Connecting in a Disconnected World of Covid (Video)

Although this video was prepared for a church anniversary in the Philippines, its biblical principles can apply to any culture. We will not only look at the challenges of connecting with other people during this age of COVID-19, we will also turn to the Bible to discover how we can connect with one another in more effective ways. If you are feeling all alone and without hope, this video is for you.

Transforming a nation and world

“Therefore hear the parable of the sower.” Matthew 13:18

Jesus explains His parable of the sower (Matthew 13:2-9) to His disciples to prepare them for the different types of responses to the preaching of God’s Word (Matthew 13:18-23). Each soil in this parable represents a different response to God’s message. Some to whom we share the gospel are like “the wayside” soil (Matthew 13:4, 19) who will not receive or believe in Jesus (Matthew 13:19; Luke 8:12).

Others are like “the stony places” (Matthew 13:5-6, 20-21) who “believe [the gospel] for a while” (Luke 8:13) but never really make a commitment to follow Christ as His disciple and “fall away” because of adversity (Matthew 13:20-21; Luke 8:13). They are “hearers only” of the Word like James talks about (James 1:22). They deceive themselves into thinking they can grow spiritually simply by hearing God’s Word without doing what it says. They are not willing to follow Jesus regardless of the costs.

A third type of person we will discover is like the seed that “fell among thorns” (Matthew 13:7, 22). These are those who believe in Jesus and start to follow Him, but they never bear much fruit because they are so distracted by worldliness and wealth (Matthew 13:22; Luke 8:14).

So far this has been disappointing. If this is the kind of response we can expect to get from many people, why go on? Jesus tells us why! He tells us not to become discouraged because eventually we will come across the fourth kind of person, a person who bears much fruit after believing the gospel (Matthew 13:8, 23; Luke 8:15). Unless we are willing to endure those who reject His message, those who fall away, and those who are too distracted, we will never discover the pure joy of finding those who are fruitful!

And notice that Jesus tells us that some of these fruitful ones will bear fruit “a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty” (Matthew 13:23). One of the blessings we will experience if we continue to faithfully sow the seed of God’s Word, is that we will begin discovering these amazingly productive believers. These fruitful believers are “super spreaders” because they are super at spreading the seed of God’s Word. These are the “doers of the word” (James 1:22). They will far exceed us in witnessing and planting new churches.

The way to discover these “good soil” believers, is to train everyone in discipleship who believes the gospel! The “good soil” believers will quickly emerge. They will immediately become doers of the Word of God. As these super spreaders emerge among us, we will begin to see a more significant movement take place in our country and world as well. But the whole process begins with those who are faithful to sow the seed – to preach the gospel and train in discipleship those who believe in Jesus (Mark 16:15; Matthew 28:19-20).

This is the key to a transformed life and nation, not the political process. I believe more than ever, that Jesus is calling His church to return to the discipleship process in order to see our nation and world change for His glory! Christ implores us, “Hear the parable of the sower.” (Matthew 13:18). Will we hear and obey our Lord and Master! Perhaps today is when some of us begin  to sow the seed of His Word!!! Please know that His Word will not return to Him void, but it shall accomplish what He pleases, and it shall prosper in the thing for which He sent it (Isaiah 55:11)!

Prayer: Lord Jesus, all authority has been given to You in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18). Your one and only plan to reach the world for Your glory is the discipleship process whereby we preach Your gospel message to everyone in the world, and then call those who believe Your gospel to commit to follow You as a disciple through water baptism. Then we are to teach them to obey all Your commands (Mark 16:15; Matthew 28:19-20). Please enable us to be faithful to spread the seed of Your gospel message to this world which is perishing without You, Lord Jesus! Thank You for explaining the different types of responses we can expect from our audiences as we proclaim Your Word. By Your grace, enable us to endure those who reject Your message, those who fall away, and those who are too distracted, so we may discover the pure joy of finding those who are super at spreading the seed of Your Word to others!!! Your discipleship process is what transforms individuals, nations, and the world, not a political process. Please forgive us for looking in the wrong places for transformation. I beg You to bring us back to the basics of the Bible and the discipleship process, my Lord and my God. May Your Holy Spirit give us the boldness and vision to pursue You and Your discipleship process until all hear Your gospel message!!! Thank You for the assurance that You are always with us as we make disciples for Your glory (Matthew 28:20b). In Your matchless name I pray Lord Jesus. Amen.

