Why Do You Follow Jesus?

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, August 10, 2020

Why do you follow Jesus?

If you don’t, what would make you want to follow Him?

This week we begin the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John, and a very familiar story of Jesus feeding over 5,000 people with nothing more than five little loaves of bread and two small fish. The story begins with Jesus going to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, and being followed by a huge crowd of people. John gives us the detail of why they were following Him.

John 6:1-2 After this Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. And a large crowd was following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing on the sick.

The crowd was following Jesus because of the signs He was doing.

We are all attracted to the spectacular. We are especially drawn to what would fit into our definition of the miraculous. These people were no different. They had never personally witnessed such physical power and authority over creation. They had never seen the sick spontaneously healed. Of course they were drawn to follow Him. We would be.

But following Jesus because He has power over creation and physical life does not assure eternal life. Sins are not forgiven because we marvel at signs and wonders.

At the end of the feeding of the people, when all the leftovers have been gathered, the people declare, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” Based on the signs He had done, they not only declared Him to be the Prophet of God, but they were prepared to take Him by force and make Him their King. Jesus withdrew from them. Being their King and Prophet was not His purpose at this time.

Most if not all of us would have been a part of that crowd and would have joined in their cause. We are quickly influenced to join the latest cause because it fits into our understanding of what has to happen for our personal kingdom to be enhanced.

Following Jesus can only be based on faith, not sight. Listen to the words of Jesus and one of His disciples.

John 20:29  Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

1 Peter 1:8  Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory…

Why do you follow Jesus? Let it be based exclusively on faith in the eternal fact that Jesus is the Son of God, sent to be the Savior of the world by offering His guiltless life in death on the cross as a sacrifice for our guilt.

Pastor John

Don’t Be Deceived

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, August 7, 2020

As we conclude our supplemental study of John 5 this week, I want to challenge you to consider what Jesus is saying in the following verses. Sorry, no stories today, just spiritual application of Divine principles.

John 5:36-38  For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me. 37  And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, 38  and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent.

Here are some important truths for us to carefully consider.

  • There has been and continues to be sufficient evidence to believe that Jesus Christ was sent by God the Father to accomplish the great work of redeeming mankind from their sin and its eternal consequence of death.
  • It is not possible to hear the voice of God unless we believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and our Savior.
  • It is not possible see the activity of God or ultimately to be in the presence of God unless we believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and our Savior.
  • It is not possible to have the Word of God abide in us and influence our thoughts and actions unless we believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and our Savior.

Far too many people claim to know God but have no belief in Jesus Christ. They are deceived.

Far too many people claim to have heard God speak to them and give direction to their lives but have no belief in Jesus Christ. They are deceived.

Far too many people who claim a knowledge of God seek to obey the commands of God yet continually fail. It is because they do not have the Word of God abiding in them because they do not believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God. They are deceived.

Jesus was very clear when He spoke to the religious leaders around Him. You do not know the Father because you do not believe the One the Father sent. That One is Jesus, and our ONLY hope of salvation from sin and eternal life with the Father is to believe on Him.

Pastor John

One Marvelous Miracle

LifeLink Devotional
Thursday, August 06, 2020

There’s a whole entertainment company using a word from today’s Bible verse as their name. They have created dozens of characters to be superheroes who give us hope that evil can be conquered and good will rule the day. We MARVEL at them.

But there is only one true superhero, and here’s what He said:

And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel.

After the religious people of that region had witnessed Jesus do some miraculous things, Jesus announces to them, “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Now before we start trying to list all the miracles that would make everyone marvel at the power of God, please consider this:

The greatest miracle of God is to grant life to those who are dead.

Last night I took one of my grandsons fishing. At one point, while rescuing a lure from an underwater tomb, the propellor on my trolling motor became wedged in a tree branch.  It locked up.  It wouldn’t run anymore.  Our night of fishing appeared to be over.  After checking all connections and even banging on it with my fist, we started to pack up to head home.  But after a short prayer, I plugged the motor in one more time, turned it on, and after a few seconds of slow motion movement accompanied by the sound of stripped gears, the motor returned to normal function, and we fished for another hour with no problems.  We marveled at what God did.

