Do You Have Life?

Whoever has the Son has life

In the first of John’s three letters, he writes to the early followers of Jesus, reminding them of God’s essential message about Jesus, light, and life. Jesus, by the way, is the light and he gives life. So amid John’s poetic flare, his words all revolve around Jesus.

As John winds down his letter, he writes, “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” He makes it so simple.

We take this word life to mean eternal life, that is, our future life in heaven.

Yes, it is that. But this future begins today, not later after we die. The life Jesus gives us is physical life, too. And this might be just as important. Really.

Too many Christians plod through this life, placing all their hopes in a future life in heaven. Their exclusive future focus robs them of what God wants to give them today.

We need to make the most of this life that Jesus gives us. Live for him. Love others as he does. Point them to Jesus, the Son of God.

John makes it clear: Whoever has the Son has life.

Do you have the Son?

If so, the life he gives starts here, now.

If not, seek Jesus and you will have him. It’s that simple.

[Read through the New Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is 1 John 5, and today’s post is on 1 John 5:12.]

A Criminal Makes a Deathbed Confession

While we shouldn’t wait to follow Jesus, it’s nice to know that he’ll give us up to the last minute to make a decision

A Criminal Makes a Deathbed ConfessionIn Luke’s biography of Jesus, the author sometimes shares details not found in the Bible’s other three accounts of Jesus’s life. One such example is about the two criminals who are executed with Jesus. One of them mocks Jesus, but the other one doesn’t. Instead this second criminal rebukes the first. He says knock it off. We’re guilty and getting what we deserve, but Jesus is innocent.

Then the man makes a simple request of Jesus: remember me in your kingdom. What a simple statement, one filled with faith. This man, whose life is about to end because of a serious wrong he has committed, knows there is something more awaiting him after death. Yet through no merit of his own and with nothing he can do to earn it, he asks Jesus to be part of Jesus’s future kingdom. It’s bold, and it’s sincere.

Jesus could have said, “Sorry man, but you messed up.” But no. Instead Jesus lovingly says “Yes!” And not only is the answer affirmative, but it is also timely. Jesus says, “Today you will be with me in paradise.”

How cool is that?

While we can wait until the last minute and make a deathbed conversion with full confidence that Jesus will say yes, the risk is too great. We don’t know when our last breath will come and if we’ll have time to ask Jesus to remember us.

So don’t put it off. Follow Jesus today so you can live for him in this life and live with him in paradise in the next.

[Read through the New Testament of the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Luke 23, and today’s post is on Luke 23:39-43.]

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Is Being a Christian a Present Reality or a Future Hope?

Our perspective on what it means to follow Jesus shapes how we think and act

Is Being a Christian a Present Reality or a Future Hope?I’ve met people so fixated on heaven that they squander their time here on earth. Not only do they miss the opportunities before them, but they also offer a negative example to the world of what it means to be a Christian. They treat life as a burden and react to every disappointment as a stoic martyr. With long faces they measure their time on earth as an ordeal to endure, one that prevents them from obtaining heavenly bliss.

Yes, our future hope in heaven is significant, but if that’s the only reason to be a Christian, we’re missing what God wants from us and has to give us – now.

Life is a gift, an amazing gift to enjoy and to use and to share. We need to make each minute count for Jesus today, not sit in a corner and count each minute until it’s time to leave.

Years ago I largely missed the delight of my senior year in high school because I was so fixated on what was to come next. High school loomed as a time to tolerate, a hurdle to jump over, before I could move on with life. I even let relationships languish because I didn’t see them as part of my post high school reality. I lost that time and can’t reclaim it.

Yes, I can’t wait to get to heaven and enjoy eternal ecstasy, but I also can’t wait for the opportunities of each new day. In some small way I want to be the hands, the face, and the love of Jesus to those I meet. I want to encourage those who are discouraged, to help those in need, and to point those who are searching to a better way.

When Jesus told us to pray for our daily bread (Matthew 6:11), it was a reminder to take each day as it comes, one day at a time, and not rush to the next one. We need to make the most of today, whether it is our last one or we have thousands more.

