How Should We Respond To God’s Forgiveness?

Grace For The Journey


29May  I did a graveside service once for a family who were not a part of our church, but whose mother that died had requested a Baptist minister be asked to do it.  One of the granddaughters was offended by my message.  Her initial complaint was that I did not talk enough about her grandmother.  Specifically, though, she took issue with remarks I made in the Gospel portion of my message that “all are sinners,” bristling at even the suggestion that she herself was a sinner.  Her advice was that I not be so bold as to think that people needed to hear that. I thanked her for her concern but told her that was not an option that I would consider.

Well . . . If there ever was a woman who readily acknowledged her own sinfulness and unworthiness it would be the unnamed woman in Luke 7:36-50.  Not only did she know herself to be a sinner, but everyone gathered around her knew it, too.  You could say her reputation preceded her.

The Bible tells us what happened . . .

One of the Pharisees had invited Jesus to dinner.  Maybe the Pharisee wanted to know more about Jesus or thought that by having Jesus over he might sort of “score some points” with this popular prophet.  Luke doesn’t tell us the man’s motivation, so we don’t really know.  In any case, something happened that was a bit of a surprise: an uninvited guest joined them.

On the one hand, it wasn’t unusual to have someone enter into the dining area.  In our day, it would be really strange because we eat in houses with doors shut and even locked.  And nobody just walks into a modern 21st Century house uninvited and sits at the table!  But in the ancient near eastern context, meals were shared in an open area of a home, open to the outside, where passersby could actually see who was eating and even “hang out” near where the folks were eating, even listening to conversation.  It was a more communal experience even for uninvited guests.  And folks didn’t sit around a modern western table with chairs, but rather they reclined in something of a circle, leaning on one arm and eating with the other hand.  It was so different!  It is still that way today in much of the eastern world.

That’s the setting when this unnamed woman walks in.  Who was she?  Luke doesn’t tell us her name, but he tells us her condition.  In verse 37 he says, “And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner.”  She is a woman “who was a sinner.”  In other words, she had a reputation.  And it wasn’t a good one.  Everything about the context suggests that this woman was a prostitute – or at least had been a prostitute.  She was well known in the city.

We learn several important truths from this passage . . .

1) A Conspicuous Sinner.

She was well known in the city and shunned by many given her sinful reputation.  Luke tells us what happens next in verses 36-38, “When she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil.”  This sinful woman has made her presence known.  She is conspicuous in every way.  She seems undaunted by the jeers and sneers that surely accompanied her as she approached Jesus.  She opens an “alabaster flask of fragrant oil.”  This was likely a small flask worn around the neck, containing costly perfume.  We may suppose she used this perfume in her profession, but is now using it for a very different purpose.  It is at this moment that the woman begins to sob – and the sense is not just a whimpering cry, but a deep, heartfelt.  The woman is crying so much that she is able to wash Jesus’ feet with her tears, wiping them with the hair of her head.

To describe her as conspicuous is quite an understatement because her every single action would have drawn further attention, glaring stares, and shock to guests in the room, especially the Pharisee.  In the Talmud – a Jewish commentary – it is stated that for a woman to let down her hair in the presence of men was a major no-no.  In fact, if the woman were married, this action of letting down her hair was grounds for divorce.  It was considered a shameful action.

2) A Critical Spirit.

Look at what Luke says in response to this woman’s actions in verse 39, “Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he spoke to himself, saying, ‘This Man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner.’”  He is just shocked that this woman is even touching Jesus and that Jesus allows it!

We learn the Pharisee’s name in verse 40, “And Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Simon, I have something to say to you.’”  Someone said this statement is like Jesus’ throwing a grenade to Simon.  After all, Simon had just said to himself, “if this man were a prophet, He would know who this woman is,” and it is obvious that Jesus heard exactly what Simon had thought.

Pharisees were a religious group in Jesus’ day.  The Jewish historian Josephus writes that there were as many as six thousand Pharisees during the time of Christ.  And these Pharisees were not only powerful and influential, they had a tendency to be critical and judgmental.  And the reason for this tendency was because they had such a high estimation of themselves as the morally upright upper crust.

The very word “Pharisee” means, “separated one.”  These men separated themselves from the common people and their common ways.  They were therefore thought of as highly moral and superior in righteousness, given their strict adherence to tradition and law.

3) A Compassionate Savior.

Jesus tells a parable to illustrate His compassion for those who know the depth of their sin and their need for God’s forgiveness.  In verse 41, Jesus says, “There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty.”  The money lender loans money to two people.  One owes the equivalent of two years’ wages and the other owes the equivalent of two months’ wages.  Neither of the two could pay down the debt or pay off the debt.  And if you didn’t pay off your debt in those days you could be thrown into debtor’s prison.  So, both of these debtors in the parable are in the same boat.

Verses 42-43 tell us, “And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both.  Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?  Simon answered and said, ‘I suppose the one whom he forgave more.’”  And He said to him, ‘You have rightly judged.’”  In other words, “Good answer, Simon! You have answered correctly.”  And it makes sense, doesn’t it?  The person who knows his debt to be so great and sees no way out of the situation, is likely to be more grateful when the debt is forgiven than the one who feels his debt is manageable.

This latter debtor may not even feel the same need as the other.  Consequently, when his debt is forgiven he is not as likely to love in the same way the other loves.  Jesus continues in verse 44, “Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, ‘Do you see this woman?  I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head.’”

Washing a visitor’s feet was a common near Middle East practice.  If you wear open-toed sandals everywhere, your feet will get dirty and dusty.  You washed the feet of your dinner guests before they reclined for meal.  Simon had not done so.  Apparently, Simon regarded Jesus as one of the “commoners” of the community.  Jesus adds in verses 45-46, “You gave Me no kiss (a popular eastern greeting even today), but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in.  You did not anoint My head with oil (showing courtesy and hospitality), but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil.

The sinful woman

Did for Jesus


The morally religious

Person failed to do.

Perhaps Simon reasoned the way many professing Christians reason today: “Isn’t it enough that I invited you here?!” Isn’t it enough that I go to worship every Sunday?!”

Then we read this statement by Jesus in verse 47, “Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much.  But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.” 

Forgiven much . . .

Love much . . .

They go together:

If one knows his

Or her sins

To be many –

And is forgiven –

he or she will love

Much in response.

The sinful woman had been forgiven of her many sins.  Consequently, she loved much!  At some point she had placed her faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and knew therefore the loving forgiveness He brings.

We read in verses 48-50 that Jesus reassures her that her sins had been forgiven, “Then He said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’ And those who sat at the table with Him began to say to themselves, ‘Who is this who even forgives sins?’ Then He said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.’ 

There is a difference

Between being “religious”

And being saved.

The woman knew the difference.  When was the last time you shed a tear for your sin?  And if we know anything of the gospel, we too, know the difference.  And we will identify more with the prostitute than with the religious man.

Simon is detached, cold, and stoic.  It seems he wants Jesus to be there, but he also wants to keep Him at arm’s length.  He probably invited Jesus over for something of an academic experience or religious seminar.

Simon seems comfortable

So long as he himself

Is in control.

The woman,

On the other hand,

Gives up control.

She knows how dark her sin is in the presence of the bright light of Christ. She gives up control. She surrenders.

Only when we know

The depth of our sin

Are we able to know

The vastness of God’s mercy.

Geoff Thomas puts it another way: “If you figure that you are a ‘little sinner’ then all you need is a ‘little Savior.’  If you think you are a ‘moderate sinner’ then what you’ll need is a ‘moderate Savior.’  But if you are a ‘big sinner’ you’ll need a ‘big Savior.’  Those who have a little Savior will love him little, while those who have a big Savior will love him greatly.”

We all need a big Savior.  The religious people had muttered, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” (verse 49).  And this is precisely the point . . .

Jesus forgives sins

Because Jesus is God.

Jesus is a big Savior to all who know the depth of their sins.  This leads to several realities:

All Who Receive Jesus As Savior And Lord Will Have Genuine Love And Gratitude For Him.

The Pharisee doesn’t really see himself as much of a sinner.  He considers himself morally upright.  He keeps the Law.  He probably thought to himself: ”I would never live like this lowly prostitute!”  He really doesn’t regard himself as much of a sinner.  So how then does he treat Christ as a result?

He treats Christ as just a common, ordinary person.  He doesn’t give Him a proper greeting, doesn’t wash His feet, and is shocked when Jesus doesn’t recoil in disgust in the presence of the woman.

The woman, however, regards herself as a sinner.  She knows the depth of her sin.  By comparison, how then does she treat Christ?  She loves Him.  She has endless love for Christ and endless gratitude to Christ.

If you know you have

Been forgiven much,

You will love much.

If you know the

Depth of your sin,

You will love Jesus greatly.

You will never get over

The vastness of God’s mercy

In His forgiveness of you.

This is the whole point of Jesus’s parable.  Here is a lender who lends money to two people and each finds himself unable to repay the debt.  So the lender graciously absorbs the debt.

In these situations, debt is never truly cancelled.  It is simply transferred to another.  The payment of the two debtors is absorbed, or paid for, by the money lender.  Jesus equates Himself with the lender.  Indeed . . .

This is precisely what Christ accomplishes

For all who will believe in Him:

The debt of the woman – and the debt of the Pharisee – is absorbed, or transferred – to Jesus on the cross.

Jesus Christ pays off

The sin debt of others.

So . . .

It costs much for sinful women

And self-righteous Pharisees

To be forgiven.

It cost the death of Christ

On a Roman cross.

In one sense, it really doesn’t matter whether we regard ourselves as “a little sinner” or “a big-time sinner.”  If you’re on an airplane that will soon explode in the air, then it really doesn’t matter whether you are seated in first class or coach.  Self-righteousness, judgmentalism, and a critical spirit . . .

All these things vanish

When we realize

That before God

We are all sinners

Equally in need

Of a Savior.

The Pharisee was worried about getting a seat in first class, but he’s in the same predicament as the woman seated near the restroom in coach.

All Who Receive Jesus As Savior And Lord Will Have Genuine Love And Forgiveness For Others.

When you have experienced God’s forgiveness and the wideness of His mercy, and you identify with the sinful woman, then you are in a better position to understand and forgive others (your co-worker, your wife, your husband, your children etc.) when they hurt you.  When I am hurt or treated wrongly by others, I feel so justified in my anger.  Then, the Holy Spirit does His good work on me and I sense my Heavenly Father asking, “What about how you have treated Me?”  What about the times you have hurt Me, my son?  Do I not have a right to be angry with you?  Shall I stop forgiving you, cut off My mercy and My forgiveness towards you?”

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”




You Must Be Born Again

Grace For The Journey


28May  Years ago I overheard a few ladies talking to each other at a table next to me.  The volume of their conversation was such that it became impossible not to listen.  While talking about some other person who was not presently with them, one of the ladies said rather scornfully, “Well, you know, she’s a born again Christian.”   And right after she said that, everyone else was like, “Ugh!”  A born again Christian!”  Then one of the ladies responded glibly: “If you get it right the first time, you don’t have to do it again.”

There is some confusion about this term “born again Christian.”  The Barna Research firm doesn’t help us any when they classify a segment of polled Christians as those who are “born again.”  It suggests there is some distinction between one kind of Christian and another kind of Christian, if not a hierarchy among believers.

The Bible identifies all true Christians as those who have been “born again,” born from above, reborn in a spiritual sense.  This term then, strictly speaking, is not a term invented by Baptists or Pentecostals or even evangelicals at large.  It is a Bible term.  If anything, this term “born again” is a term invented by Jesus Christ.

