If Ye Continue in My Word, then are Ye My Disciples, Indeed!

If Ye Continue in My Word

© 2022 C. O. Bishop

John 8:30-32, 36

Introduction:

We can see that, in the previous verses, there was a division forming amongst the Jews. The “better educated” (and proud) Pharisees, along with the Scribes, the Levites, and the Priesthood all tended to reject Jesus: He wasn’t one of them!

The less-educated, usually less prosperous people, because of the miracles, were increasingly aware that He was actually doing something. There was substance to His ministry! The other leaders “talked a good fight,” but mainly excelled in taking the money and the flocks of the poor.

Jesus was actually teaching people to know God. The Priests, the Scribes, and the Pharisees said that was what they were doing, but in fact only laid heavier and heavier burdens of Law-keeping on the people. That only left them further away than ever, knowing their inability to walk in the Holiness of God. But Jesus pointed out, in front of all the people, that the Scribes and Pharisees made no attempt to lift that load themselves. (Matthew 23:4 “For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.”)

As a result of this division growing among them, many of the people had begun to truly believe in Jesus (verse 30.)

30 As he spake these words, many believed on him.

But notice the change in verse 31.

Speaking to Believers

Jesus is no longer speaking to unbelievers: He is speaking to believers! This is an important shift: To the unbelievers, He had just warned, “Ye shall seek me, and shall die in your sins.”

But to these new, baby believers, He had a different admonition: He did not warn of a coming judgment, but rather exhorted them to move forward from being just believers, and to become disciples.

31 Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;

Being born again does not guarantee that a person will become a disciple; a follower of Jesus. We are called to follow Jesus. We are called to be obedient to His Word. We are called to feed on His Word, as newborn babies nurse hungrily to obtain their mother’s milk. (1st Peter 2:2)

We are called to continue in His Word: press on to maturity, following Him as dear children, but growing as we feed on His Word, to become the mature believers He calls us to become, teaching others, functioning as ambassadors, and shining as lights in this dark world.

What happened when they believed? What changed?

Back in John 1:12, we saw that people who believed on His name became children of God. In John 3:3, and  John 3:14-16, Jesus told Nicodemus that unless he (Nicodemus) was born again, he was not going to enter into the Kingdom of God. Nicodemus was confused by that, so Jesus reminded him of the account of Moses making the bronze serpent in the desert. (You can read all about it in Numbers 21:5-9.)

He was told to hang it up high on a pole, so everyone could see it. God’s promise was that if anyone was bitten by one of the thousands of deadly snakes He had sent to punish them for sin, they were to look to that serpent on the pole and they would not die. They were still sinners; they still had the bite marks on their leg, but they were not going to die of that bite. Jesus explained to Nicodemus that, in the same manner, those who looked to Him in faith, would escape the eternal judgment of God.

Changed Permanently

When we first believed, the judgment of eternal separation from God in the lake of fire was permanently lifted and we became children of God. That has permanently put you into the family of God. But if you want to be a working part of the “Family Business,” reaching out to see precious souls rescued from that final judgment on sin, then it requires that you get out of your “comfort zone” and follow Jesus!

Peter was called several times, before he finally broke free from his old life and faithfully served Jesus. John Mark was rejected for service by Paul, because of an uncommitted life: Because of unreliability. But “Uncle Barnabas” stepped in, took John Mark under his wing, so to speak, and made a disciple of him. (You can read all about that in Acts 15:36-39. Incidentally, John Mark is the fellow we know as Mark, the writer of the Gospel according to Mark.) You see, people have to grow into being a mature disciple. They aren’t “born that way,” as a rule.

Position versus Condition

The position of these believers changed forever, the moment they placed their faith in Jesus as their Messiah. They were permanently saved, just like the thief on the Cross. But once that position has been secured, the focus changes.

Throughout a pregnancy, all of the mother’s family and friends are solicitous for the health of the mother and baby, and a safe delivery. Once the child is born, however,the focus begins to change! Now they are watching the child grow and develop into a walking, talking, strong and mature human being. They feel joy to see that child increasing in size, strength and ability.

Jesus was refocusing their attention on the next step: Becoming disciples. Their position in His family was secure forever, but in order to see and understand that security, they needed to begin feeding on the Word and walking in the Word and Growing in the Word. That would change their condition.

They would grow into a knowledge of Christ that was more and more full. Then they could know the freedom from fear and the confidence that comes with a stable walk with God. They could become free of the entangling sins that once tormented them. Your condition can change, for better or for worse. Your position in Christ is secure forever, from the moment you trusted Him as your Savior.

Knowing the Truth

32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

This verse has been misused by believers and unbelievers alike, for different reasons. The believers claim that if you know (as a fact), that the Bible is true, then you will be free (from the ravages of sin.) The unbelievers say the opposite, that if you know (as a fact) that the Bible is a collection of myths and fairytales, then you will be free from the slavery to a mythical God.

The issue, in both cases, is that the word in this verse, which has been translated as “know,” is a form of the Greek word “gnosko.” It specifically means a relational, growing, experiential knowledge of a person or a concept…not simply “accepting something as a fact.”

Jesus was inviting the people to get to know Him! Verse 36 confirms this, saying “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” Later on, Jesus will confirm that He, Himself is the Truth (John 14:6.)

How can we relationally know Jesus well enough to be “Free?”

The Christian experience is called “walking” for several reasons, but primarily because it is not “gliding, or coasting.” We have to “march along,” one step at a time, every day, in order to “walk with Jesus.” Sometimes it may feel as though all we are doing is “plodding.” It is not always exciting, nor will it always feel “fun.” It requires effort on our part, if for no other  reason, just because it is hard to maintain faith when we are under constant attacks on our faith.

The World Hates Jesus

I find it interesting that the World does not attack the cults in this way. It doesn’t care about them. It does not attack myths, or superstitions in this way: it doesn’t care about them.

It attacks the Gospel and the Person of Christ: because the Gospel is true, and the Jesus Christ we serve is not only our Savior, but is also the Judge of all the Universe! The World hated Jesus and it hates us along with Him.

No one is attacking Islam, or constantly mocking it. They are afraid to do so. Look what happened to Salman Rushdie! 33 years after he was foolish enough to publish a book of satire, mocking Mohammed, and 33 years after some Imam wrote a “Fatwah” against him (putting a contract out on him) he was attacked in public by a Muslim man with a knife…and has at least lost an eye…and still may die of his other wounds.

No one is going out of their way to attack the many “Swamis and Gurus” coming out of India to claim an “inside connection to God” and get rich off of foolish Americans. Unless they break some law and can be prosecuted for that, the fact is, no one cares!

No one is going out of their way to attack the Hari Krishnas…why? Because they are part of the “comfortable darkness of this world” and the world simply doesn’t care about them.

Called to Walk

We are called to “walk by faith.” We are also told that “If we walk in the light as He is in the Light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son, cleanseth us from All Sin.” (1st John 1:7) We are called to shine as lights in the darkness…and the darkness does not appreciate it!

We are called to Walk with Jesus! And, as we do so persistently, in that, after the world has tripped us, or dragged us down, we keep on “getting up and walking again,” we “get to know Jesus.” As we walk with Him, we gain experiential, relational knowledge of the Person of Christ, of His Love, His Forgiveness, His Faithfulness, and His Truth.

We get to see, personally, how Jesus keeps His promises. And as our faith grows, we become increasingly free of the baggage of our old sins, and free from the “twin, yapping dogs” of self-condemnation and guilt. We learn to set aside our old sin nature, and to rejoice that Jesus has lifted the Curse of the Law, taking it off of our shoulders completely, and bearing it all on Himself at the Cross. We find that we are truly made Free. We are free to serve Him out of Love and gratitude.

Not a “Self-Help Scheme”

This is not something we can “plan out and accomplish on our own:” In John 15:5, Jesus said, “…apart from Me ye can do nothing.” It was the simple truth: We are facing invisible enemies in a universe we do not understand, and attempting to function in what is effectively a “maze,” most of which we cannot see at all. The only thing we can do is walk by faith!

We can’t decide for ourselves to “become wise:” We can obediently study and meditate upon God’s Word and He can begin to change our foolish hearts so that we become wise: but God’s Word accomplished the change, not us!.

When we choose to walk with Jesus, we begin to discover what He has chosen for us to do. As we continue walking with Him, we discover the Joy of being part of His work, in the fellowship of the Gospel.

Only to Believers

The promise in John 8:32 is only to believers. To unbelievers, the invitation remains: “Whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish.” And “Whosoever will, let Him come!”

Once you have been born again, the call is to immerse yourself in His Word, and continue in His Word, so as to become true disciples, and to be set free from your old slavery to Sin and fear. An unbeliever cannot receive that, without first being Born again into God’s family. That is when spiritual life begins, from God’s perspective. But believers are called to Feed, to Walk, and to Grow.

Lord Jesus, we ask for Your Grace to be poured out upon us. Transform our hearts through Your Word. Change us into Your likeness, and allow us to be Your representatives, here on Earth. Change our hearts so that we may shine as lights in the World.

When Ye Have Lifted up the Son of Man

When Ye Have Lifted up the Son of Man

© 2022 C. O. Bishop

John 8:21-30; (John 8:21, 22; John 8:23-27; John 8:28-30)

Introduction

Last week we examined Jesus’s observation that the Pharisees and their group did not know anything about the Father or the Son: They lacked even a rudimentary knowledge about His Character and His Person, let alone any sort of personal, relational or experiential knowledge.

Obviously, this proud, supposedly well-educated group of Pharisees did not want to hear such things, and they were not going to take it lightly. As we saw back in John 7: 32, 45, 46, they really wanted to have him arrested and done away with…but they had been unable to do so. We saw last week, in John 8:20 that the reason they were unable to arrest Him is that He was the One in control: They could not lay hands on Him, because His hour was not yet come.

And, in the meantime… Jesus was not done telling them “what’s what!” He let them know the consequences of their unbelief.

I go My Way and Ye shall Seek Me.

John 8:21, 22

21 Then said Jesus again unto them, I go my way, and ye shall seek me, and shall die in your sins: whither I go, ye cannot come. 22 Then said the Jews, Will he kill himself? because he saith, Whither I go, ye cannot come.

Jesus led up to a challenge, of sorts, and a prophecy concerning the near future. He told them that He would be leaving, and that they would seek Him. Jesus said they would die in their sins, not having found Him. He further said that where He was going, they could not follow.

The Pharisees had no idea what Jesus was talking about. They jumped to the conclusion that He was planning to commit suicide, because He said they would not be able to follow Him. But that only underscored the fact that they had no idea Who He really was.

So, Jesus added to their confusion, but, at the same time He explained Who He was to the other listeners. (Remember, He had been teaching in the temple—there was a crowd present.)

Ye are from Beneath, I am from Above

John 8:23-27

23 And he said unto them, Ye are from beneath; I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world. 24 I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins. 25 Then said they unto him, Who art thou? And Jesus saith unto them, Even the same that I said unto you from the beginning. 26 I have many things to say and to judge of you: but he that sent me is true; and I speak to the world those things which I have heard of him. 27 They understood not that he spake to them of the Father.

Jesus began to rebuild the foundation for people to believe in Him. He had told them who He was, as the Savior, as the Son of God, as the Eternal Judge, from the beginning. But the Pharisees had ignored the truth all along, so  they literally did not know who He was. The rest of the people, however, had been gradually catching on, and some believed.

But Jesus had to make a sharp delineation between the status of a natural human being and the “God-Man,” (Fully God and Fully Man) of supernatural birth and Heavenly origin.

He plainly told them, “You (plural) are from beneath: I am from above.” The origin of each was critically important. Our Deliverer could not be a slave to Sin, Himself. The rules for the Kinsman-Redeemer were very clear:

The Kinsman-Redeemer

  1. He had to be a near relative. (Jesus was physically born into the Human Race for this express reason. He had to be “one of us,” in that way. The promised “Seed of the Woman,” predicted in Genesis 3:15 had to be born of a Woman…but not of a man. Jesus was the only One who could qualify.
  2. He had to be free Himself. A slave could not redeem another slave. Jesus was not a slave to Sin, being born without a sin-nature. (Evidently, being without a human father meant that He did not inherit the sin nature from Adam.)
  3. He had to have the Price of Redemption. In Boaz’s case, in the Book of Ruth, it simply meant he had to be physically wealthy enough to purchase the land and take on the financial responsibility involved. In Jesus’s case, however, it meant that He had to have a perfect life and a perfect blood-sacrifice…His own blood, from a sinless Man.
  4. He had to be Willing. Boaz was willing, whereas the other (potentially better qualified) relative, was not willing. Jesus willingly went to the Cross. He voluntarily laid down His life: He said, “No man taketh my life from Me…I lay it down of my own will and I will take it up again of my own will.” (John 10:17, 18 summarized)

If Jesus was not “From Above,” because of His supernatural birth and parentage–If He was not thereby free from the baggage of guilt and sin with which the entire Human race was burdened, then He could not be the Redeemer. He would not be Free Himself, and regardless of whether He was willing to be our Redeemer, He would not be qualified!

