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Great Book About the Story of Reality February 6, 2017

Posted by roberttalley in Apologetics, Book Reviews, Creation, Death of Christ, Evangelism, God the Father, Jesus, Resurrection, Uncategorized.
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Koukl, Gregory. The Story of Reality: How the World Began, How it Ends, and Everything Important that Happens in Between. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2017.

The length of the subtitle should not be scary. Koukl’s relating of the Story (capitalization his) of reality is a concise, but engaging presentation of the metanarrative of Christiantiy. This books serves as an apology for Christianity, an overview of basic theology, and a passionate evangelistic message. In just less than 200 pages the reader will find a clear and convincing telling of the Story.

The Story is in presented in five parts with an introduction. The idea of story is consistent throughout the book but it is not strictly delivered in a traditional story format. It is more accurate to say that the book is a discussion of the Story. In fact, the device of capitalizing “story” is effective in reminding the reader that even when Koukl dives into apologetic, theological, or philosophical issues, they are all related to the great Christian metanarrative, the Story.

In the “Introduction” the author begins by asking the question “What is Christianity?” He wants the reader to know from the beginning that he is discussing pictures of reality, that is, worldviews. For Koukl each worldview is like a puzzle that people attempt to fit into reality, the better the pieces fit both together and into reality, the more accurate the worldview picture is likely to be. Each worldview is like a map or story but can be misunderstood. Before presenting the Story (the map, the puzzle), Koukl warns that there is a problem that presents itself in the Story to both believers and unbelievers, the problem of evil. Because of that problem, many infer that an important aspect of the Story, God, must not exist, otherwise the problem would not exist.

The five parts of the story are clearly delineated: God, man, Jesus, cross, resurrection. Yet in the presentation of the first part of the Story (God) it becomes clear that there are competing stories: “matter-ism” and “mind-ism”. These two stories are, however, limited. In these two stories the problem of evil cannot exist, that is, there is no place for the existence of evil in the puzzle of reality. This section is an effective apologetic for the Christian worldview against these two competing worldviews for a world with which something is clearly wrong just does not fit into their story and yet everyone seems to recognize that something is clearly wrong with this world. These two stories, however, will not allow it.

When discussing man, Koukl keeps the fact that something is wrong with the world before the reader, but introduces two other ideas: (1) that there is something special about man and (2) that man is broken. Other stories have explanations for this but these explanations fall short. It is at this point that the Story begins to feel like a story rather than an adept apologetic argument. Koukl presents the Fall, though the story of the Fall itself brings up several objections for which another short but deft apologetic section is offered.

This the basic tactic of the book: reveal basic problems that must be addressed before telling some portion of the Story, tell the Story (Jesus, death, resurrection), and answer objections that are raised by the telling of the story. As he nears the end, he reminds his reader of the beginning of the journey to ensure that the reader has not forgotten important aspects of the Story or the answers to significant problems raised by the story that were previously addressed. Koukl weaves effectively what he has told before and how it relates to what he is telling at that moment.

After bringing the Story to a successful conclusion, Koukl tells the story once again through just a few pages in the “Epilogue”, but this time as a passionate evangelistic message. This evangelistic epilogue does an excellent job turning this an apologetic worldview book into an invitation to “accept your pardon now, while you can, and turn and follow Jesus” (page 177). For this reason, this reviewer highly recommends this book as an evangelistic tool though it would certainly be of profit for most Christians as well, especially those who do not understand the real world ramifications of the story. Notes with scripture references are in the back making the book less intimidating for those who might be put off by an “academic” look, however, even Koukl’s notes are often quite engaging. Additionally, his use of stories within the telling of the Story is inviting.

Readers (and users, hopefully) of his 2009 book Tactics will recognize his two part method of asking key questions and revealing false assumptions throughout this newer book. This newest book is highly recommended as a tool for both apologetic and evangelistic purposes.