We find it spoken by Jesus in John 3:1-21.  Jesus uses the term while talking with a religious person, a religious teacher of the Old Testament, named Nicodemus.  It seems clear that Nicodemus is a good man; outwardly upright and morally straight.  But Jesus minces no words while talking to this respectable, religious man: “You must be born again.”  As we seek to understand this concept, the Bible teaches us several things:

1) The Necessity of the New Birth.

Nicodemus is described in the passage as “a ruler of the Jews.”  We are told further that he had come to Jesus during the night.  Perhaps he came under the cover of darkness because he was seeking more information about Jesus, but didn’t want others to know.  It is also possible that Nicodemus came to Jesus at night as something of a representative of the Jewish ruling class.  He had said in verse 2, “Rabbi, we know (we Jewish leaders know) that You are a teacher come from God.”

This approach would be similar to the way a powerful politician might meet with an opposing colleague for dinner to see whether the person may be “won over” to the other side.   It is at least possible Nicodemus wanted to see whether Jesus was willing to be part of “their team” and thus under their control.

In any case, Jesus gets right to the heart of the matter by making this provocative statement in verse 3, “Jesus answered and said to him, “Verily, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’”  Here is the necessity of the new birth.  Unless one is born again, born from above, born a second time, he cannot – not he may not, nor even will not, but that he cannot – see the kingdom of God.

Apart from the new birth, a person cannot see.  He or she is blind to spiritual truth.  The Bible teaches that every person without Christ is “dead,” dead “in trespasses and sins”  (Ephesians 2:1).  We need rebirth.  We need God to birth us so that we can see.

Most are familiar with John Newton’s famous hymn:

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me;
I once was lost but now am found,
was blind, but now I see

New birth is necessary

Because without it,

We remain in spiritual darkness

And blindness and therefore

Outside of the realm and reign of God.

Verse 4 tells us, “Nicodemus said to Him, ‘How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?’”  Nicodemus is confused.  He’s thinking of the new birth in terms of age or stage.  He thinks Jesus is talking about his physical birthday when Jesus is talking about the need for a spiritual birthday.

Nicodemus must have thought, “How can a guy be born again when he’s in his 40s?  Does he enter a second time in his mother’s womb?  What in the world are you talking about, Jesus?!”

Verses 5 and 6 explain to us that, “Jesus answered, “Verily, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.’”  This is Jesus’ way of explaining that He is not talking about physical birth, but about spiritual birth.  Unless one is born of the water “and the Spirit,” he cannot enter the kingdom of God.  That which is born of the flesh is flesh (physical birth), and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit (spiritual birth).

Jesus is drawing upon the imagery in the Old Testament Book of Ezekiel. Speaking on the matter of renewing His people, God says through the prophet in Ezekiel 36:25-27, “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols.  I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes . . .”  The point is that Jesus is telling Nicodemus that if he hopes to see and enter in the Kingdom of God, including receiving the benefits of heaven, then he must be born again, born not just physically, but spiritually, too.

Verse 7 makes this clear, “Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’”  Jesus uses the plural pronoun here.  Literally, He says, “Do not marvel that I said to you all, that you all must be born again.”  If Nicodemus was, in fact, speaking on behalf of the Jewish Sanhedrin, Jesus essentially says, “Look, you all may be religious, you all may be good and respected, and you all may have power, but you all need to be born again.”  And what is true of the “you all” back then is true of the “you all” of today – you must be born again.

Many people have the wrong idea

About how to gain entrance

Into the kingdom of God.

  • Some are counting on their family’s being religious.
  • Some are counting on their own goodness.
  • Some are counting on the money they give to charitable causes.
  • Some are counting on their acts of kindness, doing good to others and so forth.

But Jesus is talking here to a man who very likely did all of those things, a guy who was very religious, a faithful member of the Pharisees.  Nicodemus practiced good deeds and did things for other people, yet he hears Jesus of Nazareth say to him, “You must be born again.”

2) The Mystery of the New Birth.

There is mystery in the rebirthing of a person.

The new birth is

Something God does.

He brings it about.

We don’t make

Ourselves “born again.”

God does it.

Strictly speaking, the term “born again” is best understood as God’s work of regeneration, a term that simply means that God takes out that old heart of stone, as Ezekiel called it, and replaces it with a heart of flesh.

God takes the initiative

By way of the Holy Spirit.

It’s not something we do,

Though we do respond to the work.

It is first, however, a work of God.

It’s very similar to physical birth.  No one has caused his or her own physical birth. Somebody else made that happen.  Similarly, no one can cause the Holy Spirit to move upon himself and birth himself.  God alone takes the initiative.

John makes this especially clear in the opening chapter of his Gospel where in John 1:13 he refers to children of God as those “who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”  Peter also stresses the regenerative work of God by the Spirit in 1 Peter 1:3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”

So God takes the initiative in causing this new birth.  And, at the same time, He also brings about a willing response on our part to receive Christ as Lord and Savior.  Admittedly this is a mystery; the sovereign work of God’s Spirit enabling and effectuating a willing response from man.  I believe that’s what Jesus is addressing in verses 8 and following when He says, “’The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.’ Nicodemus answered and said to Him, ‘How can these things be?’  Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things?’”  That must have humiliated Nicodemus!  Are you the teacher of Israel he should have know this!  Nicodemus “came by night” and he’s still “in the dark!”

But there is an aspect of the new birth that is mysterious.  Jesus says, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes.  So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

As the wind blows, you really can’t determine the wind’s precise origin or its ultimate destination.  You can, however, see the effects of the wind.  You hear it and you may also see the way things are affected by it.  Jesus says that this is all a bit like the mysterious nature of the new birth.  The Holy Spirit does the work.  Much of His work is mysterious and invisible to us, but one can see the visible effects of His work in the response of a changed person.

Just as you can tell when the wind is moving upon a tree, seeing the leaves move this way and that, so you can observe change in a person who has been born again.  You can tell the Holy Spirit has visited him and is filling him with His presence.

The hymn-writer alludes to this mysterious work in the classic hymn, “I know Whom I Have Believed.” 

I know not how the Spirit moves,
Convincing men of sin,
Revealing Jesus through the Word,
Creating faith in Him.

The next line is:

“But I know whom I have believed!”

Essentially, the writer is saying, “There’s a lot I don’t know about the mysterious work of God in regeneration and conversion, but this much I do know: I know Him!  I know whom I have believed!”  

3) The Simplicity of the New Birth.

While there is much mystery in the new birth, there is also simplicity in the new birth. Becoming a Christian calls for simple trust.

We have noted that . . .

We do not enter the kingdom of God

By being “religious,”

By being a good person,

By doing a bunch of good deeds,

Or giving our money to good causes.

The way we enter the kingdom

Is through simple faith and trust, a look to Christ.

Jesus explains in verse 13, “No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven.”  Jesus refers to Himself here. He is referring to the incarnation.  He is the One who has “come down” from heaven.  His being “lifted up” illustrates the crucifixion as verses 14-15 state, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”

Jesus refers to the sin of Israel recorded in Numbers 21:4-9.  God’s people had complained and spoken against Him so God judged them by sending serpents to them.  Many were bitten by the serpents and died.  Moses prayed for the Israelites and God answered by instructing Moses to make a bronze serpent and hold it up on a staff.  Whoever looked upon the bronze serpent was healed from the judgment and, rather than dying, lived.

Jesus makes a connection: “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent so that others could look upon it and live, so must the Son of Man be lifted up so that whoever looks upon Him will live.”  The Son of Man is lifted up on the cross.  The Son of Man is the One who takes the judgment of sin upon Himself so that the judged may go free.  We look upon Him by believing.

This is the context of a well-known Bible verse (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.”  We must look upon Jesus.  We must believe in Him, believing what the Bible teaches about Him, believing that He took the judgment for our sin.  If we believe, then we have eternal life.  That’s the simplicity of the new birth experience: Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.

This simple belief, however, includes a turning away from sin that results in condemnation.  This truth becomes clearer as we read on in verse 17, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”  The reason God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world is because the world is condemned already.  Verse 18 states, “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

Remember that we are born into this world with a problem and the problem is sin.  We inherited the problem from our first parents, Adam and Eve.  Because of sin man, in his natural state, is under condemnation.  Man is under the judgment of God.  He is “condemned already.”  In fact, the very last verse of this chapter, John 3:36, states the matter succinctly: “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe in the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”  If the wrath of God “abides on him,” then it must have been there already.

Some years ago I saw an ironic bumper sticker on a car.  Instead of the words “Born again,” it read: “Born against.”  I assume the owner of the sticker meant this phrase as a humorous parody of the phrase “born again.”  That bumper sticker, however, illustrated more truth than is likely the driver realized.  We are all “born against,” born into the world naturally against the things of God.  We have a sin nature and we are under God’s judgment.  Mankind is under the judgment of God.  We all are “condemned already.”

Jesus Christ came into the world

To take care of this

Condemnation because of sin.

He didn’t come to condemn us.

He didn’t come to add to our condemnation,

He came to fix our condemnation.

He came to fix our sin problem.

If we fail to turn to Christ, we remain under condemnation, a state Jesus explains further in verses 19 through 21, “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.  For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.  But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.”

Belief in the Lord Jesus Christ includes a turning away from evil deeds, turning away from sin.  This is repentance; leaving the darkness and stepping into the light.  This is the only way we may be saved.  We must leave the darkness and step into the light by looking upon the Lord Jesus Christ.

There is no other way to enter into the kingdom of God – You must be born again.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”


Unbound And Free!

Grace For The Journey


27May  Four days late for a funeral!  Many pastors have run behind for funerals, but I never met one who took four days to show up.  Yet, this is precisely what Jesus does in John 11:1-44.

Jesus knew his friend Lazarus would not ultimately remain dead so He said to the disciples, “Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up” (verse 11).  And the disciples don’t get it.  Not realizing Jesus is using sleep as a metaphor, they replied, “Lord, if he sleeps he will get well” (verse 12).  So, Jesus gives it to them straight: “Lazarus is dead” (verse 14).

What follows is one of the most remarkable miracles of the New Testament.  Verses 17-19 describe what happens, “So when Jesus came, He found that he had already been in the tomb four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles away.  And many of the Jews had joined the women around Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother.”  When someone died in those days, it was a community event.  There were folks who mourned with the family for at least a week and there were even folks who mourned for others as something of a profession or job.  These were likely folks especially gifted in compassion and mercy, setting the scene, and helping others feel comfortable as they grieved.

Verses 20-21 describe further what happens, “Now Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met Him, but Mary was sitting in the house. Now Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.”

Martha comes across at times like Peter, having a tendency to speak before thinking everything through.  Maybe she catches herself, the way we do when we cannot ourselves believe what we hear ourselves saying, as she adds in verses 22-24, “Of course, I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.”  And Jesus replies: ‘Your brother will rise again.’  Martha said to Him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.’”  Martha knew her theology.  She knew, for example, what most orthodox Jews believed, a general resurrection “at the last day,” a general resurrection of all persons at the end of time.

In verse 25, Jesus makes a powerful claim, “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.’” 

This is such a wondrous claim to deity!

“I am the resurrection and the life.”

Not, “I will bring about resurrection,”

Or, “I will cause resurrection; though He would,

But, “I am the resurrection and the life!”

When Jesus says, “I AM,” He is equating Himself with God.  This is one of seven of the so-called “I am” statements in John’s Gospel.  He’s using the words God used to describe Himself to Moses back at the burning bush in Exodus 3.  Moses had asked God, “Who shall I say sent me,” i.e., “How shall I refer to You?”  And God says, “I AM!  Tell them that ‘I Am’ has sent you.”

Jesus uses that same designation of Himself.

This is one of those statements of Jesus

That shows us why we cannot think

Of Him as merely a good moral teacher.

It’s just not an option to speak of Jesus

As merely a good, moral teacher.

