Exactly What Is a Follower of Jesus Christ?

Exactly, what is a Follower of Jesus Christ? According to Rod Dempsey, a follower of Jesus Christ is actually a disciple of Christ. There are many characteristics of being a follower of Christ. A follower of Christ has surrendered his all to Jesus. This is called sacrificial. According to Dempsey, “He or she has made a decision to submit to Christ and surrender their will to follow Christ no matter what the cost” (Earley and Dempsey, 2013, 27). The second characteristic of being a follower of Christ is relational. Dempsey wrote, “He or she understands that love is the hallmark of followers of Jesus Christ. Love for God, love for neighbor, and love for other disciples is a very important part of the value system of a disciple” (Earley and Dempsey, 27). The third characteristic of being a follower of Christ is transformational. Dempsey wrote, “He or she understands that the purpose of spiritual growth is directed toward becoming like Christ in word, thought, attitude, and action” (Earley and Dempsey, 27).

 

Putman, et al, states that there are three attributes to being a follower of Jesus Christ. They take this from Matthew 4:19, “And he said to them, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (ESV). Putman et al states that John 12:26 speaks of this process. John 14:23-24 speaks of this as well as anyone who loves Christ will love the Word of God and will obey His teaching. By following Christ, a transformation will occur and a hunger for the Word. The Word will help shape and develop the new believer into a seasoned disciple who then can become an influence on others to come to Christ (Putman, et al., 2013, 46-51).

My definition of a follower of Jesus Christ is one that has been introduced to the Gospel and he or she has accepted Jesus in their heart. They have confessed with their mouths that they are lost without Jesus and that they believe that Jesus is the Son of God, that He came into the world to save it and not to condemn it. They believe that Jesus died for their individual sins and he rose after three days and ascended to heaven. They are new believers, being transformed by the Holy Spirit and starting to live life differently from the rest of the world. But a true follower will not stop at this conversion. They will hunger for the Word and seek to get closer to God. They will become disciples of Jesus Christ.

Unfortunately, not everyone will come to Christ. According to 2 Tim 2:10 and 2 Peter 1:10, salvation is for the elect in Christ. John 6:44 states, “no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” But there is hope in John 6:65 when Christ said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” What this is saying is that as a sinner, they have no way to save themselves. This is overcome by the sovereign power of the Holy Spirit, which will draw every man, woman, boy, and girl to Him who allows and yields to the Spirit.

Bibliography

Earley, Dave, and Rod Dempsey. Disciple Making Is… How to Live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2013.

Putman, Jim, Bobby Harrington, and Robert E Coleman. Disciple Shift: Five Steps That Help Your Church to Make Disciples Who Make Disciples. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013.

Sproul, R C. The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version. Edited by R C Sproul. Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing, 2015.

Joseph T. Lee Copyright © March 31, 2018. The Lantern & Shield Times LLC. All Rights Reserved.

 

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Breaking News: Jesus of Nazareth Has Risen from the Dead! The Tomb Is Empty!

April 1, 30 AD: At about 4:30 this morning, Mary Magdalene reports that she went to the Jesus’ tomb and found it open. She peered inside and saw that Jesus was nowhere in sight. His body was gone and his burial cloth was neatly folded up. According to John, “So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.”  So, Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb.  Both were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.  And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in.  Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself.  Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead.  Then the disciples went back to their homes.”

John also stated, “But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb.  And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet.  They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”  Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus.  Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.”  Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”  Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her.”

In another eyewitness account, Luke states, “ That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem,  and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened.  While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him.  And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad.  Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”  And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people,  and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him.  But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened.  Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning,  and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive.  Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.”  And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!  Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”  And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”

Luke continues, “So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So, he went in to stay with them. When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them.  And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight.  They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!”  Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.”

Jesus appeared to his disciples. According to Luke, “ As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!”  But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have. “And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?”  They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them.

Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”  Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead,  and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.  And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

It is reported that Jesus ascended to Heaven. Look at what our eyewitness Luke says, “And he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them.  While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven.  And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God.”

Present Day: Surely, Jesus was truly the Son of God! He did rise again and that is why we celebrate Easter every year. Easter is not about the Easter Bunny, eggs, or candy. It is about the very Son of God, who died an agonizing death for the redemption of our sins. It is about the fulfillment of Scripture. In which God would give mankind another chance by sending His Own Son, into the world, not to condemn it, but to save it.

The Gospels are very clear. There is only one way to heaven and that is through Jesus Christ. Look at what the Scripture says about how to be saved:

Romans 3:23 – “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

Romans 6:23 – “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

John 3:3 – “Jesus said, I assure you: Unless someone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

John 14:6 – “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me.”

Romans 10:9-11 – “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.”

2 Corinthians 5:15 – “And He died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for the One who died for them and was raised.”

