Two Christmas Seasons

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

You can experience the joy and peace of Christmas every day by hearing and believing the gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus talks about two Christmas seasons in one of the most familiar verses of the Bible: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16).

This verse falls in the middle of a conversation between Jesus and a religious ruler named Nicodemus (John 3:1-21). Nicodemus thinks the way to heaven is by living a good life. But Jesus confronts him with the truth that he must be born again by believing in Christ alone for eternal life. It is not what you do that gets you to heaven, it is what Christ has already done for you on the cross, and simply believing in Him.

The first Christmas season is seen in the first part of the verse: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” No one has ever loved to the degree that God has loved. He loved the world. He did not limit His love to one country, culture, or color. God loved everyone.

Because God loves everyone, His love cannot be earned. God loves us now, not when we get better. He loves us regardless of what we have done or not done. Do you realize that nothing you do can make God love you any less? God has designed us to be loved by Him. Only His love can meet our deepest needs. Sadly, we often look in the wrong places for God’s love, don’t we? We look for love in – a cell phone, a job, money, sports, alcohol, a computer, drugs, or a brief romantic relationship. God’s love isn’t found in these things. His love is found in the Person of Jesus Christ.

How did God express His love for us? “He gave His only begotten Son.” The phrase “only begotten Son” does not mean Jesus had a beginning like a baby that is birthed by his parents. The word translated “only begotten” (monogenḗs) literally means “one of a kind.” Jesus Christ is the only One of His kind because only He is fully God (John 1:1-3) and fully Man (John 1:14).

Over two thousand years ago, God’s Son, Jesus Christ, was born in a manger on the earth even though He pre-existed as God. He loved you and me so much He was willing to become a helpless baby. Here He was, the Creator of the universe, lying in the arms of a woman that He created! God sent Jesus so you could know what He is like (John 1:18). If God wanted to communicate to birds, He would have become a bird. If God had wanted to communicate to cows, He would have become a cow. But God wanted to relate to you and to me, so He became a human being without ceasing to be God.

You may be Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, Mormon, or an atheist. It does not matter what your religious background is because Christ did not come to give us religion, He came to give us a relationship. Christmas is God saying, “I want to relate to you. I want you to know Me as much as I know you.”

Because all of us have sinned against God (Romans 3:23), we deserve to die forever in the lake of fire (Romans 6:23; Revelation 20:15). But Jesus came that first Christmas season to die in our place on a cross and rise from the dead (I Corinthians 15:3-6). Christ paid for the gift of eternal life.

When you receive a gift, do you have to pay for it? No, of course not. Why? Because it is already paid for. Eternal life is free to you and me (Romans 6:23b; Ephesians 2:8-9) because Jesus already paid for it when He died on the cross (John 19:30) and rose from the dead (I Corinthians 15:3-6). Jesus is alive today! So, the first Christmas season was when Christ came to us.

The second Christmas season is now when Christ invites us to come to Him. Jesus said, “Whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16b). Does the word “whoever” include everyone? Yes. It includes the best and worst of people and everyone in between.

Christ invites everyone to believe in Him for His free gift. He did not say “whoever behaves…” Jesus simply says, “whoever believes…” Receiving Christ’s gift of eternal life is apart from any good works we might do.

Jesus is not asking you, “Do you do good in the community?” because He never said, “Whoever does good in the community should not perish but have everlasting.” Nor is Jesus asking you, “Did you live an obedient life?” because He never said, “Whoever lives an obedient life should not perish but have everlasting.” Nor is Jesus asking, “Do you have religion?” because He never said, “whoever has religion should not perish but have everlasting.”

Jesus is asking you, “Do you believe in Me?” because He said, “whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” What does it mean to believe? To believe simply means to trust or depend upon. It is so simple a child can do it, yet, as adults, we have made it difficult. Jesus says you “believe” and “have.” You have what you take, correct?

What do you like the most about Christmas? Most people will say, receiving gifts, right?! To enjoy a gift, what must you do? You must receive it.

Jesus Christ was born in a manger and died on a cross so we could receive eternal life as a free gift. We cannot trust our obedience to God’s commands, our good life, our religion, or our prayers to receive eternal life. Instead, we must believe or trust in Christ alone to receive His gift of eternal life and live with Him forever in heaven. The moment you trust Christ, Christmas will never end for you. What makes Christmas lasting is knowing you will live forever in God’s presence. Jesus asks us to take the eternal life that He is freely offering to us.

Christ promises that when you believe in Him you “should not perish” in hell. When you believe in Christ, He promises you will be rescued from eternal punishment. When Jesus speaks of perishing, He is not talking about physical death, He is talking about suffering forever and ever in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10; 20:15). Many people don’t believe in hell today, but they better be sure about it because no one can afford to be wrong on this issue. Everyone needs to be rescued because “all have sinned…” (Romans 3:23).

The word “but” contrasts eternal death and torment (“perish”) with “eternal life” and enjoyment. Jesus is acknowledging that there is a place of eternal ruin where people will be in agony forever. “But,” He says, “You can have the opposite of death, agony and torment – you can have eternal life.” All people exist forever, the question is where will you live when you die – heaven or hell?

