“Stop Doubting and Believe”

John’s Gospel – Chapter 20

 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”  Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” (John 20:26-27 NIV)

Despite all the evidence, Jesus’ own disciples had difficulty BELIEVING in His resurrection. On that Sunday morning, everything about Jesus – His mission in the world, His ministry and His message – was forever validated. Still they struggled to BELIEVE! Mary was blinded by grief. Peter and John still did not recognize that Scripture was fulfilled right before their eyes.  And Thomas simply refused to believe it until He could see and touch Jesus for himself.

Now, when it comes to FAITH, i.e. BELIEVING GOD, the Scripture is clear: Without faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). Jesus had finished everything He came into the world to do. The proof was literally right in front of them, but they had to choose between doubting and believing. It is the same for every one of us. When the case has been presented and the evidence for Jesus laid before us, the time comes when we must choose to “stop doubting and believe.” The consequences of our choice are both life-changing and everlasting.

Seeing IS NOT always believing!

Jesus’ disciples saw many evidences to His resurrection within hours of the event; but they all struggled to believe.

  • Mary Magdalene saw the stone rolled away, two angels and was the first to see the risen Jesus. Still, she did not recognize Him until He called her name (vv.1-2; 10-16).
  • Peter and John were first to enter the empty tomb. They saw the burial cloths minus Jesus’ body. John saw and believed, but neither of them understood that Bible prophecy and Jesus’ own prediction had just been fulfilled (vv.3-9):
    • For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your holy one to rot in the grave. (Psalm 16:10 NLT)
    • “On the third day he will be raised to life!” (Matthew 20:19 NIV)
  • The other disciples heard the reports of Peter, John and Mary Magdalene, but they did not believe and rejoice until Jesus himself appeared to them that evening behind their locked doors (vv.19-20).
  • Thomas heard all the others’ testimonies but vowed not to believe until He saw and touched Jesus himself. Jesus obliged him (vv.24-28).

Jesus’ final words to Thomas teach us that BELIEVING is MORE THAN SEEING! – “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29 NIV)

What causes doubt?

With so much EVIDENCE for believing in Jesus, His resurrection and everything about Him – why did His disciples struggle so with doubt? What causes doubt?

  • The first doubt and innumerable doubts ever since are caused by SATAN (Genesis 3:4). He specializes in planting doubt into the human spirit. Jesus called him the father of lies (John 8:44). He even tempted Jesus to doubt himself and God the Father (Matthew 4:1-11).
  • Our own EXPECTATIONS lead us to doubt. Mary expected to find things just as they were when she saw Jesus buried two days prior. Peter and John did not expect to find Jesus missing from the tomb. What they all found instead was just hard to believe.
  • EMOTIONS can confuse and cause doubt. Mary’s grief and anxiety blinded her recognition of Jesus.
  • DEMANDING MORE from God than He requires of us is doubting, not believing. Therefore, Thomas is commonly called Doubting Thomas. Jesus said that faith as small as a mustard seed can move a mountain (Matthew 17:20). It doesn’t take much to please God! Thomas demanded more evidence than was already given before he would believe Jesus was alive. Jesus described the generation of His day as “wicked” because they demanded a miraculous sign. He also said the only sign they would be given was “the sign of Jonah” – a reference to His resurrection (Luke 11:29).
  • BIBLICAL IGNORANCE causes doubt. Though confirmation of multiple Old Testament prophets and Jesus’ own prophesies was starring them in the face, Peter and John still did not understand the meaning of all this (v.9). Paul writing to the Romans said, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Rom 10:17 NKJV). Reading, hearing, learning the Scriptures not only increases our knowledge and understanding – it BUILDS OUR FAITH!

Two things to REMEMBER:

  • The things we cannot see (the spiritual) are just as real and even more significant than what we can see (the physical) – 2 Corinthians 4:13-18.
  • The spiritual/supernatural world explains/interprets the physical/natural world; not the other way around. Jesus himself is evidence of that. The Son of God (spiritual) became the Son of Man (physical) in order to reveal heavenly/spiritual things to us: But if you don’t believe me when I tell you about earthly things, how can you possibly believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ever gone to heaven and returned. But the Son of Man has come down from heaven. And as Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life. (John 3:12-15 NLT)

Doubting is more than not believing.

We all struggle to believe at times, i.e. when going through new experiences, coping with suffering and loss, challenges that exceed our own capabilities, etc. James, the head of the Jerusalem church and brother to Jesus, described doubting as an uncertainty of mind that leads to an unstable life (James 1:8). Think of a boat at sea without anchor or rudder. There is nothing to hold it steady or direct its course. So, it drifts aimlessly and helplessly toward an uncertain end. Today’s society has become more and more a culture of doubt rather than belief. Postmodern philosophy which rejects advocates skepticism, rejects reason, and deplores traditional ideologies, has come to dominate younger generations and increasingly directs, or misdirects, older groups as well. If America seems generally to have become untethered, drifting and aimless – it is. Without guidance from God law and order disappear, but God blesses everyone who obeys his Law. (Proverbs 29:18 CEV)

Believing in Jesus is more than a statement.

Paul said to the Philippian jailer, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.” (Acts 16:31). But there’s a lot of meaning in so brief a statement:

  • Believing in Jesus is “the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Jesus’ himself is the SUBSTANCE (the content, solidity, body) of everything we hope for (believe in) as Christians; and His resurrection is the key EVIDENCE (proof, confirmation, substantiation) that what we believe in is true/valid – 1 Corinthians 15:17-23.
  • Believing in Jesus is the only way to really live (John 14:6). We are what we believe (Proverbs 23:7). We walk (are guided in our everyday living) by our faith and not by our sight (Galatians 2:20). Jesus is the ONLY WAY to know God and live in His light (truth) not darkness (deception). There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death. (Proverbs 14:12 NIV).
  • Believing in Jesus is knowing and applying His words (the Scriptures) to our lives: “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.” (Matt 7:24-25 NIV). Also see Luke 24:45-47.
  • Believing in Jesus is LIVING in the BLESSINGS of God Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. (Ephesians 1:3 NIV).

Summary

Living the life of faith in Jesus Christ is CHALLENGING but also very REWARDING for both individual believers and whole societies. There are many causes to doubt, but more reasons to BELIEVE! The evidence for Jesus’ resurrection is there for any and all to examine. JESUS IS the substance of everything we believe, and His resurrection is the evidence that what we believe is true. Believing in Jesus entitles us to enjoy the blessings of God here and now and the blessings of life in Heaven with Him forever. As Jesus said to Thomas, “Stop doubting and believe.”

The Meaning of Eternal Life

John 17:1-26

LIFE, or the extinguishing of it, has been very much the talk of the nation these last few weeks since New York State law makers passed sweeping legislation that allows the wanton murder of children both within and outside the mother’s womb. Other states have since followed suit or are considering similar laws. America’s leadership among the nations in the slaughter of the most innocent and helpless just edged higher. Surely this is the most egregious violation of everything America was and is supposed to be. The very first document relative to our founding, the Declaration of Independence, declares that all persons have the “right to life”! And our Founding Fathers wisely recognized that it is the first responsibility of government to protect life, but the right itself is given not by government or anyone else, but by Almighty God!

