By the way… Do you know what John 3:16 really means?

Jn316WhatLet’s look at a very familiar verse for a moment. It’s probably the most familiar verse in the Bible, but have you really thought about what it means?

John 3:16 – God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

  • What God did (gave his only Son), he did out of love.
  • He gave his Son to die the death that we all deserve.
  • Those who believe in him will not perish but have eternal life.

Who does this include?

Well, it includes everyone! Those who believe will not perish. By necessary contrast, those who do not believe will perish. Easy enough, right?

Easy, but a bit terrifying. Let’s take a look at what is says just 2 verses later:

John 3:18 – Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

  • Anyone who believes in Jesus avoids condemnation.
  • Anyone who does not believe faces condemnation.

Is belief all it takes?

So, to avoid condemnation all you have to do is believe! That’s pretty easy for most. But what does it mean to believe in this context? Same passage, but a few verses later:

John 3:36 – Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

  • Again, whoever believes has eternal life.
  • Whoever does not obey suffers the wrath of God.

The biblical term used here for “believe” is synonymous with “obey.” So, it’s not just an intellectual assent to the fact that Jesus exists, or even that Jesus died for sins; it’s belief with a view to obedience; it’s belief that results in obedience. Now we have a much more difficult proposition, don’t we?

This is where most people fall short, get tripped up, or simply choose to ignore what is very plain in Scripture.

How do we avoid this problem?

Jesus said that whoever would follow him (another way of saying “believe in him” or “obey him”) must leave everything else behind and follow him (i.e., seek to become like him, turning away from everything else).

Luke 9:23–26 – Jesus said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father.”

These are very strict conditions, it seems to me. Only followers of Jesus, as defined here, will have the eternal life promised in John 3:16. It’s a lot different than just believing (assenting to a fact) that Jesus died for sins. If you are trusting your eternal destiny to the type of easy-believism that says all you have to do is say a prayer or ask Jesus into your heart, you are still under the wrath of the Father. And if you are under the wrath of the Father, you have no hope of being saved from it unless you turn your life over to Christ, forsaking all other beliefs and lifestyles.

You cannot continue in your own chosen way of life and expect that God is going to approve of you. God does not weigh your good deeds with your bad. He does not wink at your decisions to crusade for those things that are a violation of his Word and of his character. He does not grade on a scale. He does not yield to the demands of the current culture.

Are you a follower of Jesus?

So, what about you? Are you a follower of Jesus? I submit that this question is the most important question you will ever answer. Answer it honestly. Are you a follower of Jesus? If you answered “yes,” are you sure? If not, I implore you to be decisive today on this issue. You have no guarantee of having until tomorrow to make this decision.

“God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

— Jesus of Nazareth (John 3:16-21)

Advertisements

By the way… Should I answer a fool according to his folly or not?

A lot of people, including myself, include reading something out of Proverbs every day as part of their Bible reading plan. Whoever it was that originally divided up Proverbs into 31 chapters helped us out with that, making it easy to read through the book each month. So today, being the 26th of the month, included a reading from Proverbs chapter 26. In that chapter we find these two verses back to back.

Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself.
Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.
Proverbs 26:4-5 (ESV)

Have you ever read those verses and thought, Wait a minute, God. Which is it? Should I answer a fool according to his folly or not? A friend and fellow servant brought this up a while back and we sat down to figure out what the writer was trying to say. I want to briefly share my thoughts on it here.

I believe the phrase according to his folly is used differently in the 1st statement than in the 2nd. Here are a couple of “Jono Paraphrases” of those 2 verses as I understand them:

Do not answer a fool using his own foolish methods and mannerisms, or you yourself will be just like him.
Answer a fool as his folly deserves, lest he seem to himself to be wise.

Or

Do not answer a fool as if his words are accurate, or you yourself will be just like him.
Answer a fool by pointing out the folly of his words, lest he seem to himself to be wise.

Answering a fool as if his words are accurate, for example, is like accepting a false dichotomy or a false assumption. Take these examples:

  • “Hey John, are you still beating your wife?”
    That question assumes that John used to beat his wife, which may not be true.
  • “If God is all-powerful, he could stop evil from happening, and if he’s all-loving, he’d want to. Therefore God can’t be both since evil exists.”
    This is a typical false dichotomy used by atheists to try to disprove God’s existence using the problem of evil.