God has given me my time on earth for a reason. If I don’t make the best of it, I may not be ready to fully embrace my future with him in heaven.

As the saying goes, “Today is the first day of the rest of our lives.” We need to live it to the full for Jesus.

[This is from the October issue of Peter DeHaan‘s newsletter, “Spiritually Speaking.”  Receive the complete newsletter each month.]

All Things Are Possible – With God

All Things Are Possible – With GodA rich man asks Jesus how to get to heaven. The man reels off a list of all he’s done, of all of God’s commands that he’s kept. He waits for Jesus to affirm him, but deep down he knows he still falls short. “What else must I do,” he asks?

Then Jesus hits him in the wallet. “Give all your money and possessions to the poor. Then follow me.”

The man walks away despondent. He’s not ready to put Jesus first in his life and follow him instead of relying on money.

Then Jesus explains to his disciples how hard it is for people who put their trust in money to make it into heaven. But it’s not just the rich people who are at risk. Jesus adds more: getting into heaven is impossible if we try to do it on our own. The good news is that “with God, all things are possible.”

This is an indirect way to remind us that we can’t earn our salvation. It is a gift from God.

How does this verse speak to you? What things do some people try to do to earn their salvation? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

(Matthew 19:26)

Do You Think Like an Exile? Do You Act Like a Foreigner?

If you are a citizen of the Kingdom of God, then you live here as a foreigner.

Do You Think Like an Alien?

Peter writes his first letter to Christians scattered about in pagan cities. He first calls them exiles. Later he refers to them as foreigners. I prefer the label of aliens. It has an otherworldly connotation.

The point is that they don’t fit in where they are. They are outsiders subsisting in a society that doesn’t understand their thinking and their way of life. They live in a culture that is opposed to Jesus.

Peter doesn’t tell them they need to adapt and settle down. Instead he tells them to live careful lives, hold onto their awe of God, and refrain from immorality. They are to persist as foreigners, as if they are just passing through – because they are.

They are citizens of the Kingdom of God, children of the King of kings. Their allegiance is to God. Their real domicile, their eternal home, is in heaven. Holding onto this perspective, they realize they are here for the short-term. With eyes fixed on Jesus, they maintain their earthly status as foreigners, as exiles, and as aliens – both in an actual physical sense and with a faith-filled, future-focused, spiritual expectation.

I wonder how well I do to live like that.

Do you act like a foreigner in our culture? Do you think of yourself as an alien in our world? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

(1 Peter 1:1, 1 Peter 1:17, 1 Peter 2:11)

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Can an Actionless Faith Save You?

There are some people who try to earn their way into heaven. They do good and obey God’s commands – at least most of them anyway. They work hard their entire life to get God’s attention. Surely when their time comes, God will throw open the doors to heaven. With a wide smile and a gracious gesture he will say, “Well done good and faithful servant.” But he could say, “Go away, I don’t know you.” They’re really not sure. They hope they’ve been good enough, but doubt lingers.

Can an Actionless Faith Save You?Others laugh at this approach. They say you can’t earn your way into heaven. Eternal life is a gift, given in grace and received by faith. They say a little prayer and figure it’s all good. They have their get-out-of-hell card. Since heaven is a present, they continue living a life unchanged. They set God aside and live for themselves.

Is faith alone enough to save them? Maybe it is and maybe it’s not. James writes that it’s through our actions – that is, our good deeds – that we confirm our faith.

Yes, we are saved by God’s grace through our faith, but then we prove it by showing his love to others through our actions. We need to have faith and then we need to do good deeds. Both are required.

What do you think about faith and doing good deeds? Do you agree with James? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

[Matthew 25:19-23, Matthew 25:12, Ephesians 2:8, Romans 6:1-2, James 2:14-17]

What Does it Mean to Have “Fallen Asleep?”

What Does it Mean to Have “Fallen Asleep?”The Bible sometimes uses the quaint phrase “fallen asleep.” It’s a polite way to say that someone died. I smile at this ambiguous language and wonder why Bible writers used a euphemism instead of being direct.