“If ye believe not that I am He, Ye shall die in your Sins”

Jesus connected the fact that He was “not of this world” to the fact that they would die in their sins: It was not just the fact that He was from one source, and they were from another: The issue was their unbelief: and it always has been! In Numbers 13:11, The LORD asked Moses, regarding the children of Israel, “How long will it be ere they believe me?

Unbelief is always the barrier. Jesus said, in John 3:18, “…he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

Rejecting Light

Part of the problem is that the door to the truth has always been the Will, not the Intellect. People who have heard the Gospel usually don’t need “more light” as badly as they need to respond to the light they have. Jesus went on to say, in John 3:19, that “This is the condemnation, that light is come into the World, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.

People reject the Light of God’s Word, out of hand, because they are offended that it exposes them for who they are: it shows them to be sinners. Having rejected that Light, it is senseless for them to stand around, demanding more light: they already have rejected the Light!

If they somehow come to a point of repentance, and are willing to receive light, then things can change. They can begin to see things through God’s eyes, and see the Truth of His Word. But these men were actively rebelling against the Light that Jesus was shining into their lives.

Who is Jesus?

So, when they asked Him again, “Who art thou?” Jesus just reminded them that they had already had that answer, repeatedly. Jesus had presented Himself as the Son of God: He had shown His power in miraculous healings and other ways; providing food for thousands, and miraculously providing wine for a wedding feast. He had even revealed that He was the eternal Judge of all the Earth. Finally, He had told them that He, alone, was the Light of the World and the Bread of Life.

So, now, He only said, “I’m Who I told you I was, from the Beginning.” He went on to say that He had a great deal to tell them, and that the things He was saying were true, because the One who sent Him was true: Jesus was only going to share what the Father told Him to share. They still did not understand that He was referring to the Father, so, Jesus made it more specific, and said that they were not really going to understand until it was too late.

When Ye Have Lifted up the Son of Man

John 8:28-30

28 Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things. 29 And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him. 30 As he spake these words, many believed on him.

In verse 28, Jesus predicted His own Crucifixion. Compare this passage to John 12:32, 33, where Jesus used the same phrase: it specifically explains that he was referring to the crucifixion, that He was predicting the manner in which He would die.

He said that then (after His death) they would realize who He was, and that He had only done as the Father had directed Him. Jesus said that the Father was continually with Him, so that He was not alone.

“Modern advantages”

Now: we “modern Gentiles” have two advantages, if you want to call them that:

  1. We were not born Jews, so we do not feel any resentment at the accusation that “we have killed our own Messiah.” Some Jews have freely recognized and confessed the national error, and have embraced their slain Messiah, as their Risen Christ…the Living Messiah, and their Living God in the Flesh.

    Yes, they are grieved at the tragedy, but they rejoice in His victory! But most of us, as Gentiles, never had that as a stumbling block to begin with. (Of course, the other side of that coin is that we also never had the blessing of being one of the chosen people of God. We did not grow up with the heritage of the Law and the Prophets.)
  2. We did not live back then, so ALL of our view of Jesus is “after the fact.” Also, we did not have to wait for the crucifixion: It already happened. Thus, we see His whole ministry in past tense, including His life and death and burial and resurrection, and it all fits! We believe it!

Who is responsible? (And How do We Reply?)

The truth, though, is: He died for the Whole World: there has never been a human being, (other than Jesus Himself,) whose sins were not on that Cross with Jesus. No one needs to feel “more” guilty of His death than anyone else. On the other hand, none of us can feel “less” accountable to God for His sacrifice. The question in every person’s life, is “What are you going to do with Jesus?”

As an unbeliever, I faced that question because I ignorantly and arrogantly rebelled against Him. But the time came when I saw myself as a helpless sinner. I was unable to “keep the rules” even if I made the rules! It was finally obvious to me that I needed Him as my Savior. I did not understand much else, initially: There is no way I could have explained the Law of the Substitute, nor had I ever heard of the Kinsman-Redeemer. I just knew I needed a Savior, and that Jesus was the One!

The Question For Every Day

Today, as a believer, that question is still at the forefront, every day: Will I respond to Him as my Master, in obedience, as God, in worship: as my Sustainer, Provider and Protector, in faith, prayer, and active trust? Or will I forget He is there at all, until a crisis arises of some sort?

We live long after the time of the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. We know who He is and what He has done for us. But we are among those in verse 30, where it says, As he spake these words, many believed on him.”  They placed their faith in Jesus. So have we!

“Shoe-Leather Faith”

But, what did they do later? We are not told. In the next chapter, we will see the story of one man who believed, and who suffered persecution for his faith, but he went on to become a worshipper of Jesus in the midst of that persecution. He “put shoe-leather on his faith!”

What God asks all of us to do, is to “put shoe-leather on our faith.” Put it into practice! “Walk the walk,” as people sometimes say today.

In Ephesians 4:1-3, Paul begs us to “…walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called.” He goes on to explain what that means, in terms of how we relate to one another. In fact, Paul spends most of the rest of the Book of Ephesians, teaching what that means in every part of life.

Possible Outcomes

Some of the people who believed would go on to be martyred for their faith. Others lived long, quiet lives, blessing those around them and honoring the Lord in every area of their lives. Some did neither: they eventually slipped back into the World’s way of thought and behavior. We can read about each kind of believer throughout the book of Acts and the Epistles.

Choosing Shoe-Leather

Each of you has a will: you make choices. Each of you has an intellect: you think and learn. You can read your Bible to intellectually learn what God wants you to do. But, ultimately, “The door to the truth is the Will, not the intellect.”

You have to decide, day by day, and moment by moment, what you will actually do with Jesus. I have to make that same decision, too, every day. Use your Intellect, but use your Will, as well, to choose to “put Shoe-leather on your faith.”

Lord Jesus, teach us to make right decisions, and to walk with you in the light of your Word, every day. Shape us into your likeness, and use us as tools in Your hands. Let us reflect Your light in all parts of our lives.

“Ye Neither Know Me nor My Father:”

Ye Neither Know Me nor My Father

© 2022 C. O. Bishop

John 8:13-20

Introduction

Last week, we examined the statement Jesus made, identifying Himself both as the Light of the World, and (because of His use of the “I AM” phrase,) as God. Anyone who heard Him and who was willing to consider the implication of His words would have seen that He was claiming to be the Creator, as well as the Judge, and the Lawgiver—the Light of Israel, and their Savior. From their response it is pretty clear that the majority did not see those truths.

The only verbal response of the Pharisees, to that simple statement, was that since he was bearing witness of himself, His testimony must not be true. That is illogical, as, ultimately, every testimony regarding oneself (including the times they demanded that He identify Himself) have to be one person confessing their own identity. But Jesus didn’t argue with them regarding the lack of logic: He addressed the real issue: He was telling the truth, and there were other witnesses to His identity as well.

13 The Pharisees therefore said unto him, Thou bearest record of thyself; thy record is not true. 14 Jesus answered and said unto them, Though I bear record of myself, yet my record is true: for I know whence I came, and whither I go; but ye cannot tell whence I come, and whither I go.

15 Ye judge after the flesh; I judge no man. 16 And yet if I judge, my judgment is true: for I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent me. 17 It is also written in your law, that the testimony of two men is true. 18 I am one that bear witness of myself, and the Father that sent me beareth witness of me.

19 Then said they unto him, Where is thy Father? Jesus answered, Ye neither know me, nor my Father: if ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also. 20 These words spake Jesus in the treasury, as he taught in the temple: and no man laid hands on him; for his hour was not yet come.

My Record is True

Jesus’s first defense is that He Himself actually knew where He had come from, and they did not. They couldn’t ascertain the truth of His testimony, as they made no investigation as to His lineage or place of birth, let alone to see what other prophecies He had already fulfilled. They tried to brand Him a liar, simply because they wanted to silence Him!

I have several times heard people denouncing the Bible as “fairy tales, fiction, lies, etc.” Why were they saying such things? Because the Bible offended them, and they wanted to silence it. But, in every case where I was able to question the accusers at all, it turned out they knew virtually nothing of what the Bible actually teaches, and understood nothing of the little they knew. They were acting exactly as the Pharisees acted, and for the same motive! We know from 1st Corinthians 1:23 that the Gospel will always offend people. What they do about that “offense” will ultimately determine the outcome in their life.

Why does the Gospel Offend People?

As we have mentioned in the past, every example of “good news” (that is what “Gospel” means) is predicated upon some pre-existing “bad news.” In this case the “bad news” is that the entire World is condemned, and guilty before God for two reasons:

  1. Because of the Sin of Adam, (what we call “Original Sin) which plunged us all into spiritual death, being separated from God, and unable to approach Him or fellowship with Him, and,
  2. Because of our personal sins, which we commit by choice. Romans 1:18-32 outlines the overall slide of the Human Race, down through History, away from a relationship with God.

Responding to Guilt and dealing with Sin

There are four possible responses to that fact of guilt:

  1. We can simply deny that Sin exists, and thereby brush away any such accusations. To achieve this, one has to deny that there is such a thing as “right and wrong,” Most people have a pretty clear recognition that right and wrong exist, even if they can’t quite define either one of them. Therefore, since most people do see “right versus wrong” as a legitimate concern, most will not choose this response.
  • A second option is to admit that Sin exists, but deny that it really matters, because “God is so loving and forgiving that He surely will not judge us harshly.” (Funny…that is exactly what the Serpent told Eve, in Genesis, too! “Thou shalt not surely die!”) But, since most people also are aware of a concept of justice; that “wrongs should be righted:” that “Evil should be punished,” and “Good should be rewarded,” most people are also uncomfortable with saying “sin doesn’t matter.” (They know it does matter!)
  • We can deny that we personally are sinners, angrily “wrapping ourselves in the rags of our self-righteousness,” saying “Well, yes, there is Sin in the world, but I’m GOOD!” This requires deep self-delusion, to ignore the marks of sin in our own lives. So, most world-religions start with this idea and go just a little further, saying, “Well, yes, we are sinners, but not very “bad” sinners, and what little guilt there is in our lives, we will overbalance by our good works!” Human Religion builds upon this concept: “I can DO things to make God accept me!” It ignores the concept of God’s Holiness: it assumes He can be “bought off” by our trivial human works. Paul addressed this idea in Galatians 2:21I do not frustrate the Grace of God, for if righteousness come by the Law, then Christ is dead in vain!”
  • The fourth response is full confession of both who we are, as lost sinners, and the fact that we cannot save ourselves. We don’t like that! It offends us! We want to claim the “innate goodness of the Human Race,” when God says quite the opposite: He says, “We are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags!” (Isaiah 64:6)
    You see, the “Bad news” is that “All we like Sheep have gone astray, and have turned every one to his own way!” But the Good news is the other half of that same verse: “The LORD hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all!” (Isaiah 53:6)

Embracing the Cross

Do you see the difference in that fourth response? It does not deny that Sin exists. Nor does it deny that Sin is serious. It does not deny personal guilt, nor does it claim that we can somehow save ourselves: Instead, it confesses that Jesus alone can take away my sin and give me a right standing before God. It places my only hope right where it belongs, casting myself completely on the Mercy and Grace of God, which He provided for all sinners, at the Cross.

We embrace God’s chosen sacrifice by faith. Every saved person in history has done exactly the same thing, from Adam and Eve, being clothed with the Blood Sacrifice that God made for them in the Garden of Eden, to the Children of Israel huddling under the Blood of the Passover Lamb, and trusting God to save them from the coming Judgment, and the Thief on the Cross, trusting in Jesus for Mercy. And every single one received the same promise in return: Eternal life, freely given and never revoked. Jesus said, “He that cometh unto Me, I will in no wise cast out.”

Make it Personal

We make it personal, by personal choice. The people at that first Passover knew that God was judging Egypt that night: They killed the Lamb, and they dipped a bundle of hyssop in the blood of that Lamb, and they struck the blood onto the lintel and the two doorposts. But that wasn’t all: remember, every individual in each house personally ate of that Lamb. They did not just sit back and say, “I approve of this sacrifice!” They confessed that the Lamb was killed for their sake, personally, by eating of the Lamb, personally.

It is one thing to agree that “Jesus died for the Sins of the Whole World,” but entirely another to recognize that “He died because of my sins.” I need to personally embrace the Cross by faith, confessing that His sacrifice is for me, personally, not just a nice “theory” about which we all should “feel good.”

Embracing Truth

Jesus said (v. 15) that the Pharisees were “Judging after the Flesh.” They had corrupt motives and they judged accordingly. In this particular ministry (v. 16,) Jesus was not judging people: He came to offer Grace. (We saw that, exemplified, in verses 1-11.)

The amazing thing about that verse, though, is that He really is the Holy and Eternal Judge of all the Earth! He was temporarily setting aside His position as our Judge, in order to offer us His Grace. He said “I’m not judging anyone, but when I do judge (and He will!), My Judgment will be true, because it will be in full agreement with God the Father.

The only way for us to survive that judgment, is to embrace the truth: Embrace the fact of our sin, and embrace the fact that Jesus’s blood takes away sin. Embrace the “Bad News” that God hates sin, and that Judgment is coming… but also embrace the “Good News” that Jesus Saves!