When you believe in Jesus, He promises that you can be sure that you “have everlasting life.” Jesus did not say, “might have” or “hope to have.” He simply says, “have,” which expresses absolute certainty. You can be one hundred percent sure that you have eternal life because Jesus promises it to all who believe in Him. If you could lose your salvation, then Jesus just lied to us in John 3:16. Our salvation is based upon a promise that cannot be broken. It comes from a God who cannot lie.

Eternal life is described in John 17:3 as knowing God the Father and God the Son personally forever. Eternal life begins when you believe in Jesus, not when you die or after you die. What could possibly be greater than that? If you have not believed or trusted in Jesus Christ alone to give you His gift of eternal life, why not do so right now? This is how you can tell God in prayer what you are doing:

“Dear God, I come to you now as a sinner. Nothing I am or do makes me deserving of heaven. I now understand that Jesus Christ, the One born in a manger, died for me on a cross and rose again. I place my trust in Christ alone for His gift of eternal life. Thank You for the gift of eternal life I have just received. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

When you believed in Jesus for His gift of everlasting life, He came to live inside you through His Holy Spirit (John 7:37-39). You can get to know Jesus better by talking to Him in prayer (Philippians 4:6-7) and by listening to Him as you learn to read and apply the Bible to your life (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Find a church where you can worship God with other like-minded Christians (Hebrews 10:24-25). Tell others about Jesus and what He can do for them (Matthew 4:19).

To learn more about how you can experience the joy and peace of Christmas every day of your life, please go to our website at www.seeyouinheaven.life and download our free digital Pressing On discipleship materials to go through with those you care about.

Lasting Lessons from the Last Day in Jesus’ Life – Part 7

“Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took His garments and made four parts, to each soldier a part, and also the tunic. Now the tunic was without seam, woven from the top in one piece.” John 19:23

We are discovering lasting lessons from the last day in Jesus’ life before His dead body is sealed in a tomb. Thus far we have learned the following:

Like Pilate, we can avoid doing the right thing because of the cost involved (John 19:4-7).

– No one has power in this world except what is given to them by God (John 19:8-12).

– The closer we get to the cross, the more clearly we see who people really are, including ourselves (John 19:13-16).

– The cross is the total expression of God’s grace to us in Christ (John 17-18a).

– The two crosses teach that God gives each of us the freedom to choose (John 19:18b).

– There is no person or language God will not use to proclaim who Jesus is (John 19:19-22).

Today we discover in the seventh picture the apostle John presents to us, that JESUS’ GARMENTS WERE REMOVED SO WE COULD WEAR THE GARMENTS OF SALVATION (John 19:23-24). The words “when they had crucified Jesus” (John 19:23b) refer to the time when they nailed Jesus to the crossbeam and set the cross in place. 1  While Jesus is writhing in pain on the cross, John informs us, “Then the soldiers… took His garments and made four parts, to each soldier a part, and also the tunic. Now the tunic was without seam, woven from the top in one piece.” (John 19:23a, c).

Four Romans soldiers under the leadership of a centurion were assigned to each person being executed. “It would be the privilege of the soldiers conducting the execution by crucifixion to divide the personal property of the crucified among themselves. In keeping with custom therefore, the four soldiers took Jesus’ garments and divided them into four parts among themselves.” 2

It is significant to note that the Greek word for “garments” (hamatia) is plural. “When this word occurs in the singular it refers to the outer robe that most Jews wore. Here, because he used the plural, John evidently had in mind all of Jesus’ ‘outer garments,’ including His robe, sandals, belt, and head covering.” 3

The “tunic” (chitṓn) that was also removed from Jesus “was a garment worn next to the skin, but it was not what we would think of as underwear. It was more like a long shirt.” 4  The Jewish historian, Josephus, used this word to describe the high priest’s tunic that was woven in one piece (Antiquities 3.161). 5 This undergarment “was without seam, woven from the top in one piece,” and therefore, was more valuable. Not wanting to tear this expensive article of clothing, the soldiers “said therefore among themselves, ‘Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be.’ ” (John 19:24a). What a contrast between the innocent Lamb of God who was nearly stripped naked before a watching world to bear the shame of all our sin while Roman soldiers ignore Him because they were more concerned about accumulating wealth.

The Bible often describes our behavior as the clothes we wear. For example, Peter encourages us to be “clothed with humility” (I Peter 5:5). King David writes of the wicked person, “As he clothed himself with cursing as with his garment.” (Psalm 109:18). Garments represent character, and like His tunic, Jesus’ character “was without seam, woven from the top in one piece.” (John 19:23a, c). Christ’s life was like His tunic: “uninterrupted perfection.” 6

When John says Jesus’ tunic was “woven from the top,” Lucado suggests it means  “Jesus wasn’t led by his own mind; he was led by the mind of his Father. Listen to his words: ‘The Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise’ (John 5:19 NRSV).

“’I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge’ (John 5:30 NRSV).