John 3:16-17 – “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

Revelation 3:20 – “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.”

It is our hope that if you have been searching for the “Truth” that you would recognize that Jesus is the “Truth.” If you believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that He died for you and your guilt and sins and you also believe that He rose again in three days to show that He truly is the Son of God, then pray this prayer.

“Heavenly Father, I have sinned against You. I want your forgiveness for all my sins. I believe that Jesus died on the cross for me and rose again. Father, I give You my life to do with as You wish. I want Jesus Christ to come into my life and into my heart and live in me. I ask this in the name of Jesus. Amen.”

I pray that many who read this story will come to Christ Jesus and that you will know the saving Grace and Forgiveness only found through Jesus Christ. It is a life style change that will forever change your heart and your life. Once you come to Christ, Jesus will send His Holy Spirit to dwell with you and help to teach you, through the Word of God. Get affiliated with a true Bible believing church and become a disciple of Christ. Get engaged in the Word and develop a relationship with God. I know that God’s Not Dead because I speak with Him daily through prayer and through His Word. Having a true relationship with Jesus Christ is a way of life that I hunger for.

I hope that you find Jesus Christ today! Happy Easter! He Has Risen! He Has Risen Indeed!

Sources: The Gospel of Luke and John, The Book of Romans, 2 Corinthians, and Revelation.

Copyright © April 1, 2018. The Lantern & Shield Times LLC. All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

Why Didn’t I Ask the Question?

Most recently, I learned that a good client passed away suddenly. He appeared to be healthy and in better shape than I am in. And yet he died suddenly. Many people will ask why did God allow him to die as opposed to someone who has chronic health problems? The answer to that is unknown until we get to heaven ourselves. But this is not the question at stake. The question at stake is “Why didn’t I ask the question?”

Many are probably wondering right now, what is the question that I am talking about? I will get to that in a few sentences. Before I do that, let me just say that we take for granted that we have time. Time is on our side and that we can do whatever we want. As a non-Christian who may be thinking, “I want to enjoy life and not make a God commitment until I sow my oats!” Or the family member whom you have spoken with and he laughs in your face and tells you, “I have time!” Time? Do we really have time? Is time really on our side? My friend, although in great shape, had a brain aneurism and died. He was one year younger than me and yet he died.

When I found out about my friend, as I was speaking with his wife, I could barely talk for fear that I would start weeping as I was so sorrowful of her loss. Not only was I sorrowful, but I had never asked the question. There were five questions that I should have asked, but never asked. Was it because I feared rejection? Was it because I did not want to offend anyone? Was it because that I did not know how to communicate my question to him? Was it because we did not have time to discuss such a subject matter? Was it because I disobeyed God by not asking these simple questions? Was it because…..? And the list of why’s go on!

I could have asked five simple questions in conversational form. But as a believer in Jesus Christ; as a person who “proclaims” that he loves God with all his heart, soul, and mind; as a person who believes what Christ said that we are to “love our neighbor as our self;” I did nothing! I say that I love my neighbor, but my actions do not prove that to be true because if I truly did love my neighbor, I would have asked those simple five questions. But I didn’t and now I have to live with what I did not do! I will have to answer to God when I die and go to stand in judgement. I can hear Him asking me this question, “Why didn’t you ask the question?” I will stand guilty of being silent and unloving. Guilty of not loving my neighbor as myself!

What is the question I should have asked? If I am to love my neighbor as myself, I should have cared more about his spiritual life as opposed to his business life. I should have loved him as my own brother as opposed to keeping silent about spiritual things. I should have asked him, “Do you have any kind of spiritual belief? To you, who is Jesus? Do you believe there is a heaven and a hell? If you died right now, where would you go? If heaven, why? If what you believe were not true, would you want to know it?” The last question is if they do not have a belief in Jesus Christ. Now here is the rub. Not asking these questions or questions like them will never allow you the opportunity to show your love as well as the love of Christ to your neighbor. Who is this neighbor I am speaking about? It is anyone you know and do not know. It could be a friend, relative, next door neighbor, customer, or an unknown person. The direct question I should have asked was, “Do you know Jesus Christ as your personal savior?” But those five forms of questions ease one into conversation about faith.

