Evangelism and Apologetics Overview

This is a digitised version of TCDCU’s Evangelism & Apologetics workshops. As the evangelism officer for 2021/2022, I would typically lead these E&A workshops throughout the academic year. Although the committee does not plan to host workshops this year, that doesn’t mean that either evangelism or apologetics is of any lesser importance. On the contrary, this resource will enable us as a Christian Union to have E&A materials online and on-hand 24/7 (you can also share it with your friends and family, should you find it helpful). This isn’t a report or essay, so don’t panic! I simply hope to share my own learnings, stories, and experiences while ultimately re-emphasising what the Bible---God Himself---says about these topics.  


Part 1: Evangelism


Virtually every Christian knows the Great Commission, which Jesus commanded in Matthew 28:16-20: we are called to ‘go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything [Jesus has] commanded’. But what does practical evangelism look like in present-day Ireland? What does it mean to ‘make disciples’ of our family, friends, and peers? And in a world inundated with secular, anti-gospel sentiment, how can we step forward in faith in the face of our fears?


Fear #1: I’m not ‘good’ at evangelism. 


Growing up, I wasn’t comfortable with public speaking, nor was I very gifted at making conversation. I had only a few friends in high school, and my social anxiety disorder didn’t exactly make it easy to form new relationships. I knew that Jesus called me to evangelise, but I didn’t want to. Whenever I tried to ‘convert’ anyone, I became awkward, long-winded, and tongue-tied. At best, people assumed that I was an ignorant, cringeworthy dogmatist. 


But when I started studying at a university in Canada, my personality changed completely. I was now confident in my intelligence and my persuasiveness---I felt certain that I could ‘convert’ even the most stubborn skeptics. Yet my attempts were still fruitless. People now respected me; they listened with genuine interest to what I had to say, but their interest ended there. None of my theological rhetoric touched their hearts. I silently believed that evangelism was like talking to a brick wall. It seemed simply discouraging and pointless. 


Truth #1: I do not transform people---that’s God’s work. 


The more I relied on myself to convince people of the gospel, the more I felt burdened, stressed, and anxious about evangelism. I dreaded sharing the good news because that brought me face to face with my own incompetence. But what does the Bible say about this? Here are some verses that encourage and challenge my fear that ‘successful’ evangelism ‘all depends on me’. Google these passages, look them up in your Bible, write them down in your diary or hang them on your wall as a reminder:

Matthew 11:27, Matthew 19:26, Ephesians 2:8, 2 Peter 1:20-21, John 14:6, Daniel 2:47 


God is more familiar than anyone with my inadequacies and insecurities. He sees the pride that lurks behind all of my fancy words and philosophical ramblings. He sees my own confusion---the big questions that I, too, wonder as a Christian about Christianity. Thankfully, instead of leaving me to marinate in self-loathing and self-pity, Jesus directs my gaze to Himself. Isn’t it incredible to think that a perfect, sovereign God would choose me to share His message? In spite of the mess that is ‘Audrey Bang’ or [insert your name here], He has chosen the likes of you and me to share His wonderful news. Wow. That’s like a CEO of a multi-billion dollar company (let’s call her… ‘Jess’ Bezos) asking her three-year-old son to lead the advertising department on her behalf. It’s outlandish. In the world’s eyes, it’s stupid. It just doesn’t make any sense. 


The Apostle Paul aptly expresses in 2 Corinthians that ‘...we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.’ Simply put, we are the jars of clay---empty on our own. Unimpressive. Fragile. Plain. And God Himself is our treasure! As Christians, we know that the power that raised Christ from the dead lives in us (Romans 8:11). When we evangelise, it is God’s own Spirit that works through us. So why do I constantly try to win people to Christ through my own nonexistent power? Why do I try to prove myself to God and/or other people, when God already knows that there is nothing to prove?   


It’s not up to me to convert people; although He invites me to share His message, real heart-change is not something that I cause---so I don’t need to worry about that anymore. And my knowledge of God’s power dwelling in me makes me excited for evangelism. Instead of sharing the gospel out of fearful compulsion or grudging obligation, my love for Christ overflows from my heart to my lips, hands, and feet. I want to tell people about this gracious God! I want others to experience His love and His power. He loves us so much that He wants to invite us, His children, to partake in His wonderful, mysterious plan for salvation. 


Fear #2: If I try to evangelise, unbelievers will reject and attack me. 


People are angry with the church, and for good reason. They see the atrocities of people, so-called Christians, and feel fury and indignation towards religious institutions. There have been plenty of non-Christians who demanded to know why I personally supported the abuse and exploitation of women, children, Indigenous communities, the LGBTQ+ community, and more (note: I do not, and God does not, support the abuse of anyone). There was little that I could say to diffuse their anger, so I told myself that it was safer to do what they wanted me to do---just keep quiet and keep my faith to myself.


Truth #2: We are blessed when unbelievers reject and attack us… for Jesus’ sake. 


Again, what does the Bible say? 

Matthew 5:10-13, Matthew 10:16-18, 2 Timothy 3:11-12, John 15:19-20, 1 Thessalonians 3:3-4


The Bible doesn’t state that any Christian can expect to lead a life free from religious persecution. On the contrary, in 2 Timothy 3, Paul writes that ‘everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted’. But there is wonderful, glorious hope even in that apparently gloomy sentence. In Matthew chapter 5, Jesus says: ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’ 


It’s clear that the college campus is becoming increasingly secular, meaning that Christians are discouraged from bringing their faith into lecture halls, cafeterias, and student accommodation. Instead of bemoaning or complaining about this, as I am so prone to do, Jesus commands me to ‘rejoice and be glad’ (Matthew 5:12). We are blessed when people curse, attack, and reject us for our faith. When people respond to our gentle, loving, and compassionate evangelism with aggression, we know that we are simply following Jesus’ steps. We can also be comforted by the fact that we are citizens of heaven; we belong to the world yet to come. In the verses following verse 12, Jesus goes on to say that those who are persecuted are blessed because 'great is their reward in heaven'!


Instead of retaliating or lashing out, persecution in its various degrees and forms is also an opportunity for us to show the love of Christ to our persecutors. It’s unlikely that we will ever experience the harrowing persecution of Jesus-followers like Corrie Ten Boom, Jim and Elisabeth Elliot, and Louis Zamperini: yet Corrie Ten Boom forgave her torturers, and her family’s murderers, in those extermination camps; Elisabeth Elliot was a missionary to the very tribe who had murdered her husband. Their resolute faith resulted in great spiritual growth and revival across the globe. They weren’t able to do this because they were any better or any more righteous than you or I. Rather, as we already know, God Himself granted them courage, love, and forgiveness in the face of persecution. And He promises to do the exact same thing for us.     


Fear #3: I’m not ‘good enough’ of a Christian to evangelise. I feel like a fake, a hypocrite. 


I was chatting with a (non-Christian) friend when, mid-conversation, he stopped and said, ‘Audrey, it’s obvious that you go to church. You’re a pretty good person. You’re humble; you’re nice to people. You don’t do drugs or sleep around.’ 


At that moment, I felt like a pharisee. I was such a hypocrite. My friend saw the face that I put forward during our chats together---the Audrey who was always ready to read a passage of scripture, pray, or lend a helping hand. But he didn’t see the Audrey who, just last week, had struggled with lustful thoughts. He didn’t see the Audrey who silently cursed at her parents. He didn’t see the Audrey who spoke about God’s love while judging others. I felt that it was so difficult to act nice and ‘godly’ all the time. Since I struggled to practise what I preached, I couldn’t possibly be fit to share the gospel. 


