Lessons from the risen Lord Jesus – Part 1

“Simon Peter said to them, ‘I am going fishing.’ They said to him, ‘We are going with you also.’ They went out and immediately got into the boat, and that night they caught nothing.” John 21:3

We are now in the last chapter of the gospel of John. In the first half of this chapter we are going to learn how to relate to the risen Lord Jesus in our daily lives. The disciples are in a much different place than the upper room when they were behind locked doors for fear of the Jews (John 20:19-29). This chapter begins with the disciples back in Galilee. Jesus had commanded the disciples through the women to leave Jerusalem for Galilee where He promised to appear to them (Matthew 28:7, 10; Mark 14:28; 16:7). While waiting for Jesus to come to them, the disciples decided to return to their previous employment.

The apostle John 1 writes, “After these things Jesus showed Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and in this way He showed Himself.” (John 21:1). This is the fourth resurrection appearance of Jesus in John’s gospel. “The Sea of Tiberias” is another name for the Sea of Galilee. The name “Tiberias” was associated with the Sea because of the prominent capital city of Galilee by that name on the southwestern shore. 2

John identifies five of the seven disciples who witnessed this resurrection appearance. They included “Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee [James and John], and two others of His disciples were together.” (John 21:2). We could refer to the “two others” as UFOC’s – unidentified followers of Christ. John notes that “Nathanael” was from the Galilean village of “Cana” where Jesus changed water into wine. Cana was located about nine miles north of Nazareth, the childhood home of Jesus. 3

Keep in mind that the disciples had gone to Jerusalem and had experienced a tumultuous series of events: the Triumphal Entry, the expectation of a new kingdom, a betrayal by a trusted friend, near arrest, denial of Jesus by their leader Peter, the agonizing crucifixion of Jesus, the Resurrection, and the manifestations of the risen Lord. Understandably they were confused and unsure of the future.” 4

“Simon Peter said to them, ‘I am going fishing.’ They said to him, ‘We are going with you also.’ They went out and immediately got into the boat, and that night they caught nothing.” (John 21:3). Peter was probably feeling badly at this point because of his three denials of Jesus (cf. John 18:17, 25-27). He probably had a lot of doubts about his future as a follower of Christ. So he goes back to what is most familiar to him – fishing. It is also possible Peter had grown tired of waiting for Jesus to arrive in Galilee. Maybe the sight of fishing boats and the smell of wet fishing nets drying in the sun reminded him of what he left to follow Jesus (cf. Luke 5:11).

So Peter breaks the monotony and takes the lead, saying, “I am going fishing.” His proposal to go fishing was met with an unanimous response from the other disciples, “We are going with you also.”

I believe Peter has been unfairly criticized for returning to his former employment. He and the disciples had done what Jesus commanded by going to Galilee. We know they had to wait for the Lord since He did not meet them directly as they entered Galilee. Peter knew Jesus was coming but he did not want to waste time. Besides, he also had a family to provide for. Peter wasn’t abandoning Jesus, he was just making good use of his time. It was quite a natural and normal thing for these men to do. They were fishermen. Here is a sea, a boat, a net, and the time. What’s the logical thing for fishermen to do? Go out and fish! This was not a sin.

In support of this is the fact that the apostle John usually points out the failures of Peter, but in this case he is silent. Also, Jesus did not condemn or correct them for fishing when He arrived. They were unable to catch fish until Jesus was with them. They didn’t recognize the risen Lord until He performed the miracle. So it was God’s plan for them to fish. God used this fishing experience to enable these disciples to recognize their risen Lord and their mission to be fishers of men.

John tells us, “they went out and immediately got into the boat, and that night they caught nothing.” The disciples fished at night when the fish are actively feeding near the surface. And although the Sea of Galilee was noted for its fishing industry in the time of Jesus, 5  the disciples’ all-night fishing expedition went unrewarded. John reports probably with a smidgeon of painful memory that “they caught nothing.” Any fisherman can relate to the disappointment Peter and the other disciples must have felt that night. They probably started out with a lot of excitement, but all that faded by morning. “Whose idea was this?” they may have grumbled. “It must not be God’s will for us to be out here! Are the fish biting? If they are they must be biting each other!”

The story is told of a psychopath peeping over an asylum wall. He observed a man fishing nearby. He yelled, “Caught anything?” The fisherman replied, “No!” “How long have you been waiting?” “Three hours!” came the fisherman’s reply. “Come inside,” the psychopath said, assuming he must have been crazy to wait three hours without catching any fish. Well, the disciples had waited more than three hours without catching any fish. They were out all night and they must have felt crazy to stay out that long without anything to show for it.

I wonder how many of us feel something similar? We know exactly how the disciples felt. We feel like we are not catching any fish right now. When that starts to happen, life becomes a rut. Frustration starts to set in. When you keep trying to go back to the same thing and make it work, instead of looking ahead to God’s plan, life gets deeper and deeper in this rut. Ruts can be very frustrating places. But the only good thing about a rut is it is very easy to steer once you get into one. You cannot veer one way or the other. You can only go the way the rut goes. But the problem is you lose your sense of purpose. You don’t have to think about what you are doing nor do you have to put any effort into what you are doing. There is no purpose or joy.

All night these seven disciples had to feel the disappointment of being expert fishermen who were unable to catch a thing. No doubt they felt like failures. They were discouraged. If we had asked them at that moment what their purpose was for living, they may have said, “We don’t know right now!” But Jesus still had a purpose for their lives. Jesus had commanded them to go to Galilee and He would meet them there. Even though the disciples were discouraged and feeling like failures, Jesus had not lost sight of His purpose for them.

