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  • A Coward’s Guide to Evangelism

    Getting Started For years I’ve written articles and books about evangelism. On the surface, this looks like a desire to help foster evangelism in the Christian community. And it’s true; I do desire that. But on a deeper level, it stems from working out my internal angst concerning evangelism. How do I present the gospel honestly and boldly without needlessly offending? How do I ensure I don’t slip into heresy by adding or subtracting from the gospel? When do I need to remember that the gospel is offensive to those who love their sin and rebellion and that their distaste for the gospel has nothing to do with me at all? Can you identify with this inner struggle? After decades of asking myself questions just like these, I'd like to offer seven suggestions for you to keep in mind as you consider how to get started in evangelism. 1. Sweep away misconceptions in your head about evangelism. It’s easy to listen to well-meaning believers and get the wrong idea about evangelism. The mistaken ideas are almost too numerous to list. Evangelism is not about how many people you lead to Christ, though it’s beautiful when that happens. Certainly, evangelism must happen for people to come to Jesus, as Paul stresses in Romans 10:17, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” But evangelism happens even if people don’t come to Jesus. Neither is evangelism merely showing our good works. Evangelism is a message, and a message must be spoken. Nor is evangelism a method, a memorized set of questions that lead people to the conclusion that they must commit their lives to Jesus. Evangelism is merely teaching, sharing, or preaching the gospel with the desire in your heart for someone to come to faith. As Paul says, “. . . we persuade . . .” (2 Cor. 5:11). 2. Prepare your heart. Of course, you should pray about evangelism. Everybody says that, and for numerous good reasons. It’s mainly good to pray because I usually forget to. But remember, it is good to pray for unbelievers to come to faith because it’s biblical. Paul sets the example again in Romans 10:1 when he says his heart’s desire and prayer is for his people, the Jews, to come to faith. So pray that God would soften the hearts of those you know who don’t know the Lord. Praying for others’ conversion reminds us that it is the Holy Spirit’s job to convert, not ours. It reminds us that faith is a gift from God, a gift God longs to give. There are other good reasons to pray for unbelievers to come to faith. Best of all, it shapes our hearts to be more in line with the heart of God. I find that when I pray, my heart develops in its love for the lost and a greater awareness of the needs around me. 3. Recognize this is not about your personality. People justify their lack of evangelism by saying they don’t have the right personality. I’m unsure where this idea comes from, but it’s hogwash. Both introverts and extroverts struggle with evangelism. For most personalities, evangelism is always pushing the ball uphill. Extroverts are sorely tempted to twist the gospel to fit the hearer. Some of the most effective evangelists I know are introverts. Evangelism does not start with the right personality but rather an awareness that Christians are creatures who live in the physical world and yet have been given the gift of knowing the reality of the spiritual world. It’s an awareness that every person you meet is headed to one of two ends: a glorious eternal existence in a paradise that we can barely imagine or an immortal existence in what Jesus called “outer darkness.” This understanding helps us frame evangelism correctly. It’s helpful to know that evangelism may be expressed differently for different personality types, but it’s the same gospel. 4. Recognize you can get better at it. Many talk about “pre-evangelism,” which is helping people get ready to hear the gospel. I’m not sure what pre-evangelism is or whether it’s a particularly good biblical term, but anyway, nobody talks about post-evangelism. For the record, I’m the best post-evangelist I know: “I should have said this,” or “I forgot to say that.” I’m always going over in my mind better things I could have said. It used to be that I would beat myself up about that, but over the years, I’ve come to see this as more of a sharpening exercise for next time rather than a defeat. Like all spiritual disciplines, evangelism is not something you do perfectly every time. There is always room to grow. So read books about apologetics to be equipped to sweep away objections. Listen carefully to testimonies of how people came to Jesus. Think through how to turn conversations into spiritual conversations. 5. Rehearse the gospel. Use it or lose it. Become a student of the gospel. As I’ve mentioned, the gospel is a message with some complexity, so it must be studied. If you study it well, you can say it well. So first, nail down the essentials of the gospel. Who God is (holy, loving, creator, Father). Who we are before God (valuable creatures, made in God’s image and reflecting his glory, yet in rebellion to God’s ways and slaves to our sin). Who Jesus is (the divine son of God, equal to God and fully man, who came with a rescue mission to save us out of darkness and move us into God’s light and fellowship by willingly offering his life as a ransom payment for our sin, and then proving his words and actions true through his resurrection from the dead). And what we are then to do (repent of our sin, which is primarily our disbelief that God’s way is the right way, and put our entire faith in Jesus). Entire books could be written about each part of the gospel mentioned above, so don’t just memorize it; keep working at its meaning. Connect those four principles of the gospel with Scripture. It’s a rich treasure trove of spiritual knowledge. Turn it over in your mind and think of ways to say it accurately but without jargon. 6. Think of specific steps you can take. This is where the rubber meets the road. First, think through your non-Christian friends, neighbors, fellow students, co-workers, and relatives you know. Write their names down and pray for them, as in point number two. New believers will probably have long lists, and people walking with the Lord for a long time may have shorter lists. Think through if there is some friendship work that needs to be done so that you can come to the point of sharing the gospel (Okay, maybe that’s what pre-evangelism is). Perhaps it’s inviting them to church, though you should remember that inviting someone to church is not you doing evangelism. Now, hopefully, your pastor makes the gospel clear with every sermon, but regardless, your evangelism starts after the service when you ask, “What did you think of the service?” Maybe it’s making a friend at church who is a seeker and inviting them over for lunch after the service. Relatives are complex, but you could email them and tell them that you’ve been thinking about them (praying for them) and would like to have a spiritual discussion. For others, it may be the bold step to start a neighborhood Bible study. University students, you have the best opportunities for evangelism as your living situation, work life (your studies), and social circles are all nearby; these things will all be divided once you graduate. So, students, take advantage of this and start an outreach Bible study. Everyone should get used to asking people, “Are you interested in spiritual things?” or “What’s your faith background?” 7. Take the plunge. One of the greatest needs in evangelism is not endless preparation but boldness and clarity. In Ephesians 6:19, Paul requested prayer that he be bold and clear with the gospel, which should be on our hearts too. As I say often—I hate to sound like an old sneaker commercial—“Just do it.” Fix your mind on Christ and take the plunge. See where the Holy Spirit brings you. And most of all, keep at it. Persevere! I listened to four reports of the year-end campus ministry called “ACross” at the University of Louisville just yesterday. This group of students is deeply motivated to reach their campus for Jesus. The first three stories were terrific reports of how the gospel had been proclaimed to numerous people, many of whom came to faith. What an encouragement. The last testimony came from a young woman named Megan. She stood up shyly and said, “Eight months ago, I didn’t even know what evangelism was.” But she had been convicted at a Christian conference to share her faith. Megan dug deep and stepped out. First, she tried to organize a Bible study with some friends, but nobody showed up. Then she started giving a ride to a fellow student in her nursing program who informed Megan she was a worshiper of Aphrodite (a true pagan!). Though they read some in the Bible, eventually, she told Megan not to talk to her about Christianity. Megan continued to give her rides. Megan then met with another classmate, and they read through Greg Gilbert’s book What Is the Gospel? in its entirety, but in the end, the woman said that Christianity didn’t fit with her lesbian lifestyle. Megan shared the gospel with another friend who just thought Megan was weird. And that’s how her story ended. Everything Megan tried, I recommend: Bible study, book study, and one-on-one sharing of the gospel. But nobody came to faith or even seemed all that interested in the message Megan had for them. But Megan was faithful. And far from giving up, Megan spoke of how much she had learned and how grateful she was to God. She said she was looking forward to reaching out next semester on campus—Wow! For me, that makes Megan an evangelistic hero. And I think that’s how God sees it too. Evangelism is merely teaching, sharing, or preaching the gospel with the desire in your heart for someone to come to faith. J. Mack Stiles is the author of How Do I Get Started in Evangelism?

