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.

Receiving Life Freely – Part 1 (Video)

This is the first 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 first miracle Jesus performed at a wedding feast in Cana of Galilee.

All Scripture in slides 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, www.FreeBibleimages.org or www.LumoProject.com. The gospel of John movie clip is used with permission from Jesus.net.

Why do some unbelievers remain with Jesus?

“Jesus answered them, ‘Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?’ ” John 6:70

When Peter answered the Lord’s question about whether they also wanted to leave Him, he said, “Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (John 6:69). But Peter was wrong about one thing. He said, “We.” By that he meant the Twelve. But Jesus corrects him, “Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?” (John 6:70). Jesus is saying, “No, Peter, there is one here who has not come to know and believe I am the Christ, the Son of the living God.” In these last two verses Jesus exposes the one who “is a devil.”

Here we see the third group of disciples in this whole passage. This group is comprised of unbelievers who remain with Christ (John 6:70-71). Why do some unbelievers remain with Jesus?

A. BECAUSE JESUS SELECTED THEM (John 7:70a). Jesus admits that He chose Judas Iscariot as He did the others. “Did I not choose you, the twelve…?” (John 6:70a). Out of the hundreds who were following Him, Jesus chose one who would refuse to believe in Him and would eventually betray Him (John 6:64, 70-71; cf. 12:4; 13:2, 10-11, 21-30; 17:12; 18:2, 5). What an amazing picture of God’s grace. He desires all people to be saved – even those who will betray Him. The second reason some unbelievers remain with Jesus is…

B. BECAUSE THEY SERVE GOD’S PURPOSES (John 6:70b). Judas had every opportunity to know and serve Jesus like the other Eleven. Yet in the spirit of the “devil,” he actively opposed Christ. “…One of you is a devil.” (John 6:70b). Eventually Judas would betray Christ and hand Him over to His enemies (John 18:2-5; cf. Matthew 26:14-16, 47-50; Luke 22:1-6, 47-48). This was all a part of God’s plan and purpose for His Son (John 13:18-30; 17:12). Judas stayed with the group; he lived with them, ate and slept with them, performed miracles and preached the kingdom message with them, and yet was not one of them. He never was. The third reason why some unbelievers remain with Jesus is…

C. BECAUSE THEY SELFISHLY WANT TO BENEFIT FROM BEING WITH CHRIST (John 6:71). “He spoke of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, for it was he who would betray Him, being one of the twelve.” (John 6:71). Outwardly Judas was a disciple. Judas was privileged to be in Jesus’ inner circle of friends. He was given a prominent position as treasurer and kept stealing from the money box (John 12:6). No doubt he felt important being associated with Christ who brought hope and healing to so many. Even Judas had deceived the eleven other disciples! They did not know that he was a fake, but Jesus knew. Inwardly, Judas was a traitor, an enemy opposed to all that God wants.

My friends, you and I live in glass houses! I cannot see into your heart and you cannot see into mine, but God sees us just as we are. What does He see when He looks at us? We may deceive each other, but we will never deceive God! He knows where we stand spiritually this morning. There has never been a better incentive for us to look carefully at our own hearts.

 We have looked at three groups this in this chapter. No doubt, most churches probably have representatives of each group. Some of you have been under the teaching of God’s Word, but you will drop out. You want entertainment, not expectations. You will not want to be bothered with studying and searching and understanding. You will not want to follow truth when once you see or hear it. You will rationalize it, ignore it, and eventually you will drop out. You will go off in search of a better deal, something more agreeable to what you want instead of what God wants. It happened in Jesus’s day and it will happen again.

But there are some of you who will never leave Jesus. You cannot quit. You have found too much, you have learned too much about life. You have been ministered to and fed by our Lord. You know the comfort of His presence. You can never give Him up.

But there may be others here who want to stay with Jesus for your own purposes. You want to appear to be a Christian, but you are not. You have never believed in Jesus Christ alone for His gift of everlasting life. Oh, you know the Bible and you sing songs of worship on Sunday mornings. But you do not know the Author of the Bible. You are only out for yourself. You want to use God for your own benefit.

Let’s come back to Jesus question, “Do you also want to go away?” (John 6:67). Thousands withdrew from Jesus, but twelve stayed, one of whom was unsaved. Not everyone walks away from the Lord. Some people make a total commitment to Jesus Christ and to His will for their lives. I hope that is you. Not everyone walks away, what will you do?

