How can we endure difficult times? Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ENDNOTES:

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

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

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

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

How can we overcome the fear of abandonment? Part 2

“… The Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.” John 14:17-18

COVID-19 not only affects the physical health of people but also their emotional well-being. During this global pandemic, restrictive measures are being taken to contain the transmission of this virus by mass indoor quarantines and social distancing. Add to this the changing of plans, loss of structure, routine, and isolation, and you have a plethora of triggers for the fear of abandonment in many people. 1

All of us have a need to connect with people, but when that need is threatened by multiple restrictions, the fear of separation and rejection can easily overtake us. Day-to-day tasks can become burdensome because of our preoccupation with abandonment. This feeling of being left alone can overwhelm us.

How can we overcome the fear of abandonment? We are learning from Jesus’ interaction with His eleven believing disciples how this can be done. Last time we discovered we can overcome the fear of abandonment when we focus on the promise of another Helper, God the Holy Spirit (John 14:15-16). Today we see the second way to overcome this challenge is to focus on THE PERMANENT INDWELLING OF THE SPIRIT OF TRUTH (John 14:17-18).

Jesus now answers the question, “Who is the Helper?” Christ explains that the Helper is  the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.” (John 14:17). The Helper or Holy Spirit is “the Spirit of truth.” Jesus identified Himself as “the truth” in John 14:6. Hence, the Holy Spirit communicates “the truth” about Jesus (cf. John 15:26). Jesus identifies the truth as the Father’s “word” (John 17:17). The Holy Spirit guides us into all truth about Jesus through God’s Word. It is through the Word that the Holy Spirit tells us what to do. He does not speak audibly to us, He speaks through the truth of the Bible. The Spirit of God will not lead us to act contrary to the Word of God. He will give us the ability to do what the Word says as we depend upon Him. We need the Holy Spirit to empower us to keep Jesus’ commands (John 14:15).

In a sense the Holy Spirit replaces Jesus’ physical presence. This Helper would be unknown to “the world” (John 14:17) because He would be unseen and unrecognized. For example, without a radio, radio waves go unnoticed. So too, the Holy Spirit is unnoticed by the unsaved because they have no spiritual life. Why would we expect non-Christians to obey God? They do not have the ability to understand God’s Word properly without the Holy Spirit (cf. I Corinthians 2:11-15), let alone obey God’s Word. Jesus promised His disciples that they would “know(ginóskō) the Holy Spirit from personal experience because “He dwells with you and will be in you” (John 14:17b).

Keep in mind that in the Old Testament the Holy Spirit was not given to every believer. Those called by God to do a special ministry were clothed or empowered by God’s Spirit (e.g. Gideon, Judges 6:34; David, I Samuel 16:13). Also, the Holy Spirit was temporarily given and could be withdrawn (e.g. Samson, Judges 13:25; 16:20; Saul, I Samuel 10:10; 16:40; David, Psalm 51:11). Before Pentecost (Acts 2), the Holy Spirit generally dwelt with believers (by their side), just like Christ had been with His disciples in bodily form. The Spirit’s indwelling was selective and temporary. But Jesus is now saying that the Holy Spirit would permanently indwell all believers forever after the day of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit can dwell individually in each of us, but Jesus could not do that when He was in a human body while on earth.

Then Jesus said, “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.” (John 14:18). Christ promises that He will not leave them as “orphans” who are deprived of their parents. Jesus had been like a father to the disciples – comforting, protecting, providing, guiding, and instructing them as His own children. And now He was leaving them. But He would not leave them as “orphans.” He says, “I will come to you” through God the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit would fill the void left by Jesus’ departure. The Holy Spirit would comfort, protect, provide, guide, and instruct them. He would function as their Divine Parent.

In his book Living Faithfully, J. Allen Bair tells of a man who was struggling to get to Grand Central Station in New York City. The wind blew fiercely, and the rain beat down on him as he lugged his two heavy suitcases toward the terminal. Occasionally he would pause to rest and regain his strength before trudging on against the elements.

At one point he was almost ready to collapse, when a man suddenly appeared by his side, took the suitcases, and said in a strangely familiar voice, “We’re going the same way. You look as if you could use some help.” When they had reached the shelter of the station, the weary traveler, the renowned educator Booker T. Washington, asked the man, “Please, sir, what is your name?” The man replied, “The name, my friend, is Roosevelt. Teddy Roosevelt.” What a thrill it would be to have the assistance of a such a famous person!

But how much greater is the Helper God has sent! The God of the universe now indwells every person the moment he or she believes in Jesus Christ for everlasting life (cf. John 7:37-39; Acts 11:15-17; Galatians 3:2, 26-27; Ephesians 1:13-14). At the moment of faith in Jesus, the Holy Spirit moves in to stay so that your physical body is now a temple of the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 6:19). In Romans 8:9, the apostle Paul tells us that if we do not have the Holy Spirit indwelling us, we do not belong to Christ. When we believe in Christ for His free gift of eternal life, we receive all of the Holy Spirit, so there is no need to seek a second blessing or experience. The God of the universe now lives inside of you and will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5)!

One day Jesus will return for His church to take them to the place in His Father’s house that He has prepared for them in heaven (John 14:2-4). The Holy Spirit’s seal on every believer guarantees their safe and secure delivery to this heavenly home. “In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.” (Ephesians 1:13-14).

When we “heard” and “believed” the “gospel… of salvation” we were “sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession” (1:13-14). The word “sealed” (sphragizō) was used in the ancient world to refer to a legal signature which guaranteed the promise or contents of what was sealed. It signifies ownership and security caused by the backing of the owner.

The word “guarantee” (arrabōn) was a regular feature of the Greek business world. The “arrabōn” was a part of the purchase price of anything paid in advance as a guarantee that the rest of the price should in due time be paid. The seal of the Holy Spirit guarantees that the remainder of our “inheritance” blessings will eventually be given to us. The primary aspect of our inheritance involves life in heaven with the Lord Jesus.

