How can I overcome spiritual blindness? Part 4

“Since the world began it has been unheard of that anyone opened the eyes of one who was born blind. If this Man were not from God, He could do nothing.” John 9:32-33

In this article we will discover another symptom and solution concerning spiritual blindness. Since the religious leaders could get nowhere with the healed man’s parents, they decide to talk to the former blind man a second time. “So they again called the man who was blind, and said to him, ‘Give God the glory! We know that this Man is a sinner.’ ”(John 9:24). In the Pharisees’ minds, since the Law forbid working on the Sabbath and Jesus healed on the Sabbath, Jesus was a sinner. They tell the former blind man to “Give God the glory by telling the truth about Jesus – He is a sinner. Jesus just put clay on your eyes and told you to wash. God is the One who healed you,” they were saying. These religious leaders were trying to pressure everyone to be biased against Jesus by already determining (“we know”) that Jesus was “a sinner.”

According to those who are spiritually blind, to give God glory a person must call Jesus a sinner! How strange indeed is the thinking of the spiritually blind. The former blind man answered and said, ‘Whether He is a sinner or not I do not know. One thing I know: that though I was blind, now I see.’ ” (John 9:25). The healed man chose not to speculate about Jesus’ sinfulness. Rather than listen to the theological errors of the Pharisees, he focused on the truth. He knew that he had been blind but now he can see. No theological argument could change that. Regardless of a believer’s understanding of the nature of Christ’s Person, he or she can always testify to the way Jesus has changed his or her life.

Sometimes the best way to present the gospel to a non-Christian is through a personal testimony. Arguments for the existence of God and Christian apologetics have their place, but few arguments are as powerful as a personal testimony which describes how God’s grace has transformed one’s life.

“Then they said to him again, ‘What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?’ ” (John 9:26). The Pharisees asked the man to repeat his story again hoping to find a contradiction.Four times in this conversation the religious leaders asked the man how he gained his sight (cf. John 9:10, 15, 19, 26). Spiritually blind people are usually more concerned about the way a miracle was performed than they are about the person who performed the miracle.

“He answered them, ‘I told you already, and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become His disciples?’ ” (John 9:27). The relentless questioning of these religious experts exhausted the man’s patience. Realizing they were not wanting to know the truth but to acquire information to use against Jesus, the former blind man sarcastically asks if their request meant that they had a change of heart. Did they want to become His disciples like he had become? This man was not intimidated by these religious leaders because his testimony was based upon the truth.

The Pharisees realized the man saw through their ploy to unjustly condemn Jesus, so they verbally abused (“reviled”) him. “Then they reviled him and said, ‘You are His disciple, but we are Moses’ disciples.’ ” (John 9:28). The Pharisees were so proud to think that they were right. Ironically, Jesus was more of a disciple of Moses than these Pharisees were. But the Pharisees could not believe Jesus was from God because in their estimation, Jesus broke God’s Law (actually their laws) when He healed the man on the Sabbath.

They continued, “We know that God spoke to Moses; as for this fellow, we do not know where He is from.” (John 9:29).Christ’s critics knew that God spoke to Moses and sent him, but they did not know by whom Jesus was sent. They boasted in what they knew about Moses just like many people today will boast about what they know to attempt to put themselves in a superior position to those who know Jesus. For example, when I was in college, an unbelieving religion professor said, “We all know, of course, that Jesus never claimed to be God.” By adding that little phrase, “of course,” he was insinuating, “Anyone with half a brain would know that what I am saying is true.” As a young believer at that time, I felt too intimidated to question his opinions in class.

The Pharisees would not follow Christ because they did not know His origin. Their ignorance of His origin was not due to a lack of information about Jesus because He had already revealed enough for them to know this (cf. John 5-8). Their ignorance of Christ’s origin was due to a willful rejection of Christ. Such is the case with non-Christians today. Their ignorance is not due to a lack of evidence concerning the identity of Jesus Christ. It is due to their willful rejection of Him.

The former blind man teaches these proud religious leaders, “Why, this is a marvelous thing, that you do not know where He is from; yet He has opened my eyes!” (John 9:30). Although his parents were afraid to speak the truth to the Pharisees, this man boldly challenges their illogical thinking! It is like he is saying, “Your ignorance of Jesus’ origin is more of a miracle than my cure! You are the experts and you do not know where my Healer is from?!” Their disbelief was incredible to him in light of the evidence!

This is the fourth symptom of spiritual blindness – DELIBERATELY REJECT CHRIST DESPITE OVERWHELMING EVIDENCE ABOUT HIS IDENTITY (John 9:24-30). It is amazing how blind people can be to the truth about Jesus Christ. This is a heart issue not an intellectual issue. This incredible miracle should have overwhelmingly convinced the Jewish leaders of Christ’s identity, yet they denied this truth.

Even today unbelievers remain skeptical of the truth of Jesus Christ until the Holy Spirit causes them to see their need for Jesus. Until God removes the spiritual veil that blinds them to the truth about Jesus, they will not embrace Christ even though the evidence overwhelmingly points to Him as a supernatural Person!

The former blind man continues to teach the Pharisees by giving them a lesson on logic. “Now we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him.” (John 9:31). When the healed man says, “We know,” he is referring to himself, the Pharisees, and the community. “We know that God does not hear sinners. He hears the righteous! If God does not hear sinners, then how could Jesus perform this miracle if He were a sinner?!” His logical argument in this verse can be summarized in this way:

1. Only God could heal congenital blindness.

2. Jesus healed congenital blindness.

3. Jesus must be from God.

Then the former blind man said, “Since the world began it has been unheard of that anyone opened the eyes of one who was born blind. If this Man were not from God, He could do nothing.” (John 9:32-33). The healing of a man born blind was never heard of. “Jesus could not have healed me, a healing unparalleled in history, unless He were from God. How else do you explain such supernatural activity, if it is not from God?” It is also amazing that this former blind man was able to see things so clearly in contrast to the Pharisees who were so prejudiced against Jesus. While there was no record in history up to that time of a person blind from birth being healed, the Old Testament did prophesy that the Messiah-God would heal the blind (Isaiah 29:18; 35:5; 42:7).

This is the third way to overcome spiritual blindness – DISCERN THE TRUTH FROM ERROR (John 9:31-33). Instead of yielding to the error of the Pharisees, the beggar used reason and logic to hold fast to the truth and concluded that Jesus was from God.

What about you? Does your family or religious community question what Jesus has done in your life because they refuse to embrace the truth about Christ? Do their emotions or traditions guide their decisions about Jesus instead of logic, reason, and truth? Please know that their skeptical response to what Jesus has done in your life does not make it any less true. Truth is not truth because people vote on it. Truth is truth based on what God has revealed.

In John’s Gospel, Jesus repeatedly claims to have been sent by God the Father to reveal the Father to us. John stated, “No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.” (John 1:18). Jesus tells Philip, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” (John 14:9). God’s revelation of Himself to us centers in the Person of Jesus Christ, which we have in the written eyewitness testimony of the apostles. True spiritual knowledge of God is founded on knowing Jesus Christ, whom the Father sent to reveal Himself to us. Anything else is mere speculation.

Many years ago the head of a rescue mission in London accepted the challenge to debate a well-known skeptic, but with this condition: he would bring with him one hundred people who would tell how believing in Jesus changed their lives. He invited his opponent to counter with witnesses to the benefits of unbelief. On the appointed day the believer came with his one hundred witnesses, but the skeptic never showed up. (Our Daily Bread, 1999).

Your testimony about how Jesus has changed your life is one of the most powerful testimonies to those who are dying in their sins. Do not let the bullies and lies of this world keep you from sharing it. Christ is counting on you and the unsaved world needs you.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, knowing You and making You known go together. The more I know You, the more I long for people to know You. Whether they be my intellectual superiors or not, I must share what You have done in my life because apart from You, they cannot know God the Father. They cannot have everlasting life. And they cannot be set free from the darkness that keeps them in bondage to sin. In Your name. Amen.

