How can we find peace under pressure? Part 1

“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.” John 14:1 

Opinions about heaven vary in the United States and around the world, but the facts are made clear in the Bible. What the Bible says about heaven is very important for people who find themselves in deep distress. Perhaps someone close to you dies or is near death. Maybe someone dear to you has an injury, an accident, or disease and may not pull through. You may have stress at home, work, with money or the lack thereof, and you are deeply troubled by this. Life has pain and pressure in it and we cannot escape that fact. During these times of deep distress, only words spoken from the very heart of God can meet our deepest needs and comfort our aching hearts.

The disciples of Christ, like we today, found themselves deeply troubled. The disciples’ whole world seemed to be crumbling around them. They had just been told by the Lord Jesus that one of them would betray Christ (John 13:21-30) and that their leader, Peter, was going to deny three times that he ever knew the Lord (John 13:38). Imagine the reaction of some of the disciples when they were told this about Peter. “Not Peter. He is our leader! We look to him for leadership and yet You say he is going to fail You, Lord!?! If Peter stumbles, what about the rest of us?” (cf. Matthew 26:31). Jesus had also announced that He was leaving them and it would be impossible for them to go with Him (John 13:33, 36).

During their three and a half years together, the disciples had grown to depend upon the Lord Jesus to meet their every need. Jesus had assumed a role much like that of a father – providing, protecting, guiding, and instructing these men as children. Now the Lord tells them He is about to leave them? Everything seems to be happening at once. Everything seemed to be on the verge of collapse. Yet Jesus’ words to them remain to give everlasting comfort and revelation to those in distress. In John 14:1-6, we will find peace under pressure by focusing on…

CHRIST’S PROMISE OF A PEACE OF HEART (John 14:1). Jesus looks at the stunned look on His disciples’ faces and with a gentle and compassionate voice He said, “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.” (John 14:1). Jesus is saying, “Stop being troubled.” This word means “to shake together, stir up, disturb, distress.” A storm was raging in the hearts of these men. Their hearts were tossed like waves in the wind by the words of Jesus, and why not? He had said He was leaving them (John 13:33, 36), that He would die (John 13:31-32), that one of them was a traitor (John 13:21), that Peter would disown Him (John 13:38), and that all of them would fall away (Matthew 26:31). They sensed something major was going to happen and their hearts were afraid.

Jesus did not condemn them for this as He knew what it was like to have a “troubled” heart (cf. John 11:33; 13:31) where this same word was used of Him. Our Savior experienced every emotion that we experience (John 11:33). He wept with those who grieved. He experienced the sorrow that death brings. He felt angry when His Father’s temple was corrupted (John 2:13-16). He felt the pain of being rejected by one of His own disciples (John 13:21). He understands and wants us not to be troubled, but to trust Him, to lean upon Him. Christ does not condemn us for having troubled hearts. He offers relief by trusting in Him. How do you spell relief? T-R-U-S-T.

The solution to a troubled heart is faith in Jesus. Christ says, “You believe in God, believe also in Me.” Christ is making two statements here: “You believe in God, you also believe in Me.” These eleven believing disciples already believed “in God” by believing in the One whom God sent for everlasting life (John 5:24), 3  since Jesus has the same divine nature and purpose as God the Father. 4 But now they were to “keep on believing” in Jesus to find His peace in their hearts.

When we trust in Jesus, He promises peace of heart. As we take our minds off of what is troubling us and redirect them on to Christ, His peace fills our hearts. This is peace that surpasses all human understanding (Philippians 4:6-7).

In 1999, my wife and I learned that her father was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, a very aggressive form of cancer. He was only given two weeks to live. In all the time my wife and I had been with her father, he never talked about his faith. His generation considered this to be a very private matter and did not usually speak openly of such things.

Being very concerned about his eternal destination, we drove four hours from central Iowa to St. Paul, Minnesota, to visit him on his deathbed in the hospital. When we arrived there, both his family and the hospital staff were amazed at the peace Pat’s father displayed even though he was in great pain and facing imminent death. When we were alone with him, Pat and I asked him if he would go to heaven when he died. He paused and began to shake in his hospital bed. At first, I thought he was crying. But as I watched him, it became obvious that he was laughing so hard no sound was coming out of his mouth. After his laughter calmed down, Pat’s father assured us he had trusted in Christ when he was a child and that he knew he was destined to be with Jesus in heaven when he died. My wife and I were overcome with joy as we learned of this wonderful news!

Many times in life, human understanding fails us because we cannot see as God sees. But as we trust in Jesus, He gives us perfect peace, peace in the midst of our deepest pain, peace in the midst of our greatest fears. Jesus brings us peace because we know that something much better than this life awaits us after death.

Pat’s father had this assurance. Do you? If not, you can find this assurance by transferring all your trust onto Jesus Christ for His free gift. Jesus said, “He who believes in Me has everlasting.” (John 6:47). Jesus is not asking you to live a good life or pray every day, because He did NOT say, “He who lives a good life or prays every day has everlasting life.” He is asking you to BELIEVE IN HIM because He said, ““He who believes in Me has everlasting.” Everlasting life is a free gift because Jesus paid for it all when He died in our place for all our sins and rose from the dead (I Corinthians 15:3-6). All you must do is believe or trust in Christ alone for His free gift of everlasting life. If you have never understood and believed this before, but now you do, you can tell God this through prayer.

“DearLord Jesus,I come to you as a sinner who is deeply distressed. My life seems so out of control. I believe You demonstrated Your love for me when You died on a cross in my place for all 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. Thank You for the peace I now have with You. Thank You for everlasting life. In Your name I pray. Amen.”

For those of us who believe in Jesus, please join me in this prayer to Christ.

“Lord Jesus, like Your disciples, there is much in our world that causes a storm to rage in our hearts right now. Many of us are distressed with an increase in COVID cases, social unrest, political divisions, and numerous other factors that are out of our control. Thank You for bringing us back to You so our fears can be replaced with faith in You – the Beginning and the End, the Alpha and Omega, the Creator of the Universe, the One Who calms the wind and the waves of turmoil in our lives. Thank You for Your peace which is independent of our circumstances and feelings. We love love You, Lord Jesus. In Your peace-giving name I pray. Amen.”

ENDNOTES:

1. The present imperative verb tarassesthō (ταρασσέσθω) with the negative particle mē (μὴ) means to “stop being troubled” – see  J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 253.

2. Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures In the New Testament, Vol. V, (Grand Rapids, Baker Book House, 1932), pg. 248.

3. Robert N. Wilkin, “The Gospel According to John,” The Grace New Testament Commentary, Vol. 1: Matthew – Acts (Denton, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 2010), pg. 443.

4. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (pg. 1801). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

How can we experience the blessedness of clean feet? Part 3

“Jesus said to him, ‘He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.’ ” John 13:10

We are learning in John 13 how we can experience the blessedness of clean feet or intimacy with Christ. So far we have discovered that we must…

– Recognize Jesus’ loyal love for us (John 13:1-2).

– Reckon who we are in Christ (John 13:3-5).