An example of a fool’s foolish methods or mannerisms might be something like this:

  • “You think your God is all-powerful? Can he create a rock so big that he can’t lift it?”
    That’s a foolish argument that misunderstands the concept of omnipotence. God can do all things that power can do. He can’t use his power to defeat his power; that’s impossible. He also can’t be illogical in the use of his power. For example he can’t create a square circle, or a triangle with anything other than three corners.

The idea behind Proverbs 26:4-5, I think, is to not allow a fool to capture your thoughts or the conversation with foolish arguments or speculations assumed to be true. Instead, if we answer a fool at all, it should be to point out his assumptions or shed light on his statements revealing them as foolish.

By the way… How Far Would You Go to Avoid Looking Foolish?

In our culture today, is public embarrassment the ultimate fear? What would you do to prevent the indignity of looking foolish in front of others? Is “saving face” one of the most important things for you?

Assaults, murders, and all sorts of atrocities have been committed by people trying to save face, escape humiliation, and side-step public shame. Oftentimes, if avoiding embarrassment fails, all energies are then aimed at damage control—excusing, denying, minimizing. Only then, and only if these great efforts fail, contrition. But contrition is the last possible measure, to be avoided at all possible costs.

It was relayed to me how a youth pastor asked this question of his teens:

“How many of you are willing to take a bullet for Jesus?”

If we are Christians, we would almost certainly say that we are willing to die for our Savior. Aren’t you? He then followed up with this question:

“How many of you are willing to look foolish for Jesus?”

For most of us, that’s a much more difficult proposal. But why? Is public embarrassment a greater price to pay than death? The answer to that is probably “yes.”

I believe that it’s this fear that keeps many of us from engaging people in the marketplace with the Gospel of Jesus.

And believe me, I’m in no way immune to this; I am as guilty as any of not taking advantage of opportunities to share Christ when I think it may lead to being rejected, humiliated, or shamed in public. What if I fumble my words? If it’s a friend, what if they reject me? What if the person I’m engaging hits me with an argument that I can’t answer? What if the conversation turns into a complete disaster for my side and I end up shaming Jesus? Maybe I’d better just pass this opportunity by and wait for the next one. Don’t you think? Certainly Jesus wouldn’t want me to fail when I’m trying to present the Gospel, would he?

A better question: Is the other person’s eternal soul worth my so-called dignity?

By the way… Is It Illegal to Follow Evidence No Matter Where It Leads?

According to an article on upi.com last week, it’s now illegal for public schools in the UK to teach Creationism as a valid alternative to evolution when it comes to the origins of the universe. I’ll leave you to the article itself, but I want to make sure you see one very interesting line in it.

The funding agreement notes that the discussion of beliefs about the origin of the Earth including creationism are permitted in religious education “as long as it is not presented as a valid alternative to established scientific theory.”

What that means is that what is considered the established scientific theory cannot even be questioned, no matter what evidence there may be in favor of other theories such as Creationism. This is nothing less than policing thought and illegitimate indoctrination. “Only one theory is allowed,” the UK government is now saying, “ours or nothing at all.”

How long until the US follows suit?

Here’s the article.

By the way… Are There Rules of Engagement When Christians Disagree?

The Internet has given us tremendous ability to reach many more people than ever before. We have easy access to get our opinions and thoughts out to people with the help of social media, blogs, podcasts, personal videos, and the like. This includes, obviously, the ability to voice our own individual theological leanings and world views. Because of this, we cannot avoid running into those of differing opinions.

I’ve seen, as I’m sure you have, many spiritual and theological conversations start out friendly and end up in heated quarrels.

“What? You think Christians today have to obey the Old Testament Sabbath Law? Are you crazy? Are you even saved???”

“I’m sorry, but if you aren’t a Calvinist, you obviously don’t believe that God is sovereign! I’m wasting my time talking to you.”

“The King James Bible is the only Authorized Bible, inspired and inerrant! If you are reading any other Bible, you need to repent!”

So, the question on the table is, How do you properly and Biblically deal with disagreements with other believers, indeed, with anyone of an opposing view?

Take a spare 13 minutes to watch this conversation between Matt Chandler, Michael Horton, and Tim Keller on this question. I would ask that you pay particular attention to what they say about not building straw men out of others’ views.

