To Be With Jesus

“For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour who desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth”

1 Timothy 2:3-4

The Bible teaches that God is not willing that any should miss His gift of salvation (cf. 2 Peter 3:9). Hence we read in several places that Christ died for all (e.g. John 1:29; Romans 5:6, 8; 2 Corinthians 5:14-15; 1 Timothy 2:6; 1 John 2:2). Since God created us in His image we have the ability to choose how we respond to God’s invitation and He will not override that choice or we would be no more than robots. Out of love for mankind God sent His Son to deliver us from sin and death by dying in our place. Now that the price is paid God invites all who want to, to come to Jesus and receive eternal life in Him as a free gift (John 1:12; Romans 6:23).

Sadly, most will go to anyone or anything except Jesus; but Paul writes that there is only one Mediator between God and man and that is Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5). The reason He is the only Mediator is that He alone died for our sin and is therefore the only one qualified to forgive sin (Romans 5:8; c.f. John 14:6; Revelation 5:1-7). There are some who want a heaven without Jesus but that is impossible. Heaven is being with Jesus. Anything else is hell. If you don’t desire to be with Jesus then it may be that you have a false or futile hope of heaven. Jesus says that He is preparing a place for the saved and it is with Him (John 14:3; 2 Corinthians 5:8; cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:10).

In his letter to Timothy, Paul writes that he was appointed to preach Christ primarily to Gentile unbelievers but also to unbelieving Israel (1 Timothy 2:7).  That mission has also been given to the church, a living body composed of all individuals who have received Christ as Lord and Saviour. The Gift of God, which is Jesus (John 3:16), is offered to all people because Christ died for all people. But God will not usurp a person’s own will. He invites, He provokes, He persuades but He does not force anyone. Only those who will of free will receive God’s Gift and appropriate Him will benefit. Many years ago I was conscripted into the army but there will be no conscripts in heaven. Everyone in heaven will be there because they believed God’s offer, wanted to be with Jesus, accepted His invitation and received His Gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ. “And thus we shall always be with the Lord” 1 Thessalonians 4:17).

I am Alive

“And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins”

Ephesians 2:1

There can hardly be sweeter words than these to a person who knows that they were spiritually dead with no fellowship with God but now have intimacy with Him. What real joy can one have if they only have a vague and uncertain hope of heaven? John writes, “These things we write to you that your joy may be full” (1 John 1:4). He is referring to the very words of Jesus who said, “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11). Joy is in knowing (1 John 5:13).

Our Creator had placed Adam in His beautiful garden and said, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:16-17). We know that he did eat and he did die immediately in regard to intimacy of fellowship with God and he brought both spiritual and bodily death to all mankind (Romans 5:12).

Clearly, from the verse at the head of this article, we can be made alive to God again and this is the foundation of our joy. Paul writes, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Paul writes that being made alive is a gift. That is, we have done nothing to deserve or merit God’s favour. “The gift of God” might be better translated, “The Gift which is God.” God Himself is the Gift in the Person of Jesus Christ. At Christmas we focus on the arrival of that Gift and at Easter we focus on the means by which He made it possible for we who were dead to be made alive.

We will be filled with joy when we are aware that salvation is God’s gift to anyone who will believe Him. Who can attain to God’s righteousness and holiness from conception to bodily death? Paul writes, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) and he goes on to write, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). As we read Ephesians 2:1 again, “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins” our hearts leap with joy that He has given the perfect Gift which is His Son. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

The Book of Life

“Anyone not found in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire”

Revelation 20:15

This may seem an inconvenient truth to those not aspiring to have their names in the Book of Life. They may use any one of a variety of ways to quench their conscience and bring false hope to their hearts. Some remain indifferent and ignore their conscience. Others, who love sin, object by opposing anything godly. They will try and coerce others to agree with them in order to bolster their own confidence.

For those who believe the verse above, having their name in the Book of Life is of the highest priority, resting only when they are assured that their name is in that Book. There is but one way to accomplish this and that is God’s way.

John writes, “He who has the Son has life; and he who does not have the Son does not have life” (1 John 5:12). In his Gospel he writes, “As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name” (John 1:14). Having one’s name in the Book of Life is by receiving Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour – but how do we receive Him? The answer is in a number of places in the Bible. Paul writes, “By grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, and not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). He also writes, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

What is the gift of God? The most memorised verse in the Bible tells us that the gift of God is not a “what” but a “who”. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Jesus is the Gift of God which is why only those who have received Him by faith have eternal life (John 14:6), and therefore have their name in the Book of Life.

