How can I respond to skeptics who deny that Jesus is God? Part 4

“And He went away again beyond the Jordan to the place where John was baptizing at first, and there He stayed.” John 10:40

When we encounter skeptics who deny that Jesus is God, we may find it necessary to CONSIDER OUR BEGINNINGS (John 10:40). This is the fourth way Jesus responded to His skeptical audience.

Jesus found it necessary to leave Jerusalem and Judea because of the growing hostility toward Him. All doors were closed to His ministry in Judea and for some time Galilee had rejected His ministry. Jesus did not stay long in resistant areas. He moved to more receptive areas and He advised His disciples to do the same (cf. Matthew 10:11-15, 23). Plus, it wasn’t time for Him to suffer and die on the Cross. So where does Jesus go?

“And He went away again beyond the Jordan to the place where John was baptizing at first, and there He stayed.” (John 10:40). Jesus crossed over to the other side of the Jordan River to Bethany, a small ford community on the east bank of the Jordan River where John the Baptist started his ministry and where Jesus was baptized which also was the start of His ministry. 1 This was not the Bethany near Jerusalem, but the Bethany of Perea which was east of the Jordan River. Christ would spend the next three and a half months here.

This was a place that had many fond memories for the Lord. This is where He met and won His first disciples (John 1:35-51). He had success here far away from the prejudiced atmosphere of Jerusalem and He would enjoy more success here again. John tells us that it was “there He stayed” – He made His home here.

It is important for us to consider our beginnings when we are going through difficult times. If you are discouraged right now because of having to deal with skeptics or those who reject your Christian faith, relive the time when you became a child of God through faith in Christ or when you began your Christian ministry. Remember God’s faithfulness during those early days of your Christian life. This will encourage you and renew your strength in the Lord.

When my parents moved our family away from their families in Illinois to Iowa when I was seven years old, we would periodically return to Illinois to visit where we were born and relive the many fond memories we had there. This served as a way of recharging us spiritually and emotionally for the challenges we faced in Iowa.

Even now when I may be disappointed in ministry or with life in general, I like to relive the many fond memories I have of my first couple of short-term mission trips to the Philippines when I saw an incredible response to the gospel. Occasionally, I schedule mission trips to go back to areas I have visited in the past where we saw amazing receptivity among the people of the Philippines. These trips serve as a time of refreshment and renewal for us and for those to whom we minister.

There are many stressors in our world today including COVID-19, social unrest, political divisions, and opposition to Christianity. When you face difficulties in your Christian life, do you have a place where you can go to relive fond memories you have with the Lord? If not, ask the Lord to guide you to such a place where you can remember some special times you had with Him to refresh your soul.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, You are such a wise Counselor. Thank You for reminding me how You can use opposition to my Christian faith to redirect me to people who are more receptive to Your gospel message. I also appreciate Your example of retreating to a place where You could relive many fond memories from the beginning of Your ministry. Please lead me to such a place where I can be refreshed by memories of Your amazing grace working in my life and the lives of others whom You brought into my life. You are such a Good Shepherd to lead Your sheep beside still waters to refresh their souls. In Your name I praise You! Amen.

ENDNOTE:

1. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992) pg. 50; cf. John 1:28 – the majority of Greek manuscripts read “Bethany,” not “Bethabara.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ENDNOTES:

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

2. Ibid.

How can I overcome opposition to the truth about Jesus? Part 4

“Yet you have not known Him, but I know Him. And if I say, ‘I do not know Him,’ I shall be a liar like you; but I do know Him and keep His word.” John 8:55

A fourth way we can overcome opposition to the truth about Jesus is to APPEAL TO OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD (John 8:54-55). Jesus explains “If I honor Myself, My honor is nothing. It is My Father who honors Me, of whom you say that He is your God.” (John 8:54). Christ was not trying to glorify Himself when He claimed to be able to deliver from death those who keep His words (John 8:51) because self-testimony alone is not valid. Although Jesus does not seek to glorify Himself, that does not mean He is without glory. His Father “honors” or glorifies Him. Ironically, Jesus’ opponents, who claimed to know God, did not perceive that this is how God was working in their midst. Their relationship with God was formal, but Jesus’ relationship with God was personal.

