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.

How can we recover from rejection? Part 2

“Now I tell you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe that I am He.” John 13:19

We are learning how to recover from rejection by looking at how Jesus responded to rejection from one of His own disciples. The first way is to look to the Bible for God’s purpose (John 13:18). Today we learn the second way to recover from rejection is to LET CHRIST DEEPEN OUR FAITH IN HIS PERSON (John 13:19). Jesus said, “Now I tell you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe that I am He.” (John 13:19). The fact that Jesus knew all of this before it happened would help the disciples after Judas betrays Him. It would strengthen their faith in Him as God (“I am He,” cf. John 8:24, 28, 58). Keep in mind that the disciples had already believed in Jesus for eternal life (John 1:35-2:11). But when Jesus is betrayed by Judas and eventually crucified, the disciples may have doubts about Christ’s identity. So He informs them “before it comesso that their faith won’t be shaken.

God has informed us that “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12) so that when it happens we can know that He is God and is in control of what happens to us as we live for Him. God permits us to experience rejection to deepen our faith in the Person of Christ. This is what happened to the apostle Paul when he experienced rejection in the ministry. “But we suffered so that we would stop trusting ourselves and learn to trust God, who brings the dead back to life.” (2 Corinthians 1:9 – GW).

Instead of looking to people or ourselves to meet our deepest needs, we must learn to depend on Jesus, Who is God, to provide what people cannot consistently give to us – namely, unconditional love and acceptance. People may abandon us and reject us and even stop loving us, but Jesus Christ will never abandon us or reject us or stop loving us. If you have experienced a lot of rejection in your life from people, it may be difficult for you to believe Jesus will never reject you after you come to Him in faith.

Listen to what Jesus says in John 6:37: “The one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.” Christ guarantees that those who come to Him in faith will never be “cast out” of  His family. Jesus remains faithful to His promises even if we are faithless. The Bible says, “If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself.” (2 Timothy 2:13). God cannot deny what He “Himself” has promised. Jesus has repeatedly promised in the gospel of John that all who believe in Him will “never” perish, thirst, hunger, or die, but have everlasting life (John 3:15-16; 6:35; 10:28; 11:26). His promise is independent of our continuing belief in Him or anything we do or fail to do. 1  What a wonderful and faithful God we know and serve!!!

Knowing that Jesus will never abandon us nor reject us can give us the security and strength we need to release the pain of rejection to Him. We are not defined by how other people respond to us. We are defined by what Jesus says of us. And He says we are so valuable to Him that He will never cast us out of His family. We are His forever the moment we believe in Him!

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I praise You for Who You are!!! You are the Messiah-God Who knows and controls the future. You knew in advance who would reject me in my lifetime. Since You are God, You always tell the truth so I never have to doubt Your promises. You guarantee never to cast out of Your family anyone Who comes to You in faith. So even when I experience rejection from others, I can rest in the security of Your unconditional acceptance and love toward me. Knowing that You will never abandon or reject me enables me to release the pain of rejection to You. Thank You for the healing this security gives to me. I can trust You because You know my future. Nothing takes You by surprise. In Your loving name I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTE:

1. Wilkin, Robert; Bond, J.; Derickson, Gary; Doskocil, Brad; Hodges, Zane; Hunt, Dwight; Leach, Shawn. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (pg. 1203). Grace Evangelical Society. Kindle Edition.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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