How can we endure difficult times? Part 5

“…That the saying might be fulfilled which He spoke, ‘Of those whom You gave Me I have lost none.’ ” John 18:9

In a world that seems to be increasingly filled with evil, it is important for us to seek God’s wisdom and protection. We are reminded of this today in John 18:9-11. In the first twelve verses of John 18, we are learning how to endure difficult times. So far we have discovered we can do this when we…

– Learn about the love of Christ (John 18:1a).

– Look to the Lord in prayer (John 18:1b).

– Lean on the power of Christ (John 18:2-8a). 

– Listen to the command of Christ (John 18:8b).      

After Jesus commanded the well-armed army that came to arrest Him to let His disciples go their way (John 18:8b), John informs us that this fulfilled what Jesus spoke earlier in John 17:12: “that the saying might be fulfilled which He spoke, ‘Of those whom You gave Me I have lost none.’ ” (John 18:9). In John 17:12, Jesus affirmed that none of His disciples were spiritually lost, except Judas, but here Christ is talking about not having lost any of His disciples physically. 1  Jesus wants to make sure His disciples would be safe before His captors lead Him away. Some suggest that this is a preview of Jesus’ substitutionary work on the cross. 2  Christ preserved the lives of His disciples as He laid down His own life on their behalf.

Christ’s ability to keep His disciples physically safe in this dangerous situation validates His promise to keep them spiritually safe for eternity. If Jesus had failed to keep His disciples physically safe, His promise in John 10:28-29 would be empty and unfulfilled. 3  If Christ could not protect His disciples against the Roman soldiers and temple guards, how could He protect them from greater spiritual forces who would threaten to snatch them out of His hands eternally!?! Knowing that Christ has the ability to protect us physically in this life and eternally in the life to come, teaches us the fifth way to endure difficult times – LET CHRIST PROTECT US NOW (John 18:9-11).

Christ’s protection in this circumstance is even more amazing when we look at what happens next. “Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant’s name was Malchus.” (John 18:10). Peter had promised He would die for the Lord earlier (John 13:37), and now he senses Jesus is in danger and he courageously comes to His defense. Peter draws “a sword” (machairan), which is a ceremonial dagger used to prepare the Passover lambs earlier 4  and strikes the high priest’s servant, cutting “off his right ear.” John is the only gospel writer who mentions the names of “Peter” and “Malchus” in this circumstance, which underscores the nature of his eyewitness account.

Peter’s actions show that he did not understand that it was necessary for Jesus to die in their place. Peter and the other ten disciples had already believed in Christ for everlasting life (John 2:11; 13:10-11; 17:12), but they did not understand how Jesus could give them eternal life (John 2:11; 13:10-11; 17:12). They did not realize He had to pay for their sin debt in full by dying in their place on the cross and rising from the dead in order to freely give them eternal life.

It must have been a very tense moment when Malchus’ ear dropped to the ground and Peter, the fisherman, stood there facing this army with a bloody knife. Somebody needed to stop Peter before he gets himself and the other disciples killed. But it is not the army nor the army’s commander who stops Peter. It is Jesus. “So Jesus said to Peter, ‘Put your sword into the sheath. Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me?’ ” (John 18:11). Jesus stopped Peter from attacking the rest of the army by telling him to put his “sword into the sheath.” Jesus reminds Peter and the other disciples that His arrest, trials, and death were all part of “the cup” of wrath and judgment His “Father has given” Him to drink. One writer puts it this way, “Peter had a sword in his hand, but our Lord had a cup in His hand. Peter was resisting God’s will but the Savior was accepting God’s will.” 5

Luke tells us that not only did Jesus command Peter to put the sword away, but He also picked up the ear and put it back on the servant’s head and healed him (Luke 22:51). In His moment of greatest need, Jesus has compassion for one of His enemies and heals his ear. This shows us Who Jesus really is. Even in His arrest Christ is thinking of others. Healing the servant’s ear probably saved Peter’s life. Have you ever cut off somebody’s ear trying to do what’s right for the Lord? I have. We all have. We may resist God’s will thinking that we have a better plan to deal with things than the Lord has. We can so easily try to do what we think is right and in our zeal, we do the wrong thing. Yet Jesus is there to heal and protect. Do we deserve this? No, of course not. None of us deserve His grace. But that is why it is grace – undeserved favor from our Lord.

From these verses we learn the following – Who do we look to for protection? Why not look to the Lord of lords? There are so many places in this world that we could look to for protection that we need. I’m not saying we don’t need to have locks on our doors and those practical things. But the protection most of us need is inside where we struggle. Who saves us from worry? Is it only when the circumstances get better? Jesus Christ wants to protect us from worry. Who saves us from fear? Who saves us from doubts? Jesus Christ wants to protect us from these things that rob us of the joy and peace He wants us to have. Who saves us from temptation? Jesus Christ taught His disciples to pray to the Father, “do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” (Matthew 6:13a). Christ wants to protect us from temptation. He wants to use His power to do that.

Think of how different our lives would be if we turned to the Lord for the protection we need instead of to substitutes which always seem to disappoint us. Only the Lord can protect us at all times. Let’s look to Him for protection twenty-four hours a day, three hundred sixty-five days a year.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for showing us in the Garden of Gethsemane how able You are to not only keep us safe from physical dangers in this world that is filled with evil, but spiritually safe for eternity after we believe in You alone for Your gift of everlasting life. Like Peter, we can try to take things into our own hands thinking that we have a better plan than You do, only to make matters worse. Thank You for giving us grace during those times which is often manifested by bringing healing and restoration to relationships that we have damaged. Thank You for the many times You have intervened in our lives to save us from ourselves and the foolish decisions we have made. Lord, only You can protect us at all times. Help us to turn to You for the protection we need instead of to substitutes which in the end always seem to disappoint us. Please enable us to make wise decisions that lead us down the path You want us to take. Thank You in advance for hearing our prayers. In Your safekeeping name we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Robert N. Wilkin, “The Gospel According to John,” The Grace New Testament Commentary [TGNTC], Vol. 1: Matthew – Acts (Denton, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 2010), pg. 463.

2. Tom Constable, Notes on John, 2017 Edition, pg. 325; Edwin A. Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, New Testament Edition, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1983), pg. 335.

3. Wilkin, TGNTC, pg. 463.

4. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 319.

5. Warren Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, Vol 1., (Wheaton: Scripture Press, Victor Books), 1989, pg. 374.

How can we be effective witnesses to a hostile world? Part 5

“But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them. And these things I did not say to you at the beginning, because I was with you.” John 16:4

As we draw closer to the time of Christ’s return for His church, we are seeing an increase in the world’s hostility toward Christians. We are learning from Jesus’instructions to His eleven believing disciples how we can be effective witnesses to a hostile world. So far we have discovered we can be effective witnesses when we…

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

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

– Recognize that the world is not opposed to us personally, but to our relationship with Christ (John 15:21-25).

– Remain in vital contact with Christ through the Holy Spirit (John 15:26-27).        

The fifth and final way is to REMEMBER THAT JESUS IS STILL IN CONTROL (John 16:1-4). Christ said to His disciples, “These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble.” (John 16:1). This message about the hatred of the world was not meant to discourage Jesus’ disciples or dissuade them from the ministry. He told them what to expect from the world so they “should not be made to stumble” or fall away from their Christian faith. The word picture here is of someone stumbling over an unexpected obstacle. 1  Jesus was warning His disciples (and us) of the obstacles ahead so they would not be taken by surprise and overcome by worldly opposition. We do a disservice by telling people that discipleship is easy. Jesus never taught that, and neither should we. He said discipleship is costly (cf. Luke 14:26-33). It will be difficult. How difficult would it be for them (and us)?

