Why does the Lord allow a situation to get worse after we pray about it? Part 2

“Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.” John 11:5

We are learning from the seventh miraculous sign recorded in John’s gospel (John 11:1-44) why the Lord allows a situation to grow worse after we pray about it? The first reason is to display more of His glory (John 11:1-4). Raising Lazarus from the dead would bring more glory to Jesus than raising him from his sickbed. We see today that the second reason for Jesus’ delayed response to our prayers is to DECLARE HIS LOVE TOWARD US (John 11:5-6). This may sound strange to us at first, but let’s listen to what the Bible says in these verses. John reminds his readers that “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.” (John 11:5). The word “loved” (agapáō) means to choose to do what is best for another person. Christ wanted to do what was best for this family. This may seem hard to believe when we look at what Jesus does next.

“So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was.” (John 11:6). If Jesus loved this family, why would He wait two more days before going to help them? We must keep verses five and six together. Christ delayed His going to them because He did love them and wanted to do what was best for them in God’s eyes. From Mary and Martha’s perspective, Jesus needed to move faster – “Hurry up, Lord, our brother may die!” But Jesus says, “Slow down and do this My way.”

From this we learn that God’s love may delay His answers to our prayers in ways that we cannot understand at that time. Mary and Martha had no idea what Jesus was going to do when He would come to them later. I’m sure it did not feel like Jesus loved them or Lazarus when He delayed His coming. Perhaps Mary and Martha’s distress over Lazarus’ suffering caused them to forget that death was no obstacle for Jesus. Christ could raise Lazarus from the dead with no more effort than it would take Him to raise Lazarus from his sickbed. Christ delayed His coming because He did love this family. Waiting until Lazarus was dead for a few days would enable Jesus to reveal His love in a deeper and more powerful way to them. While Jesus’ absence caused Lazarus’ death, his death caused his resurrection, and the glory of God was manifested and many people believed in Jesus (cf. John 11:43-45)!

When the Lord does not answer our prayers right away, remember that this does not mean He loves us less. It means He loves you more and knows what is best for you. The apostle Paul reminds us, “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39). No one and nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord, including our feelings. Just because I do not “feel” the Lord’s love during difficult times, does not change His love for me.

For example, when I am standing in our living room at night amidst our furniture which my wife has beautifully arranged, I then turn off the light so I cannot see the furniture. Does that mean the furniture is not there? Of course not. Just because my eyes and feelings tell me there is no furniture in front of me does not change the truth of the furniture’s existence. God’s inseparable love for us is the same way. Our senses do not always detect what is true. They can be fooled. This is why God calls us to “walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7). Faith enables us to experience God’s love when our senses tell us the opposite.

Sometimes we can misinterpret difficulties in our lives as God’s attempt to punish us. Some of us may be running from God right now because of this assumption. For example, “some time back, newspapers carried the story of a young fellow named William who was a fugitive from the police. The teenager had run away with his girlfriend because the parents had been trying to break them up. What William did not know was that an ailment he had been seeing the doctor about was diagnosed just after his disappearance. It was cancer.

“Here was William, doing his best to elude the police, lest he lose his love, while they were doing their best to find him, lest he lose his life. He thought they were after him to punish him; they were really after him to save him.” (Howard Hendricks, Don’t Fake It, Say It with Love).

God is not out to punish us when He permits a situation to get worse after we pray to Him. He loves us and He wants to show Himself to us in deeper and more powerful ways. Don’t run from the Person Who loves you and wants to rescue you. Let Him find you and hold you in His arms.

Prayer: Father God, it is easy for us to quickly assume that You do not love us when bad things happen to us or to those we care about. Thank You for reminding us today that You allow those You love to suffer. After all, You allowed Your only begotten Son Whom You have always loved, to suffer in our place on a cross. Jesus’ love for Lazarus and his family led Him to delay His coming to them so they could discover His love in deeper and more powerful ways. Christ’s absence caused Lazarus’ death, but his death caused his resurrection which would manifest God’s glory so many would believe in Him. Father, when You are absent, we can seek You by faith. Please help us to walk this life on earth by faith and not by sight so we can experience Your love even when it is contrary to our senses. Hold us in Your arms of everlasting mercy when this life does not make sense to us. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Why does the Lord allow a situation to get worse after we pray about it? Part 1

“When Jesus heard that, He said, ‘This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.’ ” John 11:4

In recent months all of us have been reminded that life is short. As of today (September 21, 2020), there have been over 961,000 confirmed COVID-related deaths in the world with over 31 million cases. 1  Since January 1, 2020, there have been over 30,826,000 unborn babies murdered in the world through abortion procedures. 2 These statistics alone are alarming.

On a more personal note, when we were living in the Philippines, fifteen college students died in a bus crash in Tanay, Rizal in February 2017. A few months after that, a Korean pastor was murdered near our subdivision when he confronted a thief breaking into his home.

It is normal for us as human beings to ask “Why?” Why has God allowed so many lives to be lost through the global pandemic? Why does He permit innocent babies to be killed before they begin to live outside the womb? How can He allow such young people to suddenly die in a bus crash? Why does He permit someone who accomplishes so much good to be murdered by a thief? I believe it is okay to ask these kinds of questions. God is not disturbed by such questioning because He knows it will foster growth.

Another question that comes to my mind as I ponder these deaths is, “Why does God sometimes allow situations to get worse after we pray about them?” Why does our spouse or child who is sick, become sicker after we ask the Lord for their healing? Why does our job situation become worse after we plead with the Lord to make it better? Why does that unresolved conflict worsen after we beg the Lord to help us resolve it? Doesn’t God care? Doesn’t He hear us?

These kinds of thoughts probably raced through the minds of two of Christ’s dear friends when Jesus allowed the situation they faced to become worse after they asked for His help. From these verses in John 11, we will discover several reasons why the Lord sometimes allows a situation to become worse after we pray about it. Why does the Lord allow a situation to grow worse after we pray about it?

The first reason is to DISPLAY MORE OF HIS GLORY (John 11:1-4). Because the Jews were seeking to kill Jesus in Judea, He went beyond the Jordan to Bethany of Perea (John 10:40; cf. 1:28). During this time, a tragedy fell on a household at Bethany, a small village located about two miles southeast of Jerusalem. This is not the same Bethany where Jesus was currently staying on the east side of the Jordan River. This household had often given Jesus hospitality when He was in Judea.

“Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha.” (John 11:1). John records just how close Jesus was to this family in the next verse. “It was that Mary who anointed the Lord with fragrant oil and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.” (John 11:2). These were not casual acquaintances. They knew and loved each other very much. This is why the sisters sent for Jesus. “Therefore the sisters sent to Him, saying, ‘Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.’ ” (John 11:3). This sickness must have been very serious since they called for Jesus to return to the area. The sisters assume Jesus would come right away when He heard that their brother, Lazarus, was sick because Jesus loved him.

When a godly Christian became seriously ill, several friends gathered around his bedside to ask God to restore him. The last one to pray spoke of the faithful service of this man, and concluded his prayer by saying, “Lord, You know how he loves You.” After a moment of silence the sick believer said to him, “I know you meant well, but please don’t plead for my recovery on that basis. When Lazarus was ill, Mary and Martha sent for Jesus, but their request was not based on his affection for Christ. They said, ‘Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.’ It’s not my weak and faltering allegiance to Him that calls forth His attention, but His perfect love for me that is my constant strength and hope.” 3

Mary and Martha’s plea for Jesus to come heal their brother was based upon Jesus’ love for Lazarus, not Lazarus’ love for Christ. From the perspective of the two sisters, “If you love someone, you will drop what you are doing and come to his aid.” But look at Jesus’ response. “When Jesus heard that, He said, ‘This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.’ ” (John 11:4). Jesus did not view Lazarus’ sickness as a crisis. He did not see the final outcome of Lazarus’ illness to be death. Instead, He saw it as an opportunity to display God’s glory. Lazarus’ illness was not because of a specific sin in his life or a lack of faith, but because it was going to be used to reveal God’s glory as the “the Resurrection and the Life” (John 11:25).

If someone thinks that a Christian walking with the Lord cannot become ill or contract a disease, that person is either ignorant of the truth or just downright wrong! Lazarus’ sickness was not a means of punishment nor a sign of rebellion. Instead, his illness had a higher purpose.

Think about it. What would bring God more glory – to heal Lazarus or to resurrect him? What would lead more people to believe in Jesus – to raise a living person from his sickbed or a dead person from his grave? One of the reasons God may allow a situation to get worse in our lives is to bring Him more glory when He answers our prayers. Sometimes God makes us wait until it seems that the answers to our prayers are impossible so that He gets more glory!

Our tendency is to think that God does not care about us when He does not answer our prayers immediately. But the truth is we do not often understand His timing and purpose because His ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). What He asks of us during these times is that we trust Him.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, Your ways and Your thoughts are so much higher than mine. I cannot understand Your timing and purposes much of the time. But this does not mean I cannot trust You when I face difficult times. I truly believe that You allow situations to grow worse even after we pray about it so You can display Your glory in greater ways. You demonstrated this by permitting Lazarus’ situation to grow worse so You could reveal Your Person and Power in a greater and more meaningful way. Even now, as more people die of COVID or other causes, more people will begin to think about their need for You and fall on their knees begging You for mercy. Lord, the Scriptures clearly tell me that You are still on Your throne when bad things happen on earth. Your purposes are still being fulfilled. The Bible is still true when it says with God all things are possible. Please continue to use the bad things in the world to get peoples’ attention so they can believe You are the Resurrection and the Life, Who guarantees a future resurrection and never ending life to all who believe in You. In Your powerful name I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. https://ourworldindata.org/covid-deaths#what-is-the-total-number-of-confirmed-deaths

2. https://www.worldometers.info/abortions/

3. Dave Branon, Hymns: 90 Devotions From Our Daily Bread, “His Love Not Ours.”

How can I overcome spiritual blindness? Part 5

“Then he said, ‘Lord, I believe!’ And he worshiped Him.” John 9:38

Unable to overcome the former blind man’s logic and the evidence of a miracle, the Pharisees answered and said to him, ‘You were completely born in sins, and are you teaching us?’ And they cast him out.” (John 9:34). They were saying that this man’s blindness was due to specific sins in his life to shame him into silence and discredit his testimony. He could not teach them because he was a sinner and they were righteous. This is the fifth symptom of spiritual blindness – DISTORT THE TRUTH ABOUT THEMSELVES (John 9:34) – they perceived themselves to be superior to this former blind man and to Jesus for that matter. These educated religious leaders were unwilling to learn from a beggar. They continued in their stubborn rejection of Christ despite the overwhelming reasons to believe in Him.

“They cast him out” of the synagogue to silence him and limit his influence of others. This also served as a warning to others who are tempted to confess that Jesus is from God. This is probably the best thing that could have happened to the former blind man because now he would not have to listen to the works-salvation message of the Pharisees. He was now more prepared for his next encounter with Jesus. God can use the rejection of others to make non-Christians more open to hearing the gospel.

Perhaps you have experienced rejection from your spiritual leaders or religious community because of your interest in Jesus Christ. You have interacted with Christians and they have shown you love instead of hatred. In fact, they have shown you more love than the people of your own religion. And this increases your interest in Jesus.

The Bible then tells us that “Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when He had found him…” (John 9:35a). Hearing of his excommunication, Jesus sought the former blind man out. Jesus did the seeking since the man had not yet seen Jesus.

Whatever opposition you have experienced for confessing Christ publicly, please know that this is not the last word. Jesus was aware of the former blind’s man’s excommunication, and He sought Him out. Jesus is also aware of your situation, and He seeks you out to reveal more of Himself to you. Your religious community or family may reject you for speaking the truth about Jesus, but Jesus will never reject you when you diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6b).

Now, for the first time, the former blind man could look at the One who restored his sight. Jesus is very direct with the man. “He said to him, ‘Do you believe in the Son of God?’ ” (John 9:35b). This is the purpose for John’s gospel. John recorded these miracles of Jesus so you “may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:31). This personal response is necessary for receiving the gift of eternal life.

Many people today believe that Jesus exists and died for them on the Cross and even rose from the dead, but they are not trusting in Him alone for this free gift. They are still depending on their own religious efforts to get them to heaven.

The former blind man “answered and said, ‘Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?’ ” (John 9:36). The beggar is willing and ready to believe, but he is ignorant. He wants the Son of God to be identified so he may believe in Him. Jesus identifies Himself as the Messiah-God when He says, “You have both seen Him and it is He who is talking with you.” (John 9:37). The words “seen Him” must have meant a lot to the man who up until that day, had never seen anything.