Who are the witnesses who back up Christ’s claim to be equal with God? Part 1

“There is another who bears witness of Me, and I know that the witness which He witnesses of Me is true.” John 5:32

In the first part of John chapter 5, Jesus had healed a man on the Sabbath and the Jews sought to kill Him all the more because He not only broke their Sabbath traditions, but He also claimed to be equal with God (John 5:1-18). When people heard Jesus’ claims, many of them asked, “How do we know He is telling the truth? What evidence does He give?” Knowing their hearts and minds, Jesus proceeds to call upon five witnesses to back up His claim to be equal with God.

Jesus said, “If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true.” (John 5:31). It is not Christ’s testimony which is false, it is the demand for more than one witness which is the issue. According to Jewish law, self-testimony was not accepted in the court of law (Deuteronomy 19:15). There must be witnesses who will confirm another’s testimony. After all, we live in a fallen age, so when people claim many things for themselves, we don’t know whether to believe them or not, because we cannot trust everybody – it would be naive to do so.

One of the things I have observed over the years in ministry is that people can hear the truth right out of the Scriptures for years and years and never seem to get it, until they hear it from another voice. That is why it is a good thing to have other speakers come to a church at times. Having said that, let’s look at the first witness that Jesus calls upon to back up His claim to be God.

GOD THE FATHER (John 5:32, 37-38). “There is another who bears witness of Me, and I know that the witness which He witnesses of Me is true.” (John 5:32). The word “another” (allos) means “of the same kind as Myself.” Jesus is referring to God the Father Who has the same divine nature as Christ. The reason Jesus is so bold about His equality with God is because He is conscious of His Father’s continual confidence and support. I am reminded of a story about an eight-year-old boy who stands up to some teenage bullies on the playground because his 6’ 6” 300 lbs. dad is standing right behind him.

The Father’s testimony is explained further: “And the Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form.” (John 5:37).  The verb “testified” (memartyrēken) is in the perfect tense which means that the Father’s testimony of His Son was completed in the past but continues to impact people in the present. This may be a reference to the Father’s witness when He spoke from heaven at Jesus’s baptism: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17). The Father’s testimony that Jesus is His Son validates Christ’s claim to be equal with God. Jesus has the same divine nature as His Father.

The religious leaders, like many today, had closed their ears to the Father’s testimony. Because of their unbelief, these Jews have never “heard His voice… nor seen His form.” (John 5:37b). The Father’s witness is only accessible to those who believe in His Son. “But you do not have His word abiding in you, because whom He sent, Him you do not believe.” (John 5:38). These religious leaders are ignorant of God the Father’s testimony of Jesus because of their unbelief. So Jesus’s claim to be God is valid because there is no higher court of appeal than God the Father Himself.

Like Jesus, we can have more confidence in witnessing to others when we realize that God the Father is on our side. “The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (Psalm 118:6). God watches our back when we are doing His work. Since no one is more powerful than God, we do not have to be afraid of what people think or do.

In between my second and third year of seminary, I had an evangelism internship in the inner city of Dallas, Texas. I would go house to house or apartment to apartment sharing the gospel with pimps, prostitutes, drug dealers, and addicts. Knowing that my heavenly Father was on my side and would not abandon me, emboldened me to go to some “shady” places. I praise God for His faithfulness to keep me safe during that time.

Prayer: Gracious heavenly Father, thank You for Your testimony which validates Jesus’s claim to be equal with You. Knowing that You are on my side emboldens me to proclaim that Jesus is God and He alone can give everlasting life as an absolutely free gift to those who believe in Him. Like the Jews of Jesus’s day, many people do not hear Your testimony about Christ because of their unbelief toward Him. In these coming days and weeks, I pray You will soften their hearts to believe that Jesus is God so they may hear Your voice concerning Him and receive His never-ending life. In Jesus’s name. Amen.   

How can we experience God’s life-giving Word? Part 2

“Then Jesus said to him, ‘Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe.’” John 4:48

Another way we can experience God’s life-giving Word is THROUGH TRUSTING CHRIST’S POWER (John 4:43-48). “Now after the two days He departed from there and went to Galilee. For Jesus Himself testified that a prophet has no honor in his own country. So when He came to Galilee, the Galileans received Him.” (John 4:43-45a). Christ wasn’t born in Galilee, but He was raised there in Nazareth and now made His home in the lakeside town of Capernaum in Galilee. So, He was somewhat surprised by the hospitality of the Galileans. He never received any honor in His own country. He was trained at home as a carpenter with no formal theological education. He had received very little recognition as a qualified Rabbi; much less a prophet of God. But now these Galileans were very receptive to Him. Why?

“…Having seen all the things He did in Jerusalem at the feast; for they also had gone to the feast.” (John 4:45b). They had witnessed the power of Christ through the miracles He had performed at the Passover in Jerusalem. They welcomed Jesus as the Miracle-Worker. But He was more than that – He was the Messiah-God, the Savior of the world, whose Word could create an inexhaustible well of life in every heart that believed in Him (John 4:10-14). The Samaritans learned this by listening to Him talk. But the Galileans (Jews) had to see miracles first before they could trust in Him.

“So Jesus came again to Cana of Galilee where He had made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman whose son was sick at Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to Him and implored Him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death.” (John 4:46-47). There was a lot of talk about Jesus in Cana of Galilee because of the spectacular miracle whereby “He made water wine.”(John 2:1-11). And a certain royal official heard about Jesus’ miracles, and so he approached Christ after traveling eighteen miles from his home in Capernaum. His son was desperately sick. He was afraid that his son would die at any moment, so he begged Jesus to make the eighteen miles journey to heal his son.

But look at Jesus’ response. “Then Jesus said to him, ‘Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe.’” (John 4:48). This seems harsh at first, doesn’t it? The “you” (idēte) is plural. He’s talking to a group of people, not just the nobleman. The Galileans were unlike the Samaritans. They needed to see a miracle before they would believe Jesus’ Word. In Sychar, Jesus’ Word had been enough. But in Galilee, the Jews could not believe in Christ without miracles (cf. I Corinthians 1:22-23).

There are people like that all around the world. It is not enough for them to hear the Word of God.They need to see the power of God. And the greatest display of God’s power is a changed life. God calls all believers to live a life that honors Him. But you know what? It’s impossible for you to live the Christian life in and of yourself. You can’t do it in your own strength. But the good news is that God doesn’t expect you to. Instead, He wants to live through you. Only through Christ’s power can we love our enemies… forgive… practice self-control…. and be a positive witness. Only through His power can we find hope and healing.

Prayer: Lord God, there are many people around the world like the Galileans who need to see Your power before they believe in Jesus alone for eternal life. But there are also people like the Samaritans who only need Your Word to believe in Christ alone for salvation. Please use Your word and my actions to influence non-Christians to come to faith in Jesus alone. I cannot live a God-honoring life in my own strength, Lord. I need You to live Your life through me so others will be drawn to Christ in me. Thank You for hearing my prayer. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Jesus meets skeptics where they are at

“Nathanael said to Him, ‘How do You know me?’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.’” John 1:48

The next day, Jesus “found Philip” who then “found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.’ ” (John 1:43-45). Nathanael is a little more skeptical than the other men who came to Jesus (cf. John 1:37-44). He does not respond in immediate faith. Nathanael said to Philip, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46a).

So what does Philip do? Does he give up or argue? “Philip said to him, ‘Come and see.’ ” (John 1:46b). Philip does not give up or argue with Nathanael, he does the only thing he knows to do. He says, “Come and seefor yourself. I don’t have all the answers, but come and meet Jesus. Then you will see what I’m talking about.