The reason Jesus is the only way is because He alone has dealt with our sin. He did that on the cross at Calvary and it is to Jesus we must come, humbly: confessing our sin of not believing and receiving Him. This will mean a total change in direction – from being indifferent or rejecting Him, to believing His word and receiving Him as Lord and Saviour. This is repentance. Our joy in life comes from confidence that our names are written in the Book of Life.

Captive of Love

“Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as we are.”

John 17:11

We are very grateful that John has recorded the words of this prayer of Jesus. So much is packed into just one prayer such as the glory of God to be restored to Jesus and revealed in His disciples. The relationship between Father and Son is also revealed as is equality of person of the Father and Son with differing roles within that equality. Our focus for now is the keeping of Christ’s disciples.

Whenever we have a doubt about our possession of eternal life it is because we believe that our salvation and favour with God is in our hands. It is not! As Peter also wrote, we “are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:5).

The words “keep” and “kept” in John 17:11-15 have the meaning of being protected from an outside force and of being held captive for one’s protection. On the one hand Jesus is praying that the Father will protect His disciples from Satan’s power and influence (v 15) and on the other hand Jesus is saying that He will keep His disciples as a captive of His love in Himself (v 12).

Both aspects of this reveal that we who have trusted in Jesus Christ are absolutely secure. Any thought that causes us to doubt that security comes when we start thinking that our salvation is obtained by our own effort or faithfulness and not as the free gift of God in Jesus Christ and His faithfulness.

As we read through the Gospel accounts we frequently note the disciples’ lack of belief and understanding and yet Jesus kept them all (v 12). We will have areas of doubt and unbelief from time to time – but Jesus affirms that He will lose none who are His. As Peter affirmed, we are kept by the power of God – and not by our own ability or strength of faith. If our salvation, and being kept saved, was by our own effort then there would be reason for grave concerns.

Jesus has prayed that the Father would set watch over His disciples and protect them from all enemies, including Satan (vv 11, 15). When we fear what Satan or people may do to us we are forgetting this prayer of Jesus. We are protected from all enemies and kept as captives of Christ’s love by Him.

The Perfect Gift

“All things come from You [God], and of Your own we have given You”

1 Chronicles 29:14

When we give a gift to another person we may experience a number of emotions including love, joy, happiness and self esteem. King David recognised that, in reality, everything he had, had its origin in God. With regard to the kingdom he knew that he was king because God chose Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and then Judah to himself to be of the royal line (28:4). He knew this would pass to Solomon (28:5) and eventually to The Son who would reign forever (28:7). Solomon would build an earthly temple but The Son would build a heavenly temple not made with human hands that would endure forever.

There are similarities in the development of both the earthly and heavenly temples. In Exodus thirty five, and again here, we read that the people first gave themselves to the Lord’s service (29:5) before any consideration of material things. The same is true of Jesus’ disciples (2 Corinthians 8:5). In these accounts the people were not motivated by what others thought of them, by duty or seeking God’s favour. They were motivated by God’s love, mercy and grace which they had already received. They gave themselves willingly and joyfully, not grudgingly.

The Lord is interested in our motivation for giving to Him and less interested in what we actually give. He is able to discern our motive (28:9). This was the difference between Cain and Able. The right heart motive cannot be artificially created or induced. It develops from a right understanding of who Jesus is, what He has done for us and a close intimate walk with Him. The right motivation comes from a genuine love for Jesus and thankfulness for all that He has given. Everything has its origin in Him.

None of us chose the time or place of our birth. Neither do we choose our parents and ethnicity. None of us chose our natural talents or the opportunities that present. None of us chose our sex, height, natural pigmentation of skin, hair and eyes.

All we are and have has its origin in God. We show our love and appreciation for His love and gifts by gifting all that we are and have into His hands. He has given you Himself, would you give Him less? Holding anything back is idolatry. We are His by right of creation and redemption. Let us rest in His love and sovereignty.

The Last Adam

“The first man Adam became a living being. The last Adam became a life-giving spirit”

1 Corinthians 15:45

The first Adam is the ancestor of us all and Paul had stated clearly that “in Adam all die” (1 Corinthians 15:22). This is indeed bad news and is why Paul could write that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). He also wrote that sin entered the world through one man and through him all his descendants inherited the sin nature (Romans 5:12).

