Divine Encounters Part 7

The Adulteress’ Story

We don’t know her name. All we know about her is that she was caught in adultery.

John 8:1 – But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. (Verse 2) But early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him; and He sat down and taught them. (Verse 3) Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, (Verse 4) they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act.

(Verse 5) “Now Moses, in the law commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do you say?” (Verse 6) This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger as though He did not hear them.

Notice: Jesus is “in” the temple. The ground in the temple is not dirt! It was stone. Nowhere does Scripture say they were outside. They brought this woman into the temple and sat her down in the midst of the crowd where Jesus was teaching and He wrote on that hard stone floor with His finger.

(Verse 7) So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” (Verse 8) And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. (Verse 9) Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.

(Verse 10) When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” (Verse 11) She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”

All kinds of speculation have been said and written about what Jesus may have written. But what if He wrote the men’s names that were present at the woman’s act? Or maybe even the man that she was with during the act. If we as believers could only learn what Jesus taught her when pointing a finger at a sinner:

Jesus isn’t condemning.

Sinners sin! It doesn’t shock Jesus when people sin. Isn’t it amazing that as believers, we are shocked when people sin? Jesus didn’t have that “holier than thou” attitude although He is the only person who ever lived that was actually “Holier than thou!” Jesus is not shocked at sinners sinning nor is He condemning.

John 3:17 – “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. (Verse 18) “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

Jesus did not come to condemn because until a person believes in the Son of God they are condemned already! There is no condemnation in those who are in Christ (Romans 8:1).

How can the Lord say there is now no condemnation for those in Christ? Because He has declared all believers not guilty! God declared His Son guilty for our sins so He, therefore, declares those who are in Christ not guilty. Jesus was condemned and executed for our sin. This is exactly what this woman that was brought before Jesus found out that day – Jesus did not condemn her.

Jesus isn’t compromising.

Jesus tells her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” Jesus wasn’t condemning or compromising. People today say, “We can’t be condemning, because we have to be tolerant in today’s culture.” Telling someone about their sin is not condemning if it is done with the right attitude and tone. Believe me, people know what area they are sinning in. But we cannot compromise with their sin or behavior. That’s what people want to do today, overlook their sin by not telling them they need to repent.

Matthew 11:19 – “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look a gluttonous man and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ But wisdom is justified by her children.” 

Hebrews 7:26 – For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners.

In Matthew, He is a friend of sinners. In Hebrews, He is separate from sinners. How can He be both? Not condemning, He is a friend; not compromising, He is separate. If a person compromises when witnessing to an unbeliever, they have no platform with which to stand any longer.

Here is a good example of this in the book of Malachi. We see what it means to be straight forward without compromising principles. Malachi 2:16 – “For the LORD God of Israel says that He hates divorce, for it covers one’s garment with violence.” 

It does not say that God hates divorced people. I think that’s why pastors shy away from this because about half of the people have experienced divorce. But it doesn’t say God hates the people, He hates the act of divorce. He doesn’t condemn the people nor compromise in His statement.

God hates divorce because it hurts people and He loves people. It covers your garment with violence. There’s violence in a divorce situation. Not always physical but anger, hurtful words, and conflict! Look at how many people are involved that are affected by one divorce. Pastors just won’t bring up divorce in their sermons anymore because over half the congregation has been divorced and they don’t want to offend anyone so they compromise the message!

As Christians, we cannot compromise on the consequences of sin in our lives. There are no “little grey” areas with which we can tolerate and stay uncompromised. There will be consequences for our actions. Too many like to “straddle” the fence and think nothing will ever happen. The Bible is very clear about where sin will lead, but Jesus never condemned the person.

Jesus is compassionate.

Matthew 9:36 – But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them. When this woman that was caught in adultery that was brought to Him, the only emotion that Jesus felt for her was compassion! He wasn’t angry at her. He was moved with compassion. That’s why He did what He did. He won this woman over with His compassion and told her to go and sin no more. Shouldn’t we as believers be more like that when talking to the lost?

If a person is caught in sin, it is noticed by many or none. They should repent and sin no more. The point is not whether you get caught or not, it’s whether you change your mind about what you are doing. This woman got caught in adultery, but I believe because of Jesus’ compassion for her, her life was changed from that moment forward. She didn’t have to go away feeling worse than when she was brought to Him. And today, we don’t have to carry the weight of guilt over our past sins, Jesus already took that weight from us at the cross!

When Jesus came, He totally reversed an Old Testament principle: “If the clean touched the unclean it made the clean unclean.” Jesus reversed it by: “If the unclean was around and touched the clean it made the unclean clean!” People need to realize though if they are not strong in their convictions they can’t hang out with sinners to win them over because they might compromise and lose their witness. The witnesses testimony has to be strong enough that the lost person they are speaking to knows they live what they believe.