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Paying Attention to Jesus the Revelator March 14, 2010

Posted by roberttalley in Blood of Christ, Christ, Day of the Lord, Eschatology, God the Father, Imminency, Jesus, Judgment, Messiah, Millenial Kingdom, Prophecy, Religion, Resurrection, Revelation of Jesus Christ, Sermons.
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WHY PAY ATTENTION TO JESUS?
Revelation 1:1-18

The word “keep” in verse 3 carries the connotation of “paying attention with the intention to obey.” It is God’s intention that we keep the word of this prophecy and to the one who gives this prophecy. Sometimes it does not matter who the messenger is. When we listen to the news, it really does not matter who is reading the news. We may like the one we are listening to and they may make us feel better about the news but for the most part it matters little except for entertainment purposes whether I get my news from Diane Sawyer or Katie Couric.

It is different though when what we receive is a prophecy, that is, a direct word from God. There are many today who claim to have received direct words from God. We see them on our TVs, hear them on our radios, and see their books in the CBD catalogue. Should we pay attention to them? I do not; for none of them to my knowledge claim perfect inspiration and many of them preach one form or another of false doctrine. We are commanded to try the spirits whether they be of God.

Next week we will specifically look at why we should pay attention to His revelation. This week I want us to understand what is in it for us. That may seem a little backwards but this is the way it is presented in the book and so that is the order that we will follow.

This book begins by stating that God gave Jesus this revelation for the profit of His servants. Now many of us here this morning claim to be the servants of God, that is, the children of God, so this book is intended for us. Why do we need this book and why should we pay attention to the one who gives it to us?

A. Because God gave Him what we need to know for the future (1:1, 3b). The future is very important. Many of you will go to work because of the future. You will do schoolwork because of the future. Wars are fought so that nations can determine the future. Investments are made in the future. Roads and bridges are built for future use. Even history is often studied so that we can better understand the future.

Now God knows the future. Some of the future we need to know. We do not need to know details for the most part. In fact, God rarely gives us much detail. We do not know who the Antichrist is, we do not know the date of the Lord’s coming, we do not know if the multiple earthquakes that have recently occurred are signs of His immediate coming, and we do not know exactly how the world will look when Christ comes. Any details we have are either sketchy or incomplete. But there are some things we need to know about the future.

1. The coming of the Lord is imminent (verses 1 and 3b). He could come at any time. Two thousand years ago, the Lord could have come at anytime. That is still true today.

Now there are several attitudes that we can take about this.

a. We can be fatalistic about his coming. “If He comes He comes…” Now I do not think that very many people are truly fatalistic. Either they believe He is coming or they do not but this is a possible attitude one could take.

b. Most do not believe He is coming. They may not openly doubt it but they obviously do not believe otherwise they would be ready. Revelation 3:1-3 describes a church that did not believe He was coming. Jesus said that he would surprise them like a thief. Jesus taught quite often about this when He was on the earth. One of the last sermons He preached had as His main point that those who are not ready will be destroyed (Matthew 24:36-13). One of the illustrations He used was of a servant who was made ruler over his master’s house. He said to himself, “The master is delaying his coming.” He begins then to beat his fellow servants and to lead a life of partying. When the master suddenly returns the man will be cut in two.

c. There is though a third attitude. Being ready! How do you know you are ready? Romans 13:8,11-14 tells us how, “Owe no one anything except to love one another… and do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep…Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness…Let us walk properly…not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.”

Luke also tells us in chapter 12 of his gospel how that those who live for the things of this world will not be ready. In other words, only the disciple who is willing to live for heaven and not for this world will be ready when Jesus comes.

