Lasting Lessons from the Last Day in Jesus’ Life – Part 3

“But they cried out, ‘Away with Him, away with Him! Crucify Him!’ Pilate said to them, ‘Shall I crucify your King?’ The chief priests answered, ‘We have no king but Caesar!’ ” John 19:15

We are learning from John 19:4-42 that what happened to Jesus on the last day of His life also applies to us today. The apostle John has several images he wants to make sure that we see in the life of Jesus Christ. So far we have discovered that…

Like Pilate, we can avoid doing the right thing because of the cost involved (John 19:4-7).

– No one has power in this world except what is given to them by God (John 19:8-12).

Today we see that THE CLOSER WE GET TO THE CROSS, THE MORE CLEARLY WE SEE WHO PEOPLE REALLY ARE, INCLUDING OURSELVES (John 19:13-16). When Pilate heard the religious leaders threaten to accuse him of treason if he did not bow to their wishes to put Jesus to death (John 19:12), Pilate “brought Jesus out and sat down in the judgment seat in a place that is called The Pavement, but in Hebrew, Gabbatha.” (John 19:13). The threat of losing his favored position with the Roman government was a key motivation for Pilate to crucify Jesus. Pilate took his seat on a raised platform known as the bēma (“judge’s seat”) at a place called “the Stone Pavement,” where a Roman official or governor would sit in judgment. 1  The meaning of the Aramaic term “Gabbatha” is uncertain. One suggested meaning is a “raised place,” referring to the platform from which Pilate spoke to the crowd (cf. Josephus Jewish Wars 2.175-176, 301, 308). 2

Ironically Pilate then brings Jesus out to the judgment seat (bēma). One day Jesus will judge all unbelievers at the Great White Throne Judgment (Rev 20:11-15) and all believers at His Judgment Seat (Rom 14:10; 2 Cor 5:10). Yet this day He submits to judgment by a weak, arrogant unbeliever!” 3

“Now it was the Preparation Day of the Passover, and about the sixth hour. And he said to the Jews, ‘Behold your King!’ ” (John 19:14). Jesus, the innocent Passover Lamb of God “without blemish” (Exodus 12:5; John 1:29; I Corinthians 5:7; 2 Corinthians 5:21), was being presented by a pagan ruler to the nation of Israel on Friday the day before the Sabbath at “about the sixth hour” which was 6:00 A.M. according to the Roman method of reckoning time. 4

“When the Israelites were slaves in Egypt, God had commanded them to slaughter a lamb and place its blood on the doorposts of their homes. Then, when he struck down the firstborn of Egypt, he ‘passed over’ the homes with a blood covering. By means of this, God rescued his people from slavery (see Exod 12:1-28). Jesus, ‘the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world’ (1:29) was about to shed his blood so that all those who believe in him would be saved from slavery to sin. His death at this particular moment wasn’t due to chance, then, but due to the sovereign timing of God.” 5  

Once again, we see that God is the One Who is in control. Pilate was an instrument of God’s sovereign plan and purpose (cf. Acts 2:22-24). Even though Pilate seems to be taunting the Jews when he presents their beaten and bloodied Messiah (“Behold, your King!”), it is ironic that this corrupt political leader recognizes the truth that Jesus is their King.

But the Jews wanted nothing to do with King Jesus despite all the evidence that He was their promised Messiah-God. “But they cried out, ‘Away with Him, away with Him! Crucify Him!’ ” (John 19:15a). Again Pilate refers to Jesus as their King. “Pilate said to them, ‘Shall I crucify your King?’” (John 19:15b). And the Jewish leaders persisted in their rejection of Christ.  “The chief priests answered, ‘We have no king but Caesar!’ ” (John 19:15c). Really? They have no king but Caesar!?! 

Notice that they didn’t say, ‘We have no king but God.’ Their hatred of Jesus was so great that they were willing to disregard their divine ruler and align themselves with a pagan king. Placing human government above God never ends well.” 6

Just ask the Israelites when they rejected God as their ruler and demanded a human king similar to the surrounding pagan nations during the time of the prophet Samuel (I Samuel 8:4-8). Although their demand arose out of frustration over the corruption of Samuel’s sons (I Samuel 8:1-3), the better choice would have been to remove Samuel’s sons from leadership and choose qualified men to take their place. But they refused to do this even though God warned the nation of Israel of the destructive things a human king would do to them (I Samuel 8:9-20).

What happened in Samuel’s day and in Jesus’ day, is also happening today. When God is dismissed from the family, people often turn to the government to fix their problems instead of turning to God. People are wanting the government to manage their affairs instead of submitting to God’s rule in their families and individual lives. When “civil government reaches into the other spheres that God has instituted—things like the family or the church—government grows far beyond its divinely authorized scope. This allows government to both confiscate and redistribute what should not be moved. That is exactly what God warned Israel against in 8:10-18 as they insisted on having a human king.” 7

Although the nation of Israel’s rightful King, a Descendant of king David, stood before them, they chose a pagan king when they said, “We have no king but Caesar!” (John 19:15c). Pilate then gave in to their demand and “delivered Him to them to be crucified. Then they took Jesus and led Him away.” (John 19:16). If you were Pilate, how would you explain to your wife that night why you finally let Jesus be killed? Remember she had told Pilate earlier, “Have nothing to do with that just Man, for I have suffered many things today in a dream because of Him.” (Matthew 27:19).

“The time had now come for the Lamb of God to take away the sin of the world and make people savable (John 1:29). He would be crucified and after six hours would breathe His last in His non-glorified body.” 8

Jesus had known what was going to happen for days, weeks, months – eternity past. And now on this Stone Pavement, Pilate says, I am innocent of the blood of this just Person. You see to it.” (Matthew 27:24). It is at this time,Jesus hears the words, “You are going to be crucified.”

It is amazing what happens when Jesus is on trial before the religious leaders and Pilate. Pilate stands before the crowd and tries with all of his might to appear fair and just as a political leader. But when we look at him in this scene that John presents to us, does he look fair? Does he look like a man of justice? No, he looks like a self-serving political coward who yields to the demands of the majority!

But are we any different than Pilate? Have we ever made a decision based on fear or ambition? Have we ever refused to do the right thing because of the cost involved? If we are honest with ourselves, the answer is “Yes!” The cross exposes this in our lives.

If you look at the chief priests and temple officers there at the same place, they try to appear holy and righteous. They would not even go into the Gentile palace area so they could avoid ceremonial defilement (John 18:28). They wanted to be holy for the day of Passover. But do they look holy and righteous, rejecting their rightful King? Not at all!

And yet we can also be like these religious leaders. We compare ourselves to others and conclude that we look pretty devoted to our religion compared to the way others look. We go to a place of worship every week while others spend more time in jail. We pray and read our sacred literature every day while others curse and read filth online.  

But compared to the innocent Lamb of God, we are very dark and wicked on the inside. We think more of ourselves than others. But Jesus continued to think of others even while hanging on the cross (John 19:25-27). We hold grudges against those who have hurt us, but Jesus forgave His enemies while He hung on the cross (Luke 23:34). We are quick to condemn criminals, but Jesus lovingly offers them hope (Luke 23:42-43).

From this scene presented to us by the apostle John, we learn that the closer we get to the cross, the more clearly we see who people really are, including ourselves (John 19:13-16). It is at the cross of Christ, that we see who people really are. The innocence of the Lamb of God exposes the guilt of everyone who draws near to the cross. There is a blinding light of truth that comes from the cross that shows us who we really are.  

If you want to make this more personal, the closer I get to the cross, the more I see who I really am. The more I see how I need God to change me. The more I see how His power can make a difference in my life, and needs to make a difference in my life.

When we compare ourselves to the people around us, we might think we are pretty good. But when we start to look at our lives in light of the cross of Jesus Christ, we recognize our great need for Him. And we also recognize His great love for us (Romans 5:8). This is why we need the cross in our lives. So we can see who we really are and Who Jesus really is. Jesus said it best: “For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known.” (Matthew 10:26b). So why not make it known between you and the Lord right now? He is patiently waiting.

