How will you respond to Christ crucified? Part 3

“Then they all cried again, saying, ‘Not this Man, but Barabbas!’ Now Barabbas was a robber.” John 18:40

In John 18:28-19:4, we are looking at different responses to Christ crucified. So far we have learned that …

– Like the Jewish leaders, we may refuse to believe in Jesus because of our self-righteous religious pride (John 18:28-32).

– Like Pilate, we may refuse to believe in Jesus because we are too busy with life to truly live (John 18:33-38a).

The third possible way we might respond to Christ crucified is the best way. SIMILAR TO BARABBAS, WE TRUST IN JESUS’ DEATH IN OUR PLACE FOR OUR SINS (John 18:38b-40). When Pilate declared to the Jews, “I find no fault in Him at all” (John 18:38b), it was a reminder that Jesus would die like a Passover lamb, a male in its prime without blemish (cf. Exodus 12:5; I Corinthians 5:7; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; I Peter 3:18). Jesus, the innocent Lamb of God, would die for you and me so we would not have to die forever in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:11-15). But we must come to Jesus on His terms which means believing in Him alone for His gift of everlasting life to escape the eternal punishment of the lake of fire (John 3:36; Revelation 20:15).

Pilate said to the Jews, 39 But you have a custom that I should release someone to you at the Passover. Do you therefore want me to release to you the King of the Jews? 40 Then they all cried again, saying, ‘Not this Man, but Barabbas!’ Now Barabbas was a robber.” (John 18:39-40). Rather than releasing Jesus on the basis of His obvious innocence, Pilate sought to avoid insulting the Sanhedrin by appealing to the Jewish custom of releasing a prisoner during their Passover feast. Pilate’s main concern was to minimize trouble rather than secure justice. If He pronounced Jesus innocent, he would offend the Jewish leaders. But if he pronounced Jesus guilty, he would offend Jesus’ followers. So he tries to satisfy everyone by implying Jesus’ guilt and releasing Him on the basis of the Passover custom. 

Pilate puts forward Jesus, whom he rightly calls “the King of the Jews,” and a notorious “robber” named “Barabbas.” Pilate is thinking that this crowd that had just days before spread palm leaves on Jesus’ path and shouted “Hosanna” as He passed (John 12:12-15; cf. Luke 19:28-38) would select Him to be released. But John tells us, “Then they all cried again, saying, ‘Not this Man, but Barabbas!’ ” (John 18:40a). Barabbas was more dangerous to people than to property. He committed murder in connection with insurrection (Mark 15:7; Luke 23:18-19). Barabbas did what Jesus refused to do – take the lead in an armed revolt against Rome. The Jews ignored the obvious innocence of Jesus and freed a murderer. “Don’t miss that the leaders preferred a criminal who had fought for physical deliverance from Rome because that’s all they cared about. They wanted political deliverance from Gentile rule, when what they needed was spiritual deliverance from sin.” 1

Barabbas’ freedom was at Christ’s expense. That is the gospel message. The guilty is released and the innocent is condemned. The Jews were so hostile toward Jesus that they ignored His innocence. Their minds were so made up that the facts about Jesus’ innocence did not matter. Christ did not deserve this condemnation, yet He willingly subjected Himself to it for our sakes (cf. 2 Corinthians  5:21; I Peter 2:22-24; 3:18).

But let’s not overlook how this must have impacted Barabbas. Imagine Barabbas waiting on death row in a Roman prison for the verdict knowing that he could be executed any day. Prisoners didn’t have any rights in those days. It was over for him. There was no hope. He was a murderer who deserved death, and deep down he knew it. Each passing day was one day closer to certain death. He may have been imagining it—the flogging, mocking, and eventual death. It was coming.

And then the day comes. He can hear the shouts ringing throughout the courtyard: “Not this Man, but Barabbas!” Perhaps he was thinking to himself, “They are coming for me.” The guards open the door to his cell and drag him outside. But then something amazing happens. Everyone is celebrating his new freedom. His chains are released, and he is set free. The murderer is set free.

Put yourself in his sandals for a minute. You are walking to your death in chains and then all of a sudden, when you least expect it, you are a free man. Then you hear the words begin: “Crucify Him, crucify Him!” (Mark 15:13-14; Luke 23:21). And you see another man walking by. Those chants are not for you. The guards are dragging another man to his death – Jesus of Nazareth. He is beaten and flogged and is forced to carry His cross to His death. It’s the very cross you had imagined yourself carrying only moments earlier. You think to yourself, that’s my death He’s dying. Barabbas is the one person in history who could say that Jesus literally carried his cross. Jesus took his death, and Barabbas was given the freedom Jesus deserved. Jesus bore the guilt and shame and curse and disgrace and death that Barabbas deserved. Barabbas received the release, the freedom, and the life that Jesus deserved. It was an incredible scene. 2

And the truth is, Barabbas represents all of us. 3  He should have been on the cross instead of Jesus because he was guilty and deserved to die. You may protest, “But I’m not a robber!” But we have all robbed God of His rightful glory and control over our lives. You may come back, “But at least I’m not a murderer!” But Jesus said that if we are wrongfully angry with our brother, we are guilty of murder in God’s sight (Matthew 5:21-22). “But,” you still protest, “I’ve never led an armed rebellion against the government.” True, but we are all rebels against the King of the universe. We have all sinned against God and His rightful rule in our lives.