Truth #3: 

There is good news for you, if you relate to my experience: the Apostle Paul himself, arguably one of the most famous Christ-followers, describes this struggle in Romans 7:15-25 (NIVUK). 


15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.


21 So I find this law at work: although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!


So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.


This is something that Christians all feel. It’s the struggle between our old desires and the ‘new man’ or ‘new woman’. I know who God calls me to be, and what He calls me to do and refrain from doing. As a far-from-perfect human in this fallen world, I don’t want to hurt God by running back to the sins He’s freed me from---yet I still feel tempted to watch that video I know I shouldn’t. Thankfully, I can trust that God’s grace is so much more powerful than all of my deepest, darkest secrets and sins. Not only that, but He USES my secrets and sins. When I am vulnerable with others, when I’m honest about my own shortcomings, I’m always amazed to see how He uses those conversations. I’ve realised that non-Christians appreciate honesty. They’re sick of witnessing religious pretension, ‘pious-ity’ (not to be confused with genuine piety), and self-righteous claims to perfection. 


In the words of Charles Spurgeon (one of my favourite theologians!), ‘Show the world that your God is worth ten thousand worlds to you. Show rich men how rich you are in your poverty when the Lord God is your helper. Show the strong man how strong you are in your weakness when underneath you are the everlasting arms.’ Simply put, God is glorified in my weakness. When I evangelise and share the gospel not despite, but because of that weakness, His loving power is magnified.  


And here’s another fantastic Spurgeon quote: ‘God does not need your strength: he has more than enough power of his own. He asks your weakness: he has none of that himself, and he is longing, therefore, to take your weakness, and use it as the instrument in his own mighty hand. Will you not yield your weakness to him, and receive his strength?’ 




Part 2: Apologetics 


The first time I heard someone mention ‘Christian apologetics’, I nodded, smiled, and responded: ‘Absolutely! Forgiveness is such a crucial aspect of the gospel. It is so, so important that Christians learn to apologise.’


You may laugh, or maybe you don’t exactly know what apologetics is, either. When I search for ‘apologetics’ on Google or Youtube, I see videos of male speakers dressed in suits and glasses. More often than not, these clips have clickbait-y titles like ‘SHOCKING debate between Christian and Atheist!’ or ‘[Name of high-profile atheist] VERSUS [Name of high-profile theologian]’. Some videos make me feel like the title of ‘apologist’ is reserved for those who have studied at Oxford, read at least 50 theological volumes, and use exclusively sophisticated language. Others make me feel like apologetics is a boxing match, during which I anxiously wait to see whether atheism (boo) or Christianity (yay!) will get KO’d first. 


It’s all so intimidating. By no means am I familiar or comfortable with this branch of theology! Nevertheless, the word ‘apologist’ is defined as the following: ‘one who speaks or writes in defense of someone or something’ (Merriam Webster). So if I truly believe 1 Peter 3:15, in which God calls us to defend the faith, then all Christians, myself included, are called to be ‘apologists’. 


So what exactly is apologetics?


Christian Unions Ireland has a very helpful series on apologetics. In the first blog, Dr. Paul Coulter defines ‘apologetics’ as the following: ‘The task of developing and sharing arguments for the truth and rationality of Christianity and the falsehood and irrationality of alternatives with the aim of strengthening the faith of believers and provoking non–believers to consider Christ.’ 


‘It is important to emphasise that ‘argument’ in this context refers to a logical, reasoned case rather than an argumentative style. Apologetics includes both developing and sharing arguments – it is not a purely academic exercise conducted in an ivory tower, but a practical engagement with real people and real problems. (...) [T]he ultimate aims of apologetics are not to develop clever arguments but to see people led to faith and strengthened in their faith.’ 


I hope that this definition is helpful. It certainly was for me! Now we’ll dive into some of the fears and apparent obstacles that keep us from engaging with apologetics.


Fear/objection #1: Isn’t Christianity all about having faith? Shouldn’t my faith be strong enough for me (and others) to not need apologetics?


Jesus Himself said that ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed’ (John 20:29). Doesn’t this mean that a ‘real’ Christians should have faith regardless of the historical evidence… or potential lack thereof? And what about verses like Hebrews 11:1, which emphasises that faith is ‘the conviction of things not seen’? Aren’t apologists just Christians who lack the faith to believe in scripture by itself? 


Truth #1: Apologetics is FOUNDED on faith. 


I think that there are several things to consider when faced with these questions. First, let’s see what the Bible says about the defense of the faith.

In 2 Corinthians 10:5, the Apostle Paul writes, ‘[w]e demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.’ Jude 1:3 says: ‘[d]ear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people.’ You can also check out verses like Colossians 2:8 and Colossians 4:6. In the book of Hebrews, the Bible itself is described with martial, battle-esque language: God’s word is ‘living and active, sharper than any two edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart’. Evidently, the call to the defense of the faith is very present in the Bible.


Ironically, the writers of the Bible wanted to ensure that their readers could trust and believe in the gospel’s veracity. 1 John 1:1 says, ‘That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched – this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.’ He’s assuring his readers that he has seen, heard, and touched Jesus Christ. Likewise, the apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15: ‘Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures (...) he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures (...) he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles’. Luke 1:2 emphasises the same thing: namely, that eyewitness accounts are important in the Bible. 


There is absolutely a difference between faith and apologetics. In a sense, logical arguments and historical evidence (two things which I associate with ‘apologetics’) have nothing to do with conversion. Let’s remember apologetics itself is not what converts people---that’s something which only God can do. In Matthew 28:11-15, we read about how the Jewish leaders knew that Jesus had risen from the dead, just as He had said. They had all of the evidence right in front of them. But that didn’t matter to them. They didn’t care. Correspondingly, unless God has revealed Himself to me, no amount of intellectual knowledge or authentic proof will ever change my heart. 


However, just as God uses us---His jars of clay---to bring people to faith, so too can He use apologetics. If we Christians truly believe that God has the power to transform and call people to Himself, then we can trust that it is not the bare facts that bring people to Him. It’s God Himself who does this. And should He choose to use apologetics and apologists to do so, then we can (and should!) wholeheartedly rejoice in that. Moreover, let’s remember that apologetics is ALWAYS gospel-centred. It’s not built on anything else. In Acts 18:28, we read that Apollos ‘vigorously refuted his Jewish opponents in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Messiah.’ 


It’s also crucial to remember that we should not judge one another (see Luke 6:37-42). It’s not for us to say whether someone who was converted when watching an apologetics debate is ‘weaker’ or ‘less faithful’ than someone who was converted when reading the gospel of John. 


Fear #2: But what if I lose my temper? 


In high school, I often had ‘debates’ with my atheist friends. These debates quickly devolved into full-blown fights. My friend would say something hurtful about Christianity (e.g. ‘you Christians are delusional’), I would respond with something equally cruel, and we would ruthlessly begin to attack the other person’s beliefs. I felt victorious whenever I disproved the logic of their arguments; they felt triumphant whenever I fell silent. After a few months of going back-and-forth, neither of us enjoyed talking with each other.     


Truth #2: Apologetics is not an attack. 


Disclaimer: it’s okay to say no to specific individuals and conversations. In fact, I think that it’s important to say no, especially if you have begun to discern that this individual is more concerned with arguing (for the sake of arguing) than anything else. Titus 3:9 says, ‘...avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless.’ 


But I think that we Christians also need to hold ourselves accountable. Yes, it’s difficult to maintain composure when someone else presents their opposing arguments in an insulting, caustic, or derisive manner. But apologetics is not about us. It’s not about Audrey proving how much Audrey knows. So when my atheist friend begins to explain why she believes that God doesn’t exist, I need to remember that this is not ‘[her name] versus [my name]’. God calls me to apologetics for His glory. Not mine. Why else would I get so vexed and irritated? Because I didn’t want her or anyone else to think that I’m stupid or ignorant. Because I wanted people to respect and esteem me and my intellect. 