2. We not only need to know that the Lord could come at any moment but we need to understand that He is coming as the Almighty (verses 7-8). When He comes every eye will see Him and recognize who He is. Those who crucified Him as prophesied in Zechariah 12 will see Him. Now you might think that those who crucified Jesus are already dead. Zechariah 12:10 makes it clear that John is talking about the Jew here in this passage. They will not be the only ones to see Him. All the tribes of the earth will see Him and mourn. Why? Because the Almighty has come to judge His enemies. It is possible to mourn in repentance (which is the caase in Zechariah) but the context of Revelation indicates that the peoples of the earth will mourn when they realize that the Lord is coming to judge them (Revelation 6:12-17). On that day, every news station will show the Almighty. Facebook and Twitter updates will mourn the coming of the Almighty. The nations will rise against Him but will not be able to stand because He is the Almighty.

Now why do we need to know that He is coming as the Almighty? Because right now it looks like Christ is losing. The world is becoming more anti-Christ every day. He seems to be losing ground but when He comes we will be able to give thanks (Revelation 11:15-18) because He has returned and restored His rule over this earth. That is the day that we long for according to Romans 8. This world of sin and sinners is oppressive to the believer in Christ but when Christ returns, the sinner will be destroyed and sin will be put in check. Only the Almighty God can accomplish such a feat.

B. The reason we need to know about the future is that there is blessing in paying attention to Jesus and His revelation about the future (1:3). This blessing is not in stock tips or oil futures. This blessing is a spiritual blessing.

1. To be blessed means to be saved (1:3; 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7, 14). Seven times in the book of Revelation, a blessing is pronounced on those who are believers in Christ. The word we read in our Bibles as “saved” Martin Luther often translated as “blessed” because He understood that to be truly blessed of God meant much more than houses and lands and nice families. God blesses the unsaved also with such things. To be blessed of God, however, means to be saved, to be redeemed by the Lamb. Sometimes this word is translated “happy.” That is not a bad translation, for one who lives eternally in the presence of God will be happy and the one in hell will not. To be blessed though is more than an emotional reality, it is a spiritual reality. Look at Revelation 20:4-6. What a contrast? Those who were beheaded for the witness of Jesus are blessed because they are free from the second death. It is certainly not a happy occasion to be beheaded. Those who might sympathetically be looking on might say, “What a waste!” But they are blessed. They are saved from the second death, from the wrath to come.

2. To keep the word means to have an active faith (1:3; 22:14; compare with 1 John 3:23). You see, to keep a prophecy means that there is something that should be done in response to that prophecy. Revelation 22:14 makes it clear that those who do His commandments will have the right to the tree of life and may enter through the gates into the city. Now does this mean that we can work our way into heaven? Absolutely not. James put it this way, “Faith without works is dead.” In other words, true faith will live a certain way. First John 3:23 tells us exactly what the commandments of Christ are, “And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.” So this blessing means more than to believe that Jesus is God. It demands becoming a disciple of Christ, an active faith that determines not only to trust Christ but to obey Him.

It is clear that Jesus can demand an active faith from me and I need to hear His word with active faith. The blessing of God is promised to me if I keep His word, if I have an active faith. An active faith will be ready for His coming. That is the point of the last phrase in verse 3. He is coming. Are you ready?

“A lady, who heard Whitefield, in Scotland, preach upon the words, “And the door was shut,” being placed near two dashing young men, but at a considerable distance from the pulpit, witnessed their mirth; and overheard one say, in a low tone, to the other, “Well, what if the door be shut? Another will open.” Thus they turned off the solemnity of the text. ‘Mr. Whitefield had not proceeded far when he said, “It is possible there may be some careless, trifling person here today, who may ward off the force of this impressive subject by lightly thinking, ‘What matter if the door be shut? Another will open.’” The two young men were paralyzed, and looked at each other. Mr. Whitefield proceeded: “Yes; another will open. And I will tell you what door it will be: it will be the door of the bottomless pit!-the door of hell!-the door which conceals from the eyes of angels the horrors of damnation!”

Jesus could come today. Are you ready? Is your faith active? Do you have faith in Christ at all? Trust Him today and live for Him, forsaking this world and all others for the one who loves you and died to wash you from your sin.

