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Posts Tagged ‘eternal life’

Series: Faith in God

Last time we talked about how, to have real faith, you need a word from God to stand on.  And when you don’t have a word to stand on, it’s called presumption, because you are presuming upon God to do something that he never said he would do. This leads us to have unwarranted confidence, which can lead to wrong actions, which leads to a mess.

As we saw, one of the things we need to do to avoid all this is to know what God’s promises are – their context, the scope of what they cover, and the conditions that are attached. We need to know what they mean. We need to know God’s will so that we can have faith in this and receive from God.

So today, I want to give you 10 promises that you can stand on; that apply to you. And I hope as we go through this, God will speak to you about where you need more of him and his blessings and that you will latch on to this by faith.  

1. God will forgive your sins

 “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you” – Matthew 6:14

The condition certainly stands out right at the beginning. We have to give grace to receive grace. But if we do this, God tells us here, he will forgive our sins. As Psalm 103:12 says, God will remove our sins “as far as the east is from the west.” As 1 John 1:9 says, God will “forgive us our sins and . . . cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Others may not forgive us, we may struggle to forgive ourselves, but in faith we can stand on this promise that we are indeed forgiven by God.

2. God will give you the Holy Spirit

“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him” – Luke 11:13

In Luke 11 Jesus talks about asking with persistence in our prayers. And then he ends this teaching with this verse. So he is saying, ‘If we persistently ask for the Spirit, God will answer.’

It is the Spirit who gives us life. It is the Spirit who makes God’s presence known to us. It is the Spirit who gives us God’s guidance and comfort. It is the Spirit who empowers us to do God’s will and to minister in his name. So, this is a promise we all need. We need to be continually filled with the Spirit as followers of Jesus.

3. God will give you eternal life

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

This is a familiar and popular promise and rightfully so. Because of God’s love for us and  what Jesus has done for us, if we believe in Jesus, we will not be judged, but we will have eternal life. That is to say, right now. No waiting. God’s life comes into us and this will continue on forever.

4. Jesus will set you free from bondage to sin

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” – John 8:36

Just before this, Jesus talks about how “everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.” But the promise is that Jesus is both able and willing to set us free; to break the chains of our bondage so that we can serve God and live a new life.

This doesn’t mean that it will always be easy, and that there won’t be hard choices and difficult times ahead. But Jesus will give us what we need to remain free.

If this is where you are, I encourage you to claim this promise by faith. Ask Jesus to come and set you free.

5. God will provide for your material needs

“But strive first for the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” – Matthew 6:33

Notice the condition: seek the kingdom and his righteousness. Give this more thought and time than worrying about how you will gather up what you need for this life. And then, Jesus tells us, God will provide.

Now this is no promise of great wealth. In this scripture here (Matthew 6) the promise is for food and clothing. Like in the Lord’s prayer, we ask for daily bread. The promise is that God will give us what we need, not what we want. But yet, God’s provision is all we truly need.

6. God will providentially watch over you

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than sparrows.” – Matthew 10:29-31

Jesus spoke this to the disciples while teaching them about persecution and the danger of death. Jesus promises that God watches over us as his disciples and knows what goes on in our lives, down to the details.

If we find ourselves in danger, and we are walking with God – we don’t need to fear. God knows what’s going on. Whether it goes badly for us, or we are rescued, we know that we are in God’s loving hands.

7. God will give you wisdom

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” – James 1:5

We need to ask, and we need to ask in faith as James goes on to say. But if we do this, God will give us guidance and good judgment in how to make decisions and how to live our lives. And who doesn’t need wisdom, really, every day of our lives? What a great promise!“It will be given.”

8. God will give you peace

Paul says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7

We don’t need to be stressed out. Rather, we can lift up our burdens to the Lord, give them to him, and ask for his help. And the promise is that God’s peace will guard our hearts and minds to keep the stress away. Like a soldier keeping patrol.