  • Why Did Jesus Tell People Not to Bury Their Father or Say Goodbye to Their Family? (Luke 9)

    Luke 9:57–62 - 57As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” 59To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 60And Jesus1 said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” 62Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” Kingdom Priorities The journey motif continues, for Jesus and his disciples are on their way to Jerusalem (Luke 9:51, 53), which, as we know, means that he is on his way to die. A would-be disciple approaches, promising to follow Jesus to any and all destinations. Jesus desires the man to understand what following him means, using illustrations from the world of mammals and birds. Foxes have holes in which to reside, and birds build nests for themselves and their young. Jesus, however, as the Son of Man, cannot call anywhere home. He has no permanent residence or fixed location to call his own. Thus the man who claims he would follow Jesus everywhere must realize that following Jesus requires being willing to forsake one’s home. Jesus offers no guarantees of comfort or of the security that comes from having a place in which to dwell. Jesus encounters another man and calls him to follow him as a disciple. The man says that he must first bury his father before doing so. Burying one’s parents was considered a sacred duty in Jewish circles (Gen. 46:4; 49:29–50:13). Failure to do so would mean that one was not a responsible or godly son (cf. Jer. 16:5–7; Ezek. 24:15–24). Jesus replies in a way that would have shocked his contemporaries, saying that the dead should bury the dead. The man’s priority should be proclaiming the kingdom of God. Jesus probably means that those who are spiritually dead should bury those who are physically dead. Disciples have a more important calling and responsibility: heralding the good news of the kingdom. Another man also wants to follow Jesus and to be his disciple. But he feels that he must fulfill his family duty and say goodbye to his family before doing so. The request seems reasonable. Even Elijah allowed Elisha to say goodbye to his family before the latter left his home (1 Kings 19:20). Shockingly, however, Jesus rejects the proposal, picking up an image from plowing, which was what Elisha was doing when Elijah called him (1 Kings 19:19–21). Those who start plowing and then turn back for other matters are unfit for the kingdom. When plowing, one must look straight ahead; if one looks back, especially on rocky ground, the plow will go askew. Looking back is not just a “momentary glance” but represents going back to one’s family. Lot’s wife looked back (Gen. 19:26), as did the nation of Israel after leaving Egypt (Ex. 16:3), and both longed for their old life. We see, incidentally, that discipleship is not something above and beyond salvation. Those who are not disciples of Jesus do not belong to the kingdom; they are citizens of another realm. We see here that family is subordinated to the kingdom, to the call of Jesus. We see in these verses that following Jesus requires uncompromising commitment. A judge friend of mine said we must beware of “fuffrah”—fluffy Christianity that does not fit with costly discipleship. We tend to say to those who are half-interested that they are at least “in the circle,” but Jesus challenges us, asking if we are serious about following him; he rejects half-hearted followers. We learn that family does not come first—Jesus does. Perhaps God will call some of us to proclaim the gospel in dangerous places. Let us never make an idol of our families so that family relationships become more important than the kingdom of God. I have heard people say that they will not go to a certain place because of the weather or because it is too far from family, but as disciples of Jesus we cannot and must not say such things. We must be willing to go wherever and whenever Jesus wants us to go. We cannot tell God how close we will be to our parents or children. Of course, we cannot follow him apart from his grace or apart from his Spirit in our hearts. And, when we follow him, he will grant us joy inexpressible and full of glory. We will have no regrets or remorse for doing his will. We will be full of joy that the world does not understand. We must be willing to go wherever and whenever Jesus wants us to go. This article is by Thomas R. Schreiner and is adapted from ESV Expository Commentary: Matthew–Luke (Volume 8) edited by Iain M. Duguid, James M. Hamilton Jr., and Jay Sklar.