Next Week: The Son of Man

JESUS, THE ANSWER TO ALL QUESTIONS February 1, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in God the Father, John's Gospel, Religion, Sermons.
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“LORD, SHOW US THE FATHER AND WE WILL BE SATISFIED”

(John 14:8-21)

Sometimes we make a statement by asking a question. “You’re not going to eat that, are you?” implies that there is something seriously wrong with what you are about to eat and that only a fool would continue to follow the course of action that you have chosen.

In John 14:8 we have the opposite situation. Philip is making a request but what he is really doing is posing a follow-up question. You have to admire Philip’s boldness. Peter asked Jesus where He was going, wanting to know why he could not follow Jesus there and received the news that he himself would deny the very Christ, for whom Peter claimed he would lay down his life. Then Thomas asked a similar question, stating that if they were going to follow Christ later on, they would need to know where He was so that they would be able to know the way. Jesus answers clearly, “I am the way…no man comes to the Father but by me.”

Philip grabs a hold of Jesus’ statement and requests that Jesus would go ahead and show them the Father. “Jesus, show us the Father now and we will quit pestering you with questions.” Jesus’ response was less than charitable, “Haven’t you been paying attention, Philip!” Now why was Jesus impatient with Philip’s request.

I. Because Philip should have known that all Jesus has is from the Father, that is, to know Jesus is to know the Father (verses 8-11).

A. We are to believe His words and in that way we know the Father (verse 10a). We saw last week (John 12:48-50) that it is the words of Christ by which we will be judged. If we believe His words, we have eternal life but if we do not believe, we will be judged. Now what is meant here is not that if you reject the whole Bible but accept the words of Christ that you have eternal life. What is meant by believing the words of Christ is described for us in verses 44-47. Jesus is the light of the world, the Messiah sent to save men from the kingdom of darkness, from the darkness of their hearts, and from the place of eternal darkness and judgment. The claims of Jesus Christ as the Messiah will be the claims by which we will be judged.

Jesus is saying to Philip, “What more do you want? You know that I am in my Father and He in me. You have believed those words, have you not. What more do you want?”

B. Well, Jesus did not offer Philip anything more except His works and we, like him, are to believe His works (verse 10b-11). In John 10:36-38 Jesus makes it clear that His works are proof that He in the Father and the Father in Him. We have only two options, believe Him or reject Him. Now this is why Jesus was so upset with Philip. He had seen the works and had yet to realize that He was seeing the Father through the works and the words of Christ.

In spite of Jesus impatience with Philip’s spiritual dull-headedness, Jesus answers His question anyway and then explains what it means to know the Father.

II. The believer can receive directly from the Father through Christ just as Christ Himself has received from the Father (verses 12-14).

A. This is why we pray (verses 12-14). Jesus Christ has taken the place of authority by sitting on the right hand of His Father. When I pray, it is because of this place of authority which Jesus has taken which results in my being able to do greater, that is, more works than even what Christ did during His short three and a half year ministry. You see these works He is referring to are not some magical powers or spiritual gift that God gives us but rather we approach the throne of God in prayer and Christ guarantees that my prayers are answered.

When I pray to the Father, based on my faith in Christ, Christ is saying that the Father will answer my prayers in the same way that He gave to Jesus. The reason He does this, though, is because of Jesus Christ and not because of anything which I may bring before the throne of God. I cannot do anything in my prayers that will guarantee that they are answered. You see, Jesus is my access to the Father. He is the guarantee to answered prayer. That is what it means to pray in Jesus’ name.

Now I typically end my prayers with some variation of “in Jesus’ name.” That phrase though is not what guarantees that God answers my prayers. Prayer is not about phraseology. It is about access. I have access to God, not because of the way I pray but because of the one in whom I am trusting for my salvation, Jesus Christ.