Unless, of course we let our worries back in. We have to let go of them all, and give them to God knowing that he will take care of us.

9. Nothing God calls you to do will be impossible for you

“For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you” – Matthew 17:20

 Jesus had commissioned and empowered the disciples to cast out demons as a part of their work. But they had a case they couldn’t handle. Why? Because they thought it was way too hard!

And so Jesus teaches them, and us, that whatever God calls us to do we will be able to do, if we simply trust in God to act for us in each situation. Even if it seems impossible, like moving a mountain from one place to another.

10. God will give you a blessed future

“For the Lord himself will descend from heaven . . .. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.” – 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17

The promise is that Jesus will return. And when he does, all faithful Christians will be resurrected to new life, with a new body.

We have an amazing future ahead! Things might not be going well for us now, but we have blessings waiting for us. And we “will always be with the Lord.” We can keep this in mind when we are going through hard times. In faith, think on these things and be encouraged.

  1. God will forgive your sins.
  2. God will give you the Holy Spirit
  3. God will give you eternal life
  4. Jesus will set you free from bondage to sin
  5. God will provide for your material needs
  6. God will providentially watch over you
  7. God will give you wisdom
  8. God will give you peace
  9. Nothing God calls you to do will be impossible for you
  10. God will give you a blessed future

So these are some of the many “precious and very great promises” that God gives to us, to use the words of 2 Peter 1:4. We will not be presuming upon God if we ask for these things.

But we do have to trust in God to receive all that these verses talk about; to receive the blessings of God. As I have said several times now, without faith, we should not “expect to receive anything from the Lord” (James 1:7). But with faith, “all things are possible” (Mark 9:23). We can receive all that God has for us.

And let’s not be satisfied with what we have already received. We need to up our game! For instance, we need more of the Spirit, some of us need more deliverance, we all need more wisdom, peace in difficult times and power to do God’s will. Let’s raise our expectations and trust in God to act for us, standing on his promises.

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Series on Witness

We are back to our series on witness, encouraging us all to be focused on reaching out to others to share our lives and faith with them. We are working with an acrostic from the word witness and so far we have covered:

The “W” – which is for Why we reach out. Our motivation is Christ’s love for the lost.

The “I” – which is for Idolatry and reaching out. The end is not growing and getting big in itself, but being faithful to God to reach out whether there are results or not.

And the “T” – which is for Taking risks. Sharing our faith seems risky, and we prefer to be comfortable. But we need to step out in faith, and trust that God will work. This is how God works in every area of our lives – we have to take risks and live by faith.

Today we look at the “N” of the word witness, and the title is New life in Jesus is the point.

What I mean here is that the goal of reaching out is not just trying to make new friends, or getting people to come to church or helping people with pressing needs. Now, these are all good things. But the goal of reaching out is to have each person we share with, experience new life in Jesus. This is the point.

We want God to work in people’s lives so that those who don’t know Jesus or have wandered away from him will come to him and will receive the gift of new life; we want their lives to be powerfully transformed.

Jesus talks about this –

New life in the gospel of John

This life comes from God through Jesus. Jesus said, “For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself.” – John 5:26. As Jesus said later, “I am the resurrection and the life.” John 11:25. He has this life in him from the Father and he is this life.

And Jesus came to share this new life with others; with us. As he said, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” – John 10:10. Notice he came not to give us just a taste or a little bit of life – but he wants us to have this new life in great abundance.

Jesus describes new life in different ways. First he talks about it as a new birth. He talks about being “born again” in John 3:3, and being “born of the Spirit” in John 3:5. We are all already born of the flesh. We live and breathe and walk in this world. But by the Spirit we can be born again or from above by the work of God in us. We move from being dead spiritually to coming alive with a new heart that is alive to God.

