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A Presumption of Innocence and a Sad Era in America

I will be the first to say that I love being an American — proud even, in a sense of the word. I am an Eagle Scout back from the mid ‘80s when the Boy Scouts were not willing to compromise their religious footing and spent years saluting the flag as a youth and as an adult-leader (there was no “taking the knee” for me). And, having had the privilege of serving for several years as a pastor just off of Eglin Air Force Base, I have had the privilege of serving many soldiers and military families and I have the greatest respect for those men and women who serve our country to preserve the freedoms and rights that I hold dear.

I also travel overseas…not a lot, but more than many. In those travels I have seen real poverty, not just poverty “American Style” as we often see here (and having served as chaplain for an inner-city rescue mission for three years, I have seen that too). I’ve also seen the effects of oppression on people when their rights have been trampled — or, as in many parts of eastern Europe, those rights have been non-existent.

When I travel, there is no mistaking that I am an American — my cowboy boots and jeans give me away every time. My friends in Ukraine will sometimes ask, “Why would you wear shoes like that?” My response is usually something like, “It is a very American thing to do” or, “Don’t you know that Chuck Norris wears cowboy boots?” Even so, they are comfortable and well, I do like them. Further, on my way home from overseas, there is something of a good feeling that comes over me when I discover we are back over American soil. 

America, to me, is more than just a nationality of origin and a name on the cover of my passport; it is both an idea and an ideal — a place where the promise of “liberty and justice for all” is not just something that is said at the end of our pledge, but something for which we strive as a nation. It is both a principle of conduct and a goal for living out our lives.

One aspect of a nation founded on “liberty and justice for all” is that of due process and a presumption of innocence. In many other places of the world, you are guilty because the state declares you guilty, or worse yet, guilty because the mob that happens to be in power declares you guilty. If you think through the ramifications of living under such oppression, well, it is scary. And, one need not go looking too far to find totalitarian governments who have operated in such ways. Orwell’s Animal Farm is not just a warning of “what if” but it is a depiction of what has happened in so many cases where rampant socialism and its uglier brother, fascism, has risen to power.

Over the past week or so, I have watched many of the latest supreme court nomination hearings. And regardless of whether you are a supporter of Dr. Kavanaugh or are not a supporter of his views; the media circus, the accusations flying in every direction, and the dirty politics ought to disturb you no matter whether you sit with the political right or the political left side of the aisle. Yet, what ought to disturb us most, as Americans, is that from the very beginning of Dr. Ford’s accusations, there has been a presumption of guilt and due process has been ignored. Do we now live in such a world where accusations (founded or otherwise) can ruin a man’s career? If that is the case, let us all beware. 

According to the ancient Biblical laws, to make an accusation such as this, one had to have two or three witnesses to a crime — “he said, she said” was considered shaky grounds for any accusation, let alone a serious one. And while we do not live in ancient Israel, the presumption of Innocence is considered to be a universal human right by the United Nations and is a fundamental part of English Common Law (which was influential in developing the American Constitution) and is an umbrella that gives meaning to the 5th, 6th, and 14th amendments to the Constitution. The bottom line is that the burden of proof is on the accuser, not the accused. 

While I certainly have my own opinions as to the guilt or innocence of Judge Kavanaugh, but they are irrelevant. A man ought not be tried in the courts of public opinion just as he ought not be judged in the courts of the media. There is no question that there are political lines being drawn at the moment — frankly they have been drawn in the sand for a while now, they are just becoming more brazen — but there is something even more important than politics at stake right now — it is the fundamental right of a man to be considered innocent until proven guilty. And do know, if we continue down this road, we must ask ourselves, “What other fundamental rights will we lose?” 

It is a dangerous road on which some in our nation have embarked.

Genuine Fellowship

“Thus, I therefore hope to send him at once after I determine what will happen to me and I trust in the Lord that I too will come shortly.”

(Philippians 2:23-24)

What we don’t know for sure is whether or not Paul ever made it back to Philippi. Some scholars argue that he was released from his chains and given freedom to travel again and later arrested and executed (some even argue that Paul made it to Spain during this time). Others argue that this is later in Paul’s life and that he would remain in chains until the day that he was put to death. We simply do not know for sure.

What we do know is of Paul’s longing for fellowship with these believers. And how important that fellowship is. God has not created us to stand alone as Christians; he has created us to stand and be in fellowship with other like-minded believers. And how often we rob ourselves of those blessings.

Yet, Christian fellowship is not just a matter of mutual encouragement and instruction in God’s word; Christian fellowship is meant, in a small sense, to turn back the effects of the Fall. The Fall brought separation and social strata and isolation. Yet in the church there is no black or white, no rich or poor, no weak or powerful; we are brothers and sisters in Christ. In the church one need not struggle with sin alone, but one has other brothers and sisters who will walk alongside you during times of trial. And, when Truth must be upheld and battled for in the culture and community, one does so not as a single person against the world, but as part of a larger body that will battle alongside of you for what is true and right.

With this in mind, several trends in church life have come to grieve me a great deal. The first is a lack of transparency and genuineness amongst the larger body. The second is the trend of people to “church hop,” bouncing from church to church because one person’s preaching is more interesting (or less offensive!) or because one is frustrated with a decision made by the church leadership. And the third is the tendency of people to “pick and choose” what parts of scripture they wish to submit to. People often say, “yea and amen” to a given text, but often do not apply it to their lives and get mad at the church leadership for holding them accountable to the scriptures and to church membership vows. When these things happen, fellowship and what fellowship is meant to point to is undermined.

Like Paul, may we long to nurture a sense of anticipation of the fellowship we have with one another in the body of Christ. May we look to Sunday mornings with anticipation, for here the whole body gathers to worship our great and glorious King, Jesus. And may we yearn for this fellowship to be sincere, striving to live it out in our own practice.

