Contending for the faith | Making Disciples | Equipping the Saints for Ministry

I remember when I first considered Jesus’ question to Peter, “But who do you say I am?” I realize that Jesus wanted to know Peter’s perspective. We know that Peter got the answer right, but Jesus declared that only the Father could have revealed His correct identity to him (Matthew 16:13-18).

Sadly, we are apt to listen and believe what people say about the three persons of the Godhead without testing it according to the Spirit and truth of Scripture. Most people assume that their understanding about God is acceptable, but yet if it is not right on the mark, it will lead people away from the true Jesus and the salvation that is freely offered through Him. To most individuals the idea of possessing a different Jesus is no big deal; yet it is the deciding factor between heaven and hell. You cannot get to heaven with a wrong Jesus, while trying to escape the damnation of hell without the right Jesus. It is that simple. Jesus is the only door in all of creation that will lead one into eternal life (John 10:7-9).

In Revelation 3:8 we are told that the Lord is the keeper of doors for He along holds the keys. For those who are His people, He is the one who opens the door concerning our understanding, spiritual growth, walk, and the will of God for our lives. He is the one who will make a way or a door for each born-again believer to discover his or her life, purpose, and ultimate destiny.

The reality of doors was brought out to me in a frightening incident a few years ago. There was a heretical preacher whom we had crossed paths with in the past and we were even used to challenge him about the Jesus he possessed. It was clear that we both had a different Jesus, and his teachings along with the fruits of his life clearly bore the sad fact that his Jesus was not the Jesus of the Bible.

To make a long story short, he discovered he had cancer. As he faced the inevitable, he confidently prepared for his funeral. His wife was sitting with him as he was about to enter through the door of death and face eternity. He began to cry out in a state of panic, “Open the door, open the door!” She tried to reason with him, and calm him, but it was clear that the door he was standing before was not opening for him. Perhaps this man did not recognize the one true door to eternal life in this present world, but as he was about to enter eternity he knew what door he needed to enter, but it was shut to him.

Remember the five foolish virgins who did not have the oil of the Holy Spirit, and as a result missed the bridegroom’s call going forth for the virgins to come in to the marriage supper? And, once the wise virgins were inside, the door was shut. What happened when the five foolish virgins came to the door, “Afterward came also the other virgins, saying Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh” (Matthew 25:11-13)

Clearly, there will be another door opened in the future. It will be the heavens itself when Jesus comes for His Church, His Bride. Only those who are prepared to enter into glory will be brought through that door by the Bridegroom. What a glorious time it will be for those who truly belong to the Lord Jesus Christ, sealed by His Spirit, clothed in humility, and prepared according to their election and by their high calling.

I realize in a politically correct society, the idea of there being one door into eternal life is completely shunned. However, I would like to remind people of another time when there was only one door available to escape the wrath of God. Sadly, only eight people walked through that door. No doubt they were mocked, but when judgment came, those eight souls on the right side of the door were spared. The door was in the ark Noah constructed before the great flood of judgment came upon the face of the world (Genesis 7:6).

This is why the Bible is clear that the way to heaven is narrow and few will find it (Matthew 7:13-14). It is for this reason we must strive to enter through the door, not stand and admire it, think about it to see how it might benefit us at the present, put it off until we have tasted more of the world, or live in a state of wishful thinking that the Lord will actually come out and just drag us in to spare us from His wrath. The Bible is clear that we are responsible to enter through the door by faith, knowing that His mercy, grace, and life await us on the other side.

Since the Jesus of the Bible is the only door in which man must enter to possess eternal life, people have to get their reality of Him right. I have learned that I need to quit relying on people’s description of Jesus. I need to have my personal understanding of Him revealed to me by the Holy Spirit through the Word of God (John 16:13; 1 John 2:27). Granted, people can point me in the right direction, encourage me to know Jesus for myself, and even lift Him up to me in the hope that I fall more in love with Him, but unless a matter is imparted as truth to my heart by the Holy Spirit, such knowledge can end up dying on the cold, lifeless table of carnal understanding.

The question is how do we come to a greater understanding of Jesus? It is simple—we can begin with what Jesus said about Himself. Jesus spoke of who He was in parables, teachings, and examples. He always pointed backward to the shadows and example of the Old Testament to confirm His identity.

I would like to point out a few of these examples to you. The first one I want to bring to your attention is found in John 3:11-15 where Jesus talked to Nicodemus about what it meant to be born again. The Son of God stated that if He told him of earthly things, and he believed it, will he not believe heavenly truths? Jesus related it to a situation that happened in the wilderness, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.”

It is important to go back to Numbers 21 in order to understand the significance of what Jesus was saying. The people of Israel were experiencing great victories on their way to the Promised Land, but the way was hard and the people began to speak against God. We are told that the LORD sent fiery serpents among them who bit them. Since their bite was deadly, people began to die.

The people came to Moses confessing their sin and asking him to intercede on their behalf. God hearkened unto Moses and gave him the antidote. However, for it to work they had to assimilate it by faith. The Lord told Moses to make a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and if a serpent bit someone, all they had to do was look at the serpent on the pole, and he or she would live in spite of the bite.

What a beautiful illustration of the salvation provided by God through His Son. “Brass” represents judgment on sin. The serpent lifted up pointed to the cross of Jesus, where the power (the bite of sin and death) of the serpent, Satan, would be destroyed as Jesus became sin for us and paid the complete price of redemption. It is important to recognize that God did not remove the problem; rather, He provided a solution (1 Corinthians 15:54-56; Hebrews 2:14-15).