A good moral teacher does not go around saying things like, “I am the resurrection and the life.”  You’re either a liar, a deceiver, or a crazy person if you go around saying that.  There is one other option, of course, and that is, if you go around saying, “I am the resurrection and the life” you can say it because it is true, because you are, in fact, God

Jesus goes on to proclaim in verses 26-27, “’And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?’ She said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.’”  That’s a strong confession of faith right there!  In essence, Martha is saying, “Yes, I believe You are more than a good moral teacher.  You are Lord.  You are the Christ, the Messiah, the Savior, the Son of God, the very one who is to come into the world.”

Verses 28-31 state, “And when she had said these things, she went her way and secretly called Mary her sister, saying, ‘The Teacher has come and is calling for you.’  As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly and came to Him.  Now Jesus had not yet come into the town, but was in the place where Martha met Him.  Then the Jews who were with her (with Mary) in the house, and comforting her, when they saw that Mary rose up quickly and went out, followed her, saying, ‘She is going to the tomb to weep there.’”  The folks mourning with Mary follow her out, assuming that she is now going out to the tomb to weep there.

God is working behind the events

To get eye-witnesses to the to the tomb,

To witness a forthcoming miracle.

Verses 32-35 says, “Then, when Mary came where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying to Him, ‘“Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.’  Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled.  And He said, ‘Where have you laid him?’  They said to Him, ‘Lord, come and see.’  Jesus wept.  It is as though everything about this moment – the death of Lazarus, the grief, the mourning, the consequences of sin and the fall of mankind – all of this causes Jesus to groan deeply in His spirit.

The last two words there, “Jesus wept,” comprise the shortest verse in the Bible.  As Isaiah prophesied of the Messiah some 700 years earlier in Isaiah 53, He was “a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3).  Jesus weeps because we weep.  Like the mourners who were with Mary and Martha, Jesus is with us – always!  He is always with us – and He weeps with us.  He loves us and grieves right along with us.  The Jews see Jesus weeping and they respond in verse 36, “Then the Jews said, ‘See how He loved him!’  And some of them said, “Could not this Man, who opened the eyes of the blind, also have kept this man from dying?’”  Well of course He could have!  But He will be doing something far greater than merely keeping a man from dying.

Verses 38-39 state, Then Jesus, again groaning in Himself, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, ‘Take away the stone.’  Martha, the sister of him who was dead, said to Him, ‘Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.’”

That’s just the reality of the situation.  There is no doubt that Lazarus is dead.  It’s been four days.  He is not merely unconscious.  He had died and everybody knew it.  You can wrap up a dead body and put spices throughout the wrapping, but after four days no amount of spices can cover up the stench of death.  So Martha essentially says, “Jesus, I don’t think it’s a good idea to remove the stone from the tomb.”

Verses 40-42 say, “Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?’ Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, ‘Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.’” 

This prayer to the Father is more like a praise to the Father.  Jesus is teaching everyone standing around there that what He is about to do is being done so that all may believe that He had been sent by the Father.

Verses 43-44 tells us, “Someone said that it was good that Jesus specified Lazarus by name otherwise Jesus would have emptied the entire tomb as every dead person would have arose in obedience to the Lord’s command!   Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come forth!’  And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with grave clothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Loose him, and let him go.’”  And just like that.  The one who was dead came out alive.

Someone said that it was good that Jesus specified Lazarus by name otherwise Jesus would have emptied the entire tomb as every dead person would have arose in obedience to the Lord’s command!  Lazarus came out, still all wrapped up in the grave clothes, cloths of wrappings.  Jesus says, “Loose him,” or, “Unbind him,” and, “let him go.”

Lazarus leaves the graveyard a new man

– He leaves the graveyard alive!

Unbound and free.

There’s a lot going on in this passage, but let’s consider what it teaches us about the nature of God.

As J.I. Packer wrote: “Whatever else in the Bible catches your eye, do not let it distract you from Him.”

1) God Works His Perfect Purposes through our Sickness.

Jesus had said in verse 4, “This sickness is not unto death but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”  Some sicknesses are the direct result of sin in our lives and other sicknesses are more directly tied to something else that God is doing through the illness, like His bringing glory to Himself by miraculously healing a person.  In either case, God works His perfect purposes through our sickness.  And we could add that He works through our sufferings, too.

This is so important to remember when you are dealing with a temporary sickness or a more prolonged sickness.  Remember that God is always in control and that He always does what is right.  Sickness and suffering are part of God’s permissive will.  God allows sickness in our lives to accomplish much greater purposes, things that bring Him great glory.  It may be He intends to heal so miraculously that our only response is: “God did that!”  

But it is not always God’s will to heal our sicknesses.  The Apostle Paul had some kind of malady he described as a “thorn in the flesh” and he prayed several times for God to remove it, but God didn’t.  In fact, Paul seems to understand that there was a greater purpose God was working in and through his sickness.  He heard the Lord say, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).  Paul essentially replied, “Okay, if this is all about my becoming strong through my weakness, then it must be good.”

God is often working out something

Far greater than we may be able

To see at the moment.

Never think that God has forgotten you in your sickness whether it is the flu, COVID-19, alzheimer’s, or cancer.  God is in control and He is working through your sickness and suffering to accomplish His perfect purposes.

  • Maybe He is strengthening your faith through your sickness, or maybe He is drawing someone else to faith in Christ through your suffering.
  • Maybe He intends to heal though the gift of modern medicine or in some other way no one could have ever imagined.

2) God’s Timing is Perfect .

Jesus shows up four days late for a funeral, how can that possibly be perfect timing?! Well again, Jesus knows all things so He knows what is coming up and what He’s going to do about it.

Mary and Martha had no doubt prayed much to God while Lazarus was sick.  They had prayed and also sent word for Jesus to come.  Jesus gets their message, but chooses to stay put for two more days.

Sometimes Jesus doesn’t act

As quickly as we think He should.

Maybe you pray to Him and you’re like, “Lord Jesus, please do this” and you are praying for something to happen according to your clock.  We pray, “Lord, give me this job, grant us a child, change my husband’s heart, save my friend, heal my disease, give favor to my son or daughter.”  And the sense is: “Do it now!”  When you find yourself praying like that and Jesus doesn’t seem to be acting as quickly as you’d like, go back to this passage in John 11 and remember that Jesus was working according to a perfect timetable.

Our Lord knows all future events exhaustively.

He knows all the intricate details

And is working through every single one of them

To accomplish His perfect purposes.

And at just the right time.

This truth is often more obvious to us after the fact.  We look back over recent events and we can see God’s hand at work.  Had he acted sooner or later, the timing would have been off.

God says through the prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 46:9-10, “I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure,’”

And because God’s counsel and

Pleasure are good and right,

God always acts in good

And right ways.

The point is you can trust Him!

When things don’t go like you hoped they would, trust Him.  He knows what He is doing in your life and in the life of your family, your job, your career, your sickness, your friendships, your marriage.  God not only knows what He is doing, but exactly when to do it, when to move.

3) God Offers Life through Jesus Christ.

This is the most important takeaway.  The resurrection of Lazarus anticipates Christ’s resurrection.  Jesus says in verse 25, “I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in Me shall never die.”  The preposition used in verse 25 may be better translated “He who believes into Me shall never die.”  When we believe in Christ, there is a sense in which we believe into Him.  And so we are “in Christ.”  We are safe and secure.  We are in Him.  All of our sin is forgiven and covered by Him and He covers us with His righteousness.  All because we have believed into Him.

This final public miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead strengthens the resolve of the unbelieving Jews to do away with Christ.  It drives their final push for Christ’s arrest and leads to His death upon a cross.  All of this was surely upon the mind of the all-knowing Savior.  He knew that if He raised Lazarus from the dead, the religious establishment would try to kill Him.  And so He knew the only way to bring Lazarus out of the grave was to put Himself into the grave.”

Isn’t that a great truth?

The only way to bring Lazarus out of the grave

Was for Jesus to put Himself into the grave.

Jesus put Himself into the grave for us.  He took upon Himself our penalty, the punishment for our sin.  He bore our punishment.  And He rose from the dead to show that our debt has been paid in full.  Our penalty has been taken and God approves of the perfect sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ.

It is on this basis Jesus can say, “I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in Me shall never die.”  What that should lead us to do is . . .  Believe in Christ and become unbound and free!

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”



Power To Forgive Sins

Grace For The Journey


26May  I like jokes and riddles.  I always have.  When I was young I had this book entitled, The Big Book of Jokes and Riddles.  Even today I have a pastor friend who when we talk or get together somewhere in the conversation he says, “Let me tell you the latest joke I heard” because he knows I like that.   Just a couple of his latest ones are: “Who can jump higher than a mountain?”  Do you know?  The answer: “Anyone. Mountains can’t jump.” And “When you have me you want to share me; when you share me I no longer exist.  What am I?”  If you guessed, “a secret,” you would be right.

Jesus tells a riddle in Matthew 9:1-8.  He asks, “Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise and walk?’”  That’s a good question – and a good riddle! In today’s blog we will look at these verses for the answer.

Verses 1-2 say, “So He got into a boat, crossed over, and came to His own city. Then behold, they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, ‘Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.’”

Note carefully what Jesus says to the paralyzed man: “Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.”  Here we learn the first truth in this passage:

1) There Are Occasions Where Sickness Is A Direct Consequence Of Sin.

That statement raises a couple of questions.  First, it seems to suggest that, at least in this case, the paralytic may be paralyzed because of some personal sin in his life.  Jesus knows this so He says, “Your sins are forgiven you.”  There are occasions where sickness is a direct consequence of sin.

  • An alcoholic, for example, won’t be surprised if he is found to have severe liver trouble.
  • Someone who abuses their body in other ways, a chronic smoker for example, will not be surprised to learn he has lung cancer or emphysema.
  • Or the promiscuous lifestyle of an individual may lead to some kind of sexual disease.

Most of us would acknowledge there are cases where there is a more obvious link between sinful behavior and the consequence of bodily harm, disease, or injury.

Yet, not all sickness is directly tied to personal sin.  Sickness is the inevitable result of living in a fallen world due to original sin, sin that has been in the world since Genesis 3.

This is why even when we are healed of sickness we eventually become sick again.

Sickness is inevitable

And God often uses sickness

And other health challenges

To accomplish His perfect will,

Things He does for His glory

And for our good

Or the good of others.

One thing is clear in this passage . . .

Jesus shows us that

While paralysis is a problem,

The man’s need for forgiveness

Is the greater, more fundamental problem.

 Verse 3 states, “And at once some of the scribes said within themselves, ‘This Man blasphemes!’”  And the other Gospel writers tell us why they said that . . .

They had asked,

“Who can forgive sins,

But God alone?!”

Essentially, the scribes and religious teachers say, “Jesus is dishonoring God by taking upon Himself the authority to forgive sins.  He can’t do that!  Only God can forgive sins!”  And that is absolutely true – Only God can forgive sins – And that’s the point, isn’t it?!

Jesus forgives sin

Because He is God.

This is one of those places in the New Testament where it is really clear that Jesus is, in fact, God in the flesh.  After all, who can forgive sins but God alone?

Verse 4 says, “But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, ‘Why do you think evil in your hearts?’”  Here again is an illustration of the deity of Jesus Christ: He even knows the thoughts of the scribes.  I’d like to think that if I were one of the religious teachers, this would make a believer out of me!  I’d be like, “How did He know what I was thinking?! He must be God!”

Then Jesus asks in verse 5, “For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise and walk?’”  Wow, what a question to ask.  Which do you think is easier to say?  It seems easier to say, “Your sins are forgiven,” because there’d be no way for anyone to see whether it had actually happened.

