We Must Put Our Faith In Jesus

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John 8:21 – 30

21 Jesus also told them, “I am going away, and you will look for me. But you cannot go where I am going, and you will die with your sins unforgiven.”

22 The Jewish leaders asked, “Does he intend to kill himself? Is that what he means by saying we cannot go where he is going?” 23 Jesus answered, “You are from below, but I am from above. You belong to this world, but I don’t. 24 That is why I said you will die with your sins unforgiven. If you don’t have faith in me for who I am, you will die, and your sins will not be forgiven.”

25 “Who are you?” they asked Jesus. Jesus answered, “I am exactly who I told you at the beginning. 26 There is a lot more I could say to condemn you. But the one who sent me is truthful, and I tell the people of this world only what I have heard from him.” 27 No one understood that Jesus was talking to them about the Father.

28 Jesus went on to say, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, you will know who I am. You will also know that I don’t do anything on my own. I say only what my Father taught me. 29 The one who sent me is with me. I always do what pleases him, and he will never leave me.” 30 After Jesus said this, many of the people put their faith in him.

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In our study of the Gospel of John, we have seen many times that people were having trouble understanding what exactly Jesus meant by some of His teachings.  Certainly the religious leaders had no idea who Jesus really was, for if they had, then they would have gladly welcomed Him as their long awaited Messiah, the One who would bring salvation to the Jewish people.

But the people who lived at the same time that Jesus lived among men could not fathom these truths either.  So when Jesus talked about His Father, the people wondered about Joseph and Mary and the rest of His family.  When He talked about going where they could not follow Him, the Pharisees thought He was going to teach Jews in some other countries.  And the people in this passage thought maybe He was going to kill Himself.

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And so Jesus tried His best in this passage to help clear up this misunderstanding among the people.  He tried to reveal to them His true origin and His true identity.  Although still in veiled speech, Jesus made a powerful statement in verse 23.  To get the full impact of this verse, allow me to give you the literal translation of the Greek of this verse into English.  It would go like this:

“You, of the things below you are; I, of the things above I am.
You, of this world you are; I, not I am of this world.”

Although written in Greek, much of the New Testament clearly shows us how much the Semitic Hebrew language and way of thinking affected the way their expressed themselves in their Greek writing.  What we have here from Jesus is an excellent example of Semitic Old Testament style of writing called parallelism.  Parallelism usually has two lines of thought that closely parallel each other.

In verse 23, there are four distinct parts which we will label 1a and 1b, 2a and 2b.  The second line elements usually expand or explain the meaning of the first line.  Or, the second line will be a sharp contrast to the meaning of line one.  Look closely what we have here.  We clearly have an expansion of 1a in 2a: “You are of the things below / You are of this world.”  So we are surprised when 2b is not also an expansion of 1b, “I am of the things above / I, not I am of this world.

In terms of Semitic thinking, Jesus is making a HUGE statement here.  In a literary way, He does this by switching from expansion (2a) to sharp contrast (2b).  And notice how in 2b that Jesus moves the verb from final position to a more fronted position to really give His sentence emphasis, “I, not I am of this world.”   Jesus is part of the Divine Trinity and His place of origin is Heaven.  And the Greek work order and Semitic parallelism are blasting out this message to the people.

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Finally then, Jesus speaks out clearly in verse 24 regarding who He is, and how important it is to believe in who He is.  Understanding now that verse 23 is speaking of Jesus’ divine nature, it makes it easier to accept it when He says, “You will die with your sins unforgiven.”  The clear reason is then given, “If you don’t have faith in me for who I am, you will die, and your sins will not be forgiven.

But we can flip this coin over and say with confidence, “Any person who DOES have faith in Jesus for who He really is, that person will not die and his/her sins will be forgiven.”  There is more we need to say about this, especially with regards to the Greek phrases “I am” which will come up again in verse 58.  Suffice it to say, it is still very important today that we must put our faith in Jesus if we want our sins forgiven, and if we hope to live with God in Heaven forever.

* If this article has been helpful to you and a blessing, please invite your friends to come visit this devotional blog site.

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Does Jesus Condemn Or Condone Sin?

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John 7:53 – 8:11

53 Everyone else went home, 8 but Jesus walked out to the Mount of Olives. Then early the next morning he went to the temple. The people came to him, and he sat down and started teaching them.

The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law of Moses brought in a woman who had been caught in bed with a man who wasn’t her husband. They made her stand in the middle of the crowd. Then they said, “Teacher, this woman was caught sleeping with a man who isn’t her husband. The Law of Moses teaches that a woman like this should be stoned to death! What do you say?”

They asked Jesus this question, because they wanted to test him and bring some charge against him. But Jesus simply bent over and started writing on the ground with his finger.

They kept on asking Jesus about the woman. Finally, he stood up and said, “If any of you have never sinned, then go ahead and throw the first stone at her!” Once again he bent over and began writing on the ground. The people left one by one, beginning with the oldest. Finally, Jesus and the woman were there alone.