Do you have any idea how many people would love to meet and talk to a true Christian that wasn’t condemning and judgmental and just showed compassion? When we say, “I follow Jesus,” just make sure you are following the right Jesus!

Divine Encounters Part 6

Mary Magdalene’s Story

Mark 16:9 – Now when He rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He cast seven demons.

Before we get to the conversation that Mary has with Jesus, we need to back up to the conversation at the last supper Jesus has with His disciples. Jesus tells them He’s going away and coming back. Many people relate this to the “Second Coming.” But some of those passages are not talking about the second coming. He’s talking about the three days and the resurrection.

John 14:1 – “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. (Verse 2) “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.

The word “mansion” in Greek means “dwelling places.” It is a place, a home. There is something much deeper than us just getting a big house one day in heaven. Maybe Jesus is saying to HIs disciples that they can’t have a relationship with the Father just yet. However, “I’m about to take care of that!” When Jesus told them they would have sorrow first, let not your hearts be troubled, He is talking about the death, burial, and resurrection of Himself.

John 14:25 – “These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. (Verse 26) “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. (Verse 27) “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

(Verse 28) “You have heard Me say to you, ‘I am going away and coming back to you.’ If you loved Me, you would rejoice because I said, ‘I am going to the Father,’ for My Father is greater than I. (Verse 29) “And now I have told you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe.

Jesus told them before it happened so that when it did happen they would believe. We know for sure now that He is talking about the resurrection because no one is going to have a problem believing “afte the second coming.” Even the atheist will believe when that happens. Every knee will bow and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord!

John 16:16 – “A little while, and you will not see Me, and again a little while, and you will see Me because I go to the Father.” (Verse 17) Then some of His disciples said among themselves, “What is this that He says to us, ‘A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me’; and ‘because I go to the Father’? (Verse 18) They said, therefore, “What is this that He says, ‘A little while’? We do not know what He is saying.”

(Verse 19) Now Jesus knew that they desired to ask Him, and He said to them, “Are you inquiring among yourselves about what I said, ‘A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me’? (Verse 20) “Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy. (Verse 21) “A woman, when she is in labor, has sorrow because her hour has come; but as soon as she has given birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. (Verse 22) “Therefore you now have sorrow, but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you.

Now we will see this face to face, a divine encounter with Mary Magdalene. She’s the first one to talk to Jesus after the resurrection.

John 20:11 – But Mary stood outside the tomb weeping, and as she wept she stooped down and looked into the tomb. (Verse 12) And she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. (Verse 13) Then they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him,” (Verse 14) Now when she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus.

She had traveled with Him for two and one-half years and didn’t know Him standing there. John, Chapter 8, tells us that there were many women that traveled with the disciples and provided for them. Mary Magdalene was one of those women.

So why would she not recognize Him? There must have been something different about Him. It wasn’t that Jesus was so badly beaten that she didn’t know what He looked like ether because she helped take His body off the cross. She knew how bad He looked.

(Verse 15) Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” She, supposing Him to be the gardener, said to Him, “Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” (Are gardeners not usually dirty?) (Verse 16) Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him, “Rabboni!” (Verse 17) Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God,’ “

Present tense: “I am ascending…” For the first time, He tells her, “Your Father and your God.”  The word “cling” in Greek should be translated “touch,” not cling. When the woman with the issue of blood said, “If I might just “touch” the hem of His garment,” that’s the same Greek word used.

When we think of the word ascention we always think of 40 days later. Jesus told Mary not to “touch” Him because He had not ascended to the Father as of yet. Then He told her to go tell His disciples, His brethren that I am ascending, right then, in the present. This took place early in the morning.

(Verse 19) Then, the same day at evening, (Where has He been all day? Where did He say He was going? He was going to the Father!) being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, Peace be with you.”

(Verse 20) Now when He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. When we read further, we see Thomas was told by Jesus to “reach your finger here…” He was touching Him as I’m sure the others did days before.

(Verse 21) Then Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” (Verse 22) And when He said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

So where was Jesus for those three days before His resurrection and before ascending to the Father? He first descended into the lower parts of the earth, to Hades and released the Old Testament saints. Then He took them into heaven on Sunday when He went to the Father: Ephesians 4:8 – Therefore He says: “When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men.” (This refers to the Old Testament saints.) 

Ephesians 4:9 – Now this, “He ascended” – what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth?

When Jesus died, for those three days, He went into the grave and took the keys of the grave, hell, and death back from Satan! He then released those Old Testament saints and brought them up with Him! But before He ascended and took those saints, He stopped and talked to Mary. And while Jesus talked to Mary, the saints walked around the streets of Jerusalem for a while.

Matthew 27:52 – And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, (Verse 53) and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.

Think about that for a moment: Abraham walking around Jerusalem for a while, at the same time Jesus was talking to Mary.

Whe Jesus tells Mary He is ascending, that is when He enters the Holy of holies and presented Himself as a sin offering to the Father. He took care of everything that needed to be done for sinful man to have a relationship with the Father.