Registered mail is a good example of the seal of the Holy Spirit. When something is registered at the post office it is sealed until delivered. Actually only two persons can open registered mail – the sender (if it is delivered back to him) and the recipient. When we believe in Christ for eternal life, we are sealed by God the Holy Spirit until we go to heaven. God is the One who sends us on our way to heaven, and God in heaven is the Recipient on our arrival. There is no power greater than God Who can break the Holy Spirit’s seal. Only God can break this seal and He promises not to do so “until the redemption of the purchased possession” which is when the church is delivered safely and securely to God in heaven.  

No matter what I do or don’t do after being sealed by God the Holy Spirit, I am guaranteed a safe and secure delivery to God in heaven. Therefore, I do not need to look to anyone or anything besides the Holy Spirit to give me security in this life. My security is found in God the Holy Spirit, not in achievements, affluence, appearance, or the approval of others. This amazing truth must not be neglected or misrepresented because it is intended to bring “praise” and “glory” to our great and gracious God!

The Holy Spirit is not limited by COVID or government restrictions. When churches are not allowed to gather in one place, God the Holy Spirit can still meet with us and minister to us. And we can minister to Him as we worship the Lord Jesus Christ Who is the truth.

There are many physical orphans today in the world. They have been abandoned by their parents or by guardians. They are all alone. Some of you reading this article are all alone. Your family, your church, your friends, your co-workers, and neighbors have abandoned you. They act like you do not exist. But listen to what Jesus is saying: God will never abandon you! He will never give up on you. He is in your life to stay. Take time to get to know Him. Talk to Him through prayer about whatever is on your heart. Listen to Him as you read and study the Bible. He will help you understand what you are reading so you can apply it to your life.

Prayer: I come to You now, God the Holy Spirit, and I thank You for permanently indwelling me the moment I heard and believed the gospel of Jesus Christ. Even though there are many restrictions in our world today that hinder me from connecting with other people, I can still connect with You at any time and place about anything. I am so appreciative of Your presence in my life which provides everything I need to live for Jesus. Thank You for never abandoning me nor giving up on me. Thank You for sealing me the moment I came to faith in Christ. I am eternally grateful for the assurance that You will safely and securely deliver me to my Father’s house in heaven. I praise You that no one and nothing can break Your seal on my life except God the Father. And this will not happen until You safely deliver me to Him in heaven. Knowing this teaches me not to look to counterfeit substitutes for my security, but to solely rest in You for this deep need in my life. I give You all the glory, God, for this precious truth! In the mighty name of Jesus I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. See https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7179484/; https://themighty.com/2020/03/coronavirus-fear-of-abandonment-borderline-personality-disorder/.

2. https://www.biblestudytools.com/pastor-resources/illustrations/faithful-servants-11544480.html.

How can we recover from rejection? Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ENDNOTE:

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

How can I experience security forever? Part 3

“And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.” John 10:28-29

In John 10:22-30, we have learned so far that I can experience security forever when I…

– Ignore the Blindness of Christ’s opponents (John 10:22-26).

– Believe in Jesus alone for His free gift (John 10:27).

The third and final way I can experience security forever is when I REALIZE THE BENEFITS OF BELIEVING IN JESUS (10:28-30). Jesus promises three benefits to His sheep i.e. to those who believe in Him.

1. THE GIVING OF ETERNAL LIFE (John 28a). Jesus said, “And I give them eternal life.” (John 10:28a). He does not say and “they earn eternal life.” No, He gives it to them. It is a gift. As one man in an audience said while listening to a salvation message, “Oh it’s beautiful. I always thought I had something to do, but now I see I have something to receive.” Eternal life is a gift to be received. If you have it, you have it eternally. If a person ever lost eternal life, then Jesus just told a lie.

2. THE GUARANTEE AGAINST PERISHING IN HELL (John 10:28b). How secure are those who receive eternal life from Jesus the moment they believe in Him? Christ says, “and they shall never perish.” (John 10:28b). The construction of the Greek clause “they shall never perish” (kai ou mē apolōntai eis ton aiōna), with a double negative literally reads “and never not shall they perish for the age.” How long is “never”? (Pause). It is forever. The moment we believe in Jesus, we have the assurance that we shall never perish in hell for eternity. Jesus is very emphatic here. He wants His sheep to be confident that they will never experience eternal ruin or destruction in hell. Eternal life is God’s life. You can no more perish in hell than God can perish in hell. Believers do sin and stumble, but our Good Shepherd will “never” let us perish in hell! Even if you were to desire to go to hell to spend eternity with unsaved family and friends after you believe in Jesus for eternal life, it is too late because Christ guarantees you shall “never perish”! The third benefit of believing in Jesus is this…

3. THE GRASP THAT LASTS (John 10:28c-29). Christ then says, “neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.” (John 10:28c). Why? Because Jesus securely holds each believer in His hand and no one – not a lion, wolf, thief, bandit, false teacher, popular speaker, demon, devil, not even you yourself – is strong enough to snatch (John 10:12) them out of His hand. The word “snatch” (harpasei) means “to snatch, seize, i.e., take suddenly or vehemently.” It is impossible for even one sheep to be removed from the hand of our Good Shepherd. And no matter how strong or persuasive they are, not one of His sheep can wriggle out of His grasp.

If you are still not convinced that the believer in Jesus is secure forever, Christ adds: “My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.” (John 10:29). The hand of Jesus holding the believer is secure in the hand of God the Father. And no one is strong enough to snatch a believer from the hand of God the Father. In other words, the believer is doubly secure.

This Shepherd is all-powerful and the sheep in His hand have nothing to fear. The security of the frail sheep does not depend on their grip on God, but on God’s grip on them. And God will never let go of them. If you come to Jesus by faith, He has got you. When you are too weak and your hands go limp, He will still be hanging on to you. Our eternal security does not depend upon our own ability but upon the ability of our Shepherd to protect and preserve His flock.

There are some who do not believe in eternal security who insist that a believer can jump out of the hands of Jesus or God the Father on his or her own initiative. But this position cannot be supported contextually. “They shall never perish” (John 10:28b) means just that. If a believer could jump out of God the Father’s and God the Son’s hands, then Jesus just told a lie here. The phrase, “No one(John 10:29), includes the believer himself. Even if you take the “no one” to be a reference to “the thief” (John 10:10a) which represents the devil or his false teachers, even they cannot snatch the believer out of the hands of God the Son and God the Father, not even by persuading or deceiving the believer to jump out. 