  • Walking by the Spirit in Love, Joy, Peace

    The “fruit” of the Holy Spirit refers to the godly attributes of those who “walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16). The true manifestation of the Holy Spirit at work in a believer’s life is that the believer becomes increasingly more like Christ in character and actions. The fruit of the Spirit should characterize the life of every believer. Today we take a look at three fruits of the Spirit found in Galatians 5:22 — love, joy, and peace. Love In both Hebrew (ahab) and Greek (agapē), words translated “love” are action words, indicating conscious acts on behalf of a beloved. However, biblical love seems to demand going beyond merely a particular behavior to include a certain inner attitude, that is, a positive inner response (1 John 3:17). While several Greek words describe specific forms of love, the Greek word agapē most expresses Christlike, selfless love. Unselfish, loyal, benevolent concern for the well-being of another is called by Paul “the greatest” gift of all (1 Corinthians 13:13). Christian love is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, a virtue of godly living (Galatians 5:22). The attributes of love reflect both feelings and loving acts (1 Corinthians 13:4–8). True love is characterized as: • Patient and slow to anger (verse 4)• Kind and gentle to all (verse 4)• Unselfish and giving (verse 5)• Truthful and honest (verse 6)• Hopeful and encouraging (verse 7)• Enduring, without end (verse 7) Biblical love is not envious, proud, self-centered, rude, or provoking (1 Corinthians 13:4, 5). Without love, the gifts of the Spirit are deemed worthless, and the fruit of the Spirit incomplete (verse 8). Christian love is eternal. While all else fails, love never fails. It is a permanent, unconditional concern for others that results from the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit, rather than from human effort or desire. Joy A number of Hebrew and Greek words are used in the Bible to convey the concept of joy. In fact, the word “joy” is found more than 150 times in the Bible. Joy comes from God as a result of faith and obedience (John 15:10, 11; Romans 15:13). The abundance of joy is in direct proportion to the intimacy and steadfastness of a believer’s walk with the Lord. Sin in a believer’s life can rob joy (Psalm 51:8, 12). True joy is evident regardless of circumstances. The Spirit-filled believer continues to rejoice even amidst troubles (James 1:2, 3). Biblical joy is clearly different from earthly, temporal pleasures that are bound to circumstances. The purpose of joy is to provide blessing for the believer. Joy enables you to enjoy all that God has given — health, family, friends, opportunities, and salvation. As you experience true joy, your joy can then be shared with others (Romans 12:15). Abundant joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit for those who walk in faith. Peace In both the Old and New Testaments, peace is described as the result of having a right relationship with God and with others (see Romans 5:1, 2). The Greek word eirene has a meaning similar to the Hebrew word shalom. Spiritual peace describes a sense of well-being and fulfillment that comes from God and is dependent on His presence alone (Galatians 5:22). Inner spiritual peace is experienced by any believer who walks in the Spirit despite surrounding turmoil. The true “peace of God” protects the hearts and minds of believers from worry, fear, and anxiety. It transcends all logic or rationale (Philippians 4:7). The God of Peace who offers salvation also promises His presence and power in the lives of His children. His presence creates in us a quiet confidence, regardless of circumstances, people, or things. Though impossible to comprehend fully, true peace is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22) and a part of the “whole armor of God” (Ephesians 6:11, 13). According to the apostle Paul, our understanding and experiencing of the gospel produces peace that allows us to walk boldly into spiritual battle (Ephesians 6:11, 13) and to survive all manner of difficulty and danger. The believer receives peace from God as a virtue of holy living and a protection from evil forces. Where the peace of God is present, there is no room for worry. Reflecting the Character of God The fruit of the Holy Spirit affects the believer’s relationship with God, others, and self. As Christians grow in their relationship with the Lord, they develop unselfish love, true joy, and lasting peace. While the fruit of the Holy Spirit is not necessary for salvation, these godly virtues are evidence of salvation and the genuine work of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 7:17). Followers of Christ not only receive the blessings of God but also reflect His character to all whom they encounter. Article drawn from study features in the NIV Woman’s Study Bible.

  • Understanding the Letters in the New Testament

    Did you know that of the 27 books in the New Testament, 21 of them are letters written to communities of Jesus’ followers, and they were spread throughout the Roman Empire. Most of the letters, (also known as epistles), are attributed to Paul – Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon. The remaining letters are Hebrews, James, 1 and 2 Peter, 1, 2 and 3 John and Jude. Letters can be thought of as a conversation you might have with a friend. And like a conversation with a friend, a lot of background information is assumed but not stated directly in the letters. As you read the New Testament letters, it’s helpful to keep in mind – The Cultural Context • The churches receiving the letters were under strict Roman rule. Because Roman society was hierarchical, Paul’s message might have sounded different to people of varied social status. Men who were Roman citizens had some ability to raise their social status, while women, enslaved people and the poor were considered inferior and had little hope of doing the same. Jesus’ message that God cares for everyone might threaten and convict those in high places but be liberating for those looked down upon in their societies. • Jesus’ followers were viewed as radical because they threatened the dominant social order. Jesus’ love was for all, and his death and resurrection meant the creation of a new humanity—one without divisions based on race, gender or social class. As you read, look for these countercultural moments. • In the beginning, the author often provides us with context about the letter. For example, it’s easy to read a letter like Romans as one long essay on theology, but Paul is actually addressing division between Jewish and non-Jewish followers in Rome. Some higher-status Christians were treating Jewish Christians with disrespect, but Paul wants the church to realize they’re all members of God’s family now. As you read, think about how the message might apply to the specific issues in the church receiving the letter. While our context today looks different than these early church communities, we can see in these letters our own tendencies to create division and fail to love one another as beloved siblings in God’s family. But the gospel of Jesus Christ can transform our communities just like it did theirs. How They Were Created and Communicated Have you ever found yourself imagining the writers of the New Testament while reading them? If so, what were they like? Did you picture them alone or with others? The authors of the New Testament were probably rarely alone. Paul was a missionary traveling throughout the Mediterranean, preaching the gospel and starting new churches. He had companions and cowriters who helped him craft his letters, probably drawing from speeches, prayers and poems, all pieced together and written down by a scribe. Whoever delivered the finished letter to the church community would read it out loud like a speech. Since the community would have heard the letter read from beginning to end, it’s helpful for us to read it that way as well. The Literary Context Ancient letters have a specific format. They begin with an opening that gives the name of the author, followed by thanksgiving for the community receiving the letter. The body of the letter addresses particular issues in the church, and the conclusion includes additional greetings, travel plans, final requests and prayers. Although most New Testament letters follow this format, they are sometimes adjusted to suit a purpose. For example, you might notice Galatians skips over thanksgiving as Paul jumps into a heated critique of the Galatians turning away from his teaching to a different gospel. Also note that the big idea of the letter is usually stated right after the greeting. Each paragraph generally has its own main idea, and sections are joined together with transition phrases such as “therefore,” “so then,” and “because of this.” Keep the big idea in mind and watch for these transitions to see how the author builds the argument. As you think about the situations the New Testament letter writers sought to address, consider how their words relate to us today. Drawn from study features in the NIV, The Telos Bible.