As Nathanael approaches, Jesus builds him up: “Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him, and said of him, ‘Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!’ ” (John 1:47). Jesus is saying,“I know you Nathanael for who you are and you are a man of integrity.” Nathanael is surprised that Jesus would say this, so he says to Him, “How do You know me?” (John 1:48a). Nathanael is amazed because he has never met Jesus before and knows of no reason why Jesus would know his character so well.

Jesus draws Nathanael in when He says to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” (John 1:48b). Jesus saw Nathanael’s heart as well as his presence under the tree. Perhaps Nathanael was praying or reading the Bible under that fig tree. Jesus is saying, “Nathanael, I know who you are. I know everything there is to know about you. I know what you think and where you go and what you do. And I want to have a relationship with you.”

How do you think Nathanael responds? “Nathanael answered and said to Him, ‘Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!’ ” (John 1:49). Nathanael places his faith in Jesus. “Only the Son of God could know this. You must be Him!” And to believe that Jesus is the Son of God results in eternal life. John 20:31 says, “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”

Jesus replies to Nathanael, Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.’ And He said to him, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” (John 1:50-51). Jesus is saying, “I am glad you believed, but you believed because I gave you a miraculous sign. But Nathanael, you have seen nothing yet. You are going to see greater signs than these.” Verse 51 refers to Jesus’ Second Coming to earth as King. Jesus has already shown His supernatural knowledge, but when He comes the second time He will show His supernatural power. When Christ comes back as King, the Bible says, “Let all the angels of God worship Him. And of the angels He says: ‘Who makes His angels spirits and His ministers a flame of fire.’ ” (Hebrews 1:6-7).

No matter how skeptical a person may be about Christianity, just introduce them to Jesus and let Him do the rest. You and I cannot change people, but we can introduce them to the One who can. Jesus takes Simon and makes him Peter, a rock or leader of leaders. Jesus takes the doubter and transforms him into a devoted follower. He takes the sinner and makes him a saint. Jesus takes the drunkard and makes him sober. Jesus takes the prostitute and makes her pure. Jesus takes the worrier and gives him peace. He takes the spiritually blind and makes her see. Jesus takes the dirty and makes him clean. Jesus changes lives.

God wants to use ordinary people like you and me all around the world to introduce people to Jesus. You may think you do not have what it takes to do that. All Jesus asks of you is to tell people the truth about Him. He will do the rest.

If you are reading this article and you can identify with Nathanael’s skepticism, please know that Jesus loves you and He will meet you where you are at. He will provide answers to your questions if you are willing to listen. He may come to you in unexpected ways such as through a dream or a vision or even through a child. He knows everything about you – your likes and dislikes. Your sorrows and your joys. Your thoughts, actions, and words. He knows the hidden wounds of your heart. He knows the dark secrets in the depths of your soul, and He still loves you and He longs to be in a personal relationship with you.  

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for pursuing me when I was lost in the darkness of my own sin and shame. Thank You for providing answers to the deep questions of my soul. Lord I am very concerned about those who are like Nathanael. They are skeptical about You. They need evidence for their skeptical minds. They need answers for their hurting hearts and they need a relationship with You for their fragmented souls. As You did with me, please meet them where they are at. Reveal Yourself and Your power to them in a way that leaves no room for doubt about Your identity. Show them Lord Jesus, that You are the Son of God, the King of Israel, Who will give them everlasting life the moment they believe in You. Thank You my Lord and my God for hearing my prayer. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

How to be greatly used by God – Part 4

“I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’” John 1:33

If God is going to greatly use us, we must recognize who we are not (John 1:19-21), who we are (John 1:22-23), and point others to Jesus Christ (John 1:24-29). This is what John the Baptist continues to do.

He pointed others to Jesus by telling them about Jesus’ Pre-existence. “This is He of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me.’” (John 1:30). John returns to a statement he made earlier in John 1:15 regarding the pre-existence of the Son of God. He wants his audience to understand that the Lamb of God is more than a man laying down His life for a good cause. The One who died to take away the sin of the world was none other than the eternal Word who has always existed (John 1:1-2). Even though John the Baptist was born six months prior to Jesus (Luke 1:26, 36), John says, “He was before me.” Jesus was always before John in His Pre-existent state as God. Christ is God without beginning or end (I John 5:20; Revelation 1:17; 22:13).

If we are going to be greatly used by God, we need to be able to tell others of Jesus’ Pre-existence as God. We must recognize how great Jesus is! We are not worthy to be mentioned in the same sentence with Him. Because Jesus is eternal, He can give life that never ends to those who believe in Him (John 11:25-26).

The next way John pointed others to Jesus was to tell them of Christ’s deity. The Baptist refers back to that moment at Jesus’ baptism when it was revealed that Jesus was the chosen Messiah. “‘31 I did not know Him; but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water. 32 And John bore witness, saying, ‘I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him. 33 I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit’” (John 1:31-33).

Do you remember what happened at Jesus’ baptism? The Spirit descended in the form of a dove upon Jesus to confirm Him as the Messiah and the Father testified from Heaven, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:16-17). God approved the ministry of Jesus. Thus, while John baptizes with water, Jesus will baptize with the Holy Spirit. He is the Giver of the Spirit. Jesus came that people might be brought into contact with the Holy Spirit.

Since the fall of man in Genesis 3, people have longed to be free from the struggle with evil. Some of us today wish we could eliminate our struggle with sin, selfishness, and self-centeredness. There have been times when I wished I could have had a surgical operation to remove my tendency to be stubborn, critical, and selfish. When I saw the hurt I caused, I wished somehow to be able to stop doing those kinds of things.

The Bible tells us that it takes God Himself to do that. The work of the Spirit is to do that very thing. What John is saying is, “I deal with the external…that is as far as I can go. But, when I baptized Jesus, I saw the Spirit coming down like a dove and lighting on His shoulder. The One who sent me to baptize had said to me, ‘When you see that happening, that is the One who will not only change men outside, but will change them on the inside, by the baptism of the Holy Spirit.’ When that happened, I knew who He was. My own cousin, Jesus of Nazareth, was the one who would baptize with the Holy Spirit.”

When we believe in Jesus, God the Holy Spirit places us in the body of Christ, the Church (John 7:39; I Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:26-27). That is Spirit Baptism. He comes to live inside of us and wash us clean. He gives us the power to overcome sin in our lives as we depend upon Him. Water baptism, however, does not cleanse you spiritually. When we baptize believers, we do it by immersion because Jesus was baptized that way. Why was Jesus baptized? Did He need to be saved? No. He was perfect. He was baptized because it pleased His Father in heaven and provided an example for us to follow. Christ was also baptized with water to begin His public ministry. So every time a believer is baptized with water, it puts a smile on God’s face and it initiates that believer into the discipleship process whereby he or she begins to minister to others (Matthew 28:19-20).

In the Old Testament, the animals sacrificed by the Israelite worshiper had to be “without blemish” (Leviticus 1:3, 10; 3:1, 6; 4:3, 23, 28, 32; 5:15, 18; 6:6; 9:2-3; 14:10; 22:19; 23:12, 18) which was a foreshadowing of the perfect sacrifice of the Lamb of God. In order for the Lamb of God to be a perfect sacrifice, He had to be sinless. The only way this could be possible, was for the Lamb of God to be fully God and fully Man.

Is it any wonder then that John’s public testimony climaxes in his identification of Jesus as the Son of God. “And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God” (John 1:34). John wants his audience to know that the Lamb of God is more than a man laying down his life for someone. The Lamb of God is God in human flesh. He is fully human and fully God. He is the One who was with God and who was God (John 1:1-2). This is the only way He could be the perfect sacrifice for the sin of the world (John 1:29).

What a testimony this was from John the Baptist! What a witness! What a voice! John points people to Jesus. He recognizes that it is not about him. He understands both who he is not (the Christ) and who he is (a voice). He understands his role: point people to Jesus.

