1 After this there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 2 Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep [market] a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches. 3 In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water. 4 For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had. 5 And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time [in that case], he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole? 7 The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me. 8 Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk. 9 And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: and on the same day was the sabbath. 10 ¶ The Jews therefore said unto him that was cured, It is the sabbath day: it is not lawful for thee to carry [thy] bed. 11 He answered them, He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed, and walk. 12 Then asked they him, What man is that which said unto thee, Take up thy bed, and walk? 13 And he that was healed wist not who it was: for Jesus had conveyed himself away, a multitude being in [that] place. 14 Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee. 15 The man departed, and told the Jews that it was Jesus, which had made him whole. 16 And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay him, because he had done these things on the sabbath day. John 5:1-16

Jesus came into the world “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10), and here we see Him reach out in compassion both to heal a man who had received no compassion and ultimately to save a lost soul. The religious leaders of the Jews, on the other hand, showed no compassion and even began to persecute Jesus for showing compassion on the sabbath day.

John 5 tells us of Jesus’ compassion on a man with a debilitating infirmity who was lying by the Pool of Bethesda (which means House of Mercy) in the hope of being able to pull himself into the pool when the water was stirred by an angel so he could be healed. However, as Jesus knew and recognized, he had been in this state for 38 years. And, as the man stated to Jesus, he had no one who cared enough for him to help him into the pool when the water was stirred, and someone else always made it into the pool before him.

In love and mercy toward this man, Jesus, the Son of God, said to him, “Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.” The man was healed, stood up, picked up his bed, and walked.

There was, however, a problem for those who should have rejoiced at this miracle of God and the mercy shown to this helpless man. It was the Sabbath! Instead of praising God for healing this poor man, the Jewish leaders confronted the man, saying, “It is the sabbath day: it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed.”

They showed no mercy and no compassion toward this man but were so wrapped up in their legalistic interpretations of the commandment regarding the Sabbath (cf. Ex. 20:8-11; Isa. 58:13-14) that they failed to recognize that showing mercy and doing good on the Sabbath was at the heart of the commandment (cf. Hosea 6:6; Matt. 12:7-8). They were so concerned over strict obedience to the letter of the law that they missed entirely the spirit of the law — love for God and neighbor!

Why did they do this? Because they sought to be righteous and acceptable to God through their obedience to the letter of the law — amplified by traditions of the elders that added human interpretations and applications, often contradicting the very spirit of God’s law.

Does this still happen today? Most certainly! Whenever people condemn others for failing to follow their own man-made traditions and applications of God’s commandments. It happens when people condemn the worship of others because it differs from their own worship styles and traditions; when ministers are condemned for showing compassion on those who are ill or who have strayed by ministering to them with God’s Word and Christ’s Supper before they are officially received as church members; or when “Christians” condemn others for playing cards, dancing or consuming an alcoholic beverage. Certainly, the list could go on, but the point is that it is so easy for us to fall into the same trap as the religious leaders of the Jews — to be so wrapped up in our own self-righteous attempts to please God with our man-made traditions and applications of God’s Word that we miss the point of God’s Word and condemn the innocent.

And man-made religious views and traditions so often keep people from trusting in Jesus Christ for mercy and forgiveness. The religious leaders of the Jews so hated Jesus for doing good works on the Sabbath that they began to persecute Him and wanted to kill Him. Jesus’ teaching and works were counted as an affront to their efforts to be righteous before God by their strict obedience to their traditions. Rather than acknowledging their own sinfulness and looking to Jesus as their Messiah and Savior from sin, they sought to discredit Jesus and destroy Him.

Could it happen yet today? Most certainly! It is so easy for us to think God is pleased with us because we hold to our religious traditions, worship with the same liturgies and hymns and in the same styles as our forefathers, strictly observe the Sabbath and Old Testament dietary laws or set aside Sundays as a new Sabbath, refrain from alcohol, avoid dances or card playing, etc., etc., etc. It is so easy for us to go beyond the clear words of Scripture and condemn those who fail to live in accordance with our religious views and traditions.