Also, Barabbas did nothing to earn his pardon. He wasn’t pardoned because of his good behavior or promises to change. If anything, he was pardoned because of how notoriously evil he was. He couldn’t brag after he got out about how he deserved to be pardoned. He couldn’t claim that he was pardoned for his exemplary behavior. In the same way, the Bible says that God justifies the ungodly not through their good works, but by faith alone in Christ alone (Romans 4:4-5). None of us can boast in ourselves when Jesus saves us because our salvation is based on His finished work, not our works (John 19:30; Ephesians 2:8-9). 

Jesus died in Barabbas’ place. Barabbas, whose name means “son of the father,” should have been on the cross that day. Instead, the One Who is the eternal Son of the eternal Father hung there in Barabbas’ place. Jesus died in his place – and in your place and mine.

Let me ask you something. Suppose you were a pilot of a plane that became disabled. Your course is headed straight toward a residential area as the plane descends. You have a parachute and could jump to safety, but you must do it at an altitude allowing the plane to crash and kill many. Your other option is to fly the plane and guide it toward a vacant area, but there would be no time to jump to safety. You would die, but others would be spared. Which would you do? Let me tell you what one man did.

Twenty-four-year-old Vinson Kyle Perdue, a United States Air Force pilot, died when his disabled warplane crashed. Instead of parachuting to safety, Perdue apparently stayed with the plane to steer it away from a residential area.

Amy White, who lived near the crash site, was quoted as saying, “I know he went down with that plane so it wouldn’t hit anyone’s house. It would’ve hit my house if he didn’t maneuver that plane.” (Adapted from Dallas Times Herald, August 26, 1981). 4

Jesus Christ could have parachuted and jumped. In other words, He could have escaped His persecutors and refused to die for Barabbas and for us. Instead, He took the punishment for our sins and died so that we could live. He substituted His life in our place.

But Barabbas’ pardon was not automatic. He could have spit in Pilate’s face and said, “I don’t need your pardon! Crucify me!” And, he would have been crucified, while a different prisoner would have been released. In the same way, the pardon that Christ offers to all is only applied to the person who receives it by faith. Jesus promises, “Whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.(John 3:16). Like Barabbas, the guilty rebel, you have got to appropriate by faith the pardon that Christ’s death offers you.

Some people use the word “believe” in our English sense of the word. They mentally assent to the fact Christ died and arose, but they are still depending on their works to get them to heaven. The word “believe” in the Bible means that if a person mentally assents to the fact that Christ died for his or her sins and arose, they trust in Christ alone to get them to heaven. 5

Let me share an illustration. “Picture a luxury liner cruising in the Pacific Ocean. It begins taking on water and lifeboats become a necessity. Three passengers find themselves in different situations. The first has no knowledge that lifeboats save and therefore never steps into one. The second understands that lifeboats save but for some reason refuses to step into one. The third passenger not only understands the ability of a lifeboat to save, but accepts as being true that the lifeboat has the ability to save. The passenger therefore steps into the lifeboat and in so doing relies upon it as the means of salvation.

“Which of the three is saved? The answer is obvious. The last passenger had knowledge and used it. A person is saved when he or she understands the ability Christ has to save and acts on that knowledge by trusting Christ. That is saving faith. One is not saved by simply understanding that Christ died and arose or even mentally assenting to that being a fact of history while depending on one’s good life for salvation. One is saved when as a sinner deserving of hell, one has trusted Christ alone for salvation.” 6

If you have never understood this before, and now you are transferring all your trust onto to Christ alone Who died in your place for all yours sins, you may tell God this through prayer. Keep in mind that praying a prayer is not what gets us to heaven. Only believing or trusting in Christ alone gets us to heaven. This prayer is a way of telling God you are now trusting in His Son.

Prayer: Dear Jesus, I realize that I am like Barabbas. I was hopelessly condemned. I deserved to die on that cross because I have sinned against You with my thoughts, words, and actions. But Your love broke through for me when You bore the curse, the disgrace, the guilt, the shame, and the death that I deserved when You took my place on that cross. You were completely innocent, yet out of love for me, You took the abuse, the beating, the insults, and humiliation that I should have received. Thank You so much for dying in my place and rising from the dead. I am now trusting in You alone, Jesus (not my good life, my prayers, or my religion), to forgive all my sins and give me everlasting life. Thank You for the forgiveness and eternal life I now have. Thank You that I am now free from eternal condemnation and slavery to sin. Use me as You deem best to fulfill Your purposes for Your glory. In Your life-giving name I pray. Amen.

