No Other Plan to Reach the World

There is an old legend that takes us back in time and recounts the time when Jesus slips back into heaven after He had died on the cross and rose from the dead. According to the legend, the angel Gabriel met him. Gabriel frowned when he saw the marks of Jesus’ scars of His tortuous years on earth, especially the scars of His crucifixion. Gabriel said: “Master, you suffered terribly for those down on earth.” “Yes, I did,” was Jesus’ reply. Gabriel continued: “Do they all know now about your life and your forgiveness? Have they all heard about your death and resurrection?” “No, not yet.” Said Jesus. “Right now only a handful knows. Only a handful of people in Palestine know about my death and resurrection.

“Gabriel looked perplexed. “Then,” he asked, “Well… How will everyone find out about your wonderful life and your sacrificial death and triumphant resurrection?” “I have asked Peter, James, John and a handful of friends and followers to tell other people about it. And when other people hear and believe, they in turn will tell others. And Gabriel, by and by, the planet earth will hear the message.” Still frowning, the angel responded: “But, hmmm, you know how people are on earth. What if they… What if Peter, James and John get tired? What if they tell the story and then the next generation gets all involved in other pursuits? What if way down in the 18th or 21st century, people aren’t committed any longer to your commission? Have you made other plans?” The Lamb of God looked directly at the angel of God and said: “I have no other plan. I am counting on them.” (Author Unknown).

Does Jesus Know You?

Many of us have heard the question posed to us, “Do you know Jesus?” It’s a very important question that we all must ultimately answer either yes, or no to. It is very easy to assume that Jesus knows us. “Why of course Jesus knows me. He knows everything and everyone, right?”  In one sense, yes, that is very true. God is omniscient, but what does it really mean to know someone?

Suppose one were to dedicate a large part of their life learning everything there was to possibly know about the President of the United States. You would learn when he gets up, what he does during the day, all his accomplishments, where he was born, how many children he has, his wife’s name, his education, even down to minute details like what foods he may like and the friends he invites over for dinner. You could spend so much time and energy learning absolutely everything there is to know about him that you could almost say, “I know the President”. Now just imagine that someday you were able to find your way uninvited into the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC. The Secret Service grabs hold of you as you inform them, “It’s OK, I know the President!”  By chance if he is there, they are going to ask him if he knows you and should you hear him say: “No, I don’t know this person,” your future would quickly be determined. Unless you would have met him, spoken with him, sat with him, and spent time with him, he could never say he knew you at all. Let alone call you his friend. Knowing all about someone does not constitute a relationship.

21“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’ (Matthew 7:21-23).

In the above verses we see that not everyone who claims to know the Lord Jesus will find that He will claim to know them. The word “know” as used in verse 23 is from the Greek word “Ginosko”, meaning “to know absolutely.” What’s even more profound is that the Greek word for never, as used in verse 23, “Oudepote,” means “not even at any time, never at all.” So, can we also spend our entire life learning everything there is to know about this one called Jesus, reading the Bible, going to church, even doing all the works and signs of a follower, and still have Him say, “I never knew you?”

The answer is Yes.  And Jesus Himself also said that MANY will (Matthew 7:21-23).

We would find ourselves in the same predicament as being in the Oval Office again, and not being recognized by the President. Actually infinitely worse off. So how can I be assured that He knows me? A beautiful illustration comes from The Lord Jesus Himself saying to us:

 20Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me (Revelation 3:20, ESV)

When we are invited to dinner at a friend’s house it is still as great an honor now as it has been for thousands of years. You enter into someone’s home that has possibly worked for quite some time preparing a meal for you in hopes that you will greatly enjoy the fruits of their labor prepared for you. Not only that, but you share details about your lives, your jobs, your children, your hopes, your dreams, etc. You certainly at this point have a relationship one with another. How much more so that the Creator of the heavens and the Earth and all that is in them, is knock, knock, knocking at the door of our hearts asking to come in and dine with us! To have a relationship with Him.

In the 3rd chapter of the book of John, a man named Nicodemus; a Pharisee; a Ruler of the Jews, comes to Jesus at night. He says to Jesus: “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him” (John 3:2). Jesus gives a most interesting answer in verse 3: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” That is the key: “You must be Born Again.” He knew exactly what Nicodemus, and every person who ever comes to Him needs to know. He then proceeded to explain to him (and us) how to enter into His kingdom and thus enjoy having a personal relationship with Him. A bit further on, in one of the most famous verses in all the Bible we read:

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever lives and believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

The word “believes” is from the Greek word “Pisteuo,” meaning “to entrust, commit, put in trust with.” It is far more than just accepting a stated fact as being true. So in conclusion, when a person comes to Jesus and truly “believes” in Him by trusting in Him, committing their hearts and minds and lives to Him, and repenting of their sins, they then become Born Again; thus entering into a personal relationship with Him and receiving all the rights and privileges of a child of the King of Kings. Their names are then written down in “The Lamb’s Book of Life” (Revelation 3:27). Dear ones, if you have never entered into a personal relationship with The Lord Jesus, before it is too late, we urge you with every fiber of our being to come humbly at His feet, admit you are a sinner, and accept the free gift of salvation that was so completely secured by Him alone at a very great price.

