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Soar Like Eagles: The Gospel of John #18 “Stay Close To Me!”John 15:5, 13-15


remain-in-me John 15:5 (ESV) 5  I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

John 15:13-15 (ESV) 13  Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14  You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15  No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.

This is the seventh and last of the “I AM” statements of Christ recorded in the Gospel of John. However, Jesus did not stop with this image, but went on to use the picture of “the friend.” These two pictures of the believer—branches and friends—reveal both our privileges and our responsibilities. As branches, we have the privilege of sharing His life, and the responsibility of abiding. As friends, we have the privilege of knowing His will, and the responsibility of obeying.

In the Upper Room Discourse, Jesus moves from words of comfort to words of warning to his 11 apostles. The first one: stay close to me.

A missionary recently related a story of a trip to Thailand and he was offering firm, repeated warning to his son “Don’t let go of my hand!”

He was concerned that he’d get lost in the underground marketplace: lots of people, the child too small to understand yet totally incapable of  taking care of himself or finding his parents if he were to get separated from them.

“Don’t let go of my hand” had a very special meaning, didn’t it? But how do you explain to a young child such things when he approaches everything on a very innocent, simplistic level?

If you understand that frustration, you can relate to what Jesus must have felt as He considered His disciples’ future (John 15:1-8).

Jesus was leaving, that much He’d explained. The Spirit was coming, that they understood. Were the 22 eyes looking at Him on that occasion filled with confidence…wisdom…or were they filled with concern and uncertainty?

Jesus says five times in six verses: Remain in me!

In these opening verses, our Lord uses a similar homespun illustration — that of a vine and its branches — to teach His disciples the importance of fellowship with Him. This was an ancient metaphor that Israel’s prophets had used for centuries. He gives His followers a handful of reasons why they must remain close to Him.

Vineyards were everywhere, and it may be that they passed several on the road from Jerusalem to Gethsemane. They were certainly partaking of juice from the vine at their Passover feast.

The vine was also known as an emblem of their own nation, just as the eagle is the emblem of the United States.

Reasons to “remain in Him”

  1. Remain in Me because “I am the true vine.”2e612d37dad07e6540b501adaa8b2d2b

The story of Israel’s relationship with God had more “ups and downs” than a yo-yo. One minute they were worshipping God and the next minute they’re putting up Asherah poles or dancing around golden calves.

This verse describes their behavior: (Exodus 32:6)  “So the next day the people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings. Afterward they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.”

What prompts such unfaithfulness (then and now?)

  • What enables a Christian to slip out the back door or a church building and step into the side door of an adult bookstore?
  • What leads a disciple to let go of the hand of Christ and raise his hand in abuse against his wife or children?
  • What seduces the Christian into dancing with the devil?

The words of Jesus are plain: “I am the true vine.”

The first essential in planting a vineyard is to have the right stock. Every nurseryman guarantees that the plants he sells will run true to type.

Our problem? We often become enamored with imitations…the fake vine that claims to be rooted in something good is simply that: fake!

It looks succulent and good…others have chosen to drink of its nectar so we do too. That false vine comes in the form of money…power…pleasure…fame….the list needs to come from your lips.

No matter how sweet and filling these items may be today—they are destined to dry up and blow away—as will all people who have joined themselves to them!

  1. Remain in Me because “My Father is the husbandman (gardener)”

Israel is a land of vineyards and every vineyard must be pruned by an expert. The vinedresser had to know how and when to prune and fertilize the vine, so that it would produce the maximum stock.

Jesus indicates that God is both the owner and the manager of the field. It was His to tend as He saw fit. And there is one goal in mind: to get the most good fruit possible from the vines under His care.

The concept of pruning involves the removal of some shoots in order to enhance the fruit beaing of the other branches. Christ assures his followers that God had already pruned and cleaned their branches and that he would continue to tend them as they grew.

How does He do this? Through the discipline and trials we go through as Christians. “Trials only stop when it is useless: that is why it scarcely ever stops.”

But pruning also involves cutting off the branches that bear no fruit. And we simply cannot ignore the scriptures that speak of this process:

(Mat 13:40-41)  “”As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. {41} The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil.”

(2 Th 1:7b-9)  “…This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. {8} He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. {9} They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power”

Cutting off barren branches is serious business. The fear of hell exists for a reason: the gardener will not tolerate barren branches.

  1. Remain in Me because You Can’t Bear Fruit Alone

Those branches which did not bear fruit had to be taken away, while those which bore fruit were cleaned so they could bear more fruit.

These verses talk of Christians who are habitually unfaithful to the cause of Christ. It isn’t spiritual immaturity or laziness or struggling lifestyles. These are people who have lost their connection/allegiance to Christ.

(2 Peter 2:20-22)  “If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. {21} It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. {22} Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud.””

  1. Remain in Me because if you do, I’ll make you fruitful.

15:5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

In scripture, fruit, more fruit, and more fruit is the divine order! Growth brings increase in fruitfulness, and the more mature a Christian becomes, the more is expected of him.

Trying to bear fruit on our own is like trying to turn on a light that isn’t plugged in. We can check the bulb and flip the switch as often as we like, but if it isn’t connected to the power source, it will not work!

God blesses those who abide in Him:

  1. Prayer is answered.

“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” (vs. 7)

 

  1. God is glorified

“This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” (vs. 8)

  1. Our life will be motivated by love.

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love.” (vs. 9-10)

  1. Joy will be ours in abundance.

“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” (vs. 11).

A pair of scissors consists of two single blades. Yet the blades, regardless of  how sharp or shiny, are useless without one essential element — the small metal screw that holds them together.

Can you imagine trying to cut some paper or fabric without that tiny screw? Of course, you could put a blade in each hand. But think of the effort and difficulty involved in trying to make an even, precise cut that way. But when that tiny screw brings both blades together, suddenly the cutting becomes effortless.

In our relationship with God, abiding in Jesus is the screw that holds everything together and makes us useful to Him.

 

 
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Posted by on June 23, 2017 in Jesus Christ

 

Soar Like Eagles: The Gospel of John #17 Words of Comfort – “Don’t Stop Trusting in Me!” John 14:1


John 14:1 – Do not let your hearts be troubled; trust in God, trust also in me.

The immediate effect of our Lord’s words to His disciples was confusion and sadness. I would like to suggest that this was exactly what our Lord intended them to produce—for the moment.

Suppose the disciples really did grasp what Jesus was about to do. Suppose, for example, that the disciples understood that Judas was about to betray our Lord and to hand Him over to the Jewish authorities, so that they could carry out a mock trial and crucify the Son of God on the cross of Calvary.

I think I know what Peter would have done—he would have used his sword on Judas, rather than the high priest’s slave. I believe the disciples would have attempted to prevent what was about to happen, had they known what that was.

But the confusion our Lord’s words produced threw them off balance. The result was that when Jesus was arrested, they fled. They did not die trying to defend the Savior, and in part this was because they were utterly confused by what was happening. Jesus’ words were not intended to produce instant “relief,” but eternal joy.