I submit to you that as Americans we are already engaged in a great new civil war. A war that will determine the future of our country, who and what we are and what we will be remembered for. This is a culture war; a struggle for the very soul of our people. There are multiple points of conflict between sides, but the ISSUE OF LIFE is the most contentious and unquestionably that one point on which there can be no quarter because apart from LIFE nothing else really matters. In just my lifetime, our society has devolved from a society that reveres life and recognizes the intrinsic value of every individual life to a culture that reverences nothing and insists that a person’s value is determined, not by their being, but by how their being affects others. This war is not fought nor can it ever be won with bombs and bullets. This is a battle for the heart and mind – what we believe and think as a people. The Bible says we are what we think (Proverbs 23:7). The Apostle Paul challenged New Testament believers to realize that ours is a spiritual warfare and the foremost weapons in our arsenal are TRUTH and RIGHTEOUSNESS (Ephesians 6:12-14) – what we BELIEVE and THINK! What we as a people believe and think about life will determine how we live our lives and how we view the lives of others.

So, let us consider the DEFINITION OF LIFE and from there the MEANING OF ETERNAL LIFE!

 

The Science of Life

The Oxford English Dictionary definition of “life” is – “The condition that distinguishes animals and plants from inorganic matter, including the capacity for growth, reproduction, functional activity, and continual change preceding death.”[1] This strictly physical and non-spiritual definition of life follows the school of thought espoused by progressives, socialists and atheists the world over, and we have been indoctrinating America’s youth into it for several generations. The idea that life exists apart from and is better off without God has been systematically drummed into the minds and hearts of our people via public education, the news and entertainment media, political leaders and even some in the Church for years – and now the armies advancing a culture of death and those defending a society that values life are called into action.

The Science of Life is a book written by H.G. Wells, Julian Huxley and G.P. Wells in three volumes between 1929 and 1931. It has been called “the first modern textbook of biology” and “the best popular introduction to the biological sciences”. The subtitle summarizes its content – “a summary of contemporary knowledge about life and its possibilities”.  As late as 1960, it was still being used in college classes in the U.S. H.G. Wells was a renowned English writer described as “a worthy successor to Charles Dickens”. An outspoken socialist, Wells “devoted his literary talents to the development of a progressive vision on a global scale.” “His thinking on ethical matters took place in a specifically and fundamentally Darwinian context”.[2] Julian Huxley was a secular humanist, eugenicist and internationalist. “Secular humanism, or simply humanism, is a philosophy or life stance that embraces human reason, ethics, and philosophical naturalism while specifically rejecting religious dogma, super-naturalism, pseudoscience, and superstition as the basis of morality and decision making.”[3] Humanism replaces God with man as the center of universal attention and authority. “Eugenics is a set of beliefs and practices that aims at improving the genetic quality of a human population by excluding (through a variety of morally criticized means) certain genetic groups judged to be less desirable and promoting other genetic groups judged to be superior.”[4]Internationalism is a political principle which transcends nationalism and advocates a greater political or economic cooperation among nations and people.”[5]

Wells, Huxley and The Science of Life are only one example of numerous contributors dedicated to transforming America from a society that reverences life to a people that see it as not very special at all.

 

The Giver of Life

The Bible gives a very different definition of life. Life is more than organic! Life is more than the capacity for growth, reproduction, functional activity, and continual change preceding death. Life is the capacity for KNOWING GOD!

  • God made you both physical and SPIRITUAL! And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. (Genesis 2:7 KJV). It is the breath (life-giving Spirit) of God resident in you that elevates your life and the life of every human being above the purely organic.
  • Your life BELONGS to God! I know, Lord, that our lives are not our own. We are not able to plan our own course. (Jeremiah 10:23 NLT) This really “ruffles the feathers” of those who reject the existence of God and our accountability to Him.
  • Your life is PRECIOUS to God! His IMAGE resides in you (Genesis 9:6).
  • Your life is by APPOINTMENT not accident! Contrary to Charles Darwin, John Huxley and all evolution theorists “. . . it is he (God) himself who gives life and breath and everything else to everyone. From one human being he created all races of people and made them live throughout the whole earth. He himself fixed beforehand the exact times and the limits of the places where they would live.” (Acts 17:25-27 Good News Translation)
    • An impoverished itinerant preacher and his wife had fourteen children and fifteen was on the way. Thank God they didn’t abort; He was sending us John Wesley – founder of the Methodist Church.
    • A mother with TB is pregnant with child number five. Her first child is blind; the second died; the third is deaf; and the fourth also has TB. Thank God she didn’t abort – He was sending the world Ludwig van Beethoven.
    • A 13-year-old black girl raped by a white man is now pregnant. They are so poor; the family often steals for food. Thank God she didn’t abort – He was sending us gospel artist Ethel Waters.
    • A teenage girl is pregnant and the man she hopes to marry isn’t the father. Thank God she didn’t abort – God was sending us His Son, Jesus Christ.[6]
    • God alone knows how many blessings to humanity have been forever lost because their bearers were not deemed worthy to live.
  • You are God’s MASTERPIECE made for His Glory! (Ephesians 2:10; 1:12). Literally, God broke the mold that made you. In the world of art there is only one Mona Liza. In all God’s universe, there is only one you. Countless priceless treasures have been destroyed in the name of personal choice!

 

The Enemy of Life

We face a REAL ENEMY in this cultural civil war. Our real enemy isn’t a politician or entertainer or author or TV talk show host or any other such that you could name. Our real enemy is the Devil:

  • Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8 NIV)
  • The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; (John 10:10a NIV)

Satan is a liar bent on murder (taking life from us), and the only way we overcome him is by clinging to the truth:

  • He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:44 NIV)
  • Resist him, standing firm in the faith, (1 Peter 5:9 NIV)
  • take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. (Ephesians 6:16 NIV)

 

Eternal Life

The preeminent prayer of Jesus Christ for you and me and the whole world is that we might know God and have ETERNAL LIFE!

  • Eternal life is made possible through Jesus’ sacrificial death: “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. 2 For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him.
  • Eternal life is KNOWING (having a personal relationship with) GOD through JESUS CHRIST: Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. (John 17:3-4 NIV)
  • Eternal life is had by RECEIVING and BELIEVING the WORD about Jesus Christ (vv. 6-8; Romans 1:16-17; 10:17).
  • Eternal life is a SECURE life (vv. 9-12; Romans 8:35-39).
  • Eternal life is a JOYFUL life (13-15; James 1:2-5).
  • Eternal life is a SANCTIFIED (living for God not myself) life (vv. 16-19; 2 Corinthians 6:17-18).
  • Eternal life is a UNITED (to God and with fellow believers) life (vv. 20-23; Ephesians 4:3-6).
  • Eternal life is the GLORIFIED (God’s finished work) life – when we are present with and see Jesus as He is (v. 24; Romans 8:30; 1 John 3:2-3).
  • Eternal life is KNOWING JESUS CHRIST for yourself (vv. 25-26). He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. (1 John 5:12 NIV)

ETERNAL LIFE is having an up close and PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP with GOD, and the only way to know God is through HIS SON, JESUS CHRIST!