Like the disciples, when we have failed miserably in an area of strength, we can easily become discouraged and feel like God must not have a purpose for our lives. When this happens, it is important to understand that our feelings are wrong.  God’s Word tells us that He has a constant purpose for our lives and we can trust it more than our feelings. Romans 8:28-29a says, 28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son.” God uses “all things,” including our failures and discouragement, to “work together for good.” What “good” is this referring to? Being “conformed to the image of His Son.”

This leads to our first principle: We all need to learn that FAILURE AND DISCOURAGEMENT ARE OFTEN CONNECTED TO THE RISEN LORD JESUS’ PURPOSE FOR OUR LIVES (John 21:1-3). When it comes to failure and discouragement, they are almost always a part of God’s purpose. We would like to hear that God’s purpose means we will never be discouraged or fail again. But if I told you that, I would be lying.

When we look at the great heroes of the faith in Hebrews 11, we see they all had failures and times of discouragement. For example, after the worldwide flood, Noah got drunk and his son saw his nakedness. Abraham grew tired of waiting for God to give him a son, so he took matters into his own hands. Sarah was unable to bear children, and when God announced that she would have a son, she laughed in unbelief. Jacob was a deceiver, yet God used him and his lineage to bring the Messiah into the world.  Moses kept making up excuses to avoid going back to Pharaoh, but God was still able to use Moses to bring the Israelites out of Egypt. Even though Rahab had a problem with her past, she was used by God to protect the spies. Both Samson and David had a problem with lust, and yet they fulfilled God’s purpose for their lives. All these heroes of the faith tell us not to give up even though we fail and get discouraged.

The Bible compares living the Christian life to running a long distance race in Hebrews 12:1-2. This race requires endurance to finish well for the Lord. God’s purpose for your life is not found in the short sprints of life. His purpose is found in running a marathon. If we are going to run a marathon, it is going to require endurance. There will be ups and downs along the way. That is part of God’s purpose.  

The apostle Paul writes again and again in 2 Corinthians about the discouragement that he faced in the midst of God’s purpose for his life. God used Paul’s discouragement to deepen his dependency upon the Lord (2 Corinthians 1:8-10) and to eternalize his perspective (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). The Lord used Paul’s discouragement and difficulties to magnify God’s grace in his life (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). If you feel discouraged while you are trying to live out God’s purpose and you think there is something wrong with you, there is not. Don’t let discouragement say to you that God’s purpose is gone. It is not. His purpose for your life is unfolding in His way and in His time.  

Christ used the disciples’ failure to catch fish all night to prepare them for what He was about to do. Their discouragement would soon be transformed into unspeakable joy. And Jesus wants to do the same in our lives.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, some of us are very tired because we have been casting our nets again and again and again with nothing to show for it. We are discouraged and feel like failures. We have lost sight of Your purpose for our lives. Help us not to give up, but to keep pressing on by faith in Your Word which tells us Your purpose has not been lost. You are working behind the scenes in our lives to accomplish Your good will for our lives all for Your glory. In Your mighty name we pray Lord Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Some critics claim that the apostle John concluded his gospel in John 20:31 and an anonymous writer wrote chapter 21. But the linguistic evidence does not support this notion. In addition, other great books of Scripture have appendixes after reaching a grand climax (cf., e.g., Rom. 16 following Rom. 15:33). Thus John 21 is neither without value nor out of harmony with other Bible books.” (Edwin A. Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Gospels, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 701; see also J. Carl Laney Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 373 cites Barclay M. Newman and Eugene A. Nida, A Translator’s Handbook on the Gospel of John (London: United Bible Societies, 1980), pg. 623; Donald A. Carson, The Gospel According to John (Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, and Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1991, pp. 665-668. Constable writes, “The structure of this chapter is similar to the rest of the Gospel’s. John first narrated an event (vv. 1-14), and then related Jesus’ teaching based on that event (vv. 15-23). Finally he concluded his Gospel (vv. 24-25).” Tom Constable, Notes on John (2017 Edition), pg. 387.

2. Laney, pg. 374.

3. Ibid.

4. Blum, pp. 701-702.

5. Laney, pg. 374 cites Michael Avi-Yonah, The Holy Land (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1966), pp. 205-206. “Fish were salted at Taricheae or Migdal Nunay (‘Tower of the Fisher’) for export.”

How can I overcome my fears? Part 3

“So Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.’ ” John 20:21

When Adam and Eve disobeyed God by eating the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden of Eden (Genesis 2:16-17; 3:1-6), they experienced shame for the first time. The complete innocence and vulnerability they once had with God and one another were now lost. “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings” (Genesis 3:7). They were now self-conscious and ashamed of their nakedness before one another, so they tried to remove their shame by covering themselves with fig leaves.

But their sin and shame also adversely affected their relationshipwith God. “And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.”(Genesis 3:8). Instead of being open and vulnerable before God, they now hid themselves from His presence when He pursued them. God is presented in this verse as pursuing His fallen children by walking in the garden in the cool of the day as if this was something He had always done to connect with them.

We might assume that God came to them to punish and shame Adam and Eve for the wrong they had done, but notice that God does not seek to punish or shame His fallen children. He seeks to restorethem. “Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, ‘Where are you?’”(Genesis 3:9). Why would an all-knowing God ask Adam a question to which He already knows the answer? Because the Lord wanted a confessionfrom Adam. “Where are you in relation to Me?” God asks. God knew where Adam was, but did Adam know where he was in relation to the Lord?

