How do I defeat my worst fears? Part 3

2 So the Lord said to him, ‘What is that in your hand?’ He said, ‘A rod.’ 3 And He said, ‘Cast it on the ground.’ So, he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from it.” Exodus 4:2-3

Fear can keep us from doing the will of God. Just ask Moses. When God called him to leave the desert wilderness where he was shepherding sheep to go back and deliver His people from bondage in Egypt, Moses expressed several fear-based excuses as to why he was not God’s man (Exodus 3-4). His first two fears had to do with inadequacy (Exodus 3:11) and embarrassment (Exodus 3:13). God quieted those fears with the assurance of His presence (Exodus 3:12a) and His name (Exodus 3:14-15).

But Moses had other fears for God to calm. The next one was a Biggy – his FEAR OF REJECTION (Exodus 4:1). “Then Moses answered and said, ‘But suppose they will not believe me or listen to my voice; suppose they say, ‘The Lord has not appeared to you.’ ” (Exodus 4:1). Fear that the Israelites might not believe God had appeared to him is reasonable” because “God had apparently not appeared to the Israelites for 430 years, the length of the sojourn in Egypt.” 1

Moses’ fear of rejection expressed itself by saying, God, what if they do not accept me. Suppose they call me a liar and insist that You never appeared to me?”

The Bible tells us, The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe.” (Proverbs 29:25). Whatever we fear we give control to. If we live our lives always worried about pleasing people – afraid of being criticized – then we are going to be too afraid of rejection to do what God wants us to do. The Bible says we are already a slave. We are giving control to the people we fear will reject us.

What is God’s answer to the fear of rejection… criticism… and disapproval? “So, the Lord said to him, ‘What is that in your hand?’ He said, ‘A rod.’ ” (Exodus 4:2). Whenever God asks us a question it is never for His benefit. He already knows the answer. He wants us to recognize something in our lives. 

What does a rod or staff represent? A rod is a symbol for a shepherd as much as a stethoscope around a neck is for a doctor or a tool belt is for a carpenter.

1. It is a symbol of IDENTITY. Moses is a shepherd. His rod or staff was a symbol of who he is.

2. It is a symbol of INCOME. In those days there were no stocks or bonds, there were flocks. The more sheep and goats you had, the wealthier you were. So, this is a symbol of his income. All his wealth is in his sheep.

3. It is a symbol of INFLUENCE.  What do you use a shepherd’s staff to do? You use it to move sheep from Point A to Point B. You either pull them or you poke them. You use it to influence. He moves them along.

God is saying, “Moses, I want you to take what you have – your identity, your influence and your income (what’s in your hand) and I want you to give it to Me.” This is going to overcome the fear of rejection if you understand this.

Next God told Moses, And He said, ‘Cast it on the ground.’ So, he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from it.” (Exodus 4:3). God is saying, “Moses if you will give Me what is in your hand – your identity, your influence and your income – who you are, what you own, what you do – I will make it come alive! I will miraculously do things with your identity, income, and influence that you have never imagined. What I do may even scare you because I am in control, not you. But every time you pick it up, it is just going to be a dead stick again. When it is yours, it is lifeless. When it is Mine, it comes alive!” 

Here is my question: What is in your hand? What is your identity, your influence, your income?  If you give that to God and say, “God, it is Yours. You can use my income… my influence…and my identity any way You want to, for the mission You put me on earth to do.” God says, “I will make it come alive. I will do things you never imagined. This may be scary for you because I am in control when you release your staff to Me. Simply trust Me to use what you give to Me in a way that will magnify My name.”

Brothers and sisters, when we have that kind of power in our lives, we are not going to be afraid of what the critics are saying. We are not going to be afraid of rejection because we know we are being used by God. 

Prayer: Almighty God, thank You so much for speaking to us through Your word!We are living in a world filled with bullies who try to intimidate us into being silent about our Christian faith. Christianity is being politicized and Christians are being persecuted in various ways! Satan wants to use fear in our lives to keep us quiet about the living Lord Jesus Christ. Right now, Lord Jesus, we want to give You our staff which represents our identity, income, and influence, so You can make it come alive and use it to do things we could never do on our own! Like Moses, we may be afraid at first, as You bring it to life. Please help us continue to trust You, and not our feelings, as You move in our lives. Lord, we give You everything and everyone to use as You please for Your glory. We are eager to watch You work with what we give to You! In the name of the living Lord Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. John D. Hannah, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Law, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 213.

How much you matter to God – Part 3

“And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus…’ ” Luke 19:5ab

During COVID, people have felt disconnected and isolated from one another. Many have felt all alone and unwanted. They may feel as though no one cares about them or notices them, including God. But the Lord has something to say to us about this.

We are learning from Jesus’ encounter with a man named Zacchaeus how much we matter to God. Zacchaeus was a man who felt all alone and unwanted because of his appearance and his actions. The only attention he received from people was negative. But that all changed one day when he met Jesus Christ passing through the city of Jericho.

Since Zacchaeus was a small man, he had to climb up into a sycamore tree to get a look at Jesus as a large crowd of people followed Christ on His way through Jericho. When Jesus came to the sycamore tree, He stopped and looked up at Zacchaeus. From this we learned that no matter how insignificant I feel, Jesus notices me (Luke 19:4-5a). But Jesus did more than look at Zacchaeus.

All of his life Zacchaeus had been ridiculed and rejected. First, because of his appearance. He was a small or little person. Second, because of his actions. He was a chief tax collector who became wealthy at the expense of the people from whom he collected taxes. He was dishonest and corrupt. Nobody liked the way Zacchaeus looked or the way he acted. Imagine the kind of gossip that was spread about this guy! He was the most hated man in town. No doubt Zacchaeus heard many cruel remarks directed at him. There was a surplus of criticism behind his back. Evil things were said about him throughout all of Jericho and beyond. No wonder he had such a low self-image.

But Jesus did something else. Not only did Jesus stop at Zacchaeus’ tree and look up at him, but notice what He does next: And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus…’ ” (Luke 19:5ab). Imagine the shock of Zacchaeus. “He not only stopped. He not only looked up at me in front of all these other people. He knows my name. I didn’t hear anybody tell Him my name. I didn’t hear Him ask anybody what my name is. He just knows it. How does He know my name?”