B. This is how sinful men can glorify God (verses 13-14). To pray in Jesus’ name means to ask that God’s reputation be enhanced. Do we pray for healing to avoid pain or to enhance God’s reputation? Do we pray for strength to go on because we feel weak or because we want to glorify God? Do we pray for insight, so that we might be wise or that we might know how best to lift God up? I am afraid that we pray a lot more often, even in the spiritual realm, that we may consume it on our on lust, like the believers James rebuked in chapter 4 of his epistle.

III. This unique relationship of love will continue forever (verses 15-21).

A. The Father loves (verse 21) and gives (verse 15). We will talk about how the Father loves us a bit later but I want us to focus on the result of His love. He gives! God the Father gives God the Spirit to us because of God the Son. We have a full relationship with God. There is no part of Him that is disinterested in us. God gives to us. Now it is true that God gives some gifts to all people. It rains on the just and the unjust. Ecclesiastes teaches us that the good things of life like marriage and rewarding work are give to the believer and the unbeliever. There are, however, some gifts that are reserved for me because of Jesus Christ. When I trusted Him, God became my benefactor. He gave me His Spirit.

B. The Spirit comes in (verse 17) and helps (verse 16). Jesus called the Holy Spirit “another Helper” in the New King James Version. Other translations use the word “Comforter” or “Counselor.” All of these translations underline for us, something very important. Jesus regarded the Holy Spirit as a person and not a force.

Now that is very important. You see a force follows certain laws. The gravitational force of this earth allows us to predict that when I fall off a ladder, I will fall to the ground and not up to the clouds. The force of gravity does not decide, “I am going to let this fellow fall to the ground.” Gravity has no will, can have no plan, can make no decision, can feel no desires. It simply does what it is supposed to do.

This is true of the force of the sun. The sun produces light, it produces heat, it also can produce storms that can interfere with radio reception. I do not have to worry about the sun deciding that it is going to withhold light or intensify the heat or disrupt my cell phone service. If it does one of these things, it will do so in obedience to certain natural laws or principles over which the sun has no input or influence.

The Holy Spirit, however, is a person. He is not controlled by any laws or principles. He has a will. He has plans. He can make decisions. He has certain desires. So when Jesus says I am sending you another Helper, one just like me, to abide with you and in you forever, we can have confidence that God intends for our relationship with Him to be one in which we understand His will and His plans and His decisions and His desires because it is exactly in those areas where we need, not just a rule book or a guide book but we need a personal guide.

C. We love and obey (verse 15). What is our part of this relationship we have with God? What do we bring to the table. Obviously not much if, in order to have God answer our prayers, we have to come through Jesus. We have nothing to contribute. Nothing that God needs. Yet Jesus begins His explanation of our relationship to God with the statement, “If you love me, keep my commandments!” In other words, “Love and obey!”

Now this does not mean that love and obedience are synonymous. They are closely related but obedience to Christ is not the same as love to Christ. John Piper explains it this way, “…consider a similar sentence: ‘If you take this medicine, you will get well.’ Is taking the medicine the same as getting well?”

What then does this sentence mean? If you remember in John 13, Jesus said, I am giving a new commandment to you, to love one another, as I have loved you. You see, obedience to the Lord’s commands was already a regular part of their lives. They had left all to follow Him. Jesus is emphasizing that if they loved Him, their continued obedience was to be a priority in their lives. That is, the proof of their love for Christ is their obedience to His commands. Jesus says this plainly in the first part of verse 21.

How then does God respond to our love? Verse 21 continues to say that the Father and the Son will love us. We need now to be careful here. On the surface it appears that these verses could mean that we earn the love of God by keeping the law and proving that we love Him. Now we know that cannot be true because Jesus has just told them, “Love one another, as I have loved you.” Jesus has already loved them. This is true of all who trust Christ. Romans 5:8 tells us that God proved His love for us while we were still sinners in that Christ died for us. So whatever this may mean, it cannot mean that we can earn God’s love.