To help you grow in your new relationship with Jesus, please download our digital “Pressing On” discipleship training materials (see above) to go through with others who do not know Jesus as their Savior.   

ENDNOTES:

1. Tony Evans, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary, pg. 1821.

2. Dave Furman credits this descriptive scene in his article on March 28, 2018 entitled “We Are Barabbas”at https://www.crossway.org/articles/we-are-barabbas/ to Timothy J. Keller, Mark 15:1–15, King’s Cross: The Gospel of Mark, Part 2: The Journey to the Cross” (New York: Redeemer Presbyterian Church, March 11, 2007).

3. Adapted from Steve J. Cole’s message on June 7, 2015 entitled, “Lesson 95: What Will You Do With Jesus? (John 18:28-19:16)” at www.Bible.org.

4. R. Larry Moyer, Show Me How To Illustrate Evangelistic Sermons (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2012) pg. 235.

5. R. Larry Moyer, Free and Clear: Understanding & Communicating God’s Offer of Eternal Life (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1997), pg. 41.

6. Ibid.

Lesson 1 Part 2 – Sharing the Gospel (Video)

This video provides practical instruction on how to share the good news or gospel of Jesus Christ with those who do not have Christ in their lives. If you are eager to introduce people to the Savior of the world, this video will equip you to do just that! This video is also great for those who do not know for sure they will go to heaven when they die. The contents of this video will clearly show them from the Bible what they must know and believe to go to heaven.

How can we endure difficult times? Part 6

“Then the detachment of troops and the captain and the officers of the Jews arrested Jesus and bound Him.” John 18:12

In the first twelve verses of John 18, we are learning how to endure difficult times. So far we have discovered we can do this when we…

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

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

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

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

– Let Christ protect us now (John 18:9-11).

The sixth and final way to endure difficult times is to LET CHRIST HAVE YOUR BURDENS BECAUSE HE UNDERSTANDS (John 18:12; cf. Hebrews 4:15). The apostle John writes, “Then the detachment of troops and the captain and the officers of the Jews arrested Jesus and bound Him.” (John 18:12). Although the disciples were not arrested, Jesus was “arrested… and bound.” The word “arrested” (synelabon) means “to grasp together or seize.” 1 Since Jesus offered no resistance, it is not clear why they “bound” the Lord. Perhaps they were afraid Jesus might use His supernatural powers and attempt to escape.

This verse is especially powerful for those who are incarcerated. They have been arrested. Jesus was also arrested. Christ was arrested even though He was innocent. There are some in prison today who were arrested even though they were innocent. Jesus was falsely accused. Some prisoners may have also been falsely accused. Christ has much in common with those in jail or prison. As some of you reading this article know, being arrested is not a pleasant experience, especially if you are innocent. Christ understands what it is like to be arrested. He knows what it is like to be falsely accused. He understands how you feel, and He wants to help you. He has a greater capacity to care for you because He understands what you have gone through (cf. Hebrews 4:15).

The Bible says, 6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, 7 casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” (I Peter 5:6-7). Christ cares more for you than any other person in the universe. Let Him have your burdens and worries. 

John wrote his gospel so non-Christians “may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:31). As you read this, you may not know for sure that you will go to heaven when you die. We have learned several truths from John 18:1-12 about Jesus that compel us to believe in Him for everlasting life:

1. Believe in Jesus because He loves you and paid the full penalty for your sins (John 18:1a; 1:29; 19:30). When Christ crossed over the Brook of Kidron which was soaked with the blood of the Passover Lambs, He was reminded that as the Lamb of God, He would be sacrificed on a cross for the sin of the world (John 1:29). Christ could have turned around and run to safety. But He did not. Why? Because of His great love for you and me. Jesus continued up to the Garden of Gethsemane knowing that He would be arrested and crucified for you and for me. That’s how much He loves us! Christ loves you and me whether we are a good moral person or a person who has spent more time in jail than out of jail. Even when we are at our worst, God still gives us His very best. 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). Jesus loves us and wants to begin a forever relationship with us. Believe in Him.

2. Believe in Jesus because He has prayed for you (John 18:1b; cf. 17:20-26; Luke 22:39-43). When Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane, He was thinking of our sins being placed on Him when He would die on the cross. This is why the Bible tells us that  “He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed.” (Matthew 26:37). Christ was overwhelmed by the thought of being separated from His Father in heaven as our sins would be placed upon Him. Yet Jesus prayed, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup [of suffering] away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42). Through prayer, Jesus submitted to His Father’s will which included dying for our sins in our place.