[1] https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/life

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H._G._Wells#Political_views

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secular_humanism

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eugenics

[5] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internationalism_(politics)

[6] https://www.catholicconvert.com/wp-content/uploads/Documents/AbortionDecide.pdf

“Do Not Be Afraid”

“Do not be afraid” occurs sixty-nine times in the New International Version of the Bible; “do not be discouraged six times; “let not your hearts be troubled” twice, and the word “peace” is there 250 times. Have any idea what God wants our attitude to be about circumstances in the world?

The LORD said to Joshua, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9 New International Version) The angels said to the shepherds, “Do not be afraid.” (Luke 2:10) Jesus said to His disciples, “Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27 NIV) And Paul wrote to Timothy, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2 Tim 1:7 King James Version)

The message of Jesus Christ, the gospel, is a message of courage, not fear. It is everything to celebrate and leaves no room for despair. The Son of God came down to earth to bring us up to heaven. The very God who sets the rules and judges the rule breakers, took that judgment upon Himself in our place. And this grace, this mercy, this salvation of God is for everyone who believes that Jesus is the Savior just as the angel announced (Luke 2:11).

Fear is the opposite of faith. But faith in just anything is no antidote to fear. It is our faith in God that makes the difference. If our faith is in others no better than ourselves – what good is that? If our faith is in people we think are better than ourselves – they still come up short. If our faith is in fortune – stocks plunge. If our faith is in politics – administrations change. If our faith is in good health – don’t ever get sick. No, in all the world and in all the history of the world, there is only One who never has or ever will fail those who put their faith in Him – Jesus Christ. Jesus was so confident in His ability to take care of His followers that He equated Himself with God – “you believe in God, believe also in Me” (John 14:1 New King James Version).

Abel believed God and was counted righteous. Noah believed God and built an ark and rescued humanity from obliteration. Abraham believed God and received an earthly inheritance and a heavenly reward. Moses believed God and brought Israel out of bondage into liberty – a thing he tried and could not do himself. Joshua believed God and toppled cities – literally. David believed God and killed a giant and became king. The prophets believed God, opposed kings and won. The apostles believed Christ and, leaving all else, they followed Him to make disciples in all the nations. Through faith in Christ they preached the gospel, healed the sick, raised the dead, overthrew kingdoms and put demons to flight. Because of their faith in Christ no weapon ever forged prevailed against them. Through faith in Christ they established a new movement in the world that transformed the world and continues to change it to this day. Jesus declared to them, “Upon this rock I will build my church and the power of hell will not overcome it.” (Matthew 16:18 paraphrase)

During World War I, on and around Christmas Day 1914, the sounds of rifles firing and shells exploding faded in a number of places along the Western Front in favor of holiday celebrations in the trenches and gestures of goodwill between enemies.

  • Our hope is in the LORD: “We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord, even as we put our hope in you.” (Psalm 33:20-22 New International Version)
  • Everyone who has faith in Christ will overcome the world: “For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith. And who can win this battle against the world? Only those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God.” (1 John 5:4-5 New Living Translation)
  • A new world is coming, and you will love it: “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.” (Revelation 21:4-5 New Living Translation)

No one can say what tomorrow holds, but we know Who holds tomorrow. Faith in Him not only dispels fear, it wins the fray!

Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6 NIV)

Jesus is the one and only way to God and into His Heaven. He reveals to us the truth of who God is. That’s why He could say emphatically in 14:9 – Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. And Jesus is himself the life God wants us all to have and the power to live it.

Jesus is the only Way to God and Heaven. (John 14:1-6)

Jesus and His disciples were still in the upper room where they had just observed the Passover meal together – the Jewish Seder. Jesus was preparing them for His imminent departure. He said in John 13:33, “My children, I will be with you only a little longer.” And, although the disciples didn’t realize it, within 24 hours Jesus would be lying dead in the tomb He borrowed from Joseph of Arimathea.

A point to ponder here is the omniscience and sovereignty of God. Jesus knew everything that was going to unfold in a day’s time. And, although His disciples didn’t understand, He was preparing them for what lay ahead. Jesus knew and had known for some time that this day was coming. He said only a few days before when Mary, the sister of Lazarus, anointed His feet – “It was intended, that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial.” (12:7) He also explained that dying is why He came into the world: “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. . .No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour.” (12:23-24, 27) We never know what the next day may bring in our lives, but God does; and true to His Word – He goes with us and will never leave nor forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6). That’s why Jesus says: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.” (v.1)

While Jesus was preparing them for His imminent departure, He also promised them His imminent return: In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. (vv.2-3)

Please allow me to give you Garmon’s paraphrase: Jesus said, “I am returning to my Father’s house to prepare a place for you to come and stay. When all is ready, I will be back to pick you up and take you home with me.”

“Receive” in the KJV means to “take out” – to catch away! In 1 Thessalonians 4:17-18, Paul says both the dead and living saints will be caught up together. . .to meet the Lord in the air. And so, we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words.” (NIV)

Interpretations vary on the details of Jesus’ second coming; but He made some things very clear:

  1. His return is certain! He said – “I will come back”.
  2. His return is imminent! To His disciples’ earlier question “when” would it be, Jesus gave no date, no time and said only “keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.” (Mt 24:32-42) That means it could happen any time!
  3. He is coming to take us to Heaven! “My Father’s house” is synonymous with “the house of the LORD” in Psalm 23:6 and is God’s dwelling place, i.e. Heaven (Matthew 6:9).
  4. Heaven is real! If it weren’t, Jesus would have said so.
  5. Heaven is BIG! The rooms are big as mansions and there are many of them – enough for everyone who wants to go there. John gives its physical dimensions in Revelation 21:16.
  6. Jesus is the ONLY WAY to the Father who is in Heaven! “I am the way. . .No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (v.6). If you want to go to Heaven, you got to go through Jesus!

Jesus is the Truth of God revealed to us. (John 14:7-14)

I know, people believe all sorts of things about all sorts of gods, and the universal question is – who is telling the truth? It was no different in Jesus’ day. The clear majority believed in many gods (polytheism). A few believed in no gods (atheism). The Jews, and later Christians, believed in one God (monotheism). Most people, then and now, are very mixed up in their understanding of God. Jesus said, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.” (Matthew 22:29 NIV)

The POPULAR CULTURE of our day believes there is NO TRUTH and that whatever one person or one religion believes about God is as true as any other. But TRUTH EXISTS, and it is by definition EXCLUSIVE, CONSTANT and REAL. Let us consider just one truth of God revealed to us in Jesus that is exclusively Christian, constant in Scripture and made real to everyone who believes it, i.e. the LOVE of God expressed in the GRACE of God through Jesus Christ, the SON of God.

Many people mistakenly think the God of the Bible and the god of the Quran (Islamic Scriptures) are the same God. Nothing could be further from the TRUTH!