Sin is an inside job.  So a person could say another’s sins were forgiven, but there would be no way to prove it.  No one could verify that his or her sins had been forgiven. So maybe it happened, maybe it didn’t.  On the other hand, if you’re going to say, “Hey, paralyzed man: get up!  Arise, take up your bed and go home,” then you’d better be sure you can deliver!  Everyone’s eyes will be on the paralyzed man, watching to see whether he can walk.

Here is the second truth brought out in this passage:

2) Jesus Shows That He Is Able To Do What Is Unseen By Doing What Is Seen

Jesus shows that He can

Change the inside

Of a person by changing

The outside of a person.

Christ proves that He has the power to forgive sin by healing the man of his paralysis.  That’s why He answers the riddle the way He does:

Jesus shows that

He is able to do

What is unseen

By doing what is seen

Verses 6-7 state, “But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins – then He said to the paralytic, ‘Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.’  And he arose and departed to his house.” 

Now everyone can see.  And the point?  Simply this:

Jesus is more than just a man.

He is God in the flesh.

That this paralyzed man

Arose is evidence – visible evidence –

Of the authority of Jesus to forgive sin.

Of His Power to forgive sins.

Verse 8 says, “Now when the multitudes saw it, they marveled and glorified God, who had given such power to men.”  It’s like the crowd has now become paralyzed!  And the story ends.  But the truths God wants us to know don’t.

3) Our Greatest Need is Spiritual, not Physical

By saying to the paralyzed man, “Your sins are forgiven you,” Jesus illustrates that of the two needs this man has – one physical and one spiritual – and that the greater of the two needs is spiritual.

We may well be concerned for physical healing of our family, friends, and neighbors.  And we should be.   But their greatest need is not physical healing, but spiritual healing.  Your greatest need is not your physical well-being.  It is your spiritual well-being.  Remember . . .

Even if we are healed of sickness,

We will eventually get sick again.

So, our greatest need is not physical, but spiritual.

How important this is for Christians to remember during this COVID-19 season!  We may well be concerned for physical protection and healing of our friends, family, and neighbors.  We should be.  But their greatest need is not physical healing, but spiritual healing.  We must share with them the Gospel.  That is what they need most.

How many people will be in heaven because of you?  Because you knew that their greatest need was their spiritual need for Jesus?

There is a fourth truth revealed in these verses:

4) Jesus Alone Meets Our Greatest Need.

No other religion offers forgiveness as Christ offers forgiveness.  All the other major religions – whether Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, New Age teachings – all of them teach something like this:

Here’s what you need to do.

And if you’ll do these things,

Then maybe, just maybe,

Through this process, or reincarnation,

It will all be okay for you in the end

– Maybe.”

Christianity is not that!

Christianity is not our working our way

Up to God or working through some process

Of trying to earn His favor.

Christianity is God’s coming down to us

To do for ourselves what we cannot do –

Live a perfect life

By fulfilling all

The righteous demands

Of Scripture and dying a death

That pays the penalty

We deserve for breaking

All the righteous demands of God.

God does this for us in Jesus Christ.

He lives for us, died for us, and

Rose from the dead for us.

He does all this that we may be justified –

Declared righteous in the sight of God

Because of the work of His Son, Jesus Christ.

It is interesting that the word Matthew uses when describing Jesus’ command to the paralyzed man – “Arise” – is the same word he uses in Chapter 28 where he records the resurrection of Christ.  Remember that the angel had said to the women at the tomb: “He is not here; for He is risen.”  That is the same word as “arise.”  And it makes sense, doesn’t it?  After all, the only way this man – this paralyzed man – can “arise” is because Christ will “arise” for him.

The very reason Jesus can say,

“Your sins are forgiven you,”

Is because He Himself will pay

The penalty of this man’s sins on the cross.

Jesus alone meets our greatest need – our need for forgiveness.

Here is a fifth truth from this passage:

5) Only Jesus Continues To Meet Our Greatest Need.

When Jesus healed this paralyzed man, Matthew tells us in verse 8 that the crowd “marveled and glorified God.”

That’s the right response

To an encounter with Jesus!

There is the joy and wonder of God’s working through Christ.  It is important to remember this every day of our Christian lives.  We have to rekindle the fire of our love for Jesus each and every day.  A Christian may recall fondly: “I remember how great I felt when I got saved!  It was awesome!”  And so it was. But . . .

Christianity is an ongoing,

Continual experience.

We must remember that the Jesus who met our spiritual need back then continues to meet our spiritual need right now – each and every day.   If we will do this, then we will stay in love with Christ each and every day and we will stay away from the danger of sin and temptation.

Always remember that when we choose to sin we are substituting a cheap satisfaction for the all-satisfying Jesus Christ.  Sin is a substitute for the joy of Christ.  It is a lack of our delighting in Him and His promises.

You can’t change merely by changing your thinking,

Or through great acts of your will,

But rather by changing what you love most.

Change happens not only by giving your mind new truths

Though it does involve that — but also by

Feeding the soul and heart new beauties

That will lead you to love Jesus supremely.

We change when we change

What we worship the most.

How do we do that?

By seeing that Jesus’ own heart was crushed

And broken as he died on the Cross

For us (Psalm 22:14).

It is as we worship a crucified

And rise Savior

That our hearts are transformed.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”


From Prison To Paradise

Grace For The Journey


25May  One of the most illuminating encounters with Christ occurs in the midst of darkness and despair.  It is Luke’s recording of the “thief on the cross.”  There are actually two thieves recorded in the passage – one on either side of Jesus – and all three men are dying by crucifixion, condemned to die on Roman crosses.  JC Ryle said these verses “deserve to be printed in letters of gold” and a close study of the passage reveals why.  Here is what the Bible says in Luke 23:39-43, “Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, ‘If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.’  But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation?  And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.’  Then he said to Jesus, ‘Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.’  And Jesus said to him, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.’

The Bible teaches that we can learn a great deal about the entirety of a person based upon that person’s heart (Proverbs 3:23), so let’s look at this passage in terms of three men and three hearts.

1) A Stubborn Heart. 

This is the heart of the thief, or criminal, hanging on the one side of Jesus.  Verse 39 says, “Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, ‘If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.’”  This first thief has a heart that is hardened to the things of Christ.  Even in death he “blasphemed Him,” which is to speak irreverently about God.  We might think a person at the brink of death would at least be open to spiritual things, but not this man.

If ever there were an apt illustration of how man – apart from the grace that awakens faith – remains spiritually dead in trespasses and sin, then this man’s stubborn heart illustrates just that.  Unless God imparts a grace that awakens and regenerates our cold, dark hearts, we remain steadfast in sin.

The hymn writer wrote about this in the traditional hymn, “I Know Whom I Have Believed.”  God Himself actually “creates” our faith in Christ:

I know not how the Spirit moves,
Convincing men of sin,
Revealing Jesus through the Word,
Creating faith in Him.

This is a solemn reminder that if ever you sense the Spirit of God moving upon your heart to convince you of sin, then do not harden your heart.  Do not allow your heart to remain stubborn and closed.  Allow it to soften and receive Jesus Christ as Lord of your life.

This first man’s heart was stubborn.  He blasphemed Christ.  He sneered: “If you are the Christ, save Yourself and us.”  This stubborn thief joined the blasphemy of the crowd and the rulers who had also sneered at Him earlier.  They had said in Luke 3:35, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if He is the Christ, the chosen of God.”

“He saved others.”  They couldn’t deny that He had saved others.  Indeed, there were others who had been saved when encountering Christ.

  • There was Zacchaeus whose tax collecting business was entirely upended.
  • There was blind Bartimaeus.,
  • There was the healing of the Syrophoenician woman’s daughter.
  • There was the healing of the Nobleman’s son.
  • There was the son of the widow of Nain.

It is true: “He saved others.”  They couldn’t deny that He had saved others – yet their hearts remained stubbornly shut.

A Softened Heart.

Consider next the heart of the criminal hanging on the other side of Jesus.  Verses 40-41 state, “But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation?  And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.’”

Interestingly, Matthew and Mark both report in their Gospels that this second criminal had also railed against Christ initially (Matthew 27:44 and Mark 15:32).  This second criminal once had a stubborn heart, but in the span of some six hours of hanging on the cross, his heart has softened.

God can work a great deal in a man’s heart

In six hours (or six minutes, for that matter!).

This second criminal may have been reflecting on what he had perhaps overheard: Jesus’ talking with Pilate about a kingdom not of this world.  Or maybe the criminal had looked over at Jesus when he heard Him praying earlier: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” (Luke 23:34). Or perhaps he had looked upon the title that had been hammered above Jesus’ head and read the words, “King of the Jews?”

Something had happened.  Something changed his mind.

One thing is clear . . .

He has a new heart,

A softened heart,

A regenerated heart.

This second criminal with the softened heart now rebukes the first criminal with the stubborn heart.  In essence, he says, “We deserve what we’re getting, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.”  

From the lips of a condemned criminal comes a theological truth taught throughout the Scriptures – the sinlessness of Christ.  He never sinned, not once.  This thief acknowledges as much with the words, “This Man has done nothing wrong.” (see also Luke 23:4, 15, 22).

Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

God made Christ, who was sinless, who had done nothing wrong, to “be sin for us,” to take our sins upon Himself.  To die for our sins.  To bear the punishment we deserved for our sin.

One man died IN sin.

One mad died TO sin.

And One man died FOR sin.

Christ can be our substitute only if He is sinless.  And because He is sinless, He is perfect.  He has a righteousness that is impeccable and we can receive that righteousness by believing in Him and receiving Him as Lord.  It’s remarkable . . .

At His crucifixion

Jesus is stripped

Of His garment,

Becoming naked,

So that we

Who have nothing

May be clothed

In His righteousness.

The first criminal had seen Jesus’ cross as a contradiction of His messiahship.  This second criminal sees the cross as a confirmation of His messiahship.

We have nothing to offer Him.  We are like condemned criminals.  In the familiar hymn text of Augustus Toplady:

Nothing in my hands I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress,
Helpless, look to Thee for grace

The second criminal knows this.  He makes no demands upon Christ.

Verse 42 says, “Then he said to Jesus, ‘Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.’”

Here is both a cry


A confession of faith.

The man believes in Christ.  He calls upon “Jesus” – which means “Savior.”  He also addresses Him as “Lord” and refers to His “kingdom,” believing Christ to be a King.

The criminal offers no reason why Christ should remember him.  Nor does he offer any work that might merit his salvation.  He does not say, for example, “Lord, you know how good I have been.  You know how kind I have been to the poor and downtrodden.  Lord, you know how much I have given to charity.”  No.  He has nothing to commend himself to Jesus.  He simply asks for what He does not deserve.

Think about this . . .

The first thief made a demand for what he believed he deserved.

The second thief made a request for what he knew he did not deserve.

We are saved entirely by grace through faith in Christ alone.  We do nothing to commend ourselves to God.  We have nothing to offer Him, nothing that makes us more “savable.”

If we are saved it is because God approves of us in His Son.  We are accepted by God on the basis of Christ and His righteousness alone.  This is true not only at the beginning of salvation but all throughout our lives.  We are loved by God perfectly.

He’ll never love us any less

When we don’t do what is right

– And –

He’ll never love us any more

When we do what is right.

We never become any more “lovable” or acceptable.  We are saved entirely by grace through faith in Christ alone.

Here’s how the great theologian B.B. Warfield put it: “There is nothing in us or done by us, at any stage of our earthly development, because of which we are acceptable to God.  We must always be accepted for Christ’s sake, or we cannot ever be accepted at all.  This is not true of us only when we believe.  It is just as true after we have believed.  It will continue to be true as long as we live.  Our need of Christ does not cease with our believing; nor does the nature of our relation to Him or to God through Him ever alter, no matter what our attainments in Christian graces or our achievements in behavior may be.  It is always on His “blood and righteousness” alone that we can rest.

