Have You Ever Taken a Drink of Living Water?

When I was a kid growing up in the fifties this was a pump at one of the neighbors where you could get a drink. We’d be running around outside playing ball. The humidity is usually high in western Pennsylvania in the summer time. Sweat would be dripping. But the water that came out of this well was nice and cool. One kid would pump and the others would cup their hands to get a nice refreshing drink. You could feel it restoring life to your body.

Jesus offers Living Water

One day Jesus needed to go through Samaria. This was unusual because the Jews had no love for the Samaritans. There He met a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well. He asked her for a drink. She was perplexed. “How is it that you ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman? (John 4:9). He responded, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is who says to you,Give Me a drink’, you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water” (John 4:10).

Curiously she asked, “Where then do you get that living water?”  Jesus explained, “Whoever drinks this water will thirst again. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water, springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14).

Jesus Water is Everlasting Life

I drank from that old pump and was thirsty again. But I took one drink from Jesus fifty-seven years ago and never needed another spiritual drink. Jesus gave me and gives to anyone the gift of everlasting life the moment you drink His water. Living water symbolizes everlasting life by belief in Him. Many of the Samaritans, despised by the Jews, drank His water that day; “Now we believe… for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world” (John 4:42).

If you have taken that one spiritual drink, you can know you have everlasting life. You don’t have to wait to the end to know for sure. Like the Samaritans we have the words of Jesus, “Truly, truly I say to you, He who believes in Me has everlasting life” (John 6:47). You receive living water (everlasting life) the moment trust in Him. It’s as simple as taking one drink of water.

I invite you to follow me as I continue to explore God’s amazing grace and assurance of heaven for anyone who has believed the gospel.

Excerpt 6– from Chapter 5, A Confusing Gospel, Assurance of Heaven Book

Excerpt 6, A Confusing Gospel –

The gospel is often presented as though it is a cure-all for every problem a person has. “Come to Jesus, and He will solve all your problems.” So what do you do when Jesus informs us that there will be tribulations (John 16:33)? Or when James writes and says to count it all joy when various trials come your way (James 1:2)? Or when Peter encourages us not to think it strange when fiery trials happen to you (1 Pet. 4:12)? Jesus doesn’t remove us from the problems, but He gives us the strength to endure if we trust Him.

 “Coming to Jesus” is not an explanation of the gospel either.

Jesus dealt with our sin by dying a substitutionary death. He took our place. Sin is our greatest problem and an insurmountable barrier from God. He broke down the barrier and provided the only way to be delivered from eternal condemnation, to receive forgiveness, and to be restored to fellowship with God. That’s our greatest need.

It is simply not true that coming to Jesus will make all your problems go away.

The apostle Paul experienced many trials and tribulations after he believed. Five times he was flogged by the Jews. Three times he was beaten with rods. He was stoned once. He was shipwrecked three times. He was in the water for a whole day and night (2 Cor. 11:24-25). God didn’t remove all his problems. If that is what you believe about the gospel, you may be looking to Jesus for the wrong reason. You may miss the truth of the gospel by seeing Jesus as a problem solver and not as your Savior from sin.

Some use the phrase, “ask Jesus in your heart”, to convey the gospel.

Others say “give Jesus your heart”. I like to be a little facetious sometimes by asking, “Which is it? Do I ask Him in my heart or do I give Him my heart”? It’s a confusing concept. What does it mean “to ask Jesus into your heart”? Once I asked a person what that meant. Upon questioning, this individual walked me through the gospel clearly. People learn that phrase when they are young. They get taught that. This person knew what it meant, but is it clear to the hearer? Communication involves both the speaker and the hearer. Does the hearer know what you mean? Most people today in America have little Biblical understanding. The average unbeliever does not know what “saved” means or even “sin.” Often the simplest things have to be explained, so people understand the message of the gospel.

