Fake or Real?

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Yesterday I told you that on Sunday we would resume our study of the Gospel of John in chapter seven. I WAS WRONG! I put that in all caps so it is easier for you to cut and paste it into whatever format you will use to send me a reminder that I admitted it. Part of the issue was that my sermon schedule for October was not available to me due to a Microsoft security issue. I could not access my files in the cloud. You can check out the validity of that on any tech news site. So I guessed. That’s dangerous at my age, when I can’t even remember to turn off the oven after making supper last night.

Anyway, this week we are going to back up to John 6, verses 66 through 71, and talk about another significant question – “What is real faith?”

We live in a world of fakes. At times we are all one. But there is nothing productive about fake faith. Fake faith is based on fake truth. Fake truth is the product of the sin nature in each one of us that demands personal benefit for every investment. Fake faith offers the fake security of immediate gratification while providing no security for the future, especially not for eternity.

One aspect of fake faith is that it requires no commitment. The commitment level of fake faith is based solely on immediate benefits. When benefits are removed, faith is renounced. To paraphrase John Piper, “Far too many people would be willing to accept heaven without the presence of Jesus if they could be assured that all their needs were being met and prosperity was the rule of life.”

That’s what happened at the end of the sixth chapter of John.

John 6:66  After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.

Fake faith demands more miracles. Fake faith wants more food. Fake faith wants easy teachings that stroke our hurting egos. Fake faith is exposed when Jesus says, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.”

Fake faith walks away from Jesus. Fake faith wants the flesh gratified. Fake faith wants life in the flesh, and isn’t satisfied with life from the Spirit. Fake faith forces us to walk away when we don’t get what we want.

How do you know if you have real faith or fake faith? Check your commitment level. Is Christ enough, or do you need material blessing along with Jesus? Saving faith can only be placed in Christ, not in benefits. The blessing of grace is the basis of real faith. Understanding grace is the foundation of commitment. Fake faith is based on a belief that we deserve more. Real faith is grateful for grace that gives us life when we don’t deserve it.

So check your commitment level. Are you only faithful to follow Jesus when things go your way and benefit you? That’s not real faith. Real faith is satisfied with Jesus, and nothing more is needed.

Pastor John

Where Is He?

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

This Sunday at Calvary we will return to our study of the Gospel of John. We will pick up where we left off in the 7th chapter. For the next two weeks we will be looking at some tough questions that are asked about Jesus. His answers will help us to better understand Him and cause our faith in Him to grow.

The first question asked in John 7 is this – “Where is He?”

John 7:11 The Jews were looking for him at the feast, and saying, “Where is he?”

John explains to us in the following verses that there were two reasons for people wanting to find Jesus. Some people wanted to meet Him to learn from Him because they thought He was a good man. Others were opposed to Him and wanted to eliminate Him as a threat to their traditions.

Both groups had one thing in common. They were afraid of the Jewish religious leaders. To avoid getting in trouble with those leaders, they whispered to one another about Jesus but dared not speak about Him publicly.

Here are some points for us to ponder today.

  1. Why do you want to know where Jesus is? Is it because you think He is a good man and might be able to help you, or is it because you think He is hurting your way of life and you want to prove it so you can walk away from Him with a clear conscience? Both are wrong. Jesus is not a good man; He is the God-man. He is to be sought because He is God, apart from any perceived benefit He will bring to your life. As God, He can only do good for you. He will give you a new and fulfilled life. He is not trying to harm you. Seek Him.
  2. Be bold and courageous to let the world know that you have found Him…or more accurately He has found you. Do not be afraid of what man can do to you. Jesus told His brothers, “The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil.” John 7:7 You can choose to be loved by the world or be loved by Jesus. You can’t have both. Stand up and be counted as one who has found Jesus.

Pastor John



Monday, September 28, 2020

Have you ever tried to disguise your true feelings toward someone by making it appear you are working for their good when in reality you hope they get hurt? That’s exactly what the brothers of Jesus tried to do in John 7.

After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He would not go about in Judea, because the Jews were seeking to kill him. Now the Jews’ Feast of Booths was at hand. So his brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples also may see the works you are doing. For no one works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.” For not even his brothers believed in Him. John 7:1-5

The brothers of Jesus were motivated by unbelief. They may have wanted to expose Jesus as a fake. They tried to convince Jesus to go public with His miracles. Either the public would turn against him as a fraud, or the Jewish leaders would kill Him. Either way, they would be rid of the one person who made them feel so insignificant.