He describes specific ways that the world will hate them. “They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service.” (John 16:2). When Jesus says, “They will put you out of the synagogues,” He is saying they will lose every privilege they had as a citizen of Israel. They would be excluded from using the temple for worship. They would be excluded from the society in which they had moved. They would lose the privilege of employment in their nation. They would be deprived of schools to which they could send their children. In effect, they would be reduced to poverty. Some would even be killed, and their killers would think they were providing a faithful “service” to God. According to church tradition, all the apostles were martyred for their faith except for John. 2

Christ is not talking about persecution by the secular government here. He is speaking of persecution by religious zealots. No persecution is more bitter than when done by religious enthusiasts like the Spanish Inquisition, set up in 1478. It sought to eliminate heretics and killed up to 5,000 people. 3

From 1095-1492, violent crusades against Muslims took place in Europe, Asia, and Palestine along with severe persecution by the Roman Church of those who differed with it. The Roman Inquisition, 1542-1858, originally sought to deal with the spread of Protestantism. Those who differed with the Roman Church were tortured until they confessed and recanted. If they did not confess and recant, they would lose their property, freedom, or be burned at the stake. 5

The Ku Klux Klan (KKK) reorganized in 1915 and in addition to hating blacks, it hated Catholics, Jews, and  it opposed Jews, blacks, Catholics, and newly arriving Southern and Eastern European immigrants, many of whom were Jewish or Catholic. The Klan claimed to be explicitly Protestant. Although it appropriated some Christian teaching, hymns, and symbols, it was widely denounced by Christian denominations. 6  

It is important to understand that the persecutors mentioned above do not represent biblical Christianity. Just because someone says they are a Christian or does something in the name of Jesus does not mean they are genuine believers in Jesus.

The Bible emphasizes that eternal life is a free gift (John 4:10-14; Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:8-9). A person does not receive eternal life by living a good life, keeping God’s commandments, going to church, praying every day, being baptized with water, or hating their enemies. The Bible tells us that a person must come to God as a sinner (Romans 3:23), realizing that Christ died for all his sins and rose from the dead (I Corinthians 15:3-6), and then believe or trust in Christ alone for His gift of everlasting life (John 3:36; 6:40, 47; I Corinthians 15:3-6). The moment a person trusts in Christ alone to give them everlasting life, God not only gives him or her the free gift He paid for when He died on the cross – eternal life – He also comes to live inside of that person through His Holy Spirit (Romans 8:11; Galatians 2:20; 3:2) to give them the power to live a life that pleases Him.

Many people who claim to be Christians do not understand this simple gospel message. Instead of trusting in Christ alone to get them to heaven, they are trusting in their good works or in Christ plus their good works to get them to heaven, and therefore, they do not have God’s power in them to live a life that pleases Him. Many non-Christians use their religion to try to cover up their sins. So it is important to understand that not all people who say they are Christians have God’s power in them to live a different life because they are not trusting in Christ alone to save them and give them everlasting life. Instead, they are depending on their good works or religious efforts to get them to heaven, instead of on Christ and His finished work on the cross alone. 

Modern day examples of persecution by misguided zealots include militant Muslims persecuting innocent Christians in the Middle East and Africa, and militant Hindus attacking Christians in India, etc. Since the time of Christ, the most severe persecution of Christians has come from religious enthusiasts who think they are serving their god or gods.

Next Christ said to His disciples, “And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me.” (John 16:3). The reason the world will persecute Jesus’ followers is because it is spiritually ignorant of God the Father and God the Son. Opposition to God’s messengers really meant opposition to God Himself.

Jesus then said, “But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them. And these things I did not say to you at the beginning, because I was with you.” (John 16:4). Jesus warned His disciples about this coming persecution to strengthen their faith. Even on the night before His crucifixion, He is concerned for these men and their future. Jesus’ knowledge about their future would give them more confidence in His ability to control events. Christ did not tell His disciples “these things” about their coming persecution “at the beginning” of His ministry when He was with them, because He was the object of attack from the world at that time. But now that He is leaving them to go be with His Father in heaven, He forewarns them. They would know He was in control when trials would come because He had said they would.

We see in the book of Acts that Jesus’ words emboldened the apostles to continue preaching Christ in the midst of persecution. For example, when the apostles disobeyed the Sanhedrin’s order to stop preaching Jesus, they were beaten and commanded once again to speak no more in Jesus’ name. Luke reports, “So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ” (Acts 5:41-42). They were not taken by surprise when the Sanhedrin opposed them because Jesus forewarned them of this. Jesus really is in control.

Do you think Jesus’ control over us is total or partial? Listen to Daniel 4:35: “He does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’ ” Accept it or not, God is in total control. He is running the show. Either He is in full control or He is off the throne. It is as foolish to say He is “almost” in control as it would be to say I am “almost” married or Trump is “almost” President, or the surgeon’s gloves are “almost” sterile. God is totally in control. The more we believe this, the more confidence we will have to be an effective witness for Christ in a hostile world.

Jesus wanted His disciples and us to be prepared for what is coming. We should not be overtaken by surprise when we experience some form of rejection or censure for our Christian beliefs and standards because Christ forewarned us of such opposition. This hostility can come from family, friends, employers, customers, coworkers, the government, and especially from religious zealots. As Paul warned Timothy, “All who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2 Timothy 3:12). But the Holy Spirit is always available to empower us in our time of need (John 15:26-27). 7

Prayer: Lord Jesus, You are an amazing God! Thank You for warning me about the hostility of the world so that when I do experience it, I can be encouraged to know that You are in control and I can trust You to accomplish Your purposes in my life. Please embolden me to share Your gospel message unashamedly with this broken and hostile world. Thank You for Your Holy Spirit Who can empower me to face this opposition with grace and truth. I surrender everyone and everything to You, my Lord and my God. In Your mighty name I pray, Lord Jesus.  Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1 J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 285.

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. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_Inquisition.

4. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crusades.

5. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_Inquisition.

6. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ku_Klux_Klan.

7.  Adapted from Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B&H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1809.

How can we become more fruitful for the Lord? Part 6

“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.” John 15:7

Thus far in our study of John 15:1-8, we have learned that we can become more fruitful for the Lord when we …

– Realize that Jesus is our only source of life (John 15:1).

– Receive Jesus’ encouragement from His word (John 15:2a).

– Recognize the pruning process (John 15:2b-3).        

– Remain in Christ by obeying His word (John 15:4-5).

– Repent when we lose our discipleship relationship with Christ (John 15:6).

The sixth and final way to become more fruitful for the Lord is to RELY ON JESUS THROUGH PRAYER (John 15:7-8). Jesus said to His eleven believing disciples,If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.” (John 15:7). What is the secret to answered prayer? “Abide in” Christ by keeping His commandments (cf. John 15:10; I John 3:24a). We cannot expect Jesus to answer our prayers if we are living in disobedience to Him.

A second condition for answered prayer is “My words abide in you.” For Jesus’ words to abide in us “requires more than merely reading or listening to them. You must internalize them. Another way to describe this is meditating on God’s Word, rolling it around in your mind to grasp what it means and how to apply it to your specific circumstances. We must chew and swallow Scripture, so to speak, so that it becomes part of us.” 1

It has been said that God has given us two ears and one mouth, so we will listen twice as much to Him as we talk to Him. The more we know and experience Jesus’ Word, the more we can pray the way Jesus would pray. Before spending time talking to God in prayer, take a few minutes to abide in His word. Read and reflect upon Scripture to align your thoughts with God’s. Then “you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you” because your will has aligned with God’s (cf. I John 5:14-15).

How do you know that you are relying on Jesus? Look at your prayer life. The more you pray the more you are depending on the Lord. And a life of answered prayer will produce much fruit for Christ.