The Quran (Islamic Scriptures) states – “If ye love Allah, follow me; Allah will love and forgive you your sins.” (Qur’an 3:31) “Allah loves not transgressors” (2:190) “He loves not creatures ungrateful or wicked” (2:276) “Allah loves not those who do wrong” (3:57, 140) “Allah loves not the arrogant, the vainglorious” (4:36).[1] Allah will show mercy to those who call upon him, forgive their sins and provide them guidance to follow “the straight path” so they may please him.

Now listen to what the Bible says about God in Psalm 103:8-12:

8 The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
9 He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;
10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us. (NIV)

Unlike Allah, GOD LOVES EVERYONE, even sinners! The Bible says, God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.  (Romans 5:8 NLT) To be sure, God DOES NOT ignore our sins. But, realizing our complete inability to follow “the straight path” (according to Islam) that pleases Him, God sent Jesus, His only Begotten Son, into the world to fulfill justice through His death and to make us righteous through His life: For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10 English Standard Version) The word for the love of God expressed to us this way in Jesus is GRACE!

THE TRUTH IS, God by any other name is NOT THE SAME! Acts 4:12 declares, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (NIV) Allah requires we please him to be saved. God saves us so we can please Him. That is LOVE! That is GRACE! And, that is the God I serve!

Jesus is the Life God wants you to live! (John 14:15-31)

Jesus is much more than our example of how God wants us to live. Jesus IS THE LIFE God wants you to have and the power to live it!

The whole of a Christian’s life might be summed according to 2 Corinthians 5:7-10:

  • Living by faith in the LordWe live by faith, not by sight. (v.7)
  • Longing to be with the LordWe are confident. . .and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. (v.8)
  • Living to please the LordSo we make it our goal to please him, (v.9a).
  • Looking for reward from the LordFor we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. (v.10 NIV)

The only way we are able to live the Christian life is by Christ living in us: I have been put to death on the cross with Christ; still I am living; no longer I, but Christ is living in me; and that life which I now am living in the flesh I am living by faith, the faith of the Son of God, who in love for me, gave himself up for me. (Galatians 2:20 Bible in Basic English)

Through His death, Jesus justifies us. Through His life, He makes us righteous (pleasing to God):

15 “If you love me, you will obey what I command. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” (John 14:15-21 NIV)

Conclusion

If you’re alive, then you’re on your way somewhere. Life, this life, here and now, your life is not an end in itself. It is a journey on your way to eternity, and at the end of your journey you will spend eternity either with God or away from God. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came into the world, this world, this life to show us the way to God and into His Heaven. He came to reveal who God is to us, that He loves us and wants us to come and live with Him forever. And, Jesus came so that we might please God in our lives both now and forever. No matter where you look, you will never find in anyone else or in any other faith/religion One who is the Way to God, the Truth of God and the Life of God. All you must do is BELIEVE!

[1] http://www.religionfacts.com/allah

Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26 New International Version)

This is arguably one of the most incredible statements Jesus ever made about Himself and it ought to have ended any credible claim He had to be Israel’s Messiah. Instead, by raising Lazarus from the dead, He proved that not only is He the Christ but the Son of God as well.

Jesus is the Son of God.

John’s gospel like Matthew, Mark and Luke is written in NARRATIVE (story telling) form. As much as 75% of the Bible is written as narrative. Narrative literature presents to readers a story of events sometimes factual, sometimes fictional and sometimes mixed together. All four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, were written by their authors and accepted by the early Church as factual accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus, the Christ (Messiah). Matthew begins by stating: The historical record of Jesus Christ (Mt 1:1). Mark’s account, like all the gospels, abounds start to finish with references to real persons in real places in the first century time that Jesus lived. Luke wrote in the introduction to his gospel: Many people have set out to write accounts about the events that have been fulfilled among us. 2 They used the eyewitness reports circulating among us from the early disciples. 3 Having carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I also have decided to write a careful account for you, most honorable Theophilus, 4 so you can be certain of the truth of everything you were taught. (Luke 1:1-4 New Living Translation) And John states near the conclusion of his gospel that the things he writes about are factual and purposeful: The disciples saw Jesus do many other miraculous signs in addition to the ones recorded in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name. (John 20:30-31 NLT)

To be clear, then, the gospels, all four of them, should be read and understood as:

  1. Factual records of Jesus’ life and ministry, and
  2. Inspirational literature intended to encourage belief in Jesus Christ.

Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, perhaps more than any other miracle, authenticates the DIVINITY OF JESUS. Only a little earlier the Jews in Jerusalem threatened to stone Jesus because He claimed equality with God (10:33). And to them He responded: Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does. 38 But if I do it, even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.” (John 10:37-38 NIV)

Jesus proved that He could do what only God can do – GIVE LIFE!

  • Genesis 2:7 says God breathed into man the breath of life: and man became a LIVING SOUL.
  • Job 12:10 says the soul of every living thing and the breath of man are in God’s hand.
  • And Jesus said himself: “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have LIFE IN HIMSELF.(John 5:25-27 English Standard Version)

Many make the claim or have the very mistaken idea that Jesus never claimed equality with God. They say the idea that Jesus was/is God is one that evolved in the growing first century Church. But, if you believe John’s gospel is a historical narrative of real events; and if you believe in miracles; then the EVIDENCE CONFIRMS Martha’s confession – Jesus is the SON OF GOD (v.27). A confession that Jesus not only accepted but later affirmed: “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” (v.40 NIV). Jesus Christ is the GLORY (the very essence and person) OF GOD in the flesh: So, the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his GLORY, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son. (1:14 NLT).

Jesus is the resurrection and the life.

In just two words Jesus moved the hope of resurrection from a day in the prophetic future (an hour is coming – 5:25) to a present-day reality (is now here – 5:25). Just two words redefined a religious dogma on paper as a divine relationship between you and God – “I AM” (v.25). This is the fifth of Jesus’ seven “I am” statements:

  • “I am the bread of life” (6:35)
  • “I am the light of the world” (8:12)
  • “I am the gate” (10:7)
  • “I am the good shepherd” (10:11)
  • “I am the resurrection and the life” (11:25)
  • “I am the way, the truth and the life” (14:6)
  • “I am the vine” (15:1)

Whenever Jesus prefaced these names/titles with “I am”, He was identifying Himself as God. You’ll remember that “I Am” is how the LORD identified Himself to Moses in Exodus 3:14 when He commissioned him to bring His people, Israel, out of Egypt. “I Am” is equivalent to Yahweh/Jehovah transliterated in our English Bibles as “LORD” and the name by which God revealed Himself to His people (Ex 3:15). Jesus’ referencing Himself as “I am” was understood by the Jews as calling Himself God, so they threatened to kill Him (8:58).

When Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life,” He was claiming to be the source of both. There is no resurrection apart from Christ, and there is no eternal life apart from Christ. Beyond that, Jesus was also making a statement concerning His divine nature. He does more than give life; He is life, and therefore death has no ultimate power over Him. Jesus confers this spiritual life on those who believe in Him, so that they share His triumph over death (1 John 5:11-12). Believers in Jesus Christ will experience resurrection because, having the life Jesus gives, it is impossible for death to defeat them (1 Corinthians 15:53-57).[1]

Everyone wants to LIVE! Everyone wants to enjoy LIFE! Those who say otherwise are likely troubled emotionally, disabled mentally, darkened spiritually or just plain dishonest (Ephesians 5:29). The normal, healthy attitude about life is you want to LIVE IT! Death is antithetical to life and we do all we can to avoid it. We take pills, lose weight, have surgeries, exercise, etc. And, although we’ve managed to extend the average lifespan, we know death is inevitable! So, we look BEYOND DEATH to the HOPE of ETERNAL LIFE or life after death. Virtually every culture contemporary and historic believes in an afterlife. Orthodox Jews, like Martha, believed in the resurrection, a day foretold by the prophet Daniel when, “Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.” (Daniel 12:2 NIV) At Word of Life Evangelical Church, we believe in the bodily resurrection of the dead; of the believer to everlasting blessedness and joy with the Lord, of the unbeliever to judgment and everlasting conscious punishment.[2] Jesus is WHY we believe in the bodily resurrection of the dead:

  • He proved His power as the Son of God to raise the dead to life. Lazarus was the third person Jesus resurrected. He had been dead four days and already begun to decay.
  • Jesus resurrected Himself by His own power on the third day following His crucifixion, and He will never die again.
  • He rose from the grave BODILY, and Scripture declares He is the first of many who will follow: Christ (the Messiah) [is] the firstfruits, then those who are Christ’s [own will be resurrected] at His coming. (1 Cor 15:23 Amplified Bible)
  • He said those who believe in Him will live, even though he dies (v.25) – that is the RESURRECTION.
  • He said the dead (multiple) would hear His voice (just like Lazarus), come to life and live ETERNALLY [John 5:23].

Those who have no faith/religion criticize them that do for believing in things, they say, are not real:

  • Faith means not wanting to know what is true. — Friedrich Nietzsche (19th century German philosopher spoke of “the death of God” and had a profound influence on western culture)
  • A man is accepted into a church for what he believes, and he is turned out for what he knows. — Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain – American author)
  • It’s an incredible con job when you think about it, to believe something now in exchange for something after death. Even corporations with their reward systems don’t try to make it posthumous. — Gloria Steinem (American feminist, journalist and social political activist)

And, if there were no actual SUBSTANCE of things HOPED for, or EVIDENCE of things NOT SEEN, they might be right. But Jesus is, by virtue of His RESURRECTION power and by the LIFE He gives right now to all who believe in Him, the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1). JESUS CHRIST is both our HOPE (RESURRECTION) and the SUBSTANCE (LIFE) of our hope!

For Christians, eternal life is NOT something just ahead of you, it is IN YOU! For believers in Jesus, eternal life begins NOW, i.e. the moment you believe in Him:

  • The testimony is this: God has given us eternal life, and this life has its source in his Son. Whoever has the Son has this life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. (1 John 5:11-12 Good News Translation) Notice it is present tense – has this life.
  • but it is Christ who lives in me. This life that I live now, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave his life for me. (Ga 2:20-21 Good News Translation) The life we LIVE NOW is by faith in Jesus, the Son of God.
  • It is described in part by His other “I am” statements: “bread of life” – sustenance; “gate” – the way in, community; “the good shepherd” – sustenance, security, guidance; “the way, the truth and the life” – direction, understanding, purpose; “the vine” – vitality, productivity, connection.

But eternal life is more than spiritual, mystical or immaterial. It is very much physical, bodily and material. Jesus proved the SUBSTANCE of that as well:

  • Lazarus, already decaying after four days, was raised completely whole.
  • Jesus’ own resurrection was material, not spiritual. The women who were first at the tomb on resurrection morning, found the stone rolled away but they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. (Luke 24:3)
  • Jesus’ resurrection body was corporeal, powerful, incorruptible and empowered by the Holy Spirit. And our resurrection bodies will be like His:

It is the same way with the resurrection of the dead. Our earthly bodies are planted in the ground when we die, but they will be raised to live forever. 43 Our bodies are buried in brokenness, but they will be raised in glory. They are buried in weakness, but they will be raised in strength. 44 They are buried as natural human bodies, but they will be raised as spiritual bodies. For just as there are natural bodies, there are also spiritual bodies.

45 The Scriptures tell us, “The first man, Adam, became a living person.” But the last Adam—that is, Christ—is a life-giving Spirit. 46 What comes first is the natural body, then the spiritual body comes later. 47 Adam, the first man, was made from the dust of the earth, while Christ, the second man, came from heaven. 48 Earthly people are like the earthly man, and heavenly people are like the heavenly man. 49 Just as we are now like the earthly man, we will someday be like the heavenly man. (1 Cor 15:42-49 NLT)

Other religions can talk about life after death, but only Jesus Christ gives you the substance (ETERNAL LIFE) of what you hope for (RESURRECTION) right now! “Do you believe this?” (v.26).

 

 

 

[1] https://www.gotquestions.org/resurrection-and-life.html

[2] WOLEC Statement of Faith, Article 12.

The American Idea

I witnessed something truly wonderful and altogether the other night, July 3, 2018, at Georgia’s Stone Mountain Park Fourth of July Laser Show and Fireworks Celebration. The show itself was the best I’ve seen in its thirty-five years history. But the wonderful and encouraging part was the people in attendance. Thousands of people! People of different ethnicity, cultures, colors, creeds – you name it – they were there. They were there for hours pressed close together on a hot, hazy and humid Georgia summer night. And they were there sitting and eating together; standing and singing together; making noise and celebrating together.

I’m very sure that among such a multitude, the opinions, politics, beliefs and preferences were as diverse as the people themselves. Yet there they were, shoulder-to-shoulder, all celebrating the one thing they had in common – the United States of America. More than a country; America is an idea worth celebrating.

America is the idea that we the people of the United States are America.[i] America is not the government or Washington, D.C. Strictly speaking, it is not even its borders or member states. America is her people! We are America! And history demonstrates that when America stands united, the enemies of freedom for humanity are overcome, the blessings of liberty are expanded in the world and secured for future generations.

America is the idea that all men (persons) are created equal.[ii] Human equality is an eternal fact not subject to human evaluation, and our Founders deemed it first among those truths self-evident.  And, although the awareness was not the praxis of all the Declaration’s signers, still they affirmed it unanimously – something quite unique in the history of nations. Also, it should be recognized by Americans today that, though America has its own record of human rights violations, no country in history has exerted greater effort or expended more blood to correct its own injustices. It has long been said, “The wheels of justice turn slowly, but grind exceedingly fine.”[iii]

America is the idea that all persons are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. Other nations were established on the divine right of kings; some still are. America was and is established on the divine rights of all persons, not just potentates, politicians or those otherwise powerful. The Declaration’s list of rights is not exhaustive but emphasizes three: the right to life, the right to liberty in life, and the right to pursue a happy life.  It states further that the reason we have governments is to secure these rights. Prior to America, the nature and construct of governments was to preserve the governments. But the Declaration of Independence defined the responsibility of government, and the Constitution of the United States proscribed the reach of government – all in favor of the peoples’ rights.

