Let’s Keep the Gospel Clear!

“Praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned; that I may make it clear in the way that I ought to proclaim it.” Colossians 3:3-4

During my drive from Nebraska back to our home in Iowa recently, I noticed a billboard along the interstate that read, “Where are you going? Heaven or Hell?” with a phone number on it to call. I thought to myself, “I wonder what they are telling callers they must do to go to heaven?” Knowing I had about two hours left on my drive home, I knew this would probably be an animated conversation that would keep me wide awake. So, I decided to give them a call. I will try to convey the main ideas communicated in this call, acknowledging that my quotes are not verbatim.

When a young man answered my call, I told him I noticed their billboard sign and wanted to know what I must do to be sure I would go to heaven in the future. Immediately he told me I must repent and then quoted from Matthew 4:17 where Jesus said, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” I asked, “What does it mean to repent?” He said it means to turn from your sin and follow Jesus. To which I replied, “You mean I must turn from all my sins?” “Yes,” he said. “Have you done that?” I asked him. “No,” he responded, “But if I do sin, the Bible tells me I must confess it to the Lord, and He will forgive me.”

In addition, he quoted from Romans 10:9-10 which says, 9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” To make sure I understood him, I tried to repeat back what I heard him to say, “So you are telling me that to be sure I will go to heaven, I must repent, believe, and confess Jesus is Lord.” He said, “That’s right.”

Next, I told him my mother taught me John 3:16 when I was a child. After quoting the verse, “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,” I said to him, “Jesus is saying all I must do to have everlasting life is believe in Him.” Quickly he retorted, “We do what we believe, right?” I said, “Of course. But Jesus is saying all I must do is believe in Him for eternal life. So, if I will do what I believe, I will believe in Jesus to get me to heaven, not do good works to get to heaven.”

This man, whose name ironically is John, liked the book of Matthew, so he directed me to Matthew 7:21-23 where Jesus said, 21 Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”

I said to John, “Christ is teaching that confessing the Lordship of Jesus and doing good works in His name is not what gains entrance into the kingdom of heaven. It is doing the will of the Father. And what is the Father’s will for entering His kingdom? Jesus tells us in John 6:40, ‘And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.’ According to Jesus, all we must do to enter the Father’s heaven, is see and believe in His Son to receive everlasting life. The apostle John tells us the reason he wrote his gospel is so ‘that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.’ (20:31). Ninety-nine times the apostle John uses the word ‘believe’ in his gospel. He never uses the word ‘repent.’”

The John on the other end of the call said, “Believing is not enough. Listen to what the apostle John, the same author of the gospel of John, writes in I John 3: 4 Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness. 5 And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin. 6 Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him. 7 Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. 8 He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. 9 Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God. 10 In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother.’”

I responded by saying, “First John 5:1 says, ‘Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.’ The apostle John makes it clear that believing Jesus is the Christ is all that is necessary to be born of God. “

John responded by turning to I John 1:3-4, 7-10, 3 that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. 4 And these things we write to you that your joy may be full… 7 But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.”

I thanked John for turning to these verses because verses 3-4 explain to us that I John was written so we may have fellowship or closeness with God, not salvation. So, when John talks about walking in the light (1:7), confessing sin (1:9), keeping God’s commandments (2:3), abiding in Christ (2:6), not sinning (3:6, 9), practicing righteousness (3:7), and loving others (3:10), he is providing conditions for fellowship or closeness with God, not salvation. The gospel of John tells us that the only condition for entering the Christian life is believing in Jesus for eternal life (John 1:12; 3:15-18, 36; 5:24; 6:35-40, 47; 7:37-39; 11:25-26; 20:31; et al.). But I John provides many conditions for having fellowship with God.

I told John on the other end of the call that I was very disappointed that he was preaching a different gospel than what the Lord Jesus and the apostles taught. I quoted from Galatians 1:8-9 which says, But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.” The apostle Paul made it clear in Galatians that the only condition for being justified or declared righteous before God was to believe or have faith in Christ alone. Paul used the words “believe” and “faith” fifteen times when referring to justification before God (2:16; 3:2, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 14, 22, 24, 26) in the book of Galatians. He used no other words as a condition for justification. He warned the Galatians not to support or join those who do not preach a “believe/faith alone” gospel (1:6- 9; 4:12, 21-30; 5:1-12; 6:17). It does not matter how kind or helpful a person is who teaches a different gospel. They are “accursed” by God if they preach a different way to heaven other than faith alone in Christ alone.  

When John on the other end of the call tried to interrupt me, I asked him to wait until I was finished explaining the clear gospel. John hung up on me before I finished talking.

Unfortunately, what John and others with that ministry are doing to the gospel of grace is not uncommon. Rarely do I hear individual Christians or churches use the words God uses the most in New Testament evangelism – the verb “believe” (pisteuō) 1 and its noun form “faith” (pistis) 2 – as the only conditions for salvation. This is devastating because it dishonors the finished work of Christ on the cross. When we start replacing God’s Word with our own cliches or verses taken out of context, we are making it more difficult for sinners to be saved from hell by our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.

