Archive for the ‘John’ Category

John Twenty-One

Posted: June 16, 2011 in John, Must-see Videos

             Can you imagine what life was like for Peter in the days following the death of Jesus? Not only did he lose his friend, but he repeatedly denied having anything to do with him. And not only this, but Jesus had even told him that Peter would deny him. Then as these reports start coming in that Jesus is alive, what does Peter do? He goes fishing. Real spiritual there, buddy. Poor guy didn’t know what to do other than what he had been doing years before Jesus came to him three years prior to this. Out of nowhere those years ago, Jesus showed up, called Peter to follow him, and he did. Now that Jesus was nowhere around, might as well go back to fishing, right?

            John’s final chapter in this book finds Peter and several other disciples returning from a rotten night of fruitless fishing. After a mysterious stranger on the shore directs to them toss their net on the other side of the boat, they find their net loaded with fish- so much that they were unable to even bring the catch into their boat. Seeing this, Peter realizes that the man on the shore is Jesus, and he puts the rest of his clothes back on and promptly jumps into the water so that he can swim back to shore. John tells us that the rest of the disciples chose to ride the boat back the remaining hundred yards inland. I find myself wondering who arrived to land first- Peter, or the boat. I’m laughing as I write this, picturing the look on Peter’s face were the boat to pass him about fifty yards from shore.

            After breakfast is over, Jesus speaks with Peter, tells him to feed Jesus’ flock, and then predicts that Peter will die by crucifixion. And then he again commands Peter, “Follow me.”

            Can you imagine how hard it must have been for Peter to accept Jesus’ forgiveness for abandoning him the night he was arrested? That Jesus would fully forgive him- that Jesus would forgive any of us, is a testimony to the richness of grace, that God gives us things that we never deserved. I know I’ve posted this video before, but it’s powerful. Put yourself into the shoes of Peter here and see how you come out feeling:

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John Twenty

Posted: June 15, 2011 in John

                The more I dig into the Gospel accounts of the followers of Christ, the more firmly convinced I become that spiritual sight is something that God freely bestows upon men- it’s not something we’re born with, or create for ourselves. I realize that this is a somewhat controversial statement, because inherent to this statement (for some) is the idea that God plays favorites among mankind. While this may or may not be true, let me remind you that playing favorites is exactly what God did with the nation of Israel, and it’s what Jesus did even within the disciples that He chose to have follow him.

                All this popped into my head as I read John twenty and I saw that until Jesus truly revealed who he was to Mary, she still couldn’t recognize him for who he was- and she was staring right at him. Of course, the argument can be made that it was too dark, or her eyes were filled with tears, or she wasn’t looking closely enough, or any other number of reasons. In the next chapter when more of Jesus’ disciples encounter Jesus without recognizing him, you could make the argument that Jesus was simply too far away from them. But you can’t make arguments like that in Luke twenty-four where Jesus encounters two of his followers and, according to the text, “their eyes were kept from recognizing him.” And then, later in that chapter, “their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight.”

                Remember when Jesus asked his followers in Matthew sixteen who he truly was? When Peter said “you are the Christ, the son of the living God,” Jesus replied with this: “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in Heaven.”

              Think about the implications of the idea that men cannot be saved until God moves first. There are some who would take this concept and see God as cruelly with-holding salvation from a group of desperate sinners, but this is known as a “straw-man argument” by which they create a false argument and then blow it down. Salvation for men (and by the way, my usage of the word “men”, unless otherwise specified, is used in reference to the entire human race) is impossible apart from God’s grace, because apart from God’s grace no one would seek God in the first place.

               Now, we could embark upon the endless discussion of election, predestination, regeneration, and grace (all Biblical terms, yet all heavily debated), but we won’t. Not today. Because there is a crystal clear passage we have covered before earlier in the book of John that says, “no one can come to me unless the Father draws him.” What does this mean for us? Simply this: were it not for God working on us, we would have never come to Jesus. Had God done nothing, we would have continued our merry rebellion straight into Hell, in complete harmony with our human will.