  • How Habakkuk Found Hope Through Calamity

    If you feel hopeless, helpless, or powerless—unable to deal with people or problems and on the verge of exhaustion—take heart in the prophet Habakkuk’s stirring conclusion to his short book. Knowing that a savage army of Babylonians would soon plunder his homeland, Habakkuk was discouraged. Surely, the coming destruction would be absolutely unbearable. Yet despite the disheartening scenario, Habakkuk penned an amazing response: “I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights” (Habakkuk 3:18–19). Even if the crops all failed, the livestock died and everything he had learned to depend on was ruined, Habakkuk would still trust the Lord (Habakkuk 3:17). Where did the prophet find such hope in the face of such terrible calamity? For one thing, clearly, he had been strengthened by God’s Word. His expression of faith closely echoes the words of David, uttered centuries before: “The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I called to the LORD, who is worthy of praise, and I have been saved from my enemies” (Psalm 18:2 – 3). Habakkuk had also spent a great deal of time alone with the Lord. In fact, the book that bears his name is a record of his extended conversation with God concerning his ways and plans. While Habakkuk did not understand—or particularly like—what he heard from God, he acknowledged the fact that his ways are best. He trusted the Lord for the future of Israel and for his own life. Regardless of the circumstances, the prophet knew that the Lord was at work and would bring good out of what seemed to be horrendous circumstances. That is God’s promise to us. He is always at work in our lives to bring good out of the darkest of situations (Romans 8:28). When the outlook looks grim, Christ is your strength. When the circumstances seem volatile, Christ is your stability. When the future appears foreboding, Christ remains your hope. The strength of Christ is both inexhaustible and immeasurable—and it is yours to receive. God delights in upholding the weary and reviving the fainthearted (Isaiah 40:29–31). Your reservoir of emotional and physical energy may feel nearly drained, but God’s supply of spiritual stamina never runs out. Come to him and His Word for the strength to carry on, and he will supply the power you need to traverse the rough terrain ahead. That’s his promise, and God always keeps his promises. From the NIV Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible.

  • Looking Heavenward Transforms Our Sorrow

    The Ever-Inspiring, Heavenward Life When my oldest child died, I knew that my life would never be the same. In the initial months that followed, I expected that the change would be entirely negative. However, not all of the differences were painful. The Lord did something unexpectedly positive that has remained with me ten years later. On November 10, 2013, my son lived in my house. On November 11, 2013, he lived in heaven above. Heaven was no longer an abstract, theological concept. It was now my son’s home. Before this season, I would describe myself as a heavenly-minded person. I would think about heaven on nights when my head rested on the pillow but I could not still my mind for sleep. Heaven would be on my mind when I watched men carry a coffin down the aisle of the church at a funeral or at time when a loved one was nearing their final days. These were occasions when I would intentionally think about eternity. However, after my son’s death, the Lord created a change in my mind, heart, and life that I would describe as a “heavenward shift.” God effectuated this turning both through the tragic circumstances of my son’s death but also through a critical new “friendship” that I made in the pages of Scripture. I became consumed with heaven in a manner that eternity had a constant presence in my perspective in the routine matters of daily life. I missed attending a college reunion but found solace knowing that I’d have plenty of time with my believing friends in the new heaven and new earth. I’d forget to pay a bill and incur a late fee, something that would previously unravel me. Now I thought, “I won’t miss the $15 in eternity.” When I’d prepare a Bible study lesson or sermon, I would conceive of the lesson as an offering to place before the judgment seat of Christ at the second coming. This mindset brought more meaning, inspiration, and focus to lesson prep. During a hard season of life, the length of the struggles seemed shorter and more manageable with eternity as the backdrop of the trial. All of these realities were blessing me immensely and taking my spiritual life to new places. I use the term heavenward to distinguish between heavenly-mindedness as compared to what I was experiencing. Heavenly-mindedness constitutes a spiritual discipline whereby we deliberately meditate on eternity (as God calls us to in Col. 3:1). On the other hand, I characterize heavenward as “a work of God in your life in which heaven becomes an organic part of your daily perspective and the object of your life’s direction.” I started to feel a little strange about this perpetual, heavenward mindset, though, as if I were operating in a new reality. I sensed that nobody else around me was thinking like this. And then I met my “friend,” the apostle Paul. As I read his letters with fresh eyes, I noticed that Paul integrated heaven into just about everything, including somewhat mundane matters of life. Whether it was suffering, good works, singleness, communion, morality, spiritual gifts, etc., he would relate just about anything to eternity. Paul had a heavenward mindset that made me feel less weird. Lasting Heavenwardness The circumstances of having a child in heaven drove my heavenwardness in the early days of this transformation. At the same time, I do not think I would have sustained this eternal mindset without Paul’s letters in Scripture. What I discovered in the apostle’s theology of heaven is that the eternal realities of every Christian’s salvation should naturally create a magnified consciousness of heaven in all of us. At the core, Paul believed that the coming of Jesus constituted the long-awaited divine visitation of God, known as the Day of the Lord. It also inaugurated the arrival of heaven on earth, which Jews called the Age to Come. Believers, upon conversion, are transferred into this heavenly realm on earth, which Paul often refers to as the Kingdom of God, the new creation, the age of the Spirit, or the light. We are “delivered . . . from the domain of darkness and transferred . . . to the kingdom of his beloved Son” (Col. 1:13). Hence, our current citizenship truly becomes heaven the second we put our faith in Christ (Phil. 3:20). In addition, the Lord blesses us with particular blessings of the future heavenly life during our time on earth. We come into union with Christ, which will be the bedrock of our heavenly joy. He declares the current, heavenly blessing of union with Christ in Colossians by saying, “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27). Furthermore, Paul described the indwelling of the Holy Spirit as the present “guarantee” or “down payment” of the future communion with God in the heavenly life. As a result of all these new realities brought about by the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, Paul lived with a foot in heaven and a toe on earth. The Fruit of a Heavenward Life Many may think this heavenly-mindedness would make a person detached and ineffective in this present earthly life. The opposite was true for the apostle. He had a fierce sense of commitment to evangelism, missions, and church planting. He showed a noble buoyancy and perseverance in suffering. He had an enviable level of contentment in this life. Paul was resolute in his commitment to morality and ethics. More than anything, he demonstrated bravery through his absence of fear about death. Paul had character, contentment, and conviction that we would all long for, but the factors that enabled these blessings for him are common to all believers. In a manner that certainly is more modest than what the apostle experienced, I have tasted some of the richness and transformation of the heavenward life, and I long for others to enjoy them too. The heavenward journey begins with knowing the present and future eternal realities of your salvation. They will bring you such life, hope, and joy! Having a heavenward life, where eternity comprises the perpetual backdrop of your day-to-day consciousness, however, is a gracious work of the Holy Spirit in your heart, mind, and life. Seek his truth about heaven and pray for this work. The Lord may surprise you with an inspiring pivot in your spiritual life in the way same that he unexpectedly has turned ashes to beauty in my life. Our current citizenship truly becomes heaven the second we put our faith in Christ. Cameron Cole is the author of Heavenward: How Eternity Can Change Your Life on Earth