Today we discover we can experience the blessedness of clean feet when we RECEIVE JESUS’ CLEANSING GRACE (John 13:6-11). In Jesus’ day, people wore sandals without any socks or stockings on their feet. Since the roads were dusty, their feet would become dirty and need to be washed. It was the host’s responsibility to provide a servant to wash the guest’s feet. But Jesus did something that was unheard of in that day. He, a Rabbi, got up from the table and took the position of a servant and began washing His disciples’ feet.

John informs us, “Then He came to Simon Peter. And Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, are You washing my feet?’ ” (John 13:6). Apparently there was nothing said as Jesus washed the other disciples’ feet until He came to Peter. Peter did not understand the significance of what Jesus was doing. “Jesus answered and said to him, ‘What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this.’ ” (John 13:7). Jesus asks Peter to submit to Him by permitting Him to wash his feet. He assures Peter that he will understand the significance of this foot washing later.

Has Christ ever asked you to do something that does not make any sense to you? But later on, the Lord showed you what He was doing in your life or in the lives of others? Maybe He is asking you to do something that no one else will do. When Christ tells us to do something, we must be willing to do it whether it seems reasonable to us or not. This is one of the keys to experiencing the blessedness of intimacy with Jesus!

“Peter said to Him, ‘You shall never wash my feet!’ ” (John 13:8a). Peter may be saying, “You shall never wash my feet for eternity!” Peter felt that Jesus should not degrade Himself by performing such a lowly task. Or perhaps he was thinking, “Never, Lord. My feet are not dirty, and even if they were, I certainly cannot permit You to clean them.” Peter’s words reflect pride and false humility. Our humility does not begin with giving service to others. It begins with a readiness to receive it. It is easier to have pride and a condescending attitude when we receive service rather than when we give it. For example, we may not hesitate to take a meal to a church member who has taken ill. But it is more difficult for us to receive such a meal if we are the one who is sick.

“Jesus answered him, ‘If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.’ ” (John 13:8b). Jesus is not talking about social fellowship here as Peter was thinking, rather He is talking about spiritual fellowship (closeness) as the context will reveal (cf. 13:10-11). “If I don’t cleanse you from the effects of sin (dirt on your feet), you can have no part (fellowship) with Me,” Jesus is saying. The word “part” (meros) is a term for fellowship (cf. Luke 10:42) in the New Testament.Hodges states, “This truth, of course, is more fully elaborated in I John 1:5-10 where fellowship is related to the question of the believer’s ‘walk’ (which one’s ‘feet’ suggest) and it is conditioned on the cleansing that comes in response to confession of sin (I John 1:9).Peter could not have fellowship with the Lord until He was willing to receive His cleansing ministry.

The same is true for all believers in Jesus. We cannot enjoy fellowship or closeness with our Lord until we are willing to let Him cleanse our dirty feet (the effects of sin in our lives). We must be honest with the Lord about sin, which John refers to as “walking in the light” (I John 1:7), and “confess” that sin to Him and God promises to be faithful to forgive us of that confessed sin and cleanse us of all unrighteousness or unknown sin in our lives (I John 1:9).

“Simon Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!’” (John 13:9). Peter’s outburst reveals his deep need for intimate fellowship with the Lord Jesus. “If fellowship with You, Lord, depends on cleansing, then wash not only my feet but my hands and head, too!” Peter seems to be telling the Lord what to do instead of submitting fully to Him.

“Jesus said to him, ‘He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean.’” (John 13:10a). In the first century, there were no bathing facilities in small houses. So a person had to go to a public bathhouse to bathe. When invited to a meal, a person would first go to the public bathhouse and bathe, and then put on clean clothing, anoint himself with fresh oil, and proceed to the home where he would be served a meal. On the way from the bathhouse to the home, the guest’s feet got dirty. Hence, the host provided a basin of water so that the one who already had a bath and cleansed his entire body could sponge the dirt off his feet. 4

Jesus is referring to two types of cleansing in this verse. The first type of cleansing refers to the complete cleansing of regeneration or salvation which takes place at the moment of faith in Jesus (cf. Titus 3:4-5; Revelation 1:5). This is seen in the word “bathed” (louō) which refers to bathing the entire body. This verb is in the perfect tense which conveys the idea of a permanent cleansing. A person only needs one complete bath spiritually. This is a one-time experience. The Holy Spirit performs this complete cleansing at the moment of faith in Jesus for eternal life (Titus 3:4-5). Some believers think they need to be totally bathed over and over again. They fail to understand that God’s water or soap is guaranteed for eternity.

Have you experienced this one-time permanent cleansing? If not, Christ invites you right now to believe or trust in Him alone for it. Jesus said, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life.” (John 6:47). Once you trust in Christ, you will need the second type of cleansing that He speaks of next.

This second type of cleansing refers to daily forgiveness in order to have fellowship or closeness with God. This cleansing is represented by the word “wash” (niptō) which means to wash parts of the body. This fellowship forgiveness (cf. Matthew 6:14-15; Luke 11:4) is based upon the confession of sin (I John 1:9). So Christ is saying in verse 10, “He who is bathed [regeneration] needs only to wash his feet [fellowship], but is completely clean.” Every bathed person (Christian) needs daily cleansing of his dirty feet to have fellowship with Christ.

For example, “just as our children may sin within our family, the believer may sin within God’s family. Our child is always our child, but until he confesses [his sin], our fellowship is not good. In God’s family, the same principle applies. There is a forgiveness for salvation and a forgiveness for restoration. The Lord referred to this second kind of forgiveness when He said to Peter, ‘If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me’ (Jn. 13:8). Peter told the Lord to wash him all over if that was the case. To this Jesus replied, ‘He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean’ ” (Jn. 13:10).” 7

“Jesus said to him, ‘… and you are clean, but not all of you.’ ” (John 13:10b). All but one of the disciples were “completely clean” in their position before God and could have fellowship with the Lord. “For He knew who would betray Him; therefore He said, ‘You are not all clean.’ ” (John 13:11). Judas had not experienced the cleansing bath of salvation because of his refusal to believe in Christ (cf. John 6:64, 70-71; 17:12). Nothing in the text suggests that Jesus did not wash Judas’ feet. Christ cleansed the feet of His greatest betrayer. This teaches us not to be selective about whom we will love. Christ loved everyone, including His enemies. And He commands us to do the same (cf. Matthew 5:43-48).

As I have thought about Jesus washing the feet of His disciples, including the feet of Judas, I realized that Jesus did not ask them why they walked through the mud and got dirty. That is a part of life. Water was there regardless of the amount of dirt on their feet. The Lord does not seek to condemn us. He seeks to cleanse us (cf. John 3:17; I John 1:5-10). All Christians have a need for daily cleansing because we all sin (Romans 3:23). We all have dirty feet. As we appreciate God’s cleansing grace in our lives both at the moment of salvation and daily for fellowship, we will grow deeper in our intimacy with Jesus and be more eager to humbly serve Him by serving others.