Jesus says, “Yet you have not known Him, but I know Him. And if I say, ‘I do not know Him,’ I shall be a liar like you; but I do know Him and keep His word.” (John 8:55). In reality, they did not know God the Father, but Jesus had an intimate relationship with the Father. Christ is saying, “You have not come to know God by your personal experience or observation (ginosko), but I know (oida) Him inherently and intuitively.” For Jesus to deny knowing God would reduce Him to being a liar like they were liars. If Jesus’ audience would keep Jesus’ word by believing in Him for everlasting life, they would come to know God the Father.

When Jesus says, “But I do know Him and keep His word,” we learn that Christ’s knowledge of the Father results from keeping His Word. Likewise, as believers in Jesus learn to obey Christ’s Word, they will come to know Him in a deeper, more personal way. Jesus said, “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.” (John 14:21). As we demonstrate our trustworthiness to Jesus by obeying His Word, He will manifest or reveal more of Himself to us. Friendship with Christ requires obedience to Him. “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.” (John 15:14). The closer we grow to Christ, the more boldness we will have when facing opposition to the truth about Him. We see this in Acts 4 when the apostles boldly preached Jesus to their persecutors who were their educational superiors.          

As Peter and John boldly spoke of Jesus before this educated crowd, their listeners could discern that these men had spent time with the Savior. “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13). These two, lowly fisherman were not intimidated by all the intellectual knowledge and training of these men. They were more impressed with Jesus and they wanted this group to know Him in a personal way. This elite religious group acknowledges the boldness of Peter and John while noting their lack of education.

Often a person’s boldness for Christ shrinks as his education increases. He or she becomes “too sophisticated” to be excited for Christ!! It is better to possess boldness and lack learning, than to possess learning and lack boldness. And it is one thing to be bold with our social equals, but it is an entirely different thing to be bold – as Peter and John were – with our social and educational superiors. True boldness knows no respect of persons.

Boldness does not arise from having a theological degree or a vast knowledge of the Bible. The key to boldness is spending time with Jesus Christ. Peter and John had been in a discipleship relationship with Jesus for over three years. His heart became theirs. So, the closer we get to the heart of Christ, the closer we get to the people for whom He died.

Jesus’ heart bleeds for the lost. Luke 19:10 explains: “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” The heart of our Lord is a seeking heart. Aren’t you thankful for that? We would still be lost in our sins if Jesus did not seek us out. Look at God’s heart in I Timothy 2:3-4: “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” God created hell for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41), not for people. God desires that all people go to heaven regardless of their background, education, culture or color of skin, and He wants to use you and I to introduce them to the Savior who can get them there.

Are we willing to go to the people who need Jesus even if they do not know they need Him and are hostile to the truth? I believe the more we know Jesus’ heart for the lost, the more we will love those for whom He died. And the more we love them, the more motivated we will be to introduce them to the Savior.

Prayer: Lord God, I can relate to Jesus’ audience approaching Him formally instead of personally. Before I became a Christian, this was the way I approached You through my religion. But the moment You rescued me from my own sin and gave me everlasting life, You began a new work with me that was internal, not external; it was relational, not religious; it was personal, not formal. I can still engage in the formalities of religion. But that only leaves me empty and without direction. But the closer I grow to You, Lord Jesus, the more Your heart for unbelievers becomes my heart as well. When I face opposition from people whether they be unbelieving or believing, help me to see them through Your eyes as broken and wounded sinners who need You more than anything or anyone else. Only You can understand and meet their deepest needs. Please use me to point them to You so You can show Yourself to them in ways that will enrich their lives. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

How can I overcome opposition to the truth about Jesus? Part 3

“Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death.” John 8:51

So far we have learned that to overcome opposition to the truth about Jesus we must analyze Christ’s opponent’s accusations with God’s Word (John 8:48-49) and aim for God the Father’s approval (John 8:50). Today we discover that we are to ASK THEM TO BELIEVE IN CHRIST’S PROMISE OF ETERNAL LIFE (John 8:51-53). Christ says to His unbelieving audience, “Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death.” (John 8:51). This does not mean that a person must completely obey all of God’s Word to earn eternal life because that would contradict what Jesus has already taught in the gospel of John about how to receive eternal life (cf. John 3:15-18; 4:10-14;  5:24; 6:35-40, 47; 7:37-38; 8:45-46). Nor is Jesus saying believers will never experience physical death. In the context, the word “keeps” (tēréō) means to pay careful attention to what Jesus says about receiving eternal life.

For example, in John 6:47, Jesus said, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life.” In John 11:26, Jesus promised, “Whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.” The apostle John also writes in I John 2:23, “And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ.” Christ promises that those who keep His word by believing in Him for everlasting life shall never see eternal death. When a believer in Jesus dies physically, he or she (their spirit) is immediately taken into the presence of the Lord.