As you probably already know, it’s less about what we say; it’s more about how we say it. Regardless of whether my logic was perfect or my historical proofs were undeniable, my harsh tone and spiteful ‘victories’ did more to disprove the gospel work in my life. My atheist friend had read the Bible; she knew that Jesus had commanded His people to love others. Although my arguments may have been great, my self-defensive demeanor did little to recommend this gospel in her eyes. 


Fear #3: I’m not good at debating.


Again, I tend to consider ‘apologetics’ as the realm of great thinkers and high-profile speakers. Perhaps it’s your philosophy professor who challenges the existence of God, whose intellectual attack leaves you feeling stupid, small, and overwhelmed. Maybe it’s that group of friends from your chemistry lab. Or maybe it’s your own fear of presenting that prompts you to abandon apologetics. 


Truth #3: Apologetics isn’t only restricted to the debate or lecture hall---it can happen anywhere, with anyone.


The Bible says that we all have different gifts (1 Corinthians 12:7-11). So while your pastor may be great at standing in front of a crowd of people, passionately defending the faith, you may feel more in your element discussing the evidence for Christianity with a neighbour or friend. This, too, is apologetics. The value of our service for God is not measured quantitatively. In Matthew 17, Jesus Himself compares faith to a mustard seed: tiny and unassuming, yet still bearing of great spiritual fruit. 


I think that the real pitfall here is using individual strengths and weaknesses as an excuse to stagnate (and thereby potentially resist the Spirit’s work in our lives). Take myself as an example. I have a fear of public speaking and a love of writing expository essays. Will God use my talent for writing? Absolutely. But does He call me to also step outside of my comfort zone, to allow Him to transform that fear into faith? Yes. He does that, too. So while we must remember that apologetics is not restricted to a large-scale debate, I should also be open to the ways that God will glorify Himself through my incapabilities, mistakes, and dislikes.    


Here are some helpful resources (alongside your Bible, of course!) to guide you. These writers will be able to provide you with a far more in-depth, and likely far more adept, description of apologetics. 




  • The Case for Christ, Lee Strobel
  • The God I Don’t Understand, Christopher J.H. Wright 



What if you could be satisfied?

What if you could be satisfied?

‘Congratulations on your marriage. You’ll never be happy.’

In Hamilton the Musical, that's essentially what a secretly-regretful Angelica sings at the wedding of her sister, Eliza, to her beloved Alexander:

He will never be satisfied.
I will never be satisfied.

It’s rather inappropriate for a wedding speech, isn't it? And while we wouldn't let something so brutally honest slip out at so joyous an occasion, it does ring true: we're never happy. Not really, really. 

Not truly.

Angelica loses, and she’s dissatisfied. Okay, that's understandable, we reason. But Alexander gains - and he’s still dissatisfied. Oh, that doesn't make sense. He has it all - love, success, fame - but it's not and it never will be enough.

We're the same. We all want to be happy, of course. But we want more than just a 'I had fun last night' sort of happiness, or a 'things are going well at the moment' solace. We long to be deeply, lastingly fulfilled, to the core of our being. That's more than a flippant, fleeting happiness. We want a gladness that not only lasts us through the storms, but is founded on something more substantial than the sunshine.

We yearn to be satisfied.

Intellectually - for what we know to be enough.
Relationally - for who we know to be enough.
Personally - for who we are to be enough.

And I could go on. We long for acceptance and intimacy and belonging; for a limitless and unconditional love. We long for security and rest - to feel like we've come home. We long for freedom, for hope. For healing, for comfort. We long to be made clean and new, to be beautified and to gaze at beauty.

That yearning is behind everything we do. We're all on a quest to find whatever it is we're longing for, to settle the gnawing hunger within us. The problem is, none of us are really quite sure what that might be.

The American Declaration of Independence delineates that "among [men's rights] are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." It's only the pursuit though; we can chase after happiness all we want, but it's never quite caught. It's always just beyond our grasp.

Sure, we get a disappointing sort of buzz, but it's easily blown out by the gentlest of inconveniences, or else it fades with time. Our happiness is a temporary and fragile sort of thing - nothing more than a mirage in the desert. And those things that we search for joy in - relationships, popularity, sex, success, knowledge, image, morality, religiosity, stuff, our phones, anything - are first class liars, promising so much, but always failing to deliver.

Wasn't that supposed to make me happy? No, maybe I'm mistaken, of course it did, but I lost it, it slipped away again. And so we go on; we try again or we try something new - constantly seeking the next high, anything that'll distract us from our hunger pangs.

We're all desperately hungry. But terrifyingly insatiable. We'll devour whatever comes along, while trying to ignore the lingering fear that we may never be satisfied.

Non-working, free food and real bread

Things haven't changed much since the first century. In John 6, a crowd of people are on mission to quell their emptiness. Rightly - but wrongly - they think that Jesus is their guy. He has turned water to wine, healed the sick, fed over 5000 people, and then moved from Tiberius to Capernaum without using a boat! So they want to make him their king, and they're ready to use force.

When they catch up with Jesus, they try to figure him out. But Jesus has them figured out; "you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves," he says. In other words, 'you've seen the miracle, but missed the point. You want me because I gave you bread, and not because of what my bread-miracle communicates - what it tells you about me.'

The crowd wanted Jesus as a puppet king, a genie in a lamp, to magic up whatever it was they wanted (starting with more free food). They wanted a 'king' who would be at their service. They realised that Jesus could be useful - he could make them prosperous and wealthy and rid of the Romans. They wanted what Jesus could do for them, and not what Jesus was for them. You see, "Jesus did not come into the world mainly to give bread, but to be bread... He did not come to be useful, but to be precious." (John Piper).

Being incredibly kind, Jesus knows that what they want from him won't settle their hunger. He offers something far better:

"Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal."

'Don't work for mouldy bread - don't gorge yourself on things that will not satisfy you forever, on things that'll ruin you. Don't give yourself to the pursuit of fading, shallow happiness. Don't buy into the myth that fulfilment is found where it isn't. There's better bread to feast on - far better than anything else you've tried - that gives forever life and complete joy. What's more, you don't have to work for this food at all, because I'll give it to you, freely.'

Jesus echoes the words (about him) penned centuries before:

Come, everyone who thirsts,
    come to the waters;
and he who has no money,
    come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
    without money and without price.
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
    and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
    and delight yourselves in rich food.
Isaiah 55:1-3

The crowd ask, "what must we do, to be doing the works of God?" And Jesus replies, "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent."

At default, our hearts are inclined to work and to earn, because we hate to feel undeserving. But Jesus says, 'I don't want your work; the 'work' of God is non-work - 'belief' - leaning on the one that God has sent.'

This is the work - that you do no work. The 'work' is to rely on the one who was sent to do the work perfectly on your behalf. Jesus is the breadwinner - we were unable to earn satisfaction for ourselves, but Jesus lived and he died and he rose to provide forever bread for his starving people. Lasting fulfilment was earned and is gifted by him.

This is what we call the gospel, and it's completely different from anything else we're used to. Religion compels its adherents to earn the deity's favour by obedience, and so does secularism. Whatever we 'worship,' whatever we seek satisfaction in, ends up a slave-driver to which we give everything to; we strive to appease the god of appearance or romance or academia, but it never rewards us with what it promised.