“The character of Jesus was a seamless fabric woven from heaven to earth… from God’s thoughts to Jesus’ actions. From God’s tears to Jesus’ compassion. From God’s word to Jesus’ response. All one piece. All a picture of the character of Jesus.” 7

But when the Roman soldiers nailed Jesus to the cross, Christ took off His tunic of seamless perfection and put on a tunic of shame. Imagine what it was like for Jesus to be stripped down to a loin cloth in front of His own mother and loved ones. He was shamed before His family.

Jesus was also shamed before His accusers. While Jesus hung on the cross for a few hours, it seemed as though the religious leaders were the winners, and Christ was the Loser.

Worst of all, Jesus wore the shame of sin. Who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree.” (I Peter 2:24a). He not only was shamed before His family and before His accusers, He was shamed before heaven. Although Jesus had never murdered anyone or committed adultery, He felt the shame of the murderer and adulterer. Though He never lied or gossiped about anyone, He experienced the disgrace of the liar and the gossiper. Though He never lost control of His anger, He experienced the embarrassment of those who do. Though He never had any pride or selfishness, He felt the shame of the proud and the selfish. Because He became our Substitute, He felt “the collective shame of the world.” 8

Jesus experienced the shame of all our sin while hanging on that cross in our place. Why? So we can wear the garments of salvation. His garments were removed so we can wear the robe of His righteousness. Only those who believe in Jesus alone for His gift of eternal life can say, “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, My soul shall be joyful in my God; for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” (Isaiah 61:10).

The Bible tells us,But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.” (Romans 4:5). God clothes with His righteousness the person “who does not work.” Getting right with God is not based upon our works. It is based upon the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. If our works could gain us the robe of God’s righteousness, then there was no need for Jesus to remove His garments and die in our place.

God puts His robe of righteousness on the person who “believes on Him who justifies the ungodly.” Getting right with God is not based upon behaving, but upon believing in Jesus Christ “who justifies the ungodly.” It does not matter how well you have behaved, you are still “ungodly” before a holy God. You may say, “Well, I’m not as bad as him or her.” You need to understand that God is not comparing your life to other sinful people. He is comparing your life to the only perfect Person who has ever lived on earth – Jesus Christ. And the Bible says, we  “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23). We all fall short of the seamless perfection of Jesus Christ.

The fact is that all people are “ungodly” sinners who deserve to be separated from God forever in a terrible place called the “lake of fire” (Romans. 3:9-23; Revelation 20:15). But the moment you believe in Jesus Christ alone, God gives you a right standing before Him as “your faith is accounted for righteousness.” He clothes you with His righteousness so that when He looks at your life, He sees the seamless perfection of His Son.

Even though it seemed like Jesus Christ had been defeated by wicked men as He suffered on the cross, John then reminds us that God is still in control when he writes, “that the Scripture might be fulfilled which says: ‘They divided My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots.’ Therefore the soldiers did these things.” (John 19:24b). The soldiers’ dividing of Jesus’ garments and casting lots for His inner tunic fulfilled the Messianic prophecy in Psalm 22:18. Satan has not won a victory here. God used the wicked actions of wicked people to provide for our salvation. 9

Even though Jesus was shamed before His family, His accusers, and before heaven, He did not let this shame keep Him from finishing His work on the cross. Hebrews 12:2 tells us, “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Jesus “endured the cross” by “despising the shame.” The word “despising” comes from a compound Greek word, kataphronéō, which means “against, down” (kata) and “to think” (phronéō).” 10  Literally it means “to think against” or “to think little of.”

Jesus was able to endure the embarrassment or humiliation of the cross and the sins He bore by “despising the shame” associated with them. He simply did not pay attention to that shame because it was not His and it was contrary to God’s original design for humanity (cf. Genesis 2:25). This shame was of little consequence compared to the surpassing “joy that was set before Him” when He would sit “down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2). Christ endured the pain and shame of the cross because of the joy that awaited Him on the other side when He would sit down on His everlasting throne next to His heavenly Father (cf. Hebrews 1:8-9).

Christ endured being abandoned by His closest friends, being falsely accused, being beaten, mocked, spit upon, stripped down to His undergarments in public, and nailed to a cross like a terrible criminal to pay the penalty for all of our sins (Matthew 26:47-27:44; John 19:1-24). Worst of all, Jesus endured being rejected by His own Father in heaven when the sins of the world were placed upon Him because God is holy and righteous and cannot be around sin (Matthew 27:45-46). Did Jesus enjoy this shameful treatment associated with His crucifixion? No!!! He despised or looked down with contempt toward the shame associated with His sufferings and our sins. Jesus is showing us that just because something bad happens to you does not make you bad.

Like Jesus, we may have experienced shame by being falsely accused. During our childhood we may have been told, “You are no good.” “You cannot do anything right.” “You will never amount to anything.” Or like Jesus, some of us have been abandoned by those closest to us. Perhaps a parent abandoned you physically at an early age or they abandoned you emotionally. They lived in the same house with you, but they did not provide the emotional nurturing and support you needed. Like Jesus, you may have been beaten physically by those in authority over you. As a result, the voice of shame told you that this happened to you because you are bad. You may have been mocked and verbally mistreated and the voice of shame said you deserved this. Like Jesus, we may have experienced the humiliation of being put on display with minimal clothes on (or no clothes on) in front of others.