“We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:8). Christians can be confident that the moment they die (“be absent from the body”) their spirit will go to “be present with the Lord” while their body sleeps in the grave (cf. I Thessalonians 4:13-17). I can be assured, that “for to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.” (Philippians 1:21-23). Physical death for the believer in Jesus is not the end. It is actually a new beginning for Christians as they transition into eternity in the presence of our Lord where there will be no more sin or death for them (cf. I Corinthians 15:51-57; I John 3:2-3).

Non-Christians cannot understand the things of God because they do not have the Spirit of God (cf. I Corinthians 2:11b-14). Thus, the best place to start with unbelieving opponents to the truth about Jesus, is to share the gospel with them so they can be saved and receive the Holy Spirit who can enable them to understand and believe the truth about Jesus (cf. John 14:16-17; 15:26; 16:13-14; I John 2:20, 27).

Jesus’ unbelieving audience mistakenly think He is claiming that those who keep His word will never die physically. They respond to this invitation with more unbelief toward Jesus. “Now we know that You have a demon! Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and You say, ‘If anyone keeps My word he shall never taste death.” (John  8:52). They think their previous accusation against Jesus has just been confirmed (cf. John 8:48). “Only a demon-possessed man would claim to have more power than Abraham and the prophets who all died, yet in the face of these facts Jesus claims that the one who keeps His word ‘shall never taste death’ or experience physical death? If these righteous ones to whom God gave great privileges were not delivered from physical death, such deliverance was impossible.

They continue, “Are You greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? And the prophets are dead. Who do You make Yourself out to be?” (John 8:53). Their question expects a negative answer and means, “Surely, Jesus, You are not greater than our founding father, Abraham, or the prophets, who are dead. If keeping Your words prevents physical death, then You are claiming to be greater than those who died.” Ironically, Jesus was greater than Abraham and the prophets as we shall see in the next few verses.

Before I became a Christian at the age of nineteen, the claims of Jesus did not make much sense to me because I did not have God the Holy Spirit inside me to help me understand the meaning of Scripture and how it applies to my life. But the moment I believed in Jesus for His gift of everlasting life, the Bible came alive for me. As I read the Bible each day, certain truths would jump off the pages of my Bible and burn in my heart. Jesus’ gift of everlasting life was my new norm and reality.

One of the most important ways we can overcome opposition to the truth about Jesus is to invite unbelievers to believe Christ’s promise of everlasting life to all who believe in Him so they can receive the best Teacher in the universe – God the Holy Spirit (cf. John 14:16-17; 15:26; 16:13-14; I John 2:20, 27). He can remove Satan’s blinders (2 Corinthians 4:4) so they can see and embrace the truth about Jesus Christ – that He is much greater than Abraham and the prophets as we shall learn in the next few verses.

Prayer: Lord God, thank You so much for showing me that I do not need to be afraid to share the truth about Jesus with those who are hostile to the truth. For I am guaranteed never to taste eternal death the moment I believe in Him Who is greater than Abraham and the prophets! Thank You Holy Spirit for removing the blinders from my heart and my mind so I could see Jesus for Who He truly is! He is the promised Messiah-God! He is the Alpha and the Omega! The Beginning and the End! He is Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace! Please give me the wisdom and boldness to point people to Jesus Who alone can rescue them from sin and death the moment they believe in Him. I love You, my Lord and my God. Though I long to be in Your presence in heaven, I also know You are not finished with me yet on earth. Please use me to introduce millions to Your Son. In His everlasting name I pray. Amen.

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How can I overcome opposition to the truth about Jesus? Part 2

“And I do not seek My own glory; there is One who seeks and judges.” John 8:50

From Jesus’ interaction with His opponents in John 8:48-59, we are learning how to overcome opposition to the truth about Jesus in our own lives. The second way we can do this is to AIM FOR THE FATHER’S APPROVAL (John 8:50). Jesus said, “And I do not seek My own glory; there is One who seeks and judges.” (John 8:50). Jesus denies seeking glory for Himself and asserts that there is One who seeks His glory and judges His opponents. Jesus is not concerned about people giving Him the glory that He deserves because His Father in heaven is looking after that. The Father seeks to glorify His Son and judges those who reject Him. The Jews were continually “seeking” Jesus in their mistaken zeal for God’s glory, but their seeking actually resulted in Jesus’ death. Ironically, Christ’s death would turn out to be His ultimate glory (cf. John 12:23, 28; 17:1-5).