The confusion and sadness that the Upper Room Discourse created in the disciples enabled Jesus to die just as He knew He must, just as it had been planned, purposed, and promised long before. The disciples were surely not “in control” at this point in time, but, as always, the Master was.

Do You Trust me?
Faith is a living well-founded confidence in the grace of God, so perfectly certain that it would die a thousand times rather than surrender its conviction.

Such confidence and personal knowledge of divine grace makes its possessor joyful, bold, and full of warm affection toward God and all created things — all of which the Holy Spirit works in faith.

Hence, such a man becomes without constraint willing and eager to do good to everyone, to serve everyone, to suffer all manner of ills, in order to please and glorify God, who has shown toward him such grace.

We have trusted many people and many things:
Personal nature: We often trust our families, we have trusted our friends.
Public nature: We have trusted our transportation services, We trusted our national security services, We trusted our military services.

What do all of these things have in common? Sometimes they fail our trust.

 God wants US to trust Him
Moses trusted God to deliver the Israelites at the Red Sea. Joseph trusted God while he languished in the Pharaoh’s prison. David trusted God for a victory when he was facing down Goliath. Jonah trusted God to answer his prayer in the belly of the fish. Peter and John trusted God as they stood before the Sanhedrin and gave their defense of the Christian faith.

What does it mean to trust?
Webster: Basic dependence on someone or something, Belief that something will happen or someone will act is a prescribed way

Trust is found in our unswerving belief that the God of Heaven will indeed work on our behalf to bring His perfect will for our lives into being.

Far too often in life we become completely focused on the trials and difficulties of life and we lose our focus on Christ.

When Peter walked on the water with Jesus he was doing well until he took his eyes off of Jesus and looked at the waves. The same is true of us today. God can get us through the most impossible situations but we must keep our focus and trust on Him. How can we ever expect to find help and healing when we are still focused on our difficulties and not our deliverance

Jesus was calling the disciples to trust God through any and every circumstance of life. He was  about to be crucified and they would be scattered. Jesus was telling them to trust even when they did not understand because God was still at work

If I were to ask you individually, most of you would very quickly say that you trust God but there are times when trust is not so simple. Trusting God means we believe in that which we cannot see and sometimes may not understand

Trusting God is literally against our human nature. Trusting God means that we have to admit that we are not in control of our lives

We need to place our trust in something or someone and we do it every day. We trust our cars to get us to our destination. We trust our employers to deliver paychecks. We trust our doctors top heals our illnesses. How much more should we trust God?
Proverbs 3:5-6 (ESV) Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and he will make your paths straight.

Exodus 14:31 (NIV)
31  And when the Israelites saw the great power the LORD displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.

Exodus 19:9 (NIV)
9  The LORD said to Moses, “I am going to come to you in a dense cloud, so that the people will hear me speaking with you and will always put their trust in you.” Then Moses told the LORD what the people had said.

2 Kings 17:14 (NIV)
14  But they would not listen and were as stiff-necked as their fathers, who did not trust in the LORD their God.

Psalm 9:10 (NIV)
10  Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.

Psalm 13:5 (NIV)
5  But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.

Psalm 25:2 (NIV)
2  in you I trust, O my God. Do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me.

Psalm 31:14 (NIV)
14  But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, “You are my God.”

Psalm 37:3 (NIV)
3  Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.

Disasters strike and tragedies happen in our lives. Life can indeed be hard. Life can be uncertain. Life is beyond our control. In times like this, life is beyond our understanding. We are left with raw emotions and tough questions. Answers are beyond us as we grapple with the question of why.

God asks the question: Do you trust me?
Nothing and I mean nothing that we go through in life is beyond God. The truth is that we can and must rely on God in every situation in life. Times that just don’t make any sense in human terms; we need to trust in God. The more senseless life becomes the greater our need to trust in God.

The writer of Proverbs states it simply and clearly that God wants your full and complete trust. Trust God with all of your heart. We must hold nothing back and surrender to Him all that we are, all that we have, all that we may become because without the presence and guidance of God we will go nowhere.

God asks the question: Do you trust me?
God wants you to trust even when you don’t understand. When life just doesn’t make sense. God wants us to follow Him when the future seems uncertain. It is only when we completely trust God that He to give us the power of His direction and the power of His presence.

Psalm 9:9-10 (ESV) The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know your name will trust n you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.

Psalm 40:4 (NIV)
4  Blessed is the man who makes the LORD his trust, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods.

Psalm 52:8 (NIV)
8  But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever.

Psalm 56:3 (NIV)
3  When I am afraid, I will trust in you.

Psalm 56:4 (NIV)
4  In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?

Psalm 56:11 (NIV)
11  in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?

Psalm 62:8 (NIV)
8  Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge. Selah

Psalm 91:2 (NIV)
2  I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”

Psalm 118:8 (NIV)
8  It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man.

When we feel weak, God is our strength. When we are pressured by life, God is our relief. When we need security, God is our refuge. The full resources of God are at our disposal when we place our trust in Him

God asks the question: Do you trust me?
If you do not place your trust in God, there is no access to His power, His mercy or His love. When trials arise and we go through difficulty; it is then that we must place our trust in God. Without trust in God there is no comfort, no peace, no strength and no relief.

Once my hands were always trying; Trying hard to do my best;
Now my heart is sweetly trusting, And my soul is all at rest.
Once my brain was always planning, And my heart, with cares oppressed;
Now I trust the Lord to lead me, And my life is all at rest.
Once my life was full of effort, Now ’tis full of joy and zest;
Since I took His yoke upon me, Jesus gives to me His rest.  — A.B. Simpson

God has made a promise that He will never forsake those who seek Him. The promise that God made so long ago is still valid today because God has never broken a promise yet. He is true and faithful to His people.

Our treasure is love from the God who created love. Our treasure is grace and peace from the God of all comfort. Our treasure is security from the God who never changes. Our treasure is protection and provision from the God who is all powerful. Our treasure is acceptance from the God who knows everything. Our treasure is eternity from the God who sacrificed His own Son that we could gain it. God is asking only one question this morning, do you trust me?

Thomas is determined to follow Jesus wherever he goes. In fact, earlier he urged the other Apostles to join Jesus as he returned to Judea even if it meant dying with him (John 11:16).

But he can’t follow Jesus if he doesn’t know where he is going or the way he is going to get there. So when Jesus declares that the Apostles know the way, Thomas feels obligated to correct him.

Where are we going to go to “find” God? He is an omnipresent Spirit. There is no certain place that one can travel to increase the odds of encountering him. However, God will manifest himself more visibly in the New Jerusalem (Rev 21:3).

Even now Jesus is returning to the throne room where God’s “manifestation” is surrounded by angels and elders (Rev 4-5).

While Jesus can “travel” there now, the rest of us will have to wait. But we will, indeed, find ourselves standing before that throne, turned judgment seat. Getting there is not the problem; it is where we stand when we get there that is in question.