Knowing The Father and the Son

Interestingly, this passage does not use the Greek word “ginosko,” which means an ongoing, experiential, relational knowledge. I had always assumed that was the “knowledge” Jesus said they didn’t have. But this is the other Greek word for “Know,” (“oida”) meaning simply knowing as a fact, or knowing about someone or some concept. Jesus was saying “You don’t know even who I am nor do you understand who my Father is at all!”

One place we see both of those words used, side by side, and contrasted, is in what I find to be a hilarious passage in Acts 19:11-16 There were certain unbelieving Jews who had been selling their services as “exorcists.” They saw that Paul was “the real McCoy,” so to speak, so seven of them attempted to use the Name of Jesus, as Paul did, to cast out demons.

They stood before a demon-possessed man, and said to the evil spirit, “We command you by the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, to come out!” And the evil spirit answered, saying (KJV) “Jesus I know, and Paul I know, but who are you?!” And He jumped on them and savagely beat them all, so that they ran away, bleeding and without their clothes! (Ha! I love that story!)

Two Ways to Know

But what was really happening there? The spirit actually said “Jesus, I know personally (“ginosko:”) I have experiential knowledge of Him. And I have heard of Paul (“oida”) I know about him. But you are not connected with either of them: you have zero authority!”

So, Jesus, far from only saying they lacked experiential, relational knowledge of God, was saying that the Pharisees knew nothing about Him. And they knew nothing of Jesus, as well! He effectively told them “If you knew anything about My Father, you would also know about Me!”

The Pharisees weren’t just lacking a “relationship with God:” they were so far removed from the truth that Jesus said they knew nothing about Him! But some believed, as we see in v. 30. And, in verse 20, we see that they couldn’t take him prisoner, nor attack Him, because He was the One in control: His hour had not yet come.

Experiential Knowledge

Once a person has confessed that they need a Savior and has placed their full trust in Jesus as that Savior, they have the “knowledge” Jesus addressed here: But from that point forward, we are encouraged, and admonished, and commanded to grow in the other kind of knowledge: the experiential, relational, personal, ongoing knowledge of the Holy God who has chosen us to be born again. He reached out to the whole world, and paid the sin-debt of the whole world, offering eternal life to the Whole World.

We entered in by faith, and by a free choice, having seen the clear invitation, “Whosoever Will may come!” But once inside, we looked back at that same door through which we entered and see that on the inside, it says “Chosen in Him from the foundation of the Earth!”

And now He says to follow Him, trust in Him, learn from Him! This is how we gain experiential knowledge of God. We study His Word, that we may grow thereby (He commands this!) We learn to use the tools He has given us, and the Light, by which to walk with God.

Embracing Jesus

Most religions give some sort of “lip service” to “honoring Jesus:” they declare him to be “a great teacher, a philosopher, a prophet, a mystic, or a miracle-worker.” They may declare Him to be a “Mighty Spirit-Being.” They may even be so bold as to declare Him to be “a god.” But they will not confess that He is the Almighty Creator; God in the Flesh: God the Son. Eternally God, and the eternally “Anointed One” (Messiah.) “The Lamb Slain from the foundation of the World.”

And that is the Jesus we are confessing: The Biblical Jesus. Not some imaginary, created being, whom we may see with great respect, gratitude, or love, as if He were simply a Human Hero.

No! He is God! He is the Creator who spoke the World into existence. He is the King. He is the Master. (We don’t like that concept, but here it is: He is our Master!)

Each of us still has a sin nature, and we don’t like the idea that “someone else is the Boss!” We still desire self-realization, self-direction, self-rule. We say, “I want to be my own Person.” In strictly Human terms, that sounds fine, but this craving for autonomy actually began in the rebellion of Lucifer, which destroyed him as a holy angel, and destroyed us, through Adam. We can read Lucifer’s five statements of self-will in Isaiah 14:12-15. He wanted to be his own boss!

Embracing the Master

Embracing Jesus” means embracing Him as our Lord! Embracing Him as our Master!

“Embracing Jesus” means embracing the tasks He gives us, on a day-by-day basis, as well as the overall Job He has given us, as Ambassadors of Christ.  We are to shine in this dark world, as we noted last week. How? Well, Jesus said, “So let your light shine before Men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in Heaven!”

Every winter I  eventually notice that the headlights on my car seem to be getting more and more dim. Finally, I get out of the car and check the headlamps, and sure enough, they are so encrusted with road grime that the burning light on the inside is hardly able to get through the dirt on the outside. We need to check ourselves on a regular basis to see that we are not becoming so “spotted by the world” that the Light of God’s Love is no longer visible. It can happen!

So, we address the “Dirt”…the Sin that is dimming the light in our lives, by confessing it to God. 1st John 1:9 says “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just, to forgive our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

1st John 1:7 says, “If we walk in the light as He is in the Light, we have fellowship one with another and the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from all sin.”

That is why He calls it “walking:” there is no coasting, or gliding: it is a “one-step-at-a-time” walk of faith and obedience.

Lord Jesus, cleanse our lives and teach us to walk in obedience to Your Word and to Your Spirit. Let our lives shine as quiet testimony of your Grace, and open our mouths to share the Gospel with those around us.

“I AM the Light of the World!”

I AM the Light of the World

© 2022 C. O. Bishop

John 8:12 “Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”

Introduction

We addressed this passage over a year ago, as a part of our treatment of John 1:4, 5, where we saw regarding the Word, that, “In Him was life and the life was the light of men, and the light shined in the darkness, and the darkness was not able to extinguish it.”

I was tempted to just skip over John 8:12, since we covered it so recently, but it seemed good to reexamine the passage, since, for one thing, it is the very next passage after what we studied last week, but, especially, because it is one of the seven “I AM” statements in the book of John.

Seven “I Am” statements

There are seven places in the Book of John where Jesus used the “I AM” phrase, identifying Himself. The “Title” and “Cornerstone” of those seven  “I AM” statements is an eighth example, at the end of this chapter. It leaves no question as to what is being said. We will address that one (John 8:58)when we get there, but it says, Before Abraham was, I AM.” (Not “I was:” I AM!)

The other seven “I AM” statements, identifying Jesus, are given in the following order:

  1. I am The Bread of life (John 6:35, 48, 51)
  2. I am The Light of the World (John 8:12)
  3. I am The Door (John 10:7, 9)
  4. I am The Good Shepherd (John 10:11, 14)
  5. I am The Resurrection and the Life (John 11:25)
  6. I am The Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6)
  7. I am The Vine (John 15:1, 5)

We have already addressed the first one: we saw Jesus as the Bread of Life in John chapter six. We need to give some thought, today, to the fact that He is also the Light of the World.

What is “The World?”

Who or what is “the World?”There are various concepts in the scripture regarding “the world.” One, of course, is the planet, itself: Two words are used to denote the land, as the world: One is the Greek word “Ge” from which we get geology, and geography. It always means the planet.

Another is the Greek word “oikoumene,” which refers to the habitable portions of the earth, and from which we get the word ecumenical. It is a very old word, and it implies all the peoples of the world and their home places.

But, for instance, when a statement is made regarding the “end of the world,” the Greek word translated “world” is actually “aiōnos” meaning eon, or age. The world we live in has a “shelf life,” or a “pull-date.” (We are probably getting close to that “pull-date,” but we do not know when it will come.)

So, when Jesus said, (in the King James Bible) “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world,” what it really says is “…until the end of the age.” But, this world we live in is about to be replaced, so, the “end of the age” actually is the “end of the world,” as well.

“Kosmos”

Another word which is virtually always translated as “world” is the Greek word “kosmos.” (It is used 188 times in the New Testament, and 187 times it is translated as “world.”) Sometimes it means the people of the world: John 3:16 says “God so loved the World…” and the word, there, is “kosmos.”

1st John 2:2 says that Jesus was the propitiation for not only our sins, but also for the sins of the “whole World.” And, again, the Greek word is “kosmos.

However, sometimes, the exact same word is used to mean the “World system of thought, and its moral stance, etc.” Thus, when John says (1st John 2:15-17) “…love not the World, neither the things that are in the world,” the same word, kosmos, is used. But, in that passage, John also makes it clear that the things he is speaking of are all the sinful practices, motives, thoughts, and desires that are in the World at large. Not the people of the World, for whom He died.

It would have been easier for us, perhaps, if the language were a little more specific, so that we could clearly distinguish the meaning. Which passages are speaking of the people of the world, whom we are commanded to love and to whom we are commanded to offer the light of Christ, and which passages are referring to the evil world system of thought and practice? But we are forced to examine the context to see which is which.

What is the meaning?

As you may have suspected, the word translated as “world,” here in John 8:12, is also “kosmos.” So, from the context, which aspect of the word “kosmos” would you say it means?

Is Jesus “the Light of all the sinful practices, motives, thoughts, and desires that are in the World at large?” Or is He more likely saying that He is the light of all the people in the World, for whom He came to give His life?

In reality, He shines His light on both: Effectively, He is the light of those He came to save, but the light shines for everyone, whether people accept it or not.

What is The Light?

The Greek word translated “light” is phōs” from which we get the words photons, photograph, phosphorescence, and others. It is used widely in the New Testament, covering some uses where it is obvious that literal, physical light, is in question. It covers others where spiritual, moral, or intellectual light is in context. There are other words which specifically mean a lamp or a light-source.

But this word “phōs,” is used 72 times in the New Testament, and all but two times it is translated as “light.” (And in those two, it is translated as “fire.”) So, again, we have to examine the context of each passage and see whether the light is in reference to mere physical light, or something else.

What is the Context?

When Jesus makes this statement: who is He talking to, and what is He intending to convey? We are not given the option to believe that He is talking about the mere physical light of the Sun, though we know (ultimately) He is the source of that light, as well: He is the Creator and sustainer of the Sun, and all other matter.

It is interesting to see that in all but a few passages in the New Testament, the word “light” is always in reference to spiritual light, not physical light. In the few passages where the meaning could go either way, the context shows that spiritual light is the true meaning. But, for instance, when it says “whatsoever maketh manifest is light,” the physical light is used as the practical demonstration of the principle that “light dispels darkness.” And the context shows that the spiritual, moral light of the Holy Spirit, indwelling the believers, is the light that dispels darkness around us in this world.

In Philippians 2:15, we are told to “shine as lights” in the world. The words in that passage, translated “lights” and “world,” as you may guess, are from the roots “phōs,” and “kosmos.” We are to be a constant, reliable source of moral and spiritual light, dispelling darkness in the lives of the people of the World.

What about Jesus?

How is Jesus the Light of the World? He is the One who dispels darkness. He offers the only true light, and people either turn to it, in hope, and faith, or they turn away from it. Jesus said that the majority would reject His Light, reject His Word, Reject His Love. He says that He is the Word, that He is the Light, and He is Love. So, the sad reality is that most people will reject Jesus.

But Jesus still is the Light of the World

He alone shines in the darkness of this world and offers the hope of eternal life: He offers peace with God: He offers rest from our striving to rise above our circumstances, and from our attempting to earn the salvation that is already offered as a gift.

He is the Creator and maintainer of the physical light, by which we perceive the physical world. He is the only true source of the spiritual light by which we can see the way to God, and by which we can read and understand His Word.

He is the One who takes up residence in the life of the believers, and who fills their lives with the Light of God. He is the One who gave us the second birth—being born again— through which we have become “children of the Light,” and we are called to live as children of the light.

He is the Eternal Light, shining in the center of History, to whom the Old Testament saints looked in faith, longing to see Him face to face. He was frequently referred to as the “Light of Israel.”

He was the light in the world; physically present in Israel, temporarily, for the 3-1/2 years of His Earthly Ministry. John the Baptist was a reflection of that light, and Israel rejoiced to see His light…but when Jesus, the True Light of the World arrived, they eventually rejected Him, as a nation, just as they had rejected all the prophets He had sent to them in the past.

How does the World respond to the Light?

We know from John 3:19, 20 that the general response of unbelievers to the light of Christ, shining in the World, is to reject it and to flee from it. Jesus said “…This is the condemnation, that light has come into the World and men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.

We can observe this truth every day, in the world around us. The darkness is very deep, and it seems to be getting even darker. That makes perfect sense: over the last century, the light of Christ in the people of God has grown more and more dim. We have allowed ourselves to become spotted with the filth of the world, to the extent that our light is coated in grime, and it is sometimes hard to see the light of God in our lives as believers.

I have frequently noticed on a winter evening that the headlights on my car seem to have become dim. But, when I got out and checked, it turned out that the lamps had become encrusted with road-grime, until the light inside could hardly get through the dirt. The light source was as strong as ever, but it was nearly covered by dirt.

Our lives are supposed to show forth the light of Christ. (1st Peter 2:9 specifically says that we have been “called out of darkness into His marvelous light…and that we are to show forth the praises of Him who called us.) He is our light source! Can people see Him in us?

What about Us?

“He that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”

He is the Light of the World today, shining through His creation, through His Word and through His Church. We are only reflections of His light: that is part of our Job as ambassadors of Christ.