3. Believe in Jesus because there is power in His name to give you eternal life and keep you secure forever (John 18:2-8a; cf. 10:28-29; 20:31). Since Jesus has the power to make an army fall down before Him, He also has the power to give us eternal life which can never be lost. The Bible tells us, “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). “No other name” – not Muhammed (Islam), Buddha (Buddhism), Confucius (Confucianism), Joseph Smith (Mormonism), Charles Taze Russell (Jehovah Witnesses), Ellen G. White (Seventh-Day Adventist), Theophilus Lindsey (Unitarianism), Rubin Ecleo (PBMA), Apollo Carreón Quiboloy (Restoration Church/ Kingdom of Jesus Christ), Felix Manalo (Iglesia Ni Cristo), Eli Soriano (Ang Datin Daan) – nor any other religious founders can save us from our sins. Only Jesus Christ can save us from our sins because He paid our sin debt in full when He died in our place on the cross and rose from the dead (John 19:30; I Corinthians 15:1-8), proving that His claim to be God is true (Romans 1:3-4). Believe in Him.

4. Believe in Jesus because He has the power of command (John 18:8b). When the Roman soldiers and temple guards came to arrest Jesus, Christ tells them what to do and they follow His orders. They don’t arrest any of His disciples because He has the power of command. If we are going to go to heaven when we die, we must listen to and obey the command to believe in Christ for everlasting life. “And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ…” (I John 3:23). There are many religious leaders commanding us what to do to go to heaven – pray toward the east five times a day. Go to church. Turn from your sins. Confess your sins. Meditate. Pray every day. Be baptized with water. Give to the poor. Keep the Sabbath. Love your neighbor as yourself. Do to others as you would have them do to you. But none of these are things Jesus commanded us to do to have everlasting life. What did Jesus say to do to have everlasting life? “Whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Do you believe this? If you do, Jesus guarantees that you now have everlasting life.

5. Believe in Jesus Who will protect you forever (John 18:9-11). Just as Jesus protected Peter and the other disciples physically from the well-armed soldiers and guards, He will also protect us spiritually forever the moment we believe in Him (John 10:28-29). No one will be able to overpower Christ and take His eternal life away from us. We are secure in His hands forever.

6. Believe in Jesus because He understands your need for eternal life (John 18:12; cf. Romans 3:23; 6:23; Revelation 20:15). All of us deserve to be in a spiritual prison forever in a place called hell because all of us have sinned against God (Romans 3:23; Revelation 20:15). Our sin separates us from God because He is holy and righteous and cannot be around our sin (Isaiah 59:2; 64:6; Romans 6:23). Just as Jesus understands what it is like to be arrested and falsely accused, He also knows how it feels to be separated from God because the sin of the world was placed on Him when He died on the cross, causing Him to be temporarily separated from His heavenly Father (cf. Matthew 27:46; 2 Corinthians 5:21).

Christ does not want you to die forever in hell (I Timothy 2:3-4). This is why He died in your place and rose from the dead – so you could live with Him forever in heaven. All He asks is that you believe or trust in Him alone for His free gift of eternal life. Jesus said, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life.” (John 6:47; cf. John 4:10-14; 11:25-26; Romans 6:23b).

When you believe in Jesus for His gift, Christ gives you everlasting life starting at that moment of faith (John 6:47). How long does everlasting life last? Forever! Does eternal life ever end? No. So even if you sin tomorrow, next month, or next year, do you still have everlasting life? Yes, because Jesus remains faithful to His promise of everlasting life (John 3:16; 6:47) even if we are unfaithful to Him (cf. 2 Timothy 2:13).

The Bible also says that when you believe in Jesus for eternal life, you become a member of God’s family forever. John 1:12 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.” So if you believed in Jesus for eternal life, God is now your Father and you are His child forever. If God is your Father and He is my Father, what does that make you and me? Brothers and sisters in Christ because we now have the same Father in heaven. It does not matter what color of skin you have or what culture you are from. If you believe in Jesus, we are family because of the shed blood of Jesus Christ. The color of His blood is the same as yours and mine.

And when you believe in Jesus, He comes to live inside you (Galatians 2:20) through His Holy Spirit (Romans 8:11; Galatians 3:2; Ephesians 1:13-14). And He promises never to leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5). So if Jesus always lives inside you, do you ever have to feel lonely? No. You may feel lonely at times, but your feelings can lie to you. Focus on the truth of God’s Word instead of your feelings.

The Bible also says that when you believed in Jesus, you now have a future home in heaven (John 3:16; Revelation 21-22). So there is no need to be afraid of death. Even if people threaten to kill you for sharing Christ, you do not need to be afraid because Christ guarantees to take you to heaven the moment you take your last breath (John 11:25-26; 14:2-3; cf. 2 Corinthians 5:6-8; Philippians 1:21-23).