The way to the Father is not a road but a relationship. Only through Jesus will we be able to stand before the Father on that day. Once Jesus has explained to Thomas his unity with the Father, and demonstrated it through his resurrection and ascension, there will be no more question for Thomas.

Nahum 1:7 (NIV)
7  The LORD is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him,

Romans 15:13 (NIV)
13  May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Romans 8:28 (ESV) And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

 

 
 

‘Soar Like Eagles’ – The gospel of John – #16 Assurances for the Troubled Heart John 14


jesus-matthew2

(first a few ‘leftovers’ from John 13)

* What is your A.Q. (Acceptance Quotient)?

The story of Peter and Judas Iscariot at the Last Supper shows us something magnificient about the Savior and about His ability to accept others in spite of the sin that clings to them. As an I.Q. test measures our minds, indicating our intelligence quotient, an  A.Q.  test measures our attitudes, indicating our acceptance quotient.

* THE APPLICATION OF THE A.Q.

– Willingness to accept people without partiality.

James 2:1-4 serves as an excellent application of this principle. How do you respond when somebody who doesn’t quite fit the typical membership profile comes to your worship service?

(James 2:1-4)  “My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism. {2} Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. {3} If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” {4} have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?”

– Willingness to accept another style without jealousy or criticism.

   (Mark 9:38-40)  “”Teacher,” said John, “we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.” {39} “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, {40} for whoever is not against us is for us.”

– Willingness to accept offenses without holding a grudge.

   (Romans 12:14-21)  “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. {15} Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. {16} Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. {17} Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. {18} If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. {19} Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. {20} On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” {21} Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Now for John 14

This is part of Jesus’ farewell discourse. In the next four chapters (John 14-17), Jesus must drive home three critical facts:

  • He is leaving.
  • The Apostles will continue Jesus’ mission with opposition from the world.
  • The Holy Spirit will assist them in their mission.

This is one of those “good news/bad news” scenarios. What lies ahead is difficult. But Jesus’ promises are simply out of this world!

To be troubled is a natural and expected response to a distressing situation. We are troubled when things go wrong in our lives. Surely, if there was ever a time to be troubled, it was the day Jesus was crucified. Jesus prepared His disciples for this event by calling on them to trust Him and by leaving some special resources with them

Jesus suggested that the proper approach to the question of human destiny is faith in a personal God. If a personal God exists, who is the judge and redeemer of man, there must be a destiny for man beyond the grave.

Similar verses that speak of being afraid

(Matthew 8:26)  “He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.”

(Matthew 10:28)  “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

(Luke 12:7)  “Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

Jesus wants His followers to stop being afraid at any given moment of our life and also to take control of those feelings for the events in our future. And, besides, if we don’t take control of those emotions, they will take control of us, won’t they?

But His words went much deeper than that. He was also saying that they should believe Him against all odds. Remember, He was doomed to death, which overtakes all men. Yet He promised to prepare a place for them and to return to claim them

  1. A home to envision (14:1-3)

Knowing how awful it is to be left alone, Jesus gave His disciples a new way to think about His approaching absence. They were told to see it as a time when He would prepare a heavenly place for them.

1  “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2  In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

  1. A direction to embrace (14:4-11).

Do we want to draw near to God? Do we want to be close to Him? Jesus gave them a direction to look in their time of trial.

4  And you know the way to where I am going.”5  Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6  Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7  If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” 8  Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” 9  Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10  Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11  Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.

  1. A presence to experience (14:12-14).

He assured them that He would continue to be ‘there’ for them through the Spirit and through their prayers.

12  “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. 13  Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14  If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.

  1. A helper to expect (18:16-18, 25-26).

They would not be orphans…they would have “one who comes alongside.”

16  And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17  even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. 18  “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.

25  “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26  But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

  1. A command to obey (14:15, 20-21, 23-24, 31).

They were given a series of commands so they could understand what God expected from them.

John 14:15 (ESV)
15  “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

John 14:20-21 (ESV)
20  In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21  Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”

 

John 14:23-24 (ESV)
23  Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24  Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.

 

John 14:31 (ESV)
31  but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here.

The question of “making it without Jesus” has challenged Christians since Jesus went to Calvary. It grows out of the strange paradox of our faith:

  • Our Lord is with us, yet He is away from us
  • From the moment of our baptism into Christ, we exist in an “in-between” time – a no-man’s land of waiting to be with the one we adore
  • We have said good-bye to a life of human aims but not yet said hello to eternity in a divine place
  • Christ’s presence is real enough to the heart, but our eyes long to see Him
  • Like Paul, we desire “to be with the Lord” yet must wait for His return

* The power of fear is a matter of focus.

Adam and Eve were in trouble when the focus of their attention moved from God’s love and power to their weaknesses. Fear caused them to forget about the loving way God had provided for them and the gracious way He had sustained them. They instantly developed a kind of fear-driven tunnel vision that allowed them to see nothing but an oncoming train.

* Conquering fear is a matter of choice.

Jesus’ command “to fear not” needs to be viewed in light of another kind of fear, a healthy one that the Bible speaks of often:

(Proverbs 1:7)  “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.”

 

(Isaiah 12:2)  “Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The LORD, the LORD, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.””

The key to keeping our hearts from being troubled is choosing whom to fear! Faith is actually the choice to fear God only. Put another way, it’s deciding between the greater of two fears.

WONDERFUL ASSURANCES  FOR THE TROUBLED HEART

  • You are going to heaven (13:36-14:6)
  • You know the Father right now (14:7-11)
  • You have the privilege of prayer (14:12-15)
  • We have the Holy Spirit (14:16-18)
  • We enjoy the Father’s love (14:19-24)
  • We have His gift of peace (14:25-31)

Only after the day of Pentecost in Acts 2 did they understand, and everything made sense.

  • Jesus still had been arrested, tried, convicted, and killed–but they understood.
  • Jesus had been resurrected, but now they understood.
  • They knew where he was, why he was gone, and the certainty of his return.
  • Now they understood forgiveness as never before.
  • Now they had hope as never before.

 

 

 
 

Was Jesus all that John claimed for Him?


John wrote his Gospel to encourage belief in Christ. Does the available evidence sustain his claims? As we examine the testimony presented by John, we must weigh it according to reason and then determine the answer. For a possible conclusion, we are left with five alternatives.

Conclusion 1. Jesus never lived, but was a product of the human mind—a figment of the imagination of John and other evangelists who have left records of His life and activities.

Since we are considering John’s presentation of Jesus, this conclusion would mean that both the claims John made for Jesus and the evidence he offered were the product of his own unfounded fancy.

Conclusion 2. Jesus lived, but He was merely a good man, a great teacher, a wise philosopher, and a profound moralist. He possessed a greater and deeper concept of God as Spirit than anyone living before or after Him. Jesus was able by His own greatness and goodness to beget and develop in the minds of His disciples the concept of Himself as presented by John.

Conclusion 3. Jesus was not the Messiah, but as a deeply religious Jew of northern Palestine, He believed that He was. In this confidence and in His thorough knowledge of the Old Covenant, He was able to impress the naive and gullible peasants and village folk of Galilee so much that they, too, came to believe that He was the Christ.