Fortunately for me as well as for him, he did know Jesus Christ as his personal savior. He was a believer and he was a Christian. How do I know this? Because his wife told me that they have joined a bible believing church and that they were involved and that they both believed. Praise God for my friend’s salvation and that he is with Jesus right now. But that does not excuse my silence! We are all called to share our faith and yet we sit on the sidelines and do nothing! We go to church, sing and praise God, read Scripture, listen to a powerful and motivating sermon, have the benediction, go out to eat after church, then go home to rest. Then we go to work on Monday through Friday, without ever opening our mouths to tell someone about Christ. I say we because I am part of that group. I failed miserably at what I so much talk about and yet I never asked him the question. Lucky for me that when he died, he was a believer in Jesus Christ! But that did not negate my responsibility to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

Many will say, “Don’t be that hard on yourself!” I will tell you that if God is bringing this to my mind as a teaching tool, then whoever is reading this blog should also be aware that God will hold us all accountable for not obeying Jesus Christ’s commandment that we are to take the Gospel throughout the world, even if we never leave the comforts of our own town. We are to open our mouths and tell someone about the saving grace of Jesus and His salvation. Don’t use the excuse of not being comfortable about speaking to someone. Jesus Christ was not comfortable at all when they arrested him, beat him, flogged him to where his skin was so mangled and his blood flowed down. They tried him and placed a crown of thorns on his head. They mocked him as they made him carry a heavy cross to the place where they then crucified him. Before he was crucified, he had to willfully crawl onto that rugged cross. His hands and feet were nailed to that wooden rugged cross. They used nails like railroad spikes. It was a gruesome and cruel way to die. And yet our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ did that for us, so that our sins would be forgiven. He died a most horrible death and yet we cannot even experience a little of uncomfortable talk to a friend or a client! Fortunately for us, Jesus died for our sins and transgressions. He was in the tomb for 3 days. On that third day, he arose and lives forever with God the Father.

My point is that I should have said something. I should have at least asked my friend if he had ever made a personal commitment to Christ? I never recall that I even asked him anything about his spiritual life. And I grieve that I never did. To love my neighbor as myself should mean that I also tell them about the greatest gift that has ever affected me and my life. My love for God and my love for Jesus Christ and the gift of salvation.

Look at the following Scripture:

Matthew 22:36-40 English Standard Version (ESV)

36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

From now on, I will try to follow Jesus Christ’s commandments better and will love my neighbor by asking a simple five questions that can lead into a wonderful conversation about God’s saving grace. What about you? Do you want to see a friend or loved one die and you never asked them about their spiritual belief? Consider not making the same mistakes that I have made by not being obedient to God. Our faith calls all of us to action in spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If we say that we love someone, then if we really do, ask those simple questions.

Do You Really Have a Personal Relationship with Jesus Christ?

I am writing to the people who have said that they are Christians, but when you look at their life, you cannot tell them a part from unbelievers and evildoers. God loves you so much that He wants a REAL relationship with you! For years, I thought I was a Christian and I was going through the motions, but I ultimately came to the reckoning and enlightenment that I was a fake! I was not really living my life for Christ. God got a hold of me and showed me what I was really like and I hated it! I fell to my knees and prayed for forgiveness. I changed and had a real conversion.

My concern is for my brothers and sisters who are on the same track that I was on. You go to church, warm the pew, nod your heads to the sermon, then leave to rush to the restaurant, and then live the same way you have always lived throughout the week. It is like a ritual and you are part of the religious rat race in America.

God doesn’t want just a religious person, He wants a personal relationship with each of you. Do you pray? I mean really pray! Not just a one-minute prayer! I am talking about having a conversation with God. He does not want us coming to Him when we are about to have surgery or are in a crisis, and then the rest of our time, we never say hello to God! God wants us praying to Him. He wants us to pour our hearts out to Him. He wants us to have a REAL relationship with His one and only Son, Jesus Christ. How can we expect God to work in our lives if we NEVER pray and have a REAL relationship with Him.

Will Reagan’s Lyrics from “Break Every Chain” speaks it all for me! “There is POWER in the name of JESUS! There is POWER in the name of JESUS! There is POWER in the name of JESUS! To break every chain, break every chain, break every chain!”

Yes, friends! There is power in Jesus name. I know there is because I talk with him every day! If you pray and ask in Jesus Name, the evil one will flee. Satan wants to destroy lives and tear apart families. Don’t let the evil one destroy yours. If you at one time asked Jesus in your life and somehow, you have lost your way, Jesus is waiting for you to come back to Him. He loves you so much! John 3:16 says “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” Christ came to bear our sins and redeem us from our unrighteousness. God wants a personal relationship with each of us. It does not matter what social status you are in. It does not matter if you are a police officer, business owner, office executive, or pastor. Yes I said pastor. There are some who have never accepted Christ as their Savior, believe it or not. 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

God wants a REAL relationship with you as well as me. He wants us to study His Word and pray to Him daily. Mighty things can happen when we pray! It is only by God’s grace that we take our every breath. It is through His grace that He forgives us once we recognize that we need Christ and turn from our wicked ways.

I will leave you with this last passage taken from 2 Chronicles 7:14, “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

Joseph T. Lee, Copyright © February 23, 2018, The Lantern & Shield Times LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Can you hear it?