A few years ago, I spoke with three older teenagers at the local county fair. They lived nearby in a neighboring community. They were willing to listen to the gospel presentation. All three stayed focused on what I was saying. They were zeroed-in. When I finished, trying to gain some insight as to what they understood, I ask them if they ever heard that before. They all replied negatively. One had never been to a church. The other two had only been to church a few times in their life.

When someone hears a convoluted message…

…and fails to understand the gospel, they may have the assurance of heaven when they shouldn’t. We can’t force people into heaven. However, our responsibility is to point them to Christ as the only way and to do so biblically and precisely. Then the responsibility is on the unbeliever to receive Him by faith or to continue in unbelief. Is Jesus merely your problem solver? Have you asked Jesus in your heart? Or have you believed the gospel, by faith alone in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ?

My Comment (This comment not in the book) – The gospel is not confusing. Jesus, fully God and fully Man died for our sins according to the Scriptures; was buried; and rose again on the third day according to the Scriptures (I Cor. 15:3, 4). Whoever believes in Him has everlasting life (John 6:47). A message that isn’t clear cannot be understood. A convoluted gospel is not the gospel and it has no power in the message to saved one from the penalty of sin (Rom. 1:16). Today many lack Biblical understanding and so it takes effort to share the gospel. It may be easy to persuade someone to say a prayer, but have they understood the gospel and believed it?

Scary Bible Verses – 4 “I Will Vomit You out of My Mouth!”

“I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. (Rev. 3:15, 16)

In a Bible study I attended, a person passionately implied that Jesus would send you to hell for being a lukewarm Christian. Well that would have scared me out of my ‘lukewarm-ness’ for the wrong reason years ago, but no longer. I mean, now I know what Jesus meant not what some interpret from this verse. It’s not written to unbelievers. It’s written to believers about to be disciplined for their wayward attitude; “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten” (Rev. 3:19). God only chastens believers (Heb. 12:5-11).

Do Lukewarm Christians end up in Hell?

In human terms, most if not all Christians are lukewarm at various times in life. We fail miserably at doing the things that God instructs us to do. But the truth is that no one is sent to hell for being lukewarm. People go there because they reject Jesus as their Savior.

The Image of Lukewarm

These verses are written to the church at Laodicea. The cities of Hierapolis and Colossae were nearby.        

  • Laodicea piped water in an aqueduct from the mountains. It was lukewarm when it arrived. The water was noted for being bad.
  • Hierapolis had hot springs that served as a therapeutic agent.
  • Colossae had a fresh supply of cold mountain water that was good for drinking.

The image demonstrated that both the cold and hot served a valued purpose. The lukewarm water of Laodicea was useless. It pictured the useless condition of the church there. If you drank the water, it would have caused you to spit it out. It portrayed Jesus’ attitude about the church at Laodicea. They disgusted Him because of their attitude toward Him and others. They thought that they were rich and had need of nothing, but Jesus told them that they were “wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked” (Rev. 3:17). 

They Needed a Significant Change of Mind

Because of their attitude, they were out of fellowship with Him. They needed to repent. As believers they needed to change their minds about how they thought about themselves. They weren’t rich. They were wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked in His eyes. That was God’s view of them. It needed to be their view so that they could be restored to fellowship with the Lord and avoid His discipline.

Restored to Fellowship

If anyone who would hear His voice and open the door, He would come in and eat with them (Rev. 3:20). This is a picture of close intimacy in the culture of His day.  They already had a relationship with Him by faith, but they weren’t walking with Him by faith. As believers they were walking according to the dictates of their old nature.

These verses aren’t about Jesus sending someone to hell. It’s about Him wanting to have close intimacy (fellowship) with His children so that they could mature (spiritually) and He would be glorified.

“Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus, that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ”. Rom. 15:5-7

Interview – Assurance of Heaven Book

I was interviewed by D.J. Allan of Home Grown Ministries yesterday. You can see my radio ‘face’ on video at https://youtu.be/vYh7Iu43tqg.