Conclusion 4. Jesus was a shrewd and cunning impostor, able to deceive John and others whom He convinced that He was the Messiah of their expectations. He is, in fact, the archdeceiver of history, for He so completely deceived them that millions since have been deceived and deluded by His imposture.

Conclusion 5. Jesus was what John claimed for Him and what He claimed for Himself: the Christ, the Son of God, the Messiah of prophecy.

When we consider the first of these alternatives, we are faced with questions about John.

Was he great enough to create a character for whom he could make such claims? Was he able to create out of his own imagination the teaching which he ascribed to Jesus? Was he able to create the characters who live in his Gospel and to array their testimony in such a way as to make his book live through the centuries?

Plainly posed, which is the greater wonder: Jesus and the evidence of facts as John presented them, or the creation of such a character as Jesus and the evidence from the imagination of a Galilean fisherman? Reason must determine the answer.

The second alternative is ruled out on the ground of Jesus’ claims. His claims are such that either He was the Christ or He was not a good man. Unless He was who He claimed to be, He was an impostor, a blasphemer, a hypocrite, a deceiver, and a liar. He could not make false claims about Himself and at the same time be a good man.

The third alternative does not explain the empty tomb, the conversion and work of Saul of Tarsus, or the impression of Jesus upon the Gentile world and upon history.

The fourth alternative leaves us with the problem of accepting the greatest concept of God and the greatest system of ethics and morals known to man as the offspring of the world’s greatest fraud, deceiver, and liar. This is an absurdity, for all accept the axiom that a tree bears fruit after its own kind. An evil tree could not have produced such good fruit.

If it can be shown that Jesus was a good man, that He did reveal the world’s loftiest concept of God, and that the system of ethics and morals taught by Him are without flaw, then we are left with only the fifth alternative as one that can be reasonably accepted.

As reason weighs the evidence presented by John, the reader must determine what he will do with Jesus. The book is here: What it says, it says; and it is either fact or fiction. If it is fact, then Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and the Savior of the world. If it is fiction, then John perpetrated upon mankind a fraud of gigantic proportions with no known motive for his fraud.

 
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Posted by on March 1, 2017 in Jesus Christ

 

Why People Reject Christ – John 3:19-21


God-is-good-all-the-time_re-500x500Picture a guy floating downstream on a raft on a hot summer day. He’s having the time of his life, enjoying the ride as the cool water gently splashes on him. You’re on the shore and you know that there’s a deadly waterfall not far downstream. This guy is floating blissfully and ignorantly toward certain destruction! So you yell to warn him. You throw him a rope. But he rejects it and keeps floating toward certain death. Why won’t he grab the life preserver? Because he loves what he’s doing and he doesn’t want to believe your warning.

Why do people reject God’s wonderful offer of salvation through Jesus Christ? You would think that everyone would eagerly grab the life preserver that God has thrown out through the gospel (John 3:16): “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” Why would anyone reject such a wonderful offer? Why would anyone want to keep heading for eternal destruction? In our text, John shows us:

People reject Christ because they love their sin and they hate having it exposed by God’s light.

People don’t want God interfering with what they consider “a good time,” and they don’t believe the warnings of Scripture that they are under God’s judgment now and will face it eternally when they die.

People think that they’re basically good and that God will overlook their faults and give them credit for their good deeds on judgment day. So they don’t repent of their sin and believe in Jesus Christ to save them from God’s judgment.

The Greek philosopher, Plato, observed (source unknown), “We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark. The real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.”

1. The light came into this world in the person of Jesus Christ, and His presence condemned those in darkness.

John 3:19a: “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world ….”

John has already introduced Jesus as the Light (1:4-5): “In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.”

Later (8:12; also, 9:5; 12:46), Jesus states, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.”

In the Bible, light is used symbolically in two main ways: First, it refers to God’s absolute holiness and, by extension, to the holiness of His people; whereas darkness symbolizes Satan’s domain and sin (Col. 1:13; Acts 26:18).

Paul says (1 Tim. 6:16) that God “dwells in unapproachable light.” In 1 John 1:5, the apostle declares, “God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.”

In this vein, Paul exhorts us (Eph. 5:7-10): Therefore do not be partakers with them; for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.

Second, light refers to the spiritual illumination or understanding that we get when we are born again, whereas darkness refers to our natural spiritual blindness before we are saved (2 Cor. 4:3-4, 6): And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God…. For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

In that sense, God’s Word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path (Ps. 119:105). Proverbs 6:23 says, “For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching is light; and reproofs for discipline are the way of life ….” God’s Word gives spiritual light so that we understand God’s truth and how He wants us to live.

God’s light is embodied in Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God who took on human flesh. John has told us (1:9), “There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man.” When Jesus came into the world, His very presence exposed the world to who God is as holy and to the fact that we are not holy.

  1. A. Carson explains John 1:9 (The Gospel According to John [Eerdmans/Apollos], p. 124): It shines on every man, and divides the race: those who hate the light respond as the world does (1:10): they flee lest their deeds should be exposed by this light (3:19-21). But some receive this revelation (1:12-13), and thereby testify that their deeds have been done through God (3:21). In John’s Gospel it is repeatedly the case that the light shines on all, and forces a distinction (e.g. 3:19-21; 8:12; 9:39-41).

Leon Morris (The Gospel According to John [Eerdmans], p. 233, italics his) explains John 3:19: The word translated “judgment” here denotes the process of judging, not the sentence of condemnation…. It is not God’s sentence with which [John] is concerned here. He is telling us rather how the process works. Men choose the darkness and their condemnation lies in that very fact…. They refuse to be shaken out of their comfortable sinfulness.

As we saw in 3:17-18, even though Jesus did not come for the purpose of judgment, because of who He is, His very presence brought judgment and divided people. Have you ever been in the presence of a very godly man, so that his very presence made you uncomfortable?

How much more would we all have felt condemned to be in the presence of Jesus Christ! Do you remember one of Peter’s early encounters with Jesus, when Jesus caused the miraculous catch of fish? Peter fell down at Jesus’ feet and said (Luke 5:8), “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!”

Have you had that experience with Jesus Christ? Have you seen who Jesus is and instantly recognized, “He is holy and I am not holy! I am under God’s judgment because Jesus is Light and I am darkness!” When you’ve that kind of encounter with Jesus, you can go one of two ways. First, John presents the negative reaction:

2. People love darkness rather than the light because their deeds are evil.

John 1:19b: “… men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil.” This phrase contains several significant truths about sin. First, sin is far deeper than outward deeds; sin is a matter of our affections or desires. “Men loved darkness.” The past tense (Greek aorist) could be translated, “Men set their love on darkness” (Morris, p. 233). Loved indicates that this was not a cool, rational decision: “Having weighed all the factors involved, I think the best decision is to love darkness rather than light.” No, it was in large part an emotional choice that stems from desires that dwell in our hearts due to the fall. We love darkness rather than light.

