His disciples. He says to His disciples, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.” (John 16:12). Christ had more to teach them, but they were not ready to understand or apply the remaining teaching that Jesus had for them apart from the illuminating ministry of the Holy Spirit. Thankfully, the Lord does not reveal all His truth to us at once. He reveals things to us gradually. He knows what we can handle better than we do.

Then Jesus said, “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.” (John 16:13). Jesus would eventually tell them things through the ministry of Holy Spirit Who “will guide” them “into all truth.” The word “guide” (hodēgēsei) consists of two words, “to lead” (hēgeomai) and “way” (hodos). This word conveys the idea that “the Holy Spirit, who is a source of truth, will lead the way into truth as a guide.” His guidance is into “all truth.” There are no errors or mistakes in the truth the Spirit communicates.

This truth is without error because the Spirit “will not speak on His own authority” and teach something contrary to what Jesus taught. Instead, “whatever He hears” from the Father and Son, “He will speak.” “This points to the interdependence of the Persons in the Trinity. The Father would tell the Spirit what to teach the apostles about the Son.” 2  

Specifically, the Spirit “will tell them things to come” in the future. This future revelation from the Spirit is what the apostles would record in the New Testament canon. This is why the Bible is without error in the original manuscripts. “The Spirit would ensure that the apostles’ writings were true, guaranteeing that they wrote Scripture, the very words of God.” 3  In a similar way today, the Holy Spirit continues to enable believers to understand the meaning of the biblical text (cf. I John 2:27).

Next Jesus said, “He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:14). The purpose of the Holy Spirit’s ministry is to “glorify” Christ by “taking what is” Christ’s from the word of truth. The Holy Spirit wants the spotlight to be on Jesus Christ, not on Himself, His spiritual gifts, or other people. The Holy Spirit wants the focus to be on the Person and work of Jesus Christ and nothing else. This verse provides insight on discerning what ministries are genuinely of the Holy Spirit. If a ministry is not glorifying the Person and work of Jesus Christ, we must be cautious about supporting such a work because the Holy Spirit does not glorify someone or something other than Jesus Christ and His work on the cross.

Most people have a special item which they place on the top shelf or on a prominent wall in their house for everyone to see. It may be a picture of your family or a favorite Bible verse. It is placed on the shelf all by itself so that nothing else will challenge its prominence. In the same way, we are to put Christ on the shelf of our lives to show Him off. We are not to place anything else there, including ourselves so that all people may see any or all of Jesus’ attributes.

The reason the Holy Spirit finds Christ worthy to be glorified is seen in the next verse. “All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:15). Christ is worthy of being glorified because “all things that the Father has” are His. This would include the Father’s glory. Hence, the glory that belongs to the Father also belongs to the Son. The last part of this verse implies that “all things” of the Father and Son are also the apostles’ (and ours today) in that they will be disclosed to them through the Holy Spirit. 

“Once again we see the Trinity in action in that the Son took revelation from the Father and would declare it to His disciples through the Holy Spirit (16:15).” Clearly the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were all involved in the writing of the Old and New Testaments (cf. 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21; 3:15-16). 5

Evans writes, “Though the Spirit provided the apostles with perfect revelation in order that they might write Scripture, this does not mean that we are excluded from His ministry. This text applies to us in two ways. First, we are recipients of the Scriptural revelation that the apostles received. Second, the Holy Spirit provides us with personal illumination, enabling us to understand Scripture and to see how it applies in the details of our lives. This work of the Spirit in the life of the believer is called “the anointing” (see 1 John 2:20, 27).” 6

These truths about the Holy Spirit in John 16:13-15 also apply to us today especially as we focus on evangelism. Knowing that we have an ever-present Teacher in the Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth about the Person and work of Jesus Christ can give us boldness as we share the gospel with the unsaved. Instead of being afraid of not knowing what to say, we can be confident that God’s Spirit will guide our conversations with unbelievers.

For example, a few years ago, when my wife and I were shopping for pearls in Metro Manila, we met a Muslim vendor who showed us her pearls. During our conversation with her, the Holy Spirit led us to share Matthew 13:45-46 where Jesus said,  45 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, 46 who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” We explained to her that Jesus Christ was the merchant who found one pearl of great price. When it says He sold everything to buy the pearl, we told her that Jesus sees her as a precious pearl. She said, “That is true.” After we explained to her the gospel of Jesus’ death and resurrection with her, we invited her to believe or trust in Jesus alone for His gift of everlasting life. She then told us she was now trusting Jesus alone for His free gift.