If you have never understood and believed this before today, but now you do – you can tell God this through prayer. Praying this prayer is not what gets you to heaven. Only believing in Jesus alone for His gift of eternal life gets you to heaven. This prayer is simply a way to tell God you are now trusting in His Son. If you would like, you can say to God:

“Dear Lord Jesus, I come to you now as a sinner. I cannot save myself. I believe You died in my place on a cross and rose from the dead. I am now trusting in You alone, Jesus (not my prayers, my religion, or my good life), to give me everlasting life and a future home in heaven. Thank You, Jesus, for the everlasting life I now have and for the future home I will have in heaven. In Your powerful name I pray. Amen.”

Diagram 1

To help you grow in your new relationship with Jesus Christ, please download our free digital discipleship materials on this website (see diagram 1) to go through with other people who are seeking to know Jesus. Thank you, and may Jesus richly bless you.

ENDNOTES:

1. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, compiled by Walter Bauer, trans. and adapted by William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, 2nd ed., rev. and augmented by F. Wilbur Gingrich and Frederick W. Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979), pg. 776; Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures in The New Testament, Vol V: John and Hebrews (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1932), pg. 286.

Receiving Life Freely – Part 5 (Video)

This is the fifth video in a series about the gospel of John – the only book of the Bible whose primary purpose is to tell non-Christians how to obtain eternal life and a future home in heaven (John 20:31). This video looks at the fifth miracle of Jesus recorded in the gospel of John involving His miraculous walking on water (John 6:15-21).

The movie clip subtitles are from the Good News Translation. All other Scripture are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted. Gospel of John pictures are used with permission from www.GoodSalt.com, Sweet Publishing / www.FreeBibleimages.org, Good News Productions International and College Press Publishing / www.FreeBibleimages.org, David Padfield / www.FreeBibleimages.org, The Edge Group and Lion Hudson Ltd. / www.FreeBibleimages.org, or they are creative common licenses. The Revelation Art is used by permission of Pat Marvenko Smith, copyright 1992. To order art prints visit her “Revelation Illustrated” site, http://www.revelationillustrated.com. The Gospel of John movie clip is used with permission from Jesus.net. You may view the entire Life of Jesus movie at https://jesus.net/the-life-of-jesus/.

How can we be effective witnesses to a hostile world? Part 4

“But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me.” John 15:26

From Jesus’ instruction to His eleven believing disciples, we are learning how we can be effective witnesses to a hostile world. So far we have discovered we can be effective witnesses to a hostile world when we…

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

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

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

The fourth way to be an effective witness to a hostile world is to REMAIN IN VITAL CONTACT WITH CHRIST THROUGH THE HOLY SPIRIT (John 15:26-27). Jesus knew that when His disciples would be faced with the hatred of the world, they may be tempted to escape from it or remain silent about the gospel. After all, the world can be very brutal toward Christians. The world does not care about your personal well-being. Even though the world would be antagonistic to the disciples’ ministry and message, they were to bear witness of Jesus.

Christ reminds them (and us) that they would not be left alone to fulfill their responsibilities when He goes to the Father in heaven. There would be two witnesses from God to the world. Who is the first witness that Jesus mentions in verse 26? “But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me.” (John 15:26). The first witness is the Holy Spirit. Jesus teaches us several things about Him. He is “the Helper” (ho paraklētos) or one “called alongside to help.” 1  He is the One who will assist, empower, and encourage the disciples to be a witness for Christ in a hostile world. If we try to overcome the hostility of the world with our own strength, it will be one huge struggle laden with failure. Satan will oppose us through the world’s system and we are not wise enough or strong enough to overcome him on our own. We must abide in Jesus and yield to the Holy Spirit’s control in our lives to experience victory over the hostility of the world.

To be effective witnesses, we must remain in vital contact with Christ through His Holy Spirit and the Word. That’s why Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as “the Spirit of truth.” He tells the truth about Christ through the truth of God’s Word (cf. John 14:6; 17:17). Jesus says, “He will testify of Me.” The primary ministry of the Holy Spirit is to testify about Jesus through God’s Word. The Spirit’s ministry is not to testify about Himself or you or me. His purpose is to magnify Jesus Christ! If a church or ministry is not magnifying the Person and work of Jesus Christ on the cross, it is doubtful that church or ministry is being led by the Holy Spirit. If the Spirit magnifies Jesus Christ, then His disciples should do the same.

Notice that verse 26 refers to all three Persons of the Godhead. “The Helper” or “Spirit of truth” will be sent by Jesus “from the Father,” and the Spirit will also “testify of” Jesus. The Holy Spirit will empower the second witness.

Who is the second witness? “And you also will bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning.” (John 15:27). The word “you” refers to the disciples in this context, but it also refers to all believers since that time, including you and me today. The word “also” indicates that the witness of the disciples is important. It shows that the disciples and the Spirit together would “bear witness” to Christ. The word translated “bear witness” (μαρτυρεῖτε) is a courtroom term that refers to speaking the truth. What would happen if you took the witness stand in a court of law and never said anything? The judge would hold you in contempt of the court. So this term demands that we speak the truth. Christ is saying that we are to tell the truth about Jesus, so people can be saved.  What is the truth about Jesus that saves people from an eternity in hell?

