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.

How can we experience God’s life-giving Word? Part 2

“Then Jesus said to him, ‘Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe.’” John 4:48

Another way we can experience God’s life-giving Word is THROUGH TRUSTING CHRIST’S POWER (John 4:43-48). “Now after the two days He departed from there and went to Galilee. For Jesus Himself testified that a prophet has no honor in his own country. So when He came to Galilee, the Galileans received Him.” (John 4:43-45a). Christ wasn’t born in Galilee, but He was raised there in Nazareth and now made His home in the lakeside town of Capernaum in Galilee. So, He was somewhat surprised by the hospitality of the Galileans. He never received any honor in His own country. He was trained at home as a carpenter with no formal theological education. He had received very little recognition as a qualified Rabbi; much less a prophet of God. But now these Galileans were very receptive to Him. Why?

“…Having seen all the things He did in Jerusalem at the feast; for they also had gone to the feast.” (John 4:45b). They had witnessed the power of Christ through the miracles He had performed at the Passover in Jerusalem. They welcomed Jesus as the Miracle-Worker. But He was more than that – He was the Messiah-God, the Savior of the world, whose Word could create an inexhaustible well of life in every heart that believed in Him (John 4:10-14). The Samaritans learned this by listening to Him talk. But the Galileans (Jews) had to see miracles first before they could trust in Him.

“So Jesus came again to Cana of Galilee where He had made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman whose son was sick at Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to Him and implored Him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death.” (John 4:46-47). There was a lot of talk about Jesus in Cana of Galilee because of the spectacular miracle whereby “He made water wine.”(John 2:1-11). And a certain royal official heard about Jesus’ miracles, and so he approached Christ after traveling eighteen miles from his home in Capernaum. His son was desperately sick. He was afraid that his son would die at any moment, so he begged Jesus to make the eighteen miles journey to heal his son.

But look at Jesus’ response. “Then Jesus said to him, ‘Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe.’” (John 4:48). This seems harsh at first, doesn’t it? The “you” (idēte) is plural. He’s talking to a group of people, not just the nobleman. The Galileans were unlike the Samaritans. They needed to see a miracle before they would believe Jesus’ Word. In Sychar, Jesus’ Word had been enough. But in Galilee, the Jews could not believe in Christ without miracles (cf. I Corinthians 1:22-23).

There are people like that all around the world. It is not enough for them to hear the Word of God.They need to see the power of God. And the greatest display of God’s power is a changed life. God calls all believers to live a life that honors Him. But you know what? It’s impossible for you to live the Christian life in and of yourself. You can’t do it in your own strength. But the good news is that God doesn’t expect you to. Instead, He wants to live through you. Only through Christ’s power can we love our enemies… forgive… practice self-control…. and be a positive witness. Only through His power can we find hope and healing.

Prayer: Lord God, there are many people around the world like the Galileans who need to see Your power before they believe in Jesus alone for eternal life. But there are also people like the Samaritans who only need Your Word to believe in Christ alone for salvation. Please use Your word and my actions to influence non-Christians to come to faith in Jesus alone. I cannot live a God-honoring life in my own strength, Lord. I need You to live Your life through me so others will be drawn to Christ in me. Thank You for hearing my prayer. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

I am seated next to the exalted Lord Jesus Christ

5 Even when we were dead in trespasses, [God] made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2:5-6

Before we became believers in Jesus, the Bible describes our spiritual condition as being “dead [separated from God] in trespasses and sins,” controlled by “the course of this world,” under the authority of “the prince of the power of the air,” and driven by “the lusts of our flesh” (2:1-3). Today let’s focus on being under the authority of Satan and his world system.