We find a hint at the end of verse 21. If we love Christ and keep His commandments, He will manifest Himself to us. What we have is a description of an intense relationship of love. Now we will talk more about this next week but I want you to think about our human relationships. While it is true that there is nothing like young marital love, it is in the later years that love is proven. As a young couple sacrifices for one another and learns more and more about the other and reveals more about themselves to the one they love, the love they have for each other can reach a higher plane that young love rarely reaches. That is the way our relationship to Christ should be. He loved me and died for me, so I believe in Him and I love Him and I keep His commandments and He responds in love to me by revealing Himself to me more clearly and then I love Him more and I obey Him more and He loves me more and reveals more of Himself to me and I love Him more and it just keeps on going through all eternity…

D. The Son lives (verse 19). He rose from the dead and because He lives, I live and have eternal love. And Jesus loves (verse 21) and brings me in a love relationship with my Heavenly Father. And Jesus prays (verse 16) so that I might not be left alone as an orphan. And finally, Jesus, shows Himself (verse 21) to us.

INVITATION: Have you seen Jesus? God the Father has given you His Son to reveal Himself to you. Will you believe His words and works? He has made Himself known to you. He paid for your sins on the cross. He invites you to come to Jesus for forgiveness of sin. Would you come, today?

Believers, we have no excuse. People turn to dreams and programs and the things and wisdom of this world and all manner of other things looking for help. The Father has given us Jesus to die for us and the Holy Spirit to guide us. Is that enough for you?

NEXT WEEK: “LORD, HOW WILL YOU SHOW YOURSELF TO US AND NOT TO THE WORLD?” from John 14:22-31

 

 

Is Jesus the Only Way? January 25, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in God the Father, Jesus, John's Gospel, Religion, Sermons.
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“LORD, HOW CAN WE KNOW THE WAY?”

(John 14:1-7)

Suppose you played a game of blind man’s bluff using different methods to find your way.

a. With no help, eyes not blindfolded.

b. With no help, blindfolded.

c. Using someone’s voice as a guide standing in the correct place.

d. Using someone’s voice as a guide though they are not standing in the right place.

e. Someone taking you by the hand but you not going willingly.

f. Someone taking you by the hand and you go willingly.

How would you best find your way if you could not find it yourself? Today we will look at Jesus’ answer to that question.

I. Don’t be afraid (verses 1-3)! Get a hold on yourselves. The disciples were emotionally stirred up. Jesus has just told them that He was going away and that they could not come with Him. He has also told Peter, the most courageous of their group, that he himself would deny Him before the rooster crowed in the morning. On top of this, they have learned that one of them would betray Him and have been rebuked for their lack of love and service for one another. All of these things were disturbing but Jesus is addressing just one of those issues. He is going away and they are troubled by this.

Jesus is not saying that to be emotionally troubled is a sin. We find in John 11:33 that when Jesus came to the tomb of Lazarus and saw all there who were weeping, He Himself was emotionally troubled, groaning in His spirit and outwardly weeping. He was not weeping just for show.

We find in the next chapter, John 12:27, that Jesus openly admitted that His soul was troubled at the thought of what lay before Him, that is, His crucifixion.

In fact, on that same night in the upper room, probably less than an hour before He commanded His disciples to get a hold of their emotions, Jesus was troubled in spirit as He revealed to His disciples that one of them would betray Him.

A. Why then did Jesus command the disciples to get a hold of themselves? Because their place with the Father was guaranteed (verses 1 & 2b). It is hard sometimes for us to get a grasp on what it means to believe in God. This helps us to nail it down. Jesus is saying to these disciples, there is no reason for you to be afraid. My Father and I have it all worked out, believe us, trust us, rely on us, your place with the Father is guaranteed.

