The Gospel

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

One of the most beloved and memorized verses in all the Bible is John 3:16.

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

This verse contains the heart of the Gospel: God’s love, man’s condition, and God’s grace.

Two days ago, I received one of the biggest blessings of my life. It happened during staff meeting as we were discussing the upcoming sermon topic for Sunday. My son, Calvary’s Associate Pastor, asked me if I had the notes from the sermon I preached many years ago on John 3:16. He said it had so impressed him that he would like to hear it again. On Monday night, he sent me this picture of a page in his Bible from November 1, 2009.

In case you can’t read it, here is the Gospel according to John 3:16.

“For God” – The Greatest Giver

“so loved” – The Greatest Motive

“the world” – The Greatest Need

“that He gave” – The Greatest Act

“His One and Only Son” – The Greatest Gift

“that whoever” – The Greatest Invitation

“believes” – The Greatest Decision

“in Him” – The Greatest Person

“shall not perish” – The Greatest Deliverance

“but” – The Greatest Difference

“have” – The Greatest Certainty

“eternal life” – The Greatest Possession

This is the Gospel. Do you believe?

Pastor John

I MUST

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

But I have too!”

How many times have we heard our children say that? They ask to do something, and when we say “No,” they do their best to convince us of the urgency of the situation. I’m sure as adults we still do the same thing. “I have to buy that car!” “I have to stay home from work!”  “I have to go golfing!” Okay, that one hits way to close to home. We seem to have a lot of “have to’s.”

God also expressed a “have to.” You can see it in John 3:14. I will highlight it for you.

“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up…”

Jesus MUST be lifted up. But Why? There are two reasons:

  1. Our sin had one consequence and one cure. Death is sin’s consequence, and Christ’s death is the cure.
    1. Romans 5:12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—
    2. Romans 5:17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.
  2. God’s love had one expression – to suffer the consequence and become the cure.
    1. John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Jesus MUST be lifted up.

Our sin determines it.

God’s love demands it.

Pastor John

THE WORLD IS DYING

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, June 1, 2020

Have you ever been simultaneously scared and filled with hope? I remember it happening to me as a young boy. It happened in Sunday School class. The teacher was telling us the story of an invasion of poisonous snakes that was used by God to punish the Israelites for their rebellion against Him. Thousands and thousands of snakes. She even had a picture. I was so scared that I totally missed the opportunity to make a joke about how old she was to have taken the picture.

But my fear was confronted with faith when I saw, in the middle of the picture, Moses lifting up a pole with a brass snake on it, and people’s eyes turning to look at it. There were snakes all over the ground, and people were dying from their bites. Yet one look of faith at the brass snake on a pole, and the bite of the serpent was healed.

John 3:14-15 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

Our world is dying from the bite of the Serpent. Satan, the Garden Serpent, lures us with deception and brings us death. We are deceived into believing that there is life to be found in the pursuit of self-fulfillment, pleasure, power, and possessions. We build our personal value systems on principles rather than the Prince of Peace. The same Serpent that bit Adam and Eve with the fear that God could not fully satisfy their need for self-worth has bitten all of us, and we are all dying while we try to prove to ourselves that we can make ourselves better.

The story of Moses lifting up the serpent in the wilderness shook me as a boy, but it taught me an incredible lesson. While the snake on the pole had no power to remove the effects of deadly venom, the God who commanded the people to look at the serpent does. The faith of people looking at the serpent on the pole healed their snakebite.

Jesus declared that He would also be lifted up on a pole, and those who look to Him in faith will also be healed from the Serpent’s deadly venom of death. The crucifixion of Jesus conquers every sin by crushing the head of the serpent so it can bite no more. When we look to Jesus in faith, believing that He saves from every effect of sin, we are instantly healed from death and given new life that is eternal.

So whatever snakebite has you suffering in pain today, look to Jesus on the cross. He died to save you. He died so that you may have life. He has destroyed once and for all the power of the Serpent. By faith, He will be your Savior.

If you want to know more, please contact me. The world is dying. It’s time to live.

Pastor John

DON’T TRUST OPINIONS

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, May 28, 2020

We live in a world that is seemingly driven by opinions far more often than facts. Opinions are the product of several factors. One such filter is our past experiences, through which we see and hear facts and then interpret meaning and motive.  So that I don’t get overly philosophical today, I will let those of you who want to evaluate that concept do it on your own time.

When Nicodemus came to Jesus, he heard the teaching of Jesus through the filter of his personal experience.  When Jesus said to him, ”Unless you are born again you cannot see the Kingdom of God,” Nicodemus had an opinion of what Jesus meant. He interpreted what Jesus said in a purely physical sense. With all of his understanding of the Old Testament Scripture, Nicodemus had been conditioned by his religious experience to interpret things from an outside in perspective. What I mean is that to Nicodemus, and possibly you, spiritual life is earned by outward activity. His opinion was that any spiritual truth must have an external application before it has any internal value.

Jesus was about to turn everything upside down. When Nicodemus heard Jesus say “born again” he heard the physical act of birth. But Jesus actually said that he must be “born from above.” Jesus went on to say that unless a person is born with water and the Spirit they cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven. That statement has caused much confusion for people, but if we see the whole context of what Jesus is teaching, it gets easier. Jesus helps Nicodemus understand what He means by referring to his knowledge of the Old Testament. So let’s look there in Ezekiel 36:25-27.

