Three Questions and Three Answers

April 12, 2019 at 1:31 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

The Apostle Paul’s salvation testimony is recorded at least three times in Scripture (Acts 9, 22:1-16, 26:1-23), but it is possible that Paul had the dialogue that occurred between Jesus and him on the road to Damascus in mind when the Holy Spirit inspired him to write II Corinthians 5:19-20. There are three answers there to three questions asked in Acts 9:4-6.

Q. Why are you persecuting me? (Acts 9:4)
A. Because I am your unreconciled enemy. (II Corinthians 5:19)

The Lord Jesus asked this question to Paul (still Saul at that time) because Paul was a sworn enemy of Christ and His followers. Although it is unlikely that you were a Jewish bounty hunter of Christians before you met Jesus, the fact is, in our sinful state, we were at enmity with God, and our treasonous trespasses against Him as our unacknowledged King would have been more than sufficient cause for Him to justly destroy us. However, as in the case of Paul, He was merciful. He made a way in Christ Jesus for the enmity to be slain, and for us to be reconciled to Him as we surrendered and received the adoption of sons. Now He has given to us the ministry of reconciliation, so that we might exhort others to cease their persecution of our loving Lord and join His family, too.

Q. Who are You, Lord? (Acts 9:5)
A. I AM the One in Whom dwells God – God manifest in the flesh. (II Corinthians 5:19)

Paul answered Jesus’s question with a question of his own, but, in so doing, accidentally referenced the Lordship of Jesus, the God-man, fully human and fully divine, with not only the willingness, but the ability as well, to grant full pardon, forgiveness, and reconciliation: to make, in an instant, one of His worst enemies into God’s own child.

Q. What do You want me to do? (Acts 9:6)
A. Be My ambassador. (II Corinthians 5:20)

Paul went immediately from complete defiance of Jesus to total submission. Reconciliation between sinful men and the holy God can never be accomplished through our performance of tasks or our attempts at obeying His commands, but it is accomplished by the perfect obedience of the Son of God, His sacrificial death, and the gracious gift of saving faith. Once we have received this gift, we seize upon the privilege to obey Him and the awesome responsibility to represent Him in this world as His appointed ambassadors, preaching the “word of reconciliation.”

Lifting up the Son of Man

April 4, 2019 at 12:54 pm | Posted in John | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Despite Nicodemus’s failure to grasp the concept of the water-spirit birth, Jesus, in His patience, gave him insight into another well-known Old Testament passage of Scripture: the account of the fiery serpents in Numbers 21.

God had sent a plague of venomous and deadly serpents to bite His people in the wilderness. This was because they had been rebelling against Him and complaining about the manna He had provided for them to eat and about the length of time they had been in the wilderness. Every serpent bite was a death sentence, but God, in His mercy, also provided a cure. He had Moses make a snake, of all things, out of brass. Just as the death rate for those bitten was 100%, so the cure rate for those who would raise their eyes in faith and behold the brass serpent was 100%. Many looked and lived, but many also stubbornly refused to look and died.

The brass serpent had been lifted up, just as Jesus would be “lifted up,” an ambiguous term, which at various times could mean physically held aloft, honored, exalted, or even (as in the case of Naboth, who was “set on high”) condemned by the people.

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:

John 3:14

Nicodemus no doubt knew something of the significance of the title “Son of Man” from the Book of Daniel. It was the title of the then-future heir of David’s throne, the Messiah, so he may have understood Jesus to be saying that the Son of Man would be “lifted up” in the sense of being exalted. However, Jesus was actually revealing a greater truth: that He would be lifted up as the Sin-Bearer, the way the brass serpent in the wilderness was lifted up, to be a symbol of death, but also to be looked to for salvation – the ONLY means of salvation.

He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

John 3:18

Just as those snake-bitten Israelites were already as good as dead – whether they took any further action or not – so those who do believe on Jesus are the ONLY ones who escape that condemnation.

A Greater Ladder

February 25, 2019 at 2:57 pm | Posted in Biblical Greats, John | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Jesus answered and said unto him, Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig tree, believest thou? thou shalt see greater things than these. And he saith unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.

