Jesus’ Answer to a Basic Question

Many people enjoy a good discussion on religion.

Some of these discussions are delightful experiences. Usually they are between people who either are Christians or are seriously inquiring about the Christian faith.

Other people have no personal interest in the Christian faith, but like a discussion that can generate a lot of emotion. These people like to ridicule those who believe in Christ as their Savior and Lord. These conversations can be disagreeable because little will change and relationships can be damaged.

In today’s Scripture text, Jesus is with his disciples in the Upper Room where he institutes the Lord’s Supper. His disciples are depressed, for everything seems to be falling apart. Jesus announces that he was leaving them, and Judas goes on his way to betray Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. Peter would deny Jesus three times before the night ended.

In that sad setting, Jesus seeks to lift their spirit when he says, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe in me.” Our Lord was saying, Trust me, the time is difficult but I will be with you.

Bishop Ryle of the Church of England used to say, “A precious remedy for the old disease of a troubled heart (depression), is the pill of faith.” When we throw ourselves into the arms of faith, we can know what it is to not only be forgiven of our sins, but also to be given strength to face every conceivable thing that can come to us while we are here on this earth.

Now comes the question: What happens after death?

Is there a life after death? Many of our religious discussions center around this subject.

Jesus answers, “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so would I have told you? I am going to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:1-3). Jesus assures them a heavenly home awaits those who trust him as Savior and Lord. This is the answer to the question that we are also asking. Heaven does exist. Jesus said so. Is that not enough?

Yet as clearly as Jesus’ answer is, the vast majority of people do not accept it.

Certainly the masses of people want to believe in some kind of existence after this life, but don’t know what it will be. Here are some of their answers:

1. I am trying to live a good life, and God will reward me.

2. The home in heaven will be enjoyed by all.

3. We can make the gospel of life after death acceptable to our culture; faith in Christ is not a requirement.

4. My own personal experience convinces me of a life after death. I was seriously ill and an experience empowered me to look through a long tunnel where I saw Jesus and other people I know.

All these thoughts are the products of the human mind or emotion. Jesus said, “I go to prepare a place for you, and I will come back one day and take you to be with me, that you also may be where I am.” This eternal word from our Lord is the solid foundation of our faith that a heavenly home awaits all believers who have received Jesus as their Savior.

Many other passages also point us to the heavenly home Ð

The writer of the book of Hebrews says, “For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come” (Hebrews 13:14).

Jesus says, “. . . many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 8:11).

Jesus tells his disciples, “. . . rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20).

Paul said, “Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands” (II Corinthians 5:1).

Peter writes, “(We have) an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade Ð kept in heaven for you” (I Peter 1:4).

Let these truths sink into your mind and the words of Jesus become authoritative.

God’s Word tells us a heavenly home is prepared for us by our Savior if we receive him. However, there is also a hell.

Who says so? Jesus.

What’s to Become of Me?

What’s to become of me?

That is a familiar question many people ask when they face a crisis, whether it’s facing surgery, being deployed to war, or hearing a frightening diagnosis. It is a question that causes many to buy the latest book concerning someone who has come back from the afterlife.

The question Ð What’s to become of me? Ð is a common question even among those in the pews of the church as they consider their own mortality. It reflects a troubled heart.

The night before his death on the cross, Jesus knew his disciples were asking that question as they sensed something dark and foreboding was about to happen. Their Master would be taken from them, and it wasn’t going to be pretty. Jesus made references earlier to his rejection and suffering and dying in Jerusalem. That night in the Upper Room, he had told them that he would be going away from them, and that where he was going they couldn’t go. It was all beginning to happen, and their human reaction was to wonder what would happen next. As Jesus observed their fears, he responded with the reassuring words in our text.

Many of us treasure these familiar words from John 14. For the Christian, these words are as comforting as being wrapped in a familiar blanket or sweater. When we put it on, the world feels right again. These precious words are the risen Christ’s assurance to his followers who were asking what was to become of them.

I hope you noticed all the “you’s” Jesus employed in this statement.

“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God, believe in me also. In my Father’s house there are many rooms. If it were not so would I have told you that I go and prepare a place for you and when I go and prepare that place for you I will come again and take you to myself that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.”

Jesus is telling his disciples, I know you are nervous and anxious. But relax, for everything is being taken care of for you. I am going to make preparations for you.