Understand who Jesus is, so that you might believe on Him, and believing you might have life in His name (John 20:31). Recognize who you are not. This takes humility. Also recognize who you are. This takes confidence. You are a voice, a highway builder. Tell others of Jesus. Do not be ashamed. We are to be like bird dogs. As they point to a group of birds, we are to point people to Jesus, who is the eternal and perfect Lamb of God.

A father and his small son strolled down the street in Chicago past the place where a skyscraper was being constructed. Glancing up, they saw men at work on a high story of the building. “Father,” said the little boy, “What are those little boys doing up there?” “Those are not little boys, son. They’re grown men.” “But why do they look so small?” “Because they’re so high,” his father answered. After a pause the boy asked, “Then, Father, when they get to heaven there won’t be anything left of them, will there?” It’s so true, the closer we get to Christ, the less others see of us and the more they see of Him. Point them to Jesus.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, help me not to lose sight of who You are in the midst of this crazy world.My heart was deeply touched by the contrast between John’s baptism with water and Your baptism with the Holy Spirit. You are far more concerned with my heart than you are my appearance. You are in the business of changing lives from the inside out. When the Father said to You at Your baptism, “This is My beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased,” I think this is something every boy longs to hear from his own earthly father, but they often don’t. Jesus, please help me to hear the Father’s voice saying to me, “I love you and I am very proud of you.” That is the cry of my heart, Lord. In fact, I believe it is the cry of many hearts belonging to men. I want to grow closer to You, Jesus, so others will see more of You and less of me. I love You, Lamb of God. Thank You for always having time for me. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

How to be used greatly by God – Part 3

“The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, ‘Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!’” John 1:29

If God is going to greatly use us, we must not only recognize who we are not (John 1:19-21) and who we are (John 1:22-23), but we must also point others to Jesus Christ (John 1:24-29). This is what John the Baptist does next.

After John’s examiners basically ask him what gives him the right to baptize (John 1:24-25), John points them to Jesus. “I baptize with water, but there stands One among you whom you do not know. It is He who, coming after me, is preferred before me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose.” (John 1:26-27). John is saying,“This is not about me. It is not about the rite of baptism. It is not about by whose authority I baptize. It is all about Jesus.” John’s interest is in Christ and Christ alone. In accordance with the gospel of John’s purpose (John 20:31), John the Baptist’s testimony tells us who Jesus is.

So first, John tells us about Jesus’ greatness (John 1:26-27). John informs these religious leaders that there is one who stands in their midst, who they do not know, whose sandals he is not worthy to unlace (John 1:26-27). Loosing another’s sandal was the most menial of tasks. Only the lowest slaves would loosen sandals. Even disciples were not asked to loosen the sandals of their teachers. Yet John says, “I am unworthy to do the single most humbling task—loosen His sandals.” Why? Because of His greatness.    

Throughout this passage we see John’s humility. As the introducer to Jesus, John possessed a tremendous privilege. God trusts the humble with great privileges because He knows they will not receive any glory for themselves. They will give God the glory. If you want God to use you greatly, you must get out of His way and humbly follow Him.

Second, John tells us of Jesus’ sacrifice (John 1:29). John’s public testimony continues the following day. As the Baptizer ministers, he sees Jesus coming toward him and makes one of the great statements of the New Testament. “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). What is John saying here? If you read through the Old Testament, you will find it is filled with many blood sacrifices. Abel, the son of Adam, offered a lamb to God and God smiled upon that sacrifice (Genesis 4:4). Later Abraham made offerings to God (Genesis 15:9-21). Then the children of Israel were instructed to sacrifice a lamb and sprinkle its blood on their doorposts, so the angel of death would pass over their family without killing the firstborn (Exodus 12:1-28). Israelites were also taught at the foot of Mount Sinai to bring certain animals to slay and to offer the blood and meat of those animals to God (Exodus 20:24).

Many are offended by the fact that the Old Testament is replete with animal sacrifices,  of actual blood being spilled. Every morning and every evening there were animals slain in the temple in Jerusalem. On the great feast days of Israel thousands of animals were sacrificed. A stream of blood runs all through the Old Testament.

Every sacrifice was a testimony that Someone was coming who would supply that explanation. Now, at last, there is an answer to the cry of Isaac, as Abraham his father was taking him upon the mountain to offer him, “Where is the lamb?” and Abraham replied, “God will provide for Himself the lamb” (Genesis 22:7-8). Centuries later, as John sees Jesus coming toward him, knowing who He was, having baptized Him six weeks earlier, he says to the crowd, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). Here is the One who will satisfy God’s demand to punish our sins.

John states that the sacrifice of this Lamb “takes away” the sin of the world. The verb used here (airōn) symbolizes more than just “covering” (to cover something means it is still there). When John says the Lamb of God takes away the sin of the world, it means that He removes it.         

When I shared this message in a church in South Des Moines, Iowa, we had an individual wearing a T-shirt with the word “SIN” taped on it. They tried praying and reading their Bible, but the “SIN” label was still there. The person tried to wear a jacket to cover the sin. Others may not see his sin, but God still sees it. Another person came representing Jesus. The “SIN” label was then placed on him. This was the only way his sin could be removed.

Only Jesus’ blood can remove the stain of sin in our lives. No amount of good living on our part can remove the stain. “But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). When God looks at the good things we think, say, and do, He sees that they are all stained with sin. Only Jesus can remove the stain of our sin through His shed blood. This is why John the Baptist pointed people to Jesus, the Lamb of God. And so must we.

Furthermore, Jesus’ sacrifice is sufficient for “the sin of the world” (John 1:29b). It is comprehensive in its nature. In other words, when Jesus died, His sacrifice was completely adequate for the needs of all people. It was sufficient for all. Listen to what the Bible says about Jesus’ sufficient sacrifice:

We have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.” I John 2:1-2. The word “propitiation” refers to God’s satisfaction with Jesus’ death being the full payment for all of our sins.

11 But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. 12 Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, 14 how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” Hebrews 9:11-14 

“He [Jesus] has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.” Hebrews 9:26

“ But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God… For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.” Hebrews 10:12, 14

My wife shared something with me today at lunch that really touched me. You can see her insights in the picture above. The horizontal cross beam reminds us of what Psalm 103:12 says, “As far as the east is from the west,
so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” The cross of Jesus provides the basis for removing our sins as far as the east is from the west, far out of our reach. The vertical post of the cross points to Micah 7:19 which says, “You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.” The cross provides the basis of casting our our sins out of our sight into the depths of the sea.

To receive the benefits of Jesus’ sufficient sacrifice, you must believe or trust in Him as your Savior from sin. No further sacrifice is required. Christ’s sacrifice was all that is needed. We are told that His sacrifice is substitutionary (Romans 5:8; I Corinthians 15:3-4) and sufficient (Hebrews 9:11-10:14; I John 2:2).

Have you believed in Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, to take away your sins? If not, why not believe or trust in Him now for His unlimited forgiveness (Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 2:13-14)? The apostle Peter invited a religious man named Cornelius to believe in Christ for forgiveness: “All the prophets say it is true that all who believe in Jesus will be forgiven of their sins through Jesus’ name.” (Acts 10:43). Does the word “all” include you? Yes. It includes everyone from every nation, tribe, and language group. Jesus loves everyone and He died for everyone (John 3:16; I Timothy 2:3-6) so that everyone may be forgiven of all their sin if they will come to Him on His terms. What are His terms? Jesus said to “believe in Him” (John 3:15-18; cf. John 6:40; 11:25-26; Acts 10:43). Stop trusting in yourself or your good life and trust in Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, to take away your sins forever!