Prayer: Oh heavenly Father, thank You for the light of the cross of Your Son, Jesus Christ, which exposes the darkness in our own hearts.Like Pilate, we can easily make hurtful decisions based upon fear or ambition, and yet our stubborn pride wants to deny this. Thank You for lovingly showing us this today. As difficult as it is to admit, we can also be like the religious leaders who thought they looked pretty good compared to the way they thought others looked. But compared to their King, they were self-righteous and unholy, rejecting Jesus as their rightful Ruler. Likewise, we often want to control our own lives instead of yielding to Your rightful rule over us. Oh Lord Jesus, thank You for showing us how much we need the cross and how much we need You and Your love for us. None of us are close to perfect. All of us have sinned against You and fall short of Your glory. None of us deserve the love You have for us. But all of us need Your love. All of us need the cross whether we admit it or not. We need the forgiveness, the cleansing, and the power and strength that the cross provides so we can change and become more like Your Son. Thank You, our Lord and our God, for Your amazing grace. In the redeeming name of the Lord Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 342.

2. John Wilkinson, The Jerusalem Jesus Knew (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1978), pg. 141, cited by Laney in Moody Gospel John Commentary, pg. 342.

3.Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 558.

4. Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary, pp. 342-343; Robert Wilkin, The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition, pg. 558; Tom Constable, Notes on John, 2017 Edition, pg. 348.

5. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1823.

6. Ibid.

7. Ibid., pg. 526.

8. Robert Wilkin, The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition, pg. 559.

9. The last several paragraphs are adapted from Tom Holladay’s July 24, 1996 message entitled, “A Day in the Life of…  Jesus Christ.”

How can we endure difficult times? Part 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Consider these similarities between the Passover lambs and Jesus: 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ENDNOTES:

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

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

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

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

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

6. Ibid.

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

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

How can we pray more like Jesus prays? Part 7

“And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.” John 17:26

In John 17, we are learning to pray like Jesus prays. So far we have discovered that like Jesus, we are to pray…

– For God to be glorified when we face trials (John 17:1-5)

– For those we disciple (John 17:6-19) which includes…

    ~ Praying for their receptivity to God’s Word (John 17:6-8).

    ~ Praying for their protection from the world and the evil one (John 17:9-15).

    ~ Praying for their purification through God’s Word (John 17:16-19).

– For future believers in Christ (John 17:20-26) which includes…

    ~ Praying for their unity, so the world can believe in Jesus (John 17:20-23).

   ~ Praying for their presence with Him in His coming kingdom where they will see His glory displayed before them (John 17:24-25).

The third thing Jesus prayed for future believers is for them TO EXPERIENCE THE FATHER’S ETERNAL LOVE FOR JESUS (17:26). Finally, Jesus prayed, “And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.” (John 17:26). Jesus “declared to” the disciples His Father’s character (“name”). When Jesus said He “will declare” the Father’s name, He is referring to doing this “through the Word of God, and especially through the Fourth Gospel.” 1 Christ then prayed that the same “love” with which the Father “loved” Jesus “may be in” future believers and Christ “in them.”

“The essence of God is love (1 John 4:8). Jesus made the Father and His love known to the world by His death. And the Father made known His love for the Son by raising Him to glory. Jesus’ purpose in revealing the Father was that Christians would continue to grow in that love (that the Father’s love for the Son may be in them) and to enjoy the personal presence of Jesus in their lives (that I Myself may be in them).” 2

Christ longs for believers to experience the Father’s love for Him through fellowship. We have two eternal Persons who are loving us and wanting the best for us. The more we spend time with God the Father and God the Son, the more we will experience their outrageous love for us which will cast out our fears and deepen our love for one another (I John 4:7-21).

What an incredible prayer in John 17! Christ prays for Himself (John 17:1-5), His believing disciples (John 17:6-19), and then for future believers, including us (John 17:20-26). Not by name of course, but He asked that all “who believe in Me” would “be one.” This final request for all believers shows the importance of widening the circle of our prayer concerns. Not only are we to pray for ourselves, and our close friends, but we also need to remember to pray for those who will believe in Christ in the future. Remember, prayer moves the Hand that moves the world. 3

Take time today to thank Jesus for praying for us. Both then and now. When we get to heaven we will praise Christ for all of eternity as we discover the prayers He prayed for us that we did not hear. Prayers that changed our lives and the lives of others every day. 

Prayer: Lord Jesus, we pray that You would cause our lives and our churches to be an answer to this prayer that You prayed. Lord, the rest of this week whether we see it or know it or not, would You use us to bring You glory? Would You help us to pray like You prayed? We pray that very humbly. But we pray it because we know that is what You want to do. We pray, Lord, that our lives would show the world what You are like as we live out Your purpose for us. Help us, Jesus, to live in Your security and not in fear. Jesus, we pray for a real sense of growth and maturity in our lives to be happening as we keep abiding in Your Word. Help us to see some ways that we are growing. And Lord, would You bring about true unity in our lives with other believers? As that happens, I pray that the world would see that because of the way that we love one another they will see that it is the way that You love us. We pray that Your love would make the difference in our relationships with others. Jesus, thank You for praying for us. Both then and now. When we get to heaven we will praise You all the more because we will have eternity to look at the prayers that You prayed for us that we did not hear, that are not written down, but that changed our lives and the lives of others every day. We thank You for this. In Your mighty name we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTE:

1. Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition, (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 549.

2. Edwin A. Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Gospels, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition.), pg. 680.

3. See John Wallace’s Poem, “Prayer Moves the Hand that Moves the World,” at https://www.poetrynook.com/poem/prayer-moves-hand-moves-world.

How can we pray more like Jesus prays? Part 5

20 I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; 21 that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.” John 17:20-21

This past year has been filled with many challenges, one of which is the increasing division in the USA. Animosity has been on the rise between people of differing political persuasions, worldviews, and skin color. As one of my mentors said to me recently, we know who is responsible for this. He was referring to the devil or “evil one” as Jesus refers to him in John 17:15. Satan is an expert at dividing people, especially God’s people. His primary targets are Christian marriages and Christian churches because both of these institutions reflect the image of God more than any other institution on the planet. If he can divide the people in these institutions, he can greatly reduce the impact of God’s power and presence in society today. And right now I would say Satan is quite successful in doing this. But God is still at work despite the devil’s advances.  

With that said, we are going to resume looking at Jesus’ prayer to His Father in heaven in John 17 which teaches us to pray like Christ prays. So far we have discovered that like Jesus, we are to pray…

– For God to be glorified when we face trials (John 17:1-5)

– For those we disciple (John 17:6-19) which includes…

  ~ Praying fortheir receptivity to God’s Word (John 17:6-8).

  ~ Praying for their protection from the world and the evil one (John 17:9-15).

  ~ Praying their purification through God’s Word (john 17:16-19).

Jesus now widens His prayer circle to include all future believers. From this we see that LIKE JESUS, WE ARE TO BROADEN OUR PRAYERS TO INCLUDE ALL FUTURE BELIEVERS IN CHRIST (John 17:20-26). Christ prays for three things for these future believers. From Jesus’ example, we learn first to pray for THEIR UNITY, SO THE WORLD CAN BELIEVE IN JESUS (John 17:20-23). Jesus prayed, “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word.” (John 17:20). Christ did “not pray for these [Eleven disciples] alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word.”

It is about two thousand years later, and Jesus says, “My prayer is for you.” You and I are some of those future generations who have believed in Him because of the disciples’ message. “The disciples / apostles with him that night would proclaim the gospel through their preaching and through their Holy-Spirit-inspired writings, which would become the New Testament.” 1

We still read the apostles’ message today. We are reading the gospel of John, the message of one of those He was praying for earlier (John 17:6-19). It is mind boggling to think that Jesus prayed for us at that time. Think of the millions of lives and circumstances that this one sentence spans from the first century to the twenty-first century!?! Think of the numbers of people, the numbers of situations and circumstances this includes. Think of your own life. Jesus is praying for you. That is how much He cares about you!

Jesus “prayed” for us and Jesus “prays” for us. Not only did He pray for us two thousand years ago, but He still prays for us today. His prayer for us today is not written down, but it is promised. Jesus Christ Who died and was raised to life, is at the right hand of God and He is interceding for us today (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25). Christ is praying for you and me right now. That’s incredible! Jesus did not have to pray for us. God the Father will hear us without Jesus carrying a message. But that doesn’t mean that Christ doesn’t pray for us. God loves us enough to hear our voice. The Father hears us directly. Jesus is saying, by the way, I’m praying for you. I’m talking to God for you.

Romans 8 tells us that not only is the Father listening to us (Romans 8:15-16), and the Spirit is praying within us with words that we don’t even understand (Romans 8:26-27); but the Son is also praying for us (Romans 8:34). So we have the Father and Son and Holy Spirit involved in our prayer life. We have a better prayer life than we may have first thought! The Holy Spirit has been praying and Jesus has been praying. When we add our prayers to their prayers that’s a pretty good chance of getting an answer. Somebody may ask, “Does that mean I don’t have to pray again. Can I cut that out of my life?” No. God says we are to add that to our prayers. That’s an incredible prayer life that we have, isn’t it?!