Does your heart say to Jesus, “Lord, to whom can I go? I don’t always understand, I can’t always figure You out, I don’t always like what You do, but Lord, to whom can I go?” That is the heart He is looking for. If you have to say, “I belong to the first group, I’m afraid,” there is still hope. You can ask Him to teach you and open your eyes and lead you forward. You can start right now to obey what He tells you to do. But if your heart is like that of Judas, centered on yourself, all you can hear, I’m afraid, is the word of Jesus, “There is one who will betray Me.”

If your heart is like that of Judas, I believe there is still hope for you. It was not Judas’s betrayal of Jesus that made him unsaved. It was his unbelief toward Jesus that caused him not to be saved (cf. John 6:64, 70-71; 17:12). Before Judas hung himself after his betrayal of Jesus (Matthew 27:3-5; Acts. 1:18), the Bible never says he believed in Jesus for everlasting life.  Therefore, I believe it is a strong argument for Judas being an unbeliever and confined to the Lake of Fire in the future.

But for the sake of illustration, let’s say Judas did believe in Christ for everlasting life before he betrayed the Lord by turning Him over to His enemies and then committed suicide by hanging himself. Would Judas be in heaven? Absolutely, because he would “have everlasting life” (John 3:16) which by definition cannot be lost because it has no end. Judas would be in heaven because no one can snatch him out of God the Son’s and God the Father’s hands (John 10:28-29). He would be in heaven because Christ died for all Judas’s sins including his betrayal and suicide (Colossians 2:13-14). But Judas would not have eternal rewards in heaven which require faithfulness to Christ to the end of one’s life (cf. I Corinthians 9:24-27; 2 Timothy 2:12; James 1:12; Revelation 2:10, 25-27; 3:11-12).

On the other hand, let’s say Judas did not believe in Christ for everlasting and betrayed the Lord. But instead of hanging himself, he looked to Jesus in faith to forgive all his sins and give him everlasting (John 3:16; Acts 10:43). Would he be in heaven? Absolutely. And if he lived faithfully for Christ to the end of his life, he would receive eternal rewards in heaven (cf. I Corinthians 9:24-27; 2 Timothy 2:12; James 1:12; Revelation 2:10, 25-27; 3:11-12).

Where does that leave you? If you are not sure you have everlasting life, then take Jesus at His Word when He said, “Whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16). It does not matter how you have lived in the past. Perhaps you have pretended to be a Christian. You may have betrayed Christ outwardly or inwardly, but Jesus still loves you and wants to save you from an eternity separated from Him. Simply come to Him in faith just as you are, and He will give you everlasting life and come to live inside of You forever! He can transform you from a fake into a faithful follower of His.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, like the crowd in the synagogue in Capernaum two thousand years ago who heard these wonderful words from Your lips, we, too, fall into one of these three groups. Lord, make us those who love You, who cluster around You, who cling to Your words, who are willing to search them out and understand them and obey them, and believe that they alone are the words that give life. Lord, some of us may be following You from a distance, uncertain and uncomfortable. Help us to give up control and surrender to Your love which never fails. Some of us may find ourselves to be like Judas. We have pretended to be a believing disciple. We know how to look, speak, and act like a Christian, but we do not know for sure that we have everlasting life. So Lord Jesus, we come to You now as broken sinners, trusting You alone to forgive our sins and give us everlasting life. Thank You for the immense grace you have shown to us. Help us to cling to You and Your unchanging Word regardless of how the world responds to You. We ask this in Your matchless name. Amen.

Everyone needs John 3:16

“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.” John 3:16

Every Christ-centered church supports missions. When I speak of missions I am referring to “the sending of authorized believers to people of non-faith or other-faiths for the purpose of making disciples of Jesus Christ.” Why does a local church have missions? Let’s look at John 3:16. This is one of the most familiar verses in all the Bible. It has been used by God to lead millions of people to Christ. It has sparked revivals around the world.

This verse falls in the middle of a conversation between Jesus and a religious ruler named Nicodemus. Nicodemus thinks the way to heaven is by living a good life. But Jesus confronts him with the truth that he must be born again by believing in Christ alone for eternal life (John 3:1-15). It’s not what you do that gets you to heaven, it’s what Christ has already done for you on the cross and simply trusting Him to get you to heaven. Jesus explains further. “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).

Why does everyone need John 3:16?

BECAUSE GOD LOVED EVERYONE. Jesus said to Nicodemus, “For God so loved the world…” The first two words, “For God,” refer to the Creator of the heavens and earth (Genesis 1:1), the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End (Revelation 1:8, 17; 22:13), the Great I Am (Exodus 3:14), the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Exodus 3:6).