Christ then said, “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.” (John 15:8). The main purpose of bearing fruit is to glorify God the Father. As we remain in vital contact with Christ, much fruit is produced so that God is glorified. Why? Not because of our human effort, but because of Jesus’ work in our lives. Jesus wants His disciples to bear much fruit and in this way be His disciples. Fruit-bearing is a sign of a believing disciple, not a Christian.

When a person does not bear any visible fruit, do not assume they are not a believer in Jesus. Assume that they are not a disciple or committed follower of Christ’s. John 15 is dealing with discipleship, not salvation. Let’s stop playing God and judging who is saved and who is not saved based on how much fruit we can see in their lives. You may not see an outward transformation in a believer’s life, but God sees the inward transformation that has taken place.

God wants all Christians to produce fruit – to lead others to Christ and develop Christ-like character. How?

REALIZE that Jesus Is our Only Source of Life (John 15:1).

– RECEIVE Jesus’ Encouragement From His Word (John 15:2a).

– RECOGNIZE Jesus’ Pruning Process (John 15:2b-3).

– REMAIN In Christ By Obeying His Word (John 15:4-5).

– REPENT When We lose our Discipleship Relationship with Christ (John 15:6).

– RELY on Jesus Through Prayer (John 15:7-8).

What stage of fruit bearing are you at now? Are you at the level of “No fruit”(15:2a) because of discouragement? Your need is to be lifted up or encouraged through Christ’s promises?  Or are you at the level of bearing some “fruit”(15:2b) because of wrong priorities? Your need at this level is for pruning. Or are you at the “more fruit”(15:2c) level because of self-reliance? Your need is to trust and obey Christ. Or are you at the “No fruit” (15:6) level because of disobedience? Your need is for repentance. Or are you at the “much fruit”(15:5, 7-8) level of fruit bearing? The need at this level is for deeper intimacy with Christ through prayer and obedience.

In Revelation 7:9-10 we are given a glimpse of heaven during the future Tribulation period. “After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands and crying out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb’” (Revelation 7:9-10). What part of that innumerable crowd in heaven will be there because of you? Because you stayed connected to Jesus Christ so He could bear much fruit through you.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, sometimes it is difficult for me to pray because I am so preoccupied with trying to control situations and people. But the moment I surrender to You in prayer, there is a sudden release of the weight I am carrying. Thank You for inviting me to grow deeper in my relationship with You through prayer. You are the God Who hears my prayers. At times I can feel that no one listens to me. I can feel all alone with the weight of worry or loneliness. But You hear me when I pray according to Your will instead of my own. You are the God Who changes lives through prayer, including my own. Thank You so much for being such a good God Who answers prayer. May all the glory be to You, my Lord and my God. Please use me to help populate heaven by preaching the gospel to the lost and discipling those who believe in You. In Your matchless name I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTE:

1. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B&H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1807.

How can we overcome the fear of abandonment? Part 3

“He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.” John 14:21

So far we have learned that the way to overcome the fear of abandonment is to focus on…

– The promise of another Helper, God the Holy Spirit (John 14:15-16).

– The permanent indwelling of the Spirit of truth (John 14:17-18).

The third way we can overcome the fear of abandonment is by focusing on THE PROSPECT OF LOVE FROM THE FATHER AND THE SON TO THOSE WHO OBEY (John 14:19-24). Jesus says to His eleven believing disciples, “A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also.” (John 14:19). Jesus says that “a little while longer” when He goes to the Father’s house after His death and resurrection (cf. John 13:33, 36; 14:2-3; Acts 1:9-11) “the world will see” Him “no more,” but His disciples will see Him through the revealing ministry of the Holy Spirit. Just as Jesus had revealed the Father, so the Holy Spirit will reveal Christ (cf. John 15:26; 16:14, 16). The coming of the Holy Spirit would be evidence that Jesus was alive and in heaven with His Father (John 16:7).

When Jesus said, “Because I live, you will live also,” He was saying that His bodily resurrection would guarantee the bodily resurrection of all believers in the future (cf. I Corinthians 15:1-58; I Thessalonians 4:14-17). Since Christ rose from the dead and had conquered sin and the grave, He could share His resurrection life with His followers through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit would connect them to the Trinitarian God.

Christ explains, “At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.” (John 14:20). “At that day” when the Holy Spirit comes at Pentecost (Acts 2), the disciples will know by experience the indwelling of the Trinitarian God: “I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.” Through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, Christ would live in them and the disciples would “see” Him (John 14:19).

Because the Holy Spirit would soon indwell His disciples, Jesus anticipated a new intimacy with them. “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.” (John 14:21). Observe the progression in this verse – “has… keeps… loves Me.” Before we can “keep” Christ’s commandments, we must “have” them. In order to “have” Jesus’ commandments, we must spend time with Him to be aware of what He has said.

When a believer “keeps” or obeys the Lord’s commandments, God the Father and God the Son will “love” him or her more intimately and Jesus will “manifest” or reveal more of Himself to them. God’s love is not static or unchanging. It is a growing experience in our relationship with the Lord. “God so loved the world” (John 3:16), but He also loves the obedient believer in a special sense (John 14:21, 23; cf. 13:23). God rewards obedience with a special experience of His love. Hence, when a believer obeys, Christ will reveal more of Himself to him or her leading to a deeper intimacy with the Father and the Son.

“If you listen to a radio station in your car, you know that the further you get from the broadcast station, the worse your reception of the signal gets. Many people have difficulty connecting with God because they’ve wandered too far away to pick up his signal. But if you come back home in obedience, relating to God through Christ in love, He will disclose more of Himself to you.” 1

“Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, ‘Lord, how is it that You will manifest Yourself to us, and not to the world?’ ” (John 14:22). “Judas,” the son of James (Luke 6:16; Acts 1:13), expected Jesus to manifest His Davidic rule to the world. He was looking for a political and physical manifestation of Christ. But Jesus was referring to a spiritual manifestation through the Holy Spirit.

“Jesus answered and said to him, ‘If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.’ ” (John 14:23). Christ would only reveal Himself to those who loved Him by keeping His “word.” Not only would the Holy Spirit take up residence in them, but so would God the Father and God the Son. The reality of the Father and Son indwelling a believer was conditioned upon obedience. This is a picture of fellowship or closeness with the Godhead – “and We will come to him and make Our home with him.” The issue here is not salvation. A believer’s disobedience does not take away salvation. Christ is talking about discipleship in this verse. The more we love and obey the Lord, the more we will enjoy close fellowship with the Trinitarian God.

The word “home” (monḗ) is the same word Jesus used of the “many mansions” in the Father’s house in heaven (John 14:2). The link between verse 2 and verse 23 is that the current dwelling of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit in an obedient believer’s life is a foretaste of God’s dwelling with us and in us in His eternal kingdom on the new earth (Revelation 21:1-3). 2 “Salvation means we are going to heaven, but submission means that heaven comes to us!” 3  Notice that the indwelling of the Holy Spirit was not based upon obedience, but upon belief in Christ (cf. John 7:37-39).

Christ then said, “He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me.” (John 14:24). If there is no love for Jesus, there is no obedience. Love to the apostle John is not an abstract emotion, but an action. Those who disobey Christ will miss out on knowing Him more intimately. Their relationship with Him will be more superficial. If you disagree with Jesus, He informs you that you also disagree with His Father who “sent”Him because Jesus’ teaching originated from His Father in heaven.