Mike Engel

The Debt of Sin Must Be Paid!

urlDuring a war between Britain and France, men were conscripted into the French Army by a kind of lottery system. When someone’s name was drawn, he had to go off to battle. On one occasion, the authorities came to a certain man and told him he was among those who had been chosen. He refused to go, saying, “I was shot and killed two years ago.” At first the officials question his sanity, but he insisted that was indeed the case. He claimed that the military records would show that he had been killed in action. “How can that be?” they questioned. “You are alive now!” He explained that when his name first came up, a close friend said to him, “you have a large family, but I am not married and nobody is dependent on me. I’ll take your name and address and go in your place.” And that is indeed what the record showed. This rather unusual case was referred to Napoleon Bonaparte, who decided that the country had no legal claim on that man. He was free. He had died in the person of another. This is what God has done for all of us who will receive the full payment of our debt of sin by the sacrifice of Christ

And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors (Matthew 6:12).

In the above scripture, Jesus compares our sins to debts. When we sin we violate the moral law of God and expose ourselves to the penalty of exclusion from God for eternity because of the sin debt that we bring upon ourselves. As debtors of God, in His love for us, He has made a way for us to be forgiven our debt of sin before Him. The only way was for someone to pay the debt. This was what Jesus did at the cross. He died in our place to pay our sin debt and to justify us before God. Here’s how Paul the apostle described what happened at the cross of Christ:

…and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith (Romans:3:24-25).

 Simply put, we are justified by God’s goodness to us, just as if we had not sinned. Debt is not a problem confined to the present day; it was a problem in the ancient world as well. If someone had serious debts, their only way out was to sell themselves to pay their debts, either that or the law courts forced slavery upon them. Suppose a friend happened into the market just as he was being sold and asked the price. Suppose that friend then paid his debt and let him go free. He would be redeeming him. In a similar way Jesus paid the “redemption fee” to buy us out of Satan’s slave market of sin.

Paul used the words “justified freely.” Justification is a legal term. If you went to court and were acquitted, you were justified.

Two people went through school and university together and developed a close friendship. Life went on and they both went their different ways and lost contact. One went on to become a judge, while the other one ended up a criminal. One day the criminal appeared before the judge. He had committed a crime to which he pleaded guilty. The judge recognized his old friend, and faced a dilemma. He was a judge so he had to be just; he couldn’t let the man off. On the other hand, he didn’t want to punish the man, because he loved him. So he told his friend that he would fine him the correct penalty for the offense. That is justice. Then he came down from his position as judge and wrote a check for the amount of the fine. He gave it to his friend, saying that he would pay the penalty for him. That is love.

This is an illustration of what God has done for us. In His justice, He judges us because we are guilty, but then, in His love, He came down in the person of His Son, the Lord Jesus, and paid the penalty for us. In this way He is both ‘just’ (in that He does not allow the guilty to go unpunished), and the one who justifies—Romans 3:26 (in that by taking the penalty Himself, in the person of His Son, He enables us to go free). Isn’t it time you received for yourself the payment of your sin by another—the Lord Jesus?

Keith Thomas

The Persecution of Pastor Tson

igreja-perseguidaIt was late in the summer of 1977 and Romania was under communist rule when the Baptist minister put all his worldly concerns in order after the manner of a dying man. Buoyed by the courage of his wife, Elizabeth, Pastor Tson prepared himself for certain martyrdom. He was to meet an officer from the secret police in the restaurant of a nondescript Romanian hotel. The communist officer had pledged to do what previous secret police officials had failed to do: silence Tson’s ministry by offering him a secular job in exchange for a promise that he never again preach the Gospel. Turning down the job spelled at least hard time in a prison camp. It might very well mean execution. Tson met with the man, and without flinching turned down the job.

“I told the man, ‘Now I am ready to die,’” Tson said. “‘You said you were going to finish me as a preacher. I asked my God and he wants me to continue to be a preacher. Now I have to make one of you two angry and I decided [it is] better [to] make you angry than God. But I know you, sir; you cannot stand this kind of opposition and you will kill me in one way or another. But I accepted that and you should know that I have even put everything in order and made ready to die. But as long as I am free, I will preach the Gospel.’”