As soon as the man knew the identity of the Son of God he immediately responds in faith. “Then he said, ‘Lord, I believe!’ And he worshiped Him.” (John 9:38). Jesus used the physical healing of this blind man to prepare him for his spiritual healing. Jesus had once again mixed His own divine DNA (His Word) with humanity (the former blind man) so that an even greater healing could take place. Out of gratitude for his physical healing, the man believed in Christ as the Messiah-God, which meant he now had eternal life (John 20:31)! This is the climax for the man in a process that has been taking place throughout the whole chapter. His insight into the Person of Jesus has been growing:

“The man who is called Jesus” (John 9:11).

“I do not know” (John 9:12).

“He is a prophet” (John 9:17).

“Whether He is a sinner, I do not know” (John 9:25).

The Man who has “disciples” (John 9:27).

“He has opened my eyes” (John 9:30).

“If this Man were not from God, He could do nothing” (John 9:33).

“Lord, I believe” (John 9:38a).

“He worshiped Him” (John 9:38b).

The man has been moving from darkness to the Light. After believing in Jesus, “he worshiped Him.” The word translated “worshiped” (proskunéō) is a compound Greek word meaning “towards (pros) to kiss (kunéō),” which refers “to kissing the ground as you prostrate yourself before a superior, to fall down on your knees to adore someone of superior rank.” The former blind man was honoring Jesus as God by worshiping Him (cf. John 5:23).

There is only one Person in the universe who is worthy of worship (Exodus 20:3-5), and Jesus did not stop this man from worshiping Him. If Jesus is not God, why would He permit the man to worship Him? God told Moses on Mount Sinai, “You shall have no other gods before Me… You shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God.” (Exodus 20:3, 5). The healed man was bowing down before Jesus to worship Him. When Jesus accepted the man’s worship, He was making a statement that He was God! This confirms what the apostle John said in John 1:1, “And the Word was God.” If Jesus was not God, then He was endorsing idolatry.

The former blind man could no longer worship God in the synagogue, but now he could worship  God to His face. And Jesus will never “cast out” of His family those who come to Him in faith (John 6:37). This is the fourth way to overcome spiritual blindness. DEPEND ON CHRIST ALONE FOR ETERNAL LIFE (John 9:35-38). Only Jesus can meet our deepest spiritual needs.

When we believe in Him, He gives us everlasting life which can never be lost (John 3:16; 10:28-29) and places us in His family forever (John 1:12; 6:37)! We now have brothers and sisters in Christ from all around the world! And we can begin to see Jesus in a more intimate way as we worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24). Christ is our only source of life and acceptance. Let’s enjoy Him!

Prayer: Precious Lord Jesus, I praise You for seeking me out when I experienced exclusion from my former religious community. Thank You for revealing my own sinfulness to me at that time so I could see my need for You and Your gift of everlasting life. Thank You for accepting me into Your family the moment I believed in You for eternal life. Thank You for the new brothers and sisters I gained from all around the world at that moment of faith. What a privilege I now have to approach You in worship! The more I focus on You, the more the cares and concerns of this world fade away. Your light dispels the darkness in my own heart and gives me a hope that never ends. With You at the center of my life, I have joy beyond my own understanding! You are more than enough for me!!! Please use me to share Your light with those who are in darkness so they, too, may obtain everlasting hope and life in You. In Your precious name I pray. Amen.

Why is there pain and suffering? Part 3

“When He had said these things, He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva; and He anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay.” John 9:6

A third reason why God allows pain and suffering is TO DISCLOSE HIS PITY OR COMPASSION  (John 9:6-12). After Jesus reaffirmed His identity as the Light of the world (John 9:5), we read, “When He had said these things, He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva; and He anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay.“ (John 9:6). As He did with the woman caught in adultery (John 8:6b, 8), Jesus stooped down to the dirt. But instead of writing in it, “He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva.” Why did Jesus heal the blind man in this way? Why didn’t He just say the word like He did with the lame man at the pool of Bethesda (John 5:8-9) or with Lazarus at his grave (John 11:43-44)?

Saliva was a well-known Jewish remedy for eye trouble. Clay was the same substance from which man was created (Genesis 2:7). “Thus the word of God (i.e., spit from Jesus’s mouth) mixed with humanity (i.e., dirt from which man was created) provided the basis for the miracle. By using His saliva, Jesus was imparting divine DNA to the human defect in order to bring about a supernatural transformation of his humanity. This was to serve as a physical illustration of the supernatural spiritual transformation Jesus came to bring (see Isa 35:4-5).” (Dr. Tony Evans, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary, p. 1782).

This was a creation miracle since this man’s blindness was congenital. Jesus used the clay as a tool to develop the blind man’s faith. The touch of a friendly hand would be reassuring to this man who had known darkness all his life. While the disciples showed insensitivity toward the blind man when they asked Jesus within earshot “Who sinned?” Jesus showed great compassion or pity toward this blind man by providing a gentle and soothing touch.

When Jesus healed the blind man on the Sabbath with clay He had made, He broke two man-made laws of the Jewish people. Making clay and healing were both forbidden by the Pharisees on the Sabbath. This would cause more tension between Jesus and the Jewish religious leaders.

“And He said to him, ‘Go, wash in the pool of Siloam’ (which is translated, Sent). So he went and washed, and came back seeing.” (John 9:7). After anointing the blind man’s eyes, Jesus instructs him to go wash at the pool of Siloam. The man’s healing required an act of faith on his part. “The pool of Siloam” was originally built by King Hezekiah to provide a reservoir for water flowing through the Siloam tunnel from the Gihon Spring (2 Kings 20:20; 2 Chronicles 32:2-4). Rabbinic teaching associated this free-flowing fountain with God’s fountain during the Messianic kingdom. John informs his readers that the word “Siloam” is translated “sent.” The blind man was “sent” by the One “sent” by the Father.

Jesus did not promise he would be healed. He just told him to go wash. Christ did not give a speech about accepting your lot in life or taking the medicine that God has given you. Jesus was especially sensitive to the groans of suffering people. He cared more about His relationships with hurting people than He did about the rules and regulations of the religious establishment. The Bible says, “The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit.” (Psalm 34:18). The prophet Isaiah reminds us concerning the Messiah, “A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench.” (Isaiah 42:3). The Messiah would not deal harshly with those who are already hurting nor would He extinguish what little hope a broken heart possessed. He uses His supernatural power to heal, not to punish. Jesus spent much of His ministry fighting disease and despair, not asking “Why?” or condemning with “Who sinned?”

