Who Are You Going To Follow In Life?

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John 13:1 – 17

13 1 Before the Passover celebration, Jesus knew that his hour had come to leave this world and return to his Father. He now showed the disciples the full extent of his love.  2 It was time for supper, and the Devil had already enticed Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, to carry out his plan to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. 4 So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, 5 and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel he had around him.

6 When he came to Simon Peter, Peter said to him, “Lord, why are you going to wash my feet?” 7 Jesus replied, “You don’t understand now why I am doing it; someday you will.” 8 “No,” Peter protested, “you will never wash my feet!” Jesus replied, “But if I don’t wash you, you won’t belong to me.” 9 Simon Peter exclaimed, “Then wash my hands and head as well, Lord, not just my feet!”

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10 Jesus replied, “A person who has bathed all over does not need to wash, except for the feet, to be entirely clean. And you are clean, but that isn’t true of everyone here.” 11 For Jesus knew who would betray him. That is what he meant when he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

12 After washing their feet, he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, “Do you understand what I was doing? 13 You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because it is true. 14 And since I, the Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. 15 I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. 16 How true it is that a servant is not greater than the master. Nor are messengers more important than the one who sends them. 17 You know these things—now do them! That is the path of blessing.

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It is clear from this passage that Jesus knew with absolute certainty, where he had come from, and the authority that he possessed.  He states for us here in verse 14 that he is both the disciples’ Lord and their Teacher.  He is to be listened to and he is to be obeyed.  And he knew that he had come from God, his Father, and that he would be returning to heaven to be with his Father once again.

It would be great if all of us had this kind of certainty in our lives.  More importantly, it would be very good if more people would realize that this life is not “all there is” and then bang, nothing.  No, there is a reality beyond this life and this world, a spiritual realm where both God exists, but also his arch enemy, the Devil.  There are two great spiritual Beings that live in the beyond, and yet they are with us here in the present, in the “Now”.

And every one of us has got to make a choice as to whom we are going to serve with our lives, which will then determine for us our eternal destiny.  Will we choose a life of blessing with God the Father?  … or a life of bitter despair of helplessness, hopelessness and eternal separation from God?  These are the choices that face all of us now, and it is in fact the most important choice of our entire life.

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What prompts me to write these thoughts come from a few things in our passage above.  Notice how this English New Living Translation version identifies the Agent behind the betrayal of Jesus that Judas makes.  It says in verse 2, “The Devil had already enticed Judas….to betray Jesus.”  We don’t talk very much about the Devil in our churches today.  Why is that?  Have we forgotten that from the very beginning of time, the Devil, that evil serpent in the Garden, has been at work to lead all people into a rebellion against God, starting with Adam and Eve.

It says here that the Devil “enticed” Judas to betray Jesus for a little bit of money.  Judas will have to give account of himself when he stands before the judgment throne of God.  While it is true that Satan loves to lead people into sin, still it was Judas’ choice to give in to this temptation of desiring silver coins in his pocket rather than submission to Jesus as Lord.

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Jesus shows us the better way.  The path to a blessed life, right now and also in the life to come, is to submit to the Father in obedience, and to His Son Jesus.  And also to submit to serving others, rather than serving one’s self.  This passage above says that Jesus showed his disciples “the full extent of his love” for them.  How did he do that?  He gave them the example that even the greatest person is only truly great when he values others higher than himself and is willing to serve others out of a spirit of love and humility.

So ask yourself this question then?  Whose example are you following right now?  Are you like Judas and only looking out for yourself, even if it costs someone else dearly?  Or are you like Jesus, and walking the path of humility, love and helping to serve the needs of others around you.  The first path may benefit you in the short-term, but leads to death.  The second path will bring blessings now, and for all eternity.  I think the choice is very clear.

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Listen Carefully To Jesus’ Words

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John 12: 44 – 50

44 Then Jesus cried out, “When a man believes in me, he does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. 45 When he looks at me, he sees the one who sent me. 46 I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.

47 “As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it. 48 There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day. 49 For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. 50 I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.”

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As I read these verses above a few times, I could almost see Jesus crying out in a loud voice as he spoke.  It hit me that these were the last words that Jesus spoke publicly before He was arrested and put on trial.  It must have been so difficult for him as he realized that there were still many people back then who would reject his message, and so reject him as the One who could bring eternal life to them.