When Adam told God, “I was afraid because I was naked” (Genesis 3:10), God replied, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?” (Genesis 3:11). God never told Adam and Eve they were naked. This was the natural consequence of their sin.

Satan also reveals our shame to us when we sin (true shame) or don’t sin (false shame). His accusations against believers produce shame in their lives. The Devil uses fear and shame to isolate Christians from God and one another. Like a roaring lion who focuses on those who are isolated and weak, Satan focuses on believers who are alone and weak (cf. 1 Peter 5:8).

Would Adam and Eve believe God is still the same loving and merciful God that He had always been prior to their disobedience? Or would they believe the lie of the serpent who implied that God could not really be trusted (cf. Genesis 3:1-5)? The Lord did not abandon Adam and Eve when they sinned and felt ashamed. He seeks them out to restore them to fellowship with Himself.

But instead of trusting the Lord, Adam and Eve were now afraid of Him. “So he said, ‘I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.’” (Genesis 3:10). Their fear and shame now became a barrier to His loving and merciful pursuit of them. Not only were they self-conscious of their nakedness before one another, they were now self-conscious of their nakedness before God. By covering themselves with fig leaves and hiding themselves among the trees of the garden, Adam and Eve hid themselves from being able to receive God’s love, grace, and mercy which He was freely offering to them. Their faith in God had now changed to fear. Unfortunately their fear and shame pushed them away from the Lord instead of drawing them near to Him. And fear and shame can do the same to us today.

We are learning from Jesus’ encounter with His ten fearful disciples in the evening of His resurrection day how to overcome our fears. The disciples were afraid of opposition from the Jews so they were hiding behind locked doors. I wonder if they may have felt ashamed too since they had abandoned Jesus in His hour of suffering after promising to remain faithful to Him even unto death (Matthew 26:35, 56).

Like He did in the garden of Eden with Adam and Eve, Jesus sought out His disciples who were afraid and ashamed. And from this we are learning how to overcome our fears. So far we have discovered we must…

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

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

Today we see that we must also RENEW OUR SENSE OF PURPOSE (John 20:21). After calming and convincing His fearful disciples, they were still paralyzed by fear. They still remained behind locked doors. Amazingly, Jesus remains calm and gracious. He does not give up on them even though they may have given up on themselves.

Christ believes so much in these frightened men, that He commissions them. “So Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.’ ” (John 20:21). Why does Jesus repeat His extension of peace to His disciples?

Because they were terrified of the Jews. That’s why they had locked the doors (20:19). Yet Jesus gave them his peace. Notice that their situation hadn’t changed. The Jewish leaders would still oppose them in the days ahead (see Acts 4:1-24; 5:17-42). But Jesus can speak peace into trouble. Though your circumstances are unstable, he can provide the internal stability your heart needs.” 1

Christ wants to reassure these frightened men of the deep and lasting peace that could be theirs. Peace prepares them for His commissioning. Notice that Jesus’ peace is given to them before they are commissioned. Sometimes we can mistakenly conclude that we must work to gain God’s peace. But Jesus reminds us that this peace comes from His presence in our lives, not from our service for Him. Christians can easily make the mistake and conclude that peace is based upon their performance instead of the peace-giving presence of Jesus Christ. And when they do this, the peace for which they are working so hard to gain, constantly escapes them.

Can you relate to this? Instead of ministering to others out of the peace Christ’s presence has given to us, we minister to others out of fear. The fear of not measuring up. The fear of being disapproved or rejected. The fear of failing. The fear of not having what it takes to be a God-honoring follower of Christ. We can even use ministry as a way to medicate our fears. Ministry can function like an addiction. It becomes our fig leaf to cover up our fear and shame.

But when we understand that Christ’s peace comes from His presence in our lives, we can minister to others out of our identity in Christ, not out of a desperate attempt to earn God’s peace or to prove that we have what it takes. The latter leads to ruin. The former leads to fruitfulness and glory to the Father (John 15:1-8).

After extending peace to them, Jesus begins the commissioning of His disciples. Keep in mind that this is regarded as the first of Christ’s commissionings in the Gospels and Acts. It is followed by Mark 16:15-16, then Matthew 28:19-20, and finally Luke 24:46-48 and Acts 1:8 which seem to be two versions of the same commissioning.

Christ begins by stating that the Father had sent Him. The Greek word for “sent” (apostéllō) in the phrase, “As the Father has sent Me,” refers to an official or authoritative sending. It is in the perfect tense (apestalken), indicating that the mission of Christ is not being regarded in its historical fulfillment, but in its permanent effect. The form of the fulfillment of Christ’s mission was now to be changed, but the mission itself was to be continued.

The Greek word translated “send” (pempō) in the phrase “I also send you,” is a general word for sending. It is in the present tense. The disciples were not to start a new work, but were to carry on Christ’s work. Just as Jesus was the Father’s Representative on earth, so Christ’s disciples would be His representatives on earth.

It is much like a baton exchange in a relay race at a track meet. One relay runner passes a baton to another runner. He receives the baton, and runs with it. And when he finishes his leg in the race, he places it in the hands of another who is to continue the race.