10 Jesus stood up and asked her, “Where is everyone? Isn’t there anyone left to accuse you?” 11 “No sir,” the woman answered. Then Jesus told her, “I am not going to accuse you either. You may go now, but don’t sin anymore.”

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This is a very well known passage in the Gospel of John.  In various versions, this passage has been given a title like, “The Woman Caught In Adultery.”  In some ways, this title does summarize the main point in this passage, but I believe that this does not really capture the most important issues that are going on under the surface of this story.

The key to this whole passage I believe comes in verse 6 as John perceptively wrote, “they wanted to test him and bring some charge against him.”  We have seen in earlier chapters of John that the religious leaders were becoming more and more antagonistic against Jesus and His teachings and ministry among people.  Catching this woman in an act of adultery gave them the pretext to try to trap Jesus in what He would say about the situation.  Consider what one of my commentary sources says:

If Jesus answered: ‘Moses is right; stone her!’ they would have gone to Pilate and accused Jesus of infringing upon the rights of the Roman authority, which had reserved to itself the ‘right of the sword’ here, as in all conquered countries. If he had answered: ‘Do not stone her!’ they would have decried Him before the people and would even have accused Him before the Sanhedrim as a false Messiah; for the Messiah must maintain or restore the sovereignty of the Law.  (Exegetical Helps on John)

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As I look at the text, there are two other very subtle things that bother me besides the attempt of the leaders to trap Jesus in His words.  First of all, where was the man who also was involved in this act of sexual immorality?  Was he not guilty of sin?  And secondly, is it possible that the Jewish leaders arranged for this man to have sex with this married woman and they were all close by to “catch” them in the act?  Was it all a setup to frame and accuse Jesus of a legal crime by what he said next?

But Jesus, who was granted omniscience by God’s Spirit, knew all along what was going on and remained quiet.  He knew better than to respond to these religious bullies.  I’m sure it must have infuriated them that they could not bait Jesus into a rash response.  (Hmm… can we learn something here from the way Jesus handles those who oppose Him and all that He stood for?  I think so.)

Then Jesus speaks those famous words, “If any of you have never sinned, then go ahead and throw the first stone at her!”  Obviously every person who has lived has committed sin.  From the time of Adam until the present day, every person has fallen short of being perfect and without sin.  And when that realization dawned on these men, they finally all left the woman alone, for to condemn her would be to condemn themselves.

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Here then is the most important question in this passage.  What did Jesus think about this woman?  It is true that she did commit adultery.  So that does mean that she committed sin in God’s eyes.  Jesus himself had not committed sin, and so He alone was in a position to condemn the woman for her actions.  Look at what Jesus said to her, “I am not going to accuse you either. You may go now, but don’t sin anymore.”

It is clear that Jesus did not desire to see this woman condemned to die according to the religious rules of that day.  But more importantly, Jesus did not want this woman to continue acts of sin and thus be in a state of sin that would result in God condemning her to eternal death.  So Jesus did not condemn her, but He also did not condone her actions.

This is the crucial application for us today.  We must all be willing to bow in humility before God and admit our sin before Him.  Then we are to choose to no longer follow this path of sin.  This is an act of repentance, a true change of the heart.  And when that occurs, the door is then opened to receive forgiveness of our sin, forever.  I pray that you have made this important decision for your life.

* If this article has been helpful to you and a blessing, please invite your friends to come visit this devotional blog site.

Entering God’s Sanctuary

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Psalm 15

A Psalm of David

1 Who may worship in your sanctuary, LORD?  Who may enter your presence on your holy hill?

2 Those who lead blameless lives and do what is right, speaking the truth from sincere hearts.

3 Those who refuse to gossip or harm their neighbors or speak evil of their friends.

4 Those who despise flagrant sinners, and honor the faithful followers of the LORD, and keep their promises even when it hurts.

5 Those who lend money without charging interest,and who cannot be bribed to lie about the innocent.  Such people will stand firm forever. (New Living Translation)

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This Psalm of David has more meaning and significance for me now that I have worked on the book of Hebrews.  During the past month, I have been engaged in preparing and in checking Hebrews in the A. language, one of the local languages of Papua New Guinea.  I had read Hebrews many times in the past, but this was the first time that I had seriously studied the book verse-by-verse.

Sometimes when we are checking Scriptures we may go the other way and instead of  getting a good grasp on the big picture or main ideas in a book, we can get lost in the details of checking the meaning of a verse or phrase.  And yet, I think that even with our intense scrutiny of Hebrews, it was almost impossible to not get the main thrust of the book.