As Jesus prays for all who will believe in Him from the first century to the twenty-first century, He prays: “That they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.” (John 17:21).  Christ prayed for these future believers to “be one” and experience the same unity as He and the Father have in their relationship. This is a fundamental unity of purpose, love, and doctrine. 2

“The Father and the Son were one and shared the same eternal life. Christ saw believers as one because they shared the same eternal life.” With the addition of new believers there is an increase in diversity – personalities, backgrounds, interests, talents – and a greater potential for disunity. This oneness that Jesus prays for is found in knowing God through faith alone in Christ alone, not in the doctrines created by people.

This unity Jesus prays for has two purposes: “that they also may be one in Us.” The first purpose for this unity is to promote the believers’ fellowship with the Triune God. When believers are experiencing unity with one another, it also enables them to share a unity with the Father and the Son.

The second purpose for this unity is “that the world may believe that You sent Me.” When believers are united in purpose, love and doctrine, this persuades “the world [to] believe that [the Father] sent” Jesus. When non-Christians observe Christians fighting with one another, they are not going to want to have anything to do with Christianity. Too often bitterness and unforgiveness among Christians keep non-believers from believing in Christ for His gift of eternal life.

Some people think this verse means that unity should be sought at the expense of truth. They fail to realize that the basis of this unity that Jesus prayed for is “the truth” (John 17:17-19) which says people must “believe” in Christ to have “eternal life” (John 17:3, 8, 20-21; cf. 1:12; 3:15-16, 36; 5:24; 6:35-40, 47; 7:37-39; 10:25-29; 11:25-26; 20:31) and be rightly related to God.

When Christian leaders say that believing in Jesus is not enough to be saved, they are undermining the basis of Christian unity that Jesus gave to His followers. Until believers can agree with what Jesus taught about the means of salvation and the basis of Christian unity (“believe in Christ”), they are not going to experience this oneness that Jesus prayed for in John 17. Let’s not yield to the lie that emphasizes unity at the expense of truth. Satan wants to remove God’s truth from the focus of Christians because he knows that God’s truth is what unifies believers. Those who refuse to accept Jesus’ truth about the means of salvation are being divisive, not those who stand on His truth as the basis of our unity.

Tony Evans shares a helpful illustration: “A football team consists of different players filling different positions with different roles. But the entire team has one purpose: reaching the goal line. Their unity consists of pursuing that one goal according to the rules of the game. The church of Jesus Christ is composed of people from every race, ethnicity, gender, and walk of life. But we have the common purpose of proclaiming the gospel and pursuing God’s kingdom agenda. Our effectiveness is determined by our unity. That’s why Satan works so hard at causing division among Christians and within churches. Unity in truth is critical to experiencing the presence and power of God (see Acts 2:1-2, 43-44; 4:24-31). Illegitimate disunity disconnects us from God and causes us to be ineffective in our lives and in our prayers (see 1 Pet 3:7).” 5

Next Jesus prayed, “And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one.” (John 17:22). In what sense do all believers share God’s “glory”? This probably refers to “the glory” Christ would display on the cross and in the resurrection (cf. 17:1-5). This glory they received from the Lord would have a unifying influence on their relations with one another – “that they may be one just as We are one.” The risen Christ in me is not going to fight with the risen Christ in you. As we grow closer to Christ, we will grow closer to one another.

Then Jesus prayed, “I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one.” (John 17:23a). Christ saw oneness between believers as possible because it is Christ and the Father in them that unites them with one another. This oneness shows the world that God loved His people, so they could love one another.

Christ adds, “And that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.” (John 17:23b). As Jesus prayed for those who will believe in Him through the word of His disciples, He asked that “the world may know that” the Father “loved them as” He “loved” Jesus. The word “as” is fascinating here. Jesus is saying that the Father loves us “as” to the same degree or equally as He does His Son, Jesus Christ. This means there is no one and nothing, including Jesus Christ, that God the Father loves more than those of us who believe in Jesus! God loves all believers the same with a beyond what we can ask or imagine kind of love (cf. Ephesians 3:17-20). What is the Father’s love toward His only Son like?

IT IS FOREVER – “for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.” (John 17:24b). There has never been a time when the Father has not loved Jesus. Think about that! Together, the Father and Son have been working side by side for all of eternity past. After spending billions of years working together in perfect harmony, Jesus tells us that His Father loves us exactly as much as He loves Him! People may stop loving us and may even abandon us, but God the Father will never stop loving us. He loves us the same as His only begotten Son.

IT IS INTIMATE – “that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them” (17:26b). The Father’s love for His Son goes deep and is very intimate. He continues to work with us to make us more like His Son. He develops in us the skills to relate peacefully with one another, so we can experience the same oneness that characterizes His relationship with His Son (John 17:11, 21-23). All of us long to be loved and to love. Only God’s love can meet our deepest needs. 

“Our involvement in the church is not trivial, then. We are caught up in something much bigger than us. We are called to serve the Lord in unity so that the love and glory of our Trinitarian God is visibly and powerfully manifested to a watching world.” 6

Do we have the same vision for future believers that Jesus had when He prayed? Do we see ourselves sharing the gospel with people who do not have Christ in their lives? Are we praying for those future believers to come to faith in Christ alone so they can experience the same oneness that our Trinitarian God experiences? Do our prayers also concentrate on future believers serving the Lord in unity so the love and glory of our magnificent Trinitarian God is powerfully displayed to a watching world? Are we teaching the people we disciple to pray in this way? If not, we can begin praying like this today.

Prayer: Father God, thank You so much for preserving Jesus’ prayer for all of us who believed in Him after He ascended to You! Only heaven will disclose the billions of lives and circumstances impacted by this one prayer back in the first century. We are so touched by the fact that this prayer is also for us. Jesus prayed for His apostles’ gospel message to bring us to faith in Him! Hallelujah! What an amazing prayer this was and is!!! Please teach us and those we disciple to pray this way for those who have not yet believed in Jesus for eternal life. We pray that billions more will come to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. Only Jesus can unite the world with His life-changing grace and love!!! And Father God, would You bring about true unity in our lives with other believers? As that happens, I pray that this divided world would see that because of the way that we love one another they will see that it is the way that You love us. Lord, we cannot forgive each other or live with each other or put up with each other without Your love inside of us. I pray that Your love would make the difference. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B&H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1815.

2. Robert N. Wilkin, “The Gospel According to John,” The Grace New Testament Commentary, Vol. 1: Matthew – Acts (Denton, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 2010), pg. 460.

3. J. Dwight Pentecost, The Words & Works of Jesus Christ, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981), pg. 450.

4. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 309.

5. Tony Evans, pg. 1816.

6. Ibid.

How can we face challenges with courage? Part 4

“Indeed the hour is coming, yes, has now come, that you will be scattered, each to his own, and will leave Me alone. And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me.” John 16:32

During the global pandemic, many people are feeling alone and abandoned. Due to COVID restrictions, we are not able to connect as easily with one another. Worse yet, some of us may feel abandoned by God during this difficult time.

We are learning from the Lord Jesus how we can face challenges with courage. We have discovered that we can face challenges with courage when we…

– Resolve to go directly to the Father in prayer (John 16:25-26).

– Receive the Father’s special love for us (John 16:27).

– Recognize that Jesus is in control (John 16:28-30).

Today Jesus teaches us that we can face challenges with courage when we REST IN THE FATHER WHO WILL NEVER ABANDON US (John 16:31-32). We see that the disciples’ understanding and belief were still immature. After they affirmed their belief that Jesus “came forth from God” (John 16:30), Jesus answered them, ‘Do you now believe?’ ” (John 16:31). Jesus’ question expects a negative response. Christ was questioning what they would do in the near future when they would face difficulties and danger? “Will you believe in Me then?” Jesus asks. Christ knew them better than they knew themselves.

Jesus then explains, “Indeed the hour is coming, yes, has now come, that you will be scattered, each to his own, and will leave Me alone. And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me.” (John 16:32). Christ knew their faith would be tested before the night was over. When Jesus was arrested these men would “be scattered” and stricken with fear (cf. Matthew 26:56), going in every direction, much like the people in Madrid, Spain, when the bulls are released and scatter throngs of people. When Jesus needed His disciples the most, they abandoned Him after confirming their faith in Him.