If John had not hung up on me, I would have told him that he is the one who needs to repent. The word “repent” (metanoeō) in the New Testament means “to change one’s mind.” 3 John and others who distort the gospel need to repent or change their minds and return to the original gospel that Jesus and the apostles taught. Jesus said, 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:14-15; cf. Acts 10:43; 16:31; Romans 4:5; Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 2:8-9; I John 5:1, 13; et al.). Jesus Christ was “lifted up” on the cross to finish paying the penalty for all our sin when He died in our place (John 19:30) “that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”

When the apostle Paul instructed the Colossian believers to pray for his preaching of the gospel, he said, “that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak” (Colossians 4:4; NASB). If the apostle Paul needed prayer to help him keep the gospel clear, then how much more do you and I need this kind of prayer support from others!?! Satan wants to deceive Christians not to use the words God uses most in evangelism (“Believe” and “Faith”) because he knows that these are God’s terms for salvation from hell (cf. Luke 8:5, 12).

God wants Christians to be clear in the way they communicate the gospel of Christ to non-Christians. If you would like to learn more about how to be more effective in evangelism by avoiding unclear evangelistic invitations, please view our training video at https://www.seeyouinheaven.life/lesson-1-part-5-avoiding-unclear-gospel-invitations-video/.

May the Lord Jesus be glorified as we seek to keep His gospel clear by using the words He uses the most in evangelism: believe and faith.

ENDNOTES:

1. Matthew 18:6; 21: 32(3); 24:23, 26; 27:42; Mark 1:15, 9:42; 15:32;16:16(2), 17; Luke 8:12, 13; 22:67; John 1:7, 12, 50; 2:11, 23; 3:12(2), 15, 16, 18(3), 36(2); 4:39, 41, 42, 48, 53; 5:24, 38, 44, 45, 46, 47(2); 6:29, 30, 35, 36, 40, 47, 64, 69; 7:5, 31, 38(2), 39, 48; 8:24, 30, 31, 45, 46; 9:35, 36, 38; 10:25, 26, 37, 38(3), 42; 11:25, 26, 27(2), 42, 45, 48; 12:11, 36, 37, 38, 39, 42, 44(2), 46, 47; 13:19; 14:12; 16:9, 27; 17:8, 20, 21; 19:35; 20:29, 31(2); Acts 2:44; 4:4, 32; 5:14; 8:12, 13, 37(2); 9:42; 10:43, 45; 11:17, 21; 13:12, 39, 41, 48; 14:1, 23, 27; 15:5, 7; 16:1, 31, 34; 17:4, 5, 12, 34; 18:8, 27; 19:2, 4, 9, 18; 21:20, 25; 22:19; 26:27(2); 28:24(2); Romans 1:16; 3:3, 22, 4:3, 5, 11, 17, 24; 9:33; 10:4, 9, 10, 11, 14(2), 16; 13:11; 15:31; I Corinthians 1:21; 3:5; 7:12, 13; 9:5; 10:27; 14:22(2); 15:2, 11; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Galatians 2:16; 3:6, 9, 22; Ephesians 1:13, 19; Philippians 1:29; I Thessalonians 1:7; 2:10; 4:14; 2 Thessalonians 1:10; 2:12,13; I Timothy 1:16; 3:16; 4:3, 10; 6:2(2); 2 Timothy 1:12; Titus 3:8; Hebrews 11:31; I Peter 1:21;2:6, 7; I John 3:23; 5:1, 5, 10(3), 13.

2. Matthew 9:2; Mark 2:5; Luke 7:50; 17:19; 18:42; Acts 6:7; 14:22, 27; 15:9; 16:5; 20:21; 24:24; 26:18; Romans 1:17; 3:3, 22, 25, 26, 27, 28, 30(2), 31; 4:5, 9, 11, 13, 14, 16 (2); 5:1, 2; 9:30, 32; 10:6, 8, 17; 11:20; 16:26; I Corinthians 15:14, 17; Galatians 2:16 (2); 3:2, 5, 7, 8, 9, 14, 22, 24, 26; 5:5; Ephesians 2:8; Philippians 3:9(2); Colossians 1:4; 2 Thessalonians 3:2; 2 Timothy 3:15; Titus 1:4; Hebrews 6:1;11:31; James 2:1, 23, 24; I Peter 1:21; 2 Peter 1:5; I John 5:4.

3. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 640.

Receiving Life Freely – Part 6 (Video)

This is the sixth 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 sixth miracle of Jesus recorded in the gospel of John involving His miraculous healing of a man born blind (John 9:1-41).

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 Jesus.net, www.GoodSalt.com,  John Paul Stanley / YoPlace.com, or they are creative common licenses. The Gospel of John movie clip is used with permission from Jesus.net. You may view the entire Life of Jesus movie at https://jesus.net/the-life-of-jesus/.

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 find peace under pressure? Part 4

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’ ” John 14:6

We live in a world today that teaches there are many different ways to God. Many people insist that all religions lead to the same God (Universalism). Is this true? The God of the Bible has told us Himself  that “besides Me there is no savior” (Isaiah 43:11). If God had said there are many ways to Himself, then, yes, there are many ways to Him. But He has not said that. He says that He alone is the “savior.” 

In our verses today, the Lord Jesus Christ makes it very clear that He is the only way to God the Father in heaven. This is essential for us to understand if we are going to find peace under pressure. So far we have learned that we can find peace under pressure by focusing on Jesus’ promises of peace of heart, a prepared place in heaven, and His presence in heaven. The fourth and final way is to focuson Jesus’ PROMISE OF A PREPARED PATH TO HEAVEN (John 14:4-6) for those who believe in Him.

