Revelation 14 – Part 2

“Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth—to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people.” Revelation 14:6

After receiving revelation about Satan’s two wild beasts (the World Ruler and the False Prophet) who will triumph during the last half of the Tribulation period (13:1-18), the apostle John receives revelation that describes both what happens on earth to those who refuse the mark of the beast (14:1-5) and what happens to those who receive the mark of the beast (14:6-20).

Last time we discovered that the Lamb, the Lord Jesus Christ, was standing triumphantly on Mount Zion in Jerusalem on earth at the end of the Tribulation period along with the 144,000 Jewish evangelists who faithfully proclaimed Jesus’ gospel message to the ends of the earth during the last three and a half years of the Tribulation when the beast ruled without mercy over the earth (14:1; cf. 7:1-8; Matthew 24:14). Because of their faithfulness to Christ to the end of the Great Tribulation, these evangelists will be richly rewarded by King Jesus in His eternal Kingdom (14:2-5; cf. Romans 8:17-18; 2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 2:25-27; 3:21).

In another scene of John’s vision on earth (14:6-13), the apostle hears four announcements that provide motivation to remain faithful to God and resist the beasts during the last half of the Tribulation period. God’s angels will make the first three announcements (14:6-12), and a voice from heaven will declare the fourth (14:13). 1

John records the first angel’s proclamation: “Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth—to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people.” (Revelation 14:6). This first angel is “another angel” like the archangel Michael (12:7), the closest specific angel in the context. 2 The phrase, “flying in the midst of heaven” (πετόμενον ἐν μεσουρανήματι), literally says, “flying in mid-heaven,” meaning in the sky between heaven and earth. 3

This first angel proclaims, “the everlasting gospel” to all earth-dwellers (14:6a). Unlike the message of the Beast and the False Prophet, which is evil and temporary, this message will be good (euangelion = God’s good news for humans 4) and eternal. It is “everlasting” because “it has eternal significance.” 5 “The ‘new’ [and false] religion of the Beast and False Prophet just described in Chapter 13… will blaspheme the God of the Two Witnesses as a vengeful, evil deity that is out to destroy earth’s environment and inhabitants. The angelic message will counteract these deceptive lies.” 6

This gospel proclamation is also universal in extent. It is not just for one nation, one people group, one ethnicity, or one language group, but for “every nation, tribe, tongue, and people” (14:6a). Why? Because the judgments of God are impacting the entire world during the Tribulation, so the inhabitants of every nation need to hear the truth about what is happening to them instead of the lies of the Beast and the False Prophet.

The content of this “everlasting gospel” is given in the next verse. “Saying with a loud voice, ‘Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.’” (Revelation 14:7). It is important to understand that this gospel message is not the same as the saving message the apostle John gave us in his gospel. That message said all anyone must do to have everlasting life is believe in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God (John 20:31; cf. 1:12; 3:15-16, 36; 4:10-14; 5:24; 6:29, 35-40, 47; 7:37-39; 11:25-27; et. al).

This gospel message being proclaimed by the angel during the last half of the Tribulation period will counter the falsehood and deception of the Beast and False prophet who will blaspheme God, saying He is an unfair and vengeful god who delights in punishing people (14:7a). The gospel message of this angel will call unbelievers to “fear God and give glory to Him” because the reason for all this worldwide death and disaster is that “the hour of His judgment has come” (14:7b). 

When people on the earth understand why all the calamities are taking place during the Tribulation, they may be more likely to believe in Jesus for His gift of everlasting life. 7 These earth-dwellers are also to “worship” God because He “made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water” (14:7c). God is worthy of worship because He is the Creator, and He has the right to judge what He has created (cf. Nehemiah 9:6; Psalm 33:6-9; 146:6). “When people refuse God’s authority and set themselves up as God, He has the right to judge them.” 8

However, if people will worship and give thanks to their Creator, God is more inclined to give them more truth (Romans 1:18-23),including the gospel of Jesus Christ which saves them from eternal judgment (Romans 1:15-16; cf. John 3:36; I Corinthians 15:1-8). This also relates to those who have never heard the gospel before.

I sometimes get asked, “What about those who have never heard the gospel of Jesus Christ? How could God punish them in hell if they have never heard about Jesus?” I believe the best answer is no one is without excuse because God has given every human being some degree of revelation from Him. He has given us general revelation in creation (Psalm 19:1-6) and special revelation in the Bible (Psalm 19:7-14). God has given all humankind evidence that He exists through the things He has made, so no one is without excuse. “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:20). Those who respond positively to general revelation by worshiping their Creator instead of His creation, will receive more specific revelation concerning God’s Son, Jesus Christ, because God “is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).

An example of this is seen in Acts 10. A man named Cornelius had never heard of Jesus, but he was seeking God. 1 There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion… 2 a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always.” (Acts 10:1-2). God answered Cornelius’ prayers and sent the apostle Peter to him to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to him and to those close to him (Acts 10:9-48).

Cornelius’ piety (“a devout man …who feared God”), generous giving (“who gave alms generously”), and persistent prayer (“prayed to God always”) did not save him. His fear of God and righteous works did not give him “peace” with God (10:35-36). All his devotion to God, prayers, and alms giving were expressions of his restlessness to be right with God. The apostle Peter correctly perceives this, so he speaks of Christ “preaching peace” (10:36). After declaring Jesus’ death and resurrection to Cornelius (10:39), Peter invites this religious man to “believe” in Christ for the forgiveness of his sins (10:43). And Cornelius did along with his relatives and close friends, and then they were all baptized (10:44-48). What Cornelius could not find in fearing God, prayers, and alms giving, he found in the name of Jesus Christ! Only the name of Jesus Christ has the power to save and forgive all our sins.

There are many people in the world today like Cornelius. They do not know about Jesus Christ, but they are responding positively to what God has revealed to them. They want to know the true and living God Who created the universe. And God is sending people like Peter to them, no matter where they live, so they can hear and believe the good news of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection and live forever with Him in His heaven!

In the future Tribulation period, God will send this first angel to point the unsaved world to the true God and Creator of the universe. If people will respond positively to this message, and fear God, the Lord will send His Jewish evangelists to them to preach the gospel of Christ’s coming kingdom so they can enter His eternal kingdom by believing in Jesus alone (cf. Mark 1:15; Matthew 24:14; John 3:5-16).

What you think or believe about what might happen to those who have never heard the gospel of Jesus Christ does not mean you are not responsible to God on judgment day. Since you are reading this article, you are now responsible for how you respond to God’s Son, Jesus Christ. Someone once said, “Many things in the Bible I cannot understand; many things in the Bible I only think I understand; but there are many things in the Bible I cannot misunderstand.”

For example, a verse we cannot misunderstand is John 3:36: “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” We can live forever with God in His eternal kingdom if we believe in His Son, Jesus Christ. Or we can experience the wrath of God forever if we do not believe in God’s Son. For those who have not heard of Jesus yet, if they respond positively to the revelation God has given them, God will make sure to send a messenger to them to explain the gospel of Jesus Christ. “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!” (Romans 11:33). To Him be all the glory both now and forever!

Prayer: Lord God Almighty, Creator of the heavens and the earth, we praise You for Your eternal plan of redemption through Jesus Christ! No matter what age we live in, salvation has and always will be through faith alone in Your only perfect Son, Jesus Christ. Thank You for telling us You will send this first angel to proclaim the everlasting gospel to the world during a time of horrific judgments on the earth. Even amid the outpouring of Your wrath, You still desire that people will be rescued from eternal condemnation. O Lord, please lead us to those like Cornelius, who are responding positively to what You have already shown them, so we may share the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection with them before it is too late. Your Word tells us that You desire all people to be saved (I Timothy 2:3-4) and that none should perish in hell (2 Peter 3:9). Because Jesus is “the way” to heaven (John 14:6), not one of many ways, we must go wherever You lead us to reach those who are perishing without Christ. Thank You for entrusting us with Your gospel. May we be found faithful to share it wherever You lead us. In the matchless name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 157.

2. Ibid.

3. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach, The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pp. 1530, 1551.

4. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 402.

5. Constable, pg. 158.

6. Vacendak, pg. 1551.

7. Ibid.

8. Ibid.

Revelation 12 – Part 3

“So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” Revelation 12:9

Last time in our study of the book of Revelation, we saw that the dragon, Satan (12:9), failed to destroy the Christ Child at His birth and during His life and in His death, so Jesus could ascend victoriously to heaven after His resurrection (12:3-5). Since Satan cannot get to the Christ Child who is now on His throne in heaven (12:5), he is going to go after what is dearest to the Child – His people, Israel.

The apostle John writes, “Then the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, that they should feed her there one thousand two hundred and sixty days.” (Revelation 12:6). Christ’s birth and ascension to heaven in verse 5 took place some two thousand years ago, but the events described here in verse 6will take place in the future. The nation of Israel, represented by “the woman” (cf. 12:1-2; Genesis 37:9-11), will flee “into the wilderness” immediately at the middle of the Tribulation period when the Man of Sin (the Beast or Antichrist) occupies the rebuilt temple in Jerusalem and declares himself to be God (12:6a; cf. Matthew 24:15-21; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4). 1

During the first half of the Tribulation many Jews will believe in the gospel of the kingdom proclaimed by the Two Witnesses from Jerusalem (11:1-6). This believing remnant (“our brethren” – 12:10) will need to get out of Israel as quickly as possible because Satan’s desire is to exterminate Israel so he can render God’s promises to them as false, making God a liar.