But if I need signs and wonders to make me marvel at God, I do not yet understand God. The greatest motivator of marvel is the indwelling life of Jesus Christ that has been granted to me by grace alone. I carry in me the eternal life of a Jesus Christ. Not because I have earned it, or deserve it, but because God gave Jesus the power and authority to grant life to whom He pleases.  Because I believe in who Jesus is and what he accomplished on the cross to pay the debt of my sin, and that He was raised from the dead, it pleases Jesus to grant me life. Eternal life. Nothing can ever exceed the marvel of that miracle.

We marvel at Marvel heroes who fight for justice and good, and give us hope. We wait for the next episode in anticipation that we will marvel again. It is time to realize that we can constantly marvel at the miracle of being rescued from the graveyard of spiritual death and have been granted eternal life. There’s no need to seek anything else to motivate marvel in us. We marvel at the saving grace of God.

Pastor John

 

 

“I CAN’T”

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

“I can’t!”

I wonder how many times we have said that? As children we said it a lot, usually after we were asked to do something. We said it mostly because we didn’t want to, not because we couldn’t. We said it because it interrupted our plans. We said it because we were afraid. We said it because we were stubborn.

There are times in our lives when we honestly have to say, “I can’t.” Two specific times come to my mind as I read the words of Jesus in John 5.

  1. “I can’t save myself from my sin.”
  2. “I can’t do anything of real value on my own.”

When Jesus was speaking with the religious leaders of His day, He made this statement:

“I can do nothing on my own.” John 5:30

I remember a sermon my dad preached when I was a boy. It was entitled “Seven Things God Can’t Do.” As I have thought about it, the points of the sermon may have been better understood if the word won’t had been used instead of can’t. God won’t send a saved person into hell. God won’t send an unsaved sinner into heaven. God won’t forgive sin based on our good works. Etc., Etc.

But here Jesus tells us that He can’t do anything of value on His own. In context, Jesus says that He will never grant life to anyone nor will He ever judge anyone for their sin based on His own understanding or His own opinion. He always, and that means ALWAYS, grants life and judges sin in cooperation with the Father and in full agreement with God’s Divine nature.

Before we allow ourselves to get overly theological here, let me ask one question for us to ponder today.

“Is the forgiveness I grant to others, or the judgments I make about others, based on my opinion, my feeling, my convenience, or for my benefit, or is it based on the Divine nature of God at work in me through the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit?”

Let’s chew on that for a while, and see if we can reach a point of spiritual understanding that allows us to be able to say, “I can do nothing on my own.”

Pastor John

At Rest In Jesus

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

This morning I rose earlier than normal after a very sound night of sleep. I woke with thanksgiving in my heart and praise on my mind because I realized that the words of Jesus had comforted me when I had somewhat expected that the words of people might have caused restlessness. Yesterday’s devotional caused a stir in me. Jesus was speaking to me. His words broke down my normal responses and reactions to life and revived in me His gifts of grace and love. Jesus spoke life to me, and showed me where I was still being influenced by death.

John 5:24-25 24  Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. 25  “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.

Truly, truly, Jesus has said:

  • by hearing the words of Jesus and believing that God the Father sent Him we have been given eternal life.
  • in Jesus we will NEVER come into judgment.
  • In Jesus we have passed from death to life.
  • The time is now for the dead to hear the voice of Jesus and live.

My heart is filled with thanksgiving and my mind is filled with praise. I have heard the voice of Jesus. I have listened to His words. I have believed that He is the Son of God. I have passed from death to life. I am no longer subject to judgment. I am an eternal child of God. Not because I earned it, but because I believe in Jesus Christ as my Savior.

When all the troubles of the day and the words of people bring unrest, we can rest soundly on this one truth – NOTHING CAN SEPARATE US FROM THE LOVE OF GOD IN CHRIST JESUS.