There was so much that Jesus had to offer for those who would accept him and his message.  There is the promise of eternal life with God which I just mentioned.  There is also the spiritual reality and truth that those who come to Jesus will not only see who Jesus really is, the Saviour for mankind, but also will come to know God the Father who sent Jesus to this world to save us.

And there is also the promise that those who accept and believe in Jesus will “not stay in darkness”.  Jesus is the true light for those who desire to be enlightened spiritually.  There are so many man-made attempts to become like God, or become “one with the Universe”.  But in Christianity, it works the other way.  Jesus is the true light who came down from Heaven to live among us and share this light with anyone who will put their trust in him.  So mankind does not need to reach out to try to find God, God has already reached out to us through his son, Jesus.

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There is something else that caught my attention as I read this passage.  It says in verse 47, “I did not come to judge the world, but to save it.”  I am reminded of a conversation I had with someone in high school as we rode on the bus toward home.  He knew that I had expressed an interest in becoming a missionary one day so I could talk about Jesus to those people who had never heard about him and what he had done for all mankind.

He asked me some very pointed questions.  As background though, he started by saying, “So you want to tell others about Jesus so that they can have a chance to accept him and by that means be able to go to Heaven.”  I replied, “Yes.” to him.  He went on, “But you are saying that if the people hear about Jesus and decide to not accept him, then they will go to Hell.”  And I replied, “Right.”

And then he asked me, “Wouldn’t it be better to leave these primitive native people alone and let God decide out of his mercy to let them into Heaven if they have been good enough?  Rather than go and preach about Jesus and have them reject Jesus and for sure get sent to Hell?  Wouldn’t it be better to just leave them all alone?”

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My friend asked some good questions, at least from a human perspective.  For those of us who really do understand what Hell is really like, none of us would wish for anyone to be sent there.  Even God says in his Word that he wants, “all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”(1 Tim. 2:3-4)  And yet in Jesus’ own words, he said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

I know how difficult this can be for many people, but the truth is that by our own acts of wrongdoing, in the words we speak, the thoughts we have and the actions we take in life, we find we are unable to stand before a holy God, who cannot allow sinful thoughts and behaviours to exist in his presence.  As Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned; all fall short of God’s glorious standard.”  And Romans 6:23 tells us that the consequence for all mankind for their sinful nature is death, eternal spiritual death apart from God.

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Praise God though, that Jesus came to tell us that there is a way of escape for all of us.  For those who will accept the death of Jesus to be their substitute payment for their penalty of death, and who believe that Jesus rose from the grave to demonstrate his promise of life after death, then to us, Jesus brings us salvation and the promise of eternal life with God in Heaven.

My friend, listen carefully to the words of Jesus.  Not only from these last words of his in the passage above, but in all the books of the Bible where he speaks to us about putting our faith in him.  Remember, he did not come to judge us of our sins, but to free us from them.  So accept him, and be free indeed.

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Jesus Strips Away The Power Of Death

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John 11: 38 – 44

38 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39 “Take away the stone,” he said.

“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”

40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

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41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”

43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 

44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.

Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

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This passage starts out with the words that Jesus was “once more deeply moved.”  There is no doubt that this would have been a time that Jesus would have been moved to feel the great loss at the death of His friend Lazurus.  But perhaps there is something else here tucked away within our passage that caused Jesus to be “deeply moved” with emotion.

The verse just before our current passage states, “But some of them said, ‘Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?’”  Is it possible that this statement was heard by Jesus, and caused Him to be deeply moved within His spirit?  Consider the situation from a divine perspective.

When God created Man, He declared, “Let Us make man in Our image, in Our likeness…” (Genesis 1:26)  God created mankind to share in the qualities of personality, conscience, morality, and to have an eternal soul or spirit.  God saw that it was “very good” (Genesis 1:31), and He enjoyed being in the company of mankind as is implied in Genesis 3:8.

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When Adam and Eve sinned against God by choosing to disobey the will of God, the consequences of that action resulted in death coming upon them, and every succeeding generation.  The death that is in focus there was primarily spiritual death, the idea of being separated from God eternally because of the corrupting power of sin which a pure and holy God cannot allow in His presence.

There was another death though that came about as a result of sin.  This is “the first death”, the time when a person dies physically at the end of one’s life here on earth.  And if that person is not in a right relationship with God, the first death (of the body), will lead to “the second death”, which would come at the Day of Judgment when the unrighteous are excluded from entrance into Heaven and depart into the fires of Hell.