If Israel obeys Jesus’ command to flee to the mountains to the “place prepared by God” when the Man of Sin occupies the rebuilt Jewish temple (“abomination of desolation” – Matthew 24:15-16), God will “feed” or provide for her “there one thousand two hundred and sixty days” or three and a half years during the last half of the Tribulation period (12:6b). “God fed millions of Jews for forty years during their Exodus from Egypt, and He will do so again in Israel’s darkest hour.” 2

Hitchcock suggests that this place of refuge prepared by God for Israel could be the rock city of Petra in modern Jordan (cf. Micah 2:12-13; Daniel 11:41). He writes, “This place is also consistently described as being in ‘the mountains’ or ‘the wilderness’ (Matthew 24:16; Revelation 12:6, 14, NASB). Therefore, this city must be prepared by God in advance, must be in the hills and in the wilderness. The city of Petra fits all of these criteria: it is adequate to hold what may be one million Jewish people; it is both in the hills and the wilderness; and it is accessible to the fleeing remnant. Therefore, putting all these points together, it is apparent that God will provide the fleeing Jewish remnant an accessible place of refuge in the wilderness and in the hills that will be like a sheepfold and that will be outside the Antichrist’s domain. The place that best fits the clues provided in Scripture is the magnificent rock city of Petra.” 3

To protect Israel during the last half of the Tribulation, John writes, 7 And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, 8 but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer.” (Revelation 12:7-8). John then sees a “war” break “out in heaven” between “Michael,” the archangel who battled with Satan over the body of Moses (cf. Jude 1:9), 4 and Satan, “the dragon.” Michael is accompanied by “his” unfallen “angels” and Satan is joined by “his” fallen “angels” or demons (12:7). The angels’ way of fighting here will be like what they do on behalf of all believers today (cf. Hebrews 1:14). The accidents we narrowly escape, and the perfect timing of various life events are not coincidences, but heaven’s divine arrangements of all things for our good. 5

As Michael fought on Daniel’s and Israel’s behalf against demons in the Old Testament era (cf. Daniel 10:13), angels fight for believers today and will fight for Israel in the last half of the future Tribulation. 6 Daniel 12:1a explains this event when it says, “Michael shall stand up,” which undeniably refers to the fact that the archangel is ready to act on behalf of Israel (cf. Daniel 10:21). This war in heaven will occur just before the time of Jacob’s “trouble” – the last half of the Tribulation (cf. Daniel 12:1b). 7

Despite all of Satan’s raging, he, and his fallen angels “did not prevail” over Michael and his angelic army (12:8a). As a result, there was no “place found for them in heaven any longer” (12:8b). Satan and his demonic cohorts are prohibited from entering heaven ever again. Since the fall of humankind, Satan used this God-given access to make relentless accusations against the people of God (cf. Revelation 12:10; Job 1:6-12; 2:1-7), but near the middle of the Tribulation period, this access to God’s throne is stopped. 8 God will no longer hear Satan’s accusations against believers in His throne room. 9 In the end, Satan and his demonic armies will not be able to stop God’s plan for Israel nor His Son’s return to earth to set up His kingdom. 10

Hitchcock states,Both amillennialists and postmillennialists… view the casting of Satan from heaven in Revelation 12:7-9 as parallel with Luke 10:18-19. They point to Mark 3:27 and Matthew 12:25-29 as the fulfillment of the binding of Satan during the earthly ministry of Christ. For them, Satan’s activity and power are restricted during this present age. However, this contradicts the way Satan is pictured in the New Testament. Satan is called ‘the ruler of this world’ (John 12:31; 14:30), ‘the god of this world’ (2 Corinthians 4:4), ‘an angel of light’ (2 Corinthians 11:14), ‘the commander of the powers in the unseen world’ (Ephesians 2:2), and he is ‘like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour’ (1 Peter 5:8). The devil schemes against believers (2 Corinthians 2:11; Ephesians 6:11), hinders us (1 Thessalonians 2:18), accuses us (Revelation (Revelation 12:10), and blinds the minds of the lost (2 Corinthians 4:4). Satan is anything but bound today. He is aggressively opposing the work of God. 11

“As someone once said, ‘If Satan is bound today, he must have an awfully long chain.’ Satan is characterized as the arch-deceiver in the New Testament. Yet, Revelation 20:3 says that when he is bound Satan will ‘not deceive the nations anymore.’ This does not fit the current situation. It demands a later time after the Lord’s coming.” 12

Satan’s defeat in heaven at the midpoint of the Tribulation led to his and his fallen angels’ expulsion to earth. So, the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” (Revelation 12:9). God identifies “the great dragon” as “that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan.”

What do we learn about Satan in this verse? He is a “great dragon” who is fierce, cruel, and monstrous in nature. 13 As the “serpent of old,” he is crafty and subtle in character (cf. Genesis 3:1-5; 2 Corinthians 11:3). Satan is too strong and crafty for us to overcome his strategies on our own. We need God’s power and wisdom to experience victory over him in our Christian lives.

The name “Devil” (diabolos) means “Slanderer” or “Accuser.” 14 This title for “the evil one would have made a specially strong impact in the first century, for there was a well-known and well-hated figure called the delator, the paid informer. He made his living by accusing people before the authorities.” 15

In this church age the Devil focuses on accusing believers of wrongdoing. But because God has “justified” or declared believers totally righteous in His courtroom the moment we believe in Jesus apart from any works (Romans 4:5), no one can successfully accuse us of wrongdoing before God (cf. Romans 8:33), including the Devil.

The title “Satan” (Satanas) means “Adversary.” 16 Satan is not our friend. He is against us. He is our worst enemy. He hates us and wants to destroy our lives and testimony. But Jesus is our “Advocate” (I John 2:1-2) Who ceaselessly defends us and intercedes before God the Father’s throne in heaven (Hebrews 7:25). Whenever Satan accuses us of wrongdoing, Christ says to the Father, “I paid for that sin, Father.”   

John writes that Satan is the one “who deceives the whole world” (12:9b). The primary strategy Satan uses to accuse and oppose us is deception. The Devil cannot win spiritual battles by exerting authority because he has been defeated on the cross (cf. Colossians 2:14-15; Hebrews 2:14-15). So, Satan must win by deception, influencing our thinking through spiritual and worldly means. We permit Satan to achieve victories in our lives when we act on that deception rather than rejecting it as a lie. 17

How can we overcome Satan’s deception? Jesus tells us in John 8. 31 Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.’” (John 8:31). Christ is talking to Jewish believers who have eternal life, so He is not talking about salvation here. He is talking about the lifelong process of discipleship after we believe in Him for everlasting life.

Hence, the first way to overcome Satan’s deception is to believe in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, so you may have eternal life in His name (John 20:31). The only condition for eternal life is simply believing in Christ for it. Obviously, then if you want to be free from the deception of the Devil, you must believe or trust in Christ alone for His gift of everlasting life. And the moment you do, the eternal Son of God comes to live inside of you. If you don’t have Jesus Christ in your life, the only changes in your life will be superficial. You may read your Bible, pray, and go to church or counseling, but you are not going to experience lasting freedom from Satan’s lies without Christ in your life! Only Christ has the power to defeat the Devil’s deception in your life.

But overcoming deception does not stop with believing in Christ. Christ says to these believers, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed” (8:31b). What is the condition for being Jesus’ disciples? Abiding in His Word. To “abide” (menō) in Christ’s Word means “to continue or remain” 18 in Jesus’ teaching – literally, “to make one’s home at.”Where we make our home is where we spend our time. So, notice that you can believe in Jesus and not abide in His word. When believers “abide” or remain in Christ’s word, they “shall know the truth, and the truth shall make” them “free” (8:32).

Note two things. First, there is such a thing as truth. Truth is the absolute standard by which reality is measured. We live in a relativistic society that denies absolute truth, claiming, ‘What’s true for you may not be true for me.’ But truth is not based on our feelings, experiences, or desires. Truth is God’s viewpoint on every matter, and it is not subject to redefinition. Pilate would ask, ‘What is truth?’ (18:38), and the answer to that question is ‘Jesus’ (see 14:6).

“Second, knowing the truth results in genuine freedom. Don’t be confused. Truth alone doesn’t liberate; rather, the knowledge of the truth liberates. Deliverance comes when we know the truth—that is, when we hang out in what God says. When this happens, we will experience the truth setting us free from illegitimate bondage” 19 to Satan’s lies.

I cannot stress enough the importance of being a part of a discipleship relationship with other believers. We always learn from others, truths we would never learn on our own. Other people will help you see insights you would miss and help you apply God’s truth in a practical way. They can also help hold you accountable and I know I need that, don’t you? So, as we abide or remain in Christ’s word, we shall know the truth, and the truth, Jesus Christ (John 14:6), shall make us free from Satan’s deception. The truth will identify the lies we have been believing that have held us in bondage to sin and will also provide the remedy to overcome those lies. It is knowing and applying the truth of God’s Word that will overcome the Devil’s deception.

Prayer: Father God, thank You for reminding us that although Satan is a powerful and aggressive foe, he will not be victorious. Your angels will defeat him at the midpoint of the Tribulation period, so he never has access to Your throne in heaven again. And while Satan accuses us before You every day and night during this current Church Age, we have an Advocate, Jesus Christ, Who ceaselessly defends us and intercedes for us. Not only this, but Jesus also gives us eternal life the moment we believe in Him so we can subsequently abide in His Word and know the truth which sets us free from Satan’s lies. Please empower us, Lord, to know, believe and act on Your truth so that we may become all that You intended us to be for Your glory alone. In the mighty name of Jesus Who is the truth, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1542.

2. Ibid.   

3. Mark Hitchcock, The End: A Complete Overview of Bible Prophecy and the End of Days (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2012 Kindle Edition), pp. 378, 490 491.

4. Vacendak, pg. 1542.

5. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2397.

6. Ibid.

7. Vacendak, pg. 1543; see also John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), location 5701 and Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 136.  

8. Vacendak, pg. 1543. cf. Hitchcock, pg. 314.

9. Constable, pg. 136.

10. Evans, pg. 2397.

11. Hitchcock, pp. 413-414.

12. Ibid., pg. 414 cites Grant R. Osborne, Revelation (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002), pp. 702-703.

13. Contstable, pg. 136.

14. Ibid., see also Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 226.

15. Ibid., cites Leon Morris, The Revelation of St. John, Tyndale New Testament Commentary series, Reprint ed. (Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, and Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1984), pg. 161; cf. William Barclay, The Revelation of John Vol. 2, The Daily Study Bible series, 2nd ed. (Edinburgh: Saint Andrew Press, 1964), pg. 102.

16. Ibid., cf. Bauer, pg. 916.

17. Evans, 2397.

18. Bauer, pp. 630-631.

19. Evans, pg. 1779.

Real Solutions to Real Problems – Part 1 (Video)

This is the first video in a series entitled, “Real Solutions to Real Problems. You will learn how to cope with stress by discovering how to apply biblical principles from the life of Jesus Christ.

All Scriptures are from the New King James Version Bible unless otherwise noted. Digital images are used with permission from backpew.com by Jeff Larson, Goodsalt.com, Good News Productions International and College Press Publishing / FreeBibleimages.org, Arabs for Christ / FreeBibleimages.org, Sweet Publishing / FreeBibleimages.org, www.LumoProject.com, GoodSalt / goodsalt.com, or they are creative common licenses.