The Bible is clear that sin entered by Adam, yet it was Eve who first took and ate of the forbidden fruit. I used to wonder why Adam was held responsible – until I read Numbers chapter thirty. Society has a habit of swinging like a pendulum on several fronts, perhaps many, and this is one of them. Not that long ago, in western society, women were not regarded well in comparison to men but now the pendulum is swinging the other way.

Adam was given the privilege and responsibility of authority and his wife was given to serve the Lord alongside him in the exercise of that authority. When Eve ate the forbidden fruit and offered it to Adam, what should he have done? At first I thought that Adam was forced to choose between his relationship with God and his relationship with Eve. In Numbers 30:8, however, we read that Adam had the authority to overrule Eve’s action. Had he done so, sin would not have entered the world at that time. Eve had been deceived by Satan (1 Timothy 2:14), but because he had authority to overrule her action, Adam bore responsibility.

Our society is the poorer when we do not follow our Creator’s instructions for relationships within family and society. It seems that just when the pendulum is swinging back nearer to the correct place it just keeps on going. God’s Word will keep us just right if followed. In Christ that is possible.

The good news is that by the grace and miracle-working power of God in Jesus Christ our ancestry can be changed. The “last Adam” is Jesus Christ, who gives eternal life to all who will receive it. “The free gift is not like the offense. For if by one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many” (Romans 5:15).

Surrendered to God’s Grace

“The eyes of both of them were opened” Genesis 3:7

This is the first time any person ever felt guilt. Adam and Eve’s attempt to cover their guilt was futile. Covering for guilt and the ultimate removal of guilt would require the death of a substitute. Guilt caused them to flee God’s presence instead of coming to Him. Guilt still does this to those who are yet to be forgiven. Those who most vehemently oppose God are the one’s sensing guilt the strongest. Their sin is against God and only He can forgive their sin. To remain just, a satisfactory substitute would have to die. Adam had brought about a fundamental change in his being which must die. Only a new creation could allow him into God’s presence again.

With the guilt came conviction of sin for which Adam and Eve had no remedy but to flee God’s presence. This did nothing to diminish the conviction or remove guilt. Instead of desiring God’s presence they wanted to hide from Him. People who have believed Satan’s lie still prefer to hide from God.

We observe here that God pursued Adam and Eve until He caught up with them. He then gave them opportunity to have a change of heart which they eventually accepted. First they played the blame game. Adam blamed Eve, Eve blamed the serpent but in reality they were both blaming God. This characteristic of fallen people can be readily observed in all spheres of society throughout history and is still very evident today. It is, we accuse, always someone else’s fault!

When they eventually surrendered to the grace of God, God clothed them in animal skins thus picturing the means by which they and all who choose to believe what God has said will be saved. God is still in pursuit of people but sadly most will not heed His words of love, grace and forgiveness. Don’t be among them but be among those who humbly acknowledge their sin against God, turn to face Him and receive His gift of forgiveness. Paul wrote, “The wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

One who has received the gift of God’s salvation in Jesus Christ will not run away from God when they sin. Having experienced His forgiveness before, they will return to Him whenever they are aware of sin (1 John 1:9). This is a mark of one who has truly chosen to reject Satan’s lie and believe what God has said.

Eternal Life

“This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” John 17:3

Our concept of what is eternal life may actually fall short by a considerable margin. It is possible that we mention eternal life as a substitute word for salvation. In 1 John 5:11 we read, “God has given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.” Our concept is that having received Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour we have also inherited eternal life. It is helpful for us to give considerable time and meditation as we read the Bible as to what that actually means. It is not synonymous with salvation or a change in our way of life but it is an integral part of salvation.

In the verse at the head of this article and reading it in the context of Jesus’ prayer to the Father for Himself, His disciples and all those who will believe in Him, we have a more clear expression of what eternal life is. It is not just about going to heaven and it is not just about being saved from sin and its consequences. It is what Paul refers to as being made alive to God (Ephesians 2:1) which means that we are now able to having a living relationship and fellowship with God.

In this prayer Jesus is not praying for our salvation. The subjects of this prayer are already forgiven and saved. He is praying that they would have the same intimate relationship with the Father as He does and with Himself also. As we read the Gospel accounts we may be inclined to be a little jealous of the disciples who saw and spoke with Jesus every day. They saw the miracles and they heard His teaching first hand. However, though He is not physically present with us, as He was with them, He is none-the-less present with us every moment of every day.