“For God so loved the world.” No one has ever loved to the degree that God has loved. Look at the extent of His love. He loved “the world.” He did not limit His love to one country, culture or color. His love extends beyond Filipinos to Americans… Africans… Australians… Chinese… Russians… Europeans…  Brazilians.

God loved everyone. Red and yellow, black and white, we are all precious in His sight! No one can love like God loves. His love is unlimited. His love is no respecter or rejecter of persons. He loves black skin as much as white skin… tattooed skin as much as freckled skin… shaven as much as bearded… long hair as much as no hair… poor as much as rich… boxing fans as much as basketball fans… Rap music fans as much as ballroom dancing fans.

This first phrase, “For God so loved the world…” has motivated people to leave their families and their homes to share God’s love on the other side of the world. Why? Because God loves everyone. His love cannot be earned. God loves us now, not when we get better. He loves us regardless of what we’ve done or not done. Do you realize that nothing you do can make God love you any less? He loves us even when we offend Him. God has designed us to be loved by Him. Only His love can meet our deepest needs. Unfortunately, we often look in the wrong places for this love, don’t we? We look for it in our occupation, paycheck,  in athletics, a bottle of booze or a dose of drugs, or in a brief romantic relationship. God’s love isn’t found in these things. His love is found in the Person of Jesus Christ.

The second reason why everyone needs John 3:16 is BECAUSE GOD GAVE HIS PERFECT SON FOR EVERYONE. Jesus said, “that He gave His only begotten Son.” God’s love gives. It doesn’t take. It gives sacrificially. What did He give? He gave what was most precious to Him – “His only begotten Son,” Jesus Christ. The phrase “only begotten Son” does not mean Jesus had a beginning like a baby that is birthed by his parents, as many false religions teach today. The compound Greek word translated “only begotten” is monogenḗs, which literally means “one (monos) of a kind (genos).” Jesus Christ is the only One of His kind. He is fully God (John 1:1-3) and fully Man (John 1:14). This is the message of the gospel of John.

God gave His only begotten Son to die in our place on a cross for our sins and rise from the dead (I Corinthians 15:3-6). Could you kill your child to save others? I certainly would not. Our love is pale compared to God’s love for us. Somebody might say to you, “I love you. Here’s my house. I’ll give it to you.” But how do you know that person doesn’t own ten homes so that giving up one is no sacrifice? Another person could say to you, “I love you. Here’s a million dollars.” But how do you know he does not have a billion dollars? When God says, “I love you. Here’s My perfect and only Son,” that is love. The greatest proof of His love is that He would allow His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ to die for our sins.

Did Jesus die for one country…culture or color? Did He die only for the elect? No, His death was for “all” nations of the world and all people (Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:15; John 1:29; 4:42; I Timothy2:3-6; I John 2:2). Jesus died for all people groups everywhere. Does that include drug addicts and prostitutes? Yes. Does that include Atheists, Buddhists, Catholics, Hindus, Muslims, and Protestants? Yes. Jesus died for all of them.

The third reason everyone needs John 3:16 is BECAUSE JESUS’ INVITATION IS FOR EVERYONE. Jesus said, “that whoever…” When we hear that God loves the world we may think, “Wow, that’s over 7.8 billion people. God may lose sight of me among that many people in the world today.” “Sure,” we say, “God loves the world in general, but what about me? What’s to keep Him from forgetting about me?” This is why God has placed the word “whoever” in this verse. When God looks at the world, He sees individuals, including you and me.

Thank God for that word “whoever.” If this verse read, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that when Jeff Ropp believes in Him, he should not perish, but have everlasting life,” I might be inclined to think He was talking about some other Jeff Ropp because this Jeff Ropp is such a filthy sinner; but whoever means this Jeff Ropp and that Jeff Ropp, and all the other Jeff Ropp’s in the world, and everyone else, whatever his or her name may be. This invitation is for everyone. What is Jesus inviting everyone to do?

This leads to the fourth reason why everyone needs John 3:16: BECAUSE EVERYONE NEEDS SUCH SIMPLICITY. Jesus said, “believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”Jesus is inviting us to believe in Him for everlasting life. He did not say, “whoever … does good in the community… lives an obedient life… denies himself and follows Me… confesses his sins… asks Me into his heart…  promises to serve Me… or is baptized.”  He simply says, “whoever believes in Him…” What does it mean to believe? To believe simply to accept something as true and then trust in that something.