Jesus also talks about it as living water. “Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” – John 4:14. We are all spiritually thirsty. There is a longing in our hearts for more. Jesus is talking to the Samaritan woman here, who has gone through several marriages and was living in sexual immorality. And Jesus offers her new life – seen as a spring of living water in her heart, that brings true satisfaction; that quenches spiritual thirst.

And as we just saw, Jesus talks about new life as eternal life. “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life” – John 6:40. This is the life of God within us right now, not off in the future.

It’s not just talking about life that endures forever – a quantity of life, but about a certain quality of life – the life that comes from God himself who is life within us.

And then to help us further understand what this new life is, let’s look at some –

Stories of new life in Luke

This gospel has a number of these – I have chosen just a few to share, briefly.

A sinful woman – Luke 7:36-38; 48; 50

“One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment.”

And he said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’ And he said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace.’”

So here is a woman, likely a prostitute –  “a woman of the city, who was a sinner.” She had apparently already heard Jesus’ message of repentance. And so she finds him and in an act of humility and love and anoints him with perfume. She shows faith in Jesus and he responds by forgiving her sins. All her shameful past is wiped out! She is saved and Jesus tells her to go in peace. Instead of her old life she now has a fresh new start. She is forgiven, saved and at peace.

A demon possessed man – Luke 8:26-39

“Then they sailed to the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. When Jesus had stepped out on land, there met him a man from the city who had demons. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he had not lived in a house but among the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell down before him and said with a loud voice, ‘What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me.’ For he had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many a time it had seized him. He was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the desert.) Jesus then asked him, ‘What is your name?’ And he said, ‘Legion,’ for many demons had entered him. And they begged him not to command them to depart into the abyss. Now a large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, and they begged him to let them enter these. So he gave them permission. Then the demons came out of the man and entered the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and drowned.

When the herdsmen saw what had happened, they fled and told it in the city and in the country. Then people went out to see what had happened, and they came to Jesus and found the man from whom the demons had gone, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. And those who had seen it told them how the demon-possessed man had been healed. Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked him to depart from them, for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned. The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, ‘Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.’ And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him.”

Here is a man who was tormented under the power of Satan. He was homeless, mentally ill, naked, and living in a graveyard. And he is unable to be bound even by chains. He must have been terrorizing people. But Jesus set him free! The demonic powers that were too much for him and those around him were as nothing before Jesus. Look at the transformation. Now the man is clothed and in his right mind, sitting at the feet of Jesus. And he is seeking to serve Jesus; he has a new life purpose. And Jesus sends him to share with those in the city where he is from.

A tax collector – Luke 19:1-10

“Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.’ So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully.

And when they saw it, they all grumbled, ‘He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.’ And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, ‘Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.’”

Zacchaeus was a tax collector who made his riches overcharging people. He was a sinner. He was lost. But he repents. He gives away his wealth and he makes amends for cheating people. As Jesus said, he was saved. He has a new start and a new life in Jesus. He moved from a man of greed and fraud to a person of generosity and righteousness.

So this is the goal of our sharing – that people will receive new life as Jesus teaches about in John, and that lives will be transformed as we saw in the stories from Luke. We are not just trying to make new friends, or just getting people to come to church, or just helping people with pressing needs.

New life in Jesus is the point! This is what God’s love is all about. As that most familiar of all verses says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” – John 3:16.

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Series: Jesus and the Samaritan Woman

We’re back into our series on the Gospel of John. And I would like for us to focus on the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman for the next few weeks, and really dig in and see what it can teach us.

Last we saw, Jesus he was in Jerusalem talking with Nicodemus. From there he went into the Judean countryside where his disciples were baptizing people who responded to Jesus’ preaching. Then he decided to go up to Galilee, but he went through Samaria to get there. And he ended up staying in the village of Sychar in Samaria for a few days.

Let’s look at –

John 4:4-15

“4And he (Jesus) had to pass through Samaria. 5So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6Jacob’s well was there . . .” Although some Jews avoided going through Samaria, many used it as a path between Jerusalem and Galilee because it was faster. However, when John tells us that “he had to pass through Samaria” it isn’t because Jesus was in a hurry. In fact he stayed there for a while. The “had to” points to the Father’s leading.