              Knowing that God must be actively engaging a lost sinner before said sinner can be saved should also change the way in which we do our personal evangelism. Not that we no longer need to joyfully obey the Great Commission, but that we obey it right. We are to preach the Gospel of our Savior, the good news that God is actively working among men and, through the life, death, and resurrection of His Son, is now bestowing salvation upon all who are believing upon Jesus as their Savior. The Gospel is the awesomeness that because God is love, He gave His only begotton Son so that those believing on him will have eternal life- not eternal damnation.

                But…the Gospel is only good news to those who believe, and so we must implore all men to believe. We don’t do this by leading them in a prayer, and we don’t do this by giving them Four Spiritual Laws or the ABC’s of salvation. We do this by sharing the Word, answering questions they may have, and above all else, fervently praying that God will open their eyes. We pray for that part, because we can not do it ourselves. Try as we can, we are humanly unable to give someone faith in God. We can’t. But here’s the good part: God can, and He does. As Paul said, some plant seeds, some water them, but God is the one who brings the crops in. Let us do our utmost in planting and watering seeds, and we’ll trust the resulting harvest to God, for He is, after all, the Lord of the harvest.

John Nineteen

Posted: June 14, 2011 in John

            John nineteen contains John’s not easily read account of the crucifixion of Jesus, this simple son of a carpenter from Nazareth. The charges were clear and accurate: Jesus had elevated himself to the position of God’s Son, effectively making himself to be equal with God. Many loved him and embraced him as such…many more rejected him and called for his death because, to them, he was nothing more than a blasphemer.

            I love how C.S. Lewis formed what has come to be known as Lewis’ Trilema. Says he, “A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” Jesus couldn’t simply be just a good man. He was either a liar, a lunatic, or Lord.

            Among the myriad of interesting things I could note in this chapter, two things jumped out at me. The first was the tunic that Jesus was wearing prior to his execution. John describes this tunic as “seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom.” We see unique tunics like this elsewhere in Scripture as well: it is found in Exodus 28, where God gives instructions for the apparel needed for the High Priest. We see there the same seamlessly woven tunic.

            Think about that for a second. The role of the High Priest of Israel, the highest priestly position there is, was at last being carried out by the Son of God. As we see in Hebrews 10:4, “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin.” There must be a sinless, human sacrifice to cover human sins. Not only was Jesus to be that spotless Lamb of God, but he is also the high priest of his people, using his own death to make intercession for the sins of men. As such, the tunic he wore reflected that.

            The second thing that really hit me was the proximity that Pilate had to the Truth, yet still he refused to submit to it. Here’s the thing, though- the entire human race has done this. Consider Romans one: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” For those of you thinking that God isn’t fair in damning men who have never heard about Jesus, please realize that such damnation is just, because all men everywhere have enough truth about God to turn their backs on Him.

            How much sadder this is for people who grow up in church, hear about Jesus their whole lives, and yet never once acknowledge him for who he is or submit to his Lordship. They compare themselves among themselves and assume themselves to be saved because they’re no worse then the next guy. Jesus commands those that thirst or hunger to come to him, yet so many church members deny having a thirst or a hunger. Their lives are consumed with religiosity, but there is no relationship. They are busy doing things for God, and yet they never know God. They will say “Lord, didn’t we do all of these things for you?” And He will reply, “Depart from me…I never knew you.” So many people will go to Hell having lived beside the truth for years, without ever having embraced it. I pray this will not be you.

John Eighteen

Posted: June 13, 2011 in John

John continues his account of the betrayal and arrest of Jesus in chapter eighteen. We see again Peter’s unfailing ability to act inappropriately in the worst of times. This time he swung his sword on a guy in his meager attempts to protect Jesus (you know…God) from being taken. In what I believe to be a supernatural deflection, Peter manages only to cut the servant’s ear off, which Jesus then amazingly heals. Jesus tells Peter this: “shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?”

This reference to “drinking the cup” has been seen before, most recently earlier that night as Jesus prayed to his Father, “My Father, if it be possible, letthis cup pass from me;nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” In this simple passage we get a glimpse of the fullness of Jesus’ humanity in that an aspect of him dreaded drinking this “cup” from his Father. As the centuries-old theologian John Gill stated, “his human will, though in some instances, as in this, may have been different from the divine will, yet not contrary to it; and his divine will is always the same with his Father’s,” which is why Jesus was willing to endure this cup.