Jesus follows His plea for faith with a little kernel of proof. He states that there is plenty of room in His Father’s house for all them and then He inserts a short statement that is full of implications, “if it were not so, I would have told you.” Think on everything that you have heard me teach. Have I told you anything that would contradict that the kingdom of the Father is a great and a glorious kingdom, open to all who would enter? You know the promises of the Old Testament about the glorious kingdom that the Messiah will bring to this earth. Have I said anything that contradicts the truth of the Old Testament? If you can think of one thing that I have said that contradicts the truth of the Old Testament, you can go home, I am not believable. But you know the truth and you know that I have preached the truth to you. Why then not believe it, if you know it to be true? Do not allow this temporary separation to get your eyes of the truth. Believe God! Believe Me! We guarantee that you have no reason to be troubled.

B. My going (crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension) assures this (verses 2-3). Here Jesus finally answers Peter’s question from the last chapter. Jesus said, I am going away and you cannot follow. Peter wanted to know where Jesus was going. Jesus, after rebuking Peter’s self-righteous pride, answers his question in this verse. I am going to prepare a place for you. You cannot come know. The place by the Father is not ready. It must be prepared.

Again, we need to remind ourselves of what Jesus was going to do to prepare a place for us. First, He was going to be crucified for the sins of the world. Then He would be resurrected from the dead. Finally, Jesus would ascend to heaven. Jesus is not saying, I have some carpentry work to finish or I have to create heaven. The Father’s house already exists but no man can enter in until Jesus dies, rises from the dead, and takes His proper place at the right hand of the Father’s throne as the exalted King of glory. That is the preparation work of Jesus Christ.

The fact that Jesus goes to prepare a place assures us, then, that He will come back. When I see my wife in the kitchen pulling the flour out of the cabinet and the cherry pie filling out of the pantry, I know she is preparing something good. All the times that my wife has baked a pie, she has never finished baking and then put it away and said, “I don’t think we will eat this one” No, her preparations to bake a pie are the guarantee that there will be a pie. In the same way, that Jesus went away to prepare a place for us is our guarantee that He will return so that we may live in that place at the right hand of the throne of our heavenly Father.

The writer of Hebrews refers to this in Hebrews 6:17-20. Jesus is the forerunner. Jesus did not go to His Father to rest. He went to His Father to be our High Priest, to prepare heaven for us. His place in heaven is our hope, our sure and steadfast anchor, our guarantee that we have a place in eternity with our heavenly Father.

There are those who seek their guarantee in a church. A church that guarantees you heaven through that particular church, is telling you a lie. There are others who present a list of things that you must do to guarantee a place in heaven. That list is a lie. There are those who hope in their good works outweighing their bad works. Jesus is not their guarantee. They have no true guarantee.

The guarantee though does not end with Jesus sitting on a throne. It continues with the fact that He is coming back. Jesus Christ will return for a specific purpose. To receive us. When Jesus returns, those who believed Him will be taken to be with Him and with the Father for all eternity. We have this assurance from Him.

II. Believe what you know (verses 4-6)! Jesus is not teaching these disciples a lot of new truth in the following verses. He has assured them with the news of His return but now He returns to what they were told from the very beginning. Believe what you know, fellows. I have taught you, I have shown you, it is time now to believe what I have told you and shown you.

A. God the Father is our goal. (verses 4a, 5a, and 6b). Peter had asked, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered Peter clearly, “I am going to my Father’s house.” Thomas still did not understand. This thought of Jesus going away without establishing the promised kingdom just did not make sense to him. He was having trouble understanding the connection between the physical and the spiritual aspect of the work of Jesus. In his honesty, he says, “Lord, you say we know where you are going and how to get there. We do not know where you are going. How can we know how to get there? You say we will follow you afterward but if we do not know where you are at, how are we going to follow?” Obviously, Thomas did not have a clear understanding of what Jesus has been saying. Jesus says now plainly at the end of verse 6. I am going to the Father and that is where you should go also. To go to the Father is our goal.

