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)

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I’m At Your Mercy — A Song

I’m At Your Mercy
—The Acappella Company

As I stood inside the courtroom
The judge came walking in
There was One who stood beside me
A compassionate friend to me
As he spoke my situation
I knew that he was in control
Of the destiny of my eternal soul

With a hush the crowd awaited
To receive the words he’d say
A finality was pressing
Like no other day
To reveal my destination
That was what I soon would know
To eternity, where was I to go?

Yes, your honor, I’m at your mercy
You can do with me
Just as you please
Please remember
My testimony
The blood of Jesus
Covers me

When the time came for the verdict
The anticipation rose
But the people knew too well
The path in life they chose
Those who had not cared to answer
When in life he gave the call
Or had known his grace and love
Only to fall

But as he looked in my direction
I was not afraid
‘Cause the nailed-scarred hands
Were right there, they were defending me
But then he rose to give the answer
As we bowed unto the Lord
He said “Well done my child,
Great is your reward”

Yes, your honor, I’m at your mercy
You can do with me
Just as you please (You can do with me Lord just as you please)
Please remember (Please remember Lord)
My testimony (My testimony)
The blood of Jesus (Oh the blood of Jesus)
Covers me

The Blessings of 2013: Joys and Hardships

Wow! This coming Wednesday will be the start of 2014. It’s amazing how time seems to go faster and faster as I get older. That’s a cliché to be sure, but it also forces itself into blatant clarity with each New Year.

As I look back at 2013, I see the usual ups and downs that any year brings. There have been times of happiness and times of sadness. There have been times of success and times of failure. There have been times of victory and times of defeat. We’ve made a few new friends, grown closer to friends we already had, and had to say goodbye to some others. Debi and I celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary and commemorated the 1st anniversary of the loss of a beloved pet.

This year has also brought some less usual ups and downs for us.

We were able to attend several wonderful theological and apologetics conferences in 2013. These included the annual dinner put on by Embrace The Truth International, the Apologetics Book Release event at Oakland Christian Academy with Dr. Norm Geisler, the Reliability of the Scriptures event with Dr. Norm Geisler and Dr. Ron Rhodes, and the two-day Sola13 conference in Lansing, MI with Dr. John Piper and many other excellent speakers. This was a great year for conferences.

In the area of spiritual enrichment, my study of Luke’s gospel account with Chris Samuel has been a huge boost. Chris has kept me on track with studying the Bible and has challenged me spiritually and in the area of moral accountability. This is a primary means of spiritual growth for me. I strongly encourage every man and woman to meet regularly with an accountability and Bible study partner.

This year has also included much loss and difficulty for us and our families. Debi lost both of her grandmothers during 2013. Both of my parents have been diagnosed with very serious health issues. We applied for membership with SEND International with great excitement, expecting our lives to take a major turn in that direction, but earlier this month we were turned down.

So, 2013 has been chock full of highs and lows. We’re not sure what 2014 will bring. It promises to start off with the continued difficulty of my parents’ health and some possible financial difficulties for us, but nothing else is clear.

Well, that’s not exactly true.

We know for sure that, because we’re both actively following Jesus, we continue to be secure in the grace and love of our Lord. We know that the spiritual growth God has started in our lives, he’ll continue to perfect, sometimes through hardships. We know that God will continue to use us as he sees fit in the areas of missions, apologetics, discipleship, and other areas that only he knows.

We know that he’ll continue to hold us up, give us the strength necessary to serve him, and accomplish his will in our lives. This is especially true as we follow hard after him. We know that we can cast all of our cares on him, because he’s intimately aware and concerned for every minute detail of our lives; he loves us both that much.

We know that God will bring us safely through whatever hardships we face in life. We know that, in him, we have a joy that is beyond expression, even when all of life seems to crumble around us. We know that, because our citizenship is not with any nation of this world but is in Heaven, when he does decide to take us out of here, we have a home waiting for us with him.

In this world we have trouble. That’s a promise given to us by Jesus himself, and it’s become more evident to us in 2013 than in years past, and it looks to continue to be true for us in 2014. But he has also promised us that he has overcome the world, and through that promise Debi and I can serve him daily regardless of life’s troubles.

I am truly thankful, as this year comes to a close, that I am a child of the King. I am thankful that God has given me Debi as a life partner with whom I can serve, suffer, and celebrate. I’m thankful that God has promised us that he will never leave us to deal with life’s difficulties alone. I’m thankful that God promises us everyday that he will be with us through the surging waters of this turbulent life. And I’m especially thankful that there’s a home waiting for us at the end of this life, because he has sent his Son to save us from the bondage of sin, and because we’ve trusted in that.