In today’s Bible reading, John makes a stunning observation. “So the crowd was divided because of him.” John 7:43 (CSB) John wins the title, “Captain Obvious” for this one!
Many today will say that Christians need to be more like Jesus: more peaceful, more inclusive, less judgmental, and less divisive.
“Don’t assume that I came to bring peace on the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household.” Matthew 10:34–36 (CSB)
It’s as if the ones telling Christians to “be more like Jesus” don’t know Who Jesus really is. Sometimes I just have to scratch my head and wonder if these people have ever read the Bible!
If you read the “Fruit of the Spirit” in Galatians 5:22-23, you’ll see character qualities that everyone can admire. Yes, Jesus was the embodiment of all of these things. And He was more. So much more!
We don’t get to take a trip down the Bible Buffet Line, picking and choosing what we like and disregarding what we dislike. No, we can either take the Jesus presented in the Bible, or reject Him outright.
By His very nature, Jesus is divisive. He is God. And God is divisive! God is very divisive.
And we must choose. We must choose, not which parts of Jesus we want, or which version of Jesus we want, but whether or not we really want the Jesus Who’s is revealed in the Bible. The whole Bible.
This devotional was originally published October 23, 2019.
Sometimes you come across something in the Bible that you don’t like. Something that doesn’t sound right. Something that doesn’t seem to go with how you always heard it in church. Such is the case with today’s Bible reading.
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day. John 6:44 (CSB)
He said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted to him by the Father.” John 6:65 (CSB)
Many of us who grew up in church find it not just a little strange that Jesus would say — not once, but twice — that not just anyone can come to God. Does that mean that God will turn away people who sincerely want to come to Him? In other words, can someone come to Jesus on their own initiative?
I don’t have the space here to fully answering these questions. Some theologians have dedicated books to answering them. All I have is what Jesus says: only those who have been invited may come. Add to that what Paul says in Romans 3:10–12 and what Jeremiah said in Jeremiah 17:9 and I think it’s clear that no one is capable of sincerely coming to God on their own initiative. And even if they could, they wouldn’t.
Now, Jesus doesn’t say just that only those who are invited may come. But He adds that all those who are invited will come (John 6:37a) and all of those who respond to the invitation can never be turned away. (John 6:37b) And for Jesus to lose a any of those who were invited would be for Him to not do His Father’s will. (John 6:39)
Those are tremendous truths! Think about that!
If a child of God could lose his/her salvation,
it would mean that Jesus failed to do God’s will!
In other words, the security of your salvation isn’t your responsibility! It’s Jesus’ responsibility! Now, that isn’t to say that you can come to Jesus and kick back and never do anything else.
No, if you truly come to Him, you will continue to come to Him and grow closer to Him. But the responsibility for maintaining the relationship is His. And Jesus will always hold to His responsibilities!
So when you come across something in the Bible that you don’t like, something that doesn’t sound right, something that doesn’t go along with what you’ve always heard in church, it might just be that God wants to show you something about His character you’ve never seen before. And it might just be an opportunity for worship.
This devotional was originally published October 22, 2019.
In today’s Bible reading, we read about Jesus’ encounter with a Samaritan woman at a well. It was an abnormal meeting because Jews never went through Samaria and women generally didn’t draw water from wells in the middle of the day. But here they are: a young rabbi and a woman with a troubled past. And they’re talking about God.
After telling her that He is the source of living water and that some day both the Samaritans and Jews will worship the Father together in Spirit and in Truth, she runs off to tell her friends and family about a man who knew everything about her. (John 4:29)
Next, the Disciples engage Jesus about his lunch plans. He dodges their questions and tells them to look up; the fields are ready for the harvest. John tells us that many Samaritans believed Jesus because of the woman’s testimony about Him. Still others believe, not just because of her testimony, but because they experience Him for themselves.
So what did Jesus mean by “the fields are ready for harvest”?
Jesus had “primed the pump” so to speak with the woman and the Samaritan people came, interested to find out more. Meanwhile, God was priming the pump of the people’s hearts, making them ready to hear what Jesus would say to them.
We think the people came, seeking Jesus, when in reality, God was already seeking them! (John 4:23) Now, after heartily endorsing the Christian Standard Bible’s treatment of John 3:16 in yesterday’s devotional, I need to point out that the CSB’s weakness on John 4:23 (CSB). It isn’t that the Father wants (CSB) people to worship Him. It’s that the Father seeks (ESV) people to worship Him. We’ll read in 6:44 that unless the Father draws someone, they won’t seek on their own. Paul confirms this in Romans 3:11 as he quotes Psalm 14:1-3.
Our efforts to tell people about Jesus will be completely ineffective if we haven’t bathed those efforts in prayer. If God hasn’t prepared their hearts, they simply won’t hear the Gospel message. And I think that partially explains why there are so many false conversions: people are pressed to make a decision for Jesus when their hearts aren’t in it. They politely pray a prayer and are told that they are forever saved and eternally secure. In many cases, nothing could be further from the truth.