What was this “cup,” exactly? Some would have you believe that it was a reference to the coming crucifixion of Jesus, and they would be partly right- albeit a very small part. The atonement was, and is, so much more than Jesus simply dying on a Roman cross. See, here’s the thing: I have a book called Jesus Freaks which shares stories of Christian martyrs over the last 2000 years. Within this book we see time and time again the courage with which these young and old men and women of God would go to their deaths.

Sometimes their last uttered word would simply be “Jesus…” Sometimes they would die singing hymns, as was the case of John Denley, who “was sent to the stake to be burned. When they lit the wood beneath him, Denley showed no fear. He cheerfully sang a psalm as the flames rose around him. One of his tormentors picked up a piece of wood and threw it at him, hitting him in the face. He hoped to anger or silence Denley, but Denley only responded, ‘Truly, you have spoiled a good old song.’ Then he spread his arms again and continued singing until he died.”

How is it that we see believers singingas they are being killed, and yet Jesus is sweating blood in the Garden, desperate for this cup to pass from him? Do you really think that mere death was enough to wreck our Savior? Oh no.
Not even close. Yes, the cup that he was to drink involved dying at the hands
of the Roman government, and it certainly involved being whipped and beaten
beyond human recognition, but this was merely the beginning. This physical suffering caused by men was barely the tip of the iceberg in comparison to what would transpire that day on the Cross.

Why? Because Jesus knew it was his time. It was time for him to live up to his very name. Why was he named Ἰησοῦς/יְהוֹשׁוּעַ/Iēsous /Yeshua/Jesus/ Joshua? Because his name, be it Hebrew, Greek, or English, means “Yahweh is salvation.” Jesus Christ, the Son of God, God in the flesh, was about to accomplish the salvation of His people. Remember Matthew 1:21? “You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

But how? How was the Creator of the universe going to save his people from the eternal wrath of God that was earned by their rebellion? By bearing
their punishment upon Himself.
If you are a Christian, you are not saved today because Jesus was beaten. If you are saved, it is not simply because Jesus died 2000 years ago on a Roman cross. If you are a Christian, you are one because 2000 years ago God punished His own Son for every sin that you have ever committed or ever will commit. As we see in 2 Corinthians 5:21, God made Jesus, who knew no sin, to become sin on our behalf. God punished His Son as though he were guilty of breaking every law God ever made, and He absolutely crushed him. As all God yet all man, Jesus was able to suffer an eternity of his Father’s divine wrath and holy hatred of sin in what we were able to measure as just a few short hours. And this act of substitution pleased the Father. He accepted this offering of His Son, and He proved this in the resurrection of His Son. God the Son said “it is finished,” and he died. God the Father said “it is
finished indeed,” and raised His Son back to life.

How was the sacrificial death of Jesus able to cover the sins of his people? Because you could stack the entirety of the human race, past, present, and future, on one side of a scale, and you could put Jesus on the other side, and Jesus is worth more than all of us combined. The death of Christ is infinitely precious, because He is infinitely worthy, and as such His suffering and death is enough to cover the sins of even the most heinous of men.

Jesus said it was finished, and He meant it. He truly did accomplish the salvation of his people. The question then floats to the top… “Is there salvation for me? Is there hope even for me? Did what Jesus accomplished have any bearing on my life, in a way that I can have a relationship with God?” And the answer is YES! Jesus stands ready and willing to embrace everyone coming to Him in faith, able to forgive their sins and restore fellowship with the Father. He can do this because He paid for those sins, and now as Paul said in Romans three, God can now be just and the justifier of who? The one who has faith in Jesus. Will you believe? As the old song goes, there is room at the Cross for you. Will you come to Jesus?

John Seventeen

Posted: June 12, 2011 in John

             I love the idea of Heaven. I love it because Jesus loves it, and I love it because of the way God describes His Paradise. The New Heaven and the New Earth are mysterious to me, yet there is a longing within me to hurry up and get there. I love my life and everything and everyone in it, but I am definitely ready to continue this journey of life into Eternity. Now, having said all that, I have a major pet peeve in the theological realm, and that is when the drawing card to a relationship with God is formed by way of an invitation to Heaven.

