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 face challenges with courage? Part 5

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Growing up in the 1960s, sports were a major part of my life. I remember watching the introduction of the TV show called “ABC’s Wide World of Sports.” Every week, the host of the show, Jim McKay, would say, “Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sport … the thrill of victory … and the agony of defeat … the human drama of athletic competition … This is ABC’s Wide World of Sports.” To represent “the agony of defeat,” a film clip of Vinko Bogataj was played of him crashing off a ski-jumping ramp. For decades viewers watched this terrible crash. Thankfully, Bogataj was not seriously injured. But his wipeout representing the  “agony of defeat” was immortalized by this show.

Can you imagine having your failure replayed for decades before millions of viewers!?! None of us want our names to be connected with “the agony of defeat.” We would much rather be associated with “the thrill of victory.” With this in mind, we are going to look at the fifth and final way to face challenges with courage. So far we have learned from Jesus’ instructions to His disciples, that we can face challenges with courage when we…

– Resolve to go directly to the Father in prayer (John 16:25-26).

– Receive the Father’s special love for us (John 16:27).

– Recognize that Jesus is in control (John 16:28-30).

– Rest in the Father who will never abandon us (John 16:31-32)

The final way to face challenges with courage is to RELY ON CHRIST WHO HAS CONQUERED THE WORLD (John 16:33). Christ said to His eleven believing disciples,These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33). When Jesus says, “these things I have spoken to you,” He is probably referring to the many promises He has given to His disciples in the Upper Room discourse which included preparing a place for them in His Father’s house (John 14:1-3), answered prayer (John 14:13-14; 15:7), the sending of the Holy Spirit (John 14:16-17, 26; 16:5-15, 26), fruit-bearing (John 15:1-17), and unending joy (John 16:16-24). Christ ends His discourse on a note of peace and victory.

There are three contrasts in the first half of this verse which have incredible significance:

1. “in Me” vs. “in the world” – Jesus depicts the disciples as living in two spheres. The first is spiritual and eternal (“in Me”)and the second is physical and temporal (“in the world”).The phrase “in Me” points back to the intimacy Christ spoke of in the vine and branches imagery (John 15:1-8). Disciples of Jesus can “have peace” in Christ who never changes, not “in the world” which is ever-changing. We are not going to find peace in the world. Only Christ can give us the peace we yearn for. If our focus is on Christ, then peace can be our experience. If our focus is on the world, then we can expect “tribulation” (thlipsin). This word refers to “pressure or distress brought about by outward circumstances.” 1

2. “you may have” vs. “you will have” – in the spiritual realm the disciples “may have”  peace. The verb translated “may have” (echēte) is in the subjunctive mood which means it is possible or desirable 2  they may have peace, but Christ did not guarantee their peace in this life. If they abide in Christ (“in Me”), then they can have peace. But it is not certain they will abide in Him. But Jesus does guarantee they “will have” tribulation in the world. The verb translated “will have” (echete) is in the indicative mood which conveys certainty 3  that the disciples will experience tribulation in the world. The disciples (and we) will not be able to escape the tribulation that is in the world. Perhaps the disciples still did not believe persecution was imminent (cf. John 15:18-16:4). They expected to rule with Jesus soon in His coming Kingdom (cf. Matthew 16:21-28; Luke 22:24-30). Their expectations kept them from receiving more truth from Christ that they found to be contrary to what they wanted – this is something all of us must guard against. 4

3. “peace” vs. “tribulation” – If the disciples (and we) abide in Christ and stay focused on Him, they can experience internal “peace” (eirēnēn) or a deep-seeded calmness that is given to obedient believers (cf. John 14:21, 23, 27a) even though they will definitely have “tribulation” in the world. This peace of Christ 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.5

The world cannot give this kind of peace to believers. The world gives Christians “tribulation” because the world opposes Christ and His followers (John 15:18-16:4). The word “tribulation” (thlipsin) “is used in a general sense to speak of the ‘pressing affliction’ that the disciples must endure as they identify with Christ in an unbelieving world (cf. 15:18-25). This is the pressure believers experience when they take a stand for Christ or speak out on a sensitive moral issue. Yet although believers face intense pressure from the world, they can enjoy internal peace in Christ.” 6

Some teach that if you are doing God’s will everything will go smoothly. This is contrary to what Jesus promises. Even if you are living for Christ “you will have tribulation,” because the world hates Jesus and those who follow Him (John 15:18-16:4). If the world does not hate a believer, it may be because that believer is being conformed to the world instead of being transformed by the Word.

After the disciples forsook the Lord at the time of His arrest (cf. Matthew 26:56; Mark 14:50), they may have felt ashamed and uneasy whenever they thought of Jesus. But Jesus predicted their desertion in the very saying where He also assured them of the peace He would give them (John 16:32-33). Christ loved them despite their shortcomings. In the future when they looked back on their desertion, they would reflect that Jesus predicted it. And even though He knew full well they would abandon Him, He had promised them peace. That is grace. Christ would give them peace even though they did not deserve it.

The world would definitely bring the disciples distress, but they could “be of good cheer.” The word translated “be of good cheer” (tharsaeite) means “to have courage.” Why could the disciples face these upcoming challenges with courage? Christ explains, “I have overcome the world.” The word “overcome” (nenikēka) means “to overcome, conquer, be victorious” and it is in the perfect tense. So Jesus speaks of His victory over the world as though it is an accomplished fact with continuing results to the present!

It was no accident that Jesus spoke these triumphant words, “I have overcome the world,” even as the Roman soldiers were buckling on the weapons for His arrest. That is confidence, isn’t it!?! But this is a confidence that would be lacking in the disciples that night. At first, when the soldiers came to arrest Jesus, Peter, the ring leader of the disciples, pulled out a sword in Jesus’ defense (Luke 22:50-51; John 18:10). But by the next day, all eleven disciples had lost faith. Those triumphant words from the previous night must have haunted the disciples as they watched from a distance as Jesus agonized on the cross. It appeared to them that the world had overcome Jesus. But on Sunday morning, their faith would be reignited and strengthened by the resurrection of their Lord!

To an unbeliever, the cross of Christ seems like total defeat for Him. But Jesus sees it as a complete victory over all that the world is and can do to Him. Christ goes to the cross, not in fear or in gloom, but as a Conqueror! Because Jesus won the victory over the hostile world and Satan through His death and resurrection (cf. John 12:31-32; 1 Corinthians 15:51-58; Colossians 2:13-15; Hebrews 2:14-15; 1 John 2:13-14; 4:4; 5:4-5), we can also win with Him as we face difficulties with His courage! Because Jesus has already won the battle, we can claim the victory as we face trials triumphantly. Have you heard this before? It is true, but it is not quite as simple as it sounds. One does not become an overcomer by simply saying with confidence, “I am an overcomer!”