How much you matter to God – Part 4

“And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and saw him, and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.’ ” Luke 19:5

We are learning from Jesus’ encounter with a wealthy man named Zacchaeus how much we matter to God. So far we have discovered…

– No matter how insignificant I feel, Jesus notices me (Luke 19:4-5a).

– No matter what other people say, Jesus affirms me (Luke 19:5ab).

Zacchaeus’ appearance made him feel lonely and insecure. His accusers made him feel bitter and resentful. But it was Zacchaeus’ sins, his own lifestyle, his own choices, that made him feel guilty and ashamed. So Jesus Christ did something even more shocking. He didn’t just walk up to the tree and look up and notice Zacchaeus. And He didn’t just call him by name and affirm him as a pure one in front of everybody else who hated him. 

Jesus then said, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” (Luke 19:5). Jesus invited Himself to Zacchaeus’ home for dinner. This is truly amazing!

Think about this. The Son of God, walked all the way through town to find the biggest scoundrel in town and says, “I’m going to go to your house. I’m going to be your guest. Out of all these thousands of people, I choose you, Zacchaeus.”

This leads us to our third profound truth: NO MATTER WHAT I’VE DONE, JESUS ACCEPTS ME (Luke 19:5c-6) and He wants a relationship with me. This is the biggest mind blower of all. Jesus knew that there was no way that Zacchaeus would ever invite Him to his house because Zacchaeus was carrying a lot of hidden guilt, perhaps like some of us today. Because in his mind, Zacchaeus was thinking, “I’m not good enough to have Jesus Christ at my house. I’m not good enough to have God as my guest. You don’t know the things that I have done. I am not good enough to have a relationship with Him.”

And many of us have felt that way. We say to ourselves, “I’m not good enough. If you knew all the shameful things I have done You could never love me or want to spend time with me.” But we are wrong. Spending time with Jesus is not based on our goodness. It is based on God’s incredible love and grace for us. Regardless of all we have done wrong, Jesus Christ still wants a relationship with us.

So Jesus takes the initiative and says, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” Notice, that Jesus did not say, “I would like to stay at your house.” No, He said “I must stay at your house.” This was a divine appointment. It was a necessary visit. 1  Since Jesus called Zacchaeus by name, He obviously knew Zacchaeus. He knew everything about him, but that did not deter Jesus from taking the initiative and inviting Himself to Zacchaeus’ house.

The truth is, like Zacchaeus, we have done a lot of things we are ashamed of. We have all hurt other people with our own brand of selfishness. Sometimes it is out in the open. Sometimes it is in secret. But we have hurt a lot of other people in our lives by the things we have said and done. Our choices have deeply wounded people. But Jesus wants to change us more than condemn us. Jesus said, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” (John 3:17). Christ came into the world to cleanse us, not condemn us. So He looks at you and me, and He says, “I know you, I love you, and I accept you in spite of all that you have done. And I want you to know and love Me and have a relationship with Me.”

Some of us may think, “If I come to Jesus Christ with all the dirt in my life, He is going to condemn me!” If this is how we think, then we don’t understand how much we matter to Jesus Christ. When we come to Christ in faith, no matter what we have done, Jesus still accepts us. Jesus said, “The one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.” (John 6:37b). Christ guarantees that when you come to Him in faith, He will never reject you. This may be difficult for us to understand if we have experienced a lot of rejection in our lives.

But there is a big difference between people and God when it comes to forgetting our past. When we sin, people have a tendency to remind us of our past sins. But God forgets! The Bible says, “ ‘16 This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days,’ says the Lord: ‘I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them,’ 17 then He adds, ‘Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.’ ” (Hebrews 10:16-17). God was not teasing when He said He will remember our sins no more. God has a forgetful nature. “Just as it’s against your nature to eat tree or grow wings, it’s against God’s nature to remember forgiven sins.” 2

“You see, God is either the God of perfect grace… or He is not God. Grace forgets. Period. Grace does not judge! He who is perfect love cannot hold grudges. If He does, then He isn’t perfect love.” 3 Grace is when God gives us what we don’t deserve. He gives us what we need instead of what we deserve. None of us deserve to be forgiven. None of us deserve to have our sins remembered no more. But God’s grace forgives and forgets!

Think about this. If God did not forget, how could we pray? How could we sing to Him? How could we dare enter into His presence if the moment He saw us He remembered all our sinful past? 4

Let me illustrate this with a $100 bill. If I took a $100 bill and crumpled it up in my hand, would you still want it? Yes. But what if I stomped on that $100 bill with my dirty shoes on? Would you still want it? Yes, of course you would. But why? Because it has not lost any of its value. Yes, your life may be crumpled and stained by sin. It may be a total mess. But your life has not lost any value to God! And, yes, you have blown it but Jesus Christ still wants a relationship with you. 

When we come to Jesus, He accepts us and He will never reject us. No matter what we have done, Jesus wants a relationship with us. Knowing that Jesus notices everything in our lives, He affirms us regardless of what anyone else says about us, and He still wants a relationship with us in spite of the fact that we have rejected Him in the past, how should you respond to Him?

The way Zacchaeus did. The Bible says, “So he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully.” (Luke 19:6). I think Zacchaeus was saved before he hit the ground. He thought, “This is a deal I am not going to get anywhere else. I am going to take advantage of it right now.” Zacchaeus didn’t just receive Jesus joyfully into his house that day, he joyfully received Jesus into his heart. His heart was filled with joy because no one had ever showed him such love and grace as Jesus just did!

With the God who notices… affirms… and accepts you and is waiting with open arms, give me one logical reason why you should refuse to receive him as your Savior. There is none. It is so simple. The Bible says, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” (John 1:12). Believe and receive. Zacchaeus joyfully received Jesus into his life by believing in Him. God became His Father in heaven and Zacchaeus became God’s child forever at that moment of faith.

Today I want to invite you, like Zacchaeus, to jump out of the tree you are in or get off the limb you are out on or get out of the dark hole and receive Jesus Christ into your life. How can you do that? The Bible says you must simply believe in Jesus Christ. “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.” (I John 5:1). Jesus is the promised Christ, the Messiah-God (cf. Isaiah 9:6; John 1:1, 14, 41; 20:31). When you believe this, you are born of God. You are placed in God’s family forever and He will never cast you out (John 6:37).

In John 14:6, Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Jesus makes it very clear that there is only one way to God and that is through Him. Our sin, the wrong things we have done, separate us from God (Romans 6:23a). But Jesus has provided the only way back to God by dying on the cross for all our sins (John 19:30; I Corinthians 15:3-6). He took our place and punishment on the cross, was buried, and then rose again. The Lord Jesus is alive today and He now invites you to believe or trust in Him alone for His free gift of eternal life.

Just as you trust a chair to hold you up through no effort of your own, so you must trust in Jesus Christ alone as your only way to heaven. Your good life, religion, or prayers will not save you. Only Jesus can save you. The Bible says, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12). Did you catch that? “No other name under heaven” can save us from eternal separation from God outside of Jesus Christ. Your monk, parent, pastor, peers, politician, priest, prophet, or imam, cannot save you from your sins. You and I cannot save ourselves. But Jesus Christ can.

And the moment you place your trust in Jesus for eternal life, you become God’s child and God comes to live inside you through His Spirit. He can change the way you see yourself.

If you just believed or trusted Christ alone today for His gift of salvation, I would like to give you a chance to tell God what you have done. You can pray this prayer in your heart, keeping in mind that prayer does not save, trusting Christ saves.

Prayer: Dear God, thank You for noticing every detail of my life… for seeing my potential in spite of my sin… for wanting a relationship with me in spite of all that I have done wrong. Today I realize there is nothing I can do to deserve heaven. So right now as best I know how, I am trusting You alone, Jesus, to forgive all my sins and to give me eternal life. Thank You for the assurance that I will now be with you in heaven when I die. Thank You for not being ashamed of me. I do not want to be ashamed of You, Lord Jesus. Please help me to see myself as You see me – forgiven, redeemed, and saved forever. Help me to tell others what You have done for me. In Your mighty name I pray Lord Jesus. Amen.

When you believed in Jesus, He placed you in God’s family forever (John 1:12; 6:37). All of your sins are forgiven (Colossians 2:13-14). God has forgotten all your sins so you can approach Him with boldness now through prayer (Hebrews 10:16-22). God is now Your Father in heaven and you are His child forever (Matthew 6:9). You now have many brothers and sisters in Christ all around the world. And at that moment of faith in Jesus, everything changed in your life just as it did in Zacchaeus’ life. Lord willing, we will discover next time just how dramatically Zacchaeus’ life changed and how Jesus can change our lives too.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1717.

2. Retrieved from Steve Siemen’s communion meditation at NewLife Church in Pleasant Hill, Iowa on August 8, 2021.

3. Ibid.

4. Adapted from Ibid.

Lessons from the risen Lord Jesus – Part 6

“Jesus said to them, ‘Bring some of the fish which you have just caught.’ ” John 21:10

After Jesus miraculously enabled the disciples to catch a net full of fish, John recognized it was the Lord on the shore, so Peter dove into the sea to swim over to Jesus and the other disciples rode on their little boat to shore (John 21:6-8). When they arrived on shore, they saw Jesus cooking fish and bread over a fire of coals (John 21:9). John then informs us, “Jesus said to them, ‘Bring some of the fish which you have just caught.’ ” (John 21:10). Even though there was already one “fish” 1 on the fire (John 21:9), Jesus instructed the disciples to “bring some of the fish” 2  that they had “caught” (John 21:10). Why doesn’t the Lord miraculously multiply the one fish to feed these disciples? Why does He invite them to bring some of their own fish?