As you will remember, the “Samaritans” came from the remnants of the northern tribes of Israel from the time of the Assyrian conquest centuries before (721 BC) who intermarried with those settled in the region by the Assyrians (2 Kings 17:24-41).

At this time Sychar, modern day Askar, was probably the main Samaritan town (because Shechem had been destroyed). Jacob’s well was a ½ mile or so from Sychar. The land that Jacob gave to Joseph is mentioned in the Old Testament, but not the well itself (Genesis 48:21-22; 33:18-20; Joshua 24:32).

Jacob's well now covered by a church building

Jacob’s well now covered by a church building

“ . . . so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.” So it’s 12:00 noon which means it’s really hot. And we get a good picture of Jesus’ humanity here – he is tired and, as we will see, he is thirsty.

“7A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink.’ 8(For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) 9The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?’ (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)”

It was the role of the disciple to take care of the teacher. So the disciples have gone to get food. And they would have gotten him water if they were still there. But Jesus asks her for water.

In doing this, we need to recognize that he is crossing several social boundaries:

1. The first has to do with gender. It was not generally acceptable in this day for a man to talk to a woman in private that he didn’t already know. John highlights this by noting that Jesus’ disciples were absent. There were a number of Old Testament stories about men talking with women at wells, but these ended with marriage. (Genesis 24:11-28; 29:4-18; and Exodus 2:16-22; but see 1 Kings 17:8-16). That this was unusual is apparent when the disciples come back in v. 27. John tells us that “they marveled that he was talking with a woman.” According to the framework of his day Jesus is stretching things here.

2.The second has to do with morality. Women usually came in groups to draw water in the morning or evening when it wasn’t so hot. Since this woman came alone, in the heat of the day it indicates that she was likely not accepted by the other women of the village. As we learn later, but Jesus already knows, she is sexually immoral. So just as in the first three Gospels, Jesus is relating here to an outcast and someone who would be labeled a notorious or public sinner.

3. The third has to do with religion/culture. Jews considered Samaritans to be a breakoff group that opposed Judaism with their similar but at times quite different faith and practice. They were considered unclean. The woman herself, aware of this boundary, questions Jesus – ‘Why would you ask me for a drink?’ She comes across to me all throughout this story as feisty; she is not afraid to question or challenge Jesus and he is fine with this.

John adds the explanatory comment “Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.” That is, in general they didn’t interact. Indeed, there was a lot of hostility between the two groups. (This assumption is a part of the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10).

“10Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.’” She has challenged Jesus, ‘Don’t you know who I am – a Samaritan – and you want me to give you, a Jew, water?’ Jesus turns it around, ‘If you knew who I am, a Jew, yes, but much more, you could ask me for a much better kind of water.’ He defuses any animosity between them by noting that he is willing to give her much more than what he asks of her.

Here we learn about Jesus’ identity. Jesus is the one who gives “the gift of God” also called “living water.” Living water has a double meaning here. It can mean running or fresh water as opposed to stagnant water, or it can also represent the Spirit. For instance in John 7 Jesus talks about being thirsty and drinking and he talks about how he will give forth rivers of living water. And then John tells us that “this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive . . ..” – v. 39. So living water refers to the Spirit. And this is “the gift of God” that Jesus gives to those who ask him for it.

“11The woman said to him, ‘Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.’” She misunderstands Jesus in an overly literal way thinking of running water. She observes that he can’t get it from Jacob’s well because it’s deep, in fact, it’s a 100 ft deep still today – and he has no rope and vessel.

She refers to Jacob or Israel, the father of the 12 tribes, the common ancestor of Jews and Samaritans. Notice she says, “our” father, finding commonality. She is saying, ‘Jacob gave us good water. It was good enough for him, his sons and his animals! Do you have a better water supply than what Jacob knew of? Are you greater than Jacob?’