Christ makes it clear in response to Thomas’ question that for anyone to enjoy the prepared place in heaven, he must know the prepared path to heaven. “And where I go you know, and the way you know.” (John 14:4). Jesus affirms that the disciples “know” both “where” Jesus is going and “the way” to get there. Throughout His ministry Jesus had taught His disciples the way to heaven.

Now Peter had an answer to his question, “Lord, where are You going?” (John 13:36a). Christ was going to His Father’s house. Even though He must first go alone, He would return and take them to His Father’s House where they would be with Him forever. This seems to have satisfied Peter as he asked no further questions. But Thomas did not fully understand what Jesus was saying.

“Thomas said to Him, ‘Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?’ ” (John 14:5). Thomas did not understand Jesus’ reference to His Father’s House. Thomas renews the doubt about Jesus’ destination including the path that would take one there. Thomas was honest and uninhibited as he expresses his confusion. Jesus had said they could not come with Him at this time (John 13:33, 36b). How then can they know the way?

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’ ” (John 14:6). Since Jesus is going to the Father’s House, He now makes it clear that He is “the way” to His Father’s home. Jesus did not rebuke Thomas for his lack of understanding and we must not either. We are to be gracious with those who may not see things as we do.

The Lord explains to Thomas, “I am the way” to My Father’s House. Jesus did not say He was “a way” to heaven, leaving open the possibility of other ways to heaven which is commonly taught today. There is only one “way” to heaven and that is through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone (John 3:5, 15-16; 10:9; Acts 4:12; I Timothy 2:3-5).

Many people today think there is more than one way to God. They are placing their trust in people or religions that will only lead to eternal destruction (cf. Matthew 7:13-23). Jesus warned His disciples that there are many “false prophets” (Matthew 7:15) who stand in front of the “broad… way” that “leads into destruction” (Matthew 7:13). These false prophets are dressed in “sheep’s clothing” (Matthew 7:15) and appear to be Christians.

But Jesus will refuse to let them into heaven because they were trusting in their confession of Jesus’ lordship (“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ ”Matthew 7:21) and their works that they did in Jesus’ name for His glory (“Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’” – Matthew 7:22). They were not permitted entrance into “the kingdom of heaven” because they failed to do “the will of” the “Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21) which is believing in Christ alone for everlasting life: “And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:40; cf. Matthew 18:3; 21:31-32).

Jesus said you may know these false prophets by “their fruits” (Matthew 7:16-20) which are their “words,” not their works (Matthew 12:33-37). Any teacher who says you can go to heaven through some other way than faith alone in Christ alone, is a false prophet and must be avoided (cf. I Timothy 6:3-5).

When Jesus said, “I am the truth,” He is referring to the truth about the Father. Even though the disciples may have felt strange going to His Father’s House because they had not met the Father, yet since they knew Jesus, they did know the Father as well because Jesus and the Father “are one” (John 10:30). To see and know Jesus was to know and see the Father because Jesus is the perfect reflection of the Father as God the Son (John 14:7-11; cf. 1:1; 12:44-45).

As “the truth,” we can believe in Christ’s promise of everlasting life to those who believe in Him (John 3:15-16; 36; 5:24; 6:40, 47; 11:25-26) because He never tells a lie. He is always faithful to keep His promises.

When Jesus said,“I am the life,” He was saying that He is the only Person who can provide “the life” or relationship (John 1:4, 12; 5:21; 17:3) that is needed to come to the Father’s House. Jesus claims that He is the exclusive way to the Father, “No one comes to the Father except through Me.” The path to heaven is a Person – Jesus Christ Himself. You can begin a personal relationship with Him simply by believing in Him alone for His free gift (John 3:15-16; 17:3).

Jesus’ claims in this verse are very personal. Jesus did not merely claim to know “the way, the truth, or the life” as if it is some formula to give to the ignorant. He claims to be “the way, the truth, and the life.”

One continuing concern about American tax structure is the problem of loopholes. Some people spend more time looking for loopholes than they do figuring how much tax they owe. Corporations hire experts to look for legal ways to avoid taxes – and they find them. The result for the U.S. government is the loss of millions of dollars – all because of loopholes.

Some people develop a “loophole mentality” in their relationship to God. For example, when comedian W. C. Fields (1880-1946) was on his deathbed, a visitor found him reading the Bible. Asked what he was doing, he replied, “Looking for loopholes, my friend. Looking for loopholes.” 1

The Bible says that Jesus is the only way to heaven, and that we must believe in Him alone as our Savior (John 3:15-16; 10:9; 14:6). But some people secretly feel that when they die and stand before the judgment seat they will find some other way to get in. They refuse to believe the Bible’s teaching that salvation is through Christ alone (John 3:5, 15-16; 14:6; Acts 4:12) and that eternal punishment awaits those who reject Christ (John 3:36; Revelation 20:15). They have convinced themselves that they will somehow escape the final judgment and its terrible consequences.