If you just believed in Jesus for His forgiveness of all your sins, the Bible says your sins are forgiven – past, present, and future (Acts 10:43; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 2:13-14; Revelation 1:5). All your sins are removed beyond your reach as far as the east is from the west (Psalms 103:12). They are cast out of your sight into the deepest part of the sea (Micah 7:19). Nothing, including your guilt and shame, can separate you from the love of God (Romans 8:38-39)! God is now your Father and you are His child forever (John 1:12; 6:37). God wants to use you now to share this good news with others. Learn to follow Jesus and He will teach you how to fish for men and women, boys and girls with His gospel message (Matthew 4:19).

Being used greatly by God involves knowing who we are not (John 1:19-21), who we are (John 1:22-23), and pointing others to Jesus (John 1:24-29). Lord willing, we will talk more tomorrow about pointing others to Jesus. Until then, may Jesus richly bless you.

Prayer: Precious Lamb of God, thank You for taking my place on the cross to pay the full penalty for my sins. Your sacrifice was sufficient not only for all of my sins, but for the sin of the world. The moment I believed in You and Your sufficient sacrifice for my sins, all of the wrong things I have done, said, and thought were all forgiven and removed from my sight and out of my reach forever! Please use me, Lamb of God, to point others to You by focusing on Your greatness as a Person and Your sufficient sacrifice for the sin of the world. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

How are we to respond when God does not make sense to us?

There are tragic things that happen in life that cause us to ask a familiar question. This question may fall from the lips… of a young mother whose twins are joined at the head… of emergency response crew at the scene of a fatal bus accident…  of flood victims in Manila… of a rescue worker pulling dead bodies from the rubble left by an earthquake… of soldiers whose comrades were ambushed… of COVID-19 frontliners … from our own lips when suffering impacts our lives. “Why?” we ask: “Why me? Why this? IF God is a loving and caring God, why does he allow suffering in my life and in the lives of those I care about and love?” 

The fact of the matter is that sometimes God just doesn’t make sense to us. We may have different backgrounds, goals and motivations. But there is one thing we all have in common: We all know what it means to hurt. Tears are the same for Jews, Muslims, or Christians; for white, black or brown; for children, adults or the elderly. How are we to respond when God doesn’t make sense to us?

Consider Job in the Bible – imagine how he felt when he heard these words… “You’ve lost your livestock, they’ve been stolen. Your sheep were destroyed. Your employees were murdered. Your children were crushed in a freak windstorm – they are dead – all ten of them.” This is how the book of Job begins (Job 1:1-19). One calamity after another strikes this godly father and business man. “Godly?” you may ask. The Bible says, “There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil” (Job 1:1). Job was not perfect, but honest before God. Job’s calamities were connected to a contest between God and Satan. Satan is saying that Job is motivated by self-interest, not love for God. Satan says. “Take away Job’s blessings and he will curse You, God” (Job 1:8-11).

So God gives Satan permission to attack Job’s property. After Job loses his wealth… servants, and children, we read: “Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped. And he said: ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.’ In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong” (Job 1:20-22).  

How many of us would respond the way Job did? When God Doesn’t Make Sense… 1. SURRENDER TO HIS CONTROL (Job 1:1-2:13). How do we do this? First, we grieve. “Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head” (Job 1:20a). These are all expressions of grief. Tears are God’s way of washing away the pain. Second, we worship God. “And he fell to the ground and worshiped” (Job 1:20b). 

When bad things happen, will we grow bitter or will we bow before Almighty God? Focusing on God keeps pain from swallowing our soul and it also brings us to the point of acceptance: “And he said: ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). Job accepted the fact that all his wealth, his employees, even his own children belonged to God – so he surrendered them all to the Lord. He let go. “In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong” (Job 1:22). A person who surrenders to God doesn’t accuse God of wrongdoing. Have you surrendered all that you have to the Lord? 

Satan comes back to God and says, “Sure Job didn’t curse You because You didn’t let me touch his body. Let me afflict his body and he will surely curse You to Your face” (Job 2:1-6)! For example, when I am in good health, I’m a happy man. But when my body is hurting, I’m a grump. Can you identify? 

Now Job is covered with boils from head to toe (Job 2:7). Job’s wife asks Job to do exactly what Satan wants him to do (although she doesn’t realize it) (Job 2:9). Job responds to his wife, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity” (Job 2:10)? This is an incredible response to calamities which were not the result of Job’s personal behavior, but the result of a contest between God and Satan. Job continues to surrender to the Lord  and accepts the good and the bad in his life as part of God’s plan.

Most sermons on Job end right there. If Job had just kept quiet, we would not have the rest of the book. But Job doesn’t remain silent. Job’s three friends come to him and they sit quietly with him “for they saw that his grief was very great” (Job 2:13).

Job doesn’t remain silent, however: “After this Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth” (Job 3:1). When we are hurting physically, we become more vulnerable to despair and depression. After all of his suffering, Job is wishing he had never been born. He is down in the dumps. When Job opens his mouth, it starts a long avalanche of words between Job and his three friends. This time Job is not blameless with his lips. For the next thirty chapters there is a long exchange between Job and his friends. From this exchange we learn a second principle.

When God doesn’t make sense… 2. DON’T TRY TO EXPLAIN EVERYTHING (Job 3:1-31:40). Explanations never heal a broken heart. If his friends had listened to Job, accepted his feelings, and not argued with him, they would have helped him greatly; but they chose to be prosecuting attorneys instead of witnesses.

For example, the first friend, Eliphaz, essentially says to Job, “If you sin, you suffer.” “Is not your wickedness great, and your iniquity without end” (Job 22:5)? Eliphaz is saying, “Job, the reason people suffer is because of personal sin in their lives.” It is easy for Eliphaz to say this when he is not the one with boils all over his body.  

Job’s second friend, Bildad, basically says, “You must be sinning.” “So why don’t you turn to Him and start living right? Then He will decide to rescue and restore you to your place of honor” (Job 8:5-6 –  NLT). Bildad is saying, “If you were living right, Job, God would heal you and prosper you. But He hasn’t, so you must be sinning.” 

Job’s third friend, Zophar, basically says, “You are sinning.” “Get rid of your sins, and leave all iniquity behind you. Then your face will brighten with innocence. You will be strong and free of fear” (Job 11:14-15 – NLT).  All three of Job’s friends reasoned, “Job, the reason you’re suffering is because you have sinned.”

But Job insists that he is innocent: “My soul loathes my life; I will give free course to my complaint, I will speak in the bitterness of my soul. I will say to God, ‘Do not condemn me; show me why You contend with me. Does it seem good to You that You should oppress, that You should despise the work of Your hands, and smile on the counsel of the wicked?… Although You know that I am not wicked, and there is no one who can deliver from Your hand” (Job 10:1-3, 7). Job is saying, “God, I’m bitter about my suffering because You oppress me even though You know I am innocent.” Job wants his friends to know that God has wronged him: “Know then that God has wronged me, and has surrounded me with His net” (Job 19:6). Job goes so far as to say if he could get God to appear in court with him, Job could prove that God was wrong to afflict him (Job 23:3-7). Essentially, Job is saying, “I am righteous. God is wrong.”

What has happened to Job? He has gone from “the Lord gave and the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord to the Lord gave and the Lord has taken away, I am bitter.”  He has gone from blessing to bitterness. 

Has this ever happened to you? You experience a painful divorce… devastation of bankruptcy… betrayal of a trusted friend… slow painful death of a loved one… your own health issues… an unhappy marriage… social distancing… loss of a job? At first, you surrender to God’s control – grieving and then worshiping God. But the suffering has lasted so long that your grief has turned into constant complaining. Instead of focusing on the truth of who God is in worship, you are now accusing God of wrongdoing. Instead of walking through your pain, your pain is walking all over you? 