Pastor John

SOMETHING IS TERRIBLY WRONG.

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, August 3, 2020

At the time of writing this I have been home from vacation for less than two hours, and I am ready to drop everything and leave again, this time for a longer time with even less connectivity. I must take some time and review the precious words of my Lord and Savior as He spoke to the spiritual leaders of His day in John 5.

19  So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.

Are my responses to what is happening in the world, and especially my responses to what the church is doing to best show forth the love of Jesus, a true reflection of what the Father is doing?

22  The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, 23  that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.

Where am I judging others who don’t agree with me or support my position, when that role is reserved exclusively for Jesus Christ? How do my attitudes towards those with whom I disagree showing others that I honor Christ and honor the Father?

30  …I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.

Where have my personal opinions, biases, preferences, and desires caused me to prioritize my will over the will of the Father?

39  You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40  yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.

Have I become proud of my knowledge of Scripture and yet have lost my first love for Christ and for others? Am I so convinced of my own theological or political position that I refuse to bring life and love to others, especially those with whom I disagree?

41  I do not receive glory from people.

Am I prepared, for the sake of the true Gospel of Jesus, to be criticized and rejected by my brothers and sisters in Christ, who, for the sake of personal preferences, social benefits, or cultural acceptance, would turn from the Gospel to gratify the desires of the flesh?

42  But I know that you do not have the love of God within you. 

Would I dare be humble enough to admit that Jesus can say this to me? Is it possible that my love for this world has surpassed my love God? Is it possible that my comforts are of more importance to me than Christ’s compassion for those who may even hate me? Could it be that I have chosen to prioritize my own list of commandments, rather than confidently live out Christ’s list of the two greatest commandments – LOVE GOD WITH YOUR WHOLE BEING, AND LOVE OTHERS AS YOU LOVE YOURSELF?

And why is the eternally precious Body of Christ, the church, having so much trouble with this right now?

Pastor John

Fulfilling Work

LIFELINK Devotional

Friday, July 24, 2020

Here’s a very quick thought to ponder this weekend. I hope you spend some time wrestling with it.

What kind of work brings you the greatest satisfaction and fulfillment?

As you consider your answer, read these words of Jesus.

“But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.””  John 5:17

We must consider that the work for which the Creator designed us will be the most satisfying and fulfilling work to occupy us. The Father created us to bear His image and to share His love. By design we are fulfilled by doing His work.

So let me ask again, What kind of work brings you the greatest satisfaction and fulfillment? 

Pastor John

 

 

 

Don’t Go Back

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, July 23, 2020

The proverbs have some interesting ideas.  I know, you wonder what happened to the study of John.  Follow me for a minute and you will understand.

Proverbs 26:11 says “Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly.” I hope you aren’t reading this over breakfast. It’s not an appetizing concept. But the truth principle for us is this – Don’t go back to previous behaviors that might make things even worse than they were before.

Now, read what Jesus told the lame man whom He had healed earlier in the day.

“Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.”” John 5:14

This verse can cause some misunderstandings. First, Jesus is not blaming the man’s physical disabilities on previous sin. We must not assume that health issues are the result of sin. They may be, but they also may simply be so the glory of God can be revealed. (See John 9:1-5). Second, Jesus is not saying that if the man ever sins again he will be made more lame than before. Jesus does not threaten people with harm for disobedience. Where’s the grace in that?

Here’s what it seems Jesus is saying. See, I made you well. Trust me. Believe in me. If you don’t, you will return to your sin, and the end result of that is worse than being lame, because it results in eternal death. 

There is a very important principle for us here about authentic faith – it always produces obedience to Christ and a sincere desire to not sin. We live in an age of cheap grace, where many claim to be followers of a Jesus but are simply putting spiritual polish on tarnished pursuits. Authentic faith transforms the heart. Authentic faith pursues righteousness. Authentic faith never sacrifices the eternal on the altar of the immediate. Authentic faith seeks the good of other even at the expense of benefit to self.