Can you hear it? Can you hear it? That still small voice. Is God speaking to you? I have heard that voice. I have heard His voice and I want to seek Him in all I do. As a Christian, we are ALL called to share our faith and share the Gospel of Christ to all who will hear. That still small voice will speak to you, open doors for you, if you are willing to TRUST in Christ.

I am currently 60 years old and am about to graduate in May with a Masters in Christian Ministry. I heard that still small voice years ago prompting me to go back to college and earn my degree. Graduating will open many more doors for me in business as well as in marketplace ministry. I hear that small voice saying to “trust me.” God has placed a burden on my heart to minister to people who normally would not attend a conventional church, but would be open to friendship and the sharing of my faith.

I hear that still small voice telling me to get the training I need so that I can help others in the corporate world find faith in Christ through corporate or marketplace chaplaincy. God can use anyone willing to open his or her heart to Him and stepping out on faith to follow His leading. You don’t need to go overseas for ministry. Ministry opportunities are right in your own town or neighborhood!

For years, I have done what I wanted to do. I have ignored the calling. I have lived a Christian life, but was selfish in my own desires. But God has not left me alone. I still hear that still small voice and have finally yielded to it. God continues to place people in my path for ministry. I really do not have to go far to find them. I believe that God wants each of us to just be open to His calling and He will lead others to us in order that we may share our faith with all who will hear and is open to His Word.

Someone recently asked why I could not just skip Graduate School and do this? My answer is that I want to learn The Bible better and how to share my faith in a more accepting manner. I think that in order to do what I hear God calling me to do within the business world, I needed more training. I have a heart for ministry and for people. I go to sleep thinking about it. I wake up thinking about it. It is constantly on my mind. The question is this: “What have I really done for the cause of Christ?” As a Christian, I feel like I have wasted a good portion of my life in what I wanted as opposed to what God has been calling me to do.

At this time, nothing will change, as I am still an independent businessman, sharing my faith with others when the opportunity arises. I am still involved in my work, helping people to secure their financial futures with offering them the protection they need in the event of a disaster. I plan to continue working and running my business as my business is what opens doors of ministry. But the difference now is that I have heard that still small voice very clear and I have yielded to it.

“Can you hear it? Can you hear it? That still small voice!”  Yes, I can hear it! I hear it! My question to every Christian believer is “Can you hear it? Can you hear it? That still small voice!” If you hear it, then what are you going to do about it?

Joseph T. Lee, Copyright © February 22, 2018, The Lantern & Shield Times LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Is Time Running Out?

Just last Fall, I had the pleasure at singing at my Mother-in-law’s funeral. Now I know what most of you are thinking? How can I say that I had the pleasure singing at her funeral? Although her physical body was in the bronze casket, her spirit was already with her Lord and Savior, Christ Jesus. I was honored having been asked to sing by both my Brother-in-law and my Wife.

Her funeral was beautiful. Her life of Christ was celebrated and it was disclosed that she touched many lives. The service started with the pastor giving the prayer and then I got up to sing Mom’s favorite song, “How Great Thou Art.” While leading in congregational singing, I looked out at each face and saw many grief-stricken faces. Then I wondered, if these people really understood where Mom was?  I wondered, would the Holy Spirit open a Divine Appointment for me to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ to many of her friends and family who may not really know Jesus as their personal Savior? I came prepared to present the Gospel of Christ to whoever will have opened their hearts to hear.

Mom had a special relationship with God. You see, she was a Believer and she loved everything about God. She wanted more than anything to see her entire family come to Christ. She prayed for them that they would become Christians. But she did not have any control over individual decisions about coming to God. As a matter of fact, a man, woman, boy, or girl cannot get into heaven on the coat tails of their Mom or Dad, Grandma or Granddad. One cannot be saved by osmosis. What this means is that many people believe that because they are in association with family, wife, husband, brother, sister, boyfriend, or girlfriend; that they are Christians. This is farthest from the truth.

So how does one become a Christian? Here are some Bible Scriptures that will help someone to understand what it is to become saved. And let me explain also, when one prays to ask Christ into their lives, unless they really believe it and open their heart for a heart transformation, then God will judge them for their insincerity. Therefore, here are the verses that I want to share with you about Salvation through Jesus Christ.

If you have a Bible, turn to these Scriptures and read these out loud for full understanding:

Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

Romans 6:23. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

John 3:3, “Jesus replied, I assure you: Unless someone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Romans 10:9-11, “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe with your heart, that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. With the heart, one believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth, one confesses, resulting in salvation. Now the Scripture says, No one who believes on Him will be put to shame.”

2 Corinthians 5:15, “And He died for all so that those who lived should no longer live for themselves, but for the One who died for them and was raised.”

Revelation 3:20, “Listen! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in.”