Now we certainly can all agree that the American idea is not yet the American ideal. To parody the Apostle Paul in the New Testament – we have not yet taken hold of all that our Founders envisioned. But united together we press on toward the goal (Philippians 3:13-14).  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said it probably best of anyone: ‘“I say to you today, my friends, though, even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up, live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’”[iv] Dr. King spoke those words during what was perhaps the most socially tumultuous and culturally trans-formative decade in American history. Yet never did he advocate the abolition of the American idea, but rather that the American dream, that all men are created equal, be fully apprehended.

Now, in our own tumultuous and trans-formative moment in history, we do well – all of us – to heed the wisdom of the Apostle Paul and remember the dream of Dr. King. Whatever our differences politically and otherwise, let us – the people of the United States – stand together to celebrate the idea that is America and to ensure that “government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”[v] That spirit, that attitude, that idea was on display at Stone Mountain Park in Stone Mountain, Georgia, on the eve of America’s 242nd Fourth of July, and I was proud to see it. God bless America!

 

 

[i] The Constitution of the United States, Sept 17, 1787.

[ii] The Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776.

[iii] Justice – Wikiquote.

[iv] “I Have a Dream” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, 1963.

[v] “Gettysburg Address” Abraham Lincoln, Nov 19, 1863.

John’s Gospel – Chapter One – “The Word Became Flesh”

The New Testament gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) are vitally important because they are our primary source of information on the person, life and ministry of Jesus Christ. Like four different news journalists, they all report on the same story but each from his own perspective and emphasizing the details most significant to him. Matthew wanted his people, the Jews, to recognize Jesus as the Messiah (Christ) and rightful king of Israel. So, he emphasized Jesus’ fulfillment of the ancient Messianic prophecies, i.e. “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” – which means, “God with us.” (Mt 1:23; Is 7:14). Mark is essentially the gospel according to Peter and highlights the missional Jesus who did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mk 10:45). Luke carefully studied everything about Jesus and wrote an orderly account of His life so that others, like Theophilus, could be certain of the facts (Lk 1:1-4). Luke’s focus is on the Son of Man who came to seek and to save that which was lost (Lk 1:3; 19:10). John writes plainly and up front that Jesus is both divine and human: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . .The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us (Jn 1:1,14 NIV). Furthermore, Jesus came into the world to bring us grace from God and to reveal the truth of God: We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (Jn 1:14 NIV).

John wrote his gospel last, somewhere between A.D. 80 and 95, from the city of Ephesus in Asia Minor (modern Turkey) where he spent his final years teaching, preaching and writing. John was the only one of Jesus’ apostles who did not die a martyr’s death, although multiple attempts were made on his life. According to Tertullian, an early Christian author and theologian, Emperor Domitian had John boiled in oil. But God supernaturally delivered him and all witnesses to the miracle in the Colosseum were converted. Unable to kill him, the Romans imprisoned John on the Greek island of Patmos, hoping that way to silence him. It was on Patmos, however, that John received his Revelation from Jesus which became the last book of the New Testament. John’s life and ministry prove – That light shines in the darkness, yet the darkness did not overcome it (John 1:5 Holman Christian Standard Bible).

John was the youngest of Jesus’ apostles – perhaps only a teen when he began following him. He was personally close to Jesus and references himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” and the “beloved disciple.” John, Peter and James were an inner circle of Jesus’ disciples. They were with Jesus at His transfiguration (Mt 17:1-8) and nearest to Him in Gethsemane the night He was betrayed (Mk 14:33). But only John leaned upon Jesus at the last supper, attended Jesus’ trial before the high priest, and stood at the cross when Jesus was crucified (Jn 18:15-16; 19:26; 21:20). And from the cross, Jesus chose John to take care of Mary, His mother, for the rest of her life (19:26).  God does not respect or love one person above another (Job 34:18-19); however, He is respected and loved by some persons more than others (Mt 15:8). God invites us all to come closer: Come close to God, and he will come close to you. (James 4:8 God’s Word Translation).

Over 90 percent of the information in John is not found in the other Gospels. Only John tells of Jesus’ “Upper Room Discourse” (chapters 14-16) and His Intercessory Prayer in Gethsemane (chapter 17). Six of the eight miracles of Jesus cited by John are exclusive to his Gospel: 1) turning water to wine (2:1-11); 2) healing the official’s son (4:46-54); 3) healing the invalid at the pool of Bethesda (5:1-15); 4) healing the man born blind (9:1-38); 5) raising Lazarus from the dead (11:1-44); and 6) the great catch of fish after His resurrection (21:1-14). Also, none of Jesus’ parables are mentioned in John. John’s focus is on the Person and purpose of Jesus more than His teaching.

  • Jesus is the Son of God (1:1-3). This is John’s first and most emphatic point. Many say they believe in Jesus, but not as the Son of God. Some claim that Jesus’ divinity is an idea superimposed on Him by fanatical followers years after His life on Earth. But John was with Jesus; he was his closest apostle; and he says about Jesus – In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (1:1). It just doesn’t get any plainer than that! “The Word” or Logos (1:1) in the Greek means that Jesus is the full expression of the whole idea of God.[1] A Chinese Christian woman was preaching Christ to the scholar of a market town. He heard her courteously and after a little while said, “Madam, you speak well, but why do you dwell on Jesus Christ? Let Him alone. Instead of Jesus Christ, tell us about God.” Whereupon she replied, “What, sir, should we know about God if it were not for Jesus Christ?” How true, and this is precisely the meaning of the second clause of John 1:18: No one has ever seen God. The only Son, who is the same as God and is at the Father’s side, he has made him known (TEV).[2]
  • Jesus became the Son of Man (1:14). The Son of God has always been, but He became flesh, i.e. the Son of Man (1:14). Matthew and Luke tell the story of His birth. Paul somewhat describes the act of Jesus’ incarnation (becoming flesh) in Philippians 2:5-11. God demonstrated His love for the world by sending His Son into the world to save the world (John 3:16-18; Romans 5:8).
  • Jesus came to FULFILL the GRACE of God (1:14). The Greek term pleres translated “full” comes from a root term which means to accomplish or fulfill. Before sin ever entered the world, God already knew what He would do and how He would do it to save humanity. God’s plan was GRACE – UNMERITED FAVOR.  But the whole plan depended on JESUS CHRIST and His completing all the Father required – and He did!
    • When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (John 19:30 NIV)
    • And Christ himself is the means by which our sins are forgiven, and not our sins only, but also the sins of everyone. (1 John 2:2 Today’s English Version)
  • Jesus came to TELL the TRUTH (1:14). “To Tell the Truth” was a TV game show in the 1950s. A group of three guests would pose as the same person and the show’s celebrity panelists had to decide which of the three was telling the truth. Very much like the old shell game – all three nuts look alike, but only one contains the prize. There are a lot of “nuts” in the world that claim to tell the truth. But Jesus not only tells the truth HE IS THE TRUTH! He came to tell the truth about God and how you can know Him for yourself: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” (John 14:6-7 New International Version). “Without the Way there is no going; without the Truth there is no knowing; without the Life there is no living.”[3]

God’s plan of salvation has been summarized this way: “The Son of God became the Son of Man so that the sons of men could become the sons of God.” This is why the Apostle Paul said the gospel of Christ. . .is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes (Romans 1:16 New King James Version). The way to life is the truth. Knowing the truth will set you free to live the life God has always wanted you to have. Jesus knows who you are, and He wants you to know who He is; and that’s what the Gospel of John is all about – knowing the truth of Jesus, believing it and having new and everlasting life.