  • Is the Story of Job Historical? (Job 1)

    Job 1 1 There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil. 2 There were born to him seven sons and three daughters. 3 He possessed 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, and 500 female donkeys, and very many servants, so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the east. 4 His sons used to go and hold a feast in the house of each one on his day, and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. 5 And when the days of the feast had run their course, Job would send and consecrate them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, “It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did continually.—Job 1:1–5 An Exemplary Man from the Land of Uz The prologue to Job (Job 1:1–5) introduces us to an unusual world. In verse 1, we meet a man with an unprecedented name (Hb. ʼiyyob, “Job”) from an uncertain place (“the land of Uz”) who worships (as of yet) an undefined “God” (Hb. ʼelohim). However, it is this man in that place and his relationship with that God that sets the scene for the unfolding of one of the OT’s most spectacular dramas. Verses 2–5 build upon this unusual opening with an unexpected description of the “perfect” man. Job is “perfect” in a numerological sense in that he has ten children (“seven sons and three daughters”; Job 1:2) and ten thousand animals (Job 1:3). Moreover, he is “perfect,” or as near to perfect as is any character in the OT, in a spiritual sense. He gains the distinct designation of being “the greatest of all the people of the east” (Job 1:3) both because he is rich and because he is righteous. He fears God. He turns away from evil. He provides for his children physically and spiritually. Was there really a man named Job? Did he live in a land called Uz? Was he perfectly righteous with a perfectly blessed life? Did he in one day lose everything but his troublesome, unnamed wife? Did he have friends who sat silently for seven days? Did he then suffer the accusations of Eliphaz, the blame of Bildad, the zings of Zophar, and the admonishments of Elihu? Did God hold a heavenly chamber room conference with Satan at which he granted permission to afflict Job? Did God really speak audibly to Job? Are Leviathan and Behemoth real creatures? Put simply, did the author of Job create the whole drama out of whole cloth, much like Shakespeare did with his characters from foreign countries who speak in poetry? The answer is not easy, and by no means should we be dogmatic. Who can know for certain? While Uz appears to be an ancient region, the names of Job’s daughters provide a tinge of historic realism (Job 42:14), and Ezekiel mentions Job alongside Noah and Daniel (Ezek. 14:14, 20; cf. James 5:11), such clues do not solve the riddle. Authors often set fictional works in real places (e.g., the Canterbury of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales), and Ezekiel and James could be referencing Job as a literary figure (similar to our saying, “We should not emulate the Wife of Bath’s lusts”). Tremper Longman offers a helpful balance: The truth may be between the view that Job was a historical character, with the book describing events of his life in detail, and the view that Job is a purely literary figure. Job could have been known as a particularly righteous person who suffered. His story would then lend itself to further elaboration for the purposes of discussing the issue of an innocent sufferer and wisdom. Indeed, the highly literary nature of the prose and poetry . . . would suggest that this at least is true. The genre signals help us to see that the book of Job is certainly not a precise historical report. It is either the elaborated story of an actual historical figure or of a literary figure. My view is that Job was a historical person, not a fictional character, someone whose legendary sufferings were the historical ground on which the author of Job built with magnificent literary flair. Thus, while I give poetic license to how the author retells the narrative (e.g., I do not take the speeches as verbatim reports of the interchange between Job and his friends), I take all of the characters named (including Satan) and the details of the story told (including the amazing catastrophes) to be historically accurate. Meeting the Historical Job In Job 1:1 we are told that Job is “blameless and upright,” or, in a more spatial translation, “whole and straight.” We might say, in the language of our Lord Jesus, that as Job walks the straight and narrow way that leads to life, he treats others the same way he wishes to be treated; his wholehearted submission, reverence, respect, and love for God show themselves in his whole (or “perfect”; Matt. 5:48) love for others. And because of this, his neighbors—and even his enemies—have nothing against him. He has treated them with fairness and equity and charity. He is a “man of peace [Hb. shalom],” namely, a “blameless” and “upright” man (Ps. 37:37). In this way, Christians should imitate Job. We should also imitate Job in the way he cares for his children. Think afresh about Job 1:4–5. Why does Job offer sacrifices for his children? They are presented in a positive way. The sons are independent; each of the seven has his own house. They all get along. Everyone attends all of the festivals, which might be something like birthday parties (“his day,” Job 1:4, perhaps equals “his birthday”) or, more likely, seven religious feasts throughout the year. Job’s household is harmonious. They are all also happy—based on the fact that they eat and drink together all the time. Eating and drinking are often symbolic in the Bible for joy (e.g., Eccles. 9:7). But within all of this wholesomeness, harmony, and happiness, something is amiss. God’s will in heaven is not yet done perfectly on earth. Satan is yet to appear in the book, but sin is already present. As ideal as the introduction to the book of Job is, we are not in Eden—we are east of it. Job thinks it necessary to sanctify and sacrifice because he fears his children might have sinned. We are not sure if he thinks their cursing God would be due to the deceitfulness of riches (they are quite wealthy), the lure of pagan idols (they live in “the east”), or simply some unintentional attitude or action (cf. Num. 15:28). Whatever the case, the description of Job’s scrupulousness is intended not to seem neurotic or in any way negative, but rather as sin-sensitive and God-honoring. He cleanses his children and sacrifices for their sins because he cares for their souls. As Christians, and in a Christian way (due to Jesus’ atoning death, there is no need for animal sacrifices), we should also pray for our children and do all we can to “consecrate” them, that is, set them apart from the world. However, with all of that noted, the apt response to Job 1:4–5 is not merely imitation. The text also foreshadows two other sacrifice scenes. The first is Job 42:8–9. Job offers blood sacrifices only at the beginning (Job 1:5) and end (Job 42:8–9) of the narrative. That final scene is the lens by which we are to read the whole narrative. But it is more than a lens that helps us look backward; it also—like the lens on a telescope—helps us look forward to the ultimate scene of sacrifice. In Job we see a righteous sufferer vindicated, sinners atoned for through a costly blood sacrifice, and the sovereign freedom and justice of God upheld. Likewise, in Jesus, we see a sacrificial death that demonstrates how innocent suffering can both show forth the justice of God and also save sinners. This article is by Douglas Sean O’Donnell and is adapted from the ESV Expository Commentary: Ezra–Job (Volume 4) edited by Iain M. Duguid, James M. Hamilton Jr., and Jay Sklar.