We recently walked through the events of Holy Week and observed that preparations are made for us. Jesus went to the cross and paid the price for our sins with his suffering and death. Jesus soaked up every sin on that cross, and God’s wrath was poured out as a punishment for it. Jesus, in his last words, announced, “It is finished,” which means paid in full. Everything has been prepared, and our sins have been paid in full by Jesus. On Easter, God the Father raised Jesus as if to affirm the promise Jesus made in the Upper Room.

All that is really left to this matter is you. We make many preparations for our last breath in this world. We visit the insurance man, write our wills, and work out our estates. Some even buy a plot and headstone.

But what are your plans for eternity? Have you come to that place in your spiritual life where you know for certain that, if you were to die today, you would go to heaven?

Many people answer that question by saying, “Can anyone really know?”

My response is, “Yes, you can know,” for the Bible tells us that all these things were written in holy Scripture in order that we may know for certain that we can have eternal life because of what Christ has done for us.

Eternal life is not by anything that we do. One has that gift by placing their trust in Jesus Christ alone for eternal life. Faith is simply a trusting personal relationship between two subjects, an interchange of a personal nature, with the whole person involved.

The story is told of a man who was going to walk a tightrope across Niagra Falls while pushing a wheel barrow in front of him. On the day for the risky endeavor, the wind blew mightily and whipped the rope back and forth. As the time for the walk grew close, the crowd began to call out its advice: “Don’t try it, you’ll never make it!” Then one man jumped from the crowd, approached the tightrope walker and said, “Go ahead, make the walk. You can do it. I have faith in you.”

To this encouragement the tightrope walker replied with an invitation: “If you believe in me so strongly, get in the wheelbarrow and come with me.”

Faith is placing one’s trust Ð their whole being Ð in the hands of Jesus Christ for eternal life.

We have heard it said that only two things are certain in life Ð taxes and death. Jesus died and rose again in order to add a third to that list in your life: eternal life in heaven. Hear his words: “You believe in God, believe also in me.” Everything has been prepared for you. Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. And because he lives, we can have the sure and certain knowledge that we shall also live as we trust in him.

A certain hymn, often sung during Holy Week, ends the last verse with a prayer. It is a prayer that Jesus longs for us to tuck away in our hearts. The hymn, O Sacred Head Now Wounded, is written by Bernard Clairvaux, and here is the last verse.

Lord, be my consolation; Shield me when I must die;

Remind me of thy Passion when my last hour draws nigh.

These eyes, new faith receiving, from thee shall never move;

For he who dies believing, dies safely in thy love.

Everything has been prepared for you. Trust Jesus.

Are You Missing Something?

Do you ever wonder if you are missing something in your Christian faith?

A lady says, “Some of my Christian friends tell about their glorious experiences with the Lord. I have few if any of these experiences. Am I missing something?”

Today’s text (John 10:1-10) talks about Jesus presenting Himself as a shepherd. “The Shepherd calls his own sheep by name. He walks on ahead of them and his sheep follow him. They follow him because they know his voice. Other shepherds call the sheep but they will not follow a stranger’s voice, in fact they will run away from him because they do not know the voice.”

Jesus used this figure of speech, but they did not understand what He was telling them. Let’s see what Christ is telling us through the parable.

This parable teaches us that Jesus wants a personal relationship with us. He tells us that He has given His life for us and by trusting Him as our Savior we will live with Him forever. But He also walks with us in this life. The experiences of the Christian life come through this personal relationship. If we do not have such a relationship with our Lord, there is something missing in our life now.

There are many of us who do not know what it means to have this daily walk with our Lord. Life can be tough. Trusting Christ does not mean that we will escape these tough times but it does mean that He will stand by your side in those hours. To assure us of His presence Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

Did you notice His words in our text for coming to this earth? “I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” How often our lives can be burdened with sorrows and we carry them alone. Christ wants to share them with us.

Let me tell you the background of the great old gospel song, What a friend we have in Jesus. It was written by Joseph Scriven, a young man who lived in Ireland.

George Beverly Shea writes in his book, How Sweet the Sound, the circumstances under which Scriven wrote this hymn. He was about to be married. The night before the wedding his bride-to-be was accidentally drowned. Later, Scriven moved to Canada. Again his wedding plans ended when his fiancŽ became ill and died. In Port Hope, Ontario, a monument was erected in tribute to Joseph Scriven, the Irish immigrant who was a friend to many and who found a friend in Jesus.