If only they would believe and discover the eternal significance Jesus would give them. Then they could be men of integrity, and be honest with their feelings instead of trying to manipulate outcomes to their advantage.

We all desire those kinds of honest relationships.

They all start with a sense of significance.

Jesus offers significance to everyone who believes.

Pastor John


Are You Ready?

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, September 25, 2020

I found this story to be convicting. Author Doug Mendenhall shares a brief parable that should cause all of us to pause and reflect:

Jesus called the other day to say he was passing through and [wondered if] he could spend a day or two with us.

I said, “Sure. Love to see you. When will you hit town?”

I mean, it’s Jesus, you know, and it’s not every day you get the chance to visit with him. It’s not like it’s your in-laws and you have to stop and decide whether the advantages outweigh your having to move to the sleeper sofa.

That’s when Jesus told me he was actually at a convenience store out by the interstate.

I must have gotten that Bambi-in-headlights look, because my wife hissed, “What is it? What’s wrong? Who is that?”

So I covered the receiver and told her Jesus was going to arrive in eight minutes, and she ran out of the room and started giving guidance to the kids—in that effective way that Marine drill instructors give guidance to recruits. …

My mind was already racing with what needed to be done in the next eight—no seven—minutes so Jesus wouldn’t think we were reprobate loser slobs.

I turned off the TV in the den, which was blaring some weird scary movie I’d been half watching. But I could still hear screams from our bedroom, so I turned off the reality show it was tuned to. Plus, I turned off the kids’ set out on the sun porch, because I didn’t want to have to explain Jon & Kate Plus Eight to Jesus, either, six minutes from now.

My wife had already thinned out the magazines that had been accumulating on the coffee table. She put Christianity Today on top for a good first impression. Five minutes to go.

I looked out the front window, but the yard actually looked great thanks to my long, hard work, so I let it go. What could I improve in four minutes anyway?

I did notice the mail had come, so I ran out to grab it. Mostly it was Netflix envelopes and a bunch of catalogs tied into recent purchases, so I stuffed it back in the box. Jesus doesn’t need to get the wrong idea—three minutes from now—about how much on-line shopping we do.

I ran back in and picked up a bunch of shoes left by the door. Tried to stuff them in the front closet, but it was overflowing with heavy coats and work coats and snow coats and pretty coats and raincoats and extra coats. We live in the South; why’d we buy so many coats? I squeezed the shoes in with two minutes to go.

I plumped up sofa pillows, my wife tossed dishes into the sink, I scolded the kids, and she shooed the dog. With one minute left I realized something important: Getting ready for a visit from Jesus is not an eight-minute job.

Then the doorbell rang.

Are You a Sheep or a Goat?

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, September 24, 2020

If you had a choice, would you be a sheep or a goat? If behavior was the only criteria, I would be a goat. I love activity and adventure, and goats seem to personify both. Independence, enthusiasm, exploring, and conquering heights with a proud pose – these are the things that motivate me.

Sheep, on the other hand, are mostly docile and easily spooked. They like the comfort of the crowd. They take their time doing anything, resist change, and have a strong stubborn streak.

According to Matthew 25:31-46, when Jesus comes back to sit on the throne of His kingdom, He will separate all the people of the world into two groups – sheep and goats. The sheep will be on His right hand, and the goats on His left. The sheep will enter the Kingdom. The goats will be sent to eternal punishment.

Okay, now I want to be a sheep.

I do not want to be guilty of stretching any comparisons beyond what Jesus intended, so the simple truth is this – the people of God have always been called sheep, not goats. Jesus Himself is called the Lamb of God, not the Kid of God. Psalm 79 says, “But we your people, the sheep of your pasture, will give thanks to you forever.” And Psalm 23 identifies the Lord as our Shepherd. Those who are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ are members of the eternal flock of Jesus. We are His sheep.

Yet I do want to make one comparison to what Jesus says when He separates the sheep from the goats. Sheep and goats, as with any other creature or human being, consistently act according to our nature. Sometimes that nature can be trained or tamed, like lions in a circus, but given the opportunity for freedom, nature takes over.

