Category Archives: Salvation

GET RIGHT WITH GOD THIS DAY:

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In order to get “right” with God, we must first understand what is “wrong.” The answer is sin. “There is no one who does good, not even one” (Psalm 14:3). We have rebelled against God’s commands; we “like sheep, have gone astray” (Isaiah 53:6).

The bad news is that the penalty for sin is death. “The soul who sins is the one who will die” (Ezekiel 18:4). The good news is that a loving God has pursued us in order to bring us salvation. Jesus declared His purpose was “to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10), and He pronounced His purpose accomplished when He died on the cross with the words, “It is finished!” (John 19:30).
Having a right relationship with God begins with acknowledging your sin. Next comes a humble confession of your sin to God (Isaiah 57:15). “For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved” (Romans 10:10).

This repentance must be accompanied by faith – specifically, faith that Jesus’ sacrificial death and miraculous resurrection qualify Him to be your Savior. “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). Many other passages speak of the necessity of faith, such as John 20:27; Acts 16:31; Galatians 2:16; 3:11, 26; and Ephesians 2:8.

Being right with God is a matter of your response to what God has done on your behalf. He sent the Savior, He provided the sacrifice to take away your sin (John 1:29), and He offers you the promise: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Acts 2:21).

A beautiful illustration of repentance and forgiveness is the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). The younger son wasted his father’s gift in shameful sin (verse 13). When he acknowledged his wrongdoing, he decided to return home (verse 18). He assumed he would no longer be considered a son (verse 19), but he was wrong. The father loved the returned rebel as much as ever (verse 20). All was forgiven, and a celebration ensued (verse 24). God is good to keep His promises, including the promise to forgive. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18).

If you want to get right with God, here is a sample prayer. Remember, saying this prayer or any other prayer will not save you. It is only trusting in Christ that can save you from sin. This prayer is simply a way to express to God your faith in Him and thank Him for providing for your salvation. “God, I know that I have sinned against You and am deserving of punishment. But Jesus Christ took the punishment that I deserve so that through faith in Him I could be forgiven. I place my trust in You for salvation. Thank You for Your wonderful grace and forgiveness – the gift of eternal life! Amen!”

Prophet Nathan Emol

WHY DID JUDAS BETRAY JESUS?

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While we cannot be absolutely certain why Judas betrayed Jesus, some things are certain. First, although Judas was chosen to be one of the Twelve (John 6:64), all scriptural evidence points to the fact that he never believed Jesus to be God. He even may not have been convinced that Jesus was the Messiah (as Judas understood it). Unlike the other disciples that called Jesus “Lord,” Judas never used this title for Jesus and instead called him “Rabbi,” which acknowledged Jesus as nothing more than a teacher. While other disciples at times made great professions of faith and loyalty (John 6:68; 11:16), Judas never did so and appears to have remained silent. This lack of faith in Jesus is the foundation for all other considerations listed below. The same holds true for us. If we fail to recognize Jesus as God incarnate, and therefore the only One who can provide forgiveness for our sins—and the eternal salvation that comes with it—we will be subject to numerous other problems that stem from a wrong view of God.

Second, Judas not only lacked faith in Christ, but he also had little or no personal relationship with Jesus. When the synoptic gospels list the Twelve, they are always listed in the same general order with slight variations (Matthew 10:2-4; Mark 3:16-19; Luke 6:14-16). The general order is believed to indicate the relative closeness of their personal relationship with Jesus. Despite the variations, Peter and the brothers James and John are always listed first, which is consistent with their relationships with Jesus. Judas is always listed last, which may indicate his relative lack of a personal relationship with Christ. Additionally, the only documented dialogue between Jesus and Judas involves Judas being rebuked by Jesus after his greed-motivated remark to Mary (John 12:1-8), Judas’ denial of his betrayal (Matthew 26:25), and the betrayal itself (Luke 22:48).
Third, Judas was consumed with greed to the point of betraying the trust of not only Jesus, but also his fellow disciples, as we see in John 12:5-6. Judas may have desired to follow Jesus simply because he saw the great following and believed he could profit from collections taken for the group. The fact that Judas was in charge of the moneybag for the group would indicate his interest in money (John 13:29).

Additionally, Judas, like most people at the time, believed the Messiah was going to overthrow Roman occupation and take a position of power ruling over the nation of Israel. Judas may have followed Jesus hoping to benefit from association with Him as the new reigning political power. No doubt he expected to be among the ruling elite after the revolution. By the time of Judas’ betrayal, Jesus had made it clear that He planned to die, not start a rebellion against Rome. So Judas may have assumed—just as the Pharisees did—that since He would not overthrow the Romans, He must not be the Messiah they were expecting.