Before Jesus Christ, we were under the power of the devil. He directed our thoughts and our lives through the voices of unsaved family, friends, the media, the government, the educational system, the economy, and the laws of the land. When we listen to these voices of Satan they will draw us in a direction that will destroy us. Voices that say, “It’s just pictures on a computer or a magazine. It doesn’t hurt anybody.” Or “You can’t be complete or fulfilled if you don’t have a man or woman.” Satan’s voice says, “Whatever it takes to get what you want, you do it.” This voice says, “You can’t forgive that. What he or she did to you is too terrible to possibly forgive.” And we could go on and on. These voices lead us down a path that results in defeat and destruction. So before we were saved, we were dead in our sins and under the power of the devil. But when we come to Christ, we are now under a new Power and Authority.

The first two words of verse 4 are the most powerful words in all the book of Ephesians: “But God…” Would you circle those two words? Since we were dead in our sins, separated from the Lord, God breaks in to help! We need to be reminded of “God, who is rich in mercy” and “love” (2:4). “My life is spinning out of control”BUT GOD. “I feel like I have to do drugs or have sex in order to be liked”BUT GOD. “My parents cannot get along”BUT GOD. “I have no hope” BUT GOD.

God’s grace has made all the difference in our lives when we come to Christ. I once was dead in my sins, but God “made us alive together with Christ” (2:5a). Why? Because “by grace you have been saved” (2:5b). Grace which I could never deserve or earn has made me alive with Christ. According to verse 6, where are you seated? “And raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (2:6). We are now seated next to Christ in the heavenly places. When God the Father looks to His right and sees His Son seated in a place of power, He sees you sitting there with Him.

What happened to Jesus 2,000 years ago happened to you when you believed in Christ for salvation. And where is Jesus seated in relation to the devil according to Ephes. 1:20-21? God the Father “raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion,” including the devil. So Jesus is seated “far above” Satan. So if you are seated with Jesus, guess where you sit today in relation to the devil? Far above him. In God’s eyes, you are now seated in a position of power and victory over all the opponents of God.

Satan cannot really get to us unless we let him. There is safety and power in the heavenly places. We need to go up high where God is located so the Enemy cannot get to us. We do this through prayer and abiding in the truth of God’s Word. God wants you to know that in Christ, you are a winner, not a loser.

Whenever you change your position you change your perspective. When you look at your life while seated next to Jesus in the heavenly places, things that looked chaotic and confusing down here on earth, suddenly take an orderly shape, like the way fields and houses do when you are looking at them from a mountaintop. This is one reason why I love to hike in the mountains. God gives me a new perspective up there. The Lord is saying that if we want to experience victory over sin and Satan, we need to start living life from our new vantage point.

I am reminded of a joke about a thief who had been watching a family for several days in a residential area. He observed each evening that this family failed to lock their back sliding glass door at night. So one night, after the family went to bed and turned off their lights, this thief sneaks up to the back sliding glass door. With a flashlight in one hand, the thief slowly opens the back door with the other hand and starts shining his flashlight in the kitchen. Suddenly he hears a strange voice say, “Jesus is watching.” The thief is spooked and drops his flashlight on the kitchen floor. As he scrambles to pick up his flashlight, again he hears this strange voice say, “Jesus is watching.” Finally the thief picks up his flashlight and shines it in the direction of the voice and sees a parrot in a cage. With a sigh of relief he says, “Oh, it’s just a talking bird.” The parrot then looks down to another corner of the kitchen and says, “Jesus is watching.” The thief then shines his flashlight towards that corner of the room and sees a huge, ferocious Rottweiler dog. Immediately, the parrot commands the dog, “Attack him, Jesus!”

When Satan comes knocking at the your door of your heart, you can say to the Lord Jesus Christ, “Attack him, Jesus!” and then slam the door in Satan’s face. Why? Because in Christ, you are seated next to the most Powerful Person in the universe! In Christ, you are a winner, not a loser. Before you were saved, you looked up to Satan in fear, but now, seated next to Jesus, you are able to look down at the devil with confidence knowing that you are on the winning side. Take a moment and look in a mirror and say to yourself, “In Christ, I am a winner, not a loser.” The more you see yourself as a winner in Christ, the more you will act like a winner for Him and ignore the voices of the devil.