Prayer: Gracious Lord Jesus, thank You for the complete cleansing bath You gave me the moment I believed in You alone for Your gift of everlasting life (Titus 3:4-5)! Thank You that I do not need to repeat that bath because it permanently cleansed me of all my sin and shame positionally. But my feet still get dirty – I still sin as I walk with You in this sin-stained world – and I need cleansing from You daily. I praise You because You are faithful to forgive the sin I confess to You (I John 1:9)! And not only that, You graciously cleanse me of all my unknown sin at that time as well! I am doubly blessed by Your faithfulness to me! Please use me, my Lord and my God, to serve You by serving others even when it may not make sense to me or be the popular thing to do. Serving You in light of all You have done for me is one of the greatest privileges I could ever do. In Your grace-filled name I pray. Amen.  

ENDNOTES:

1. Zane C. Hodges, “Untrustworthy Believers – John 2:23-25,” Bibliotheca Sacra 135:538 (April-June 1978), pg. 147; Joseph C. Dillow, The Reign of the Servant Kings: A Study of Eternal Security and the Final Significance of Man, (Hayesville: Schoettle Publishing Co., 1992), pp. 326, 353, 401,593-594; Robert N. Wilkin, “The Gospel According to John,” The Grace New Testament Commentary, Vol. 1: Matthew – Acts (Denton, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 2010), pg. 438.

2. Hodges, “Untrustworthy Believers,” pg. 147.

3. Literally “the sins,” tas hamartias.

4. J. Dwight Pentecost, The Words & Works of Jesus Christ, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981), pg. 429.

5. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature [BAGD], compiled by Walter Bauer, trans. and adapted by William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, 2nd ed., rev. and augmented by F. Wilbur Gingrich and Frederick W. Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979), pp 480-481.

6. Archibald Thomas Roberston, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vol. V. (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1932), pp. 238-239.

7. Dillow, The Reign of the Servant Kings, pg. 353.

How can we respond to those who refuse to believe in Christ? Part 5

44 Then Jesus cried out and said, ‘He who believes in Me, believes not in Me but in Him who sent Me. 45 And he who sees Me sees Him who sent Me.’ ” John 12:44-45

The people to whom Jesus spoke had important decisions to make before Christ was crucified.  We are learning from Jesus’ response to this crowd how we can respond to those who refuse to believe in Christ. So far we have discovered we must…

– Challenge them to seek God while there is time (John 12:34-35).

– Counsel them to Believe in Christ while there is time (12:36).

– Contemplate the Scriptures’ explanation for their unbelief (John 12:37-41).

– Consider that some are secret believers (John 12:42-43).

The fifth way to respond to those who refuse to believe is to CONFRONT THOSE WHO REFUSE TO BELIEVE WITH THE TRUTH ABOUT JESUS (John 12:44-50). “Then Jesus cried out and said, ‘He who believes in Me, believes not in Me but in Him who sent Me.’ ” (John 12:44). Jesus cried out” to get the crowd’s attention as He makes one last appeal for them to believe in Him. Jesus is the perfect reflection of the Father because He also is God (cf. 1:1, 14; 5:18; 8:58; 10:30-36). To believe in Jesus is to believe in the Father “who sent” Christ. This emphasizes the oneness of God the Father and God the Son. You cannot say you believe in God and at the same time reject Jesus Christ because Jesus is equal with God the Father (cf. John 5:18-47).

Jesus explains, “And he who sees Me sees Him who sent Me.” (John 12:45). When a person “sees” Jesus, he or she “sees” the Father “who sent” Him because Christ perfectly mirrors His Father since they are equal in essence. They both have divine natures capable of giving eternal life to those who believe in Christ. Therefore, to behold and believe in One, is to behold and believe in the other. Jesus is claiming to be God here! He is capable of giving eternal life to them if they would behold and believe in Him.

Then Christ said, “I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness.” (John 12:46). Christ came into the world as the Light so that those who believe in Him “should not abide in darkness.” This may refer to positional or experiential truth. 1  If it is positional truth, it means that those who believe in Christ are now “sons of light”(12:36) and are no longer a part of the kingdom of darkness and eternal death (cf. John 5:24; Colossians 1:13). If this phrase refers to experiential truth, it would mean that Christ came into the world so that those who believe in Him should have fellowship with God. The word “abide” (menō) is a fellowship term in John’s writings. To “abide in darkness” refers to being without direction and alienated from the Lord. Believers are not to remain out of fellowship with God. They are to walk in the light by being open and honest with God (I John 1:5-10).

“And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world.” (John 12:47). If a person hears Christ’s message and does not believe” it, Jesus says He will “not judge him; for” He “did not come to judge the world but to save the world.” Jesus will not condemn those who refuse to believe in Him because He came to save sinners by His grace. Christ explains, “He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him — the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day.” (John 12:48). But “in the last day” Christ’s message will condemn those who refused to believe in Him. These verses are excellent to show those who accuse God of being unfair when He sends people to hell. The truth is, if a person goes to hell it is not because Jesus rejected him or her, it is because that person rejected Christ.

What is the word that Jesus had “spoken”? Christ said, “he who believes in Me has everlasting life.” (John 6:47). Have you believed in Christ for His gift of everlasting life? If yes, then you will live forever with Him in heaven. But if you do not ever believe in Christ, then His message will condemn you to the Lake of Fire forever on the last day at the Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20:11-15). Part of an unbeliever’s agony in the Lake of Fire will be the remembrance of the missed opportunities they had to get right with God by believing in Jesus. Christ’s message of everlasting life will torment the unbeliever throughout eternity.

How can Jesus say that His word will be the fitting judge of people on the last day?! “For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak.” (John 12:49). He can say this because His message did not originate from Himself, but from His Father. If anyone has a problem with what Jesus teaches, then his or her problem is with God the Father because He told Jesus what to say. Christ is totally dependent upon His Father as to what to teach. His Father commanded Him what to say.

“And I know that His command is everlasting life. Therefore, whatever I speak, just as the Father has told Me, so I speak.” (John 12:50). Christ knows that His Father’s “command is everlasting life.” What God the Father commanded Jesus to say resulted in eternal life for those who believed it. Therefore, Christ was very careful to “speak just as the Father has told” Him. Christ’s teaching leads to “everlasting life.” He concludes His final public teaching with an invitation to receive His message and believe in Him for eternal life.

Jesus did not come to the world to condemn the world, but to save the world by His grace. So many unbelievers think that Christianity is a religion filled with dos and don’ts. “Don’t drink and don’t chew. And don’t run around with girls who do.” Christ did not come into the world to condemn us. He came into the world to cleanse us through His matchless grace.