Or may be you have been shamed because of your commitment to follow Jesus. Perhaps you have been abandoned by those closest to you, falsely accused, beaten, mocked, or stripped naked all because of your love for Jesus. Please realize that Jesus understands how you feel because He has been through something similar (cf. Hebrews 4:15). Knowing He understands and sympathizes with us can embolden us to approach Him in prayer for His supernatural assistance. So instead of looking to our own shame whether it is based on our actions or the actions of others, we are to look to Jesus who despised the shame when He endured the cross on our behalf (Hebrew 12:2).

Prayer: PreciousLord Jesus, thank You for loving us so much that You were willing to have your garments removed so our shame could be replaced with the garments of salvation the moment we believe in You. Thank You for enduring the cross by despising the shame associated with it and the sins You bore, so we could be clothed with Your robe of righteousness. Knowing that You understand how we feel when we are abandoned by those closest to us or falsely accused, beaten, mocked, or stripped naked all because of our love for You, emboldens us to approach You in prayer for Your supernatural assistance to keep running the race You have set before us. We love You our Lord and our God. In Your matchless name we pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 560.

2. J. Dwight Pentecost, The Words & Works of Jesus Christ, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981), pg. 482.

3. Tom Constable, Notes on John, 2017 Edition, pg. 354 cites Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Vol. 1 (New York: Longmans, Green, 1912), pg. 625.

4. Ibid.

5. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 347.

6. Max Lucado, He Chose The Nails (Nashville: Word Publishing, 2000), pg. 73.

7. Ibid.

8. Adapted from Max Lucado’s He Chose The Nails, pg. 74.

9. Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary, pg. 347.

10. https://biblehub.com/greek/2706.htm.

How will you respond to Christ crucified? Part 1

“Then they led Jesus from Caiaphas to the Praetorium, and it was early morning. But they themselves did not go into the Praetorium, lest they should be defiled, but that they might eat the Passover.” John 18:28

A legend tells of an Irish king who disguised himself and went into the banquet hall of one of his barons. He was escorted to a lowly place among the throng who sat at the feast. The brilliance of his conversation and the nobility of his manner soon attracted the attention of someone with sufficient authority to escort him to a higher table. The same thing occurred again, and soon he was seated among the nobles of the realm. After another display of great wisdom, one of the lords spoke out, “In truth, Sir, you speak like a king. If you are not a king, you deserve to be one.” Then the king removed his disguise and took his rightful place among his subjects. 1

This is what should have happened when the eternal Creator God of the universe, Jesus Christ, set aside His glory in heaven, took on human flesh, and dwelt among us (John 1:1-3, 14). Although Jesus was the Son of a carpenter from the despised town of Nazareth (Matthew 13:55; John 6:42), His words and works should have persuaded the Jews to understand that He was their promised Messiah and King. But the Jewish leaders were so blinded by the lies of their father, the devil (John 8:44), that even the incredible miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead only solidified their resolve to kill Jesus (John 11:45-53).

We are gong to look at several different responses to Christ crucified in John 18:28-19:4. Most likely you will be able to identify with one of these responses to Jesus. Christ’s words and works demand a response. One cannot remain neutral toward Jesus Christ. If you choose to ignore or dismiss Jesus, you decide against Him. Let’s look now at the first possible response to Christ crucified: LIKE THE JEWISH LEADERS, WE MAY REFUSE TO BELIEVE IN JESUS BECAUSE OF OUR SELF-RIGHTEOUS RELIGIOUS PRIDE (JOHN 18:28-32).

Luke informs us that the Sanhedrin had charged Jesus with blasphemy earlier (Luke 22:66-67) and they were intent on applying the death penalty to Him. But because these Jewish leaders did not have the legal right to put Jesus to death, the case had to be brought before the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate. In A.D. 6, Judea became a Roman imperial province ruled by a governor appointed by the emperor. Normally, Pilate “lived in Caesarea (Acts 23:25), but stayed in Jerusalem during the Jewish festivals to be available to handle a crisis and maintain order. Pilate is described by his contemporary Philo (Legatio ad Gaium 3-1-2) and later by Josephus (Atiquities 18.55-59; Jewish Wars 2.169-77) as a greedy, inflexible, and cruel leader. He created much antagonism between himself and the Jews on” a number of occasions. 3

For example, “he and his soldiers brought standards into Jerusalem bearing the emperor’s image (Josephus Antiquities 18.55-59).” 4  According to Luke 13:1, Pilate’s soldiers killed “some Galileans while they were in Jerusalem offering sacrifices… Pilate used revenues from the Temple to construct an aqueduct to bring water to Jerusalem (Josephus Antiquities 18.60-62).” 5  As a result, Pilate did not have good relations with the Jewish people.