The verb “to overcome” (nikáō) is used by John only here in the gospel of John, but he uses it six times in I John (2:13-14; 4:4; 5:4-5) and sixteen times in the book of Revelation (2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21; 5:5; 6:2; 11:7; 12:11; 13:7; 17:14; 21:7).

John’s use of the word “overcome” in I John is used of all Christians who are “overcomers” through their single act of faith in Christ at the moment of salvation which overcomes the world’s system’s hostility toward saving faith (I John 5:1, 4-5; cf. 2 Corinthians 4:3-4). However, the statements in I John about overcomers are not the same as Revelation’s statements about overcomers.

In Revelation there is the call to hear (Revelation 2:7a; cf. 2:10, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22). Only those Christians who hear the call and appropriate the promise will be able to live a victorious life for Christ. Jesus is addressing the whole “church” consisting of believers in the letter (Revelation 2:1; cf. 2:8, 12, 18; 3:1, 7, 14), but the call is to the one “who has an ear” and to the one “who overcomes.”

The Book of Revelation deals with persevering in works (Revelation 2:2, 9, 13, 19; 3:1, 8, 15) and not a single act of faith for salvation from Hell. For example, access to the “tree of life” (Revelation 2:8) is not based on a single act of faith in Christ (I John 5:1, 4-5), but upon obedience to Christ’s commands. “Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life.” (Revelation 22:14a). Revelation is talking about Christians being “overcomers” through obedience to Christ until the end of their lives, so they can gain eternal rewards such as eating from the tree of life or ruling with Christ in His coming Kingdom on earth (cf. Revelation 2:8, 26-27; 3:21; 22:14).

In John 16:33, we see that victory begins when, through the resurrection power of Jesus Christ, we find peace in living life for Him. Christ has already won the victory over the world and the ruler of this world. Knowing this can give us much courage as we face intimidating challenges.

In the Philippines when I would watch NBA basketball, I enjoyed the Dallas Maverick’s team. Since we were fourteen hours ahead of CST in Dallas, Texas, I was not available to watch their games in the mornings while living in the Philippines when they were televised live in the States. So I would watch the replay of their games in the evening. Before I did that, I liked to check the final score on ESPN, so I would know if the Mavericks won before sitting down to watch them. Knowing my team had already won the game, gave me confidence even though I may watch my team make several mistakes and fall behind in the score. I did not give up on them though because I already knew they would win the game.

The same is true in our Christian lives. We already know the outcome of this battle between Jesus and the world and the ruler of this world. Knowing Christ has already won the victory over the world and the devil can enable us to have courage when we face intimidating challenges. At times it may seem that the world and Satan are winning the battle when we fail, or other believers fail, but the truth is Christ has already won the war through His death and resurrection! Therefore, we can fight “from” the victory Jesus has already won, not “for” the victory as though it was completely dependent upon us.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, regardless of how the world beats us down, we have reason to live with courage because You are the Sovereign King over the world. You have defeated sin, death, and Satan through Your death and resurrection! Because of this, our eternity is secure in You if we have believed in You for Your gift of eternal life. We can now fight “from” the victory You have already won, instead of fighting “for” victory as though it all depended on us. Lord Jesus, You have the power to overcome our circumstances here on earth. Knowing this truth and staying connected to You in an intimate relationship will greatly change our perspective as we face challenging times on earth. Thank You for giving us peace and courage in the midst of life’s storms. You are an amazing Lord and God! In Your victorious name we pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature [BAGD], 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. 362.

2. https://www.blueletterbible.org/help/greekverbs.cfm.

3. tps://www.blueletterbible.org/help/greekverbs.cfm.

4. Robert N. Wilkin, “The Gospel According to John,” The Grace New Testament Commentary, Vol. 1: Matthew – Acts (Denton, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 2010), pg. 457.

5. J. Dwight Pentecost, The Words & Works of Jesus Christ, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981), pg. 440.

6 J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 297.

7. BAGD, pg. 352.

8. Ibid., pg. 539.

Receiving Life Freely – Part 5 (Video)

This is the fifth 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 fifth miracle of Jesus recorded in the gospel of John involving His miraculous walking on water (John 6:15-21).

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 www.GoodSalt.com, Sweet Publishing / www.FreeBibleimages.org, Good News Productions International and College Press Publishing / www.FreeBibleimages.org, David Padfield / www.FreeBibleimages.org, The Edge Group and Lion Hudson Ltd. / www.FreeBibleimages.org, or they are creative common licenses. The Revelation Art is used by permission of Pat Marvenko Smith, copyright 1992. To order art prints visit her “Revelation Illustrated” site, http://www.revelationillustrated.com. 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 overcome fear in evangelism? Part 3

“However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.” John 16:13

After Jesus forewarned His disciples of the world’s coming hostility and persecution of them (15:18-16:4), He began to encourage them with the Holy Spirit’s ministry that would take place while He was gone (John 16:5-15). From Christ’s instruction, we are learning how to overcome fear in evangelism. We can do this when we…

– Grasp that we are not alone when we witness (John 16:5-7).

– Give unbelievers the truth of the gospel and let the Holy Spirit convince them it is true (John 16:8-11).

The third and final way to overcome fear in evangelism is when we GET GOD’S GUIDANCE THROUGH THE HOLY SPIRIT (John 16:12-15). Jesus now focuses on the Holy Spirit’s ministry to His disciples. He says to His disciples, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.” (John 16:12). Christ had more to teach them, but they were not ready to understand or apply the remaining teaching that Jesus had for them apart from the illuminating ministry of the Holy Spirit. Thankfully, the Lord does not reveal all His truth to us at once. He reveals things to us gradually. He knows what we can handle better than we do.

Then Jesus said, “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.” (John 16:13). Jesus would eventually tell them things through the ministry of Holy Spirit Who “will guide” them “into all truth.” The word “guide” (hodēgēsei) consists of two words, “to lead” (hēgeomai) and “way” (hodos). This word conveys the idea that “the Holy Spirit, who is a source of truth, will lead the way into truth as a guide.” His guidance is into “all truth.” There are no errors or mistakes in the truth the Spirit communicates.

This truth is without error because the Spirit “will not speak on His own authority” and teach something contrary to what Jesus taught. Instead, “whatever He hears” from the Father and Son, “He will speak.” “This points to the interdependence of the Persons in the Trinity. The Father would tell the Spirit what to teach the apostles about the Son.” 2  

Specifically, the Spirit “will tell them things to come” in the future. This future revelation from the Spirit is what the apostles would record in the New Testament canon. This is why the Bible is without error in the original manuscripts. “The Spirit would ensure that the apostles’ writings were true, guaranteeing that they wrote Scripture, the very words of God.” 3  In a similar way today, the Holy Spirit continues to enable believers to understand the meaning of the biblical text (cf. I John 2:27).