We work for these 'idols,' but they end up robbing us, disappointing us, and leaving us just as empty as before. It doesn't really make sense, does it? You wouldn't work for no wage, you wouldn't spend money in a restaurant that didn't serve you food, you wouldn't try to drink from an empty, broken glass (Jeremiah 2:13). C.S. Lewis captured it well, writing:

It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

The problem is not that we are hedonistic pleasure-seekers and God is decidedly anti-joy. Not at all! The problem is that we seek delight in all the wrong places, when joy is found in knowing God.

The crowd respond, "Then, what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.' "

'Give us more evidence, and we'll believe you. Come on, give us a performance, impress us, like Moses. He fed our ancestors with bread from the sky - what can you do?'

The people are still missing the point of Jesus' miracle; they're obsessing over material bread when 'better bread' is being offered. They're rather like me - they want a show and they want stuff, but they don't want Him.

If Jesus didn't know it already, I guess he'd be glad that they brought up the whole manna topic. He says, "Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world."

'I'm greater than Moses, and I'm better than the bread given back then. My coming down is the most awe-inspiring miracle of all. The manna, the loaves that fed the 5000, every meal you eat - they're all shadows and signposts, pointing to me. Just as I filled your hungry stomachs, I fill empty hearts. I'm the true and better manna - I came down to be bread for my people, who are starved, dead in the desert without me.'

Frustratingly ignorant (like me!), the people are still looking for Jesus to rustle up more (material) bread. "Give us this bread always," they ask. And Jesus will reply, 'I have. I am.'

Like the crowd wanting the wrong bread, you and I don't know what's good for us. What we want, and what we think will be life-giving, just isn't. We fail to see that Jesus is the end to our search for satisfaction. He is the true bread,

For he satisfies the longing soul,
    and the hungry soul he fills with good things.
Psalm 107:9

Jesus says,

"I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst."

I think Jesus likened himself to bread, because it does 3 things:

1. Bread gives life

Bread is great (especially Hovis' Granary loaf - 10/10 would recommend. I was quite chuffed to bag it for €0.43 in the reduced isle of Tescos last week, but that's besides the point...)

In the ancient world, bread wasn't just nice, it was a necessary staple; you really couldn't live without it. So when Jesus says, 'I am the bread of life,' he doesn't mean that he's merely a healthy addition to an already balanced diet, he means 'You desperately need me. I am all that you need. Life is found in me alone.'

The Bible explains that without Jesus, we're really dead men/women walking, because sin = rejecting God = rejecting life = death.  And we all know that dead people are utterly gone, absolutely helpless; dead people can't make themselves alive.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ.
Ephesians 2:4-5

Death is no match for Jesus, the 'resurrection and the life.' Since I am joined to Jesus through faith, when he died, God buried my sin and deadness in the grave, and when Jesus rose again, I was pulled up out of the grave too. I've been brought to new, real life, that will never be taken away.

"Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.”

The manna merely prolonged the death of the Israelites; after all, it was only food, powerless to stop the inevitable. But Jesus has defeated death, by giving his life.

2. Bread fills

Unlike quick fixes of temporary, slight happiness, Jesus satisfies - fully and forever. Having him, you'll never hunger: you'll never need to look anywhere else for what your heart craves. In Jesus, we find acceptance and intimacy and belonging; a limitless and unconditional love. In Jesus is security and rest and home. In Jesus is freedom, hope, healing, comfort. In Jesus, we are beautified; made clean and new. In Jesus, we gaze at unparalleled beauty.

Paul said, "I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord" (Philippians 3:8).

In other words, nothing beats knowing Jesus. He is infinitely valuable, and everything else is rubbish, compared to having him as Rescuer and King.

We yearn to be fulfilled relationally - and having Jesus is enough; he pulls far-away rebels close to God, making them His children.

We strive to be satisfied intellectually - and knowing Jesus' crucifixion is enough; it's the deepest mystery, the most earth-shattering wisdom. (1 Corinthians 1:22-25)

We long to be contented personally - and being 'made right' by Jesus is enough; he makes the unacceptable welcome before God, taking their sin and transferring his perfection to them.

3. Bread sustains

Carbs give us energy, keeping us going during the day. And Jesus - the bread of life - keeps his people.

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.

This isn't to say that things don't get tough, but that in suffering or even the shame of sin, those who belong to Jesus know that he'll keep them forever, because it's his un-thwartable plan to preserve them. They are held secure in his irrevocable grip; nothing can snatch them away, nothing can separate them from his love. He won't ever let them go - he's promised to bring them home.

God is mind-blowingly committed to his people; He is so, so faithful. He won't ever lose interest or patience, and he'll never push away those who come to him. So come, because He'll have you. We're never too sinful for him to reject us.

I am what you eat

So how is Jesus the forever-life-giving, full-joy-providing, ever-sustaining bread that beats everything else?

"The bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh," he said.

Jesus is the bread of life because he was consumed on the cross.

He came down from heaven like manna and he died with his body broken like bread - so that we may feast and be filled, so that we may 'not die' but 'live forever.'

The people thought it was crazy. 'Is Jesus advocating cannibalism?' they wonder, offended that he would suggest something so contrary to the law.

The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”

What does it mean to eat and drink the body and blood of Jesus? Well, according to verse 35, coming to Jesus = eating, and believing in Jesus = drinking. ("Whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst").

So, to eat and drink means to come to Jesus for satisfaction of your soul-hunger, it means to take of and to claim his sacrifice as enough for your rescue.

True food and true drink - Jesus' broken body and shed blood are the most gladdening realities in the universe. His death in our place is what we need most.

So, what if there is real bread? What if Jesus satisfies?

My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
    and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
Psalm 63:5

You make known to me the path of life;
    in your presence there is fullness of joy;
    at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Psalm 16:11

The True Vine

The True Vine

An ancient Irish expression goes ‘níl aon tinteán mar do thinteán féin,’ translated as, ‘home is where the heart is.

I often associate ‘home’ with comfort - a place where I can completely be myself. For me, comfort comes in many forms; whether it is sitting on the sofa, watching a bit of Top Gear with my dad ft. a Chinese take-away, or in the form of a cheeky pint from the pav with the gals, after a day of hard work sweating it out in the Berkeley Pit (a personal fave). Or it comes from the absolute notions we indulge in over Christmas: sitting by the fire, bailey’s on tic, listening to my Granda going on about 'the good ole days.'

Today, we are addressing the final ‘I am’ statement that Jesus made: I am the true vine. In John chapter 15, from which this passage is found, we see the continuation of Jesus comforting His disciples. Jesus knows time is of the essence, as in the preceding chapters Jesus has been arrested, ridiculed and then crucified. The concept of the 'vine' would have been familiar to the disciples because in the Old Testament, Israel was often described as the vine - the nation that was deemed the children of God, the nation that God had freed from the Egyptians. The difference is that Jesus claimed to be the true vine:

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.
John 15: 1-7

The branches

This passage talks of two different types of branches; the branch that bears fruit and the branch that does not. This is symbolic of our own personal choice - to accept Christ or to reject Him. This may seem cut-throat, but when the question turns on how we are going to choose to spend eternity, there is simply no room for in between.

The branch that does not bear fruit

This is the sad reality for the branch that chooses to not live by relying on the vine. The vine in this instance provides the necessary nutrients that the branch needs to survive.

More than that, the branch cannot live without the vine. It has no life source and so it withers away and dies.

To put it bluntly, this choice to not live as part of the vine, is also a choice to not to enjoy life in the love and care that the gardener offers.

The branch that bears fruit

The second type of branch is one that does produce fruit. This branch continually relies on the vine to provide everything it could possibly need. Moreover, this branch is tentatively cared for by the gardener, who reflects our Heavenly Father.