Prayer: O Lord God, thank You for being rich in mercy and love towards me even when I was dead in my sins and living in rebellion against You. Thank You for making me alive in Christ the moment I believed in Him for the gift of salvation. Thank You for showering me with Your grace when You seated me in the heavenly places next to the exalted Lord Jesus Christ far above all Your enemies, including the devil and his demonic armies. Although I used to look up to Satan in fear, I can now look down on him with confidence knowing that I am seated in a position of authority and power next to Jesus far above the devil and all his armies. I pray Your Holy Spirit will apply this amazing truth to my life so that I will see myself as a winner in Christ and ignore the lies of the devil. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Overcoming Holiday Stress

30 Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, 31 but those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:30-31

Are you worn out during this Holiday Season? Tired of all the hustle and bustle not to mention the political circus rings that are dangled in front of us by the media throughout the day? Are your gift lists growing but your finances are shrinking? Are you nearing your breaking point with stress?

Take some deep breaths through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Now listen to what the prophet Isaiah says to the Israelites who were about to go into captivity in Babylon about 2,700 years ago. They were tired and worn out just thinking about their future. And you may feel the same right now.

People of all ages grow “faint” and “weary…but those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength” (40:30-31b). What is our responsibility when it comes to replenishing our strength? We are to “wait on the Lord,” not try harder or utilize our willpower.

What does it mean to “wait on the Lord”? The word “wait” (qavah) means “to remain, endure, look eagerly for.” To wait on the Lord conveys the idea of relying on the Lord. Isaiah illustrates the meaning of waiting on the Lord by making reference to the eagle. He writes, “they shall mount up with wings like eagles.”

Notice that he doesn’t say they shall mount up with wings like geese. When geese fly their wings are flapping so hard it causes their heads and necks to flap as well. But when eagles fly they don’t flap their wings very much but rather they soar effortlessly. God has designed the eagle to soar above the treetops, cliffs, and even the storms. To do this, the body must be light in weight and extremely strong. To make their bodies light, the eagle’s bones are hollow. Many parts of the bones have nothing but air inside them. On average, the entire skeleton of the bald eagle weighs just over half a pound.

When an eagle flaps its wings, most of the power for flying comes from the downward stroke of the wings. For this reason, the muscles that pull the wings down are much larger than the muscles that pull the wings up. The flight muscles are so essential to an eagle that they often account for half of the bird’s total weight.

The bald eagle does not seem to have an extra ounce of weight anywhere on its body. On a large eagle the feathers are very sturdy but each feather weighs next to nothing. A bald eagle has seven thousand feathers on its seven to eight-foot wings, but all of them put together weigh less than 21 ounces

When it comes to flying, bald eagles may wait on a high ledge or cliff for the right wind currents to come. When the time is right, they take off and soar upward effortlessly. There is a special “up-going” wind or thermal that they ride with little effort as it circles higher and higher toward the sky. Once they get into a thermal, the eagle can just spread its wings and float upward with very little effort. The eagle relies on these air currents to do the majority of the work.

The solution to Holiday stress and fatigue is not found in worrying, but in waiting; not in running, but in resting. Instead of “flapping our own wings,” we are to “wait [rely] on the Lord” and He will provide the wind beneath our wings so we can soar above the circumstances, emotions, and memories that we may be struggling with this season. The One Who loves us infinitely and accepts us without conditions will supply the power we need to “run and not be weary, to “walk and not faint.”

Prayer: Father God, I am so weak and vulnerable during this Christmas season. I have grown weary trying to cope with my own brokenness and shame. In the midst of the stress, I can hear Your loving voice invite me to wait on You to provide the wind beneath my wings so I may soar above the treetops of my circumstances, feelings, and memories this time of year. I am excited to see the new heights and places You will take me in the future. In Jesus’ name. Amen.