“Since believers no longer belong to the world (15:19), it was necessary for Jesus to ‘send’ His disciples back into the world to complete the mission. Our mission does not replace Jesus’ mission, however. He carries out His present mission through us.” 3

“. . . what is central to the Son’s mission—that he came as the Father’s gift so that those who believe in him might not perish but have eternal life (3:16), experiencing new life as the children of God (1:12-13) and freedom from the slavery of sin because they have been set free by the Son of God (8:34-36)—must never be lost to view as the church defines her mission.” 4

Christ responds to their fears by pointing them to His mission for them to carry out. Remember, whatever we fear, we give power and control to. Christ wants them (and us) to renew their sense of purpose and replace their fears with His mission in their lives. For this to take place, they must give power and control to Jesus.

Christ gives us His peace so we can give Him power and control over our lives. He will not take advantage of us or misuse our trust in Him. He is a good Shepherd Who radically loves His sheep. His death and resurrection prove this. Will we trust and follow Him?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I praise You for giving me Your peace before giving me Your purpose for my life. I can now operate out of Your peace-giving presence instead of operating out of fear. I don’t have to minister to others as a way of avoiding my fears. I can now minister to others out of the peace Your indwelling presence gives to me. Thank You for entrusting me with Your mission to proclaim the gift of eternal life so that those who believe in You should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16). I praise You for the new life believers can experience as children of God (John 1:12). Thank You for the freedom from slavery to sin they can experience as they learn to abide in Your word (John 8:31-32). Please renew Your church all around the globe with the urgency of this mission. In Your mighty name I pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

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

2. Tom Constable, Notes on John, 2017 Edition, pg. 377.

3. Ibid., pg. 378.

4. Ibid., cites Donald A. Carson, The Gospel According to John (Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, and Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1991), pg. 649.  

Lasting Lessons from the Last Day in Jesus’ Life – Part 6

“Now Pilate wrote a title and put it on the cross. And the writing was: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS.” John 19:19

The apostle John is presenting different pictures from the last day in Jesus’ life before His dead body is sealed in a tomb. We have learned from the first five pictures the following lessons:

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).

– The closer we get to the cross, the more clearly we see who people really are, including ourselves (John 19:13-16).

– The cross is the total expression of God’s grace to us in Christ (John 17-18a).

– The two crosses teach that God gives each of us the freedom to choose (John 19:18b).

The next picture John presents to us teaches us that THERE IS NO PERSON OR LANGUAGE GOD WILL NOT USE TO PROCLAIM WHO JESUS IS (John 19:19-22). Jesus has been lifted up on a cross and Pilate continues his power struggles with the Jews by placing a sign above Jesus indicating that He is “JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS.” (John 19:19). It was normal for the Romansto write the name of the condemned person and the crime for which they were being punished on the sign placed above them. Pilate maintains that Jesus is King of the Jews perhaps as a way of getting back at the Jews for hounding him to crucify Jesus.

What Pilate did not realize was his sign was also used by God to help people come to faith in Jesus. For example, in our last article, we saw that one of the thieves hanging on a cross next to Jesus said to Christ, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”(Luke 23:42). Why would this thief make reference to Jesus’ kingdom? Had he heard Jesus preach about the kingdom? Had someone else told him about Jesus’ kingdom? Or did this thief simply read the sign above Jesus’ head identifying Him as the King of the Jews?

Lucado writes, “The thief knows he is in a royal mess. He turns his head and reads a royal proclamation and asks for royal help. It might have been this simple. If so, the sign was the first tool used to proclaim the message of the cross. Countless others have followed, from the printing press to the radio to the stadium crusade to the book you are holding. But a crude wooden sign preceded them all. And because of the sign, a soul was saved. All because someone posted a sign on a cross.” 2

God used Pilate to proclaim the message of the cross through a sign to a thief hanging next to Jesus. That was not Pilate’s plan, but it was God’s plan. Pilate intended this sign to threaten and mock the Jews, but God intended to use Pilate’s sign as a tool for spreading the gospel message.

This tells us that there is no one God cannot use. If He can use an unbelieving political leader to lead a thief to Christ, He can use anyone. During my first year of seminary, one of my classmates told me one night in our dormitory that before he became a Christian, he had led many people to Christ as an evangelistic worker in a church. You do not have to be a Christian for God to use you. There is no person God will not use. That is meant to encourage us especially if we think God cannot use us because of some failure in our past or some weakness in our present. God is eager to use those who make themselves available to Him.

“Then many of the Jews read this title, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin.” (John 19:20). Pilate’s sign infuriated the Jews as “it was written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin” which were the commonly spoken languages in the first century. “Hebrew” was the language of the Jews. “Greek” was the language of the culture. And “Latin” was the language of the Roman empire.So Pilate wanted to make sure that everyone knew of Jesus’ kingship. No one could claim they did not know Who Jesus really is because the sign was written in their language.

This leads to the second part of our lasting lesson: There is no language God will not use to proclaim the gospel. The message on the sign was the same, but the languages were different. Since Jesus was a King for all people, the message must be in the languages of all people. If all people were going to have an opportunity to enter His kingdom through faith alone in Him alone, they must hear or read His message in a language they understand. God wants the world to know that He loves them.

This is why I greatly appreciate those who translate the Bible into different languages. According to October 2020 statistics, “The full Bible is now available in 704 different languages, giving 5.7 billion people access to Scripture in the language they understand best. The New Testament is available in another 1,551 languages, reaching another 815 million people. Selections and stories are available in a further 1,160 other languages, spoken by 458 million people…There are currently 3,945 languages with no Scripture. 167 million people, speaking 2,014 languages, still need translation work to begin.” 3

If you are reading this, then God has provided His gospel message in a language you can use to tell others Who Jesus is and what He can do for them. He is the King of the universe Who died in their place and rose from the dead so that “whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16b).