From this we learn the second profound truth about how much we matter to God: No matter what other people say, Jesus affirms me (Luke 19:4-5a). God not only knows where you are, He also knows who you are. He knows everything about you. When Jesus called Zacchaeus by name, it shocked everybody. For two reasons: one, the fact that Jesus knew the name of the biggest scoundrel in town. And two, because of what his name meant. “Zacchaeus” means “pure” or “just.” Pure or just one!?!  Zacchaeus was anything but pure or just. He was the biggest crook in Jericho. He was a deceptive, dishonest, and despised scoundrel. This was probably the first time in many years that Zacchaeus was called by his real name. I doubt any one called him the “pure” or “just” one. He was anything but pure and just. But in spite of Zacchaeus’ sin, Jesus affirms him. 

Jesus says, “Zacchaeus, I look beneath all that emotional hurt, all that pain, all that other people have said about you and beneath all that I see a pure one. Zacchaeus, I made you to be pure. I didn’t make you to be a crook. I made you to be pure.” Christ is affirming him while everybody else in the world is putting him down. 

Someone has said, “God has your picture in His wallet. That’s how much God loves you.”  God doesn’t really have your picture in His wallet. He has something much more profound. The Lord said, “See, I have tattooed your name upon My palm.” (Isaiah 49:16 LB). When Jesus Christ looks at the scars in His hands where He was nailed to the cross, what do you think He is thinking of? You! Because He died for your sins. God says, “No, I don’t just carry your picture in My wallet. This is how much I love you. I died for you. I have tattooed you on My body. That is how much you matter to Me,” God says.

It really doesn’t matter what other people say. Jesus says, “I affirm you.” Jesus looks at Zacchaeus and says, “You are a pure one. I can see it in you. I can see all your potential in spite of all the hurt in your life.” Some of us have had a hard time feeling good about ourselves because some people close to us have said some really hurtful things. 

Maybe we have even been rejected in the home. The Bible tells us, “When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take care of me.” (Psalm 27:10). It breaks God’s heart to see kids abandoned, abused, or neglected by their parents. Parents will say to kids, “We didn’t plan you.” They didn’t, but God did. There are no illegitimate children. There are illegitimate parents, but there are no illegitimate children. When those closest to you hurt you or abandon you, God says, “Climb up into My lap and let me hold you. You are safe in My arms. You are wanted. You were planned. I have a purpose for your life.”

We need to remember this: When other people have called us all kinds of names it doesn’t matter. We are not defined by what other people say to us. We are defined by what God says to us. What matters is Jesus Christ calls us by name.

When we become Christians by believing in Jesus Christ for His gift of eternal life (John 3:16), God tells us that He as transformed us from guilty sinners into forgiven saints. This is why the apostle Paul begins his letter to an immature church at Corinth, “To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours.” (I Corinthians 1:2).

The apostle Paul refers to the believers “at Corinth” as “those who are sanctified [set apart positionally from their sin] in Christ Jesus” (I Corinthians 1:2a). He addresses them as “saints” positionally even though their practice was far from saintly (I Corinthians 1:2b). The Corinthians had permitted their pagan culture to invade the church as seen in their divisive sectarianism (1:10-17; 3:1-4), their exaltation of the world’s wisdom above God’s wisdom (1:18-31), their toleration of sexual immorality among their church members (5:1-13), their lawsuits against one another (6:1-11), their immoral relations with temple prostitutes (6:12-7:5), their questionable practices (10:14-33), their mistreatment of one another at the Lord’s Supper (11:17-34), their selfish misuse of spiritual gifts to edify themselves instead of the entire body of Christ (12:1-14:40), and their denial of the resurrection of the dead (15:12-58).

Paul addresses them as “saints,” so they will begin to live like the saints they are in Christ. The more believers see themselves as saints in Christ, the more they will live like saints. Nowhere in I Corinthians does Paul doubt or question the salvation of the Corinthian believers. What he does question is their understanding of who they are in Christ. For example, in I Corinthians 6:19, he writes, “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” The more they understood and believed their new identity in Christ, the more they would live the way God created them to live in Christ.

When professing believers do not go on to grow toward Christlike maturity, it is important that church leaders do not automatically assume that they are unsaved. It is possible they are not saved, but not because they lack a changed life. What makes a person unsaved is their unbelief toward Christ (John 3:18, 36). Many believers lack spiritual growth in their Christian lives because they have not been discipled by older believers. Discipleship involves helping believers to see who they are in Christ, so they can begin to live like the person God created them to be in Christ Jesus (cf. Ephesians 2:10).

Christ’s interaction with Zacchaeus teaches us that no matter how insignificant I feel, Jesus notices me. He has always got His eyes on me. No matter what other people say, Jesus affirms me. He calls me by name.

We are not defined by what other people say to us. Nor are we defined by what we do. We are defined by what God says about us. And God tells us that we are forgiven “saints” who are set apart positionally from our sin and shame to serve God practically (cf. Romans 1:7; I Corinthians 1:2;  2 Corinthians 1:1; Ephesians 1:1; Philippians 1:1; Colossians 1:2; I Thessalonians 3:13; 2 Thessalonians 1:10; Philemon 1:7; Hebrews 13:24; Jude 1:3; Revelation 5:8; 19:8; 20:9).  

Prayer: Father God, like Zacchaeus, many of us have been deeply wounded by the words of other people. We have permitted those words to define who we are. But when Jesus pursued us and saved us the moment we believed in Him, we were transformed from guilty sinners into forgiven saints. Thank You so much for saving us from our sins and giving us everlasting life. We are now defined by what You say to us. Like Zacchaeus, we are pure in Your eyes, having been forgiven and cleansed of all our sins (Acts 10:43; Colossians 2:13-14; Titus 3:4-6). Please renew our minds to see ourselves as You see us so we may live a life of purity in the power of Your Holy Spirit. We are still amazed by Your grace toward us. In the matchless name of Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tom Constable, Notes on Luke, 2016 Edition, pg. 271.

How can I overcome my fears? Part 1

“Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ ” John 20:19

The right part of the human brain known as the limbic system reacts with survival responses to three areas: food, sex, and safety. One of those survival responses is fear. In the limbic system of the brain, pain results in fear. We may fear abandonment, criticism, disrespect, embarrassment, inadequacy, rejection, shame, and vulnerability. 1

In a world of insecurity and uncertainty, we are going to experience fear. But it is important to understand that whatever we fear, we give power and control to. When we fear the things of this world, including humans, we give authority and control to the god of this world, Satan (John 12:31). 2

Most fear is based upon lies and can give the father of lies (John 8:44) control in our lives. This is why some of the most often used commands in the entire Bible are, “DO NOT BE AFRAID,” “DO NOT FEAR”, “FEAR NOT,” “DO NOT BE TERRIFIED,” “DO NOT TREMBLE.” I counted these commands appearing one hundred forty-four times in the NKJV of the Bible. 3

For the next few days we are going to discover how to overcome our fears by looking at how Jesus enabled His disciples to overcome their fear. The first way to overcome fear in our lives is to RELY ON JESUS TO CALM OUR FEAR WITH HIS PEACE-GIVING PRESENCE (John 20:19). After appearing to Mary Magdalene early on the day of His resurrection, Jesus then appeared to other women (Matthew 28:9-10), to Simon Peter (Luke 24:33-35; I Corinthians 15:5), and to the two disciples on the Emmaus road (Mark 16:12-13; Luke 24:13-32). It was late in the evening of that most memorable day when Jesus appeared to ten of His closest disciples (John 20:19-23).

“Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ ”( John 20:19). On one of the greatest days in the history of the world, when Jesus’ Eleven disciples minus Thomas should have been dancing in the streets, they were trembling behind “shut” (kekleismenōn) or “locked” doors. 4  The verb kleiō is in the perfect tense, meaning “the doors” were locked in the past and they remained locked to the present.

Notice also the word “doors” is plural, suggesting that the door into the room and a door into the house entrance were locked. Why? “For fear of the Jews.” It is understandable why the disciples were afraid. The Jews had managed to put Jesus to death and the disciples were His closest companions. A rumor was being spread by the Jewish leaders through the Roman soldiers that Jesus’ disciples had stolen His dead body from the tomb (Matthew 28:11-15). Now that Jesus was removed, the Jews may focus their bitter hatred toward His followers. After all, Christ had warned them of coming persecution (John 15:20; 16:1-2).

The disciples were paralyzed with fear and understandably so. We too can experience paralyzing fear. We are no different than the disciples. We may not share Christ with others because we are afraid of failure, rejection, or what others will think of us. Remember whatever we fear, we give power and control to. When we remain silent in our witness for Christ because of fear, we are giving Satan control over that area of our lives.

While the disciples were hiding in isolation, Jesus suddenly and supernaturally appeared to these ten disciples. Keep in mind that the doors remained shut and locked when “Jesus came and stood in the midst” of them. This phrase can be translated, “Jesus came and stepped into the midst” of them. “Jesus’ resurrection body had passed through grave clothes and a rocky tomb. Now it passed through the walls of this structure.” 5

Now, clearly, Jesus had a physical body. Mary touched him (20:17); Thomas would touch him (20:27); later he would eat with his disciples (21:12-13). He was no mere phantom (see Luke 24:39). He had risen bodily from the grave. But his resurrected body no longer had material limitations. Apparently, he could pass through locked doors if he wanted. And later he would ascend on a cloud into heaven (see Acts 1:9). The apostles tell us that our resurrection bodies will be like his (see 1 Cor 15:45-57; Phil 3:21; 1 John 3:2).” 6

Even though the disciples took security measures, they could not prevent the appearance of Christ in their midst, for He materialized before their eyes. 7 Likewise, human governments and religions can outlaw Christianity, but all of their security measures cannot keep Jesus from revealing Himself to people in those countries or regions. Jesus still comes “to seek and to save that which was lost(Luke 19:10).

For example, “For decades, a well-documented phenomenon has been occurring in the Muslim world—men and women who, without knowledge of the gospel, or contact among Christians in their community, have experienced dreams and visions of Jesus Christ. The reports of these supernatural occurrences often come from ‘closed countries’ where there is no preaching of the good news and where converting to Christianity can invoke the death sentence. But these are more than just dreams… A common denominator appears to be that the dreams come to those who are seeking—as best they can—to know and please God.” 8

When Jesus appeared to the disciples, He said to them, “Peace be with you.” (John 20:19b). The Greek word for “peace” (eirḗnē) arises from a life of faith in God. It refers to a calmness “that would come to their hearts from trusting God and from knowing that He was in control of all events that touched their lives.” 9

Before we can possess this kind of peace, we must first receive “peace with God” through faith in Jesus for eternal life (Romans 5:1). Why do we need peace with God?

The Bible tells us, “And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled” (Colossians 1:21). Before we become Christians, we are God’senemies. “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, everyone, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6). We need to be reconciled to God because of our sin. God does not need reconciling to us, we need reconciling to God. We turned away from God. He never moved. We moved. The people God created rebelled against their Creator and sinned so that death spread to all people because all sinned (Genesis 3:1-7; cf. Romans 3:23; 5:12-14, 18a).

The Bible tells us, “Having made peace through the blood of His cross” (Colossians 1:20b) means causing God’s former enemies to become His beloved children by faith in Jesus Christ. The Bible says, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1). Notice that “peace with God” is not through our good life, our prayers, or our religion. Peace with God is “through our Lord Jesus Christ.” The moment we believe in Jesus Christ and His death on the cross for all our sins, we are “justified” or declared totally righteous before God as if we had never sinned.

To be justified before God means to be declared the opposite of what we are. If I was hateful, I am now declared loving. If I was impatient, I am now declared patient. If I was impure, I am now declared pure. If I was selfish, I am now declared selfless.

When you believe in Jesus, He comes to live inside you through His Holy Spirit (John 7:38-39; Romans 8:11; Galatians 2:20). Christ now lives in you and promises never to leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5). Through His death on the cross, Jesus conquered Satan’s control of death (cf. Hebrews 2:14-15). Satan can no longer use your fear of death to enslave you to his will. Christians can now face death with the same confidence in God the Father that Jesus had (cf. I Peter. 2:21-24). Believers are assured of peace with God forever (Colossians 1:19-21).

Christ’s peace does not mean an absence of pain or conflict in our Christian lives. Jesus Himself was “troubled” (John 12:27) when He looked ahead to His crucifixion. He was “troubled” when He focused on Judas’ betrayal (John 13:21). The peace that Jesus speaks of in John 20:19 refers to a deep-seated calmness that stems from trusting in the Lord and His presence. This peace is not the absence of problems, but the presence of Christ in the midst of those problems. Jesus is aware of our difficulties. He is present with us in our problems. We fear not, because He is with us and He is in charge. People who have discovered this have a quiet peace in their hearts even when things are going wrong.