America is known as the promised land. Pilgrims and gold-seekers have come here seeking. Men have coming here seeking life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Westward expansion was fueled by men and women seeking the promised land. The civil rights movement has traveled on the wave of the sons of slaves seeking to have their share of the promised land. The recent housing boom was built on the idea that the promised land is within reach. Many have found that life, liberty, and happiness for which they have searched. Many others have not. You see, America is not really the promised land for you and I. It is a blessed place, a wonderful place, but the promised land, the land of rest and blessing, is not in America. Never has been and never will be. The promised land is with the Father. He is our goal. He is the place to which we should desire.

B. God the Son is the way (verses 4b and 5b-6). Jesus is saying, I am the way to God. The statement is simple. It is also clear. If, however, there is a need for clarification, Jesus adds this, “Not only am I the way, I am the only way.” There are those who claim that there are many ways to God just as there are many ways to Rutland. Now if God was as easy to reach as Rutland was, that might be true. But that is certainly not true of every destination. The moon for instance. How many ways are there to reach the moon? Only one. When you get in your rocket, you must calculate your speed and the force of gravity and time of departure and the moon’s orbit and the earth’s rotation and a whole host of other factors in order to determine the necessary trajectory. If you calculate wrong, you will not get to the moon. The parameters are very narrow. In the same way, there is only one way to God. Fortunately, we do not need to do any calculations. Jesus has revealed to us that He is the way to the Father.

C. God the Son, however, is more than just the way to God (verse 6a).

1. There is no truth apart from Jesus Christ. In other words, Jesus is the final word on God. What He says about God is truth and anything contradictory is false. Now you may say, cannot God speak to us today. Perhaps there is some information that Jesus and His followers did not know or did not reveal or even worse altered, changed, or covered up. That is what the Muslim or the Mormon or the Ba’haist would say. That is also what many Hindus and Buddhists would say. I like the way that Erwin Lutzer puts it in his book, “Christ Among the Other Gods,” “Of course God can speak whenever He wants to…but when the sun comes out there is no need for the stars.”

Jesus Himself, pointing to His own authority said, “If it were not so, I would have told you.” You can believe Him. He does not lie. He does not misspeak. There is no uncertainty in His words. He is the way and whatever He says about this way is true because He is also the truth. All other teachings and all other ways must square with His teachings and His ways. If they do not square with what He teaches and what He says, then those teachings and those ways are revealed for what they are, a lie.

2. There is no life apart from Jesus Christ. What exactly did Jesus mean? I think the simplest explanation is found in John 12:47-50. Jesus explains how that He is the life. Those who reject His word will be judged by the word which they have rejected and those who receive His word will not be condemned but will receive eternal life. They will be pardoned. They will be saved. Jesus has the words of eternal life, if we will only believe them and receive Him.

III. Know me! Know God! (verse 7)!

This verse is really just a summary of what Jesus has already said but we need to summarize this point because it is the most important point in the Bible. Jesus says to them, “If you have known me, and I assume that you have, you have known the Father. He then comments on their future. He says from now on, because you have known me, you know the Father. Why? Because you have seen Him. When did they see the Father? When they saw Jesus Christ. To see and know and believe and receive Jesus is to see and know and believe and receive God.

This is the message of John’s Gospel. Do you want to know God? Do you want to be received by God? You must accept Jesus Christ as your God and Savior. He died for your sins. That was necessary because He cannot bring a sinful person into the Father’s presence. He rose again bodily, for a dead man cannot be trusted to help a living man. Also, He has ascended to the Father for you as your Lord and as your High Priest. He said He would come again and take you, that is, receive you to Himself and bring you to God. That is His offer. Will you accept His death on your behalf? Will you trust the resurrected and ascended Christ to bring you to God? If you do, when He returns in all His glory, you will be with the Father for all eternity.

NEXT WEEK: “SATISFACTION IN THE CHRISTIAN LIFE” from John 14:8-21