“13Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’”

Jesus makes the contrast:
• Jacob gave water to the 12 tribes, that doesn’t quench true thirst.
• Jesus gives water, not just to Jews, but also Samaritans and thus the 12 tribes, that cures true thirst. (There is almost certainly a reunification of Israel theme here.)

Jesus’ water is better. But it is a spiritual water that quenches a spiritual thirst. He gives the living water of the Spirit. And as he said, “The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’” As Jesus also said in John 6:63 – “it is the Spirit who gives life.” The Spirit is like a spring of water within us that results in “eternal life.”

And the presence of the Spirit and eternal life within us fully satisfies and fulfills us spiritually. We will thirst no more. So, in answer to her question – yes, Jesus is greater than Jacob.

“15The woman said to him, ‘Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.’” Again, she takes him overly literally. She wants to drink this mysterious water that will relieve her physical thirst. She doesn’t fully understand, and we will have to wait until next time to see the progress she makes. But she is open to what Jesus has to say. She is asking for the water Jesus gives.

As I worked with this first part of our story this week, two questions came to mind by way of challenge to us:

Have you asked Jesus for living water?

As Jesus said to the woman in our story, ‘If you knew who I am, you would ask me for living water.’ Well, we know who Jesus is. As we have just learned he is the one who gives the Spirit who brings new life to us. And as he said to her, if you asked “he would have given you living water.”

In the same way if you ask Jesus for living water, he will give it to you. Let me say it again, if you ask Jesus for living water, he will give it to you – the presence of the Spirit within you who brings forth eternal life and fully satisfies any spiritual thirst that you might have. If you ask, he will give this to you. Ask him today! Why would you wait? Ask him right now!

Finally –

Are you a part of God’s mission?

God is always reaching out seeking people that they might come to him. Are you a part of this activity of God? As we learn in this story this includes several things:

1. Divine appointments. Why did Jesus “have to go through Samaria”? Because there was a woman that the Father wanted him to talk to. And Jesus was always in tune with the Father and did just what he wanted.

So when I ask are you a part of God’s mission I’m not talking about going on a mission trip, I am talking about your everyday life. Are you looking for divine appointments? Are you in tune with what God wants you to do? Are you open to this? This week? This is my challenge to you – look for these this week. I will be praying for you that God will work through you.

2. Crossing social boundaries. In our story this had to do with gender, morality and culture/religion. Don’t let these stand in the way. One of you shared last week about the young man with an offensive tattoo – well, God wants to reach all kinds of people no matter how different they are than us. Don’t just be shocked, look for the opportunity to relate even if it stretches you. God wants all people to come to know him and worship him. And so we should expect to come across people that are different than us, some so different that it blows our minds. But God loves them just as much as us and wants them to be blessed with the gift of God.

3. A focus on Jesus. When the Samaritan woman raised the divide between Jews and Samaritans – which was meant to kill the conversation, Jesus focused on the living water that he gives to all; that supersedes the divide. In like manner, we are to keep things focused on Jesus as we are a part of God’s mission. When division come up because of differences speak of the gift that Jesus has for all of us.

My challenge is be open to how God wants to work through you this week as he seeks people to know and love him. Be open to this; get tuned in. Let God fulfill his mission to the world through you. And I will give you a chance to share next week what God has done.

William Higgins

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We are continuing on in John 3  looking at Jesus’ interactions with  Nicodemus.

We saw last week that Nicodemus thought that Jesus was merely a teacher come with some new teaching, based on the signs he performed, and so he went to him by night to see what he had to say. Jesus responded to him by saying that he is not simply a special teacher who is being authenticated by miracles. He has come to bring the new birth of the Spirit. This is what his miracles, or signs point to about his identity and purpose.

Today we look at vs. 9-15 and the question, “How can people now be born of the Spirit?”