No matter how troubled your heart is, and some of us may be deeply troubled – Jesus’ peace can calm your heart. Talk to Him. Keep your mind focused on Him. The Bible says of the Lord, “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You” (Isaiah 26:3). Jesus’ presence brings us peace. In Matthew 28:20, Christ promises, “and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Jesus guarantees to be with us always as we make disciples who follow Him. In Philippians 4:6-7, God assures us that as we pray, His peace, “which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Christ can calm us with His presence and His peace just as He did for His disciples.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, for so much of my life I lived in fear behind the locked doors of my broken heart. I was afraid if people really knew me, they could not possibly love me. But the day came when You revealed Yourself to me behind my walls of protection. Your love dispelled the darkness of sin and shame in the depths of my soul. When You invited me to believe in You for Your unlimited forgiveness and everlasting life, I quickly responded in faith and You freely forgave all my sins and gave me everlasting life. You took up residence in my body through Your Spirit. And You kept Your promise to never leave me nor forsake me since that time. Your presence continues to calm my fears and give me Your peace. I pray You will continue to reveal Yourself to others as the Prince of Peace. Please use me as You deem best to share Your peace with those You place in my life. In Your peace-giving name I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Michael Dye, The Genesis Process (Michael Dye, 2012), pp. 45-46.

2. Ibid., pp. 95-96.

3. See Genesis 15:1; 21:17; 26:24; 35:17; 43:23; 46:3; 50:19, 21; Exodus 14:13; 20:20; Numbers 14:9; 21:34; Deuteronomy 1:17, 21, 29(2); 3:2, 22; 7:18, 21; 18:22; 20:1, 3(4); 31:6(2), 8; Joshua 1:9; 8:1; 10:8, 25; 11:6; Judges 4:18; 6:10, 23; Ruth 3:11; I Samuel 4:20; 12:20; 22:23; 23:17; 28:13; 2 Samuel 9:7; 13:28; I Kings 17:13; 2 Kings 1:15; 6:16; 17:25, 35, 37, 38; 19:6; 25:24; I Chronicles 22:13; 28:20; 2 Chronicles 20:15, 17; 32:7; Nehemiah 4:14; Job 5:21, 22; 11:15; Psalm 23:4; 27:3; 46:2; 49:16; 56:4; 64:4; 91:5; Proverbs 3:24, 25; Isaiah 7:4; 8:12; 10:24; 12:2; 35:4; 37:6; 40:9; 41:10, 13, 14; 43:1, 5; 44:2, 8(2); 51:7(2); 54:4, 14; Jeremiah 1:8; 10:5; 23:4; 30:10; 40:9; 42:11(2); 46:27, 28; Lamentations 3:57; Ezekiel 2:6(3); 3:9; Daniel 10:12, 19; Joel 2:21, 22; Zephaniah 3:16; Haggai 2:5; Zechariah 8:13, 15; Matthew 1:20; 10:26, 28, 31; 14:27; 17:7; 28:5, 10; Mark 5:36; 6:50; Luke 1:13, 30; 2:10; 5:10; 8:50; 12:4, 7, 32; 21:9; John 6:20; 12:15; 14:27; Acts 18:9; 27:24; I Peter 3:6, 14; Revelation 1:17; 2:10.

4.  Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 547; J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 365.

5. Tom Constable, Notes on John, 2017 Edition, pg. 375.

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

7. J. Dwight Pentecost, The Words & Works of Jesus Christ, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981), pp. 504-505.

8. Retrieved on May 21, 2021 from https://lausanneworldpulse.com/perspectives-php/595/01-2007.

9. Pentecost, pg. 440.  

Receiving Life Freely – Part 6 (Video)

This is the sixth video in a series about the gospel of John – the only book of the Bible whose primary purpose is to tell non-Christians how to obtain eternal life and a future home in heaven (John 20:31). This video looks at the sixth miracle of Jesus recorded in the gospel of John involving His miraculous healing of a man born blind (John 9:1-41).

The movie clip subtitles are from the Good News Translation. All other Scripture are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted. Gospel of John pictures are used with permission from Jesus.net, www.GoodSalt.com,  John Paul Stanley / YoPlace.com, or they are creative common licenses. The Gospel of John movie clip is used with permission from Jesus.net. You may view the entire Life of Jesus movie at https://jesus.net/the-life-of-jesus/.

How can we endure difficult times? Part 2

“When Jesus had spoken these words, He went out with His disciples over the Brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which He and His disciples entered.” John 18:1

We are learning in John 18:1-12 how we can endure difficult times. Last time we discovered the first way is to learn about the love of Christ (John 18:1a). The second way to endure difficult times is in the last half of verse 1. “When Jesus had spoken these words, He went out with His disciples over the Brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which He and His disciples entered.” (John 18:1b). Christ crossed over the Brook Kidron to go to “a garden.” This is not necessarily a reference to a place where flowers or vegetables are grown, but to an orchard where olive trees are growing on the side of the Mount of Olives. 1 

John is referring to the Garden of Gethsemane (cf. Matthew 26:36; Mark 14:32). The word “Gethsemane” (Gethsēmani) means an “oil press” 2  or a place where the olives are pressed and pressured so that the oil would come out. Jesus was pressured spiritually like never before in the garden that night. John leaves out the agony of Gethsemane where Jesus fervently prayed to the Father concerning the cross (cf. Matthew 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:39-43). His sweat became like blood (cf. Luke 22:44). Why does John leave this out? Because his purpose is to show Jesus in complete control over the situation. Christ is presented as the Victor in John’s account, not the Victim.

This garden was probably something some wealthy citizen of Jerusalem owned. They didn’t just have free land outside of Jerusalem in those days. All the gardens that were around Jerusalem were owned by wealthy citizens in Jerusalem. They didn’t have big gardens in Jerusalem for two reasons: there wasn’t enough land and the law forbid them from putting manure or fertilizer on the ground in Jerusalem. So even if you did have a garden in Jerusalem, it would not grow anything. So all the wealthy citizens would buy these gardens outside of town and they would go out there to relax. 3  We don’t know the name of the person who owned this garden. But whoever he or she was, they lent this garden to Jesus during the hour of His greatest need. I find it intriguing that God does not tell us the name of this significant person who ministered to our Lord at this time. Perhaps the Lord Jesus will reveal this person to us in heaven.

Nonetheless, the main observation here is that Jesus went to Gethsemane to prepare for Calvary. He prepared for His suffering (arrest, trials, and crucifixion) by spending time in prayer with His heavenly Father. So the second way to endure difficult times is to LOOK TO THE LORD IN PRAYER (John 18:1b; cf. Luke 22:39-42).

Do you have a quiet place where you can get alone with the Lord to pray? Dr. Tony Evans said, “Pain is always an invitation to pray.” God allows pain in our lives to cause us to depend more on Him in prayer. Where do you go when you are in pain? Do you go to the internet? To a bottle of booze? To drugs? To a boyfriend or girlfriend? To the Lotto (lottery)? To your job or ministry? Where do you go? Jesus turned to His heavenly Father in prayer.