Picture if you will, a giant eagle soaring majestically above the Niagara River, his great wings spread in flight. As he glides silently overhead looking for prey, he spies the carcass of a bird floating upon a block of ice on the river below. He swoops down, lands on the ice, and begins to devour the dead bird. From time to time, while he eats, he looks up and sees the river’s width is increasing — a sign it is nearing the falls — but hastily he returns to his meal, waiting until the ice is about to go over the falls when he will spread his wings and fly to safety. Why worry about the falls? Here is a great feast. There’s plenty of time. So the ice floats onward carrying its strange cargo closer and closer to the gigantic falls. The roar of this great spectacle of God’s handiwork grows louder and louder as if crying out a warning that death is near, but to no avail. At last, as the block of ice is about to plunge over the falls, the eagle lifts his wings to take flight. But, while he has been engrossed in eating, his long talons have become frozen in the ice. He is unable to free himself, and goes screeching over the falls to his death. 4

The same can be said of many people in Jesus’ day and today. They go floating along on the river of life interested only in material things. “The Judgment Day Falls” cry out, but they pay no attention. Oh someday, when they are lying on their death bed, when they are about to breathe their last breath, when they have tried all the world has to offer, then, when they have no other way to turn, then they intend to trust Christ. They intend to fly into the safety of His everlasting arms. But they wait too long. The world has frozen their hearts and they plunge over “Judgment Day Falls” unsaved. Please do not let that happen to you. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ while you still have time and He will give you everlasting life (John 3:16).

Prayer: Father God, thank You for sending Jesus into the world not to condemn us, but to save us and cleanse us of our sins. Please help me to speak Your words in the Bible just as Jesus was careful to speak what You spoke to Him. Your words give live everlasting, Lord God. Father, I am deeply burdened for those who continue to reject Jesus as the Giver of eternal life. Please work in and through their circumstances so that they will become more open to Your message of grace. Help me not to give up on those who have repeatedly rejected Your message, just as You never gave up on me after I initially ignored Your gospel message that others shared with me. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Dr. Robert N. Wilkin, “The Gospel According to John,” The Grace New Testament Commentary, Vol. 1: Matthew – Acts (Denton, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 2010), pg. 436.

2. John 1:32, 33, 38, 39 (2); 2:12; 3:36; 4:40 (2); 5:38; 6:27, 56; 7:9; 8:31, 35 (2); 9:41; 10:40; 11:6, 54; 12:24, 34, 46; 14:10, 17, 25; 15:4 (3), 5, 6, 7 (2), 9, 10 (2), 16; 19:31; 21:22, 23; cf. I John 2:6, 10, 14, 17, 24, 27-28; 3:6, 14, 17 24; 4:12-13, 15-16.

3. Dr. Tom Constable, Notes on John, 2015 Edition, pg. 246.

4. On July 4, 2017, taken from http://winsome.org.previewmysite.com/E_ Illustrations.htm.

How does Jesus lead us to victory? Part 4

“Therefore the people, who were with Him when He called Lazarus out of his tomb and raised him from the dead, bore witness.” John 12:17

We are learning from Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem (John 12:9-19), that God wants to lead His children into victory through His Son, Jesus Christ (cf. 2 Corinthians 2:14). So far we have learned that God does this…

– Through Jesus’ resurrection power (John 12:9-11).

– By providing a spiritual triumph (John 12:12-15).

– By changing the way we perceive life (John 12:16).

The fourth and final way Jesus leads us to victory is BY PROCLAIMING HIS RESURRECTION POWER TO OTHERS (John 12:17-19). This is what those who saw Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead did. The Bibles tells us, “Therefore the people, who were with Him when He called Lazarus out of his tomb and raised him from the dead, bore witness.” (John 12:17). This is a different group of people from the “great multitude” (12:9, 12). Those who had witnessed Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead were telling others now. When people have been impacted by the resurrection power of the Lord Jesus, it is difficult for them not to tell others about it.

This reminds us that Jesus did not save us so we could keep the good news of His resurrection power to ourselves. No, He saved us so we could proclaim this life-giving message to those who are perishing without Him. When we tell others what Jesus has done for us, Christ’s following will grow even larger just as it did soon after Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. The world needs this good news today especially in light of all the chaos and calamities taking place. Spread some everlasting hope by telling others what Jesus has done for you!

“For this reason the people also met Him, because they heard that He had done this sign.” (John 12:18). Other groups wanted to go meet Jesus when they heard about this miraculous “sign.”They wanted to see the One who had done the impossible and raised the dead! Hence, the people are growing in their excitement about Jesus – but not all of them.

“The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, ‘You see that you are accomplishing nothing. Look, the world has gone after Him!’ ” (John 12:19). The Pharisees are unbelieving and pessimistic. They see the crowd being swept up with enthusiasm toward Jesus and blame each other for the defeat of their plots against Jesus. “Your efforts (not ours) have failed. Look, the whole world is following Him now!” Ironically, the Sadducees had advertised to “find” Jesus (cf. John 11:57). Well they can find Him now along with thousands of His followers.

We see here a human attempt to carry out their plans versus the supernatural working of God. Sometimes we are no different than the Pharisees. We may want people to follow us instead of Jesus because we are looking in the wrong place for victory. Victory is found in the resurrection power of Christ, not in popularity or the approval of others. The more we make Jesus’ resurrection power known to others with our life and lips, the more He can lead us to victory in our Christian lives. After all, we also need to hear this good news even after we have been saved for years!

Look in 2 Corinthians 2:14-16: 14 Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. 15 For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things?” God wants to lead us to victory by having us preach the gospel, the death and resurrection of Jesus, to the lost. When we preach the gospel, we are pleasing to God (“to God the fragrance of Christ”), regardless of the response of those who hear it. “From death to death” probably means from the death of Christ, that the apostles preached in the gospel, to the eternal death of those who reject it (cf. John 3:36b). “From life to life” probably means from the resurrection of Christ that they preached in the gospel, to the eternal life and future resurrection of those who believe in Jesus (cf. John 11:25-26).

Two triumphs in Christ – a spiritual triumph at His First Coming was accomplished on the Cross and established peace in heaven (Isaiah 9:6a; Luke 19:38; John 19:30; Colossians 2:15). The second triumph is material and will take place at His Second Coming (Isaiah 9:6b-7; Luke 2:14). Revelation 19:11-21 describes this second triumph:

11 Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. 12 His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. 13 He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. 14 And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. 15 Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. 16 And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. 17 Then I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the birds that fly in the midst of heaven, ‘Come and gather together for the supper of the great God, 18 that you may eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, both small and great.’ 19 And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. 20 Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone. 21 And the rest were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse. And all the birds were filled with their flesh.”

Are you prepared for this second triumph of the Lord Jesus when He returns to earth at the end of the Tribulation period to rescue believers and destroy His enemies? Those who have believed in Christ for eternal life are eagerly awaiting this day because of the spiritual triumph He provided at the Cross during His First Coming to earth.

However, it will be a horrific day for everyone who has rejected Jesus as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Do not be among them if you have not believed or trusted in Christ alone for eternal life yet. Simply take Him at His Word when He promised, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life” (John 6:47). Do you believe Jesus’ promise? He guarantees that you now have everlasting life which cannot be lost (John 10:28-29). Let His Holy Spirit lead you in the triumph of Christ by changing the way you look at life.