But they are wrong. Jesus is the only “way” to heaven. According to Jesus Christ, there are no other ways to God the Father. You may ask, “What right does Jesus have to make such an exclusive claim?” The Bible affirms that Jesus was “declared to be the Son of God with power… by the resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1:4). The proof that Jesus rose from the dead was that He was seen alive after His death by over five hundred eyewitnesses (I Corinthians 15:5-8).

The resurrection of Christ is the most attested fact of history. Thomas Arnold authored a three-volume history of Rome and was appointed to Oxford’s Chair of Modern History. Concerning the evidence behind the resurrection of Jesus Christ, he said, “I have been used for years to study the histories of other times, and to examine and weigh the evidence of those who have written about them, and I know of no one fact in the history of mankind which is proved by better and fuller evidence of every sort, to the understanding of a fair inquirer, than that Christ died and rose from the dead.”  2 

The early followers of Jesus made it clear that “there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12) other than Jesus Christ (cf. Acts 4:10-11). The Bible, God Himself, and His followers teach that there is only one way to God and that is through the Lord Jesus Christ. To believe or teach something else means you must deal with the authority of the Bible and the credibility of Jesus Christ. 3

If you have never understood and believed this, listen to what God says in Isaiah 45:22: “Look to Me, and be saved, all you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.” God the Son, Jesus Christ, now invites you to believe or trust in Him alone to save you from eternal death and give you His free gift of everlasting life. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die” (John 11:25-26). When you believed in Jesus, the Bible says you can “know” you have eternal life. “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.” (I John 5:13).

When you believe in Christ, He comes to live inside of you through His Holy Spirit (John 7:38-39; Romans 5:5; 8:9-11; I Corinthians 6:19; 12:13; Galatians 3:2; 4:6; Ephesians 1:13-14). Then you can begin to experience His promise of peace of heart and look forward to a prepared place in heaven where you can enjoy His presence forever unhindered by sin and shame. But it all begins when you realize and accept that the only way to heaven is through a Person – Jesus Christ Himself.

If you have never made the decision to believe in Christ alone for His gift of everlasting life, you can do so right now because there are no loopholes. You can simply tell God through prayer that you are now believing in His Son, Jesus Christ, as your only hope of heaven.

Prayer: Dear Jesus, I come to You now as a sinner who deserves to be separated from You forever. I now realize that You are the only way to heaven. You proved this through Your words and works, the greatest of which was when You died for the sins of the world and rose from the dead. Lord Jesus, I am now believing or trusting in You alone (not my religion, my prayers, or my good life) to give me everlasting life and a future home in heaven. Thank You for the everlasting life I now have and the future home I will have in heaven. In Your precious name I pray. Amen.

If you just believed in Jesus as your only hope of heaven, we would love to hear from you. Simply send a message to us through the “Contact Us” page. To grow in your new relationship with Jesus Christ, please explore this website or www.knowing-jesus.com. Thank you, and may Jesus richly bless you.

ENDNOTES:

1. See Our Daily Bread, October 5, 2002 – https://odb.org/2002/10/05/looking-for-loopholes/.

2. Arnold Thomas, Sermons on the Christian Life – Its Hopes, Its Fears, and Its Close, 6th ed. (London: T. Fellowes, 1859), pg. 324.

3. See EvanTell’s The Evangelism Study Bible (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2014), pg. 776.

Why do some disciples or followers of Jesus abandon Him? Part 3

“‘But there are some of you who do not believe.’ For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him.” John 6:64

The third reason why some disciples or followers of Jesus abandon Him is because THEY DISBELIEVE JESUS (John 6:64-66) and have no capacity to understand and follow Him. “‘But there are some of you who do not believe.’ For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him.” (John 6:64). Some of the people who had been following Jesus and listening to His instruction had not believed in Him for His gift of everlasting life. They were disciples, that is, they placed themselves under Jesus’s instruction, but they were unsaved.

“Many of His disciples” found His words difficult (John 6:60, 66) and “some” of them did not believe in Christ for salvation (John 6:64a). Both saved and unsaved disciples found Jesus’s words to be disturbing. If Jesus knew that some were unsaved, why did He let them start out on the pathway of discipleship? Because He loved them, even Judas.  Luke 19:10 says, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” If they wanted to sit under Jesus’s teaching day after day, why not? That way He could seek them day after day. God’s love is unlimited and is directed toward every person. It gets me excited to think we may have people who don’t know Christ coming to our Facebook page and website. God’s grace is available to everyone.

Then Jesus said, “Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.” (John 6:65).  Is Jesus teaching that only a small percent of people, the elect, are able to believe and be born again? Not at all, and here is why.

God never commands something to be done that the listener is unable to do. And God commands all people to believe in His Son for everlasting life (I John 3:23; cf. John 3:16; Acts 16:31). Since God is drawing all people (John 12:32; 16:8-11), including those who never believe, He has certainly given everyone the capacity to believe.

The unbelieving disciples He is talking to in this large group are being drawn to believe in Jesus. They should seek to understand Christ’s words because they give life (John 6:63). If they turn away from Christ’s teaching now because it is difficult for them to believe, then God may stop drawing them. Nowhere are we told how long God draws an unbeliever to Himself. God may draw someone for eighty years or eight days. But this drawing is resistible.