It is the nature of a goat to be independent, which gets them in a lot of trouble. Meanwhile, the nature of a sheep is to be “sheepish.” They flock together. They respond to each other.

When Jesus judges the people of the earth who are still present when He arrives to rule His earthly kingdom, He separates people based on their nature. Those who are goats have an independent, selfish nature. Those who are sheep have a serving nature. Goats get for themselves. Sheep give for the greater good of others.

Jesus says to the goats, “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’” The goats are judged based on their nature, which was reflected in their actions.

Jesus says to the sheep, Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ The sheep are rewarded because their actions were the proof of the nature of Christ in them.

Which are you? A greedy goat getting everything you can for yourself, or a servant sheep, selflessly representing the life of Christ in you by helping others in their time of need?

Pastor John

Keep Investing

LifeLink Devotional
Wednesday, September 23, 2020

The second story Jesus told in his conversation with His disciples in Matthew twenty-five is convicting. You can read the whole story in verses fourteen through thirty. Here’s a summary.

Three guys are called in by a business owner who is leaving on a trip, and he puts them in charge of his resources. He divides them up as he chooses, then he leaves. Two of the men immediately do their best to build the business and produce a profit for the owner. The third man is scared of what he might lose so he chooses to eliminate any risk of loss by not using anything he had been given. When the owner returns he calls for an accounting. He commends the men who served his interests. He condemns the man who served his own interests.

Do you see why this is so convicting? Jesus will condemn those who serve their own
interests. He will commend those who are found serving Christ’s interest in redeeming the world.

What interests are you serving with the resources, time, gifts, skills, and energy Jesus has given you?

Pastor John

Don’t Be Left Out


Tuesday, September 22, 2020

When Jesus sat down with his closest disciples to answer their questions about the last days, he told some stories to illustrate significant truths that He wanted them to understand. The Gospel of Matthew chapter twenty-five contains two of those parables.

The first parable is about ten virgins who are preparing to meet the bridegroom. Because the story is a parable, and not an allegory, we must look for the one main point that Jesus is teaching rather than try to figure out the significance of every detail in the story. It is obvious that Jesus is teaching one principle –

Those who are not prepared for His return will be left behind and have no further opportunity to enter His Kingdom.

When Jesus came to earth the first time at His incarnation, He came to open the door to the Kingdom of God and declare that He was the door through which all must pass to enter. When Jesus comes to earth again at the end of the age He comes to shut the door to secure everyone who by faith entered into an eternal relationship with Him.  In this parable Jesus declares that those who are His true disciples will be prepared for His coming and will enter into His presence for all eternity. Those who are only passive followers, who want to enjoy the benefits of the wedding feast but aren’t willing to invest in preparation will be left behind.

This is serious stuff for the present-day church. It is fair to ask if we are prepared. Are we filled with the oil of the Holy Spirit so that the light of the Gospel is shining through us as we wait for the Bridegroom? Or are we only casually connected to the church, hoping to get in on the celebration, but not investing our resources into being prepared for the wait? Do we believe that when the time comes, we will be able to put everything in order at the last second and still be included?

My friend, Jesus is coming. It is time for His true followers to live every day fully prepared for His return. Be prepared by being righteous. Be prepared by being fully invested in God’s redemptive mission in your local church. If your local church doesn’t have a clear redemptive vision, find one that does, and join in the work. Invest your time, your energy, and your resources in bringing more light to a dark world. Then, when Jesus returns, you will be known as one of His own and welcomed into His Kingdom.

Pastor John


LifeLink Devotional

Monday, September 21, 2020

This is our last week of study on the Last Days, and it our focus will be on the words of Jesus as He speaks to His disciples about His return to earth at the end of the age. In Matthew 24, the disciples sit down with Jesus in private and ask Him, ”What will be the signs of your coming and of the end of the age?”

As Jesus explains to them some of the things that will happen, He turns His attention on the disciples to challenge them to be faithful. Jesus says,

 “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions.” Matthew 24:45-47

On the surface, this may not seem like a “WOW!” moment. But that’s exactly what it is to me. The Scriptures constantly call each one of us to be faithful servants of Jesus Christ and wise messengers of the Gospel. Some of us have been specifically called to be in charge of feeding Christ’s household, the church. The reward for faithfully feeding the church with the Gospel of Jesus Christ is a place of continuing service in the coming Kingdom of Christ.