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Perhaps Jesus had all of this in mind when He was “deeply moved”, when he heard the people wondering if He might have been able to save Lazurus from death.  The grave has has such a powerful hold on people since the beginning of time, and Satan has had such a powerful hold over the souls of people.  Jesus had come to break the power of both the grave and of Satan.  But it wasn’t quite time yet.  Jesus had not yet died upon the Cross to break these powers over mankind.

And so Jesus went to the tomb to raise Lazurus from the dead.  It was an act of compassion for sure as He saw the grief of Mary and Martha.  But it was also an opportunity for Jesus to display the awesome power of God who holds the power over life and death.  Martha was limited in her belief when she reminded Jesus that her brother’s body would be rotting in the grave by this time.

Jesus though, reminded Martha that just as He would have the power to spiritually raise people to life with God on that final day when He was revealed to be the One appointed by God to save people (see verses 25-27 above), He was also able to call upon the glory of God to strip away the power of physical death in the present.

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Now the term “glory” can be translated along the lines of “brightness” or “wonderful” or “awesome power”.  This last meaning is the one that fits here.  And what is most interesting is how Jesus prays and is thankful that God had already heard His prayer to have the Father reveal His power through Jesus to raise Lazurus.

But Jesus spoke this out loud so that no one could miss the important truth that Jesus had been sent to earth to represent the Father and to display His “awesome power” among people.  And what greater power could He display, than to strip away the power of death.  Once this great miracle occurred, and Lazurus came out of the grave, then the people were told to strip away the linen burial clothes that were no longer needed.

As I close here, let me ask this: have you placed your trust in Jesus to forgive you of your sin?  If you have, then you will not need to fear the “first death”, for you will be raised to eternal life with God at the end of all Time.  But if you have not placed your trust in Jesus, then death (both physical and spiritual) is awaiting you.  Why not let Jesus strip away the power of death that still clings to you, just like the funeral clothes that clung to Lazurus.

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Jesus Is The Resurrection & The Life

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John 11: 17 – 27

17 On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 18 Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, 19 and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother.

20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.

21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

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24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

27 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God,who is to come into the world.”

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As we look into this passage, we will need to keep in mind the cultural and religious background of the Jewish people of the 1st century.  The very first thing we need to consider is the process and issues involved when a person died back then.  There were some cultural groups, such as the Egyptians, who regularly practiced the embalming of dead bodies.  But even for the Egyptians, it would have been done only for the royal families and very rich people.

For a Jewish family then, when someone died, it would be necessary to immediately take care of the body and place it in a grave.  But this would not be a six-foot hole in the ground that we are used to in the West.  So much of the ground of Palestine was rocky ground that it was much more common for the people to dig out caves into the rock face of a hill.  Corpses would be wrapped up in linen clothes along with perfumed spices, and then within the cave/tomb, the bodies would be placed upon carverd out ledges.

We see from verse 17 above, that Lazurus’ body had been in his grave/tomb for four days.  Obviously, the body would have decayed quite a bit by this point and had quite a bad smell.  What is not obvious to us unless we know ancient Jewish culture, was the belief that a person’s spirit might remain nearby for up to three days before finally departing.  And so when John wrote that Lazurus was in the tomb for four days, it would be understood by readers that there would not be any chance for Lazurus’ spirit to rejoin his body and produce a “resurrection”.

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There is no question then that Lazurus was very, very dead.  And yet we see in Martha, who ran immediately to Jesus when she heard that He had arrived close to her town of Bethany, a very strong faith that He had the power to overcome death itself.  Her statement is what is called a “contrafactual” statement and might sound like she is critical of Jesus.  It would read more completely like this: “If you had been here [but you weren’t], then my brother would not have died [but he did].”

Jesus tried to reassure Martha that her “brother will rise again.”  To her credit, Martha agreed that Lazurus would rise again from the dead “at the last day”, which refers to when God would resurrect all people and have them stand before Him on the Day of Judgment.  But Jesus had been given power by God to have control over life and death even now, not just at the end of time.

Jesus went on to speak one of the most powerful statements in all of Scripture, “I am the Resurrection and the Life!”  Wow, what a statement.  But do we really understand all that Jesus is saying in this one statement.  I think not.  Mainly because this statement contains nouns “resurrection” and “life”, and for most of us, we understand verbs (or action words) more than nouns.