Jesus then says, “I and My Father are one.” (John 10:30). Jesus claims oneness with His Father in the sense that He and the Father both provide the sheep with security forever. They both are God. But He is not saying they are the same Person. They are two distinct Persons with the purpose which guarantees the eternal destiny of all who believe in Christ. If He had meant they were the same Person, He would have used the masculine form of the word translated “one” (heis). Instead He used the neuter form of the word (hen) to emphasize that they are one in their actions. This explanation also harmonizes with the context, since Jesus had said that He would keep His sheep secure forever (John 10:28), and that His Father would also keep them secure forever (John 10:29). 

Conclusion: When you believed or trusted Christ alone for eternal life, why is eternal life guaranteed?

1. Because security is not you holding God, but God holding you forever.  Security is not based on our feeble hold on Christ, but on His firm grip on us. In order to lose your eternal life, you would have to be greater than God Himself. And that is not going to happen! What wonderful security God provides for us especially in a day when so many dreadful things are happening.

2. Because no one is strong enough to open God’s hand and remove any Christian who is held securely in it. Do you realize how strong God’s fingers are? In Psalm 8:3 we are told, “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained.” Imagine how strong God’s fingers are which placed the stars and moon that we see in our night sky! No one is strong enough to pluck us out of God’s hands. He has such a good grip on us that we could not get out of it even if we wanted to. It is a done deal!

A newlywed couple was given a lottery ticket by the bride’s aunt and uncle as a wedding gift. Two days later they discovered they had the winning numbers. The uncle and aunt had done this before for other newlyweds, but this was the first time any of the couples had received the winning numbers. When the aunt was asked whether they would try to get any of the money she replied, “I gave them the ticket as a gift, and a gift it will remain.

Christ gives us eternal life the moment we believe in Him for it and He never takes it back. We are secure forever not because of our grip on God but because of His grip on us. We are forever in His hands!

Prayer: Precious Lord Jesus, what wonderful security You provide for me especially during a time when there are so many dreadful things happening in the world that can easily leave me feeling insecure. Knowing that I am secure in Your promises of eternal life, of never perishing, and never being snatched from Your hands gives me unspeakable joy and peace! Even if my grip on You becomes weak and my hands grow limp, Your hands will not let go of me! The assurance that I will go to heaven is not based upon my grip on You, but upon Your grip on me. I do not have to live in fear of losing my relationship with You. This frees me up to focus on You and the work You have set before me. Oh my Good Shepherd, please lead me to those who are overwhelmed with insecurity so I may share with them about Your security that lasts forever. In Your powerful name I pray. Amen.  

How can I experience security forever? Part 1

“Jesus answered them, ‘I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me.’ ” John 10:25

People today may feel extremely insecure and rightly so. Eleven percent of the world’s population are undernourished and 697 million people in the world are severely food insecure and do not know if any food will be available for them to eat. 1

Since the onset of COVID-19, we see a growing economic insecurity with the loss of jobs and businesses. Many people fear their financial situations will only get worse. There is also insecurity attached to the rise in social unrest, with peaceful protests turning into rioting. Violent conflict and crimes are on the rise throughout the world which is a tremendous source of insecurity for people today. 2

Psychologists have identified that the kind of childhood you had, past traumas, recent experiences of failure or rejection, loneliness, social anxiety, negative beliefs about yourself, perfectionism, or having a critical parent or partner can all contribute to our insecurity. 3

Some people feel insecure because they perceive that they are lacking or they have been told that they are lacking. For example, you may feel too fat, skinny, tall, short, old, young, educated or uneducated. We may try to compensate for our insecurities by telling ourselves, “If I had a nice house or a new car or a better job or was more popular, I would feel more secure about myself.” So, thinking that we are lacking something or someone may cause insecurity.

One of the most insecure feelings is not knowing where you will go after you die here on earth. The truth is all people die (unless of course you are a Christian and the Rapture or sudden removal of the Church takes place – I Thessalonians 1:10; 4:13-18). Not being certain of your eternal destiny produces deep seeded insecurity in people. People take extreme measures to avoid thinking about death. They color their gray hair, go on extreme diets and exercise programs trying to delay the inevitable.

Please understand, no matter how insecure you may feel right now, God does not want His children to be insecure. He has given us incomparable security in the Lord Jesus Christ and He wants us to share this security with a lost world that is becoming more and more insecure.

In the context of our passage today, there is a stark contrast between the false shepherds of Israel who brought death and insecurity to God’s people and the Good Shepherd who brings life and protection (John 10:1-21). This is Jesus’ last act in His public ministry. Let’s look now at how we can experience security forever. I CAN EXPERIENCE SECURITY FOREVER WHEN I …

IGNORE THE BLINDNESS OF CHRIST’S OPPONENTS (John 10:22-26). “Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter.” (John 10:22). The Feast of Dedication is now known as Hanukkah or the Feast of Lights. Although it was not one of the feasts prescribed in the Mosaic Law, it was still an important and popular celebration that brought many Jews to Jerusalem.

The historical basis for this festival was the cleansing of the Temple in Jerusalem in 164/165 B.C. three years after their desecration by the Greco-Syrian Antiochus IV Epiphanes. Antiochus, in his zeal to Hellenize his realm, persecuted the Jews, plundered the temple treasury, and erected an idolatrous altar and sacrificed a sow to Jupiter. The Hasmoneans led by Judas Maccabeus revolted and eventually overthrew the forces of Antiochus. The festival commemorates this last great deliverance that the Jews had known and symbolized their hope that the Messiah would again deliver His people from their enemies, the Romans. 4

During the eight days of the Feast, the Hallel (Psalms of praise) was chanted, both in the Temple in Jerusalem and in private homes. During the rededication of the Temple in 164/165 B.C., tradition said that only one unpolluted bottle of oil was found, just enough to provide light for one day, but it was miraculously replenished for eight consecutive days. For this reason, the Feast lasts eight days and is called the Feast of Lights. 5

What is the significance of this Feast to the dialogue within this passage? Because of this feast, a large crowd had gathered for Jesus to teach. The regular synagogue readings nearest to the Feast of Dedication were concerned with the theme of shepherds and sheep (cf. Ezekiel 34). Some scholars suggest that the mention of the Feast was designed to connect Christ’s teaching with the hopes associated with the Maccabean deliverance. 6 “It was the last great deliverance that the Jews had known, and therefore it must have been in people’s minds a symbol of their hope that God would again deliver his people.” 7 Little did the people know that their prayers for another deliverance would be fulfilled through Jesus.