Is there a description of what happened when Jesus entered the Holy of holies? Daniel, chapter 7 is the most descriptive passage of the Father, but first back to John 12:31 where Jesus says, “Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out.” This was right before He went to the cross. He didn’t say it would be in 2,000 years, He said “Now!” Jesus was about to get back what Adam lost. Then look at what Daniel writes:

Daniel 7:9 – “I watched till thrones were put in place, and the Ancient of Days was seated; His garment was white as snow, and the hair of His head was like pure wool. His throne was a fiery flame, its wheels a burning fire; (Verse 10) A fiery stream issued and came forth from before HIm. A thousand thousands ministered to Him; Ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him. The court was sweated, and the books were opened. 

Too many think this is talking about the book of Revelation, but it’s not! There was a court that assembled when Jesus died on the cross and rose. (Verse 11) “I watched then because of the sound of the pompous words which the horn was speaking; I watched till the beast was slain, and its body destroyed and given to the burning flame. 

Again we think of the beast in Revelation, but in the book of Daniel, there are four beasts. This is just the first one. And in case you didn’t know, Death was destroyed over 2,000 years ago. Death has no more victory over the believer! (Verse 12) As for the rest of the beasts, they had their dominion taken away, yet their lives were prolonged for a season and a time. Now we look at what happened when Jesus left Mary:

(Verse 13) “I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! (The book of Hebrews talks of the “great clouds of witnesses.” The clouds of heaven are the Old Testament saints coming with Jesus.) He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him.

(Verse 14) Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall never be destroyed. 

Here is the whole point of this: Satan has been lying to us by telling us that he still has dominion, but his dominion was taken away over two thousand years ago! You just read it, so believe it! Satan has no authority or dominion on this earth anymore. Jesus has all authority and all dominion in heaven and on earth. He entered the Holy Place once for all!

Yes, Satan is still active because his life is prolonged for a season, but he has no more authority or dominion over a believer! Romans 6:14 – For sin shall not have dominion over you,… 1John 3:8 – For this purpose, the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. Colossians 2:15 – Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them. 

Mary’s encounter was so important because Jesus told her to let His disciple s know that He was about to go to the Father and take care of all of this. Here is one more thing that happened in Daniel:

Daniel 7:21 – “I was watching; and the same horn was making war against the saints and prevailing against them, (Verse 22) until the Ancient of Days came, and a judgment was made in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time came for the saints to possess the kingdom.” That also happened over 2,000 years ago!

And the Ancient of Days hits the gavel and judgment is passed: Demons lose, Saints win!

So here’s the question: Are you yielding dominion to the one on the losing side? Or, are you on the side that has already won?

Jesus Christ died for our sins, made atonement for them so He could introduce us to the Father!

 

 

Divine Encounters Part 5

The Lame Man’s Story

John 5:1 – After this, there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. (Verse 2) Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew, Bethesda, having five porches. (Verse 3) In these lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water. 

(Verse 4) For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had.

(Verse 5) Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years. (Verse 6) Whe Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” (Verse 7) The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I am coming, another steps down before me.”

(Verse 8) Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.” (Verse 9) And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked. And that day was the Sabbath. (Verse 10) The Jews, therefore, said to him who was cured, “It is the Sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your bed.” (Verse 11) He answered them, “He who made me well said to me, ‘Take up your bed and walk.’ ” 

(Verse 12) Then they asked him, “Who is the Man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’? (Verse 13) But the one who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, a multitude being in that place. (Verse 14) Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, “See, you have been made well. Sin no more lest a worse thing come upon you.”

(Verse 15) The man departed and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. (Verse 16) For this reason, the Jews persecuted Jesus and sought to kill Him, because He had done these things on the Sabbath.

That, right there just shows how messed up religion can be! Their religion didn’t want them to help anyone on the Sabbath, that would be work! That first encounter with Jesus, the lame man didn’t know it was a Man called Jesus.

Bethesda means “the house of mercy.” When we see the “Beth” in Scripture, in Hebrew it means “house.” Does not the “house of mercy” represent the “Church?” If any place should be full of mercy it should be the house of God.

Believers have received mercy, so it should be easy for us to extend mercy. Unfortunately, the church, many times, is the place of judgment.

Verse 4 says that at a certain time, an angel went down and stirred the water. History tells us that these “stirrings” began in the life of Jesus after He was born. And at a certain time, around the time of the feast, who would have been in town during this feast? Jesus! Could it be that Jesus, as He was growing up and coming to the feast every year, just maybe walked by this pool and place His hand in it and stirred it a little?

Jesus walks by this pool now and sees a man out of a multitude of people that He knows has been there a long time, and says, “Do you want to be made well?” We might think that the question is unnecessary, but Jesus never says anything unnecessary. Has God ever asked you that? Here is the amazing thing: This lame man did not say yes. Why was that?