The gardener prunes the branch. The act of pruning involves the removing of the unwanted or withered part of the branch, in order to encourage growth. In this same way, when we chose to accept Jesus as our Lord and Saviour, God 'prunes' us. This sounds a bit weird, but bear with.

See, sometimes life doesn’t make sense; it is confusing and hard and at times even painful. In those times, it isn’t that God is distant or doesn’t care, it is that He wants us to grow in our trust and likeness of Him. He wants a relationship with us.

At the cross we see a suffering God; we see a God that understands. At the cross we see a God who takes the wrath of our sin in order that we may be given grace - God’s riches at Christ’s expense.

The bigger picture

As the gardener sees the whole grapevine, so God sees the bigger picture. He is not limited to a finite human perspective, but rather an infinite, divine perspective that we never will fully be able to comprehend. Yet, when we look at Jesus, when we look at the claims he made, we are given an insight.

God always had a plan. His plan was one of total sacrifice and astonishing love.

The story gets even better…  

We are not left in our sin, shame or guilt. We are made perfect. The gardener sees the whole grapevine; it does not treat the vine and the branches as separate entities. Similarly, God sees us and Jesus as one.

Matthew 3:17 says, “this is my son, in whom I am well pleased.

The gardener delights in his garden and in his handiwork, as does God when He looks as us. He is well pleased with us.

Jesus made many bold, outrageous and audacious claims. The disciples (one of whom wrote this account) were prepared to sacrifice their lives in order to share the claims that Jesus made. I beg you to consider: would people all around the world, even today, be willing to sacrifice their own lives for something that they did not see as truth?

Maybe the thought of church or Jesus makes you ‘uncomfortable.’ You see Him as a outrageous, foolish, a master of trickery. Maybe you find it hard to ever see yourself as being friends with Jesus.

The reality is this - Jesus did not come to make us feel ‘comfortable’. He came to make us realise that we are selfish, power-craving, prideful sinners whose only hope is Him. The answer is not us. The answer is Him.

What if there is something more? What if you simply cannot ignore that nagging feeling in your soul that demands a response. There is a reason we perpetually question, a reason we continually look for things to give us satisfaction; our hearts yearn for something more. Therefore, you are faced with an ultimatum; to accept that Jesus is the true vine or to reject Him.  

Written by Rebekah, Senior Fresh, Law. 

What if there is life, here and now, and beyond?

What if there is life, here and now, and beyond?

Sometimes, college can be pretty busy and uncertain. I know that as I was settling in and finding my feet during the first semester, I had so many questions. These questions ranged from, “Can I eat pasta everyday... or should I maybe make something more nutritious?” to “How do I actually use the Luas?” to “Am I really in the right place here?” Our generation has so many options that sometimes it can actually be overwhelming to know what the right choice is. We often have questions and doubts.

The theme of our CU Events week has been “What If...?” and I wonder if you have some “What If...?” questions of your own? Perhaps they could be:

“What if I picked the wrong course?”
“What if I don’t pass this year?”

“What if I could have tried harder to fix that friendship/relationship? 

Or maybe you have other questions, and you keep repeating, “What if... what if... what if...

Well, I know a God who silences those “What If” questions with a statement that overshadows them all:

“You don’t have to wait for the End. I am, right now, Resurrection and Life. The one who believes in me, even though he or she dies, will live. And everyone who lives believing in me does not ultimately die at all. Do you believe this?”
John 11:25-26, MSG

What if there is another way to live that means that we can have freedom from our doubts and fears? Though we may have so many “What If” questions, and wonder if our life could have went differently if we’d made different choices, I believe in a God who meets us right where we’re at and tells us that we can have a full life now and forever. 

I believe in a God who meets us right where we’re at and tells us that we can have a full life now and forever.

The story I’m about to talk about is one of my favourites from the Bible. It’s taken from a book called John, Chapter 11 (verses 1-44). You can read it here! 

In summary, Jesus gets a message that one of his close friends, Lazarus, is ill and that Lazarus’ sisters (Mary and Martha) want Jesus to come and help. They live in a place called Judea and Jesus would have to travel for a few days to get there. However, Jesus strangely tells His disciples that He wants to wait for two days before leaving for Judea. By the time they arrive, Lazarus has been dead for four days already!

When Martha sees Jesus, she says that her brother wouldn’t have died if Jesus had been there. Jesus replies with the bold and amazing statement:

“I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this, Martha?”

Martha says that she does believe Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who has come into the world from God. 

When Jesus enters the village, He sees all the people mourning and consoling Mary and Martha, and He is deeply moved; the Bible even tells us that Jesus wept. It tells us that Jesus was “angry as he arrived at the tomb.” He asks for the stone rolled in front of the grave to be removed, and when this happens He looks into the sky and thanks God that He heard Him. Jesus says that He did this for the benefit of the people standing here, so that they may believe the Father sent Him. Then He proclaims the mighty words, “Unwrap him and let him go!” We aren’t told exactly what happens next, but I can only imagine that a party that was thrown!

Why am I telling this story? Well I guess it’s because this is the same Jesus who has changed my life and showed me that despite my “what ifs,” He gives hope for both the everyday and for the future, and I know that someday all my questions will be answered. But how does believing in Jesus help to answer our “what if” questions and help us to see that there is something beyond this life? 

1. What if there is a God who sees the details?

As you can see from this story, Jesus tells His disciples that He wants to leave it a couple of days before visiting His friend, who is very ill. Although we sometimes can’t understand why things happen in this world, this passage shows us that Jesus wanted to “bring glory” to God by performing a massive miracle. Although it didn’t make sense to the human mind, Jesus knew what He was doing. There may be things in life that are confusing you at the minute, but I have faith that God knows what He is doing even when I cannot see, and therefore I know that the “what ifs” aren’t what define me.

2. What if there is a God who cares about my pain?

The passage tells us that Jesus was actually angered over Lazarus' death and the mourning it caused. Sometimes we forget this extremely passionate side of Jesus, but the fact that death even existed stirred something up in Him which was displayed to those He encountered that day.

As the “Resurrection and the Life,” it is clear that Jesus flipped the world upside down by defeating death.

As well as this, we see that “Jesus wept” when he saw the grave. It seems strange that Jesus would weep when He knew that He was about to raise Lazarus to life again.

However, I find it a great comfort knowing that when we feel pain, God feels our pain too. Sometimes we can’t understand why bad things happen, but I take comfort in believing in a God who weeps for and with me, and you can too.

3. What if there is freedom from my fears?

With the words, “Unwrap him and let him go!” we can almost tangibly feel the immense freedom that there must have been that day.

I believe that, just like Lazarus, we can walk free from our grave as well – both in this life and forever.

What if there is life?
I believe in the God who raised Lazarus.

What if there is life, here and now?
I believe that God cares about your present.

What if there is life, both here and now - and beyond?
I believe that God can give you a future free of fear.

These songs kind of summarise what I’ve been trying to say in this post:
You Came
Glorious Day

Written by Anna, Junior Fresh, Music education. 

What if there's only one way?

What if there's only one way?

Check out John 14:1-14!

Where Is The Escape Hatch?

If you ask my parents, I was not always the easiest of children to deal with. I was lazy, tempered and very often downright disobedient. I remember one late night saying goodbye to some guests who had come over. Everyone made their way inside, but for some strange reason I thought the wing mirror of my mum’s car looked as attractive as the monkey bars in the local playground. Swinging to and fro, I was happy as larry. Until snap. And I knew in that moment trouble was imminent. I thought to myself, "is there a way out of this?" What excuse could justify this? "Mum, I ran into it by accident, I swear." I desperately wanted to find an escape hatch; to make things easier, to comfort me in the situation. 