Sin has always been a problem since our first parents rebelled against the authority and commandment of God. People would like the temptation of sin taken away so they do not have to make a choice as to the master they will serve. They do not want to enter the one door of salvation by faith; rather, they want Christ’s life handed to them outside of the door so they can still hold onto the world as long as they can, while avoiding facing the character of their wretched selfishness. They want to slide “under the radar” into the kingdom of heaven with all their pride, the old self-life, and practices intact instead of coming by way of the cross of Christ where they exchange the old with the new. They want to receive all the benefits without letting go of their miserable rags that omit a stench to heaven. They will come inside of a church building to sing hymns, rub elbows with other Christians on Sunday mornings, at Bible Studies, and potlucks, but they will not humble themselves to enter through the door of salvation by confessing their sin, admitting they are rightfully lost, and that only Jesus, God’s only Son can save their sinful selves from the eternal damnation that awaits them.

Admittedly, this concerns me! I have sat in churches through the years and wondered just how many people have truly entered through the Door? How many people will find themselves in the same predicament as the five foolish virgins who were not prepared to enter through the door of the bridegroom? How many people will end up being frantic as they pass from this world into the next to only find a closed door?

I want to state at this point that it is not my intention to cause people to doubt their salvation; rather, my goal is to challenge people to be sure they have passed through the door of the one true Jesus into eternal life. We cannot trust our salvation to religious notions, assumptions, associations, and presumptions. The Apostle John’s first epistle is clear that believers can know whether they are saved. They can have assurance that in the end, they will never be ashamed that they put their faith and trust in the Lord and His Word.

Since we live in precarious times in which darkness is consuming the world, we need to possess the light of the Gospel, Jesus Christ. Through the years I have had my personal challenges, but I knew that Jesus was the solution to my challenges, and in the humility of brokenness, godly repentance, and sincere confession, I would sincerely own my life and actions and He would quickly restore any broken fellowship that had occurred (2 Corinthians 4:5-6).

This brings me to the second statement Jesus made about Himself. It is found in John 6:47-50, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life. I am that bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die.”

To understand the significance about the bread from heaven, we need to go back to Exodus 16. It was in the wilderness that God rained bread (manna) out of heaven to feed the people of Israel in their pilgrimage to the Promised Land. When the children of Israel saw the small round object that reminded them of hoar frost on the ground, they asked what is it, naming the food from heaven “manna.”

The Father also sent His Son into the world. Shadows were cast, types established, and patterns recorded in the Old Testament so that the Jewish people could recognize their Messiah when He came. However, when He came, the people debated about who He was. John 1:10-11 summarizes what happened to the Manna from heaven, “He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not.

When we read about manna from heaven, we can begin to understand more about what it means for Jesus to be our bread from heaven. First it came from God, signifying that it was sufficient to keep the people in their wilderness experience. As spiritual pilgrims, we are walking through the world, which is a spiritual, barren wilderness (1 Peter 2:11). To sustain every person spiritually, God has provided the bread from heaven, but how many people are looking to this bread to sustain them?

The bread came every day except for the Sabbath, and man was to gather enough of it to feed him and his family. It is clear that our life in Christ can only sustain us if we are daily partaking of His Word. We do not live according to the natural bread of this world or our best attempts; we can only live and be sustained by the Bread of Heaven and the milk of His pure Word and the meat of His will in this present world. It is His life being worked in us by faith and obedience that makes the milk pure and sweet, and ensures the integrity of God’s will until we enter into His glory.

Those who lightly esteemed the instructions concerning the manna were met with decaying bread and repercussions. Those who fail to partake of the Bread presently being offered, fail to handle His Word properly, and do the will of the Father will pay with their very souls (Matthew 7:21-23; Romans 1:18; 1 John 2:17). In fact, the Bible is clear that the wrath of God abides on those who reject His Son and mishandle His Word.

The third reference I want to consider that Jesus made of Himself is found in Matthew 12:39-41. This incident involved certain scribes and Pharisees asking Jesus to give them a sign. Keep in mind they were not asking for a sign to believe or confirm Jesus was the Promised One, for they had no intention of believing. When faith is missing from the equation, such requests are presumptuous and intended to put the Lord to a foolish test. (Refer to the incident in John 4:46-54 to see the contrast as to the importance of motive when it comes to seeking a sign.)

Jesus rebuked them by stating only a wicked generation seeks after a sign. He then said this, “…there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas; For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here” (Matthew 12:39c-41)

This is not the first time that Jesus referred to the greatest sign that He would give as to His identity: that of His resurrection. He also mentioned this same sign in John 2:18-22 to some of the Jews who were also seeking a sign.

There are those today who seek after a sign, but it is clear that Jesus stipulated that the greatest sign, the most significant miracle would happen in His resurrection. Sadly, people are not content with the means in which God miraculously brought forth the means of salvation. There are those who think that they are deserving of such salvation so they fail to see the importance of it. They are often seeking the entertainment of signs and wonders so they can ride high on the waves of sensationalism.

The crux of the matter is if we do not believe in our heart the resurrection of Jesus, we will not be saved (Romans 10: 9-10). If Jesus had not risen from the grave, our faith would be in vain (1 Corinthians 15:12-18). Granted Jesus had to die on the cross in our place and His body put in a tomb, but He was raised up three days later to prove that neither the grave nor death could hold Him. As a result, we serve a living Lord, not a dead, lifeless martyr. The message we proclaim is living and powerful, capable of saving people, and it is the sign that confirms our faith as believers and assures us that when all is said and done, we will not be ashamed or disappointed that we have believed.

As Christians we should be growing in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Granted, there are no new revelations of Him outside of the Bible, but since He is eternal, each inspired revelation of the Spirit will possess greater depths that can still be revealed, mysteries that can be uncovered, and grander heights that can be discovered as the person of Jesus Christ takes on greater dimension in our understanding (Ephesians 1:17-20).