Excuses

Most people come up with an excuse as to why they are different and it won’t work for them. That is exactly what the lame man did. He told Jesus that he didn’t have anyone to put him in the water when the angel stirred the pool. “And if while I was to come, another steps down ahead of me.”

Here is what the man was saying, “It’s not my fault that I’m not healed!” He put the blame on others not helping him. This is the number one lie from the enemy that he gets people to believe. “It’s someone else’s fault that I’m in this situation.”

No one can hinder the destination on your life but you. How many people have told you when you’re trying to help them, “You just don’t understand!” They just don’t believe that Jesus can handle any situation no matter how difficult! People think that they are the exception to the power of God. “It just won’t work for me!”, is just an excuse!

Verse 5 says that this man had an “infirmity” for thirty-eight years. We just assume its in his legs. But the word infirmity means “weakness.” We can ask ourselves this question: What weakness do I have in my life? For his man, it was a physical weakness. Then the next question should be: Do you want to be made well?

We need to make an effort.

Jesus didn’t say to the man, “Be healed,” He said, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.” Is it not easy to get comfortable in our weaknesses. This man had been like this for thirty-eight years. That’s why Jesus asked him if he wanted to be made well. Was this man willing to change his thinking? This may seem harsh, but maybe some really don’t want to be healed because if they are healed they have to work and do the things that take effort. They also won’t need someone to take care of them anymore. How about not having people feel sorry for them anymore?

Jesus told this man when he was in the temple not to go back to that way of thinking, “Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.” And that statement in no way means that all diseases are connected to sin. That would be a false doctrine! Maybe the man was bitter after all these years. Maybe he had built up resentment towards others because others received healing and he didn’t. 

A lot of people will feel sorry for themselves and not realize that self-pity is a sin. By being afflicted with something, it brings them attention and if they are healed the attention will disappear.

Here is another question: Why do so many blame God for their afflictions? Is a person going to go to the one they are blaming to heal them? Probably not. The effort has to come from us.

Experience

This man was waiting for an angel to come down and that’s all he knew to do. Jesus comes along and basically asks, “Are you willing to do something different than what you are experiencing?” It was the Sabbath and religion had convinced this man that he could not be healed on the Sabbath, but Jesus told him to rise up and walk.

It was not against the law for this man to carry his bed on the Sabbath, it was against the law to work! The Jews were the ones that had taken that law to extremes. This man had to go against his “religious upbringing.” There is a possibility that in order for some to be healed, they may have to step out of their comfort zone whe it comes to someone’s religious upbringing.

The angel was what this man was looking for because this is the way God had moved in the past, so he was looking for that same experience. And when Jesus did walk up to him, he didn’t know it was God. I believe if he would have known, he would have said yes when Jesus asked him if he wanted to be made well.

If you need healing or a situation to change: Stop making excuses, put some effort into to it, and humble yourself because it might not be done the way you are used to.

Divine Encounter Part 4

Matthew’s Story

This study will show us how Matthew met Christ and what an impact He made on him.

Matthew 9:9 – Then as Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” And he arose and followed Him. (Verse 10) And so it was, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples.

(Verse 11) And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” (Verse 12) But when Jesus heard that, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. (Verse 13) ‘I desire mercy not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

Too man people think that if God is watching us, and He is, He’s keeping a list of the bad things we do. They have the wrong concept of why God watches us. The Scripture says, “Jesus saw Matthew sitting in the tax office.” Did Jesus come up to him and start criticizing or condemning him for his occupation? No. He simply said, “Follow Me.” 

Why do so many think that God is just waiting to punish them for doing wrong? First of all, Jesus is not keeping a list of our wrongdoings. The Law did that for us before Christ. Jesus came to erase that list and drop every charge the Law stuck on us if we just believe.

John 3:17 – “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”

Colossians 2:13 – And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, (Verse 14) having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

So Jesus saw Matthew because He was looking for him and then Matthew follows Jesus. Mathew, Mark, and Luke’s gospels tell us up to this point, there were four other disciples that had already been chosen: Simon Peter, Andrew, James, and John. These four men all shared one thing in common, they were fishermen.

In that day and time, fishermen were the lowest of the low in society. You could say that Jesus went after the socially inept. and then Jesus calls Matthew, a tax collector. Now Jesus wants the morally bankrupt. No one liked a tax collector because they cheated people and they were corrupt. Matthew wasn’t obligated to follow Jesus. He followed Him because he wanted to.

Why is it that so many people look at following Jesus as a religious obligation? Why don’t they see it as a relational opportunity of all time? Would that way of thinking make our relationship with God stronger or better? We get to follow Jesus! We don’t have to.

Matthew arose and followed Jesus. He dropped everything to follow Him! So why would a man drop everything in his life to follow Jesus? I believe when Jesus walked up to Matthew, Matthew saw more love and compassion radiating from Him than he had ever seen in his entire life and something pricked his heart. Then Matthew’s friends, other tax collectors, met Jesus. Matthew took Jesus and the other four disciples to his home.