The best witnesses are those who simply tell their experience with Jesus and invite others to know Him, too.
That was true two thousand years ago. And it’s true now. You don’t have to burden yourself learning lots of apologetics arguments. They may help, but unless God has prepared their hearts, no argument under heaven will save them.
Talking about God with people must be preceded by prayer, bathed in prayer, and supported by prayer. There simply is no substitute for prayer in evangelism. And that’s something that any Believer can do!
Pray that God would give you boldness. Pray that God would give you the right words to say. Pray that God would prepare their hearts to receive the Gospel message. And pray that the Gospel message lands on “good soil” (Matthew 13:23)
This devotional was originally published October 18, 2019.
Today’s Bible reading includes one of the most memorized verses in the Bible. It’s a verse that so many people have loved and quoted. And it’s a verse that was only recently translated into English the way it was intended. WHAT????
Now, before I go any further, hear me out: I believe that God’s people can hear God’s voice in any translation of the Bible they can read or hear. I also believe that Believers should use translations that most closely uses words the way we do in common, everyday life. Language changes. Word usage changes. When God spoke and men wrote the Bible, they recorded it in the common, everyday language. The Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew and Aramaic. The New Testament was originally written in Koine (pronounced KOY-nay) Greek. In other words, God wanted ordinary people to be albe to hear Him in their common, everyday language. For this reason, I discourage using translations from several hundred years ago and recommend using translations from the past 50 years. The more recent, generally speaking, the better.
Most of us memorized the verse from the King James Version. The KJV was translated in 1611 so that the people of the day could understand it in their common, everyday language. The KJV translators recognized that as language changes, translations would need to be updated. As modern translators came to the famous verse, they mainly kept the wording the same, and updated “whosoever” to “whoever”, “believeth” to “believe”, and “everlasting” to “eternal”.
I have heard preachers say that the verse says, “God loved the world SO MUCH….” The implication — and many preachers have spelled it out in so many words — is that the world was worth so much, that God sent Jesus. But that isn’t what Jesus said!
I feel that the Christian Standard Bible brings out the best meaning with its translation. And it’s the first translation to translate it, “For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 (CSB) The Greek word translated in the CSB as in this way could also be translated thus/thusly or therefore. But in this way sounds better to our 21st Century ears than thus or thusly.
Jesus didn’t say that “God loved the world SO MUCH that He sent His Son.” Instead, Jesus said, “God loved the world by sending His Son.” It seems such a small difference, right? Paul said it this way, “But God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 (CSB)
No, Jesus doesn’t say that the world was worth SO MUCH that His Father sent His Son. Rather, He says that our sin was SO GREAT because it was against a GREAT GOD that it took Jesus’ death to appease the Father’s wrath. The difference between those two statements is staggering. One statement places the higher value on the world. The other statement places the higher value on God.
Too often, we’ve misplaced the emphasis of the Gospel on mankind. But mankind isn’t the central focus of the Gospel. God is! And unless we see God is the center of the Gospel, we won’t see the enormity of the bad news for lost people in light of their sin against a Holy God.
And thus, we’ll miss the corresponding enormity of the Good News that the Gospel brings.
Do you have a modern Bible? Can you understand it as easily as you do a newspaper, magazine, or book? In other words, was it translated in your lifetime? If not, there are lots of resources on the Internet that will let you read the Bible in lots of different translations. Normally, I recommend the Christian Standard Bible (CSB) and the English Standard Version (ESV). Check out Bible.com for a free downloadable Bible app (iOS, Android, etc.) that includes lots of English translations.
This devotional was originally published October 17, 2019.
Next, John talks about the importance of hospitality toward other Believers. (3 John 1:5-8) People don’t talk much about hospitality these days. But it’s a very important character trait. Back in the First Century, especially as Roman religious persecution grew, it was crucial that Believers support each other as John says above. He concludes his thoughts, urging that Believers should financially support itenerant missionaries. By supporting these people, they actually become a coworker with them in God’s work.
I haven’t read it yet, but Rosaria Butterfield wrote an award-winning book, The Gospel Comes with a House Key: Practicing Radically Ordinary Hospitality in Our Post-Christian World. In it, she talks about how she became a Christian in a large part because some Christian neighbors extended “radically ordinary” hospitality to her.
Think about that. By simply being hospitable, you can have an eternal impact on the lives of lost people. Maybe it’s gladly giving a neighbor a cup of sugar. Maybe it’s loaning a fan to a new neighbor who’s painting some rooms before they move. Definitely, it’s praying for your neighbors. Definitely, it’s being ready to share a “fresh word” of encouragement with them. Definitely, it’s giving a Bible to the coworker who doesn’t have one and is beginning their spiritual walk.
The saying, “Always share your faith and use words when necessary” forgets the fact that unless you use words, people will not know the Gospel. Sure, they may think, “Wow, what a nice gesture.” but they won’t know why you did what you did when you were hospitable. Peter urged his readers to always be ready to gently and respectfully explain your hope. (1 Peter 3:15)
And that requires that we use words.
This devotional was originally published October 5, 2019.