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Let me try to unpack this statement by using verbal language then and see if it will bring home better for us the meaning of Jesus’ words.  One way we might translate this could be, “I am the One who causes people to rise again after they have died, and I am the One who causes people to really live.”  The source of real life, both here in this world and in the world to come is found in Jesus.  And access to this life is made possible when one puts his/her faith in Jesus.

Jesus then challenged Martha directly to see if she did possess this kind of faith.  And she did.  As a good Jewish person, she had awaited the coming of the Messiah, the “Promised One of God”, the One who would rescue the nation of Israel, and ultimately all people of the world.  Martha went one step further to recognize that not only was Jesus the coming Savior, He was the Son of God.  Other than Peter, no one else within the Gospels, prior to the resurrection, had made this statement of faith.

What an incredible moment that must have been.  In the midst of great grief, faith rose up within Martha as she stood in front of the One who is the Giver of Life.  She recognized that death was not final, and that Jesus was the One who could overcome death and grant the promise of a resurrected life.  What she didn’t realize was that she would see this come to pass right in front of her that day.  But that part of the story will be next week’s article.

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Jesus Is The Great “I AM”

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John 8:48 – 59

48 The people retorted, “You Samaritan devil! Didn’t we say all along that you were possessed by a demon?” 49 “No,” Jesus said, “I have no demon in me. For I honor my Father—and you dishonor me. 50 And though I have no wish to glorify myself, God is going to glorify me. He is the true judge. 51 I tell you the truth, anyone who obeys my teaching will never die!”

52 The people said, “Now we know you are possessed by a demon. Even Abraham and the prophets died, but you say, ‘Anyone who obeys my teaching will never die!’ 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?”

54 Jesus answered, “If I want glory for myself, it doesn’t count. But it is my Father who will glorify me. You say, ‘He is our God,’ 55 but you don’t even know him. I know him. If I said otherwise, I would be as great a liar as you! But I do know him and obey him. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced as he looked forward to my coming. He saw it and was glad.”

57 The people said, “You aren’t even fifty years old. How can you say you have seen Abraham?” 58 Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was even born, I Am!” 59 At that point they picked up stones to throw at him. But Jesus was hidden from them and left the Temple.

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It’s clear that the conversation Jesus had with the Jewish people throughout John chapter eight continued to go from bad to worse.  Even though these people possessed the first seeds of faith (see verse 30), it becomes apparent as the chapter goes on that these people were still depending upon their Jewish heritage and religious practices to be the basis of their relationship with God.

It got to the point that Jesus accused them not only with the charge that they do not know or belong to God the Father, but that in fact they are really followers of Satan himself.  No wonder the people reacted with such hostility towards Jesus in verse 48.  They doubly insulted Jesus by saying that He was a “Samaritan devil” and was possessed by a demon.

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To appreciate the force of the first insult, it is helpful to know the historical background of the Samaritans.  Going back to the time of Solomon, we read of the breakup of the Kingdom of Israel.  When Solomon’s son Rehoboam took the throne, he tried to impose harsher labor policies over the people and the ten northern tribes broke away to form the Northern Kingdom (Israel) while Judah and Benjamin became the Southern Kingdom (Judah).

The rebel leader, Jeroboam, not only set up a northern kingdom in opposition to Rehoboam, but he also set up a substitute religion. In this northern region, also known as Samaria, King Jeroboam set up golden calves for people to worship at rather than risk that they go back to worship God at the Temple in Jerusalem.  He ordained common people rather than Levites to be the priests, and he set up pagan shrines and substitute festivals to keep people from returning to Jerusalem.

This began the institution of idolatry among the Jewish people of the north.  Then when the Northern Kingdom was captured by Assyria in 722 B.C., the Assyrians polluted the Jewish blood line by scattering many of them among the provinces of Assyria and also by bringing in outside people into the land of Samaria so that there was a lot of intermixed marriages which led to further idolatrous worship.

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So for the Jewish people to call Jesus a “Samaritan devil”, they were accusing Him of being an idolator and a religiously impure person.  And if that was not bad enough, they then said that He was possessed by a demon, which would mean that Jesus was being accused of being under the control of Satan and everything He taught and did was of satanic origin.

