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Back to the Basics! Introductory Matters #3 Belief!

We are thinking through some of the introductory issues in the Christian faith. Getting back to the basics means we need to review, periodically, the fundamentals of Christianity as we live in this world and want to serve Jesus.

While it is true that everyone lives by some kind of faith (see our previous post about stepping into an elevator), the Good News about Jesus is that we are to exercise faith in Him.

But for many “belief” or “faith” is just another way of saying “this is what I think” or “this is my opinion.” Belief in the Bible is much more than having a correct opinion. It involves aligning oneself with the reality of God and His truth!

The gospel of John has often been called the gospel of belief. Here are a few points which John makes in the fourth gospel about belief:

1. The goal of John the Baptist’s life was that all might believe in Jesus (1:7).
2. Being condemned or not condemned rests on belief or unbelief . . . in Jesus! (3:18).
3. While belief needs to be supported by evidence, it is possible to demand more evidence that one needs to believe (4:48).
4. We can’t work our way to God — The work God wants from us is belief in Jesus! (6:29).
5. Not believing Jesus’ claim to His own identify (the Son of God) means dying in one’s sins (8:24).
6. Believing in Jesus is so important that Jesus allowed one of His friends to die so He could raise him from the dead! (11:15).
7. Jesus demands the same belief in Himself as in God the Father! (14:1).
8. It is a sin not to believe in Jesus (16:9).
9. We can — and should — pray that others will believe in Jesus (17:20).

There is much more about BELIEF in the gospel of John. And I would recommend that you take a Bible you don’t mind marking up (preferably one of your own!) and highlight each use of “belief” or “believe” by John.

I heard one preacher say, “When I share the gospel, I worry about what people will think of me. And I worry what they will think of Jesus. But mostly, I worry about what they will think of me.”

Are you worried what people will think of you?  Use your influence today to challenge someone to believe in Jesus.  There is nothing more important than that!

 
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Posted by on February 13, 2018 in belief

 

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Back to the Basics — Introductory Matters #2 — FAITH!

“You Christians live by faith! We seculars live by reason!” You’ve heard this old accusation, right? Believers are empty-headed, unthinking, unscientific. We swallow whatever is offered us in the name of religion.

Uncritical. Gullible. Easy-to-be-fooled. That charge is a bit irritating, don’t you think?

Afterall, the Bible does say that “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Heb. 11:6). But “faith” in the Bible is not head-in-the-sand anti-intellectualism. One’s faith is only as good as the object in which it is placed.

However, is it only the Christian who conducts his or her life by faith? No! Most people eat the Big Mac they’ve ordered without conducting an investigation of the young man who cooked it for them. Sometimes men ask for directions from total strangers — and trust them! I’ve seen people in Starbucks request people they don’t know to watch their laptop for them when they visit the restroom.

The best illustration of this truth that all people live by some kind of faith is the following:  A question was sent in to a newspaper answer-man: “How does an elevator work?” The answer-man responded, “An elevator is essentially a small room dangling over a very deep shaft, held up by thin cables that are maintained by building employees who have tremendous trouble just keeping all the toilets working.”

Think about that the next time you enter an elevator. And don’t feel you have to be so defensive as a Christian about you being alone in walking by faith!

 
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Posted by on February 12, 2018 in FAITH

 

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Friends Don’t Let Friends . . . Die! (A Study of John 11) Part 25

As we look at this last section of John 11, we see that His intention in allowing His friend Lazarus to die (and then be gloriously raised to life by Jesus) resulted in two reactions: (1) belief on the part of some; (2) a prophesied plot to take Jesus’ life. Let’s read our section one last time …..

Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

45 Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. 46 But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin.

“What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.”

49 Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! 50 You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”

51 He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, 52 and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. 53 So from that day on they plotted to take his life.

54 Therefore Jesus no longer moved about publicly among the people of Judea. Instead he withdrew to a region near the wilderness, to a village called Ephraim, where he stayed with his disciples.

55 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, many went up from the country to Jerusalem for their ceremonial cleansing before the Passover. 56 They kept looking for Jesus, and as they stood in the temple courts they asked one another, “What do you think? Isn’t he coming to the festival at all?” 57 But the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that anyone who found out where Jesus was should report it so that they might arrest him.

Caiaphas was God’s messenger (without Caiaphas’ awareness or permission) in predicting the death of the Lord Jesus. Jesus has to withdraw from the public, spending time with His disciples.

Many tried to see whether Jesus would attend the Passover. But Jesus was a wanted man. The chief priests and the Pharisees wanted Jesus’ presence reported so He could be arrested.

And so ends John 11. We read in the next chapter of John: “9Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, 11 for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and believing in him.”  Jesus’ plan worked to perfection! Many were believing in Him. Not all. But many. At the cost of Lazarus’ earthly life and at the cost of Jesus’ sacrificial death, belief in the Lord was the result. For some.

The religious leaders’ hatred of Jesus was so strong that now they wanted to kill Lazarus as well. Presumably, this man did die a second time, either at their hands or through “natural” death.  But it was well worth it.