Live for Christ and Him Alone!

“For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

(Philippians 1:21)

“In the event of my death, celebrate.” You know, as a pastor, I spend a lot of time with people who are sick and dying and very rarely do I come across a person who is genuinely excited about their impending death…especially when the person dying is younger, at least in a relative sense. We have become accustomed to speak about heavenly things with anticipation but when we face the reality of heavenly things, it seems that we cling to earthly things with vigor…just the opposite of our Lord who did not heaven as something to be clung to but abased himself and became man. While we affirm intellectually that heaven is a far better place for us than earth, our hearts don’t often embrace that intellectual reality.

I believe that our problem with genuinely embracing the second half of this statement stems from our problem with embracing the first half of the statement, for until you become so focused that everything you do in this life is for Christ and to His honor, then the thought of ending those labors here, where we do things imperfectly, and beginning them in glory, where we will do things perfectly, just does not resonate with us. Yet, for Paul, this mindset — that all I do is for Christ — is the only way to live…or die.

As people, particularly in the western world, we have become jaded, self-centered, prideful, narcissistic, greedy, sensualistic, and focused on personal gain. Life, we are often taught, is about what I can achieve, accumulate, and experience. Those things that do not meet our personal “needs” are cast to the side as unnecessary and irrelevant. Striving for virtue has been replaced with striving for vainglory and “Self” has become the Baal and the Ashtoreth of our generation. And, as a result, the culture is collapsing all around our ears.

The solution: Christ and Christ alone! Living for Christ in all things puts the things of this world in their eternal perspective and shows them to be the pale and fleeting things that they really are. Living for Christ and seeing His glory in all things is also the corrective to our view on death. For the believer, indeed, our death is gain, for it is being ushered into the presence of our risen Lord. Yet, we also long to hear the words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” For that we must embrace a life that is lived not for self and selfish things, but for Christ and for Christ alone. Then again, for whom better can we live?

In What Will You Rejoice?

“What then? But that in every manner, either with a pretext or in truth, Christ is being declared and in this I rejoice…but rather, I rejoice!”

(Philippians 1:18)

Here you go…this is the mindset that we are talking about…here is a man who is focused on the goal above all else…he is focused on Christ and upon Christ’s glory. How easy it is for us to lose sight of this. Paul is saying, look, folks, there are lots of people who are preaching Christ to gain attention, to gain favors, to gain a reputation for themselves, and even to cause me distress…but Christ is still being proclaimed!

Loved ones, do you see what it is that Paul is saying here? It is easy for us to decry bad denominations and self-serving preachers…and there is a time and a place to do that (see Paul’s language in Galatians!), but at the same time, there are often people who are being gloriously saved in spite of the bad churches and self-seeking preachers. Indeed, this is just one more testimony to the sovereignty of God in all things, particularly in our salvation.

The sad thing, I think, is that I often fear that while we do rejoice as God’s people, often we rejoice over all of the wrong things. Or, we at least, rejoice primarily over earthly things that are transient at best. Shall we rejoice? Most certainly! Yet, let us rejoice in Christ! Let us rejoice in one who is eternal and who offers eternal life! Let us rejoice in the one who is the source of all our hope and joy and promise. This world is passing away…in the scope of eternity, our time here is as dust in the wind. Why focus here? Why not focus on the one from whom glory gets its meaning. Jesus is the radiance of the glory of God! How shall earthly things compare to that? They cannot! Indeed, they cannot! It is Christ and Christ alone in whom we must find that joy and when Christ is proclaimed, let us rejoice.

Pursuing the Gospel, not Self

“Now, I want you to know, brothers, that which has happened to me is rather for the advancement of the Gospel;”

(Philippians 1:12)

Paul’s focus here and always is on the advancement of the Gospel. He is willing to suffer anything and lose everything, and still call it good, so long as the Gospel goes forth. For Paul, every encounter, good or ill, is an opportunity to share the Gospel with those who are perishing. And oh, how far short of Paul’s example we generally fall.

How easy it is for us, in today’s age, to forget that we know the answer to the question that people are asking in the depths of their soul. We know that there is a God and that he is the one that gives meaning to life. We know that though we all fall woefully short of the standard of perfection that God sets, he sent his Son, Jesus, to live amongst us, show us the Father’s character in himself, and then to die in our place that we might stand in his place in judgement…we might be viewed as righteous sons, not disobedient rebels. We know that there is life after death and that the only way to the Father is through the Son and all who reject the Son will be cast into the fires of Hell…righteous judgment for a life of sin and rebellion against the Father. We know the Truth of these matters and we have also experienced the life that comes from being indwell by the Spirit of God…why do we shy away from sharing this with others? Why do we not use every opportunity as a tool to advance the Gospel?

Sadly, our tendency is to be consumed with ourselves. When things are going wrong…maybe we are hospitalized for something…we tend to focus on our suffering rather than use the interaction with Doctors, Nurses, and other care-givers as a chance to share the Gospel. When things are going well, perhaps when we are making plans for a wedding or graduation, we tend to be focused again on the details of our own celebration rather than in using this event to evangelize guests or those who we are hiring to cater, decorate, or provide other services. Loved ones, we do this not because of God’s design for us, we do this because of sin. Paul sets another model for us, one where self is secondary to Gospel and where even though he has suffered and has been falsely imprisoned, he is still using these events to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Will you, this day, covenant to start seeing all your interactions as opportunities to share the Gospel with others instead of serving self? Such is the model that Paul sets before us.

Budding Trees

“They are planted in the house of Yahweh;

In the courts of our God, they sprout.”