What Jesus is saying to these men is, “ ‘You don’t believe as strongly as you think you do. Now, while all is quiet and safe, this is easy for you to say. But very soon you’re going to forget your fragile faith and run for your lives.’

“Have you ever made a vow to God during a church service only to back away from it later—perhaps as quickly as when you left the church parking lot? It’s easy to boast about our faith; it’s harder to live it, as Peter would soon discover (18:15-18, 25-27). This is one of the reasons why God causes us to experience challenges. Through them, we come to see how brittle our faith is and how mighty our Savior is, and thus our faith is made a little stronger.” 1

Although the disciples would abandon Him, Christ assures them, “yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me.” Jesus may have felt lonely at that time, but He knew He was not alone.

A young woman’s brief note spoke volumes. “I am a handicapped person in a wheelchair,” she wrote. “I am very lonely even though I know I’m never alone. God is always there. I don’t have a lot of people I can talk to.”

Loneliness has been termed the most desolate word in the English language. It is no respecter of age, race, economic status, or intelligence. Albert Einstein said, “It is strange to be known so universally, and yet to be so lonely.”

God made us for intimacy and companionship with others. Even before sin entered the world, God declared that it is not good for man to be alone (Genesis 2:18). That is why many people often feel so empty inside. 

Christ most likely felt lonely when the disciples abandoned Him at the time of His arrest, but His Father’s presence more than compensated for this, however. Christ said, “Yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me.” We can lessen our feelings of loneliness by reaching out to others. But even more important, we must reach out to the Lord who will never abandon us.

Yes, people may stop loving us and even abandon us, but God will never stop loving us (Jeremiah 31:3; Romans 8:38-39) and He will never forsake us (cf. Hebrews 13:5). Christ probably felt disappointed with His disciples for not supporting Him. But we are no different than the disciples. We also fail the Lord. But God never fails us. Psalm 118:8-9 say, “It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man. It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes.” Why is it better to trust in the Lord than to trust in people? Because He is always there for us. I cannot be with you twenty-four hours a day nor can you be with me every hour of every day. Only God can be there for us all the time. 

Evangelist D. L. Moody loved to tell the story of a preacher he knew in Scotland who would go once a week to a children’s hospital to try to comfort sick little ones. On one trip, he met a boy of six who was facing the amputation of his leg. The preacher asked if the boy had anyone to stay with him as he waited for the surgery. The boy explained that his father was dead, and his mother was too ill to leave their home. Feeling sorry for him, the preacher talked about how caring and loving the hospital staff were, trying to find some way to offer him comfort. Then the little boy said, “Jesus will be with me.”  2

We never have to face challenges alone because God is always with us. There may be days when we do not “feel” His presence as we would like, but there will never be days when He is not there. Rest in the arms of His presence and He will give you the courage to face whatever challenges come your way.

Prayer: Father God, during these challenging times I am realizing that my feelings often lie to me. They tell me I am all alone and unloved. But Your Word tells me that You are always with me and that You will always love me even when others abandon me or stop loving me. Your grace toward me is truly amazing. Even when I abandon You or fail to love You back, You do not leave me nor stop loving me. Your constant presence in my life gives me the courage to face difficult situations. Thank You for being such a gracious and loving Father. In the name of Jesus Christ I pray. Amen.  

ENDNOTE:

1. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B&H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1812.

2. https://www.dailyintheword.org/rooted/finding-courage-in-god’s-presence.

How can we face challenges with courage? Part 2

“For the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from God.” John 16:27

In John 16:25-33, Jesus is teaching us how to face challenges with courage. Yesterday we discovered we can do this when we resolve to go directly to the Father in prayer (John 16:25-26). Today we learn we can also face challenges with courage when we RECEIVE THE FATHER’S SPECIAL LOVE FOR US (John 16:27).

Jesus explains why the disciples are to go directly to the Father in prayer after He goes to the Father following His resurrection and ascension. “For the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from God.” (John 16:27). The disciples could go directly to the Father because of His special “love” (philéō) for them. This word for “love” refers to a warm, affectionate, friendly kind of love. This special love for them was based on their relationship with Christ.

Jesus said that the Father’s love for them was, “because you have loved Me and have believed that I came forth from God.” The words “loved” (pephilēkate) and “believed” (pepisteukate) are in the perfect tense which means they loved Jesus warmly in the past and still love Him warmly in the present, and they believed Jesus was from the Father in the past and still believe He is from the Father now.

Christ is referring to discipleship or fellowship with God here, not  salvation from hell. This special kind of love from the Father is based upon our obedience to Christ which follows belief in Him (cf. John 14:21, 23). We saw in John 14:21 that when a believer “keeps” or obeys the Lord’s commandments, God the Father and God the Son will “love” him or her more intimately and Jesus will “manifest” or reveal more of Himself to them.

God’s love is not static or unchanging. It is a growing experience in our relationship with the Lord. “God so loved the world” (John 3:16), but He also loves the obedient believer in a special or more intimate way (John 16:27; cf. 13:23; 14:21, 23). God rewards obedience with a special experience of His love. Hence, when a believer obeys, Christ will reveal more of Himself to him or her leading to a deeper intimacy with God the Father and God the Son. It can also be said that unloving and unbelieving Christians will not experience this special kind of love from the Father.

Wilkin writes, “For a believer to abide experientially in the love of God, he must hold fast to the faith both doctrinally and morally (cf. 14:15; 15:14; cf. Jude 21).” 2 We cannot do this in our own strength. We must rely on God the Father through prayer to remain faithful to the Christian faith (cf. John 16:23-26).

God often uses troubling times to deepen our experience of His love for us. This was what happened to missionaries, Charlie and Frauke Schaefer, who were serving the Lord in Germany. One morning, when Frauke was getting ready to leave for a conference and Charlie was out on a run, Charlie did not return home. Frauke became alarmed and went looking for him in likely places, but he was not to be found in any of them. After she called the police, she learned that Charlie had been taken to the hospital after collapsing during his run. There was bleeding of an unknown cause inside his skull.

“After Charlie’s collapse, Frauke felt distant from God and was evading His presence. Although communication between her and God was good, she had gnawing questions when she slowed down. Why did this happen when we were doing what we believed God wanted us to do? How could Charlie’s collapse fit into God’s plan. Why were we unable to lead the retreat that was so diligently prepared and prayed for? After a while, Frauke gained courage to direct these questions to God. An immediate response came through the peace of realizing God was assuring her, ‘I am with you and I know.’ God also seemed to be saying that deepening our love and trust in Him was more important than ministering to others at the moment.” 3

Instead of doubting God’s love for us when we face challenges, we are to embrace the truth that God may allow personal suffering in our lives to take us where He knows we must go to experience the fullness of His love for us. God does not just want to tell us that He loves us. He wants to show us that He loves us and this often takes place in the context of pain and suffering. Knowing we are warmly loved by the Father, can give us courage during those difficult times.

Prayer: Father God, thank You for not just telling me that You love me, but for permitting me to go through challenging times to deepen my experience of Your unfailing love for me. Much of my Christian life I have known intellectually that You love me, but in recent years You are showing me how much You love me as I go through various difficulties in life. The more I experience the warmth of Your love, Father, the more I can face opposition and painful trials with courage. Thank You for fighting the battles I could never fight or win on my own. Thank You for being my best Friend. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures In the New Testament, Vol. V, (Grand Rapids, Baker Book House, 1932), pp. 271-272.

2. Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition, (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 542. 

3. Frauke C. Schaefer, MD and Charles A Schaefer, PhD., Trauma & Resilience: A Handbook, (Frauke C. Schaefer, MD and Charles A Schaefer, PhD., 2012) pp. iv-v.

4. Ibid., pg. 1.

How can we be effective witnesses to a hostile world? Part 2

“Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also.’ ” John 15:20

Jesus Christ experienced love and hate from people during His time on earth. While most of the people ended up hating Christ and had Him crucified, some came to love Him. Those who loved Him received more intimate and life-changing truths from Him (cf. John 14:21; 15:14).

The night before His crucifixion, Jesus shared intimate truths with His devoted followers to prepare them to carry on His ministry after He departs and ascends to heaven to be with His heavenly Father. After speaking to His eleven believing disciples about their relationship to one another (John 15:12-17), He then directs their attention to their relationship with the world (John 15:18-16:4). Jesus wanted to prepare His disciples (and us) for the opposition they would face after He ascends to the Father in heaven. How can we be effective witnesses to a hostile world?  