            Let me explain. Suppose you were to invite me to a surprise birthday party for your mom or dad, to which I reply: “I would love to come! Otherwise I’d be stuck doing yardwork all day!” Or how about this response: “Cake? Oh, I LOVE cake. Cake is awesome! I can’t wait to go to this cake-eating party!”

            What would responses like that tell you about how I felt about your mom or dad? Simply put, those answers would reveal that I don’t particularly care much for the guest of honor at the party, but I want to go because I love cake or I would rather go than do yardwork.

            How much different is it to say this: “Become a follower of Jesus so that you ain’t gotta go to Hell”? Or how about, “Become a Christian because there are streets of gold in Heaven”? What are we inviting people to- a life with Christ or an escape from Hell, or perhaps a boarding pass to a really neat place called Heaven? I love John Piper. I do. I don’t agree with him 100% of the time, but it’s ok because I don’t agree with myself all the time either! I encourage you to watch this video where he explains how we simply cannot use Hell as the sole motivator for becoming a Christian.

            Likewise, we can’t really use Heaven solely as a motivator to become a Christian, either. If I threw a party at my house that featured all the food, music, and activities that you loved, would you attend if I also brought a pack of wild hyenas to hang out with? Of course not- the company of the animals is so unpleasant that the atmosphere is no longer appealing. It’s no different when we try to convince God-haters to “become a Christian” so that they can go to Heaven. It doesn’t matter how eloquently we describe eternity with God. They’re not going to want to go to His Heaven because He is there.

            Let me tell you what can be a sole motivator to follow Christ. Let me tell you why Heaven is so great. Let me tell you why I am looking forward to eternity: God.

            Heaven is great because God is there. Eternal life is a wonderful concept because, as Jesus says in John seventeen, eternal life begins now and “this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” If the idea of spending eternity learning more and more and more about our infinite God seems boring to you, I fear that you will not be there. Piper summed it up well: “If the thought of spending eternity in Heaven making much of Him instead of being made much of doesn’t interest you, you’re not saved.”

            Why do you want Jesus? As a “Get Out of Hell Free Ticket”? Or as a precious Savior who you want to spend an eternity praising for His goodness?

John Sixteen

Posted: June 11, 2011 in John

            In John sixteen, Jesus iterates his promise of the coming Holy Spirit- the third member of the Trinity. Francis Chan has written a book entitled “The Forgotten God,” which deals with the way in which we often overlook the role of the Holy Spirit, particularly as pertaining to believers. Sadly enough, there was great cause for writing such a book, because we are indeed somewhat lacking in our knowledge, and worship, of this aspect of God- myself included.

            We see also in this chapter the nasty side effects of religion. I hate religion. Have I mentioned that yet? Jesus warns us here that in the future to come, there will be people out actively killing Christians and in doing so, they think they are doing God a favor. Sound unbelievable? Think again. This prophecy was fulfilled as early as the days of the Apostle Paul (um…because he was one of them) and we still see it in action today through unnamed religions that offer its adherents 72 virgins for their service to Allah. How is it possible to be so screwed up in our way of thinking?

            Well, I just answered my own question. It’s our way of thinking. And this is one of the reasons why Christianity is rejected- because it’s centered not on what we can do to earn our way to Heaven, but about the fact that God Himself put on human flesh, died bearing the sins of His people, and is now freely forgiving and granting eternal life to all who believe upon Him. Every other religion in the world focuses on how to reach God; Christianity explains how God reached us. Other religions are about what we do for God; Christianity is about what God did for us.

            Ever hear the tired cliché “it’s not a religion, it’s a relationship”? It’s tired because it’s so constantly used, but it’s constantly used because it is true. Christianity is not about a bunch of rules and regulations that we’re supposed to follow to keep God happy. It’s not a list of things to do or not do to appease a distant God who is waiting to strike us with lightening bolts every time we fail to please Him. No sir. Such a thing would be horrible, and I would suck at keeping my end of the bargain.