John 1:50-51

Jesus referred to the incident which we often call “Jacob’s ladder” from Genesis 28:12. Jesus is the only one Who can connect Heaven and Earth – in Whom sinful man can come into peaceful relationship with holy God. Jesus did not identify Himself as the fulfillment of what the Angels typified, but as the fulfillment of what the ladder itself typified. This motif – that Jesus would be the longed-for Mediator (daysman, interpreter) between God and man – appears in other Old Testament passages as well.

For he is not a man, as I am, that I should answer him, and we should come together in judgment. Neither is there any daysman betwixt us, that might lay his hand upon us both.

Job 9:32-33

Yea, his soul draweth near unto the grave, and his life to the destroyers. If there be a messenger with him, an interpreter, one among a thousand, to shew unto man his uprightness: Then he is gracious unto him, and saith, Deliver him from going down to the pit: I have found a ransom.

Job 33:22-24

The identification of Jesus with the fulfillment of Jacob’s ladder is also a statement of exclusivity. Aside from Christ, there are no other “ladders” or “stairways” to Heaven, no other ordained salvific connections between God and men. Faith in Jesus is the means to accessing this ladder, but no one really has faith in a ladder until he steps on with his full weight and starts the climb up.

Reintroducing John 3:16

February 13, 2019 at 5:02 pm | Posted in John, Salvation | 1 Comment
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

For many years the Bible verse that has been generally considered the most popular, or at least most well-known, verse in the Bible is John 3:16. The danger for some of us when studying a very familiar verse is that we become inoculated through over-exposure and make the mistake of thinking we know everything we need to know about it already. Let me encourage you not to make that mistake with John 3:16. Sit down (with your spouse if you are married) and go through it word by word, slowly, considering the import of each word, and looking at the verses before and after it to better illuminate the context.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

John 3:16

I didn’t really need to print it here, did I? Most faithful Christians probably have it memorized. But let’s examine it closely. The first word, “for,” refers back to:

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.

John 3:14-15

Lest Verse 15 lead anyone to think that God the Father needed to be changed in His dispositional impassibility by God the Son from not loving us to loving us, the Holy Spirit had John make it clear that the Father’s love was the motivating cause of the plan of salvation.

“For God SO…” If you’ve been attending a Baptist or evangelical church for very long, you’ve probably seen the pantomime of a preacher stretching his arms wide to demonstrate a child’s expression of what it means to love someone SOOOOO much, but John 3:16 does not leave the question of “how much is so much?” open-ended. The word “that” is used to introduce the concept of: “THIS is how much the Father loved us.”

He loved us so much that He “GAVE.” This word, too, is worth closer inspection. God “gave” His Son in at least two respects: (1) In the Incarnation, the Father sent the Son from His Heavenly home to live in a world of sin, the effects of sin, and sinful rebels, and to experience, in His humanity, all the difficulties, pain, rejection, scorn, betrayal, sorrow, and human shortcomings and temptations known to mankind (but in response to which, He, unlike us, never sinned); (2) During His arrest and the events leading up to His death, the Father “gave” the Son into the hands of sinful men to be tortured and crucified, and to experience death as the substitutionary sacrifice for us.

This Son who came to live and die for His people was the Father’s “only begotten Son,” the Monogenes, His special and unique Son. He was the eternal Son of God, not “begotten” in the sense of having been born as touching His divinity, nor in the sense of His having been created (for He was not), but in an echo of the Old Testament type that we see in the episode of Abraham and Isaac.

And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am. And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of. And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him. Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off. And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you. And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together. And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together. And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood. And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. And the angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I. And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me. And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son.

Genesis 22:1-13 (emphasis added)

Isaac was not, strictly speaking, Abraham’s “only” son, yet He was the son of promise – the special and unique son promised to Abraham by God. Yet he was designated as a sacrifice to be offered to God, not because Isaac’s loss was something to be lightly borne by Abraham, but rather because he was so precious to Abraham. In John 3:16 we see the ultimate fulfillment of what had been played out and interrupted in Genesis 22, and we learn that God loved us wicked rebellious sinners SO much that He gave His absolute best, His most cherished, His most valuable, His eternally perfect Son for us.