That He died for our sins and rose from the dead (I Corinthians 15:1-6). Why did Jesus have to die? Because all people have sinned against God (Romans 3:23) with their thoughts, words, and actions. Our sin separates (“death”) us from God (Romans 6:23) because God is holy and righteous and cannot be around our sin. Therefore, God sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to pay the penalty for all our sin when He died on the cross and rose from the dead, proving that He is God (Romans 1:3-4; I Corinthians 15:1-6). Jesus now invites everyone to believe or trust in Him alone for His gift of everlasting life: “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.” (John 3:16).

Jesus is not inviting us to be baptized or go to church because He never said, “whoever is baptized or goes to church should not perish but have everlasting life.” Nor is Christ inviting us to pray every day or to live a good life because He never said, “whoever prays every day or lives a good life should not perish but have everlasting life.” Jesus is simply inviting us to believe or trust in Him alone because He said, “Whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

No amount of our good works can save us from our sins because they are all like “dirty rags” in the sight of a holy God (Isaiah 64:6).  We must trust in Christ alone as our only hope of heaven and He will give us eternal life and a future home in heaven.

As disciples, we need God’s Spirit for empowerment and the Spirit needs us as a means of expression. Why were the disciples chosen to be witnesses? Because they “have been with” Jesus “from the beginning” of His ministry when He was baptized by John the Baptist (John 15:27; cf. 1:29ff). These men would be credible witnesses to the Person of Christ because they had been loyal to Him. They could have abandoned the Lord when persecution intensified, and they did for a short time, but then they came back to Him and He used them to change the known world.

Two things in verses 26-27 are foundational to be an effective witness for Christ. 2  First, we must clearly witness. Those of us who have been richly blessed by the grace of God for salvation are compelled to clearly share this grace with others. We must focus on the finished work of Christ on the cross as the basis of salvation (John 19:30), not our good works (Romans 4:5; Ephesians 2:8-9). Since salvation is a free gift (John 4:10-14; Romans 3:24; 6:23b; Ephesians 2:8-9; Revelation 22:17), we must emphasize faith alone in Christ alone as the means of salvation (John 3:15-16, 36; 6:40, 47; 11:25-26; 20:31; Romans 3:21-4:25; Galatians 2:16; I Timothy 1:16; I John 5:1, 13; et al.), not a “faith plus” formula. The more we understand and experience the grace of God, the more passionate we will be to share the clear gospel of grace with the lost.

Second, we never witness to others alone. The Holy Spirit is always with us and in us to give us a power that is not our own. When we are afraid to speak up for Christ, He can give us the boldness we need with those who may intimidate us (cf. Acts 4:29-31). When we don’t know what to say, He can give us the words that our listeners need to hear (cf. Matthew 10:19-20). It is His responsibility to persuade people through the Word of God to believe or trust in Christ alone as their only way to heaven (John 16:7-11). But it is our responsibility to yield to His control (Ephesians 5:18).            

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You so much for sending God the Holy Spirit from God the Father to be our Helper in witnessing to a hostile world. I never ever have to be alone when I tell others about Jesus because the Holy Spirit permanently indwells me. And when I feel afraid of what others will think, say, or do if I share Christ with them, the Spirit of truth gives me the boldness and the words to share with them unashamedly. So many times I lack insight when sharing the gospel with others, but You intervene and bring to my remembrance the truth that the listener needs to hear. Thank You Holy Spirit for the power You give to me when I yield to Your control. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 282.

2. Ibid., pg. 283.

Receiving Life Freely – Part 3 (Video)

This is the third 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 third miracle of Jesus recorded in the gospel of John involving the healing of a lame man (John 5:1-9).

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 John Paul Stanley/ www.YoPlace.com/ www.FreeBibleimages.org, and www.GoodSalt.com. The Gospel of John movie clip is used with permission from Jesus.net. You may view the entire Life of Jesus movie at https://jesus.net/the-life-of-jesus/.

How can we respond to those who refuse to believe in Christ? Part 1

“Then Jesus said to them, ‘A little while longer the light is with you. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you; he who walks in darkness does not know where he is going.’” John 12:35

Travelers tell us that there is near the Jaffa gate at Jerusalem, a small terrace on the top of a hill, called the “Terrace of Indecision.” The ground is so level that when the rain falls upon it, it seems at a loss as to which way to go. When a soft, gentle breeze sweeps across the terrace, however, it causes part of the water to fall off the West side of the terrace and it flows into a place known as “The Valley of Roses” and then down to the Plain of Sharon and gives life, beauty, and fragrance to the Sharon lilies and roses. But the rest of the water falls off the other side of the terrace toward the east, into the dark valley of Tophet and is lost forever in the bitter waters of the Dead Sea where it sits with no production.1

Every human life has its terrace of indecision. This was especially true of the crowd who had gathered in Jerusalem for the Passover feast in John 12. In our study of the gospel of John we 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 12:20-33, Jesus used an analogy of a grain of wheat to teach that death must precede life. In verses 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 will look at how Jesus responds to them to learn how we can respond to those who refuse to believe in Christ.

