Vision

In Paul's second letter to Timothy he writes, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man [and woman] of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." (2 Tim 3:16-17) My prayer for this ministry is that by rightly dividing the Scriptures, I might be able to facilitate all those aspects of the Scriptures to the benefit of all those who visit this website.

Mission

The mission of this ministry is to be consistent with Jesus' original command to his disciples: "Then Jesus came to them and said, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.'" Matthew 28:18-20

Personal Disclosure

I am a fellow traveler who doesn't have all the answers and still makes many mistakes. However, I am desperately in love with Jesus Christ, the one and only King of kings, and I am so amazed that he knows exactly who I am and yet still died on the cross for me, then rose from the dead and called me to be His follower!

God's Message To You

"Dear Child,

I wanted you to know just how much I loved you so I sent my only Son, Jesus, to tell you and show you. If you make the decision to believe in Him, then you and I will be able to spend eternity together! I Love You!" (John 3:16 paraphrase)

Method

“Here there is no unanchored liberalism—freedom to think without commitment.

Here there is no encrusted dogmatism—commitment without freedom to think.

Here is vibrant evangelicalism—freedom to think within the bounds laid down by Scripture.”

Dr. Vernon Grounds

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Way, The Truth, And The Life















Introduction

            One of the worst things we have to endure on a regular basis is uncertainty. Uncertainty creates anxiety and stress in our daily lives that for some can lead to physical and emotional illness if the stress and anxiety persist for long enough. For others, uncertainty can lead to some of the most heinous behavior in an attempt to develop some sense of certainty in their lives. You’re uncertain if your boss will be satisfied with your work so you continue to work more and more hours, sacrificing your health and possibly your family, in order to achieve some sense of certainty that your work will be accepted. You’re uncertain if your academic resume will be enough to get you accepted to the college you want, so you volunteer for every possible activity at the expense of enjoying the journey of life while life should be relatively simple in order to build a sense of certainty that you’ll be accepted to a college to begin a part of you life’s journey that is far from simple. You’re uncertain that you’ll ever meet someone who will love you and share life with you in a committed marriage relationship so you sleep with virtually anyone who will give you a sense of certainty that you won’t be alone forever. You’re uncertain if you’ve done enough to be accepted by God so you do more and more “things” to try and prove your faithfulness to Him. And when the uncertainty doesn’t go away, you fly planes filled with innocent people into buildings filled with innocent people or you strap a bomb to your body and blow yourself up in a crowded marketplace thinking that death for the cause will certainly be enough to gain God’s favor.

            Uncertainty can be crippling as we wait for the doctor to call us with the test results. Uncertainty can be terrifying when we get the test results. Uncertainty without hope for certainty, at some point, will lead to despair. What happens if you invest your life savings in a venture but don’t, at some point, receive some sense of certainty that your investment will pay off? What if at the end of each day all you’re left saying is, “I don’t know if we’re going to make it?” What happens if you finish undergraduate college and then aren’t accepted into graduate school? Have you wasted four or five years of your life pursuing a career path you won’t actually be able to complete? What happens if you never get into graduate school? Uncertainty can feel like we’re being crushed. However, nothing is as paralyzing as the uncertainty of not being confident about what comes after this life. Even the most hardened atheist has wondered what happens to a person when they die. They are confident, with absolutely no evidence whatsoever, that there is no life after we die; that there is no such thing as the eternal soul. However, for those of us who believe in God, we know that there is in fact life after death; that the human soul is very much eternal. And, unlike the atheist, Christians actually have evidence to support that claim in the person of Jesus Christ. Although many believe in God, not everyone knows how to insure that they will spend eternity with God. Knowing or believing that God exists is one thing but knowing the way or what it takes to spend eternity with Him is quite another.

            In the days leading up to his death, Jesus told His disciples a number of times that He was destined to be put to death. The news of this troubled them as you might imagine. The disciples spent nearly every day with Jesus during the three and the half years of His earthly ministry. They left everything to follow Jesus. It seems clear that although they believed He was the Christ, the Chosen One, they certainly had no idea what that meant. They believed He would inaugurate a new Kingdom but they really didn’t knowing what that meant either. Consequently, when Jesus announced that He was destined to be put to death, the certainty of their cause and their purpose suddenly became uncertain. They went from knowing where they were and where they were going to being lost. Without Jesus, the disciples were uncertain of their future and afraid they would lose their way. However, Jesus reassured them that they would never be lost because they knew Him and if they knew Him, they would know God and they would know the way to God because Jesus is that way. Pay close attention to this now: Jesus is not a way, He is The Way, The Truth, And The Life. Without Jesus, we will not spend eternity with God.