Did You Ever Wonder Where Balaam Came From?

As you may know, a bunch of us have been reading through the Bible in 90 days; we started on February 1st. I read in Numbers about Balaam yesterday and today and it got me thinking about who he was. What is his back story? Where did he come from? I don’t think he was one of the Israelites who came out of Egypt, but he was a prophet of God (though not a very good one). Was he related to Abraham in any way? There’s nothing in the text that would indicate that.

But if he was not an Israelite, that means that God had people besides the Israelites that were his. Who else did God call as prophets? Who else did he call to be his own that were outside of the people of Israel? Of course he called those of us who are saved, and he called others through the Israelites, but what about those Old Testament saints whose stories we haven’t heard?

Another example is King Melchizedek that we met back in Genesis. We know nothing of him besides that short passage in Genesis (and then in Psalm 110 and Hebrews). At least with him there’s an explanation as to why we know very little about him.

But with Balaam, do we know anything else about him besides what we read in Numbers 22-24? Is he the typical, or maybe atypical, example of a disobedient or self-serving prophet of God? We see in Numbers 31 that he was killed along with the Midianites, so maybe he was in tight with God’s enemies by that time. We know from Numbers 22-24 that he was at least known by the Moabites as a man who was very effective at blessing and cursing (he was a prophet of God). It seems that maybe Balaam had blessed kingdoms and cursed enemies before. It also seems evident that he really wanted to do what Balak, king of the Moabites, asked of him; the payoff would probably have been huge and Balaam was evidently a greedy man.

It also seems evident from Numbers 31 that he was partially, if not directly, responsible for the Moabite (or Midianite?) women causing the men of Israel to engage in some very immoral behavior, including idolatry.

Numbers 25:1-3 (NET) When Israel lived in Shittim, the people began to commit sexual immorality with the daughters of Moab. These women invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods; then the people ate and bowed down to their gods. When Israel joined themselves to Baal-peor, the anger of the Lord flared up against Israel.

Numbers 31:14-16 (NET) [After the defeat of the Midianites] Moses was furious with the officers of the army, the commanders over thousands and commanders over hundreds, who had come from service in the war. Moses said to them, “Have you allowed all the women to live? Look, these people through the counsel of Balaam caused the Israelites to act treacherously against the Lord in the matter of Peor—which resulted in the plague among the community of the Lord!” (emphasis mine)

So perhaps, since God would not allow Balaam to curse Israel in Numbers 22-24, Balaam accepted King Balak’s money and told him that if he could get the men of Israel to sin greatly against God, that God himself would curse Israel for him.

Well, one more thing we know from Numbers chapter 31 is that it did not end well for Balaam.

Numbers 31:7-8 (NET) They fought against the Midianites, as the Lord commanded Moses, and they killed every male. They killed the kings of Midian in addition to those slain—Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur, and Reba—five Midianite kings. They also killed Balaam son of Beor with the sword. (emphasis mine)

There’s so much about the history of the world that we don’t know, but from stories like this, it’s obvious that Israel was not the only chosen people of God. Even though Balaam is not a shining example of a man of God, he was nonetheless a prophet of God. What other examples of non-Israelites are there in the Old Testament that were called by God?

By the way… What if God Had a Plan from Creation to Christmas?

I wonder…

What if God really did create everything?

If he did, what if he did it for a purpose?

If he did, what if that purpose was so that he could have a special relationship with mankind?

If it was, what if mankind rebelled just like the Bible says they did, causing the suffering we see in the world today and destroying that special relationship?

If they did, what if God’s character did not permit him to just overlook that rebellion meaning we’d have to pay for that rebellion ourselves?

If it did, and if it does, what if the payment for that rebellion was far greater than we could ever pay, rendering the destroyed relationship eternally destroyed?

If it was, what if God decided to pay for that rebellion for us in the hopes of restoring that special relationship and bringing mankind back to him?

If he did, what if that’s why he sent his son to be born into this world (as celebrated by us this Christmas day) and to be the perfect sacrifice to pay for that rebellion because he valued that special relationship so?

If it is, what if we refuse that payment, choosing to pay for our rebellion ourselves, being unable and unwilling to do so, and remaining estranged from God?

If we do, what good is our celebration this Christmas day if that special relationship, for which we were created, is not restored?