For Judgment I am come into this World

For Judgment I am come into this World

© 2022 C. O. Bishop

John 9:39-41

Introduction:

Remember, as we read this passage, that Jesus had just healed a blind man, who had been born blind. He had miraculously given the man his sight. The man had suffered persecution, not because he was healed, but because he credited Jesus with the miracle. And they cast him out of the synagogue….essentially, he was excommunicated for confessing that Jesus had healed him, and for refusing to recant.

When Jesus found him again and introduced Himself as the Son of God, the man spontaneously worshipped Him. We still have people today who resent those who worship Jesus…or anyone who prays to Him. They reveal their hearts by that attitude. They reveal what they think of Jesus. And the next verse is what Jesus said in response:

39 And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind.

What a strange thing to say! And: who was He talking to? His disciples were there with him…the healed man was there…and some Pharisees were there. Those are the only ones we know of, for certain.

Consider the overall context: Jesus has been under attack all day and the previous day as well. He dispersed the men who wanted to stone the woman caught in adultery. He introduced Himself as the Light of the World. He nearly was stoned by the Jews when He announced His own eternality, and the fact that He preexisted Abraham. Then, immediately after miraculously escaping the mob in the temple, he went out of His way to heal a man who had been born physically blind.

This Blindness was not Judgment

The disciples asked Jesus whether that man or his parents had sinned, to bring this “judgment” of congenital blindness upon the man. Jesus said that neither had sinned…God had prepared this man for the purpose of showing His own mighty works. (Unlike Bartimaeus, this man had not even asked to be healed. He knew nothing about Jesus before this day.)

But this man, once he understood who Jesus really was, fell down and worshipped him! He was not only healed of his physical blindness, but also the spiritual blindness of his soul was taken away. He saw Jesus for who He was!

Jesus is remarking the irony that: His presence gave sight to the blind, but also revealed the blindness of those who rejected His light. Remember John 3:19And this is the condemnation; that light is come into the world and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.”  The people had an issue with light, there, too.

Blindness Can be Judgment for having Disregarded light

Samson and others ignored the light of God’s direction and His Word, and, in Samson’s case, he was physically blinded by his enemies and enslaved by them.

Romans 11:25 also records that “…blindness in part has happened to Israel.” The majority of the Jews at that time, and ever since that time, have rejected the Gospel of Christ. The few who believed at that time (along with the Jewish proselytes saved at the day of Pentecost,) became the foundation of the church. And they taught the gentile believers who were saved a short time later.

Biblical historians say that the Roman centurion Cornelius (in Acts 10) received the Lord about seven or eight years after the events in Acts 2. I have no scriptural proof of that time passage. All we know is that the church was well established before the Gentiles (as Gentiles, not proselytes), were entering the Body of Christ in any significant numbers. (In Acts 13, we saw the first “mostly Gentile” assembly, and it caused a great deal of controversy, dealt with in Acts 15.)

Blindness happened to Saul

When Saul of Tarsus was confronted by Jesus on the Road to Damascus, two things happened: He was struck to the ground, along with the others in his group, and he was struck blind. Three days later, Jesus sent another disciple, Ananias, to restore his sight… and Saul changed his name to Paul. His physical and spiritual blindness had been healed, and He saw Jesus for who He was.

The rest of Israel remains partially blinded, to this day, and Paul grieved their loss, in Romans 9:1-3. But God promises to restore their sight, as a nation, and they will see Him, physically, and, for the first time recognizing Him for who He is. Zechariah 12:10 says “…They shall look upon Me whom they have pierced, and shall mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and be in bitterness for Him as one is that is in bitterness for his firstborn.”

For Judgment I am Come

Jesus had earlier said that He had come to save the lost.  But, in the same verses (John 3:18, 19) He had said that condemnation was already there in the World. He said,  “He that believeth not is condemned already…and this is the condemnation… that light is come into the World, and Men loved darkness rather than light.”

Many people have taught, for years, that “if you don’t stop sinning, you’re going to be condemned!” But the truth is, you can’t stop sinning, and you are already condemned! The whole human race was in this same trap of sin…every single one of us was guilty and lost.

How did we get there?

Romans 1:21, 22, tells us how that happens. “When they (the human race) knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful, but became vain in their imaginations and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.”

By choosing darkness, we were filled with darkness, and we perpetuated our role as children of darkness. All we were really doing is confirming what God had said from the beginning. He said “In the day that you eat thereof, you shall surely die!” Adam ate, and all his progeny (including Eve) were instantly plunged into the darkness of sin: spiritual separation from the Light of God.

Jesus is the Light of the World

His presence revealed the hearts of everyone who came in contact with Him. Those who rejected light, rejected Him. Those who yearned toward the light, turned to Him in faith. Even today, the same truth applies. The Light of Christ appears in the World, through his servants, the believers, and the people will either turn toward that light, in faith, or they will reject that light, and even attempt to extinguish it.