But, Jesus did not say, “everyone who has been born again will shine brightly, and not walk in darkness:” He said those that follow Him shall not walk in darkness but shall have the light of life. That agrees with 1st John 1:6, where it says, “If  we say that we have fellowship with Him and walk in darkness, we lie and do not the truth.” Walking with Jesus on a day-by-day basis is what it takes for us to shine as lights in the darkness.

Remember Gideon

When I look back to Judges 7:16-22, I see something peculiar: Gideon’s soldiers were told to do three things: Do you remember what happened? God first trimmed down Gideon’s army from many thousands (who were already vastly outnumbered by the enemy) to a mere 300 so that the battle was utterly in God’s hands. All they had to do was obey. And what they were told was:

  1. Stand fast,
  2. Shine a light,
  3. Sound an alarm.

They were commanded to “surround” the enemy camp, sparse though they were, and stand fast.

Each man, in his left hand, had a torch inside a jug: it was hot, and smoldering, but unable to get enough air to burn brightly. They also had a sword on their belt, but it didn’t get touched, because they had a trumpet in their right hand, so both hands were full! They waited for Gideon’s signal, then they all broke their jugs, allowing a fresh flow of air to the hot firebrands inside, so that they all flared up and shone brightly. They shined a light.

Simultaneously, they sounded an alarm: they began alternating between blowing their war-trumpets, and shouting “The Sword of the LORD, and of Gideon!” That was their alarm!

We are called to do the same things!

  1. Ephesians 6:10-18 says that we are to stand fast, wearing the full armor of God.
  2. Philippians 2:15 says we are to shine as lights in the World…in the midst of a corrupt and perverse nation.
  3. 1st Peter 3:15 says that we are to “sanctify the Lord God in our hearts, and be ready always to give an answer” Sound an Alarm! Share the Gospel! Warn people of the coming Judgment! Offer them the eternal life that Jesus offers!

If we really believe that Jesus is the Light of the World, in every aspect of that truth; and if we really believe that He has called us to do those three things: (Stand fast, Shine a light, and Sound an alarm)…then what should we do about it?

Walk in the Light

It seems to me that each individual has to seek God’s direction as to the specifics, but the core list is the same for every one of us: If Jesus is the Light of the World, then we are called to stand fast in Him, shine the light of a changed life and good works, and sound the alarm of the Gospel. That’s it!

Apart from His Holy Spirit working in us, we can’t do it at all: we know that! But each of us is called to make the necessary choices, daily, to see that “core list” becoming a growing reality in our lives. That is called discipleship! That’s what it means, to Follow Jesus!

Lord Jesus, we know that You have called us to be your disciples: to walk in obedience to you, learning from Your Word, and submitting ourselves to Your Holy Spirit. Draw us closely enough to You that we hear the Heartbeat of God, and that Your priorities become our own.

Go, and Sin No More

Go, and Sin No More

© 2022 C. O. Bishop

John 8:1-11

Introduction

The opening passage, here, in the beginning of John chapter eight, touches my heart, every time I read it. We were reading in the previous chapters about preaching and promises, ministry and miracles, friends and enemies. But, here in John eight, some enemies show up during His teaching, with a test for Jesus: They brought to him a woman caught in adultery. (Nothing is said about what they may have already done to the man with whom she was found. That sort of thing tended to be dealt with rather summarily.)  But the test they brought was really a trap:

If He condemned the woman, thus agreeing with the Law, then He would seem harsh to the people. They would see Him in league with the Pharisees, their oppressors. Thus, they would probably reject Him as their Savior.

But, if He said to not stone her, then He would be denying God’s Law, and the Pharisees, the scribes, and the chief priests could condemn Him for that. It looks like a classic “damned if you do and damned if you don’t ” type of trap! But let’s read through the passage and see how Jesus handled this situation.

The Teacher and the Accusers

John 8:1-11

1 Jesus went unto the mount of Olives. And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them.

Jesus “camped” on the Mount of Olives, overnight, and He returned to the temple, early the next morning. Remember that He had been teaching there, the day before and He had promised the living Water to anyone who believed on Him. The officers (sent to arrest Him) heard Him speak, and refused to arrest him, because of the Spirit with which He spoke. But everyone eventuallywent home. Jesus had gone to the Mount of Olives, to sleep.

But, early in the morning, Jesus was back in the temple, teaching again, and all the people had come again, to hear Him. God does not tell us what He was teaching that morning, but the enemy interrupted the teaching that morning. His enemies came to disrupt his teaching and to test Jesus, trying to find a means by which to accuse Him of sin, and entrap Him.

And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?

Enemies and Tempters

These men tried to catch Jesus in a disagreement with the Law of God. (It isn’t going to happen: He is the Author of the Law of God!) Jesus initially acted as though He had not heard them: He stooped and wrote on the ground with His finger. (I do wish I knew what He was writing!)

This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not. So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.

You, see, they offered only two possibilities: but Jesus gave then a third option. They thought that He would have to either agree with their interpretation of His Word, and call for the woman’s execution, or deny the Law altogether, and disobey God. Either way, they thought they had Him trapped. But Jesus presented a third option: Obey God, and condemn her for breaking God’s Moral Law, if (and only if) you, yourself, are worthy to extend condemnation to another…being free of sin, yourself.

And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.

Dismissing the Accusers

I find the result pretty astonishing: As humans, we usually feel pretty free to condemn one another. We almost never stop to think whether we have either the authority to accuse, or the secure platform of personal moral purity, from which to condemn someone else.

Jesus simply stood up, and told them, “Whoever among you is sinless, let him cast the first stone.” And then He stooped again and continued writing on the ground with His finger! (What was he writing? We are not told! I don’t think it is wise to make guesses, either.)

But somehow, His quiet authority served to reach their consciences, and to convict their hearts. One by one they slipped away, beginning with the eldest and working toward the younger men, until no one was left to accuse her.

Standing before the Judge

Why was the woman still there? I believe she recognized Jesus as “the Judge of all the Earth.” Abraham saw Him that way, in Genesis 18:25, and Jesus confirmed Himself to be the Judge, in John 5:22. He is the Judge! She could have run away, or perhaps just faded back into the crowd. But she stayed and she waited for His decision, waiting for His judgment concerning herself.

10 When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? 11 She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.

When Jesus asked her where her accusers had gone, and whether no one was left to condemn her, she answered, respectfully, that they were all gone. But she was still standing there, waiting for His word. She knew His authority, somehow. The woman threw herself on His mercy, and trusted in Him as her faithful Creator, as it says in 1st Peter 4:19.

Her actions demonstrated that the accusation was true. She was awaiting judgment from Jesus. (Yes, she “called Him Lord,” but that phrase was often taken very lightly. It usually meant no more, to most speakers, than the word “sir” means, today.) So, her actions are the heaviest statement, here: She stood and waited for Jesus to address her case, as her Judge. And in so doing, she met Him as Her Savior!

Grace and Truth Came by Jesus Christ

We saw the contrast between Law and Grace, clear back in John 1:17. It says, “The Law came by Moses, but Grace and Truth came by Jesus Christ.”

The scribes and Pharisees came as proponents of the Law, demanding Judgment against this woman…demanding her execution. Jesus did not deny the Law: He offered Grace in its place. He did not deny the truth of her guilt: He offered Grace in spite of her guilt.

What is Grace? Grace is unearned favor: Unmerited favor. She had no merit to which she could point, saying how she had earned God’s forgiveness or blessing. Apparently, her accusers also recognized their unworthiness, but they did not stay and wait for Grace: they simply left, knowing they were not in a position to accuse. She stayed: her actions confessed her guilt and confessed that Jesus was her Judge. And she received Grace and forgiveness. Not because she deserved it. We don’t know the circumstances, nor do we need to know. Grace and works are completely separated.

The Same Grace is Extended to Us

The fact is, we are each just as guilty as she. We may not necessarily be guilty of the same sin: but read through the extensive list in Romans chapter one. If we are  honest about our hearts, then the truth is, we are all guilty of the same kinds of sin, and we were also condemned before God and hopelessly deep in guilt.

By the time we read as far as Romans 3:19, we see that the whole world is lost, and that Jesus is our only hope. This woman saw herself that way, that morning: she was inescapably caught in sin, for which she expected capital punishment. And she correctly saw Jesus as her Eternal Judge. She silently placed her faith in His judgment, trusting in Him to extend Mercy if it was available. He acknowledged the Truth of her guilt (and, by extension, ours,) but He chose to extend Mercy and Grace.

Grace is Honest and Free

Grace tells the truth: it recognizes the “bad news” of our fatal illness, called Sin, and it offers the only cure for that disease, the Blood of Jesus at the Cross. And that is “Good News!”

Grace is free to us, but it came at a terrible price for Jesus, the Creator God in the Flesh. The Holy, Righteous God of the Universe, the Creator, God, the Son, became Sin for us, so that God the Father could pour out all His righteous wrath upon our Sin, without destroying us: the Sinners.

2nd Corinthians 5:21 makes it clear that He, God the Son, became Sin for us, so that we could be made the righteousness of God in Him. What an incredible trade! He took all my sins and gave me all His righteousness! That is beyond my understanding, and beyond my imagination.

Imputed Righteousness

I can’t see this woman’s heart (nor anyone else’s, for that matter) but it seems that, somewhere along here, she placed her faith in Jesus…both as her Judge and as her Savior. Abraham did exactly the same thing, and he was declared Righteous on the basis of his faith. The Thief on the Cross did exactly the same thing, and he was promised, “Today thou shalt be with me in Paradise!” So… How does this happen?

Romans 4:8, (quoting Psalm 32:1, 2) says “blessed is the man whose sins are forgiven…unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity…” How can God fail to impute iniquity to someone who, beyond question, is clearly guilty? The fact of “forgiving sins” presupposes that there are sins to be forgiven. So, right here in this context, we have a hard question. How can God not only forgive sins, but render the sinner permanently righteous: beyond further accusation?

The Unsalvageable Old Man

God says my old sin nature cannot be saved…it cannot be repaired. It is not subject to God, and it cannot be subject to God. Romans 8:7 flatly states that to be the case. So, since my old nature cannot be saved, the only way for me to stand before God at all is through the new birth! God had to give me a new nature. This is why Jesus told Nicodemus, in John 3:3, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.” It is the simple truth!

So, in John 1:12, He says He gives the new birth through faith: believing in Him personally, trusting in Him as my Savior. I recognize that He is my Judge, and I fear His devastating Holiness, just as every other honest sinner before me has done. But I also trust in Him as my Savior. I have no other Hope. Either His full payment of His blood at the Cross is sufficient, or I have nothing whatever to offer.

Jesus is the Wise and Gracious Judge and Savior

The Woman stood before Him condemned by her own sin, and confessing that she was a condemned sinner. But she was also submitting herself to Him for that judgment, and trusting in Him to deal mercifully with her. And He did!

That’s what it is all about; right there, my friends!

Can you explain that simple story to your friends and family? To your neighbors? To a stranger?

This is a priceless account of a precious soul for whom Jesus died.  And His counsel to her, on the basis of the received Mercy and Grace, was: “Go, and Sin No More!” That is His counsel to us, as well. Let’s take it seriously.

Lord Jesus, open our hearts to understand Your Gospel well enough to share it with those around us. Free our hearts to serve You in humility and Love. All we have to offer others is what You have already given to us. Mercy, Grace, and Eternal Life, all through faith in Your shed blood!

Division because of Jesus

Division because of Jesus

© 2022 C. O. Bishop

John 7:40-53

Introduction:

We have come to an interesting transition in the Book of John: Some of the people believe Jesus is the Messiah. Others believe He is the promised “Prophet.” But the Pharisees and the Rulers of the temple derided those who believed, and, as a group, they completely rejected Him. So, a  great division was growing because of Jesus. He did nothing negative, to cause such a division: He shined the Light of God. Some were drawn to the Light, some were confused about the light, and some fled from the light, hating it, and fearing it.

Who is Jesus?

40 Many of the people therefore, when they heard this saying (previous passage), said, Of a truth this is the Prophet. 41 Others said, This is the Christ…

These were the people who were drawn to the light. And these are the questions everyone ultimately must answer: “Who is Jesus?” and, “What will I do with Him?” There were many identifying “marks,” provided in advance, through the prophets: the place of His birth, His family lineage, details about His ministry, etc.

Some of the people tried to use those prophecies correctly. Earlier, we saw that some had asked, “When the Christ comes, will he do more than this man?” (Implying that He was fulfilling the prophecies, and they were asking, “How many of these prophecies does He have to fulfill before we acknowledge Him?” (Good question!)

Where Did He Come From?

Others answered, also using scripture: “…But some said, Shall Christ come out of Galilee?

42 Hath not the scripture said, That Christ cometh of the seed of David, and out of the town of Bethlehem, where David was?”

These were also trying to use the scripture correctly: they had a serious question! In their question, they demonstrated that they did have some knowledge of God’s Word. (Micah 5:2 says He was to be born in Bethlehem. Jeremiah 23:5 says He was to come out of David’s lineage.)

All they would have had to do, then, was ask, “So, Rabbi: please tell us: where were you born?” His answer could then have been checked in the temple genealogies, and they would have had their answer! (He was born in Bethlehem.) But they didn’t ask! (Interestingly, after AD 70, they could no longer check: The temple, along with all the records, was lost! So, today, if someone claims to be the messiah, they cannot prove or disprove his claim. The records have been destroyed.)