There are several attempts to explain this invitation. Some suggest Jesus did this because He wanted His disciples “to feel they had contributed in some way to the meal. Most dinner guests like to contribute a dish to the meal, and Jesus may have simply been sensitive to this need.” 3  Others say “this was all symbolic of how Jesus would carry out His mission through His disciples in the future, compared with how He had done it during His pre-cross ministry.” 4 Another says, “I believe our Lord’s object was to show the disciples that the secret of success was to work at His command, and to act with implicit obedience to His word.” 5  The explanation I like the best is that Jesus simply wanted them to enjoy His company so He invites them to bring some of their fish and have a meal with Him. 6  

Some people think the resurrected Lord Jesus is a phantom or a figment of their imagination. But John is telling us in this last chapter of his gospel that the resurrected Lord Jesus is real. He has built a fire for His disciples who are tired and hungry. He is cooking some fish and bread and invites them to join Him. He is sitting around the fire with His close friends to enjoy a delicious meal while they fellowship with one another. I can just imagine them talking with Jesus about their all-night fishing expedition with nothing to show for it and then suddenly, after they cast their net on the other side of their boat, they catch so many fish they cannot even haul it into their boat. This is a real relationship with the resurrected Christ. And this is what Jesus invites us to enjoy. So our sixth lesson is this: ACCEPT JESUS’ INVITATION TO ENJOY HIS COMPANY (JOHN 21:10).

There are people who think their relationship with the resurrected Christ is so spiritual, it is not real. It does not fit into their everyday life. They can experience the resurrected Lord Jesus at church when they are singing with other believers, but it is extremely difficult for them to experience Him on Monday morning. But these verses in John 21 are telling us how we can have breakfast with Jesus on a beach in the real daily experiences of our lives. We can experience a personal relationship with the resurrected Lord Jesus.  

These seven disciples returned to fishing while they waited for Jesus to meet them in Galilee. But Jesus was there on the shore. He knew they had been fishing all night without catching anything. He knew where the fish were so He instructed them to cast their net on the other side of their boat and they caught so many fish they could not haul them all into their boat. When they arrived on the shore, He invites them to bring some of their fish to enjoy with Him.

What I believe God is saying to us is that through His Holy Spirit, Jesus is present with us no matter where we go or what we do (cf. John 14:16-18). And He wants to be part of our daily lives. He wants us to experience His presence whether we are up in the mountains or out on a lake. He wants us to experience His presence in the city or out on a farm. When we realize that Jesus’ presence is everywhere we don’t have to fit Him into certain places at certain times. He can be part of every moment of our lives.

Christ wants to hang out with His disciples. He wants to spend time with His best friends. He wanted to eat a meal with them and He had some things to share with them. And He wants to do the same with you and me.

When is the last time you hung out with the risen Lord Jesus just to hang out? Unfortunately for many of us, we are so focused on our growth and ministry for Christ and making an eternal difference for Him in the world, that we don’t just hang out with Him. Every time we relate to Him we talk about some big problem or some issue that is so huge that it tires us out spiritually.

But when is the last time we simply hung out with the risen Lord Jesus and said, “Lord, I am so glad You are here!” If you are like me, you don’t do that often enough. It feels so calming just to enjoy the company of the risen Lord Jesus. He delights in us. He celebrates us. We do not have to perform or try to be someone or something we are not.

Some of us may think that sounds really strange. After all, Jesus is up in heaven and we are down here on earth. What exactly are you talking about? But that is not completely true. Remember, since Jesus is God (John 1:1, 14; 20:28; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 1:8; I John 5:20), His presence is everywhere through God the Holy Spirit. Through His Holy Spirit, the risen Lord Jesus lives in each of us who believe in Him (cf. John 7:37-39; Acts 10:43-47; Romans 8:11; Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 1:13-14). Jesus is here. He wants to say something to our hearts and minds. Have we learned to relax in the presence of our risen Lord Jesus Christ? If not, it is one of the key lessons of the Christian life – to relax in His presence. Have you learned to let Him “cook breakfast” for you? To provide for your needs?

All of us get invitations in our email inbox. With some of those invitations, when we open them up, we say, “No way am I going to that event! That is the last place in the world I want to be!” A second kind of email invitation is when we open it up, we think, “If nothing else is going on, maybe I will go to that. If I’m not too tired from work that day, I may go to that event.” Then there is a category three kind of email. When you open it up and look at it, you say, “There is no way I am going to miss that! I am going to be at that event for sure! I am really looking forward to this!”

Every invitation from the risen Lord Jesus needs to be in category three. “There is no way I am going to miss that! I am pumped to hang out with Jesus!”

We are not talking about an email invitation from Jesus or a Facebook invite. Jesus invited His disciples when He said, “Bring some of the fish which you have just caught.” How do we hear invitations from the risen Lord Jesus now? And if we have heard them, how will we recognize them as being from Him? How do we know if Christ is inviting us? He is not going to show up physically on a seashore and speak audibly to us so it must be an invitation that takes place in our hearts and minds. How do we know if the risen Lord Jesus Christ is saying something to our hearts and minds?

First of all, when Jesus speaks to us it is always consistent with His Word. God the Holy Spirit is referred to as “the Spirit of truth” (John 14:17). Jesus identified Himself as “the truth” in John 14:6. Hence, the Holy Spirit communicates “truth” about Jesus. Jesus identifies the truth as the Father’s “word” in John 17:17. The Holy Spirit guides us into all truth about Jesus through God’s Word (John 15:26; 16:13). It is through the Word that the Holy Spirit tells us what to do. He does not speak audibly to us, He speaks through the truth of the Bible. He will always “testify of” Jesus (John 15:26) and teach us what He “hears” Jesus say (John 16:13-15). The Holy Spirit is not going to teach something contrary to what Jesus has already taught. He will give us the ability to do what the Word says as we depend upon Him. We need the Holy Spirit to empower us to keep Jesus’ commands (John 14:15).

Here are some ideas about how this works. Any time you have a desire to worship God, that is probably an invitation from the risen Lord Jesus. It is consistent with His Word (Psalm 22:27; 29:2; 95:1, 6, 9; John 4:23-24; Ephesians 5:18-20; Philippians 3:3; Revelation 4:2-5:14; 7:11; 14:7; 15:4; 22:9), so accept it.

Whenever you have a desire to pray about something, that is probably an invitation from the risen Lord Jesus (Matthew 5:44; 6:5-7, 9; 9:38; 26:41; Luke 11:1-2; 18:1; Colossians 4:2-3; I Thessalonians 5:17; 2 Thessalonians 3:1). Accept it.

When a thought pops in your mind and you want to do something good for another person, that may be an invitation from Jesus Christ (Matthew 5:16, 44; Galatians 6:9-10; Ephesians 2:10; 6:5-9; Philippians 2:12-13; Colossians 3:22-24). Accept it.

Or when your heart is burdened to share the gospel with someone, it is probably from the risen Lord Jesus (Mark 16:15; Acts 1:8; 8:26-39; 2 Timothy 4:2). Accept it.

Maybe some of you are naturally good and you always think of prayer, worship, doing good things for others or sharing the gospel with them because you are such a “good” person. But I am not that way. The truth is, without the risen Lord Jesus Christ in my life, I would not do those things. It is only when Jesus says, “Why don’t you worship or pray, and why don’t you do something good or share the gospel with that person?” that I have learned to do those things. Those types of thoughts are not from my “good” human nature. I have learned when those thoughts come into my mind they are from the risen Lord Jesus Christ. Whenever we have these thoughts, accept them. Accept invitations from Jesus Christ any time they come. That will be the greatest thing you have ever done. It will be the greatest party that you have ever attended. Have a real relationship with the risen Lord Jesus Christ. Don’t settle for anything less.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for showing us that You are not some phantom or figment of the imagination. You are a real historical Person Who is alive today and wants to have a real personal relationship with each of us. Thank You for speaking to our hearts and minds through the Bible and Your Holy Spirit. Help us to recognize Your voice of truth and rely upon Your Spirit to accept Your invitations whenever they come to us. Saying, “Yes,” to You, Lord Jesus, is the greatest decision we could ever make! Thank You for this adventure with You called the Christian life. I look forward to hanging out with You today. Being in Your presence is so much better than life itself. I love You, my Lord and my God. In Your matchless name I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. The Greek word for “fish” is opsarion which is singular.

2. The Greek word for “fish” is opsariōn which is plural.

3. J. Carl Laney Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pp. 376-377.

4. Tom Constable, Notes on John, 2017 Edition, pg. 391.

5. Ibid., pg. 392 cites Arthur W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John Vol. 3 (Swengel, Pa.: I. C. Herendeen, 1945; 3 vols. in 1 reprint ed., Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1973), pg. 313.

6. The next several paragraphs are adapted from Tom Holladay’s September 4, 1996 message entitled, “Resurrected Purpose: John 21:1-24.”

How do I overcome doubt? Part 3

“The other disciples therefore said to him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ So he said to them, ‘Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I WILL NOT BELIEVE.’ ” John 20:25 (Emphasis added)

In John 20:24-29, we are learning how to overcome doubt. So far we have discovered we can overcome doubt when we…

– Restore our fellowship with other Christians (John 20:24).

– Readjust our unrealistic requirements for belief (John 20:25a).

Let’s remember that Thomas was already a believer in Jesus for everlasting life (cf. John 2:11; 11:15 13:10; 14:5) when he struggled with doubts about Jesus’ resurrection. Likewise, as believers in Jesus, we will all have doubts in our lives. There are many different kinds of doubts that we will face. 1

One kind of a doubt is what is called the sudden kind of doubt. You are driving down the highway and all of a sudden this thought jumps into your mind that says, “None of these things about Jesus are real.” Or, “No one is really going to heaven. What if this is all a lie?”  Have you ever had those kind of thoughts? Where do those thoughts come from?  They come from Satan, the evil one. These kind of thoughts will just pop into your mind. You can just throw them out like trash as quickly as possible. Don’t be concerned about these. 

But another kind of doubt is called circumstantial doubts. These doubts come into our lives because of certain circumstances that we face. Doubts that come because of certain relationships or disappointments. These are longer lasting doubts. They come into our lives when circumstances do not turn out like we expected God was going to do.

When these circumstantial doubts take place, we have to decide how we are going to deal with them. How are we going to trust God in this? The way to do this is the same way Thomas needed to do it.

Thomas was not among the disciples the first time Jesus appeared to the ten disciples the day He rose from the dead (John 20:19-23). After Jesus’ appearance to them, the disciples came to Thomas, saying, “We have seen the Lord.” Thomas then said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” (John 20:25). The disciples are encouraging Thomas to have faith that Jesus is alive. But Thomas says, “I will not believe.”

Thomas is telling us, “I am choosing not to believe.” He is making a choice not to believe Jesus is alive. It is a matter of his will. Those who deny that faith is a choice are ignoring the truth of the Scriptures. God makes it very clear that faith is a matter of the will.