How do we get back to that place of blessing God instead of blasting Him? This leads to a third response when God doesn’t make sense. Since God alone can adequately deal with life’s problems, 3. TRUST GOD, DON’T ARGUE WITH HIM (Job 32:1-41:34). Let’s look at the process Job goes through. At the end of chapter 31, Job is silent. Then a new figure arises named, Elihu.

Elihu tells Job that he won’t be as harsh as Job’s three friends and God were (Job 33:6-7). Elihu says, “God is leading you away from danger, Job, to a place free from distress. He is setting your table with the best food. But you are obsessed with whether the godless will be judged. Don’t worry, judgment and justice will be upheld” (Job 36:16-17 – NLT). Elihu is saying,“God would have already ended your troubles, Job, if you had remained silent.” In essence, to sum up Elihu’s message to Job, “Humble yourself and submit to God,” then your troubles will come to an end.

Elihu has finished lecturing Job. Strangely, Job has no response. He remains silent. God then comes right up behind Elihu to speak to Job. The last four chapters are God’s words. “Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said: ‘Who is this who darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me’ ” (Job 38:1-3). God is saying, “Job you don’t know what you are talking about when you accuse Me of being unfair… You have said I’ve been hiding from you and unwilling to debate with you. Well, let me see your qualifications, Job. I’m going to give you an exam consisting of over seventy questions. They are quite simple actually. If you can answer these ABC questions, then I will address the questions you have in your heart.” 

Job is questioned like a first grade student. He is asked about the basic laws of nature, physics, astronomy, mathematics, ecology, zoology. After the first exam, we read, “Moreover, the Lord answered Job, and said: Shall the one who contends with the Almighty correct Him? He who rebukes God, let him answer it’ ” (Job 40:1-2). God is saying, “Job, if you cannot understand My ways in the realm of nature, how can you understand My ways in dealing with people?” All of us should be slow to claim that we know God’s will about the affairs of a person’s life, whether it be our own or someone else’s. We still don’t know all the facts as to why God is allowing what takes place. 

“Then Job answered the Lord and said: ‘Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer You? I lay my hand over my mouth. Once I have spoken, but I will not answer; Yes, twice, but I will proceed no further” (Job 40:3-5). Earlier in the book, Job was hesitant to confront God (Job 9:14). Gradually he became more confident and demanded an audience with God (Job 13:22a). Later he even spoke like he was God’s equal bragging that he would approach God as a prince (Job 31:37). But now, God had humbled Job. Job had nothing more to say. But Job was not yet repentant. He had not confessed any sin. 

So God gives Job another exam focusing on two animals: Behemoth– probably an Apatosaurus (Job 40:15-19), and  Leviathan, a dragon-like dinosaur which primarily lived in the water (Job 41:1, 14-15, 21, 31). God was challenging Job to subdue these mighty creatures – something Job could never do. But God could. God not only controlled these dinosaurs. He also controlled the entire universe. 

God is telling Job and us in these final chapters, “Job, if I can manage this whole Universe, from the basic cell up to monsters and mega-galaxies without your understanding, I can take care of you… If I can manage the universe, I can take care of YOU. Therefore trust Me, don’t argue with Me.”

There’s a fourth way to respond when God doesn’t make sense. 4. WE WILL STOP ASKING “WHY?” WHEN WE SEE THE “WHO” BEHIND LIFE’S HEARTACHES (Job 42:1-17). Job acknowledges God’s sovereign ability to govern the universe. “Then Job answered the Lord and said: ‘I know that You can do everything, and that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You’ ” (Job 42:1-2). Only God has the right to use people for whatever He desires. Not all suffering is because of personal sin, but because it accomplishes God’s sovereign purposes.

But many of God’s purposes are beyond our ability to understand. Job said, “You asked, ‘Who is this who hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know” (Job 42:3). Job is saying, “I tried to talk about things I didn’t understand. I flunked Your exams. I was way in over my head.”

Job continues, “Listen, please, and let me speak; You said, ‘I will question you, and you shall answer Me.’  I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:4-6). At the end of chapter two, Job had not sinned with his lips. But forty chapters later he has to admit, “I’ve sinned with my lips and I therefore repent.” 

“And so it was, after the Lord had spoken these words to Job, that the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite, ‘My wrath is aroused against you and your two friends, for you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has…And the Lord restored Job’s losses when he prayed for his friends. Indeed the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before” (Job 42:7, 10). Isn’t this a fascinating story? Job’s repentance brought an end to God’s discipline of him. When Job repents, his troubles stop and God restores Job’s prosperity. God never gave Job a reason or an explanation for his suffering – He offered Job Himself.  

As God revealed Himself to Job, Job stopped asking “Why?” Job stopped asking WHY when he saw the WHO behind his troubles. Christian author and speaker, Chuck Swindoll states, “No single truth removes the need to ask ‘Why?’ like this one… God is too kind to do anything cruel… too wise to make a mistake… too deep to explain Himself.” Like Job, we will stop asking ‘WHY?’ when we see the WHO behind life’s heartachesGod offers you Himself as you read this article – not reasons for your hurts, but Himself. 

Do you know the WHO behind life’s heartaches? Do you know Jesus Christ? You may be wondering how can a loving and caring God allow so much suffering in the world or in your own life? Just because God doesn’t intervene in world events or stop the pain in your own life, does not mean He does not care. Any injustice or hardship grieves Him more than it does anyone else. If you tried to see suffering in the world today through God’s eyes, your view would be so different. Even if God tried to explain things to you, you wouldn’t understand. His mind is so beyond anything ours is capable of comprehending. If it weren’t, He wouldn’t be God. 

Today, I want to encourage you to look at the good side of God. When thinking about how loving God is, please start with the cross. “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-8).

Think about the suicide bomber who recently killed over one hundred people at an election rally in Pakistan. If the bomber had not died, would you die as his substitute if he had been sentenced to die for his crime? Like me, you’d probably say, “No way!” Yet that is exactly what God’s Son Jesus Christ did. He died for sinners – people who should have died for their sins like you and me. Why? So that when He had paid for our sins and rose the third day, He could forgive us for all of the wrongs we have done and give us His absolutely free gift of eternal life if we would believe or trust in Him alone for His free gift (John 3:16). Since God allowed His Son to take the place of all sinners on a cross so they could live with Him forever, doesn’t that remove all doubt about His character?  

You may say, “What about the tyrant who slaughters thousands of innocent people?” God is not standing unaware. If that tyrant doesn’t come to faith in Christ, his punishment awaits him (John 3:36b). The Bible says, “And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15). In an eternal hell, that tyrant will want to die but won’t be able to.

We live in a fallen world. Every day people drift farther away from God. So until Christ returns to earth, the situation will get worse, not better. God could step in and stop it right now, and one day He is going to do that. But understand He is a Savior, not a Dictator. He has given everyone a choice. They can choose to come to Him in faith just as they are and receive forgiveness for all their sins and live with Him in eternity.

You may say, “What about the victims of catastrophes like COVID-19 or violence?” God grieves for these victims more than you or I ever could. Yet these are the results of living in a fallen world. But this is also why God begs people to come to Christ now. You’re not promised tomorrow. Until God establishes a new world, there will always be violence and suffering.

Please remember that God has not rebelled against people; people have rebelled against God. According to the Bible a day is coming when the earth will know no more violence, suffering, shootings, hijackings, viruses, catastrophes, pain or hardship of any kind (cf. Revelation 21-22). All who trust in Jesus as their Savior will be with Him in a perfect, problem-free place. When they see things from His perspective, they will realize how just and righteous God has been and is. God really wants you in His family. 

Will you trust Christ to give you the free gift of eternal life? Jesus guarantees, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life” (John 6:47). Come to Him just as you are in faith and receive His forgiveness and everlasting life, and then you can share this good news with others before it is too late for them. 