After Jesus’ trial before the Jewish authorities (cf. Matthew 27:1-2; Mark 15:1; Luke 22:66-71), 6 John informs us, “Then they led Jesus from Caiaphas to the Praetorium, and it was early morning. But they themselves did not go into the Praetorium, lest they should be defiled, but that they might eat the Passover.” (John 18:28). The “Praetorium” was the Roman governor’s official residence either at one of King Herod’s palaces in West Jerusalem or at the Antonia fortress northwest of the the Temple area. 7  The Jewish authorities stayed out of the palace to avoid becoming ceremonially unclean by entering a Gentile dwelling. Should they become ceremonially unclean they would not be able to participate in “the Passover.” 8  The reason Gentile houses were thought to be unclean by the Jews is because Gentiles were believed to throw abortions down the drains. 9

“Pilate then went out to them and said, ‘What accusation do you bring against this Man?’ ” (John 18:29). Pilate wants to know what formal charges these Jews brought against Jesus. His question does not mean he was completely ignorant of Jesus’ affairs. Matthew tells us that Pilate “knew that they had handed Him over because of envy” (Matthew 27:18). Christ was stealing their following. Multitudes of people followed Jesus because He healed their sick and He taught them with authority, not as their scribes taught (Matthew 7:29). After Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, “the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered a council and said, ‘What shall we do? For this Man works many signs. If we let Him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and nation.’ ” (John 11:47-48). Jesus’ growing popularity threatened their grip on power. Rather than lose their positions of power, these religious leaders wanted Jesus to lose His life.

SoThey answered and said to him, ‘If He were not an evildoer, we would not have delivered Him up to you.’ ” (John 18:30). The Jewish leaders’ answer was evasive. They had no charge that would stand up in a Roman court of law. They simply wanted Pilate to confirm their verdict without further examination. “Certainly we wouldn’t trouble you, Pilate, if Jesus were not a criminal,” these leaders are saying,“Trust us, Pilate.” But Pilate had enough issues of state to attend to without getting involved with a petty Jewish controversy. “Then Pilate said to them, ‘You take Him and judge Him according to your law.’ ” (John 18:31a). Assuming Jesus had violated some religious law or custom, Pilate instructed them to try Jesus by their own “law.” Pilate’s response demanded that these Jews clarify their request.

So they made it clear that they wanted an execution, not a fair trial. Yet they didn’t have the authority to inflict the death penalty, but the Romans did. Therefore the Jews said to him, ‘It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death,’ that the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled which He spoke, signifying by what death He would die.” (John 18:31b-32). If Jesus was executed by the Sanhedrin, it meant death by stoning. But for Jesus to be tried in a Roman court meant death by crucifixion. John tells us that this “fulfilled” Jesus’ teaching earlier where He alludes to death by crucifixion (cf. John 3:14; 12:32-33).

Tragically these Jewish leaders had rejected God’s promised Messiah and were seeking to put to death an innocent Man, yet they were more concerned about being ceremonially unclean (John 18:28)! They failed to see that their wicked actions and intent toward Jesus already made them spiritually filthy! 10 They were more concerned about their image in front of people than the condition of their own hearts before a holy God.

Jesus taught earlier that it is what comes out of our hearts that defiles us, not what we eat (Mark 7:19-23) or I might add – what places we go to. The religious leaders were concerned about making themselves look good on the outside, but wickedness came from within them. Following customs and traditions cannot cleanse our sinful hearts. Only Jesus Christ, through His atoning work on the cross, can grant us forgiveness of sins and a transformed heart (Hebrews 10:16-18) that is in sync with God, enabling us to love Him and others. 11

Before we condemn these Jewish religious leaders, let’s take a look at our own hearts for a moment. Are we any different than these religious men? Have any of us refused to believe in Jesus because of our own self-righteous religious pride? Do we look at our own religious activities and conclude that we are better than others because they do not appear to be as good as we think we are? Do we think that our good life, prayers, or religion will gain us acceptance before God so we can enter His heaven? Are we offended when people suggest to us that we are sinners who need a Savior?

If so, we need to understand that pride can be so much a part of us we don’t recognize it for what it is. For example, a woman said to C. H. Spurgeon, “I have not sinned for some time.” He replied, “You must be very proud of it.” “Yes, indeed I am!” she rejoiced. 12  What about you? Are you proud in areas you don’t even recognize?

These Jewish religious leaders were. Their pride persuaded them to put God’s Messiah, an innocent Man, to death. They were so focused on Jesus and His growing popularity, that they were blind to their own sinfulness and need for Him.

A woman was dying, but she had lived a good moral life and had never felt she needed a Savior. But when a minister offered to come and talk with her, she allowed him to visit. The pastor explained the way of salvation by grace through faith alone in Christ alone (Ephesians 2:8-9). Emphasizing that Jesus died for the sins of everyone in the world, including her, he urged her to trust the Savior.

The woman responded, “Do you mean to tell me that if I’m going to be saved, I have to come to God on exactly the same terms as anyone else – even the most wicked person in the world?”

“That’s right,” the pastor answered, “there’s only one way.” The woman thought for a moment and then declared, “Well, if that’s the case, I want no part of it!” (Our Daily Bread, 2000). 13  You may be like that woman. You see other people making mistakes, but not yourself. Don’t look at what the other person is doing, look at yourself. Be willing to say, “I have done wrong. I am a sinner.”

Like the religious leaders, we may need to understand that all the good things we do, say, or think cannot make us righteous before a holy God. The Bible says, “For all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment.” (Isaiah 64:6 NASB). God looks at all the righteous deeds we have done and sees that they are all stained with sin. None of these “good things” can take away our sins.