Subject Text

John 14:1-14

1“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. 2In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3And 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. 4You know the way to the place where I am going.” 5Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” 6Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” 8Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” 9Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. 12I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. 14You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

Context

Our Subject Text takes place on Thursday night during the final week of Jesus’ life. Jesus and the disciples had gathered together for one last meal; the last supper. However, before they began their last meal together, Jesus gave them one final example of loving service they were supposed to emulate when He humbled Himself to wash their feet. Jesus wanted them to know that they were no better than their Master and if He was willing to care for and serve others then they must do so as well. During their meal, Jesus revealed to them that Judas would be the one to betray Him to the religious leaders. Having been exposed, Judas left Jesus and the rest of the disciples to carry out his plan of conspiring with the religious leaders to have Jesus arrested. Jesus explained to the remaining disciples what would happen in the coming days and that He would soon be leaving them to go to a place where they couldn’t follow Him. Peter, and no doubt the others, were rightly confused and troubled—they had followed Jesus everywhere to this point so they couldn’t understand why they couldn’t continue to follow Him. We already know the real purpose of Jesus’ ministry of relationship reconciliation but the disciples didn’t truly understand this. The disciples still understood Jesus’ ministry primarily in terms of re-establishing the kingdom of Israel back to prominence and the role they hoped to play in that re-established kingdom. What the disciples foresee in Jesus’ prediction of His death is the end of their kingdom plans for which they left everything. Without Jesus and without the ability to follow where He is going, the disciples must have felt lost. The only thing they are left with is uncertainty and doubt. So Jesus attempts to reassure them that nothing has changed and that this is all part of the plan that will ultimately be for their benefit and for the benefit of all those who believe in Him.

Text Analysis

1“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.

            The basis of faith for the disciples was no different than our own—trust. However, it’s not just blind trust in some religious ideal. What matters is the object of our trust. According to v. 1, Jesus knew that the disciples trusted God but He needed them to understand that they could trust Him in the same way that they trusted God because Jesus and God were one in the same. It was time that the disciples knew who they were really dealing with. Jesus was not just the long-awaited Messiah with the narrow and temporal objective of re-establishing Israel’s prominence as a sovereign nation. God, in the person of Jesus, had come to provide the means to reconcile all of humanity to God. It was time for the disciples to take Jesus out of the box they tried to fit Him into and see Him for who He really was and what He had come to do. “When men [and women] are called in the [New Testament] to conversion, it means a fundamentally new turning of the human will to God, a return home from blindness and error to the Saviour of all…Conversion involves a change of lords. The one who until then has been under the lordship of Satan comes under the lordship of God, and comes out of darkness into light. Conversion and surrender of the life to God is done in faith, and includes faith in Jesus Christ. Such a conversion leads to a fundamental change of the whole of life. It receives a new outlook and objectives. God’s original purpose in creating man is realized in the new life. The converted man [and woman] is to serve him alone with a clear conscience and voluntary dependence.”[1]

2In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3And 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.

            I want you to stop for a moment and remember that the disciples don’t know, at this point, what you know about what Jesus is saying in vv. 2-3. We know that Jesus is talking about going to heaven and making preparations for our eternal home in anticipation of His return—the Second Coming. We read our present day understanding into Jesus’ words but that takes all of the confusion and uncertainty out of what the disciples must have been experiencing. The disciples don’t have the same perspective of biblical history and theological development they we enjoy two thousand years after the events of this day in our Subject Text. The disciples were experiencing it live for the first time and they were afraid and uncertain. Jesus it trying to calm their fears and concerns by promising them that they will not be disappointed by putting their trust in Him. “Whereas the Synoptists [Matthew, Mark, and Luke] utilize the images of some kind of reward in heaven, the kingdom of God (heaven) or various parabolic portrayals of celebration and joy to speak of heaven, John opts mainly for the notion of ‘eternal life.’ Additionally, while the Synoptists portray heaven as future, John’s Jesus asserts that believers who have been given a new birth by God have this ‘life’ now. The resurrection is still an important event, but not so that eternal life can begin. Rather it seals the believer in this ‘life,’ eternally. Then those believers will be given a room in the Father’s ‘house’ so that they might be with Jesus.”[2]