If you now understand and believe the spiritual triumph of Christ on the Cross, and you are believing or trusting in Christ alone for His gift of everlasting life, you can tell God this through prayer. Praying this prayer is not what gets you to heaven. Only believing or trusting in Jesus alone does that. This prayer is a way of telling God you are now trusting in His Son.

“Dear Lord Jesus, I come to you now as a sinner who deserves to be separated from You forever because of all the wrongs things I have thought, said, and done. I believe in Your spiritual triumph whereby You died in my place on a cross for all my sins and rose from the dead so I could have peace with God in heaven the moment I believe in You. I am now believing or trusting in You alone, Lord Jesus (not my good life, my religion, or my prayers), to give me everlasting life now and a future home in heaven. Thank You that Your resurrection guarantees my own in the future. Please use me now to tell others of Your death and resurrection so they also can believe in You for everlasting life and prepare for Your second triumph when You will return on the clouds in glory at the end of the Tribulation period to defeat all Your enemies and establish Your Kingdom on earth. In Your life-giving name I pray. Amen.

How can I respond to skeptics who deny that Jesus is God? Part 3

37 If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; 38 but if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him.” John 10:37-38

We have learned from Jesus’ response to His skeptical audience that the way to respond to skeptics who deny Jesus is God is to confront them with questions (John 10:32-33) and communicate biblical truths with relevance to them (John 10:34-36). Today we will learn that the third way to respond to these skeptics is to CALL THEM TO BELIEVE IN CHRIST BECAUSE OF THE EVIDENCE OF HIS MIRACLES (John 10:37-39). Although the Jews refused to believe Jesus’ words, Christ says to believe in Him on the basis of His works because His works show the reality of who He is. They reveal His supernatural character. Only God could do what Jesus did.

Jesus said to His skeptical audience,37 If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; 38 but if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him.” (John 10:37-38). Christ is encouraging them not to believe in Him if He does not do the works of His Father. Only God’s eternal Son could do the works of God the Father. And if Jesus does the works of the Father, this will show that “the Father is in” Him and that He is “in the Father.” Christ is saying, “If you are not ready to believe in Me because of My words, believe in Me because of what I do.” Why? “So you may know and believe My oneness with the Father as His Son.” The prophets of old could say the first part, “The Father is in Me,” but they could not say the second part, “And I in the Father.” Only Jesus’ likeness could be found in the Father as His works demonstrated. Christ’s miracles reflected the same character and power as God the Father.

No other person in history has manifested the same character and power as Jesus Christ. For example, let’s compare the prophet of Islam, Muhammad, with the Founder of Christianity, the Lord Jesus Christ. Both the Quran and the Bible testify that Jesus was sinless. In the nearly one hundred references to Jesus in the Quran, never once does it refer to Him as committing a sin. When announcing Jesus’ virgin birth, He is referred to as a “holy Son”(Surah 19:19). Indeed, He is called a “righteous” prophet (Surah 6:85). His sinlessness can be inferred from His virgin birth which the Quran affirms (Surah 3:45-47; 19:19-21) as does His title of “Christ” or “Messiah” [Surah 3:45; 4:157, 171; 5:72, 75; 9:30, 31; cf. Isaiah 53:5, 9; John 20:31). Further, the “Book” (law) or Bible to which Muhammad referred his antagonist (see Surah 4:171; 5:46), speaks of Jesus Christ as sinless (John 8:46; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; 1 Peter 1:19;  3:18; 1 John 3:3).

In contrast to the sinlessness of Jesus, the Quran testifies that Muhammad repeatedly sinned. In Surah 47, Muhammad is told to ask God to forgive his faults. We read, “Know, therefore, that there is no god but God, and ask forgiveness for thy fault, and for the men and women who believe: for God knows how ye move about and how ye dwell in your homes” (Surah 47:19; cf. 40:55). Again, we read of God saying to Muhammad: “That God may forgive thee thy faults of the past and those to follow; fulfil His favour to thee; and guide thee on the Straight Way” (Surah 48:2). In fact, Muhammad is rebuked by God for his sin in Surah 33 which affirms, “It is not fitting for a Believer, man or woman, when a matter has been decided by God and His Apostle to have any option about their decision: if any one disobeys God and His Apostle, he is indeed on a clearly wrong Path.” But “thou didst hide in thy heart that which God was about to make manifest: thou didst fear the people, but it is more fitting that thou shouldst fear God… And God’s command must be fulfilled” (Surah 33:36-38).

Both the Quran (Surah 3:49; 61:6) and the Bible testify that Jesus did many supernatural miracles (Matthew 4:23-24; John 2:1-11; 4:46-54; 5:1-15; 6:1–21; 9:1-41; 11:1-45), the greatest of which was Jesus’ own resurrection which He predicted (Surah 19:33; cf. Matthew 16:21; 17:22-23; 20:17-19; 28:1-20; Mark 8:31-38; Luke 23-24; John 2:18-22; 20:1-29). Even the Quran infers that Jesus rose from the dead when it says, “Behold! God said: ‘O Jesus! I will take thee and raise thee to Myself and clear thee (of the falsehoods) of those who blaspheme; I will make those who follow thee superior to those who reject faith, to the Day of Resurrection’” (Surah 3:55; cf. 4:157-158). Muslims think this refers only to Jesus’ ascension to heaven because they believe that Jesus did not really die. But listen to what Jesus (Isa) said in Surah 19:33: “So peace is on me the day I was born, the day that I die, and the day that I shall be raised up to life (again).” So the Quran also testifies to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

While the Quran says the miraculous “signs” of Jesus included everything from creating life to raising the dead, the Quran also says Muhammad did no miracles (Surah 29:50). In fact, the Quran says Muhammad refused to do miracles (Surah 3:183-184; cf. 4:153; 6:8-9; 17:90-93), but he told people his sign was the Quran itself (Surah 17:102-108). Nor was Muhammad resurrected from the dead nor did he permanently ascend to heaven like Jesus. Instead he was buried in Medina, Saudi Arabia (al-Tabari 9:208) where he remains entombed. And faithful Muslims make their life-time pilgrimage there to pay homage to him.

Both the Quran and the Bible teach that Jesus is the Word of God (Surah 3:45; 4:171; cf. John 1:1, 14, 17; Revelation 19:13), whereas the Quran was considered the Word of Allah, and Muhammad was only a messenger (Surah 3:144).

When we compare Jesus Christ with Muhammad, by far Jesus is superior to the prophet of Islam in His character, His power, and His position. Why? Jesus tells us it is because “the Father is in Me, and I in Him.” (John 10:38b). Christ is equal to God the Father because He is also God!

The Jews understood Jesus was claiming to be equal with God the Father, so “they sought again to seize Him, but He escaped out of their hand.” (John 10:39). The Jews were furious! But Jesus “escaped out of their hand” because it was not the Father’s time for the Son to be glorified. The Bible does not tell us how Jesus did this. Perhaps Jesus moved without walking. It was some kind of supernatural phenomenon.