How can we pray more like Jesus prays? Part 7

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ENDNOTE:

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

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

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

How can we pray more like Jesus prays? Part 2

“For I have given to them the words which You have given Me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came forth from You; and they have believed that You sent Me.” John 17:8

We are learning from Jesus’ High Priestly prayer the night before His crucifixion, how to pray like He prays. First, we learned like Jesus, we are to pray for God to be glorified when we face trials (John 17:1-5). Today we also discover LIKE JESUS, WE ARE TO PRAY FOR THOSE WE DISCIPLE (John 17:6-19). Jesus turns His attention in prayer to His Eleven believing disciples. There are three main things Jesus prayed for these Eleven men. We will look at the first request He presented on their behalf today

What do we pray for those we disciple? Or should I ask, “Are we discipling anyone at this time?” If not, ask the Lord to show you whom He wants you to begin a discipleship relationship with. He is delighted to answer that prayer.

If you are discipling someone, Christ wants you to pray the same thing He prayed for His disciples. Jesus first tells His Father the things He has done for His disciples. He does not ask for what He needs or wants first. Instead, He tells the Father what He has already done in relation to His disciples and then He asks the Father for what He wants for them.

That is a challenge for all of us, isn’t it?! Sometimes, God has a few things He wants us to do for others before we pray to Him about them. Christ says to His Father, “Here are some things I have already done with the disciples. But I cannot do it all on My own. Here are some things I am asking You to do Holy Father. I know that You must be at work in their lives, so here is what I am asking of You.”

Jesus prayed, 6 I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. 7 Now they have known that all things which You have given Me are from You. 8 For I have given to them the words which You have given Me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came forth from You; and they have believed that You sent Me.” (John 17:6-8). Christ is praying, “I revealed You to them, Father(John 17:6a). The word “manifested” (ephanerōsa) means “to make clear, visible, known.” 1  Christ revealed His Father’s “name” or attributes and reputation to His disciples through His own words and actions. This is to be the goal of every disciple-maker, to reveal what God is like to those we disciple through our own words and actions.

Next Jesus says, “I taught them to keep Your word” (John 17:6b). He says, “they have kept Your word.” Christ is not referring to sinlessness or perfect obedience here. In the context, keeping His word refers to believing in Christ’s saving message (cf. John 17:8). The most important act of obedience is believing in Christ Whom the Father has sent (cf. John 3:36; 5:24; I John 3:23a). 2

The word “kept” (tetērēkanis) is in the perfect tense which means they believed His saving message in the past and continue to believe it in the present. When we think of all the failures and disappointments from the disciples, this is a very gracious assessment by Jesus of their lives. Christ did not focus on their shortcomings, He focused on their salvation. The main thing to Jesus is that they believed in Him for salvation and continue to believe in Him! What could be more important than that!

Likewise, we must be very gracious with those we disciple. The most important thing in their lives is that they believe in Jesus for everlasting life! Nothing is more important than that! It is also important to be realistic in our expectations of them. Do not expect them to be where you are in a few weeks when it has taken you many years to get there. That is not realistic. 

Then Christ prays, “I showed them that all things that I have, come from You” (John 17:7). Christ’s mission (John 12:44; 13:3), authority (John 5:27), and message (John 7:16: 8:28; 12:49) all came from His Father. Do the people we disciple know God is at work in our lives? Is it obvious to them that our mission, authority, and message are from the Lord?

“I gave them the words that You gave Me, and they received them, and believe that You sent Me” (John 17:8). Praying for our disciples includes praying for THEIR RECEPTIVITY TO GOD’S WORD (John 17:6-8), especially as it relates to the gospel, so they can believe in Christ and be saved forever! It is also important to pray for their receptivity to God’s Word after they are saved, so they can hear from God and know Him more intimately as they learn to obey His Word. This assumes that we are also receptive to God’s Word and can give them what He taught us.