Last time we learned the first way is to realize that you will face the same conflict with the world that Jesus did (John 15:18-19). The second way to be an effective witness to a hostile world is to RECALL WHAT JESUS HAS ALREADY TAUGHT US (John 15:20). As followers of Christ, we are not to think we will be treated better by the world than Jesus was.

Christ said to His eleven believing disciples, “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also.” (John 15:20). Jesus reminded His disciples of what He already taught them after He washed their feet at the Last Supper (cf. John 13:16). He said, “A servant is not greater than his master.” Earlier Jesus used this statement to encourage them to humbly serve one another as He had done when He washed their feet. Now in this context, He uses that statement to explain why they will face persecution. Christ meant that His disciples are not greater than Him in the sense that they will not escape persecution from the world when walking with the Lord. Since their Master (Jesus) was “persecuted” by the world, the world “will also persecute” His servants. 

Conversely, Jesus says, “If (since)1 they kept My word, they will keep yours also.” People often treat servants the same way they would treat the servant’s master. Hence, Christ is saying that just as some people followed His teaching, so there will be some who follow His disciples’ teaching.

In the midst of the world’s hatred and rejection toward Christ and His followers, Jesus is giving us hope. While most rejected Christ and His message, some did not. Likewise, “while most will reject the words of the apostles, some will accept their witness. For example, on the Day of Pentecost, just fifty days after Jesus spoke these words, Peter led over three thousand to faith in Jesus (Acts 2:14-41).” 2

When you and I share the gospel with others, some will oppose the message and others will receive it. It is important to remember this when we face an antagonistic crowd. Don’t give up on someone if they are not receptive the first time you try to share Christ with them. Some people may need to hear the gospel several times before they believe in Jesus. Or there may be people in a crowd of antagonists who are receptive. You may not be aware of that at the time you share with them because they are too intimidated to express their receptivity. Let the Holy Spirit draw them to Jesus among hostile listeners.

For example, in 2013 when I went with Filipino pastors to a critical area in the southern Philippines to preach in public schools, students there were very responsive. On one particular day, we stopped at an all-Muslim school to share the gospel with students, but the students had already been dismissed. We noticed that there was a crowd of about two hundred fifty adult Muslims having a Parent/Teacher meeting. We asked if we might share the good news of Jesus Christ with them and the moderator permitted us to do so.

As I began to share about the love of the God of Abraham and how He wanted to have a personal relationship with them, I noticed a group of about twenty-five Muslim women dressed in their Islamic head gear, and they were forming a circle. They would keep looking at me through the opening in their head gear and then they would look at one another. I didn’t know what they were going to do, but I just knew that Jesus did not want my translator and I to stop preaching. By God’s grace we boldly shared Christ crucified to them and then invited them to believe in the Lord Jesus for eternal life and a future home in heaven. When I asked them to raise their hands if they were now trusting in Christ alone as their only way to heaven, all two hundred fifty adult Muslims lifted up their hands. Hallelujah! My translator and I then made a quick exit out of there to go to the next school.

We can be more effective witnesses for Christ in this hostile world as we remember the things He taught us about the world’s hostility toward His followers. His teaching will give us strength in the future when we face opposition because Jesus warned us in advance, so we would not be overtaken by surprise.Regardless of how people respond, we are to faithfully represent Christ on the earth.

When we go through dark times, look back at the times of light and what Jesus already taught us during that time. Our tendency is to forget the lessons that Jesus already taught us when we go through tough times. When pressures pile up on us, we can easily throw away the biblical truths the Lord has given us (cf. Ecclesiastes 7:7). During dark times, get alone with the Lord and read His Word. Listen to His voice of truth. Let Him give you His power as His Spirit renews your mind with the everlasting truths of His Word.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for warning me in advance that when I identify with You, I will receive the same kind of treatment from the world that You received. While most people will oppose Your message through me, there will be some who will embrace it. Please help me to focus on those who are receptive so I can follow them up and teach them to follow You as You did for me through Your faithful followers when I first got saved. Regardless of how people respond, please empower me to faithfully represent You on earth while there is still time left. In Your mighty name I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. The phrase εἰ τὸν λόγον μου ἐτήρησαν is a first-class condition meaning some did keep or obey Jesus’ teaching.

2. Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition, (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 537.

How can we be Jesus’ friend? Part 2

“You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.” John 15:14

Last time we learned the first way to be Jesus’ friend was to live in His love (John 15:9-11). Today we discover that the second way to be Jesus’ friend is to LOVE as HE LOVED (John 15:12-17). To help His disciples understand this command to abide in His love, He repeated something He had said before. “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12). You may ask,What is Jesus’ love like?”

a. IT IS UNCONDITIONAL (John 15:12; cf. 13:1-11; Luke 22:24). Earlier, the disciples had been fighting among themselves about who was the greatest among them (cf. Luke 22:24). Jesus then humbly washed their dirty feet (John 13:1-11). Christ loved them even though they did not deserve it. Christ’s love was not a response to our love. He loves us even if we never loved Him back. Jesus loves us when our walk of faith is weak or when it is strong. He sticks with us in the good times and the bad. Nothing about us makes Jesus love us. He loves us because it is His nature to love. If Jesus waited for us to love Him first, He would still be waiting. Thank God that Jesus loved you and me first. His love does not require that you love Him back.

If we are going to love one another as Jesus loved us, then we must love one other whether we deserve to be loved or not. God’s love is not an emotion. “You can love people whom you may not necessarily like because love is not dependent on your feelings. That’s why Jesus can command  to ‘love your enemies’ ” (Matthew 5:44).” 1 Love is a choice to do what is best for another person. Christ living in us wants to unconditionally love others through us.

b. IT IS SACRIFICIAL (15:13). Next Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15:13). The greatest love of all was to give up your life for your friends. In the context, this must refer to Jesus’ upcoming death on the cross (cf. John 10:11, 15, 17-18; 12:32-33; 13:1ff). This is the greatest expression of friendship.

“There was an orphanage near an American Marine Base in Viet Nam. One day the Viet Cong fired mortar shells into the orphanage, killing dozens of children and wounding many more. A boy named Kai had a seriously wounded friend who needed a blood transfusion. Kai’s friend had a rare blood type and only Kai’s blood matched it. Little Kai had never heard of a blood transfusion but when the American doctors explained it would save his friend’s life, little Kai volunteered.

“As the blood began to flow from Kai to his friend, Kai began to whimper. When the doctors asked if it hurt, he said no. A little later he whimpered again. Again, he told the doctors it did not hurt. The doctors asked, ‘What’s wrong, Kai?’ With tears coursing down his light brown, dusty cheeks, Kai asked, ‘When am I to die, sir, when am I to die?’ You see, little Kai didn’t know that you only give a little blood. He thought you gave it all, and he was willing to do so for his little friend.” 2

Are we willing to sacrifice for one another? Men, it may mean giving up a game of basketball or a TV show to listen to someone share their problems with you. Ladies, it may involve laying aside that intriguing novel to listen to your neighbor process a misunderstanding they had with someone. When a need arises among the people in your life, reach out to help them in love.

c. IT IS OBEDIENT (John 15:14). Jesus would give His life for His friends. Who are His friends? “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.” (John 15:14). Jesus’ friends are those believers who keep His commandments. We may say that Jesus is our best Friend, but would He say we are His friends? The true test of friendship with Christ is obedience to “whatever” He commands you to do. Friendship with Christ is a discipleship issue, not a salvation issue.

Twice Abraham was called a friend of God in the Old Testament: by God (Isaiah 41:8) and by men (2 Chronicles 20:7).  James 2:21-23 explains why Abraham was justified before men by works when he offered up his son, Isaac. Works justify us before men, but not before God (cf. Romans 4:2). Abraham was justified before God by faith alone (Genesis 15:6) over twenty years before he offered up Isaac (Genesis 22). The faith that justified him before God was matured by his act of obedience in offering up Isaac (James 2:22) and filled full of meaning (James 2:23a). Men could declare Abraham to be a “friend of God” because they saw that he had an intimate relationship with God through his obedience. So friendship with God is based upon obedience.