When you hear about another’s misfortune, how do you react? Like the disciples – questioning and condemning? Or like Jesus with compassion to treat the problem?

John tells us that the blind man “went and washed and came back seeing.” His obedience to Christ’s command to wash in the “Sent” Pool enabled him to experience supernatural healing and gain his sight physically. This is a beautiful picture of salvation. When a spiritually blind person obeys the command to believe in the Son of God (I John 3:23), he or she is WASHED by the One “sent” by God, the Holy Spirit, who washes us clean with the waters of regeneration so we can SEE spiritually (John 7:37-39; Titus 3:5).

There is also an important lesson here for Christians. The blind man’s obedience to Christ enabled him to experience the blessing of physical sight. Likewise, OBEDIENCE to Christ is necessary for believers to see Jesus more FULLY. Hebrews 12:14 says, “Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.” The pursuit of holiness is the prerequisite for seeing the Lord. Without holiness, no one can see God now or in the future.

Jesus said something similar in Matthew 5:8: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Purity of heart is necessary to see or perceive God. If a Christian is not pursuing holiness, there is a sense in which he or she cannot see God (I John 3:6). But when a believer’s eyes are enlightened, he can see many different facets of God (cf. Ephesians 1:17-21; 3:17-19; Colossians 3:9-11). Since all Christians will be without sin when they stand in God’s presence (I John 3:2), they should pursue holiness here and now. As we already learned in John 2:23-25 (cf. John 14:21; 15:14), Jesus will reveal Himself in a more intimate way to believers who obey Him.

This miracle raised the question about the man’s identity. 8 Therefore the neighbors and those who previously had seen that he was blind said, ‘Is not this he who sat and begged?’ 9 Some said, ‘This is he.’ Others said, ‘He is like him.’” (John 9:8-9a). But the former blind man said something that Jesus often said, “He said, ‘I am he.’ ” (John 9:9b). This healing of the blind man was another proof that Jesus was the Messiah-God. Those who knew this blind man best, his “neighbors,” were amazed at the remarkable change they saw in him. To see this man, whom they knew so well, walk with normal sight was so incredible they thought it must be a case of mistaken identity.

“Therefore they said to him, ‘How were your eyes opened?’ ” (John 9:10). To deny the miracle, certain ones raised the question of how this miracle took place. “He answered and said, ‘A Man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to the pool of Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed, and I received sight.’ ” (John 9:11). The man’s matter of fact report explains what happened. There is no exaggeration in his personal testimony. His reply indicates his faith – he accepted the miracle as fact. At this point he does not know who Jesus is – “A Man called Jesus.” “Then they said to him, ‘Where is He?’ He said, ‘I do not know.’ ” (John 9:12). Since he was blind at the time of the miracle, he had no idea where Jesus went. What is disturbing, however, is that no one celebrates with this formerly blind man regarding his restoration of sight. They can only ask, “Where is He?”

Jesus did not perform this miracle because of this man’s faith in Him to heal since the man did not know Jesus’ identity yet. This miracle was an incredible expression of God’s grace toward him. Supernatural healing does not take a special kind of FAITH. It requires the GRACE of God to intervene and heal.

Why is there pain and suffering in the world? We learn from Jesus’ encounter with a man born blind that God allows pain and suffering…

1. To demonstrate His power. He may not perform a dramatic miracle as with the man born blind. But He may transform our attitude or heal a broken relationship. He may lift burdens of guilt and legalism off our shoulders so we can serve Him.

2. To display His promise. God allows pain and suffering to display His promise of hope and eternal life through Jesus Christ. Christ can bring light to the spiritually blind. He offers the promise of eternal life to those without hope.

3. To disclose His pity or compassion. In the midst of much pain and suffering, Jesus’ reveals His gentle and healing touch in order to bring glory back to God. He is a gentle Savior with an abundance of grace for those in need of His healing touch.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, You are far more concerned about relationships with people than You are about keeping man-made rules and regulations. Thank You for pursuing me when I was spiritually blind and under the burden of religious rules and regulations. Thank You for using Your supernatural power to heal instead of to punish. I am very grateful that You gently touched me with Your Word when I was spiritually blind and without hope so I could see You for Who You truly are – the Christ, the Son of God –  Who gives everlasting life to all who believe in Him! Forgive me for the many times I have been insensitive to others who are in need of Your life-giving touch. Help me to see other people as You do – as broken and blind sinners who need the gentle and loving touch of the Savior. In Your name I pray. Amen.

Why is there pain and suffering? Part 2

“I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” John 9:4-5

A second reason why God allows suffering and pain is TO DISPLAY HIS PROMISE (John 9:4-5). Jesus continued His response to His disciples’ question about whose sin caused the man to be born blind, his parents or his own. “I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work.” (John 9:4). The words, “I must,” reveal the sense of urgency Jesus possesses to do His Father’s work while it is “day” – the time to do God’s work. When Jesus says, “the night is coming when no one can work,” He is acknowledging that the opportunity to work ends as night arrives. For Christ, this would refer to His death, but for believers it can refer to physical death or the sudden removal of the Church at any time (cf. I Thess. 4:13-18). In either case, the opportunity to do God’s “works” is limited by time. Since Jesus’ ascension (Acts 1:9-11), God continues Jesus’ works through His body, the Church (John 14:12; 20:21; Acts 1:1ff; cf. Ephes. 1:22-23; 3:10).

Then Jesus says, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” (John 9:5). “As long as” Jesus is “in the world” He will manifest Himself as “the light of the world” by exposing sin and providing hope for healing and eternal life. As the Light of the world, Jesus would bring light to the one who had been in darkness from birth, both physically and spiritually.

God allows pain and suffering to display His promise of hope and eternal life through Jesus Christ. The world is full of examples of people with learning disabilities, broken relationships, illness, the fear of rejection, guilt, and shame that Jesus has turned into an opportunity to display His promise of hope and eternal life (John 1:4-5). Christ uses the limitations or afflictions of people to bring them to faith in Him.