D.J. is a good interviewer and asks some really good questions. He’s offering (5) free copies of my book, Assurance of Heaven, to anyone who contacts telling him why they would like the book. Check it out and give him a ‘like’. Thanks to all have purchased the book and have encouraged me in this endeavor.

Scary Bible Verses Part 3

“Whoever is born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in Him; and he cannot sin”.               I John 3:9

There are a number of verses like this in First John that appear cut and dry. For that reason I shied away from reading it. I know I sin. Some say that it just refers to habitual sin which could be based on the Greek tense. In other words a ‘true’ believer cannot practice sin. If you do,then you are not saved, according to them. Listening to this teaching made me fear and caused me to lack assurance. It’s the opposite of the very thing John wants his readers to have; “Beloved, we are children of God…” (I John 3:2). He assures them here and in chapter five as well. “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life…” (I John 5:13).

Well, my first question is always; what is the context? Does the interpretation fit the context of the passage, the book, and the entire Bible? Secondly, who is the epistle written to? Thirdly, what is the purpose of the letter?

Fellowship vs. Relationship

The apostle John is writing to fellow believers so that they could have fellowship with him, with other believers, and with the Lord (I John 1:3).  Fellowship is only available to believers, not unbelievers. All believers are in relationship with God, but not all are in fellowship. Chapter three is about abiding in Christ. “Whoever abides in Him does not sin” (I John 3:6). Abiding is the same as fellowship. It’s walking in the light as He is in the light (I John 1:7). It is living life out of the new nature. When you live out of the resource and power of the Spirit, it is impossible to sin. The new nature is born of God and cannot sin.  

Practice vs. Do

Now I readily admit I’m not a Greek scholar. But I can look things up in Greek concordances and dictionaries. In my humble opinion, this argument for ‘practicing’ doesn’t fit. According to Strong’s Concordance, the Greek word for practice is ‘prasso’. The word used in I John 3:9 is the Greek word, ‘poieo’. Strong’s states that; ‘poieo’ refers to a single act. That makes sense because you cannot do one single act of sin when living out of the resources of the new nature. The new nature is what is born of God and cannot sin.

Sinners by nature and by practice

If you are honest with yourself, you will readily admit that you sin regularly even if it’s only one time a day in thought, word, or deed. Additionally, not doing what you should is a sin of omission. One sin a day for a month certainly would be a practice, wouldn’t it? The truth is we are sinners by nature and by practice. John made it clear in chapter one that all sin – “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (I John 1:8).

Some sinners are worse than others

In comparison to one another, certainly some are worse sinners than others. You can look at the Bible and see that some believers were more faithful than others. But even the best in the Bible sinned is some significant ways. Often they suffered the results of their sin, but it didn’t keep them from entering the kingdom of heaven.

The way you live matters!

God’s will for us is our sanctification (I Thess. 4:3). Sanctification is living a life that is set apart unto God. He gave us a new nature and the Spirit to give us the power to do the things He wants us to do. His grace teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts; and that we should live godly and soberly (Titus 2:11).  I’m not trying to say that it doesn’t matter how you live. It does matter. It just impossible to determine how much sinning proves that you’re not saved.

Those who teach that practicing sinners are not saved should look at themselves. They are laying heavy burdens on people, which they themselves cannot do (Matt. 23:4). John has written this epistle to believers, encouraging them to walk in the light so that they would remain in fellowship with the Lord; not so they could go to heaven. As a believer, abiding in Christ is the only way to live a purposeful, functional, and fruitful life. When abiding in Him you cannot sin, because you are living out of the new nature that is born of God. But no one abides in Him 100% of the time.

Scary Bible Verses Part 2

This is another verse that caused me some fearful moments.  “Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works is dead” (James 2:17). Have I done enough good works to prove that I am really saved? For my book, Assurance of Heaven, I examined 32 commentaries on this verse. Twenty-seven basically stated that if you do not have works, it is proof that you’re not saved. Two of the commentaries were convoluted and only three were clear that these were saved persons failing to show forth spiritual fruit.