How many of you are married? How many of you believe you know your spouse better today than you did on your wedding day? How did that come about? Through shared time and experience and communication. Jesus says if we keep His commandments, He will “manifest”or reveal more of Himself to us (John 14:21, 23). This is much like a friendship with another person. Through shared time and experience, the person opens up to you in a more intimate way. Also, as we obey Jesus, we will experience God the Father’s and God the Son’s love for us in a deeper way. So to know God intimately is to know His love more intimately since “God is love”(I John 4:8). If we are not developing a more intimate relationship with Jesus, it is probably because we are not living in obedience to Him. If that is the case, simply confess your sin to God (I John 1:9) and trust Christ to help you obey Him.

A story in Leadership magazine illustrates how the Holy Spirit can help us when we feel all alone. “Jackie Robinson was the first black to play major league baseball. Breaking baseball’s color barrier, he faced jeering crowds in every stadium. While playing one day in his home stadium in Brooklyn, he committed an error. The fans began to ridicule him. He stood at second base, humiliated, while the fans jeered. Then, shortstop Pee Wee Reese came over and stood next to him. He put his arm around Jackie Robinson and faced the crowd. The fans grew quiet. Robinson later said that arm around his shoulder saved his career.” 4

How often has our Helper, the Holy Spirit, given us the support we needed when we felt abandoned and all alone? Maybe we were discouraged and ready to quit, but then we sensed His comforting presence. Or perhaps He gave us the support we needed through a Christian friend. Jesus wants us to know that we can be certain the Holy Spirit is always standing alongside, ready and able to help. If you have the Holy Spirit on the inside, you can stand any battle on the outside.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for the free gift of everlasting life which is received simply by believing in You alone. But to enjoy deeper fellowship with You, I must obey Your commands. Lord, You know my heart better than anyone, including myself. You know that I like to be in control because I feel so vulnerable when I am not. Because I long to know You and Your love more intimately, I want to surrender all control to You. Right now, I voluntarily surrender everyone and everything to You, my Lord and my God. The more I love and obey You, the more I can experience closeness with You, the Father, and the Holy Spirit. Thank You for disclosing more of Yourself to me as I live for You. Although I sin every day, Your shed blood on the cross makes it possible for me to enjoy close fellowship with You the moment I confess my sins to You (I John 1:7, 9). Thank You for Your cleansing truth and grace. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tony Evans; CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B&H Publishing Group: Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1803.

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. 446.

3. Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, Vol 1 (Wheaton: Scripture Press, Victor Books, 1989), pg. 353.

4. https://bible.org/illustration/2-timothy-18.

How can we recover from rejection? Part 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ENDNOTE:

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

How can we experience the blessedness of clean feet? Part 3

“Jesus said to him, ‘He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.’ ” John 13:10

We are learning in John 13 how we can experience the blessedness of clean feet or intimacy with Christ. So far we have discovered that we must…

– Recognize Jesus’ loyal love for us (John 13:1-2).

– Reckon who we are in Christ (John 13:3-5).

Today we discover we can experience the blessedness of clean feet when we RECEIVE JESUS’ CLEANSING GRACE (John 13:6-11). In Jesus’ day, people wore sandals without any socks or stockings on their feet. Since the roads were dusty, their feet would become dirty and need to be washed. It was the host’s responsibility to provide a servant to wash the guest’s feet. But Jesus did something that was unheard of in that day. He, a Rabbi, got up from the table and took the position of a servant and began washing His disciples’ feet.

John informs us, “Then He came to Simon Peter. And Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, are You washing my feet?’ ” (John 13:6). Apparently there was nothing said as Jesus washed the other disciples’ feet until He came to Peter. Peter did not understand the significance of what Jesus was doing. “Jesus answered and said to him, ‘What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this.’ ” (John 13:7). Jesus asks Peter to submit to Him by permitting Him to wash his feet. He assures Peter that he will understand the significance of this foot washing later.

Has Christ ever asked you to do something that does not make any sense to you? But later on, the Lord showed you what He was doing in your life or in the lives of others? Maybe He is asking you to do something that no one else will do. When Christ tells us to do something, we must be willing to do it whether it seems reasonable to us or not. This is one of the keys to experiencing the blessedness of intimacy with Jesus!

“Peter said to Him, ‘You shall never wash my feet!’ ” (John 13:8a). Peter may be saying, “You shall never wash my feet for eternity!” Peter felt that Jesus should not degrade Himself by performing such a lowly task. Or perhaps he was thinking, “Never, Lord. My feet are not dirty, and even if they were, I certainly cannot permit You to clean them.” Peter’s words reflect pride and false humility. Our humility does not begin with giving service to others. It begins with a readiness to receive it. It is easier to have pride and a condescending attitude when we receive service rather than when we give it. For example, we may not hesitate to take a meal to a church member who has taken ill. But it is more difficult for us to receive such a meal if we are the one who is sick.

“Jesus answered him, ‘If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.’ ” (John 13:8b). Jesus is not talking about social fellowship here as Peter was thinking, rather He is talking about spiritual fellowship (closeness) as the context will reveal (cf. 13:10-11). “If I don’t cleanse you from the effects of sin (dirt on your feet), you can have no part (fellowship) with Me,” Jesus is saying. The word “part” (meros) is a term for fellowship (cf. Luke 10:42) in the New Testament.Hodges states, “This truth, of course, is more fully elaborated in I John 1:5-10 where fellowship is related to the question of the believer’s ‘walk’ (which one’s ‘feet’ suggest) and it is conditioned on the cleansing that comes in response to confession of sin (I John 1:9).Peter could not have fellowship with the Lord until He was willing to receive His cleansing ministry.

The same is true for all believers in Jesus. We cannot enjoy fellowship or closeness with our Lord until we are willing to let Him cleanse our dirty feet (the effects of sin in our lives). We must be honest with the Lord about sin, which John refers to as “walking in the light” (I John 1:7), and “confess” that sin to Him and God promises to be faithful to forgive us of that confessed sin and cleanse us of all unrighteousness or unknown sin in our lives (I John 1:9).

“Simon Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!’” (John 13:9). Peter’s outburst reveals his deep need for intimate fellowship with the Lord Jesus. “If fellowship with You, Lord, depends on cleansing, then wash not only my feet but my hands and head, too!” Peter seems to be telling the Lord what to do instead of submitting fully to Him.

“Jesus said to him, ‘He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean.’” (John 13:10a). In the first century, there were no bathing facilities in small houses. So a person had to go to a public bathhouse to bathe. When invited to a meal, a person would first go to the public bathhouse and bathe, and then put on clean clothing, anoint himself with fresh oil, and proceed to the home where he would be served a meal. On the way from the bathhouse to the home, the guest’s feet got dirty. Hence, the host provided a basin of water so that the one who already had a bath and cleansed his entire body could sponge the dirt off his feet. 4

Jesus is referring to two types of cleansing in this verse. The first type of cleansing refers to the complete cleansing of regeneration or salvation which takes place at the moment of faith in Jesus (cf. Titus 3:4-5; Revelation 1:5). This is seen in the word “bathed” (louō) which refers to bathing the entire body. This verb is in the perfect tense which conveys the idea of a permanent cleansing. A person only needs one complete bath spiritually. This is a one-time experience. The Holy Spirit performs this complete cleansing at the moment of faith in Jesus for eternal life (Titus 3:4-5). Some believers think they need to be totally bathed over and over again. They fail to understand that God’s water or soap is guaranteed for eternity.

Have you experienced this one-time permanent cleansing? If not, Christ invites you right now to believe or trust in Him alone for it. Jesus said, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life.” (John 6:47). Once you trust in Christ, you will need the second type of cleansing that He speaks of next.

This second type of cleansing refers to daily forgiveness in order to have fellowship or closeness with God. This cleansing is represented by the word “wash” (niptō) which means to wash parts of the body. This fellowship forgiveness (cf. Matthew 6:14-15; Luke 11:4) is based upon the confession of sin (I John 1:9). So Christ is saying in verse 10, “He who is bathed [regeneration] needs only to wash his feet [fellowship], but is completely clean.” Every bathed person (Christian) needs daily cleansing of his dirty feet to have fellowship with Christ.