One such person was a nineteen-year-old college student who aspired to be a professional football player. But after a knee injury during the fourth football game of his first year of college, he lost all hope of playing professional football. As he sank into a depression, he kept asking himself, “What is my purpose in life if I cannot play football? Why am I here? A few months later, a professional football player named Archie Griffin came to his school to share a message of hope through Jesus Christ at an evening assembly. As this student listened to Archie talk about his personal relationship with Christ, God removed his spiritual blindness with the light of the gospel so that he believed in Jesus for everlasting life that evening. That student was yours truly. God used my football injury to prepare me to hear and believe Jesus’ promise of hope and everlasting life (John 3:16).

While serving the Lord in the Philippines for nearly six years, God enabled me to teach at a nearby provincial jail. One of the inmates who came to our weekly chapel service had a master’s degree in engineering. Since coming to faith in Christ, he is thankful for his incarceration because God used it to reveal the light of Jesus Christ to him. He told me he did not think he would have come to faith in Jesus if he had not been arrested. Even though he has more education than most Filipinos, his education could not give him spiritual sight. Only Jesus could do that and give him eternal life. Thank God for his arrest which provided the opportunity for him to learn this life-changing truth behind bars.

God uses pain and suffering to display His hope and promise of everlasting life to us through the Lord Jesus Christ. During this season of pandemic, social unrest, and political and economic hardship, God may be nudging you to draw near to Him. Are you overwhelmed with your circumstances and/or your pain? Come to Jesus Christ for everlasting relief.

Prayer: Precious Lord Jesus, I am so glad You approached the man born blind even though he was considered unclean by the religious community. No doubt that blind man heard many insensitive comments about the reason for his blindness. But You, Lord, showed Him compassion and gently restored his sight physically and spiritually. You truly are the Light of the world who brought hope to a man who had been in spiritual and physical darkness since birth. As the Light of the world You continue to expose sin and offer hope and everlasting life through Your promises today. Thank You for seeking me out when I was spiritually blind and without hope. Thank You for the pain that began my search for something more. Thank You for extending Your grace and forgiveness to me when I was still Your enemy. And thank You for the precious gift of everlasting life I received the moment I believed in You. My Lord and my God, please shine the light of Your love and grace into the hearts of people that are shrouded in darkness so they may experience Your everlasting hope and life. In Your name I pray. Amen.  

The Light of the World

“Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.’ ” John 8:12

The setting of John 8:12 is back in chapter 7. It is the Feast of Tabernacles. One of the very special events during this feast was the “Illumination of the Temple.” This ceremony took place each evening in one of the courts of the Temple – the Court of the Women. In the center of this court four giant candelabra were set up (the many-branched candlesticks used by the Jews). Some accounts say that these golden candelabra were as high as seventy-five feet. At night, they were lit and they brought light to the whole temple area and most of Jerusalem. It was spectacular, and people would celebrate all night.

The reason they did this was to remember another wilderness experience. It was the pillar of fire. During the exodus from Egypt, God protected and guided the people of Israel through the wilderness with the pillar of fire. God was with them.

At the end of the feast, the lights were purposely put out. Why? Because the Messiah had not come yet.

It is in the same temple area where the lights were put out the night before that I believe Jesus says, “I am the light of the world.” (John 8:12a). It is as though Jesus is saying, “Do you remember the pillar of fire that came between the Israelites and the Egyptians near the Red Sea, the pillar that protected them and led them on their wanderings in the wilderness? That was My presence with them. I was God with them and I am God with you! It was I who protected them. It was I who guided them through the wilderness. I am the light of the WORLD – not just the light for the nation of Israel, but the light for the entire world. I offer hope to every one of every country, culture, and color.” What a statement! Jesus is claiming to be God.

The phrase “I Am” is how God identified Himself to Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3:13-14). “I Am” is also how Jesus will continue to state His own identity to the people of Israel. Jesus has already stated, “I am the bread of life” (6:35). Later on, He will identify Himself with more “I am” statements: “I am the door” (10:9), “I am the Good Shepherd” (10:14), “I am the Resurrection and the Life” (11:25), “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life” (14:6), “I am the true Vine” (15:1). Each one of these staggering statements attested to the fact that He was and is God.

Because Jesus is God (cf. I John 5:20), there is no darkness or sin in Him. The Bible says, “This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.” (I John 1:5; cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15). Since Jesus is “the light of the world,” He can offer hope and life to every person of every country, culture, and color. Christ does not favor one particular culture or color of people over another. He loves every person equally and longs to have a personal relationship with each one.

So much emphasis is placed upon the color of a person’s skin today which leads to much hatred toward those who look differently. This is not from the Lord (cf. I John 2:9-11). God created all people of all colors and we are to praise Him for this. The real problem in the world today is not skin, it is sin. All people of all colors have a problem called sin (Romans 3:23). This is why some people think they are superior to others. This is why some people allow their own prejudices to mistreat others. This is why there is racism in the world. Until we stop focusing on skin and start dealing with our sin, there will be no lasting reconciliation among the different cultures and colors of people in the world today.

God has provided the solution to our sin problem by giving His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, as the Savior of the world (John 3:16a; 4:42). Christ loved us so much He died in our place on a cross to pay the full penalty for our sin, and three days later He rose from the dead and He is alive today (John 19:30; I Corinthians 15:3-6). Jesus invites us to believe or trust in Him alone for His gift of everlasting life. When we do, we become “sons of light.” Jesus said, “While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” (John 12:36).

Notice that Christ says we can become “sons of light” simply by believing or trusting in Him alone for His gift of salvation. This verse does not say we become “sons of light” by going to church, being baptized, confessing our sins, praying five times a day, living a good life, or by keeping the sacraments. The only condition is to believe in the Light which is Jesus Christ.

After believing in Christ, we are no longer defined by our sin and shame. We are defined by the Light of Jesus Christ. The Bible says, “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.” (Ephesians 5:8). How do we live as children of light?

Jesus explains, “He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” (John 8:12b). This is such a wonderful promise. There is nothing we need more in this world than light on our path. Many people are walking in the darkness of sins today. They don’t know where they are going. They have no idea of what is ahead; they are running into disaster and they cannot even see it coming. But how does a person break loose from the bondage of sin? How can we come out of the domain of darkness and its influence into the domain of God and the influence of His light and purity? Simple. By following Jesus!  “He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” That tells me two things: 

1. Jesus will never lead me into darkness. He will never lead me into sin. So if I will just follow Him like a sheep follows a shepherd, I will not find myself in darkness but in “light” (holiness and hope) and “life” (relationship with God). On the other hand…

2. If I am living in sin, if I am walking in darkness, I must not be following Jesus—because that’s not where He is going. I can never blame Jesus for my sinful lifestyle or hopelessness. Because He is the antithesis of both! If I am letting Him lead me, I will have holiness and hope in my life.