You would think that by this point the Jews would realize that seizing Jesus is not going to happen on their time (cf. John 7:30-32, 44-46; 8:20). No one could take His life from Him (cf. John 10:18). But soon He would voluntarily lay it down. Jesus was in control of His own death. He would not be overpowered and crucified by the Jews and Romans. He would submit to His Father’s will and voluntarily lay down His life in our place.

Christ’s invitation to believe in Him based upon His works shows that saving faith is reasonable. It is not done in the absence of persuasive evidence as some teach today. Belief in Christ is based upon powerful witnesses, including His miraculous works, the greatest of which is His resurrection (Romans 1:4; I Corinthians 15:3-6)! Christ’s resurrection is based upon historical evidence, not the superstitions or fantasies of people.

Historical records testify that Jesus truly rose from the dead as He predicted (see Matthew 16:21; 17:22-23; 20:17-19; 28:1-20; Acts 2:22-36; 3:14-15; 4:8-10; 5:29-31; 10:34-40; 13:23-35; 17:2-3; I Corinthians 15:3-6). Even the Jewish historian, Josephus, confirms the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ when he writes, “About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man. For he … wrought surprising feats…. He was the Christ. When Pilate… condemned him to be crucified, those who had…  come to love him did not give up their affection for him. On the third day he appeared …  restored to life…  And the tribe of Christians … has … not disappeared.” (Josephus, Antiquities 18.63-64, cited in Yamauchi, “Jesus Outside the New Testament”, 21).

When John records the purpose for writing his gospel, he says, “But these [signs John has recorded] are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:31). John states that He has recorded miraculous signs by Jesus (changing water to wine, 2:1-11; healing of the nobleman’s son, 4:46-54; healing of the lame man, 5:1-15; feeding the five thousand, 6:1-14; walking on water, 6:15-21; healing the man born blind, 9:1-41; raising Lazarus from the dead, 11:1-45; and Jesus’ resurrection, John 2:18-22; 20:1-29) that his readers “may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing they may have life in His name.” Miraculous signs by Jesus are a powerful incentive to believe in Him alone for everlasting life and a future home in heaven.

By the way, Jesus has not stopped doing miracles today. He still heals. He still changes lives. He still transforms sinners into saints. He still touches people supernaturally. Are you willing to let Him touch you? He invites you to come to Him just as you are for His free gift of eternal life if you have never done that before. Jesus said, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life.” (John 6:47). No one is more qualified to make this promise and keep it than Jesus Christ. Will you take Him at His word? Let’s pray.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I am amazed how loving and patient You are toward us. Even when we harden our hearts toward Your Word which points to You as the Savior of the world, You still pursue us and provide miraculous works to reveal Your supernatural character and power to us. There may be some of us today who shake our fist at You in anger and rebellion. But You do not retaliate. You show Your love to us in unexpected ways. It may be in the form of a bird singing in the morning or a beautiful sunset at night. It may be a smile from a stranger or a kind deed from a neighbor. The illness we once had is suddenly gone or our marriage which was headed for disaster is now on the mend. Thank You, my Lord and my God, for never giving up on me even when I was at my worst. Thank You for dying in my place and rising from the dead nearly two thousand years ago. As best I know how, Lord Jesus, I am now trusting in You alone now (not my religion, my prayers, or good life) to forgive all my sins and give me everlasting life. Thank You for the forgiveness and everlasting life I now have. In Your name I pray. Amen.

To help you grow in your new relationship with Jesus, please download our digital discipleship materials (see https://www.seeyouinheaven.life/english-pressing-on/) and go through them with those you care about. If you found this article helpful, please share it with those you want to see in heaven. Thank You and may Jesus richly bless you!

How can I overcome opposition to the truth about Jesus? Part 3

“Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death.” John 8:51

So far we have learned that to overcome opposition to the truth about Jesus we must analyze Christ’s opponent’s accusations with God’s Word (John 8:48-49) and aim for God the Father’s approval (John 8:50). Today we discover that we are to ASK THEM TO BELIEVE IN CHRIST’S PROMISE OF ETERNAL LIFE (John 8:51-53). Christ says to His unbelieving audience, “Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death.” (John 8:51). This does not mean that a person must completely obey all of God’s Word to earn eternal life because that would contradict what Jesus has already taught in the gospel of John about how to receive eternal life (cf. John 3:15-18; 4:10-14;  5:24; 6:35-40, 47; 7:37-38; 8:45-46). Nor is Jesus saying believers will never experience physical death. In the context, the word “keeps” (tēréō) means to pay careful attention to what Jesus says about receiving eternal life.

For example, in John 6:47, Jesus said, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life.” In John 11:26, Jesus promised, “Whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.” The apostle John also writes in I John 2:23, “And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ.” Christ promises that those who keep His word by believing in Him for everlasting life shall never see eternal death. When a believer in Jesus dies physically, he or she (their spirit) is immediately taken into the presence of the Lord.

“We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:8). Christians can be confident that the moment they die (“be absent from the body”) their spirit will go to “be present with the Lord” while their body sleeps in the grave (cf. I Thessalonians 4:13-17). I can be assured, that “for to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.” (Philippians 1:21-23). Physical death for the believer in Jesus is not the end. It is actually a new beginning for Christians as they transition into eternity in the presence of our Lord where there will be no more sin or death for them (cf. I Corinthians 15:51-57; I John 3:2-3).

Non-Christians cannot understand the things of God because they do not have the Spirit of God (cf. I Corinthians 2:11b-14). Thus, the best place to start with unbelieving opponents to the truth about Jesus, is to share the gospel with them so they can be saved and receive the Holy Spirit who can enable them to understand and believe the truth about Jesus (cf. John 14:16-17; 15:26; 16:13-14; I John 2:20, 27).

Jesus’ unbelieving audience mistakenly think He is claiming that those who keep His word will never die physically. They respond to this invitation with more unbelief toward Jesus. “Now we know that You have a demon! Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and You say, ‘If anyone keeps My word he shall never taste death.” (John  8:52). They think their previous accusation against Jesus has just been confirmed (cf. John 8:48). “Only a demon-possessed man would claim to have more power than Abraham and the prophets who all died, yet in the face of these facts Jesus claims that the one who keeps His word ‘shall never taste death’ or experience physical death? If these righteous ones to whom God gave great privileges were not delivered from physical death, such deliverance was impossible.

They continue, “Are You greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? And the prophets are dead. Who do You make Yourself out to be?” (John 8:53). Their question expects a negative answer and means, “Surely, Jesus, You are not greater than our founding father, Abraham, or the prophets, who are dead. If keeping Your words prevents physical death, then You are claiming to be greater than those who died.” Ironically, Jesus was greater than Abraham and the prophets as we shall see in the next few verses.

Before I became a Christian at the age of nineteen, the claims of Jesus did not make much sense to me because I did not have God the Holy Spirit inside me to help me understand the meaning of Scripture and how it applies to my life. But the moment I believed in Jesus for His gift of everlasting life, the Bible came alive for me. As I read the Bible each day, certain truths would jump off the pages of my Bible and burn in my heart. Jesus’ gift of everlasting life was my new norm and reality.