I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

Here’s my point. Jesus is telling Nicodemus that there is nothing he can do to make himself clean enough for the Kingdom of God. Nicodemus was of the opinion that he had a moral obligation based on the law of God to physically participate in his own cleansing from sin, thereby establishing his own credentials for entrance into God’s Kingdom. Jesus flipped that opinion upside down with the truth that EVERY aspect of spiritual transformation is from above. The clean water is from God alone, not from a religious ritual like baptism.  Obedience to God’s law does not improve our standing with God, but when God puts the Holy Spirit in us through faith in Jesus Christ we become obedient children of the Father. EVERY credential for entrance into the Kingdom of God is granted by God through Jesus Christ, without any assistance from us.

You may have a differing opinion. Be careful not to trust your eternal destiny to opinion. Trust the absolute truth of what Jesus said. “Unless you are born from above you cannot see the Kingdom of God.” The only valid credential you carry into eternity is faith in Jesus Christ alone.

Pastor John

STARTING OVER

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, May 27. 2020

“If only I could go back and start over.”

We have all probably said that, or something similar, at some point in our life. It’s especially true after a series of failures. However, it’s not likely that you have ever wanted to go back and start over from birth. If given the choice, we might start at 2 or three, but not as an infant.

When Nicodemus comes to Jesus based on his religious credentials, Jesus informs Him of a traumatic truth.

John 3:3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

The term “born again” instantly causes Nicodemus great concern. He literally takes it literally. But Jesus is making a spiritual truth based on the physical impossibility. While it is impossible to go back into our mother’s womb and be born again, it is equally impossible to enter the Kingdom of God on the basis of human wisdom or religious credentials.

Here is the trauma of this truth. To be born again means to release everything we have ever known or experienced, and trust Jesus alone. That’s not appealing to any of us, and were it not for the grace of God to grant us faith to believe Jesus can do it, we would never participate with what Jesus wants to do. He wants to wipe away every misconception so you can be conceived into the family of God. He wants to eliminate any prideful credentials of our own making and supply us with new credentials based on His worth, not ours. Jesus wants us to be willing to give up any sense of personal value and be born again with His value.

Many of us still wish we could start over, but we place a limit on how far back we would go. Jesus said we must be willing to go all the way back to before we knew or experienced everything, and start completely new in Him. And when we agree, he gives us a life beyond our expectations or imaginations – a life that originates in the eternal glory of God.

Pastor John

Show Me Your Credentials

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, May 27, 2020

On Sunday, Pastor Josh will be preaching for our first Sunday back in the building for Worship. He will be starting our study of John 3 as we continue our way through the Gospel of John. In this week’s passage, we see an individual named Nicodemus come to Jesus for an after hours meeting.

John 3:1-2 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.”

The conversation Jesus has with Nicodemus is the first of four conversations he is going to have with a variety of people, all who need Jesus to look deep into their soul and correct some erroneous thinking. At the end of Chapter 2, John told us that Jesus was able to see into the hearts of people and know their thoughts, motives, and secrets. Yet, with eternal grace, Jesus reaches out to meet people’s needs.

So what might have been the specific issue of Nicodemus? From the context of the conversation, and the initial response of Jesus, we may conclude that Nicodemus was hung up on credentials. He was a man of credentials. A member of the ruling party of Israel called the Pharisees. His very first statement to Jesus is one based on credentials. He used his own religious credentials to determine that Jesus had come from God and that God was with Him.

But wait. His religious credentials were not sufficient to take him beyond the level of all the people spoken of in John 2. They believed because they saw the signs. Here was a spiritual ruler of the Jews, and his affirmation of Jesus was solely based on the things Jesus did. That is a serious problem. Does Nicodemus not remember the work of Satan in the religious rulers of Egypt as they imitated the signs of Moses? Signs are not the basis of faith.

I wonder how many of us still seek signs as the basis of our beliefs? I wonder how often we trust our religious credentials to affirm our conclusions about matters of faith? Is it possible that experience has kept us from knowing the deeper issues of faith? I think it is not only possible but probable. Jesus longs for intimacy of relationship to be based on faith alone, not faith plus signs. It is faith alone that saves.

Don’t be like the Pharisees. Don’t trust your religious credentials to tell you who Jesus is. Trust Jesus to tell you.

Pastor John

Memorial Day

LIFELINK Devotional
Monday, May 25, 2020

Happy Memorial Day. I grew up in an era of respect and honor for our nation. My parents lived through World War II. My dad was in the military during that war. I was alive during the Korean War. I remember from early childhood being taught to honor and respect our nation because of the courage of those who founded this great nation. I was deeply impressed as a young boy with the price of liberty paid with the sacrifices of people. I cannot say thanks enough for such sacrifices.

Ultimate freedom, comes at the cost of a life. As you enjoy your holiday today, and as you pay tribute to all the men and women who gave their lives in to win your freedom, remember to honor er the One who made the supreme sacrifice for freedom- the freedom from death. Jesus Christ was lifted up on a cross in front of the whole world in an attempt by man to preserve freedom. What they could not see was that in His death He conquered death and provided eternal life for all who believe in Him.

Now that’s a real Memorial Day.

Pastor John