Why does the Lord allow a situation to grow worse after we pray about it? Part 5

25Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?’ ” John 11:25-26

As we are studying the historical record of Jesus’ seventh miraculous sign in the gospel of John (John 11:1-44), we are learning reasons why the Lord may allow a situation to grow worse after we pray about it. So far we have learned that the Lord does this to …

– Display more of His glory (John 11:1-4).

– Declare His love toward us (John 11:5-6).

– Deepen our sensitivity to His will (John 11:7-10).

– Develop our faith in Him (John 11:11-16).

The fifth reason why the Lord may allow a situation to grow worse after we pray about it is to DISCLOSE MORE OF CHRIST’S IDENTITY TO US (John 11:17-27). The scene now shifts from the region of Bethany in Perea (John 10:40; cf. 1:28) to the Bethany in Judea (John 11:18). Both towns became locations where people believed in Jesus for His gift of everlasting life. “So when Jesus came, He found that he had already been in the tomb four days.” (John 11:17). When Jesus arrived in Bethany of Judea, He found that Lazarus had “already been in the tomb four days.” It was the custom of Jews in general to bury their dead on the same day that the person died because embalming was not practiced by the Jews 1 and because of the warm climate which would contribute to a rapid rate of decay. 2  The dead body would be washed, anointed with perfumes, and wrapped in a white cloth.

“Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles away.” (John 11:18). Jesus and His disciples traveled about forty miles from Bethany of Perea to Bethany of Judea. John informs us that Bethany of Judea was “two miles away” from Jerusalem, perhaps to explain why so “many of the Jews” from Jerusalem were there to comfort Mary and Martha (John 11:19) and  to witness Jesus’ miracle (cf. John 11:45-46).  

“And many of the Jews had joined the women around Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother.” (John 11:19). It was expected of Jews to console the bereaved. In the Jewish culture, the period of mourning for the dead lasted thirty days. The first three days, no work was done, only weeping took place. Dr. Tom Constable writes, “Jewish rabbis believed that the spirit of a person who had died lingered over the corpse for three days, or until decomposition of the body had begun. They believed that the spirit then abandoned the body because any hope of resuscitation was gone.” 3 The rest of the first week there was deep mourning. The remaining thirty days involved lighter mourning.

When someone dies, it is so encouraging to see an entire community show support to those who are left behind. This support make take the form of a sympathy card, a visit, a meal, a cry with the bereaved or a tender hug.

“Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met Him, but Mary was sitting in the house.” (John 11:20). Everyone deals with death differently and that is okay. The personality differences of the two sisters are seen here in their response to Lazarus’ death. Martha is active and assertive going out to meet Jesus. She seeks Christ in her grief. Mary, on the other hand, is quiet and contemplative, sitting at home. Jesus consoles each sister differently, taking into consideration their differing personalities.

“Now Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.’ ” (John 11:21). Martha is saying, “Lord, You could have prevented this. We sent word to you before Lazarus died. You could have come immediately and prevented his death. But no! You waited two more days and Lazarus died. We needed You, Lord. Why didn’t You come?!” Notice that Martha’s faith was limited to whether Jesus was there.

But Martha did not let her anger and disappointment cut off her relationship with the Lord. She said to Jesus, “But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.” (John 11:22). She still believed Jesus could meet her need.

Jesus reassures her. “Your brother will rise again.” (John 11:23). He is referring to what He is about to do. He does not rebuke her for expressing her anger or disappointment. Jesus understands our humanness and the need to deal with feelings when faced with a loss. He dealt with losses, too. He had already lost John the Baptist (cf. Matthew 14:10-13).

Martha responds to Jesus, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” (John 11:24). Martha did not realize that Jesus was talking about raising Lazarus from the dead immediately. She thought He was referring to the final resurrection when the Messiah-God comes to set up His Kingdom (cf. Job 19:25-27; Daniel 2:44-45; 7:9-14, 26-27; 12:1-3).

Have you ever felt like Martha did near the grave of a loved one? You are angry with God for letting your loved one die. Maybe you prayed to God to save your spouse or child from death, and God let him or her die. Your heart was broken in two. It felt like God punched you in the gut! You were so overwhelmed with sadness and then anger. Why would God let this happen? What might Jesus say to you near your loved one’s grave? I believe He might say the same thing He said to Martha.

“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.” (John 11:25). This is the fifth “I AM” statement by Jesus in the gospel of John (cf. John 6:35; 8:12; 10:9, 14; 11:25) whereby He claims to be the same God who appeared to Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3:13-14). Jesus is the Guarantor of both resurrection and life.

As “the Resurrection” (John 11:25), Jesus guarantees a future resurrection to all who believe in Him. The person who believes in Christ “shall live” again physically through resurrection even “though he may die” physically. As “the Resurrection,” Jesus guarantees a future bodily resurrection to all who believe in Him. When Jesus comes back for His Church, all believers in Him will receive glorified resurrection bodies that will be free from sin and death (cf. I Corinthians 15:35-56; I Thessalonians 4:13-18).

Next, as “the Life,” Jesus guarantees that “whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.” (John 11:26a). This phrase, “shall never die,” is extremely powerful. Christ guarantees that all who believe in Him shall “never” experience eternal death or separation from God. How long is “never”? It is forever. The moment a person believes in Jesus, he or she receives “life” from Him that can “never” be taken away from him or her.

Jesus had made similar promises in the gospel of John which include “shall never hunger,” (John 6:35), “shall never thirst” (John 4:14; 6:35), “shall never perish” (John 10:28), and “shall not come into judgment” (John 5:24). Christ guarantees that the moment a person believes in Him for everlasting life, he or she is secure forever!!! What this also means is even though Lazarus had died physically, he was still alive spiritually because he had believed in Jesus.

Jesus makes this promise to “whoever lives and believes in” Him. We may be surprised to see the words “whoever lives.” Usually Jesus says, “whoever believes in Him” (John 3:15-16; 4:14). Why does Jesus add the words “whoever lives” as a condition for this promise? Dr. Bob Wilkin explains, “Jesus only offers His life to living human beings who believe in Him. He does not extend eternal life to nonhumans (Satan, fallen angels, demons); nor does He extend eternal life to humans who die in unbelief.” 4 Christ does not offer eternal life to people after they die. The Bible says, “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.” (Hebrews 9:27). There are no second chances to get to heaven after we die. This life is the only opportunity people have to get right with God through faith alone in the Lord Jesus Christ alone. Reincarnation is not found in the Bible. Jesus’ promise is made to living human beings (“whoever lives”), not to those who have died.

Let’s look at Jesus’ evangelistic invitation to Martha. He said to her, “Do you believe this?” (John 11:26b). Christ is asking Martha (and us), “Do you believe I guarantee a future resurrection and never-ending life to those who believe in Me?” This question is rarely asked of non-Christians today by Christians who practice evangelism. Instead, they ask the non-Christian questions like…

“Have you turned from your sins?”

– “Have you been baptized with water?”

– “Have you surrendered your life to the Lord Jesus?”

– “Have you given your life to Christ?”

– “Have you asked Jesus into your heart?”

– “Have you confessed Jesus as your Lord?”

No mention of the word “believe” is made in these common invitations. This is not what Jesus did with Martha. If we want to become more like Jesus, we must evangelize the lost the same way that He did. He asked Martha, “Do you believe this?” that I am the Resurrection and the Life Who guarantees a future resurrection and never-ending life to those who believe in Me?

Look at Martha’s response. “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” (John 11:27). She did not say “I think I believe…” nor does she say, “Maybe I believe…” She said, “Yes, Lord, I believe…” Martha was convinced that Jesus was the Christ – the One who guarantees a future resurrection and never-ending life to all who believe in Him. Could Martha believe that Jesus was the Christ without realizing she herself had eternal life? No. To believe that Jesus was the Christ was to believe His guarantee of eternal life. To doubt His guarantee of eternal life was to doubt Jesus as the Christ. If a person does not believe he or she is eternally secure the moment he or she believes in Jesus for eternal life, then he or she has not understood Jesus’ offer.

Some people think it is not enough to believe in Christ for eternal life. They think you must also turn from your sins, confess your sins, invite Jesus into your heart, surrender to the Lord, be baptized, continue in good works, obey all of God’s commands, and the list goes on and on and on. But this is foreign to the gospel of John which was written specifically to tell non-Christians how to obtain eternal life (John 20:31). Ninety-nine times John uses the word “believe” in his gospel. 5 If we want to become more like Jesus, we must use the word that God uses the most in evangelism – “BELIEVE”!!!  

Many people today make a distinction between head faith and heart faith. They have told us that we can miss heaven by eighteen inches because we have believed in Jesus with our head but not with our heart. But where does the Bible make this distinction? It does not. Nowhere in the Bible does God distinguish head belief from heart belief. All belief is belief. If we believe in Christ for eternal life, then we know we have eternal life because Jesus guarantees, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life.”(John 6:47).

To doubt that we “truly believe” is to disbelieve Jesus’ promise. Either I believe Christ’s promise or I do not. If I do, I have eternal life. If I do not, I stand condemned as one who “has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18). The gospel of John does not condition eternal life on whether one has “heart belief” instead of “head belief.” Saving faith is the conviction that Christ died for my sins and rose from the dead, and then believing or trusting in Him alone for His free gift of eternal life. What makes saving faith saving is not the amount or uniqueness of the faith, but Whom your faith is in and What your faith believes. Saving faith results instantly in eternal salvation because it believes in the right object: the promise of eternal life to every believer by Jesus Christ Who died for our sins and rose from the dead (John 3:15-18; 6:40, 47; I Corinthians 15:1-8; et al). Therefore, those who refer to “head belief” or “heart belief” are reading into the word “believe as the Bible neither does, nor provides basis for doing.