John tells us that “Jesus often met there with His disciples” (18:2b). Christ went there often with His disciples to pray. This is where He got His endurance. If we are going to endure trials in a way that honors Jesus Christ, we must make it a habit to talk to Him in prayer.

The Bible tells us when we face tough times, to “Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us” (Psalm 62:8). When God allows pain in our lives, He invites us to trust Him and pour out our hearts before Him. Why? Because “God is a refuge for us.” He is a safe Person to share our hurts and struggles with because He understands and sympathizes, having gone through similar struggles (Hebrews 4:15). He will not tell others what we share with Him. He will not mock us or betray us. He has our best interests in mind. Go to Him in prayer because He loves you and cares for you more than any other person in the universe. As we give Him our burdens, He will give us renewed strength to endure the trials we are facing.

Prayer: Father God, there is no better way to face Calvary (suffering) than to spend time in Gethsemane talking to You in prayer. Thank Youthat we can talk to You anytime, anywhere, about anything. And You are always available to listen and understand. Lord Jesus, no one understands our hurts and struggles better than You. You know what it feels like to be abandoned, alone, misunderstood, rejected, unfairly accused, and unloved. You are our Refuge. Our secrets and struggles are safe with You. Thank You for reminding us that You also know what it is like to endure suffering victoriously. Please lead us to face our difficulties victoriously with Your strength as we lean into You through prayer. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

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

2. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, compiled by Walter Bauer, trans. and adapted by William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, 2nd ed., rev. and augmented by F. Wilbur Gingrich and Frederick W. Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979), pg. 153.

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

4. Tony Evans, March 10, 2019 post on Facebook.

How can we be effective witnesses to a hostile world? Part 3

“But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me.” John 15:21

As Christ anticipates His departure to be with His Father in heaven, He directs His eleven believing disciples to their relationship with the world (John 15:18-16:4). Jesus wanted to prepare His disciples (and us) for the opposition they would face after He ascends to the Father in heaven. From His instruction, we are learning how we can be effective witnesses to a hostile world.  

So far we have discovered we can be effective witnesses to a hostile world when we…

– Realize that we will face the same conflict with the world that Jesus did (John 15:18-19).

– Recall what Jesus has already taught us (John 15:20).

Another way to be an effective witness for Christ is to RECOGNIZE THAT THE WORLD IS NOT OPPOSED TO YOU PERSONALLY, BUT TO YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH CHRIST (John 15:21-25). Christ gives another reason why the world will persecute His followers. “But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me.” (John 15:21). Referring to the world’s persecution of His followers, Jesus says, “All these things they will do to you for My name’s sake,” on My account, Jesus says, because you are My followers. Christ does not want His disciples to take the world’s hostility personally because the world is actually opposed to Him and His message. The world will not receive Christ in us because they did not receive Him.

How the world responds to us is more often connected to who Jesus is, not who His witnesses are, unless we are behaving carnally. The reason people rejected Christ is because “they do not know” the Father “who sent” Jesus. They were ignorant of Christ’s origin and relationship with God the Father because they were spiritually blind.

Next Jesus said,22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 He who hates Me hates My Father also. 24 If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would have no sin; but now they have seen and also hated both Me and My Father.” (John 15:22-24). As the Light, Jesus came into the world and exposed their sin of hating and rejecting Him. His words and works revealed His true identity as the Christ, the Son of God (cf. 5:36; 10:38; 14:11; 20:31). The miracles Jesus performed had never been done by anyone before (“works which no one else did…”).

These miraculous works unmistakably revealed that Christ was equal with the Father as God. If Christ had not come, “they would have no sin” (John 15:22, 24) or guilt for the sin of refusing to believe in Him. Refusing to believe in Jesus is the ultimate rebellion against God the Father. People cannot talk about how much they love God while simultaneously rejecting His Son. 1 To reject One is to reject the other since they are both equally God.

Their hatred of Jesus reflects their hatred toward His Father in heaven because Jesus is a perfect reflection of the Father as God. To reject Jesus is to reject God the Father because Jesus is equally God. The Jews knew they were born into sin, but the Pharisees thought they were now without sin by obeying the minute details of the law. So the world hated Christ because He exposed their sin. Jesus said, “The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it that its works are evil” (John 7:7).

The world’s hatred toward Christ also fulfilled what king David wrote in Psalm 69:4 hundreds of years before Christ came to earth. “But this happened that the word might be fulfilled which is written in their law, ‘They hated Me without a cause.’ ” (John 15:25). As the wicked showed their hatred for King David, so they showed hatred for the promised Son of David. 2

Jesus did not depreciate the Law, He fulfilled it. There is no reasonable basis to reject Jesus as the Christ, the promised Messiah, the Son of God, because both His words and His works provide sufficient evidence to believe in His Person. Jesus is the only sinless Person to ever live because He is God (John 1:1, 14; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15). However, there is a touch of irony here. The men who were champions of the Law, who supposedly knew the Old Testament very well, these experts of the Law fulfilled prophecy concerning the enemies of God’s Messiah. The purpose of God was fulfilled by these religious men. 

To be an effective witness for Christ, we must accept that the world does not hate us, it hates Christ in us. Some of us may have a difficult time when hatred is directed toward us because we want people to like us. We may feel responsible for their hatred toward us. Often times if we have unresolved trauma from our past, we tend to take things more personally. It is difficult for us to separate our past trauma from our present circumstances. But as we invite Jesus to heal those past wounds, He can enable us to become more whole so we can live more in the present instead of in the past.

People in our communities may dislike us for being vocal about Jesus Christ. Religious people are often the most hateful people toward those who preach Christ crucified. This is true in America, North Korea, the Middle East, Africa, and India. Why? Because the message of the cross exposes their sinfulness and they are too proud to admit they need a Savior.

When asked, “What is keeping you from trusting Christ alone as your only way to heaven?” religious people often respond the same way another woman did when asked to write down five reasons why she couldn’t trust Christ as her only way to heaven. She wrote this:

1. Me

2. Me.

3. Me

4. Me.

5. Me.

Don’t let “me” stand in the way of coming to faith in Christ. Remember when Jesus took your place on the cross, “you” were foremost on His mind. He died for YOU! Do not let your pride keep you from trusting in the Only One who can save you from an eternity separated from God!

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for opportunities to grow in my relationship with You. When I experience rejection from people, it often triggers an overwhelming emotional response inside of me. Thank You for revealing to me that much of that emotional reaction is connected to painful experiences in my past. Right now, I want to invite You to walk with me through those dark painful memories so Your healing grace can set me free from my past. I am grateful that You are showing me that people do not reject me personally, but You and Your message, when I share the gospel with them. Please help me to remember this when I encounter opposition from the world. Lord, I also want to lift up those You are drawing to Yourself. Please show them that You are equal with God the Father and that to reject You is to reject the Father. May Your Holy Spirit persuade them to believe in You alone for Your free gift of everlasting life. In Your life-giving name I pray. Amen.  