I have had those who are opposed to Christianity try to justify their rejection of Christ by referring to all the horrific things done in the name of Jesus Christ, such as The Crusades or the atrocities of Adolph Hitler. I assure them, that those who have done terrible things in the name of Jesus Christ are not representing biblical Christianity. When people murder or mistreat other people because of their different skin color or religion, they are not following the example of their Leader, Jesus Christ, Who taught us to love our neighbors and our enemies by blessing them, doing good to them, and praying for them (Matthew 5:44; Luke 10:27-37). Jesus Christ is not responsible for those who misuse His name to justify their own sinful choices. Those people will answer to Christ for the wrongs they have done.

Notice how positive the solution is in John 8:12. It is not that I fight off my horrible lust, prejudices, selfishness, and greed so I can follow Jesus. That would be impossible for me to do. But if I will choose to follow Christ and obey His Word, and continue in that choice no matter how imperfect or how weak I may feel my walk with Him is — that choice lived out day by day will take me where I need to go. Can you say with firm conviction, “I have decided to follow Jesus”? Peter didn’t follow Jesus perfectly, but he followed Him as a choice of life. James and John and the other disciples were slow learners like some of us are. But they were followers of Jesus and that journey led them out of darkness into light.

What the world needs today is the Light of the world, Jesus Christ. Only Jesus can transform the sinful human heart so that hatred is replaced with love. Until people find peace with God through faith in Jesus Christ alone (Romans 5:1), they will not be able to live peacefully with themselves or others (Ephesians 2:13-18). Governments and politicians cannot do this for us. Only Jesus Christ can and does when we come to Him on His terms.

I read a story about a grandfather who took his little grandson for a walk in the woods. As they were walking along they stopped for a moment and the grandfather asked, “Do you know where we are?” The little boy said, “No!” The grandfather asked, “Do you know where we’re going?” And the little boy again said, “No!” The grandfather chuckled and said, “Well, I guess you’re lost then.” The boy looked up at his grandfather and said, “No, I’m not lost. I’m with you.” When you are with Jesus, when you are following Him, you will never be lost and you will arrive where you need to be.

Prayer: Father God, as I look at the world today, I see people wandering in the darkness without any lasting hope. They don’t know where they are going. They have no idea of what is ahead; they are running into disaster and they cannot even see it coming. I was once one of those people. But when You removed the blinders from my mind, I was able to see the light of Jesus’ glory so I could believe in Him (2 Corinthians 4:4). And at that moment, You transferred me from the domain of darkness into the marvelous light of Your Son’s kingdom (Colossians 1:13; I Peter 2:9). I am no longer defined by my sin and shame, but by the Light of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 5:8). I now have a choice. I can choose to follow Jesus, the Light of the world, and no longer abide in the darkness of sin, or I can follow my own sinful flesh and the course of this world which leads to the darkness of sin, hate, and death (John 8:12; 12:35; I John 2:9-11; 3:11-15). Thank You, Lord Jesus, for never leading me into darkness when I follow You. Forgive me for the many times I have blamed You for my own sinful choices. How foolish I was to do such a thing! But even then, You did not stop loving me nor did You give up on me. You still loved me and patiently waited for me to turn back to You. Thank You so much for the hope I have when my eyes are fixed upon You. Please lead me to those who are abiding in darkness that I may share the Light of the world with them. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

How can I overcome condemnation? Part 2

“And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. ” John 8:8b-9

The second way I can overcome condemnation is when I… REDIRECT THOSE WHO CONDEMN ME TO THEIR OWN SIN (John 8:3-9). This is what Jesus did when His gracious teaching was rudely interrupted by the religious leaders. Satan loves to keep people from hearing God’s grace. 3 Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, 4 they said to Him, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act.’ ” (John 8:3-4). During the feast of Tabernacles many people lived in close quarters. The religious leaders caught a woman in the act of adultery.

Have you ever been caught in the act? I love Bill Cosby’s story of his son and the cookie jar. He tells of the time his son was caught up on a stool with his hand in the cookie jar. Bill, said, “Did I not tell you that you could not have a cookie?” “Yes”, his little son replies, “but I was getting the cookie for you”. “I don’t want a cookie” Bill tells him. “Well, can I have it then?” his son asks. That was a very smart answer when your hand is caught in the cookie jar.

Have you ever been caught red-handed? You were guilty and everyone knew it. Like your humming along on the highway, and a policeman gets behind you and puts on his lights. I mean, isn’t that a wonderful feeling? And you have nothing to say, because you know that you were going way too fast. Whenever you are caught in the act, there is no point in arguing. The guilt is yours, and you must deal with the consequences. This woman was caught in the act. She was guilty of the crime. Her accusers were right. She didn’t put up any defense. This woman had just committed the act of adultery. The sin that she committed was a serious crime. It was one of many crimes that carried with it the death penalty. It was ranked right along with murder, kidnapping, witchcraft, and offering human sacrifice.

For this woman to have been caught in adultery, the leaders must have set it up. They now set her in the middle of a crowd where everyone could see her and what Jesus would do with such a case. This was unlawful because they had a court to try such cases. But where was the man? The leaders set this whole thing up so the man could escape. They seemed to have a personal vendetta against this woman. The leaders then say, “’ 5 Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?’ 6 This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him.” (John 8:5-6a). The law of Moses said to stone an adulteress and adulterer (Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:22-24)). But the leaders weren’t concerned with justice, but with trapping Jesus. If Jesus says not to stone her, He is in conflict with the Mosaic law. If He says to stone her, He is in conflict with the Roman Law – for only the Romans had the right of capital punishment, not the Jews. So Christ is confronted with a situation in which He could offer no acceptable response.

Why did these men want to throw stones? The same reason that we want to throw them. We throw stones because we… harbor hatred, hold on to bitterness, are entangled in anger, want to have revenge, will not let go of the things that upset us or because it is easier to throw stones at others rather than ourselves.

Stones can be valuable as well, for you use stones to build something. You can use stones to cover something up or you can even decorate with stones. When you hold a stone in your hand, what do you feel? There is a hardness. There is a heaviness. There is a coarseness. There is sometimes a feeling that you just want to throw that stone, isn’t there?