The Division

43 So there was a division among the people because of him. 44 And some of them would have taken him; but no man laid hands on him.

(What a wild division! Some wanted to worship Him, follow Him, and learn from Him. Others wanted him arrested and executed.)

45 Then came the officers to the chief priests and Pharisees; and they said unto them, Why have ye not brought him? 46 The officers answered, Never man spake like this man.

It is interesting to see that the officers, whose job it was to arrest “bad guys” were still receptive enough to discern that not only “Jesus is not a ‘bad guy,’” but that His teaching marked Him as a genuine prophet, at the very least. They were awed enough by His words that they turned and went back without attempting to arrest Him. They said, “No man ever spoke like this man!”

And the Pharisees accused them of being deceived.

47 Then answered them the Pharisees, Are ye also deceived? 48 Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on him? 49 But this people who knoweth not the law are cursed.

Notice that their primary argument was “No important people believe in Him! The peasants believe in Him because they don’t know the Law! Only ignorant people believe in Him!” You see, no one made an honest investigation to His claim. They simply condemned Him as a charlatan and a false prophet.

Does Consensus equal Truth?

Stop and consider: When is it a valid argument, to say “No important people believe in Him?” or, “No Modern Scholar believes that!” At some point we may fall into the trap that claims, “Consensus equals truth.” Does that mean we should just “discard the voice of the scholars?”

No: their studies can be very valuable. Just as the findings of honest Science (Archaeology, especially) support the Bible. It is fine to look at the world with open eyes, but be sure that the light source is God’s Word. Our primary concern needs to be “ What does God’s Word actually say?”, not “what does everyone else think?”

There was a time when no one believed that there were “rivers” in the Ocean: powerful currents flowing in cyclical patterns in the oceans. Ironically, the man who initially discovered them, only thought to look for them because he believed the Bible to be God’s Word. He read Psalm 8:8, 9, where it said, The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas. 9 O Lord our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!”

Research Confirmed God’s Word

The man was a naval officer, and his first thought was, “That can’t be! There are no paths in the sea!” But he stopped; and said, “No, this is God’s Word: If He says there are paths there, then they are there! It remains for us to find them!” (Good attitude!)

So, he got permission and funding, and he began the research that eventually began the mapping of the ocean currents. Soon, ships were knowingly seeking out these currents, to make their journeys easier and faster; thus far more profitable. Today, of course, we use satellites and radar, and other means, to map where the currents are on a constant basis, as well as how fast they are flowing, their water temperature, etc.

And, that knowledge gave birth to research about air currents. Today, aviators know exactly where the jet stream is at any given time. Airline travel to the east can be very fast, as the planes may be pushed by a tailwind of nearly 100 miles per hour. Travel to the West is slower, not having that advantage…but at least they know how to avoid having a terrible headwind fighting them. But it all began because one man believed God’s Word..

There is nothing wrong with Science. There is a problem with the human predisposal to use any evidence found, to attempt to disprove God’s Word. Satan will join you in that effort, just as he did in the Garden of Eden, whispering to Eve, “Thou shalt not surely die!” But we do not have to fall prey to that sort of thinking: If God’s Word is the first and final authority, in your studies, then the Holy Spirit will keep you out of trouble.

Nicodemus Used God’s Word Correctly

 50 Nicodemus saith unto them, (he that came to Jesus by night, being one of them,) 51 Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth?

Nicodemus was thinking along the right lines: He said, “Hadn’t we ought to hear Him out and find out what He is up to, before we condemn Him?” You see, Proverbs 18:13 says, “He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.” Nicodemus knew his audience: He knew they knew this principle. But they did not want to hear it:

 52 They answered and said unto him, Art thou also of Galilee? Search, and look: for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet.

Limited Understanding Produces Wrong Answers

Here the Pharisees and chief priests displayed the limits of their knowledge of the Word, because the prophet Jonah actually did come out of Galilee. (2nd Kings 14:25 “…which he spake by the hand of his servant Jonah, the son of Amittai, the prophet, which was of Gathhepher.” The town of “Gathhepher” was not only in Galilee, but was actually quite close to Nazareth.)

So, I first wondered, “Is it possible that they only meant that there was no prediction of a future prophet arising out of Galilee? (Surely it is possible they also thought that: but then we are back to the issue of “Why don’t we find out where He is from, instead of just assuming?” No one bothered to ask! They were not seeking the truth: they only wanted to silence Jesus!) 

However, I looked up the phrase translated as “ariseth” and it turns out that it is a “past participle:” It literally means “out of Galilee, no prophet has arisen.The truth is, they forgot about Jonah. I kind of like the fact that they specifically forgot about Jonah, because that is the prophet Jesus finally pointed to, as a harbinger of his own death, three days in Sheol and His resurrection. They forgot Jonah!

53 And every man went unto his own house.

So, at that point they simply quit discussing the matter. They all went home.

Division Today

We see division increased beyond measure, today, largely for the same reasons: people don’t search God’s word for answers, or, when they do, they use the Word incorrectly. They make accusations against other people without investigating far enough to find reasonable answers.

And, when Jesus was teaching, what did He say about the division that would occur? Did He predict that His teaching would produce peace? No, quite the opposite: He said that His teaching would bring terrible division. But the problem was not within the teaching: it was in the response of Humans to the light of God.

Jesus Predicted Division

Matthew 10:34-36

34 Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.

35 For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. 36 And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.

We don’t like reading passages like this: they are uncomfortable. But there is another voice, in 2nd Timothy, assuring us that it is a living reality, whether we like it or not!

2nd Timothy 3:1-5

1 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. 2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, 4 Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; 5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.

We have read this prediction for centuries, but today we see it has become more of a living reality than ever before. We can hardly stand to read the news, because of the constant human tragedy around us. And, when one tries to speak against the evil in the world, one finds themselves to be accused of being evil, though they have spoken for righteousness.

Jesus preached the Gospel of the Kingdom of Heaven, initially. Everyone claimed they wanted it to come; that time when God would rule on Planet Earth, the enemies would be gone, and even the wild animals would be at peace. 

But when He presented Himself as the King, and began teaching the values of the Kingdom, thus shining the light of God into everyone’s lives, they broke into three factions immediately, which eventually sorted itself into two: Those who loved the light and were drawn to it, versus those who hated and feared the light, and wanted to extinguish it.

We see that same separation today, and the middle ground (those who are confused by the light) is rapidly shrinking. The divide is becoming sharper and deeper year by year. So, what are we told to do about that division?

Shine as lights!

Philippians 2:14-16 says, 14 Do all things without murmurings and disputings: 15 That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; 16 Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain.”

We are commanded to not be the source of problems, but to do all things without arguing and complaining. The result is that we are to be without blame; and not the source of any harm.

We are to behave as the Sons of God, because we are the Sons of God. We are to behave well enough that no one has a rebuke for us apart from the fact that we follow Jesus. (Remember, in Daniel chapter 6, Daniel’s 120 worst enemies, who all wanted him dead, could find no fault with him beyond his relationship with the God of Israel.)

The fact that we live in “the midst of a crooked and perverse nation” should only provide a contrast against which we shine, reflecting the light of God. I am told that jewelers, to show their fine gemstones, put them on a dark velvet background, and shine a strong light on them. The gems gleam in the light, and the darkness behind them remains dark. We are “gems” in God’s hand, and He asks us to reflect His light in the darkness of this world.

And what are we to do, as we shine? We are to “Hold forth the Word of Life!”

Holding Forth the Word of Life

We are to offer the Gospel, the hope of eternal life, and of freedom from the tyranny of sin. The fact that we demonstrate the truth of that promise daily, is how we shine…and offering that same deliverance to those around us is the rest of the job.

Will everyone love it? Nope!

Most will ignore it: Some will verbally attack us and try to shut us up. There may be other forms of division that show up, as well. But this is the assignment we have been given, and we can either obey, or rebel. Shine, or fail to shine! Share the Gospel, or fail to do so! There is no middle ground.

Lord Jesus, please deliver us from our apathy and indecision. You have called us to shine in the darkness of this world, and to hold forth the Word of Life. Help us to grasp the absolutely critical necessity of obedience to Your command, and to walk with you in obedience and faith.

The Living Water Throughout Time

Living Water, Throughout Time

© 2022 C. O. Bishop

John 7:37-39 (compare Jeremiah 2:12, 13; Ezekiel 47:1-12; Psalm 46:4; John 4:14)

Introduction

We have talked about this subject, before: probably five years ago, but we need to address it again. There is a rather “obscure” concept brought up several times in the Old Testament, without much explanation. It is sometimes used in such a context that it seems it could have no particular spiritual interpretation.

In its most common usage, the literal meaning of the Old Testament phrase “living water,” is just “flowing water.” (In other words, a stream; not a stagnant pool, a bucket of water, or, as stated in Jeremiah 2:13, a cistern.) Often the people were told to wash something in living water, or to do some ritual “over living water.” In those cases, it seems the context would make “flowing water” the correct understanding. But how about in Jeremiah 2:12, 13?

12 Be astonished, O ye heavens, at this, and be horribly afraid, be ye very desolate, saith the Lord. 13 For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.

God says it was a “two-part” sin that Israel was committing. They turned away from God, who was the source of “living water.” And, they made for themselves cisterns…and (ironically,) the cisterns were cracked, and couldn’t even hold water! What is the comparison he is making?

“Living Water” or Cracked Cisterns?

The water in a cistern might have begun as clean rainwater, but it was caught on a roof, perhaps, and we funneled into that tank we call a cistern. Whatever debris was on the roof will hopefully be washed off before we begin channeling the water into the cistern, but traces will still be there. And, with time, whatever impurities were included will build up. If any of them were biological impurities, (bird-droppings, insects,bacteria, etc.,) they will multiply. That tank of water will be pretty unwholesome, and probably pretty unappealing.

So, when Jeremiah makes that comparison, he may only be saying that the LORD is a source of constantly replaced and completely healthful flowing water. In contrast, whatever is in the cistern is questionable at best. And, of course, even in that context, it is clear that He is not talking about ordinary “water,” but something of spiritual significance. Because of what we see in the rest of the Bible, it also seems that there must be a much deeper, much more significant meaning to the phrase “living water.” But whatever God is offering, it is far to be preferred over whatever they have stored up for themselves in their cracked cisterns.

The Power and Limitations of Living Water

In Ezekiel 47:1-12, (read it!) we see the vision Ezekiel was given regarding the temple in the Millennial kingdom. Water is flowing from under the altar, and one stream heads off to the east, toward the Dead Sea. On the way there, it cleanses everything it touches, and it produces Life everywhere it goes. The places that are not touched by this water remain lifeless and sterile, and remain a source of salt, but will not support life. But the Living Water flows all the way to the Dead Sea, and the Dead Sea is no longer Dead!  

What was once literally dead, with virtually nothing surviving there, is to be healed by these living waters, and not only will it be made “livable,” but it will swarm with life! It will be commercially fishable! So, a “picture” is beginning to appear, regarding the power and the limitations of “living water.”

Every piece of ground it touched was cleansed and began to produce life. Plants and trees grew all along the banks of this water. Fish could live where that water flowed. The water was clean and healthy to drink. But anywhere the water was not allowed to touch, that land remained unfruitful and dead.

So, what else do we know about that River coming out of Jerusalem?

The River From the Altar

Psalm 46:4 “There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High.”

There is no question that this passage refers to the Temple. Probably the first thing to observe, then, is that, currently, there is no River flowing out of the Temple Mount. But, as we will see elsewhere, there will be such a river!

There is, however, a brook, off to the east, called the “Brook Kidron.” The name “Kidron” means “Turbid: thick with roiled sediment.” (Even the particular word translated “brook” means a choked creek in a narrow ravine…not a “pretty little stream, running across a lovely, sunny meadow.”) So, we have a tight little ravine, with a muddy creek running in the bottom of it, whose waters are “turbid: thick with roiled sediment.”

There is also a tributary to the Kidron, draining the valley of Hinnom, to the south of the city…which used to be the city garbage dump. It was the place they threw the carcasses of criminals and of unclean animals. That place was so foul that it became the “mental image of Hell,” to the Hebrew imagination. The place was called Gehenna, because everything about it was a picture of the eternal lostness of the unrighteous dead.

The Current Path of the Brook Kidron

So, the Brook Kidron flowed from somewhere between the Mount of Olives and Jerusalem, through a nasty, narrow ravine, down to the southeast corner of the old city, and it was joined there by whatever water drained Gehenna. Then it turned left and flowed pretty much straight to the Dead Sea, across salt-flats, marshes, and desert, but never producing much in the way of life. And, of course, once it reached the Dead Sea, there was no further life at all. The Dead sea has no outlets. Once the waters reached the Dead Sea, there was no way out of that “end-result.” I hope you are starting to see some “pictures,” here.

Throughout the Old Testament, we see that when the priests cleansed the temple, they threw the filth into the “brook Kidron.” When they broke down the idols, they threw the pieces into the brook Kidron. The Kidron seems to be a kind of  “Condemnation Creek;” it is joined by the drainage of their idea of hell: Gehenna, and then it winds its way across the desert, down to Eternal Death. In short, it is beginning to look a great deal like the condition of the Lost Human soul!