John 3:9-15

9Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can these things be?’” He has already asked a how question in v. 4, how can one be born again? Crawl back in the womb and come out again? Jesus answered that it is a birth of the Spirit, and how the Spirit works is a mystery, even though you can know the effects of the Spirit’s work.

Now Nicodemus asks another how question, how can these things be? It’s a pretty broad question, but judging by how Jesus answers it, he means, “How can people now be born of the Spirit?” How is it possible that a person can have this experience?

10Jesus answered him, ‘Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? 11Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you (all) do not receive our testimony.’” Nicodemus has called Jesus a teacher come from God. Here Jesus calls Nicodemus “the” teacher of Israel, no doubt referring to his role on the Sanhedrin, as “a ruler of the Jews” – v. 1.

But he notes two key problems with Nicodemus. 1) Despite his role, he “doesn’t understand these things.” That is, how it is possible that the Spirit can now come and bring new life.

And Jesus is surprised that he doesn’t understand this, given his role. In several places in the Old Testament, the outpouring of the Spirit is promised (Joel 2:28; Isaiah 32:15; 44:3). And the Messiah is associated with the Spirit in Isaiah (11:1-2; 42:1).

And John the Baptist has testified that Jesus is “he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit” (1:33). And they have seen the signs that Jesus has done by the power of the Spirit.

2) And then, despite his lack of  understanding, he doesn’t listen to Jesus who does understand these things.

Nicodemus had said in v. 2, “we know that you are a teacher come from God,” speaking of his and his group’s so-called knowledge. Jesus echoes this “we” language in his answer. “We,” that is, Jesus and here also John the Baptist – “speak of what we know and bear witness to what we have seen.” (Undoubtedly the “we” of Isaiah 53:1 is a part of this plural construction here. This broader passage is alluded to in 3:14).

Both Jesus and John the Baptist have testified that it is the time of the Spirit and the Messiah. “But you (all)” – Nicodemus and the Sanhedrin – “do not receive our testimony.”

But there’s more 12If I have told you (all) earthly things and you (all) do not believe, how can you (all) believe if I tell you (all) heavenly things?” This is an argument from lesser to greater. If you don’t understand or believe the earthly things – what is simple, how can you understand and believe heavenly things – what is more difficult?

The earthly things here most likely refer to people being born of the Spirit, what happens in a person’s heart here on earth. This has stumped Nicodemus. But despite Nicodemus’ lack of understanding and unbelief Jesus goes on to say more in answer to his question, “How is it that people can now be born of the Spirit?”

13No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.” These are the heavenly things of v. 12. Jesus is saying, speaking of himself, that he has descended from heaven and he will also ascend back into heaven. The “Son of Man” is the heavenly figure of Daniel 7:13-14, which Jesus uses to refer to himself. [Nicodemus had said to Jesus that you have “come from God.” Jesus explains here that he is from God in a much more significant way.]

When Jesus says that “no one has ascended into heaven,” except him, he is establishing his authority to speak of heavenly things. No one else can do this. As John says in chapter 1:18, “No one has ever seen God. It is God the beloved who is at the Father’s side, (referring to Jesus) who has made him known.” [However one wants to explain what happened to Moses, Enoch, Elijah, Isaiah or Ezekiel, who each had some kind of ascent experience – they did not ascend to the place where the Son of Man was and will go back to – beside the Father and seeing him. 6:46; 1 John 4:12]

14And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” There are two Scriptures that are alluded to here.

1) There is an implied reference to Isaiah 52:13 (LXX) in v. 14. v. 14 says, “lifted up” and Isaiah says, “My servant . . . shall be lifted up and glorified exceedingly.”

Jesus takes this lifting up as a reference to his being lifted up on the cross. So here, the cross is the first step in his journey upward to heaven, which includes his resurrection and ascension (12:32). In the next few verses Isaiah goes on to speak prophetically of Jesus’ death on the cross. Isaiah 53:5-6 says, “he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (This passage goes on to speak of “who has believed our report?” – Isaiah 53:1. As above in v. 11, they did not receive “our testimony.”)