(Psalm 92:14 {verse 13 in English translations})

How often we find that we do not blossom in life because we do not plant ourselves in the right place. To plant yourself (keeping the analogy of the righteous being like a tree) in the house of Yahweh does not mean that we all need to be pastors of churches; it simply means that we must find our foundation in the Word of God — in a relationship with him — seeking to be in his presence as you do all you do in life, whether that be farming or banking or working in the services industries or being a pastor of a church. Everything we do must be rooted in God and in his word. When we seek to do that, indeed, that is when we will bud and sprout.

Remember, too, that there no longer is a physical temple to travel to; that temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD and God has kept its foundations bare even to this day by placing an Islamic Mosque on its location. Why is this significant? First and foremost, because Jesus is the greater temple. His body is the temple of which he spoke when he said, “tear this down and in three days I will raise it up again” (John 2:21). Thus, in his resurrection, this temple is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth — as the creed would word it.

Even so, there are “lesser temples” in this world — the bodies of believers (1 Corinthians 6:19). For we are the Temples of the Holy Spirit, walking and talking and working our way through this world. It is the Holy Spirit in us that fulfills the role that the Old Testament Temple played (to be a sign of God’s presence to the world). Yet, indeed, how can we genuinely be Temples of the Holy Spirit if our roots are not sunk deep into the living water of God’s Word.

A challenge for those who are skeptical. Commit to immersing yourself in the Scriptures. Seek out scriptural counsel before you do anything you do — not just the big things but the little things as well — and discover whether or not you find wisdom there. I believe you will. I also believe that the more you sink your spiritual teeth into the scriptures, the hungrier you will become, for you (again the tree analogy) will sprout forth and will bear the Fruit of the Spirit.

Not Withholding our Lives

“And the Angel of Yahweh called to Abraham — a second time from heaven. And he said, ‘In myself I swear, utters Yahweh; because of this thing that you have done in not sparing your son, your only one, I will surely bless you and your seed will surely be great as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the lip of the sea. And your seed will take possession of the gates of his enemies. And in your seed will all the nations of the earth be blessed on account of your obeying my voice.”

(Genesis 22:15-18)


There is truly a ton of material in this passage, but it is valuable to keep the whole statement of the Angel of Yahweh, the pre-incarnate Christ, as we look at the parts. Once again, He speaks for God and with authority. He states to Abraham that “you have not withheld your son from me.” Notice too, the language of Abraham sparing his son. Jesus uses similar language in teaching his own disciples:

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If someone desires to come after me, then he must renounce himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For the one who wants to save his life will lose it, but the one who loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it benefit a man if he acquires the whole world but forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his life?’”

(Matthew 16:24-26)

Now our English translations of this passage in Matthew do a bit of a tricky switch on us, that I am hopefully remedying here. In each of the cases that I have translated as “life” the Greek word yuch/ (psuche) is being used. This is the term from which we get the English word, “psyche,” and it means much the same thing in both English and Greek. The yuch/ (psuche) refers to the seat of one’s person or you could say his personality. It is what makes us tick and what makes us individuals and different from one another. It is also typically seen as the primary place in which we bear God’s image. It can be used to refer to our physical life here on earth and sometimes it can be used to refer to the ongoing nature of our spiritual life, though it is a distinct thing from the pneuvma (pneuma) or spirit.

The dominant English approach to translating this passage of Matthew is to presume that Jesus is talking about one’s physical life in the former part of the statement and talking about one’s eternal spiritual life in the latter part, but that is not what is literally being stated. If we render the word consistently, all of the way through, we realize that the emphasis is not so much on eternal things but on temporal ones. And what good does it do for you if you spend all of your energy building an empire for yourself, but it kills you in the process? As people often say, “you can’t take it with you…” Jesus is not condemning a man to eternal fire for building a financial empire, but he is asking the question, “are the sacrifices you are making worth the riches you have acquired?”

Abraham is a wealthy man at this point in his life, but the greatest wealth that he holds is found in the person of his son Isaac and in the promise of God that Isaac and his children will be multiplied greatly on the face of the earth. God has thus asked Abraham to place even that on the altar of sacrifice. On a purely human level, Abraham and Sarah could have lived the life of a king in terms of their wealth, but then they would be gone and their witness forgotten. This child was everything, yet they were willing to lay even that to the side if God so desired it — choosing to be in submission to God’s design and not to their own.

This is the heart of what Jesus is teaching his disciples. Their obedience would cost them their lives in a variety of ways. Most would die martyrs deaths. But for all of them, the real cost would be that they would set to the side their personal plans and aims and follow God’s plans for them. Ultimately, God’s plans for us are far better than any plans that we could make on our own, but it takes faith and obedience to go through the process of getting there. It means picking up the implement of our suffering and death (the cross) and following Jesus wherever he would lead. It is counter-cultural to do so, but in the end, it is far better. Ask any pastor or missionary who has left a life behind to follow Christ, and like Abraham, they will affirm, “Yes, it is infinitely better than what I could have designed on my own.”

Love God with All (Mark 12:30)

“And you will love the Lord your God with all of your heart, and with all of your life, and with all of your understanding, and with all of your strength.”

(Mark 12:30)


Jesus continues the passage with an explanation of what it means to be committed to God as Wnyheloa/ (Elohinu), or “our God.”  And Jesus says that the way we live this out is by fully committing ourselves to God’s adoration and service.  The first section of this passage is a direct quote of the LXX, the Greek Translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, yet, it would seem, at the initial onset, that Jesus has added to the text as we move to the latter half of what Jesus is teaching, but we will address that as we get to that section.