Jesus says a person “believes” and “have.” You have what you take, correct? For example, if I were to say to you, “This $100 bill is yours if you will take it.” You cannot enjoy that $100 until you take it. If you take it, you have believed my promise to give it to you. Jesus asks us to take by faith the eternal life that He is freely offering to us. The moment you believe His promise to give everlasting live to all who believe in Him, you “have” everlasting life. Jesus guarantees that you will “not perish” in hell, but “have” everlasting life both now and forever. This is so simple that children often believe it much sooner than adults.

In John 3:16, Jesus is saying, “I love you. I died for you and rose from the dead. Will you trust Me to give you the never-ending life I bought for you with My own blood?” This is an invitation to believe or trust in Christ and Him alone – not ourselves or our good works. If you have just believed or trusted in Jesus Christ alone to give you everlasting life, you can tell Jesus this through prayer. Praying this prayer will not get you to heaven. Only believing or trusting in Jesus alone gets us to heaven. This prayer is a way of telling God you are now trusting in His Son.

Prayer:Dear Jesus, thank You for John 3:16 which tells me that You love me just as I am and that You want to be in a relationship with me forever. Lord Jesus, I admit that I have sinned against You and that I cannot save myself. I believe You died in my place on a cross for all of my sins and rose from the dead. I am now trusting in You alone, Jesus, (not my good life, my prayers, or my religion) to give me everlasting life and save me from hell forever. Thank You, Jesus, for the everlasting life I now have. Thank You for saving me from hell forever! Please help me to share John 3:16 with others before it is too late for them. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

To grow in your new relationship with Jesus Christ, please visit please visit www.seeyouinheaven.life or www.knowing-Jesus.com or evantell.org.  If you found this article to be helpful, please share it with those you want to see in heaven.Thank you and may Jesus richly bless you as you make Him known to others.

How can I restore my joy?

“His mother said to the servants, ‘Whatever He says to you, do it.’” John 2:5

We learned in John 2:1-3 that releasing our problems to Jesus can restore our joy. Another way to restore our joy is seen in the next few verses.

While Jesus and His disciples attended a wedding banquet in Cana of Galilee, the unthinkable happened – the hosts ran out of wine (John 2:1-3). To the Jews, wine symbolized joy.  Running out of wine at a wedding banquet in the first century was so serious that lawsuits could be brought against you by the offended guests. The presence of wine stated that this was a special day and that all the guests were special guests.

Jesus’ mother informed Christ of the problem and He let her know that she was no longer in control (John 2:4). He was no longer under obligation to do what she wanted when she wanted it. He was now obligated to fully obey His heavenly Father not His earthly mother.

Inviting Jesus to the wedding banquet made it possible for the supply of joy to be renewed and refreshed. But the simple fact that Jesus was there did not bring the joy. It did not replenish the wine. To have your joy restored, you must be willing to do whatever Jesus tells you to do.

“His mother said to the servants, ‘Whatever He says to you, do it.’” (John 2:5). At that moment, Jesus ceased to be a guest and became the One who was in control of the whole wedding.  And at that moment, a miracle began to happen. It is easy for us to be willing to have Jesus as a guest in our lives, but are we willing to turn over the controls and “do whatever Jesus tells” us to do? Only then will we see Christ do miracles in our lives.

I greatly admire Mary because she is the mother of the Messiah. For those of us who respect her, it is important to listen to what she told the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.”

What does Jesus say to do to have everlasting life? He says, “whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Have you made this decision to believe or trust in Christ alone to give you never-ending life? The moment you do, Christ gives you everlasting life and He comes to live inside of you through His Holy Spirit (cf. 7:37-39) so that His joy can fill your life to the brim!

“Now there were set there six waterpots of stone, according to the manner of purification of the Jews, containing twenty or thirty gallons apiece.” (John 2:6). The Jews would use the water in these stone water pots for purification. They would come to the pots and let water run over their hands. It wasn’t a matter of sanitation but of ceremony. It did nothing to clean them physically or to wash them spiritually. It was simply an outward show.

An outward show, then or now, has never been able to produce joy. Simply coming to church and going through the motions will not produce joy in your life. They will put you in the place where you can find joy and put you around the people who will help to enhance your joy. But if you hear God’s Word without doing His Word, you will become even more miserable than you were to begin with. If we say the prayers but refuse to listen to God’s Spirit as He speaks to us, then our prayers will only produce emotional and spiritual conflict in us. If we read the Bible with no intention of obeying it, then we will only provoke guilt within ourselves.