The first way is to CHALLENGE THEM TO SEEK GOD WHILE THERE IS TIME (John 12:34-35). “The people answered Him, ‘We have heard from the law that the Christ remains forever; and how can You say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’? Who is this Son of Man?’ ” (John 12:34). “The people” included the Jews and Greeks, both believers and unbelievers who had gathered for the Feast of Passover (John 12:1, 12, 20). This group was confused by Jesus’ words in verse 32 when He said He would be “lifted up from the earth” on the cross. They understood the Old Testament to teach that the Christ, their Messiah-God, also referred to as “the Son of Man” (Daniel 7:13-14), would not die, but “remains forever” since Daniel’s prophecy says He will have an“everlasting dominion”(Daniel 7:14). The crowd was expecting the Messiah to bring in a material triumph which included subjecting His enemies to His rule. Since Jesus referred to Himself as “the Son of Man”(cf. John 12:23) who would be “lifted up from the earth” on the cross to die (John 12:32-33), they are wondering how Jesus could be the Messiah-God who was to remain forever. They are thinking that Jesus is not the Messiah since He must die. So, they ask Christ to resolve this dilemma for them.

“Then Jesus said to them, ‘A little while longer the light is with you. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you; he who walks in darkness does not know where he is going.’ ” (John 12:35). Christ does not answer their question directly because He had already said He was the Son of Man (John 8:28; 12:23) Who was equal with God the Father (John 5:17-18; 10:30). He informs them that the Light (Jesus – John 8:12) will only be among them for a short time (“a little while longer”) and they are to walk in that Light. In other words, they are to seek Jesus, Who is God, and come to faith in Him. Otherwise when the Light of Jesus’ presence departs, the “darkness” can “overtake” them.

It helps to know that in ancient cities the streets were dark and dangerous at night without any lights. This represents what can happen to anyone at any time. Those who reject what light God has given them may discover that life becomes even darker. Christ is warning against the uncertainties and dangers of unbelief. When the unbeliever is overtaken by the darkness, he will “not know where he is going.” The longer an unbeliever waits to decide to believe in Christ, the more difficult it will be to come to faith. Their life will be without direction and purpose like someone walking in total darkness. They will be in danger of stumbling over obstacles that could lead to further harm or even death.

COVID-19 has made people more aware of the fragility of life. None of us are promised tomorrow here on earth. Have you made the decision to believe or trust in Jesus Christ alone for His gift of everlasting life while you still can? Are you taking time to seek God and discover more of what He says about beginning a relationship with Him? Listen to the Word of God: “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 6:2b).

The God Who made the universe loves you and wants a relationship with you. He sees and hears all that you think, say, and do. He knows everything about you and He still wants a relationship with you. Will you come to Him now, recognizing that you are a sinner who deserves everlasting punishment? God’s only Son, Jesus Christ, took your punishment when He died in your place on the cross and rose from the dead. Jesus now offers you complete forgiveness and everlasting life if you will simply believe or trust in Him alone. Christ said, “Whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16).

Jesus is not asking you if you pray every day because He did not say,“Whoever prays every day should not perish but have everlasting life.” He is not asking you if you believe in God because He did not say, “Whoever believes in God should not perish but have everlasting life.” Christ is not asking you if you have lived a good life because He did not say, “Whoever lives a good life should not perish but have everlasting life.” Jesus is simply asking you, “Do you believe in Me?” because He said, “Whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” If you have never understood this before, Christ is inviting you right now to believe or trust in Him alone to save you from perishing in hell forever and to give you everlasting life. If you now understand and believe His promise, you can tell God this through prayer.

Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, I have been living in darkness all of my life. I have believed lies about You which said You were only a good teacher or merely a prophet. But now I understand that You are so much more. You are the eternal God Who created me and wants a relationship with me. Right now Lord, I come to You as a sinner who deserves to be separated from You forever. I understand that You love me infinitely despite my sinfulness. You demonstrated this when You died in my place on a cross for all my sins and rose from the dead. I am now believing or trusting in You alone, Jesus (not my good life, my prayers, or my religion), to forgive all my sins and give me everlasting life. Thank You for the forgiveness and everlasting life I now have. Thank You that I belong to You now as Your beloved child. Please help me to grow to know You more intimately so I may tell my family and friends about You and what You have done for me. In Your loving name I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. http://sermonsillustration.blogspot.com/2010/02/terrace-of-indecision.html.

2. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 231.