John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him, will have eternal Life.

John 3:17, “For God did not send His Son into the world, that He might condemn the world, but the world might be saved through Him.”

This is my invitation to you. If you have been running from God all of your life and thinking that you have more time or that you can make a commitment to God later, you may not have any time left. Once you die, there are no more opportunities for forgiveness. That is it! You will have sealed your fate eternally by not accepting Jesus Christ as your personal Savior. When I looked on every grief stricken, ashen face, I saw your anguish and you did not know what your tomorrow was going to bring! So why not come to Christ? Why not make the commitment before it is too late?

If you want to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior right now, then get down on your knees right where you are and bow your head and ask God to forgive you of all your sins. You could pray a prayer like this:

“Dear Heavenly Father, I have sinned against you. I want forgiveness for all of my sins. I believe that Jesus died on the cross for me and rose again. Father, I give you my life to do with as you wish. I want Jesus Christ to come into my life and into my heart. This I ask, in Jesus’ name. Amen.”

If you have done that, then I want you to get involved in a Bible believing church who will start to mentor and disciple you to help with your new conversion to Christ Jesus. I hope and pray that you have prayed that prayer and have asked Jesus Christ into your heart. May God Bless you and keep you.

This material may not be published, broadcast, or rewritten without express written permission.

Copyright © January 27, 2018, The Lantern & Shield Times LLC. All Rights Reserved.

I Am the Vine: Understanding John 15:1-8

My parents moved to Connecticut when I was in college, and around the time they were moving in, I visited them.  Their new home was not a very impressive house; it was a rustic wood-panel structure with a large overgrown yard. I was helping my dad clean up the backyard when we came across a large grapevine lying on the ground.  We would have cut it up and thrown it away if we hadn’t noticed a couple of grapes on it.  So we cleared everything away, and my dad said that he was going to enjoy the grapes that it would produce.  I thought to myself “Yeah right, good luck with that.”  It looked completely wild and literally only had a handful of small grapes.  But he built a makeshift trellis, and then we lifted it off the ground and anchored it upon the trellis. Then to my shock my dad started looping off a lot of its branches, even some of the larger ones.  I thought he had lost his mind; how could any plant survive such trimming.  He went at it like Edward Scissorhands. But sure enough, the next year it had several clusters of nice sweet deep purple grapes.  Understanding how one tends a grapevine is essential for correctly understanding what Jesus meant when he said “I AM the true vine.

Before addressing Jesus’ claim in John 15, it is necessary to survey his other “metaphorical” I AM statements found throughout John’s Gospel.  This blog does not address Jesus’ “absolute” I AM statements (e.g., Jn 8.58).  While they are important, they are not helpful for understanding what he meant in John 15.  Furthermore, John 15.1-8 should not be interpreted in isolation from the prologue of John’s Gospel.  But first, let’s briefly survey Jesus’ other “I AM” statements.

There are seven metaphorical “I AM” statements in the Gospel of John, some of which Jesus asserted more than once.  They are as follows:

  1. “I am the bread of life, I am the living bread.” Jn 6.35, 48, 51.

2. “I am the light of the world.” Jn 8.12; 9.5

3. “I am the gate.” Jn 10.7, 9

4. “I am the good shepherd.” Jn 10.11, 14

5. “I am the resurrection and the life.” Jn 11.25

6. “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” Jn 14.6

7. “I am the true vine, I am the vine” Jn 15.1, 5

Most people understand what Jesus meant by his first 6 statements, even though these declarations have slightly different nuances depending upon their particular contexts.  They all, nevertheless, have the same general meaning, which is that Jesus claims to be the universal and exclusive provision of eternal life for all humanity.  Jesus made this assertion more emphatically in some of his statements than others.  Nevertheless, John introduced this very concept in his prologue, in which he clearly asserted that Jesus is the universal savior for all humanity (Jn 1.9-13).  Consequently, we should not understand Jesus’ statement that “I am the good shepherd” to only refer to his concern for the nation of Israel, but instead that he is the good shepherd (i.e., that he is both Savoir and Lord) for all humanity.  Certainly the disciples would have at least understood Jesus to mean that he was the promised good shepherd of Israel when he first made this claim.  Nevertheless, the more we learn about Jesus’ mission and purpose in the Gospels and the rest of the New Testament, then the more we come to understand that Jesus was not claiming to be just the good shepherd for Israel alone.  Jesus was speaking about a greater reality, one that his disciples did not fully comprehend until decades after the resurrection.  Nevertheless, we learn that Jesus meant more than was originally understood precisely because his disciples inevitably came to realize that he did in fact mean more than they originally understood him to mean.  And having come to the realization that Jesus is the good shepherd for all humanity, they proclaimed this good news to the church and world, which is preserved in the New Testament.