Then Shea also told of this wonderful experience he had at a prayer breakfast in Washington. “That year many of the House and Senate came together for a combined prayer breakfast. The national leaders gathered with the President to pray, to seek God’s guidance, and to express their dependence on Him. I remember staying in a Washington hotel in 1954 and attending the prayer breakfast. I was sitting next to Russel Hitt. He asked me if I was singing that morning. ÔOh no, Rus, I’m here to listen.’ We ate bacon and eggs and toast.”

“Before long I felt a hand on my shoulder. The man said, ÔMy friend, would you come up with me and sing President Eisenhower’s favorite hymn, What a friend we have in Jesus?'”

“Now what was I going to do? I had just finished eating soft eggs. In almost the next minute I was at the microphone, saying to the audience, ÔIf you would like to join, please do.'”

“The next day, back home in Illinois, I turned on the Today Show and was so surprised to see the President standing next to me singing along with all of us.”

O what peace we often forfeit,

O what needless pain we bear,

All because we do not carry

Everything to God in prayer.

Listen to the 2nd and 3rd stanzas of this same hymn.

Have we trials and temptations?

Is there trouble anywhere?

We should never be discouraged,

Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Can we find a friend so faithful,

Who will all our sorrows share?

Jesus knows our every weakness

Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Think of it! Only 57 years ago. Could it be done today Ð The President and members of Congress standing before the nation, singing the words of this hymn? I doubt it.

Are the leaders in government missing something? I know they are.

I pray we will not cheat ourselves of great blessings by ignoring our greatest friend, the Lord Jesus.

First Then I Met Him

Once, in a men’s Bible class, we were discussing the topic of a personal relationship with God. One of the men shared with the group that he had been born and brought up in the church, and he knew the Bible stories in the New Testament very well. He felt that he had a basic understanding of the life of Christ. One day he went to a marriage retreat with his wife. While there he first met Christ.

One of the men in our Bible class asked him how did it felt when he met Christ, and what did he mean?

“Until then,” he said, “I knew Jesus intellectually as the Savior and Lord of the world. However, at that marriage retreat, the Holy Spirit opened my heart, and He came in to live there. Now I know him spiritually. He is always with me as we walk through life. He forgives me when I sin, directs me when I am confused, and encourages me when I am disturbed. He is my personal friend. I talk to Him many times during the day, and He speaks to me through His Word. He also gives me the assurance of my salvation.”

This is also what happened in Thomas’ life. I am glad that Thomas was one of the Lord’s disciples, for he demonstrates not only what many of us are, but what we can become when Christ gets hold of us.

Thomas had his doubts. That is reflected in our text. He was not with the other disciples when Jesus paid them a visit. However, when he returned, the other disciples were anxious to tell him that they had seen the Lord.

Thomas’ response disappointed them when he said, “Unless I see the nail marks in His hands and put my fingers where the nails were, I will not believe it.”

A week later the disciples were in the house again, and this time Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Thomas, put your fingers here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

Then Thomas said, “My Lord and my God.”

And Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you believe; blessed are those who have not seen me and yet believe.”

First Thomas met Jesus and his life was changed. Now he was ready to serve his Lord. Prior to that point, Thomas knew about it. He had walked with Jesus as a faithful disciple and he loved Jesus. But he had now met Him to the point that Christ lived in his heart, and he knew what the Lord was talking about when He said, “I forgive your sins.”

Now Thomas had a measure to share with other people. Tradition tells us that Thomas went on to share the Good News in India.

Isn’t this a picture of many of us? Our church includes many people who know Jesus intellectually but really haven’t met Him. They love their church and are active in its work. They give of their time and talent just as Thomas did, but before them is that time when they can say, “First now I know him.”

As we grow in knowing people, so we grow in knowing Jesus.

This is Mother’s Day, and we think of just a few of the great mothers of history who had met the Savior: John Mark’s mother who led her son to know Jesus; Lois and Eunice, Timothy’s grandmother and mother; Monica who introduced her son, Augustine, to the Lord and then became one of the three great church fathers. And we do not forget our great mothers of today who are leading their sons and daughters to Christ. Every congregation has many of these people.

Can you point to a time in your life when you can say, “It was during those days (or weeks or months or even years) that the Holy Spirit was speaking to me through His Word and my life was warmed and changed as Christ took up residence in my heart”?