This leads to a second significant truth about sin: Our sin problem is far deeper than we ever imagined. The Bible does not teach that we are basically good people who need to overcome a few flaws in our character. We’re not merely in need of more education or learning some anger management skills so that we can develop better relational skills. We don’t need to go through therapy to explore our pasts and figure out why our parents treated us as they did so that we can now understand why we are the way we are. All of these approaches to sin are too superficial from a biblical standpoint. The Bible shows that our root problem is that we love our sin rather than God’s holiness. It’s a matter of the heart, and the only remedy that goes deep enough is the new birth, which gives us new hearts that hunger and thirst after righteousness.

This phrase also shows us a third truth about sin: The reason that people reject Christ is not primarily intellectual, but moral. Unbelievers do not love darkness rather than light because they have thought it through carefully and concluded that darkness makes more sense. No, unbelievers love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil. The light exposes their evil deeds and convicts them of their true moral guilt before the holy God. But, frankly, they like sinning!

Aldous Huxley, the famous atheist of the last century, once admitted that his rejection of Christianity stemmed from his desire to sin. He wrote (Ends and Means [Garland Publishers], pp. 270, 273, cited in James Boice, Genesis [Zondervan], 1:236):

I had motives for not wanting the world to have a meaning; consequently assumed that it had not; and was able without any difficulty to find satisfying reasons for this assumption. The philosopher who finds no meaning for this world is not concerned exclusively with the problem of pure metaphysics; he is also concerned to prove that there is no valid reason why he personally should not do as he wants to…. For myself … the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation, sexual and political.

This means that when you’re sharing the gospel, don’t be intimidated by a Ph.D. who argues in favor of evolution or who cites arguments from the latest popular atheist. Don’t panic if someone says, “I don’t believe in the Bible because of its contradictions.” You can give philosophic arguments for the existence of God or scientific arguments against evolution all day long, but even if you were to convince the unbeliever intellectually, you have not dealt with his main problem. His main problem is that he loves his sin and he stands guilty before the holy Judge of the universe.

I’m not saying that we should not have good answers to these intellectual questions. But I am saying that they are usually not the real issue. You can ask the person raising the objection, “Are you saying that if I can give reasonable answers to these questions, you will repent of your sins and trust in Christ as your Savior and Lord?” Invariably, the answer will be, “Well, I have other objections, too.” The objections are smokescreens to hide the fact that unbelievers love their sin.

This phrase shows us a fourth truth about sin: Sin must be determined by God’s absolute standards of holiness, not by men’s relative standards of goodness. When John says that men’s “deeds are evil,” we may recoil and think, “Terrorists and drug dealers and pedophiles and pimps are evil. But most people are not evil. Just look at all the good people in this world!”

The Bible acknowledges that there are unbelievers who are relatively good people. Because of God’s common grace, all people are not as evil as they could be. The human race would have self-destructed millennia ago if everyone acted as badly as they could. God restrains outward evil through civil government, through social disapproval, and through the fear of shame and the desire to look good to others. But God looks on the heart. Hebrews 4:13 reminds us, “And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.” When God looks at our hearts, even the best of people, humanly speaking, are filled with pride, selfishness, greed, lust, and other sins that may never come into public view.

But the situation of loving darkness rather than light is far worse than just loving sin:

3. Those who practice evil hate Jesus, who is light, and do not come to Him for fear that their deeds will be exposed.

John 3:20: “For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.”

Unbelievers do not just love their sin; they also hate Jesus! They hate the One who out of love offered Himself on the cross so that every sinner might not perish but have eternal life simply by believing in Him! They hate Him because He exposes their evil deeds.

A teacher assigned his fourth-grade students to write a topic sentence for the following phrases: “Sam always works quietly. Sam is polite to the teacher. Sam always does his homework.” The student’s topic sentence? “I hate Sam.” (Reader’s Digest [November, 2007], p. 59)

We need to understand several things about this verse. First, John does not mean that all sinners do their evil deeds in secret. Many do, of course. Many otherwise respectable men would never frequent a strip club in their own city, for fear of being seen. But if they’re traveling far from home, where they think they’re safe, they might yield to that sin. But in our day, when people call good evil and evil good (Isa. 5:20), it’s cool to flaunt your sin. Movie stars and other celebrities go on television to tell about their immoral behavior. We have “gay pride” celebrations to boast in what God condemns as evil. John is merely pointing out that such sinners do not come to the Light (Jesus) because they know that He would condemn their behavior as evil.

Second, John does not say that those who practice evil are neutral toward Jesus; rather, they hate Him. Many unbelievers would object. They would say that they don’t have anything against Jesus; they’re indifferent towards Him. They think that Jesus was a good man. Some may think that He was a prophet. They may say that He was a good moral teacher. They might even feel bad that He got crucified for His teachings and beliefs. They recognize that that was a miscarriage of justice. But they would protest if you said that they hate Jesus. They’re just indifferent. But John says that they hate Jesus. Jesus Himself told His then unbelieving brothers (John 7:7), “The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it, that its deeds are evil.”

Third, John gives the reason why unbelievers hate Jesus: they fear that He will expose their evil deeds. Just being around a guy like that makes you nervous because you’re always afraid that you’ll slip and utter a swear word or say or do something that will expose your evil heart.

The word translated “exposed” means to be convicted in a court of law. It was used of an attorney proving his case. Jesus uses it in John 16:8 when He says that the Holy Spirit “will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.” Guilty criminals hate judges who convict them of their crimes, even though it’s not the judges’ fault. Guilty sinners hate Jesus because He convicts them of their sins.

But, because of God’s grace, not all reject Christ:

4. True believers practice the truth and come to the Light, so that their deeds are shown to have God as their source.

John 3:21: “But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” John does not mean that some have a natural bent toward practicing the truth or that doing so brings salvation. He has just made it plain that we all need the new birth and that salvation comes through believing in Jesus Christ (3:1-16).

Rather, John is describing two types of people in the world: Those that have not believed in Christ avoid the light and hate it, because it exposes their sinful deeds. Those that have believed in Christ gladly come to Him and give Him all credit for their good deeds, because they know that those good deeds came from God, who caused them to be born again (1 Pet. 1:3; James 1:18).

“Practicing the truth” is a Semitic expression which means to act faithfully or honorably (Carson, p. 207). But it also shows us that the truth is to be lived, not just spoken (1 John 1:6). “Truth” is an important concept for John He uses the word 25 times in his gospel and 20 more times in his epistles. Truth is embodied in Jesus Himself, who said (14:6), “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” Jesus told Pilate (18:37), “For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” This has two implications:

First, there is such a thing as absolute truth in the spiritual and moral realms and you can spot believers by their obedience to that truth. Contrary to the postmodern mindset, truth is not relative to the culture or situation. All truth is in Jesus (Eph. 4:21) and He declared that God’s Word is truth (John 17:17). This means that believers are committed to the truth. We seek to understand the truth more deeply. We hold to the truth of God’s Word even when our culture goes against it.