Although we would never think of actually throwing stones at other people, far too often we throw emotional or spiritual stones at others, don’t we? Hurtful comments, generalizations, gossip, judgmental statements, or harshness with the truth. What is it that makes people want to throw stones?

Frustration: When we become frustrated it distorts our ability to see things clearly.

Fatigue: Everything always looks worse when we are tired.

Failure: When others fail, we are quick to judge their actions. When we fail others, we are quick to justify our actions.

False Assumptions: When we get only bits and pieces of the truth, we create assumptions based on faulty logic.

Feelings: If we make the choice to follow our feelings we make the choice to be shallow.

How does Jesus respond to this attempt to condemn Him? “But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear.” (John 8:6b). Much speculation has centered around what Jesus wrote. But the Bible is silent on this point! The act of writing – not what was written – is what is most important. When Jesus is tested about the Law of Moses, He writes on the ground “with His finger.” The two times in the Bible when God is mentioned writing with His finger are here and on Mount Sinai.  

Jesus was more than a Teacher of the Law (John 8:4). He was also the Giver of the law. He was the Son of God (John 20:31), God in human flesh (John 1:1,14), the Creator of all things (John 1:3). The same finger that wrote the law on the tablet of stone on Mount Sinai (Exodus 31:18), is the same finger that wrote on the ground. If Jesus was the Law-Giver, then He could forgive this woman like He had forgiven Israel at Mount Sinai (Exodus 33:12-34:9).

“So when they continued asking Him…” (John 8:7a). The leaders thought Christ was stalling so they persistently questioned Him. “He raised Himself up and said to them, ‘He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.’ ” (John 8:7b). Is Jesus referring to sinlessness when He says,“He who is without sin among you”? No. In the original language, this verse literally says, “He who is without the sin [of adultery] …”  Christ is referring to a specific area of sin.

As the truth began to sink in, we read, “And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground.” (John 8:8). The fact that Jesus wrote on the ground twice reminds us that God also wrote on the tablets of stone two times on Mount Sinai. Moses broke the first tablets when he came down from the mountain and saw the golden calf and the revelry of the people (Exodus 32:19; cf. 31;18; 32:15-16). So God wrote them a second time with His finger (Exodus 34:1).

Some writers have suggested that Jesus may have wrote on the ground the names of the women whom the Pharisees slept with. The Law required the man and woman be stoned. Where was the man? Was he one of the leaders or a friend of the leaders? There would have been ample opportunities for the leaders to commit adultery during the feast.

“Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.” (John 8:9). As the sun was rising, the leaders were leaving. The older ones left first because they had more guilt since they had been committing adultery longer. Instead of focusing on the woman’s sin or on trapping Jesus, the leaders were now forced to look at their own sin.

When people are quick to condemn you or criticize you, set a boundary with them. Ask them, “Have you ever committed a similar sin? How did you feel? Would you have wanted others to remind you of that or put you down in front of other people?” When you are being attacked, it is better to take the offensive rather than be defensive. This is what Jesus did with those who sought to accuse Him at the expense of a broken woman. He defended this woman, and her accusers retreated when faced with their own sin.

I believe many Christians remain silent in their shame because they are afraid of condemnation from other believers in the church. Some of my most hurtful moments have come from misunderstandings with other Christians or shame-based preaching and teaching. Those were situations where I felt condemnation not compassion. Sure, I was taught that God loved me, but I was still a worthless sinner who needed to try harder.

God is showing me that people who are hurting often hurt other people. Instead of facing our own pain, we have a tendency to act out our pain with others. It is much easier to focus on the shortcomings of another person than to face our own.

If you are afraid to seek help from other Christians, please understand that Jesus Christ is not in the business of condemnation. The Bible says, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” (John 3:17). Christ wants to cleanse you, not condemn you. It is important for you to ask Jesus to lead you to believers who will love and care for you regardless of your past or present problems. A Christian cannot offer you the compassion of Christ as you deal with your brokenness, if he or she has not walked through their own brokenness with the Lord.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I needed to hear this message this morning. Much of my life I have lived under self-condemnation simply because of who I am. I did not love myself growing up. I perceived myself to be unlovable and worthless. But as I listen to Your Word, Your truth is helping me to see that You are a kind and gentle Savior Who loves me and wants to set me free from condemnation and shame. Lord, please teach me to see myself as You do – as a lovable child of God whose primary purpose is to be, not do. My value comes from what You say, not what I do or what other people think, say, or do. Please show me how to respond to broken people who want to tear me down rather than build me up. Just as You set boundaries with the woman’s accusers to protect her, please teach me how to do the same with my accusers so that Your truth protects me from the lies of the enemy. Help me dismiss the lies that keep me under condemnation and replace them with the truth that empowers me to live a life filled with Your purpose and hope. As I heal and become the man You created me to be, please help me pay it forward to other sons and daughters of Yours who are living under condemnation. In Your name I pray. Amen.

Finding hope and security in trying times

“Keep me as the apple of Your eye; Hide me under the shadow of Your wings.” Psalm 17:8

When King David wrote Psalm 17, he was facing strong opposition from “the wicked who oppress” him and were seeking to kill him (17:9-13). Perhaps you have experienced similar opposition in your life. Many Christians around the world are experiencing life-threatening persecution for their faith. I cannot remember a time in my life where I have seen more hatred and violence against God’s truth in the USA as we are seeing right now.

In this one verse in Psalm 17, God’s Word offers us much hope and security. David prays to the Lord, “Keep me as the apple of Your eye; Hide me under the shadow of Your wings.” (Psalm 17:8). Many people, Christians and non-Christians, have used this phrase, “the apple of your eye.” But what does it mean?

The Hebrew word for “apple” (ishon) means “little man.” The phrase “the apple of Your eye,” refers to the reflection a person sees of themselves in another person’s eye when they are looking at them. For your reflection to be caught in someone’s eye and for you to be able to see that reflection they must have their gaze fixed on you, and you must be standing close enough to them to see that reflection.

To say to someone, “You are the apple of my eye,” is to say “You are more special to me than anyone else.” If something is the apple of your eye, then this refers to all the things that your eyes behold which get your special attention, your complete attention.

David is asking God to keep him as the object of His affection, attention, love, and protection. Like a parent who keeps their loving gaze on their prized child, so God keeps His eyes on us.

Do we realize that we are the object of God’s affection and love? We are always in His vision because we are extremely special to Him! He is constantly paying attention to us even when we may feel alone and abandoned.