  • Who Were the Very First Christians?

    Following Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension, thousands of Jews became believers. The period from roughly A.D. 30 to 100 saw the glory of the first Pentecost, the struggle of the church to organize for mission, the conversion of Saul (Paul), the mission to the Gentiles, and the spread of the faith to Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch, the three greatest cities of the Roman Empire. The day of Pentecost came 50 days after the offering of the first grain (Leviticus 23:10, 15, 16) at the Passover observances. It was a celebration of the wheat harvest, with pilgrims gathering from various nations of the Roman world. The crowd included Jews living outside of the Holy Land, as well as Gentiles who had accepted the Jewish faith. Luke lists their homelands beginning in the East, then in Asia Minor, and on to other Mediterranean areas—North Africa, Rome, and Crete (Acts 2:9-11). The Pentecost was quickly followed by the birth of the church, as distinct from a mere Jewish sect. The Good News also spread beyond Jerusalem with believers meeting in the temple courts, Jewish synagogues, and in private homes. Philip and the Samaritan The Samaritans were the first non-Jews to be evangelized by the early church. Philip “proclaimed the Messiah” to the Samaritans (Acts 8:5) and their reception of Philip’s message about the kingdom of God and about Jesus Christ was a significant step in the spread of the gospel. Samaritans were considered heretics by orthodox Jews, and they were receiving the gospel. Perhaps the Samaritans accepted the gospel more readily than Jews because they did not have to unlearn previous misconceptions about the coming Messiah. As the apostles continued to preach in many villages of Samaria, Samaritans became an accepted part of the church (Acts 8:25). Kandake’s Ethiopian Eunich Believes Luke gives us much information about the person that Philip evangelized and eventually baptized. The man was from Ethiopia, was a eunuch, served a queen as her treasurer, and had gone to worship in Jerusalem (Acts 8:27). This new convert’s background makes his conversion to Christianity significant. God himself made it clear that Gentiles should be included in his church. Ethiopia was an area south of Egypt. Because Ethiopia (Cush) and Egypt were so close geographically, they are often mentioned together in Scripture (see Psalm 68:31; Ezekiel 30:4; Nahum3:9). But Ethiopia is not close to Jerusalem, so Kandake’s eunuch had traveled from a distant location. Kandake is not a personal name but a title, like pharaoh. As the pharaoh was king of Egypt, so the Kandake was queen of Meroe, a kingdom on the Nile River south of Egypt. From Acts 8:27 it appears that “Kandake” could be used as a name for Meroe’s queens just as “Pharaoh” was used as a name for Egypt’s kings. The eunuch worked for someone of high authority. His position added to his status since as the queen’s treasurer he exercised great authority. It was common in Eastern countries for eunuchs to hold positions of high authority in a queen’s court. This eunuch was an important person. Nevertheless, he was a eunuch, and eunuchs were excluded from religious service in Israel  (Deuteronomy 23:1). The law prohibited them from serving as priests, who were required to have a whole body, free from blemishes (Leviticus 21:17– 20). The eunuch could worship in Jerusalem and read the sacred Scriptures (Acts 8:28) but could not be a full member of the Jewish religion. This eunuch represents a significant conversion to Christianity. With him, the Christian faith reached out to a distant land, to someone in the service of a queen, to someone who himself had high position. More importantly, it reached out to one who previously was an “outsider” to Israel’s religion. The God-Fearing Cornelius Caesarea Maritima, the home of Cornelius, served as the capital for the province of Judea. The city contained the residence for the Roman governor of Judea, as well as a regular Roman garrison (Acts 10:1). A legion of the Roman army was comprised of ten cohorts; five cohorts of about 600 soldiers each were stationed at Caesarea, while another cohort remained garrisoned on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Centurions like Cornelius commanded units, called centuries, that generally averaged 80 men. In contrast to high-class Romans who aspired to higher offices, centurions usually began as regular soldiers and worked their way up through the ranks. Army service for males usually began around age 17, and roughly half of the enlisters who survived the required 20 years of service were highly rewarded. The devout Cornelius (Acts 10:2) was a member of the “God fearers,” a class of religious people named in many ancient Jewish sources. God-fearers, while not full converts to Judaism, did respect Israel’s God and his teachings. Inscriptions reveal that many soldiers were interested in foreign religions like Judaism. Roman custom expected members of a household (whether wives and children or servants) to follow the religion of the head of the household. It was thus natural for Cornelius to have spread his faith to “all his family” (Acts 10:2). It’s not exactly clear who was part of Cornelius’s household since Roman regulations prohibited soldiers from marrying. Officials usually looked the other way while soldiers stationed in various places held illegal concubines, but centurions, who were moved more frequently, probably developed fewer relationships even with concubines. Unless Cornelius was retired or, as often happened, was breaking official rules, his household may have consisted primarily of servants (Acts 10:7). Peter’s ministry to the Gentile household of Cornelius was accepted by the Jerusalem church only after Peter convinced them that the Gentiles had become believers in the same sense as had Jesus’ followers, who were filled with the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost (Acts 11:1– 18). The First Gentile Church The first church to include Gentile Christians was the church at Antioch (Acts 11:26). More innovative than the Jerusalem church, Antioch became the center of missionary outreach to Gentiles, yet still maintained close ties with Jerusalem. Eventually, the Jerusalem church acknowledged acceptance of Gentiles (Acts 11:18), and Antioch became a center of the Gentile church. It was in Antioch that the disciples were identified with the term “Christian,” (Acts 11:22-24), a term appearing only twice elsewhere in Scripture (Acts 26:28; 1 Peter 4:16). The term “Christian” likely originated with the Gentile population in Antioch, rather than with the followers of Christ themselves. The Gentiles, being unfamiliar with Jewish religion, could have thought “Christ” was a name, rather than recognizing it as a title for the Messiah. Thus, by about A.D. 46, the Antiochan Gentiles had distinguished the “Christians” from both Jews and pagans. Drawn from study notes in the NIV Chronological Study Bible.