The Holy Spirit knew what this woman needed to hear. He will guide us as we seek His leading in our lives when we tell others the good news of Jesus Christ. Remember, however, if we are not witnessing about Christ, the Holy Spirit cannot be convicting. I believe the gospel of John is the primary source of truth that the Holy Spirit wants to use to convict people of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8-11) since it was written to persuade non-Christians to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, that believing they may have life in His name (John 20:31). The Holy Spirit uses the spoken word to convict people about their need for the Savior.

Prayer: Father God, Jesus, and Holy Spirit, thank You so much for bringing to the apostles’ remembrance all that Christ taught and did during His earthly ministry so we now have an accurate record of all that Jesus said and did. Thank You, Holy Spirit, for continuing to give us understanding with regard to the Bible and how it applies to our daily lives. Thank You for bringing it to life so that we are transformed from the inside out into the likeness of Christ. Thank You for the boldness and guidance You give to us in our conversations with non-Christians. You know their hearts better than anyone and You can lead us to share what they need to hear so they can be persuaded to believe in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, so they may have everlasting life in His name. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, You are truly amazing! Thank You for never abandoning us. I praise You for giving us all we need to represent You on earth. May all the glory go to You.  I pray this in Your Triune name. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 291.

2. Edwin A. Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Gospels, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 668.

3. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B&H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1810.

4. Ibid.

5. Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition, (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 540.

6. Evans, pg. 1810.

How can we overcome fear in evangelism? Part 2

“And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.” John 16:8

After Jesus forewarned His disciples of the world’s coming hostility and persecution of them (15:18-16:4), He began to encourage them with the Holy Spirit’s ministry that would take place while He was gone. Last time we learned that we can overcome fear in evangelism when we GRASP THAT WE ARE NOT ALONE WHEN WE WITNESS (John 16:5-7) because God the Holy Spirit permanently indwells every believer in Jesus.

The second way for us to overcome fear in evangelism is to GIVE UNBELIEVERS THE TRUTH OF THE GOSPEL AND LET THE HOLY SPIRIT CONVINCE THEM IT IS TRUE (John 16:8-11). In John 15:27, Jesus told His disciples to “bear witness” about Him. However, He also told them it would not be easy. Some would put them out of the synagogues and even kill them (John 16:2). In the midst of this distressing news, He offers them encouragement by introducing them to the convicting work of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus says of the Holy Spirit, “And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.” (John 16:8). What does the word “convict” (elegchei) mean? It means to “convince someone of something.” 1  John is using this word in a legal sense here. When a prosecuting attorney presents his case in such a way that demonstrates that something is true, he convicts his listeners. However, this does not mean that the Holy Spirit forces someone to believe something is true. A person can hear compelling evidence that something is true and still reject it. 2

The Holy Spirit assists people in coming to faith in Christ. It is the responsibility of the Holy Spirit to convince non-Christians in three areas. What are they? “Of sin… righteousness and judgment.” Notice the implied tenses of these nouns: past “sin,” present “righteousness,” and future “judgment.” 3  When the gospel is preached, it is the Holy Spirit Who convicts people of their “sin,” and that they need God’s “righteousness” through faith in Jesus, because without it, they will face certain “judgment” without hope of anything but eternal condemnation.

Beginning in verse 9, Jesus explains why the Holy Spirit convicts the world in these three areas. “Of sin, because they do not believe in Me.” (John 16:9). The word “sin” (hamartias) means “to miss the mark or standard.” 4  All people fall short of God’s perfect righteousness because “all have sinned” (Romans 3:23) against God through their thoughts, words, actions, and motives.

Yet the world tries to persuade people that they are not sinners. Many secular scientists and psychologists seem bent on destroying peoples’ awareness of sin. They may say that all people are inherently good. As a result, many people have a difficult time admitting they are guilty of sin. Oh, they may admit that they make mistakes or have failures and vices, but it is very difficult for them to admit that they have sinned against God. Even some churches say that people are not that bad and because God is love, He will accept everyone into heaven. 

But the ultimate proof of the world’s sinfulness, Jesus says, is that “they do not believe in Me.” A court of law can convict someone of murder or theft, but only the Holy Spirit can convict someone of unbelief toward Christ. The Holy Spirit can convict people of their individual sins they have committed, but people can clean up their own lives and still go to hell. It is the sin of unbelief toward Jesus Christ that condemns people to an eternity in hell (John 3:18). 5  That is why the Bible says that “Anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast in to the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:15). Those who refuse to believe in Jesus will not have their names written in the Book of Life.