Jesus amplifies this when He comes to His disciples eight days after His resurrection. 26 Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, ‘Peace to you!’ 27 Then He said to Thomas, ‘Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.’ ” (John 20:26-27). Although the doors were locked, Jesus materialized in front of the disciples and said, “Peace to you.” Then Christ turned directly to Thomas, as if He had come for his sole benefit. Knowing full well the struggles going on in Thomas’ heart, Jesus invites him to explore with his hands (“Reach your finger here”) and his eyes (“look at My hands”) the reality of His resurrection body.

When Jesus said, “reach your hand here, and put it into My side,” he was referring to a literal hole in His side that was left by the spear. It had healed over but it left an obvious impression. Jesus did not condemn Thomas for his unbelief. He didn’t say, “You should not ask questions like that Thomas!” Christ gave Thomas undeniable evidence that He rose from the dead to answer his objection and then invites him to believe.

Christ began with Thomas’ objection and then gave him evidence. Peter taught the same thing in principle when he wrote, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.” (I Peter 3:15).

When sharing the gospel with an intellectual skeptic, they may say to you, “Where did Cain get his wife?” The answer is he married his sister. But we can go beyond that and show the reasonableness of that answer. Granted, there are some problems with that answer. The first problem is we know that Adam had sons – Cain, Abe, and Seth (Genesis 4:1-2, 25), but we cannot name any of his daughters. Now if Adam did not have any daughters, how could Cain marry his sister? The answer to that difficulty is that Adam did have daughters. Genesis 5:4 says, “After he begot Seth, the days of Adam were eight hundred years; and he had sons and daughters.”

But this brings up a second problem. Today we cannot marry a sister because if a brother marries his sister the mathematical possibilities of the weakness of their genes coming up in their children is great. That is why this is called incest and is forbidden today.

The only way to solve that problem is to have genetically perfect parents. That is exactly the case with Cain and his sister. Adam and Eve were created directly by God so Cain and his sister had perfect heredity. Their children would have had few harmful mutations. When sin entered the world at the fall (Genesis 3; Romans 5:12), it brought with it mutations in the DNA resulting in disease, death, and destruction. The gene pool would gradually become corrupt. At first no harm would result from marrying a brother or sister, but as generations passed harmful genetic mutations along, those harmful mutations and defective genes would increase and accumulate. Eventually, it became too dangerous to marry a close relative because of the increased likelihood of inherited disease. This is why God forbid marrying a close relative in the time of Moses, about 2,500 years after the creation of Adam and Eve (Leviticus 18:6-8).

But there was no prohibition against marrying a close relative in the beginning because there was no need for it. So the point is that there is a reasonable answer to the question, “Where did Cain get his wife?”

Some of us may conclude that we could never witness because we will not be able to come up with all those intellectual answers. But often times, non-Christians do not ask the questions Christians ask. Those of us who are believers in Jesus hear the Bible discussed and explained and we expect non-Christians to ask the same questions we do. But more and more non-Christians in the world are biblical illiterates. They usually don’t ask the questions we do.

Most non-Christians ask very basic questions: What about those who have never heard? Is Christ the only way to God? How can you be sure Jesus is God? Why do the innocent suffer? How can miracles be possible? Isn’t the Bible full of errors? Isn’t the Christian experience psychological? Won’t a good moral life get me to heaven?

Rather than worry about non-Christians asking difficult questions, simply share the gospel with those who will listen. If you do not know the answer to their questions, be honest and tell them you do not know. I find it helps to say to them, “Thanks so much for a great question. I do not have an answer to that right now, but I will do some research and get back to you with an answer.” The internet has many helpful Christian websites that can help you answer tough questions. 2 Ask your pastor for some help if you don’t find any on the internet.

When an intellectual objection is given to you by someone, start out by giving a reasonable answer to the stated objection. Some people do have honest intellectual questions. They want answers. They will usually accept reasonable answers, or at least the reasonableness of an answer.

But when a person objects to Christianity and does not accept the reasonableness of an answer, his or her problem is moral, not intellectual. These people tend to argue rather than listen to the reasonableness of your answers. So pursue the moral issue.

Perhaps they are struggling with guilt. For example, an evangelist was having a rap session with high school teenagers. One girl who sat in the back had been quiet. Near the end of the session, she said, “The Bible says God loves everyone. Then it says God sends people to hell. How can a loving God do that?” The evangelist gave reasonable answers but she kept coming back with arguments. He didn’t convince her nor did she convince him. Soon the session was dismissed.

Afterward, the evangelist approached the girl and said, “I owe you an apology. I really should not have allowed our discussion to become so argumentative.” Then he said, “May I share something with you?” “Yes,” she said. So he began to present the gospel to her. When he got to Romans 3:23, he said, “We are all sinners.” Then she began to cry. She then admitted to having an affair with a married man. The one thing she needed was forgiveness. After the gospel presentation, she trusted Christ alone for the forgiveness of all her sin and received the gift of eternal life. The reason she had not believed in hell was because she was going there. Rather than face her guilt, she denied there was any future hell.

Others we may witness to may struggle with bitterness. Many non-Christians have been turned off by Christians or Christianity. They have had Christianity crammed down their throats or they have been stabbed in the back by a Christian. Their response was bitterness. They have been wounded and they are hurting. They need to hear and see the grace of Jesus Christ.

Another moral issue that can hinder a non-Christian from hearing reasonable answers to their questions is a sinful self-will. After hearing the gospel presentation, one student said, “I can’t answer your presentation, but it is reasonable. It is just that I refuse to accept it.”

This is what kept many religious leaders from believing in Jesus when Christ walked the earth. Christ said to those who refused to believe in Him as the Christ, the Son of God, 39You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. 40 But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.” (John 5:39-40). These religious leaders devoted their lives to studying the Scriptures “which testify of” Jesus, but they never found Him. Why? Because they were “not willing to come to” Him that they “may have life.” They were unwilling to believe in Jesus even though the Bible testifies of Him from cover to cover.

When witnessing to intellectuals, we must avoid two extremes:

1) Anti-intellectualism which says, “Don’t bother me with intellectual questions. Just let me present the simple gospel.” The result is the thinking non-Christian will conclude that his honest questions have no answers and he won’t listen to the gospel.

2) Intellectualism that says answers will win the person to Christ. So we rely on intellectual answers and not on God. Keep in mind that it was not the disciples who convinced Thomas (John 20:25a), it was Jesus Himself who convinced this skeptic. Giving people the gospel will often do what all the intellectual arguments fail to do – break down the barriers. There is only one way to God – the gospel or good news of Jesus and His death and resurrection. But there are many ways to the gospel. The road may be straight, or it may contain curves. You have to travel the road the person is on when you find him or her. No matter where you find him or how many roads he takes, or how many rest stops he insists on, guide him gently toward the gospel of Jesus Christ. Rely on the Holy Spirit instead of reasonable answers to persuade the person to believe in Christ alone as his or her only hope of heaven.

After Jesus gave Thomas the evidence to answer to his objection, Christ commands him, Do not be unbelieving, but believing.” 3  It is a matter of the will. It is a choice to stop doubting and to believe.

When Thomas said, “I will not believe” (John 20:25b), in the Greek language he used a double negative. 4  Literally, he is saying, “I will no not believe.” We might translate it, “I will positively not believe.” At least Thomas is being honest. He is making it clear that the reason he will not believe Jesus is alive is because he has made the choice not to believe it. He is choosing not to believe.

Some people think that having faith is a matter of the intellect or logic. Others view faith as being based on emotions. So which is it? Logic or feelings? Neither is true. Faith is volitional. It is not based upon the intellect or feelings. It is based upon the will.

There are people who are waiting for their mind to inform them or their emotions to lead them into the kind of faith in God that they see other people having. It is not going to happen. Yes, information or emotions can influence our decisions. But simply having enough information in our minds or enough emotions in our hearts is not going to automatically give us faith in God. Faith is a matter of the will.

When I choose to believe, then my emotions will follow and my mind will start to understand more and more of Who God truly is. It is a matter of the will.

When Jesus told Thomas, Do not be unbelieving, but believing” (John 20:27b), He was telling him to choose to stop moving in the direction of unbelief and to decide to start moving in the direction of belief. So the third way to overcome doubts is to REDIRECT OUR WILLS TOWARD BELIEVING (John 20:25b-27). We are either moving in the direction of belief or we are moving in the direction of unbelief. We either decide to accept God’s Word is true or we decide to reject His Word is true. We either decide that God is a Promise-Keeper or God is a Promise-Breaker. We decide that God is either a Truth-Teller or a Liar.

Please understand that Thomas still had eternal life even though he had doubts. When you believe in Jesus for eternal life, you can never lose eternal life. That is why Jesus says you “shall never perish” after you believe in Him (John 10:28a). The word “never” means forever. If you could “perish” in hell after believing in Jesus, then Christ told a lie in John 10:28a. But Christ will not break His promise of eternal life to those who believe in Him because He is “full of truth” (John 1:14) and is “the truth” (John 14:6). He always keeps His promises.

But you may ask, “If I doubt my salvation, does that mean I am not saved?” It is possible. Those who doubt their salvation fall into one of three categories: 5

– You may be a doubter at heart. In other words, some people doubt everything. They doubt whether their mates love them or whether their children respect them. They doubt they will reach the age of retirement, or that their plane will reach its destination. Such people have issues they must deal with that are far different than eternal salvation.

– You may not understand the gospel and are not saved. Perhaps you are trusting in Christ plus your works or just your works alone, instead of trusting in Christ’s finished work on the cross (John 3:15-16; 19:30). Therefore, you don’t have any certainty of going to heaven. Or you may have been taught that if you cannot remember the date you became a Christian, then you are not saved. So you wonder, “Could that mean I’m not saved?” Let me ask you, did Jesus say, “Whoever believes in Him and knows the date they were saved has everlasting life?” No. The real question is, “Whom am I trusting right now to give me eternal life?” Our salvation is established by Whom we place our trust in, not when we trusted Him.

– You have trusted Christ and are saved, but you have confused entering the Christian life (John 3:16; 5:24) with living it (I John 1:4-10; 2:3-6; 3:6-15; 4:20:21). When a believer takes his or her focus off of Christ and His promise of eternal life, he or she may begin to doubt their salvation. When you listen to teaching that confuses entering the Christian life with living it, you are going to have doubts that you are saved.