Christ was not concerned about pleasing people because His ultimate concern was the approval of His Father in heaven who “judges.” Even though Jesus lived a perfect life, He could not please everyone. So, it is foolish of us to try to do something that even God could not do!

If we are to overcome opposition to the truth about Jesus, we must make it our aim to live for God’s approval and not peoples’. When people reject the truth about Jesus, we do not have to take it personally as though they are rejecting us. But even if they do reject us, we can rejoice because they are rejecting the truth about Jesus. Sometimes we may fear rejection because we are seeking the approval of others. But when we seek God’s approval, His Holy Spirit will enable us to overcome the fear of rejection (cf. Acts 4:29-31).

For example, I think back about my mission trip to an island in the southern Philippines in October 2015 with my pastor friend. On one morning after preaching the gospel at an elementary school, I asked one of the teachers if there were any other schools nearby. He hesitated and then said, “Yes there is another school about a 40-minute hike from here but you don’t want to go there.” “Really?” I said, “Why is that?” He said, “Because it is all Muslim and it is not safe for Christians to go there.” For the next two hours, several Christians tried to persuade us not to go to this school, but I kept asking them if they had gone there and they had not. So, I said, “Who will go if we do not go to them?” They had no answer. At this juncture, we had a choice to make – do we seek to please these believers who do not want us to go or do we seek to please our Father in heaven who desires that all people be saved (I Timothy 2:3-4)?

Eventually my translator and a local Christian tribal leader made the 40-minute hike with me through the mountainous jungle toward the all-Muslim village. With each step, I anticipated what the Lord would do when we got there. What are You going to do when we arrive at this village, Lord? How are You going to protect us? How will these people respond? When we arrived at the Muslim village we were warmly welcomed by the teachers and Muslim principal. One of the teachers said they expected us. “Why?” I asked. She told me it was because she saw pictures of us on Facebook when we were on a nearby island at a school. God used Facebook to prepare this village for our arrival. As we shared the gospel with the students and teachers, they were very attentive to the message.All one-hundred twenty students and teachers indicated that they believed in Jesus alone for His gift of salvation at the end of the gospel presentation. 

Afterward we had a concert, with individual students praising our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. I got goose bumps listening to these newly saved children fill the jungle with songs of praise to their Savior! As these children sang, I thought to myself, “This is why we are in the Philippines. If we don’t go to these unreached villagers, who will go?” Had we sought to please people we would not have gone to that village. But because our aim was to seek the approval of our Father in heaven, we went to the village that God had already prepared to hear and believe the gospel.

How many times do we forfeit God’s blessings because we are trying to please someone else besides the Lord? How many people have not heard the good news of Jesus Christ because Christians listened to their peers instead of listening to the Lord? Yes, there is wisdom in listening to counselors, but if that counsel does not reflect God’s leading, we are in big trouble!

To be balanced, I do want to acknowledge that we could have have been killed going to that village, but God in His grace, permitted us to see a wonderful harvest. Even when we seek God’s approval, He does not guarantee there will be no suffering or death.

For example, in anticipation of the world’s hatred, Jesus warned His disciples that they would experience the same hostility from the world that He had experienced. “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.” (John 15:18). The phrase, “If the world hates you…” is a first class condition in the Greek language and means that the world does actually hate the disciples. Jesus did not promise a painless, effortless experience as a disciple. He says, “If the world hates you (and it does), then it should come as no surprise to you because it hated Me first.” From His birth when king Herod sought to kill Him, to His death on the cross, Jesus experienced opposition from the world. Therefore, a person cannot be intimately related to Christ without being hated by His enemies. The main issue here is not whether we will experience rejection and persecution as Christ followers, but how will we respond to it?

The world does not hate disciples of Christ because they are better; it hates disciples because they are servants of Christ whom the world has rejected. The world loves its own as long as you commend and follow its ways (John 15:19a), but when a believer decides to turn their back on the world to follow Jesus, the world will hate him or her.

In summary, will we seek God’s approval when the fury of the world is directed at us or will we seek the world’s approval and miss out on the many blessings God wants to bestow upon His disciples both now and in eternity? If you are like me, you may be quick to say you want God’s approval. But for us to live that way consistently, we must daily surrender everything to Him. “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.” (Colossians 3:23-24). Submitting to the Lordship of Jesus Christ daily no matter what the cost, will reap eternal rewards.