When the Jews read Pilate’s sign over Jesus, they protested because they did not want Jesus’ Kingship to be proclaimed as a fact. “Therefore the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, ‘Do not write, “The King of the Jews,” but, “He said,” ‘I am the King of the Jews.’ ” (John 19:21). They wanted Him to die for claiming to be the King of the Jews.

Pilate refused to comply. “Pilate answered, ‘What I have written, I have written.’ ” (John 19:22). While Pilate meant for the sign to sting the Jews, God, in His sovereignty, meant it to declare to the world the truth about His Son. 4  John wants us to be aware that Jesus is the King of the Jews and no objection, protest, or even crucifixion can deprive Him of this rightful position. No circumstance can diminish the power of Who Jesus is. The soldiers take Jesus to the cross to be crucified and drive nails through His hands and feet, and still the sign reads King. There is no circumstance that can diminish the power of Who Jesus really is in my life or in yours. That is what this sign also tells us.

We also learn from this scene that people will try to change the truth about Who Jesus is, but they will always fail. We talk about spin doctors today – people who come in after the event and try to reframe what happened especially when it comes to politics. There were spin doctors in Jesus’ day. The Jewish religious leaders were spin doctors. They come in after the event had happened, after the sign was put in place and said, “Change the sign. Let’s make it read something different.” In one courageous act we see Pilate standing up to those thugs and saying, “No, I won’t change it.” 5

That says to me you cannot change the truth of Who Jesus is. People will try to change the truth about Who Jesus is in my life or in your life, but they will not be successful, because the truth is greater than any human being. God is greater than any human being. And what He says is final.  

Prayer: Lord God Almighty, we are so impressed with how You used a sign written by one who rejected Jesus to lead a thief to Christ. Throughout history, You have demonstrated there is no person You will not use to spread Your message to others. You use the worst of sinners and the best of sinners to tell the world about Your one of a kind Son, Jesus Christ. Thank You, Lord, for using others to tell us about the identity of Jesus and what He can do in our lives. Please help us to pay it forward so others can discover this life-changing message. Since Jesus is a King for all people, You are providing this message in the languages of all people so everyone can know how much You love them and want to save them. Thank You, Lord God, for providing this message in our own language so we could understand and believe. Please enable those who have not yet heard this message in their own language to hear it soon so they don’t miss any signs You are sending their way. In the name of Almighty God, Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Adapted from Max Lucado, He Chose The Nails (Nashville: Word Publishing, 2000), pp. 41-47.

2. Ibid., pg. 42.

3. Retrieved from www.wycliffe.org.uk/about/our-impact/ on April 19, 2021.

4. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1824.

5. Adapted from Tom Holladay’s discussion in his July 24, 1996 message entitled, “A Day in the Life of…  Jesus Christ.”

Lasting Lessons from the Last Day in Jesus’ Life – Part 2

10 Then Pilate said to Him, ‘Are You not speaking to me? Do You not know that I have power to crucify You, and power to release You?’ 11 Jesus answered, ‘You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.” John 19:10-11

In John 19:4-42, the apostle John has recorded different pictures containing lasting lessons from the last day of Jesus’ life before the Roman soldiers sealed His tomb containing His dead body. John has several images he wants to make sure that we see in the life of Jesus Christ. Last time we learned that like Pilate, we can avoid doing the right thing because of the cost involved (John 19:4-7).

Today we discover that NO ONE HAS POWER IN THIS WORLD EXCEPT WHAT IS GIVEN TO THEM BY GOD (John 19:8-12). After Pilate affirmed Jesus’ innocence again before the crowd (John 19:6b), the Jews took a different approach to persuade him to put Jesus to death. The Jews told Pilate that they have a law that says Jesus ought to be put to death “because He made Himself the Son of God.’ ” (John 19:7).

John then informs us, “Therefore, when Pilate heard that saying, he was the more afraid.” (John 19:8). Although Pilate was not a religious man, like most Romans he was superstitious. Every Roman knew stories of gods or their offspring appearing in human form. Pilate was already afraid of losing control of the situation and now he feared he was involved in a trial against a god. 1

When Pilate learned that Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, he went again into the Praetorium, and said to Jesus, ‘Where are You from?’ But Jesus gave him no answer.” (John 19:9). Pilate wants to find out if Jesus was a god. If Jesus was, Pilate did not want to mistreat Him. But Jesus had already alluded to His heavenly origin (John 18:36-37) and unbelieving Pilate would not have understood if He explained further, so He refused to answer, fulfilling yet another prophecy. The prophet Isaiah said of the Messiah, “He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth.” (Isaiah 53:7).

Pilate was agitated that Jesus ignored him and perhaps somewhat surprised that Jesus did not try to defend Himself, so he says to Him, “Are You not speaking to me? Do You not know that I have power to crucify You, and power to release You?” (John 19:10). Pilate reminds Jesus of his authority to put Jesus to death or to set Him free. But when someone insists on shouting, ‘Don’t you know that I’m in charge here?,’ it usually means he’s uncertain himself.” 2

But Jesus affirmed that His life was not in Pilate’s hands, but in the hands of God Himself. “Jesus answered, ‘You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.’ ” (John 19:11). Pilate’s power was delegated by God. “The authorities that exist are appointed by God.” (Romans 13:1). All human rulership is determined by God (Daniel 4:17).