Unbelievers are judged according to their works to determine their degree of punishment in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:12-13; cf. Matthew 23:14; Mark 12:40), not their eternal destination. But their condemnation and placement in the lake of fire is because of their unbelief toward the Lord Jesus Christ (Revelation 20:15; cf. John 3:18).

So we see first, that the Holy Spirit wants to convict non-Christians of their sinfulness because they refuse to believe or trust in Jesus Christ alone as their only way to heaven. Because faith in Christ and His full payment for sin on the cross (John 19:30) is the only solution to our sin problem, the Holy Spirit wants to convict people of their sinful condition, so they can see their need to believe or trust in Jesus alone. The Holy Spirit is the prosecuting attorney who presents God’s case against sinful humanity. He creates an awareness of sin so that it cannot be dismissed or excused or evaded by taking refuge in the fact that “everybody is doing it.” When we are convicted of our sin, we admit to God that we have been wrong in our unbelief toward Jesus and then we believe or trust in Him alone, so we can approach God the Father in heaven.

The reason why the Holy Spirit convicts the world in the area of “righteousness” is explained in the next verse. “Of righteousness, because I go to the Father and you see Me no more.” (John 16:10). The Holy Spirit convicts the world “of righteousness,” because Jesus would suffer and die for our sins and rise from the dead and “go to” His “Father” in heaven, proving that He was the perfect Son of God. Had Jesus not been the perfect Son of God, the Father would not have received Him in heaven. Because God has no sin, Jesus could not enter into His presence in heaven if He were not righteous. For people to be accepted by God and able to enter into His heaven, they must measure up to Christ’s righteousness. No human being can accomplish this on their own. 6

This is why the Holy Spirit wants to convict the world that their righteousness before God depends not on their good works, but upon the finished work of Christ on the cross for them. Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and ascension to heaven prove that He was the perfect Son of God. Christ’s righteousness is what satisfied God’s holy demand to punish sin, not our own righteousness. 

When sharing the gospel with the unsaved, they may respond by saying, “I’m not as bad as him or her” or “I have not murdered anyone or committed adultery like so and so…” But God is not measuring our righteousness based on what other people have done or not done. He is measuring our righteousness based on what His Son, Jesus Christ, has done, and all of us fall short of Jesus’ perfection (Romans 3:23). Jesus never, ever told a lie. But we lie to ourselves and others daily. Christ never had one unkind thought. But we average a minimum of five a day. God’s Son never hated His enemies. But sometimes we can’t even stand the person we are married to or live with. So when it comes to behavior, in God’s eyes, we do not measure up. All of us fall short of Jesus’ perfection. Christ is the only Person Who never sinned (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; I Peter 3:18). Therefore, we must trust in Christ alone to be declared totally righteous before God.

“But to him who does not work, but believe on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.” (Romans 4:5). When you trust in Christ alone for His gift of righteousness, God looks at your sin as covered by Jesus’ shed blood on the Cross. He takes the righteousness of His Son and places it on you. Therefore, you can stand before a holy God with the perfect righteousness of Jesus.

Henry Ironside shares a helpful illustration about what it means to be justified before God. One morning on his way to a sheep ranch, he noticed a very peculiar sight. He saw an old ewe loping across the road followed by the strangest looking lamb he had ever seen. It seemed to have six legs, and the last two were hanging helplessly as though paralyzed. When one of the sheep ranchers caught the lamb and brought it over to Ironside, the rancher explained that the lamb did not really belong to that ewe. She had a lamb that was bitten by a rattlesnake and died. This lamb that Ironside saw was an orphan and needed a mother’s care. But at first the ewe refused to have anything to do with it. She sniffed at it when it was brought to her, then pushed it away, saying as plainly as a sheep could say it, “That is not my lamb!” So the ranchers skinned the lamb that had died and covered the living lamb with the dead lamb’s skin. When the covered lamb was brought again to the ewe (see above photo), she smelled it once more and accepted the lamb as her own as if to say, “That is Mine!”

Like that orphan lamb, all people are born as outcasts, separated from God because of their sin. But God’s only perfect Son, Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God (John 1:29), died in our place on the cross and rose from the dead, so that when we believe or trust in Him alone, we are clothed with His righteousness. God can accept us into His family now because He sees the righteousness of His Son instead of our sin. He can say, “That is Mine!”