Prayer: Father God, thank You for preserving Jesus’ prayer so we can learn how to pray for those we disciple. If we are not discipling anyone right now, please show us whom You want us to reach out to so we can begin such a relationship with them. Right now, we pray You would prepare their hearts to hear and believe the gospel of Jesus Christ. Nothing is more important than their salvation! Gracious Father, please use us to show those we disciple what You are like through our own words and actions. May they see You at work in our lives in such a way that they will want to know You more intimately. Lord Jesus, thank You for being so gracious to Your disciples even though they had so many weaknesses and shortcomings which were especially evident that night before Your crucifixion. Please help us to show the same kind of grace and gentleness to those we disciple and mentor. Instead of focusing on their shortcomings, please grant us the grace to focus on their salvation! Increase our hunger for Your Word, Lord. Help us all to finish our Christian lives well for Your glory. Thank You, my Lord and my God. In the matchless name of Jesus Christ I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 303.

2. Robert N. Wilkin, “The Gospel According to John,” The Grace New Testament Commentary, Vol. 1: Matthew – Acts (Denton, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 2010), pg. 458.

How can we do greater works than Christ? Part 1

“He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” John 14:9

Mirrors have been around for a while, but they haven’t always been made of glass. The first mirrors, from around 600 B.C., were very simple. They were polished surfaces from natural materials that could reflect an image. After a while, people started making mirrors from copper, bronze, gold and silver. These metals are heavy, so the mirrors were very small. They couldn’t really be used to see a reflection so they were mostly for show.

Glass mirrors like we have today were first made in the Middle Ages. They didn’t have the modern technology used today, so the mirrors were difficult to make and expensive. In the Renaissance period after the Middle Ages, the technique of making mirrors developed. Mirrors could show a clearer image. Artists even used mirrors to paint self-portraits. They were still very expensive so only the rich could afford them. The process for making modern mirrors was developed in 1835.” 1  Mirrors are used by us all in bathrooms, bedrooms, cars, etc.

In our study of the gospel of John, we are going to see that Jesus Christ mirrors God the Father and His desire is for His followers to do the same. Jesus had announced to His disciples that He was going to His Father’s House in heaven to prepare a wonderful place for them (John 14:1-3a). He also promised to return for them to take them to His Father’s house where they could be with Him forever (John 14:3b). Thomas did not understand Jesus’ reference to His Father’s house (John 14:5). Since Jesus had said they could not come there (John 13:33-35), Thomas wanted to know how they could know the way to His house. Jesus explained that He was the way there (John 14:6).

From John 14:7-14, we will discover how to do greater works than Christ. The first way is to GROW CLOSER TO HIS PERSON (John 14:7-11). Jesus said to Thomas, “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him.” (John 14:7). The disciples may have felt strange going to the Father’s house because they had not met the Father yet. Perhaps they thought, “How can we go somewhere we have never been? We cannot go to a stranger’s house without being invited first. Lord, we have never been introduced to Your Father. Shouldn’t we get to know Him first before moving into His house?”

Jesus states, “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also.” (14:7a). The word “known” (ginoskō) means to “know by personal experience.” Christ is saying, “If you had known Me more intimately, you would have known My Father” because I am a perfect reflection of Him. To know Jesus is to know His Father because as God, He is the perfect reflection of the Father. Christ then promises, “And from now on you know Him and have seen Him.” The disciples’ knowledge of Jesus and His significance were incomplete. But after Jesus’ death, resurrection (John 20:28), and ascension followed by the coming of the Holy Spirit, their knowledge of Christ would become more mature. 3

“Philip said to Him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.’ ” (John 14:8). While Philip was intimately associated with Jesus, he felt he did not know the Father so he asked Christ to reveal the Father to them. Philip wants to see the Father for himself. Maybe he wants a visible display of the Father’s glory like Moses, who got to catch a glimpse of God’s glory (cf. Exodus 33:12–34:9). Philip, however, is a realist. “Show us the Father, Lord, and that will be enough for us. We cannot know Him unless you introduce us to Him.”

But Philip doesn’t understand that fully revealing God the Father was exactly what Jesus had come to do. “No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.” (John 1:18). When Moses saw God in the Old Testament, those encounters with God did not reveal the fullness of His glory or His unveiled divine essence. If people saw God’s unveiled glory or divine essence, they would not live (cf. Exodus 33:20).

The word “declared” (eksēgéomai) is where we get our English words, “exegete” and “exegesis” from. In seminary, we learned to “exegete” or explain God’s Word, the Bible. We were taught to “read out” of the Bible God’s intended meaning through a grammatical, historical, and literal interpretation instead of “reading into” the Bible our own biases and assumptions. God became a Man without ceasing to be God in the Person of Jesus Christ in order to “declare” or explain what God is like. When you see Jesus Christ you see God because Jesus is God!