 

 

 

[1] Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, p.1252.

[2] (from Illustrations of Bible Truths Copyright © 1995, 1998 by AMG International, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.)

[3] From The Biblical Illustrator, Thomas a Kempis, Copyright © 2002, 2003, 2006 Ages Software, Inc. and Biblesoft, Inc.

 

“That You May Believe”

The apostle John was there when Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15).  He heard Peter answer, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16).  He also heard Jesus’ reply: “Upon this rock I will build my church.” (Matthew 16:18).  And John’s purpose in writing his gospel, he plainly states, is:  “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 New King James Version)  Believing in Christ is the only way to have life, and John writes his gospel that you may believe and live (John 1:12; Acts 16:31).

John’s gospel is relevant for life:

  • To rescue the perishing – John 3:16.
  • To convince unbelieversthese 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 NKJV).
  • To instruct new believersTo the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32 NIV).  All believers are Christians, but not all Christians are disciples.
  • To answer significant questions – Greeks were philosophers – they thought a lot about life.  To know Jesus is to know LIFE:  John 14:6. Jews were theologians – they thought mostly about God. “The Word” or Logos (1:1) in the Greek means that Jesus is the full expression of the whole idea of God.[1]  A Chinese Christian woman was preaching Christ to the scholar of a market town. He heard her courteously and after a little while said, “Madam, you speak well, but why do you dwell on Jesus Christ? Let Him alone. Instead of Jesus Christ, tell us about God.” Whereupon she replied, “What, sir, should we know about God if it were not for Jesus Christ?” How true, and this is precisely the meaning of the second clause of John 1:18: No one has ever seen God. The only Son, who is the same as God and is at the Father’s side, he has made him known (Today’s English Version).[2]

“Who was John and why should we listen to him?”

  • John was the disciple whom Jesus loved (Jn 13:23; 20:2; 21:7,20). John leaned a little closer to Jesus than the other disciples (21:20). God does not respect or love one person above another; however, He is respected and loved by some more than others. God invites us all to come closer (Ja 4:8).
  • John, James and Simon Peter formed an inner circle among Jesus’ disciples. They went with Jesus where the others did not (Lk 9:28). Paul later described them as pillars of the Church (Ga 2:9).
  • Only John was with Jesus at the cross, and Jesus committed Mary, his mother, to John’s care (Jn 19:26-27).
  • John also penned the three epistles that bear his name and the book of Revelation which he wrote while a prisoner on the island of Patmos.
  • His final years were spent in Ephesus preaching, teaching and writing. He was the last of the twelve apostles to die and the only one who died a natural death.
  • Strictly from a human perspective, John was probably the most qualified of anyone to write a biography of Jesus. He was closest to Jesus personally, was with Jesus at the most crucial moments of His life, and simply had the most time to reflect upon his time with Jesus and to establish a solid Christology concerning both the humanity and divinity of Jesus (Jn 1:1,14).

The term “life” appears 50 times in John. JESUS is LIFE and He came into the world that we might have it:

  • “I tell you the truth, whoever hears what I say and believes in the One who sent me has eternal life. That person will not be judged guilty but has already left death and entered life.” – John 5:24 New Century Version
  • “I am the bread of life.” – John 6:48
  • He came to give abundant life – John 10:10.
  • Jesus is life itself – John 14:6.

John wants his readers to know WHO Jesus is and WHY they should believe in Him. Peter confessed both the humanity and divinity of Jesus (Mt 16:16).  John explains how the Son of God became the Son of Man – the Word that was God already in the beginning became flesh (incarnated) and dwelt among us (1:1,14). Jesus is not partly human and partly God; He is FULLY HUMAN and FULLY GOD! 

  • Only God could save mankind from sin. Isaiah declared: God is my salvation . . . The LORD, the LORD, . . . he has become my salvation.” (Is 12:2). Jesus means “Jehovah is the Savior.”[3]
  • Only man could shed his blood for mankind’s redemption. Paul wrote: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. (Rom 3:23-25 NIV).
  • Any departure from either the divinity or humanity of Jesus is a heresy (untruth): The Word became a human being and . . . We saw his glory, the glory which he received as the Father’s only Son. (John 1:14 TEV).  John says in 2 John 7, anyone who does not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh is the deceiver and the antichrist.

Jesus’ works (miracles) are why we should believe He is God: believe in the evidence of the miraculous works I have done (John 10:38 NLT). John references eight of Jesus’ miracles which he calls “signs” because they point to His divinity: 1) turning water to wine (2:1-11); 2) healing the official’s son (4:46-54); 3) healing the man at Bethesda (5:1-9); 4) feeding the 5000 (6:1-14); 5) walking on water (6:15-21); 6) restoring a man’s sight (9:1-41); 7) raising Lazarus from the dead (11:1-44); 8) the catch of fish (21:1-14). The last and greatest of all the signs, of course, was Jesus’ resurrection, which John records in chapters 20 and 21.

Jesus Christ is both the source of life and the light of truth to the worldThe Word was the source of life, and this life brought light to mankind (John 1:4 TEV).  Jesus answers life’s questions and satisfies life’s desires. Faith in Jesus Christ will transform your life: But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God. (John 1:12-13 NLT) Those who hear His voice (His word) will LIVE! (Jn 5:25-27). The words of Jesus are God’s words to us: These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. (John 14:24 NIV)

From chapter one to twenty-one, the gospel of John is about the Son of God who became the Son of Man so that the sons of men might become the sons of God. To know God is eternal life and the only way to know God is through His Son, Jesus Christ:  “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (John 17:3 New King James Version)

[1] Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, p.1252.

[2] From Illustrations of Bible Truths Copyright © 1995, 1998 by AMG International, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

[3] Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Word, p.614.

Living Biblically – A Changing Paradigm

Did you ever wish there was a handbook for life – a HOW TO LIVE LIFE WELL BOOK? Well, there is!  It’s called the BIBLE!  God Himself guarantees that reading and applying the Bible will benefit our lives: Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. (Joshua 1:8 New Living Translation)

The Bible is unlike any other book:

  • It took 16 centuries to write by at least 40 different writers in 3 different languages and on 3 separate continents. Yet it has one clear, central and consistent theme – God’s salvation of humankind through His Son, Jesus Christ.
  • It has improved lives, stirred controversy and inspired social change around the world, like nothing else – ever!
  • It is the most translated, most published and bestselling book in history, and it remains so today.
  • It has Jesus’ personal guarantee of blessing to all who read it or hear it and apply its principles in their lives: “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” (Matthew 7:24 New International Version)

Great persons have said great things about the Bible:

  • Abraham Lincoln said the Bible “is the best gift God has given to men.”
  • President Theodore Roosevelt:A thorough knowledge of the Bible is worth more than a college education.”
  • English Philosopher John Locke: “The Bible is one of the greatest blessings bestowed by God on the children of men. It has God for its author; salvation for its end, and truth without any mixture for its matter. It is all pure.”
  • Isaac Newton: “I have a fundamental belief in the Bible as the Word of God, written by those who were inspired. I study the Bible daily.”