When Martha answered Jesus’ question with, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world” (John 11:27), neither she nor Jesus analyzes her faith to distinguish head faith from heart faith. Martha confidently affirms that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of God, Who is to come into the world.” What Martha believes about Jesus is exactly what John says in his purpose statement is all that a person must believe to have everlasting life (John 20:31). She knows she has believed in Christ, the Son of God, and therefore she is certain she has eternal life.

Does Jesus correct Martha’s response? Does He caution her to wait and see if her faith is real (as so many do today) through the manifestation of good works or fruit first before making such a statement? Does He ask her if she believes in her “heart” and not merely in her “head”? He does not because as long as any sinner comes to believe that Jesus is “the resurrection and the life,” that is, “the Christ, the Son of God,” he or she knows they have everlasting life.

What would Martha’s faith be like if Jesus had not delayed, and hence, had not raised Lazarus from the dead? Her understanding of Christ’s Person and power would be less. But because Jesus did not get there in time to heal Lazarus, Martha came to know that Jesus is “the Resurrection and the Life.”

One of the reasons God allows our situations to worsen after we pray about them is so He can reveal more of Himself to us. So instead of getting discouraged when God is silent, we can expect Him to reveal more of Himself to us.

The story is told of an atheist who was spending a quiet day fishing on a lake when suddenly his boat was attacked by the Loch Ness monster. With one easy flip of his tail, the beast tossed the man and his boat high into the air. Then the Loch Ness monster opened his mouth to swallow both the atheist and his boat. As the man sailed head over heels, he cried out, “Oh, my God, help me!” At once the ferocious attack scene froze in place, and as the atheist hung in midair, a booming voice came down from the clouds saying, “I thought you didn’t believe in Me?” The man pleaded, “Come on, God, give me a break. I didn’t believe in the Loch Ness monster either.”

Even when a person is facing death, God can reveal more of Himself to that person so that in the case of the atheist, he can believe in the Lord. Maybe you have been praying a long time about a situation and it seems to get worse and worse. Take heart, God may be about to reveal more of Himself to you.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, some of us may be standing beside the grave of a loved one right now. And like Martha, we may be disappointed or even angry with You for allowing our loved one to die after we prayed to You to save him or her from death. Thank You for reminding me today that You know how it feels when a loved one dies. You wept when You saw the grief that was caused by Your dear friend’s death (John 11:35). You sometimes delay Your answers to our prayers to reveal Yourself to us in a deeper and more powerful way like You did with Martha. You showed Martha (and us) that You are “the Resurrection and the Life” by raising her brother from the dead so that she could know that You have the power to provide a future bodily resurrection and never-ending life to all who believe in You alone. Thank You, my Lord and my God, for reminding me that all I must do to receive a future bodily resurrection and never-ending life is to believe in You alone. Please help me to be clear when I share this message with non-Christians. Thank You for reminding me that I need to use the same word You used the most in evangelism – BELIEVE. In Your holy and precious name I pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 207.

2.  Dr. Tom Constable, Notes on John, 2015 Edition, pg. 202.

3. Ibid., pg. 201.

4. Dr. Robert Wilkin, The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (pg. 507). Grace Evangelical Society. Kindle Edition.

5. John 1:7, 12, 50; 2:11, 22, 23; 3:12(2), 15, 16, 18(3), 36(2); 4:21, 39, 41, 42, 48, 50, 53; 5:24, 38, 44, 46(2), 47(2); 6:29, 30, 35, 36, 40, 47, 64(2), 69; 7:5, 31, 38, 39, 48; 8:24, 30, 31, 45, 46; 9:18, 35, 36, 38; 10:25, 26, 37, 38(3), 42; 11:15, 25, 26(2), 27, 42, 45, 48; 12:11, 36, 37, 38, 39, 42, 44(2), 46, 47; 13:19; 14:1(2), 10, 11(2), 12, 29; 16:9, 27, 30, 31; 17:8, 20, 21; 19:35; 20:8, 25, 29(2), 31(2).

How can I respond to skeptics who deny that Jesus is God? Part 3

37 If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; 38 but if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him.” John 10:37-38

We have learned from Jesus’ response to His skeptical audience that the way to respond to skeptics who deny Jesus is God is to confront them with questions (John 10:32-33) and communicate biblical truths with relevance to them (John 10:34-36). Today we will learn that the third way to respond to these skeptics is to CALL THEM TO BELIEVE IN CHRIST BECAUSE OF THE EVIDENCE OF HIS MIRACLES (John 10:37-39). Although the Jews refused to believe Jesus’ words, Christ says to believe in Him on the basis of His works because His works show the reality of who He is. They reveal His supernatural character. Only God could do what Jesus did.

Jesus said to His skeptical audience,37 If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; 38 but if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him.” (John 10:37-38). Christ is encouraging them not to believe in Him if He does not do the works of His Father. Only God’s eternal Son could do the works of God the Father. And if Jesus does the works of the Father, this will show that “the Father is in” Him and that He is “in the Father.” Christ is saying, “If you are not ready to believe in Me because of My words, believe in Me because of what I do.” Why? “So you may know and believe My oneness with the Father as His Son.” The prophets of old could say the first part, “The Father is in Me,” but they could not say the second part, “And I in the Father.” Only Jesus’ likeness could be found in the Father as His works demonstrated. Christ’s miracles reflected the same character and power as God the Father.

No other person in history has manifested the same character and power as Jesus Christ. For example, let’s compare the prophet of Islam, Muhammad, with the Founder of Christianity, the Lord Jesus Christ. Both the Quran and the Bible testify that Jesus was sinless. In the nearly one hundred references to Jesus in the Quran, never once does it refer to Him as committing a sin. When announcing Jesus’ virgin birth, He is referred to as a “holy Son”(Surah 19:19). Indeed, He is called a “righteous” prophet (Surah 6:85). His sinlessness can be inferred from His virgin birth which the Quran affirms (Surah 3:45-47; 19:19-21) as does His title of “Christ” or “Messiah” [Surah 3:45; 4:157, 171; 5:72, 75; 9:30, 31; cf. Isaiah 53:5, 9; John 20:31). Further, the “Book” (law) or Bible to which Muhammad referred his antagonist (see Surah 4:171; 5:46), speaks of Jesus Christ as sinless (John 8:46; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; 1 Peter 1:19;  3:18; 1 John 3:3).

In contrast to the sinlessness of Jesus, the Quran testifies that Muhammad repeatedly sinned. In Surah 47, Muhammad is told to ask God to forgive his faults. We read, “Know, therefore, that there is no god but God, and ask forgiveness for thy fault, and for the men and women who believe: for God knows how ye move about and how ye dwell in your homes” (Surah 47:19; cf. 40:55). Again, we read of God saying to Muhammad: “That God may forgive thee thy faults of the past and those to follow; fulfil His favour to thee; and guide thee on the Straight Way” (Surah 48:2). In fact, Muhammad is rebuked by God for his sin in Surah 33 which affirms, “It is not fitting for a Believer, man or woman, when a matter has been decided by God and His Apostle to have any option about their decision: if any one disobeys God and His Apostle, he is indeed on a clearly wrong Path.” But “thou didst hide in thy heart that which God was about to make manifest: thou didst fear the people, but it is more fitting that thou shouldst fear God… And God’s command must be fulfilled” (Surah 33:36-38).

Both the Quran (Surah 3:49; 61:6) and the Bible testify that Jesus did many supernatural miracles (Matthew 4:23-24; John 2:1-11; 4:46-54; 5:1-15; 6:1–21; 9:1-41; 11:1-45), the greatest of which was Jesus’ own resurrection which He predicted (Surah 19:33; cf. Matthew 16:21; 17:22-23; 20:17-19; 28:1-20; Mark 8:31-38; Luke 23-24; John 2:18-22; 20:1-29). Even the Quran infers that Jesus rose from the dead when it says, “Behold! God said: ‘O Jesus! I will take thee and raise thee to Myself and clear thee (of the falsehoods) of those who blaspheme; I will make those who follow thee superior to those who reject faith, to the Day of Resurrection’” (Surah 3:55; cf. 4:157-158). Muslims think this refers only to Jesus’ ascension to heaven because they believe that Jesus did not really die. But listen to what Jesus (Isa) said in Surah 19:33: “So peace is on me the day I was born, the day that I die, and the day that I shall be raised up to life (again).” So the Quran also testifies to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

While the Quran says the miraculous “signs” of Jesus included everything from creating life to raising the dead, the Quran also says Muhammad did no miracles (Surah 29:50). In fact, the Quran says Muhammad refused to do miracles (Surah 3:183-184; cf. 4:153; 6:8-9; 17:90-93), but he told people his sign was the Quran itself (Surah 17:102-108). Nor was Muhammad resurrected from the dead nor did he permanently ascend to heaven like Jesus. Instead he was buried in Medina, Saudi Arabia (al-Tabari 9:208) where he remains entombed. And faithful Muslims make their life-time pilgrimage there to pay homage to him.

Both the Quran and the Bible teach that Jesus is the Word of God (Surah 3:45; 4:171; cf. John 1:1, 14, 17; Revelation 19:13), whereas the Quran was considered the Word of Allah, and Muhammad was only a messenger (Surah 3:144).