“Of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.” (John 16:11). The reason the Holy Spirit convicts the world “of judgment” is “because the ruler of this world [Satan] is judged” already in heaven by God (Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:12-19), and will shortly be judged at the cross (cf. John 12:31; Colossians 2:15), and later confined to the lake of fire at the end of the Millennial Kingdom (Revelation 20:2, 7-10). The word “judged” (kekritai)is in the perfect tense and passive voice which means Satan was judged by God in the past and remains condemned today. Like a convicted criminal, Satan awaits his execution when he will be cast into the lake of fire to “be tormented day and night forever and ever” (Revelation 20:7-10).  

The Holy Spirit wants to convince people that if they refuse to believe in Jesus for His gift of righteousness, then they will experience the same eternal “judgment” as the Devil. His judgment is fixed and permanent. Satan’s eternal judgment guarantees that all who are in his kingdom through unbelief will also be condemned. If a person dies without believing in Christ alone for His gift of everlasting life, their condemnation cannot be lifted. It is permanent (cf. Hebrews 9:27). There are no second chances after you die.

Many people today, including Christians, do not believe in hell or eternal punishment even though Jesus and the apostles taught about its reality (cf. Matthew 5:22, 29-30; 10:28; 13:40-42, 47-50; 18:9; 23:33; 25:46; Mark 3:29; 9:43, 45, 47; Luke 12:5; 16:19-31; John 3:18, 36b; James 3:6; 2 Peter 2:4, 17; Jude 1:7, 13; Revelation 14:9-11; 19:20; 20:10, 14-15; et al.). But it is not our responsibility to convince them of the reality of hell. The Holy Spirit will do this as we preach the gospel to a lost world.

It is the Holy Spirit Who can convince a typical non-Christian who has no sense of his own sinfulness, who sees no need for God’s righteousness, and who pays no attention to the warnings of coming judgment. It is not our responsibility to convince people of the truth of the gospel; that responsibility belongs to the Holy Spirit. Our job is to clearly and effectively communicate the truth of the gospel and let the Holy Spirit convince them that it is true.

In February 2017 when I was flying to Northern Samar for a mission trip in the Philippines, I sat next to a Filipino law school student who visited with me about President Trump. She made it clear to me she did not like President Trump and nor could she understand how I could like him. She was getting very angry as I shared my supporting views about the President and his policies. As our conversation progressed, I began praying for the Lord to give me wisdom on shifting the focus from politics to the gospel.

A few minutes later, I said to her, “I really would like to share with you about something far more important than politics.” “Really?!” She exclaimed. “What could that be?!” I said, “How you can know for sure from the Bible how you can go to heaven when you die.” “Oh,” she said quietly. Then I asked her, “May I share from the Bible how you can know for sure you will go to heaven when you die?” She said, “Yes.” I then shared the bad news (Romans 3:23; 6:23) good news (I Corinthians 15:1-6; John 3:16) approach with her. Afterward, she indicated she was now trusting in Christ alone as her only way to heaven. Her whole demeanor softened as the gospel was shared with her. I am convinced that the Holy Spirit convicted her of her sin and her need for the Savior, so she could escape the eternal judgment that awaits those who refuse to believe or trust in Christ alone for His gift of salvation.

When we realize that the Holy Spirit is already at work in the hearts and minds of unbelievers around us to persuade them of their own sinfulness and their need for Christ’s righteousness to escape the eternal judgment of God, we will have more confidence to share the gospel with the unsaved world. Knowing of the Holy Spirit’s convicting work among the unsaved can also give us a greater sense of expectancy as we proclaim the good news of Christ’s death and resurrection, inviting the unsaved to believe in Jesus alone as their only hope of heaven.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, it is with a heap of gratitude that I approach You right now. Without the convicting work of the Holy Spirit in the world, there would be no reason to expect a bountiful harvest when we share the gospel with the lost. But because the Spirit of God is already at work persuading non-Christians of their sin so they may see their need to believe in Jesus for His gift of righteousness to escape the same eternal judgment as Satan, we can boldly share Christ with them. Please enable us to clearly communicate the truth of the gospel to the lost as we rely on the Holy Spirit to convince them that it is true. In Your precious name we pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. 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. 249.

2. Robert N. Wilkin, “The Gospel According to John,” The Grace New Testament Commentary, Vol. 1: Matthew – Acts (Denton, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 2010), pg. 453.

3. Tom Constable, Notes on John, 2017 Edition, pg. 298-299.

4. Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures in The New Testament, Vol V: John and Hebrews (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1932), pg. 267.

5. Constable, pg. 300.

6. The Evangelism Study Bible (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, copyright 2014 EvanTell, Inc.), pg. 1187.