We may have a tendency to compare our righteousness with the righteousness of other people and think we will go to heaven if ours is greater than theirs. But when God considers how sinful we have been, He compares us to the most perfect Person who ever lived, His Son Jesus Christ. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23). The “glory of God” is Jesus Christ. Jesus never, ever told a lie. But we lie to ourselves and others daily. Christ never had one unkind thought. But we average a minimum of five a day. God’s Son never hated His enemies. But sometimes we can’t even stand the person we are married to or live with. So when it comes to behavior, in God’s eyes, we do not measure up. All of us fall short of God’s perfection and are guilty before Him.

Therefore, we must come to God the same way as any other sinner. Simply recognize we cannot save ourselves from sin’s penalty. But Jesus Christ can because He died in our place for all our sins and rose from the dead. Jesus is alive today and He invites us to believe in Him alone for His gift of forgiveness and everlasting life (John 3:16; Acts 10:43). And the moment we do, His righteousness covers imperfect righteousness so God can accept us into His heaven.

The Bible says, “Even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe.” (Romans 3:22). Just as there is no difference between Jews and Gentiles being guilty before God because “all are under sin” (Romans 3:1-9), there is also no difference in the way all people are “justified” (declared righteous) before God which is “through faith in Jesus Christ to all and on all who believe.” (Romans 3:22; cf. 3:21-26). The hand that receives God’s free gift of justification is “faith in Jesus Christ.” There is no other way to obtain a right standing before God.

Henry Ironside shares a helpful illustration about what it means to be justified before God. One morning on his way to a sheep ranch, he noticed a very peculiar sight. He saw an old ewe loping across the road followed by the strangest looking lamb he had ever seen. It seemed to have six legs, and the last two were hanging helplessly as though paralyzed. When one of the sheep ranchers caught the lamb and brought it over to Ironside, the rancher explained that the lamb did not really belong to that ewe. She had a lamb that was bitten by a rattlesnake and died. This lamb that Ironside saw was an orphan and needed a mother’s care.

But at first the ewe refused to have anything to do with it. She sniffed at it when it was brought to her, then pushed it away, saying as plainly as a sheep could say it, “That is not my lamb!” So the ranchers skinned the lamb that had died and covered the living lamb with the dead lamb’s skin. When the covered lamb was brought again to the ewe, she smelled it once more and accepted the lamb as her own as if to say, “That is Mine!”

Like that orphan lamb, all people are born as outcasts, separated from God because of our sin. But God’s only Son, Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God (John 1:29), died in our place on the cross and rose from the dead, so that when we believe or trust in Him alone, God can accept us into His family because He sees we are now clothed with the righteousness of His Son! He can say, “That is Mine!”

Prayer: Lord God, it is my tendency to avoid my own sin and shortcomings by focusing on the failures of others. I have convinced myself that I am better than others by the good things I think, say, or do. But You do not compare my righteousness with other people. You compare my righteousness with Your perfect Son, Jesus Christ. And I fall far short of His glory. All people are guilty sinners before a holy God. And therefore, I need Your perfect righteousness through faith in Jesus. As best I know how, I come to You right now as a guilty sinner. I cannot save myself. I believe Jesus is the perfect Lamb of God Who died in my place for all my sins and rose from the dead. I am now trusting in Jesus alone (not my imperfect righteousness), to give me His gift of righteousness and everlasting life so I may be accepted into God’s heaven. Thank You, my Lord and God, for covering me with Jesus’ righteousness and giving me everlasting life. Thank You for declaring me totally righteous before You the moment I believed in Jesus. In Jesus’ holy name I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Donald Grey Barnhouse,Let Me Illustrate (Grand Rapids: F. H. Revell Co., 1967), pp. 180-181.

2. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pp. 326-327.

3. Ibid, pg. 327.

4. Ibid.

5. Ibid.

6. Tom Constable, Notes on John (2017 Edition), pg. 332.

7. Ibid, pp. 332-333; Laney, pg. 327.

8. There seems to be a conflict between the Synoptic gospels which teach that the Last Supper was the Passover meal (Matthew 26:2, 17-19; Mark 14:1, 12, 14, 16; Luke 22:1, 7-8, 13, 15) and the gospel of John, which teaches that the Last Supper was not a Passover meal (John 13:1; 18:28; 19:14, 31-36). This apparent contradiction between the Synoptic gospels and the gospel of John can be resolved when we recognize that in Jesus’ day there were two systems of reckoning the day: from sunset to sunset (Exodus 12:18; Mark 4:27; 5:5; Luke 2:37) and from sunrise to sunrise (Genesis 1:14, 16; Deuteronomy 16:4; Matthew 28:1; Acts 4:3; 20:7-11; 23:32). The Galileans and Pharisees used the sunrise to sunrise reckoning. Thus, according to the Synoptics, the Last Supper was a Passover meal. Since this day was to be reckoned from sunrise, the Galileans, and with them Jesus and His disciples, had the Passover lamb slaughtered in the late afternoon on Thursday, Nisan 14 (cf. Exodus 12:6) and later that evening they ate the Passover with the unleavened bread. On the other hand, the Judean Jews who reckoned from sunset to sunset would slay the Passover lamb on Friday afternoon which marked the end of Nisan 14 and would eat the Passover lamb with unleavened bread that night which had become Nisan 15. Thus, Jesus had eaten the Passover meal when His enemies, who had not as yet had the Passover, arrested Him. This interpretation eliminates the difficulties presented in John’s gospel. First, this gives good sense to John 18:28 where the Jews did not want to enter the Praetorium so as not to be defiled since later that day they would slay the Passover lambs for those who reckoned from sunset to sunset. Second, John 19:14 makes sense for it says that Jesus’ trial and crucifixion were on the “day of preparation for the Passover” and not after the eating of the Passover. Third, this fits well with John 19:36 where it speaks of the fulfilment of the Old Testament (Exodus 14:26; Numbers 9:12) when no bones of Jesus, the Passover Lamb of God, were broken. After Jesus’ trial and crucifixion, He died when the Passover lambs were slain in the temple precincts.