Next Jesus said, “He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:14). The purpose of the Holy Spirit’s ministry is to “glorify” Christ by “taking what is” Christ’s from the word of truth. The Holy Spirit wants the spotlight to be on Jesus Christ, not on Himself, His spiritual gifts, or other people. The Holy Spirit wants the focus to be on the Person and work of Jesus Christ and nothing else. This verse provides insight on discerning what ministries are genuinely of the Holy Spirit. If a ministry is not glorifying the Person and work of Jesus Christ, we must be cautious about supporting such a work because the Holy Spirit does not glorify someone or something other than Jesus Christ and His work on the cross.

Most people have a special item which they place on the top shelf or on a prominent wall in their house for everyone to see. It may be a picture of your family or a favorite Bible verse. It is placed on the shelf all by itself so that nothing else will challenge its prominence. In the same way, we are to put Christ on the shelf of our lives to show Him off. We are not to place anything else there, including ourselves so that all people may see any or all of Jesus’ attributes.

The reason the Holy Spirit finds Christ worthy to be glorified is seen in the next verse. “All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:15). Christ is worthy of being glorified because “all things that the Father has” are His. This would include the Father’s glory. Hence, the glory that belongs to the Father also belongs to the Son. The last part of this verse implies that “all things” of the Father and Son are also the apostles’ (and ours today) in that they will be disclosed to them through the Holy Spirit. 

“Once again we see the Trinity in action in that the Son took revelation from the Father and would declare it to His disciples through the Holy Spirit (16:15).” Clearly the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were all involved in the writing of the Old and New Testaments (cf. 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21; 3:15-16). 5

Evans writes, “Though the Spirit provided the apostles with perfect revelation in order that they might write Scripture, this does not mean that we are excluded from His ministry. This text applies to us in two ways. First, we are recipients of the Scriptural revelation that the apostles received. Second, the Holy Spirit provides us with personal illumination, enabling us to understand Scripture and to see how it applies in the details of our lives. This work of the Spirit in the life of the believer is called “the anointing” (see 1 John 2:20, 27).” 6

These truths about the Holy Spirit in John 16:13-15 also apply to us today especially as we focus on evangelism. Knowing that we have an ever-present Teacher in the Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth about the Person and work of Jesus Christ can give us boldness as we share the gospel with the unsaved. Instead of being afraid of not knowing what to say, we can be confident that God’s Spirit will guide our conversations with unbelievers.

For example, a few years ago, when my wife and I were shopping for pearls in Metro Manila, we met a Muslim vendor who showed us her pearls. During our conversation with her, the Holy Spirit led us to share Matthew 13:45-46 where Jesus said,  45 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, 46 who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” We explained to her that Jesus Christ was the merchant who found one pearl of great price. When it says He sold everything to buy the pearl, we told her that Jesus sees her as a precious pearl. She said, “That is true.” After we explained to her the gospel of Jesus’ death and resurrection with her, we invited her to believe or trust in Jesus alone for His gift of everlasting life. She then told us she was now trusting Jesus alone for His free gift.

The Holy Spirit knew what this woman needed to hear. He will guide us as we seek His leading in our lives when we tell others the good news of Jesus Christ. Remember, however, if we are not witnessing about Christ, the Holy Spirit cannot be convicting. I believe the gospel of John is the primary source of truth that the Holy Spirit wants to use to convict people of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8-11) since it was written to persuade non-Christians to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, that believing they may have life in His name (John 20:31). The Holy Spirit uses the spoken word to convict people about their need for the Savior.

Prayer: Father God, Jesus, and Holy Spirit, thank You so much for bringing to the apostles’ remembrance all that Christ taught and did during His earthly ministry so we now have an accurate record of all that Jesus said and did. Thank You, Holy Spirit, for continuing to give us understanding with regard to the Bible and how it applies to our daily lives. Thank You for bringing it to life so that we are transformed from the inside out into the likeness of Christ. Thank You for the boldness and guidance You give to us in our conversations with non-Christians. You know their hearts better than anyone and You can lead us to share what they need to hear so they can be persuaded to believe in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, so they may have everlasting life in His name. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, You are truly amazing! Thank You for never abandoning us. I praise You for giving us all we need to represent You on earth. May all the glory go to You.  I pray this in Your Triune name. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 291.

2. Edwin A. Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Gospels, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 668.

3. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B&H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1810.

4. Ibid.

5. 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. 540.

6. Evans, pg. 1810.

How can we overcome fear in evangelism? Part 2

“And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.” John 16:8

After Jesus forewarned His disciples of the world’s coming hostility and persecution of them (15:18-16:4), He began to encourage them with the Holy Spirit’s ministry that would take place while He was gone. Last time we learned that we can overcome fear in evangelism when we GRASP THAT WE ARE NOT ALONE WHEN WE WITNESS (John 16:5-7) because God the Holy Spirit permanently indwells every believer in Jesus.

The second way for us to overcome fear in evangelism is to GIVE UNBELIEVERS THE TRUTH OF THE GOSPEL AND LET THE HOLY SPIRIT CONVINCE THEM IT IS TRUE (John 16:8-11). In John 15:27, Jesus told His disciples to “bear witness” about Him. However, He also told them it would not be easy. Some would put them out of the synagogues and even kill them (John 16:2). In the midst of this distressing news, He offers them encouragement by introducing them to the convicting work of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus says of the Holy Spirit, “And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.” (John 16:8). What does the word “convict” (elegchei) mean? It means to “convince someone of something.” 1  John is using this word in a legal sense here. When a prosecuting attorney presents his case in such a way that demonstrates that something is true, he convicts his listeners. However, this does not mean that the Holy Spirit forces someone to believe something is true. A person can hear compelling evidence that something is true and still reject it. 2

The Holy Spirit assists people in coming to faith in Christ. It is the responsibility of the Holy Spirit to convince non-Christians in three areas. What are they? “Of sin… righteousness and judgment.” Notice the implied tenses of these nouns: past “sin,” present “righteousness,” and future “judgment.” 3  When the gospel is preached, it is the Holy Spirit Who convicts people of their “sin,” and that they need God’s “righteousness” through faith in Jesus, because without it, they will face certain “judgment” without hope of anything but eternal condemnation.

Beginning in verse 9, Jesus explains why the Holy Spirit convicts the world in these three areas. “Of sin, because they do not believe in Me.” (John 16:9). The word “sin” (hamartias) means “to miss the mark or standard.” 4  All people fall short of God’s perfect righteousness because “all have sinned” (Romans 3:23) against God through their thoughts, words, actions, and motives.