4You know the way to the place where I am going.” 5Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” 6Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

            Do the disciples know the way? Thomas doesn’t appear to know but again only because he doesn’t have the benefit of our perspective. It’s like standing in front of a hidden door. Just because you don’t recognize it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. It may exist in a room you’ve entered many times but you’ve failed to recognize it. However, once you realize it’s there, it’s obvious to you every time you walk into the room even if it is unseen by others. The disciples recognized many things about Jesus but He is about to reveal to them the single most important aspect of our faith as Christians and the primary element of our faith that makes us a target for false religions and unbelievers—the exclusivity of our faith. Our salvation is found only in and through Jesus. When John and Peter were brought before Caiaphas, the high priest in Jerusalem, for preaching the Gospel after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension to heaven, they make this point very clear when Peter tells them that “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12).”

            Thomas doesn’t doubt Jesus in vv. 4-6, even though Thomas’ doubt gave birth to the modern idiom of calling someone who is skeptical a “Doubting Thomas.” Thomas just wants to know the way. He’s willing to follow the path laid out by Jesus if Jesus would just be clear to show him and the others the way. So Jesus makes it plain to Thomas and the rest that there is only one way to the Father who is in heaven. Jesus is that one way! Jesus tells then that He is the Way to the Father. Jesus tells them that they can trust what He is telling them not just because what He says is true, but because He is the Truth. Jesus tells them that by believing in the Way and the Truth, they will find life not because of something they do, but because they are connected by trust to Jesus who doesn’t just sustain life, or give life, but who is the Life—all things have life because of and through Jesus. When we read these verses, it’s important to remember the opening verses of John’s gospel: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men (Jn 1:1-4).” Armed with this knowledge and understanding, the exclusive faith in Jesus Christ as The Way, The Truth, And The Life must be the hill every Christian is willing to die on. In a world and life of uncertainty, there is great comfort, at least for me, that I can focus all my attention, affection, and devotion on Jesus and trust that that will be sufficient for all my needs in this life and the next.

            “Jesus is the Way to the Father; Jesus is the Truth (or reality) of all God’s promises; and Jesus is the Life as he joins his divine life to ours, both now and eternally. Jesus is the way that leads to the truth and life. Jesus’ exclusive claim is unmistakable. It forces an unconditional response. Jesus invites people to accept or reject him, making it clear that partial acceptance is rejection. His self-description invalidates alternative plans of salvation. Some would say that a single way is entirely too restrictive. But that attitude fails to see the desperate state of the human condition. That there is a way at all is evidence of God’s grace and love. The state of human rebellion can be seen in this: We are like people drowning at sea who are graciously thrown a life-saving rope but who respond by insisting that we deserve a choice of several ropes along with the option of swimming to safety if we so choose.”[3]

7If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” 8Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” 9Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.

There are so many theological and soteriological lessons in our Subject Text and Jesus’ response to Philip in vv. 7-11 is a lesson in another fundamental element of Christianity—the Trinity. I won’t go into great detail here about the Trinity but you can read more about the Trinity in a three part series title “Defending The Trinity” at: http://seredinski.blogspot.com/2011/12/defending-trinity-pt-1.html, http://seredinski.blogspot.com/2011/12/defending-trinity-pt-2.html, and http://seredinski.blogspot.com/2011/12/defending-trinity-pt-3-conclusion.html. The disciples know nothing of the Trinity. They understand the theology of one God. But Jesus is going to bend their minds with the teaching of three co-equal persons within the Godhead introducing the Spirit in the text following our Subject Text. It was a hard concept for them to understand. Philip seemed to think that if Jesus could show them the Father, it would become clearer or at least it would perhaps provide some tangible support for a concept that Jesus is trying get them to accept on faith alone. They want to be able to see and touch the Father to ease their uncertainty. Like the rest of us, the disciples have a myopic view and understanding of God. They understand God from a very narrow and finite perspective as finite beings. They couldn’t see where or how Jesus fit that perspective.