One of the most important ways we can overcome opposition to the truth about Jesus is to invite unbelievers to believe Christ’s promise of everlasting life to all who believe in Him so they can receive the best Teacher in the universe – God the Holy Spirit (cf. John 14:16-17; 15:26; 16:13-14; I John 2:20, 27). He can remove Satan’s blinders (2 Corinthians 4:4) so they can see and embrace the truth about Jesus Christ – that He is much greater than Abraham and the prophets as we shall learn in the next few verses.

Prayer: Lord God, thank You so much for showing me that I do not need to be afraid to share the truth about Jesus with those who are hostile to the truth. For I am guaranteed never to taste eternal death the moment I believe in Him Who is greater than Abraham and the prophets! Thank You Holy Spirit for removing the blinders from my heart and my mind so I could see Jesus for Who He truly is! He is the promised Messiah-God! He is the Alpha and the Omega! The Beginning and the End! He is Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace! Please give me the wisdom and boldness to point people to Jesus Who alone can rescue them from sin and death the moment they believe in Him. I love You, my Lord and my God. Though I long to be in Your presence in heaven, I also know You are not finished with me yet on earth. Please use me to introduce millions to Your Son. In His everlasting name I pray. Amen.

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Comfort instead of Chaos

During this time of chaos and uncertainty, God has drawn me back to one of the greatest sources of comfort and hope that we have as Christians. It has to do with the next event on God’s Prophetic Calendar known as the Rapture or sudden removal of Christians from the earth to meet the Lord Jesus in the air to be with Him forever (Rev. 4:1-4; cf. John 14:1-3; I Thess. 1:10; 4:13-5:11).
       

When the apostle John, a member of the Church, was caught up to heaven, he saw “twenty-four elders” sitting on thrones around the throne of God. “Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns of gold on their heads” (Rev. 4:4).  These twenty-four elders represent faithful believers from the Church Age since “elders” in the New Testament are leaders of the local Church (Acts 14:23; 20:17, 28;  I Tim. 4:14; 5:17, 19; Titus 1:5; James 5:14; I Peter 5:1).
       

The fact that these elders are already sitting on “thrones,” wearing “white garments” and “crowns” indicates they have already appeared before the Judgment Seat of Christ to receive their rewards (cf. I Cor. 3:8-15; 9:24-27; 2 Cor. 5:10; 2 Tim. 2:12; Rev. 2:25-27; 3:4-5, 21; 22:12), which means the vision John describes in heaven takes place after the Rapture of the Church. This is supported further by the absence of the word “church” and any references to Christians on earth in Chapters 6-18 of Revelation, which describe the outpouring of God’s wrath on the earth. The reason the Church is not mentioned in Revelation 6-18 is because it has already been removed by the Lord Jesus Christ to deliver her from “the wrath to come” as  taught by the apostle Paul in I Thessalonians 1:10.
       

The apostle Paul then explains how Jesus will deliver us from the coming wrath of the Tribulation period in I Thessalonians 4. “For if [or since] we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus” (I Thess. 4:14). The Rapture or Removal of the Church is just as certain as the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. At one point in time the death and resurrection of Christ were prophecy. But now they are history. We can believe the Rapture with equal certainty.
       

The apostle Paul expected the removal of the Church from the earth to take place while he was alive on earth and so should we. Paul wrote, “Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord” (I Thess. 4:17). The words “caught up” are from the Greek word haparzo which means “to snatch up or away suddenly.”Paul describes it like this I Corinthians 15:52“In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet… the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” In the time it takes you to blink your eye, the Lord will snatch all believers in Jesus off the earth to meet Him in the air – not one will remain behind.
     

This sudden removal of all Christians from the earth is intended to comfort believers in Jesus. That’s why Paul writes, “Therefore comfort one another with these words” (I Thess. 4:18). If the Rapture of the Church is at the middle or end of the seven year Tribulation period of intense and unusual suffering on earth (Rev. 6-18), there would be little comfort and encouragement in this. But the prospect of Christ coming at any moment is a much greater comfort. Jesus could come back today for His Church. Are you ready? If not, here is how you can prepare for Christ’s coming for His Church.
       

You must receive Jesus’ free gift of everlasting life to leave this earth with the Church to spend eternity with Jesus in heaven. Jesus said, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life” (John 6:47). You may ask “Why do I need everlasting life?” Because all people have sinned against God (Rom. 3:23) anddeserve death (Rom. 6:23) or separation from God forever in the lake of fire (Rev. 20:15). But Jesus Christ loved us so much He came to earth to die on a cross for all of our sins and rose from the dead, proving He is God (Rom. 1:3-4; I Cor. 15:3-6). Jesus now invites you to believe or trust in Him alone when He says,  “He who believes in Me has everlasting life” (John 6:47). It does not matter how good or bad you have been. Jesus offers you everlasting life as a free gift if you would simply believe in Him alone for it.
       

When you believe in Jesus, He gives you everlasting life which can never be lost (John 3:16; 10:28-29) and He guarantees you a home in heaven when you die or when He returns, whichever occurs first (John 14:1-3). His Holy Spirit places you in the body of Christ, His Church (I Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:26-27; Ephes. 1:22-23). Christ wants to use you now to share this message of comfort and hope with those who are perishing without Him (Mark 16:15; Acts 1:8). 
       

Rather than focus on the chaos and social unrest of our unbelieving world which is trying to advance a cashless system and other ways to track people, let’s focus on the comfort of our Lord’s glorious coming for His Church. By doing so, we will be more motivated to share the gospel with the lost people of this world and prepared to face Jesus as our Judge at the Judgment Seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:9-11; I John 4:17-19).

How do I share the gospel with a religious person? Part 2

“Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak what We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness.” John 3:11

After Jesus confronts Nicodemus about his need to have two births, both physical and spiritual (John 3:1-8), Nicodemus is still confused. Nicodemus answered and said to Him, ‘How can these things be?’” (John 3:9). Nicodemus wants to know how this spiritual transformation takes place. “Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things?’” (John  3:10). Jesus says, “Nicodemus, you are one of the main guys. You have given your life to the study of the Scriptures, and yet, you can’t wrap your mind around this very basic spiritual truth? You don’t know what it means to be born from above?”

Jesus continues, “Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak what We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness.” (John 3:11).Nicodemus had begun his conversation with Jesus by humbly referring to himself as one of many authoritative figures who believed that Jesus had come from God when he said, “we know.” (John 3:2). Now Jesus describes Himself as one of several authoritative Figures who was speaking the truth, when He says, “We know.” (John 3:11). Jesus states that His teaching about new birth can be relied upon because it is based upon what He knows and has seen with His Father and the Holy Spirit in heaven. Jesus claimed to be speaking the truth as an Eyewitness along with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit, but Nicodemus was rejecting Their witness at this time (“you do not receive Our witness”).