God grants authority and takes it away. Two important truths are wrapped up in Jesus’s statement. First, if a person exercises any authority on earth, ultimately that authority has been granted by God. So, will that authority be wielded for his kingdom purposes or not? How you answer that question has serious consequences because you will one day be called to give an account for your own use of authority. Second, remember to maintain a heavenly perspective: God is your ultimate authority. Anyone who seeks to rule over you illegitimately will not have the final say. He may be a boss, but he isn’t the boss.” 3

The phrase, “the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin” probably refers to the Jewish high priest, Caiaphas, not Judas or Satan. Although Pilate was accountable to God for his gross violation of justice in this civil trial, the one who delivered Jesus over to Pilate, Caiaphas (Matthew 26:57-27:2; John 18:24), was guilty of a “greater sin” because he had the Hebrew Scriptures to point him to the truth of Jesus’ identity as the Messiah-God and yet he closed his eyes to the truth. This is consistent with what Jesus taught about greater privilege means greater accountability (cf. Matthew 11:20-24). “The greater the knowledge of God’s revelation, the greater the accountability for those who reject it.” 4

There is a significant application for Christians in this verse. For those of us who know what is right and disobey there is greater accountability than for those who disobey out of ignorance. Believers who have been privileged to read and study God’s Word will be evaluated in light of this revelation given to them. This presents a challenge to Christian leaders to pursue God’s holy calling in their lives. 5

“From then on Pilate sought to release Him, but the Jews cried out, saying, ‘If you let this Man go, you are not Caesar’s friend. Whoever makes himself a king speaks against Caesar.’ ” (John 19:12). Since Jesus affirmed that He had come from God, Pilate kept trying to “release Him.” But the Jews squelched Pilate’s attempts to release Christ when they pitted Pilate against the Roman Emperor. If Pilate did not consent to their wishes to have Jesus crucified, they would accuse him of treason. Tiberias, the Roman Emperor, was suspicious and prone to violence. Pilate did not want to risk his political career or even his life for a Galilean rabbi.

This is an incredible scene! Jesus is standing alone with Pilate, His back torn open from the flogging, wearing a purple robe soaked in blood, and a crown of thorns pushed into his scalp causing blood to flow down His face. The bloodthirsty crowd is against Him.  The entire Roman government is behind Pilate and all the power that comes with it.  Pilate says to Jesus, “Why don’t You answer me? I’ve got the power in this situation to crucify You or to set You free. Talk to me.” Jesus looks Pilate right in the eye and says to him, “You are mistaken. You do not have the power or the authority. God has the power and authority to determine what happens here.”

This confrontation teaches us something we need everyday in our lives. This is a perspective you need to discover or rediscover in life. No one has power in this world except what is given to them by God. Do you believe this? Nobody has the power or authority in this world except what is given to them by God. Your employer at work who might be trying a power play on you right now. They don’t have any power over you except what was given to them by God. They may recognize that, they may not recognize it. But it is true. No human government has power except what power is given to them by God. He can give power in an instant and He can take it away in an instant. We have seen that happen several times in the last year in America. When you get a letter from the IRS, remember that the only power they possess over you is what God has given to them – nothing more and nothing less. 7

Sometimes we make the mistake of thinking as long as circumstances are happening the way we want them to happen, then God must be in control. But when humanity’s temptations and sins seem to be in control, we think God has stepped off His throne. That is not true! For His own purposes God allows evil to reign and people to make sinful choices. This is especially true on this day in Jesus’ life. Christ had to face illegal trials and court proceedings, false accusations, and a gross violation of justice all for a greater cause – the salvation of the world.  

Listen to what the apostle Peter said of Jesus’ sufferings and death. 22 Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know— 23 Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death.” (Acts 2:22-23). When Jesus was lawlessly and unjustly delivered up to be crucified it was “by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God.” God’s sovereign plan and purpose included the use of evil and “lawless” men to deliver up His Son to be crucified. But notice that it was Jesus “whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.” (Acts 2:34). God was in control of the last day of Jesus’ life before the cross and He is in control of our lives as well to accomplish His plan and purposes.

We will never face a situation where God is not in control. That is what Jesus is telling us here. It is our responsibility to remember that God is in control of life. Jesus understood this. He was able to humbly and graciously face His accusers and enemies (I Peter 2:21-23a) because “He committed Himself to Him who judges righteously” (I Peter 2:23b). He did this asan example, that you should follow His steps.” (I Peter 2:21b).

You may be facing some very stressful circumstances right now. Things may seem out of control to you. You may have concluded that God has stepped off His throne because it seems as though your world is spiraling out of control. Would you go with me to God’s throne of grace right now? He understands what you are going through and how you feel (Hebrews 4:15). He still occupies His throne and He wants to give you the mercy and grace you need right now to rest in His love (Hebrews 4:16).

Prayer: Precious Father in heaven, we are amazed at the majesty of Jesus Christ before His accusers and the one whom You gave the power to crucify Him or release Him. We are so grateful that Jesus understood You were in control of everything that led up to His death on a cross for our sins. Lord God, as we face difficult circumstances in life, please renew our minds with this truth that You are the One who gives power to those in positions of authority over us. Even though they may make evil decisions which cause pain to us and to those we love and care about, You are still in control and are in the process of fulfilling Your plan and purpose through these difficult situations. Please enable us to continue to love and serve You no matter what we face. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pp. 339-340.

2. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1822.