But I think there might be more to it. To say “fallen asleep” is not merely an understated way to communicate that someone’s life is over. It’s a hint that there is another life awaiting us after death, that we will awake to a new kind of existence.

Just as natural sleep is a respite between one day and the next, so too figurative sleep is a transition from one form of life to another. While our body ceases to function, our spirit moves on to a new dimension. And we must first “fall asleep” to make that transition.

When the Bible talks about those who have “fallen asleep,” it’s more than a gracious way to say someone died, it’s the suggestion there is even more to look forward to as we move into the spiritual realm. But first we must sleep; we must die.

How do you view death? Do you have hope in what comes next? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

[Matthew 9:24, Mark 5:39, Luke 8:32, John 11:11, Acts 7:60, Acts 13:36, 1 Corinthians 11:30, 1 Corinthians 15:6, 18, 20, 1 Thessalonians 4:14-15]

Do Angels Have Wings?

I’m not sure if I assumed it or someone taught me, but I always thought seraphim and cherubim were two special classes of angels. Though seraphim and cherubim aren’t mentioned often in the Bible (2 and 69 verses respectively), angels make a much more frequent appearance, in some 290 places.

In none of those passages does the Bible call angels seraphim or cherubim. (The dictionary labels all three as “celestial beings.”) Although seraphim and cherubim have wings, no verses say that angels do. The Bible never says angels fly, though there are some hints they are occasionally airborne, but as supernatural beings, they don’t need wings to go vertical.

Angels are mentioned more times in the New Testament (182 times) than in the Old (108 times), with Revelation giving them the most coverage (77 times), followed by Luke (24 times) and Acts (22 times). We don’t know if angels have genders or not, but one verse (Judges 13:21) implies that particular angel is masculine, so I refer to angels as “him” rather then “it.”

While we see seraphim as worshiping God and cherubim as hanging out with God in heaven and attesting to his glory, angels serve as God’s messengers to us. They show up unexpectedly, suddenly appearing and then disappearing. Apparently either their arrival or their form is frightening, because they often say, “Do not be afraid.”

If an angel ever visited me, I wonder if I’d shrink back in fear. I’d like to say I wouldn’t, but I suspect I would. Regardless of how I react, I will want to listen carefully to what the angel tells me, receiving it as a word from God.

[290 verses that mention angels]

Are Cherubim Angels?

Last week we asked if seraphim are the same as angels? We discovered there is no biblical evidence to suggest they are. Now we ask the same question about cherubim. The Bible mentions cherubim much more than seraphim. In fact, there are 69 verses (in the NIV) with either cherubim (the plural form) or cherub (the singular form). All but one of these mentions are in the Old Testament, many relating to the construction of the tabernacle and temple.

Just as with seraphim, none of these 69 verses says that cherubim are angels. The dictionary defines cherubim as “celestial beings,” just as it does for seraphim.

Cherubim have wings and fly, but they also have hands. Their wings make a loud sound and can be heard from far away. Some cherubim are in heaven, around the throne of God. David even writes about God riding them.

Although cherubim are not angels, they are some amazing supernatural beings.

Next Thursday we’ll look at what the Bible teaches us about angels and then archangels.

Are You Like the Criminal on the Cross Next to Jesus?

Are You the Criminal on the Cross Next to Jesus?

When Jesus is executed, two criminals are executed with him, one on either side. While we don’t know what these two men did to deserve the death penalty, we can assume it must have been something really bad, such as murder or insurrection.

Luke’s report of this event gives us a bit more detail than in Jesus’ other biographies. Luke notes that while one of the criminals insults Jesus, the other one sees things differently. He says the punishment for him and the other lawbreaker is just, getting what their actions warrant, whereas Jesus is innocent. Then, in an amazing display of faith – since they will all soon be dead – he asks Jesus to remember him in his future kingdom. Jesus says it’s a done deal.

While this criminal did something bad to get the death penalty, anything wrong we do, whether major or minor, likewise earns us the punishment of death. Just as Jesus opens his arms to accept a hardened criminal, he can likewise accept us.

The criminal merely affirms Jesus and asks to spend eternity in heaven with him. We can do the same thing, too.

[Luke 23:32-33, 39-43]