Eternal life is the experience of living with Jesus and the Father day by day. In 14:23 John records Jesus saying, “If anyone loves Me he will keep My word; and My Father will love him and make Our home with him.” This is the closest personal relationship that we can experience in this earthly life.

In the later years of his life after all the other apostles have been killed and long gone, John writes, “That which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3).

Eternal life is a Gift in Christ, not apart from Christ, but it is not just a ticket to heaven that we keep in our pocket ready for future inspection. Eternal life is living in fellowship with Jesus Christ and the Father by the Holy Spirit here and now and forever. The potential has been ours from the moment we first believed. We now have the opportunity of nourishing it to maturity in readiness for that great day when we see Jesus face to face.

Thank the Giver

“Thus says the Lord, “You have sold yourselves for nothing, and you shall be redeemed without money” Isaiah 52:3

When the Lord spoke these words through Isaiah to Jerusalem the people had turned to idolatry and away from knowledge of the Lord. This sounds much like our world today. As we consider how the Lord dealt with Israel we will gain an understanding of how He will deal with people now.

The book of Isaiah makes it clear that the Lord’s intent is to redeem Israel. By the time we get to chapter 51 the Lord is pleading with Israel to “Listen to me,” stated three times. God wants to be heard but the people were not listening. Our world is not listening to God’s word either. There are few who really want to hear what God has said.

For those who do listen there is another step. The Lord then says to Israel, also stated three times, “Awake, awake.” It is not enough to just hear what God is saying but to respond to it. As our world is today so was Israel then. People who expect utopia on earth without Christ are dreaming. Israel had tried everything to keep safe. They attempted to build their own military, they had paid tribute to other nations and they had bought mercenary armies and yet they still suffered. For all their attempts to buy freedom they had failed. The Lord says they sold themselves for nothing. Their treasuries were emptied for no gain. All attempts that people make to buy deliverance the Lord says are futile.

Many people seek forgiveness and salvation but they want to be able to boast that they achieved it by their own effort, merit and wisdom. Such is the nature of pride. Paul responds to this by writing, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the Gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

It goes against pride but forgiveness of sin and salvation are a gift from God. The Lord says through Isaiah, “You shall be redeemed without money” (52:3). Israel will be redeemed as a gift from the Lord. In this we observe the Divine Nature of God. In chapter 53 the Lord describes how He will do it. That chapter is a description of Jesus Christ at His crucifixion and resurrection. In a nutshell we have it in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Jesus Christ is the Gift. Those who receive Him are the children of God (John 1:12). Later Paul would write, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

The Lord’s plea with Israel and with all people today is to cease futile efforts to buy forgiveness and salvation with money, by acts of righteousness, by personal achievement, or religious ceremony and ritual, and simply receive forgiveness and salvation as the Gift it is in Jesus Christ. There is only one thing left for us to do. When we have received a gift, we thank the giver.

A Love Gift

“Little children, keep yourselves from idols” 1 John 5:21

This verse at the end of John’s letter refers to the newer Christians to whom he wrote. Every new child of God will benefit greatly from acquiring and maintaining a good understanding of this letter.

Ever since Cain offered the fruit of the ground (Genesis 4:3) people have been creating gods from their own imagination and often in their own likeness of character. These are idols even if they have no physical representation. This gives their creators freedom of conscience to do as they please.

This time of year our society brings out one of its gods in the person of Father Christmas. The concept is that if one does well one can expect to be rewarded. The gifts they receive are perceived to be because they deserve them. Consequently children who are taught that meaning of Christmas may have a distorted view of what it is to be Christian. The world may say that it is harmless fun but we should reflect on how a child may understand and apply the principle. It is possible that they may believe that salvation is a reward for behaviour rather than a grace gift.

God’s Gift to mankind is not offered because we deserve it. On the contrary, it is a gift of grace to people who do not deserve anything but condemnation and have done absolutely nothing to merit it. No payment is required or necessary for a gift. In fact offering to pay for a love-gift would be an insult.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

“The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our lord” (Romans 6:23)

The focus of many of the world’s children this time of year is that of receiving a reward from Father Christmas for good behaviour. In contrast Christians exchange gifts as a way of showing that we have received His unmerited Gift of love and in thankfulness desire to share that Gift with others.

The exchanging of gifts gives parents a valuable means of teaching their children the Gospel of Christ. We give out of love, not merit, because He gave out of love, not merit. We accept the Gift because it is given out of love and not merit. Security, peace and joy come from the sure knowledge that God’s Gift is an undeserved love Gift.