For example, “just as our children may sin within our family, the believer may sin within God’s family. Our child is always our child, but until he confesses [his sin], our fellowship is not good. In God’s family, the same principle applies. There is a forgiveness for salvation and a forgiveness for restoration. The Lord referred to this second kind of forgiveness when He said to Peter, ‘If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me’ (Jn. 13:8). Peter told the Lord to wash him all over if that was the case. To this Jesus replied, ‘He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean’ ” (Jn. 13:10).” 7

“Jesus said to him, ‘… and you are clean, but not all of you.’ ” (John 13:10b). All but one of the disciples were “completely clean” in their position before God and could have fellowship with the Lord. “For He knew who would betray Him; therefore He said, ‘You are not all clean.’ ” (John 13:11). Judas had not experienced the cleansing bath of salvation because of his refusal to believe in Christ (cf. John 6:64, 70-71; 17:12). Nothing in the text suggests that Jesus did not wash Judas’ feet. Christ cleansed the feet of His greatest betrayer. This teaches us not to be selective about whom we will love. Christ loved everyone, including His enemies. And He commands us to do the same (cf. Matthew 5:43-48).

As I have thought about Jesus washing the feet of His disciples, including the feet of Judas, I realized that Jesus did not ask them why they walked through the mud and got dirty. That is a part of life. Water was there regardless of the amount of dirt on their feet. The Lord does not seek to condemn us. He seeks to cleanse us (cf. John 3:17; I John 1:5-10). All Christians have a need for daily cleansing because we all sin (Romans 3:23). We all have dirty feet. As we appreciate God’s cleansing grace in our lives both at the moment of salvation and daily for fellowship, we will grow deeper in our intimacy with Jesus and be more eager to humbly serve Him by serving others.

Prayer: Gracious Lord Jesus, thank You for the complete cleansing bath You gave me the moment I believed in You alone for Your gift of everlasting life (Titus 3:4-5)! Thank You that I do not need to repeat that bath because it permanently cleansed me of all my sin and shame positionally. But my feet still get dirty – I still sin as I walk with You in this sin-stained world – and I need cleansing from You daily. I praise You because You are faithful to forgive the sin I confess to You (I John 1:9)! And not only that, You graciously cleanse me of all my unknown sin at that time as well! I am doubly blessed by Your faithfulness to me! Please use me, my Lord and my God, to serve You by serving others even when it may not make sense to me or be the popular thing to do. Serving You in light of all You have done for me is one of the greatest privileges I could ever do. In Your grace-filled name I pray. Amen.  

ENDNOTES:

1. Zane C. Hodges, “Untrustworthy Believers – John 2:23-25,” Bibliotheca Sacra 135:538 (April-June 1978), pg. 147; Joseph C. Dillow, The Reign of the Servant Kings: A Study of Eternal Security and the Final Significance of Man, (Hayesville: Schoettle Publishing Co., 1992), pp. 326, 353, 401,593-594; Robert N. Wilkin, “The Gospel According to John,” The Grace New Testament Commentary, Vol. 1: Matthew – Acts (Denton, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 2010), pg. 438.

2. Hodges, “Untrustworthy Believers,” pg. 147.

3. Literally “the sins,” tas hamartias.

4. J. Dwight Pentecost, The Words & Works of Jesus Christ, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981), pg. 429.

5. 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), pp 480-481.

6. Archibald Thomas Roberston, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vol. V. (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1932), pp. 238-239.

7. Dillow, The Reign of the Servant Kings, pg. 353.

How can we overcome self-centeredness? Part 3

“Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour.” John 12:27

When we encounter stressful situations, it may be easy for us to want to medicate our uncomfortable feelings with some kind of unhealthy coping behavior such as drinking alcohol, blaming others, gambling, playing violent video games, overeating, overspending, taking drugs, viewing pornography, or watching excessive amounts of TV. We may have practiced these coping behaviors for so long that we are not even aware of what we are doing. The common thread in all of these coping behaviors is self-protection. We are trying to protect ourselves from uncomfortable feelings, so we engage in these unhealthy coping behaviors.

But instead of avoiding these uncomfortable emotions, God wants us to bring them to Him. He already knows they exist, so there is no need to try to hide them from Him. This is similar to what Jesus did when He experienced intense emotions prior to His approaching crucifixion.

In our study of John 12:20-33 we are learning how to overcome self-centeredness. So far we have discovered that the way to overcome our self-centeredness is through…

– Seeking Jesus (John 12:20-22).

– Self-denying service to Christ (John 12:23-26).

The third way to overcome our self-centeredness is by SURRENDERING TO GOD’S CONTROL IN PRAYER (John 12:27-30). Jesus said, “Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour.” (John 12:27). As Jesus contemplated all that was involved in His approaching death – He would die for the sins of the world and endure separation from His Father – He experienced a surge of emotion which drove Him to His Father in prayer. He was emotionally stressed and turned to His Father asking, “What shall I say (not do)? Father save Me from this hour?” In view of His upcoming sufferings on the cross, He was tempted to shrink back and ask for deliverance from this major trial. This was a normal human response, but Christ prevailed through prayer.

Likewise, if we are going to overcome our self-centeredness, we must surrender to the Lord’s control in prayer. If God’s Spirit is to be released from our inner man, we must surrender to the Lord when we face difficulties and trials instead of succumbing to them and our selfish desires. When we feel out of control, we may often try to control the situation or the people involved. But God wants us to look to Him in prayer during those stressful times. Prayer is dependence upon God. One way to determine how much we are depending upon the Lord is to look at our prayer life. The more we are praying, the more we are depending upon the Lord. The less we are praying, the less we are depending on Him. God will use difficulties in our lives to make us more dependent upon Him.

Jesus then prayed, “Father, glorify Your name.” (John 12:28a). Jesus came to “this hour” (12:27b) of suffering to “glorify” His Father through His death on the cross. Even though Jesus knew all the trials and troubles He was getting in to, He endured them so His Father would be glorified. When Jesus prayed, “Father glorify Your name,” He reminds us of a very important principle. We are to let God glorify what we do, not us. Jesus did not pray, “I will glorify Your name.” Jesus let His Father do the glorifying. He saw that His Father was in control. He submitted to His father and His Father glorified what His Son had done.

We are to focus on doing God’s will and let Him glorify what we do. Do not try to do God’s job. He is big enough to bring honor to Himself. How often we may try to get in God’s way by drawing attention to what we do. Let God draw the attention. God glorified and exalted His Son (Philippians 2:8-11) after His Son submitted to His will, and one day God will exalt and honor those who are surrendered to Him now. The Bible says, “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time.” (I Peter 5:6). Our responsibility is to humble ourselves before God. It is His responsibility to exalt us in His time and way.

Also, when Jesus faced the cross, He denied Himself and sacrificed His life. His self-denying obedience to the Father’s will glorified the Father. Jesus wants His disciples to face trials in the same way. He struggled and went to God and sought to glorify Him. Can we say that our purpose in going through trials is to glorify God? By His grace we certainly can. When we endure trials through God’s strength, He receives all the glory.

As Jesus approached the time of His sufferings, He understood who was in control, but did the people? 28b Then a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘I have both glorified it and will glorify it again.’ 29 Therefore the people who stood by and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, ‘An angel has spoken to Him.’ ” (John 12:28b-29). A thunderous voice from heaven said, “I have both glorified it and will glorify it again” through the death of Jesus. God the Father was in control and He would glorify Himself through the triumph of the cross. The crowd heard the sound of God’s voice, but some thought it had thundered, while others thought an angel had spoken to Christ. They did not understand God’s message, but they should have.

