Did Jesus say you have to ask Him into your heart to be saved? Do I have to say the “sinner’s prayer”? Do I have to ask Jesus to take control of my life and accept Him as my Saviour? What does that even mean? What does it mean to “commit” myself to the Lord? What are the steps involved to “being saved”? The church says you must first believe that Jesus is Lord. Then you must confess your sins and repent of them. Finally, you must ask Jesus into your heart or life to receive His Holy Spirit. But what did Jesus say?
In John 3:1-21, Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council (the Sanhedrin) came to Jesus at night. He didn’t approach him during the day when crowds of people surrounded him. He went at night, when people were sleeping and when it would be unlikely that anyone else on the council would know what he was doing.
This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him” (John 3:2, NKJV).
And how does Jesus respond? He changes the topic.
When reading the Bible do you ever notice certain word choices that make you say, “Why would they phrase it like that?” I do. All the time. It sends me on Greek/Hebrew word searches for the actual meaning of the word. It forces me to read various translations, and I always end up reading commentaries to find out the “why” behind my questions. The phrase that piqued my interest this month is found in Mark 1:23 and Luke 4:33.
Now there was a man in their synagogue with an unclean spirit (Mark 1:23).
Now in the synagogue, there was a man who had a spirit of an unclean demon (Luke 4:33).
Mark calls the spirit “unclean”, whereas Luke says it is a “spirit of an unclean demon.” So here’s my question – aren’t all demons technically “unclean?” This, of course, led me to more questions – how was this originally written? How do the Jews view demons and Satan in particular? How did Jesus see Satan and demons? Are fallen angels demons? And the list in my head goes on and on. But before I can answer any questions, I have to look at everything in context, not just with the surrounding scripture, but with the rest of the Bible. I also like to take into account the beliefs of the Jews in regards to Satan and demons. So when I have a Bible study, it can sometimes take me weeks before I will put anything on paper to share with you, which is why my posts are becoming so infrequent. I haven’t forgotten about you. I’m just knee deep into my Bible looking for answers. So the questions I’m currently pursuing are the areas of Satan, demons, angels and spiritual warfare – what did Jesus believe about it all? And have Christians inadvertently added to his beliefs? To get those answers, we first have to ask a few more questions.
Have you ever wondered why the people in Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth got so angry with him over a few little words? He had just finished reading the following to them:
“The spirit of the L-rd GOD is upon me; because HaShem hath anointed me to bring good tidings unto the humble; He hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the eyes to them that are bound; To proclaim the year of HaShem’s good pleasure” (Isaiah 61:1, 2, JPS).
Now here is the interesting thing about these verses: In the Tanakh, the verses above are similar to what Jesus would have initially read. But in the Christian Bible, a few words are changed, and added, which I have highlighted:
I want to take you on a journey today of how events might have transpired after Jesus’ time in the wilderness. One of the things I like to do when reading the Gospels is to open them all up on Biblegateway.com in different tabs. That way I can get a complete picture of events as they transpired. After Jesus had defeated Satan in the wilderness, for example, we get a full picture of what He did next.
Did you ever notice what Jesus filled up on before he went into the wilderness for forty days? For that matter, did you notice why he went into the wilderness? In Luke 4:1 we get the answers to both of these questions:
Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness.
Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit before he went into the wilderness and it was this same Holy Spirit who then led him into the wilderness. How interesting, don’t you think? Without the Holy Spirit, he would have succumbed to Satan’s temptations. Yet without the Holy Spirit, he would not have felt compelled to go into the wilderness in the first place.
A couple of weeks ago I talked about Jesus as the Lamb of God and why John the Baptist referred to him in that manner. One thing I didn’t touch on a great deal, was why Jesus was baptized. John preached a baptism of repentance, yet Jesus had nothing to repent of, so why would he be baptized?
Did you ever notice when Jesus met someone how he didn’t see them as they were at that moment, but he saw their potential, or he looked not at their actions but their character? Take for example the first time he meets Simon, the brother of Andrew (John 1:4-42). Jesus changes his name from Simon to Peter, which means rock. What was it about Peter Jesus saw that would prompt him to change his name? Of course, we know through the Scriptures what Jesus saw. Peter went from someone who denied Christ to someone who helped to establish the church as we know it today. But Jesus didn’t tell him why he changed his name or what he would do or become. He also did not rename any of his other disciples. He did have pet names (if you will) for his cousin’s James and John. He called them the Sons of Thunder (Mark 3:17). When he met Nathanael, he saw his character right away and said, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!” Nathanael asked Jesus how he knew him and Jesus told him that he saw him under a fig tree before Philip called him. Now at that time, Nathanael was making fun of anyone who came from Nazareth. Jesus knew this but didn’t fault him for it. And Nathanael (also known as Bartholomew) was amazed and declared Jesus to be the Son of God right then and there (John 1:45-51).
When John the Baptist came on the scene encouraging people to repent of their sins and be baptized he was like a throw-back to the prophets of old. The people of Israel had not seen a prophet like John in over 400 years, and suddenly there he was preaching repentance with baptism and announcing that “someone” was coming whose sandals he was unworthy to untie (John 1:27). Servants would untie the sandals of anyone entering a home, to wash their feet of dust. John placed himself lower than a servant and yet every one of the four Gospels begins their account of Jesus’ life with John’s testimony. Jesus said of him, “Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he” (Matthew 11:11, NKJV).
What was Jesus really like? How different were His teachings compared to that of His disciples? If we only used the four Gospels as our example to follow the Lord, would they be enough? For the next little while, we will look closely at Jesus’ sermons, His interactions with people, His take on the Scriptures and His views of the society and culture of His day. How He related to the people, politics, and issues in His world, plays a huge part in how we relate to them, as His followers, in our world.
To be a disciple of Jesus means “to follow Him.” But what does that look like for the 21st century Christian? Where does one start in not only following Jesus but in knowing Him? We start with an eye-witness to His life, death, and resurrection – the Apostle John.