Do people know that we are friends of Christ because of our obedience to Him? Our obedience to Jesus is a compelling testimony to the world that we are vitally connected to Him, especially when we keep His commandment to love one another. Our friendship with Christ is realized by others through our actions. This means we love one another whether we feel like it or not. But instead of ignoring our feelings, we are to deal with them so we can be available to love others. We need to experience God’s love and power before we can love others with His love.

d. IT COMMUNICATES TRUTH (15:15). Then Jesus said, “No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:15). During their time together, Jesus viewed these men as servants and Himself as their Master. The responsibility of a servant was to submit to the will of his master. A servant is nothing more than an instrument. He simply does what he is told because he has no other choice. He does not have a close relationship with his master, as friends do. The servant does not know the personable issues about his master’s life. He just follows orders.

But now Jesus calls His disciples “friends.” Why? He says, “For all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.” These men who had been Jesus’ servants were now His friends because He had kept nothing back from them. He had revealed all that the Father had made known to Him (cf. John 14:21). A master shares his will with his servants. But a friend shares his heart with his friends. “There are no secrets between friends.” Christ shared His heart with His disciples, so they could bear fruit to the glory of His Father.

Many years ago, a Christian writer went through a deep period of doubt and temptation. He questioned his ministry, his qualifications, his marriage, his salvation. Anguished and burdened, he finally went to a friend and confessed his feelings. As they talked and prayed together over the course of several weeks, his perspective returned. Peace came into his heart, and he experienced the joy of the Lord again. 

If we can receive this kind of help from talking with a friend, how much more beneficial would it be to be completely open with the Lord Jesus? He is the Best of friends. Alexander Maclaren wrote, “If we are friends of God, we shall have no secrets from Him. There are very few of those who are dearest to us to whom we could venture to lay bare all the depths of our hearts. There are black things down in the cellars that we do not like to show to any of our friends… But you should take God all through the house. And if there is the trust and the love that l have been speaking about, we shall not be afraid to spread out all our foulness, and our meanness, and our unworthy thoughts of, and acts towards, Him, before His ‘pure eyes and perfect judgment,’ and say, ‘Nobody but my best friend could look at such a dungheap, but I spread it before Thee… Tell God all, if you mean to be a friend of His.” 4

Christ did not withhold any truth from His disciples. There were no secrets between Him and His friends. Close friends communicate openly and honestly. Even though the truth may hurt at times, it is better to share it than to conceal it. Concealing the truth allows the situation to worsen. I appreciate it when my wife is open and honest with me about her true feelings. It shows me that she cares about our relationship. Friendship involves open communication. As we abide in Christ, He can enable us to share openly with one another.

e. IT TAKES THE INITIATIVE (15:16). Jesus continued and said, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit.” (John 15:16a). Christ took the initiative in choosing His disciples to “go and bear fruit.” Normally disciples choose their own teacher, but Jesus chose them. All around the world today, students seek out the teachers of their choice and attach themselves to them. But Christ’s disciples did not take the initiative. After spending all night in prayer to God (Luke 6:12-16), Jesus “chose” His disciples and “appointed” them to their mission to “go and bear fruit.” Notice that Jesus did not “choose”them to be saved or to have eternal life. His selection of them was related to their mission and ministry, not their salvation. John’s gospel never refers to people “being chosen from all eternity for eternal life or death.” 7

The divine election of God in the Bible is related to service, not salvation. In the Old Testament, God chose individuals to serve Him such as Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3), Moses (Exodus 3:12; Numbers 16:5-6, 28), Aaron (Numbers 17:5), King David (2 Samuel 6:21; 1 Kings 8:16), Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:5), and the Messianic Servant (Isaiah 49:5-9; 52:13-53:12). He chose a group of people, Israel, to continue the mission He began with Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3; Exodus 19:5-6; Deuteronomy 7:6-8; 14:2; 1 Kings 3:8; Psalm 33:12; 106:5; Isaiah 43:10; 45:4; 65:9, 22; cf. Matthew 24:22, 31; Mark 13:20; Luke 18:7; Romans 9:11; 11:28; 2 Timothy 2:10; 1 Peter 2:4).

In the New Testament, Jesus chose Twelve men to serve as His apostles (Luke 6:12-16; John 15:16). The fact that Judas was chosen by Christ demonstrates that this election was to service, not salvation since Judas never believed in Jesus (cf. John 6:64; 13:10-11; 17:12). Christ said that Paul was “a chosen vessel of Mine” to preach to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15-16). Peter was also chosen for service: “God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe” (Acts 15:7-8). 10

Just as Jesus took the initiative in choosing His disciples for their mission and service, so we must do the same in our relationships with one another. The importance of choosing believers to train in discipleship is underscored by the fact that Christ prayed all night to God on a mountaintop before He selected His disciples (cf. Luke 6:12-16). We need God’s wisdom and leading to choose men and women who will be “faithful” followers of Christ (cf. 2 Timothy 2:2).

Are we sharing the gospel with non-Christians and then asking them to meet with us for discipleship? We must be intentional about sharing the gospel with the lost and then teaching those who believe in Christ to obey all of His commandments (Matthew 28:20) because disciples are not born, they are made. 11  Christian growth is not automatic. It requires a commitment to follow Jesus regardless of the costs (cf. Luke 14:25-33).

Finally, f. IT BEARS FRUIT THAT LASTS (15:16b-17). “And that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.” (John 15:16b). Christ also “chose”and “appointed” His disciples that they “should… bear fruit… that… should remain.” This fruit is related to the fruit of evangelism because it remains and cannot be lost (cf. John 4:36; 10:28-29). One of the most unloving things we can do is keep God’s love and His gospel to ourselves. This lasting fruit is also connected to answered prayer – “that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.” To ask the Father in Jesus’ “name” means to pray for what Jesus would pray. God desires that all people be saved from hell (I Timothy 2:3-4). When we pray to that end, God answers that prayer. Prayer is the backbone to reaching the lost with the gospel of Christ. As God’s people pray, the Holy Spirit prepares the lost to hear and believe the gospel (John 16:7-11).

When we pray and preach the gospel, God saves people as they respond in faith, resulting in lasting “fruit.” How exciting to see people come to faith in Christ! As we allow Jesus to live through us, our desire to see people obtain eternal life will increase. This week you may be asked by another believer to go with them to share the gospel with a family member or friend. Or maybe someone will ask you to pray for an individual that they just shared the gospel with. Next Christ says, “These things I command you, that you love one another.” (John 15:17). The way to honor Christ’s Lordship in our lives is to obey Him especially as it relates to loving one another. And as we obey Him, people can see that we are His friends.

After one of the worst battles of the American Civil War, a small remnant of a Confederate regiment stood alone on a grassy knoll. A Southern officer on horseback approached the small band of soldiers. “Where is your captain?” the officer inquired. “There he lies,” they said, pointing to his lifeless form a few feet away. “And what are you men doing here?” the officer asked. “Sir, we are paying our respects, giving him our final salute. He told us to hold this hill, and we have done just what he said.” What loyalty! The proof of their allegiance was complete obedience to his orders.

As Christians, we should also remember our great Captain, Jesus Christ. Although He died, He does not remain on the field of battle. He rose again and lives victoriously at the right hand of God the Father! He freely gave His life that He might save us and bring us to God. This is all the more reason to give Him our total commitment to obey Him.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, no one deserves our allegiance more than You! Thank You for laying down Your life for me. No greater love has ever been shown to me than this. Right now I give You everyone and everything to use for Your purposes. Please help me to abide in You and You in me so Your love will flow through me to others. This world could use a lot more of Your love. May they know I am Your friend by my love for You and others, especially the lost who need to hear Your life-giving gospel message. In Your mighty name I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTE:

1. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B&H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1807.

2. See https://bible.org/illustration/john-1513 on April 17, 2018.

3. J. Dwight Pentecost, The Words & Works of Jesus Christ, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981), pg. 443.

4. Taken from Alexander Maclaren’s sermon on James 2:14-26 entitled, “Faith Without Works” at http://www.preceptaustin.org/maclaren_on_james_2.

5. Edwin A. Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, New Testament Edition (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1983), pg. 326.

6. Shawn Lazar, Chosen to Serve: Why Divine Election Is to Service, Not to Eternal Life (Denton, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 2017), pg. 140.

7. Ibid., pg. 147.

8. Shawn Lazar’s article, “Election for Baptists: Why Biblical election is to service and privilege, not to eternal life,” at https://faithalone.org/grace-in-focus-articles/election-for-baptists-why-biblical-election-is-to-service-and-privilege-not-to-eternal-life/; cf. Robert Wilkin, “THE DOCTRINE OF DIVINE ELECTION RECONSIDERED: ELECTION TO SERVICE, NOT TO EVERLASTING LIFE,” at https://faithalone.org/journal/2012ii/Wilkin.pdf; cf. Anthony B. Badger, Confronting Calvinism: A Free Grace Refutation and Biblical Resolution of Radical Reformed Soteriology (Anthony Badger, 2013), pp. 151-212.