Second, believers willingly, gladly, and repeatedly come to the light of God’s Word in order to grow in holiness and to give God glory for His work in their hearts. True believers read God’s Word over and over, allowing it to shine into the dark corners of their lives and expose the sinful thoughts and intentions of their hearts (Heb. 4:12). False believers avoid the Word and they find churches that don’t preach the Word to expose sin. False believers try to keep up a good front to impress others, but they don’t live openly in the light of God’s presence on the heart level.

Conclusion

C. Ryle (Expository Thoughts on the Gospels [Baker], 3:164) points out that eventually sinners will get what they desired while on earth: they loved darkness; they will be cast into outer darkness. They hated the light; they will be shut out from the light eternally. God will be perfectly just in condemning those who rejected Christ. They saw the Light, but hated it and turned away from it because they loved their sin.

John Piper summarizes our text (DesiringGod.org, “This is the Judgment: Light has come into the World”): “The coming of Jesus into the world clarifies that unbelief is our fault, and belief is God’s gift. Which means that if we do not come to Christ, but rather perish eternally, we magnify God’s justice. And if we do come to Christ and gain eternal life, we magnify God’s grace.”

I pray that we all will believe in Jesus and rejoice in His light, so that we magnify God’s grace!

 
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Posted by on January 28, 2017 in Jesus Christ

 

“Soar Like Eagles” The Gospel of John #4 – Attitude Is Everything!” John 3:1-15


god-is-loveThe opening ministry of Jesus in Jerusalem had attracted a great deal of attention, both favorable and unfavorable. Many of the people believed (2:23).

Jesus knew their hearts and that their faith was weak and unstable and so while He encouraged their belief, He did not trust Himself to them for more. They needed more time.

The story of Nicodemus is presented by John as a contrast to those who were described in John 2:23-24 (NIV)
23  Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many people saw the miraculous signs he was doing and believed in his name. 24  But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men..

Nicodemus is an instance of Christ’s knowledge of men and of one to whom He could trust Himself.

THE INTERVIEW WITH NICODEMUS

John 3:1-3 (NIV) Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2  He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.”

For the most part we see Jesus surrounded by the ordinary people, but here we see him in contact with one of the religious leaders of Jerusalem.

And “religious” people are often the most difficult to lead to Christ. They may be brilliant scholars, gifted leaders, or just “good folks,” but they can suffer from a blindness that is almost impenetrable.

He had an impeccable resume. If heaven could be earned from one’s accomplishments, Nicodemus would have had change left over!

But when he met Jesus, he, the leading teacher of Israel, would be the one raising his hand and asking the elementary-school questions.

There are certain things we need to know:

– Nicodemus must have been wealthy.

When Jesus died Nicodemus brought for his body “a mixture of myrrh and aloes about an hundred pound weight” (John 19:39), and only a wealthy man could have brought that.

– He was a Pharisee.

In many ways the Pharisees were the best people in the whole country. There were never more than 6,000 of them; they were what was known as a brotherhood. They entered into this brotherhood by taking a pledge in front of three witnesses that they would spend all their lives observing every detail of the scribal law.

– He was a ruler of the Jews.

This is to say he was a member of the Sanhedrin, which was a court of 70 members and was the supreme court of the Jews. Of course, under the Romans its power was limited, but they were still exclusive.

Nicodemus is the “cream of the Jewish crop.” One dare not dream of having life any better than he has it. He is a Jew, a Pharisee, a member of the Sanhedrin (the highest legal, legislative and judicial body of the Jews), and a highly respected teacher of the Old Testament Scriptures.

Can you imagine being Nicodemus and having Jesus tell you that all of this is not enough to get you into the kingdom of God? Yet this is precisely what Jesus tells Nicodemus.

John 3:3 (NIV) In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”

If a man like Nicodemus is not good enough for the kingdom of God, then who is? That is the question, and Jesus has the answer, which John records for us. Let us listen well to the inspired words of this Gospel to learn how one must enter the kingdom of God.

There are two reasons why he could have come at night: First, it may have been a sign of caution. It’s likely that Nicodemus may not have wished to commit himself by coming to Jesus by day. We must not condemn him; the wonder is that with his background, he came to Jesus at all! It was infinitely better to come at night than not at all.

Second, (the reason I prefer) the rabbis declared that the best time to study the law was at night when a man was undisturbed. Throughout the day Jesus was surrounded by crowds of people all the time.

“How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!”” Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.” “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” (3:3-6).

The reply of Jesus must have been startling because of its abruptness. At first the statement seemed almost irrelevant; yet it really was the expression of Jesus’ discernment.

Because “He knew what was in man,” He saw in Nicodemus a man who was truly seeking the kingdom of God!

To a Jew, the idea of baptism would be repugnant since it connoted the ceremony by which an unclean Gentile became a member of the Jewish faith. It would involve humiliation, and an acknowledgment that he, a Pharisee, needed to repent just like the Gentile “dogs.”

The water and the Spirit are the agents and instruments in producing the birth. The Spirit is living and active…the water is inanimate. The Spirit is the active agent, the water the instrument of birth. It is the fleshly part of man that is born of the flesh; but it is the spirit within man that must be born again or begotten of the Spirit.

And, without doubt, Jesus realized that He surprised him with the answer:

“You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ {8} The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.””

In the Hebrew and Greek, the word for wind (“pneuma”) can also be translated “spirit.” It is likely that the evening wind was blowing as Nicodemus and Jesus sat on the housetop conversing.

One of the symbols of the Spirit of God in the Bible is the wind or breath (Job 33:4; John 20:22; Acts 2:2). When Jesus used this symbol, Nicodemus should have readily remembered Ezekiel 37:1-14. The prophet saw a valley full of dead bones; but when he prophesied to the wind, the Spirit came and gave the bones life.

Again, it was the combination of the Spirit of God and the Word of God that gave life.

No one has seen the wind, but all of us have seen its effects, the devastation caused by severe wind storms.  This mighty wind has lowered trees, razed homes, and destroyed lives. We have not seen the wind, but we have seen what the wind has done.

So one cannot see the quiet working of the Holy Spirit, but all who are saved can testify to the fact that its effects are visible.

Water is the symbol of cleansing. When Jesus takes possession of our lives, when we love him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength…the sins of the past are forgiven and forgotten.

The Spirit is the symbol of power. When Jesus takes possession of our lives it is not only that the past is forgotten and forgiven; if that were all, we might well proceed to make the same mess of life over again. But into life there enters a new power which enables us to be what by ourselves we could never be and to do what by ourselves we could never do.

Water and Spirit stand for the cleansing and the strengthening power of God, which wipes out the past and gives victory in the future!

“”How can this be?” Nicodemus asked. {10} “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? {11} I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. {12} I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? {13} No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven–the Son of Man. {14} Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, {15} that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”

Nicodemus came “by night,” and he was still in the dark! Our Lord stated clearly that his knowledge of the Old Testament should have given him the light he needed (vs. 10). Nicodemus knew the facts recorded in scripture, but he could not understand the truths.