3. Ibid.

4. Ibid., pg. 1515.

5. Laney, pg. 340.

6. Tony Evans, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary, pg. 1823.

7. Adapted from Tom Holladay’s July 24, 1996 message entitled, “A Day in the Life of…  Jesus Christ.”

Our Pain Can Bring Gain To Many

“But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.” Genesis 50:20

After Joseph’s father, Jacob, has died, his brothers fear that the only thing that has kept Joseph from taking revenge on them has been his respect for his father. So, they come to Joseph begging for forgiveness – even though he gave them that forgiveness many years earlier. How does Joseph respond? Does he avenge the wrongs that they did to him?

He said, “You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20a). Joseph doesn’t try to rewrite history saying, “Oh, I know you guys didn’t mean it.” He’s honest – “You guys tried to harm me – but God intended your harm for good.” Romans 8:28 says, “We know that God causes all things to work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” This “all things” means “all things” – including people’s evil intentions, their desire to cause harm, and sin. This is an absolutely amazing promise from God! Nobody can do anything to you that God cannot bring good from.

We see it clearly in Joseph’s life – sold into slavery, falsely accused and imprisoned – which was exactly where, in the strangest kind of way, Pharoah would be able to hear about him. Then Joseph says, “God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive” (Genesis 50:20b). Joseph experienced tremendous pain – heartache, difficulty, problems – but God used all of that for incredible good – the saving of many lives. And as it turned out, not just the people of Egypt, but also his own family – including the very men who did him wrong – his brothers.

I have experienced this personally. God has used the most painful experiences of my life to help and bless others. He has used my weaknesses and failures much more than He has used my “so-called” strengths.

It is important for us to see God’s ability to do far more through our trials than through our successes. God causes all things to work together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. That means that many can gain through our pain!

Prayer: Father God, thank you for reminding us that we can face the wrongs done to us by others knowing that nobody can do anything to us that You cannot bring good from. When people do wrong to us, we can be encouraged to trust the One Who can bring gain to many through our pain. In the transforming name of Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.

How can we recover from rejection? Part 1

“I do not speak concerning all of you. I know whom I have chosen; but that the Scripture may be fulfilled, ‘He who eats bread with Me has lifted up his heel against Me.’ ” John 13:18

In 1858 the Illinois legislature – using an obscure statute – sent Stephen A. Douglas to the U.S. Senate instead of Abraham Lincoln, although Lincoln had won the popular vote. When a sympathetic friend asked Lincoln how he felt, he said, “Like the boy who stubbed his toe: I am too big to cry and too badly hurt to laugh.1 No doubt many political candidates can empathize with how Lincoln felt after last week’s elections.

In some way or form, all of us will experience rejection – that feeling of being unwanted. You feel that you are not liked or accepted. In fact, the majority of people may reject us rather than accept us. Although some people are special to us they may reject us as well. Jesus experienced rejection by many people, but none perhaps as difficult as the rejection by one of His own disciples. Jesus will now teach us how to recover from rejection. We must first…

LOOK TO THE BIBLE FOR GOD’S PURPOSE (John 13:18). Jesus had just finished washing the feet of His disciples to give them an example of how they were to humbly serve one another (John 13:1-16). Christ told them they would be “blessed” if they not only knew this, but did it (John 13:17). However, there would be no blessedness for one of Christ’s disciples.

Jesus said to His disciples, “I do not speak concerning all of you. I know whom I have chosen; but that the Scripture may be fulfilled, ‘He who eats bread with Me has lifted up his heel against Me.’ ” (John 13:18). Jesus “knew” the disciples He had “chosen” for service, not salvation, and that one of them would betray Him. Jesus wanted His disciples to realize that He knew the future and was in control. Christ was not fooled by Judas. Judas was chosen by Jesus as one of the disciples so “that the Scripture may be fulfilled” in Psalm 41:9, where King David endured the painful rejection of his table companion, Ahithophel, who later hanged himself (2 Samuel 16:20-17:3, 23). 2  Likewise, Judas, Jesus’ close companion, would betray Christ and then hang himself (Matthew 27:3-5). Even though Judas’ betrayal of Jesus was foreknown by God, Judas was still responsible for his actions.

To “eat” bread with someone is a picture of fellowship. In the first century, to lift up your “heel” to show someone the bottom of your foot so as to shake off the dust is an expression of rejection. It was a gross breach of hospitality to eat bread with someone and then turn against them. Yet this is what Judas did. He had been a companion of Jesus for over three years and now he was about to do the unthinkable and betray His loving Teacher.  

Jesus was not surprised by Judas’ betrayal because the Bible predicted it hundreds of years earlier. Christ shares this with His disciples so they can know that Judas’ betrayal is a part of God’s plan and purpose. Jesus also wants His disciples to know that they also will experience rejection as they carry on His mission after He is gone. They are to look to the Scriptures for God’s purpose amidst their rejection.

Likewise, we can also know that God has a purpose for us when we experience painful rejection. For example, Romans 8:17 says, “And if children, then heirs – heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.” Suffering from rejection prepares believers to be “joint heirs with Christ” as co-rulers with Him in His coming Kingdom on earth.           

In his book entitled, “Don’t Waste Your Sorrows,” Paul Billheimer writes, “If the Bride [of Christ] was to be qualified to rule with Him, she also had to suffer. This illuminates the passage in Second Timothy 2:12, ‘If we suffer, we shall also reign with him.’ Therefore, suffering is inherent in God’s universe.” 3  Billheimer also writes, “God … designed that suffering, which is a consequence of the Fall, shall produce the character and proper disposition – the compassionate spirit that will be required for rulership in a government where the law of love is supreme.” 4

The Bible explains that one of God’s purposes in allowing us to experience rejection is to prepare us for rulership with Christ in His future Kingdom on earth. Knowing this can enable us to endure rejection in preparation for our role as co-rulers with Jesus (2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 2:25-27; 3:21).