Yet the world tries to persuade people that they are not sinners. Many secular scientists and psychologists seem bent on destroying peoples’ awareness of sin. They may say that all people are inherently good. As a result, many people have a difficult time admitting they are guilty of sin. Oh, they may admit that they make mistakes or have failures and vices, but it is very difficult for them to admit that they have sinned against God. Even some churches say that people are not that bad and because God is love, He will accept everyone into heaven. 

But the ultimate proof of the world’s sinfulness, Jesus says, is that “they do not believe in Me.” A court of law can convict someone of murder or theft, but only the Holy Spirit can convict someone of unbelief toward Christ. The Holy Spirit can convict people of their individual sins they have committed, but people can clean up their own lives and still go to hell. It is the sin of unbelief toward Jesus Christ that condemns people to an eternity in hell (John 3:18). 5  That is why the Bible says that “Anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast in to the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:15). Those who refuse to believe in Jesus will not have their names written in the Book of Life.

Unbelievers are judged according to their works to determine their degree of punishment in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:12-13; cf. Matthew 23:14; Mark 12:40), not their eternal destination. But their condemnation and placement in the lake of fire is because of their unbelief toward the Lord Jesus Christ (Revelation 20:15; cf. John 3:18).

So we see first, that the Holy Spirit wants to convict non-Christians of their sinfulness because they refuse to believe or trust in Jesus Christ alone as their only way to heaven. Because faith in Christ and His full payment for sin on the cross (John 19:30) is the only solution to our sin problem, the Holy Spirit wants to convict people of their sinful condition, so they can see their need to believe or trust in Jesus alone. The Holy Spirit is the prosecuting attorney who presents God’s case against sinful humanity. He creates an awareness of sin so that it cannot be dismissed or excused or evaded by taking refuge in the fact that “everybody is doing it.” When we are convicted of our sin, we admit to God that we have been wrong in our unbelief toward Jesus and then we believe or trust in Him alone, so we can approach God the Father in heaven.

The reason why the Holy Spirit convicts the world in the area of “righteousness” is explained in the next verse. “Of righteousness, because I go to the Father and you see Me no more.” (John 16:10). The Holy Spirit convicts the world “of righteousness,” because Jesus would suffer and die for our sins and rise from the dead and “go to” His “Father” in heaven, proving that He was the perfect Son of God. Had Jesus not been the perfect Son of God, the Father would not have received Him in heaven. Because God has no sin, Jesus could not enter into His presence in heaven if He were not righteous. For people to be accepted by God and able to enter into His heaven, they must measure up to Christ’s righteousness. No human being can accomplish this on their own. 6

This is why the Holy Spirit wants to convict the world that their righteousness before God depends not on their good works, but upon the finished work of Christ on the cross for them. Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and ascension to heaven prove that He was the perfect Son of God. Christ’s righteousness is what satisfied God’s holy demand to punish sin, not our own righteousness. 

When sharing the gospel with the unsaved, they may respond by saying, “I’m not as bad as him or her” or “I have not murdered anyone or committed adultery like so and so…” But God is not measuring our righteousness based on what other people have done or not done. He is measuring our righteousness based on what His Son, Jesus Christ, has done, and all of us fall short of Jesus’ perfection (Romans 3:23). Jesus never, ever told a lie. But we lie to ourselves and others daily. Christ never had one unkind thought. But we average a minimum of five a day. God’s Son never hated His enemies. But sometimes we can’t even stand the person we are married to or live with. So when it comes to behavior, in God’s eyes, we do not measure up. All of us fall short of Jesus’ perfection. Christ is the only Person Who never sinned (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; I Peter 3:18). Therefore, we must trust in Christ alone to be declared totally righteous before God.

“But to him who does not work, but believe on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.” (Romans 4:5). When you trust in Christ alone for His gift of righteousness, God looks at your sin as covered by Jesus’ shed blood on the Cross. He takes the righteousness of His Son and places it on you. Therefore, you can stand before a holy God with the perfect righteousness of Jesus.

Henry Ironside shares a helpful illustration about what it means to be justified before God. One morning on his way to a sheep ranch, he noticed a very peculiar sight. He saw an old ewe loping across the road followed by the strangest looking lamb he had ever seen. It seemed to have six legs, and the last two were hanging helplessly as though paralyzed. When one of the sheep ranchers caught the lamb and brought it over to Ironside, the rancher explained that the lamb did not really belong to that ewe. She had a lamb that was bitten by a rattlesnake and died. This lamb that Ironside saw was an orphan and needed a mother’s care. But at first the ewe refused to have anything to do with it. She sniffed at it when it was brought to her, then pushed it away, saying as plainly as a sheep could say it, “That is not my lamb!” So the ranchers skinned the lamb that had died and covered the living lamb with the dead lamb’s skin. When the covered lamb was brought again to the ewe (see above photo), she smelled it once more and accepted the lamb as her own as if to say, “That is Mine!”

Like that orphan lamb, all people are born as outcasts, separated from God because of their sin. But God’s only perfect Son, Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God (John 1:29), died in our place on the cross and rose from the dead, so that when we believe or trust in Him alone, we are clothed with His righteousness. God can accept us into His family now because He sees the righteousness of His Son instead of our sin. He can say, “That is Mine!”

“Of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.” (John 16:11). The reason the Holy Spirit convicts the world “of judgment” is “because the ruler of this world [Satan] is judged” already in heaven by God (Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:12-19), and will shortly be judged at the cross (cf. John 12:31; Colossians 2:15), and later confined to the lake of fire at the end of the Millennial Kingdom (Revelation 20:2, 7-10). The word “judged” (kekritai)is in the perfect tense and passive voice which means Satan was judged by God in the past and remains condemned today. Like a convicted criminal, Satan awaits his execution when he will be cast into the lake of fire to “be tormented day and night forever and ever” (Revelation 20:7-10).  

The Holy Spirit wants to convince people that if they refuse to believe in Jesus for His gift of righteousness, then they will experience the same eternal “judgment” as the Devil. His judgment is fixed and permanent. Satan’s eternal judgment guarantees that all who are in his kingdom through unbelief will also be condemned. If a person dies without believing in Christ alone for His gift of everlasting life, their condemnation cannot be lifted. It is permanent (cf. Hebrews 9:27). There are no second chances after you die.

Many people today, including Christians, do not believe in hell or eternal punishment even though Jesus and the apostles taught about its reality (cf. Matthew 5:22, 29-30; 10:28; 13:40-42, 47-50; 18:9; 23:33; 25:46; Mark 3:29; 9:43, 45, 47; Luke 12:5; 16:19-31; John 3:18, 36b; James 3:6; 2 Peter 2:4, 17; Jude 1:7, 13; Revelation 14:9-11; 19:20; 20:10, 14-15; et al.). But it is not our responsibility to convince them of the reality of hell. The Holy Spirit will do this as we preach the gospel to a lost world.