Would you give up your life to save the life of a loved one? Perhaps you would. But would you give up the life of one of your beloved children to save the life of another loved one? I doubt it. What about to save a stranger? Even less likely. Now, what about sacrificing the life of your only, beloved child to save the life of your worst enemy? Unthinkable. The love of the Father for us is too great for us to fathom. It is in a whole different realm of love from anything we can comprehend.

“God so loved THE WORLD… that WHOSOEVER…”

Does this mean that Jesus’s death on the Cross – the gift of the Father – secures the salvation of every single person? A consistent universalist would answer “yes.” He would say that Hitler and Osama Bin Laden, along with everyone else who has ever lived, will one day be in Heaven holding your hands and singing “Kumbaya.” However, this is incorrect, because the “whosoever” in John 3:16 is inextricably linked to the next word: “believeth,” and likewise to “in Him,” meaning Jesus, the Savior. The “world” that is so loved by God includes both Jews and gentiles, which would have been a radically different concept for the vast majority of those who heard Jesus’s teaching for the first time. The “world” in John 3:16 also means that all people are in fact “loved” by God in a general way, but not that God loves the world’s fallen, sin-controlled “system” that the words “the world” often describe in the Epistles. Not everyone in “the world” experiences the same benefits of God’s love that those who believe on Jesus Christ unto eternal salvation experience. The bronze serpent referenced in John 3:14 was lovingly lifted up by Moses for all to see, but only those to whom God granted faith looked and lived.

As you read this you might be wondering, “Am I a John 3:16 ‘whosoever’ or not? How can I tell?” You can settle this by looking to Jesus in faith right now, believing His Gospel. LOOK and SEE. If you will not look, see, and believe, you cannot be a John 3:16 “whosoever.” And there is only one other default position. If you will not be a John 3:16 “whosoever,” you must be a Revelation 20:15 “whosoever.”

And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

Revelation 20:15

“Perish” is what it’s called in John 3:16, but do not imagine it as some peaceful extinguishment. It is not a blinking-out into oblivion. It is eternal death and destruction, never-ending, conscious, excruciating pain, darkness, and torment, as opposed to present tense eternal “have everlasting life.” Everlasting life is the opposite of perishing: light instead of darkness, joy instead of pain, peace instead of torment. I beg you to trust Jesus this very moment.

Will Heaven be Boring?

February 6, 2019 at 10:20 am | Posted in Q&A | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Question: My eight year old son knows that people die, and that if they are saved they go to Heaven, but he’s all mixed up on the eternal part of it. He said,” I just don’t understand how I’m gonna do it, live forever in heaven, like what am I going to do for that long?” What should I tell him?

Answer: That can be hard to explain, because I don’t think even the term “that long” will make sense in eternity. For one thing, there won’t be any “time” there, so all the joy and pleasure we experience won’t be tinged with the nagging thought, “yeah, but this is going to come to an end eventually,” that we experience with everything good here on earth. If he doesn’t like bedtime, you can tell him Heaven will be like never having a bedtime, but never getting sleepy either, or tired, or bored.

God is “infinite,” meaning that He goes on forever, so we will never stop learning new and exciting things about Him in Heaven, and He will have wonderful things for us to do which won’t be burdensome the way work is here on earth.

We will have perfect fellowship there with other believers, so everyone will seem interesting and no one will be unlikable or annoying.

Our glorified bodies will be able to do things our earthly bodies can’t – like move through space instantaneously, and possibly even fully access all our senses in combinations that are beyond our ability now. Tell him that in Heaven, we might be able to “see” music, and “taste” colors, and “hear” odors.

Most of all, tell him that seeing Jesus face to face will be the most joyful thing possible, and we’re not just going to do that once, and then leave. We’re going to be with Him forever.

Here’s Your Sign

January 30, 2019 at 4:25 pm | Posted in John | 1 Comment
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Then answered the Jews and said unto him, What sign shewest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these things?

John 2:18

The temple leaders almost sound reasonable (rather than the responsive anger we might expect from them) as they ask Jesus, in effect, “What gives you the right to regulate Temple practices?” Their criteria for someone who exercised authority without a history of being a priest or even a known and respected rabbi was that He would perform a “sign” – give them a display of miraculous power that would demonstrate He had Heavenly authority. Of course, He had recently given such a “sign” at the wedding in Cana, so we (the readers of John Chapter 2) know He has the ability, and the apparent willingness to demonstrate it, but Jesus would not be provoked into showing off when such signs, though miraculous, would not engender true saving faith in Him, nor serve to heal or help someone who was in distress.

Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days?

John 2:19-20

This is a somewhat common occurrence in the Gospel of John, where Jesus reveals a spiritual truth, and the listeners misunderstand and think He is talking crazy or at least expressing earthly and material, rather than spiritual, ideas. Plus, we have, in this instance, the benefit of an editorial comment from the Holy Spirit through John:

But he spake of the temple of his body. When therefore he was risen from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this unto them; and they believed the scripture, and the word which Jesus had said.

John 2:21-22

This makes for a good segue into how Jesus thought about those who believed in Him merely because He could do miracles, rather than because of His teaching and divine revelation.

Now when he was in Jerusalem at the passover, in the feast day, many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did. But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man.

John 2:23-25

These verses look forward to issues that are about to be addressed in John Chapter 3. First, Jesus had divine omniscient knowledge of what other people thought and what was in their hearts. He could read minds, and He knew people better than they knew themselves. He did not “entrust” Himself or “commit Himself” to superficial “believers” the way He did to His true disciples. This helps to understand a little more about Jesus’s famous encounter with Nicodemus which begins Chapter 3.

There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews:

John 3:1

The idea is that Nicodemus was a chief teacher.

The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.

John 3:2

There are various theories as to why Nicodemus came to Jesus by night, other than the possibility that it might just be noted for us as an instance of accurate reporting. Perhaps he was embarrassed, ashamed, or afraid to be seen consorting with this non-Pharasaical rabbi – or with the dangerous loose cannon who caused a scene in the Temple. On the other hand, perhaps Nicodemus merely wanted to speak to Jesus without the interruption that was more likely to occur during a daytime visit. In either case, the darkness of night is most likely a metaphor for Nicodemus’s spiritual darkness, located here in close proximity to passages of Scripture which highlight Jesus as the Light of the World. Nicodemus can probably be classified (because of his statement about teachers who are truly from God being able to do miracles) as one of those who “believed” only because of those miracles.

Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

John 3:3

Why does Jesus basically ignore Nicodemus’s initial statement? Because He “knew what was in” Nicodemus. Nicodemus’s real need wasn’t to find out whether Jesus was a true prophet, or truly sent by God to do miracles, or even to learn from His teaching. His real need was a new hearta new birth – some basis on which He could enter – or even see! – the God of the Kingdom of Whom the Pharisees and their chief leaders thought they were the closest and the best representatives!

Defiled, Destitute, Discouraged, and Desperate

October 3, 2018 at 2:43 pm | Posted in Luke | 1 Comment
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Then he called his twelve disciples together, and gave them power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases. And he sent them to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick.

Luke 9:1-2

How much of your time each week are you spending fighting demons, ministering to hurting people, and preaching the Kingdom of God? Jesus and His Disciples were focused on helping the types of people who tend to make us uncomfortable:

1. Defiled people: people who were considered “unclean.”
2. Destitute people: people who needed money.
3. Discouraged people: people who are just plain old depressed and depressing to be around.
4. Desperate people: the crazy ones.

Let’s get our hands dirty. We can’t fix everyone’s problems, but we can sure get involved in their problems and try to get them to the One Who can fix them.

And when the day began to wear away, then came the twelve, and said unto him, Send the multitude away, that they may go into the towns and country round about, and lodge, and get victuals: for we are here in a desert place. But he said unto them, Give ye them to eat. And they said, We have no more but five loaves and two fishes; except we should go and buy meat for all this people.