When we do so, not only do we often fail to see the spirit and intent of God’s law, but we fail to see the truth that we are utterly sinful and cannot please God with our works. As Isaiah writes, even our best works are “unclean” and “filthy rags” in God’s sight (Isa. 64:6). And, when we fail to see our utter sinfulness and the wrath and judgment of God upon us which is due, we fail to look to Jesus and His innocent sufferings and death in our stead for pardon and forgiveness.

Out of concern for this man’s soul, Jesus also cautioned the man whom He had made whole: “Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee” (John 5:14). Jesus warned this man that the eternal consequences of sin are far greater than the earthly consequences of sin. To suffer forever the condemnation of God in the fires of hell is far worse than the 38 years he had spent as an invalid. Jesus was urging this man to repent of His sinful ways and look to Him for pardon and forgiveness lest a far worse thing happened to him than what he had already experienced.

So also, Jesus urges and calls us to repent of our sinful ways and look to Him and His cross for pardon and forgiveness. If we depend on our own religious works and traditions, if we fail to acknowledge our utter sinfulness before God, “we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9). How can God forgive and cleanse us? It is because “we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:1,2).

Dear Lord Jesus, Son of God and Son of Man, grant that I not twist Your Word and seek to be acceptable in Your sight by my own works and traditions, but humble myself, acknowledge my sins, and look to You for pardon and forgiveness. In Your mercy, cleanse my heart and soul in the precious blood You shed for me on the cross that I may be made whole and acceptable in Your sight. Amen.

[Scripture is quoted from the King James Version of the Bible.]

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Dear Children,

How can I begin to prepare you for the dangers that you will face in this sinful world? It frightens me to think of the suffering and heartache you will likely bear during your lifetime.

This is the result of sin in the world — the result of Adam’s fall — and not the fault of God. God created all things beautiful and without sin, but man changed all that by his disobedience and rebellion against God. Now, instead of loving God and desiring to please Him and do His holy will, people love themselves and seek to gratify their own sinful and selfish ambitions.

The most important advice I can give you is to follow Christ and continue in His Word. Nothing in this life compares to the riches and the joy which come from knowing Jesus Christ, His forgiveness, and the hope of everlasting life with Him in heaven! He shed His holy and precious blood to redeem you from all sin and give you the eternal joys of heaven. Do not forsake Him! Trust in Him! He is the giver of life, and in His Word, you will find strength and guidance to live your life for Him.

Secondly, I offer advice on dating and marriage. I know that you have a desire and need to be loved, but learn what true love is. True love does not take advantage of others and seek to gratify itself. True love considers first what is in the best interest of others.

Daughters, if a man loves you, he will respect you and not seek to abuse you for the gratification of his own sexual desire. He will be willing to wait for a sexual relationship until you have committed yourselves to each other in marriage.

Sons, remember that the girl you date is a creature of God who has been redeemed by Christ. God did not create woman for you to use, but to love and cherish. Treat every woman you date with the honor and respect that you would want shown to your mother, your sister, or your future wife.

Though much could be said about dating and marriage, the most important advice I can give regarding dating and choosing a life’s mate is to date and marry a devoted Christian. Only then will you know the true joy and companionship God intended for marriage. Then you will be able to serve our God together and bring up your children to know and serve Him too. If you ignore this advice and marry one who is not a believer and follower of Christ, you may expect great difficulty and sorrow in life!

I know well the temptations placed before you by the devil, the world, and your sinful human nature. Do not give in to them, but follow Christ! Stay away from alcohol, drugs, pornography, wild parties, sinful music, evil friends, etc. These will only lead to your ruin.

Instead, follow Christ, read His Word, pray, and join together with fellow believers in church services and Bible study. Remember who you are: a child of God, created and redeemed by Him!

Finally, dear children, know this. Your earthly father is here for you now to help and guide you. He loves you and will be praying for you as long as he lives. Your Heavenly Father will be there for you always. He will uphold you and keep you forever!