When we compare Jesus Christ with Muhammad, by far Jesus is superior to the prophet of Islam in His character, His power, and His position. Why? Jesus tells us it is because “the Father is in Me, and I in Him.” (John 10:38b). Christ is equal to God the Father because He is also God!

The Jews understood Jesus was claiming to be equal with God the Father, so “they sought again to seize Him, but He escaped out of their hand.” (John 10:39). The Jews were furious! But Jesus “escaped out of their hand” because it was not the Father’s time for the Son to be glorified. The Bible does not tell us how Jesus did this. Perhaps Jesus moved without walking. It was some kind of supernatural phenomenon.

You would think that by this point the Jews would realize that seizing Jesus is not going to happen on their time (cf. John 7:30-32, 44-46; 8:20). No one could take His life from Him (cf. John 10:18). But soon He would voluntarily lay it down. Jesus was in control of His own death. He would not be overpowered and crucified by the Jews and Romans. He would submit to His Father’s will and voluntarily lay down His life in our place.

Christ’s invitation to believe in Him based upon His works shows that saving faith is reasonable. It is not done in the absence of persuasive evidence as some teach today. Belief in Christ is based upon powerful witnesses, including His miraculous works, the greatest of which is His resurrection (Romans 1:4; I Corinthians 15:3-6)! Christ’s resurrection is based upon historical evidence, not the superstitions or fantasies of people.

Historical records testify that Jesus truly rose from the dead as He predicted (see Matthew 16:21; 17:22-23; 20:17-19; 28:1-20; Acts 2:22-36; 3:14-15; 4:8-10; 5:29-31; 10:34-40; 13:23-35; 17:2-3; I Corinthians 15:3-6). Even the Jewish historian, Josephus, confirms the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ when he writes, “About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man. For he … wrought surprising feats…. He was the Christ. When Pilate… condemned him to be crucified, those who had…  come to love him did not give up their affection for him. On the third day he appeared …  restored to life…  And the tribe of Christians … has … not disappeared.” (Josephus, Antiquities 18.63-64, cited in Yamauchi, “Jesus Outside the New Testament”, 21).

When John records the purpose for writing his gospel, he says, “But these [signs John has recorded] are written that 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). John states that He has recorded miraculous signs by Jesus (changing water to wine, 2:1-11; healing of the nobleman’s son, 4:46-54; healing of the lame man, 5:1-15; feeding the five thousand, 6:1-14; walking on water, 6:15-21; healing the man born blind, 9:1-41; raising Lazarus from the dead, 11:1-45; and Jesus’ resurrection, John 2:18-22; 20:1-29) that his readers “may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing they may have life in His name.” Miraculous signs by Jesus are a powerful incentive to believe in Him alone for everlasting life and a future home in heaven.

By the way, Jesus has not stopped doing miracles today. He still heals. He still changes lives. He still transforms sinners into saints. He still touches people supernaturally. Are you willing to let Him touch you? He invites you to come to Him just as you are for His free gift of eternal life if you have never done that before. Jesus said, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life.” (John 6:47). No one is more qualified to make this promise and keep it than Jesus Christ. Will you take Him at His word? Let’s pray.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I am amazed how loving and patient You are toward us. Even when we harden our hearts toward Your Word which points to You as the Savior of the world, You still pursue us and provide miraculous works to reveal Your supernatural character and power to us. There may be some of us today who shake our fist at You in anger and rebellion. But You do not retaliate. You show Your love to us in unexpected ways. It may be in the form of a bird singing in the morning or a beautiful sunset at night. It may be a smile from a stranger or a kind deed from a neighbor. The illness we once had is suddenly gone or our marriage which was headed for disaster is now on the mend. Thank You, my Lord and my God, for never giving up on me even when I was at my worst. Thank You for dying in my place and rising from the dead nearly two thousand years ago. As best I know how, Lord Jesus, I am now trusting in You alone now (not my religion, my prayers, or good life) to forgive all my sins and give me everlasting life. Thank You for the forgiveness and everlasting life I now have. In Your name I pray. Amen.

To help you grow in your new relationship with Jesus, please download our digital discipleship materials (see https://www.seeyouinheaven.life/english-pressing-on/) and go through them with those you care about. If you found this article helpful, please share it with those you want to see in heaven. Thank You and may Jesus richly bless you!

How can I respond to skeptics who deny that Jesus is God? Part 2

“Do you say of Him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’ ”? John 10:36

We are living in a world where many people deny that Jesus is God or that He claimed to be God. For example, Muslims say Jesus never claimed to be God. Why do they say this? A former Muslim, Nabeel Qureshi, explains why in his book, “No God but One: Allah or Jesus?” Qureshi writes, “The Quran informs Muslims that Jesus never claimed to be divine. Rather, people began to believe this after Jesus left the earth (5.116–117). So we believed that later Christians were responsible for corrupting the true Christianity. Learned men at our mosque told me that Roman paganism influenced Christian thought, as Roman gods often had sons who were demigods. Other Muslims argued that the Council of Nicaea was responsible for Jesus’ apotheosis, while yet others accused Paul of this blasphemy. Regardless of the exact model, most of us believed that the Bible did not even depict Jesus as God, and certainly Jesus never claimed to be God himself” (pg. 213).

How do we respond to skeptics who deny Jesus is God or claimed to be God? We learn how Jesus responded to skeptics when He was on earth. In John 10:1-30, Jesus has shown that He is God by referring to Himself as “the [Messianic] shepherd” who “enters by the door” or sheepfold of Israel in the way God predicted in the Old Testament (John 10:2). Jesus had claimed to be “the Good Shepherd”(John 10:11, 14) who had the “power to lay down” His life and “the power to take it [up] again” in resurrection (John 10:18). This is what separates Jesus Christ from all other religious leaders and founders. All other religious leaders and founders in history are still dead in the grave. But Jesus Christ is the only One who had the authority to take up His life in resurrection proving that He is God (Romans 1:4). Christ also referred to God as “My Father” (John 10:18c). Jesus said He had the power to give eternal life to those who believe in Him (John 10:28a) and the power to guarantee security forever (John 10:28b). That is something that only God can do! Finally, Christ claimed, “I and My Father are one.” (John 10:30). “One” is neuter in Greek (hen), not masculine (heis), indicating that Jesus and His Father are not one Person, but are one in essence. Both Jesus and His Father are God!

The Jews understood that Jesus was claiming to be God, so they took up stones to throw at Jesus (John 10:31). Why? Because the Old Testament Law said to sentence blasphemers to death by stoning (Leviticus 24:13-16). Jesus courageously responded to this hostile crowd by confronting them with a question. Today we will learn that the second way to respond to skeptics who deny Jesus is God is to COMMUNICATE BIBLICAL TRUTHS WITH RELEVANCE (John 10:34-36). Jesus refers to the Old Testament to argue from the lesser to the greater.

Jesus says to His Jewish audience, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, ‘You are gods’ ”? (John 10:34). Jesus asks these religious skeptics, “Is it not written in your law…?” He refers to the Law in the Old Testament as that which has authority over them. Christ is being relevant to the religious culture of His audience. He is sensitive to their needs and beliefs so He refers to Psalm 82:6 where God refers to unjust and unfaithful judges or leaders as “gods” in contrast to their faithful and just Leader, Yahweh. These judges abused their positions and yet God calls them “gods” because they are His representatives. God-appointed leaders were called “gods.” For example, Moses was as God to Aaron (Exodus 4:16) and as God to Pharaoh (Exodus 7:1) because he brought God’s message to them.

Jesus continues, 35 If He called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), 36 do you say of Him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’ “? (John 10:35-36). If the term “gods” can be used of unfaithful human judges (the lesser) who received God’s Word, then surely “Him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world” is not “blaspheming” when He says, “I am the Son of God” (the greater). The phrase “Son of God” points to Jesus as God. “Son of” means He partakes of the same essence or nature as His Father. Jesus’ point is this: If God said of imperfect judges in the Psalms, “You are gods,” then Jesus, the One and only perfect Man, is reasonably called the Son of God or God Himself!

For example, when I say, “this is the son of …,” I am saying this person has the same human essence or nature as his father. Likewise, as the Son of God, Jesus has the same divine nature as God the Father. He is everything God the Father is in essence.

Jesus’ point was that it was inconsistent for the Jews to claim the Old Testament as their authority (10:34), and then to disregard something that it said because they did not agree with it. It was inconsistent for them, specifically, to stone Jesus for claiming to be God and the “Son of God,” when the Old Testament spoke of humans as “gods.” If it is not blasphemous to call imperfect human judges “gods,” what is the objection to Jesus referring to Himself as the Son of God? The Jews had to accept this line of argument because the Old Testament “Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35). Clearly Jesus affirms that the “Scripture” is without error. They could not evade the force of this argument by saying Psalm 82:6 contains an error which should read “God” instead of “gods” to invalidate Jesus’ claim to be a Man and at the same time God. Christ claimed to be more than a recipient of God’s Word or a representative of God. Jesus claimed to be God in the fullest sense. 

What difference does it make that Jesus is God and not just a mere man considering John 10:28? No one can snatch them out of His hand. If Christ were a mere man, He could not keep that promise since other stronger men could overpower Him and take the believer out of His hand.