Nicodemus has now responded in three ways:

– “Rabbi, you are a teacher from God…your signs show that”

– “How can a man be born old? Can He enter his mother’s womb again?”

– “How can this be?”

Nicodemus was earnestly seeking for answers…and was not afraid to reveal his lack of understanding. Christ did not answer him directly, but rebuked him for his spiritual incompetency…as if to say, “you ought to know.”

Nicodemus was not just an ordinary teacher…he was a well-known teacher of high rank and position, respected and ad

A special study of the attitude behind this important command:

Jesus often said in His ministry what I believe that these verses are trying to say; to show us in fuller form what Jesus said many times in His earthly ministry: “Unless you can humble yourself and become like a little child, you cannot enter the kingdom of God.”

This metaphor about humbling self is expressed in the extreme context here with Nicodemus…and he even talks about grown ups, even needing to “be born again.”

This humbling process involves:

– starting their spiritual life from scratch

– seeking grace from God

– looking to Jesus for faith for what we cannot do of ourselves

– willing to accept a divine analysis of the human condition

– willing to accept the divine cure for the human ailment

Jesus was saying: “The fact that you are who you are could make it harder for you to enter the kingdom of God than some others. You need to forget everything you ever heard or thought about being saved…and listen to my commands and do them.”

Prostitutes and thieves may enter the kingdom ahead of someone with the background of Nicodemus. It will always be harder for those who stand on plateaus and have to step down, give up their position of pride, or give up the notion that men should come to them for answers, as they did to Nicodemus!

Humility! It’s the most difficult of all virtues!  YET it’s the foundation for the Christian! Remember Matthew 5:3: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” It’s the first “Be-attitude” and it’s first for a purpose:

– to be “poor in spirit” means to be “poor in ego”

– without this attitude, the other be-attitudes won’t come!

This is difficult, isn’t it?  It’s difficult for anyone to admit they might be wrong, that we might need to change our viewpoint and our ways! And Jesus blows Nicodemus out of his saddle here. Nicodemus had all the credentials and they wouldn’t be the right ones!

When a person is unfamiliar with an idea, use something they are familiar with…Jesus went to the brazen serpent; He made a direct comparison between the serpent and Himself.

Numbers 21:8 (NIV) The LORD said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.”

On their journey through the wilderness the people of Israel murmured and complained and regretted that they had ever left Egypt. To punish them God sent a plague of deadly fiery serpents; the people repented and cried for mercy.

God instructed Moses to make an image of a serpent and to hold it up in the midst of the camp; and those who looked upon it were healed. The serpent was the emblem of sin, as Nicodemus would recognize. The destiny of the individual was determined by his  response to God’s invitation. The serpent seems to have been given as a test of their faith in Moses.

I wonder how many Israelites died on that occasion because the idea of looking at a serpent was so preposterous!?!

In both cases (Christ and the serpent):

– death threatens as a punishment for sin

– it is God Himself who, in His sovereign grace, provides a remedy

– this remedy consists of something (or some One) which (who) must be lifted up, in public view

– the belief or faith of the individual was crucial in the healing

The idea of being “lifted up” has a double meaning: Jesus was lifted up upon the cross; and  Jesus was also lifted up into glory at His ascension. The same Greek word (“hupsoun”) is used here relating to the cross (8:28; 12:32) and also of Jesus’s ascension (Acts 2:33; 5:31; Phil. 2:9). And the two are connected…for without one, the other would not be possible!

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The new birth begins and ends with the power of God. Jesus declared to Nicodemus that the new birth is both possible and available because of the power of the Holy Spirit (3:6-8). We can become so caught up in how to receive the gift of God that we forget how incredible it is that the Spirit of God is available to us in the first place!

Because being born again is rooted in the power of God, it also gives us hope of real and significant change in our lives. When we make plans to see old friends we have not seen in years, we always wonder how much they have changed. Having known them years earlier and having been acquainted with their basic personalities, it is easy for us to assume that they are still the same people we knew twenty or forty years earlier. Could they have experienced serious changes in their lives? For Christians, the answer is a resounding “Yes!” By the power of God we are being changed.

Faith is a crucial aspect of the new birth. This faith is not just any decision about Jesus (3:2), but the decision to trust Him as the Christ, the Son of God (20:31). Jesus compared this faith to the faith that was required of the Israelites in the wilderness when Moses raised up the bronze serpent (3:14; Numbers 21:4-9).

  • To all who think that basic goodness is enough for God, Jesus says, “You must be born again.”
  • To all who are comfortable with their cultural religions, Jesus says, “You must be born again. “
  • To all who seek only a personal, private religion, Jesus says, “You must be born again.”
  • To all who view baptism as a meaningless, irrelevant historic relic, Jesus says, “You must be born again.”

There are two kinds of misunderstanding:

  1. There is the man who misunderstands because he has not yet reached a stage of knowledge and of experience at which he is able to grasp the truth.

When one is in this state, our duty is to do all we can to explain to him so he will be able to grasp the knowledge which is being offered to him.

  1. There is also the man who is unwilling to understand.

There is a failure to see which comes from the refusal to see. A man can deliberately shut his mind to truth which he does not wish to accept. If a man does not wish to acknowledge his own failings or does not wish to be changed, he will deliberately shut his eyes and his mind and his heart to the power which can change him.

Did Nicodemus believe on this occasion? Verse 11 tells us that he did not accept Jesus’ testimony at that time. Verse 12 implies that the earthly should have made the heavenly easier. We don’t know for sure, but John’s style throughout the gospel up to this point says that if he had obeyed here, John would have told us about it…that’s been his pattern thus far.

But notice:

– Nicodemus spoke on behalf of fairness in judging Jesus (7:50).

– He assisted Joseph of Arimathea in removing the body of Jesus from the cross and burying it (19:38-42).

– He was willing to admit that Jesus performed miracles and that He was a teacher of God (cpt. 3).

 
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Posted by on January 19, 2017 in Jesus Christ

 

The three ‘grand miracles’


c5f6b188dcd185fbe7f76b5ab2474b96Three “Great Miracles” described in scripture shape the Christian’s understanding of God. Each of these three grand miracles have been challenged by non-believers and watered down by believers.

  1. The Miracle of Creation

(Gen 1:1 NIV)  In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

 (Gen 1:2 NIV)  Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

John 1:1-3 (ESV) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2  He was in the beginning with God. 3  All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

The most insidious and damaging ideology ever foisted upon the mind of modern man is the notion that human beings are but animals, and the offspring of other, more primitive creatures. It’s known as the theory of organic evolution.

 Tragically, multiplied thousands across the land have ingested this dogma. Evolution is not a scientific law. It is a mere hypothesis that falls quite beyond the pale of the scientific method (observation, experimentation, and verification).

 Many scientists dispute that evolutionary dogma is true science. Evolutionist Robert Jastow has conceded that belief in the accidental origin of life is “an act of faith much like faith in the power of a Supreme Being.”