The first man has a stubborn heart.  The second man has a softened heart.  The third Man – who is more than a Man! has:

A Saving Heart.

Verse43 says, “And Jesus said to him, ‘Verily, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.’”  Here are the words of our loving Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  He says to the dying thief who asks to be remembered in heaven, “I say this to you because it is a fact, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”  Paradise is a synonym for heaven.  Heaven is called paradise in two other places in the New Testament: 2 Corinthians 12:4 and Revelation2:7.  The word always conveys the meaning of heaven.

Jesus Christ has a saving heart –

A heart that can save

All who will believe

(2 Peter 3:9).

These truth lead us to some wonderful and comforting principles for the child of God.

There Is Personality Beyond Death.

Jesus says to the believing criminal, “Today you will be with Me.”  Jesus’ words highlight the truth that there is the continuing existence of a person beyond death.  The personal pronouns “you” and “me” indicate that who a believer is in this life, carries over into the life beyond the grave.

There is personal identity in heaven.

Jesus says to the believing criminal, “Today, you will be with Me.”  He says, “You,” which is to say “I know you.  I will recognize you.  And you will recognize Me.”

There is identity and recognition of one another in heaven.

Christians will recognize one another in heaven.  We will see and know our loved ones who have died in the Lord.  When asked whether we will know one another in heaven, an old, uneducated pastor said wisely, “We won’t be any dumber up there than we are down here!”  And that is true!  Even more significantly, we have biblical passages such as this one that indicate there is personality beyond death; identity and recognition of one another.

There is a reunion that occurs immediately at death. 

As soon as the Christian takes his last breath on this earth, he takes his next breath in heaven.  The Bible does not teach some strange doctrine of “soul sleep.”  Once the Christian dies, his soul goes immediately to heaven.  As Jesus says, Today you will be with Me.”  And as Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:8, to be “absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.”

There Is A Place Beyond Death

Jesus says, “Today you will be with Me in Paradise.”  This is a great word to describe heaven!  Whatever our notions of paradise are here on earth – a tropical beach, snow-covered mountains, beautiful gardens – these earthly ideas all pale in comparison to the splendor and glory of heavenly paradise.

It is a heavenly paradise reserved only for those who believe.  Paradise is only for Christians.  We must believe in Jesus Christ, trusting in Him alone to save us from the penalty of our sin in order to enter into this Paradise.  Like the criminal who cried, “Lord, remember me when you come into Your kingdom,” we too must believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, believing in Him, receiving Him as Savior in order to enter heaven.

There is a place not mentioned by Jesus in this particular passage – but mentioned elsewhere by Him – a place where those who do not know Him go – another place, the place where the other criminal went, a place the Bible calls hell.  But we can avoid the imprisonment of hell if we believe in Christ as Lord and Savior.  If we do, we have the assurance of entering into the Paradise of Heaven.  And Jesus is the only way there.  He said Himself in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes unto the Father except by Me.” 

There Is A Person beyond Death

Jesus says, “You will be with ME.”  Beyond death, there is Jesus.  Jesus, whose name means “Savior.”  Jesus, who loves you; loving you so much that He died for your sins.  Jesus, who wants you to be with Him in Paradise.

People like to imagine what heaven is like.  In the Book of Revelation, the Apostle John does his best to describe it.  But . . .

What really makes heaven heavenly

Is that it is the place where our Savior is.

It is where Jesus Christ is.

Heaven is heavenly not primarily because

The streets are made of gold and

The gates are made of pearl.

Heaven is heavenly because

The love of our life is there: Jesus Christ.

Heaven is heavenly because the One who shed His blood in atonement for our sins is there.

The dying thief rejoiced to see that fountain in his day;
And there may I, though vile as he, wash all my sins away.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”


Wilderness Survival

Grace For The Journey


22May  Bear Grylls and wilderness survival go hand-in-hand.  I can’t think of one without thinking of the other.  Bear Grylls is the British adventurer who was frequently abandoned in the wilderness – often parachuting from helicopters – and left to survive on his own (except for the cameraman, of course!).  I first learned about him by coming across his popular television show Man vs. Wild.  In each episode Grylls used the natural elements to form shelter, collect food, and fight off wild animals.  It really was an awesome show of surviving in hostile environments.

The fourth chapter of Matthew’s Gospel also contains an episode of wilderness survival.  To be sure, the “characters” are very different from an engaging television show and there is much more at stake than mere broadcast ratings!  In Matthew 4:1-11, we read of Jesus Christ being tempted 40 days and 40 nights in the wilderness.  The account is not so much about wilderness survival as it is about the Son of God’s authority over the powers of darkness.

Among other things, we can lean how to survive those times we are in our own “wilderness” of sorts; a difficult time of testing, a season of struggle, or a period of doubt, uncertainty, and darkness.  Especially those times when you feel like the devil himself has come into your world, climbed into your car, moved into your house, or come alongside you as an uninvited guest to tempt you to turn away from the God you love and the Christ you serve.  It is at those times that we can draw upon the power of the truths in this passage.

1) Remember The Nature Of The Son.

Remember who Christ is, that He’s not merely some religious teacher, prophet, or Jewish rabbi.  He is those things, but He is more than those things.  In order to really appreciate what the Bible records about the temptation of Christ, it is important to recall what immediately precedes this account.  The very last verse of the preceding chapter (chapter 3), Matthew records the words of the Heavenly Father with reference to Christ’s baptism.  He writes: “And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17)  And the very next verse is verse 1 of chapter 4 which begins with the word “Then.”  Matthew writes: “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.”

What’s the connection?

Just two verses later, Satan says to Jesus: “If You are the Son of God…”  The Father has declared Jesus to be His Son and the devil immediately questions the Son’s authority: “If You are the Son God…”  The devil does not say, “Since You are…” or even, “Because You are..,” but “If You are…” 

Satan wants to instill doubt in the mind of Jesus.

Satan wants Jesus to doubt the truth of God’s Word.

That’s what the devil always does.  He wants everyone to doubt God’s Word.

Remember how Satan tempted Eve way back in Genesis 3?  Did he not cause her to question God’s Word?  Remember the way he put it: “Did God really say you shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” 

Satan is relentless in his efforts

To instill doubt in the minds

Oof those who hear God’s Word.

He will do everything he can to keep us

From believing in God and trusting in Christ.

I really think one of the reasons some say they do not believe in a literal devil is because they have got the wrong idea of him, the wrong picture of the devil in their minds.  They picture him in a silly red mask that comes with a Halloween costume.  An impish sort of creature who doesn’t really say much, but just walks around sticking people with a plastic pitchfork.

The Bible describes Satan as . . .

  • A liar,
  • A tempter,
  • A deceiver,
  • An accuser.
  • The adversary.

The one who goes about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour (cf. Job 1-2; 3 Corinthians 4:4; 1 Thessalonians 3:5; 1 Peter 5:8; Revelation 12:10).

Satan’s ultimate aim is to instill doubt in our minds about the truth of God.  He tries his level best to get us to turn away from Christ, to doubt God’s goodness, and to doubt His nature as the one true and living God who has taken on human flesh in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus IS the Son of God.  It is so important that we understand this truth.  If Jesus is not the Son of God, then we are left with nothing but a dead, cold religion.  Think about it . . .

If Jesus is not the Son of God,

Then it is entirely up to us

To get in a position

Of favor with God.

We will have to keep

All the commands of the Bible

Perfectly, consistently, and entirely.

But we cannot do that, our good deeds will not make up for it, so we die.  Yet our death will not atone for our sins.  Because God is infinite our sins would require an infinite payment.  Infinite!  No amount of works on our part could ever satisfy His righteous demands.  If Christ is not the Son of God, we are in trouble.

But of course, Christ is the Son of God!  His nature is divine.  In Jesus Christ, deity takes on humanity as God wraps Himself in human flesh.  He lives a perfect life for which we can receive credit if we trust in Him.  And He dies a substitutionary death that atones for sin if we believe in Him and receive Him as Lord and Savior.

This is why Christ’s nature is so important!  God the Son is perfectly good, infinitely good, infinitely righteous, infinitely holy.  He is perfect in all His ways – and He perfectly trusts in the goodness of His Father to meet His needs.

Whatever you are facing right now,

Whatever it is that Satan is trying

To use against you,

Have the wisdom to see

That Satan is trying to get you

To doubt the Father’s care for you.

That’s what Satan does.

He does his best to get you

To question God, to doubt God,

To be angry at God.

Satan doesn’t want you walking in victory.  He wants you to wallow in defeat.

Trust God to know and provide for your every need.  Trust God in your wilderness and believe that He knows what He is doing.  He’s at work and He always does the right thing.

2) Remember The Nearness Of The Spirit. 

This passage begins with a statement that is easy to miss.  Verse 1 of Chapter 4, “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.”  Mark’s Gospel is even more direct.  Mark 1:12 states, “The Spirit drove Him into the wilderness.”

God tempts no one.  The Bible teaches this very clearly; James 1:13, for example says, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.” 

God does not tempt you to sin.

What God will do, however,

Is walk with you through

The wilderness of trial and temptation.

Satan does the tempting.

Satan wants you to stumble,

God wants you to stand.

Satan will do all he can to get you to turn away from Christ, while God will be there to help you through the trial and difficulty so that your trust in God grows greater and you become stronger (1 Corinthians 10:13).  And God is right there with you the entire time.  The Spirit of God was right there with the Son of God during those 40 days in the wilderness.  The Spirit of God is always with you in your wilderness.  He is the God who has promised never to leave us nor forsake us.  He has said, “I am with you always.”   Remember the closeness, the nearness of the Spirit.

This is so important because . . .

If we really believe that the Spirit is

With us in times of trial and temptation,

Then we’ll be more likely to trust Him

During times of trial and temptation.

Satan wants you to question whether God really cares for you or whether He is really there for you.  When you go through suffering, Satan wants you to think this way: “Well, God must be really angry at me.  God must not love me.  God doesn’t care for me.  If there really were a God, He wouldn’t want me to suffer.”

Yet, look at these three temptations of Satan here in the wilderness.  You’ll see that behind these temptations is Satan’s trying to keep Jesus from suffering, to question God’s allowing that suffering.

Satan is trying to get Jesus to take the easy route.  In essence he is saying, “Don’t be hungry. Change these stones to bread. God doesn’t want you to suffer hunger! You trust God to provide for you, right?  Well then, trust Him to save you when you throw yourself down from this temple.  He’ll keep you from suffering injury, won’t He?!”

The third temptation seems like an act of desperation on Satan’s part.  Satan doesn’t want Jesus to go to the cross to accomplish victory over everything so he’s like, “Just bow down to me, you need not suffer, bow down to me and I’ll give you everything!”

Suffering is part of the Christian experience.  God often allows suffering when He knows it is for our good and for the good of our family and for the good of His glory.  God’s own Son was perfectly obedient in all that He did, yet God allowed Him to suffer.  God allows people He loves to suffer.  Remember that when you are tempted to think that you only suffer because you’re not living right.  Jesus was living right.  And Jesus suffered.

God often brings us through the wilderness, refining us through difficulties and trials and temptations.  That’s how we grow stronger in our faith and grow more deeply in our love for Him and our trust in Him.  That’s how we endure greater times of suffering.

Remember the nearness of the Spirit.  The same Spirit Who was with our Lord in His wilderness is with you in yours.

3) Remember The Need For The Scriptures. 

Jesus is tempted three times by Satan and every single time Jesus responds to the temptation by quoting Scripture.  Three times without exception: verses 4, 7, and 10.  Three times Jesus says, “It is written.”