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You so much for this message today which reminds me that You do know the future and You are in control. I can trust You to accomplish Your plan and purpose even when I experience rejection from those who are close to me. My normal response to rejection is to want to be in control and retaliate. But this is not Your way. Please help me to respond to the pain of rejection by looking to Your promises to find comfort and hope. I want to be more like You so I can reign with You in Your coming Kingdom on earth. Instead of responding to rejection with contempt, please help me to respond with compassion, realizing that You are in control and You are using this event to fulfill Your plan and purpose for my life. In Your name I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Max Lucado, God Came Near (Multnomah Press, 1987), pg. 57.

2. Edwin A. Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, New Testament Edition, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1983), pp. 320-321.

3. Paul Billheimer, Don’t Waste Your Sorrows (CLC Publications, 1977), location 316.

4. Ibid., location 95-102.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ENDNOTES:

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

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

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

Living life with a clear purpose

“28 The woman then left her waterpot, went her way into the city, and said to the men, 29 ‘Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?’” John 4:28-29

While spending more time at home during COVID-19 restrictions, I have had more time to reflect on what is most important in life. In John 4:27-30, the Lord showed me something this morning that I need to take to heart – LIVE LIFE WITH A CLEAR PURPOSE.

Jesus just finished a conversation with a Samaritan woman while His disciples had gone to the village of Sychar for food. “And at this point His disciples came, and they marveled that He talked with a woman; yet no one said, ‘What do You seek?’ or, ‘Why are You talking with her?’” (John 4:27). Notice that when the disciples return, they focused on the fact that Jesus is speaking to a woman with whom He shouldn’t be speaking. The disciples paid no attention to the spiritual needs of the woman that Jesus was addressing. But Jesus knew His purpose in life and He had gone to this woman to share with her about the gift of eternal life. He told her that if she knew the gift of God and the Giver, she would ask Him and He would give her eternal life. And she responded in faith. She now knew the gift and the Giver.

If our lives are directed by a clear purpose – to share the gospel with all people – we will not let the prejudices of people prevent us from reaching out to others. God wants all churches to be a haven of salvation for ALL people in the community no matter who they are or where they live. If you know a lost person, they are someone that God has put in your life to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with them.

What did the Samaritan woman do after she received the gift of salvation?  “The woman then left her waterpot, went her way into the city, and said to the men,‘Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?’” (John 4:28-29). She wasted no time telling others what Christ had done for her. Jesus knew all about the shameful things she had done, yet He still loved her. No one ever treated her with such dignity! He accepted her as she was, but also showed her need for God’s free gift of eternal life. He showed her the only way to quench her spiritual thirst. When she asks the villagers, “Could this be the Christ?” she was trying to raise their curiosity. In the original Greek language, her question is even more cautious, “This couldn’t be the Christ, could it?” After all, she had such a poor reputation, they would not believe her if she claimed to have found the Messiah. So, she asks a question to motivate them to investigate Christ for themselves. Did it work? “Then they went out of the city and came to Him.” (John 4:30). Perhaps those she spoke to had been partners with her and they would have wondered, “Could this Man know about us, too?”

God wants us to live life with a clear purpose. Like the Samaritan woman, we are to tell others what Christ has done for us. That’s what this new believer did after Jesus gave her the gift of eternal life. This is why it’s so important for churches to have new believers because those new believers are excited about telling others about Christ. They will get others excited about it, too. Also, new believers have many non-Christian family and friends. The tendency of Christians as they grow older in the Lord is to have fewer contacts with unbelievers unless they are intentional about cultivating relationships with the unsaved. Having new Christians in a church can also open the door for more exposure to their unsaved family and friends.

Over the years I have observed some churches who think it is best not to let new believers share the gospel until they have matured in their faith for a few years. But this is not supported by Scriptures. New Christians are some of the most effective evangelists on the planet. They are excited about their new relationship with Jesus, so they are highly motivated to talk to others about Christ. And they also have many non-Christian family and friends. These two factors alone make them very effective in sharing the gospel with the unsaved.

Are you living life with a clear purpose? Are you telling others what Jesus Christ has done for you? Are you learning to see lost people the way Jesus sees them – as someone He loves and wants to save? The more we see the unsaved as Jesus does, the more willing we will be to cross over the barriers of culture and prejudice to talk to them about the gift of God and it’s Giver.

Prayer: Lord of the Harvest, forgive me for losing sight of Your purpose for my life. You saved me from my sins so I may live for You now and not myself. You do not want me to keep the gospel message to myself, but to share it with everyone who will listen. I remember the day I met You, Lord Jesus. You knew all the shameful things I had ever thought, said, and done, and You still loved me and wanted a relationship with me. I felt so loved and accepted by You. No one had ever treated me with such dignity. And my life has never been the same. Thank You, for Your gift of everlasting life. Please open the doors for Your gospel message to spread around the world so others who are enslaved to fear and shame may discover the freedom that only You can give them through Your grace and truth. Truth that tells them of their need for You and Grace that cleanses them of all their sin and shame the moment they believe in You. Thank You my Lord and my God. In Jesus’ name. Amen.