 

 
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Posted by on December 2, 2017 in John 11

 

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Friends Don’t Let Friends . . . Die! (A Study of John 11) Part 24

In our previous post, we used our “sanctified imagination” to speculate about the Father and Lazarus having a conversation in heaven.  Let’s return to our text and notice the last section of this amazing story …..

Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

45 Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. 46 But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin.

“What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.”

49 Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! 50 You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”

51 He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, 52 and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. 53 So from that day on they plotted to take his life.

54 Therefore Jesus no longer moved about publicly among the people of Judea. Instead he withdrew to a region near the wilderness, to a village called Ephraim, where he stayed with his disciples.

55 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, many went up from the country to Jerusalem for their ceremonial cleansing before the Passover. 56 They kept looking for Jesus, and as they stood in the temple courts they asked one another, “What do you think? Isn’t he coming to the festival at all?” 57 But the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that anyone who found out where Jesus was should report it so that they might arrest him.

There was a clear reaction to Jesus’ raising Lazarus from the dead. Some “believed in him” (v. 45). Others reported Jesus’ action to the religious leaders who then called a special meeting of the Sanhedrin (vv. 46-47).

We get to listen in on their deliberations. They acknowledge Jesus’ “many signs” and fear the Romans will step in and limit the freedoms they enjoyed from their occupiers.

Caiaphas, that year’s high priest, makes an incredible statement: “You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.” (v. 50).

God’s Spirit has power even over those who would seek to destroy the Lord! This miracle of raising Lazarus seems to be the work of Jesus which seals His fate. (to be continued)

 
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Posted by on December 1, 2017 in John 11

 

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Friends Don’t Let Friends . . . Die! (A Study of John 11) Part 20

Willing to risk the stench of a decaying human body, Jesus tells those in charge of Lazarus’ tomb to “take away the stone.” Let’s continue thinking through this chapter and read our next section of John 11 …

38 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39 “Take away the stone,” he said.

“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”

40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”

43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.

Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

How critical is prayer? Well, for the Lord Jesus, prayer served a variety of purposes (see our previous series of posts on John 17 entitled “What Did Jesus Pray About?”).

Here, just as the stone is removed from Lazarus’ tomb, Jesus prays. He says, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” (vv. 41-42).

Perhaps you’ve heard the story of the young seminarian who was asked to open the church service in prayer. He prayed a long, complicated, deep prayer and then said, “Amen.” The pastor, who was not always the most gracious, whispered to him, “I have never heard a better and more eloquent prayer — prayed to people!”

Jesus must have prayed this prayer out loud, for it was for the people. Not to impress them. But to challenge them to believe. Where else in our study of this chapter does Jesus emphasize belief? (to be continued)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on November 27, 2017 in prayer

 

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Friends Don’t Let Friends . . . Die! (A Study of John 11) Part 19

“Take away the stone,” Jesus commanded. The barrier that kept wild animals away from Lazarus’ corpse also sealed his body in that place of death. Let’s go over our section once more …

33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked.

“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.

35 Jesus wept.

36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”

37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

Jesus Raises Lazarus From the Dead

38 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39 “Take away the stone,” he said.

“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”

40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

Don’t you just love the unembellished logic of Martha? When Jesus says, “Take away the stone,” she replies, “Uh, Lord, you might need to hold your nose. There’s going to be a four-day-old stench!”

I’m told there is almost nothing that reeks as badly as a dead human body. But Jesus’ response to Martha’s warning is a mild rebuke: “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” (v. 4). The glory of God! A divine promise — with a condition: “if you believe.”

What nature and sin had taken Jesus was going to restore — to the glory of God. A glory that could be seen. Don’t you wish you had been there? (to be continued)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on November 26, 2017 in GLORY OF GOD

 

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Friends Don’t Let Friends . . . Die! (A Study of John 11) Part 14

Could it be that BELIEF is the major point of the entire episode in John 11? Is it possible that Jesus cares more about our believing than He does our physical survival?

From all appearances, it seems evident that Jesus cared more that Mary and Martha and others would believe in Him as the resurrection and the life than He did about rescuing His friend Lazarus.

Let’s read our section once more . . .

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

27 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

28 After she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” 29 When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31 When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there.

32 When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked.

“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.

35 Jesus wept.

We learn in verse 28 that Martha goes back, calls her sister Mary aside, and says, “The Teacher is here and is asking for you.” (v. 28). Now either Martha was out-and-out lying to Mary, or Jesus gave that assignment to Martha. The gospel accounts are summaries and sometimes leave out some details.

At any rate, Mary goes out to meet the Lord, followed by the mourners who had been with Mary in the house (supposing she was going to Lazarus’ tomb to mourn him).

Mary sees the Lord, falls at His feet, and says exactly the same words as her sister Martha said to Jesus: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (v. 32).  Again, those words must have pierced the Lord’s soul.  “Lord, if you had been here (and you weren’t), my brother would not have died (but he did!).”

We don’t like process, do we? There is much more at stake here in John 11 than the death of a friend. This tragic event is part of the process of leading others to believe the most important thing any human can believe — that Jesus is the resurrection and the life! And the Lord Jesus is wounded in the process as well. (to be continued)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on November 21, 2017 in belief

 

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