How can I experience security forever? Part 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ENDNOTES:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How can I grow closer to the Good Shepherd? Part 3

“And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.” John 10:16

We can also grow closer to the Good Shepherd whenwe REALIZE HIS INCLUSIVE LOVE FOR OTHERS (John 10:16). During His earthly ministry, Jesus primarily ministered to the people of Israel. But He also loved Gentiles. Jesus said, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…” (John 3:16a). God the Father gave His one and only Son because He loved the entire world – all humankind, without exception (cf. Hebrews 2:9; 1 Timothy 2:6; 1 John 2:2). God’s love excludes no one, including you.

Jesus said to His Jewish audience, “And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.” (John 10:16). Christ has “other sheep [Gentiles] which are not of this fold [Jews].” Christ says that these other sheep (Gentiles) must be brought into the fold by Him which at the time was mostly Jews. Jesus did not come to give His life for Jews only. The “other sheep” that Jesus would save are Gentiles or non-Jews who would believe in Him so that the church (“one flock”), would consist of both Jewish and Gentile believers (cf. Romans 12:5; I Corinthians 12:13; Ephesians 2:11-22; 3:5-7).

This is consistent with the fact that Jesus is not only the Savior of Jews and Samaritans, but of the whole world. After the Samaritans came to Jesus and heard Him teach, “They said to the woman, ‘Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.’ ” (John 4:42). It does not matter to Jesus how wealthy or poor you are; how much or little education you have; what your skin color is or what religious community you belong to. He loves all people the same and He wants to save all people (I Timothy 2:3-5).

In Christ’s body, everyone is important and necessary to our “one Shepherd.” There are no distinctions. Listen to Galatians 3:26-28: “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” It does not matter if you are black or white, Jew or Muslim, Catholic or Protestant, Atheist or Hindu, rich or poor, male or female – if you believe in Jesus Christ alone for His gift of salvation, you are God’s child and you have equal privileges and worth in God’s family!

When we started a church in central Iowa several years ago, we planned to reach white middle class Americans because church planting experts said we would be most effective reaching people like ourselves. But God had other plans. After our Grand Opening, we began to see fewer white middle class Americans coming to our new church. Instead, the Lord began to bring people from other cultures who were seeking Jesus.

I think one of the greatest testimonies to Jesus Christ, our “one Shepherd,” is when He gathers people of different cultures and colors and unites them in one body, the local church. Church planting experts may say you cannot do that. And I would partially agree with them. People cannot do that on their own, but our “one Shepherd” can. Every time a church obeys Jesus and preaches the gospel to all people and makes disciples of those who believe (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15), we are getting a preview of what heaven will be like.

Listen to what the apostle John says about heaven in Revelation 7:9-10: “9 After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’ ” Jesus Christ, our “one Shepherd,” can unite all people from all nations, tribes, people groups, and language groups into one family that loves everyone equally.

When Jesus says, “they will hear My voice” (John 10:16), it brings to remembrance Christ’s words in John 5:24: “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.” The way Gentiles will be added to God’s flock is the same way the Jews were added – by hearing and believing Christ’s promise of eternal life (cf. Acts 10:34-15:-17). There is no other way to become of a member of Jesus’ flock.

For centuries governments and educated people have failed to unite people of different cultures into one unified body. But Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, can unite people from all nations into one body because He has the power to change the human heart by His grace. Governments, educational systems, economic systems, and special interest groups like Black Lives Matter cannot change the human heart. But our “one Shepherd” can. He can change selfish hearts into serving hearts. He can change an angry heart into an accepting heart. He can transform a greedy heart into a generous one. He can make a bitter heart better. He can heal the broken heart. And all of us have broken hearts because we have all sinned against God (Romans 3:23; 6:23).

But when we understand and experience the all-encompassing love of Jesus Christ, we will be drawn closer to Him and we will begin to love others as He does. The world could use a lot more of this kind of love. And it begins by entering a personal relationship with the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ.

Do you have Jesus in your life? If not, you can receive Him into your life right now. The Bible says, 11 And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 12 He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. 13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.” (I John 5:11-13). Eternal life is a gift from God and it is found in God’s Son, Jesus Christ. You can receive this gift from God by believing in the name of the Son of God, Jesus Christ. If you will do that, the Bible says “you may know that you have eternal life.” Knowing you have eternal life is the foundation for growing in Jesus’ love for you and others.

Prayer: Lord God, I come to You now as a broken sinner. I am very distraught by all the division and violence in the world. Hatred towards people of different color and religion is rampant. No politician or professor or pastor or priest can unite all cultures and colors of people into one body. But You, Lord Jesus, can if we will come to You on Your terms. As best I know how, I believe You loved me so much that You were willing to die in my place on a cross for all my sins and rise from the dead as You promised. I am now believing or trusting in You alone, Lord Jesus (not my religion, or good life, or prayers), to give me everlasting life and receive me into Your family forever. Thank You my Good Shepherd, for the everlasting life and forever family I now have. Please use me to love others into Your family. In Your blessed 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.