It is the Holy Spirit Who can convince a typical non-Christian who has no sense of his own sinfulness, who sees no need for God’s righteousness, and who pays no attention to the warnings of coming judgment. It is not our responsibility to convince people of the truth of the gospel; that responsibility belongs to the Holy Spirit. Our job is to clearly and effectively communicate the truth of the gospel and let the Holy Spirit convince them that it is true.

In February 2017 when I was flying to Northern Samar for a mission trip in the Philippines, I sat next to a Filipino law school student who visited with me about President Trump. She made it clear to me she did not like President Trump and nor could she understand how I could like him. She was getting very angry as I shared my supporting views about the President and his policies. As our conversation progressed, I began praying for the Lord to give me wisdom on shifting the focus from politics to the gospel.

A few minutes later, I said to her, “I really would like to share with you about something far more important than politics.” “Really?!” She exclaimed. “What could that be?!” I said, “How you can know for sure from the Bible how you can go to heaven when you die.” “Oh,” she said quietly. Then I asked her, “May I share from the Bible how you can know for sure you will go to heaven when you die?” She said, “Yes.” I then shared the bad news (Romans 3:23; 6:23) good news (I Corinthians 15:1-6; John 3:16) approach with her. Afterward, she indicated she was now trusting in Christ alone as her only way to heaven. Her whole demeanor softened as the gospel was shared with her. I am convinced that the Holy Spirit convicted her of her sin and her need for the Savior, so she could escape the eternal judgment that awaits those who refuse to believe or trust in Christ alone for His gift of salvation.

When we realize that the Holy Spirit is already at work in the hearts and minds of unbelievers around us to persuade them of their own sinfulness and their need for Christ’s righteousness to escape the eternal judgment of God, we will have more confidence to share the gospel with the unsaved world. Knowing of the Holy Spirit’s convicting work among the unsaved can also give us a greater sense of expectancy as we proclaim the good news of Christ’s death and resurrection, inviting the unsaved to believe in Jesus alone as their only hope of heaven.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, it is with a heap of gratitude that I approach You right now. Without the convicting work of the Holy Spirit in the world, there would be no reason to expect a bountiful harvest when we share the gospel with the lost. But because the Spirit of God is already at work persuading non-Christians of their sin so they may see their need to believe in Jesus for His gift of righteousness to escape the same eternal judgment as Satan, we can boldly share Christ with them. Please enable us to clearly communicate the truth of the gospel to the lost as we rely on the Holy Spirit to convince them that it is true. In Your precious name we pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

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. 249.

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. 453.

3. Tom Constable, Notes on John, 2017 Edition, pg. 298-299.

4. Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures in The New Testament, Vol V: John and Hebrews (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1932), pg. 267.

5. Constable, pg. 300.

6. The Evangelism Study Bible (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, copyright 2014 EvanTell, Inc.), pg. 1187.

How can we become more fruitful for the Lord? Part 3

“And every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” John 15:2b

The third way to becoming more fruitful for the Lord is to RECOGNIZE THE PRUNING PROCESS (John 15:2b-3). Jesus said to eleven believing disciples, And every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” (John 15:2b). Pruning grape vines is necessary during the growing season. So picture this: You are in fellowship and producing fruit, but God wants to produce more fruit in your life so He prunes you. The word “prunes”(kathairō), means “to make clean, purge.” 1  The natural tendency of a grapevine is to grow so vigorously that the leaves and branches block out the sun where the fruit should form. The vinedresser must cut away the excess growth so that more grapes will be produced.

In a similar way, God will cut away excessive commitments or lesser priorities in our lives (which are not necessarily wrong) in order for us to produce even more fruit for His glory. This involves the removal of self from our lives. God prunes us to encourage us to let go of that which might prevent us from accomplishing even more for His glory. God may use pain in our lives to remove excessive commitments.

Ask yourself, “Where do I hurt?” God may be pruning you in that area. He may be calling you to go where the lost people are but your excessive commitments are preventing you from going. He may want you to create more space in your life to meet alone with Him, but your priorities have become imbalanced making it difficult for you to do this. Even though we are in fellowship with the Lord, we are not perfect by any means. So the Lord must prune us.

One of the ways God may prune us is seen in the next verse. Jesus says to them, “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.” (John 15:3). The word “clean” (katharoi) is the adjective form of the verb “prunes” (kathairō) in verse 2. God prunes us through His Word (cf. Ephesians 5:26).

Constable notes, “‘Cleansing’ the branches involved washing off deposits of insects, moss, and other parasites that tend to infest the plant. Jesus gave this teaching in the spring when farmers did what He described in this verse.” 2

Jesus assumed His disciples had already been pruned (“You are already clean”) by His recent words at the Lord’s Supper (John 13:1-14:31). They had already been cleansed positionally by believing in Jesus for His gift of everlasting life (John 1:35-51; 2:11; 3:16; 11:25-26; 13:10a), except Judas who refused to believe in Christ (John 13:10b-11; cf. 6:64, 70-71; 17:12). At that moment of faith in Christ alone for salvation, these eleven disciples were cleansed of all their sins by the blood of Jesus Christ (cf. John 2:11; Acts 15:7-9; Revelation 1:5b). But these believing disciples (and us) needed daily cleansing through the pruning of God’s Word in their lives. Jesus’ teaching was and is a cleansing agent that would make it possible for them (and us) to bear more fruit for Him and the Father’s glory.

While we are in fellowship with Jesus, God’s Word exposes our sin, our misplaced priorities and commitments, to promote growth in our Christian lives so we can become more fruitful for the Lord. Take time today to ask the Lord where He wants to do His pruning in your life. You will be glad you did.

Prayer: Father God, thank You for loving me enough to prune or cleanse me of things in my life that hinder me from bearing more fruit for Your glory. Now I understand why I have been hurting so much in certain areas of my life. You have been trying to remove the excessive commitments and misplaced priorities in my life so I can spend more time with You, doing the things You created me to do – loving You and listening to You speak truth into my heart and mind. Forgive me, O Lord, for thinking far more of myself than You. Thank You for the pain You have allowed in my life to nudge me closer to You. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ I pray. Amen.  

ENDNOTES:

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), pp. 386-387.