Love, Dad

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So Jesus came again to Cana of Galilee where He had made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman whose son was sick in Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to Him, pleading that He would come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. Then Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders, you will not believe.” The nobleman said to Him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” Jesus said to him, “Go your way. Your son lives.” And the man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him, and he went his way. While he was going down, his servants met him and told him, “Your son lives!” When he inquired of them the hour when he began to heal, they answered, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” Then the father knew that it was at the same hour in which Jesus said to him, “Your son lives.” So he and his whole household believed. John 4:46-53

The Scriptures tell us that “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1). What does this mean? It means faith takes hold of things promised to us in God’s Word even though we can’t now see them with our eyes. And, indeed, we as Christians “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7; cf. Hab. 2:4).

God promises to all of us who trust in Christ and His atoning sacrifice on the cross His pardon and forgiveness for all our sins. Can you see this forgiveness? Do the heavens open, and does God’s voice sound audibly from heaven saying, “I forgive you all your sins”? No, we have only the word of the Gospel in our Bibles and preached by God’s ministers telling us it is so.

When we are sick and facing our mortality, do we see Jesus on His throne of glory and God’s angels descending from heaven to carry us home? No, we have only God’s promise that His angels will carry our souls into the bosom of Abraham because Jesus died for our sins and rose again (cf. Luke 16:22; 2 Cor. 5:1-8; Phil. 1:21-23).

Many do not believe in God’s promises because they can’t see them with their eyes or understand them with their minds. But Jesus would have us trust Him and His Word and live by faith in His promises.

Consider the nobleman who came to Jesus while at Cana in Galilee. He came to Jesus from Capernaum (in the valley along the Sea of Galilee) because his son was deathly ill, and he asked Jesus to come down to Capernaum and heal his son.

But what did Jesus say? “Unless you see signs and wonders, you will not believe.”

The nobleman had heard of Jesus and thought Jesus could help in this hour of desperate need — if Jesus came down to Capernaum and to his house. But did Jesus, the eternal Son of God who created all things by His almighty word, need to go and be visibly present in this man’s home? Jesus desired this man to have faith in His words even if he could not yet see their fulfillment with his eyes. Jesus told him, “Go your way. Your son lives.”

A remarkable thing happened. This man who had begged Jesus to come down before his son died now believed and returned to his house. Jesus’ words not only expressed a truth; they had power — the power to create faith in this nobleman. The nobleman now believed and walked by faith all the way down to Capernaum (about 20 miles), where his eyes saw the truthfulness of what he had believed. And, as a result, both he and his household came to believe and trust in Jesus as the Son of God and their Savior!

The Word of God tells us Jesus is none other than God Himself in human flesh, who came into this world to redeem us from sin and eternal death. The Word of God tells us that He died as a perfect sacrifice for the sins of the world — in John the Baptist’s words, Jesus is “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). The Word of God tells us He rose from the dead on the third day and is now seated at the right hand of God the Father in heaven. The Word of God promises us pardon and forgiveness through faith in Jesus and His cross, and the Word of God promises all who trust in Jesus a place in God’s everlasting kingdom (John 3:14-16; 5:24; 14:1-6).

Can you see it? Does Jesus prove it before our eyes with modern-day signs and wonders? No, He tells us it is so in His Word. And that Word has power. St. Paul writes in Romans 1:16-17: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ. For it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith. As it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.’” In Romans 10:17, the Bible says, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”

As we live our lives in this world, Jesus would have us walk by faith and not by sight. He would have us take Him at His Word and not have to see signs and wonders before we will believe.

And, like the nobleman, when we get home, we will see with our eyes the truthfulness of His Word. When we are received into the glories of our eternal home through faith alone in the merits of Christ, we will see that indeed Christ did atone for all our sins, that God accepted His atonement as His resurrection proves, that when we have God-wrought faith in Christ all our sins are pardoned and forgiven and that, through faith in Christ, the eternal joys of heaven are indeed ours!

O God, graciously grant that we walk by faith in Your Word and not by sight, for only through faith in Christ will our eyes ever come to see the blessings which are offered and given to us in Him! Amen.

[Scripture is quoted from The Holy Bible, Modern English Version. Copyright © 2014 by Military Bible Association. Published and distributed by Charisma House.]