Prayer: Precious Lord and Savior, I am tested every day regarding my loyalties. It is so easy for me to want the approval of people instead of Yours. But even then, it is impossible to please everyone. You know this much better than I do. Please forgive me for being so fickle. I want to live for the audience of One. I long to hear You say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” For that to happen, I need Your grace  –  lots of grace to change me from the inside out. So often I want to be in control because I think that is when I will feel safe. But the truth is I am most safe when I seek Your approval and yield to Your control. Thank You my Lord and my God. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

How can I overcome opposition to the truth about Jesus? Part 1

“Jesus answered, ‘I do not have a demon; but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me.’ ” John 8:49

In John chapters 7 and 8, the Lord Jesus has encountered substantial opposition from unbelievers, including His brothers, Jewish pilgrims, Jerusalemites, religious leaders and others. In John 8:31-37, Jesus taught how He could free His audience from bondage to sin. But much of His audience were children of the devil because they sought to kill Christ and refused to believe in Him (John 8:38-47). From Jesus’ interaction with His opponents in John 8:48-59, we will learn how to overcome opposition to the truth about Jesus in our own lives.

How Can I Overcome Opposition to the Truth About Jesus? First, we want to ANALYZE THEIR ACCUSATIONS WITH GOD’S WORD (John 48-49). “Then the Jews answered and said to Him, ‘Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?’ ” (John 8:48). Since the Jews had no answer to Christ’s arguments, they resort to name calling. Their question, “Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?” expects an affirmative answer in the Greek language.

Samaritans were despised by the Jews because they were a mixed race. When Assyria conquered the Northern Kingdom of Israel, many Jews were exported and many foreigners were imported. Jews who stayed and Gentiles who came, intermarried. The offspring were half-breeds called “Samaritans.”Samaritans were lax in Judaism and did not observe all their traditions. Perhaps the Jews were responding to Jesus’ denial that they were children of Abraham (cf. John 8:42-47), and were saying, “You are no better than Samaritans.” After Jesus tells them that their father is the devil (John 8:44), they say that Jesus is demon-possessed.

Jesus responds, “Jesus answered, ‘I do not have a demon; but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me.’ ” (John 8:49). Were Jesus’ claims like those of a demon-possessed person? Of course not. Rather than seeking His own self-exaltation like a demon, Jesus sought to honor and exalt His Father. By seeking to dishonor Jesus, these opponents of Christ were dishonoring God the Father (cf. John 5:23).

When people make accusations against Christ, it is important to analyze those charges with God’s Word. In this case, Jesus was far removed from having a demon as He aims to give honor where it is due while His Jewish audience did not. They sought to honor their father, the devil, who embraces lies and despises the truth.

Throughout the world, there are many religious groups that deny that Jesus is God. This assertion ignores the many verses in the Bible that point to the deity of Christ (cf. Isaiah 9:6-7; Daniel 8:13-14; Mark 14:61b-64; John 1:1, 14, 17; 5:17-18, 23-24; 8:59; 9:35-37; 10:30; 11:25-27; 12:44-45; 14:7-9; 20:28; Acts 16:31-34; Romans 1:3-4; 9:5; Philippians 2:5-11; Colossians 1:15-17; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 1:1-3, 8-12; I John 5:20; et. al).

The Bible makes it clear that those who deny that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah-God, are liars and they are antichrist. “Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son. Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also.” (I John 2:22-23). Antichrists deny God the Father and God the Son. Their goal is to oppose and replace Jesus Christ with gods of their own making. They want to deceive and derail Christians from pursuing Christ. But when Christians submit to the Lord and stand upon His truth, the devil and his followers will flee (I John 2:19; cf. James 4:8).

Prayer: Lord God, we are living at a time where there is so much deception in the world. People are being dominated by emotions instead of truth. The ruler of this world, the devil, is using anything and everything to mislead people away from the truth about Jesus Christ. Please renew my mind with Your truth so I may honor You with my response to those who oppose the truth about Jesus Christ. I want to know Your Word so well that I will be able to identify lies in an instant because they are contrary to what I know to be true. I need Your Holy Spirit to empower me to give an answer to those who seek to replace Jesus as the true God with false gods of their own making. Please grant me boldness and clarity to lovingly share Your Word in season and out of season with all people, regardless of their country, culture, or color. Thank You for the hope I have in Jesus Who has already defeated the father of lies through His death and resurrection. In the matchless name of Jesus Christ I pray. Amen.