Christian author and speaker, J. Vernon McGee says, “That is the same reaction many people still have today. They say God’s Word is full of errors and the miracles recorded can’t be accurate. Because they don’t believe in them, they say it just ‘thundered.’ ” 1  

“Jesus answered and said, ‘This voice did not come because of Me, but for your sake.’ ” (John 12:30). God’s message was meant to benefit the crowd, not Jesus. They needed to recognize that God the Father was in control and would be victorious. God intended this to be an auditory approval of His Son so that the crowd might believe that Jesus is the promised Messiah-God.

Jesus understood His Father’s voice, do we? We have the Holy Spirit to help us understand God’s Word. First John 2:20, 26-27 say, “20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things… 26 These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you. 27 But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.” Ask the Holy Spirit to give you understanding and teach you as you read and study the Bible. You can also ask His Spirit to give you the power to obey what the Lord is saying to your heart and mind.

One reason we may not hear God’s voice is because we have so much noise in our lives. We may be too busy to slow down enough to hear the still small voice of God’s Spirit. Take time today to slow down and listen to the voice of God. Find a quiet place to meet with the Lord. Then take a few moments to do some deep breathing. Inhale God’s peace and exhale your stress. Inhale God’s peace and exhale your stress. Then read a Bible passage aloud, slowly, and attentively. Then pause to let it sink in. Read the passage again, this time asking the question, “Where am I in this verse?” Finally, read the verse or passage again noticing what word or words jump out at you, grabbing your attention. Meditate on those words. Chew on them for a while.

Then write down what you observe the Holy Spirit saying to you. Writing down what you observe clarifies your thought processes and involves another whole section of your brain. Then request that the Holy Spirit help you see how all of this applies to your life. Instead of asking God to help you analyze His Word, ask Him to use His Word to analyze you. This is a supernatural process that produces a neurochemical flow of new understanding where your mind is being renewed (Romans 12:1-2). Once the Holy Spirit gets you headed in the direction God wants you to go, dedicating yourself to that direction in life will be used by the Lord to transform your life from the inside out.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for not surrendering to Your intense emotions when You contemplated the cross. Instead, You surrendered to the will of Your Father Who sent You to glorify His name by dying in our place on a cross as our Substitute. If Your love was a feeling, You never would have died for us. Thank You for showing me that You understand what it is like to feel troubled inwardly when faced with extremely difficult circumstances (Hebrews 4:15). You know how it feels to have a storm of emotions raging in one’s heart before yielding to the Father’s will. Thankfully, You are not overwhelmed by my intense emotions. You understand that the best thing I can do with them is to share them with You in prayer. And as I talk to You about those uncomfortable emotions, their power is diffused and Your peace that surpasses human understanding can guard my heart and mind as I yield to Your control. By Your grace, I want to give everyone and everything to You. Glorify Your name my Lord and my God however You deem best. In Jesus’ matchless name I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTE:

1. J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee. 5 vols. Pasadena, Calif.: Thru The Bible Radio; and Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1983, 4:448.

How can we honor only Jesus? Part 4

7 But Jesus said, ‘Let her alone; she has kept this for the day of My burial. 8 For the poor you have with you always, but Me you do not have always.’ ” John 12:7-8

At a special dinner for Jesus among His close friends, we are learning how to honor only Him (John 12:1-8). So far we have learned the following ways to honor only Jesus:

– Serve Christ out of thanksgiving for what He has done (John 12:1-2a).

Spend time with Christ out of joy for His gift of salvation (John 12:2b).

– Sacrifice for Christ out of love for Him (John 12:3).

The final way to honor only Jesus in this passage is to SHOW SENSITIVITY TO WHAT BLESSES JESUS ALONE (John 12:4-8). In contrast to Mary, John characterizes Judas in three ways. “But one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, who would betray Him, said…” (John 12:4). First, his surname “Iscariot.” The name “Iscariot” is taken to refer to his origin, “from Kerioth.” 1 This could mean his father, “Simon” Iscariot (6:71; 12:4), is either from Judah (Joshua 15:25) or Moab (Jeremiah 48:24). Judas then, would be the only one of the twelve disciples who was not from Galilee.

Second, Judas was “one of His disciples.” He belonged to Jesus’ inner circle of companions for the last three years. Many unbelieving disciples had already withdrawn from following Jesus (John 6:66), but Judas, an unbelieving disciple (cf. John 6:64, 70-71; 13:10-11; 17:12), chose to stay with Christ. Why did He remain with the Lord Jesus?

This leads to the third characteristic of Judas. He remained with Christ so he could “betray” the Lord. He stuck around so he could deliver Jesus into the hands of His enemies. Mary was devoted to Jesus, but Judas despised Him. Mary loved Jesus, but Judas seems to loathe Him.

“Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” (John 12:5). Judas thought this anointing was a terrible waste of money – a year’s wages for a working man. Judas may have sounded compassionate toward the poor, but he was not. His criticism of Mary infected some of the other disciples according to Matthew and Mark’s account. Matthew’s writes, “But when His disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, ‘Why this waste?’ ”(Matthew 26:8)? Those who seek to bless Jesus alone are often “misunderstood and criticized; but that is what usually happens when somebody gives his or her best to the Lord.” 2

If you give your best to Jesus, you will be criticized and many times the loudest criticism will come from other believers who think they are only using common sense in how the Lord’s resources are spent. When the Lord called our family to serve Him in the Philippines, we had some believers and unbelieving family members question our sanity. Some said our time and talents could be used better by the Lord in the USA. In their minds, we “wasted” our lives for Jesus in the Philippines!

At this point Judas does not sound like a bad guy, does he? “This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it.” (John 12:6). John informs us that Judas was not being honest. He did not really care about the poor. He only cared for himself. He had been appointed treasurer of the disciples which may mean he had some accounting ability. But he was pilfering what was put in the money box and carrying it away for himself. He was a thief motivated by greed. He wanted to make money from his association with Jesus. He desired the perfume to make money for himself. When he could not get the perfume, he soon went to the chief priests and offered to betray Christ if they paid him thirty pieces of silver (Matthew 26:14-16).

Some people pretend to be Christians or even disciples of Jesus to obtain money or power for themselves. But they only have their own benefit in mind. They are not sensitive to what would bless Jesus or others around Him.

But Jesus said, ‘Let her alone; she has kept this for the day of My burial.’ ” (John 12:7). Jesus defended Mary’s act of love and devotion, “Let her alone!” He would have nothing to do with criticism brought against Mary. Anointing was usually for some festivity or celebration. But Jesus says she kept it for His burial which was just a few days away. Mary had entered into the mind of Christ more fully than the others. She knew His death was coming since He had already taught them about His suffering and eventual death many times before. Rather than wait until after He dies, she uses the perfume now when He can still enjoy it! This was a time for Jesus to relax before His sufferings and death. Mary understood this and she wanted to refresh her weary Lord and Savior.

Mary’s actions remind us that it is better to show our appreciation for someone before he or she dies rather than afterward. “Flowers at a funeral are nice, but flowers before the funeral are even better.” 3 Is there someone in your life that the Lord may be impressing you to contact before his or her life is over? What would you regret more? Expressing your love for him or her before or after they die?

For the poor you have with you always, but Me you do not have always.” (John 12:8). Jesus is saying, “You will always have opportunity to minister to the poor, but your opportunity to minister to Me here on earth is limited. I’m going to die soon.” The word “Me” is emphatic. The sentence literally reads, “Me, however, you do not always have”(Ἐμὲ δὲ οὐ πάντοτε ἔχετε).   Unless Jesus was the Son of God, God Himself, Who was due the same honor as God His Father (John 5:23), this statement would be an expression of extreme arrogance. But these are not the words of a mere man or prophet, these in essence, are the words of God!