Jesus begins with the command from Deuteronomy 6:5 to love the Lord our God with all of our heart.  In the modern, Greek, mindset (remembering that our way of thinking is predominantly influenced by Greek thought, not Hebrew thought), the heart is the seat of the emotions or passions.  Thus, when many of us read this line initially, we immediately assume Jesus to be commanding us to love Yahweh with all of our passion.  While Jesus certainly does command us to love Yahweh with our passions, that is not what he means by heart.  In the Hebrew mindset, the heart was the seat of one’s personality and reason.  If a Hebrew person wanted to speak of one’s passions alone, he would talk about something as being from our bowels (I can’t figure out why Hallmark hasn’t picked up on that idea—I can just see the Valentine’s Day cards now; I love you with all of my bowels, dear…).  Thus, the command that is being given is that everything that makes you a reasoning human being—the whole of your personality, if you will—is to be dedicated to the love of God.  This would include, then, not only your reason and intellect, but also those little quirks that make you who you are.  Beloved, have you ever considered the fact that you are to love God with your idiosyncrasies?   They are part of your very makeup, thus, they are designed to be used by you to the glory of God!

Jesus continues with the command that we are to love God with all of our life.  This is the Greek term yuch/ (psuche), which is the word from which our English word “psyche” comes.  Many of our English translations will translate this word as “soul,” but I have opted to translate this as “life” out of deference to the Hebrew word that yuch/ (psuche) is being used to translate in this case.  The Hebrew term is the word vp,n< (nephesh), which refers to all that which gives life to and animates the body.  It is variously translated as life, breath, and even soul, but it is distinct from the word x;Wr (ruach), which means “spirit.”  In modern English, we don’t normally distinguish between the idea of a soul and of a spirit, so to preserve the Hebrew distinction, I have opted to translate this as life.  In Hebrew, the spirit is understood much in the same way as we understand a spirit today, but the soul was intimately bound to giving your physical body life, and hence our translation.  Thus, the idea being communicated in this first half of Jesus’ statement is not a dichotomy between the passions of man and the soul of man, but a united image of how we are to love God with our personality and with all that gives us life and breath in this world.  We are to be wholly committed to Yahweh, our God.

Now, as we look back to Deuteronomy 6:5, from which Jesus is quoting, we find a peculiar difference.  The Hebrew concludes with a third command, that we are to love God with all of our daom. (meod), or, literally, all of our “veriness.”  The idea expressed, by making the adverb “very” into a noun, is that of applying all of your abundance, all of your blessings, and all of the external things that God has put into your life toward the worship of God.  All of the rich blessings that have come to you in this world, as they have come from God, are to be used and applied toward the love of God.  That raises an important question for all of us—how are we using those blessings?  How do we use our vacation time; how do we use our savings; how do we use the finances that we have been afforded; and how do we use the retirements that God has given to us?  Beloved, we are often guilty of applying these things—these things that make up our “veriness”—toward our own ends and not for the love of God.  How we need to regularly look at our lives and see just how we are using the blessings that God has afforded us.

Yet, Jesus does not use this language, nor is he quoting from the Greek LXX, which reads, all of our du/namiß (dunamis)—or might (dunamis is the word from which we get the English word, “dynamite”).  Instead, Jesus breaks this final command into two separate parts: dia/noia (dianoia) or understanding and ijscuß (ischus) or strength.  My initial response was that maybe Jesus was breaking up the language of vp,n< (nephesh), or life, as yuch/ (psuche) and dia/noia (dianoia) and replacing du/namiß (dunamis) with ijscuß (ischus).  Thus, the idea of life would be expressed by both life and mind or soul and mind and power would be changed to reflect the idea of strength.  The problem with this interpretation is two-fold.  First of all, it seems odd that Jesus would add the word dia/noia (dianoia) to yuch/ (psuche) when yuch/ (psuche) is a direct quote of the Greek LXX.  Secondly, given that Matthew does not record Jesus as saying ijscuß (ischus) at all, but ends with dia/noia (dianoia).  Matthew, being a good Jew, would have been intimately familiar with the text and importance of Deuteronomy 6:5 and it would have been very unlikely that he would neglect to record an element therein.

That leads us with one other reasonable alterative, and that is to understand Jesus as expanding on the idea of our loving God with all of our daom. (meod), or veriness.  Instead of using the LXX translation, then, we see Jesus giving his own translation of daom. (meod) into Greek by using two terms: dia/noia (dianoia) and ijscuß (ischus).  In other words, Jesus is saying that for us to worship God with all of our abundance, or veriness, requires us to do so with our mental capacity, or dia/noia (dianoia), and our physical capacity, or ijscuß (ischus).  In other words, all of the energy we might expend, to accomplish all that we do in this life, we are called upon to use to love God.  We are to think about God, reason about God, meditate about God, and then the work of our hands—as mighty as that work may be, must too be done for the glory and love of God.  Indeed, this translation would capture the idea of the abundance that God has given us (as that abundance so often comes through the labors of our hands and/or our minds).

Thus, Jesus, in quoting Moses here, leaves no stone unturned when being asked the question of how we are to express our love and adoration for God on high—every inch of our life is to be devoted to God’s glory regardless of our career, trade, or background.  Does this mean that all should be preachers and missionaries?  Certainly not!  Yet, this does mean that whatever you do, whether hobby, curiosity, or career, should be done to the glory of God.  Dear friends, I wonder, can we say this about our own lives?  Can we say that the way we have ordered our career or the way we have spent our leisure time is designed to glorify God?  Oh, beloved, how we should look deeply at our hearts, our lives, and our efforts and ask ourselves, “how is God glorified in this.”  And then, when an answer is shown, work diligently to change how we live our days so as to submit ourselves to the challenge of Jesus’ words.  May our lives be lived all for the glory and honor of God alone.