John’s purpose in this gospel, similarly, was that his readers would accept his witness that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God (John 20:30-31). Nicodemus had rejected this witness at this time, and Jesus saw him as representing many other Jewish religious leaders who also did as the word “you” in John 3:11 is plural. Nicodemus had failed to understand (John 3:9), but his more serious error was his refusal to believe Jesus’ testimony at this time about the new birth. It reflected a refusal to acknowledge who Jesus really was, the Christ and the Son of God, which His signs and insight into Scripture revealed (John 20:30-31).

What about you? Do you receive Jesus’ witness about your need to be born from above spiritually? Or do you think your own goodness and religiosity is enough to get you to heaven? Please do not make the same mistake that Nicodemus did at this time. You will regret it for eternity.

Jesus goes on to say, “I should not be shocked, Nicodemus…” If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” (John 3:12). In other words, it should come as no surprise that your sinful mind does not grasp this spiritual truth. Only the one born from above can understand God’s truth.

Jesus had authority to teach about heavenly things because He lived in heaven. He said to Nicodemus, “No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven.” (John 3:13). Jesus is explaining to Nicodemus why He could speak authoritatively about heavenly things. No human teacher had “ascended into heaven” bodily and returned to teach about heavenly things.

The reason no human had ascended to heaven was because believers did not ascend to heaven until Jesus ascended to heaven after His resurrection (Ephesians 4:8-10; 2 Corinthians 5:8; Philippians 1:21-23; Revelation 4:1-4; 19:7-9, 14). Before Jesus’ ascension to heaven, believers went to Paradise or Abraham’s bosom (Luke 16:22; 23:43). They could not ascend to heaven until Jesus’ blood was shed and removed their sins forever (John 1:29; Ephesians 1:7; Hebrews 9-10).

In John 3:13, Christ was referring to being personally present in heaven since, obviously, many prophets had received visions of heaven (e.g. Isaiah 6; cf. 2 Corinthians 12:2-4; Revelation 1:10-20). However, the “Son of Man . . . descended from heaven” so He could teach about heavenly things. The apostle John is contrasting no human who could have ascended bodily into heaven, with the God-man who really did descend from heaven. Jesus claims to be the Messianic “Son of Man” (Daniel 7:13-14) who had come “from heaven” to reveal God to humankind (cf. John 1:18, 51). Throughout this his gospel, the apostle John insists on Jesus’ heavenly origin. This is one way in which he brings out his point that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God (John 20:31). Here, His heavenly origin marks Jesus off from the rest of humanity as the Messiah-God.

Because Jesus is from heaven, He alone can get those who believe in Him to heaven (John 14:2-3, 6). When sharing the gospel with a religious unsaved person, we need to confront them with the truth of their need for two birthdays (John 3:1-8) both physical and spiritual – and confront them with the truth about Jesus’ heavenly origin (John 3:9-13). Jesus is God who descended from heaven to share with us how to get to heaven. Next time, we will focus on what Jesus says we must do to get to heaven.

From Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus, we learn the following:

Being born again is not about human efforts. If anyone “deserved” eternal life, it would appear that Nicodemus had all of the right qualifications. He was a “Pharisee” (John 3:1), who was extremely devoted to studying and applying the Scriptures to his life. He seems worthy of eternal life. But this conversation reminds us that salvation is not about human effort or merit. We are also reminded that:

Position does not get you to heaven. Nicodemus was “a ruler of the Jews” (John 3:1), one of the seventy-one who comprised the Sanhedrin – the Jewish Supreme Court. He was a part of the religious elite. He had a distinguished religious position. But a certain position does not get you to heaven. Being a pastor, a Sunday School teacher, a member of the board at a non-profit organization, an imam, a priest, or a monk does not save you. Being born again is not about human efforts. It is not about positions.

Popularity does not get you to heaven. The name “Nicodemus”  means “a conqueror or victor of the people”. Nicodemus was well liked or popular. Here was a man who won the approval of the people. He was well known and respected in the community. He was popular. He was recognized as a spiritual leader. Mothers pointed to Nicodemus and told their children, “There is a good man. You grow up to be like Nicodemus.” He was extremely popular. But popularity does not save you. Being recognized as a “Christian” person or as a spiritual leader does not save you. Being born again is not about popularity.

Prestige does not get you to heaven. Jesus identified Nicodemus as “the teacher of Israel” (3:10).  He was the one to whom people turned for spiritual answers. He was recognized as the spiritual adviser, the religious guru, the one who spent his life studying the Scriptures, but he did not possess eternal life. He knew the Scriptures, but he did not know the Author of the Scriptures. Nicodemus was “the” man when it came to religious matters but he was not saved. He was not born from above because prestige does not save you.

Piety does not get you to heaven. Nicodemus possessed great religious knowledge. As a member of the Pharisees, he knew and lived what was considered right and wrong. His first words to Jesus, “we know” (3:2) express a certain level of spiritual knowledge. Yet the reality is that Nicodemus did not know Jesus personally nor did he possess eternal life. He was ignorant of spiritual truth, yet he was religious to the core. The Pharisees went to drastic measures to make sure they obeyed the letter of the law. They fasted and prayed and studied the Scriptures. They lived spiritually disciplined lives, but they were lost. Why? Because piety does not save. You can go to church, to a mosque or to a temple, and practice spiritual disciplines daily and still be without Christ. Piety does not save. Why?

Because all of us have disobeyed God with our thoughts, our words, and our actions. The Bible tells us, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Regardless of how good we are, we have still sinned against God. You may not agree with this, but God is the One we must answer to and His Word says, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way…” (Isaiah 53:6a). Each of us has gone astray from God and His Word. We have all chosen our own way instead of God’s way.

Even though we have rebelled against God, He still loves us and paid the penalty for all of our sins when He died on the cross. “And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6b).  Three days after Jesus died on the cross, He rose from the dead (I Corinthians 15:4-6) and He is alive today. Jesus invites you right now to trust Him alone to save you. Jesus said, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life.” (John 6:47).

So being born again is not about human efforts. It is not about position, popularity, prestige, or piety. It is about recognizing your own sinfulness and inability to save yourself and then believing in Christ alone who died for your sins and rose from the dead to give you everlasting life and a future home in heaven. If you just trusted in Jesus for His free gift of everlasting life, you may tell Him this in prayer.

“Dear Jesus, I realize that I have sinned against You in so many ways. I did not want to admit it before because I thought I was good enough to get to heaven on my own. My human efforts, my position, my popularity, my prestige, and my piety do not change the fact that I am a sinner who needs a Savior. Lord Jesus, I believe You died for me and rose from the dead. I am now trusting You alone, Jesus (not my human efforts, position, popularity, prestige or piety), to give me everlasting life and a future home in heaven. Thank You, Jesus, for the everlasting life I now have and the future home I will have in heaven. I want to thank You by living for You now. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

To help you grow in your new relationship with Jesus Christ, please explore www.seeyouinheaven.life or www.knowing-Jesus.com or www.evantell.org.

Jesus does not want you to keep this good news of new birth to yourself. He wants you to “testify” or share what you have “seen” and now “know” (John 3:11) with others who do not know Jesus as the only Giver of everlasting life. So 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.

Who is Jesus Christ? Part 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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