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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Just Because — A Song about Real Love

I love this song! The band, Good Little Giants, was recommended by Greg Koukl of Stand To Reason in a CD he sent out. This song really grabbed me today as I listened on my commute from work.

The first two verses describe false, conditional love. The third verse describes the only real love that exists.

This is “Just Because” by Good Little Giants.

I want a love that looks past positions
A love just because, not a love with conditions
I can search the whole world and find all kinds of love
But love that is real is love just because

Well I’ve had enough time to learn
That love in this world doesn’t come without turns
When I offer something of value to you
Then suddenly I become valuable too

But I want a love that looks past positions
A love just because, not a love with conditions
I can search the whole world and find all kinds of love
But love that is real is love just because

Well I can admit it that sometimes I reserve
And limit my love to the ones who deserve
Still I’m waiting for someone who seeks no returns
The love I can’t lose or do something to earn

I want a love that looks past positions
A love just because, not a love with conditions
I can search the whole world and find all kinds of love
But love that is real is love just because
Oh love that is real is love just because

Well I found a love that deserves recognition
So perfect in deed, it is love’s definition
Well I’ve searched the whole world but it came from above
It’s a love that is real, it’s a love just because

I want a love that looks past positions
A love just because, not a love with conditions
I can search the whole world and find all kinds of love
But love that is real is love just because
Oh love that is real is love just because

Calvary’s Love — a Song

Calvary’s Love

Calvary’s love will sail forever
Bright and shining, strong and free
Like an ark of peace and safety
On the sea of human need

Through the hours of all the ages
Those tired of sailing on their own
Finally rest inside the shadow
Cast by Calvary’s love across their souls

Calvary’s love
Calvary’s love
Priceless gift Christ makes us worthy of
The deepest sin can’t rise above Calvary’s love

Calvary’s love can heal the spirit
Life has crushed and cast aside
And redeem ’til heaven’s promise
Fills with joy once empty eyes

So desire to tell His story
Of a love that loved enough to die
Burns away all other passions
Fed by Calvary’s love becomes a fire

Calvary’s love
Calvary’s love
Priceless gift Christ makes us worthy of
The deepest sin can’t rise above Calvary’s love

Calvary’s love has never faltered
All its wonders still remain
Souls still take eternal passage
Sins atoned and heaven gained
Sins atoned and heaven gained

Words by Greg Nelson
Music by Phil McHugh

A Christian’s Proper Response to the Aggressive LGBT Agenda

In his latest email newsletter, my pastor included this article. I wanted to share it with you.

A young woman named Crystal O’Connor was standing behind the counter of the pizza place where she worked in a small Indiana town. A man wanders in, and after answering one unexpected question, she finds herself (two days later) unemployed (with the pizza shop out of business), fearful for her life and hated by strangers all over the country.

You know times are changing, friends.

Three weeks ago, legislation was enacted in Indiana that makes it legal for gay customers to boycott Christian businesses, but illegal for Christian businesses to boycott gay customers. An unsuspecting teenaged girl was asked by a reporter if her family’s pizza shop would refuse to sell pizzas for a gay wedding reception, and she said yes, though they’d never been asked to make pizza for any wedding!

In the ensuing firestorm, Christians received death threats, a Christian business was forced to close, and hateful speech filled the airwaves against Christian convictions. Christian politicians scrambled backwards to avoid the angry mobs, and rewrote legislation to ensure that Christians businesses could not boycott customers, but those customers could still boycott Christian businesses.

Here are a few tips from Steve Jones, a pastor friend of mine:

1. Do not fear the worst, and do not assume the best. Trust Christ and be realistic. Worrying is never the right thing to do.

2. Sidestep persecution when you can do it without dishonoring Christ. He counseled his disciples in Matthew 10:23, “If they persecute you in one place, flee to another.” Therefore, even though it is not always possible, it does not dishonor Christ if you simply avoid persecution by getting out of its way.

3. It is not wrong to have enemies. It is wrong to treat others like enemies, but it is not wrong to have enemies. You cannot help it if someone chooses to be your enemy. Jesus would never have told Christians to pray for their enemies if we were supposed to pretend we have none.

4. Don’t ever believe what your enemies tell you about you. When people tell you that you are being hateful for not caving in to their viewpoint, you know that your motivation is not to hate them. When people tell you that your position is unfair, you know that is not true. When people say that you hate them, tell them that you love them. When they deny it, say it anyway. Your job is to speak the truth in love, not to speak the truth only if others agree that you are being loving! Lovingly speaking the truth has brought many thousands to Christ who initially wished that the Christian would just shut up.

5. At the same time, your job is to make sure you are speaking lovingly whenever you give people the truth. It is important to remember that anger is not an argument, and scornfulness convinces no one. People are like candles. They can only be molded if we warm them first.

6. Remember the words of Jesus: “If they hated me, they will hate you.” It is a badge of honor in heavenly realms when we are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.

7. Keep eternity in view (part one): Our present trials are brief and will result in God’s glory forever.

8. Keep eternity in view, (part two): No matter how angry or hateful people may be toward you, remember that they face an eternity without Christ if we don’t love them and share Jesus with them.

9. If it ever comes to the point of active persecution, remember Hebrews 10: “Remember, endure, stand side by side, joyfully accept property confiscation, don’t throw away your confidence, and persevere until you receive what God has promised you.”

10. Always keep in mind (whether persecution comes or not) that Jesus has promised to never leave us, and never forsake us!

11. Whatever troubles we face in this life are “light and momentary afflictions” which are creating for us an “eternal weight of glory!”

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.

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.