Christ’s comment about always having the poor was not an endorsement of poverty or an encouragement to do nothing about poverty. He is simply saying that there will “always” be opportunities to serve the poor, but their opportunity to serve Him here on earth was rapidly fading. Now was the opportunity for special service to the Lord Jesus. Now was the time to do something that would benefit Him and Him alone. Christ welcomed Mary’s gracious display of love and devotion.

In Matthew and Mark Jesus even said her gracious act would become a perpetual memorial of honor whenever the gospel is preached. What a contrast between Mary and Judas. Mary offered her best to Jesus in sacrificial love; Judas was interested in Jesus only as a ladder for his selfish ambitions.

Mary saw her time with the Lord prior to His death as an opportunity for special service to Him. She was sensitive to what He needed, to what would bless Him. When she anointed the Lord, it did not benefit the others or herself, it benefited Jesus and Him alone.

What made Mary so sensitive to the Lord? We are told back in Luke 10:39, “And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word.” If we would learn to sit at Jesus’ feet and hear His Word, we would probably become more sensitive to what would bless our Lord Jesus and Him alone. Perhaps we would also give more to our Lord as Mary did.

Christian author and speaker, J. Vernon McGee, observed in this passage that Lazarus, Mary, and Martha represent three essentials in the church today, respectively: “new life in Christ, worship and adoration, and service.” 4 If churches would focus on these three areas, think of how much the fragrance of Christ would fill our lives and communities!?!

How can we serve Jesus now in a way that serves Him alone? Spend time alone with the Lord Jesus and serve Him alone. Just you and the Lord alone. No one else there to benefit from what you give Him at that time. As You meet with Jesus, give Him…

Your complete honesty. When you really love somebody you don’t just want to spend time with them. You want to talk with them. If you want a deeper relationship with someone, you need to be completely honest with them about your faults and your feelings. Christ is not looking for perfection, but He does insist on complete honesty. What do you talk to God about if you want to draw close to Him? Anything that you would talk to your best friend about. Your hopes… fears… dreams… anxieties… things you are embarrassed about… things you are proud of… things you are ashamed of… your goals… your ambitions… your hurts… your cares… every part of your life – you come to God and you talk to God about it. The Bible says in Psalm 116:1-2:  “I love the Lord because He hears me and answers my prayer, because He bends down and listens. I will pray as long as I have breath.” If you don’t feel close to God and some of you don’t… some of you have been believers for quite a long time and you honestly have lost your spark. Your Christian life has become routine, dull, and lifeless. There is no real joy and spark any more. There is a simple remedy for that. Start talking to God again. Choose to be completely honest with Him.

– Your listening ear as you read the Bible. Listening is one of the greatest gifts you can give to someone. We all want to be understood. We all want to be listened to. When you listen to someone, you are saying, “You matter to me.” When I listen to my wife or my children, I am saying, “I value what you have to say. You are important to me.” When I don’t listen to somebody I’m basically saying, “You are not important to me.” One of the ways you express love to someone and draw close to them is by listening to them.  The same is true with Jesus. Every time you listen to Christ you are saying, “Jesus, You matter to me. You are important to me.” If you want to learn to pray effectively, you must learn to listen to God through His Word. Jesus said, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.” (John 15:7). The more time you spend in Christ’s word, the more your thoughts become His thoughts. God made you with two ears and one mouth for a reason: so you will do twice as much listening as talking. So as God speaks to you through His written Word you will have more confidence when you pray because you know what you are praying is according to God’s will. Your heart will be filled with joy as He answers your prayers which are in line with His will.

– Your submission. The Bible says, 7 Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” (James 4:7-8a). Many years ago when my children were very small, I would come home from work and they would run to the door with their hands lifted high saying, “Daddy… Daddy!” By lifting their hands, what were they saying to me? “Take me, Daddy. I’m yours. I trust You.” By lifting their hands they were surrendering themselves to me and my control. They were not trying to manipulate me or control me. They were letting go and letting me take them into my hands. Your heavenly Father wants to do the same with you. He is waiting to draw near to you and hold you in His everlasting arms of love, but you must take that first step and surrender to Him. Give up your agenda and yield to His. When we worship God, lifting our hands to Him is an expression of surrender. We are saying, “I am Yours, Father God. Take my life and use it as You please.” It is time to surrender to the God of all grace. You cannot draw near to Christ without surrendering to Him.

– Your adoration and praise. Reach out to the Lord in prayer and praise Him and thank Him. Tell Him how much you love Him. Bow your heart before Him and worship Him. Surrender to Jesus all that You have. Mary gave sacrificially to the Lord because He raised her brother from the dead. But Jesus has raised us from spiritual death and given us eternal life (John 11:25-26; Ephesians 2:4-9)! Praise Him for that! Let Him know how grateful you are! Give Him what is most precious to you. He will never forget it.

You are as close to Jesus as you choose to be. Do you really want it more than anything else? Is it worth giving up other things and developing the habits and skills required? Start asking God to give you a passion for Him. Jeremiah 29:13 (MSG) says, “When you get serious about finding Me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed.”   

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for giving me a beautiful picture of what true worship looks like through Mary, the sister of Lazarus. Her love and devotion for You were displayed when she gave to You what was most precious to her. Unlike Judas, who loathed You and thought only of himself, Mary loved You and was sensitive to what would bless You as the time of Your crucifixion rapidly approached. Like Mary, I want to be still and sit at Your feet to hear Your voice of truth so I can become more sensitive to what would bless You and You alone. For me to hear You more clearly, I must lay aside anything that would keep me from hearing Your voice, including my own selfishness, deceit, envy, hypocrisy, evil speaking, and malice (I Peter 2:1). What would You say to me at this time, Lord Jesus? I am listening. In Your name I pray. 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),pp. 380-381.

2. Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, (Wheaton: Scripture Press, Victor Books, 1989), 1:339.

3. Dr. Tom Constable, Notes on John, 2015 Edition,pg. 232.

4. J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, 5 vols. Pasadena, Calif.: Thru The Bible Radio; and Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1983, 4:444.

The Providence of God or the Plots of Man? Part 4

“Then they sought Jesus…” John 11:56a

We are learning from the conflict over the raising of Lazarus from the dead (John 11:44-57) how the providence of God and the plans of people work together for God’s glory. So far we have learned that…

– Plans to oppose Christ can arise from fear and jealousy (John 11:45-48).

– God uses the plots of man to accomplish His purposes (John 11:49-53).

– At times we are not meant to face opposition so we can pursue more important relationships (John 11:54).

The final principle we learn from this conflict over Jesus’ miracle is that CHRIST’S CONTROL OVER HIS OWN FUTURE DEMONSTRATES HIS POWER TO CONTROL OURS (John 11:55-57). The apostle John informs us, “And the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went from the country up to Jerusalem before the Passover, to purify themselves.” (John 11:55). The Passover feast “was near,”perhaps two to three weeks away. This is the fourth and final “Passover” that John mentioned in his gospel (cf. 2:13; 5:1; 6:4). The John 5:1 reference to “a feast” is considered to be one of the three pilgrim feasts – Passover, Pentecost, or Tabernacles. I take it to refer to Passover.