9. Herbert Danby, The Mishnah (Oxford: Oxford Univ.: 1933), pg. 675, n. 10.  

10. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1819.

11. Ibid., pg. 1602.

12. R. Larry Moyer, Show Me How To Illustrate Evangelistic Sermons (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publication, 2012), pg. 127.

13. Ibid, pg. 138.

Is Jesus Christ Alive Today? (Video)

This video is about the everlasting hope that is found in the risen Lord Jesus Christ. Why do millions of people around the world celebrate Easter? What evidence is there that Jesus Christ is alive today? Discover the answers to these questions and much more. Please share this video with those you want to see in heaven.

Scripture are from the New King James Version unless otherwise noted. The song “Because He Lives I Can Face Tomorrow” by Jesusman, is Public Domain Mark 1.0 and is therefore not subject to copyright. Pictures are used with permission from Good News Productions International and College Press Publishing/ www.Freebibleimages.org, www.Goodsalt.com, or they are creative common licenses.

Lesson 1 Part 2 – Sharing the Gospel (Video)

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

Receiving Life Freely – Part 5 (Video)

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

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

Receiving Life Freely – Part 4 (Video)

This is the fourth video in a series about the gospel of John – the only book of the Bible whose primary purpose is to tell non-Christians how to obtain eternal life and a future home in heaven (John 20:31). This video looks at the fourth miracle of Jesus recorded in the gospel of John involving the miraculous feeding of thousands of people (John 6:1-13).

The movie clip subtitles are from the Good News Translation. All other Scripture are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted. Gospel of John pictures are used with permission from www.GoodSalt.com or they are creative common licenses. The Gospel of John movie clip is used with permission from Jesus.net. You may view the entire Life of Jesus movie at https://jesus.net/the-life-of-jesus/.

Receiving Life Freely – Part 3 (Video)

This is the third video in a series about the gospel of John – the only book of the Bible whose primary purpose is to tell non-Christians how to obtain eternal life and a future home in heaven (John 20:31). This video looks at the third miracle of Jesus recorded in the gospel of John involving the healing of a lame man (John 5:1-9).

The movie clip subtitles are from the Good News Translation. All other Scripture are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted. Gospel of John pictures are used with permission from John Paul Stanley/ www.YoPlace.com/ www.FreeBibleimages.org, and www.GoodSalt.com. The Gospel of John movie clip is used with permission from Jesus.net. You may view the entire Life of Jesus movie at https://jesus.net/the-life-of-jesus/.

Receiving Life Freely – Part 2 (Video)

This is the second video in a series about the gospel of John – the only book of the Bible whose primary purpose is to tell non-Christians how to obtain eternal life and a future home in heaven (John 20:31). This video looks at the second miracle Jesus performed in Cana of Galilee involving a nobleman’s son who was near death.

All Scripture are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted. Gospel of John pictures are used with permission from David Padfield/ www.FreeBibleimages.org,  www.GoodSalt.com, Good News Productions International and College Press Publishing, www.FreeBibleimages.org. The Gospel of John movie clip is used with permission from Jesus.net. You may view the entire Life of Jesus movie at https://jesus.net/the-life-of-jesus/.

How can I grow closer to the Good Shepherd? Part 1

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.” John 10:11

Pharisaism replaces rest in Jesus with demands for spiritual performance. People under a Pharisaic system can develop a distorted image of God. In John 10:11-21, we will discover that our Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, is on our side and not against us.

We saw in John 10:1-10 that we can trust Jesus as the true Shepherd because of …

– His prophetic credentials (John 10:1-2)

– The doorkeeper’s (John the Baptist) confirmation (John 10:3a)

– His personal concern for each of us (John 10:3b)

– His competent leadership (John 10:3c-6)

– His completely free offer of salvation (John 10:7-9a, 10b)

– His constant provision of nourishment (John 10:9b, 10c).

The Pharisees had not entered the sheepfold in the prescribed manner, that is, through faith in God’s Promised-Messiah, Jesus Christ. The Messiah and God’s provision of salvation through Him was a gracious gift not to be earned through compliance with the Law. Because of their unbelief, the Pharisees were false shepherds who misled their followers onto a treacherous path of dependency upon their own efforts to save themselves. Since they led the sheep along the wrong path away from the life Jesus offered, Jesus called them thieves and robbers of God’s sheep.