Well which is it? If you see these as unbelievers, which most people do, then you will be motivated to do a lot of good things for the wrong reason. You’ll try to do things to make you feel secure that you are on your way to heaven. But you will never have any rest for your soul, because you will never know if you have done enough.

The certainty of entering the kingdom of God is not in what we do, but in what God has done for us. Assurance is in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is in the promise of God, who cannot lie, that whoever believes in Jesus has everlasting life (John 3:16).

Context is key!

As always, context is the key to understanding the Bible. The book of James was written to believers. Fifteen times in the book, he refers to them as ‘brethren’ or ‘beloved brethren’, a reference to their spiritual relationship. God brought them forth (He gave spiritual birth to them) by the word of truth (James 1:18). But they had a number of sin issues. They were not being doers of the word (James 1:22). This resulted in showing partiality to the richer brother (James 2:3, 4). They were living according to the wisdom of the world (James 3:13, 14). They were fighting and warring with one another (James 4:1). James called them spiritual adulterers and adulteresses (James 4:4). You cannot commit adultery if you have no relationship with another. The same is true with our relationship with God. In other words they had a relationship with Christ, but they were living according to the principles of the world.

Dead doesn’t mean non-existent

James used the example of a brother or sister in need of food. What does it profit the needy brother or sister, if you do not give them the help they need? (James 2:16) It doesn’t help them and is an example of dead (inactive) faith. Dead doesn’t mean non-existent. It simply means inactive or barren.

Good works are not automatic

Good works are not automatic in the life of a believer. “And let our people also learn to maintain good works, to meet urgent needs, that they may not be unfruitful” (Titus 3:14).  New believers must be taught many things. One of those is to be attentive to the needs of others.

Our old nature is self-focused. When you are born again, God doesn’t eradicate it. He gives you a new nature created in true righteousness and holiness (Eph. 4:24). As believers we should be learning to live out of the new nature by faith. This is a moment by moment, day by day, response to life. Are you being led by the Spirt or are you living out the resources of the old nature (the flesh)?

Failing to walk by faith

The believers to whom James wrote were saved by faith. But they weren’t walking by faith. They were walking according to the old nature, fulfilling the lusts of it. They needed to become doers of the word and not simply hearers only, deceiving themselves (James 1:22). On the positive they would be blessed by being a doer. However, failing to be a doer could eventually lead to premature physical death (James 1:15).  As believers we are not immune from living a sinful lifestyle. But realize that God never removed the consequences for living in such a way.

“The fear of the Lord prolongs days, but the years of the wicked will be shortened” (Prov. 10:27). 

Scary Bible Verses

Often when we read the Bible we come across verses that cause us to fear. It may be that we have listened to someone who wrongly explained the verse. Typically a wrong understanding comes from misunderstanding the context. This month I am going to write about some that have caused me angst in the past.

Many will say to Me in that day, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?”  And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!” (Matt. 7:22, 23)

This verse used to scare me, thinking I could hear, “I never knew you”. Was I doing enough? Was I good enough? I mean these guys had done great things – prophesied, cast out demons, and did many wonders; all in the name of Jesus. They even acknowledged Jesus as Lord! But He never knew them. The word for ‘knew’ implies relationship. Jesus had no relationship with them though they thought they had one with Him.

They were denied entrance because they had not done the will of the Father.  “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” (Matt. 7:21)

Jesus makes the will of Father very clear: “And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day ”(John 6:40). The one who has believed (relied) on Jesus to save them is the one who enters the kingdom of God. At the moment of faith in Jesus, you are born again. Like natural birth, you are spiritually born once and you can never be unborn.  

The ones in Matthew 7 were trying to enter into the kingdom according to their good works; their good deeds. They had never entered into a faith relationship with Him. They thought that everlasting life and entering the kingdom was by self-effort; by doing things for Jesus.

When you understand the context of this verse in light of the rest of Scripture, no one ever enters the kingdom because of the great things they do. There is only one way. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Him (John 14:6).  Any other way, is the way to perish. I have talked with many that believe they will get in because they are good. But Jesus will say to them that He never knew them, if they continue in unbelief.  You can never do enough and you can never be good enough.