For example, Judas resisted God’s intense drawing for over three years. All who die without Christ have rejected God’s drawing in their life. It is possible that God may stop drawing an unbeliever who hardens his heart. But Jesus’ point in verse 65 is that it is impossible for lost people to come to Christ without the help of God. God must work in their hearts. God may be drawing some of you. Maybe you have started reading the Bible or going to church. Perhaps you are visiting Christian websites online. This is an indication that God is working in your heart to draw you to His Son.

“From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.” (John 6:66). This is perhaps the most “unsuccessful” sermon Jesus ever preached. When John chapter 6 opens, Jesus had 12,000-20,000 people following Him and listening to Him speak (John 6:10; cf. Matthew 14:21). When this chapter closes, He only has twelve men with Him and one of them is not even saved (John 6:67). Unlike some preachers today, Jesus did not sugar coat His message. He was not trying to win a popularity contest by preaching what people wanted to hear. This is a significant turning point in Christ’s ministry. He is shifting from a public ministry of up to twenty thousand to a more private training of the Twelve. As a result of this sermon, many of Jesus’s followers withdrew and went back to the things they had left behind (i.e. families, work, old habits and ways of thinking).

When you compare verse 66 with verse 64, you can see that “some” of those who abandoned Christ were Christians. Some did “not believe,” but “many” withdrew from Jesus. It was more demanding than even some of the believers expected.

Throughout my time as a pastor and evangelist, I have witnessed “disciples” withdrawing from Jesus and walking with Him no more. Much like the people in this crowd with Jesus, they stopped placing themselves under the teaching of God’s Word. Why? The teaching may have been too difficult or too disturbing to them. They may have been offended by the message of salvation which says eternal life is a free gift that one receives by believing in Christ alone apart from any works or merit of our own (John 4:10-14; Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:8-9). So they abandon Christ to follow a preacher who says what they want to hear (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

Others may drop off because they have not yet believed in Jesus so they don’t have God the Holy Spirit living inside them to give them the  capacity to understand and follow Christ’s teaching (cf. John 7:38-39; I Corinthians 2:10-16). Some believers may drop off because God is calling them to a deeper level of commitment and they still want to be in charge of their own lives so they pull away. Only the Lord knows for sure.

Where are you in relation to Jesus Christ? Are you following Him from a distance? Are you intrigued by His claims to be God? Have you noticed how loving and gracious He is with those who seek Him? Do you feel Jesus pulling you closer to Him as you listen to what He has to say? As you listen to Christ, do you find yourself having a difficult time understanding what He means? Do His words offend you? Is He demanding more of you and you do not want to place yourself under His control?

Wherever you find yourself in relation to Jesus Christ, please know that He loves you and He wants to spend time with you. Will you give Jesus a chance? Will you open your heart to what He has to say to you? Jesus loved Judas to the end of his life (John 13:1) even though Judas never believed in Christ for His gift of eternal life (John 6:64, 70-71; cf. 12:4; 13:2, 10-11, 21-30; 17:12; 18:2, 5). Please do not be like Judas and never believe or trust in Christ alone to save you from your sins and give you everlasting life.

We are also reminded by Judas Iscariot’s relationship with Jesus that what determines a person’s eternal destiny is not their works. Judas did many works for Jesus Christ as His disciple (Matthew 10:1ff; Mark 6:7-13; Luke 9:1-6), but his unbelief toward Jesus condemned him to an eternity in the Lake of Fire (John 3:18; 6:64, 70-71; 13:10-11; 16:7-11; 17:12). The Bible tells us that it is not our works that determine whether we go to heaven or hell (Romans 4:5; Ephesians 2:8-9), but our response to Jesus Christ. “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” (John 3:36).

On Judgment Day there will be many false prophets (Matthew 7:15) who stand before Jesus and appeal to their words (“Lord, Lord”)  and to their good works (“prophesied…cast out demons…done many wonders”) that they have done “in His name” for His glory as the basis of their entrance into the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 7:21-22). And Jesus will say to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.” (Matthew 7:23). Why does He say this? Because they had failed to do “the will of the Father in heaven” as it relates to entering the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 7:21b). Jesus said, “And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:40; cf. 3:5, 15-16). Until a person is rightly related to Jesus by believing in Him for everlasting life, all their good works, words, and thoughts are “lawlessness” before a holy God (Matthew 7:23; cf. Isaiah 64:6).

Do you “believe in the Son,” Jesus Christ, for “everlasting life”? If so, then God promises that you now have “everlasting life” and your name is written in the Book of Life so that you will enjoy a home in heaven (John 3:36a; Revelation 21:27). But if you reject Jesus Christ or “do not believe the Son,” you “shall not see life” in heaven, “but the wrath of God abides” on you both now and forever in the Lake of Fire (John 3:36b; Revelation 20:15). It does not matter how many good works you have done for Jesus, if you do not believe in Him alone for His gift of everlasting life, you will still suffer torment forever in the Lake of Fire (Romans 4:5; Ephesians 2:8-9; Revelation 20:10, 15).

Prayer: Almighty God and Savior, You know my heart better than anyone. You know every thought, feeling, and motive I have ever had. I can hide nothing from You. Although You know everything about me – the good, the bad, and the ugly – You love me and long to be in a personal relationship with me. Thank You for drawing me to Yourself through Your Word and the testimony of other Christians. Lord, please remove anything in my life that would hinder me from following You more closely. I do not want to be like those who abandoned You and walked with You no more because they found Your teaching to be difficult or disturbing. Knowing how much You love me and value me, motivates me to stay close to You. Precious Lord Jesus, please continue to draw those who do not believe in You yet to Yourself. Please send others to model Your grace and truth to them. Thank You my Lord and my God for hearing my prayer. In Jesus’s name. Amen.   