Found in Christ

“When Christ should be revealed—who is your life—then, also you will be revealed in glory.”  (Colossians 3:4)


Beloved, not only is our life, that is our true life, tied to Christ, but the glory that we will one day experience is tied to Christ as well.  Everything we are and everything we do is dependant on the one whom we serve.  We have no life apart from Christ, but only know death and sin.  In Christ there is life and as Christ was raised in glory, so too, will believers be raised up in glory when Christ returns in the skies.  What a wonderful promise that God has given us; not only does he justify us and redeem us from our sins, but in time he will glorify us with his Son!

Friends, dwell on that picture.  Let it sink into your soul.  This is not a lame promise of sitting on the clouds playing a harp for eternity, but this is a real and concrete promise that we will be remade according to the image of Christ—free of all of the difficulties and problems that are associated with these mortal bodies that we have now.  And, in the glorious resurrection, we will be free from sin.  St. Augustine called not being able to sin the greatest freedom.  What a wonderful promise and hope we have.

The problem is that we often do not live our lives like a people of hope.  Instead, we live our lives in the world just as the rest of the world does.  So often we fear death and seek to flee from it; so often we cling to the things of this world, when the next world beckons us.  Beloved, if you have been born again in Jesus Christ, you have a blessed hope, and that hope is the glorious resurrection alongside of the Lord Jesus Christ when he returns to judge the world and condemn his enemies.  Trust in that promise, for it is sure and true.

Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace!

Hail the Sun of Righteousness!

Light and life to all he brings,

Risen with healing in his wings.

Mild he lays his glory by,

Born that man no more may die,

Born to raise the sons of earth,

Born to give them second birth.

Hark! The herald angels sing,

“Glory to the new-born King.”

-Charles Wesley

No One Comes To the Father, But Through Me: John 14:6

“no one comes to the Father if not through me.”


            Jesus begins and ends this passage by focusing on himself.  Friends, salvation can be found in no other person or path.  It cannot be found in philosophy, in science, in achievements, in wealth, in family, in humanism, in Buddha, in Mohammed, or in anyone or anything else.  Our world presents many options and paths—some of which even sound convincing—but the only way to the Father is through Jesus.  The only hope of a resurrection is found in the one who was resurrected.  The only hope of eternal life is in the eternal one who is the life.  And the only truth in this world is found in the person of Christ, who has revealed to us the mysteries of God’s redemptive plan. 

Jesus Christ is not only the focal point of all of scripture, but he is the point on which all of history revolves about.  You might enjoy talking about politics, but politics has no eternal significance.  You might enjoy talking about sports, but sports has no eternal significance.  You might enjoy talking about literature, but literature has no eternal significance.  The only thing that has eternal significance in the history of mankind is Jesus Christ and the work that God had done and is doing through him.  That is the bedrock of your faith—I urge you to stand upon it without wavering and without doubting when the winds of trial fill your days.  Trust in Him, and Him alone, dear friends, even though the world would tell you otherwise.


No One Comes to the Father: John 14:6

“no one comes to the father”


            Do you see how the Trinity is at work in redemptive history?  We offended God by our sin and our rejection of his law.  Yet, rather than leave us to our deserved fate, God chose to work in our lives to redeem a people for himself.  God the Son provided a sacrifice to atone for our sins, bridging the chasm of sin between us and the Father.  And God the Holy Spirit regenerates the heart of each member of the elect, and through faith, draws us to God the Son, and through God the Son, we are brought to God the Father.  The symmetry of God’s redemptive plan is a beautiful thing to behold.

            But what is even more beautiful is the face of a believer when he or she truly realizes that they have been redeemed—not that they have earned redemption, but that they have been redeemed by a work of God himself.  In this life, we struggle with a load of burdens and cares, brought on by our fallen state, when Jesus lifts that burden from the shoulders of one who is newly redeemed, oh what a joy does fill their heart.  And the joy does not end there, the angels in heaven rejoice in praise to God as well (Luke 15:10).

            Friends, take the time to remember your own conversion, the time when you finally realized that you could stand before the Father’s throne not on your own flawed righteousness, but in the righteousness that is Christ’s.  Don’t ever forget the joy and the desire to worship that filled your heart on that day.  Some of you may not remember a time when you did not embrace Christ as Lord, and the blessings of a lifetime in fellowship with him have richly blessed your soul.  This is one of the great mysteries of God’s love—that he would choose to redeem a fallen and sinful race—that he would choose to redeem you and me, and that we might have fellowship with him.   I am reminded of the old Bill Gaither hymn:

Shackled by a heavy burden,

Neath a load of guilt and shame—

Then the hand of Jesus touched me,

And now I am no longer the same.

He touched me, O He touched me,

And O the joy that floods my soul;

Something happened, and now I know,

He touched me and made me whole.


Christian, rejoice and praise God for the fact that Jesus has brought you to the Father.

No One Comes: John 14:6

“no one comes”


            I once heard a preacher say that if you are feeling distant or separated from God that it is you that moved, not he.  There is a great deal of truth in that statement.  Sin is a great divide that separates us, a sinful people, from a Holy God.  And the divide was caused by our sin.  Yet, praise be to God that a bridge has been provided for us in Jesus Christ! 

            The debate in Christian circles is not over whether we come, but over what causes us to come.  This debate is often called the Calvinistic/Wesleyan or the Calvinistic/Arminian debate, but the roots of the debate go back much further than John Wesley, Jacob Arminius, or John Calvin.  The roots of this debate lie with a man named Pelagius and Saint Augustine.

            Pelagius denied the doctrine of Original Sin (I guess he never had children).  He said that all sin was learned and that we could live a sinless life if we just tried hard enough.  Of course, were even one person able to live a perfect life, then there would be no need for the sacrifice of Jesus.  Eventually the church pronounced Pelagius and his view heretical, as it denies the need for the atonement.