Nevertheless, a problem arises for some as they seek to understand precisely what Jesus meant in John 15.1-8.  It arises because some approach this passage in complete isolation from Jesus’ other “I AM” statements.  This is understandable given the context in which it is found, which was during Jesus’ last supper with his closest followers.  Regrettably, however, from this passage some conclude that Jesus told his followers that believers can lose their salvation if they fail to “abide” in him.  The results of such an interpretation is a “faith plus works” salvation, or a “faith plus one’s own power to endure” salvation (which is functionally the same thing). More specifically, some believe and teach that you initially receive the gift of salvation by placing your faith in Jesus, but you maintain it by your own endurance and good works.  Such an interpretation is driven more by one’s systematic theology than an actual exposition of the passage, for Jesus made it very clear to those present that they were already “cleaned” because of the word that he had spoken to them (see verse 3, and for further understanding of what being “clean” meant, see John 13.1-11).  Moreover, Jesus had previously taught that all who had believed in him already possessed eternal life, and had passed over from death into life (Jn 5.24).  Furthermore, he emphatically promised that it was impossible for him to lose anyone that had authentically and rightly believed upon him (Jn 10.28-29).   Consequently, such an interpretation ignores both an integral emphasis within the passage, as well as other clear teachings from Jesus concerning the security of the believer found throughout John’s Gospel.

So then, what precisely did Jesus mean when he stated that he is “the true vine”?  Jesus’ assertion should be interpreted in the same manner as Jesus’ other “I AM” statements, which is that he is the only true life-giving source for all of humanity (i.e., eternal life).  Branches that reveal the fruit of salvation (positional sanctification) are regularly pruned by the Father so that they can bear more fruit (progressive sanctification), thus glorifying God and proving their relationship with Jesus.  In the first half of the passage Jesus was teaching his disciples about progressive sanctification (cf., Jn 15.2b-5).  The doctrine of “progressive sanctification” focuses upon the concept of personal holiness, which speaks to how believers can “live out” what God has already accomplished in them through Christ.  Nevertheless, Jesus made a very important transition in verse 6.  In verse 6, he changed from addressing the disciples that were present (i.e., those that he declared were already “cleaned”) to “anyone,” which is an indefinite personal pronoun.  Concerning these unknown people he states that “anyone” who does not abide in him is “thrown away” (i.e., those that have not received eternal life through him), and are inevitably gathered for burning (i.e., eternal damnation).

Many misunderstand this passage because they know little about practices of vinedressers and pruning.  Jesus knew that vines have only two types of branches, those that produce fruit and those that don’t.  Fruit bearing branches are valued, while those that don’t are rejected. Non-fruit bearing branches are known as “suckers.”  Suckers completely lack the capacity to bear any fruit, and thus they drain sap from the vine that might otherwise go into fruit bearing branches.  Fruit bearing branches also have suckers, which is precisely why vinedressers continually prune them.  Vinedressers prune fruit bearing branches so that the vine’s sap will be directed towards fruit production rather than leaf production.  Branches that never bear fruit are inevitably cut off because they are worthless for fruit production.  Non-fruit bearing branches never produce fruit, no matter how patient you may be with them.  Consequently, they are eventually cut off, and then gathered up and thrown into a burn pile.  This is exactly Jesus’ point, everybody (i.e., all of humanity) must “abide” in him (i.e., trust and believe) in order to receive the fruit of eternal life.  Once someone entrusts themselves to him, then they not only receive the fruit of eternal life, but they also receive the capacity to bear additional fruit to the glory of God.  Their capacity to bear more fruit is fostered as God “prunes” their lives of the things that dishonor the Lord or are barriers to their devotion to him.  Consequently, because they are believers the Father prunes them so that they may bear even more fruit.  Anyone that has not first entrusted themselves to Christ are spiritually dead—no matter how healthy and alive they look, and inevitably they will be cut from the vine and eternally separated from God.

Some still struggle with this passage because they observe that the non-fruit bearing branches have some type of a connection to the “true vine.”  This should not be a problem, however, since John’s prologue makes it clear that it was Jesus who created all things (Jn 1.3, 10).  Therefore, since Jesus made all humanity, both believers and unbelievers, we should not be surprised that all humanity and creation is sustained by him, even those who have rejected him.  Jesus is God incarnate, and as God he sustains all things (Col 1.16-17; Heb 1.1-3), and it was for him that all things were created (Col 1.16), and he has authority over all things (Matt 28.18, John 5.22-23, 27).  Jesus is Lord of everything and everybody, whether they correctly acknowledge him or not.  Consequently, the scriptures plainly indicate that Jesus sustains the mortal lives of all people—both believers and unbelievers.  However, if anyone goes through life without ever receiving him as their Savior and Lord then they forfeit their only opportunity to the eternal life.  This is exactly what makes rejecting Jesus so offensive, for by it unbelievers have actually rejected both the true God, as well as the world’s only savior; consequently, there no longer remains any atonement for their sin.  Therefore, John 15.1-8, as well as the rest of Jesus’ “I AM” statements, should motivate us to make sure that the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is the central focus of all that we do in his name.  Consequently, John 15.1-8 should be understood as having an evangelistic emphasis, as well as an explanation of what progressive sanctification looks like for those who have believed and received eternal life.  The passage is not just about personal holiness, and it is not just about evangelism, it teaches us about both.  And most importantly, it does not explain how believers can lose their salvation.