9. Lazar, Chosen to Serve…, pp. 41-55, 175-199.

10. Lazar, “Election for Baptists…”

11. see Dr. Charlie Bing, GraceLife Notes, no. 23, “Are Disciples Born, or Made?” at http://www.gracelife.org/ resources/gracenotes/?id=23.

How can we be Jesus’ friend? Part 1

“If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” John 15:10

Several years ago, an English publication offered a prize for the best definition of a friend. Among the thousands of entries received were some of the following:

“One who understands our silence.”

“A volume of sympathy bound in cloth.”

“A watch which beats true for all time and never runs down.”

But the entry which won the prize said, “A friend – the one who comes in when the whole world has gone out.” 1

Often times we speak or sing about what it means to have Jesus as our Friend. But in these verses (John 15:9-17), we are going to discover what it means to be Jesus’ friend. It may surprise us to learn that not all Christians are friends with Jesus. A person can be a child of God without being a friend of God. How can we be Jesus’ Friend?

The first way is to LIVE IN HIS LOVE (John 15:9-11). Jesus and His disciples had just left the Upper Room and were on their way to the Garden of Gethsemane (John 14:31). Jesus used the analogy of the vine and its branches to teach them the secrets of having a fruitful ministry (John 15:1-8). They were to abide in Him and remain in vital contact with Him by obeying His commandments to glorify God the Father through the bearing of much fruit. Jesus’ disciples could not bear fruit apart from Christ. They were totally dependent on Him.

Christ then said to His disciples, “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.” (John 15:9). Love is the relationship that unites the disciples (and us) to Jesus as branches are united to a vine. Jesus refers to His love for them to motivate them. He first tells them that His love for them is like the Father’s love for Him (cf. John 3:35; 5:20). The Father gave His Son all authority to accomplish His purposes. He always sought the best for His Son.

Likewise, Jesus always sought the best for His disciples. He still does this with us. Jesus’ love for us has purpose. It is meant to benefit us, but it is not painless. For example, God the Father loved Jesus, but sent Him to suffer and die to benefit those who believed in Him. The Bible tells us, “For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” (Philippians 1:29). God’s love for us does not mean we will never have pain or difficulties. In fact, pain can be an expression of God’s love for us. Hebrews 12:6 says, “For whom the Lord loves He chastens.” God uses His painful discipline in our lives, so we may be “partakers of His holiness (Hebrews 12:10).

Next, Jesus commands them (and us), “Abide in My love. The word “abide” (menō) is a fellowship term and means “to remain, continue, make one’s home at.” We are to constantly make our home in Jesus’ love for us. Abiding is not easy, yet where we make our home is where we spend our time. We must make the effort to abide in the truth of Scripture that God loves us with “an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3). People may stop loving us and even reject us, but God will never stop loving us. No one and nothing can separate us from His love which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39)! Because this is a command, it is possible for a believer not to abide in God’s love.

How do we abide in Jesus’ love? Is this something mystical? Not at all. It is very simple. ““If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” (John 15:10). We abide in Jesus’ love by keeping His commandments. Loving Christ in this way is not an emotion. It is a choice of the will. An example of this love is Christ’s perfect obedience to His Father’s commands. Jesus had uninterrupted fellowship with His Father through obedience to His commands. As we receive and appreciate Jesus’ love for us, we will be more motivated to obey Him (cf. I John 4:19). This is not a system of rigid rules, it is a loving relationship with Jesus. Our love for Christ is a result of His love for us. We cannot give what we do not possess.

Before we can love Jesus in this way, we must first receive His love for us. The more you know God, the better you love Him and people. John says in I John 4:7-8, “7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” You cannot give what you do not have. “God is love.” If you have Him, you have love. If you do not have Him, you only think you have love because God not only cornered the market on love, He is the market on love!

Those who have this kind of love are “born of God and know God” (I John 4:7b). The phrase “born of God” refers to a Christian. Before we can ever produce this kind of love in our relationships, we must first be born of God. How? The Bible says you must simply believe in Jesus Christ. “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.” (I John 5:1).

In John 14:6, Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Jesus makes it very clear that there is only one way to God and that is through Him. Our sin, the wrong things we have thought, said, and done – separate us from God (Romans 3:23; 6:23). This separation from God causes problems in every area of our lives – including our relationships. No amount of our good works can bring us back to God because we are still sinners.

But Jesus has provided the only way back to God by paying for all our sins when He died on the cross and rose from the dead (I Corinthians 15:3-6). The Lord now invites you to believe or trust in Him alone for eternal life. He said, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life.” (John 6:47). It doesn’t matter how badly you have messed things up, you can come to Christ just as you are.

Just as you trust a chair through no effort of your own to hold you up off the floor, so God now invites you to trust in Jesus Christ alone through no effort of your own to give you eternal life and complete forgiveness of sins (John 3:16; Acts 10:43; Colossians 2:13-14). The good things you have done will not save you. Only Jesus can save you from your sins. The moment you place your faith in Jesus alone for eternal life, you become God’s child (John 1:12) and God comes to live inside of you (Romans 8:11; Galatians 2:20) and love you always. As you get to know Him and trust Him, He pours His love into your life through His Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5; Galatians 5:22a), so you can begin to love others.  You may be ready to receive God’s love right now. Simply believe in Jesus to give you everlasting life (John 6:47).

Once you have come close to God by trusting in Jesus alone as your Savior, the key is to stay close. Get to “know Him” (I John 4:7b) by spending time with Him. Staying close to God is not complicated. This image works for me: I picture my life as a bucket. I have to have my bucket filled. And God’s love is like a fountain. The more I refill that bucket, the more love I have to share with others. If you have been a Christian for a while, you can probably tell when your bucket is empty. You are easily irritated or angered. It is difficult to let go of past hurts and trust the person again, to expect the best of him or her. Perhaps you cannot stand being in the same room with the person who has hurt you in the past. All of these are indications that you need to be refilled.  

You say, “How do I do it?” Spend time with Jesus. Hang out with Him. Read what He has written in His love letter to you, the Bible. Talk to Him about what you are reading and feeling. Treat Him like a close friend, and you will become a close friend. And when you get closer to Jesus, you’ll discover that you are more able to love those who matter to you. Go to church so you can hang out with the people who hang out with God. Join a small group where you can hang out more intimately with a few of God’s friends.

Jesus spoke about remaining in vital contact with Himself and His love so that we could experience His joy. “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:11). The Lord did not intend for His disciples’ lives to be burdensome and boring. He intends for us to know the same joy He knew when He was obedient to the will of God the Father. He wants our joy to “be full”or brought to completion.

Our greatest joy is walking in obedience to Jesus Christ. The joy of Christ is the joy that arises from the sense of a finished work. It is a creative joy, like the joy of an artist or carpenter when he or she finishes a project. When your masterpiece is finished, there is great joy over its completion. Discipleship is not meant to be some shallow, miserable experience of following rules. It is meant to be a life characterized by joy or gladness which arises out of a loving relationship with the Lord.

But if a believer is not abiding in Christ through obedience, especially as it relates to loving one another, there will be a lack of joy in his or her life. Disobedience to God reduces our joy and increases our sense of shame and guilt. You cannot rejoice while you are wallowing in shame.

Take time this week to hang out with Jesus and His friends. Your life will be more full of joy and someone else may also get a lift.

Prayer: Precious Lord and Savior, thank You for Your profound love for me. People may stop loving me, but You never have nor will! Let’s get together in the morning. I want to hear what You have to say to me. My love tank is running a little low right now, and it could use a refill. Thank You, Jesus. See You in the morning! In Your name I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Karol & Terry Ladd, The Power of a Positive Friend (West Monroe, LA: Howard Publishing Co., 2004), pp. 31-32.

2. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, compiled by Walter Bauer, trans. and adapted by William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, 2nd ed., rev. and augmented by F. Wilbur Gingrich and Frederick W. Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979), pp. 503-504.

.

How can we overcome the fear of abandonment? Part 1

“And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever.” John 14:16

A few years ago I watched the movie “Spotlight” which is based on a true story of how the Boston Globe newspaper’s spotlight team uncovered the massive scandal of child molestation and cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese. The many victims of abuse had been ignored by the Catholic Church and the Boston community. Near the end of the movie, many victims called in to the Spotlight department after they ran an article entitled, “Church ignores abuse by priests for years.” For years victims of sexual abuse were abandoned by people who knew about the abuse but turned the other way.