How backwards could it get?  The truth was the exact opposite of what the people were saying.  They were the ones who were blindly following the path of religious ritualism, which does not allow room for a living relationship with God.  They were the ones who had “hearts of stone” as Isaiah prophesied, and were not walking on the path of “righteousness by faith” as Abraham demonstrated.

And it was this very faith of Abraham which looked forward and saw that ultimately there would come a day when there would be the One who would finally deal with the problem of human sin through the giving of His life to pay the penalty of sin on behalf of all people who would put their trust in Him.

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If we can accept the fact that Jesus is one Person of the divine Godhead who came to earth to help bring people back to God, then it should not be hard to believe that through the eyes of faith, Abraham knew of the Savior who was to come.  And Jesus makes this claim to be such a One when he stated that “before Abraham was even born, I AM”, meaning that Jesus existed even before the time of Abraham.

The people who were so blind to the truth of who Jesus was, did at least catch the implications of what He was saying.  Jesus finally used the personal name of God (see Exodus 6:2-3) to explain His eternal nature as God.  They could not accept that truth and would rather have killed Jesus by stoning Him, than to change their views and beliefs.  I pray that you, my reader, would not be blind as well to this truth that Jesus always exists as the ever-present “I AM”.

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God’s Kingdom Will Come

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“GOD’S STORY, your story” – Pt. 19

We now come to the last chapter in this great book of Max Lucado’s that we have been looking at throughout this year.  As we have gone through the book, we have learned much about God and how He is very interested in and involved in our lives today.  That fact alone is a great encouragement to us, knowing that God is with us, guiding and helping us as we go through the difficult stages and events of life.

But now we must ask ourselves about what to expect at the end of our lives.  For those who do not even believe that God exists, or that there is anything past this life, they have absolutely nothing to look forward to at the end of their lives.  And that is why they try so desperately to experience and enjoy all that they can now.

But that is not really a satisfying answer for many people.  And for those who do believe that there is some kind of afterlife, there is often the accompanying feeling of fear or worry because they have no certainty that they will be granted access to the eternal life of joy and happiness.  Even those who joke about the idea of going to Hell would tremble at the picture of what Hell is really like as portrayed in the Bible.

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Blaise Pascal was a famous 17th century philosopher and mathematician.  He came up with what is known as “Pascal’s Wager“.  He stated that if we had to bet on whether God exists or not, then the obvious (or rational) decision would be to say that God does exist.  For if we gamble and say yes, and it is true, then we will win with eternal consequences.

Thankfully, as I believe, we do not need to wager as to whether God exists or not.  I work from the point of the resurrection backwards.  If Jesus (whom all people now state that he did actually live and die in 1st century Palestine), actually did rise from the dead, then all the things that He taught and claimed to be true, must be true.

Now giving evidence that supports the resurrection is a whole other topic, but I also believe that there is sufficient strength of evidence and testimony to support this.  Perhaps the best book I’ve ever read on this topic was written by Frank Morison called “Who Moved The Stone?”  Suffice it to say again, if Jesus did rise from the dead, then all that He taught about this life and the next life to come must be listened to as credible.

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And this brings us to the topic that Lucado writes about in chapter 10 of his book, namely that there is going to be a day when God will wrap up things here on earth and will usher in His eternal Kingdom.  This is really big news! And the Bible tells us that this will not be quiet or hidden like the first time that Jesus came to earth.  Mark 13:26 says, “Then everyone will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds with great power and glory.

Jesus also talked about how His coming would be like lightning as it streaks across the sky.  Everyone is going to see this great event when Jesus comes back again.  But please note this, that great event will not be received the same way by everyone.  This is what Lucado says on page 158:

“There will be one monumental difference.  Some people will continue the confession they began on earth.  They will crown Christ again, gladly.  Others will crown him for the first time.  They will do so sadly.  They denied Christ on earth, so He will deny them in heaven.”

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 There is perhaps one aspect about the “Kingdom of Heaven” that some people sadly misunderstand.  There are many people who want to be included in God’s Kingdom, and many who believe that they are in fact going to be enjoying the rich blessings of heaven.  But if they have not made the King of the kingdom also the King of their lives here and now, then it will be too late when Christ returns to take His people back home to be with Him and the Father forever.

It is really quite heartbreaking to know that people all around us are unaware of the danger that is coming if they are not prepared to meet with God.  Matthew 24:37-39 puts it this way:

When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah’s day. In those days before the flood, the people were enjoying banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat. People didn’t realize what was going to happen until the flood came and swept them all away. That is the way it will be when the Son of Man comes.