2. Tom Constable, Notes on John, 2017 Edition, pg. 282.

How can we calm our troubled hearts in a chaotic world? Part 2

“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” John 14:27 

I am currently reading a book by John Eldredge entitled Get Your Life Back: Everyday Practices For A World Gone Mad.” On the back cover of the book it asks, “When was the last time you felt carefree?” For some of us it may be impossible to remember such a time because we are constantly in a rush because we prefer distraction. Eldredge writes, “The more distracted we are, the less present we are to our souls’ various hurts, needs, disappointments, boredom, and fears. It’s a short-term relief with long-term consequences. What blows my mind is how totally normal this has become; it’s the new socially acceptable addiction.” 1

One of the biggest distractions in our culture today is the phone. We can’t leave home without it. We can’t sleep without it. Unfortunately, some people cannot drive their vehicle without looking at it. When our phone notifications sound off, everything else comes to a halt! I learned from Eldredge today that every notification triggers the brain’s learned response to check out what news had just come in. He quotes from Susan Weinschenk’s article, “Why We’re All Addicted to Texts, Twitter, and Google,” in Psychology Today, September 11, 2012:

“Dopamine causes you to want, desire, seek out, and search…. It is the opioid system (separate from dopamine) that makes us feel pleasure…. The wanting system propels you to action and the liking system makes you feel satisfied and therefore pause your seeking. If your seeking isn’t turned off at least for a little while, then you start to run in an endless loop [Dopamine Loop]. The dopamine system is stronger than the opioid system. You tend to seek more than you are satisfied….  Dopamine starts you seeking, then you get rewarded for the seeking which makes you seek more. It becomes harder and harder to stop looking at email, stop texting, or stop checking your cell phone to see if you have a message or a new text…. The dopamine system doesn’t have satiety built in. It is possible for the dopamine system to keep saying ‘more more more,’ causing you to keep seeking even when you have found the information.” 2

We live in a society where people think you are crazy if you turn your phone off or fast from social media. But what would the Lord Jesus think of such practices? I believe He would applaud such disciplines because He understands that the world does not offer the kind of peace God wants His people to experience. To experience God’s peace, we must make space for God in our lives.

We are learning from Jesus how to calm our troubled hearts in a chaotic world. The first way is to focus on the promise of insight from the Holy Spirit (John 14:25-26). The second way to calm our troubled hearts is by focusing on THE PEACE OF CHRIST (John 14:27). Jesus not only promised the help of a Divine Teacher (John 14:26), but He also gave them peace. “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27). Christ refers to two kinds of peace in this verse. The first kind refers to His work on the cross. “Peace I leave with you.” The word “leave” (aphiēmi) implies something that Jesus does. Christ’s death on the cross would provide eternal “peace with God” (Romans 5:1) for us because all our sins would be forgiven (Acts 10:43; Colossians 2:13-14). The Greek word for “peace” (eirēnēn) “is the spiritual well-being that results from being rightly related to God through Jesus Christ.” 3

Through His death on the cross, Jesus conquered Satan’s control of death (cf. Hebrews 2:14-15). Satan can no longer use peoples’ fear of death to enslave them 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 (cf. Colossians 1:19-21). “Having made peace through the blood of His cross” (Colossians 1:20b) means causing God’s former enemies to become His children by faith.

Who are God’s enemies? “And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled.” (Colossians 1:21). Paul is referring to people as God’s enemies in this verse. You and I were His enemies before the Cross. “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).

Christ distinguishes His peace from the kind of peace the world can give – “not as the world gives do I give to you.” (John 14:27b). The world cannot offer eternal peace with God. The world denies that people need to be reconciled to God. The world says that people are inherently good because they are created in the image of God. “Because God loves everyone,” the world says, “There is no need for reconciliation with God.” The world offers a false peace to people. Sin has distorted God’s image in people. Some churches deny this because the world has influenced them to believe that people are inherently good and do not need a Savior.

The second type of peace in verse 27 is the kind that Jesus enjoyed on earth. He says, “My peace I give to you.” In the context (cf. John 14:21, 23), this peace of Christ’s is given to obedient believers. It 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.” 4  The world cannot give this kind of peace to us either.

The world offers a false peace that is deceptive and misleading. For example, a cartoon shows a man relaxing on his hammock near a tropical ocean. The sea appears to be as smooth as glass. A light breeze keeps the man comfortable. With his hand outstretched, he says to his wife, “Honey, hand me my tranquilizers, please.” This man has peace all around him, but he has no peace in his heart. The promises of the world are empty and powerless. The world says that more money, more possessions, more pleasure, more accomplishments, and power and fame will result in more peace. But we know of people with all these things who do not have inner peace.

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). Christ’s peace does not mean the absence of a storm. 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). Most people can be at peace when nothing is wrong. But Jesus is speaking of peace in the midst of the storm. This peace is a deep-seated calmness that stems from Christ’s presence and purpose in our lives. On the surface, you may feel uneasy and anxious in the midst of life’s storms, but deep down in your heart there is a calmness because you believe God is in control of all events.

For example, there may be a storm blowing over the surface of the ocean. But deep beneath the surface there is a calmness that is unaffected by the storm above. Jesus does not merely wish His disciples peace; He gives them His peace. No matter how troubled your heart is, and some of us may be deeply troubled – Jesus’ peace can calm your heart. Christ can give us peace in the midst of tribulation – at a time when we shouldn’t have any peace. This, of course, doesn’t come from the world.

It is “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). When you face a storm, talk to Jesus Who can calm the storm in your heart with His spoken word. The One who calmed the wind and the waves with the words, “Peace, be still!” (Mark 4:39), can also calm the emotional winds and waves that trouble our hearts. Keep your mind focused on Him. The Bible promises, “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” (Isaiah 26:3).

Next Jesus said,Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27c). In the coming hours, the disciples would have good reason to be “troubled.” Likewise, we will have experiences that prompt us to be afraid. But with a sovereign God ruling the world and “the peace of Christ” ruling in our hearts (cf. Colossians 3:15), we can overcome the storms that often trouble our hearts. 5

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I am eternally grateful for the peace I now have with God which You made possible through the shedding of Your blood on the cross for all my sins. The world offers temporary peace through denial and escapism, but You offer lasting peace that is grounded in Your presence and purposes. Your peace escapes me when I seek to control situations and people. But when I surrender everything and everyone to You and refocus on Your promises, Your peace that surpasses human understanding floods my soul. Thank You for keeping Your promises. In Your mighty name I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. John Eldredge, Get Your Life Back: Everyday Practices For A World Gone Mad (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2020), pg. 47.

2. Ibid., pg. 46.

3. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 265.

4. J. Dwight Pentecost, The Words & Works of Jesus Christ, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981), pg. 440.

5. Adapted from Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1804.

Receiving Life Freely – Part 4 (Video)

This is the fourth 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 fourth miracle of Jesus recorded in the gospel of John involving the miraculous feeding of thousands of people (John 6:1-13).

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 www.GoodSalt.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 do greater works than Christ? Part 2

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.” John 14:12

Last time we learned we can do greater works than Christ when we grow closer to His Person (John 14:7-11). The second way to do greater works than Christ is to GRASP HIS PROMISE (John 14:12). Jesus said to His eleven believing disciples, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me…” (John 14:12a). Christ is saying, “Anyone who believes in Me will do what I have been doing.” Jesus had been revealing His Father through His words and works. Now He said something that went back to His exhortation in verse 1. If they would have faith in Jesus, the disciples would become instruments through which the Father would reveal Himself through them just as the Father had done through Jesus.