There are a few Old Testament verses that point to the betrayal, some more specifically than others. Here are two:

“Even my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against me” (Psalm 41:9, see fulfillment in Matthew 26:14, 48-49). Also, “I told them, ‘If you think it best, give me my pay; but if not, keep it.’ So they paid me thirty pieces of silver. And the LORD said to me, ‘Throw it to the potter’—the handsome price at which they priced me!’ So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the LORD to the potter” (Zechariah 11:12-13; see Matthew 27:3-5 for the fulfillment of the Zechariah prophecy). These Old Testament prophecies indicate that Judas’ betrayal was known to God and that it was sovereignly planned beforehand as the means by which Jesus would be killed.

But if Judas’ betrayal was known to God, did Judas have a choice, and is he held responsible for his part in the betrayal? It is difficult for many to reconcile the concept of “free will” (as most people understand it) with God’s foreknowledge of future events, and this is largely due to our limited experience of going through time in a linear fashion. If we see God as existing outside of time, since He created everything before “time” began, then we can understand that God sees every moment in time as the present. We experience time in a linear way—we see time as a straight line, and we pass from one point gradually to another, remembering the past we have already traveled through, but unable to see the future we are approaching. However, God, being the eternal Creator of the construct of time, is not “in time” or on the timeline, but outside of it. It might help to think of time (in relation to God) as a circle with God being the center and therefore equally close to all points.

In any case, Judas had the full capacity of making his choice—at least up to the point where “Satan entered into him” (John 13:27)—and God’s foreknowledge (John 13:10, 18, 21) in no way supersedes Judas’ ability to make any given choice. Rather, what Judas would choose eventually, God saw as if it was a present observation, and Jesus made it clear that Judas was responsible for his choice and would be held accountable for it. “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me—one who is eating with me” (Mark 14:18). Notice that Jesus characterizes Judas’ participation as a betrayal. And regarding accountability for this betrayal Jesus said, “Woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born” (Mark 14:21). Satan, too, had a part in this, as we see in John 13:26-27, and he, too, will be held accountable for his deeds. God in His wisdom was able, as always, to manipulate even Satan’s rebellion for the benefit of mankind. Satan helped send Jesus to the cross, and on the cross sin and death were defeated, and now God’s provision of salvation is freely available to all who receive Jesus Christ as Savior.

Prophet Nathan Emol

JESUS IS THE ANSWER:

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“Jesus is the answer” is a popular slogan. Missing is the question. Jesus is the answer to what? What are people trying to convey when they claim that Jesus is the answer?

Jesus is the answer to our broken relationship with God. When God created Adam and Eve, they enjoyed perfect fellowship with Him. But Adam sinned by disobeying God, thereby bringing death into the world (Genesis 3:8–19Romans 5:126:231 Corinthians 15:21–22). A significant part of that death is spiritual death. Humanity’s relationship with God is broken. God provided a covering for Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:21) and promised a Redeemer who would defeat Satan and reconcile God and man (Genesis 3:15). The Old Testament narrative gradually reveals God’s plan to save people. The New Testament shows us that Jesus is the promised Redeemer. Jesus atoned for our sin and restores the possibility of relationship with God.

Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6 ). Jesus is the answer—the only answer—to our broken relationship with God. Apart from Him there is no salvation (Acts 4:121 Timothy 2:5–6). The biblical term for God’s act of making peace with sinful humanity is reconciliation (see 2 Corinthians 5:18). Romans 5:10 reminds us that, in Christ, God’s enemies were made His friends and given life: “If, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!”

Jesus is the answer to the problem of our estrangement from God. It is Jesus who makes it possible for our sins to be forgiven and for us to be children of God (John 1:12–13). It is Jesus who mends our relationship with God so that we can fellowship with Him during our lifetimes as well as eventually live with Him for eternity.

Jesus is the answer to our guilty consciences. Even after we are saved, we still sin and experience the temporal consequences of sin. Sin keeps us from fellowshipping with God fully. But we have God’s promise: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Jesus is the One who “washes our feet” of daily impurities, even after we have been “fully bathed” (see John 13:10). Jesus is the reason we can receive forgiveness and be purified. He is the answer to our sin problem both now and for eternity.

Jesus is the answer to our broken relationships with each other. When Adam and Eve sinned, not only did they break their relationship with God, but they also damaged their relationship with each other (see Genesis 3:1216). Humans have been struggling in relationship to one another ever since (see Genesis 4:8). This relational breakdown manifests in various ways, including the walls we erect between races. In the New Testament era, there was a major division between Gentiles and Jews. Jesus is the answer to all types of disharmony: “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups [Jew and Gentile] one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility. . . . His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you [Gentiles] who were far away and peace to those [Jews] who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit” (Ephesians 2:14–18; cf. Galatians 3:26–29).