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But for those who have accepted Christ into their hearts and made Him the Lord of their lives, this future day (which may not be too far away any more) will be the greatest day ever in all of history.  No matter how difficult life may have been here while on earth, the eternal life of God’s presence and His blessings for those who have faithfully loved Him and His Son will greatly outweigh all that has been so painful to bear in this life.

Let me close with a beautiful quote from Lucado on page 159:

“Let this sink in.  You will see the face of God.  You will look into the eyes of the One who has always seen; you will behold the mouth that commands history.  And if there is anything more amazing than the moment you see his face, it’s the moment he touches yours.  “He will wipe every tear from their eyes”  (Revelation 21:4)

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Jesus Has The Words of Eternal Life

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John 6:60 – 71

60  When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” 61 But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? 62 Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?  63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 

64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) 65 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”   66  After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 

67 So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” 70 Jesus answered them,“Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.” 71 He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, forhe, one of the Twelve, was going to betray him.

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This last section of John chapter 6 is one of the important climaxes of the events in Jesus’ life as we head toward the dénouement of His final week on earth.  We are still many months away from Jesus’ arrest, trial and crucifixion.  But we see the elements of lines being drawn, sides being taken, and foreshadowing of the betrayal of Jesus by Judas, one of His twelve inner circle disciples.

What the followers of Jesus (another term for general disciples) heard, as mentioned in verse 60, comes from the passage immediately above this one, where Jesus stated that He was the “bread of life which had come down from heaven” and that “anyone who [figuratively] ate His flesh and drank His blood” would not die (spiritually), but live forever.  No wonder the followers/disciples of Jesus said “this is a hard saying.”

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As people grumbled about the claims Jesus made, he asked them if His statements caused them to be offended.  I don’t think this captures the essence of the Greek verb here.  The verb “skandalidzoo” is the root for our English word “scandalized”.  A better translation of this verb is to say “to cause someone to stumble”.  These people who had been following Jesus possessed some seeds of faith in Jesus.  But after this dialogue, many of them are “scandalized”, and their fragile faith crumbles and they stumble over Jesus’ words.

This is a crucial point in Jesus’ ministry.  He has basically laid out on the table the extreme sacrifice that He will have to make (be betrayed which leads to His death), but also He has laid out the extreme commitment that a person must make to be a true follower of Him.  And that people must put their faith in Him to gain true spiritual life.  This is so opposite to what people through the centuries have believed, that eternal life could be gained through good deeds done by the strength of our human flesh.

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Finally, after speaking in difficult figurative language, Jesus spells it out clearly, that the words He speaks are the true source of where we obtain life for our spirits.  This became a breaking point for some of those who followed, and so they left Jesus.  Then Jesus turns to His special twelve disciples and asked them if they too would stop following Him.  Peter’s words are truly profound, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

Consider the sharp contrast being played out here.  Many people cannot make the faith decision that Jesus holds the keys of eternal life, and they shake their heads and walk away.  But Peter sees clearly that Jesus is the One appointed by God (i.e. “the Holy One”) to bring spiritual life and salvation.  And Peter bows his head in belief and submission.

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It is so sad to me to hear about how close some people have been to Jesus (whether during the time He lived on earth, or now and is proclaimed alive through the Living Word of God), and yet people fail to see Him for who He is.  Or more seriously, they ignore Him whom they know to be Lord and the Bridegroom to the Church, and yet they focus on such petty matters of the human flesh.  Let me explain.

When Christ Jesus died on the cross, He not only died to bring about the offer of salvation to everyone who believed in Him, but He also died, rose from the grave and ascended to heaven to release the power of the Holy Spirit to help build the Church, Christ’s bride.  Yet we have so many bad examples today to show how unworthily His Church is acting, that many people are hurt instead of being given hope and healing.

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I know personally of some churches which have allowed pride, stubbornness, personality clashes and even sinful actions to bring about such dissension that ultimately the church is split apart.  We must not let this continue.  Jesus said that “the Spirit brings life; the flesh is no help at all.”  Let us return to hearing the Words of Jesus which bring life, instead of listening to the voices of selfish individualism.  The Church is to be a living organism, not an organization.  Let Christ be the true head, and we remain the obedient body.  That will certainly lead us to the road of Eternal Life.

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