The way I felt that evening is quite similar to how I feel encountering the extremely controversial claims of Jesus. I want to tuck them away in a neat box and store them in the attic for a long, long time. In the book of John, Jesus proclaimed, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Surely Jesus does not mean he is the only way? Where is the exit? Is there an escape hatch?!? 

I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
John 14:6

Recently, I came across these words: “Nothing is more nauseating to contemporary youth than hypocrisy, and nothing more attractive than sincerity.” I write here with sincerity, honesty and heart, for this unswerving truth of Jesus is not only for me to know; I am called to tell it to all. I am not going to brush aside this man Jesus, who has transformed my life.

The Elephant In The Room:

“All religions are just the same, they are different paths to God. None of them have the whole truth.”

Usually, what follows this statement is the analogy of the elephant (truth) and blind men (world religions). The idea here is that religions are akin to blind men feeling various parts of the elephant. While they blindly feel the elephant, they attempt to determine what it is like. One man feels the tail - “an elephant is like a rope!” Another feels the leg and says, “it is like the trunk of a tree.” Gripping the trunk, another man expounds, “it is like a snake!” And so the analogy goes on, asserting that the blind men are all right, to some degree; they are each witnessing some part of the truth. “No religion has the whole truth.

"Really?" That's my first response. How exactly are you certain of that? Have you thoroughly investigated every religion in existence? Do you have access to the whole truth, in order to make such a judgment about no religion containing the whole truth? Can you see the entire elephant, and the blind men? I think James Anderson highlighted the issue best: “the more pertinent question isn’t whether any religion has the whole truth, but whether the central and defining claims of any particular religion are in fact true.

This is where the distinctiveness of Christianity is expressed. As a Christian, I do not claim to know the whole truth. I am a messed up, finite and limited being. However, Christians do not make exclusive claims on the basis of our own knowledge, but on the basis of Christ’s. As soon as you claim that no one has the absolute truth, then you yourself have made a wide, sweeping, all-encompassing, absolute truth claim that must be justified.

In making the truth claim that Jesus is the only way, truth and life, my assertion rests on a source of knowledge that is fixed, complete, and all-encompassing. Christianity fits into the above analogy by claiming that God sees the whole elephant. In fact, He is the source of all truth and knowledge. God has revealed Himself to us through the Bible and ultimately in Jesus. Nobody backed up their own claims more than Christ. So, ask yourself, “Do I have such a source of knowledge? Where do I look to?” If you are unsure, I lovingly point to Jesus - the true source, the only way. While intellectual discussion can be stimulating, the relational reality of our humanity demands something more.

God sees the whole elephant. In fact, He is the source of all truth and knowledge. God has revealed Himself to us through the Bible and ultimately in Jesus.

What If Truth Was Relational? 

John wrote his gospel with two main aims in mind: that those who read might believe in Jesus and that you may have life to the full in his name (John 20:28-30). You might think that I am narrow-minded, short-sighted and intolerant to claim Jesus as the only way to God. But this claim was first uttered from the mouth of Christ, therefore I must be on borrowed narrow-mindedness and intolerance, because these are Jesus' claims, not mine. 

However, when you read about Jesus in the four Gospels, you never encounter a narrow-minded, intolerant, conceited man. Rather, Jesus is humble, wide-hearted, inclusive, compassionate, full of grace and truth.

We might speculate that Jesus communicated these exclusive words before great leaders or in the public square. Was this some sort of all-out declaration to usurp the Roman Empire? 

No. Jesus brought these words before his dearest friends to comfort and console them. In a private dialogue, intimately gathering with his dearly beloved disciples (those 12 lads who followed him around), Jesus spoke into fear and anxiety. What caused all this tension? The disciples are panicking as one of their fellow disciples has just left as a traitor (John 13:21-30), Jesus has revealed he will be leaving for good (John 13:33) and Jesus informs the great disciple, Peter, that he will deny Jesus three times (John 13:36-38). This is the height of tension, angst and despair for the disciples. 

And Jesus says, “Let not your hearts be troubled.” He assures the disciples of the provision of the Father. God’s house does not have rooms reminiscent of the ‘Sleep-Eazy Motel’ in the Simpsons; rats, cobwebs, and poor maintenance are not the disciples' destination. Rather, a place of rest and peace, without any suffering, is what Jesus secures in the Father’s house for those who believe in him (John 14:2).

Jesus also promises to bring those who trust him there. He won’t be sitting around waiting for us to claw our way to heaven. He will come back and bring us himself. (John 14:3).

Thomas then asks the question, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?" (John 14:5). Into the fear, uncertainty and anxiety of the disciples, Jesus replies, “You know the way, because you know me. I am sufficient for you.”

Are you disorientated? Jesus is the way. Are you confused? Jesus is the truth? Are you fearful? Jesus is the life. The good news of Christianity is that Jesus - the truth himself - seeks intimate and faithful relationship with those who trust in Him. But this just expresses pieces of the puzzle. Where does this caring Christ fit into the bigger picture?

"You know the way, because you know me. I am sufficient for you.” Are you disorientated? Jesus is the way. Are you confused? Jesus is the truth? Are you fearful? Jesus is the life.

The Bigger Picture Underlying It All:

You might be at a point where you think, “look, if Jesus is the only way to salvation, then why the whole having to die on the cross?” The answer is that God is more holy than we comprehend, and we are more sinful than we assume.

In this world, we have people constantly crying out for goodness and moral honour. However, this world is full of compromises and cheats. There is something deep within us that calls out, “this is not the way things should be! Where is the justice, fairness and goodness?” In the Bible, we find God that answers this cry. God’s central quality is His holiness - He alone is absolutely good and right about everything. He is distinct and perfect, separate from all other beings. Holiness describes the incomprehensible greatness and awesomeness of God. 

In contrast, from the inside out, human beings desire the things of self, not of God. Humanity turned its back on God at the start. This turning from God and relying on ourselves is called sin. Tim Keller argued, “the real cultural war is taking place inside our own disordered hearts, wracked by inordinate desires for things that control us, that lead us to feel superior and exclude those without them, and that fail to satisfy us even when we get them.

Sin leads to death and separation from God. We are all lawbreakers, and those who break the law deserve punishment. So, if God is holy and sin is our main problem, what is the solution?

Christianity is profoundly different from all other religions when it comes to attaining salvation. The solution is Jesus - his brutal and gruesome death on the cross. Jesus went to the cross in order for us to be reconciled to God; he took the punishment that we deserved. Therefore, God accepts us into heaven on the basis of what Jesus has done, not our own efforts or understanding. The difference is grace; no other religion expresses grace so unfathomable and unconditional, that welcomes us into the Father's arms and calls us to follow Him.

The solution is Jesus. Jesus went to the cross in order for us to be reconciled to God; he took the punishment that we deserved. Therefore, God accepts us into heaven on the basis of what Jesus has done, not our own efforts or understanding. The difference is grace.

In The Cross of Christ, John Stott sums it up well. He writes,

“the essence of sin is we human beings substituting ourselves for God, while the essence of salvation is God substituting himself for us. We… put ourselves where only God deserves to be; God… puts himself where we deserve to be.”

Likewise, Randy Newman observes, “the only way to get to heaven is by accepting a gift (grace) - not by earning a reward. That’s humble. Thinking you deserve to go to heaven is arrogant.”

What If We Need A Saviour? 