When we read this, we should see a good strategy for reaching the lost. If we used what Matthew used it would be a game-changer to reach your lost friends.

Matthew refused to be a Pharisee.

The Pharisees were there, watching, and asked the disciples why their Teacher ate with sinners. The Pharisees thought as long as they didn’t touch or associate, with what was “unclean” they would remain clean. It was hard for them to believe that Jesus could sit down and eat with the despicable tax collectors – sinners.

Jesus knew exactly what they thought. However, Jesus didn’t look at these tax collectors the same way the Pharisees did. He saw them becoming entirely different after that one encounter with Him!

Being a Christian, have you ever felt guilty about being around too many lost people? Sinners sin, lost people sin. If we don’t surround ourselves sometimes with the lost, how will they ever find out about Jesus? The only ones that the Apostle Paul told us to “not even take a meal with,” were the people who called themselves Christians and still were involved in the list he named beforehand in Scripture. Paul wasn’t talking about avoiding sinners. Jesus was surrounded by sinners His entire ministry! What is the whole purpose to witness to the lost? Is it not to tell them of Jesus love and forgiveness?

However, let me be clear, If you are a new Christian, be careful, you might fall back into the same habits and behaviors that Christ delivered you from. Jesus wasn’t weak and in no way was the lost going to influence Him. Believers still need to watch where they go and with whom. You never want to do anything to lose your testimony for Christ!

As long as there are people going to hell, get over what others think. Our obligation is to the lost. Matthew filled his house with sinners that needed Jesus. He brought them to the Master Physician!

Our testimony is not for those who already believe, it’s for those who don’t. Please don’t misunderstand me. We are to encourage our fellow believers, but if they are the only ones we ever deal with, we’re being secluded in our faith. Christianity is not a “private matter,” as some might think. What God has done in our lives is to be shared!

After Jesus called Matthew to follow Him, they went to Matthew’s house and threw a party with all Matthews lost friends. Who does that today? Think about it. Don’t most new believers stay tightly knit with other believers in today’s society? Some need to for a while, but as long as they have stronger Christians around them they will follow their lead.

However, Jesus was probably thrilled at what Matthew did. Matthew wanted all his friends to meet and know the Man that just changed his life! Jesus came to seek and save that which is lost.

This was not about having people make a “decision.” It was bout a Savior! Yes, we make the decision to follow Christ, but if we focus too much on the decision, it’s equivalent to saying, “The key to a good marriage is a good wedding!” If our only focus is for others to make a decision about Christ without telling them about the Savior, they won’t last very long in the Christian life.

We need to “meet’ Jesus before we try to introduce Him to someone else! Too many are just focused on the decision, not the relationship. Yes, Jesus wants a decision and that decision needs to be to hold Jesus’ hand for the rest of our lives, but they need to see who He is first.

God’s heart is for us to reach the people around us that don’t know Him. And I believe the best way to do that is to love the lost with our actions not just words!

Divine Encounters Part 3

The Samaritan Woman’s Story

John 4:3 – He left Judea and departed again to Galilee. (Verse 2) But He needed to go through Samaria. (Many Jews walked around this city to avoid it. However, the Bible says Jesus needed to go through it.)

(Verse 5) So He came to a city of Samaria which is called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. (Verse 6) Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus, therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour. (Noon) (Verse 7) A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.”

Every person needs an encounter with Jesus. Here we have the Master Himself teaching us how to guide someone into an encounter with Him. If you are going to help someone have an encounter with Jesus Christ:

Don’t argue with them.

There is an entire realm of demonic spirits trying to keep people from coming to Jesus and they will try their best to use words to start an argument. Jesus was never drawn in to argue with this woman at the well, although the enemy tried many times. Jesus never argued with Satan either.

There are three areas in this story that the enemy tried to get Jesus to argue with him. (a) Race: (Verse 9) Then the woman of Samaria said to HIm, “How is it You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.

There had been friction between the Samaritans and the Jews for a very long time. There was also friction by her being a woman and saying anything to her. So this woman thought Jesus didn’t understand that because of her race and gender, He wasn’t to address her.

However, Jesus never even addresses the fact that she is a Samaritan or a woman. Why? Because race is a man-made barrier! It is not God made! Don’t ever let race, culture, ethnicity, social status, or gender, stop you from talking to a soul that needs Jesus.

Most bigots think one race is more evolved than another. And most racist people believe in evolution instead of creation or they mix the two. However, we were all created in the image of God! Evolution is not only un-Scriptural, but it’s also unconstitutional. Because our constitution says that we were created equal and we have rights given to us by our Creator.

The second thing we are not to do is: (b) Try to reason with them. (Verse 11) The woman said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water?” That’s a reasonable question. Jesus was talking on a spiritual level and she’s talking on a natural level. 