Jesus instructed His followers to love one another humbly and sacrificially (John 13:34–35). Jesus prayed for unity among His followers (John 17), a unity embraced by the early church (Acts 8 and 10). Because we have received forgiveness in Jesus, we can forgive others. Jesus is the answer for our relational turmoil.

Jesus is the answer to a meaningless existence. The writer of Ecclesiastes bewails the meaninglessness of worldly pursuits apart from God. When we are spiritually dead, life is ultimately empty. Nothing in this world will fully satisfy the deepest longings of our hearts (see Psalm 73:25). But, in Jesus, we have purpose. He said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). The Christian life is a fruitful life. We are invited to be part of God’s work in the world, tasked with sharing the gospel and making disciples (Matthew 28:18–20). We can do nothing apart from Jesus, but in Him we bear much fruit (John 15:5).

Jesus is the answer to our worries and doubts. Life involves hardship, and with hardship come worries, fears, and doubts. Jesus told His followers, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Jesus reminded us of God’s love and care (Matthew 6:24–33). Jesus also gave us the Holy Spirit to live with us forever (John 14:15–2116:7–15). Jesus is the reason we are not alone. Jesus is the answer to our fears and heartaches. He is able to sympathize with us because He has lived a human life in this broken world (Hebrews 4:15–16). Jesus gives us peace and equips us to endure, and even rejoice in, the hardships of this life (James 1:2–5).

Jesus is the answer to the problems of the world. Experience tells us that the world is broken and in need of repair—sometimes its brokenness is rather obvious. Jesus is the answer. He has a plan to fix this broken world: “The government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this” (Isaiah 9:6–7). World peace has proved an elusive goal in our war-torn world, but one day Jesus will set all things right, and the Prince of Peace will rule in true justice, ushering in a time of blessing and bounty the world has never seen (Isaiah 11). Revelation 21 predicts a new heaven and new earth: “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:3–5).

A day is coming when the world’s problems will be solved; everything will be made new, and peace will reign. This is because of Jesus. We eagerly await His return, trusting that “the Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

No matter what our individual needs, Jesus is the answer for our lives today, and He promises a better future to come.

Prophet Nathan Emol

WHY DID PEOPLE SHOUT “CRUCIFY HIM” WHEN PILATE WANTED TO RELEASE JESUS?

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When the Sanhedrin brought Jesus before the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, Pilate could not find any fault in Jesus, and he said so three times (Luke 23:414–1522). Late in the trial, Pilate sought a way to free Jesus (John 19:12). It was a Passover festival custom that the governor release a prisoner to the people, so, in a ploy to appease the crowd of Jewish leaders who had gathered and to secure Jesus’ release, Pilate allowed them to choose between a convicted criminal named Barabbas and Jesus. Instead of choosing Jesus, as Pilate had hoped, the crowd chose Barabbas for release. Shocked that they would free a hardened criminal, Pilate asked, “What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?” (Mark 15:12). The crowd cried out, “Crucify him!” (verse 13).

It is well that Pilate was confused by the crowd’s reaction, for barely a week earlier the people of Jerusalem had welcomed Jesus into the city with the waving of palm branches and shouts of “Hosanna!” (Matthew 21:1–11). What Pilate may not have known was the extent to which the religious and political leaders hated and opposed Jesus. Over the course of Jesus’ ministry, His teachings had alienated and angered the Pharisees, the scribes, the Herodians, and the Sadducees. Not only did Jesus point out their extreme hypocrisy on many occasions (see Matthew 23Mark 7:1–14Luke 20:45–47), but He also claimed to be God, which was blasphemy to the unbelieving teachers of the law (see Mark 14:60–64). The religious leaders wanted to utterly destroy Jesus (Matthew 12:14Mark 3:6). Only His death would satisfy them.

In Jesus’ time, crucifixion was reserved for the worst of criminals. The torture a person endured on a cross would last for hours, and killing Jesus in this manner likely appealed to the religious leaders who hated Him so deeply. In an effort to hide their move against Jesus from His many supporters, the Jewish leaders arrested and tried Jesus in the middle of the night. When Jesus was brought before Pontius Pilate—the only one with authority to order a crucifixion—it was still early in the morning (Matthew 27:1–2). When Pilate presented Jesus and Barabbas to the people, the chief priests whipped the crowd into a frenzy, encouraging them to call for Barabbas’s release (Mark 15:11). When Pilate asked what they wanted done to Jesus, the crowd, again influenced by the chief priests, shouted, “Crucify Him!” Pilate, the people-pleaser, gave them what they demanded. He had Jesus flogged and then turned Him over for crucifixion.