  • How to Grow Your Faith

    A lot of people talk about “faith.” But what does that mean for our everyday lives? We offer reflections based on the experiences of historical figures in the Bible whose experiences teach us lessons about growing our faith today. Faith Involves Action After he was weaned, she took the boy with her, young as he was, along with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour and a skin of wine, and brought him to the house of the LORD at Shiloh. When the bull had been sacrificed, they brought the boy to Eli, and she said to him, “Pardon me, my lord. As surely as you live, I am the woman who stood here beside you praying to the LORD. I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the LORD. For his whole life he will be given over to the LORD.” And he worshiped the LORD there. 1 Samuel 1:24–28 Hannah, a woman with a heart for prayer, lived with grief as a barren woman. Eli the priest misunderstood her grief as intoxication, but once he realized her faithfulness, he bid her to go in peace and blessed her. Hannah promised to give her child wholly for God’s service if he would grant her weeping request. God did hear her plea, gracing her with baby Samuel. And she followed through on her difficult promise. She offered Samuel to Eli, to serve God all the days of his life in the tabernacle. Hannah demonstrated her faith by offering up her firstborn. What does her stunning act demonstrate for us even today? That faith involves action. Hannah so trusted God that she could offer her child for God’s service. She knew he would take care of Samuel. You may see reflections of the gospel in this story, as God the Father truly did offer up his first and only child, but he did so for us. He entrusted Jesus to this world, and the world thanked him by crucifying him. Yes, Hannah’s faith was strong, and she did sacrifice, but nothing compares to the audaciousness of the sacrifice of the cross. Because of the cross, we can have deep faith in a God who gave so much for us. Reflect & Pray Who do you know who struggles with or has battled with infertility? How can knowing their trial deepen your understanding of Hannah’s faith? Lord, help me have the kind of faith Hannah exemplified. And thank you for showing me just how much you love me in giving your Son. Amen. Faith Is Exercised Through Prayer Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops. James 5:13–18 According to James, when we’re in trouble, we should pray. When we’re elated, we should sing. When we’re sick, we should ask others to pray. Even confession is a form of prayer—we confess our sins so we’ll experience forgiveness. Prayer is an exercise of faith. Prayer reveals that we realize we can’t do life on our own, and we need God’s help in every area. James gives us a real-life example of faith-infused prayer by reminding us of Elijah and rain. In an arid, desert land, not having rain meant ruination. For three and a half long years, the nation of Israel struggled under a drought. Then Elijah prayed, and the clouds burst forth with life-giving rain. What James wants us to realize, though, is not that Elijah had supernatural powers. He wrote, “Elijah was a human being, even as we are” (verse 17). No, it was Elijah’s faith in a supernatural God that informed his prayers. Ordinary people demonstrate their faith when they pray to an extraordinary God, believing him for impossible things. Reflect & Pray What is one of your longstanding prayers? How has God built your faith through waiting for an answer to that long- term request? In what ways has he begun to answer your prayer? Lord, help me realize I don’t have to be extraordinary to have my prayers answered. I simply need to have faith in extraordinary you. I entrust today’s concerns to you, and I believe you hear me. Amen. Faith Is Personal After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel. Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD and served the Baals. They forsook the LORD, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They aroused the LORD’s anger because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths. Judges 2:10-13 After Joshua’s death, the people of Israel became complacent. The passage says they “forsook” the Lord (verse 12), which means they turned away from him. But their turning away wasn’t toward nothing; they turned to other gods. As a result, they suffered. Why? Because they turned from the living, available God toward false gods, who only bring emptiness and loss. The truth? We cannot borrow faith. Nor can we rely on our parents’ or grandparents’ faith to save us. Although the Israelites who entered the promised land with Joshua saw great deliverance and worshiped God with abandon, the next generation failed to do so. They didn’t personalize their faith; they chose not to pursue God for themselves. This led to a vacuum of belief. It is a privilege to actively put our faith in God. Whether you’ve had faith examples through your family or you have no spiritual heritage, right now you have the opportunity to love and worship God with your whole heart. Ask him to come near, even if you have ventured far. God loves to answer the prayers of those seeking him. He loves you. Reflect & Pray Who in your life has chosen to walk away from God? What happened? Write a prayer for them here, asking God to rescue them. Lord, I want the kind of faith that keeps me continuing to chase you all the days of my life. Forgive me for straying. I need you today. Keep me close to you. Amen. Devotionals drawn from the NIV Radiant Virtues Bible.