For example, a few years ago I listened to a famous preacher on the radio in America say that the book of I John was written to provide tests to see if you are saved. He said to ask yourself, “do I have fellowship with the Father?… am I abiding in Him?… do I keep God’s commandments?… do I love other Christians?…  am I overcoming sin?” If you couldn’t answer “yes” to all these questions, then he said you cannot be certain you are saved.

But this preacher failed to observe the purpose of I John is not to tell you how to become a Christian or how to know you are a Christian. First John was written to tell us how to have fellowship (closeness) with Christ or how to know you have fellowship with Christ. The author of I John, the same author of the gospel of John, writes, 3 That which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. 4 And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.”  (I John 1:3-4).

The gospel of John tells you how to receive the gift of eternal life, mentioning the word “believe” ninety-nine times. 6  The book of I John tells us how to get close to the One you have believed in, using the word for “abide” (menō) twenty-three times. 7

Therefore, closeness to Christ is discussed in I John, not salvation. People who don’t act like a Christian or a disciple may not be a believer. But to use characteristics of a disciple to determine if you are a Christian is not helpful. Some people might live a good moral life without being a Christian. It could be that those people are trusting in their works instead of Christ’s finished work on the cross to get them to heaven.

Losing your assurance of salvation is not the same as losing your salvation. As we have seen in the gospel of John, when you believe in Christ for eternal life, you are eternally secure at the moment of faith because of Christ’s performance and promise (John 3:14-18; 5:24; 6:35-40, 47; 10:28-29; 11:25-27; 19:30), not your performance or feelings.

However, being certain of your salvation can waver if you start looking to someone or something else other that Christ and His promise of eternal life. If you doubt your salvation, ask yourself: 8

Do I understand the simplicity of the Gospel? Since Christ paid the full penalty for my sins when He died on the cross and rose from the dead (John 19:30; I Corinthians 15:3-6), God can now forgive me based on what He has done for me, not what I do for Him (Acts 10:43; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:13-14).

– Have I trusted Christ alone for my salvation? We appropriate Christ’s death on the cross by coming to Him as sinners, recognizing that He made the full payment for sin on our behalf, and “believing.” Jesus promised, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life” (John 6:47). The word “believe” means to place our trust in Christ alone as our only basis for living eternally with God. If you are trusting Christ alone to get to heaven, you are forever God’s child regardless of when or where that occurred.

Am I taking God at His Word? Once you trust in Christ, you must trust His Word. That means accepting God’s promise that, having trusted Christ, we are forever His. Jesus assures us: “And I give them  eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.” (John 10:28).

If I were to ask you whose child you are, you would say, “I am the child of …” You have proof that would stand up in a court of law – a birth certificate. A piece of paper assures you that you are their child. God has given us a piece of paper – the inspired Word of  God, the Bible. It assures us that once we have believed in Christ, we have everlasting life. We are His forever. If you could lose your salvation, then Jesus just lied to us in John 3:16 when He said, “Whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Our salvation is based upon a promise that cannot be broken. It comes from a God who cannot lie.

In closing, Jesus looked at Thomas and said, “Do not be unbelieving, but believing” (John 20:27b). This meant it was a matter of Thomas’ will. This was something he could choose. And Thomas did. His decision teaches us our next way to overcome doubt. But that is for our next time together.

Prayer: Precious Lord Jesus, thank You for showing me that it is my decision to move toward doubting or believing. I cannot blame my doubts on my circumstances, my past, my parents, my personality, or my peers. I am responsible for whether or not I choose to doubt or believe. Simply having more information in my mind or more emotion in my heart is not going to automatically give me faith in You. It is a matter of my will. This day I am deciding to move in the direction of believing, not doubting. Whether I feel like believing or not, I will choose to move toward believing. Whether I have more or less information, I will decide to move toward believing. When I doubt my salvation, I will refocus upon You and Your unchanging promises. Please help those who doubt Your resurrection to realize it is their choice to do this. Just as You gave Thomas evidence to answer his objection, please give others what they need to come to faith in You. They can choose to believe or not believe. The choice is theirs. But that choice has eternal consequences. In Your name I pray, my Lord and my God. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Adapted from Tom Holladay’s August 28, 1996 sermon entitled, “How to Have Faith.”

2. See www.answersingenesis.org ; www.josh.org ; www.probe.org ; www.carm.org ; www.christiananswers.net .

3. The verb (ginou) in the phrase, “do not be unbelieving” (mē ginou apistos) is a present imperative.

4. Ou mē pisteusō.

5. Adapted from R. Larry Moyer, 21 Things God Never Said: Correcting Our Misconceptions About Evangelism (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2004) pp. 79-81.

6. In the Greek Majority Text John uses the word for “believe” (pisteuō) ninety-nine times: John 1:7, 12, 50; 2:11, 22, 23; 3:12(2), 15, 16, 18(3), 36; 4:21, 39, 41, 42, 48, 50, 53; 5:24, 38, 44, 46(2), 47(2); 6:29, 30, 35, 36, 40, 47,  64(2), 69; 7:5, 31, 38, 39, 48; 8:24, 30, 31, 45, 46; 9:18, 35, 36, 38; 10:25, 26, 37, 38(3), 42; 11:15, 25, 26(2), 27, 40, 42, 45, 48; 12:11, 36, 37, 38, 39, 42, 44(2), 46, 47; 13:19; 14:1(2), 10, 11(2), 12, 29; 16:9, 27, 30, 31; 17:8, 20, 21; 19:35; 20:8, 25, 29(2), 31(2).

7. In the Greek Majority Text, John uses the word for “abide” (menō) twenty-three times: I John 2:6, 10, 14, 17, 24(3), 27(2), 28; 3:6, 9, 14, 15, 17, 24(2); 4:12, 13, 15, 16 (3).

8. Moyer, 21 Things God Never Said, pp. 81-83.

How will you respond to Christ crucified? Part 2

“Pilate therefore said to Him, ‘Are You a king then?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.’ ” John 18:37

In John 18:28-19:4, we are looking at different responses to Christ crucified. The first way is like the Jewish leaders, we may refuse to believe in Jesus because of our self-righteous religious pride (John 18:28-32).

The next possible way we may respond to the crucified Christ is seen in Pilate’s response to Jesus. LIKE PILATE, WE MAY REFUSE TO BELIEVE IN JESUS BECAUSE WE ARE TOO BUSY WITH LIFE TO TRULY LIVE (John 18:33-38a). In the following verses we see the majesty of Christ confront the proud majesty of Rome’s representative. After speaking to the religious leaders outside the Praetorium, “Then Pilate entered the Praetorium again, called Jesus, and said to Him, ‘Are You the King of the Jews?’ ” (John 18:33). Pilate went back into Herod’s residence to question Jesus to see if He was a threat to Caesar. According to Luke 23:2, the religious leaders accused Jesus of three things: subverting the nation, opposing payment of taxes to Caesar, and claiming to be “Christ, a King.” 1

Jesus answered Pilate’s question with a question. “Jesus answered him, ‘Are you speaking for yourself about this, or did others tell you this concerning Me?’ ” (John 18:34). One commentator suggests that Jesus seems to be giving Pilate a chance to develop personal spiritual interest in Him.Are you speaking for yourself?’ If he were, this might well suggest Pilate would have received more revelation about Jesus and the life He gives.” 2   

But Pilate was not interested in learning more about Jesus spiritually. He says to Christ, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered You to me. What have You done?” (John 18:35). When Pilate says, “Am I a Jew?” he is saying he has no personal interest in this matter. He sees it purely as an ethnic issue. Pilate wants to know what Jesus has “done” to stir up the Jews’ hatred toward Him.

Christ seems to answer Pilate’s earlier question about whether He was a King (John 18:33) when He says, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.” (John 18:36). Jesus says, “Yes, I am a King.” But He assures Pilate that His “kingdom is not of this world” like Rome’s political kingdom. If it were of this world, Jesus would use the world’s methods to establish His kingdom, that is, His “servants would fight, so that… [He] should not be delivered to the Jews.”

Let’s think about this for a moment. The truth of the matter is that Jesus is the King of the Jews and He is also the King of the Romans. In fact, He is King of the entire universe!!! But the source of His authority and kingship is in heaven, not on earth.

Remember, one of Jesus’ “servants,” Peter, did fight in the Garden of Gethsemane and Christ rebuked him and healed the man Peter had wounded (John 18:10-11; Luke 22:51). But Peter was using worldly methods to establish a kingdom, not the methods of Jesus. This is a good reminder that if we are going to be Jesus’ servants, we have got to use His methods – not the methods of this world. Worldly methods “won’t work when your source is spiritual.” 4  

When Jesus says, “but now My kingdom is not from here,” this implies (especially the word now) that His being “delivered to [the will of] the Jews” is a necessary step toward His future rule as King of the Jews. One day Jesus’ kingdom will be on earth. However, that will be a revitalized world. It will not be ‘this world,’ a world whose god is Satan. In addition, Jesus will reign forever on the new earth (Revelation 21-22).” 5

Pilate realizes Jesus’ claim to kingship when he says to Christ, “Are You a king then?” (John 18:37a). Only a king would claim a kingdom. Ironically, Pilate recognized what the Jews refused to believe – that Jesus is Israel’s King. Christ confirms Pilate’s conclusion and proceeds to explain the nature of His mission and ministry. “Jesus answered, ‘You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.’ ” (John 18:37b). Jesus was “born” to be a King.

Jesus understood His purpose. Do we understand ours? God has a purpose for our lives that is complete in every detail. It is impossible for the God of the universe to allow any of His plans to be executed haphazardly. The life of Jesus is a prime example. His coming as a Babe in Bethlehem, His earthly ministry, His death and resurrection, all took place according to God’s eternal purpose. Christ was born for Kingship. He came to earth to reveal the truth about Himself.  

Do you realize that your life, if you are a believer in Jesus, has been designed by your heavenly Father to fulfill a specific purpose? C.H. Spurgeon said, “But let us all do something for Christ. I will never believe there is a Christian in the world who cannot do something. There is not a spider hanging on the king’s wall but hath its errand; there is not a nettle that groweth in the corner of the churchyard but hath its purpose; there is not a single insect fluttering in the breeze but accomplisheth some divine decree; and I will never have it that God created any man, especially any Christian man, to be a blank, and to be a nothing. He made you for an end. Find out what that end is; find our your niche, and fill it!” 6

Jesus said He “came into the world” to “bear witness to the truth” of His Person (cf. John 14:6). I believe Christ is appealing to Pilate to recognize His Divine Person when He says, “Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” In the gospel of John, hearing Jesus’voice (John 5:25, 28, 37; 10:3-4, 16, 27) is “a metaphor for saving faith. It has the same sense here. The point is either that all who are now ‘of the truth’ have come to believe in Jesus, or that those who will be ‘of the truth’ will believe in Jesus (before they die).” 7 Christ sought Pilate’s salvation, not His own defense. He is saying to Rome’s representative, “Pilate, do you want to be a part of My spiritual kingdom? If so, listen to My voice – believe in Me.”