The world tells us many things. Its constant bombardment of information is downright confusing. I will conclude with the words of Albert Mohler, a man whom I deeply respect for his defence of the Christian faith:

If all we need is a teacher of enlightenment, the Buddha will do. If all we need is a collection of gods for every occasion and need and hope, Hinduism will do. If all we need is a tribal deity, then any tribal deity will do. If all we need is a lawgiver, Moses will do. If all we need is a set of rules and a way of devotion, Muhammad or Joseph Smith will do. If all we need is inspiration and insight into the sovereign self, for crying out loud, Oprah will do. But if we need a saviour, only Jesus will do.

Consider Christ’s claim: “I am the way, the truth and the life.” Delve deeper into John’s gospel to uncover more about the man who has died for you.

What if Jesus is the only way? Find out for yourself if Jesus’ claims hold true. After all, you have nothing to lose.


Written by Andrew Burke, TCD alumni.

A Shepherd and His Sheep

A Shepherd and His Sheep

Check out John 10:1-21!

A Shepherd

The future is so often shrouded in uncertainty. At any one time, there is such a vast range of paths ahead of us and it is rare that any one of them is ever the obvious one to choose. Throughout life, we have so many decisions to make and so many hurdles to overcome when making them. How helpful it would be to have a map; a guide showing us the path to happiness and satisfaction.

Common to all people are the desires for acceptance and security. We all want to belong somewhere, to be cared for, to feel safe. We try to make decisions that will give us these things. But if only we had something to follow. If only there was someone who we could always rely on to give us security and a place to belong—someone who could show us the way to go; to guide us as a shepherd guides his sheep.

Farming sheep in modern-day Ireland is hardly comparable to the occupation of a shepherd in first century Israel. Although the main duties of such a person have not changed much—to lead the sheep, feed them, protect them from danger, care for them when they are weak, and seek them out when they are lost—the methods employed to carry out such tasks are quite different.

In Bible times, being a shepherd was both riskier and more demanding; requiring the shepherds to watch over their flocks both day and night. Whether lions, wolves, or rustlers were coming to steal or destroy, the shepherd had a choice to make; to deliver the flock from the danger or to run away and preserve his own life. The sheep depended on the shepherd. Without him, they would be scattered, lost, attacked, or killed.

The Bible records one instance where Jesus, travelling by boat, landed on the shore where He was met by a large crowd waiting for Him. As Jesus looked upon all the people, His heart went out to them.

He had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So He began teaching them many things.
Mark 6:34

When He was on this earth, Jesus referred to Himself in many ways—adopting many different titles. In the gospel of John, chapter 10, He is recorded as saying "I am the Good Shepherd."

In history, there have no doubt been many good shepherds, even many excellent shepherds. But here, Jesus claims to be “the” Good Shepherd. Jesus looks out on humanity, sees wandering flocks of helpless sheep who have so many unmet needs, and uses this illustration of Himself as a shepherd to teach us about His deep care for those who are of His sheepfold; those who choose to follow Him.

What particular qualifications make Him superior to other shepherds? What makes Him particularly suitable for such a role?

The Bible teaches that Jesus is not only the Son of God, but God Himself, and, as the eternal creator of the universe—sovereign over all things and perfect in power, in love, in majesty, and in mercy—Jesus knows everything about you. He knows your needs. He knows your past, your desires, your secrets, your mistakes, faults, failings, hopes, and dreams. He knows the deep-seated fears of your heart, your disappointments, insecurities, frustrations, struggles, sorrows, and joys. He knows everything you’ve ever done, everything you’ve ever thought, and said. What other shepherd could know His sheep so well?

As the Good Shepherd, He promises that He will never abandon His sheep in the way that a hired hand—one who does not own the sheep—might when trouble comes. He promises that those in His flock can be assured of security, blessing, and life. So, He says “come”. He invites you to come into His sheepfold—to join His flock—to be led, guarded, comforted, and protected by Him.

A Sheepfold

But there is only one door into His sheepfold. We encounter many doors in life and find ourselves standing on many doorsteps. They often have different signs; such as “Private”, “No Entry”, or “Closed.” The door on Jesus’ sheepfold says “Come in” to all who find it. How do we enter through this door?

Jesus doesn’t say that the door is the good things we do. Nor does He say that it is who or what we are, or how successful we have been. No, Jesus says, “I am the door; whoever enters through Me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.”

What does Jesus mean when He calls Himself “the door”?  How will those who go through that door be “saved”? Saved from what?

The Bible teaches that God is perfect and holy; that His standard is perfection and nothing less than that can come into His presence. It teaches that “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way.” (Isaiah 53:6).

Every person that has ever lived has done wrong things, big and small. None of us can live in a way that pleases God; not you, not I, not anyone. None of us can attain the required perfection and so, we all deserve to be judged according to these wrong actions—eternally separated from God. None of us deserve to be in God’s sheepfold.

If this is true, then what hope can the Good Shepherd offer? Why invite us to the door if we cannot enter?

A Sacrifice

An average shepherd might risk his life for his sheep in a way that a hired hand who does not own the sheep would likely not. A good shepherd might risk his life to the extent that it results in his accidental death. If so, he would likely be remembered as noble and brave - but left unprotected, the sheep would be scattered and destroyed. But Jesus, being “the” Good Shepherd, “lays down his life for the sheep.”

He lays it down as an intentional and voluntary act in order to save the life of His sheep. He dies in their placeinstead of them.

This is what Jesus did on the cross when He died. Willingly, out of His love and mercy, He gave His life for undeserving people like you and I, taking the punishment that they are due and accounting His own perfection to them. The verse above—“We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way”—concludes with the assurance, “and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6).

But the good news doesn’t end there.

Jesus says, “I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again.” (John 10:18). Three days after His death, Jesus came back to life, completing the task for which He had been sent into this world.

Since Jesus had lived a perfect life he did not deserve to die. By Jesus dying in the place of His sheep, God made a way for them to be forgiven. In this way, Jesus is the door into the sheepfold; the door of salvation to new life, full life, and eternal life for all who come to Him and trust in what he has done.

A Summons

We all have plans and aspirations for the future. Whether that lucrative career, that perfect family, that thrilling adventure, or that intimate relationship, we all desire to obtain or achieve something. As students we are generally quite hopeful and optimistic about life.

But what if life doesn’t work out as you envision it? What if expectations fail and dreams crumble? What will you do when you are dragged through the thorn bushes of heartbreak or fall into the trench of loss and despair? Who will pull you out? Who will care for you when the storms of sorrow whip around you or a drought dries up your resources? Where will you turn when relationships break down, friends desert you, finances fail, or health declines; when life leaves you empty, lonely, and discouraged?

In such times there is no shortage of shepherds to choose from; each offering their own unique solution, oft-times conflicting with the others. How can you know which way to turn?

Jesus, the Good Shepherd, says, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
Matthew 11:28

His voice is a sure, clear voice; a voice that you can always trust. The door to the sheepfold has two sides—the inside and the outside. It is not enough to stand on the doorstep and peek in. He is calling sheep to join His fold; to be led, guarded, comforted, and protected by Him. It is a life-changing call.

Each one of us has so many concerns, uncertainties, insecurities, and fears in our lives, but Jesus promises that those who come to Him, cast their hope on Him, and trust in what He has done on the cross will “have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)

Jesus doesn’t promise that the Christian life will be one without troubles or sadness but promises to be right by His sheep’s sides in all such trials, comforting them and giving them strength. He doesn’t promise wealth or material abundance but promises that He will provide enough for each day and promises the joy, peace, and satisfaction of being one of His own. He doesn’t promise that His sheep will never find themselves in difficulties but promises that He is sovereign over all such difficulties and that such exist for their good. He doesn’t promise that His sheep will never face harm but promises the sure hope and security of life after death.