How does any of this apply to the question of Living Water?

Jesus offered the “Spring of Living Water”

In John 4:14, Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman at the City well, outside Sychar. He offered her a Spring; a source of Living Water, which He said, if she drank from it, would “well up unto eternal life.”

Initially, she was thoroughly confused by His offer. She wanted that water, but had no idea how to get it. But eventually, she believed in Him and found that she had drunk from that well. Does it say that, specifically? No; it says that she wanted to “drink from that well,” but she did not know what He meant. Afterward, it says that she and many others “believed on Jesus:” they placed their dependance on Him as their Messiah. And, here in John chapter seven, we are going to see what He meant.

“Come unto me and Drink”

In John 7:37-39, Jesus made a very public offer to “anyone who thirsts,” to come and drink.

37 In the last day, that great day of the feast, {Pentecost! What a great connection!] Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. 38 He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. 39 (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)

Jesus said, “as the scripture hath said…” He may have been referring to Isaiah 58:11, where God promised that the people would be “like a well-watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.” Or He could have meant the passage in Proverbs 10:11, saying that the “mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life.

But He pulled together all the Old references to Living Water, in this verse, and was kind enough to let us know exactly what He meant, so that we are not coming up with “Human-tainted explanations” of all kinds. It says that he spoke regarding the Holy Spirit, “…which they that believe on Him should receive.”

How does this apply to the Old Testament Prophecies?

Two weeks ago, during Bible Study, we saw that the “best commentary on the Word of God is the Word of God.” In this case, in spite of the “etymological fact” that (in the Old Testament) the phrase“Living water” possibly “just means ‘flowing water’,” we can see that “flowing water” cannot possibly be what Jesus meant, here in John 7, nor in John 4, because He said it would result in a flowing spring from within the person, providing eternal life. (Plain old “flowing water” can’t do that!)

Possibly even the water in Ezekiel 47 has some special properties, though it does not specifically say so. Flowing from under the altar would seem to hint that it might, at least. And the fact that “everything lives, when touched by that water” seems to hint that way, too. That River will be flowing out of Jerusalem, during the Millennial Kingdom, fulfilling Psalm 46:4.

We also see, here in John 7:39, that Jesus was specifically referring to the indwelling Holy Spirit. That relationship between the Believer and the Holy Spirit did not begin as a “normal” state of affairs until the day of Pentecost in Acts chapter 2. With that explanatory note, let’s go back and look at the other passages again:

Looking Back

In Jeremiah 2:13, if God is the only source of spiritual life, namely, via the Holy Spirit having an effect, even on the lives of Old Testament Believers, then “storing up spirituality” was an exercise in futility. There is no “vessel”, certainly not a cracked cistern, which can hold a store of the Holy Spirit, nor even the effect that He has on a life. It has to be renewed daily! Turning away from the true source of life to find some sort of man-made self-sufficiency, is a pretty terrible idea. But people still do it today!

If the stream in Ezekiel 47, coming out of Jerusalem, is a “picture” of the “Living water” of the Indwelling Holy Spirit, then both Psalm 46:4 and Ezekiel 47:1-12 make a different kind of sense than we first understood (just knowing that there will be a physical river flowing out of Jerusalem.) What if those passages, too, are in some way linked to the living water of John 7:36-39? What if they, too are at least a “picture” of something far beyond just “Physical water?”

Back to the Riverbank

We saw in Ezekiel 47, that the water went from ankle deep, just 500 yards outside Jerusalem, to swimming depth in less than a half mile. And then we see that Ezekiel was taken back to the riverbank on dry ground, to consider what he had seen.

A Living Timeline

I would like to take the liberty of seeing a “picture,” here: when we first became believers, although we already were indwelt by the Holy Spirit, we were also very immature: we were only “ankle-deep” in the Stream of Life being offered to us.

Time passed: and, as we grew, and learned to walk with the Lord, the stream reached our knees, possibly pointing to our prayer-life, or our heartfelt worship of the Living God.

More time passed, and it says the water reached the loins. (Some translations render this as “hips, or waist…and the Hebrew word is mothnayim, which probably does just mean “hips or waist.”) But I like to think of it as how we begin to reproduce as believers: That we are created to bear permanent fruit, in leading others to Christ. (Remember, there is only a “picture,” here: perhaps I am not seeing things clearly.)

Sometime later… “Afterward

But the next thing we know, at so,me point in our growth, the water is over our depth: we can no longer “wade” in this water: we have to swim. And usually, when a person is swimming, only their head is visible. They are fully suspended in the water they swim in.

Now, I fully recognize that I am “taking liberty” with the text. I don’t often do such things, and I don’t want to cause any confusion. But I would like to observe a few more things, tracking the idea that somehow, this River may be a picture of the Holy Spirit’s work in the life of a believer.

Final Observations

The first thing to see is that the angelic messenger took Ezekiel back out of the flow and stood him on the riverbank. It is always possible to become a “castaway;” still saved, still indwelt by the Holy Spirit, but in terms of service, “set on the shelf.” Standing on the riverbank, looking out across the vastness of God’s Work and His love, and wondering why we feel so dry!

The next thing to see is the result of the free flow of that water. We see that it cleaned out the Kidron, because it provided a new source: a new headwater! It washed away the vile flow from Gehenna, and, though it still turned and flowed toward the Dead Sea, it produced life all the way there, only missing the places where it was not allowed to flow, and the end result was that instead of the eternal death of the Dead Sea, the Dead Sea was brought to life, and Eternal life and Eternal value was produced in its place. Death has lost its sting!

What about Us?

This is what is supposed to happen in the believer’s life! We have a new Head (Jesus!)…a new source of life (Jesus!) And that life should overflow through all of our old life-course, transforming it into a fruitful garden for God, producing new life at every turn, offering sustenance and healing to everyone around us. The places in our lives where we “hold back,” not allowing the Holy Spirit to transform us, will simply remain dead and unfruitful. But the end result, regardless of all else, will be the eternal life that Jesus promised. That is where the River is Going!

Jesus gives a River of Living Water. How we choose to use it will depend upon the individual. Some press deeper, feeding on the Word and growing in Love and Faith. Others “dabble around in the shallows,” never really desiring to become more like Jesus: never truly desiring to be transformed by His Grace, His Word, His power. And many of us are in between, vacillating between zeal and apathy. We run at a fitful pace, sometimes sprinting ahead, then being frustrated when it turns out that the Lord was going a different way. Sometimes we lag behind, and then we are prone to attack by spiritual predators.

Results

But Jesus said that River of life, that Spring of Living Water was supposed to change us, springing up unto Eternal life. If that isn’t happening, then we need to examine ourselves to find out why.

If you have received the Lord as your Savior, then His Living Water should be flowing out of you to all those around you. And the Flow of that Living Water in your own life should be cleansing and renewing life in all parts of your life.

What changes us?

God says His Word, by the Holy Spirit, is the one agent guaranteed to change our lives. He also commands that “as newborn babes,” we are to “desire the sincere milk of the word,” that we may grow thereby.”

Many of you have already seen the Word and the Spirit transforming your lives or the lives of those around you. None of us are finished with that process. We are called to press on, get off the Riverbank, and get into deeper water…quit wading, and learn to swim!

Lord Jesus, draw us along in your path, following closer to you, and learning to walk as You walk. Transform our lives into Your likeness, and teach us to thirst for your presence, the only source of the Living Water.

Ye shall seek me and Not Find Me

Ye shall seek me and Not Find Me

© 2022 C. O. Bishop

John 7:31-36

Introduction:

Last week we examined Jesus’s disclaimer that “My doctrine is not Mine but His that sent me.” We were able to see that the doctrine we are assigned to teach is also not ours, but His (Christ’s) who sent us. John 20:21 says, “Peace be unto you: As the Father hath sent Me, even so send I you!” And, in Matthew 28:19-20, we see that the command is given in a self-perpetuating form. The Apostles were to teach their students (us) to do exactly as Jesus assigned them.

In spite of the crowd’s general response to His teaching that He was the Son of God (They attempted to “nab” him) some were actually beginning to absorb His message, and look at His miraculous works, and believe Him!

Some Believed!

31 And many of the people believed on him, and said, When Christ cometh, will he do more miracles than these which this man hath done?

These who believed were asking the others, in effect, What would it take to convince you??” They were satisfied in their own minds that this “Jesus” was fulfilling the prophecies, and that He very likely was the “real deal!” And, whether openly or secretly, it says that many believed His message… they believed in Him as their Messiah.

Some sought to silence Him!

But that sort of talk spreads! It quickly got back to the ears of the Pharisees and Chief Priests. They were not interested in investigating His claim. They wanted Him silenced. So, they sent officers to arrest Jesus. (Now, is it possible, that, at this time, that this is how they might have begun an investigation? Theoretically, perhaps it is possible.

But they proved, a little later, that it was never their intent to honestly investigate His claim that He was truly the Messiah. They wanted Him silenced! How do I know? Because when He publicly raised the dead, in John 11, those same enemies were there, and their response (in John 12) to a “bona fide” raising to life of an unquestionably dead man, was that they conspired to kill both Jesus and Lazarus!)

 32 The Pharisees heard that the people murmured such things concerning him; and the Pharisees and the chief priests sent officers to take him.

Remember, we already saw, last week, the result of sending those officers. They went back empty handed. But, in the few verses immediately following lasts week’s message, we see Jesus perplexing the crowd once again:

33 Then said Jesus unto them, Yet a little while am I with you, and then I go unto him that sent me. 34 Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, thither ye cannot come.

Ye shall seek Me and not Find me!

How would we have taken this remark, today? There have been numerous people in our times, who simply “dropped out of sight:” They disappeared for many years, in some cases, and were thought to be dead. But they were later discovered in another place, living under a different name. Perhaps we would have thought that to be the case, here. All someone has to do today, is abandon their identity, get on a bus, hitchhike, walk, etc., and put down roots elsewhere. To do it permanently, of course, requires some illegal measures to assume the identity of someone else.

But, in those days, travel was not easy, cheap, or fast. There were no identity cards, and no computers, so, there were no “magic tricks” needed, in order to change names. The problem was that travel was slow, and dangerous…and there was always someone who would recall having “seen someone,” and put the pursuers back on the trail again.

So, the Jews had legitimate questions as to how Jesus intended to “disappear.”

35 Then said the Jews among themselves, Whither will he go, that we shall not find him? will he go unto the dispersed among the Gentiles, and teach the Gentiles? 36 What manner of saying is this that he said, Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, thither ye cannot come?

It is interesting that, the very next day, He was teaching almost the same things, and they were asking similar questions, and getting a little closer to the correct answer, thinking that somehow He was predicting His own death.

In John 8:20-24, it says, 20 These words spake Jesus in the treasury, as he taught in the temple: and no man laid hands on him; for his hour was not yet come. 21 Then said Jesus again unto them, I go my way, and ye shall seek me, and shall die in your sins: whither I go, ye cannot come.

Deaf Ears and Blind eyes

Jesus once again informed the people that He was about to leave, and that they would not be able to follow. The previous day, they supposed that perhaps He was going to travel to the Jews in the dispersion among the Gentile nations….and that they simply would not be willing to follow. But they have had time to think it over, and have realized “that can’t be it.”

However, they seem to have ignored what He had plainly told them!  He said, “Yet a little while am I with you, and then I go unto him that sent me!” He told them where He was going! They utterly ignored that part of what He said! They were so committed to the opinion that He was Not “God in the Flesh,” that His clear statements as to His origin and destination fell on deaf ears!

Remember, several times, in the last few weeks, we mentioned that it is possible to become “judicially blind” if we disregard the Light of God’s Word. It is also entirely possible to become “judicially deaf,” if we ignore His Voice long enough. God calls, constantly, and the human race has either ignored His voice or fled from His presence. In John 10: 27, 28 Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow Me, and I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish!”

How can we recognize those who “hear His voice?” John 1:12 says they “received Him.” They accepted Him for what He said He was. They took His Word for the things He taught. They heard His voice, and they followed Him.

John 3:19-21 “This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.”

So, the Light of Christ is shining in the World, and some turn to that light. Others flee the light. Those who respond favorably to the Light of God’s Truth become increasingly sensitive to light, and they begin to seek more light; stronger light, so that they can better see the path before them. Those who hate the light, and reject it, eventually deny that it exists: they prefer to hear echoes of their own hearts, rather than hear answers from the heart of God.

Hearing Echoes of Our Own Hearts

I remember reading of an exchange that happened on a golf course, outside the clubhouse. A wealthy, self-important golfer was asking the resident “Golf Pro” for advice about his swing. The Pro initially tried to give honest, clear answers, but the man kept arguing, saying, “No, I think the problem is (…something else.)” (Whatever it was…)

Another golfer was listening, nearby, and noticed the change, when the Golf Pro began to agree with the wealthy patron, that his self-analysis was correct. Eventually the wealthy golfer walked away, satisfied. Then the second golfer privately questioned the Pro: “Why did you agree with him? Everything he said was wrong, and you knew it!” The Golf Pro replied, “Mister, I learned a long time ago to not give ‘answers’ to someone who is only looking for ‘echoes.’ He didn’t want correction; he wanted confirmation! So that’s what I gave him!”