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.” (John 14:12b). Christ promises that if they would have faith in Him, they would do “greater works than” He had done on earth. Does that mean they would feed fifty thousand people instead of five thousand people with five small loaves of bread and two sardine-sized fish? No. Does it mean the disciples would calm an entire ocean instead of a lake? No. Does it mean they would resurrect a man who has been dead forty days instead of Lazarus who had been dead four days? No.

Christ is saying the disciples would do “greater works” in EXTENT than Jesus did on earth, not “greater works” in QUALITY. Jesus only lived in Palestine, but the apostles would travel throughout the known world. The reason His disciples would do greater works than He had done is because He would “go to the Father.” Later Jesus would explain that when He went to the Father, He would send the Holy Spirit to assist them in the ministry (cf. John 14:16-17; 15:26-27; 16:7-11).

What Jesus means here can be seen in the book of Acts. The miracles of the apostles were no greater in quality than Jesus’ miracles. In fact, none of the apostles changed water into wine, created food (loaves and fish), calmed the sea, withered a fig tree with their spoken word, walked through a door, nor walked on water (Peter only walked on water when Jesus was present and with His help).

However, like Jesus, the apostles did do miracles of healing (Acts 3:11; 5:16; 6:8; 8:7; 9:40-41; 15:12; 19:12; 28:8-9) including the raising of the dead (Acts 9:34-36; 20:9-12). All together the apostles raised two people from the dead (Acts 9:34-36; 20:9-12), but Jesus raised four people including Himself (Matthew 9:23-26, 35-43; Luke 7:11-16; John 11:20) not to mention the many people who were resurrected during His death and resurrection (Matthew 27:52-53). When you compare the number of accounts which record the healing miracles of Jesus and the apostles, for instance, in Matthew alone – there are twenty references to Jesus healing people but in Acts there are only eight references to the apostles healing people.

The apostles did no more healing miracles (including raising the dead) or casting out demons than Jesus did. In fact, it could be argued that they did less. Miracles are important, but the apostles did even greater works than these by preaching the gospel to thousands of people. On the day of Pentecost, Peter preached a sermon and three thousand people were converted (Acts 2:41). Some Bible students argue that there were more converts after Peter’s first sermon than are recorded during Jesus’ entire earthly ministry. The apostles shared the gospel well beyond Palestine and in this sense, they did greater works than Jesus.

The chorus of the hymn, “It took a Miracle,” goes:

“It took a miracle to put the stars in place;

It took a miracle to hang the worlds in space;

But when He saved my soul, cleansed and made me whole;

It took a miracle of love and grace.”

The greatest miracle of all is the conversion of a sinner by God’s amazing grace.

As followers of Jesus, we can do “greater works” in extent than Jesus did when He was on earth in the sense that He never physically lived in your town or community. He never walked bodily down the streets of New York City or Manila in the Philippines. He did not visit Rome, Italy or Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Nor did Jesus work with the people whom you work with nor live next to your neighbors.

You can tell religious people like Nicodemus that they must be born again (John 3). You can tell people here with no hope like the Samaritan woman at the well, that there is hope in the Savior of the world (John 4). You may not be a Billy Graham or a Mannie Pacquiao, but the fact that you are physically present here and can personally minister to these individuals means you have a ministry beyond those gifted men. You have a unique opportunity to share Christ in the area where you live like never before! Christ only lived in Palestine, He did not live in the Philippines or in the United States.

So Jesus wanted to convince His disciples He was not disbanding them in anticipation of His departure. Rather, He was expecting them to continue His work and do even greater things than He had done while He was away. And He is counting on you and me to do the same. Instead of being so preoccupied with the spread of Covid-19, let’s be more preoccupied with spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ around the world!!!

Prayer: Lord Jesus, You could have entrusted Your gospel message to angels to proclaim it around the world. But instead You have entrusted every Christian with the privilege of proclaiming Your life-changing gospel message with the people in our lives. Help us to believe Your promise of doing greater works in extent than You did when You lived in Palestine. You have given us everything we need to continue Your work here on earth – Your promises, the privilege of prayer, a new nature, and the Holy Spirit to empower us. Thank You, my Lord and my God, for giving us such an incredible opportunity to represent You where we live. By Your grace, may each of us make You known to others all for Your glory. In Your mighty name I pray. Amen.

How can we find peace under pressure? Part 4

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’ ” John 14:6

We live in a world today that teaches there are many different ways to God. Many people insist that all religions lead to the same God (Universalism). Is this true? The God of the Bible has told us Himself  that “besides Me there is no savior” (Isaiah 43:11). If God had said there are many ways to Himself, then, yes, there are many ways to Him. But He has not said that. He says that He alone is the “savior.” 

In our verses today, the Lord Jesus Christ makes it very clear that He is the only way to God the Father in heaven. This is essential for us to understand if we are going to find peace under pressure. So far we have learned that we can find peace under pressure by focusing on Jesus’ promises of peace of heart, a prepared place in heaven, and His presence in heaven. The fourth and final way is to focuson Jesus’ PROMISE OF A PREPARED PATH TO HEAVEN (John 14:4-6) for those who believe in Him.

Christ makes it clear in response to Thomas’ question that for anyone to enjoy the prepared place in heaven, he must know the prepared path to heaven. “And where I go you know, and the way you know.” (John 14:4). Jesus affirms that the disciples “know” both “where” Jesus is going and “the way” to get there. Throughout His ministry Jesus had taught His disciples the way to heaven.

Now Peter had an answer to his question, “Lord, where are You going?” (John 13:36a). Christ was going to His Father’s house. Even though He must first go alone, He would return and take them to His Father’s House where they would be with Him forever. This seems to have satisfied Peter as he asked no further questions. But Thomas did not fully understand what Jesus was saying.

“Thomas said to Him, ‘Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?’ ” (John 14:5). Thomas did not understand Jesus’ reference to His Father’s House. Thomas renews the doubt about Jesus’ destination including the path that would take one there. Thomas was honest and uninhibited as he expresses his confusion. Jesus had said they could not come with Him at this time (John 13:33, 36b). How then can they know the way?

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’ ” (John 14:6). Since Jesus is going to the Father’s House, He now makes it clear that He is “the way” to His Father’s home. Jesus did not rebuke Thomas for his lack of understanding and we must not either. We are to be gracious with those who may not see things as we do.

The Lord explains to Thomas, “I am the way” to My Father’s House. Jesus did not say He was “a way” to heaven, leaving open the possibility of other ways to heaven which is commonly taught today. There is only one “way” to heaven and that is through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone (John 3:5, 15-16; 10:9; Acts 4:12; I Timothy 2:3-5).