But Jesus is not a mere man or prophet. He is God the Son Who was “sanctified” or set apart by His Father and “sent” (John 10:36) to earth from heaven to voluntarily lay down His life for the sins of the world. Although many of the people He created have arrogantly rejected Jesus as their God and Savior (Titus 2:13), Christ still loves them and seeks to save them.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for sanctifying and sending Your eternal Son to earth despite our arrogant refusal to acknowledge Him as both Lord and God. If Jesus were a mere man, He could never give us eternal life nor guarantee our security forever. But He is much more than a man. He is the eternal God Who voluntarily laid down His life for our sins and rose from the dead so whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. I want to know Your Son more and make Him more widely known so more people may have life in His name. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

How can I respond to skeptics who deny Jesus is God? Part 1

“Jesus answered them, ‘Many good works I have shown you from My Father. For which of those works do you stone Me?’ ” John 10:32

The question, “Who is the greatest?” is often asked in the sports world. Many would agree with Muhammed Ali who claimed to be “The Greatest” in the prime of his boxing career. However, many Filipinos would say Manny Pacquiao is the greatest. Others would say Tiger Woods or Michael Jordan were the greatest sports figures ever. Some people, like Muhammed Ali, claim to be the greatest in their particular field of endeavor. Others make even more exalted claims. They think they are the greatest people living, period. But all those who think they are the greatest fall short in their claims when compared with Jesus Christ.

Jesus claimed to be God and you can tell that He is by what He said and the way He acted. In the context of our passage today, Jesus had claimed to be “the Good Shepherd” (John 10:11, 14) who had the “power to lay down” His life and “the power to take it [up] again” (John 10:18). Anyone can lay his or her life down in death sacrificially, but only Jesus Christ could “lay it down” and then “take it [up] again” in resurrection! This is what separates Jesus Christ from all other religious leaders and founders. All other religious leaders and founders in history are still dead in the grave. But Jesus Christ is the only One who had the authority to take up His life in resurrection proving that He is God (Romans 1:4). Christ also referred to God as “My Father”(John 10:18c). Jesus said He had the power to give eternal life to those who believe in Him (John 10:28a) and the power to guarantee security forever (John 10:28b). Finally, He claimed oneness with His Father in the sense that He and the Father both provide the sheep with security forever (John 10:30). That is something only God can do. Hence, He is saying that both He and the Father are God.

That Jesus claimed to be God can be seen in the Jews’ response to Him. “Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him.” (John 10:31). The word translated “took up” (bastazō) probably means “to carry” in this verse since there would not have been many loose stones in Solomon’s porch in the temple. But not far away was the temple in the process of being built. Surely many stones could be found there. Hence, the Jews picked up stones to throw at Jesus because they understood Him to claim to be equal with God. The Law sentenced a blasphemer to death by stoning (Leviticus 24:13-16). The crowd was hostile and unwilling to permit due process of the law to take its course. Jesus gave these people more than enough evidence that He was the promised Messiah-God, but they were determined not to believe in Him.

Likewise, there are many skeptics today who ignore the sufficient evidence concerning Jesus’ identity as the Messiah-God. How does God want you and I to respond to those who deny the evidence concerning the fact that Jesus Christ is God? The same way Jesus did. We will look at several principles the next few days from these remaining verses about how to respond to skeptics who deny that Jesus is God.

The first way God wants us to respond to skeptics is to CONFRONT THEM WITH QUESTIONS (John 10:32-33). In other words, take the offensive, not the defensive. These Jews had their stones in their hands stretched back to hurl at Christ, and Jesus calmly and courageously says, “Many good works I have shown you from My Father. For which of those works do you stone Me?” (John 10:32). Jesus spoke before they could act because He was not willing to let them kill Him before His time. Besides, it was the Father’s will that He should die by crucifixion, not by stoning. Christ had healed both the lame man and the man born blind on the Sabbath. He had healed many different people and He wants to know for which of these miracles did they want to kill Him. What miracle ever called for the death penalty? This question confronted them with the absurdity of executing a man for restoring people who had suffered from afflictions.

Look at the Jews’ answer to this question. Their response demonstrated that Jesus claimed to be God. “The Jews answered Him, saying, ‘For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God.’ ” (John 10:33).  They did not think this through. They were not going to kill Jesus because of His works, but because of His Words! Because He, “being a Man, makes” Himself to be “God.” Please note that this would only be blasphemy if Jesus was not God. But nowhere does Jesus correct their understanding of His claim to be God as if they had misunderstood Him. A man was not making himself out to be God – God had made Himself into a Man (cf. John 1:1, 14, 18)! Jesus was the God-Man!

These religious leaders could not accept Jesus’ claim to be God. They would not accept that He was telling the truth. Our Creator is one God in three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Genesis 1:1; Matthew 28:19). And Jesus Christ is one Person with two natures – divine and human (John 1:1, 14). John is urging his readers to be like Jesus and take the offensive, not the defensive when dealing with skeptics.

For example, if someone says to you that they do not believe Jesus claimed to be God, then ask them why these “religious experts” were incited to pick up stones to throw at Jesus? What did they understand Jesus to claim in verse 33? These prominent Jews understood Jesus’ claim to be God. Then ask the skeptic, “If Jesus’ enemies understood Him to claim to be equal with God, why won’t you understand this? Why do you refuse to understand what the scribes and Pharisees understood? If Jesus was not really claiming to be God, He could have easily corrected the Jews’ misunderstanding here. Why didn’t He correct their understanding here if He was not claiming to be God?” It is obvious that He did not correct their understanding that He claimed to be God because they were correct to understand He was in fact claiming to be God. Only a clear claim by Christ to be God would have incited these professional religious experts to take such drastic action.

If a skeptic tells you he does not believe the Bible, ask him, “What part of the Bible don’t you believe?” Some skeptics have never even read the Bible. All they are doing is repeating something they heard someone else say. The same is true of those who deny that Jesus is God. Rather than study the words and works of Jesus for themselves, they simply repeat what others have told them about Christ. 

Prayer: Father God, You have given us the privilege of proclaiming Your gospel message to a lost world. Many in the world have been taught that Jesus Christ never claimed to be God. Yet we have seen in the historical record today that Jesus’ Jewish audience understood Christ to claim to be equal with God the Father. Lord, please give us the wisdom and the courage to take the offensive with skeptics by confronting them with questions about their rejection of Christ as God. Let us not allow Satan to deceive others with our silence. Use our voices to boldly proclaim that Jesus is God Who freely offers eternal life to all who believe in Him. And only God can guarantee that those who possess eternal life can never be snatched out of His hand. Hallelujah my great God and Savior. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

How can I experience security forever? Part 1

“Jesus answered them, ‘I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me.’ ” John 10:25

People today may feel extremely insecure and rightly so. Eleven percent of the world’s population are undernourished and 697 million people in the world are severely food insecure and do not know if any food will be available for them to eat. 1

Since the onset of COVID-19, we see a growing economic insecurity with the loss of jobs and businesses. Many people fear their financial situations will only get worse. There is also insecurity attached to the rise in social unrest, with peaceful protests turning into rioting. Violent conflict and crimes are on the rise throughout the world which is a tremendous source of insecurity for people today. 2

Psychologists have identified that the kind of childhood you had, past traumas, recent experiences of failure or rejection, loneliness, social anxiety, negative beliefs about yourself, perfectionism, or having a critical parent or partner can all contribute to our insecurity. 3

Some people feel insecure because they perceive that they are lacking or they have been told that they are lacking. For example, you may feel too fat, skinny, tall, short, old, young, educated or uneducated. We may try to compensate for our insecurities by telling ourselves, “If I had a nice house or a new car or a better job or was more popular, I would feel more secure about myself.” So, thinking that we are lacking something or someone may cause insecurity.

One of the most insecure feelings is not knowing where you will go after you die here on earth. The truth is all people die (unless of course you are a Christian and the Rapture or sudden removal of the Church takes place – I Thessalonians 1:10; 4:13-18). Not being certain of your eternal destiny produces deep seeded insecurity in people. People take extreme measures to avoid thinking about death. They color their gray hair, go on extreme diets and exercise programs trying to delay the inevitable.

Please understand, no matter how insecure you may feel right now, God does not want His children to be insecure. He has given us incomparable security in the Lord Jesus Christ and He wants us to share this security with a lost world that is becoming more and more insecure.

In the context of our passage today, there is a stark contrast between the false shepherds of Israel who brought death and insecurity to God’s people and the Good Shepherd who brings life and protection (John 10:1-21). This is Jesus’ last act in His public ministry. Let’s look now at how we can experience security forever. I CAN EXPERIENCE SECURITY FOREVER WHEN I …

IGNORE THE BLINDNESS OF CHRIST’S OPPONENTS (John 10:22-26). “Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter.” (John 10:22). The Feast of Dedication is now known as Hanukkah or the Feast of Lights. Although it was not one of the feasts prescribed in the Mosaic Law, it was still an important and popular celebration that brought many Jews to Jerusalem.

The historical basis for this festival was the cleansing of the Temple in Jerusalem in 164/165 B.C. three years after their desecration by the Greco-Syrian Antiochus IV Epiphanes. Antiochus, in his zeal to Hellenize his realm, persecuted the Jews, plundered the temple treasury, and erected an idolatrous altar and sacrificed a sow to Jupiter. The Hasmoneans led by Judas Maccabeus revolted and eventually overthrew the forces of Antiochus. The festival commemorates this last great deliverance that the Jews had known and symbolized their hope that the Messiah would again deliver His people from their enemies, the Romans. 4

During the eight days of the Feast, the Hallel (Psalms of praise) was chanted, both in the Temple in Jerusalem and in private homes. During the rededication of the Temple in 164/165 B.C., tradition said that only one unpolluted bottle of oil was found, just enough to provide light for one day, but it was miraculously replenished for eight consecutive days. For this reason, the Feast lasts eight days and is called the Feast of Lights. 5

What is the significance of this Feast to the dialogue within this passage? Because of this feast, a large crowd had gathered for Jesus to teach. The regular synagogue readings nearest to the Feast of Dedication were concerned with the theme of shepherds and sheep (cf. Ezekiel 34). Some scholars suggest that the mention of the Feast was designed to connect Christ’s teaching with the hopes associated with the Maccabean deliverance. 6 “It was the last great deliverance that the Jews had known, and therefore it must have been in people’s minds a symbol of their hope that God would again deliver his people.” 7 Little did the people know that their prayers for another deliverance would be fulfilled through Jesus.