            While Arminius did not deny Original Sin, he did build on Pelagius’ premise that we are capable of coming to faith in Jesus on our own strength, that faith is something we bring to salvation.  While Arminius and his followers’ teachings were never well received in their native Netherlands, a young English preacher named John Wesley became enchanted by their teachings.

            Ultimately, John Wesley would affirm God’s sovereignty over everything except the human will.  He said that God woos us to himself through his “prevenient grace” (grace that goes before), but the ultimate choice was left up to us.  In Wesley’s view, Jesus’ death was to atone for the sins of everyone, it was just up unto each individual as to whether they would accept the gift he offers.  God regenerates the sinner, but not until the sinner comes to him in faith.

            We who are in the Reformed tradition of Calvin and Augustine disagree vehemently with this position.  Through sin, death entered into the world (Genesis 3) and we die not only physically, but apart from the spirit, we are dead spiritually (Romans 8:5-8).  One who is dead can do nothing to aid his own cause—he is dead, and can only rot and become more corrupted.  It is impossible for the spiritually dead to please God in any way (Romans 8:8).  Thus faith is not something we are capable of providing; rather, when the Holy Spirit regenerates the believer, He also instills faith into the believer. 

            Wesley was never comfortable with the ramifications of this theology.  For if faith and regeneration were a sovereign work of the Holy Spirit, then God must be doing the choosing when it comes to redemption.  To this, the Calvinist says a hearty, Amen!  The scriptures are filled with references to God’s election of his people.  All through history, God chose certain people to bring to himself and others to leave to their sinful ways.  If you take the scriptures seriously, you cannot get away from this fact.  Christ’s death was fully effective for all of those whose name were written in the Book of Life from before the foundations of the earth (Ephesians 1:3-6).  Upon just this issue, Jesus himself says: “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and the one who comes to me I will not ever cast out.”  (John 6:37)

            Friends, we are surrounded by people who teach that faith is something that you generate from within yourself, and because of that, you can lose your salvation if you don’t stand strong enough in the faith.  This is not the teaching of scripture.  If God does the working in you, he will do the keeping of you until the very end (Romans 8:28-30).  Though we need to work hard to live a life for God’s glory, not backsliding into sin, we can take a great deal of encouragement that it is God himself who will ensure that we finish the race.

            Loved ones, take heart.  God has called, he has awakened your soul, and he has given you faith so that you might come to his son, Jesus.  You have been brought out of the darkness and into the light of Christ, and Christ will not turn away any who his father has given him—no never, will he cast you away.

No One: John 14:6

“no one”


            Jesus has moved from making a positive statement of the truth to a negative one.  First he says, “Yes, I am the way…” and now he is saying, “No, there is no other way.”  In this way, Jesus makes sure that we understand the exclusivity of the Christian faith.  There is no room for any compromise or alternate ideas.  Jesus is the only way and apart from him, no one comes to the Father—at least in any sense that they would want to encounter the Father.

             While our culture, and in turn, many of our churches, has embraced inclusively, this is not the position of Jesus.  He was very clear that it was only in him that salvation can be found.  There is no sneaking into heaven by any other way.  No matter how good or kind a person is, if they are trusting in anything or anyone other than Jesus, they will face eternal condemnation.

            Sometimes I wonder just how seriously we take this part of the message.  When someone dies, the first thing that we say, is, “well, they are in a better place…”  Are they?  If they knew Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, they are in a far better place, but if they did not know Jesus personally—given all of the Biblical descriptions of Hell, it is a far worse place than here.  When we have loved ones who are exhibiting no evidence of God in their lives, how often do we refrain from asking about Jesus?  How often do we turn our heads, hoping that in the end, everything will work out OK?

            Jesus is phrasing this statement in both a positive way and a negative to make in unmistakably clear in our minds that while there are many roads, there is no other road that leads to salvation.  Friends, if we understand that no one who has not put their faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior has any hopes to go to heaven, let us be more serious about sharing the Gospel with those we love and those who are around us.  You are never too young or old to do so.  There is absolutely no other path to heaven but in Christ, let our hearts yearn to see more souls join us on that path.

I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life: John 14:6

“I am the way and the truth and the life”


            Not only is Jesus the true way and the truth within the world, but he is the life.  There is no life apart from life in Christ.  Though some people may think that they can find life in this world; they look for life in wealth, or wisdom, or achievements, or pleasure, but as Solomon tells us in the book of Ecclesiastes, anything that is done apart from God is vanity—it is like trying to chase the wind.

            But Jesus is making an even more profound point.  Back in Genesis, Adam and Eve were warned that the penalty for sin would be death.  And though, when they ate of the fruit, death entered into the world in a physical sense, it also entered into the world in a spiritual sense.  At the moment that Adam and Eve chose to sin, they died in a spiritual sense.  The relationship that they had with God was severed and broken, and unbridgeable by anything that we could do.  They were dead to sin and just as a corpse is unable to do anything but corrupt, so their souls were unable to do anything but corrupt as well.

            Yet, Praise be to God that this is not the end of the story!  Right there in Eden, God gave to Adam and Eve a promise of a redeemer, one who would crush the head of Satan and his influence on man forever more.  Jesus is that promised one.  The Old Testament Saints placed their faith in a promise, but Jesus wanted us to be very clear that in him that promise was fulfilled.  God breathed life into the dead spiritual corpses of Adam and Eve on that day, just as he continues to breath life into spiritually dead corpses today—regenerating them and instilling in them a faith in Jesus Christ.  Jesus is the life; he is the way a believer must walk and the truth a believer must trust in, but he is also the life, which allows the believer to believe in the first place.  As the Augustus Toplady so eloquently put it: “Nothing in my hand I bring; Only to the Cross I cling.”