Jesus loves His sheep with an everlasting love. It is for His sheep that He left heaven's glory. It is for His sheep that He lived on this earth in human form. And it is for His sheep that he died and rose again—to bring them to God.

When they go astray, He brings them back. When they are too weak to walk, He carries them. He never neglects, never forgets, and never loses his sheep.

Nothing compares to having Jesus, the Good Shepherd—the Best Shepherd.

No shepherd ever gave Himself to his calling as Christ did. But you can only know Him as this good shepherd if you enter through the only door into His fold - the door that is not our good deeds, or our praying, or obeying, or anything we can do or be—the door that is only entered by believing and depending on what Jesus has done in His death and resurrection.

Jesus promises, “whoever comes to me I will never drive away.”
John 6:37

Listen to the voice of the gentle shepherd. Come to Him. Belong to Christ. He is the only One who can save, satisfy, and keep you.

A Psalm

“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
He leads me beside quiet waters, He refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths for His name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely Your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.”
Psalm 23

Written by Samuel, Senior Sophister Law

What if Jesus is who he said he is?

What if Jesus is who he said he is?

Once upon a time… wait, that’s how we start fairytales. Let me try again.

Around 29 CE, a poor, Jewish, ex-refugee craftsman from a rough city in Palestine rose from relative obscurity to national notice. Within decades, his fame had spread across the Roman Empire and far beyond. Some two thousand years later, people are still talking about him.

It is undeniable that Jesus of Nazareth historically existed. The impact that a single man – on the public stage for all of three years – made on the world is remarkable. It is all the more surprising when you consider his huge claims, and the price he paid for making them.

Claiming to be God today would probably invite ridicule, but claiming to be God in the first century meant state-sanctioned death. Jesus ended up strung up on a Roman cross – the torturous method of capital punishment reserved for criminals. To those who orchestrated his arrest, it seemed rather ironic: he who claimed to be the promised, rescuing King, now a naked, bloodied spectacle struggling for breath, unable to save even himself. To those who followed him, it was the ultimate letdown; an unrecoverable, humiliating defeat.

But, less than seventy-two hours later, a group of insignificant, without-a-voice women started spreading word that Jesus had risen from the dead. Naturally unconvinced, Jesus’ scoffing companions soon encountered the evidence for themselves – they saw Jesus with their own eyes, touched him with their own hands, spent nearly six weeks together with him – and they too began unashamedly announcing that Jesus had beaten death by dying, then rising. Just days before, they had abandoned ship and went into hiding – for it would be altogether pointless and self-destructive to identity with a failure of a rescuer, an embarrassment of a ‘god.’ Yet now – remarkably – they were unconcerned by the consequences of being associated with Rome and the religious establishment’s most recent ‘executionee.’ Indeed, over five hundred people – at once – witnessed the once dead, now alive God-man. Skeptics, opponents, devout Jews, committed pagans – those who didn’t want to believe it was true and those who adamantly denied it – all became persuaded of his resurrection, so much so that most chose to endure abuse, exile, even death rather than deny what they knew. There was nothing else to gain if it was a lie; no social leverage, no political sway, no material benefit. What’s more, the empire that ruled over an estimated sixty-five million people at its height was rendered incapable of quashing the movement. Why? They couldn’t find the body.

If the resurrection is true, then all that Jesus said is true – then Jesus is who he said he is. If the resurrection is false, then none of it matters, and Jesus pulled off the greatest fraud in all of history. Finding out is hugely, supremely important – I’d say necessary, because if Jesus is who he said he is, and if Jesus conquered death, it changes everything for us. Rather than merely inheriting what our upbringing, education, society, social circle or religion has told us, I maintain that we all should have the freedom, resolve and courage to think through, question and critically examine our views and beliefs for ourselves. Therefore, I challenge you to investigate – with the highest scrutiny – what really happened to the man who said he was God. As well as this, I invite you to look at what sort of God Jesus claimed to be. I think you’ll be surprised, for he’s completely different from other gods, and certainly nothing like I expected God to be like. Over the next week, that’s what we’ll be doing on this blog. Join us in looking at the seven ‘I am’ statements of Jesus – images that he used to describe himself – recorded in John’s biography of Jesus:

I am the bread of life. I am the door of the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I am the way, and the truth, and the life. I am the resurrection and the life. I am the light of the world. I am the true vine.

These are a lot more than abstract, seemingly arrogant claims. They tell us who Jesus is, and what he came to do. They are also much more bold than they appear on the surface. Why?

When Jesus says ‘I am…’ he is saying that he is God.

In the Old Testament, when Moses asked God for His name, God replied, ‘YHWH,’ meaning, ‘I am.’ It seems rather odd – when we define ourselves, we say, ‘I am [this],’ and ‘I am [that],’ but God simply says, ‘I am.’ Period.

Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I am has sent me to you.’”
Exodus 3:13-14

I am. I am existent. I am self-sufficient; dependent on nothing, defined by no one else. I am eternal, I am unchanging. I am the origin; all stems from me, all relies on me. I am absolute. I am limitless. I am incomprehensible. I am who I am.

And then Jesus shows up, promising forever life to his followers. Some of his most avid opponents – the religious elite – ask, ‘Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?’ He replies (mic drop style), ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.’ Horrified by such an audacious claim, they pick up stones to kill him. (John 8:48-59).

Jesus is God-revealed.

God is unseeable, for He is so infinitely glorious.
And we are blind to His stunning beauty, for we have rejected and rebelled against Him.

We are incapable of knowing God relationally, for sin makes us stuck, far out from him. And we’re incapable of knowing him intellectually, for we misconceive his character, imagining a god of our own making.

But. God. God loves to make Himself known to those who are not able, who do not deserve, and who do not even want to know Him. How?

God has made Himself known through Jesus – the image of the invisible God – the full display of His magnificence. (Colossians 1:15, Hebrews 1:3).

In Christ, God has stepped down and become seeable.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.
John 1:14, 18

God the Son stooped to earth, in skin and bones. He stooped further, to the cross, and then right down to the grave. So, if you want to know what God looks like, look at Jesus. You’ll find Him stunning.

God showcases His infinite, immeasurable worth through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus: His total perfection, His incomparable wisdom, His unmatchable power, His unfathomable love and His incredible justice – all unveiled in Jesus.

Through Jesus, I not only know what God is like (intellectually), but I know God (relationally). For God has removed my isolating, disconnecting sin, (at his death, Jesus claimed it as his own), considered me faultless, good, acceptable, (Jesus’ perfect life is counted as my own), and brought me close (God has made me His own); I’ve been pulled into His family, His kingdom and His unending joy.

Discovering who Jesus is transformed who I am.


Jesus is God-revealed. So when he defined himself, he didn’t stop at ‘I am.’ He went on to say, ‘I am the bread,’ ‘I am the light,’ ‘I am the life.’ Jesus was saying, ’I am God, and this is what I – God – am like. This is what I – God – have come to be, and to do, for you.

I am God – your satisfaction:
I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. (John 6:35).

I am God – your means of belonging and security and joy:
I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. (John 10:9)

I am God – your defender, your replacement sacrifice:
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. (John 10:11)

I am God – your every need met, your every desire fulfilled:
I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)

I am God – your unquenchable, forever life:
I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. (John 11:25-26).

I am God – your defeater of darkness, your remover of guilt, your eye-opener:
I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. (John 8:12).

I am God – your source of life, your fount of love:
I am the vine; you are the branches. (John 15:5)

Big claims from a big name. So, what if it was all true? What if Jesus is who he said he is?

Written by Sarah, Junior Fresh, English and Jewish & Islamic Civilisations (TSM)