In Romans 10:3, we see what the problem was: “For they, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.” They were so intent on establishing their own “rightness,” that they were blind to the overwhelming “Rightness” of the Son of God!

Jesus had told them where He was going, but they were already blind to His Deity, and blind to the evidence that He was the true Messiah. So, He warned them that where He was going, they could not follow. To his disciples, in John 13:36, He said, “…you cannot come now, but you will come later!” But to these unbelieving Jews, he flatly told them that they could not come.

John 8:22-24

22 Then said the Jews, Will he kill himself? because he saith, Whither I go, ye cannot come. 23 And he said unto them, Ye are from beneath; I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world. 24 I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.”

The next day, in answer to the same question, He told them that He was not of this World, but that they were of this world. And He clearly warned them that if they failed to believe that He was who He claimed to be, they would die in their sins!

What does the Future Hold?

In 1st Thessalonians 4:13-18 we see that something is coming, which we call the “Rapture.” We speculate about the different possible responses the World may have to the disappearance of millions of people. But what we know, (from 2nd Thessalonians 2:11, 12) is that (future tense) God will send the World a strong delusion, so that they will believe a lie.

They will not recognize the truth and “believe,” after having seen the rapture, though I have heard people say, “Oh, if I see that, I will believe!” No, they won’t! The only ones who will believe during the Tribulation are those who either did not hear or did not understand the Gospel, before the rapture. A careful reading finds that the (future tense) strong delusion, is directed to them who (past tense) “…did not believe the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”

This is why the Jews were warned, “If ye believe not that I am He, ye shall die in your sins!” They had the most powerful witness to the truth of God in the history of the World: And they were blind to it!

What About Us?

We don’t want to be blind to the provision of God in our lives, nor to His correction, as He uses His Word to convict our hearts and to change us into His likeness. We don’t want to be deaf to His pleading, as He attempts to lead us in the paths of righteousness. All through the Bible, we see the warning that there will come a time when God allows us to “go our own way,” and we, like Samson, will reap the consequences of our sin. (Remember, Samson was a believer!)

Among the groups to whom He spoke, some of the people actually believed. We will meet them someday, as they eventually became the early Church. But others, in every generation, have rejected everything He said, and hated Him for saying it!

We see that today, as well, as we try to share our faith with others. But, Jesus said, “If the World hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.” (John 15:18)

Left Behind, and Lost

Jesus was about to go back to His Father, and He warned the unbelievers that they would not only be “left behind,” but that they would “die in their sins!” I’m not sure that we can fully grasp the hopelessness of one who “waits too long,” and “sees the door close,” so to speak, knowing that God is no longer extending His mercy, and only eternal judgment remains.

That is not a comfortable message, but it is the “Ultimate bad news” making the “Ultimate Good News” of the Cross to be Good News at all! If it were not for the enormity of our sin, and our lost estate before God, then the Salvation He offers would seem of lesser importance, and His death would seem tragic instead of being the greatest act of heroism the universe has ever seen.

Once we realize our lostness, and see Jesus as our only Hope, then the Gospel of Christ becomes the center of our lives.

May God help us to focus on the Person of Christ, and see ourselves reflected in His face, not seeking our own way, but truly seeking His!

My Doctrine isn’t Mine, but His who Sent Me

My Doctrine is not Mine, but His that Sent Me

© 2022 C. O. Bishop

John 7:14-25

Introduction:

Last week, we focused on Jesus’s “negative” statement that “My time is not yet come. It was the fact that Jesus had a very exacting life to live, with almost no deviations He could make. We compared it to the fact that our lives are not choreographed, and that the length of our lives could vary quite a bit, depending on choices we make. But we also saw that, regardless of the choices we make, our lives are still in God’s hands. Many who have lived pure, righteous lives in the last two centuries, have died young. They were victims of tropical diseases, because they chose to follow God’s leading and take the Gospel to a place it had never gone before. All we can do is to choose to obey God, and to trust Him for the outcome.

But this week we will focus on another “negative” statement: “My Doctrine is not Mine!”

My Doctrine is not Mine, but His that sent Me

14 Now about the midst of the feast Jesus went up into the temple, and taught. 15 And the Jews marvelled, saying, How knoweth this man letters, having never learned? 16 Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me.

Jesus was teaching in the Temple, not in the marketplace, or the local Synagogue. The Jews heard Jesus teach, right there in the temple, and they were astonished at His teaching, His Grace and His wisdom, etc. (Remember, This was not the first time that people were astonished at his wisdom: when he was twelve years old, he visited with the elders in the temple, and they were amazed at His precocious grasp of spiritual things. And again, when he was about thirty, (Luke 3:23; 4:16-30) He had taught in the synagogue in Nazareth, and they were amazed at His gracious words…and then tried to kill Him when he pointed out their multiple failings to have recognized the prophets of the past.)

What was the source of the teaching?

The people recognized that Jesus lacked “Formal Education.” They knew who he was, at least some of them, as we see in verse 27. It may have been a fairly superficial knowledge, but they at least knew Him well enough to know that he had very little formal education, and they may have known his background, that he was “Jesus, the carpenter’s son.”

In his home area, everyone knew him, as we see in Mark 6:3, and they were offended when He taught. Some of those from Nazareth were there in Jerusalem, for the same reason that He, Himself was there: It was the feast of Tabernacles, and all the Jews went there.

But they were amazed that He could teach with such power and grace, and Jesus heard their collective question between themselves, and, though it had not been directed to Him, He replied: “My doctrine is not Mine but His that sent Me.” Then He went on to explain to them how they could recognize His message as God’s Word, and how to recognize a prophet sent from God.

How Can We tell the Difference?

 17 If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself. 18 He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory: but he that seeketh his glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him.

Jesus said that if any person was willing to do the will of God, them he or she would have the spiritual insight to know whether Jesus was truly transmitting the thoughts of God, or was “just teaching his own thoughts.” He said that the primary clue would be found in the motive of the teacher: He said, “he that speaketh of himself (on his own authority) seeketh his own glory.”

Jesus sought no glory, and never “took up an offering.” He sought neither glory nor gain.

False teachers are all too willing to accept credit for all that they do (and more) and to tell you how “superior” their relationship with God is, boasting of all the wonderful things God has done through them. Frequently, if one is alert at all, there are also some fairly recognizable and clearly ulterior motives: Something that “feeds the flesh.” It could do so in a wide variety of ways.

Personal Glory and Personal Gain

Some are in “the ministry” for personal gain…and they see every church and every believer as a potential “market” for whatever they are attempting to “sell.”  For some, it is less “corrupt,” but they still see the “ministry” as being “just a job:” a way to earn a living. They see it in the same light as any other career: as a job, rather than a calling, to which all else must take second place. So, if another church offers more money or better benefits, it does not hurt their conscience to leave the flock which had been entrusted to their care, and just “grab a better job.” And, if that is what the “ministry “ is really supposed to be about, then no one can fault them.

I once had a young man tell me that he intended to become a “youth pastor.” So, I asked him why; and he freely told me that “They get to go on lots of outings, rafting trips, concerts, and so forth, all paid for by the church!” (The word “pastor” means shepherd: you are supposed to be feeding the flock! Some do it better others, but that is the central command to shepherds!) I felt sad, and sickened by his response, but he was a very young man, and I barely knew him, so I did not push very hard, trying to dissuade him. And I was told years later, by a mutual friend, that he had eventually changed, and now pursued ministry for the sake of ministry: I hope that it is true.

But whatever other ulterior, fleshly, worldly, or even demonic motives false teachers may have, they definitely want “honor” for their efforts. In Matthew 6:5; 23:7-12; Luke 20:46, 47, Jesus addressed such people personally, saying that they were hypocrites: they loved the honor, and the respectful greetings in the marketplace, they loved to be called “Rabbi.”

(This is still a trap today: “Ah, good morning, Pastor Smith! Good to see you, Deacon Jones!”)  But Jesus said they were also preying on the people they were supposed to serve, seeking to buy out the properties of widows, and not caring for the poor, but rather, enriching themselves. This directly echoes the condemnation God extended to the false shepherds of Israel in Ezekiel 34:3, “Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock.”

God condemned those false shepherds of that age, and He condemns such behavior today! He sees His Flock—the believers of all history—as being His personal possession: and anyone who mistreats that flock, He sees as a predator, endangering His flock.

This is why Jesus condemned such people as “Wolves in sheep’s clothing.” In Matthew 7:15, He said, “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.”

Today, in the Church Age, we are warned of “false teachers.” 2nd Peter 2:1, says, “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. The Lord sees these teachers as predators who “fleece” His Flock, or who draw them away from Him, away from His truth and His guidance and His care. He does not take this lightly; and neither should we.

What about the Law?

Jesus drew the crowd’s attention back to the prime accusation the Jewish leaders made against Him: They said that He was teaching people to break the Law. They said because he healed on the Sabbath, he was a lawbreaker. But He reminded them that none of them kept the Law. He didn’t go into a lot of detail in this passage, though He did in other places. Here, He only said that none of them kept the Law, but they wanted to kill Him for “breaking the Sabbath.”

19 Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keepeth the law? Why go ye about to kill me? 20 The people answered and said, Thou hast a devil: who goeth about to kill thee?

This is where the people (perhaps some of the conspirators) denied that anyone was seeking to kill Him, and they accused Him of being demon possessed. But, looking ahead to verse 25, we see that the crowd absolutely knew that the authorities were seeking to kill Him. (incidentally, the word translated “devil” here (v. 20) is the Greek word “daimonion,” meaning an “evil spirit,” and used almost exclusively in reference to demon-possession.

21 Jesus answered and said unto them, I have done one work, and ye all marvel.

This is in reference to the healing of the man at the pool of Bethesda: John 5:16-18 says that they absolutely had wanted to kill Him after he healed the man on the Sabbath, and then, when He defended His actions, by saying that His Father (God) was working that day, on the Sabbath, they more vehemently sought His death, because He claimed (truthfully) to be the Son of God.

What about the Sabbath?

Knowing that the reason the authorities had originally (a year earlier) sought to kill him was the issue of the Sabbath, Jesus brought up a logical argument to support His having healed on the Sabbath: The Law of Moses required that all male Jewish children be circumcised on the eighth day after birth: no exception was made for the eighth day falling on the Sabbath.

22 Moses therefore gave unto you circumcision; (not because it is of Moses, but of the fathers;) (circumcision goes back to Abraham, far predating Moses.) and ye on the sabbath day circumcise a man. 23 If a man on the sabbath day receive circumcision, that the law of Moses should not be broken; are ye angry at me, because I have made a man every whit whole on the sabbath day? 24 Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.

He shows the logical “disconnect” in the response of the Jewish religious authorities. But in so doing, He evidently “joggled the memories” of those who had been there the year before, and they all realized, “Oh, now I remember! This is the one who got in so much trouble last year!”

25 Then said some of them of Jerusalem, Is not this he, whom they seek to kill?

It is interesting how human memories can be so selective: Everyone seems to have forgotten what happened the previous year, with the man Jesus healed and the response of the rulers at that time. There were other healings He had done at about that same time, but the one on the Sabbath was the one over which the trouble had begun. The people of Jerusalem definitely knew!

Why were the Authorities silent?

26 But, lo, he speaketh boldly, and they say nothing unto him. Do the rulers know indeed that this is the very Christ?

So, the next logical question in their minds was. “Look, He is teaching openly, in the Temple! So, why aren’t they doing anything? Why aren’t the religious rulers getting right down here and arresting him?”

It was logical that they should ask, “Do they know something we don’t know? Is He really the Messiah? Are they afraid to confront Him??” and we see in the following verses that people were beginning to believe in Him. In the next passage, though, beginning in verse 32, we see that the Jewish rulers actually did send officers to arrest Him, but they went back empty handed, saying “No man ever taught the way this man teaches!”

What was different about Jesus?

Why did the officers go back empty handed? What was so special about Jesus? They had heard hundreds of teachers before, but this one was different. Matthew 7:29 and Mark 1:22 both say that “He taught as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” Jesus didn’t need to insert disclaimers, saying, “Well, the best authorities and scholars all say…” He was the best authority: It was His Word that He was teaching! And what we have seen, in both the Old Testament and the New Testament, is that God’s Word is what changes lives: God’s Word is powerful and alive and penetrates through to our deepest heart-secrets. No one could hear Jesus and not be affected!

Were they all affected in the same way? NO! Not at all! The same sunlight that softens wax hardens mud! The same daylight that causes night-creatures to take cover, causes creatures of the day, whether birds or butterflies, to wake up and get busy living! God calls us children of the light, and children of the day, and He calls us  to wake up and get busy living!

The Doctrine is not Ours but His that sent us!

We have nothing of our own to offer. Every atom of our bodies and of the whole universe already belong to God. He has chosen us in Christ, to be ambassadors for Him. And the message we bring is not ours to choose: The Gospel is clearly spelled out, and He says it is His only means by which to save souls. Romans 1:16 makes that completely clear.