Prayer: Almighty God, I am so broken over all the confusion and pain that is in the world today. I often find myself asking “Why?” instead of “Who?” I dislike the feeling of being out of control. Please forgive me, Lord, for arguing with You and complaining against You when I feel out of control. Thank You for reminding me in the book of Job that You are in control no matter what I face. Since You can manage this whole universe, from the basic cell up to dinosaurs and mega-galaxies without my understanding, I can trust You to take care of me even when it does not make sense to me. Please help me to focus on You during these difficult times so I can be the opposite of Job’s friends who acted more like prosecuting attorneys towards Job and his sufferings. Use me to listen to those who are hurting and to accept their feelings. I pray Your Holy Spirit will draw people to Jesus during this time so they may discover how great His love is for them and receive His free gift of everlasting life by believing in Him. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Who is Jesus Christ? Part 4

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14

In the first five verses of John we saw that the Word, Jesus Christ, is eternal, relational, and our Creator God (John 1:1-3). Jesus is the only source of eternal life and hope (John 1:4-5). So when we look at Jesus, we are looking at our Creator God in human flesh. Jesus Christ made you and me to have a relationship with Him. So what is God like?

In John 1:14, we are going to see that God became a man in order to show us what He is like (John 1:18). The apostle John writes, “And the Word became flesh…” (John 1:14a). The most amazing fact of history is that the Word, God Himself, became a human being without ceasing to be God. Religions seek to know how we as humans can get to God. Yet the Bible tells us that God came to us. The Word, Jesus Christ, became a human being.

The word “dwelt” (skēnóō) means “to tabernacle” (John 1:14). Just as God’s presence dwelt among the Israelites in the tabernacle (cf. Exodus 25:8-9; 33:7, 11), so He lived among people in the Person of Jesus Christ. King Solomon thought it incredible that God would dwell on the earth (1 Kings 8:27), but that is precisely what He did in Jesus.

Why did God become a man? So, we could approach Him and trust Him. For example, a construction company was once building a road through some mountainous country, using dynamite to build a roadbed. Steve, who worked for the company, was placing the dynamite charges. One day as he was getting ready to detonate a charge, he noticed that several little chipmunks had come out of the underbrush, playing around the hole where he had installed the explosives. Steve, being a tenderhearted guy, didn’t want to see those little chipmunks blown to bits, so he began trying to drive the chipmunks away. Each time however, they just came right back to the location. His supervisor, Charlie, came out to see what was holding up the blasting. Steve, exasperated, explained that those chipmunks would not get out of the danger area. Charlie chuckled, and then used the incident to talk about Jesus Christ.

He explained to Steve that the only way one of them could communicate with those chipmunks, was if one of them became a chipmunk, and yet at the same time, kept all the characteristics of a man. Chipmunks are afraid of humans because we are twenty times their size. But if you become a chipmunk, they would be able to trust you and relate to you, because you would be able communicate the great danger caused by the dynamite (from Eight Vital Relationships for the Growing Christian (Dallas: EvanTell, Inc., 1982), Chapter 2, p. 6). 

This is exactly what God had to do – He became a man in order to communicate with the human race what God is really like and to warn them of the incredible danger facing them if they rejected Christ (Matthew 23:14; 25:41, 46a; Mark 9:42-47; 12:40; Luke 20:47; John 1:1, 14-18; 3:18, 36; Revelation 20:15). If God came to us in the fullness of His glory, we would be too frightened of Him to trust Him (cf. Exodus 33:20; Ezekiel 1:28; Revelation 1:17) just like a chipmunk would be too scared to trust us.

The reason John could say he and the other disciples “beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father” (John 1:14b) without overwhelming fear was because Jesus’ humanity veiled (Philippians 2:5-8; Hebrews 10:20) the fullness of the glory He possesses in heaven (cf. Revelation 1:12-18).

Jesus became a human being so that you and I could relate to Him and Him to us. Therefore, we are to trust Him at all times because He understands us. Hebrews 4:15-16 says of Jesus, “Since we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are yet without sin; Therefore, let us boldly come to the throne of grace.” He voluntarily became one of us so that you and I would believe that our Savior knows how we feel.

Perhaps you have viewed God as some distant impersonal force who does not care about you or your circumstances. You may say to yourself, “How could God let COVID-19 happen? I have lost my income, my health, and my friends! What kind of God is this?” Please understand that the God of the Bible is not some distant dictator who delights in punishing people.

Listen to what Christian author Max Lucado says, “From the funeral to the factory to the frustration of a demanding schedule, Jesus Christ understands [bold lettering is mine]. When you tell God that you’ve reached your limit, He knows what you mean. When you shake your head at impossible deadlines, He shakes his, too. When your plans are interrupted by people who have other plans, He nods in empathy. He has been there. He knows how you feel. … Rejection? He felt it. Temptation? He knew it. Loneliness? He experienced it. Death? He tasted it. And stress? He could write a best-selling book about it. Why did He do it? One reason. So that when you hurt, you will go to Him… and let Him heal you” (Max Lucado, In the Eye of the Storm: A Day in the Life of Jesus, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1991), pp. 16-18).

The glory of Jesus that the disciples beheld was “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14c). Christ maintained a perfect balance between these two attributes. Of all the phrases that God could have used to describe Jesus Christ, He chose “grace and truth.” “Grace” refers to the unmerited kindness of God or getting what we do not deserve. We do not deserve eternal life, forgiveness, or salvation from hell, but Jesus Christ can freely offer this to us apart from any of our works because of His “grace” (John 4:10-14; Romans 3:24; 4:4-5; 6:23b; 11:6; Ephesians 2:8-9).

“Truth” refers to the perfect standard of God’s holiness. Truth says there is a right way, a best way. In life, some things are true which makes other things false. We do reap what we sow. There are consequences to our actions. Truth is true. It is unbendable and unbreakable and unyielding. Jesus came full of truth. Every word that He spoke was truth. Christ never told a lie. Every action and every thought were true. When Satan came against Jesus tempting Him by perverting the Word of God just a little (Matthew 4:1-11), how did Jesus respond? “It is written in God’s Word. Here’s the truth.” He always countered falsehood with truth. Near the end of His life before Pilate, Jesus said, “Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice” (John 18:37). Pilate said to Him, “What is truth” (John 18:37-38)? Then Pilate walked away. That was a big mistake, because the One who is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6) was right in front of him. The One who is and knows all truth is there. So, truth must be included in grace or grace is merely tolerance.

Truth without grace is just as destructive as grace without truth. Truth without grace is unbearable. Only the arrogant, proud hypocrite thinks all he needs is truth, because he thinks he has it all together. In the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7, Jesus outlines the perfect life. In the middle of that sermon Jesus says, “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).  Jesus means what He says here. When I read the expectations of God on my life and I hear His call to be perfect, I say, “Lord I can’t do it. Have mercy on me a sinner, because I fall way too short. The bar is too high.” That’s the demand of truth all by itself and it overwhelms us. God says, “I didn’t just come in truth, I came in grace.”

Why is grace and truth so important? As humans, we tend to err on one side or the other of grace and truth. Grace without truth is wishy washy. It is a farce. It is called tolerance. There are no absolutes… no right or wrong… no consequences for our actions. Anything goes, resulting in lives without direction. There is nothing we can know for sure which is tolerance. For grace to be real, it must be based on truth.

For example, grace without truth is like taking your car to the body shop to get rid of the rust. You get the car back and it looks great. But a year later the rust appears again. The mechanic didn’t remove the rust, he just covered it up to make it look good. Eventually, the rust keeps coming back. That’s how it is when you try to ignore truth. You can ignore truth for a while, but it keeps coming back. I can ignore the law of gravity and step off a cliff – and the law of gravity still applies to me. It doesn’t matter what you believe in that case. If you ignore it, it bites you.