            “‘All truth is God’s truth, as all life is God’s life; but God’s truth and God’s life are incarnate in Jesus.’ Such an absolute statement leads, of course, to a different series of questions. Jesus has disclosed more than anyone expected. Instead of simply defining his destination (the Father, heaven), Jesus says that he alone is the way to get there. But only God can lead us to himself. Jesus takes the next inevitable step, therefore, a step no doubt that the disciples can barely comprehend. Only the Father can lead us to himself—and the Father is genuinely present in Jesus…Jesus Christ is God in complete human form and so has the capacity to accomplish divine tasks [miracles]. Hence if his followers know Jesus, they will know the Father as well. This is not a rebuke, but a promise pointing to a deeper revelation that will come if they continue with Jesus…Philip does not understand that no one has seen God. It is beyond the human capacity. Even Moses’ request on Mount Sinai was refused (Ex. 33:18-23). But in Christ Philip has before him the full embodiment of God as it can be seen by humanity. Nevertheless, Jesus now says with utter clarity what Philip could not comprehend before. In seeing Jesus Philip is seeing God. This is one of the high points of John’s Christology. Jesus is not simply a religious teacher or guide, nor is he simply the means to some other destination. He is also the end, the goal. He is the One in whom God can be found.”[4]

12I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. 14You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”

            I have to be honest with you, I struggled for much of my life with the promise from Jesus in vv. 12-14. I remember hearing these words in church on Sundays but still having to endure life with an abusive alcoholic father even though I prayed in Jesus’ name that the drinking would stop. I always figured that God either didn’t want to help or didn’t have the power to help. It wasn’t until I entered Seminary that I began to understand this promise in its correct context. First of all, what “greater things” is Jesus referring to? It’s probably not referring to His miracles since raising the dead, as Jesus did, sets the bar for miracles probably as high as it can get. Jesus gave sight to the blind, gave hearing to the deaf, gave voice to the mute and gave health back to those who suffered from devastating illnesses. Jesus calmed the sees, commanded the fish, and walked on water. If Jesus were referring to miracles as the “greater things” the disciples would do, it’s hard to imagine what those miracles would have been. Instead, there is something that the disciples could and would do that Jesus, by Himself, couldn’t do. Take the gospel to the ends of the earth as He commanded them to do. Jesus’ primary ministry area was in and around the region of Galilee. Also, it’s important to remember that Jesus’ primary mission was not to perform miracles. The miracles were intended to help authenticate who Jesus said He was. In other words, the miracles were supposed to be signs pointing to Jesus’ divinity. The miracles don’t bring glory to the Father. Jesus brings glory to the Father. This is the key to Jesus’ teaching in these verses—the disciples can ask Jesus for anything they want to spread the Gospel message and He would give them what they needed in order to do “greater things” to advance His message of reconciliation with God.

God sent His only Son to die in order to provide a means of reconciliation between God and humanity. When the disciples and by extension the rest of us preach the message of the Gospel to the world and people come to faith in Jesus, God is glorified. Why didn’t Jesus answer my prayer to stop my dad’s abusive behavior? Because He knew that someday it would make me uniquely qualified to preach the Gospel to those who have been similarly wounded. When my message reaches the heart and mind of someone who couldn’t believe that their heavenly Father loves them because their earthly father didn’t and they finally put their faith and trust in Jesus, the Father is glorified. Jesus isn’t saying that we can literally ask for anything we want and He would give it to us. Think about that for a minute and see if that actually makes sense. He’s not a genie that grants us wishes. You’re probably a better person than I am but I know myself and I would have been dead from over-indulgence if Jesus had given me whatever I asked for. When you read this part of our Subject Text, you have to think in terms of two things at all times: (1) Advancing the Gospel; and (2) Bringing glory to God by advancing the Gospel message. That’s not to say that God won’t grant a request made in the name of Jesus for God’s miraculous intervention in some kind of physical healing or natural phenomenon but only if that request is made according to His will and only if it serves to advance the Gospel and brings Him glory.

            “Perhaps the best way to understand [these verses] is to take [them] literally, exactly as Jesus said [them]. Jesus’ earthly ministry was limited to time and space. He served the Father for three and one-half years and never outside the boundaries of Palestine. The disciples, on the other hand, as Acts clearly attests, carried out ministry that was greater geographically, in terms of numbers of people reached and long-lasting effect…All parents should be able to say to their children; all pastors should be able to say to the staffs; all leaders should be able to say to their followers: ‘You have to potential to do greater things than I have done.’ To empower and develop followers whose ministry exceeds the impact of their mentors is to follow the model of Jesus.