 Theodore Tahmisian, a nuclear physicist with the Atomic Energy Commission, has said: “Scientists who go about teaching that evolution is a fact of life are great con men, and the story they are telling may be the greatest hoax ever. In explaining evolution we do not have one iota of fact … It is a tangled mishmash of guessing games and figure jaggling … If evolution occurred at all, it was probably in a very different manner than the way it is now taught”.

  1. The Miracle of the Incarnation

How does God reveal Himself?  Through scripture…through our conscience…through the indwelling Holy Spirit. But it begins for many through nature.

 (Psalms 19:1-6)  “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. {2} Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. {3} There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. {4} Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun, {5} which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. {6} It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is hidden from its heat.

 (Romans 1:18-21)  The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, {19} since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. {20} For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. {21} For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.

 In the Bible God tells us what He is like. We learn how He thinks, how He feels, and how we can expect Him to act. If we want to know God, we must begin by opening the Bible and reading what He has to say about Himself.

 But God is infinite, and we are finite human beings. How can the finite ever really understand the infinite? How can the human ever truly know the divine?

 It seems that God must reveal Himself to us in some way more personal than mere written words if we are ever to know Him genuinely.

 And that is exactly what He did through Jesus Christ.

(John 1:14-18)  The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. {15} John testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.'” {16} From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. {17} For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. {18} No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.

 (Hebrews 1:1-3)  In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, {2} but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. {3} The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

 Jesus Christ is the out-shining of God’s glory and the perfect expression of God’s essential being. To know Him is to know God.

 Jesus Himself made that claim when He said: If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him. (John 14:7).

 The miracle of Jesus’ Birth.

We often set an unnecessary and unfair standard as it pertains to the birth of Christ, growing concerned whether we should honor His birth on a day chosen by men to be Christmas Day (December 25). Paul dealt with such controversy in his day, when he wrote to the Christians at Colossae: Colossians 2:16 (NIV) Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.

The Message put it this way: Colossians 2:16 (MSG) So don’t put up with anyone pressuring you in details of diet, worship services, or holy days.

Biblical names frequently have a profound theological meaning. For instance, in Isaiah 7:14 the prophecy was given: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”

 The name “Immanuel” in Hebrew means “God is with us,” and the prophecy finds its fulfillment in the birth of Jesus Christ.

 By the use of  “Immanuel,” at least two things are in view:

First, that Jesus is a divine being; he is God.

Second, there is the implication that in some way Deity has identified “with us.”

 As the sustainer

The Bible teaches that the divine Christ sustains the very universe in which we live. In that great chapter which is designed to exalt the Lord, Paul affirms that in Christ “all things consist” (Col. 1:17).

In human nature

Though Christ was existing eternally as Deity, yet it was the divine plan that he become human. So in the fulness of time the “seed” of woman came to earth (cf. Gen. 3:15; Gal. 4:4).

In order that he might identify with us, Jesus came “in the likeness of sinful flesh” (Rom. 8:3). The Lord was tempted in all points, yet without sin (Heb. 4:15). So He is able to deal compassionately and justly with those whom he is not ashamed to call his brethren (cf. Heb. 2:11, 17; 4:15).

Further, it was essential that he become human in order that he might die! The writer of Hebrews makes it clear that Jesus partook of human nature that “through death he might bring to nought him that had the power of death, that is, the devil” (2:14).

Through his vicarious death

The identification of God the Son with us in his death is vividly stressed in Isaiah 53. Note the interchange of pronouns:

“Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows…he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed” (Isa. 53:4-51).

Paul states that Christ died for our sins (1 Cor. 15:3). Again, “Him who knew no sin he [God] made to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in him” (2 Cor. 5:21). The death of Christ is given a very prominent place in the Bible.

 With daily watchfulness

The Scriptures are filled with promises that God will be with his saints on a daily basis. He was with Joseph as a slave in Egypt (Gen. 39:2-3, 21). He was with Moses (Ex. 3:12) and Joshua (Josh. 1:5). The Psalmist could confidently claim: “Jehovah of hosts is with us” (Psa. 46:7). 

Similarly, Jesus, in concluding the Great Commission, announced: “lo, I am with you always (pas hay-mer’-ah– literally, all the days – i.e., day by day) even unto the end of the world” (Matt. 28:20).

If not even a sparrow falls to the ground without the Father’s knowledge, and if the very hairs of our head are numbered (Matt. 10:29-30), we may be assured that the Lord watches over us and that he sees our ways and numbers our steps (Job. 31:4).

 3. The Miracle of the Resurrection

The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the foundation of the Christian system (cf. 1 Cor. 15:14ff). If there was no resurrection, Christianity is a hoax, and we are wasting our time. But the truth is, the event of Jesus’ resurrection is incontrovertible.

 Professor Thomas Arnold of Rugby, a world-renowned historian, once said that Christ’s resurrection from the dead is the “best-attested fact in human history” (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, IV, p. 2569).

  (Rom 1:1-4 NIV)  Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God– {2} the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures {3} regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, {4} and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.

 (1 Cor 15:20 NIV)  But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

 (1 Cor 15:23 NIV)  But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him.

 First, the resurrection is one of the major evidences that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

Paul affirmed that Christ is “declared to be the Son of God with power … by the resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1:4).

Second, Jesus’ resurrection represents an assurance that we can have forgiveness from our sins.

Paul contended: “… if Christ hath not been raised, our faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins” (1 Cor. 15:17). The reverse of the apostle’s affirmation would be this: If Jesus was raised, sins will be forgiven when we obey the gospel – Acts 2:38; 22:16.

Third, the resurrection tells the world that the kingdom of God is ruled by a living sovereign.

The founder of Islam is dead and his bones lie dormant in the earth. But the founder of Christianity – sixty years after His death – appeared to John on the island of Patmos and said: “I am the first and the last, and the Living one … I was dead, and behold, I am alive for evermore …” (Rev. 1:17-18).

Fourth, Jesus’ resurrection proves that physical death is not the termination of human existence.

God, who is the giver of life (1 Tim. 6:13), has the power to reanimate the human body. Christ’s triumph over the grave is Heaven’s pledge to us that we too shall be raised. This is why Jesus is referred to as the “firstfruits of them that are asleep” (1 Cor. 15:20, 23).

Fifth, the Lord’s resurrection previewed the ultimate victory of Christianity over all its enemies.

In the book of Revelation, Jesus is depicted as a lamb that had been slain, but was standing again (5:6). This same Lord was “the lion of the tribe of Judah” that had overcome His foes (5:5). Christians too will overcome as a result of the Lamb’s sacrifice and victory over death (cf. Rev. 12:11).

  1. These Questions Must Be Asked and Answered.
  2. Do we accept these three “Grand Miracles”?
  3. Do we accept the belief in a God who exists apart from and superior to all others?
  4. Did God become man?
  5. Did Jesus experience resurrection?

 

 

 
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Posted by on December 25, 2016 in God, Jesus Christ

 
 
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