Do you remember the woman in John 8? The religious leaders were ready to stone her because the law (the truth) said you should (cf. Leviticus 20:10). She was caught in the act of adultery and they came to Jesus saying, “The law says she should die. What do you say, Jesus?” For a few moments, Jesus wrote on the ground, while they pestered Jesus. Then Jesus stood up and looked them in the eye and said, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first” (John 8:7).One by one, starting with the oldest, they all walked away. Jesus kept writing on the ground.

After a while there was no one left except Jesus and the woman. Jesus looked up at her and said, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” (John 8:10). She said, “No one, Lord” (John 8:11a). Here’s the thing. On that day, there was somebody there who could condemn her…who could have thrown the first stone… there was someone who was sinless – Jesus (cf. John 18:38b; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; I Peter 3:18). He could have done it. Instead Christ said to her, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more” (John 8:11b). That is grace and truth.

Truth expresses God’s righteous character and demands punishment for all of our sins (Romans 3:9-23). Jesus Christ was a perfect display of God’s truth. He is “the truth” (John 14:6). He was perfect and sinless (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; I Peter 3:18). Even the political leaders could “find no fault in Him at all” (John 18:38; cf. Luke 23:4, 14-15, 22; John 19:4, 6). God’s judgment of sin fell on Jesus instead of us when He died on the cross in our place  (Isaiah 53:5-6; Matthew 27:45-56; Romans 5:8; I Corinthians 15:3; 2 Corinthians 5:21; I Peter 3:18). That is truth.

But grace is seen while Jesus was hanging on the cross. After His enemies physically and verbally abused Him, and nailed Him to a cross, Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34). Did they deserve Christ’s forgiveness. No, none of us do. But grace offers forgiveness freely. Jesus also said to the thief hanging next to Him, “Today you will be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43). Without grace, the thief on that cross dies in his sin and goes to hell.

Christ is full of grace and truth. He has the perfect ability to tell us the awful truth about ourselves, while holding us up by His grace. Because He is full of truth He was the perfect sacrifice to pay the penalty for our sin (2 Corinthians 5:21; I Peter 3:18). Because He is full of grace, you can come to Him just as you are, without having to clean up your life first. And because He is full of truth, you can come in complete confidence knowing that He will keep His promise to forgive you and grant you eternal life the moment you believe in Him. Jesus promised, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life” (John 6:47).

That’s grace and that’s truth. Jesus was full of both. Therefore, we are to seek to be gracious and truthful with one another (Ephesians 4:15). We are called to forgive others as Christ has forgiven us (Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13). Is there someone in your life that needs not just truth, but grace? Something has come between you and your relationship? They need to hear from you that the past is gone. It’s been wiped out. That’s the power of grace.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, You are totally amazing! You are the perfect balance of grace and truth. Thank You for telling me the truth about myself. I have sinned against You with my thoughts, words, and actions which makes me deserving of eternal separation from You in the lake of fire. But Your grace led You to take my punishment when You died in my place on the cross and rose from the dead. Because You are the truth without any sin, Your perfect sacrifice for my sins satisfied God’s holy demand to punish all my sins. Your grace invites me to come to You just as I am to freely receive Your forgiveness and everlasting life by believing in You. I can know with confidence that I have everlasting life the moment I believe in You because as the truth, You can never lie. You always keep Your promises. Please, my Lord and my God, change me so I can show grace and truth to others as You have shown to me. Lead me to those who not only need Your truth, but also need Your grace. They need to know that their past is gone. It has been erased because of Your grace. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Who is Jesus Christ? Part 3

 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” John 1:4-5

John moves now from creation in general (John 1:3) to the most significant element of creation – people. “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4).  Christ created you and me so that we could enjoy a personal relationship with Him. The word “life” in the Gospel of John can refer to physical life (1:3) and spiritual life (1:12). Most often it refers to eternal life in the gospel of John (3:15-16,36; 4:14, 36; 5:24, 39; 6:27, 40, 47, 54, 58, 68; 10:28; 12:25, 50; 17:2-3). Jesus defines eternal life as knowing the only true God and His Son, Jesus Christ personally in a forever relationship (17:3). Jesus was God’s way of meeting us where we were to take us where we could never go.

Before we come to know Jesus Christ, we are merely existing. We get up, eat breakfast, go to work, come home from work, eat supper, watch TV, and go to bed. Then we repeat the same cycle the next day. That is merely existing. We don’t start living until we enter a personal relationship with Jesus Christ by believing or trusting in Him alone for eternal life.

When the Bible says, “the life was the light of men” (1:4), it is referring to the hope (light) that Christ’s message of eternal (life) brings to people in darkness. Also, when we enter a relationship with God (life), we become aware of God’s holiness and righteousness (light). Life is the foundation for growth in the light (cf. I John 1:5-10).

And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it” (John 1:5). John contrasts the light of God with the darkness of sinful humanity. The word “comprehend” can also mean to “overtake.”The darkness of this world cannot overcome or extinguish the light of Jesus Christ. The contrast between light and darkness represents spiritual conflict. The light of Christ will overcome the darkness of sinful people.

Remember, John is writing this gospel after the resurrection of Jesus. He knows that Jesus Christ could not be overcome by the spiritual darkness of this world. He is the winner. The light shines (continual) in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it. A single light penetrates fifty miles of darkness. Darkness cannot overcome light.

Why should I believe on Jesus? Because He is the eternal God (John 1:1), the Creator God (John 1:3), and the  only source of eternal life (John 1:4-5). Because He is the only source of eternal life. He gives forgiveness instead of fear… grace instead of guilt… cleansing instead of condemnation… mercy instead of misery… life instead of death… hope instead of despair.

One thing we will be constantly reminded of in John’s gospel: the message of Jesus demands a response: a response of belief or unbelief. Ninety-nine times in the Greek Majority Text John uses the word “believe.” The biblical meaning of the word “believe” conveys absolute certainty.

Will I believe or trust in Christ alone to get me to heaven or will I reject Him and spend eternity separated from God? To reject Christ is to turn from God Himself, the Creator of the world. To deny Christ is to continue in spiritual darkness and death forever. Only Jesus offers everlasting hope. Do you have a personal relationship with the Creator God… the only One who guarantees eternal life to those who believe in Him (John 11:25-26)? If not, why not begin a never-ending relationship with Him today.

Simply take Christ at His Word when He says, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die” (John 11:25-26). Jesus is not asking you to go to church or to clean up your life because He never said whoever goes to church or cleans up his life shall never die. He is not asking you if you pray or meditate every day because He never said whoever prays or meditates every day shall never die. Jesus is asking you, “Do you believe in Him?” because He said “whoever… believes in Me shall never die.” If your answer is “Yes,” Jesus guarantees you a future resurrection of your physical body which will never be subject to disease or death. And He also guarantees you life that never ends.

The word “believe” means to trust or depend upon. Just as you trust in a chair through no effort of your own to hold you up off the floor, so Jesus now invites you to trust in Him alone through no effort of your own, to save you from an eternity separated from God and to give you everlasting life. Will you believe or trust in Jesus Christ alone as your only way to heaven? If so, you can tell God this through prayer. But remember, praying a prayer is not what gets you to heaven. Only believing in Jesus gets us to heaven. This prayer is a way of telling God you are now believing or trusting in His Son alone. You can say this to God:

Prayer: “Dear Jesus, I come to you now as a sinner. I cannot save myself. Nothing I am or do makes me deserving of heaven. I believe You died for me on the cross and rose from the dead. I believe You alone are the Resurrection and the Life. I am now trusting in You Jesus (not my good life, my prayers, or my religion) to save me from hell forever and give me everlasting life. Thank You for the salvation from hell and everlasting life that I now have. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

When you believed in Jesus, the Bible says you can “know” that you have eternal life. “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life” (I John 5:13). The Bible does not say you may “think” or “hope” that you have eternal life. It says you can “know” with absolute certainty that eternal life is yours.