This verse should not scare you if you have trusted in Jesus to save you. He is our sufficient Substitute. He took our place.  He paid our sin debt and offers everlasting life to all who believe in Him (John 6:47). He promises that no one can snatch you out of His hand (John 10:28). He will never leave you or forsake you (Heb. 13:4). He is faithful even when we are not (II Tim 2:13). By faith, learn to rest in the security that you have in Him.

God made it simple. Jesus did all that is necessary to enter the kingdom. There is nothing for us to do. He died to pay our sin debt so we have no debt to pay. He rose from the grave offering us everlasting life as a free gift to anyone who will trust in Him alone. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved (Acts 16:31); and then will you never have to be fearful of hearing those words, “I never knew you.”

Are You Being Fruitful?

My aunt would have a basket of fruit on her dining room table for decoration. It looked very real, but you would break your teeth if you tried to eat it. It was man made. It looked like the genuine thing, but it was fake. If I were to be honest, I spent a lot of time in my life trying to produce spiritual fruit. It can look like real fruit, but it’s really only an imitation.

Jesus used a vivid illustration to demonstrate this truth to His disciples (John 15:1-6). He said He was the vine and the Father was the vinedresser. His disciples were the branches. They would not bear fruit unless they abided (remained) in the vine (v. 4).  In fact without Him they could do nothing (v.5).

It’s impossible to live the Christian life in the power of the old nature. The old nature (flesh) is incapable of bearing spiritual fruit. It drives my emotions to make me feel good about the religious things I do. It’s the mentality that I gain God’s favor by doing things for God. The sin nature (flesh) can do a lot of good for the wrong reasons. You can go to church, pray, give, and even read your Bible with the wrong motivation. Those can actually be self-serving activities that you are producing in the flesh. They can make you ‘feel’ accepted by God.

But if a believer is abiding in Christ, the motivation is different. Now I am resting in Him by faith and the motivation is to serve Him; not because I have to but because I want to. It originates from a thankful heart (inner control center) that is being energized by the word of God through the Spirit of God out of love for God in the new nature. It’s walking in the Spirit. Then and only then will you bear fruit, because He is producing the fruit in you and through you. Like a branch you bear the fruit. You don’t produce the fruit. Branches cannot bear acceptable fruit when not connected to the vine (Jesus).

As believers we must understand that when we believed in Jesus, He “made you accepted in the Beloved” (Eph. 1:6).  Jesus did everything.  You and I cannot gain anymore of God’s favor. That should be the primary motivational factor of abiding in Christ. The more you and I realize how wretched we are before a holy God, how gracious He is, and that He accepts us in Christ; the more likely I will want to follow and serve Him. It doesn’t mean that I’ll stop sinning. It simply means I can rest and know I am secure in Him. He produces the fruit and we bear His fruit when abidng in Him. This is the only way we can live the Christian life – it’s by God’s grace through faith.

So may I ask, are you bearing fruit or producing fruit? Are you working to gain His favor? Or are you resting in Him, knowing that you are accepted in the Beloved? If you are resting in Him, you will bear fruit.

Jesus said, “Come to Me, all of you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30).

Excerpt 5 – from Chapter 4, Three Tenses of Salvation; Assurance of Heaven Book

I was a Christian for twenty years before I began to realize the Bible taught not only that a believer has been saved but is also being saved and one day will be saved. This spiritual truth surfaced after I began to read and study the Bible. Salvation is not only a past event; it is also a present experience and will be one day a final and completed deliverance. It was several years after this that I understood it in the following way: that a believer has been delivered from the penalty of sin, is being delivered from the power of sin, and one day will be delivered from the presence of sin. The penalty, power, and presence of sin parallel the biblical terminology of justification, sanctification, and glorification.