Believers should always be thankful for the eternal life they have received through the Lord Jesus Christ, and they should renew themselves afresh to allowing the true Vinedresser to prune away that which keeps them from producing fruit that glorifies the majestic name of the Lord Jesus Christ.  And if you have never trusted Jesus’ sacrifice as the only payment of your sins and received him as your Savior and Lord, then there is no better time than now.

Monte Shanks, Copyright © January 17, 2018, The Lantern & Shield Times LLC.

 

Imagining John Lennon’s Nightmare

Christmas is over, and that means that New Year’s Eve is just around the corner.  I’m not really into New Year’s Eve anymore.  I used to enjoy it, but no longer.  It’s not because I’m getting older, but because it has become a holiday for promoting Secular Humanism.  It’s not the parties and drunkenness that makes New Year’s Eve a decidedly humanistic holiday.  Heaven knows that there’s always a party happening somewhere—and there’s nothing inherently wrong with having a good time every now and then.  The problem is that the secular media has made John Lennon’s anthem “Imagine” the mandatory song announcing the beginning of the new year, and that the new year should embrace the dream of Secular Humanism. This is observable since over the last couple of decades one of the first songs everyone sings after midnight—if not the very first song sung—is no longer “Auld Lang Syne” (aka: “As Time Goes By”) but Lennon’s “Imagine.” If you actually listen to and think about what the song actually says, then you will also realize that if what Lennon imagined is ever achieved that the world will become a living nightmare for devote Christians everywhere.

The first line of the song simply asks us to “Imagine there’s no heaven.”  Lennon wasn’t asking us to imagine that there’s no galaxy, instead he was asking us to imagine that the place where God dwells no longer exists.  In other words, he wanted everyone everywhere to stop believing in God. And instead of a place called Heaven, he wanted us to envision that above us is “only sky.” Moreover, he believed that all we really needed to do in order realize his utopia of a godless universe was to simply begin imagining that God no longer exists. It is clear that envisioning life without God is what Lennon had in mind since he also asked us to imagine that Hell wasn’t real as well. As we all know, Hell is the domain where God eternally relegates all that rejected him during their earthly lives. And having imagined that God, Heaven, and Hell no longer exist, Lennon wanted us to imagine all humanity “living only for today.”  Don’t worry about what God promised would occur in the future, don’t even worry about the future, just live for the moment, that is what John Lennon hoped everyone would imagine.

Before unpacking the rest of the song, we should be reminded that the Lord Jesus Christ was committed to promoting the reality of Heaven.  His entire message could be summarized in his proclamation: “Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4.17).  Moreover, while training his followers on how to pray, he first wanted us to understand that Heaven is where God is, praying that “Our Father who is in Heaven, holy be your name” (Matt 6.9ff). The Lord also taught us that our hopes and prayers should always start with “Your kingdom come, your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.” While the Lord exhorted us to faithfully imagine and look forward to a world in complete submission to the will of our heavenly Father, Lennon wanted us to imagine God doesn’t exist, that we are by ourselves, that we are accountable to no one; consequently, we are living only for today, existing only for the moment. There is no reconciling what John Lennon wanted everyone to imagine and what Jesus stated is true now, as well as what will occur in the future. They are diametrically opposed to each other; consequently, they are mutually exclusive. You can’t have both; you can only have one at the sacrifice of the other—so much for harmonious diversity between what Lennon wanted and what Jesus will accomplish.

To make his point even more polarizing, Lennon exhorted us to imagine there is no “religion.” Now I also wish that there weren’t so many false religions throughout the world. But that is not what Lennon wished for; instead he wished that there was no religion at all. Regardless of how you feel about some religions, the vast majority of them essentially teach us one fundamental truth, which is that God exists and that we are accountable to Him. Say what you will about some of their specific teachings; nevertheless, our world is better off because of this essential truth that virtually all religions promote. And it is this foundational truth that Lennon wanted everyone to imagine doesn’t exist.