When we talk to someone that needs Christ, we do it on a spiritual level. But their understanding is not there. People don’t realize that they are qualified to be a witness if they’ve had a face to face encounter with Jesus. You don’t have to know the answer to every question they ask. Here’s the third reason we don’t want to argue: (c) Religion

John 4:20 – “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.” Jesus still never argued. He didn’t tell her why they were the true worshipers and her religion was wrong. If Jesus didn’t argue that, then neither should we!

Religion is also a man-made barrier. Religion is man’s attempt to get to God. Christ is God’s attempt to get to man. This is never about religion, it’s about a relationship. If we want someone to have an encounter with Jesus, just talk.

John 4:7 – A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.” Don’t you think Jesus could have gotten His own water? He wanted a conversation with this woman and the only reason He started talking to her was to help her. He knew where the conversation was going to end up before He started it.

If we just start a conversation with their favorite subject, they’ll talk back. What is everyone’s favorite subject? Themselves! They’ll tell us about their children, their job, where they grew up and so on. We will never lead people into a face to face encounter with Jesus if we never talk to them and act like we are truly interested.

We can talk to them about  Abundant Life. John 4:10 – Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”

Every person wants abundant life. Every person wants peace and joy in their life. Every Christian should be able to tell others about the peace of mind and joy that they have now but didn’t have before Christ came into their lives. That is not imposing religion on someone. People can and will argue about everything under the sun, but when we tell someone our story of how we came to Christ, they can’t argue with that. We have proof!

Titus 3:9 – But avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and useless. Talking about someone’s race and religion and even reasoning with them is all useless. You will never get to the point.

John 4:13 – Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, (Verse 14) “but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”

Every person, even if they say they don’t believe in life after death, wants to know about life after death. God put that curiosity in them, in all of us.

We then need to talk to them about sin.

John 4:16 – Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” (Verse 17) The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You have well said, ‘I have no husband,’ (Verse 18) for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that, you spoke truly.” (Verse 19) The woman said to Him, “Sir, I have perceived that You are a prophet.”

It is alright to talk about sin, but we don’t do it with a condemning attitude or tone. One of the barriers that Satan throws up is making the lost think that we, as believers, think we are better than them because we are saved. We simply tell them that we are not better than them but have received forgiveness and grace and they can too.

Then we need to tell them about a relationship that they too can have with the Savior.

John 4:21 – Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. (Verse 22) “You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. (Verse 23) “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. (Verse 24) “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

If you will continue reading this story, you will see that this encounter with Jesus changed her life. She went to the whole city and told them about a Man that told her all the things she ever did. Jesus knew all about her and He still loved her, just like us! We need to tell people not to judge how much God loves them by the way some “so-called Christians or preachers act!” Tell them Jesus loves them so much that He died for them to have a relationship with Him.

These relationships we have with the unbelievers may take time, but we don’t browbeat them into submission. We love them and tell them that they are deeply loved by the only One that can give them what they need in their life – forgiveness!

 

 

Divine Encounters Part 2

Mary’s Story

We are going to look at Jesus’ first miracle through Mary’s eyes. Throughout Mary’s whole life, she knew something great was going to happen concerning Jesus.

In Luke Chapter 2, Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem and a man named Simeon revealed to them that Jesus was the Messiah they had been waiting on, but told Mary a “sword will pierce through your own soul.”

When we talk about face to face encounters with Jesus, there is a “first time” when we realize He is the Son of God. But if we are going to grow as believers, we need many face to face encounters.

John 2:1 – On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. (Verse 2) Now both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. (Verse 3) And when they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.” (Verse 4) Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.”

(Verse 5) His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.” (Verse 6) Now there were set there six waterpots of stone, according to the manner of purification of the Jews, containing twenty or thirty gallons apiece. (Verse 7) Jesus said to them, “Fill the waterpots with water.” And they filled them up to the brim.

(Verse 8) And He said to them, “Draw some out now, and take it to the master of the feast.” And they took it. (Verse 9) When the master of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom. (Verse 10) And he said to him, “Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then that which is inferior; but you have kept the good wine until now.”

A lot of theologians believe that this is John’s wedding. John doesn’t refer to himself by name in his gospel. They believe this because Jesus and the disciples were invited. This might also explain why Mary is so concerned about running out of wine. Some believe that Salome, the wife of Zebedee was the sister of Mary, Jesus’ mother, therefore John would have been Jesus’ cousin. So this wedding was important to the whole family.

Weddings in those days were very different than today. The couple didn’t take “honeymoons.” First, they had a celebration for seven days and they would treat the bride and grooms like a king and queen.

So when the story starts, John 2:1, says, “On the third day,” of a seven-day party, they run out of wine. That would have been embarrassing to the hoast and bride and groom. So this was a big deal! That’s why Mary goes immediately to Jesus. Why did she go to Jesus out of all the people that were there though?