            Jesus explains in this chapter what this thing called Christianity is at its core: it’s about the ever-growing relationship between the Creator and the created. The Holy Spirit, this mysterious third member of the Trinity actually resides within a Christian, revealing to us things that are good…as well as things that are bad. But again- this is not designed to “quell our fun” or to make God love us more through our obedience to Him, but this is instead to help us have a closer relationship with the God who loved us enough to die for us.

             If I were doing something that my wife hated, I would want to stop- not because it’s “wrong” for me to do, but because I don’t want to do anything that she hates. It’s the same way with God. Everything that transpires between us and God is for our betterment and for the benefit of our relationship with Him. So please…don’t think you have to obey a list of rules to make God be happy with you. That’s totally not the point of our faith. It’s to enjoy God, and to spend this lifetime and the eternity to come getting to know the One who saved us.

John Fifteen

Posted: June 10, 2011 in John

              I could never do justice to this topic in the course of one small blog article, but as I read John fifteen I could see where some Christians believe that it is possible that they can lose their salvation. After all, Jesus said “Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away…If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.” Pretty clear cut, right? If we don’t live as we should and abide in Christ, then we have forfeited our salvation and thus will be cast into Hell as though we were never saved in the first place. Eh…not so fast.

            The idea of losing one’s salvation, also known as falling from grace, is a concept embedded within a flawed idea of free will. The argument goes as follows: “If God has given me free will by which I can freely choose, or not choose, my desires, motives, and inclinations, than the decision to remain saved is mine to make just as much as the decision to be saved was. I am free to choose salvation; I am free to reject it afterwards.” This is logically consistent. God can’t make me want Him against my will, either before or after conversion.

            There are two main camps in opposition to this idea, though they also both differ from one another in many respects. One camp embraces libertarian free will- the idea that the will is completely free from any internal or external influence. However, in light of Biblical passages that seem to indicate that one’s salvation cannot be lost, they illogical embrace free will, yet still eschew the idea of being free enough to reject said salvation.

            The other group upholds compatiblistic free will, in that though we are free to make decisions, those decisions will also be determined through our desires. According to this camp, we will always choose according to our strongest preference. This camp argues that with conversion and regeneration, a Christian’s will is forever altered because that Christian is a “new creation.” As such, they will never desire to break total fellowship with God and therefore would never choose to reject their salvation. This camp also uses logical Biblicity in postulating this idea: If God is the one seeking after men, and salvation is completely in His hands, He will not fail in accomplishing this salvation. Whether we ever stupidly try to yank our hand from His, His grip will never falter.

            As with all areas of debate, both sides have an arsenal of passages they appeal to for support of their position. To exegete every passage that supports my own position while debunking all others would take quite some time, and scholars far more learned than I have already done this. Nonetheless, it is my contention that a Christian cannot lose their salvation and be rejected by God after He saves them. I will explain just a few passages that I draw my beliefs from.   

            Romans 8:29-30 says, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”

            What we have here is commonly referred to as the “Golden Chain of Redemption,” and its links include the predestination, calling, justification, and glorification of those whom God foreknew. We’ll have to define “foreknew” another time, but the point is this: To assert that the future glorification of sinners will not happen for all sinners, since some can “lose their salvation,” is to break this chain that doesn’t allow for it. They instead read the passage as “some of those whom were predestined, called, and justified will be glorified.” However, this is reading an idea into the text that is not there. Start to finish, those whom God foreknew will be eternally glorified, an idea echoed by Paul in Philippians 1:6, where he said “and I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” What God beings, he will complete. Those who are drawn to the Son will be raised up at the last day.

            Lastly, I firmly believe from 1 John 2:19 that those “losing” their salvation are merely demonstrating their lack of it in the first place. John says, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.”

            True believers stay believers- not of their own power but of the power of the God who has saved them. When John references those “in Christ,” he is referring to two types of people: those truly in Christ who have been drawn to Him by the Father and will be raised on the last day, and those who appear for a time to be a Christian yet are later revealed for the liar that they are and then cast into Hell. Which of these descriptions best fit you?