The Feast of Dedication took place in the middle of December. It had been three months since the Feast of Tabernacles in John 7:1-10:21. So the teaching in John 10:22-39 was three months following the teachings in John 7:1-10:21. The mention of “winter” in verse 22 explains verse 23. “And Jesus walked in the temple, in Solomon’s porch.” (John 10:23). Winter was the colder rainy season in Israel. In warmer weather, Christ would have taught in the courtyard of the temple. But because it was “winter,” He took shelter from the wet and windy weather in “Solomon’s porch” which was a long walkway covered by a roof supported on pillars on the east side of the Temple facing the Kidron Valley. One writer suggests that John mentioned that it was “winter” because it resembled the spiritual climate in Jerusalem, namely the frigid spirits of the Jews. 8

Then the Jews surrounded Him and said to Him, ‘How long do You keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.’ ” (John 10:24).  As Jesus walked down Solomon’s porch “the Jews surrounded Him” with hostile intent. The word translated “surrounded” (ekyklōsan) means they “besieged” Him. They pinned Him in so they could obtain a clear reply from Him about His identity. The question “If You are the Christ…” is in the first class of the Greek language and assumes for the sake of argument that Jesus is the Messiah-God. By asking for a plain statement that He was the Messiah they were implying that if they rejected Him, it was His fault and not theirs because He had not clearly stated that He was Israel’s Messiah.

Jesus responds. “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me.” (John 10:25). The Jews asked Jesus if He was the Christ, their Messiah-God, and Jesus says, “I told you again and again Who I am, yet you refused to believe Me.” They had His Word as to His Person, but they also had His works or miracles which testified that He was their Messiah. Even though Christ’s words and works provided sufficient evidence that He was their promised Messiah-God, they still refused to believe in Him. Why? Was it because of the lack of a clear statement from Christ about His identity? No.

“But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you.” (John 10:26). Their unbelief was because they “were not of His sheep.” They did not listen to His Word, like sheep will listen to the voice of their shepherd. They were like the thief and hireling, bringing death and caring only for themselves (John 10:8, 10a, 12-13). So, the fault of their unbelief, was not His, but theirs.

If you and I are going to possess security forever, we must ignore the spiritual blindness of Christ’s enemies. Jesus gave them more than enough evidence that He was the promised Messiah-God, but they were determined not to believe in Him. They had no interest in becoming His sheep.

There are many skeptics today who ignore the sufficient evidence concerning Jesus’ identity as the Messiah-God. Even though the historical evidence overwhelmingly points to Jesus as the Messiah-God Who lovingly died on the cross for the sins of the world and rose from the dead, skeptics continue to deny these historical facts. They undermine the clear promises of Jesus which state that all you must do to possess eternal life is believe in Him (John 3:15-16; 4:10-14; 5:24; 6:40, 47; 10:25-27; 11:25-26). God wants us to ignore these impostors and focus on the promises of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13).

Some of you reading this article have been taught that Jesus never claimed to be God and never died on a cross to pay the penalty for all your sins. But still you are here wanting to learn more about Jesus. Your soul is restless and you have no security about your future. Give Jesus a chance. He has drawn you here to reveal more of Himself to you.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd, but you have experienced spiritual leaders that care only about themselves and use their religion to meet their own needs instead of care for the people entrusted to them. Jesus loved you so much that He laid down His life for you and me on the cross. When the Messiah-God died in our place as our Substitute, God was satisfied with His perfect payment for all our sins (cf. I John 2:2; 4:10). That is why Jesus said while hanging on the cross, “It is finished!” (John 19:30). The Greek word translated “finished” (tetelestai) means “paid in full.” Receipts in New Testament times were stamped with this word which meant that the debt had been paid in full. Jesus finished making the full payment for all our sins when He died in our place. There is no more payment to be made because God was satisfied with Jesus’ payment.

This is substantiated further when Matthew tells us at the time of Jesus’ death on the cross, “the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.” (Matthew 27:51). This “veil” or curtain separated the holy place from the holy of holies in the Jewish temple (cf. Exodus 26:33; Hebrews 9:2-3). The fact that this occurred “from top to bottom” signified that God is the One who ripped the thick curtain. It was not torn from the bottom by men ripping it. God was showing that the way of access into His presence was now available for everyone, not simply the Old Testament high priest (Hebrews 4:14-16; 10:19-22), because God was satisfied with Jesus’ payment for our sins. No other animal sacrifices or payments were necessary to enter God’s presence in heaven.

Jesus Christ laid down His life for us so we may have life that never ends the moment we believe or trust in Him alone. Since God was satisfied with the sufficient sacrifice of His perfect Son to pay the penalty for all our sins (Isaiah 53:11; John 19:30; I John 2:2; 4:10), we must also be satisfied with what satisfied God – Jesus’ death on the cross. God cannot accept anything we do as payment for our sins because He has already accepted His Son’s payment for all of our sins when He died in our place on the cross.

Jesus did not say, “Whoever does good works… prays every day and lives a good life should not perish but have everlasting life.” No, Jesus said, “Whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16). Being secure forever is not faith in Christ PLUS something else. It is faith in Christ alone.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, all of us in the world today have many reasons to be insecure. We may have external reasons and internal reasons for our insecurity. But You do not want any of Your children to be insecure about Your identity. You have given us Your Word which never changes to provide security that lasts forever. Because You experienced opposition to Your identity as the Messiah-God when You walked on the earth 2,000 years ago, we can know that You understand and sympathize with us when we encounter opposition to Your identity today (Hebrews 4:15-16). When the ruler of this world and his false shepherds attack Your identity, help us to focus on Your voice of truth. Because You, Father God, were satisfied with Your Son’s payment for the sins of the world when He died on the cross, we must also be satisfied with what satisfied You. I pray in Your name, Lord Jesus, that Your Holy Spirit will persuade lost and insecure people to believe the truth about You – that Your are the Promised Messiah-God, Whose death on the cross satisfied God’s demand to punish sin. And now whoever believes in Jesus alone may have never-ending life in His name. Once this life is received, it can never be lost because it is eternal and it is based on Your faithfulness to Your promises, not ours. Lord Jesus, You are the truth and You cannot lie. Thank You my Lord and my God for security that lasts forever! In Your name I celebrate. Amen.  