2) There is an explicit reference to Numbers 21:8-9. Jesus sees this story of a snake on a pole as an analogy for his death on the cross.

Israel here is under judgment for complaining and speaking against God and Moses. They were dying from snake bites. Then they acknowledged their sin and asked for salvation. In v. 8 God tells Moses to “make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.”

Jesus is saying, in the same way, he will be lifted up on a pole/the cross and people will live. As he says, he “must be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” Eternal life here, a very common phrase in John’s Gospel, means the same thing as being “born from above,” or “born of the Spirit.”

The point

Jesus is not just a teacher come with a special teaching that is authenticated by signs. 1) He is the one who brings in the time of the Spirit, when people can now be born of the Spirit. And even more specifically in terms of heavenly things, 2) He is the Son of Man who has come down from heaven and who will be lifted up on the cross, through the resurrection and through his ascension back into heaven from which place he will pour out the Spirit on his people. (John 7:39 – The Spirit is given once Jesus is glorified)

This is how people can now be born of the Spirit, or as he says here have “eternal life.”

So we learn from all this that –

Jesus has made it possible for you to be born of the Spirit

To be born from above; to be born of God; to receive new life, to be transformed in all your heart and life.

As we learn in v. 15 this is for everyone – “whoever.” It’s available to every single one of you. And you receive it by believing. This is what you must do. As v. 15 says, “whoever believes in him may have eternal life” Will you believe this morning??

William Higgins

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Series: How can I know I’m saved?

We’re talking about something very practical today, and for the next few weeks. How can I know I’m saved? How can you know that you’re saved? It’s a pretty important question.

Can you know for sure that God has forgiven your sins, that you are saved right here and right now and that you are an heir of God’s eternal blessings? Or are you just hoping for the best? Is the Christian life one that is characterized by confidence in where you stand with God? Or are we to always be insecure in our relationship with God?

We are talking about the topic of the assurance of our salvation. And let me say that I believe very strongly that you can know, and that you should know.

Now, this doesn’t mean you won’t have occasional times of doubt, or periods of struggle – this is a part of a life of faith.

And certainly we are not to have a sense of assurance when we are knowingly and willfully rebelling against God. In the Scriptures, both Old Testament and New words of assurance are given to those who are walking with God and finding forgiveness when they fail; it is given to those whose hearts are set on God, even though it is hard. But words of warning and judgment are given to those who choose the path of sin. So beware of false assurance. Beware of those who say, “Peace, peace, when there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:14). Who say everything is OK, don’t worry, even though you are choosing a lifestyle of sin.

But beyond this, yes, Christians are to be characterized as those who have great confidence and assurance of their standing with God. John says this, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.” – 1 John 5:13. We can know. And the writer of Hebrews says, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” – Hebrews 4:16. We can have confidence in our relationship with God.

So, for the next few weeks, I want us to look at this topic and specifically three interconnected bases for our assurance of salvation. And today we begin with the assurance of God’s word.

And so, first of all we need to know –

What God says about our salvation

What God’s word is on this topic. I went through the book of Acts this week and looked at what is promised in the preaching of the apostles. Let me highlight 2 themes.

1) God promises us the forgiveness of our sins. Peter says in his sermon on the day of Pentecost that God offers “the forgiveness of your sins” – Acts 2:38. Later, he says it this way – “that your sins may be blotted out” – Acts 3:19. So this is good news! Our sins, which separate us from God and bring us death, can be wiped away! We can have a fresh start with God, and in life because of what Jesus has done.

2) God promises us the gift of the Spirit. Peter speaks of this promise from God to his listeners on the day of Pentecost, when he says, “you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” – Acts 2:38. And we see this gift bestowed in several of the stories in the book of Acts. The Spirit gives us new life, we are born anew, raised to new life in Christ, we have eternal life. And the Spirit gives us power to live differently.