How can I experience eternal satisfaction? Part 3

“Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” John 6:54

Not only can I experience eternal satisfaction by comprehending that Jesus is the Son of God (John 6:41-42) and by coming to Jesus through the Word (John 6:43-45), but also when I am …

CONVINCED THAT JESUS GIVES ETERNAL LIFE FREELY (John 6:46-54). Jesus said, 46 Not that anyone has seen the Father, except He who is from God; He has seen the Father. 47 Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life.” (John 6:46-47). The person who responds favorably to the Father’s drawing will believe in Jesus (cf. John 6:44-45). If we want to receive the ultimate satisfaction, we must believe or trust in Christ alone for His gift of everlasting life. After all, Jesus has seen the Father and has come from Him, so He can be trusted to get us to where the Father lives in Heaven. After all, who knows best how to get to your home? You do because you live there. So who knows better how to get to heaven than Jesus Christ who lives there?

Jesus tells us that the one who believes in Him has everlasting life (John 6:47). The essential element is always belief. We have a tendency, in our human thinking, to make it something more. But belief is not being baptized nor joining a church. Nor is belief praying a prayer nor confessing Christ publicly nor persevering in good works. Belief is simply being convinced that Jesus was speaking the truth and then trusting Him when He said, “he who believes in Me has everlasting life” (John 6:47). The gospel is so clear and simple!

Then Christ says,48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead.” (John 6:48-49). Because Jesus came from the Father, He is the bread of life. Earlier in John 6, we saw that Jesus’s critics wanted Him to reproduce more food like Moses had. But Jesus points out that manna had limitations. For example, you eat a piece of bread, and you are still going to die regardless of how much nutrition it has. Which goes to show that you really cannot prevent death, even in today’s technological age. You can take a lot of vitamins, or herbs, and be on the best diet or fitness plan, but it makes no ultimate difference. People still die 100% of the time. What Jesus is offering is eternal. Christ alone can offer satisfaction that never ends. 

Jesus continues,50 This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.” (John 6:50-51). The one who eats what Jesus offers “…shall live forever.” Jesus identifies this bread as His own flesh which He shall give for the world. Christ’s death on the cross explains how He can make the free offer of eternal life to those who believe in Him. This gift is absolutely free because Jesus has already paid for it with His blood.

“The Jews therefore quarreled among themselves, saying, ‘How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?’ ” (John 6:52). Instead of trying to understand what Jesus meant, the people mock Christ with this sarcastic question. Jesus has already answered the question they asked, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat,” by saying that He will give His flesh for the life of the world (John 6:51). That can only mean death, and they are troubled by that. Behind their protest is the feeling that their sins are not that bad, that it should not require death to clear up their difficulties.

Many people are right at that point today. They do not want to believe that their problems come from something so bad within themselves that it requires death to cure it. Most people think they are pretty good. They may need a few changes, a few New Year’s resolutions, a little adjustment in behavior, they feel, but they are not that bad. Yet throughout the Bible, in both Old and New Testaments alike, there is this emphasis upon the necessity for blood, for a death in order to cure and deliver us from the evil grip of sin in our lives. This is why the Jews protest Jesus’s words.

53 Then Jesus said to them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:53-54). Some churches have misunderstood these verses to apply to the Lord’s Supper (communion) so that when you take the bread and the cup, you are actually eating the flesh and the blood of Jesus. The phrase “eating My flesh and drinking My blood” cannot refer to the Lord’s Supper because: 

1. The Old Testament forbids the consumption of blood (Leviticus  3:17). Jesus would not encourage disobedience.

2.  It would contradict the Bible’s clear teaching that belief in Christ is the only condition for eternal life (John 3:15-18, 36; 4:10-14; 6:27, 29, 35-40, 47; 7:38-39; 11:25-26; 20:31; Acts 16:31; Romans 4:5; Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 2:8-9; I Timothy 1:16;  I John 5:13; etc.). Repeatedly Jesus has taught that eternal life is obtained solely by believing. Why would He wait until now to say, “Oh by the way, you must believe in Me plus partake of communion.” God’s Word does not contradict itself.

3. Nothing in the context suggests that Jesus is addressing the Lord’s Supper. Christ did not institute the Lord’s Supper until a year later (John 13:1-30; cf. Luke 22:1-23).

4. John uses the word “flesh” (sarx) and not “body”(sōma) in John 6:53-54. In all the references to the Lord’s Supper in the New Testament, the word “body” is used, not flesh (Matthew 26:26; Mark 14:22; Luke 22:19; I Corinthians 11:24).