There are many Christians that have been raised in churches that have two chairs theology (more about this in Chapter 8). You are either saved or unsaved. I remember when I was baptized as an outward profession of my faith in Jesus Christ, the church greeted me along with the others who were baptized that day. Since I was a young man, I had the impression that I had arrived. I was going to heaven. But I failed to understand that the gift of everlasting life begins at the moment of faith. You don’t have to wait to die to get it. I also didn’t realize salvation from the penalty of sin is only the beginning of the race, not the end of the race. And I believe many evangelical churches have given that impression to a lot of new believers over the years. Because of it, these churches as a whole have failed to make disciples. This failure has produced numbers of believers who lack good biblical understanding, do not grow to spiritual maturity, and lack assurance of their salvation.

Why does it matter? It matters for a number of reasons. First of all, God wants to deliver us from the power of sin so we can live a productive spiritual life that glorifies Him and is good for us. So if one is unaware of this theological truth, how would it be possible to grow and to glorify God?

Secondly, it is significant to understand Scripture correctly, so one does not become confused and is not taken captive by poor teaching, causing fear and doubt. For example, the word “save” or “saved” doesn’t always mean to be delivered from sin’s penalty, which is eternal death. Sometimes the Bible uses it about a child of God being saved from the power of sin. Sometimes it is used of someone being saved from a dangerous situation. It’s not always a reference to being saved from hell. But if you have a theology that doesn’t allow for a third chair, then you almost always see it in reference to salvation from hell.

My Comment (This comment is not in the book): One of the biggest mistakes in understanding the Bible is only seeing two options – heaven or hell. Many Christians are not aware of the present tense aspect of salvation. Everyday God desires to deliver me from the power of sin so that I can live in a way that is good for me and glorifies Him. But the deliverance from the power of sin depends on how willing I am to surrender the circumstances of life to His control, relying on His power to control my thoughts and actions. Will I overcome evil with more evil? Or will I overcome evil with good? (Rom. 12:21). Am I going to be led by the Spirit or will I respond in the flesh? (Gal. 5:15-17)  How will you respond today?

Redeem the Time

As I walked at a nearby park, I remembered a similar day several years ago walking with a friend.  It was a day, if I recall correctly, in the spring.  A man on a motorcycle rode passed us on the entrance road and promptly made a U-turn exiting the park. He was clearly on a joy ride on a beautiful spring day.

As we continued to walk, about fifteen to twenty minutes later a fire whistle began to blow in the distance.  It wasn’t until a couple days later that I learned that the man on the bike was involved in an accident and fatally injured only a few minutes after we had seen him.

All of us have had experiences such as this.  It brings us into focus with our mortality – as the world might say “here today and gone tomorrow.”  But we must be careful not to adopt the world’s philosophy about life.  The way we live matters to God (Psalm 1).

The Scriptures are very clear that this life is brief.  James describes it as a “vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.” (4:14) David asked of the Lord, “…make me to know my end, and what is the extent of my days; let me know how transient I am.  Behold, Thou hast made my days as handbreadths, and my lifetime as nothing in Thy sight.” (Ps 39:4, 5)  In Psalm 144, David describes our days “like a mere breath; …days are like a passing shadow.”(v. 4)

Yet in our brevity the Lord desires us to do something of spiritual value and for eternity.  Jesus did not save us so that we might live for ourselves.  He saved us so that we should serve Him in the newness of life. “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” (Col 3:17)   Whether you’re ministering, teaching, working, cooking, vacationing, etc. do it as unto the Lord.  We serve Him by serving others in love. (Gal 5:13, 14) Not one of us knows the number of our days, and we could be in His presence sooner than we think.

We are justified the moment we trust in Him and have everlasting life. Our future place with Him is sure. But He didn’t save us just to wait until the day we die so we can live with Him forever. His will for us is our sanctification (I Thess. 4:3). He desires us to grow spiritually so that we can live abundantly now (John 10:10). But this only happens when we surrender to Him in the moments of time and the circumstances of life by faith. In doing so, our life will be purposeful, fruitful, and functional; and we will glorify His name.

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10