ENDNOTES:

1. See https://ourworldindata.org/hunger-and-undernourishment#severe-food-insecurity

2. https://www.un.org/en/un75/new-era-conflict-and-violence

3. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-mindful-self-express/201512/the-3-most-common-causes-insecurity-and-how-beat-them

4. Dr. Tom Constable, Notes on John, p. 192.

5. J. W. Shephard, The Christ of the Gospels (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans), 1946, p. 400.

6. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 193.

7. Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John. New International Commentary on the New Testament series (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1971), p. 459.

8. John G. R. Beasley-Murray, Word Bible Commentary series, Second Ed. (Waco: Word Books, 1987), p. 173.

Finding hope and security in trying times

“Keep me as the apple of Your eye; Hide me under the shadow of Your wings.” Psalm 17:8

When King David wrote Psalm 17, he was facing strong opposition from “the wicked who oppress” him and were seeking to kill him (17:9-13). Perhaps you have experienced similar opposition in your life. Many Christians around the world are experiencing life-threatening persecution for their faith. I cannot remember a time in my life where I have seen more hatred and violence against God’s truth in the USA as we are seeing right now.

In this one verse in Psalm 17, God’s Word offers us much hope and security. David prays to the Lord, “Keep me as the apple of Your eye; Hide me under the shadow of Your wings.” (Psalm 17:8). Many people, Christians and non-Christians, have used this phrase, “the apple of your eye.” But what does it mean?

The Hebrew word for “apple” (ishon) means “little man.” The phrase “the apple of Your eye,” refers to the reflection a person sees of themselves in another person’s eye when they are looking at them. For your reflection to be caught in someone’s eye and for you to be able to see that reflection they must have their gaze fixed on you, and you must be standing close enough to them to see that reflection.

To say to someone, “You are the apple of my eye,” is to say “You are more special to me than anyone else.” If something is the apple of your eye, then this refers to all the things that your eyes behold which get your special attention, your complete attention.

David is asking God to keep him as the object of His affection, attention, love, and protection. Like a parent who keeps their loving gaze on their prized child, so God keeps His eyes on us.

Do we realize that we are the object of God’s affection and love? We are always in His vision because we are extremely special to Him! He is constantly paying attention to us even when we may feel alone and abandoned.

But there is more! David prays, “Hide me under the shadow of Your wings.” The word “hide” here means to carefully conceal. David is asking the Lord to hide or conceal him under the shadow of His wings much like a mother bird protects her young ones under the security of her wings where no predator can harm them.

Jesus Himself used a similar expression when He said in Matthew 23:37, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!”

When we see the word, “hide,” we may remember that Adam and Eve hid from the Lord when they disobeyed Him (Genesis 3:8-10). Because of their sin and shame, Adam and Eve were afraid, so they hid from the Lord Jesus Who would walk with them in the cool of the Garden.

But if we are believers in Jesus Christ, there is no need to try to hide from the Lord. Because of Jesus’ shed blood for our sins and His sufficient sacrifice on the cross (Ephesians 1:7; Hebrews 9:11-10:18; Revelation 1:5; 12:11), we can now hide in Christ instead of hide from Him. “For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:3). We are forever safe and secure in Jesus Christ. Jesus’ death for our sins has removed our guilt and shame so we may hide in Christ rather than from Him.

Whether we know it or not, we all have enemies: our own sinful nature, Satan the accuser and deceiver, all the armies of fallen angels, and all the wicked men of this world who oppose the love of the truth. Despite this onslaught of evil, we can find protection and security in the constant loving gaze and covering of our Almighty God and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I am so impressed with Your constant focus on me. I am constantly in Your line of vision because I am so special to You. Hence, there is no need for me to feel alone or neglected. I am constantly the object of Your love and affection. Satan keeps trying to deceive me into thinking You don’t care about me or love me. But Your Word brings me back to the truth that I am so special to You that You never take Your eyes off of me. Despite all the evil in this world, I can find rest and security under the shadow of Your wings. Thank You that I do not need to hide from You any more because You have forgiven my sins and removed my shame through Your shed blood. I can now hide in You, my Lord and my God. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

When the Lord is my Shepherd I shall not want for security

“And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Psalm 23:6b

What is a Christian? A person who goes to a particular church? A person who is very religious? Someone who lives a moral life? A person who has some lofty goals? A person who believes certain facts? Someone who practices a bunch of dos and don’ts?

The Bible teaches that a Christian is someone who believes in Jesus Christ alone for everlasting life, and therefore knows the only true God and His Son, Jesus Christ personally. After all Jesus said, “Whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). You may ask, “What is eternal life?” Jesus explains, “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3). The word “know” refers to an intimate knowledge of God, not just an awareness of certain facts.Notice that the primary focus is on one’s relationship with God(“life”), not the duration (“eternal”), although both are true.This is not just a future promise, it is a present reality for all believers in Jesus. Eternal life is knowing the only true God personally in one’s experience forever.Eternal life is not static or unchanging. It can be experienced at deeper and deeper levels as we grow closer to the Father and His Son.

In Psalm 23, King David is talking about his personal relationship with God. When we read “And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever,” most of us probably think of heaven. But David is not thinking so much about where he will be after death, but with Whom he will be. In Psalm 27:4, David writes, “One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple.” David longed to be in the Lord’s house because then he would be in the Lord’s presence. Heaven is primarily a place where we will be with Jesus Christ.