Since the phrase “eating My flesh and drinking My blood” does not refer to the Lord’s Supper, to what does it refer? The phrase “eating My flesh and drinking My blood” refers to personal faith in the Person of Jesus Christ because:

1. The verbs “eat”  (phagēte) and “drink” (piēte) are terms John uses for “believe” (John 4:14; 6:35b, 47, 50, 51, 54, 58). In the context, we are told that eternal life is given to those who “eat” (6:50-51, 54, 58). In John 6:47 Jesus tells us “he who believes in Me has everlasting life.” Since both “eating” and “believing” are the means for obtaining eternal life, they must be synonymous. John 4:14 says that“whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst” and in John 6:35b Jesus tells us that “he who believes in Me shall never thirst.” Since “drinking” and “believing” both quench one’s spiritual thirst, they must be synonymous.

2. The phrase “flesh and blood”is a Hebrew idiom which normally means physical humanity (John 1:14; 6:33, 38, 41-42, 46, 51, 58). It emphasizes that we are to put our faith in Jesus who became flesh and blood without ceasing to be God (John 1:1, 18; 5:17-47; 8:56-59; 10:30-33; 12:44-45; 14:6-11; 20:28, 31).

3. Throughout the gospel of John, the object of one’s faith is the Person of Jesus Christ, Who later died and rose from the dead (John 1:12; 3:15-18, 36; 6:29, 35, 40, 47; 7:38; 8:30; 9:35; 11:25-26; 12:11; 19:1-20:31). A fundamental rule of interpretation is to interpret unclear verses in light of clear verses. So if you are struggling to understand a verse, look at clear verses about the same subject which can help you understand its meaning. For example, when John 6:40 [which is very clear what one must do to have eternal life] is compared to John 6:54 we can see that eating My flesh and drinking My blood refers to believing in the Person of Christ (see diagram 1):

Diagram 1

If the results are the same, then the actions leading to the results must also be the same. Jesus is comparing faith to eating and drinking to demonstrate that it is voluntary. Just as you must choose to eat a piece of bread or drink a cup of water, so you must choose to believe in Christ. And as food goes into your body and is digested and is then assimilated so that it becomes a part of the body, so we must appropriate Christ; that is, we must personally trust in Him alone for the free gift of eternal life in order to receive His life.

A remedy must be accepted by the one who needs it. A doctor capable of performing lifesaving surgery cannot do so until the patient trusts the doctor’s careful hand and climbs up on the operating table. A wealthy person who desires to help out a friend financially cannot do so unless the friend is willing to receive assistance. Likewise, someone who understands that he or she is a sinner and also understands that Christ took his or her punishment on the cross and rose from the grave does not automatically have a right standing with God.

The Bible shows us that a person must believe this truth and receive Christ’s free offer of eternal life, otherwise, Jesus says, “you have no life in you.” (John 6:53b). There are many people in the world searching for “life” in a religious ceremony which cannot give life to them. I was once one of those people. I went to church weekly and participated in communion occasionally only to find myself empty and dissatisfied. It was only when I understood that Jesus was the Son of God through the Bible and was convinced that He alone could freely give me everlasting life, that I had “life in” me, that is, I had a personal relationship with Jesus that gave me satisfaction forever! Hallelujah!

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I spent a lot of time searching for satisfaction that lasts forever in the things of this world and in religion, only to find myself more empty and dissatisfied. Thank You for pursuing me in love to begin a personal relationship with You that lasts forever. I praise You for convincing me of my sinfulness so I could see my need to believe in You as a Person and Your finished work on the cross (not some religious ceremony or ritual), so I may have everlasting life. You alone, Jesus, can satisfy my hunger and thirst for immortality. Please use me to share this message of hope with a broken world that is desperately searching for this lasting satisfaction. In Jesus’s name. Amen.

How can we experience God’s life-giving Word? Part 4

“So the father knew that it was at the same hour in which Jesus said to him, ‘Your son lives.’ And he himself believed, and his whole household.’” John 4:53

The final way to experience the life-giving word of Christ is THROUGH TRUSTING IN CHRIST’S PERSON (John 4:51-54). Jesus and His disciples remained in Cana that night, but the nobleman did not. He started back to Capernaum alone that evening over the Galilean hills. After dark, he probably stopped to sleep, then arose early the next morning and started on his way. He then noticed some travelers coming his way. “And as he was now going down, his servants met him and told him, saying, ‘Your son lives!’”(John 4:51). Momentarily shaken, the nobleman realizes that these words were similar to Jesus’s words the night before.

Recovering his composure, he thought of a question. Perhaps his son’s healing was a coincidence. Perhaps when he left home his son had begun to get better by himself. If that were the case, his trip to see Jesus would have been needless. There’s one way to find out. “Then he inquired of them the hour when he got better. And they said to him, ‘Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.’” (John 4:52). The seventh hour would have been 1 p.m. when the fever left his son. Fever left him? So, it wasn’t a matter of beginning to get better, but of getting well all at once. Jesus’s words were not the start of a process of healing, but the point at which his son’s health was completely restored.

The Person who spoke these words with such a miraculous result, unhindered by the hills and valleys that separated Him from the nobleman’s sick son, was no ordinary man. After all, had it not been the word of the Creator God that caused all things to leap from nothingness into existence?! 6 By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth… 9 For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast.” (Psalm 33:6, 9).