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Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you, and to your children, and to all who are far away, as many as the Lord our God will call.” Acts 2:38-39 (Read Acts 2)

How is it that one can receive the gift of the Holy Spirit? How can one “be filled with the Spirit,” as the Apostle Paul commands us in Ephesians 5:18?

Peter, in his Pentecost sermon, gives us the answer: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. ”

To be filled and led by the Spirit of God does not require any great work on our part. It does not require a specific prayer or living a holy and sinless life before the Holy Spirit enters into us.

Through the good news of Christ’s innocent sufferings and death for the sins of the world, God graciously calls us sinners to turn from our sins to faith in Christ Jesus for forgiveness and life everlasting (cf. 2 Thess. 2:13-14).

The Holy Spirit reveals our sinfulness and utter failure to live up to the demands of God’s perfect law (cf. Rom. 3:9-20), but then comforts us with the promise of sins forgiven and an eternal inheritance in heaven when we place our faith in Jesus Christ and His blood shed for us on the cross (cf. Rom. 3:21-26; John 3:14ff.; Ps. 51:1ff.).

When, by the grace of God, we believe this and trust in Christ as our Savior, being baptized in His name and according to His command for the forgiveness of our sins (Matt. 28:19; Acts 22:16), we are given the gift of the Holy Spirit. He takes up residence in our hearts, teaches us of Jesus from God’s Word, and strengthens and keeps us in the true and saving faith (cf. John 14:16-18, 26; 16:13-15).

And the Bible tells us that “He who began a good work in” us will dwell in us and “perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6).

Dear Lord Jesus Christ, our risen and ascended Savior, we thank You for granting to us the gift of the Holy Spirit — for moving us to turn from our sins to You for forgiveness and to be baptized in Your name, and for dwelling in us by Your Holy Spirit that we might be kept and preserved in the true and saving faith unto life everlasting. For the sake of Your bitter sufferings and death in our stead, we pray. Amen.

[Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, Modern English Version. Copyright © 2014 by Military Bible Association. Published and distributed by Charisma House.]

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Since many people I meet show little interest in heaven and express little desire to go there, I thought I’d provide a few instructions on how to go to hell instead. Following are just a few surefire courses of action to be damned and arrive in eternal hellfire and brimstone:

  • Ignore the whole issue of heaven and hell and put off all thoughts of God and eternity for another day.
  • Avoid, as much as possible, reading the Bible or attending churches where the Bible is read and taught. After all, the Bible is so narrow in its views regarding life, God’s judgment, and the age to come.
  • Hope that God grades on a curve and will not condemn you if you have lived as well as the next guy.
  • Believe that you can escape the fires of hell and obtain eternal life in heaven by doing good deeds.
  • Live for now and indulge in all your desires because life is short.
  • Give no heed to preachers who call upon all to repent and look to Christ Jesus for mercy and forgiveness.
  • Treat the blood of Jesus shed for the sins of all as a worthless thing by continuing on in your sinful ways.
  • Ignore Jesus and His pleas for you to repent and trust in Him for pardon, forgiveness and life everlasting in heaven.

Yes, I could go on listing ways to be sure of hell; but wouldn’t you rather be sure of heaven?

It’s simple: Acknowledge and repent of your sinfulness and shortcomings and place your faith and hope in Christ Jesus and His innocent sufferings and death for all sins.

In Jesus, heaven is sure! Why? Because Jesus kept all of God’s commandments perfectly in your stead and then suffered and died on the cross for your sins (and the sins of all), rose again, and ascended into the glories of heaven to prepare a place for all who repent of their sinful ways and believe God’s offer and promise of forgiveness and life through faith in Christ Jesus! All who look to Jesus in faith will be spared the fires of hell and receive, instead, the eternal glories of heaven!

God’s Word says, “ Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31 KJV).

Some Bible proof passages: Romans 3:9-26; Hebrews 4:15; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4; John 3:14-18, 36; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:46-47; John 14:1-6; Acts 1:9-11; 2:37-40; 3:19; 4:12; Ephesians 1 and 2; 1 John 1:8-9; 2:1-2.

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