The communist officer was equally unflinching in his response: He told Tson to go and preach the Gospel. “He [the officer] made up his mind that if I was ready to die for it, then I should have it,” Tson said. “And for another four years until they exiled me, I continued to preach with nobody disturbing me because that man, a key man in the secret police, decided I should be free to preach because I was ready to die for it.” He was arrested and imprisoned several times in Romania during the 1970s and charged with being a Christian minister. Each time he underwent several weeks of intense interrogation, beatings and mind games before finally being exiled from the country in 1981.

“When the secret police officer threatened to kill me, to shoot me, I smiled and I said, ‘Sir, don’t you understand that when you kill me, you send me to glory? You cannot threaten me with glory.’ The more suffering, the more troubles, the greater the glory. So, why say, ‘Stop this trouble’? Because the more [suffering], the greater the glory up there.” During one particularly harrowing session of interrogation, Tson told his inquisitors that spilling his blood would only serve to water the growth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Part of the theology of suffering, he learned, was that tribulation is never an accident but is part of God’s sovereign plan for building His church.

“I told the interrogator, ‘You should know your supreme weapon is killing. My supreme weapon is dying,’” Tson said. “‘Now here is how it works, sir: You know that my sermons are on tape all over the country. When you shoot me or crush me, whichever way you choose, [you] only sprinkle my sermons with my blood. Everybody who has a tape of one of my sermons will pick it up and say, ‘I had better listen again. This man died for what he preached.’ Sir, my sermons will speak 10 times louder after you kill me and because you kill me. In fact, I will conquer this country for God because you killed me. Go on and do it.’ “Dying for the Lord is not an accident. It’s not a tragedy. It’s part of the job. It’s part of the ministry. And it’s the greatest way of preaching.”

Tson said he has learned that Christians suffer for two primary reasons: as witnesses to the Gospel and to perfect the church of Christ. He recalled being encouraged by a valuable truth that a British theologian taught him: The cross of Christ was for the propitiation of sins, but the cross each Christian is called to bear is for the propagation of the Gospel.

Jesus Heals the Man Born Blind

jesus_heals_2902081As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. 5While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. 7“Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing (John 9:1-7).

In the previous chapter Jesus had stated that He was, and is, the great I AM (John 8:58), the name God had told Moses that He was to be called by (Exodus 3:14). To the Jewish people, to make such a declaration was unthinkable! How dare He say that He was God! They were so angry at His statements about Himself that they began stoning Him for blasphemy (John 8:59). He had also stated in the previous chapter, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life (John 8:12). He said this about Himself while up in the Temple Courts (John 8:2), more than likely before the four big giant candelabra’s symbolizing God as the One who had been their light leading them in the darkness during the wilderness wanderings. Notice that He didn’t say I am a light, but I am the Light of the World. He claimed exclusively to be Israel’s Light. Now He is set to prove it as He is leaving the Temple precincts.  Often beggars would be sitting near the gates to the temple area, ready to hold out their hands to any worshippers whose hearts were softened by worshiping the Lord. Even today, although there is no temple there, people can often be found begging near one of the gates to the Old City. Please consider coming on tour with me some time to Israel. How life-giving it is to walk in this city that is so loved by our Lord!

Put yourself in the shoes of the man born blind. He could hear the conversation between the Lord and His disciples, but didn’t know what was going on. He more than likely heard Jesus collecting spittle in his mouth and spitting it on the ground. I would think that the Lord told him He was about to put something on his eyes. Did he know Jesus before the mud was put on his eyes? I think not. He explained later on, “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see” (verse 11). If he would have known Jesus he would have said, “Jesus told me to go to Siloam and wash.”

Sometimes the Lord tests our obedience to His voice. He will offend your mind to reveal your heart. How would you feel about someone rubbing mud in your eyes? Was he offended as he stumbled about with mud on his eyes trying to find his way to the Pool of Siloam? I’m sure there were a few on the way that probably offered to give him water to wash off his face while he was going. I’m sure there were a few that laughed at his obedience to Jesus. Was someone leading him on the way? We do not know, but no matter what was on the way or who was leading him, he was determined to do just as Jesus had said. He was well rewarded when he found his way down the steps to the pool of water. He washed and was instantly healed. How determined are you to hear His Word and do the will of God? What if he had washed his eyes before He had got to Siloam? I don’t think he would have been healed and we wouldn’t be reading about his obedience to the Lord. Can I encourage you today not to compromise your faith in Christ? Hold on to Him in the midst of the darkness as we stumble towards Siloam. We might not see everything that we would like to see but obedience to Christ pays big dividends! The end of our faith is well worth listening to His Word.

This study was taken from the study of John 9:1-41, Jesus and the Man Born Blind. It’s found in the middle column under the heading of the Book of John.

Keith Thomas