ENDNOTES:

1. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B&H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1808.

2. Ibid.

3. R. Larry Moyer, Show Me How To Illustrate Evangelistic Sermons (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2012), pp. 127-128.

How can we recover from rejection? Part 6

“Having received the piece of bread, he then went out immediately. And it was night.” John 13:30

In our study of John 13:18-30, we are learning that we can recover from rejection when we…

– Look to the Bible for God’s purpose (John 13:18).

– Let Christ deepen our faith in His Person (John 13:19).

– Learn not to take rejection personally (John 13:20).

– Lay aside our denial of pain (John 13:21).

– Lean on Jesus for His power to forgive (John 13:22-26).

The sixth and final we can recover from rejection is to LINGER IN JESUS’ PRESENCE (John 13:27-30). “Now after the piece of bread, Satan entered him. Then Jesus said to him, ‘What you do, do quickly.’ ” (John 13:27). While Judas took the piece of bread from Jesus, we are not told that he ate it as a sign of receiving the Messiah’s offer of salvation. In fact, John 17:12 would indicate that Judas did not believe in Christ for salvation as Christ refers to him as the “son of perdition” who is “lost.”  Also, it appears that “Satan entered” Judas after he took“the piece of bread” (John 13:27) which suggests Judas did not eat it. Judas’ persistent unbelief toward Christ allowed Satan to enter his body and take control of him so he could do his evil work “quickly.”

John informs us, “But no one at the table knew for what reason He said this to him.” (John 13:28). When Jesus told Judas to do his work quickly (John 13:27), the disciples did not know the meaning of Jesus’ words. Even John must have missed the meaning of Christ’s words until later. “For some thought, because Judas had the money box, that Jesus had said to him, ‘Buy those things we need for the feast,’ or that he should give something to the poor.” (John 13:29). Since Judas was the treasurer, some of the disciples thought Jesus was telling Judas to go “buy those things… for the feast” of Unleavened Bread which would start on Friday at 6 pm. The disciples did not suspect Judas’ act of treachery. They did not know Judas’ heart like the Lord Jesus did. Judas deceived his fellow disciples, but he could not deceive the Lord.

“Having received the piece of bread, he then went out immediately. And it was night.” (John 13:30). The phrase “having received the piece of bread” along with verse 27 indicates that Satan’s control of Judas and Judas’ departure from Jesus must have been simultaneous. Judas would miss out on the Lord’s Supper and Jesus’ deeper teaching on discipleship (John 13:31-17:26).

John’s mention of it being “night”is not just a time reference, especially when we consider John’s contrast of light and darkness in his gospel (John 1:4-5; 3:19-21; 8:12; 12:35-36) and other writings (I John 1:5-7; 2:8-11). Judas was leaving the Light of the world (Jesus) and going out into the darkness of sin, devoid of God and without direction. Judas chose the darkness of sin and death instead of choosing the Light. Wilkin writes, “How fitting that Judas would betray Jesus during the time of darkness. An unbeliever reading these words would easily be highly disturbed. Going away from Jesus in unbelief leads one into the darkness. To avoid an eternal darkness, forever separated from Jesus and His kingdom of light, one must believe in Him.” 1

In order for believers to recover from rejection, they must remain close to the Light of the world, Jesus Christ, and not withdraw from His presence into the spiritual darkness of sin. John alludes to this in his first epistle. 9 He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. 10 He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. 11 But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.” (I John 2:9-11). AChristian cannot remain close to Christ if he hates his Christian “brother” who may have rejected him. If we continue to hate those who have hurt us, we will walk in darkness out of fellowship with God. The longer we walk in darkness, the more difficult it is to come back into the light of God’s will and love.

Several years ago, my wife and I went to the Alabaster Caverns State Park in northern Oklahoma which has a three-quarter mile alabaster cave. We took a guided tour into the cave and when we were about half a mile inside the cave, they turned all the lights off, leaving us in total darkness for a few minutes. Our tour guide told us that the longer a person lives in total darkness, the more difficult it is to adjust to living in the light again. Just being in a dark movie theatre a couple of hours makes it difficult to go back outside on a bright sunny day.

Likewise, the longer we live in the darkness of sin, the more difficult it is to come back into the presence of the Light of the world. However, when we choose to forgive those who reject us, it enables us to walk in the light of fellowship with Christ and remain close to Him.

We need to face our hurts from rejection, but we do not need to do it alone. Jesus is there to guide us through this process of recovering from rejection. He understands how we feel and He guarantees that He will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 4:15; 13:5). Knowing this, provides the security and strength we need to release our hurt to Him and rely on His power to forgive our betrayers and stay close to our understanding Savior and Lord.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I praise You because even though the world around me is growing very dark, You remain the Light of the world shining brightly as the Way, the Truth, and the Life. As the Way, You provide direction for me to recover from rejection. As the Truth, You expose the lies that keep me from forgiving those who have rejected me. And as the Life, You teach me how to experience Your life abundantly by staying close to You. Thank You, my Lord and my God! In Your holy and loving name I pray. Amen.  

ENDNOTE:

1. Robert N. Wilkin, “The Gospel According to John,” The Grace New Testament Commentary, Vol. 1: Matthew – Acts (Denton, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 2010), pg. 441.

How can we recover from rejection? Part 5

“Jesus answered, ‘It is he to whom I shall give a piece of bread when I have dipped it.’ And having dipped the bread, He gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon.” John 13:26

Before we address the next way to overcome rejection, it is important to understand the cultural situation. “In first-century Palestine the triclinium was coming into use. A triclinium was a low, rectangular dining table around which couches were arranged on three of the four sides. The fourth side, the ‘foot’ of the table, was left open so that food could be served. Guests would eat in a reclining position around the table. A cushion would be provided for the left arm. The right arm would then be free to reach for food on the low table. Of the three positions around the table, the middle position (opposite the ‘foot’ of the table) was regarded as the most honorable. It was here at the ‘head’ of the table that the principal guests would recline.” 1  Laney writes, “It is safe to assume that Jesus would be situated at the head of the table as the principal guest. To His right and left were the principal places of honor (cf. Mark 10:35-37). To His right, in the place of special honor reclined the apostle John (John 13:23) On His left, in the next highest place, was Judas, the betrayer (13:26).” 2

With this in mind, we are prepared to look at the fifth way to recover from rejection: LEAN ON JESUS FOR HIS POWER TO FORGIVE (John 13:22-26). After Jesus announced to His disciples that one of them would betray Him (John 13:21), we read, “Then the disciples looked at one another, perplexed about whom He spoke.” (John 13:22). Jesus’ announcement about His betrayer took the disciples by surprise. They could not imagine any of them betraying the Lord. No one suspected Judas. He had covered his tracks very well.

“Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved.” (John 13:23). John informs us that “one of His disciples whom Jesus loved” is described as “leaning on Jesus bosom.” This disciple “whom Jesus loved,” is identified in John 21:20, 24, as the author of the gospel of John, the apostle John.

John experienced an intimacy with Christ that arose through his obedience to Christ. He writes later that those who are closer to the Lord through obedience, receive a special intimate love from Him: “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). There is a sense in which John is closer to Jesus through obedience and this can be seen in his writings. When we obey the Lord Jesus, He discloses more of Himself to us, including His love.

“Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask who it was of whom He spoke.” (John 13:24). Peter was overcome with curiosity to know the identity of Jesus’ betrayer. Maybe Peter’s loyalty to Christ was coming out now and he wanted to take preventive measures. Luke 22:38 says Peter had access to two swords. John and Judas were reclining next to Jesus, but Peter’s position at the table was not close enough to Jesus to ask Him privately, so he asked John to ask Jesus to identify the traitor.

“Then, leaning back on Jesus’ breast, he said to Him, ‘Lord, who is it?’ ” (John 13:25). John was relining next to Jesus on His right so all he had to do was lean back on Jesus’ chest and ask Him, “Lord, who is it?” By leaning back in this way, he could speak very quietly and still be heard by Jesus. Both Peter and John are concerned for Jesus’ well-being.

“Jesus answered, ‘It is he to whom I shall give a piece of bread when I have dipped it.’ And having dipped the bread, He gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon.” (John 13:26). Christ tells John that He will identify His betrayer by giving him “a piece of bread”that He has “dipped.” “The dipping of a piece of bread was a significant part of the Passover ritual. In the course of the paschal meal, the master of the feast would pick up some unleavened bread, which was a flat cake. He would put bits of lamb on the piece of bread, sprinkle some bitter herbs on it, and then roll it. Then he would dip the bread containing the meat and herbs into a bitter sauce. This bread would then be handed to a guest. The ritual would be repeated until a piece of bread had been provided for each guest…

“The lamb anticipated God’s Lamb, who would provide God’s salvation for sinners. In preparing the bread with the meat and herbs dipped in sauce, the master of the feast was reminding the participants of God’s promise to provide salvation. In receiving the piece of bread, each participant acknowledged his sin. Each also reaffirmed his faith in God’s promises that He would send a Messiah to take away sin by the sacrifice of Himself, and each professed his willingness to receive salvation which Messiah would offer…

“It is significant that Christ gave the first piece of bread to Judas Iscariot (John 13:26). It was customary to offer the first piece to the most honored guest at the feast… This was an evidence of the love and the grace of the Lord, who knew what was in Judas’ heart before the seats were assigned around the table. Further it is to be noted that since the giving of the bread was in effect an offer of salvation, Christ was offering forgiveness to Judas if he would accept the offered salvation and put his faith in Him. This was grace exemplified. Perhaps no greater demonstration of the love and the grace of Christ can be found anywhere in Scripture than in this scene, for the One who would be betrayed was offering the betrayer forgiveness of sin if he would accept it.” 3

Even though Jesus had been deeply hurt knowing that Judas would betray Him, He still lovingly offered Judas His forgiveness. Similarly, if we are to recover from rejection by others, we too must offer forgiveness to those who have rejected us. Refusal to forgive others hurts us more than those who reject us. Refusal to forgive our offenders leads to bitterness. And bitterness builds a wall around our lives because no one likes to be around a cynic – someone who is always resentful and complaining.

Jesus wants to teach us to be a better person, not a bitter person. Each of us has a choice as to how we respond to those who reject us. We can choose to focus on our feelings or we can choose to focus on the truth. The truth is we are to be “kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave” us (Ephesian 4:32). Forgiveness keeps our hearts tender and sensitive to the Lord and others. We cannot do this in our own strength. We must lean on Jesus’ power to enable us to forgive those who have deeply hurt us. The moment we choose to obey God and forgive our betrayers, God will supply us with the power to do exactly that. Remember, we also have caused hurt to others by rejecting them. We also have sinned against others, especially God. The more we realize our own need for forgiveness, the more forgiving of others we will become.

It is important to understand that forgiving someone does not mean you trust him or her. You can forgive someone in a moment based upon Christ’s positional forgiveness of you (Ephesians 1:7; 4:32), but trusting that person will take time. Trust must be earned from the person who betrayed or rejected you. For example, a Christian wife is commanded to respect her wayward husband, but she is not commanded to trust him (I Peter 3:1-6). He must earn her trust.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, my heart was deeply touched by Your final offer of grace and forgiveness to Judas the night before Your death on the cross! Even though You knew his actions in advance, You did not stop loving him. I am reminded that all of us are like Judas in that we have betrayed You with our thoughts, our words, and our actions. And all of us, like Judas, desperately need Your forgiveness for all the times we have betrayed you. Thank You for extending Your forgiving grace to me. Please help me to extend this forgiveness to others who have rejected me. I pray Your Spirit will also enable others to forgive me for the wounds I have caused them. In Your precious name I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Ralph Gower, The New Manners and Customs of Bible Times (Chicago: Moody, 1987), pg. 247; J. Robert Teringo, The Land and People Jesus Knew (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1985), pg. 53.

2.   J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 246.

3. J. Dwight Pentecost, The Words & Works of Jesus Christ, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981), pp. 430-431.

How can we recover from rejection? Part 4

“When Jesus had said these things, He was troubled in spirit, and testified and said, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me.’ ” John 13:21

The fourth way to recover from rejection is to LAY ASIDE YOUR DENIAL OF PAIN (John 13:21). “When Jesus had said these things, He was troubled in spirit, and testified and said, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me.’ ” (John 13:21). When Jesus had said these things about being betrayed by one of them, “He was troubled in spirit.”The word “troubled” (etarachthē) means “to shake together, to stir up.” Christ was emotionally stirred up, unsettled, and disturbed. Why? Because He knew Judas was going to “betray” Him. He felt hurt that Judas was going to reject Him. Judas had walked with Jesus for over three years. They had been through a lot together. Christ had poured His life into the disciples, including Judas, but Judas refused to believe in Him (cf. John 6:64, 70-71; 13:10-11; 17:12).