How does Jesus get through

The wilderness of trial and temptation?

By quoting the very Word of God Himself.

The Bible is not just some book,

Nor even just some great book.

It is a great book,

But it is much more than that:

The Bible is God’s Word, His very Word.

If you really believe the Bible is God’s Word, then you will be hungry to hear from Him. Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”  And, just like with physical foods, you can try to satisfy your spiritual hunger with other spiritual foods – replacement foods with additives that lack nutrition – or worse.  You could replace your spiritual hunger with junk foods that harm you.  Junk foods like pornography, wasted hours watching screens, or endless hours of food substitutes like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

Real sustenance;

Real nutritious food

Is found

In the Word of God.

Satan wants to keep you from it.  Satan tells you, “Look, what’s the big deal here?!  Just a little of this or a little of that, why there’s really nothing wrong with this or that.”  If the devil can get us to stop reading our Bibles, stop attending worship, stop listening to Christian music, stop meditating upon Scripture, stop memorizing Scripture, he will be happy because . . .

He knows if he can keep us

From the Word of the Lord,

He’s more likely to keep us

From the Lord of the Word.

Mark it down: every single time Jesus was tempted He responded to the temptation with the Word.  He quoted the Word of God, the Bible.

We should learn from Him.  He is perfectly good, consistently good, entirely good.  Yet even Jesus still quoted Scripture.  If Jesus used Scripture, how much more should we?  In fact, it is especially during the dark days of depression and the thorny paths of the wilderness that we are most in need of the Word of God.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”


The Amazing Providence and Power Of Christ

Grace For The Journey


21May  Most ministers will tell you that they would rather officiate a funeral than a wedding.  Weddings are largely parties. Folks who gather for them aren’t really all that interested in spiritual things.  They’re looking at the bride’s dress and remarking on how well the groom cleaned up.  And, of course, everyone’s looking forward to food and cake at the reception!  Funerals, on the other hand, present an opportunity to share the gospel with people who are more inclined to be listening with spiritual ears.  People who are hurting.  Grieving.  As such, people who are more likely to be open to hear from God.

In Luke 711-17, Jesus breaks up a funeral.  Literally.  He interrupts a funeral procession.  The passage describes the converging of two crowds: one crowd is heading into the city (verse 11) and one crowd is heading out of the city (verse 12).  The crowd walking into the city is the crowd with Jesus.  The crowd walking out of the city is the crowd accompanying a mournful widow; a sad crowd on their way outside to bury a young boy.

Put another way . . .

One crowd mourns for one who had died


The other crowd follows One who brings life.

Death and life intersect at the city gate of Nain.  In this account, we learn several truths:

1) We See Christ’s Providence In The Details.

Nain is about 20 miles south of where Jesus had healed the Roman centurion’s servant in Capernaum.  Incidentally, Nain is still around today.  It’s a small town of some 1,800 people.  There are a number of tombs in Nain that date to the early New Testament era, the first century in the year of our Lord.  But here’s something to think about . . .

Jesus leaves Capernaum and walks

An entire day’s journey

With the 12 disciples and other followers,

Walking 20 miles to a place

That really isn’t on the way to anywhere else.

It’s out of the way.  A small, insignificant town.

Why does Jesus go there?  The answer, of course, is that . . .

He went there knowing

He would meet with

This widowed woman

Who would be

Burying her son.

2) Never Cease To Be Amazed By The Providential Ways Of Our Lord!

God’s providence is the means by which God governs, or superintends, all things.  He rules over all things in such a way that all the intricate details are managed by His precise and perfect timing so that His perfect will is done.  Jesus is God in the flesh.  He knows all things.  He knows the precise moment the funeral procession will be at the city gate.  So, Jesus moves steadily along, without hurrying, knowing exactly where He will need to be and when He will need to be there.

It is often said that . . .

“Jesus is never in a hurry,

But He is always right on time.”

There is a comfort here in this doctrine of providence.  Jesus knows all the future events you will face today.  He knows all the future events you will face this week.  He knows all the details and He knows just when you need Him most.

We don’t always know why He permits the bad things to happen – why the job loss, the sickness, or even death – but we know that God is at work through all of these intricate details and nothing escapes His notice.

Believe in Him to work

Through all the details of your life

In such a way that it results

In your good and His glory.

3) See Christ’s Pity for the Disheartened.

Luke tells us that this woman is a widow.  That means she had been through similar suffering when her husband had died.  A woman losing her husband in New Testament times meant more than the immediate emotional pain.  There was tremendous social and economic hardship, as well.  Women did not work as many modern women do today.  A woman in New Testament times was totally dependent upon the care and support of her protector and provider, her husband.  This woman has already been through the pain and suffering of burying her husband, now she is going through the pain and suffering of burying her only son, her only child.

We imagine her getting up that morning to prepare for her son’s funeral.  Many of us have done similarly.  A loved one dies and we grieve as we have never grieved before.  We cry as we’ve never cried before.  And this crowd is mourning and crying.  We can only imagine the looks and the sounds of this crowd proceeding out of the city to the cemetery.

But . . .

Here the crowd of hopelessness

Converges with the crowd of hope.

That which is imperfect

Meets that which is perfect.

Verse 13 tells us, “When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, ‘Do not weep.’”  I love the way verse 13 begins, “When the Lord saw her.”

The woman was not looking for Jesus,

But Jesus was looking for her!

Jesus has His eye on the brokenhearted.

He sees her.  In the same way, He sees you right now.  He knows your hurts. He knows your needs.

How many times has our Lord blessed us when we weren’t even looking for Him?  We weren’t seeking Him, but He was seeking us.  He set His eye upon us and had compassion on us.  Perhaps you are praying for the salvation of your children.  You are praying for your lost children, grandchildren, nephews or nieces.  You are bringing your children to the very one who sees your hurt and has compassion on you.  When reading about Jesus always remember that He is “the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).

Jesus is the same Lord today as He was in the city of Nain 2,000 years ago.  He loves you and His heart goes out to you today.  Others may not know what you are facing, but our Lord knows.  He sees you and He whispers, “Do not weep.”

Jesus Christ is hope for a hurting world.  He may not raise your loved one from her sickbed or bring to life a dead child from a funeral procession.  There were thousands who had died during the ministry of Christ, but He raised only three of them from the dead.  He may not raise your loved one from sickness or death, but He promises to be with you and His heart goes out to you in the depth of your sorrow.  Our Lord loves you.  He cares for you.

4) See Christ’s Power over Death.

The larger theme in this narrative is Christ’s authority over everything, including death and the grave.  Because He is God, Jesus Christ holds the keys of death in His hand.  If He has authority over death, He has authority over life.  And if He has authority over life, He has authority over every living thing.

Verse 14 states, “Then He came and touched the open coffin, and those who carried him stood still.  And He said, ‘Young man, I say to you, arise.’”  Christ speaks to the dead and the dead listen!  Verse 15 goes on to say, “So he who was dead sat up and began to speak. And He presented him to his mother.”  The young man sat up and began to speak, offering proof that he was, indeed, alive.  And then Jesus presents the young man to his mother.  Small wonder verse 16 reads, “Then fear came upon all, and they glorified God, saying, ‘A great prophet has risen up among us;’ and, ‘God has visited His people.’” 

Yes . . .

A great prophet had risen up among the people!

Yet this person was more than a prophet.

God had indeed visited His people –

Visiting them in the flesh as Jesus Christ,

Second person of the Holy Trinity,

Fully God and fully man.

Does it strike you that Jesus speaks to the dead and the dead listen?  Is this not a demonstration of the truth that while the body physically dies, the spirit lives on?  Jesus talks to the living spirit of the young man.  He speaks to the young man’s soul.  When we die our soul will live on in one of two locations, either in heaven or in hell.  The body dies, but the soul lives on.

Without being asked, and in His own power and might, Jesus approaches the open coffin, speaks the word, and the dead is raised.

Charles Wesley wrote:

He speaks, and, listening to His voice,
New life the dead receive,
The mournful, broken hearts rejoice,
The humble poor believe.

In Ephesians 2:4-6, the Bible speaks of our spiritual death this way, “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ…and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”

Much as we may not like to think about it . . .

We are all in a procession of death.

We are all in a crowd of spiritual death,

Marching inexorably toward

An eternal cemetery of hell.

We all stand in need of someone

To come “interrupt the procession.”

Jesus Christ comes to interrupt

Our march toward death.

And as the unique,

“Only Son” of the Father,

Jesus offers Himself

To save us from death

And bring us to life.

Think of it . . .

Jesus is the living only Son who would die

So that this widow’s only dead son would live.

In order for this woman’s only son to be returned to his mother, the Heavenly Father had to give His only son away.  And as a Perfect Father, He knows the pain of burying His only Son.  He knows your pain, too, and He brings hope and life.  Jesus is the greater only Son who comes back to life never to die again.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”



The Delight When God Gives Sight To Skeptics

Grace For The Journey


19May  He’s usually called “Doubting Thomas,” the disciple who doubted Christ’s rising from the grave.  He is often depicted in contemporary preaching as a gloomy and morose sort of fellow, a bit of a pessimist, a “glass half-empty” type of person.

Someone has said . . .

“A pessimist is a person

Who feels bad when he feels good

For fear he’ll feel worse

When he feels better.”

I don’t think of Thomas as a pessimist.  I think of him more as the guy who says out loud what others are thinking.  Thomas is a skeptic, a thinker, a questioner.  This much is certain: Thomas has a fantastic encounter with the risen Christ.  The account of the episode is recorded in John 20:24-29.  From these verses we can learn three significant truths:

1) Spiritual Isolation.

Verse 24 tells us Thomas is absent, “Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.”  He is not with the disciples when Jesus appeared to them that Sunday evening.  The absence of Thomas raises an intriguing question: “Where was Thomas?  Why was he not there?”

His isolation reminds us of the importance

Of gathering together with others.

Isn’t it odd that everyone else

Was gathered together, but not Thomas?

Was it sorrow?  Was he depressed?  Things had not seemed to turn out the way he had envisioned, what with Jesus’ death upon the cross.

While the Bible does not tell us precisely why Thomas is absent, his isolation reminds us of the importance of gathering together with others.  God created us with a hardwiring for relationships.  The gathered church is the gathering together of brothers and sisters in a family.  While churches were not able to gather together physically during COVID-19, they were able to find meaningful connection in other ways – live stream, messaging, and old-fashioned telephone calls.  Apart from sustained relational engagement, we become vulnerable to isolation and discouragement.

2) Spiritual Hesitation.

Verse 25 tells us that Thomas is not ready to believe what he is being told about the risen Lord, “The other disciples therefore said to him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’  So he said to them, ‘Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”  Thomas is better identified not as “Doubting Thomas,” but as, “Unbelieving Thomas.”  He is simply an unbeliever.  He had said, “I will not believe.” 

Incidentally, Thomas’ hesitation to believe demonstrates that folks of his day were not merely gullible people, easily tricked into believing fanciful notions of the supernatural.  Just as people today, the disciples were serious, sober, and thoughtful people.

Thomas was a classic unbeliever.  He lays out the conditions that must be met before he commits: he must see for himself and put his finger upon the very wounds of Christ.  His declaration is strong; in the original the grammar is a double negative, something like, “No, I will not believe!”  The Bible tells us in verse 26 that a week goes by, “And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, ‘Peace to you!’  Then He said to Thomas, ‘Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.’”

Did you notice that Jesus spoke to Thomas the same words that Thomas had spoken to the disciples?  Thomas had said, “Unless I see His hand and put my finger there and reach into HIs side,” and here Jesus says, “Reach your finger here, and look at my hands; reach your hand here, and put it into my side.” 

Jesus had heard exactly what Thomas

Had said the previous week.