Just two more but very important quotes:

  • George Washington warned in his 1796 farewell address: “It is impossible to govern the world without God and the Bible. Of all the dispositions and habits that lead to political prosperity, our religion and morality are the indispensable supporters.”
  • Author Victor Hugo attributed the prowess of British culture in the world to the Bible: “England has two books, the Bible and Shakespeare. England made Shakespeare, but the Bible made England.”

So much good in the world and people’s lives is directly attributable to the respect given the Bible in previous generations. Unfortunately for all of us, that is changing.

A paradigm change concerning the Bible is sweeping Western countries and culture:

  • A change in public confidence – In a published study by the Pew Research Center dated May 15, 2017, it states: “From the mid-1970s through 1984, close to 40% of Americans considered the Bible the literal word of God, but this has been declining ever since, along with a shrinking percentage of self-identified Christians in the U.S. Meanwhile, the percentage defining the Bible as mere stories has doubled, with much of that change occurring in the past three years.”[i]
  • A change in cultural significance – A recent study reveals that the Bible’s perceived significance to life and society is diminishing rapidly, especially among the young. 77% of Americans believe that values and morals are declining in our country and 32% attribute that decline to a lack of Bible reading.  Also, while the number of those friendly toward the Bible has declined (45% to 39%), the number of those antagonistic toward it has nearly doubled (10% to 17%).[ii]
  • A change in personal importance – Although most Americans own from 1 to 4 Bibles, only 1 in 4 Christians read the Bible at least 4 times per week and 1 in 4 church goers never read it. Consequently, there is a growing ignorance of what the Bible teaches.  “As a whole, Americans, including many Christians, hold unbiblical views on hell, sin, salvation, Jesus, humanity, and the Bible itself.”[iii]

We are living amidst a societal catastrophe foretold and being fulfilled:

  • For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths. (2 Timothy 4:3-4 New Living Translation)
  • When people do not accept divine guidance, they run wild. (Proverbs 29:18 NLT)

Endnotes

[i] At News.gallup.com/poll shows “Record few Americans believe the Bible is the literal Word of God”.

[ii] At Churchexecutive.com in article titled “What do Americans really think about the Bible?”

[iii] In article by Ed Stetzer titled “The Epidemic of Bible Illiteracy in Our Churches”.

Why Jesus’ Resurrection Matters

One of the first things we learn of in life is death. I was still very young, a preschooler, when a family member died – Uncle Clark, my dad’s brother. I remember him as a gentle, kind and friendly sort. He never seemed grouchy or perturbed by little kids, like others certainly were; and I enjoyed being around him. Then he was gone. I wasn’t allowed to sit up with the dead (like folks used to do) or attend his funeral, but I clearly remember the feeling of loss knowing that I would not see Clark again. And, in as much as my family attended a Holiness, Pentecostal, Bible believing, Jesus loving, salvation preaching, soul saving church (we really did), I heard it said multiple times: “It is appointed unto men once to die,” (Hebrews 9:27 King James Version).

To be sure – everyone dies. But inquiring minds want to know – is there anything beyond? Is there life after death? Now likely is that you do; but just let me prove it to you!

The Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture in a 2014 article entitled “Do people still believe in life after death” reported that most Americans do. Specifically, 72% of Americans still believe in an afterlife. By religious affiliation – “Mormons reported the highest rate of belief in a conscious afterlife (98 percent), followed by evangelicals, Pentecostals, and fundamentalist Protestants (94 percent) …, those without a religious affiliation (or who called themselves atheists or agnostics) were least confident in life after death, at 32 percent.” On belief in heaven and hell, the figures are lower. “Among afterlife believers, 68 percent said, “Yes, I think both heaven and hell are real places.” If we presume that Americans who do not believe in an afterlife also do not believe in heaven or hell, (stands to reason) then belief that heaven and hell are real places can be said to be characteristic of 51 percent of American adults. An additional 8 percent believe in heaven only, but not hell.” (I wonder why that is?) And what about a bodily resurrection – “Overall, 37 percent of Americans believe there will be a bodily resurrection of the dead.” [http://relationshipsinamerica.com/religion/do-people-still-believe-in-life-after-death]

Dinesh D’Souza, American philosopher, author and film maker says: “If there is no life after death, then we are like passengers on the Titanic. We can rearrange the deck chairs and turn up the music a little bit, but ultimately, we are doomed. . .If there is an afterlife, then we are in a better position to face death. We have to face death in any case, but now we can face it in the expectation that it is not a final defeat, . . .” [Dinesh D’Souza in an interview on life after death with Paul Kengor, 12/9/09]

The night before He was crucified, Jesus was preparing His disciples (followers) for His impending death. After having supper with them, He said: “Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.” He went on to say, “Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:19,27 NIV)

Jesus’ resurrection matters to you, me and everyone because:

  1. It DEMONSTRATES death is not the end. Craig D. Lounsbrough writes, “Easter is a time when God turned the inevitability of death into the invincibility of life.” Jesus’ death was inevitable, but His life is invincible! In John 11:25-26 Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” (NIV)
  2. It LIBERATES believers from the fear of death. Following His crucifixion and death, the unbelieving world would not see Him again. But His disciples, those who believed in Him, loved and followed Him, did see Him again. Multiple times over a period of forty days following His resurrection. Paul said as many as 500 saw Him at one time (1 Corinthians 15:6).
  3. It SUBSTANTIATES our hope in Jesus. Had He not risen, then everything His death means to us (our sins forgiven, peace with God, eternity with Him in heaven, and more) would be a hoax. 1 Corinthians 15:14 says, “if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” (NIV)
  4. It VALIDATES the Christian view of afterlife as correct. All the major religions of the world teach there is an afterlife. Only Christianity claims its founder died and rose again. Again, Dinesh D’Souza says: “the vast majority of historians would accept—the fact that Christ lived and preached, that he made enemies, that his enemies killed him, that he was buried in a tomb, that his disciples claim to have found the tomb empty, that they said Jesus appeared before them several times after his crucifixion, and that this event filled them with conviction and propelled a movement of conversion that was sustained even in the face of Roman persecution and resistance. So, these are the facts, and how do we account for them? If the resurrection stands up to historical scrutiny, if it is an historical event by the standards of historical verification, then the Christian view of the afterlife rises above the pack. It is the one to take seriously.” [Dinesh D’Souza in an interview on life after death with Paul Kengor, 12/9/09]
  5. It AUTHENTICATES Jesus Christ as the Son of God. Romans 1:4-5 says, “he was shown to be the Son of God when he was raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit. He is Jesus Christ our Lord.” (NLT)

Hebrews 9:27-28 says, “And just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment, so also Christ died once for all time as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people. He will come again, not to deal with our sins, but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting for him.” (New Living Translation) We are destined to die. We are also destined to face judgment after death. God is the eternal judge and both the verdict and sentence are already determined against us. Our one and only hope of pardon is in Jesus Christ who died to take away our sins. “Confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart God raised Him from the dead, and you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9)