I am one of those servants, and it’s feeding time. Here’s your Monday meal of spiritual nourishment. These words come from Jesus as a contrast between faithful and wicked servants. It serves as a warning to us that there are false teachers who are abusing their positions of spiritual leadership for personal gain.

Matthew 24:48-51 “But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ and begins to beat his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

As one of Christ’s servants, charged with feeding His household, I want to warn you to beware of false teachers who will seek to lead you astray. The Apostle Peter says that they will be identified by their denial of Jesus as Christ, by their sensuality, and by their greed.

2 Peter 2:1-3 “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.”

My fellow servants of Jesus Christ, beware of preachers, teachers, pastors, and spiritual leaders who disguise the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ in humanistic, self-serving, and self-gratifying promises. Do not be led astray by teaching that satisfies emotional and material needs. Be on the alert for subtle ways that the Gospel is twisted to gratify the need for self-worth and self-fulfillment. BEWARE! Jesus said there is destruction coming for all who teach a false Gospel and also for all who follow such teachers.

My prayer is that you will have the discernment of the Holy Spirit to recognize false teaching, and the strength of the Holy Spirit to endure in the Gospel until Jesus returns.

Pastor John

I’m Okay Because…

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, September 18, 2020

Later today I have the honor of officiating at a wedding. As my wife and I went through Calvary’s marriage mentoring program with the couple, we gave them a two-week assignment we give to every couple. “Every time you say ‘I LOVE YOU’ there has to be a ‘because’ attached to it, and the because can never be an action but a character trait. AND, you can never repeat one in the two week period.”

Some couples find this very difficult. The words I love you can lose their significance through over-use unless a reason for saying them is attached. Try it with your wife or husband. “I love you because you are so kind” means a whole lot more than “I love you because you’re cute.”

Now, take that principle and apply it to our spiritual lives with Christ. What if we started giving reasons for why we are okay every time we are asked? How would you finish this statement when someone asks you how you are?

“I’m okay because…”

If the way you fill in the blank is based on circumstances, then you won’t be okay for long. However, if you finished the statement with something that has to do with the character and activity of Christ in you, then you will always be okay.

In First Thessalonians chapter five the Apostle Paul reminds us why we are okay.

“For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness.”

Here is a list from the rest of that passage to help you get started on your list of reasons you are okay.

  1. We are children of Light, and do not have to be affected by the darkness
  2. We are awake. We are alert to what is happening and aware of Christ’s sovereignty over it all.
  3. We are sober, under the influence of the Holy Spirit alone, so we can rationally understand what is happening around us and respond appropriately.
  4. We are protected by faith and love. Our hearts remain strong so that we can endure all things because:
    1. We have faith in Christ’s saving power; and
    2. We know the love of God for us and we are growing in our love for God.
  5. Our minds are filled with hope of the glory to come, so the world does not discourage us.

May the Lord strengthen you as you daily remember that you are okay because…

Pastor John

Not Surprised


Thursday, September 16, 2020

Have you ever been surprised by something you expected?  I’m sure someone has a story, but for the most part, when we expect something, we look for it, and because we are looking for it we are not surprised when it arrives. We even sign up with delivery companies to get alerts on our phones so we know when a package is arriving. When we expect something, we look for it, and we are not surprised when it arrives.

That is to be the reality for disciples of Jesus as we wait for His return. We expect it. We look for it. We will not be surprised when He arrives.

When Jesus returns it will not surprise those who are looking for it.

1 Thessalonians 5:4-11 But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

There is one HUGE principle that determines how true this is for your life.

Do we expect more from this world than we do from Christ’s return?

OUCH! That stings. We tend to expect the world’s system of politics, finances, recreation, employment, status, sports, friendships, sexual passions, and multiple other things to solve our identity crisis and give us value. But they never seem to fulfill us. We always need and want more.

But when we expect Jesus Christ to completely meet our need for identity, acceptance, and value, we turn from looking at the world and we gaze intently into the face of Christ, hoping to see it physically at any moment.

When we expect to find completeness in Christ, we will not be surprised that we find it.

Pastor John