Jesus is all-knowing (omniscient)

And He is all-present (omnipresent);

God in Christ.

Jesus addresses Thomas’ spiritual hesitation: “Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”

3) Spiritual Transformation.

Verse 28 says, “And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”  

We may have expected Thomas to approach Jesus and make careful examination of His body as Jesus invited him to do, but he does not.  He simply says, “My Lord and my God!”  

This is one of the greatest and grandest

Confessions of faith in the Gospels.

Thomas does not say,

“THE Lord and God,”


“MY Lord and MY God!”

It’s personal.

He has changed.

This is transformation.

And note that Jesus accepts these Divine titles.  He does not reprimand Thomas and tell him, “Don’t call Me Lord and God!”  Jesus accepts the titles . . . Why? . . . Because He is Lord and God.

Verse 29 tells us, “Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”  Peter echoes this thinking.  In 1 Peter 1:8, Peter refers to Jesus Christ as the One, “Whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory,”

The skeptic who would not see, now sees.  These verses drive home some powerful points of application:

1) Confessing Christ Is Our Greatest Need.

John’s entire purpose in writing his gospel is that all readers come to confess Jesus as their Lord and God in the same way that Thomas did.  In the final two verses following this narrative, John writes, “And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (verses 30-31).

  • Far more important than whom you will date or marry is whether you have a relationship with Jesus Christ.
  • Far more important than your career or worldly success is whether you been saved Jesus Christ.
  • Far more important than anything else you will do in this lifetime is whether you confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior over your life.

Can you say with Thomas, My Lord and my God?”  

If we really believe – along with John – that confessing Christ is our greatest need and the greatest need of others, then we will talk to others about Him every chance we get.

2) We Are Blessed by Believing, Not Seeing.

We may think that being with Jesus as one of the 12 disciples would have been such a blessing!  And it would have.  I mean seeing the resurrected Christ 2,000 years ago must have been something.

Notice the further response that Jesus makes in verse 29, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed.  Blessed are those (and the idea is, ‘More Blessed are those’) who have not seen and yet have believed.”  Now that is an amazing statement . . .

Believing in Jesus

Is far greater than

Actually seeing Jesus.

We see with spiritual eyes.  Jesus says, “You’re actually more blessed when you believe with your spiritual eyes than when you demand certain proofs that you may see with your physical eyes.”

If you are demanding that Jesus perform some kind of special miracle for you before you surrender your life to Him, you are missing it.  Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.

You will not be saved

By some special revelation,

Some physical miracle

That you demand to see.

In fact, Jesus warns in Matthew 24;24, “There will be false Christs and false prophets who with signs and wonders will deceive you.”

You already have the testimony of others in the Bible.  You must believe the record of the testimony of others in the Bible or you will not be saved (Luke 16:27-31).

3) His Sacrifice Make Us Love Him More.

Unlike any other Gospel writer, the Apostle John writes about the scars of Christ.  He draws attention to the scars upon Jesus’ wrists where the nails were driven through, and the scar on His side where a Roman soldier stabbed Him to verify He had died.  Though Jesus appears before the disciples in His resurrected and glorified body, He still has the scars.

Tony Evans once told about a couple caught outside in a horrendous hailstorm.  It was one of those hailstorms where the hail was literally the size of baseballs.  Some of you have been in something like that.  The couple was caught in the hailstorm and there was nowhere to take shelter.  So the husband, being the protector and provider, instinctively began to protect his wife.  He covered her with his own body, keeping the storm from falling upon her.  The hailstones were huge and the man just lay over his wife while the stones beat upon him.  After a few minutes of this, his ears started to bleed and there were cuts on his head.  The man tried in vain to lead his wife to shelter, but the pounding of the storm kept him from moving and eventually all he could do was just collapse upon her, shielding her from the danger of the hailstones.

When the storm was over the man had scars from those hailstones.  The cuts and abrasions were lasting reminders of the day his wife was saved.  When his wife was asked how she felt about the experience she said, “Every time I look at those scars, on his head, on his neck, and on his ear, I love him more” … “I love him more because he sacrificed himself for me.”

Jesus Christ willingly placed Himself between God’s wrath and us.  He took upon Himself the punishment, that you and I deserved for our sin.  In His love for us, He placed Himself over us, protecting us, shielding us from all that wrath that He took upon Himself.  And on His body, Jesus bears the scars; evidence of His love for us, the eternal reminders of what He did for you and me.

Every time we think

About those scars –

We should love Him more.

What About You?

  • Can you say with Thomas, “My Lord and my God?”
  • With whom do you need to share Jesus this week?
  • If you are a believer, remember you continue to walk by faith.  We don’t always know why things happen, but we can hear Jesus say, “Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”  Always remember . . .

When you cannot

Trace God’s hand,

You can trust God’s heart.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”




The Gospel Is For Everyone

Grace For The Journey


Mark 7:24-30 records for us an odd encounter to say the least.  The passage reveals a woman who has a conversation with Jesus that causes us to scratch our heads. There are several principles that we can discover from the episode in the life of Christ.

1. Consider Her Problem

The passage tells us of a woman with a problem.  And the problem concerns her daughter.  Specifically, the woman’s daughter is being harassed by “an unclean spirit.”   The woman learns that Jesus is in town so she goes to Him that He may fix her problem by healing her daughter.

Mark identifies this woman as a Syro-Phoenician, which means she is from Phoenicia, a place that included Tyre and Sidon.  If you look this up on a map, you’ll see that Tyre and Sidon is Northeast of Galilee in Gentile territory.   This is far away from Jerusalem and Galilee.

The greater context of this narrative reminds us that . . .

While God had others.

Israel largely failed to understand this stewardship of faith.  They failed to understand that they were entrusted with the responsibility of sharing with others the good news about the One True God of the Bible.  The Jews had largely regarded those of other races as unclean and unfit for worship of the One True God.

In the more immediate context of chapter 7, Jesus had just been teaching in Galilee about clean and unclean foods.  He moves from Galilee into Gentile territory to demonstrate that all peoples are clean through the power of the gospel.

Verse 24 says, “From there He arose and went to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And He entered a house and wanted no one to know it, but He could not be hidden.”  Given the continuing pursuit by the scribes and Pharisees, it’s almost as if Jesus is trying to retreat for awhile.  He goes north to get away from these religious legalists.  But Jesus’ showing up in town with the His disciples is not something that stays a secret for very long.  Mark says, “He entered a house and wanted no one to know it, but He could not be hidden.”  Matthew Henry writes that Christ could not remain hidden because “though a candle may be put under a bushel, the sun cannot.”

Verse 25 state, “For a woman whose young daughter had an unclean spirit heard about Him, and she came and fell at His feet.  She kept asking Him to cast the demon out of her daughter.”  Here we have this woman and her problem.  She has a young daughter with an unclean spirit.  She comes to Jesus and falls at His feet, bringing her problem to the Lord.  She asks Jesus to cast the demon out of her daughter.

2. Consider Her Persistence.

The Bible tells us that she “kept asking” Jesus to cast the demon out of her daughter. She is persistent in prayer.  JC Ryle writes this about the persistence of this woman for her daughter and how this illustrates the burden many parents have for the spiritual well-being of their children: “Fathers and mothers are especially bound to remember the case of this woman.  They cannot give their children new hearts.  They can give them Christian education, and show them the way of life; but they cannot give them a will to choose Christ’s service, and a heart to love God.  Yet there is one thing they can always do – they can pray for them.  They can pray for the conversion of wayward sons, who will have their own way, and run greedily into sin.  They can pray for the conversion of worldly daughters, who set their affections on things below, and love pleasure more than God.  Such prayers are heard on high.  Such prayers will often bring down blessings.  Never, never let us forget that the children for whom many prayers have been offered, seldom finally perish.  Let us pray more for our sons and daughters.  Even when they will not let us speak to them about true religion, they cannot prevent us speaking for them to God.”

This woman is persistent in taking her problem to the Lord.  Matthew tells us in his account (Matthew 15:21-28) that the woman cries out to Jesus, but that Jesus does not immediately reply.  Matthew puts it this way this way: “But He answered her not a word” (Verse 23).  Jesus is silent.  Silence is not the same thing as ignoring.  The Bible paraphrase, The Message, says, “Jesus ignored her.”  I disagree.  Paraphrases are helpful in their own way, but we must take care never to preach from them.  Silence allows a conversation to deepen.  Silence draws out information that otherwise may remain hidden.  Silence allows for reflection.  Without periods of silence, conversation may remain only on the surface level.

For example, imagine two people seated next to each other on an airplane.  They introduce themselves and begin talking.  During the course of the flight they may chat energetically and rapidly about work, family, or favorite sports teams, but it’s largely a superficial conversation.  Contrast that conversation with two people sitting directly across from each other in a quiet, coffee shop.  They are looking directly at each other.  They are reading each other’s body language and facial expressions.  Neither is rushed, but is taking time to both listen and speak in meaningful ways.  This conversation goes to a deeper level.

We need to resist the temptation to always be talking!   We should for those “awkward silences” or lulls in the conversation.  Those periods of silence often produce some of the more profound and insightful responses.

After some time, Jesus speaks to the woman.  And what He says in response is something we never could have imagined.  Verse 27 states, “But Jesus said to her, ‘Let the children be filled first, for it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.’”  One of my seminary professors commented on this verse by saying that when we read it we may ask, “Wait – what?!  Did Jesus just refer to this woman as a dog?!”  And in some sense, He did.  We’ve got to allow for tensions in the biblical texts. We must allow them to breathe and stand on their own.  Yes, Jesus says, “It’s not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.”  And He says that in response to the woman’s asking Him for help.  In essence, He says, “Let My children, the Jews, be filled; let them have bread first. They get first place at the table.”  Paul reminds us of the truth in Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek (or the Gentile).”  The Jews got first place at the table.

The woman’s witty reply in verse 28 is priceless, “And she answered and said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs under the table eat from the children’s crumbs.’”  Essentially she is saying, “Yes, I know I have no place at the table.  Just give me some table scraps, scraps that the little dogs might get under the table.”

In the ancient near east, dogs were not the cute, little pets we often see in our part of the world.  Dogs in the ancient near east are like dogs in many parts of the under-developed world today.  They were mangy and ugly – and calling someone a dog was an insult.  Greeks, Gentiles, non-Jews, were often called dogs as a term of contempt.

In an effort to soften the blow, some commentators explain that Jesus used the diminutive form of dog.  So, we should think of a smaller dog or a puppy dog.  But you know, if you get called a dog, does size really matter?!  Jesus is speaking proverbially.  And it is almost certain He is speaking in a soft, compassion tone.

In those days people did not have either knives or forks or table-napkins. They ate with their hands; they wiped the soiled hands on chunks of bread and then flung the bread away and the house-dogs ate it.  So, the woman said, “I know the children are fed first, but can’t I even get the scraps the children throw away?”  And Jesus loved her reply.   Here was a faith that would not take no for an answer, here was a woman with the tragedy of an ill daughter at home, and there was still light enough in her heart to reply with a simple request.  Her faith was tested and her faith was real, and her prayer was answered.  Symbolically she stands for the Gentile world which so eagerly seized on the bread of heaven which the Jews rejected and threw away.

This Syro-Phoenician woman recognizes that Jesus is not making a racial statement but a theological statement.  And she passes the test.  She is persistent!   She’s like a New Testament Jacob who wrestled with God and said, “I will not let you go until you bless me” (Genesis 32:22-26).

3. Consider Her Provision.

What does the Lord provide her?  Verses 29-30 tells us, “Then He said to her, ‘For this saying go your way; the demon has gone out of your daughter.’  And when she had come to her house, she found the demon gone out, and her daughter lying on the bed.”  The provision was healing for her daughter!