This was the Messiah-God, the Christ. The nobleman believed in Jesus at this moment for eternal life. “So the father knew that it was at the same hour in which Jesus said to him, ‘Your son lives.’ And he himself believed, and his whole household. This again is the second sign Jesus did when He had come out of Judea into Galilee.” (John 4:53-54). What did the nobleman do after he believed in Christ alone for eternal life? He “ate his food” as we learned in the last chapter – he led his whole “household” (family and servants) to believe in Christ. It probably didn’t take long for the family to be convinced of their need to believe in Christ. The power of Jesus’s Word was the same from Samaria to Galilee, from Sychar to Capernaum. The power of Jesus’s word creates life in every believing heart.

And His Word does the same thing today. Wouldn’t it be great to see people like the royal official come to Christ today? To see people in high places put their faith in Jesus for their salvation? To see our governor, state representatives and senators, mayor, and city council members all come to faith in Christ (if they have not already), and then lead their family and friends to do the same?! That’s what it is all about, isn’t it?!

This second miracle that John records pictures salvation in the following ways:

1. Like the miracle, salvation takes place at a POINT in time, and is not a PROCESS. Just as the nobleman’s son was healed at the moment Jesus spoke, so Christ gives eternal life the moment a person believes in Him for it (John 3:15-16).

2. Like the miracle, salvation is a TOTAL transformation. The healing of the nobleman’s son was complete, not partial. Likewise, when a person trusts Christ for eternal life, they undergo a complete transformation. They have passed from spiritual sickness to spiritual health, from death into life (John 5:24). They are completely forgiven, never to come under judgment again to determine their eternal destiny.

3. Like the miracle, salvation is a total work OF GRACE. Just as the nobleman did not contribute to the healing of his son, so we cannot contribute to our own salvation. “For by grace you have been saved, and that not of yourselves; it is a gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Salvation is a gift that we receive by grace through faith in Christ. We can do nothing to make ourselves deserving of heaven. Only Christ can save us. 

A few years ago, our minivan broke down 1.5 miles from my parent’s home the day before Christmas. I was helpless to move the van. Fortunately, my nephew-in-law had a flatbed tow truck. So I trusted him – a person – to take me and my van to our destination using his tow truck. God is asking us to trust a Person, His Son, Jesus Christ, to save us from our sins and take us to heaven. The moment we do, He instantly gives us the gift of eternal life and guarantees to take us to heaven in the future.

God wants us to experience His life-giving word. We can do that through the TESTIMONY of His People… TRUSTING CHRIST’S POWER… PROMISE… and His PERSON. Maybe you feel like the nobleman. You feel hopeless and afraid. The wrong things you have done have separated you from God and you have nowhere else to turn but to Jesus now. He loves you, and died in your place on a cross and rose from the dead. And He wants to give you His life-giving Word if you will trust Him to do so. Jesus said: “And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:40). Only Jesus’s word can give us life that never ends and guarantee a future resurrection to all who believe in Him!

Prayer:  Only Your Word, Lord Jesus, can give me life that never ends. Your Word is not limited by distance nor the condition of its recipient. In this world filled with chaos and hatred, I pray my Lord and my God, that You will bring people in higher places (like the nobleman in this second miracle recorded in John’s gospel) to trust in You alone for everlasting life. I also pray they will share this good news of everlasting life with their family, friends, and countrymen. Please turn this world upside down with Your message of grace so that more people can experience Your life-giving Word. In Jesus’s name. Amen.

A Look into the Future – Part 3 (Video)

This is the third in a series of videos about the future as recorded in the last book of the Bible, the book of Revelation. This video focuses on the last half of the seven year Tribulation period after the removal of the Church from the earth. Please share this video with those you want to see in heaven.

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 music in this video is used with permission from the producers of the video entitled “The Free Gift.”

How can I be sure that I have truly believed in Christ for everlasting life?

Nowhere in the Bible does God distinguish true faith from false faith. All faith is faith. If we believe in Christ for eternal life, then we know we have eternal life because Jesus guarantees it, “he who believes in Me has everlasting life,” (John 6:47). To doubt that we “truly believe” is to disbelieve Jesus’ promise. I either believe Christ’s promise or I don’t. If I do, I am saved. If I don’t, I stand condemned as one who “has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18).

The Gospel of John does not condition eternal life on whether one “really believes” or “truly believes.” Neither does he speak of “genuine faith,” “real faith,” or “heart faith.” All faith is the conviction of the truth of some proposition. What makes saving faith saving is not the amount or uniqueness of the faith, but whom your faith is in, and what your faith believes. Saving faith believes in Jesus Christ for everlasting life. Saving faith results instantly in eternal salvation because it believes in the right object: the promise of eternal life by Jesus Christ to every believer (John 3:15-18; 6:40, 47; et al). Therefore, those who speak of “false faith” or “head faith,” are reading into faith as the Scripture neither does, nor provides basis for doing.

The Bible gives us several examples of people who knew they believed in Christ apart from good works:

(Peter) “Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” John 6:69

“Jesus heard that they had cast him [former blind man] out; and when He had found him, He said to him, ‘Do you believe in the Son of God?’ Then he said, ‘Lord, I believe!’ And he worshiped Him.” John 9:35, 38

“Jesus said to her [Martha], ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.  Do you believe this?’ She said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.’” John 11:25-27

“Then Philip said, ‘If you believe with all your heart, you may.’ And he [Ethiopian eunuch] answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.’ ” Acts 8:37

(Paul) “For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.” 2 Tim. 1:12