If we read to verse eleven, it says this was the beginning of signs that Jesus did. Doesn’t that make you wonder if Mary had seen some strange “signs” concerning Jesus before this? Why else would Mary say to the servants to do whatever He says? Just makes you wonder how many other things out of the ordinary Mary had seen Jesus do while growing up. The words that Mary said are some of the most profound words when it comes to receiving a miracle. “Whatever He says to you, do it!” Pray and obey.

Obedience is measurable.

The verse says that they filled the waterpots up to the brim. They got as much wine as they had water, all the way to the brim. It’s amazing that Jesus once said, “Whatever measure you give, it will be measured back to you.” What if they had only filled them up halfway? However, we give, that’s what is given back to us. Obedience is measurable.

When Jesus tells us to do something, do we do it halfway or completely? People can tell us that they are “walking in obedience,” but we can tell by how giving they are. I’m not talking about the amount of money. So if God says something to us, are we going to obey to the full measure?

Obedience is exciting.

The waterpots represented dead religion until Jesus got involved. By the end of the evening, these plain ole waterpots were the center of the party. A lot of Christians’ walk is routine, just like the washing pots. Come in, sit down, sing a song, and their done with worship. However, our Christian walk can be exciting if we just do whatever Jesus tells us to do. How would you like to go from miracle to miracle to miracle?

Obedience is the key to your heart’s desires.

Think about Jesus first miracle: It was not raising someone from the dead or healing someone. His first miracle was saving a family from embarrassment! So many think that God doesn’t care about things like that, but He does!

Have you ever thought “If I don’t take care of me, no one else will?” That’s what Satan says to us. Every miracle that is done benefits someone. When a person gets healed, their life is so much better. They receive a benefit. The devil will try to convince people not to pray for healing because it’s selfish, but God wants to bless His children and He wants you healed.

God will bless you more than you can bless yourself if you give Him the opportunity! Number one, He’s richer than we are. Number two, He loves you more than you love yourself. Don’t ever forget that He sent His only Son to die for you!

Psalm 37:4 – Delight yourself also in the LORD, and He shall give you the desires of your heart. Obey and God will do a miracle in your life. 

Too many have been ruined by the “prosperity gospel” that it has affected how we think about God actually wanting to bless us. Don’t fall into the “poverty doctrine” either, thinking God wants you poor, because that’s not true. How would you ever bless someone else if you don’t have anything to give to others? People think it’s “Godly” to be poor. Well, I’ve got news for some: You can be selfish and be poor and you can be selfish and be rich!

Whatever situation a person has, the way to receive a miracle is, invite Jesus in and do what He says.

 

 

Divine Encounters Part 1

John’s Story

As we get to know God better, our lives begin to change and be transformed. How we view God can affect every area of our lives. But God is divine and we’re only human, so how do we discover who He is?

This study is about John, one of Jesus 12 disciples:

Revelation 1:9 – I, John, both your brother and companion in tribulation and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was on the island that is called Patmos for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. (Verse 10) I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet,

(Verse 11) saying, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last,” and, “What you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia: to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamos, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.” (Verse 12) Then I turned to see the voice that spoke to me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands, (Verse 13) and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band.

(Verse 14) His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; (Verse 15) His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters; (Verse 16) He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength.

(Verse 17) And when I saw Him I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, “Do not be afraid; I am the First and Last. (Verse 18) I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and Death.”

John had a revelation of Jesus.

This is a face to face encounter with the resurrected Christ. John was the only living, and original disciple at that time. John was the only one that was not martyred. Acts 12:1 – Now about that time Herod the king stretched out his hand to harass some from the church. (Verse 2) Then he killed James the brother of John with the sword. (Years later, we don’t know for sure, but some think it was Nero that crucified Peter upside down.)

History tells us that they tried to kill John, but he wouldn’t die. One time they put him in boiling oil and then he preached to them. The hot oil didn’t burn his skin at all. The Emporer, maybe Nero, got so afraid of him that he banished John to the island of Patmos. He was on this island for one year and while there he writes the book of Revelation.

The gospel of John begins like no other book in the Bible. It begins with the very same words that Genesis begins with – In the beginning. John 1:1 – In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

John wrote the gospel of John to help people understand that Jesus is not only the Messiah but the Son of God and God Himself! John had a greater revelation of the divinity and humanity of Jesus probably more than any other disciple. He writes the gospel of John to prove the divinity of Jesus and then writes 1 John to prove the humanity of Jesus.

1 John 4:3 – and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. 

1 John 1:1 – That which was from the beginning which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life – 

We know that John was probably over 100 years old when he died and he sees things going on in the church, so he writes 1st, 2nd, and 3rd John. Revelation is a direct commandment to write from Jesus Himself. He wrote the gospel of John much later in his life.