The Feast of Dedication took place in the middle of December. It had been three months since the Feast of Tabernacles in John 7:1-10:21. So the teaching in John 10:22-39 was three months following the teachings in John 7:1-10:21. The mention of “winter” in verse 22 explains verse 23. “And Jesus walked in the temple, in Solomon’s porch.” (John 10:23). Winter was the colder rainy season in Israel. In warmer weather, Christ would have taught in the courtyard of the temple. But because it was “winter,” He took shelter from the wet and windy weather in “Solomon’s porch” which was a long walkway covered by a roof supported on pillars on the east side of the Temple facing the Kidron Valley. One writer suggests that John mentioned that it was “winter” because it resembled the spiritual climate in Jerusalem, namely the frigid spirits of the Jews. 8

Then the Jews surrounded Him and said to Him, ‘How long do You keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.’ ” (John 10:24).  As Jesus walked down Solomon’s porch “the Jews surrounded Him” with hostile intent. The word translated “surrounded” (ekyklōsan) means they “besieged” Him. They pinned Him in so they could obtain a clear reply from Him about His identity. The question “If You are the Christ…” is in the first class of the Greek language and assumes for the sake of argument that Jesus is the Messiah-God. By asking for a plain statement that He was the Messiah they were implying that if they rejected Him, it was His fault and not theirs because He had not clearly stated that He was Israel’s Messiah.

Jesus responds. “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me.” (John 10:25). The Jews asked Jesus if He was the Christ, their Messiah-God, and Jesus says, “I told you again and again Who I am, yet you refused to believe Me.” They had His Word as to His Person, but they also had His works or miracles which testified that He was their Messiah. Even though Christ’s words and works provided sufficient evidence that He was their promised Messiah-God, they still refused to believe in Him. Why? Was it because of the lack of a clear statement from Christ about His identity? No.

“But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you.” (John 10:26). Their unbelief was because they “were not of His sheep.” They did not listen to His Word, like sheep will listen to the voice of their shepherd. They were like the thief and hireling, bringing death and caring only for themselves (John 10:8, 10a, 12-13). So, the fault of their unbelief, was not His, but theirs.

If you and I are going to possess security forever, we must ignore the spiritual blindness of Christ’s enemies. Jesus gave them more than enough evidence that He was the promised Messiah-God, but they were determined not to believe in Him. They had no interest in becoming His sheep.

There are many skeptics today who ignore the sufficient evidence concerning Jesus’ identity as the Messiah-God. Even though the historical evidence overwhelmingly points to Jesus as the Messiah-God Who lovingly died on the cross for the sins of the world and rose from the dead, skeptics continue to deny these historical facts. They undermine the clear promises of Jesus which state that all you must do to possess eternal life is believe in Him (John 3:15-16; 4:10-14; 5:24; 6:40, 47; 10:25-27; 11:25-26). God wants us to ignore these impostors and focus on the promises of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13).

Some of you reading this article have been taught that Jesus never claimed to be God and never died on a cross to pay the penalty for all your sins. But still you are here wanting to learn more about Jesus. Your soul is restless and you have no security about your future. Give Jesus a chance. He has drawn you here to reveal more of Himself to you.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd, but you have experienced spiritual leaders that care only about themselves and use their religion to meet their own needs instead of care for the people entrusted to them. Jesus loved you so much that He laid down His life for you and me on the cross. When the Messiah-God died in our place as our Substitute, God was satisfied with His perfect payment for all our sins (cf. I John 2:2; 4:10). That is why Jesus said while hanging on the cross, “It is finished!” (John 19:30). The Greek word translated “finished” (tetelestai) means “paid in full.” Receipts in New Testament times were stamped with this word which meant that the debt had been paid in full. Jesus finished making the full payment for all our sins when He died in our place. There is no more payment to be made because God was satisfied with Jesus’ payment.

This is substantiated further when Matthew tells us at the time of Jesus’ death on the cross, “the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.” (Matthew 27:51). This “veil” or curtain separated the holy place from the holy of holies in the Jewish temple (cf. Exodus 26:33; Hebrews 9:2-3). The fact that this occurred “from top to bottom” signified that God is the One who ripped the thick curtain. It was not torn from the bottom by men ripping it. God was showing that the way of access into His presence was now available for everyone, not simply the Old Testament high priest (Hebrews 4:14-16; 10:19-22), because God was satisfied with Jesus’ payment for our sins. No other animal sacrifices or payments were necessary to enter God’s presence in heaven.

Jesus Christ laid down His life for us so we may have life that never ends the moment we believe or trust in Him alone. Since God was satisfied with the sufficient sacrifice of His perfect Son to pay the penalty for all our sins (Isaiah 53:11; John 19:30; I John 2:2; 4:10), we must also be satisfied with what satisfied God – Jesus’ death on the cross. God cannot accept anything we do as payment for our sins because He has already accepted His Son’s payment for all of our sins when He died in our place on the cross.

Jesus did not say, “Whoever does good works… prays every day and lives a good life should not perish but have everlasting life.” No, Jesus said, “Whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16). Being secure forever is not faith in Christ PLUS something else. It is faith in Christ alone.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, all of us in the world today have many reasons to be insecure. We may have external reasons and internal reasons for our insecurity. But You do not want any of Your children to be insecure about Your identity. You have given us Your Word which never changes to provide security that lasts forever. Because You experienced opposition to Your identity as the Messiah-God when You walked on the earth 2,000 years ago, we can know that You understand and sympathize with us when we encounter opposition to Your identity today (Hebrews 4:15-16). When the ruler of this world and his false shepherds attack Your identity, help us to focus on Your voice of truth. Because You, Father God, were satisfied with Your Son’s payment for the sins of the world when He died on the cross, we must also be satisfied with what satisfied You. I pray in Your name, Lord Jesus, that Your Holy Spirit will persuade lost and insecure people to believe the truth about You – that Your are the Promised Messiah-God, Whose death on the cross satisfied God’s demand to punish sin. And now whoever believes in Jesus alone may have never-ending life in His name. Once this life is received, it can never be lost because it is eternal and it is based on Your faithfulness to Your promises, not ours. Lord Jesus, You are the truth and You cannot lie. Thank You my Lord and my God for security that lasts forever! In Your name I celebrate. Amen.  

ENDNOTES:

1. See https://ourworldindata.org/hunger-and-undernourishment#severe-food-insecurity

2. https://www.un.org/en/un75/new-era-conflict-and-violence

3. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-mindful-self-express/201512/the-3-most-common-causes-insecurity-and-how-beat-them

4. Dr. Tom Constable, Notes on John, p. 192.

5. J. W. Shephard, The Christ of the Gospels (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans), 1946, p. 400.

6. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 193.

7. Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John. New International Commentary on the New Testament series (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1971), p. 459.

8. John G. R. Beasley-Murray, Word Bible Commentary series, Second Ed. (Waco: Word Books, 1987), p. 173.

How can I grow closer to the Good Shepherd? Part 5

“Therefore there was a division again among the Jews because of these sayings.” John 10:19

The final way in this passage that we can also grow closer to the Good Shepherd is when we IMPART A CONSISTENT AND CLEAR WITNESS TO THE LOST ABOUT CHRIST (John 10:19-21). Jesus’ claims to be the Messianic Shepherd of Israel received a mixed response from His Jewish audience (John 10:1-18). “Therefore there was a division again among the Jews because of these sayings.” (John 10:19). Because of what Jesus taught about being Israel’s Messianic Shepherd and yet dying for His sheep, His audience continued to be divided over Him. In the mind of the average Jew this was a contradiction. The Israelites expected a political Messiah to deliver them from political oppression, but Jesus came to be a spiritual Messiah to deliver them from the penalty of sin. The people rejected Christ because He did not live up to their expectations.

Even Christians can succumb to a similar kind of thinking that says if you are following Christ, you will have fewer problems and less suffering. In fact, believers may be quick to reject other believers who are suffering or display weaknesses because of this false expectation.

“And many of them said, “He has a demon and is mad. Why do you listen to Him?” (John 10:20). Some of Jesus’ listeners concluded that He “has a demon and is mad” or insane to say such things! They questioned why anyone would “listen” to such a man. His teachings seemed unreasonable and impossible to them.

Yet others were impressed with what Jesus was saying. “Others said, ‘These are not the words of one who has a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?’ “ (John 10:21). Christ’s gracious teaching did not resemble that of a demon nor did His miraculous healing of the man born blind (John 9:1-41). This group says what Jesus is not but they make no attempt to say who Christ is.