Jesus refers to heaven as His Father’s house. “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:2-3). According to Jesus, heaven is a real place where there will be “many mansions.” Jesus is referring to literal homes or dwellings that will be in the New Jerusalem which will descend from heaven to the new earth after the thousand-year reign of Christ on earth (Revelation 21-22). The New Jerusalem will be fifteen hundred miles high, long, and wide (Revelation 21:16). God promises that in our future home “there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4). What a great source of comfort this provides for those who are deeply troubled by the death of believers today.

Christ does not have any doubts about the existence of our future home in heaven when He says, “If it were not so, I would have told you” (14:2b). In the Greek language, the phrase “If it were not so” expresses that the condition is unfulfilled. In other words, if heaven were otherwise, and it is not, Jesus would have told them. Christ took for granted that there would be plenty of rooms for all the saved people in heaven.

In anticipation of their reunion with Him, Jesus said, “I go to prepare a place for you” (14:2c). Yes, Jesus was leaving His disciples, but He would not forget them. He would occupy Himself preparing a real place where He and they would dwell together forever. He was going to make ready the place where He would welcome them permanently. Certainly, Jesus would not go to prepare rooms in heaven for His disciples if He did not expect that they would finally arrive there. He was sure they would make it to heaven. He would see to it.

Then Jesus said, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself” (John 14:3a). Just as the first century bridegroom in Palestine would send for his bride when all was ready, so Christ would do the same when He had completed His work of preparing a place in His Father’s house for His bride, the church (cf. Ephesians 5:22-24; Revelation 19:7-9; 21:1-3).

Think about this! God created the universe in six days (Genesis 1), but Jesus has been preparing our place in heaven for almost two thousand years! Remember, Jesus was the Son of a carpenter (Mark 6:3) and no doubt He was a perfect Learner growing up. He would know how to build some incredible mansions in heaven. So heaven is going to be a fantastic place – a real place! We will live in mansions made of gold and walk on streets of gold (Revelation 21:18, 21). It will be an incredible place of splendor. The glory of Jesus will shine and light everything, not even a shadow exists there (Revelation 21:22-23). Jesus is the center of heaven and all praises will ring to Him. The joy shall never end there. Heaven is a place of inhabitants. It is not empty. It is filled with people, people who have believed in Jesus Christ for eternal life (John 3:5, 15-16; Revelation 21:27).

When Jesus said, “I will come again and receive you to Myself” (14:3b), He is not referring  to the Resurrection or the death of a believer, but to the Rapture or removal of the church from earth which could happen at any moment (cf. I Thessalonians 4:13-5:11). At any time, Jesus Christ could come back for His church with believers who already died to meet living believers in the clouds. This truth is intended to comfort and encourage believers whose loved ones have died in the Lord.

Jesus said, “I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:3c). In Jesus’ mind, what would make heaven so special is that they would be with Him and He with them. Yes, Jesus is preparing a wonderful place for us in heaven. But all the beauty of that place will not match the beauty of His presence.

This is exactly what David is saying in Psalm 23:6b. And you know what else? David was absolutely certain he would dwell in the house of the Lord forever. He said, “I will dwell…”, not “I might…” or “I hope to dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” When the Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want for security that lasts forever.

No other religions offer this kind of security. All other religions can only offer an “I hope so…” or “I think so…” type of assurance that is filled with doubt and uncertainty. Why? Because all other religions are based on the performance of broken sinful people. All other religions are based on founders who are still dead in their graves.

But Christianity offers absolute assurance and security because going to heaven is based on the finished work of Jesus Christ (John 19:30) Who died on the cross for all the sins of the world and rose from the dead (I Corinthians 15:1-8), proving that He is God (Romans 1:3-4). Christianity’s Founder conquered death when He rose from the dead and He is alive today to give everlasting life freely to those who believe in Him (John 11:25-26).

Psalm 23 begins and ends with the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ! Do you know Jesus personally? I am not asking whether you know about Him. Millions of people have been brought up in Sunday School and know about Jesus Christ. People from other religions around the world are familiar with the name of Jesus Christ. They may know some of the facts, but they do not know Jesus personally. I am not saying you do not know Psalm 23. Scores of people can quote this Psalm who do not know the Shepherd. Do you know Jesus Christ as the only One who can give you everlasting life? Do you know for certain you will go to heaven when you die?

Because of the Coronavirus, we are living in very uncertain and insecure times. You can have security that lasts forever if you will believe in Christ alone for His gift of everlasting life. Jesus promised, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life” (John 6:47). Jesus is not asking if you are religious because He never said he who is religious has everlasting life. He is not asking if you believe God exists because He never said he who believes God exists has everlasting life. He is not asking if you pray every day or read a holy book every day because He never said he who prays every day or reads a holy book every day has everlasting life. Jesus is asking you, “Do you believe in Me?” because he said, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life.”

The word “believe” in the Bible means to trust or depend upon. Trusting in Jesus is a lot like riding on an airplane. When you ride as a passenger on an airplane, do you need to push the airplane to get it off the ground? No, of course not. Do you need to flap your arms to keep the plane in the air? No. All you must do is trust a Person, your pilot, to take you to your destination.In the same way, Jesus does not need us to help Him give us everlasting life and a home in heaven. No amount of our good works can save us from the Lake of Fire because they are all stained with sin (Isaiah 64:6; Ephesians 2:8-9). All Jesus asks is that we believe or trust in Him alone to give us everlasting life and a home in heaven (John 6:47). Only Jesus can take away our sins because He paid the penalty of our sins in full (John 19:30) and rose from the dead (I Corinthians 15:1-8), proving that He is God (Romans 1:3-4).

Believe in Jesus for His gift of everlasting life, and you can say with David, “And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Why?Because theBible says, “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). The Bible does not say you may “think” or “hope” that you have eternal life when you believe in the name of the Son of God. It says you can “know” with absolute certainty that eternal life is yours.

Pastor G. Campbell Morgan tells of an incident that took place in London years ago. A young girl from his church was dying. She had just given birth and it appeared it would cost her her life. Pastor Morgan looked on as the doctor did his best to take care of her. She was delirious and kept saying, “Doctor, I don’t want to go on alone. Doctor, please, I want to take my baby with me.”