Being under a Pharisaic system can hinder believers from growing closer to the True Shepherd. The next few days, Lord willing, we will learn how to grow closer to the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, when we realize who He truly is. Those under a Pharisaic system may have a distorted view of Christ which keeps them from growing closer to Him. The remedy? Discover the truth about Jesus. He is a good, trustworthy Shepherd. I can grow closer to the Good Shepherd when I…

REALIZE HIS SACRIFICIAL INTEREST IN ME (10:11-13). Beginning in verse 11, there is a stark contrast between the Good Shepherd and the thief. Jesus identifies Himself as the Good Shepherd when He said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.” (John 10:11). This is another “I AM” statement by which Jesus claims to be the same God Who spoke to Moses in Exodus 3:14.

Notice that Jesus is not a mere shepherd, but “the good shepherd.” What does  “the good shepherd” do? He “gives His life for the sheep” so the sheep might live, but the thief comes to kill the sheep so he might live (John 10:10a). False shepherds come to take from others, but the Good Shepherd comes to give His life for the sheep. Jesus has the best interest of the sheep in mind. He laid down His life so that those who believe in Him may have eternal life (John 3:14-15). The word “for” in John 10:11 refers to the substitutionary death of Christ. Christ died “for” us or “instead” of us. He died in our place so we may live.

The Bible is clear that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Since God is a holy God, He must punish sin. God says that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). The word “death” here refers to eternal separation from God. All people deserve to die forever in the Lake of fire (Revelation 20:15).

God could have permitted us to take our own punishment. But instead, 2,000 years ago, God’s perfect Son took our place on the cross and died as our Substitute. The Bible tells us, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

A California newspaper reported that a man fired a gun into a pedestrian-filled sidewalk. To shield a three-year-old boy from the hail of bullets, a twenty-nine-year-old apartment manager grabbed him and ran back into the building. Carrying the boy, he ran up a flight of stairs before collapsing from two bullet wounds in his chest. A policeman observed, “He brought the boy out of the line of fire and died because of it.” 1

As our Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ took what caused our death, our sin, and died for us before coming back to life three days later. By dying in our place, Jesus satisfied God’s holy demand to punish our sins. Jesus is alive today and He has the power to save us from hell and give us eternal life. Jesus is the one and only “door” (John 10:9) for the sheep. He is the only One

Who paid the penalty for our sin when He died in our place on the cross and rose from the dead. There is no other way to get to heaven (John 14:6) except to believe in Jesus alone for His gift of eternal life (John 3:15; 6:68-69; Acts 4:12).

Have you ever come to the point where you accepted Jesus’ death on your behalf? If not, would you like to now? Simply take Christ at His Word when He said, “Whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). The moment you believe or trust in Jesus alone, He gives you eternal life which can never be lost or taken away from you.

Jesus is contrasted with the hireling who does not share the concern of the shepherd for the sheep. “But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them.” (John 10:12).  When the flock gets too large, the shepherd hires a man to help with the sheep. The hireling watched the sheep at night when danger lurked – lions, wolves, panthers, leopards, bears, and hyenas – in the countryside.

“The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep.” (John 10:13). When danger approached, the hireling fled because he doesn’t have personal concern for the sheep like the shepherd has. He only works for money with no sacrificial commitment to the sheep. Since he is a hired man, he also has no personal affection for the sheep.

The shepherd, on the other hand, owns the sheep and cares for their safety enough to even die for them (John 10:11). Christ loves His sheep so much that He was willing to purchase them with His own blood. The hireling is like the religious leaders who only cared for themselves. They used the peoples’ religious performance to meet their own spiritual needs instead of really caring about the needs of the people.

We can act like a hireling when we put our own needs ahead of the people God wants us to serve. For example, when a brother or sister in Christ is opposed by others because of their Christian faith, will we identify with them and support them at the risk of being attacked ourselves? Or will we withdraw from them to protect ourselves? Our Good Shepherd was willing to take a stand and fight for us against the forces of hell when He went to the cross on our behalf. As we grow closer to Him, He can help us put the needs of others ahead of our own.

Prayer: Your goodness, my Lord Jesus, was clearly and powerfully demonstrated when You gave Your life for the sheep. Unlike a robber or a hireling that cares more about himself than the sheep, You were willing to sacrifice Yourself so we may live forever with You after believing in You. False shepherds come to take from others, but You came to give. Knowing You have my best interest in mind invites me to grow closer to You. This can be difficult for me at times because I let my past wounds from spiritual leaders interfere with my view of You now. I pray Your Holy Spirit will remind me that since You gave me Your best when I was at my worst, how much more will You do now that I am in Your sheepfold (cf. Romans 8:31-32)!?! Please live Your life in and through me so others may experience Your goodness as a result. Thank You my Good Good Shepherd. I love You. In Your name I celebrate! Amen.  

ENDNOTE:

1.   From EvanTell’s 2010 “What are you depending on…” gospel tract.