“Pilate said to Him, ‘What is truth?’” (John 18:38a). What did Pilate mean when he asked Jesus this? There are many possible interpretations. Was it a wistful desire to know what no one could tell him? Was it philosophical cynicism concerning the problem of epistemology? Was it indifference to anything so impractical as abstract thought? Or was it irritation at Jesus’ response?” 8

Sadly, Pilate’s question is repeated by this fallen postmodern world today. Many in our culture reject the notion of absolute truth. ‘Truth’ to them is relative—that is, what’s true for one person isn’t necessarily true for another. But this is preposterous. Truth is the absolute standard by which reality is measured. It’s not something that changes based on feelings or perspective. A person can deny that gravity is true, but if he decides to jump off a building to prove it, he’s going to find that truth doesn’t care about his feelings or perspective. Truth exists whether you embrace it or not.” 9

Less than twenty-four hours earlier, Jesus had said to His disciples, “I am… the truth” (John 14:6). All of us need absolute truth. And His name is Jesus Christ. The One Who is the embodiment of “truth” now stood before Pilate. 10  The One Who could best answer Pilate’s question about truth was standing before him. And what does Pilate do? “And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews, and said to them, ‘I find no fault in Him at all.’ ” (John 18:38b). Pilate turns away from the One Who is “the truth,” instead of waiting for Jesus’ answer to his question.

Pilate represents people in the world today who are too busy with life to truly live. Imagine being in Pilate’s sandals. He experienced a close encounter with the Son of God. It was a great opportunity for Pilate to learn more about Jesus and put his faith in Him for the gift of salvation. But Pilate was interested in getting past this Jewish squabble so he could return to his own affairs. He asked Jesus, “What is the truth?” but he did not wait for Jesus’ answer. Instead he went out to the Jews. Jesus may have thought at that time, “Pilate, slow down so I can speak the truth to you.” Ironically and sadly, Pilate was too busy with life to live.

What about you? Are you moving at such a high speed that you are too busy to hear God’s voice? Have you slowed down enough to receive the never-ending life Jesus Christ freely offers to those who believe in Him (John 11:25-26)? Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6). Apart from “the way,” there is no going to heaven. Apart from “the truth,” there is no knowing how to get to heaven. And apart from “the life,” there is no living in heaven.

Like Pilate, many people refuse to believe in Jesus because they are too busy with life to truly live. My friends, please don’t make that mistake because it has eternal consequences. Jesus spoke of one such man who was very wealthy and too busy with his own affairs here on earth to help a poor man named Lazarus (Luke 16:19-22). But the day came when both Lazarus and the rich man died. Lazarus represents those who believe in Jesus. When Lazarus died, God’s angels received him and took him to dwell in Paradise with God (Luke 16:22a). He did not die alone, but he died in the presence of God.

But the rich man represents those who do not believe in Jesus. When the rich man died, he was all alone – no family, no friends. When he died, he went immediately to a place called “torments in Hades” (Luke 16:22b-23). People who refuse to believe in Jesus during this life will go to this temporary holding place after they die until they receive their final judgment at the Great White Throne and are assigned to the lake of fire forever (Revelation 20:11-15).

Jesus tells us that Abraham said to the rich man in torments in Hades, “Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented.” (Luke 16:25). This tells us that people in hell have the capacity to “remember” the events of this life and that they are forced to deal with those memories eternally. They will remember every gospel message they heard and rejected. They will remember how God manifested Himself in thousands of ways to draw them to Himself. They will remember and they will know that they have no one to blame for their situation but themselves!

If you have never believed in Jesus as your Savior, I wonder what you will remember when you get to hell? Will you remember this message? Will you remember all the Christians who witnessed to you and prayed for you? Will you remember how you wasted your life on temporary things and condemned your own soul to hell’s everlasting fire? Will you remember how busy you were and never took time to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ? Will you remember how good and gracious God was to you and how you rejected His great love?

You do not have to experience this kind of turmoil in eternity. Jesus invites you right now to come to Him as the embodiment of truth. And because He is “the 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 6:47b). Do you believe this? If so, you now have His everlasting life.

Prayer: Precious Lord Jesus, thank You for revealing Yourself to Pilate and to me. Like Pilate, I can be so busy with the affairs of life, that I do not take time to hear Your voice of truth. But I am now realizing that You are never too busy for me. You are always available to answer my questions and keep Your promises. I now believe that You are the only way to heaven because as the truth, You were the perfect and sinless sacrifice to pay the penalty for all my sins and then rise from the dead. You are the true God and eternal life. And as the life, You offer eternal life freely to those who believe in You. Right now, as best I know how, I am believing or trusting in You alone, Lord Jesus, to give me Your never-ending life so I can live eternally with You in Your coming kingdom on earth. Thank You for the everlasting life I now have and for the place I will have in Your future kingdom on earth. Please use me now to advance Your spiritual kingdom by speaking the truth of You to those who are perishing without You. In Your marvelous name I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Edwin A. Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Gospels, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 686.

2. Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 555.

3. Tony Evans, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary, pg. 1820.

4. Ibid.

5. Robert Wilkin, The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition, pg. 555.

6. C. H. Spurgeon’s January 11, 1857 message entitled “The War of Truth” at https://www.spurgeon.org/resource-library/sermons/the-war-of-truth/#flipbook/ .

7. Robert Wilkin, The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition, pg. 556.

8. Edwin A. Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Gospels, pg. 687.

9. Tony Evans, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary, pp. 1820-1821.

10. Robert Wilkin, The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition, pg. 556.

Receiving Life Freely – Part 4 (Video)

This is the fourth video in a series about the gospel of John – the only book of the Bible whose primary purpose is to tell non-Christians how to obtain eternal life and a future home in heaven (John 20:31). This video looks at the fourth miracle of Jesus recorded in the gospel of John involving the miraculous feeding of thousands of people (John 6:1-13).

The movie clip subtitles are from the Good News Translation. All other Scripture are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted. Gospel of John pictures are used with permission from www.GoodSalt.com or they are creative common licenses. The Gospel of John movie clip is used with permission from Jesus.net. You may view the entire Life of Jesus movie at https://jesus.net/the-life-of-jesus/.

How can we respond to those who refuse to believe in Christ? Part 2

“ ‘While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.’ ” These things Jesus spoke, and departed, and was hidden from them.” John 12:36

In our study of the gospel of John we have come to Jesus’ final words to the public before His death on the Cross. The people to whom He spoke had important decisions to make before Christ left them. In John 12:23, 32-33, Christ said that the “Son of Man” was to be lifted up on the Cross rather than be lifted up as a Ruler over the nations. This confused many of the people of Israel. We are looking at how Jesus responds to them to learn how we can respond to those who refuse to believe in Christ. Last time we learned to challenge them to seek God while there is still time (John 12:34-35). The second way we can respond to them is to COUNSEL THEM TO BELIEVE IN CHRIST ALONE WHILE THERE IS TIME (John 12:36).

Jesus said to the crowd, “While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” (John 12:36a). These people needed to “believe in the light,”Jesus Christ, as soon as possible (“while you have the light”), before the Cross. After the Cross, when the Light was no longer with them, it would be more difficult for them to believe. No person is promised tomorrow on earth, so it is important for them to respond in faith to Christ while they still have time.

Notice that Christ says they can become “sons of light” simply by believing or trusting in Him alone for His gift of salvation. This verse does not say they become “sons of light” by going to church, being baptized, confessing their sins, keeping the commandments, or praying. The only condition is to believe in the light which is Jesus Christ.

How often today do you hear a Christian use the word “believe” when inviting a non-Christian to respond to the gospel of Jesus Christ? It rarely happens. Search the internet and see how many Christian churches and organizations use the word “believe” or its synonym “trust” in their plan of salvation as the sole condition for obtaining eternal life from Jesus Christ. It is very seldom. Instead they use unclear clichés and phrases such as “accept Jesus, give your life or heart to Jesus, ask Jesus into your heart, repent or turn from your sins, confess Jesus as Lord, or submit to Jesus as your Lord.” Lost people are being told to do everything but believe in the Lord Jesus for eternal life. I am convinced that the greatest need in evangelism today is for Christian workers to return to using the words that God uses most in evangelism – the words believe and faith.

Some people confuse the use of the word “believe” in the Bible with common uses of the English word “believe.” For example, we may hear people say these common phrases in English:

– “I believe it is going to snow today.”

– “I believe I voted for the wrong candidate.”

– “I don’t believe voting makes any difference.”

– “I believe I gave her the wrong directions.”

So when people hear us use the word “believe” in relation to Jesus Christ, they may think it only conveys speculation. But the use of the word “believe” in the Bible communicates absolute certainty. When Christ says, “believe in the light” (John 12:36a), He is inviting people to be convinced that He is God Who is “the light,” and then to trust in Him alone. John writes in his epistle, “This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.” (cf. I John 1:5). There was no darkness or sin in Jesus Christ because He is God (I John 5:20; cf. Hebrews 1:8; 4:15). Therefore, only Jesus could give them life that never ends. Jesus does not direct unbelievers to the Father to receive everlasting life. He directs them to Himself for this gift (John 5:21, 40; 6:40, 47). Christ proclaimed, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6).

Sometimes I will encounter non-Christians who think they must do something in addition to believing or trusting in Christ alone to give them everlasting life. For example, when I ask a person, “What does God say you must do to get to heaven?” He or she responds, “I must believe in Christ and … be baptized or live a godly life or love others or take communion or confess all my sins.” And the list goes on and on and on. But is that what Jesus says?

Christ said to a religious leader named Nicodemus, 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever BELIEVES in Him should not perish but have eternal life. 16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever BELIEVES in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. 18 He who BELIEVES in Him is not condemned; but he who does not BELIEVE is condemned already, because he has not BELIEVED in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3:14-18).