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This is very true as one considers the flow of the text from chapter 1 through chapter 10.  The author is very methodical, but very clear, that we are to see just how great Jesus is, our Mediator, our High Priest, our once-for-all sacrifice for sin.  From the cosmic (Jesus is better than the angels), to the simple (he shared in our humanity), from the earthly (from the line of Judah) to the heavenly (a great high priest forever), Jesus is the One through whom we can go to come into the very presence of God.

And yet, we as Christians today forget these great truths at times, and at other times we behave in ways that draw us away from God.  In reading again from my daily devotions, “Connection! Devotions for Every Day Life“, I thought the writer of one devotion asked some very good questions based off of Psalm 15 which asks about who can enter in and worship in God’s sanctuary.  She writes:

If you are experiencing times of intercession and worship that are dry and difficult, it may be time to take inventory as David did in Psalm 15.  Ask the Holy Spirit to show you if any of the following are hindering your worship:

• Are you leading a blameless life and doing what is right? What about staying away from things that have the appearance of evil? (v. 2)
• Are you speaking the truth from a sincere heart? Any half-truths or painting yourself in a better light when recounting a story? (v. 2)
• Do you absolutely refuse to slander others no matter what? Do you refuse to harm your neighbors or speak ill of your friends or spouse? (v. 3)
• Do you despise persistent sin? Do you honor the bride of Christ in thought, word, and deed—including those from other denominations? (v. 4)
• Do you keep your promises even when it hurts? (v. 4)
• Do you want something in return when you do something nice for someone? (v. 5)
• Do you speak against someone when it is in your own best interest? (v. 5)
Holy Spirit, show me any areas of my life that are hindering my prayer life.  I desire to enter in with a pure heart!

–by Sandra Higley, author of A Year of Prayer Events for Your Church; Taken from an article that originally appeared in Issue 19 (July/August 2000) of Pray! magazine.

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And as I read these questions, I recognized my own failings.  I know that there are times, more often than I would like to admit, that I sin against God or against another person.  For the Israelites, they were required to come to the Tabernacle (later the Temple) where they would bring an animal sacrifice and offer up the sacrifice as a means of atonement for sin.  How sad it is when we read “again and again he (the high priest) offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.”  (Heb. 10:11)

But praise be to God, when Jesus offered himself as a living sacrifice, even though he had done nothing wrong, had never sinned, “by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.”  (Heb. 10:14)  We are no longer under the old regulations whereby we deal with sins temporarily, but we are assured of eternal forgiveness.  And that gives us the great assurance that yes, indeed we can come into God’s heavenly sanctuary and worship Him.

And like a climax, the author says these inspiring words in 10:19-22

19  And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus.  20  By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place.  21  And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, 22 let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him.  For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.

Isn’t that good news?  Yes, in fact it is fantastic news.  What we could never achieve on our own, Jesus has accomplished by dying on the cross and moving aside the barrier that once had separated God from mankind, and mankind from God.  Now we can come before the King of the Universe, bow before Him and worship Him, knowing that our sins have been dealt with, and we are found acceptable in God’s eyes.

Jesus – Our High Priest Forever

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The basic facts of the Gospel are pretty easy to sum up, I think.  Jesus was, and still is God.  He became human and died a terrible death.  It was because of sin which broke the relationship between God and mankind that he died.  Jesus took our place as a human and paid the penalty of sin when he died on the cross.  Jesus rose from the dead proving he had conquered death.  When we put our trust in him, God does not see the sin, it has been done away with.  And so after we die here and have our bodies raised, we too who are saved from eternal death will live with God forever.

This all sounds so nice and intellectual.  But as I was working on Hebrews chapter 7, I was struck with a profound truth.  In verse 25, it says that “And so Jesus, now and always, is able to save those who come to God through him.”  The concept that Jesus is able to save people throughout time is huge.  But it is the verse above that really gave me a thrill.

Unfortunately, the English does not do this verse justice as one version puts it. “Because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood.”  This puts emphasis on his office, not on his work as a priest.  Biblically speaking, a priest’s job is to offer sacrifices to God on behalf of men and women so that sin is dealt with and God and mankind can be united again.

It was as I looked at the back translation (translated from a village language back into a form of English) of verse 24 that I was hit with a huge spiritual “Ah Ha!”.  This back translation basically says, “Jesus is always existing.  He was doing and will never stop doing the work of giving offerings.  He will be doing this work forever.” These words, “always exists”, “never stop”, “forever”, these all spoke to me of how much Jesus loves people, now and always.

From before the beginning of time up until the crucifixion and resurrection, the plan to rescue people from sin existed, and ever since then up until the last day, Jesus is in the business of presenting the offering to God (his sacrifice on the cross) which can take away sin.  And the end of verse 25 tells us that not only does Jesus have this power to save people, he is continually speaking to the Father, interceding on their behalf, reminding the Father that he paid for people’s sin.  And it is because of Jesus’ faithful and continual acting as our Mediator that we are able today, and every day, to stand in a living, loving, and forgiving relationship with the God of the universe.

Thank you Jesus!!!!