She would settle for the children’s

Crumbs under the table,


In His complete healing

Of the daughter,

Jesus has given her

“A whole loaf” of bread.

The Syro-Phoenician woman knew her place before the Lord.  She knew she had nothing to offer Him, but her pleas.  There was no boasting.  No bragging.  No rights to claim.  No merit to bring.  She brought only her humble cries for healing.

Many modern readers are offended by Jesus’ reply to the woman, but notice that the woman is not offended!  Have you ever noticed that?

Why do you suppose this woman is not offended by Jesus’ telling her “it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs?”

Don’t you think it’s because she knows her place before the Lord?  This woman knew . . .

She had no rights to claim

And that the right posture

Before a sovereign

Is to bow the head

And bend the knee.

The great reformer Martin Luther commends the woman for her great faith, “Very well, she says, if I am a dog, I ask no more than a dog’s rights. I am not a child nor am I of Abraham’s seed, but you are a rich Lord and set a lavish table.  Give your children the bread and a place at the table; I do not wish that.  Let me, merely like a dog, pick up the crumbs under the table, allowing me that which the children don’t need or even miss, the crumbs, and I will be content therewith..”

The Syro-Phoenician woman’s actions illustrate the way every person should approach the Lord . . .

We must remember we have

No “right” to sit with the King

Nor do we “deserve” such an honor.

We must humble ourselves before the Lord.

Like the woman, we must

Agree with what He says (verse 28).

The Syro-Phoenician woman

Comes to Christ not

On the basis of her goodness

But on the basis of His goodness.

Remember that Jesus became the outcast for us so that we who are “dogs” could receive the bread of life.  He humbled Himself so that we could be saved.  In some sense, you could say that He became a “dog” so that we could become a “sondaughter.”

This is grace.  This is God’s giving to us what we don’t deserve.  God gives to us unlimited, unmerited favor – when all we deserve is His wrath.  Apart from God’s grace, we remain spiritual beggars.  The good news of the gospel is that God receives us once we recognize our spiritual state, own up to our sin, and come to Him, trusting Jesus Christ as our only Savior.

God’s love for the Syro-Phoenician woman

Reminds us God loves all people

And is building a kingdom of

Every nation, tribe, people, and tongue.

This passage is a rebuke to those of us who are Christians.  It’s a rebuke for what is often our prejudice about people who are not like us, and not of us … from a different race, who smell, whose clothes are funny, who speak with a funny accent and we dismiss them.

May we never look at others this way.  As we look at other people – no matter their race, no matter their ethnicity – may we see God’s love for them, His love for all people.  We are just as they.  None of us deserves a place at the table.  We are all under that table.  It is Jesus who exchanges places with us.  He becomes the “outcast” so that we may be “brought in.”

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”



Life’s Most Important Question

Grace For The Journey


15May  Jeanne Marie Laskas of Reader’s Digest published an article sometime back entitled, “Answered!  Life’s 25 Toughest Questions.”   Here are a few that were mentioned in the article:

  • Why do married folks begin to look like one another?
  • Why does summer zoom by and winter drag on forever?
  • Why does the line you’re in always move the slowest?
  • When is your future behind you?

Pretty good questions . . . Thought provoking . . . Intriguing.  As interesting as these questions are, however, they are nothing like the most important question ever asked in all of history.

2,000 years ago a young man likely in his early 30s had the opportunity to ask Jesus Christ a question that many wish they themselves could ask.  The exchange is found in Mark 10:17-31, but the account is also recorded in Matthew and Luke’s Gospel.

  • Mark tells us the man who asks the question is rich.
  • Matthew tells us the man is young.
  • Luke tells us he is some kind of a ruler.

This young man is usually referred to as “The Rich Young Ruler.”  He is a person who apparently has what the world needs to be happy, satisfied, and fulfilled.  Yet, He comes to Jesus seeking more out of life.  And what is his question?  Verse 17 tells us, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?”  That is a good question, isn’t it?  It is a question no doubt on the minds of many, though perhaps asked in different ways.

Jesus does not answer the question in the way the man expects.  In fact, Jesus takes issue with the way the man frames the question.  In verse 18,Jesus replies: “Why do you call Me good?”  And He adds, “No one is good but One, that is, God.”  Jesus is doing an important thing here . . .

He is helping the young man

Understand something of

The character of God

And His goodness.

In essence Jesus says, “You realize that no one is good, right?  No one is absolutely good; no one that is, except God.”  And in saying this, Jesus might just as well have said, “If you are prepared to refer to Me as good, then you are prepared to refer to Me as God.”

One of the reasons the young man does not yet see Jesus Christ as God is because of his failure to rightly understand the nature of goodness itself.  So, Jesus takes the man to the Old Testament, namely to the second half to the Ten Commandments.  In an effort to address the man’s faulty understanding of goodness, Jesus says, “You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal,’ Do not bear false witness,’ Do not defraud,’ Honor your father and your mother.’”  The young man answers, “Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth” (Verses 19-20)

Now that was probably largely true on the outside.  No doubt many thought of this fellow as morally upright, a “good” man insofar as what was generally known about him.

But goodness is a moral absolute.  Goodness is absolutely and entirely good on the inside and outside.  Goodness is consistently good.  Always.  No one is absolutely good on both the outside and the inside.

This young man was outwardly good,

But inwardly he battled the things all humans battle;

Things like impure motives, impure thoughts, and impure loves.

Knowing the young man’s weakness, Jesus puts His finger on it

In order to help him see where he wasn’t so “good” after all.

Verse 21 and 22 states, “Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, ‘One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.’  But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.”

Luke says this young man “had great possessions.”  Jesus knew that.   Jesus knew this man’s heart was bound up in his material stuff; his ho use, his land, his clothes, his money, his things, and his toys.

Jesus addresses this particular man

At the point of his particular need.

He was rich and loved his riches

More than he would love Jesus.

It’s always especially important

To clarify that it is not the possessions

That get us into trouble.

As we often say,

“It’s not whether we have possessions” . . .

“It’s whether the things we have possess us.”

This rich young ruler loved his stuff more than Jesus.  This is why Jesus says to His disciples, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!” (Verse 23).

It’s certainly not impossible for those who have riches to be saved – remember Zacchaeus?  But folks like Zacchaeus are the rare exceptions that prove the rule.

Jesus says it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.

The disciples are astonished!  They say among themselves, “Who then can be saved?!”

This question of the disciples suggests that they believed that having wealth was a sign of God’s approval (false teachings of prosperity theology existed long before late night television).

False teachings of prosperity theology existed long before late night television.

Jesus looked at them and said, “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible.” (verse 27)

Man cannot save himself.  It is impossible.  But what is impossible with man is possible with God.  God can save him.  For with God all things are possible.

God can change a heart so that it loves Jesus more than it loves stuff.

The disciples are still thinking about this rich young ruler’s walking away sorrowfully.  So Peter says to Jesus, “See, we have left all and followed You.” Jesus replies: “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” (verses 29-31)

Things have not really changed much.  In the eyes of contemporary America today, the rich young ruler would be ranked “first” in importance.  And the lowly disciples who were following Jesus would be considered “last” in importance.

Jesus reminds us that the viewpoint and rankings of this present age are nowhere near as important as God’s viewpoint and the way He sees us.

No One is “Good Enough” for Heaven

Jesus helps us see in this passage that no one is good, but God.  No one is intrinsically good, perfectly good, consistently good.

The young man had asked, “What shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?”  And in one sense the answer is, “Do?!  Well you must do perfectly, and consistently that which is righteous!  Keep all the moral law perfectly, and consistently.  Do this and you will live!”

This was the failure of our first parents, Adam and Eve.  God set them up in a good place with goodness all around.  He essentially said to them: “You two can enjoy all this stuff.  Just obey My commands.  Do this and you will live. But do not eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. If you do that, you will die!”

We can’t consistently do good things and live, because we have a nature predisposed to do bad things.

And that’s precisely what happened—they disobeyed, and they died.

Because our human nature is bound up in the human nature of Adam, we die.  Death is part of our nature because sin is part of our nature.  And sin is part of our nature because it is part of Adam’s nature.  So we can’t do anything to fix our situation.

We can’t consistently do good things and live, because we have a nature predisposed to do bad things.

Even if you said, “Well, I’ll start now and do good works today and one day I’ll do enough good to please God!”  Even if you could somehow begin to stack up some good deeds, how many would be necessary?  You have sinned against a God who is infinite; an infinitely Holy God—so it would take an infinite number of your good deeds to appease Him.  You can’t do that.

The Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 3:9, “I want to be found in Him (Christ), not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by Christ.”  

Paul was essentially saying, “I don’t want to stand before God on Judgement Day hoping I’ll get into heaven based upon my own goodness!  I don’t want to be standing before the Judge of the Universe ‘clothed’ in my own righteousness—no way!!  I want to be clothed in the infinitely good, consistent, perfect righteousness of Christ.”

This is what the preachers of old used to call, “alien righteousness.”  We don’t use that term much today because it sounds like science fiction: “Alien righteousness!”

The term sounds like a righteousness that’s other-worldly, a supernatural kind of righteousness—yet that’s exactly what it is.  If we are “In-Christ,” then we are dressed in a righteousness that really is in one sense, totally “alien” to us.  It is a supernatural kind of righteousness from Christ alone.

We need Jesus because we’re

Not “good enough” for heaven.

What We Love More Than Christ Keeps Us From Heaven

Who of us would not have been tempted to quickly affirm this young man and welcome him into our churches?  I mean the guy comes running up to Jesus and bows before him reverently and religiously.  He demonstrates outwardly good, moral behavior.

But Jesus knows that this man loves something more than he loves the Lord.

Jesus knows this man loves something more than he loves the Lord

For the young man, it was his love for money; riches and possessions.  It was his love for those things that kept him from heaven.  He had actually broken the greatest commandment of all to “Love the Lord God with all of one’s heart, soul, mind, and strength.”

It may be your love for money and stuff, possessions, that keeps you from heaven.

Whatever we love more than Jesus may be the very thing that keeps us from heaven, loving money more than Jesus, loving good health more than we love Jesus, loving our lives more than we love Jesus.

Jesus may speak to you just like He did the Rich Young Ruler, “Go, sell all you have and come and follow Me.”  Money may be the very idol you love more than God.  Or, if you love something else more than you love God, He’ll speak to that idol.  It may be an unwillingness to turn from sin.

Today Jesus may say to you:

  • “Go, tell your co-workers you cannot compromise your integrity if You love Me more than worldly success.”
  • “Go, tell your friend you will not engage in that behavior if You love Me more than the passing pleasure of sin.”
  • “Go, get help for your pornography if You love Me more than cheap substitutes for My glorious beauty and infinite worth.”

Whatever we love more than Jesus may be the very thing that keeps us from heaven.

We Enter Heaven Only By Trusting and Following Christ

Ultimately, the rich young ruler wasn’t willing to trust and follow Jesus because he loved and valued temporary treasures over eternal treasures.

One reason it is hard for wealthy people to enter heaven is because wealth gives a false sense of security and self-sufficiency.

The devil wants us to fall in love with this world and value its temporary comforts and temporary pleasures greater than we value the things of God.

The end of this passage is a call to abandon all the temporary treasures of the world—houses, lands, even if necessary, family—that we may gain eternal treasures; eternal life.  When we trust and follow Jesus even “persecutions” (verse 30) can be regarded in a positive light.

Whatever we lose in this world is made up for in Christ.  

In the Gospels, Jesus was in some sense like a rich young ruler.  You could say that He was the ultimate rich young ruler.

Before the incarnation, Jesus had everything.  At the right hand of the Father, and in the presence of glory, Jesus was rich!  But remember what Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 8:9, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.”

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”