But there is more! David prays, “Hide me under the shadow of Your wings.” The word “hide” here means to carefully conceal. David is asking the Lord to hide or conceal him under the shadow of His wings much like a mother bird protects her young ones under the security of her wings where no predator can harm them.

Jesus Himself used a similar expression when He said in Matthew 23:37, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!”

When we see the word, “hide,” we may remember that Adam and Eve hid from the Lord when they disobeyed Him (Genesis 3:8-10). Because of their sin and shame, Adam and Eve were afraid, so they hid from the Lord Jesus Who would walk with them in the cool of the Garden.

But if we are believers in Jesus Christ, there is no need to try to hide from the Lord. Because of Jesus’ shed blood for our sins and His sufficient sacrifice on the cross (Ephesians 1:7; Hebrews 9:11-10:18; Revelation 1:5; 12:11), we can now hide in Christ instead of hide from Him. “For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:3). We are forever safe and secure in Jesus Christ. Jesus’ death for our sins has removed our guilt and shame so we may hide in Christ rather than from Him.

Whether we know it or not, we all have enemies: our own sinful nature, Satan the accuser and deceiver, all the armies of fallen angels, and all the wicked men of this world who oppose the love of the truth. Despite this onslaught of evil, we can find protection and security in the constant loving gaze and covering of our Almighty God and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I am so impressed with Your constant focus on me. I am constantly in Your line of vision because I am so special to You. Hence, there is no need for me to feel alone or neglected. I am constantly the object of Your love and affection. Satan keeps trying to deceive me into thinking You don’t care about me or love me. But Your Word brings me back to the truth that I am so special to You that You never take Your eyes off of me. Despite all the evil in this world, I can find rest and security under the shadow of Your wings. Thank You that I do not need to hide from You any more because You have forgiven my sins and removed my shame through Your shed blood. I can now hide in You, my Lord and my God. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Comfort instead of Chaos

During this time of chaos and uncertainty, God has drawn me back to one of the greatest sources of comfort and hope that we have as Christians. It has to do with the next event on God’s Prophetic Calendar known as the Rapture or sudden removal of Christians from the earth to meet the Lord Jesus in the air to be with Him forever (Rev. 4:1-4; cf. John 14:1-3; I Thess. 1:10; 4:13-5:11).
       

When the apostle John, a member of the Church, was caught up to heaven, he saw “twenty-four elders” sitting on thrones around the throne of God. “Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns of gold on their heads” (Rev. 4:4).  These twenty-four elders represent faithful believers from the Church Age since “elders” in the New Testament are leaders of the local Church (Acts 14:23; 20:17, 28;  I Tim. 4:14; 5:17, 19; Titus 1:5; James 5:14; I Peter 5:1).
       

The fact that these elders are already sitting on “thrones,” wearing “white garments” and “crowns” indicates they have already appeared before the Judgment Seat of Christ to receive their rewards (cf. I Cor. 3:8-15; 9:24-27; 2 Cor. 5:10; 2 Tim. 2:12; Rev. 2:25-27; 3:4-5, 21; 22:12), which means the vision John describes in heaven takes place after the Rapture of the Church. This is supported further by the absence of the word “church” and any references to Christians on earth in Chapters 6-18 of Revelation, which describe the outpouring of God’s wrath on the earth. The reason the Church is not mentioned in Revelation 6-18 is because it has already been removed by the Lord Jesus Christ to deliver her from “the wrath to come” as  taught by the apostle Paul in I Thessalonians 1:10.
       

The apostle Paul then explains how Jesus will deliver us from the coming wrath of the Tribulation period in I Thessalonians 4. “For if [or since] we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus” (I Thess. 4:14). The Rapture or Removal of the Church is just as certain as the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. At one point in time the death and resurrection of Christ were prophecy. But now they are history. We can believe the Rapture with equal certainty.
       

The apostle Paul expected the removal of the Church from the earth to take place while he was alive on earth and so should we. Paul wrote, “Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord” (I Thess. 4:17). The words “caught up” are from the Greek word haparzo which means “to snatch up or away suddenly.”Paul describes it like this I Corinthians 15:52“In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet… the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” In the time it takes you to blink your eye, the Lord will snatch all believers in Jesus off the earth to meet Him in the air – not one will remain behind.
     

This sudden removal of all Christians from the earth is intended to comfort believers in Jesus. That’s why Paul writes, “Therefore comfort one another with these words” (I Thess. 4:18). If the Rapture of the Church is at the middle or end of the seven year Tribulation period of intense and unusual suffering on earth (Rev. 6-18), there would be little comfort and encouragement in this. But the prospect of Christ coming at any moment is a much greater comfort. Jesus could come back today for His Church. Are you ready? If not, here is how you can prepare for Christ’s coming for His Church.
       

You must receive Jesus’ free gift of everlasting life to leave this earth with the Church to spend eternity with Jesus in heaven. Jesus said, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life” (John 6:47). You may ask “Why do I need everlasting life?” Because all people have sinned against God (Rom. 3:23) anddeserve death (Rom. 6:23) or separation from God forever in the lake of fire (Rev. 20:15). But Jesus Christ loved us so much He came to earth to die on a cross for all of our sins and rose from the dead, proving He is God (Rom. 1:3-4; I Cor. 15:3-6). Jesus now invites you to believe or trust in Him alone when He says,  “He who believes in Me has everlasting life” (John 6:47). It does not matter how good or bad you have been. Jesus offers you everlasting life as a free gift if you would simply believe in Him alone for it.
       

When you believe in Jesus, He gives you everlasting life which can never be lost (John 3:16; 10:28-29) and He guarantees you a home in heaven when you die or when He returns, whichever occurs first (John 14:1-3). His Holy Spirit places you in the body of Christ, His Church (I Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:26-27; Ephes. 1:22-23). Christ wants to use you now to share this message of comfort and hope with those who are perishing without Him (Mark 16:15; Acts 1:8). 
       

Rather than focus on the chaos and social unrest of our unbelieving world which is trying to advance a cashless system and other ways to track people, let’s focus on the comfort of our Lord’s glorious coming for His Church. By doing so, we will be more motivated to share the gospel with the lost people of this world and prepared to face Jesus as our Judge at the Judgment Seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:9-11; I John 4:17-19).

Everyone needs John 3:16

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

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

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

Why does everyone need John 3:16?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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