“Jesus said to them, ‘Fill the waterpots with water.’ And they filled them up to the brim.” (John 2:7).  The servants heard Jesus speak, and they responded in obedience. They began the process of filling the stone jars with water. Each of these jars held between 20 and 30 gallons of water, and there were six jars. That’s up to 180 gallons of water. It would have taken a lot of time and energy to accomplish this task. Trip after trip to the well to draw water and pour it into the jars. And we don’t know how far it was to the well. It would have been tempting to do a half-hearted job. After all, Jesus only said to “fill” the jars with water. He didn’t say how far to fill them. And “fill” is a word that can be interpreted in many ways depending on how hot it is and how late in the workday it is. Anything over half way is full, isn’t it? That’s what potato chip companies seem to think. But these men didn’t think so. When Jesus told them to fill the jars, they took Jesus’ words quite literally, and they filled them all the way “to the brim,” just shy of overflowing. This was more than enough to meet the need that this newly married couple had encountered.

Do we want God’s joy in our lives? (Pause) To receive that joy, we might even be willing to be obedient to God – to a certain extent, right? But are we willing for our obedience to reach all the way to the brim even when the obedience that Jesus asks for doesn’t make sense to us? Or when it requires more work than we had originally intended on giving? Or when it forces us to rearrange our priorities and our schedules like these servants had to do? You see, the amount of joy that we experience is in direct proportion to the amount of obedience that we give. The greater our obedience, the greater our supply of joy will be. Jesus said, “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love… These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:10-11). When Jesus tells you to do something, never do it halfway because Jesus wants to give you joy to the full.

I don’t know where the brim is for you, but I know that to get there, you must do whatever He tells you to do even when it doesn’t make sense. Even when it is inconvenient or painful. It will require hard work. It won’t be easy. You must ask yourself, “How badly do I want the joy that God has to offer?”

Prayer: Lord Jesus, please forgive me for the many times I have treated You like a guest in my life, instead of the Lord of my life. You make it clear that wholehearted obedience to You will give us joy to the full. How easy it is for me to go through the motions without giving You my heart. Lord Jesus, You do nothing halfway and nor should I. The more I know You and what You have done for me, the more I want to serve You as a way of saying “thank You,” even if it does not make sense to me. Please take all that I have, including my obedience, and use it for Your glory. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Why is being a Nice Person not enough to get you to Heaven?

I have met many nice people in my lifetime. In fact, they put me to shame with their kindness toward others. Instead of being selfish or judgmental, they are quick to help others regardless of their beliefs. Basically they live by the Golden Rule that Jesus taught – “Whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them” (Matt. 7:12). Many of the world’s religions advocate this teaching. But is being a nice person enough to get you to heaven?

God has told us in His Bible that all people have a fundamental problem that separates them from Him. It is called sin.

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23

No human being is “nice” enough to get to heaven because we all have sinned against God and fall short of His standard for being “nice.” 

“For the wages of sin is death.” Romans 6:23a

“Death” in the Bible means separation from God. Sin separates us from God because He is holy, righteous, and perfect. He cannot be around sin. The only way to approach God is on His terms, not ours. 

God tells us that there is only one way to receive eternal life (access to heaven) and that is “in” Jesus Christ. 

“But the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23b

Notice that eternal life is not in being nice or good. It is “in Christ Jesus our Lord.” God loved you and me so much that He was willing to come to earth in human flesh (John 1:1, 14-17) and die on the Cross for our sins and come back to life (I Corinthians 15:3-6) so we could have everlasting life simply by believing in Him (John 3:16).

“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.” John 3:16

No amount of being nice can take away our sins. 

“All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” Isaiah 64:6

God looks at the good things we do, such as being nice or good to others, and sees that it is like “filthy rags.” The good things we do are all stained with sin before a holy God. For example, we may be nice to someone with selfish motives such as wanting their approval or wanting something in return from them. God sees our sinful motives even though we or others may not be aware of them.

Being “nice” cannot take away our sins. Only Jesus Christ is qualified as the God-Man to take away our sins (John 1:1, 14-17, 29; 14:6; Acts 4:12; I Timothy 2:3-6). Only Jesus was “nice” or good enough to earn heaven. Believe in Him and God will credit Jesus’ righteousness to your life so He can welcome you into His heaven.

“But to him who does not work, but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.” Romans 4:5

Then Jesus will come to live inside of you (Galatians 2:20) through His Holy Spirit (John14:16-17; Romans 8:9) to give you the power to be nice to others as you learn to trust and obey Him (John 15:5; Galatians 5:22-23).