            Christian, do not take for granted what God has done for you even before you recognized yourself as a believer.  Though your heart beat and your flesh felt strong, you were no more than a walking corpse prior to the Holy Spirit’s work of regeneration in your life.  Your soul was rotten and decayed.  But just as God can breath new life into the old bones of Israel (Ezekiel 37), so too was God able to breath new life into your soul and remake it new.  This life you have is in Christ, it is the only life that is available—all who deny it are but walking dead.  Beloved, trust in Christ with your all, because he is your all.

I am the Way and the Truth: John 14:6

“I am the way and the truth”


            Once again, we find Jesus using a definite article before the word truth.  Not only is Jesus the only way that leads to life eternal with the Father, but he is the only truth that we have access to in this world.  Think about that for a moment.  If Jesus is THE truth, then ANYTHING that contradicts or stands in opposition to Jesus must, by definition, be a lie.  And since Jesus is the Word of God made flesh (John 1:14), then the Bible, which is the Word of God given to us, must also be THE truth and irrefutable.

            In our post-modern culture, where the rules of logic and reason are thrown out of the window and where everything is considered to be relative, a statement like this does not sit well.  Yet, it has not sat well with people through the ages.  Men would rather hear what pleases them than the truth (2 Timothy 4:3).  Philosophers are not interested in the truth; rather they are interested in being novel. 

            Yet Jesus says that he is the truth and he leaves no room for any competition.  Jesus is the truth and if we desire to know the truth about any and all things, we must turn to him and to his word.  This means, then, that the Scriptures must be the basis for our understanding of everything else that is.  In other words, the Scriptures are the only glasses that we can look through so that we can see the world clearly.  If anything seems to contradict scriptures, it must be wrong.

            Science will tell us that the world is about 5 billion years old.  There certainly seems to be some evidence in nature to support that hypothesis.  At the same time, scripture tells us that the world is only 6,000 to 8,000 years old.  The scriptures must be right.  How are we to understand the scientific evidence?  One of two ways:  either that the scientists are not interpreting the data properly (though this is probably not the case) or that God created the world to look older than it really is. 

            Does this mean that God is being dishonest?  Not at all, he never claims that the world is billions of years old.  What it means is that the scientists are only looking at part of the evidence.  There are logical reasons why the world seems as old as it seems, and were scientists to look to the Bible and not just nature, they would understand these things.  All of creation is part of God’s general revelation to the world, for it all points to his handiwork.  If people choose to ignore that general revelation in search of a naturalistic explanation, how can God be held responsible for their error? 

            But more important than general revelation is special revelation:  The Bible.  The Bible is not a systematic encyclopedia which gives us a little bit of information on all things, rather it is an exhaustive work that gives us all the information we need to know about the relationship between God and man.  It is the manual that instructs the saved and leads others to the object of salvation, the Truth made flesh, Jesus.  Our culture is fond of thinking that there are many truths; yet, there is but one.  Jesus died for the sins of all who would put their faith in him as their Lord and Savior.  He died in their place, taking their just punishment on his shoulders.  And he was raised!  And because Jesus was raised, we who have our faith in Jesus have been promised resurrection as well.  Friends, this is the truth.

            In a world that glorifies “tolerance” as its chief virtue, it is easy to get deceived into thinking that there might be other legitimate faiths.  But this is not so.  All who are not trusting in Jesus for their salvation will stand in judgment based on their works, and no one can stand before a righteous God on their own merit.  Jesus is the only way to salvation, and he is the only truth.  Everything else is no truth at all.

I am the Way: John 14:6

“I am the way”


            It is important that you read this statement very closely, because many people in our culture do not understand the language that Jesus is using.  He says, “I am THE way,” he does not say, “I am A way.”  Our culture seems to think that it does not matter whether you are a Christian or a Muslim, “whatever you call God,” they say, “is all the same.”  They feel that everyone is going to heaven and what is most important is that we simply all get along here on earth.  Because of that, they accuse evangelical Christians of being narrow-minded and pushy with our faith.  They see us evangelizing on the street corners, in hospitals, or at disaster scenes and they say we are offending their privacy.  They would rather that we leave them alone for a few years on earth than avoid an eternity of damnation.

            Yet, what is most interesting about this culture’s position is that it wants to affirm that a group of mutually exclusive religions as being compatible.  That is like trying to affirm that a coin is a nickel and a dime at the same time—it just cannot be.  Jesus said that he was “THE” way!  It is a statement of total exclusion.  There are no other ways or paths that can be followed; Jesus is the only option if you want to avoid the fires of judgment.

            If we are true to scripture and true to the teaching of Jesus, we can take no other stance than this; there are no other options.  You are either trusting in Jesus for salvation or you are not, there are no in-betweens and no grey areas.  There may be other roads, but those roads, though easy, only lead to destruction (Matthew 7:13).  Jesus is the only way that leads to life.

            The thing that we often struggle with is being truthful with other people, especially those closest to us.  We fear offending them.  Truth, be told, though, these people are those we ought to work the hardest with, for is it not those who we love the most who we ought to desire the most to spend eternity with?  Beloved, if these people are truly your friends, they will be the least likely to recoil from you if you share the Gospel with them.  If they are willing to walk away from a friendship because you are concerned for their soul, then you should bring into question the caliber of friendship that you had with them in the first place.

            Friends, do not be so worry about offending that you quietly participate in the eternal destruction of those you care about.  Love them with the truth.  Just as an animal cannot be a cow and a dog at the same time, so too, if your goal is heaven, you can look to no other place but Christ.   