Throughout his gospel, John emphasizes the two opposite conclusions that people draw from Jesus’ teaching, even though Christ’s witness to His identity as God was sufficiently consistent and clear. This should be an encouragement to all Christians who tell others the truth about Christ. Not even Jesus Himself convinced everyone that He was God’s Son. When believers openly identify with Christ by telling others who He is and what He has done for them, they can experience a closer relationship with Him regardless of how others respond to the message. After all, Jesus is our Good Shepherd Who has entrusted us with His Good News (gospel) to share with others. As we proclaim this good news to others, we are also proclaiming it to ourselves. And in a world that is filled with bad news these days, it does our souls good to hear the good news of our Good Shepherd! And let’s remember that as disciples of Christ, our responsibility is to be clear and consistent in our witness for Christ to the lost; however, it is Jesus’ responsibility to save them.

It is also true that the lies of the Devil can keep believers from being a consistent and clear witness to the gospel of Christ. After all, Satan is “the father of lies” (John 8:44). In EvanTell’s Evangelism Study Bible, it reads, “He [Satan] misrepresented what God said to Eve since only one tree was off limits (see Gen. 2:16-17; 3:11). He even cast doubt over God’s character, implying that God would hold back what was best for them (see Gen. 3:4-5).

“Satan still uses lies to hinder believers in evangelism today. Here are five he commonly uses:

“1. ‘Non-Christian aren’t that approachable.’ Some aren’t, but some are. How do we know unless we approach the subject of spiritual things? One person who wasn’t open doesn’t represent everyone. Additionally, a person completely closed yesterday may be open today. God can use a single day’s events to get someone’s attention.” 1

For example, when I was flying back to Manila from a mission trip to the southern Philippines five years ago, I sat next to a Filipino businesswoman and asked her if I may show her from the Bible how she can know for sure she has eternal life and will go to heaven when she dies. She told me she was not interested. I thanked her for her honesty, and then I prayed a silent prayer to the Lord asking Him to open this woman’s heart so she can be saved.

As we approached the Manila Airport, the pilot told us that weather conditions were not favorable but they would still try to land. There was a lot of turbulence as we descended toward the airport. As our plane tried to land, it had to pull up at the last minute because the winds and rain were too strong and the pilot could not see. A wave of panic swept across the passenger area. Our plane circled around to make another attempt at landing. I was praying for the Lord to keep us safe and open the hearts of the people on the plane. As the pilot made another attempt to land in Manila he had to pull up again at the last minute because of poor visibility. There was a nervous hush among the passengers. The pilot then announced that our flight would be diverted to Clark Air Base about a fifteen-minute flight (three-hours’ drive by car) away.

The Lord prompted me to share with the passenger who earlier did not want to talk about how to get to heaven. I now asked her if she would like to know what she must do to get to heaven if she only had five minutes to live. She said, “Yes.”  So I introduced Acts 16:31 to her by telling her the Philippian jailer thought he had a short time to live, so he asked a missionary what he must do to be saved from hell. I then shared Acts 16:31 with her and explained it to her. I asked her, “Do you believe in Jesus now to save you from hell so you can live with Him forever in heaven?” She said, “Yes. Thank you.” I briefly explained to her that she now has everlasting life which cannot be lost. The Lord then enabled me to share the same thing with the passenger across the aisle from me. As I was sharing I noticed the passenger directly behind me was also listening. So when I finished with this passenger, I did the same thing with the one behind me. Praise God for the typhoon which got people to think about life and death and where they will spend eternity.

Continuing with lies that Satan commonly uses in evangelism, is “2. ‘You may end up doing more harm than good.’ That’s not possible. God honors obedience, so you never go wrong by serving Him in evangelism. Suppose you say the ‘wrong things’ in the mind of someone else or were not as tactful as you needed to be. God is more honored by someone who attempts to evangelize and makes mistakes than someone who doesn’t do anything. Ultimately God is in control even if we make a mistake, He is bigger than our mistakes.

3. ‘You might not be able to answer their questions.’ You may not be able to answer every objection, but who said you have to? That’s certainly not something Jesus ever said. Should the non-Christian ask a question you can’t answer, it’s honoring to God to say ‘I don’t know.’ Then look up the answer and you will be better prepared the next time. New converts tend to lead more people to Christ than anyone else, yet they know very little and often can’t answer most questions an unbeliever would ask. God often uses their zeal and excitement to convince non-Christians of their need for Christ.

“4. ‘Your life isn’t what it ought to be.’ It may not be. But keep in mind two things. First, Satan is a master of intimidation. No believer’s life is a perfect example of Christ. If you wait till your life is everything it ought to be, you will never evangelize. That’s what Satan prefers. Second, God doesn’t use perfect believers. There are none. He uses imperfect believers who are trying to be who God wants them to be. Seek to live the life you should, but don’t wait till you are ‘there’ to evangelize.

“5. ‘There is probably a better time than today.’ Satan doesn’t care what you do as long as you do it tomorrow. Procrastination is one of his tools. How do people know what the best timing is unless they attempt to evangelize today?

“Lies- Satan’s tool. Recognize lies for what they are and don’t allow him to hinder you in your evangelism outreach.” 2

As I traveled on mission trips throughout the Philippines, I experienced various responses to the preaching of the gospel message. The majority have been very responsive to the gospel of Christ and have publicly indicated that they are now trusting in Jesus alone for His gift of eternal life. Some, however, have expressed indifference or even animosity toward the gospel. Regardless of how people respond, God asks me to be a faithful steward of His gospel (I Corinthians 4:1-2; Colossians 4:4; I Thessalonians 2:3-10).

When we are faithful to preach the gospel clearly and consistently in season and out of season, we can experience a closeness to our Good Shepherd whose witness was always consistent and clear during His earthly ministry. Even Jesus, the perfect Messiah-God, could not convince everyone that He was God in human flesh and nor will we. Our responsibility is to be faithful to our Lord’s command to preach the gospel to everyone (Mark 16:15). It is Jesus’ responsibility to give them everlasting life and transform them into His likeness (John 5:21; 2 Corinthians 3:18).

Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, it still amazes me how divided people are concerning Your identity both now and when You walked on the earth. Even though You gave a clear and consistent witness to Your identity as the promised Messiah-God, people formed different conclusions about You. I am realizing more and more that the primary reason for this is because Satan, the father of lies (John 8:44), has deceived people into believing his lies about You to keep them from having life in Your name (John 20:31; 2 Corinthians 4:3-4). Regardless of how people respond, Lord Jesus, please enable me to preach Your gospel message clearly and consistently to everyone who is perishing without You. You could have chosen angels or billboards to proclaim Your life-giving message. But instead, You entrusted Your precious gospel with imperfect sinners like me to share this life-changing message. Thank You that You are in me and with me through Your Spirit to help me do this in a way that brings You glory and draws me closer to You. In Your name I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. The Evangelism Study Bible (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, copyright 2014 EvanTell, Inc.), p. 1174.

2. Ibid.

How can I trust the Lord Jesus as the True Shepherd? Part 4

“I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.” John 10:9

In our study of John 10 we have learned that we can trust Jesus as our True Shepherd because…

– He has prophetic credentials (John 10:1-2)

– He has the doorkeeper’s (John the Baptist’s) confirmation (John 10:3a)

– He has personal concern for each of us (John 10:3b)

– He provides competent leadership (John 10:3c-6).

Today we discover that we can also trust Jesus as our True Shepherd because HE OFFERS SALVATION COMPLETELY FREE (John 10:7-9a, 10b). “Then Jesus said to them again, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.’ ” (John 10:7). After a shepherd separates his sheep from other flocks, he takes them out to pasture to graze. Near the pasture is an enclosure with no door. The shepherd stood in the doorway and functioned as the gate. The sheep could go out to graze in the pasture or if they were afraid, they could retreat into the security of the pen. A gate provides access or entrance.

When Jesus says, “I am the door,” He is saying He provides access or entrance into the nourishment of the pasture or into the security of the pen. Either way, Christ is the only One who can meet our spiritual needs completely. The religious leaders could not.

“All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them.” (John 10:8). Jesus refers to the religious leaders as “thieves and robbers” who exploited people and cared only for themselves. Established religions and their leaders cannot meet the needs of God’s flock for safety and security. The Pharisees were telling people that the way to be saved was to follow their religious rules and regulations. Instead of caring for these people, they increased their burdens for their own gain. But “the sheep did not hear” or pay attention to them because they were not the True Shepherd.

Jesus on the other hand, offers salvation freely. “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved.” (John 10:9a). Jesus does not say, “I am a door,” leaving open the possibility of other ways into the fold. No, He says He is “the door.” He is the only way into God’s fold. He is the only way into God’s fold. This is another “I AM” statement by Jesus whereby He claims to be God (cf. John 6:35; 8:12; 10:7, 11, 14; 11:25; 14:6; 15:1).

The phrase “by Me” (di’ emou) is in an emphatic position (at the beginning of the sentence). Literally it says, “Through Me, if anyone enters, he will be saved” (di’ emou ean tis eiselthē, sōthēsetai). Only Jesus can provide access or entrance into God’s sheepfold through faith in Him alone. There is no other way for people to be saved from their sins and enter God’s family except through faith in Jesus Christ (cf. John 1:12; 14:6; Acts 4:12; I Timothy 2:5-6).

Notice what Jesus promises the person who enters through Him – “he will be saved.” He does not say, “he might be saved,” or “he could be saved.” No, Jesus said, “He will be saved.” The salvation Jesus offers is absolutely certain and complete. Christ’s statement leaves no room for doubt or uncertainty about one’s own eternal destiny.