Jesus rebukes Philip’s ignorance. “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?’ ” (John 14:9). Whereas Moses only saw a hint of the glory of the invisible God, Jesus said, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” Jesus Christ is God incarnate, the God-Man.

Philip did know Jesus in one sense. He was a saved man and possessed eternal life by believing in Christ (cf. John 1:43-50; 2:11; 13:10-11). He knew Jesus as his Savior, but he did not know Him in a deeper way. He did not know how perfectly Jesus reflected the Father. To see Jesus is to see God the Father because Jesus is God! Christ could make this incredible claim because of His oneness with the Father. Christ is saying, “After all these years together, Philip, how can you say, ‘Show us the Father?’ ” Jesus’ union with the Father was so natural that he was surprised that Philip had not noticed.

“Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me?” (John 14:10a). Jesus’ question expects a negative answer. Christ explains that He has revealed the Father to them in two ways. First, His words had revealed the Father. “The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority.” (John 14:10b). Jesus’ teaching did not originate from Himself, but from His Father. Jesus depended on His Father for the words He was to speak. Christ’s teaching originated in heaven, not on earth. His words change the hearts of men and women, boys and girls. No man-made teaching can do what God’s Word can do.

Secondly, Christ’s works had revealed His Father. “But the Father who dwells in Me does the works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves.” (John 14:10c-11). From a human point of view, Jesus does the works, but in actuality they are called the Father’s “works.” Jesus says, “Believe Me that…” not “Believe in Me…” This a reference to the mutual indwelling of the Father and Son which makes Jesus trustworthy. Miracles permit the observer to see Christ’s Person. They persuade people to believe that “Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31). So both the words and works of Jesus are a perfect reflection of the Father.

Jesus emphasized the unity of the Father and Son when He said, “I am in the Father, and the Father in Me.” As He told the Jews previously, “I and My Father are one.” (John 10:30). He is one God (Deuteronomy 6:4) in three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Old Testament teaches that God is Father (Deuteronomy 32:6; Isaiah 63:16; Malachi 2:10), Son (Psalm 2:6-7, 12; 45:6-7; Proverbs 30:1-4; Isaiah 9:6), and Spirit (Genesis 1:2; Psalm 139:7-12; Isaiah 11:2-3; 61:1; 63:10; Zechariah 4:6). The New Testament also teaches that God is one in three Persons (Matthew 3:16-17; 28:19; 2 Corinthians 13:14): God is Father (John 6:27; 20:17; Romans 15:6; I Corinthians 8:6; 2 Corinthians 1:3; Ephesians 1:2; Colossians 3:17), Son (John 1:1-18; Hebrews 1:8; Titus 2:13; I John 5:20), and Holy Spirit (Acts 5:3-4).

The fact that God exists eternally in three Persons emphasizes the relational aspect of the God of the Bible. All three Persons of the Godhead have loved each other forever. They have always functioned harmoniously with one another. And God wants the same for His people. He wants us to love one another as God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit have always loved each other. He wants us to be unified in our purpose as the Persons of the Godhead have always been unified.

In any relationship, the more we spend time with someone, the more their thoughts and words become familiar to us. As we share various experiences together, their actions will reflect their character to us. What is true in our human relationships is also true in our relationship with Jesus. We will not do greater works than Christ if we are not growing closer to Him. How can I reflect Jesus’ words and works if I do not know what He said or did? But if I am growing closer to Christ, His words and works can be manifested with my lips and life so that non-Christians can come to know Him personally.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for leaving the glory of heaven to come to this dark and sinful earth to reveal what God is like to all of humanity. So many broken people have misconceptions about God because of their experiences with other broken people. But You, Lord God, came to earth to explain what God is like so we could learn to trust You and grow closer to You as the perfect reflection of God the Father. The more I spend time with You, the more Your words and works become a part of my lifestyle. Please use me to reflect You in all I think, say, and do so others can be drawn to You and discover Your outrageous love for them. In Your amazing name I pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. http://discoverykids.com/articles/what-is-the-history-of-mirrors/]. Mirrors are used by us all in bathrooms, bedrooms, cars, etc.

2. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 256.

3. Robert N. Wilkin, “The Gospel According to John,” The Grace New Testament Commentary, Vol. 1: Matthew – Acts (Denton, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 2010), pg. 444.