The Mosaic Law required that the Jews who had become ritually unclean had “to purify themselves” for one week before participating in this feast (Num. 9:6-14). Therefore “many” of them “went…up to Jerusalem” because Jerusalem is in the mountains and most approaches would require an ascent in elevation. They went at least one week“before” the feast began to “purify themselves” ceremonially so they could participate in the Passover. According to the Mishnah (the first major written redaction of the Jewish oral traditions known as the “Oral Torah”),  this cleansing was done by immersion in a ritual bath called a miqueh (Mikua’ot 4.1). 2

From the time of Israel’s redemption from Egypt, the annual slaying of the Passover lamb looked forward to the Lamb of God (John 1:29) who, by His sacrifice (John 11:50-51), would provide redemption for those in bondage to sin. “Then they sought Jesus, and spoke among themselves as they stood in the temple, ‘What do you think—that He will not come to the feast?’ ” (John 11:56). Instead of paying attention to the rituals of purification for the Passover, the multitudes directed their attention toward the Person of Jesus Christ (“they sought Jesus”). Throngs of people were standing in the temple buzzing about whether Jesus would come to the feast. Their question expects a negative answer. 3 “No, Christ would not dare to come to the Passover feast! He is not that foolish!” is the expected response. The reason the crowd did not expect Jesus to come is given in the next verse.

What about us? Do we seek Jesus in our daily lives or do we focus on our religious traditions or rituals? Do we try to purify ourselves through acts of penance or prayers, or do we seek a love relationship with the Person of Jesus Christ Who alone can purify us from the inside out? Trying to reform ourselves through external observances will lead either to pride as we deceive ourselves into thinking we are superior to others through our own performance or it will lead to discouragement as we constantly fail to measure up to unattainable standards. Either way, religious rules and regulations fail to transform our sinful hearts. Only Jesus can transform our wounded and wicked hearts into that which is new and noble (cf. Ezekiel 36:26-27; John 7:37-39; Hebrews 8:10; 9:11-15; 10:10-18).

“Now both the chief priests and the Pharisees had given a command, that if anyone knew where He was, he should report it, that they might seize Him.” (John 11:57). The Sanhedrin had issued a command that anyone who knew of Jesus’ whereabouts should report it so “they might seize Him.”  Silence about Christ’s whereabouts meant complicity with Christ and could be punishable. The religious leaders desperately wanted Christ arrested so they would not lose their positions or their following.

Jesus was not going to be arrested before His appointed hour. Repeatedly in the gospel of John, the religious leaders had sought to arrest and kill the Lord (John 5:18; 7:6, 8, 30, 44-45; 8:20, 59; 10:31, 39), but Jesus was not to be apprehended until His appointed time. He had control of His future.

Remember I said in Part 1 that martial law had been declared all over the southern region of the Philippines called Mindanao? Was this because of God’s providence or the plans of sinful people? I believe the answer is both. Let me explain.

Before the fighting broke out on Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017, one of my dear pastor friends was preaching the gospel at film showings the weekend before (May 20-21), in a province next to the province where the fighting broke out. He planned to stay in that province until Wednesday, May 24th. But while preaching the gospel to those hostile toward Jesus Christ, he became very sick. He texted me asking for prayer. So my wife and I began to pray, asking God to supernaturally heal him. But instead of getting better, his condition became worse. I asked the Lord, “Father, don’t You want him to get better so he can reach more of these people in this very dark area of the Philippines?” But my friend’s condition continued to worsen, so much so, that he had to go to his home in another province where he was admitted into the hospital for treatment. Fortunately, he recovered. My wife and I both realized that perhaps the reason he became so sick, was so the Lord could move him out of this critical area to a place of safety. God used this sickness to move our pastor friend, otherwise, he may have become a target in a very volatile area of Mindanao.

Christ continually demonstrated during His earthly ministry that He was in control of His future by not allowing the religious authorities to apprehend Him before His appointed time. Do you believe Jesus has control of your future? If not, there may be some issues that need to be resolved so you can trust Him with what lies ahead. For those who have felt out of control when growing up, it may be more difficult to believe that God is in control now. God will work with you where you are at. Maybe you have some unmet needs and you are not sure how they will be met. Christ knows how to meet them and He will take care of you if you will surrender to His control.

While writing this original message in my upstairs study on Thursday, May 25th, 2017, we were having a major thunderstorm in the Metro Manila area of the Philippines. There were huge cracks of thunder and lightning. Some made me wince as they boomed across the sky. I was interrupted by our helper who came upstairs with our dogs. The dogs were terrified by the loud booms and our helper said they were scratching at our screen door to come in, so she let them in. I told her, “It’s okay. They can stay up here in my study.” As the storm got louder, the dogs kept nudging me with their noses to get closer to me as I sat at my desk writing. So eventually I gave in and sat on the floor with them as they crawled onto my lap. I then sang a song to them that used to calm me during storms in my life. The lyrics are as follows:

“I don’t know about tomorrow; It may bring me poverty But the one who feeds the sparrow, Is the one who stands by me. And the path that is my portion, Maybe through the flame or flood; But His presence goes before me. And I’m covered with His blood.

Chorus:

“Many things about tomorrow, I don’t seem to understand. But I know who holds tomorrow And I know who holds my hand.”

After I sang this song to my dogs, they quieted down and eventually I let them back outside when the storm had passed. And then I did a little research about the songwriter of this song. His name was Ira Stanphill.

“In 1936, Ira launched his own revival campaign. It concluded in Springfield, Missouri, where he agreed to pastor a congregation. In Springfield, he met Zelma Lawson. She too had musical skills. They married in 1939. Together, they wrote the song ‘Room at the Cross for You,’ which they sang as a duet. Their voices rang out together on the chorus, ‘Tho’ millions have come, there’s still room for one. Yes, there’s room at the cross for you.

“However, Zelma began drifting away from the cross. She started attending nightclubs and seeing other men. She eventually filed for divorce. Zelma remarried and began singing in the nightclubs. Ira eventually gained custody of their son, Raymond. In 1951, a car accident took Zelma’s life.

“Between the divorce and Zelma’s death, Ira reached a personal low in his life. Some criticized him for continuing to preach after his divorce. The voices inside Ira’s head and heart were equally severe. He pondered the direction of his future.

“One day, driving to the church he served at the time, Ira poured out his feelings to God. By the time he reached the church, God had birthed a new song in his heart. The experience didn’t give Ira all the answers he wanted, but it gave him the total trust in God he needed. In the decades since, many have experienced fresh faith for the future upon singing or hearing the song, ‘I Know Who Holds Tomorrow.’ The song’s essence is in the words, ‘Many things about tomorrow, I don’t seem to understand; but I know who holds tomorrow, and I know who holds my hand.’ ” 4

Do you have doubts about your future? Are you uncertain of where God may be leading you? Do you sometimes wonder how God can be in control when life seems so out of control? Then remember Ira’s song. “Many things about tomorrow, I don’t seem to understand; but I know who holds tomorrow, and I know who holds my hand.” Do you know who holds your hand? If not, He is waiting to take your hand if you would trust in Him alone for His free gift of eternal life. Then He can lead you as a faithful and loving Shepherd.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, many things happen in this life – tragic things – that cause me to pause at times and question if You are truly in control. Thank You for bringing me back to You this morning. During Your earthly ministry You constantly demonstrated Your control over Your own future which guarantees Your power to control my future. When life seems out of control, the best thing I can do is to seek You and hold out my hand for You to take and lead me as my faithful and loving Shepherd. As Ira’s song says, “Many things about tomorrow, I don’t seem to understand; but I know Who holds tomorrow, and I know Who holds my hand.” Here is my hand, Lord Jesus. In Your loving name I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Harold W. Hoehner, Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1970), pg. 59.

2. William Sanfords La Sor, “Discovering What Jewih Miqua’ot Can Tell Us About Christian Baptism,” Biblical Archaeology Review (January/February 1987): 52-59.

3. Τί δοκεῖ ὑμῖν ὅτι οὐ μὴ ἔλθῃ εἰς τὴν ἑορτήν?

4.   https://lights4god.wordpress.com/2012/02/14/ira-stanphill/.