            Jesus answers prayer in order to bring glory to the Father. Our praying, therefore, out to be directed toward that goal and end…What we see here is a New Testament formula of asking in the name of Jesus…Obviously, just saying ‘in Jesus’ name’ creates no magic potion for prayer. The culture in which these words are spoken took names very seriously, so much so that they equated one’s name with the character, spirit, and power of that person…Christians do strange things and then claim they are behaving ‘in Jesus’ name.’ Since Jesus’ name is always connected in some way with our prayers even if we do not speak those words, if we cannot ask in his name we should not ask at all…Jesus’ ‘departure to the Father, so far from ending his influence on earth, will mean its continuance under wider conditions and with the results rendered possible by the power of effective prayer.”[5]

Application

            For all of us, each day is fraught with some type of uncertainty. Will I have a job after today? How will I do on my test? Will she decide to leave me today? Will there be enough food to feed my family? Will I still have a home after today? Will my family be safe today? There are many events in our daily lives that are out of our control that leave us with a sense of uncertainty. For example, last week the co-pilot of a Germanwings airplane took control of the aircraft while the pilot stepped out of the cockpit and crashed the plane into the side of a mountain in the French Alps killing himself and the other 149 people on the plane. The cause for the crash is irrelevant for my purposes here because what I want you to focus on is the uncertainty of our very lives from one day to the next. Except for perhaps the co-pilot, I doubt anyone else on the flight didn’t think they would reach their destination. Yet in the span of eight minutes they went from traveling safely to their destination at a cruising altitude of 38,000 feet to smashing into the side of a mountain below 6,000 feet. In a mere eight minutes they went from life to death—all of them. Here’s my question for you, are you absolutely positive that you have more than eight minutes to live? Before you answer that question, I want you to take your fingers and find your pulse on your neck or on your wrist. Did you find it? Assuming you don’t take your own life, do you control whether or not your heart continues to beat? No. Then you have no idea if or when it might stop. You have no idea if you will wake up in the morning or make it home from work at the end of the day. You suspect you will but you have no way of knowing for sure. Some of you live with this reality everyday in countries that are embroiled in wars of one kind or another. So now that I have your attention, let me ask you a very simple question: If you had eight minutes to live, could you tell me where you are going when you die and why you believe that? If you can’t tell me with complete certainty then this lesson is aimed specifically at you.

            If you are an atheist and don’t believe God exists and that life just ends when we die, you had better be sure because I have yet to meet anyone who has died to testify to that. If you do believe in God and you’re trusting your eternal soul to someone or something other than Jesus, do you know with absolute certainty where you will spend eternity and how you will get there? If getting there depends on your efforts, are you good enough to save yourself? If it’s up to you to get there, can you find your way to heaven and eternity with God? You had better be absolutely positive because you may only have eight minutes. Let me try and make this easy for you.

·      Sin has separated humanity from God.
·      God became incarnate in the person of Jesus Christ.
·      Jesus Christ died on the cross to atone for humanity’s sin against God.
·      Jesus Christ conquered death and rose from the dead after three days.
·      Humanity can be reconciled back to God by the faith that Jesus is who He said He is and did what He said He did.

That’s it. I just timed myself to confess that and it took me way less than eight minutes. Everything changed when Jesus walked out of the grave after three days. That gave him credibility that no one else had or has to this day—the power over life. Walking out of that grave gave Him the right to demand that we look to Him exclusively as the way to salvation. By walking out of that grave, Jesus proved that everything He said about Himself and His mission was true. When Jesus walked out of that grave, He demonstrated that death could not contain the Author of life; the Creator of all things. Peter said that there is only one name under heaven by which we must be saved and that name is Jesus. So now you know the way to salvation, you know the truth about salvation and you know that salvation gives eternal life. If you can confess that Jesus is The Way, The Truth, And The Life then eight minutes will be nothing compared to spending eternity with God.






[1] Colin Brown, gen. ed., New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Vol. 1, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1986), p. 355.
[2] Joel B. Green, Scot McKnight, and I. Howard Marshall, Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1992), p. 309.
[3] Bruce Barton, Philip Comfort, Grant Osborne, Linda K. Taylor, and Dave Veerman, Life Application New Testament Commentary, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2001), pp. 435-436.
[4] Gary M. Burge, John—The NIV Application Commentary, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 2000), pp. 392-393.
[5] Kenneth O. Gangel, John—Holman New Testament Commentary, (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2000), pp. 266-268.