  • 5 Things You Must Remember about the Resurrection

    The Vantage Point of the Resurrection It’s not just the most important miracle ever. It’s not just the most astounding event in the life of the Messiah. It’s not just an essential item in your theological outline. It’s not just the reason for the most important celebratory season of the church. It’s not just your hope for the future. No, the resurrection is all that and more. It is also meant to be the window through which you view all of life. Second Corinthians 4:13–15 captures this truth very well: “[We know] that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.” But what does it look like to look at life through the window of the resurrection? As I assess my life right here, right now, what about the resurrection must I remember? Let me suggest five things. The resurrection of Jesus guarantees your resurrection too. Life is not a constantly repeating cycle of the same old same old. No, under God’s rule this world is marching toward a conclusion. Your life is being carried to a glorious end. There will be a moment when God will raise you out of this broken world, and sin and suffering will be no more. The resurrection tells you what Jesus is now doing. Jesus now reigns. First Corinthians 15 says that he will continue to reign until the final enemy is under his feet. You see, your world is not out of control, but under the careful control of One who is still doing his sin-defeating work. The resurrection promises you all the grace you need between Jesus’s resurrection and yours. If your end has already been guaranteed, then all the grace you need along the way has been guaranteed as well, or you would never make it to your appointed end. Future grace always carries with it the promise of present grace. The resurrection of Jesus motivates you to do what is right, no matter what you are facing. The resurrection tells you that God will win. His truth will reign. His plan will be accomplished. Sin will be defeated. Righteousness will overcome evil. This means that everything you do in God’s name is worth it, no matter what the cost. The resurrection tells you that you always have reason for thanks. Quite apart from anything you have earned, you have been welcomed into the most exciting story ever and have been granted a future of joy and peace forever. No matter what happens today, look at life through this window. This article is adapted from New Morning Mercies for Teens: A Daily Gospel Devotional by Paul David Tripp.

  • The 40 Days After: Unveiling the Significance of Jesus' Post-Resurrection Appearances (Acts 1:1-11)

    The resurrection of Jesus Christ is a cornerstone of the Christian faith. But what happened after the empty tomb? The Bible tells us about a crucial 40-day period where Jesus appeared to his disciples, solidifying their faith and preparing them for their mission. Let's delve into the significance of this period: 1. Reassurance and Overcoming Doubt (Luke 24:36-43): Scripture: After the resurrection, Jesus appears to the disciples in Jerusalem, who are initially startled and doubt they're seeing Him. He offers proof of his physical body by showing them his hands and feet, and even eats with them. Significance: This initial appearance reassures the disciples of Jesus' bodily resurrection, dispelling any doubts and strengthening their faith. 2. Instruction and Commissioning (John 20:19-23): Scripture: Jesus appears again to the disciples, this time with an absent Thomas. He breathes on them, imparting the Holy Spirit, and grants them the authority to forgive sins. He later offers the same message to Thomas, providing him with physical evidence of the wounds on his hands. Significance: Jesus not only confirms his resurrection but also empowers his disciples with the Holy Spirit and commissions them to carry out his work of forgiveness and spreading the gospel message. 3. Teaching and Preparing for the Future (Acts 1:3-8): Scripture: Throughout the 40 days, Jesus appears to his disciples on multiple occasions, teaching them about the Kingdom of God (a recurring theme – see also Luke 24:44-49). He instructs them to wait in Jerusalem for the coming of the Holy Spirit, which would empower them for their mission. Significance: Jesus uses these interactions to prepare his disciples for the coming of the Holy Spirit and their role in spreading the gospel. He equips them with knowledge and clarifies their purpose. 4. Ascension and Promise of Return (Mark 16:19-20): Scripture: After 40 days, Jesus leads the disciples out to Bethany, near Jerusalem. He lifts his hands in blessing, then ascends into heaven, disappearing into a cloud. Two angels appear, promising His return. Significance: The Ascension marks Jesus' departure from Earth in his physical form and his return to his heavenly glory. However, the angels' message assures the disciples that He will one day return. The 40 days following the resurrection were not just a period of reunion, but a time of profound transformation. Jesus' post-resurrection appearances provided essential reassurance, instruction, and empowerment for his disciples, preparing them to become the foundation of the Christian church. Remember: These appearances are just glimpses into a crucial 40-day period. The Bible doesn't detail every event, but the impact on the disciples is undeniable. As we reflect on this time, let it strengthen our faith in Jesus' promise and the ongoing presence of the Holy Spirit.

  • Good Friday: A Day of Somber Reflection and Hopeful Anticipation

    Good Friday. The name itself seems like an oxymoron. How can a day commemorating the brutal crucifixion of Jesus Christ be considered "good"? Good Friday is a solemn yet pivotal day within Holy Week for Christians. It's a day marked by deep sorrow and a glimmer of hope. Let's delve into the significance of this impactful day: Remembering the Sacrifice: On this day, we remember the events leading to Jesus' crucifixion as documented in the Gospels (Matthew 27:1-66, Mark 15:1-47, Luke 23:1-56, John 18:1-40): Betrayal and Arrest: Jesus is betrayed by his disciple Judas and arrested by the authorities (Matthew 26:46-56). Unjust Trial: Jesus endures a mockery of a trial filled with false accusations and condemnation by the religious leaders (Matthew 27:11-31). The Crucifixion: Jesus is led to Golgotha, where he is brutally crucified on the cross, enduring immense physical and emotional suffering (John 19:17-37). Why is it Called "Good" Friday? Good Friday isn't "good" because of the horrific events that unfolded. The "good" refers to the profound meaning behind Jesus' sacrifice. Here's why: Atonement for Sin: Through his death on the cross, Jesus took upon himself the penalty for humanity's sin (Romans 5:8). This act of sacrificial love opened the door for reconciliation with God. Promise of Salvation: Jesus' death wasn't the end of the story. It paved the way for his resurrection, offering hope for eternal life to all who believe in him (John 3:16). Ultimate Act of Love: The crucifixion exemplifies God's immense love for humanity. He was willing to sacrifice his own son to redeem us (1 John 4:9-10). Observing Good Friday: Good Friday is a day of somber reflection and prayer. Many Christians attend special church services focused on the crucifixion and its significance. Fasting or abstaining from certain foods can also be a way to express reverence and solidarity with Jesus' suffering. Beyond the Somberness: A Glimpse of Hope While Good Friday is a day of mourning, it also holds a powerful undercurrent of hope. The empty tomb on the following Easter Sunday signifies Jesus' resurrection, conquering death, and offering the promise of eternal life. Good Friday reminds us of the depth of God's love and the power of sacrifice. It's a day of reflection and repentance, ultimately a stepping stone towards the glorious celebration of Easter or Resurrection Sunday.

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