Don’t feel guilty if you are deeply hurt or upset when someone close to you rejects you. Jesus felt hurt when He was rejected, and He is almighty God in human flesh. How much more will we feel emotionally stirred up and unsettled?! If we want to recover from rejection, we must be honest about our feelings. Some of us need to learn to give ourselves permission to feel hurt when we have been rejected. Christians can easily minimize their feelings. “A good Christian would not feel this way,” they say to themselves. Jesus felt upset about Judas’ rejection of Him! Why don’t we permit ourselves to feel hurt when we are rejected? Christ understands what it is like to be betrayed by someone close to you. He is not going to tell you to deny your pain and act as though nothing happened. He sympathizes with your pain and wants to offer His healing grace. We cannot forgive someone from our heart if we do not acknowledge the pain he or she has caused us (Matthew 18:35).

Some of you have been through unbearable rejection and pain. Have you allowed yourself to feel the hurt? People who have experienced a lot of rejection throughout their lives may be afraid to permit themselves to feel the pain of that rejection. It may seem overwhelming to them to feel, so they deny their emotions thinking they will go away. But they don’t. Repressed emotions will manifest themselves in unhealthy ways. Jesus can help you identify your pain and give you the strength to release it to Him. Will you permit Him to help you do this?

After over three years of intimate fellowship with the Lord Jesus, how could Judas betray Him? The Bible tells us that Judas was motivated by greed. 14 Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests 15 and said, ‘What are you willing to give me if I deliver Him to you?’ And they counted out to him thirty pieces of silver. 16 So from that time he sought opportunity to betray Him.” (Matthew 26:14-16). Judas was in bondage to money. Afterward he felt guilty and ashamed for betraying the Lord Jesus, and he hung himself (Matthew 27:3-5). Judas could have turned to Jesus for forgiveness after betraying Him, but instead he took matters into his own hands and killed himself.

Judas’ betrayal “troubled” Jesus. In what ways do we “trouble” our Lord? Have we put money or the approval of others ahead of Jesus’ approval? Whatever we have done to offend our Lord, the solution is simple for believers:“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:9). Permit Jesus to come alongside of you and help you release your pain to Him. He can handle what may seem unbearable to you.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for providing a godly example of what it looks like to acknowledge the pain of rejection. For many years I have believed the lie that says, “A good Christian does not feel hurt when someone rejects him.” But You, Lord, understand what it is like to be betrayed by someone close to You. You do not tell us to ignore the pain. You encourage us to acknowledge and release the pain to You. Thank You in advance for the strength You will give me to do just that. Please forgive me for the many ways I have troubled You, my Lord and my God. Thank You for Your cleansing grace that gives me a fresh start the moment I confess my wrongs to You. In Your holy name I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTE:

1. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, compiled by Walter Bauer, trans. and adapted by William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, 2nd ed., rev. and augmented by F. Wilbur Gingrich and Frederick W. Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979), pg. 805.

How can we recover from rejection? Part 3

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.” John 13:20

One of the greatest obstacles in evangelism is the fear of rejection. Christians are reluctant to share the gospel with non-Christians because they are afraid of getting a negative response from them.  

We are learning from Jesus how we can recover from rejection. Having a recovery plan can overcome our fear of rejection. So far we have learned to look to the Bible for God’s purpose (John 13:18) and to let Christ deepen our faith in His person (John 13:19).

We can also recover from rejection when we LEARN NOT TO TAKE REJECTION PERSONALLY (John 13:20). When the disciples do recover their faith after Jesus’ death and resurrection, they will begin to share Christ’s message with a lost world (cf. Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15; Acts 1:8ff, etc.). Jesus said to His disciples, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.” (John 13:20). Christ explains that the one who “receives(lambanō) or “welcomes” the disciples whom Jesus sends are welcoming Jesus and the Father who sent Him. The reason they receive the Father when they receive Jesus is because Jesus is equal with God the Father because He is God (cf. John 5:17-23; 10:30). To receive Jesus is the same as receiving the Father because Christ is the perfect reflection of the Father.

On the other hand, those who reject the ones whom Jesus has sent are ultimately rejecting Christ and the Father who sent Him. Hence, the messengers of Christ are to learn not to take the rejection of others personally because they are ultimately rejecting Jesus and His message, not them.

Let’s face it, the message of the gospel is offensive to people because they do not want to be told that they are sinners (Romans 3:23). They are offended when the Bible tells them that their works cannot save them from their sins (Isaiah 64:6; Ephesians 2:8-9). People do not want to hear that all other religions cannot get them to heaven, only Jesus Christ can do that (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). They do not want to hear that if they never trust in Christ alone they will be punished for their sins forever in hell (John 3:18; 8:24; Revelation 20:15). The truth is we can expect a certain amount of rejection as we preach the gospel because the message is offensive to human pride. 1

It is also important to recognize that how people respond to you says more about them than it does about you. When you are on the receiving end of rejection, distance yourself and get perspective. This is what Jesus did when His enemies crucified Him. While hanging on the cross, He said, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they do.” (Luke 23:34). Christ did not take their rejection personally. He realized that their rejection of Him was because they were spiritually ignorant (“for they do not know what they do”)about His identity. Their sins blinded them to what they were doing. This enabled Jesus to forgive them.

When unsaved people reject us for preaching the gospel and following Christ, realize that they are lost empty vessels who are blinded by the ruler of this world. Until the Holy Spirit removes their spiritual blinders, they will not welcome God’s Word into their lives. No matter how badly we are treated, we do not have to take what has happened to us as a hundred percent reflection of who we are. Their response says more about them than it does about us. But our response to them says more about us. Like Jesus, pray to God our Father to forgive them for their initial rejection of the gospel so they can eventually come to Jesus in faith. The more we pray for those who reject us, the more our hearts will soften toward them and begin to love them as Jesus does (Matthew 5:44).

Prayer: Father God, thank You for speaking to my heart today about how to respond to those who reject the gospel message.Those who reject the gospel message are actually rejecting You and Your Son rather than the messenger. Although it still hurts to experience such a negative response, my heart begins to soften toward them when I realize the spiritual battle that is taking place in their hearts and minds. I also went through the same battle before I came to faith in Jesus and You did not give up on me at that time. Oh how thankful I am for that. As I think about the unsaved people in my life right now, I pray that Your Holy Spirit will soften their hearts toward the gospel of Jesus Christ so they can begin to see Him as the Messiah, the Son of God, so they may have everlasting life in His name. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTE:

1. The Evangelism Study Bible (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, copyright 2014 EvanTell, Inc.), pg. 972.