I Am: John 14:6


“I am”


            Not only is Jesus drawing attention to himself when he emphasizes the “I” of this statement, but he is making another connection as well.  In Exodus 3:14, when Moses asks the Lord what name shall he give to the Israelites as to who is sending him, the Lord says to tell the Israelites that he is “I AM WHO I AM.”  In the next verse, God simply tells Moses to tell the Israelites that “I AM sent me.”

            The language of “I AM” is important in our understanding of God, for God simply is.  He exists independent of time and space, he is boundless and timeless, and he has always existed and always will exist.  Before God created the world, God was and only God was.  There is nothing that was created that did not have its origins in God’s work and nothing is outside of God’s divine and sovereign control.  God is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient.  And by Jesus making the statement, “I, I am…” one of the claims that he is making is that he is the “I AM” of scripture; he is Yahweh having taken on flesh.

            Jesus is stating that all of the attributes that we attribute to God belong to him as well.  Jesus is the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15) and to know him is to know the Father (John 14:7-11).  Friends, do you see what Jesus is claiming here?    He is making an explicit statement of divinity.  He is saying that he is God, the one who created all things and preserved a people for himself, and is all-powerful—and he has chosen to take the way of the cross as a sacrifice for our sins.  He is not offering an ordinary sacrifice, but a perfect, flawless, and divine sacrifice for the sins of you and me.

            Jesus is preexistent and eternal, and he chose to put aside his rightful glory to walk this earth.  He chose to endure the abuse and the spite of our race, yet he is God himself.  He chose to suffer and die for sins that did not belong to him, but belonged to us, so that we might come to him.  Jesus had all of the agony of Hell dumped on his shoulders so that we might not have to face its fires.

            Friends, this is the Gospel in a nutshell—to those who put their faith in Christ as their Lord and Savior, he has suffered in their place and given us a promise of redemption instead.  What is sad is there are people in this world who would try and make us believe that Jesus was not really God.  Friends, there are many examples where Jesus claims his deity, and this is just one.  Rest in the promise that the Lord you serve is God and that he loved you enough to pay the penalty for sin on your behalf.  I can think of no more blessed a promise than that.

I: John 14:6



            This statement begins with the Greek word “ejgwv” (ego), which means “I.”  Though this may not seem significant, it is significant in the Greek language, for in Greek, the verb carries its own subject, in other words, it is redundant to use the actual word for “I” unless you are doing so for emphasis.  Literally, this statement begins, “I, I am the way…”

            Jesus is drawing attention to himself.  Not only is he the only pathway to the father, but he is the focal point of all Christian living.  It is his life, not ours, that is of utmost important.  The key is not the destination, but the guide that you are following.  It was more important for Thomas to understand that he must follow Christ than the destination to which Christ was leading him.

            Is that not all of our difficulties?  Do we not often get impatient with the journey, wanting to get to the destination more quickly?  Are we not a society of shortcuts and impatience?  We want everything yesterday and wish to wait for nothing.  Yet, Jesus tells us to stop focusing on ourselves and trust him.  We become impatient when we fail to trust the guide that is leading us, which in turn causes our eyes to wander.  Jesus is not saying to take our eyes off the goal of Heaven—never must we do that, but what he is saying is that we need to trust in him and in his timing. 

We can only see the road to heaven clearly when we are looking through the lens of Christ.  Jesus begins with “I” because everything for the Christian begins, ends, and revolves around Him.  Remember, it is not the human “I” that will guide you to your heavenly goal, but it is the divine “I am” who will bring you safely to your destination.


I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life: Intro

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life; no one comes to the father if not through me.’”

John 14:6


This is one of the most well known statements that Jesus made, at the same time; we rarely take the time to reflect upon all of the theological implications that are contained within these words.  The point of this little study is to take some time to unpackage all that there is contained in these famous words of Jesus.

To set the stage, Jesus has come to Jerusalem at the end of his three-year ministry to celebrate the Passover meal with his disciples.  Though the disciples do not yet fully understand what is going to happen, this Passover will be the most important Passover meal of their lives, and indeed, of all of history.  What marks this Passover celebration is not so much the slaughtering of the thousands of lambs that are brought into the city, but the slaying of one Passover Lamb, the Lamb of God himself.  Jesus is the Passover Lamb for the world, the only perfect and pure sacrifice for our sins.

This last week of Jesus’ life is the most significant portion of the Gospels, and comprises a bit more than 40% of John’s Gospel text.  There is a lot that goes on during this week, the triumphal entry, the clearing of the temple, the plotting and betrayal of Judas, the Last Supper held in the upper room, the arrest, the trial, the crucifixion, and praise God, the resurrection!  Though all that Jesus did and taught is very important, this last week of Jesus’ life is vitally important for us to understand.

The passage in John that we will be spending some time with takes place in what we know as the “upper room.”  Jesus has washed the disciple’s feet and the Last Supper has been given (although John does not detail it as the other Gospel writers do).   Judas’ betrayal and Peter’s denial have been predicted by Jesus.  This must have been a sobering thing to hear. 

And it is in this context that Jesus gives some of the most wonderful words of blessing, commission, and assurance to his disciples.  It is here where Jesus promises the coming of the Holy Spirit upon them in power and where he gives the analogy of himself as the true vine—a promise steeped in Davidic tradition.  It is here where Jesus assures his apostles that while the world will hate them, he has overcome the world.  Also, it is here where Jesus offers up what is now known as his “High Priestly Prayer” on behalf of the Apostles and on behalf of all believers who would come after them—on behalf of you and me.  It is in this context that Thomas asks Jesus how they might follow him if they don’t know where he is going.  And it is in this context that Jesus answers Thomas with this wonderful statement:  “I am the way and the truth and the life; no one comes to the father if not through me.”