What is most disturbing about Lennon’s imagination is that he believed that humanity could live “life in peace” if everyone else would stop believing in their religions, which requires that Christians stop believing in Heaven, stop believing in God, and stop following the Lord Jesus Christ.  As a matter of fact, for Lennon it is we who believe in the kingdom of Heaven that are the ones who prevent world peace and global harmony from being achieved.  Lennon’s chorus asserts precisely this, suggesting that “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us, and the world will be as one.”  Did you get that?  Lennon believed that it is we who worship God and believe in Heaven that are the ones who prevent the rest of the world from living in global unity. Lennon thought that in order for world harmony to be experienced Christians are the ones that need to stop believing in the Lord Jesus Christ and what he clearly taught about God, himself, and sinful humanity. It is we, therefore, who have to abandon Jesus and join all Secular Humanists so that the world can experience global tranquility.  And Lennon extended this satanic invitation through a simply little ditty that Rolling Stone once listed as the 3rd greatest song of all time.

Now that I am older I have become a light sleeper, and one of the things that easily wakes me are nightmares. I used to sleep so hard that I couldn’t remember any of my dreams—good or bad, but those days are gone, and now I am easily awaken by an occasional nightmare. John Lennon’s song “Imagine” inspires people to believe in a worldview that in reality is a hellish nightmare rather than a dream. And as more and more people uncritically embrace his vision, then the gospel will become increasingly offensive to them. Lennon’s song “Imagine” is for Secular Humanists what “Just As I AM” is for the church. This New Year’s Eve take a moment and watch how many people sing along with Lennon’s hope for the world. Then think about what the world will be like if it starts accepting and acting upon Lennon’s imagination. What if the secular world actually begins to view Christians as “bitter clingers,” as hateful people who refuse to relinquish to their archaic Bibles, their mythical religion, and their dead Jesus?  What if they begin to view us as the ones that are the real impediments to their hope for world harmony? You may find that hard to imagine, but I don’t, not for a moment. The fact that the song gets any airplay at all is a bad omen. Once more and more people start believing that Christianity is what keeps humanity from experiencing global tranquility, then devote followers in the Lord Jesus Christ will find themselves in a nightmare that is the logical endgame of Secular Humanism, which will be hell on Earth for everyone.

Monte Shanks, Copyright © December 27, 2017, The Lantern & Shield Times LLC.

His Unspeakable Gift

We are in the amazing season of Christmas; celebrating the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, God with us. The creator of all, the very Son of God took off His royal robes and stepped from the throne room of Heaven into the womb of a peasant girl. Instead of a myriad of the Heavenly Hosts, His birth was witnessed by lowly animals in a borrowed stable. He was delivered into the calloused hands of a carpenter and placed in a rough manger of hay. He chose to go from His place of unlimited glory and power to the pain and poverty of man. Stepping from the infinite to the finite; the Lamb of God clothed Himself in human flesh and began the painful path to the cross where the perfect Son of God would become sin for me; trading His purity and righteousness for my filthy, sinful rags so that I would never have to pay my own sin debt. The agony of the cross cast an ominous shadow over the manger as the Christ child lay sleeping that first Christmas night. His gift of life is offered to kings and beggars alike; calling us to humbly turn our hearts in wonder and thanksgiving toward the star over Bethlehem as we kneel before our Savior and Lord; born to be crucified so that we may have eternal life. How can we do anything but fall to our knees in humble praise and worship; thanking Him for His unspeakable gift?

Pamela Lee Amick,Copyright © December 25, 2017, The Lantern & Shield Times LLC.

Grace Through Faith

I once knew of a man who stated he was looking for God but he could never seem to find Him. He struggled with how to find God and he wanted what others had, he just could not seem to find it. The reason he could not find God was because he was dead in his trespasses and his transgressions. He thought that he had to find God through works. Let’s see what Paul said about that.

If we read Ephesians 2:1-10, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

We cannot save ourselves. We cannot know God without first knowing His Son, Jesus Christ. It is through the loving GRACE of Jesus that we can have a relationship with God. Look at verse 5, “by grace you have been saved.” Not by our works.

The natural state of all human beings is spiritual death. This condition is universal; both for Gentiles (v2) and Jews (v3). The natural state of all humans is that we walk in active rebellion against God. It is because of God’s great love towards His followers in which we have forgiveness only found through Jesus. Sinners who are apart from Christ are in a hopeless condition. Only faith, not works can bring acceptance with God. It is only when the sinner recognizes that he cannot save himself is when he will hopefully believe in Jesus and turn his heart and mind over to Christ. Once he or she surrenders their life to Christ, that is when grace is granted and a relationship begins with God through Christ. In verse 8, “For by grace you have been saved through grace. And this is not by your own doing; it is the gift of God.” It is through Jesus Christ that this relationship begins.

© Copyright December 24, 2017. The Lantern & Shield Times LLC.