The doctor tried to help her and said, “My dear, your baby will have loving care. You need not be afraid. You cannot take the baby with you. The gate through which you go is only wide enough for one.” Pastor Morgan then stepped in and touched the physician’s shoulder and said, “Doctor, don’t tell her that. Tell her the gate through which she is about to pass is wide enough for two – for herself and for her Shepherd. He who brought her to this place will not desert her now, but He will see her safely to the other side.”

Prayer: Lord Jesus, my Good Shepherd, thank You for the security You give me during these uncertain times. Thank You that I can say with David that “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” because You are faithful to Your promise of everlasting life to all who believe in You. I praise You not only for Your past and present faithfulness, but also for Your future faithfulness which guarantees You will safely deliver me to my home in heaven where I can enjoy Your presence forever! Please precious Lord, lead me to those who are ready to receive this message of everlasting hope and security in You. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

God has given me absolute security in Him

“Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.” Romans 8:33

Yesterday my wife and I found toilet paper stocked on a shelf in a store for the first time in three weeks. All other stores we have gone to in recent weeks have had bare shelves in the paper products section. Why? Because there is a lack of security in our world today due to the coronavirus. People are stockpiling toilet paper simply because of fear and insecurity.

But I believe there is a much greater lack of security that is commonly found among Christians. We have been taught from the Bible that God loves and accepts all believers in Jesus unconditionally (Romans 5:8; Ephesians 1:6). Yet we struggle with this teaching. Perhaps we have not experienced total love and acceptance in our dealings with people. Rejection has been a common experience in our lives, so it is difficult for us to believe that Someone such as God could love and accept us as we are. We have become skeptical and cynical of this notion of unconditional love and acceptance because we have been hurt so many times.

Some of you may be feeling very beat up by the circumstances of life. You may be feeling hopeless. There may be others of you who are discouraged and depressed by events that have happened just in the last week or two. There may be some of you who have been in the pit of despair and you have even considered taking your life because of the pain.

If this describes you, please know that God wants you to have absolute security in Him. The apostle Paul asks, “Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect?” (8:33a). Who can successfully accuse a Christian of wrongdoing in God’s courtroom? Who? Can the devil? Can your ex-spouse? Your competitive neighbor? Your unforgiving boss? Who?

Look at the answer. Paul writes, “It is God who justifies” (8:33b). God is saying, “No one can successfully press charges against you because I have declared you totally righteous on the basis of your faith in My Son.” If God pronounced that you are not guilty, then no one can reverse His verdict. No one can successfully accuse any Christian because God does not even accuse us. He justifies us the moment we believe in Jesus alone (Romans 3:28, 30; 4:5; 5:1).

To be justified means God declares us to be the opposite of what we were before we were saved. So if you were an impatient person before you were saved, He declares you to be patient at the moment of faith. If you tended to be hateful, He declares you to be helpful. If you were promiscuous, He declares you to be pure the instant you believe in Jesus.

Hence, all believers in Jesus Christ are secure forever because Christ paid for every sin they have or will ever commit (cf. Colossians 2:13-14). Before Jesus died on the cross, He said, “It is finished!” (John 19:30). This word translated “finished” (tetelestai), means “paid in full.” Christ did not make a down payment for our sin when He died on the cross so that we must pay the remainder of our sin debt to God. God does not accept us on the basis of our good life, our keeping of His commandments, our water baptism, or the sacraments we have taken. We are accepted by God on the basis of the full payment for our sin debt to God when Jesus Christ died and rose again on our behalf. God was completely and forever satisfied with Jesus’ full payment for our sin. The verb tetelestai is in the perfect tense. This means Christ made the full payment for our sin debt when He died on the cross and it remains paid in full to the present.

Satan’s (or anyone else’s) accusations against us will be thrown out of God’s courtroom because God has declared us not guilty on the basis of our faith in Christ alone. No one can bring an accusation against us that will stand because no one is greater than God. If we could be charged of wrongdoing in God’s courtroom, then the accuser would have to be greater than God. And that is not going to happen!!! No one can reverse the verdict of God. Not even you!!!

But how difficult it is at times to realize God’s total acceptance of us! It’s like the sun – every day – it shines. No one could ever say – the sun isn’t shining! We may say, “I can’t feel it or see it”…but fly high enough and there it is!

Someone may ask, “If no one can accuse me of wrongdoing in God’s courtroom after I come to faith in Christ, then why not live like the devil the rest of my life?” I commend those who ask this question because they do understand the eternal security of the believer in Jesus. Let me answer this question first with an illustration.

In 1937, the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, CA, was completed. It cost over $35 million to build and was completed in two phases: the first slowly and the second quickly. In the first stage, no safety devices were used. As a result, twenty-three men fell to their deaths. Imagine how this must have effected the other workers? They were more cautious and afraid, slowing down the work progress. But for the final part of the project, $100,000 was spent to buy a large safety net to place under the workers.  Once the net was installed production increased by 25%. Why? Because the men were assured of their security and they were free to wholeheartedly finish the project.

Many Christians lack joy and peace because they think going to heaven is based on their works or feelings instead of the finished work of Christ on the cross. They live in constant fear of losing their salvation or conclude that they were never saved to begin with because someone accuses them of some unforgivable sin. So instead of focusing on the Lord and the work He has for them to do, they are stuck in the past, unable to move forward. If you are one of these people, please listen again to what God is saying in this one verse.  

“Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies” (8:33). Does anyone dare to bring a charge against God’s people!?! If they do, they must answer to God because He has already pronounced that His children are totally righteous and acceptable before Him on the basis of their faith alone in Jesus alone. This truth is worth celebrating and living for!  

Prayer: Father God, I praise You that no one can successfully accuse me of wrongdoing in Your courtroom because You have declared me to be totally righteous on the basis of my faith in Your Son, Jesus Christ. Although Satan has relentlessly accused me throughout my Christian life along with his teachers, I can still rest in the finished work of Jesus Christ Who paid my sin debt in full. Therefore, I do not have to worry about what others say or think, because I am forever secure in Christ. Please lead me to the people who need to hear and believe in Your absolute security through Christ. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

I am sealed forever by God the Holy Spirit

“In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.” Ephesians 1:13-14

When Pat and I returned to the USA from the Philippines recently, we met many people in airports and on airplanes who were feeling very insecure about the Coronavirus. People who live in the Philippines have several reasons to feel insecure ranging from natural calamities such as Taal Volcano, typhoons, and earthquakes to a lack of food, unemployment, and the threat of violent crimes.