So these are God’s promises of salvation to us. But it is also important that we hear God’s word about what is required of us. God’s promises often come with things we must do. And if we don’t meet the conditions, then we are being presumptuous with God’s promises. Two things stand out here, from the book of Acts:

1) We need faith in Jesus. We need to believe that he is indeed the Messiah, who has brought us God’s salvation. Peter said to Cornelius, “everyone who believes in him” receives salvation – Acts 10:43. Paul preached “faith in our Lord Jesus Christ” – Acts 20:21.

2) We need to repent. Peter talked about “turning . . . from your wickedness” – Acts 3:26. Paul’s message was, “repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with repentance” – Acts 26:20.

So this is God’s word to us, both promises of salvation and what he asks of us. Now we look at –

How God’s word gives us assurance

Let’s suppose that you are here today and you don’t have confidence in your relationship with God; you don’t know that you have eternal life –

  • maybe it’s that you don’t feel saved
  • maybe it’s that you are going through some circumstances which make you question where you stand with God
  • maybe someone is telling you that you need to do something that you don’t see in Scripture, but it is causing you doubts.

– here’s what you need to do:

1. Hear God’s word, just as you have today. God’ word says when we come to Jesus in faith and repent of our sins we will indeed be forgiven our sins and receive new life by the Spirit of God; we will be saved.

Hear God’s word on this, not just in your head. Let it come into your heart right now.

2. Agree with God’s word. And this is not just an intellectual thing in your mind. God’s word testifies to us of its truth in our hearts. As Hebrews 4:12 says, “the word of God is alive and active.” It has a vitality and power to it. It is a living word. And when we receive it in our hearts, it comes alive and God speaks to us through it. God’s word speaks to our hearts with convincing and convicting power. And so we need to agree with this.

What I am really saying is that God’s word can create faith within us, if we choose to agree with it as God speaks in our hearts. Romans 10:17 says, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”

Let me speak personally. How do I know that I am saved? I know because God’s word says that when I have faith in Jesus and repent of my sins, that God’s promises are mine – forgiveness and new life and a hope for the future. And I know this is true because God has spoken this to me deep in my heart.

3. Hold fast to God’s word. This means that when we don’t feel saved, or when our circumstances are difficult, or when others say things that don’t agree with God’s word that make us doubt our salvation – we make a choice (and it is a choice) not to live by these feelings, circumstances, or the words of others. We choose to live our life based on God’s word and God’s truth.

Does your assurance seem weak?

Perhaps this is where some are this morning. Well then, keep God’s word in your heart and mind. Read it, meditate on it, confess it, act on it. For it is God’s living word that builds faith within us. And so absorb its powerful testimony and align yourself with it.

Yes, if you focus on your feelings, your circumstances, or what others say, your faith will be weak. But the more you let God’s word into your heart, the more your faith will grow, which means your sense of assurance will grow as well.

And then finally,

Apply God’s word to any other concerns you might have

Here are some examples. Do God’s promises apply to me? Jesus said, “whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” – John 6:37. Are you coming to Jesus? He will not turn you away. You will be accepted. Paul said, “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” – Romans 10:13. The promise applies to all.

Am I too sinful? Of course you are, that’s the point! Jesus said, “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” – Mark 2:17. Paul said, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners . . ..” – 1 Timothy 1:15. Believe and repent of all your sins and the promises are yours, regardless of your past.

Will God fail me? Impossible! Paul said, “He who calls you is faithful” – 1 Thessalonians 5:24. This is at the core of God’s identity, faithfulness to his word and promises. As Paul says, “he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself” – 2 Timothy 2:13. This is simply who God is.

Let God’s word be the foundation of your assurance with God. Know with confidence where you stand with God based on his truth.

And if you don’t have a relationship with God today – I encourage you to hear his word today and act on it.

 William Higgins

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