At the beginning of the week, there was a crowd in Jerusalem celebrating Jesus as the Messiah; by Friday, there was a crowd crying, “Crucify Him!” The striking change of the city’s heart naturally causes some perplexity. It’s good to remember that not everyone at the Triumphal Entry was celebrating the Lord. Most of the city was puzzled: “When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, ‘Who is this?’” (Matthew 21:10), and the Jewish leaders were indignant (verse 15). Some of the same crowd who shouted, “Hosanna!” may also have been part of the crowd shouting “Crucify Him!” but we can’t be sure. If some people did join both crowds, it may be because they had grown disillusioned with Jesus when they discovered He was not going to set up the kingdom immediately—or perhaps they disliked Jesus’ insistence that they repent. Also, it’s quite possible that the crowd gathered before Pilate at that early hour had been assembled and suborned by the Jewish leaders.

In the end, it wasn’t the crowd’s cries of “Crucify Him!” that put Jesus on the cross. Our sin did that. From the very beginning, when Adam and Eve disobeyed God, the Lord had promised to send a Savior who would crush the reign of sin and death (Genesis 3:15). Throughout the ages God wove His plan to send a Savior, and that plan culminated in the person of Jesus Christ: God’s own Son who became the perfect God-man so He could take upon Himself the punishment for sin. Although wicked men were involved in Jesus’ death on the cross, His sacrifice was ultimately the will of God (Isaiah 53:10John 10:18). The shedding of Jesus’ blood fulfilled God’s promise to mankind to provide a Savior and sealed the New Covenant (Luke 22:20). Jesus would then defeat the power of death and the grave by rising again three days later and ascending to His Father’s right hand in heaven.

Prophet Nathan Emol

JESUS IS ALIVE:

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He walked the earth more than two thousand years ago. We hear about His crucifixion and His teachings. Easter is about His resurrection. But that’s where some people balk. Does that mean Jesus is alive? How could a man who had been publicly executed rise from the dead? History provides irrefutable evidence that Jesus Christ of Nazareth lived, but is He still alive today? Christians worship, sing, and pray to Jesus as though He is alive. Are they wrong to do so? In what sense is Jesus “alive”?

As human beings confined to a material world, we often understand life to be directly linked to physicality—a person is alive if his or her body is alive. But life runs deeper than that. The spirit realm is as real as the physical realm. Philippians 2:5–11 explains that Christ was already alive, as one with God, before the earth was spoken into existence (cf. John 1:1–3). The eternal Son of God has always been alive. Jesus was never not alive, even when His body was lying in the tomb.

Jesus spoke often of life outside of the material world (John 10:10). He promised eternal life to anyone who believed in Him (John 3:16–18). He explained that the kingdom He had come to establish was not of this world (John 18:36).

When God created the first man, “He breathed into man’s nostrils the breath of life and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7). That life came from God, who is eternal. God breathed His own life into man, and that is why human life is unlike that of plants and animals. Humans have a spirit meant to live forever, just as God will live forever. The body will die, but even that will be raised again. When Jesus died on the cross, His body truly died and was buried, but His spirit was somewhere else, alive and well. He had committed His spirit into the Father’s hands (Luke 23:46).

When God raised Jesus from the dead, His spirit rejoined His body, which was now a glorified body (Philippians 3:21). Paul wrote that more than five hundred people saw Jesus after His resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:6). The New Testament was written by eyewitnesses who had seen for themselves that Jesus was truly alive and was in the flesh.

Jesus is still alive today. He rose bodily from the dead, and He ascended bodily into heaven. Acts 1 recounts how, forty days after the resurrection, Jesus’ disciples were with Him when He suddenly began to rise into the air. They stared in amazement as He kept going and disappeared from sight (Acts 1:9–11). Jesus had predicted that He would return to the Father, and that is exactly what He did (John 14:1–2John 20:17).

Jesus is alive in heaven with God, the angels, and all those who have trusted in Him for salvation (2 Corinthians 5:8). He sits at the right hand of the Father (Colossians 3:1), “higher than all the heavens” (Ephesians 4:10). “He always lives to intercede” for His children on earth (Hebrews 7:25). And He promised to return again (John 14:1–2).

Just as Jesus’ spirit never died, neither will our spirits die (John 11:25–26). We will live forever somewhere. How we respond to God’s offer of salvation determines our destiny (Matthew 25:31–46). Jesus told His followers, “Because I live, you also will live” (John 14:19). Upon that great hope we can build our lives, knowing that, like our Lord Jesus, we may die, but death is not the end.

Prophet Nathan Emol