In verse 10a, Jesus contrasts His free and complete salvation with the Devil and the false shepherds that the Devil uses. “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.” (John 10:10a). “The thief” climbs over the wall, cuts the throats of the sheep, and then throws them over to other bandits. The thief robs the sheep of life and cares only about himself. Notice that “the thief” is singular and most likely refers to the Devil who wants “to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.” This would include the religious leaders (cf. 10:1, 8) whom the Devil uses to deceive the people. The Jewish religious leaders offered their followers a hope of finding God’s life through a life of obedience to their religious traditions. By doing this, they were robbing the people of the life that Jesus offered.

John 10:9-10 make it clear that there is only one way to God, but there are many ways to destruction. Jesus Christ is the only way into God’s sheepfold (John 14:6). All other religions consist of false shepherds who mislead people away from the life that Jesus freely offers. Most of the world’s religions may sound good to an uninformed person, but all of them have one thing in common – they lead you away from the everlasting life that only Jesus Christ can give.

Jesus did not come to steal, kill, and destroy. He came to give eternal “life” freely to those who would believe or trust in Him alone as their True Shepherd (John 3:15-16; 10:10b). The life that Jesus gives is not only long, but it is also rich, which leads to the sixth and final reason why we are to trust Jesus as our True Shepherd.

Because HE PROVIDES CONSTANT NOURISHMENT (John 10:9b, 10c). Jesus said,I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.” (John 10:9b). Those who enter God’s family through faith in Jesus, can also “go in and out and find pasture.” This depicts the joy of the sheep finding nourishment in the pasture. Only Jesus can fully satisfy our needs for spiritual nourishment and security. Christ saved us not only so we can live with Him forever in heaven, but also so He can give us everything we need to grow and become more like Him here on earth. When Christians look to people to do for them what only Jesus can do, they will be very disappointed. People cannot give us eternal life or an abundant life. Only Jesus can do that. 

Christ then said, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10bc). Eternal life must first be received as a free gift through faith alone in Jesus alone (“I have come that they may have life” – John 3:16; 4:10-14; Rom. 6:23; Ephes. 2:8-9) before we can experience that life “more abundantly” through obedience to Christ (John 8:31-32; 12:24-26). The word “abundantly” means over and above or overflowing life. All those who believe in Jesus have “life” in His name (John 10:10b; cf. 3:16; 20:31). But only those believers who obey Christ’s word will experience that life “more abundantly” both now and in eternity (John 10:10c; cf. 8:31-32).

So, eternal life can also refer to a reward that obedient believers will receive in the future (cf. Matthew 19:29; John 12:24-26; Galatians 6:7-8; I Timothy 6:12, 19). Eternal life is not static. Believers can experience varying degrees of God’s life as they learn to trust and obey Him.

Who is your shepherd? Is it your husband or wife? Your parents? A close friend? An imam, pastor, or priest? Your church, your religion, your government, or your culture? As important as they are they can never be the True Shepherd of your life because they are sheep too. Believe or trust in Jesus Christ alone as your true Shepherd not only for eternal life, but for a more abundant life both now and forever!

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I come to You as my True Shepherd. Only You can guarantee life that never ends the moment a person believes in You. Only You can provide safety and security that lasts forever. When I compare all the other religious leaders of the world with You, they all fall short of Your goodness and grace which was fully expressed when You took our place and punishment on the cross to die for all our sins and then You rose from the dead. No other religious leader has ever laid down his or her life and taken it back up again in resurrection. I praise You not only for giving me everlasting life the moment I believed in You, but You also promise me an abundant life when I live for You. This is my desire my Lord and my God – to live for You the rest of my life because Your way leads to an abundant life as opposed to all other ways which rob people of the forever life You freely offer. In Your name I pray. Amen.

How can I trust the Lord Jesus as the True Shepherd? Part 3

“He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.” John 10:3c-4

David Johnson writes, “Both Old and New Testaments warn of false prophets and spiritual systems that add the performance of religious behaviors to the performance of Jesus on the cross as a means to find God’s approval. All of us, as Christians, are told to be on our spiritual guard. Are the spiritual relationships you have bringing the rest Jesus promised, or do you find just more toil and weariness?” 1

If your spiritual relationships have brought more toil and weariness than the rest Jesus promised, then you can probably relate to the fact that much of Israel’s history has been tainted by false shepherds who only cared about themselves and neglected to care for the people God had placed in their care (Ezekiel 34:2-6). In view of Israel’s false shepherds, the Lord promised a True Shepherd who would care for His flock. That Shepherd would be God Himself (Ezekiel 34:11-16).

We are learning that Jesus Christ is that True Shepherd Whom God’s people can trust to care for them in a way that the false shepherds never could. Jesus promises rest and nourishment for His sheep, not more toil and weariness. So far we have learned that we can trust Jesus as our True Shepherd because…

– He has prophetic credentials (John 10:1-2)

– He has the doorkeeper’s (John the Baptist’s) confirmation (John 10:3a)

– He has personal concern for each of us (John 10:3b)

Today we discover that we can trust Jesus as our True Shepherd because HE PROVIDES COMPETENT LEADERSHIP (John 10:3c-6). Jesus said concerning the True Shepherd,3c He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.” (John 10:3c-4). The Pharisees cast the healed beggar out of the synagogue, but Jesus led him out of Judaism into His fold.Jesus calls His own sheep by name to “lead them out” of the fold from the other flocks. His sheep follow that familiar voice. They trust that voice.

Christ did not come to work within the Pharisee’s or Sadducee’s religious systems, but rather to separate those who heard His word from those systems because there was no life in them. As He gathered His flock together, “He goes before them”to show them the way in which they ought to go. The shepherd did not drive his sheep from behind with dogs like many shepherds in the Western world do today. Instead, he leads them from the front. The Pharisees tried to drive the people from behind using fear. But Jesus lovingly leads the people to pasture away from danger. Christ did not point people to a way in which He Himself was not walking but rather led His own sheep in the way He intended them to go. Jesus led by example, not by force. Such is the way of the True Shepherd.

You may be facing important decisions and Jesus loves you so much He wants to guide you. Some of you may be saying, “Great! Just what I need! Someone else to push me around or guide me!” Christ enjoys guiding you. He really does. He knows that life is too difficult to be lived on its own and He wants to guide us in our decisions and direction so we can experience His rest and enjoyment, not more toil and weariness. Jesus promised believers, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:29-30).

The words “yoke” and “learn” suggest a discipleship relationship. What does it mean to take Jesus’ yoke? A yoke is a wooden beam  that attaches two farm animals together. By sharing the load, they lighten the load. They can carry more because they are working together. Who has a stronger back – you or Jesus? Jesus is saying to join up with Him, connect with Him in a discipleship relationship and He will carry the load with you. 

But the yoke is also a symbol of control. Farmers used a yoke to control their animals. Oxen yoked together are controlled by their master; when you and I are yoked to Christ we are controlled by Him. When you are yoked together with Christ you move together in the same direction and at the same pace. If you move at the same pace as Christ and in the same direction as Christ, will you have less stress? Absolutely! Who is setting the pace in your life at this time? You? Your boss? Your church? Your pastor? Your culture? That’s why you are overloaded with stress. When we yoke up with Jesus, He determines the pace and direction we are to go and then we will enjoy His promised rest of discipleship.

If you are a Christian, Jesus wants to guide you. He wants to direct you. You can count on His leadings to move you more into His likeness (Romans 8:28-29). He has good plans for you. Plans to prosper you, not to harm you. Hope-filled plans, as the Scripture says: “ ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ ” (Jeremiah 29:11 – NIV).  Christ is always seeking to lead us. The question that faces us is are we listening?   

Jesus then says, “Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” (John 10:5). While it is the nature of sheep to follow the voice of their shepherd, they will not follow the voice of a stranger even if he dresses alike or uses the same words because his voice is unfamiliar to them. Instead, the sheep flee to safety. In this context, oppressed people under the legalism of the Pharisees were fleeing to Jesus for safety and rest.

Do we run from unfamiliar voices or to them? When you hear teaching that is contrary to Jesus’ teachings, do you run from it or to it? For example, if you hear teaching that says you must bear fruit or produce good works to get to heaven (see John 3:15-16; 4:10-14; Romans 4:5; 6:23; Ephesians 2:8-9), do you embrace it or reject it? If someone says that Jesus is just a good moral teacher or a prophet, but not God (see John 1:1-3, 14-17; Titus 2:13; I John 5:20), do you believe it or dismiss it? When you hear an instructor say that the Bible is full of errors and cannot be trusted (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21), do you accept it as true or call it false? How do we discern Jesus’ voice from so many others that fight for our attention? We must know God’s Word so well that false teaching will be obvious to us in contrast to the truth.

“Jesus used this illustration, but they did not understand the things which He spoke to them.” (John 10:6). Many of the unbelieving Jews who heard these words“did not understand” what Jesus was talking about. They did not respond to the Shepherd’s voice because they did not belong to the Shepherd. Their rejection of Jesus’ word did not mean His word was false, rather it meant that they were not His sheep. They could hardly have failed to understand the relationship between shepherds and sheep, which was so common in their culture.

Nevertheless, they did not grasp Jesus’ analogy of Himself as Israel’s true Shepherd because they were spiritually blind. They were more familiar with the lies of their father, the Devil (John 8:44), and his followers who sought “to steal, and to kill, and to destroy” the flock rather than give them life (John 10:10a). The Devil had lied to these Jews about the identity of Jesus and they believed his lies which kept them from believing in Christ as their True Shepherd. This is at the heart of all who reject Jesus Christ. They have been deceived by the father of lies – Satan himself and his followers (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:4; 11:3-4).