When we share the Gospel with another person, attempting to do the job we have been given, we do not have the authority to “water down the message, and make it more palatable.”

Paul said, “We preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness.” If we shrink from presenting the Gospel unadorned, and unsweetened, then the reality is that we are “ashamed of the Gospel.”

Romans 1:16 says “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation, to everyone that believeth, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.”

Are you ashamed of that message? Are you uncomfortable with it? Do you admit to yourself that this message is what we are sent to share, and that being an ambassador for Christ is the only job He has given to us?

We need to come to grips with the simple fact that, as Jesus said, “The doctrine is not mine but His who sent me!” I do not have the option to stray off into other messages, whether it is just my personal opinion, or things of political expediency, or social acceptability. I have no such option!

Jesus admitted that, in spite of His supreme authority as God in the Flesh, He still presented the message He was sent to present: not just His own ideas. And, when we do the same, preaching, teaching, and sharing His  message, not some clever thing we thought up on our own, then we can expect that the result will be to God’s Glory, and for His Gain.

We need to take hold of that single concept, accept the fact of our universal calling as ambassadors of Christ, and then step out with the doctrine of Christ, and share it without shame with anyone who will listen. Then we can cheerfully and confidently leave the results up to Him.

Lord Jesus, teach our hearts that the message of the Gospel did not originate with us: It is Your doctrine, Your message, and Your assignment to the Church. Help us to respond in faith and obedience.

My Hour is not yet come, but yours is always ready!

My Hour is not yet come, but yours is always ready!

© 2022 C. O. Bishop

John 7:1-9; John 7:25-30; John 8:20

Introduction:

Sometimes we wonder why things happen, and how they fit into God’s “Wonderful plan” for our lives. I used to use the “Four Spiritual Laws” tracts, written by Bill Bright, but I eventually quit using them for several reasons:

Problems with Tracts

For one thing, the central premise, (“God Loves You and Has a Wonderful Plan for Your Life) is technically true, but, from most people’s perspective, it is seriously flawed: Yes, God loves you and Yes, He has a wonderful plan for your life, but it may or may not feel or look very wonderful to you. And you may not always be conscious of His loving care in your life.

For example: every single one of His apostles (with the possible exception of John) were eventually executed. How wonderful was that? Millions of His followers, since that time, have been persecuted, had their children taken from them, their belongings confiscated, and have suffered imprisonment or other forms of persecution for their faith in Him. Millions have died horrible deaths, rather than disown Him. How wonderful does that sound? So, that was one problem: I was uncomfortable with the core message.

The real issue though, which caused me to quit using that tract entirely, was that it left out the core issues of the Gospel, and its message centered on “how much better things would be if you knew Jesus,” and it finally concluded, “Pray this prayer and receive Christ.”

What is the Gospel?

That is not what the Gospel says! The Gospel says, “Place your faith in His blood sacrifice for your sins and be saved.” There is no mention of “praying a prayer:” the issue is faith: place your faith in the death and the burial and the ressurection of Jesus Christ!

The result of the Gospel is also described: “It has been given unto you in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” (Philippians 1:29)

You see, that sort of thing doesn’t find its way into very many tracts. It is not attractive-sounding! The fact is, as a newborn believer, you have already “chosen a side” in a spiritual war that, previously, you didn’t even know existed, and now life is getting worse, (maybe) not better, in certain areas. Hopefully, you have grown in your faith at least a little, and are able to enjoy your relationship with the Savior, regardless of circumstances. That, alone, is the key to Christian Joy.

But, if you were thinking that your circumstances were supposed to improve, and that “nothing bad would ever happen to you again;” then, you were in for a very rude shock! Probably, you got through the early disappointments as part of the “learning curve,” but maybe other people have been pestering you with questions, like: “How could a Loving God allow these things to Happen?” Perhaps you have asked that question yourself.

Let’s read what Jesus said about some of these things.

My Time is not yet Come

John 7:1-9

1After these things Jesus walked in Galilee: for he would not walk in Jewry, because the Jews sought to kill him. Now the Jew’s feast of tabernacles was at hand. His brethren therefore said unto him, Depart hence, and go into Judaea, that thy disciples also may see the works that thou doest. For there is no man that doeth any thing in secret, and he himself seeketh to be known openly. If thou do these things, shew thyself to the world.

For neither did his brethren believe in him. Then Jesus said unto them, My time is not yet come: but your time is alway ready. The world cannot hate you; but me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil. Go ye up unto this feast: I go not up yet unto this feast: for my time is not yet full come. When he had said these words unto them, he abode still in Galilee

One of the first things we see in that passage is that the Jews were seeking to kill Jesus. Jesus knew that, and (as we see later) it was common knowledge in at least some circles, though it was denied by the ones who actually conspired against him.

Jesus’s physical half-brothers (they were the offspring of Joseph, by Mary…listed by name in Mark 6:3)  were urging Jesus to go up to Jerusalem and show Himself to the general population at the Feast of Tabernacles.

Worldly Counsel

In a way, this made good sense, from a human perspective: IF Jesus wanted (and He did not) to make himself “known openly” (i.e. “get famous”) then there could be no better time: All the serious Jews in the world would be at that feast. If you wanted to get noticed by the Jews, that was the time and the place to do it!

But fame was not Jesus’s primary motive. He had a job to do, and it involved walking a very narrow path (think “tightrope”) to the Crossnot to fame and fortune. He hinted at this, earlier, in John 4:34, saying that His primary passion was to do His Father’s Will. He confirmed this later at Gethsemane, saying “Not My will but Thine be done.”

The other thing as we already saw, was that Jesus already knew the Jews wanted to kill him. It seems that his brothers were not yet fully aware of this. And, as John points out, in verse 5, they also did not yet believe in Him, themselves. He was just their “eldest brother, “and He was not behaving as they thought an “eldest brother” should behave. (Evidence in scripture suggests that Joseph had died, and that Jesus was now the head of the household.) They thought He should be “leading the charge,” and making their family more successful.

Jesus’ Counsel

His reply to them was that they could head on up, but that He would not be leaving yet. He explained, “My time is not yet come: but your time is alway ready. The world cannot hate you; but me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil. Go ye up unto this feast: I go not up yet unto this feast: for my time is not yet full come.”

This isn’t the only place He made such comments. You may remember, He told Mary nearly the same thing, in John 2:4. “…mine hour is not yet come.” And there were other times, later on, when the comment was made that, “his hour was not yet come.” (John 7:30; 8:20)

What was Jesus telling them?

Let’s break it down a little. He said four things:

  1. My time is not yet come
  2. Your time is always ready
  3. The World cannot hate you
  4. The World does hate me; because I testify of it that its works are evil

Why did He say, His time had not yet Come, but theirs was always ready?

Jesus is perhaps the only person in History whose every step was choreographed. It was impossible for Him to do other than the directive will of God, because He, Himself, was God in the Flesh! Every step he took, and every word He spoke was exactly what He was directed to do by God the Father, because He was God the Son! And the two were in perfect agreement.

When we say we want to do God’s Will, we often simultaneously express the regret that we don’t always know what He wants us to do. All I can do is fall back on the Written Word, to see the general assignment for the church-age believers, and then trust Him to lead me as I seek to follow Him. Jesus didn’t have that problem: He knew His Father’s will!

Jesus Knew The Will of God

So, Jesus knew the Jews wanted to kill him, and that they were watching for him at Jerusalem. The brothers didn’t believe, yet, that He was the Messiah. Possibly they would have been in danger, there, just by being with Him in Jerusalem. Also, He knew it was not yet time for him to be glorified in death, so his entrance was going to be quiet, this time.

But, in contrast to His “choreographed” life, our lives can be shut down at any time. We are not on a tightrope, as He was. God gives us a great deal of latitude, in decision making. He also gives us a whole Bible full of directions as to how to make good decisions and how to gain wisdom so as to correctly apply knowledge. He also warns us that bad decisions can be fatal. James warns us, too, saying that our lives are like a vapor, and they can disappear in an instant, even if we are making the best decisions we can. We have no promise of tomorrow.

But Jesus knew exactly how long He was going to live, and He knew exactly what to do at all times. None of us can say that about ourselves.

Why would He say, “The World Cannot Hate you?”

He told His natural brothers, “The world cannot hate you,” but later, through John (1st John 3:13) He said, Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you.”

Is that a contradiction? No, it isn’t! Jesus’s physical, biological half-brothers had not yet believed in Him, so they still “belonged to the World.”

In John 15:18, 19, speaking to the Eleven, Jesus said, “18 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. 19 If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.

So, as long as we were unbelievers, we were accepted by the World (to one degree or another) as being one of their own: but now that we have placed our trust in Jesus, we no longer belong to the World.  Now, they see us as enemies! We smell like Jesus, now, and they don’t like that!

Jesus’s brothers still fit in just fine, but Jesus’s disciples didn’t fit in at all! (And we don’t!)

Why does the World Hate Jesus?

Back in John 1:4, we saw that Jesus was the only source of light and life to the Human Race. The next verse says, “and the light shineth in darkness and the darkness comprehended it not.”  (in this context, the word translated “comprehend” is better understood as “overpower.” Yes, it is true that the darkness does not “understand the light,” but the connotation is that “the darkness has never been able to extinguish the light.”)

We are given to understand that this light is more than just physical light: photons, light waves, etc. It is the Moral light of God’s Presence. 1st John 1:5 says, God is Light and in Him is no darkness at all.”

The World Hates Light!

So, in John 3:19, when Jesus said, “This is the Condemnation, that light is come into the World, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil,” we have no trouble understanding that Jesus was not referring to “people whose eyes are hurt by bright lights,” but rather, the pattern of evil in the world, that hates to be exposed.

Jesus is the Light of the World: (He says so in John 8:12!) So, as physical light dispels darkness because it is in its character to do so, Jesus has exposed the evil of the World from the beginning. And the World hates Him for that, alone. They don’t hate him for healing people: they hate Him for exposing them as sinners. They don’t hate Him for doing Good: they hate him for exposing the fact that they are doing evil!

But He was on a time-table—a schedule! Notice what happened when He went up to Jerusalem, later:

John 7:25-30

25Then said some of them of Jerusalem, Is not this he, whom they seek to kill? 26 But, lo, he speaketh boldly, and they say nothing unto him. Do the rulers know indeed that this is the very Christ? 27 Howbeit we know this man whence he is: but when Christ cometh, no man knoweth whence he is.

28 Then cried Jesus in the temple as he taught, saying, Ye both know me, and ye know whence I am: and I am not come of myself, but he that sent me is true, whom ye know not. 29 But I know him: for I am from him, and he hath sent me. 30 Then they sought to take him: but no man laid hands on him, because his hour was not yet come.

Six points:

  • The people recognized Jesus as the one whom the authorities were seeking to kill.
  • They marveled that Jesus taught openly, and the authorities did nothing.
  • The people speculated that possibly the authorities knew that He really was the Messiah.
  • They did not know the Word very well: they thought no one would know the Messiah’s origin: But the scriptures are very clear as to “Where He would come from.”
  • Jesus told them, “Yes, you do know me…but you don’t know the One who sent Me!
  • Then they all tried to take Him, but they failed: “because His hour was not yet come!”

It is an interesting little story, isn’t it? He knew when His “hour” was, and they did not, but they still could not take Him, “because His hour had not yet come.” (It almost looks as though God was in control, doesn’t it?)  And, the same thing happened in the next chapter, when Jesus taught about His own testimony and that of His Father.

John 8:20 says,

20 These words spake Jesus in the treasury, as he taught in the temple: and no man laid hands on him; for his hour was not yet come.

It seems we are not in control of what happens around us! All His enemies wanted to arrest Him and wanted Him dead, but they couldn’t do it! In John 7:32-46, we see that officers were sent to arrest him, but they hung back, and listened to him. They eventually went back empty-handed, and the chief priests asked, “Why have ye not brought Him?” But the officers could only reply “Never man spake like this Man!” The authority of God was shining through Jesus in such a way that humans (even the officers His enemies had sent to arrest Him) were awed by Him!

So, “Who is in control, here?”

This passage should begin to teach us of the authority of God over all things, including our own lives, and it should help us to submit to that authority, rather than constantly protesting against it, saying that “it is not what we wanted.” (We argue with God a lot!)

If we can accept that this is the honest Word of God, and if we can see that nothing could be done against God’s Messiah, except as it completely fit His timetable, then it should give us a sense of confidence about our own future.

Our Confidence

As Romans 8:31 says, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” And, in that case, Romans 8:28 also becomes a reality. We love to quote the first half of that verse, saying, “And we know all things work together for good….” But we seldom quote the last half: “…to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.”

We can rest easy in God’s Will, if the latter half of that verse is true about us, but without it, the first half is very questionable. Jesus said, “…your time is always ready.” We don’t know how much time we have left to serve the Lord. We can keep wasting time, and thinking we will “catch up tomorrow.” But we are not promised tomorrow. I am directing this at myself as much as anyone else. We need to use our time wisely.

Lord Jesus, draw us along to number our days, and to recognize how short our lives are in light of eternity. Help us not to waste the opportunity You have given us to work beside you in your field, and to serve as Your ambassadors in this life.