This is the lesson of faith Jesus wanted the healed man to learn.  He desires us to learn it also.

Pastor John

 

What’s Mine is Yours

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

John 5:5-6 One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?”

Once upon a time there was a rich man who lived in a huge mansion behind high walls and a secured gate. No one was ever allowed access, until one day the wealthy man had an idea. “I will go to the gate at four o’clock every afternoon and give one person a million dollars if they can prove to me that they need it.”

The next day he stood at the gate and asked people as they walked by if they needed a million dollars. Everyone said they did, but none could prove they needed it.

The next day, when he got to the gate, there was a line waiting to see him, each person offering some sort of reason or excuse why they needed the million dollars, but none sufficiently showed evidence that they had nothing. Having nothing was the proof necessary for the gift to be offered, and no one was interested in giving up everything they already had to become eligible.

On the third day, after refusing dozens of people in line, a man crawled forward, obviously unable to walk. He was dirty, barely clothed in rags, and reeking of a sickening stench from the inability to clean himself. He was the first person the wealthy benefactor had seen who truly had nothing.

He asked the crawling beggar if he wanted a million dollars. In a halting whisper of voice the man replied, “Sir, I have tried for years to make a way for myself, but with no success. I am today the most helpless and hopeless of men, with no ability to do anything for myself except wait for death to relieve me of my suffering.”

Moved with compassion, he did something far more gracious than offer the man a million dollars and send him on his way. He picked up the frail semblance of a man, opened the gate to his mansion, and took him inside. He bathed him, clothed him, fed him, and then said, “Whatever is mine is yours. You are a son to me.”

The next day, dozens of crippled, lame, blind, and helpless people somehow made their way to the gates of the mansion, waiting for the wealthy man to appear. And everyday, when he appeared, he would personally bring into his mansion anyone who truly had nothing.

This is what Jesus did for the man at the pool of Bethesda. This is what Jesus will do for you, if you will admit that you are helpless and hopeless to change the sin in your heart. He is waiting to make you His child.

Pastor John

The Law of Doing Good

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

“Who’s side are you on?”

It seems like that is the question that defines the year 2020. Everyone is being pressured to take sides. “What is your political affiliation? Who will you vote for? What do you think about the virus? Should schools re-open? Should we overthrow the government? Do we even need to obey the law anymore?”

One huge problem I see is that people are taking extreme positions on the issues of the day. The pendulum rests in its outermost positions, with very little tolerance for anyone in between. “Destroy everything” or “Preserve everything” seem to be the only valid positions to hold. And we will defend our right to our position until we die, or someone else does.

But it gets worse. When an element of spiritual superiority is added to the position, then all hell breaks loose – literally. That’s what was happening in Jesus’ time, and it continues today. Religious leaders take up positions, impose rules, enforce consequences for disobedience, and seek to control people’s lives, all under the guise of spiritual formation.

Jesus came to destroy such a corrupt spiritual system. He would do that, not by destroying the law, but rather by transforming the heart. Jesus came to fulfill the law by giving us the proper motivation for obeying it – love.

Remember the thought provoking challenge from yesterday?

The law of doing good always carries more authority than any other law.

That’s what fulfilling the law of God is all about. When Jesus transforms our hearts, we move from the corrupted law of doing good for self to the Christ-like law of doing good for others. Loving others, serving others, doing good for others is always the fulfillment of God’s law.

The man who was healed understood this. When he was questioned by the religious authorities for carrying his bedmat on the Sabbath, he acknowledged that he saw a higher law than theirs.

John 5:11  But he answered them, “The man who healed me, that man said to me, ‘Take up your bed, and walk.”

My prayer for my life (and I hope yours is similar) is that I would be known for doing good, rather than for how well I obey the law. May my life be defined as Jesus was in Acts 10:38

God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.

You see, when we are motivated by doing good, we will be fulfilling God’s law, even when it may have the appearance of human disobedience.

Pastor John