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You so much for leading me out of performance-based religion which focused more on external rules and behaviors than on the heart. Under such systems, I experienced much toil and weariness instead of the rest You promised to Your followers. Instead of trying to drive me or pressure me from behind using fear, You have provided leadership for me to follow through Your humble and loving example. Please help me to be so familiar with Your voice and teachings that false teachings will be obvious to me in contrast to the truth.Thank You for loving me enough to offer Your guidance and direction to me daily. I am very grateful that I do not have to make decisions in isolation, but I can make decisions based on Your counsel from Your Word and the Holy Spirit’s teaching in my life and in the lives of other brothers and sisters in the family of God. Life is so much better with You, my True Shepherd, guiding me every step of the way. In Your precious name I pray. Amen.  

ENDNOTE:  

1. David Johnson, The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse, (Baker Publishing Group: Kindle Edition, 2011), p. 28.

How can I trust the Lord Jesus as the True Shepherd? Part 1

“But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.” John 10:2

Throughout Israel’s history, false shepherds have mistreated the people of God (Ezekiel 34:2-6). These shepherds only cared about themselves and neglected to care for the people God had placed in their care. They exploited the sheep instead of meeting their needs. Instead of gathering them safely together, they scattered God’s people, making them vulnerable to the enemies of God’s flock.

In view of Israel’s false shepherds, the Lord promised a faithful Shepherd who would care for His flock. That shepherd would be God Himself. 11 For thus says the Lord God: ‘Indeed I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out. 12 As a shepherd seeks out his flock on the day he is among his scattered sheep, so will I seek out My sheep and deliver them from all the places where they were scattered on a cloudy and dark day. 13 And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land; I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, in the valleys and in all the inhabited places of the country. 14 I will feed them in good pasture, and their fold shall be on the high mountains of Israel. There they shall lie down in a good fold and feed in rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. 15 I will feed My flock, and I will make them lie down,’ says the Lord God. 16 ‘I will seek what was lost and bring back what was driven away, bind up the broken and strengthen what was sick.’ ” (Ezekiel 34:11-16). These verses provide the background for John 10 where Jesus is introduced as the True Shepherd among the false shepherds of Israel called Pharisees.

Earlier in Matthew 9:36 we are told, “But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.” The Pharisees misused their spiritual authority and demanded that the people follow them instead of the Lord. In other words, the Pharisees were the contemporary false shepherds of Jesus’ day. They were persuaded that Jesus was a false Messiah and so they tried to convince the people of Israel to reject Christ. Christ came to demonstrate to the nation of Israel that He was the true Shepherd that God promised to send to the nation to lead them in paths of righteousness and bring them into their long-awaited kingdom. 

In chapter nine of John, the healing grace of Jesus was contrasted with the spiritual pride of the Pharisees. We observed the Pharisees (false shepherds) mistreat the sheep of God’s fold, particularly the man born blind. Instead of rejoicing when the man born blind was healed, they were more concerned that Jesus had violated their religious rules on the Sabbath (9:15-16). The Pharisees disbelieved the former blind man’s testimony (9:18) and kept trying to discredit him by repeatedly asking him how he was healed (9:15, 19, 26). They used their power to keep the people in fear, threatening them with excommunication if they confessed Jesus to be the Christ (9:22). They reviled or verbally abused the man born blind when he asked if they wanted to become Jesus’ disciples (9:28). When they could not overcome the man’s logic and the evidence of his miraculous healing, with arrogance they said to him, “You were completely born in sin, and are you teaching us?” (9:34). By asserting that this man’s blindness was due to specific sins in his life they intended to shame him into silence and discredit his testimony. These Pharisees were not faithful shepherds over the Lord’s flock.

The Pharisees replaced rest in Jesus with demands for spiritual performance. People under a Pharisaic system today can develop a distorted image of God. Instead of viewing God as someone they can trust, they do not trust God because they have been mistreated by God’s representatives known as spiritual leaders. In John 10:1-10, we will learn over the next few days how to trust the True Shepherd, Jesus Christ, who is on our side and not against us in contrast to the self-centered shepherds called the Pharisees. I CAN TRUST THE LORD JESUS AS THE TRUE SHEPHERD BECAUSE…

HE HAS PROPHETIC CREDENTIALS (John 10:1-2). Jesus had come to the fold in the way God said His Shepherd would come. Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.” (John 10:1). The apostle John begins Jesus’ teaching with no indication of a different audience or location. The words “Mostly assuredly, I say to you” usually follow up some previous teaching by Christ. So, it is important to understand that the events in John 9 are closely connected to what happens here in John 10.

At night, the sheep were herded into “the sheepfold,” a walled enclosure or pen that was partially roofed or in a cave. The pen had stout walls about four to six feet in height and one gate which was guarded by a door keeper. The door keeper allowed authorized people to enter through the gate, but he would prohibit unauthorized people to enter lest they try to harm or steal the sheep. The person who climbs over the walls instead of using the proper entrance is identified by Jesus as “a thief and a robber.”

We can make a distinction between a “thief” and a “robber.” A “thief” steals subtly and in secret. They break into your house when you are gone or when you are asleep and steal without you knowing it. Robbers are more aggressive. They hold you up at knifepoint and force you to give up your valuables. In both cases, they do not care about you. They want to use you for their own gain. The false shepherds of Israel, the Pharisees, were both cunning like a thief and oppressive like a robber toward the sheep of God. They cared only for themselves and not for God’s people.

In contrast to the thief and robber is the shepherd. “But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.” (John 10:2). Notice it says he is “the shepherd,” not “a shepherd.” The True Shepherd uses the lawful method of entry into the sheepfold. He uses the gate. “The door” or gate refers to the way God said the True Shepherd would enter the sheepfold of Israel.

Jesus came to the sheepfold in the way God predicted in the Old Testament:

– The Messiah would come from the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10).  

– The Messiah would be a descendant of David (Jeremiah 33:16-17).

– The Messiah would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2).

– The Messiah would be born to a virgin (Isaiah 7:14).

– The Messiah would come to Jerusalem after sixty-nine “weeks” of years  (483 years) from the time of the rebuilding of the temple in 444 B.C. (Daniel 9:24-27).

–  The Messiah would be presented to the nation of Israel through a forerunner (Malachi 3:1).

– The Messiah would give sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, and cause the lame to walk to authenticate His Messianic identity (Isaiah 35:5-6).

– The Messiah would be the Prophet greater than Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15).

– The Messiah would be a light to shine on the Gentiles (Isaiah 42:1-6).

There was a wealth of objective evidence which could be tested to determine if Jesus was indeed, the True Shepherd. Christ was inviting those who doubted the evidence to reconsider it. He wanted them to see if He had entered the sheepfold, the nation of Israel, the way God prophesied that He would come.

Math professor, Peter Stoner, in his book, Science Speaks, takes just eight Old Testament prophecies about Christ and asks, “What is the chance that any man might have lived from the day of these prophecies down to the present time [88 billion people later] and have fulfilled all eight?” He comes up with the answer of one in one hundred quadrillion or 10 17.

Then he helps us picture this huge number. If you take 10 17 silver dollars and spread them all over Texas, they would cover the entire state two feet deep. Mark one of the silver dollars, mix it into the whole, blindfold a man and tell him that he can go as far as he wants, but he must pick the one marked dollar. That is the same chance that Jesus could have fulfilled just eight Old Testament prophecies.” 1 The reality is that Jesus fulfilled over a hundred prophecies at His first coming!

A false shepherd could not fulfill the Old Testament Scripture to authenticate his claim to be the True Shepherd. In fact, many people have claimed to be the True Shepherd, but none of them came to the nation of Israel the way the Old Testament predicted. Only Jesus came to the nation of Israel the way God said He would come. This means that only Jesus is the True Shepherd who entered through Israel’s door as the Messiah-God!

Before you can believe that Jesus is the True Shepherd, you may need answers for your mind. The Old Testament prophesied how the True Shepherd would enter through the door of the sheepfold of Israel, and Jesus fulfilled all those prophecies. Did Mohammed, Buddha, or Confucius fulfill all of those Old Testament prophecies? Did anyone other than Jesus Christ fulfill all the Old Testament prophecies about the coming of the True Shepherd to Israel? No. Not even close. The evidence for Jesus coming the way God said He would is overwhelming! The question is, “Will you accept the evidence or reject it?”

The majority of Israel’s religious leaders rejected this prophetic evidence. They knew the Scriptures, but they were not willing to come to the Messiah-God of Whom the Scriptures testified (John 5:39-40). They were unwilling to admit their sinfulness and their need for the True Shepherd Who would lay down His life for His sheep. I pray you will not make the same mistake as those leaders did because the consequences are eternal (John 3:36b; Revelation 20:10, 15).

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for exposing the false shepherds in my past who cared only for themselves and not for the people they were entrusted to shepherd and point to You. Those hurtful religious experiences in my past distorted my view of You. Thank You for revealing Yourself to me through the Bible so I can begin to see You for Who You truly are. I am amazed by how many Old Testament prophecies You fulfilled at Your First Coming which indicates You came into the sheepfold the way God said You would! No other person in history can claim to fulfill all those Old Testament prophecies. Your prophetic credentials point to You as the True Shepherd, and therefore, I can trust You with my eternal life. In Your name I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTE:

1. Peter Stoner, Science Speaks: An Evaluation of Certain Christian Evidences, (Moody Press, 1953), pp. 99-112.

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.