One of the most insecure feelings that all people can have is not knowing where you will go after you die here on earth. The truth is all people die (unless of course you are a Christian and the Rapture or removal of the Church takes place). Not being certain of your eternal destiny produces deep-seeded insecurity in people. People take extreme measures to avoid thinking about death. They color their gray hair or go on extreme diets and exercise programs trying to delay the inevitable.

Please understand, no matter how insecure you may feel right now, God does not want His children to be insecure. He has given us incomparable security in the Lord Jesus Christ and He wants us to share this security with a lost world that is becoming more and more insecure.

In Ephesians 1, God describes several spiritual blessings for His children. The one we are looking at today involves the seal of the Holy Spirit. When I “heard” and “believed” the “gospel… of salvation” I was “sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession” (1:13-14). The word “sealed” (sphragizō) was used in the ancient world to refer to a legal signature which guaranteed the promise or contents of what was sealed. It signifies ownership and security caused by the backing of the owner.

The word “guarantee” (arrabōn) was a regular feature of the Greek business world. The “arrabōn” was a part of the purchase price of anything paid in advance as a guarantee that the rest of the price should in due time be paid. The seal of the Holy Spirit guarantees that the remainder of our “inheritance” blessings will eventually be given to us. The primary aspect of our inheritance involves life in heaven with the Lord Jesus.

Registered mail is a good example of the seal of the Holy Spirit. When something is registered at the post office it is sealed until delivered. Actually only two persons can open registered mail – the sender (if it is delivered back to him) and the recipient. When we believe in Christ for eternal life, we are sealed by God the Holy Spirit until we go to heaven. God is the One who sends us on our way to heaven, and God in heaven is the Recipient on our arrival. There is no power greater than God who can break the Holy Spirit’s seal. Only God can break this seal and He promises not to do so “until the redemption of the purchased possession” which is when the church is delivered safely and securely to God in heaven.  

No matter what I do or don’t do after being sealed by God the Holy Spirit, I am guaranteed a safe and secure delivery to God in heaven. Therefore, I do not need to look to anyone or anything besides the Holy Spirit to give me security in this life. My security is found in God the Holy Spirit, not in achievements, affluence, appearance, or the approval of others. This amazing truth must not be neglected or misrepresented because it is intended to bring “praise” and “glory” to our great and gracious God!

Prayer: I come to You God Holy Spirit, and I thank You for sealing me the moment I heard and believed the gospel of Jesus Christ. Thank You for assuring me that You will safely and securely deliver me to my Father in heaven. I praise You that no one and nothing can break Your seal on my life except God the Father. And this will not happen until You safely deliver me to Him in heaven. Knowing this teaches me not to look to counterfeit substitutes for my security, but to solely rest in You for this deep need in my life. I give You all the glory God for this precious truth! In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Where do we turn when we feel threatened?

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1

In American society as people become more and more broken, they are turning to “quick fixes” to numb their pain. These “quick fixes” are often addictive. They may be a feeling, a behavior, or a substance. Instead of turning to the Lord when we are hurting or threatened, we turn to that which leads us farther away from the Lord.  

The more broken and vulnerable we feel, the more easily we are threatened. In Psalm 46, the Psalmist was feeling extremely threatened as he faced dangerous calamities such as a storm-tossed sea or an earthquake (46:2-3) or even opposition from God’s enemies (46:6, 8a, 9). Instead of turning to an idol or to his own fleshly desires to comfort himself, he chose to turn to the Lord Who was his “refuge” and “strength.”

The word for “refuge” (machaseh) refers to a shelter from danger or a place of trust. God was his refuge. The Psalmist was not threatened by God’s presence. The Lord was no danger to his well-being. Instead, God provided safety for the Psalmist and He wants to do the same for you and me.

When the Psalmist says God is his “strength,” this word (oz) refers to a mighty fortress or stronghold. This verse may have inspired Martin Luther to write the hymn “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” When our faith rests in God, He gives us the security we long for in the face of danger. He defends us from the attacks of the enemy.

Sometimes we face physical dangers such as a gunman opening fire on a church or a terrible winter blizzard. But sometimes the dangers we encounter are of an emotional or spiritual nature. Certain triggers in our lives such as a smell or a sound can access feelings and even memories that cause us to feel very insecure and threatened because of unresolved trauma in our lives. Where will we turn when these triggers take place?

The Psalmist encourages us to turn to “the Lord of hosts” (46:7, 11), the Commander of heaven’s angelic armies, Whose abiding presence in our lives is a great source of safety and security. God is a “very present” (meod matsa) or abundantly available source of “help” (assistance) during these threatening times (46:1). Those we would normally turn to for safety and security (ex. police, family, friends, etc.) are not always available to help us at the moment of our need. But God is “abundantly available” for you and for me. He is never too busy or overwhelmed running the universe to give us His assistance in our time of need.

Two artists set out to paint a picture representing perfect peace. The first painted a canvas depicting a carefree boy relaxing in a boat on a little placid lake without a ripple to disturb the surface. The second artist painted a raging waterfall with winds whipping the spray about. But on a branch of a tree overhanging the swirling waters a bird had built its nest and it sat peacefully brooding over her eggs. Here she was safe from her predatory enemies, shielded and protected by the roaring waterfall. This is real peace – the result of remaining calm in the midst of raging trials and difficulties in life. And this is the peace and calm that the Lord of hosts can give to us when our faith rests upon Him.  

Let’s make 2020 the year we turn to God for the safety and security we need during times when we are threatened. His abiding presence is more than enough to calm our fears and strengthen our faith.

Prayer: O Lord of all of heaven’s angelic armies, thank You for always being available to give me the safety and security I need when I feel threatened. Your comforting presence motivates me to rest in Your loving arms even when my world seems to be falling apart. Although my emotions and circumstances are always changing, Your abiding presence in my life calms my fears and bolsters my faith. You alone are worthy of my complete trust and allegiance. I love You precious Lord. In Jesus’ name. Amen.