Many people today think there is more than one way to God. They are placing their trust in people or religions that will only lead to eternal destruction (cf. Matthew 7:13-23). Jesus warned His disciples that there are many “false prophets” (Matthew 7:15) who stand in front of the “broad… way” that “leads into destruction” (Matthew 7:13). These false prophets are dressed in “sheep’s clothing” (Matthew 7:15) and appear to be Christians.

But Jesus will refuse to let them into heaven because they were trusting in their confession of Jesus’ lordship (“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ ”Matthew 7:21) and their works that they did in Jesus’ name for His glory (“Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’” – Matthew 7:22). They were not permitted entrance into “the kingdom of heaven” because they failed to do “the will of” the “Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21) which is believing in Christ alone for everlasting life: “And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:40; cf. Matthew 18:3; 21:31-32).

Jesus said you may know these false prophets by “their fruits” (Matthew 7:16-20) which are their “words,” not their works (Matthew 12:33-37). Any teacher who says you can go to heaven through some other way than faith alone in Christ alone, is a false prophet and must be avoided (cf. I Timothy 6:3-5).

When Jesus said, “I am the truth,” He is referring to the truth about the Father. Even though the disciples may have felt strange going to His Father’s House because they had not met the Father, yet since they knew Jesus, they did know the Father as well because Jesus and the Father “are one” (John 10:30). To see and know Jesus was to know and see the Father because Jesus is the perfect reflection of the Father as God the Son (John 14:7-11; cf. 1:1; 12:44-45).

As “the truth,” we can believe in Christ’s promise of everlasting life to those who believe in Him (John 3:15-16; 36; 5:24; 6:40, 47; 11:25-26) because He never tells a lie. He is always faithful to keep His promises.

When Jesus said,“I am the life,” He was saying that He is the only Person who can provide “the life” or relationship (John 1:4, 12; 5:21; 17:3) that is needed to come to the Father’s House. Jesus claims that He is the exclusive way to the Father, “No one comes to the Father except through Me.” The path to heaven is a Person – Jesus Christ Himself. You can begin a personal relationship with Him simply by believing in Him alone for His free gift (John 3:15-16; 17:3).

Jesus’ claims in this verse are very personal. Jesus did not merely claim to know “the way, the truth, or the life” as if it is some formula to give to the ignorant. He claims to be “the way, the truth, and the life.”

One continuing concern about American tax structure is the problem of loopholes. Some people spend more time looking for loopholes than they do figuring how much tax they owe. Corporations hire experts to look for legal ways to avoid taxes – and they find them. The result for the U.S. government is the loss of millions of dollars – all because of loopholes.

Some people develop a “loophole mentality” in their relationship to God. For example, when comedian W. C. Fields (1880-1946) was on his deathbed, a visitor found him reading the Bible. Asked what he was doing, he replied, “Looking for loopholes, my friend. Looking for loopholes.” 1

The Bible says that Jesus is the only way to heaven, and that we must believe in Him alone as our Savior (John 3:15-16; 10:9; 14:6). But some people secretly feel that when they die and stand before the judgment seat they will find some other way to get in. They refuse to believe the Bible’s teaching that salvation is through Christ alone (John 3:5, 15-16; 14:6; Acts 4:12) and that eternal punishment awaits those who reject Christ (John 3:36; Revelation 20:15). They have convinced themselves that they will somehow escape the final judgment and its terrible consequences.

But they are wrong. Jesus is the only “way” to heaven. According to Jesus Christ, there are no other ways to God the Father. You may ask, “What right does Jesus have to make such an exclusive claim?” The Bible affirms that Jesus was “declared to be the Son of God with power… by the resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1:4). The proof that Jesus rose from the dead was that He was seen alive after His death by over five hundred eyewitnesses (I Corinthians 15:5-8).

The resurrection of Christ is the most attested fact of history. Thomas Arnold authored a three-volume history of Rome and was appointed to Oxford’s Chair of Modern History. Concerning the evidence behind the resurrection of Jesus Christ, he said, “I have been used for years to study the histories of other times, and to examine and weigh the evidence of those who have written about them, and I know of no one fact in the history of mankind which is proved by better and fuller evidence of every sort, to the understanding of a fair inquirer, than that Christ died and rose from the dead.”  2 

The early followers of Jesus made it clear that “there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12) other than Jesus Christ (cf. Acts 4:10-11). The Bible, God Himself, and His followers teach that there is only one way to God and that is through the Lord Jesus Christ. To believe or teach something else means you must deal with the authority of the Bible and the credibility of Jesus Christ. 3

If you have never understood and believed this, listen to what God says in Isaiah 45:22: “Look to Me, and be saved, all you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.” God the Son, Jesus Christ, now invites you to believe or trust in Him alone to save you from eternal death and give you His free gift of everlasting life. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die” (John 11:25-26). When you believed in Jesus, the Bible says you can “know” you have eternal life. “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.” (I John 5:13).

When you believe in Christ, He comes to live inside of you through His Holy Spirit (John 7:38-39; Romans 5:5; 8:9-11; I Corinthians 6:19; 12:13; Galatians 3:2; 4:6; Ephesians 1:13-14). Then you can begin to experience His promise of peace of heart and look forward to a prepared place in heaven where you can enjoy His presence forever unhindered by sin and shame. But it all begins when you realize and accept that the only way to heaven is through a Person – Jesus Christ Himself.

If you have never made the decision to believe in Christ alone for His gift of everlasting life, you can do so right now because there are no loopholes. You can simply tell God through prayer that you are now believing in His Son, Jesus Christ, as your only hope of heaven.

Prayer: Dear Jesus, I come to You now as a sinner who deserves to be separated from You forever. I now realize that You are the only way to heaven. You proved this through Your words and works, the greatest of which was when You died for the sins of the world and rose from the dead. Lord Jesus, I am now believing or trusting in You alone (not my religion, my prayers, or my good life) to give me everlasting life and a future home in heaven. Thank You for the everlasting life I now have and the future home I will have in heaven. In Your precious name I pray. Amen.

If you just believed in Jesus as your only hope of heaven, we would love to hear from you. Simply send a message to us through the “Contact Us” page. To grow in your new relationship with Jesus Christ, please explore this website or www.knowing-jesus.com. Thank you, and may Jesus richly bless you.

ENDNOTES:

1. See Our Daily Bread, October 5, 2002 – https://odb.org/2002/10/05/looking-for-loopholes/.

2. Arnold Thomas, Sermons on the Christian Life – Its Hopes, Its Fears, and Its Close, 6th ed. (London: T. Fellowes, 1859), pg. 324.

3. See EvanTell’s The Evangelism Study Bible (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2014), pg. 776.