According to John 3:14-16, who has everlasting life? The one who “believes in… the Son of Man,” Jesus Christ, Who was “lifted up” on a Cross (cf. John 8:28; 12:23, 32-33). According to John 3:17, Who is the one Person by which one must be saved? “Through Him,” God’s only begotten “Son,” Jesus Christ. According to John 3:18, what is the basis upon which a person is condemned or not condemned? Belief or unbelief in God’s “only begotten Son,” Jesus Christ.

It does not matter what your religion or denomination or pastor or priest teaches. What matters is what Jesus Christ taught. Repeatedly Jesus teaches that believing in Him alone is the only condition for everlasting life (cf. John 3:14-18; 5:46; 6:29, 35-36, 40, 47; 7;38; 8:24, 45; 9:35; 10:37-38; 11:25-26; 12:36, 46; 13:19; 14:1, 11-12; 16:9; 17:20; et al.).

When Jesus was hanging on the Cross, He said, “It is finished!” (John 19:30). The Greek word translated “finished” is tetelestai. It means “paid in full.” Receipts in New Testament times were stamped with this word which meant that the debt had been paid in full. Christ did not make a down payment for our sin when He died on the Cross so that we must pay the remainder of our sin debt to God. God does not accept us on the basis of our good life, our keeping of His commandments, our water baptism, or the sacraments we have taken. We are accepted by God on the basis of the full payment for our sin debt to God when Jesus Christ died and rose again on our behalf. God was completely and forever satisfied with Jesus’ full payment for our sin. The verb tetelestai is in the perfect tense. This means Christ made the full payment for our sin debt when He died on the cross and it remains paid in full to the present.

When we communicate the gospel with non-Christians, we must be clear that all people have sinned against God and deserve to die forever in the Lake of Fire (Romans 3:23; 6:23; Revelation 20:15). No amount of our good thoughts, words, or actions can change the fact that we are sinners before a holy God (Isaiah 64:6). Because Jesus finished paying the penalty for our sins when He died in our place, that means we do not have to work for our salvation (Romans 4:5; Ephesians 2:8-9). All God asks of us is to believe in Jesus alone and His finished work on the Cross as sufficient payment for our sins (John 3:14-15; 19:30). When we do, He gives us everlasting life and forgives all our sins (John 3:16; Acts 10:43).

Those who are trusting in their good works or in Christ plus their good works to get them to heaven, are telling God the Father that Jesus’ death on the cross failed to pay their sin debt in full. However, since God was forever satisfied with His perfect Son’s payment for the sin of the world (Isaiah 53:11; John 19:30; I John 2:2), we must also be satisfied with what satisfies God. God cannot accept anything we do as payment for our sins because He has already accepted His Son’s complete payment for all of our sins when He died in our place on the Cross.

Those who “believe in the light [i.e., in Jesus]… become sons of light” (John 12:36; cf. Ephesian 5:8). Every believer in Jesus is defined by the “light” of Jesus Christ instead of by their sin or shame. Christ, Who is Light, lives inside us now (John 8:12). Our sinful hearts have been made new and are good and noble (Luke 8:15). God says, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statues, and you will keep My judgments and do them.” (Ezekiel 36:26-27).

We have been given a new identity and a new nature defined by Christ’s light. A passion resides deep inside us that can be stronger than our passion for sin when we yield to the Holy Spirit inside us (Rom. 7:21-25; 8:1-7). It is a passion to love God and walk in His ways, just as Christ did. Because we are defined by the light of Christ, it is important to pay attention to the God-given passion He has given us to live for Him.

When Christ finished speaking He “departed, and was hidden from them” (John 12:36b) supernaturally. He seems to have vanished, reminding us that He is in control. His death will take place in God’s time. This departure of Jesus was an example of what He had just predicted (John 12:35) and should have motivated them to believe in Him while there was still time.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, please give me Your clarity and wisdom when communicating Your gospel message to non-Christians. So many people today are confused about what they must do to get to heaven.They are being told to do many different things in addition to believing or trusting in You alone for Your free gift of everlasting life. Satan is such a deceiver. He is not against any religion that leaves out a Christ-alone salvation because he knows it will lead them into an eternal hell. By Your grace, please bring all Christians back to Your basic promise that “whoever believes in Him [Jesus] should not perish but have everlasting life.” The more clearly we communicate Your gospel message, the more people can understand and believe in You alone for Your free gift while there is still time. Thank You, my Lord and my God, for making this message so clear and simple. In Your matchless name I pray. Amen.  

How can I grow closer to the Good Shepherd? Part 1

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.” John 10:11

Pharisaism replaces rest in Jesus with demands for spiritual performance. People under a Pharisaic system can develop a distorted image of God. In John 10:11-21, we will discover that our Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, is on our side and not against us.

We saw in John 10:1-10 that we can trust Jesus as the true Shepherd because of …

– His prophetic credentials (John 10:1-2)

– The doorkeeper’s (John the Baptist) confirmation (John 10:3a)

– His personal concern for each of us (John 10:3b)

– His competent leadership (John 10:3c-6)

– His completely free offer of salvation (John 10:7-9a, 10b)

– His constant provision of nourishment (John 10:9b, 10c).

The Pharisees had not entered the sheepfold in the prescribed manner, that is, through faith in God’s Promised-Messiah, Jesus Christ. The Messiah and God’s provision of salvation through Him was a gracious gift not to be earned through compliance with the Law. Because of their unbelief, the Pharisees were false shepherds who misled their followers onto a treacherous path of dependency upon their own efforts to save themselves. Since they led the sheep along the wrong path away from the life Jesus offered, Jesus called them thieves and robbers of God’s sheep.

Being under a Pharisaic system can hinder believers from growing closer to the True Shepherd. The next few days, Lord willing, we will learn how to grow closer to the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, when we realize who He truly is. Those under a Pharisaic system may have a distorted view of Christ which keeps them from growing closer to Him. The remedy? Discover the truth about Jesus. He is a good, trustworthy Shepherd. I can grow closer to the Good Shepherd when I…

REALIZE HIS SACRIFICIAL INTEREST IN ME (10:11-13). Beginning in verse 11, there is a stark contrast between the Good Shepherd and the thief. Jesus identifies Himself as the Good Shepherd when He said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.” (John 10:11). This is another “I AM” statement by which Jesus claims to be the same God Who spoke to Moses in Exodus 3:14.

Notice that Jesus is not a mere shepherd, but “the good shepherd.” What does  “the good shepherd” do? He “gives His life for the sheep” so the sheep might live, but the thief comes to kill the sheep so he might live (John 10:10a). False shepherds come to take from others, but the Good Shepherd comes to give His life for the sheep. Jesus has the best interest of the sheep in mind. He laid down His life so that those who believe in Him may have eternal life (John 3:14-15). The word “for” in John 10:11 refers to the substitutionary death of Christ. Christ died “for” us or “instead” of us. He died in our place so we may live.

The Bible is clear that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Since God is a holy God, He must punish sin. God says that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). The word “death” here refers to eternal separation from God. All people deserve to die forever in the Lake of fire (Revelation 20:15).

God could have permitted us to take our own punishment. But instead, 2,000 years ago, God’s perfect Son took our place on the cross and died as our Substitute. The Bible tells us, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

A California newspaper reported that a man fired a gun into a pedestrian-filled sidewalk. To shield a three-year-old boy from the hail of bullets, a twenty-nine-year-old apartment manager grabbed him and ran back into the building. Carrying the boy, he ran up a flight of stairs before collapsing from two bullet wounds in his chest. A policeman observed, “He brought the boy out of the line of fire and died because of it.” 1

As our Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ took what caused our death, our sin, and died for us before coming back to life three days later. By dying in our place, Jesus satisfied God’s holy demand to punish our sins. Jesus is alive today and He has the power to save us from hell and give us eternal life. Jesus is the one and only “door” (John 10:9) for the sheep. He is the only One

Who paid the penalty for our sin when He died in our place on the cross and rose from the dead. There is no other way to get to heaven (John 14:6) except to believe in Jesus alone for His gift of eternal life (John 3:15; 6:68-69; Acts 4:12).

Have you ever come to the point where you accepted Jesus’ death on your behalf? If not, would you like to now? Simply take Christ at His Word when He said, “Whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). The moment you believe or trust in Jesus alone, He gives you eternal life which can never be lost or taken away from you.

Jesus is contrasted with the hireling who does not share the concern of the shepherd for the sheep. “But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them.” (John 10:12).  When the flock gets too large, the shepherd hires a man to help with the sheep. The hireling watched the sheep at night when danger lurked – lions, wolves, panthers, leopards, bears, and hyenas – in the countryside.

“The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep.” (John 10:13). When danger approached, the hireling fled because he doesn’t have personal concern for the sheep like the shepherd has. He only works for money with no sacrificial commitment to the sheep. Since he is a hired man, he also has no personal affection for the sheep.

The shepherd, on the other hand, owns the sheep and cares for their safety enough to even die for them (John 10:11). Christ loves His sheep so much that He was willing to purchase them with His own blood. The hireling is like the religious leaders who only cared for themselves. They used the peoples’ religious performance to meet their own spiritual needs instead of really caring about the needs of the people.

We can act like a hireling when we put our own needs ahead of the people God wants us to serve. For example, when a brother or sister in Christ is opposed by others because of their Christian faith, will we identify with them and support them at the risk of being attacked ourselves? Or will we withdraw from them to protect ourselves? Our Good Shepherd was willing to take a stand and fight for us against the forces of hell when He went to the cross on our behalf. As we grow closer to Him, He can help us put the needs of others ahead of our own.

Prayer: Your goodness, my Lord Jesus, was clearly and powerfully demonstrated when You gave Your life for the sheep. Unlike a robber or a hireling that cares more about himself than the sheep, You were willing to sacrifice Yourself so we may live forever with You after believing in You. False shepherds come to take from others, but You came to give. Knowing You have my best interest in mind invites me to grow closer to You. This can be difficult for me at times because I let my past wounds from spiritual leaders interfere with my view of You now. I pray Your Holy Spirit will remind me that since You gave me Your best when I was at my worst, how much more will You do now that I am in Your sheepfold (cf. Romans 8:31-32)!?! Please live Your life in and through me so others may experience Your goodness as a result. Thank You my Good Good Shepherd. I love You. In Your name I celebrate! Amen.  

ENDNOTE:

1.   From EvanTell’s 2010 “What are you depending on…” gospel tract.