He wrote 1 John because in Ephesus there were false teachers saying that Jesus didn’t actually come in the flesh. So John tells them, “I was there! I touched Him. I saw HIm!” John was a first-hand witness to what he wrote.

John had a growing revelation of Jesus.

The gospel of John records more of what Jesus said about Himself than any other book in the Bible. The book of John has more “Red letters” than any other gospel. It also has more “I am” than any of the other gospels:

John 6:35 – “I am the bread.” John 8:12 – “I am the light.” John 10:7 – “I am the door.” John 10:11 – “I am the good shepherd.” John 11:25 – “I am the resurrection.” John 14:6 – “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” John 15:1 – “I am the vine.” John 10:36 – “I am the Son of God.”

John is also referred to as the “Love” disciple. He talked about how much he loved Jesus and Jesus loved him. John is the only one that recorded that Jesus said, “A new commandment I give you, that you love one another.” And then in 1 John, he backs this up by saying, “If anyone says they love God but doesn’t love his brother, he is a liar.”

It’s a growing revelation because John didn’t start out being the “Love disciple.” John was a Galilean, a little rough around the edges. Others said the Galileans were uneducated. James and John were called by Jesus, the “Sons of thunder.” In the original language, that’s not a compliment. It’s like saying they were a little wild and they needed help.

Luke 9:54 – And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?” John was a long way from being the “Love disciple” at this point.

Mark 9:38 – Now John answered Him, saying, “Teacher, we saw someone who does not follow us casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow us.”

John also wrote the book of Revelation, not Revelations. There is no “S.” Many think this book is the revelation of “end times.” It is not! This book is the revelation of Jesus Christ. Revelation 1:1 – The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants – If you try to figure out “what” this revelation is talking about instead of “whom” it’s talking about, you will never understand it. You have to see it all in the revelation of Jesus Christ.

John refers to Jesus as the Lamb of God, in the book of Revelation 27 times. The entire New Testament refers to Jesus as the Lamb only 31 times. And two of the four that are not in the book of Revelation, are in the gospel of John.

Matthew, Mark, and Luke are “synoptic” gospels, meaning the same. John is not a “synoptic” gospel. Matthew, Mark, and Luke wrote their gospels way before John wrote his. They wrote about the last year of Jesus ministry, with the exception of His birth. They wrote about Jesus birth, then baptism, temptation in the wilderness and then immediately they say, “Afte the imprisonment of John the Baptist. John the Baptist was imprisoned after the first two years of Jesus ministry.

As a matter of fact, Matthew, Mark, and Luke only tell us of one Passover other than the Passover when Jesus died. John tells us of three Passovers. We might not have known that Jesus’ ministry was for three years if it had not been for John’s gospel.

John writes his gospel between 85 and 95 AD. That would be about 60 years after Jesus died. Wow! I believe John was inspired to write it because the only thing available about Jesus last year of His ministry was from the others and John felt we needed to know more. That’s why we’ll find things in John we won’t find in the other gospels. We wouldn’t have known about Jesus first recorded miracle if it weren’t for John’s gospel of turning water into wine.

We wouldn’t have known about Nicodemos and Jesus telling him, “You must be born again.” We wouldn’t have had John 3:16 if John had not written his gospel. and many more recordings would not have been if John had not written the gospel of John.

Do you, as a believer, know Jesus better today than when you were first saved? You should. All of us should know Him better today than years before. As long as we stay close to Him by reading and studying His Word, we should never stop growing in the revelation of Jesus Christ. It’s not a “one-time-encounter.” There’s a first time meeting of Jesus but then many encounters with Him as we grow.

John also had a revelation of himself in Jesus.

John saw himself as Jesus saw him. John 13:23 – Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved. 

John 20:2 – Then she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and said to them,… John 21:7 – Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” (Notice that John does not refer to himself as John.)

John 21:20 – Then Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following who also had leaned on His breast at the supper… John 19:26, 27 – When Jesus, therefore, saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son!” (Verse 27) Then He said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!” And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home. (That was John.)

John writes five times in the gospel of John, “The disciple whom Jesus loved.” John wasn’t saying that Jesus loved him and not the others. He was saying that he knows Jesus loves him! John has a revelation of Jesus that we all need to have, Jesus loves us! John saw Jesus as Lord and Lamb.

We also have in Chapters 14, 15, and 16, of John, the conversation that Jesus had at the last supper. If John hadn’t written it in his gospel, we wouldn’t have it. No one else recorded it. And Chapter 17, John records the prayer that Jesus prayed in the garden. While Peter and James fell asleep, John listened to Jesus prayer.

However, John didn’t write this in the gospel of John until 60 years later. How could he remember all of this after 60 years? I believe because John kept having encounters with Jesus. John ended up seeing himself the way Jesus saw him and that’s why he refers to himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved.

A born again believer is a child of the Most High God who loves us more than we can imagine. We are not who we think we are in our own eyes. We are who Jesus says we are and we are loved!