We might think, “Well, that is just the Catholic Church. That would not happen among true born-again Christians.” Evangelical churches would not ignore the victims of such abuse, right!?! Mission agencies would not tolerate such horrific treatment of their own people. Right?! Wrong! These assumptions are one of many factors that has hindered evangelicals and Bible-believing mission agencies from dealing with sexual abuse among their own people.

Former gymnast, Rachael Denhollander, says she was fifteen-years old when US Olympic team doctor, Larry Nassar, started sexually abusing her. In an interview with Christianity Today, she says, Church is one of the least safe places to acknowledge abuse because the way it is counseled is, more often than not, damaging to the victim. There is an abhorrent lack of knowledge for the damage and devastation that sexual assault brings. It is with deep regret that I say the church is one of the worst places to go for help. That’s a hard thing to say, because I am a very conservative evangelical, but that is the truth. There are very, very few who have ever found true help in the church… 1

Mission agencies that once denied the possibility of sexual abuse among their missionary families have had to come to grips with the harsh reality that such abuse has and does take place among conservative evangelical missionary families. In fact, I was told by one mission agency leader in the Philippines, that sexual abuse takes place in every culture and subculture, Christian or non-Christian. All people are fallen and broken because of sin.

Sexual abuse victims are often isolated and left alone to deal with their pain and shame. Those who are abused within the church are wanting to know, “Where is God in all of this? Has God abandoned me? Why did He permit this to happen to me?”

The feeling of being left alone, not only haunts victims of sexual abuse, it also haunts the “divorcee in that apartment… or the one who just buried his or her life’s companion… or the couple whose arms ache for the child recently taken… the young nurse in 1967 who, after a shattered romance and broken engagement, went back to the Midwest to start over… like the disillusioned teenaged girl, away from home and heavy with child – wondering, ‘How can I face tomorrow?’” 2  Because of COVID-19, many people are experiencing abandonment by family, friends, colleagues, and churches. Some of you reading this article may be feeling as though God has left you or abandoned you.

The disciples of Jesus may have asked that question, “How can I face tomorrow?” After Jesus announced His departure to His disciples, they became troubled (John 13:33-14:12). They were afraid to be left alone without Jesus present. They did not want to fight battles and face issues alone.

Like Jesus’ disciples, we may struggle with the fear of abandonment. A word, a tone of voice, or gesture or lack of it can drive us to act in ways that we think will prevent someone from leaving us. But we do not have to yield to our fear of abandonment because Jesus has provided a Helper to encourage us during His absence.

In John 14:12-14, Jesus had promised His disciples that if they trusted Him, they would do greater works than He had done because He would go to the Father. Even though Jesus was leaving them, they were to continue His ministry of revealing the Father. Christ’s disciples would reveal His Father to a greater extent than He had done while He was on earth if they had faith in Him to work through them. The power to reveal the Father would be obtained through prayer in Jesus’ name.

For the next few days, we will learn how we can overcome the fear of abandonment. We can overcome the fear of abandonment by focusing on… THE PROMISE OF ANOTHER HELPER (John 14:15-16). Jesus said to His eleven believing disciples,“If you love me, you will obey my commandments.” (John 14:15). While Jesus was gone, the disciples would have an opportunity to show Christ just how much they loved Him. Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” The present tense of the first verb, “love,” (agapate) could be translated, “If you keep on loving Me…” 3 They could reveal their love for the Lord through their ongoing obedience to Him.

Notice that Jesus did not say, “If you fear Me, keep My commandments.” The fear of Jesus is not the motivation for obedience to Him. Instead, Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” Love for Jesus is the strongest motivation for obeying Him. Our obedience to Christ is the outgrowth of our love relationship with Him. First John 4:18-19 say, 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. 19 We love Him because He first loved us.”The more I experience the unconditional love and acceptance of Jesus Christ, the more my love toward Him will increase and express itself by obeying Him.

Some people may claim to love Christ while living in disobedience to Him. They may misconstrue that their love for the Lord is a feeling. But Christ makes it clear that our love for Him is revealed through our actions. Jesus taught His disciples that answered prayer is dependent upon obedience to Him (John 14:13-14; cf. 15:7). John writes in his epistle, “And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.”(I John 3:22). We can say we love the Lord, but what truly communicates our love for Him is obedience to His Word (cf. I John 3:18).

Think about this for a moment. If Jesus just told us with His mouth that He loved us and never took action, we would still be dead in our sins. God’s love involves the commitment to do what is best for others. Our love for Jesus is expressed through our obedience to Him.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever.” (John 14:16). Jesus recognized the weaknesses of His disciples and their inability to fulfill the ministry of revealing the Father through their obedience to His commands, so He promises that the Father will send “another Helper.” The word “Helper”(paraklétos) literally means, “One who is called alongside to help.” 4 The disciples had been sent out to minister while Jesus was here on earth. But now they were being sent out to be His witnesses during His absence from the earth. Jesus had been their Helper while He was with them. In His absence, He would send “another Helper.”

This verse has much to say about the Trinity. Laney observes that “it is noteworthy that in vv. 13-14 Jesus commands His disciples to ‘ask’ (aiteō), the word used of an inferior asking a superior. But here Jesus uses the word erotaō (‘ask’), a word used of a request made to an equal. This has significant implications in terms of Jesus’ deity. Although submissive to the Father, Jesus regarded Himself as an equal (cf. 10:30; 14:9)5 to the Father.

Christ also considers the Holy Spirit to be equal to Himself by using the word “another” (allon) which means “another of the same kind.” 6 Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as “another just like Myself.” According to Christ, there is equality among the Godhead (see diagram below). The Son is equal to the Father, and the Holy Spirit is equal to the Son. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are equal in every way as God, yet distinct in their tasks and relations to humanity.

Christ is saying in this verse that the Holy Spirit will do for them all that He had done for them while He was with them. So they would not be abandoned or left alone to their own wisdom and strength. This Helper would be with them “forever.” There would never be a time when this coming Helper would be taken away from them in the way Christ was now being taken from them through His death and eventual ascension to heaven. 

You may ask, “If God the Holy Spirit is with me, why do I still feel all alone?” Because the Holy Spirit is not a feeling, He is a Person without a physical body. Rather than focus on our feelings to determine if we are alone and abandoned, we are to focus on what the Bible says about the Holy Spirit. Jesus said that this “Helper” will “abide with you forever.” The word “forever” is the English translation of three words in the original language and literally means “to the age” (eis ton aiōna). Jesus is saying that the Holy Spirit will continue with them (and us) until “the end of the world or time” itself to provide constant comfort, guidance, leading, power, protection, provision, and teaching. Unlike Christ who spent three and a half years with His disciples and then left them, Jesus now promises another equal Helper Who will never depart from them.

Think about this: how long is “forever?” It is permanent, isn’t it? It never ends. Even though you may feel alone, the truth is there will never be a time when the Holy Spirit is not “with you.” Feelings can lie to us. We may conclude, “I am alone because I feel alone.” That is a lie. We must not give our feelings more authority than God’s Word. Will we focus on a lie or on the unchanging truth of God’s Word? The choice is ours. If we feel alone it is because we are focusing on thoughts or feelings of loneliness which are contrary to the truth of Jesus. We need to follow the example of the Psalmist when he prayed to the Lord, “Remove from me the way of lying, and grant me Your law graciously.” (Psalm 119:29).  We can ask the Lord to remove this lie from our thinking and to graciously renew our mind with this truth that God the Holy Spirit is always with us to provide constant assistance and strength whether we feel this way or not.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You so much for sending God the Holy Spirit to supply our needs in Your absence. I must admit that I have given my feelings more authority than Your Word when I believe I am all alone. Thank You for reminding me that I am never alone, Lord Jesus. Your Holy Spirit abides with me forever! Holy Spirit, I want to give You everyone and everything in my life right now. Please restore my union with You and guide me into a deeper connection with You, the Father, and Jesus. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. http://www.christianitytoday. com/ct/2018/january-web-only/rachael-denhollander-larry-nassar-forgiveness-gospel.html.

2. Adapted from Chuck Swindoll’s Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), pp. 164-165.

3. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pp. 260-261.

4. J. Dwight Pentecost, The Words & Works of Jesus Christ, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981), pg. 438.

5. Laney, pg. 261.

6. A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vol. V., Gospel of John, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1932), pg. 252.