Luke 9:12-13

Jesus was not the type of Person Who could just turn away hungry people. He had the ability to feed the hungry and He DID feed the hungry. When I am ministering to people with problems in their marriages, sometimes they say, “That’s not helpful coming from you. You’ve got a good marriage. You’re like the man finding a homeless person rifling through a garbage bin and telling him to trust God and glorify Him even when he’s hungry. He’s probably wondering why, if you’re worried about him being hungry, and you’ve got ten bucks in your pocket, don’t you just buy him something to eat.” The idea is that a person with a wonderful marriage is no help to the person with a terrible marriage, because he doesn’t know what it’s like. That’s a reasonable assertion, but it’s not really true, because, when I deal with folks who are having a rough time in marriage, I’m not saying that they need to trust God because trusting God works for me. I’m saying they need to trust God because the Bible says they need to trust God. Until someone in your same shoes comes along and starts telling you what the Bible says, those of us who are admittedly not in your same shoes still have the duty to do it. Perhaps it would mean more coming from somebody “who’s been there,” and, if you think so, be sure that, when God helps you, you find someone else going through it and speak to that person from your position of experience on top of telling him what the Bible says. God doesn’t give us victories or let us suffer just because He likes to be entertained. He’s pouring resources into your life – especially in your trials and struggles – that you can use to help others.

 

The Difference between Saved and Lost

August 22, 2018 at 12:10 pm | Posted in Salvation | 2 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , ,

The distinction between saved and lost, spiritually speaking, is the sharpest, most significant distinction in the world. The difference between “saved” people (those who have been truly born again by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, John 3; Ephesians 2:8-9) and those who have not been saved is more important than the differences between people of different political beliefs, different nationalities, different skin colors, different genders, and different ages. A person who is saved is truly a child of God. His or her name has been written down in the Lamb’s Book of Life (Revelation 21:27), and he or she will one day go to Heaven to be with Jesus forever, because his or her sins have been forgiven. A person who is lost is an enemy of God, whose sins are unforgiven. This person, unless his or her condition changes before death or before Jesus comes back, must be punished by the just and living God, and he or she will go to a place of separation from God that the Bible calls hell, and ultimately to a place called the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15), which is a horrible place of eternal conscious torment. There is nothing of greater consequence for human beings than believing the Gospel of Jesus Christ and trusting Him unto salvation.

What Does it Mean to be “Saved?”

July 19, 2018 at 11:24 am | Posted in Salvation | 6 Comments
Tags: , , , , , ,

I have noticed that many people have incorrect ideas and general confusion about the term “saved.” To be “saved” in the Biblical sense means to be saved from God’s wrath. God’s wrath is what we deserve because of our sins against Him. To be “saved” is to be “rescued,” or “delivered” from a punishment against which we are helpless. We are saved by God’s grace, meaning that it is a free gift that we do not deserve. We are saved through faith, meaning that it happens when we believe the Truth about Jesus Christ and His Gospel and place all our trust in Him alone. We can add nothing whatsoever to this salvation. It comes to us through Christ, according to His Word, and for God’s glory. For several years I have been asking people if they are “saved” and these are the most common responses:

1. “Yes, I go to church.” But going to church does not mean that you are saved.

2. “Yes, I have been baptized.” But being baptized does not mean that you are saved. Being baptized is something we are commanded to do AFTER we are saved. Baptism is an illustration of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. It does not wash away anyone’s sins.

3. “Yes, I have been saved many times.” But this is impossible. Salvation is a one-time-only event for each person who experiences it. Upon salvation you receive eternal life, and “eternal” life, by definition, cannot be lost or taken away.

4. “Yes, I pray to God every day.” Being saved may occur during a prayer, but the act of praying itself is not the same as being saved.

The Sending of the Holy Spirit

June 1, 2018 at 10:39 am | Posted in John, Q&A | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Question: If the Holy Spirit was already in the world in Old Testament times, why did Jesus say that if He (Jesus) didn’t go, the Holy Spirit wouldn’t come, in John 16:7?

Answer: The Holy Spirit (Who is also God) operated differently under the Old Covenant. In the Old Covenant, He would come upon specific individuals for specific reasons at specific times. You can see some examples in the lives of Moses, Samson, Saul, and David. That is what happened to John the Baptist and to Jesus, because they were still under the Old Covenant before Jesus’s Crucifixion. The Holy Spirit did not take up permanent residence inside human beings then. This changed when Jesus instituted the New Covenant. When He ascended into Heaven after His Resurrection, He sent the Holy Spirit to all who put their trust in Jesus and were regenerated (born again). If you believe the truth about Jesus and put all your trust in Him, the Holy Spirit will live in you, too.

Next Page »


Entries and comments feeds.