The Blindness of “Religion”

Romans 2:19 tells us that the Jews saw themselves as being “…a light of them which are in darkness.” But Judgment was about to fall on them, because in truth, they were the opposite of a “light to those in darkness:” They shrouded the light with their corruption, and their hypocrisy, to the extent that no one could see the Light of God in them at all. And they tried to extinguish the Light of Christ when He was there among them. They revealed who they were!

40 And some of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also? 41 Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.

They were not the Only Ones

It would be easy for us to just sneer at the Pharisees and say, “Yeah, those bad old Pharisees!” But the fact is, we are always in danger of doing something similar! We can become so self-satisfied and smug in our “good doctrine,” or our “healthy church,” that we completely close ourselves off from the unsaved world to whom we are sent as witnesses.

At that point, we are no longer allowing the Holy Spirit to reach out through us to the world around us. At that point we are “just a bunch of religious folk.” That is what had happened to the Pharisees, and to a certain extent, to the entire nation of Israel. They were a “very religious” people, but they denied the reality of the Love and the Power of the God they claimed to serve.

A Modern Example:

I visited a church, a few years ago, that had become so ingrown and exclusive, that, when a shabby-looking stranger arrived at their door, they literally didn’t know what to do. (I was the “stranger,” driving a beat-up old Toyota, and wearing clean, but older, inexpensive clothing.)

The “greeters” looked like “deer in the headlights,” clutching their church bulletins against their suit-clad chests. They stood and stared at me, but they did not greet me at all. They never offered a handshake, or asked my name. Never offered me a bulletin, or asked whether I knew the Lord: they said nothing. As ambassadors, they had become irrelevant. They were probably “nice, God-fearing people,” but they were having zero positive effect on the people around them. No one would come back for another visit, after that sort of reception!

Judicial Blindness

The Pharisees had become blind to the light of God. That was Jesus’s judgment of them: He revealed their true blindness. The church at Laodicea (Revelation 3:19) as a group, had become blind, as well, and Jesus shut them down! On an individual one-on-one basis, He still invited them to fellowship with Him, but as a church, they were completely shut down.

Because the Pharisees still claimed to “see,” and even claimed that they saw better than others, they were under the Judgment of God. In John 5:22, we see that Jesus, as God the Son, is the Judge of all the Earth, and He is the One they were rejecting and slandering!

Coming Judgment

They didn’t know it, but, less than 40 years later, the entire temple and everything they held precious would be destroyed. Through a series of bloody revolts, over a period of 70 years, during which hundreds of thousands were killed, the nation of Israel eventually ceased to be a nation, and was renamed “Palestine” by the Romans, in an effort to exterminate the memory of Judaism. It stayed that way until 74 years ago, when it was reborn as “Israel,” on May 14th, 1948. But the blindness still remains, today.

The Job of the Church is to Represent Jesus

We are called to be Ambassadors of Christ…we are to represent Him before the World. But, how we apply God’s Word in our daily lives and how we respond to others because of His presence in our lives will determine the result of our service.

We are told to testify to His love and His Grace, and to demonstrate His Love and His Mercy. We are told to become His hands and feet, and to be His voice, speaking His Righteousness and Love into the ears of the lost World.

Communion

When we partake in communion, we testify before one another that His blood was shed for us, and that we are trusting in His Grace, and looking forward to His return. But the result of that Sacred Relationship should be that we willingly, voluntarily reach out to the people around us, too. This isn’t all about us! Jesus’s agenda reaches out to the whole world.

Changed Lives

The result should be that we desire His righteousness and His wisdom. That we want to see our lives transformed, to be like Him. We should be concerned that the light of His presence is not dimmed because of the “grime” of our lives. The sin in our lives should grieve us as deeply as it does Him. We should want what He wants.

As ministers of the light…servants of the light, we need to make certain that the light we shine is clean and clear. We mentioned some time ago that the headlamps of a vehicle can become so encrusted with road-grime that the light burning within seems very dim as seen from the outside.

Clean Lives

We want our lives to be clean enough and clear enough that anyone looking our way will see the light of Jesus. We are supposed to “Glow in the dark.” We are told to “shine as lights in a corrupt nation.” No nation in history has been completely free of corruption, but God’s people are to shine in the midst of that darkness. We are commanded to draw people to Jesus: (not “to church:” to Jesus!)

We are called to “smell like Jesus.” The Fragrance of Christ is to be emanating from our lives at all times. The only way that is going to happen is if we allow Him to live through us, and allow His presence to permeate our lives.

As we celebrate communion together, please be thinking about what that may mean, to allow Jesus to live through you.

Lord Jesus, we know that we are blind to so much of the truth of God. We yearn to experience Your light in such a way that it transforms us into Your likeness. Let us be true children of the light, and not limit Your light in any way.

One Thing I Know: I was Blind. But Now I See!

One Thing I Know: I was Blind. But Now I See!

©  2022 C. O. Bishop

John 9:1-38

Introduction:

In a way, today’s message could be categorized as “Apologetics”—defending the faith.

Or, it could be called Evangelism, as in giving one’s testimony.

It could be about Persecution, because the fellow in this chapter who gave his testimony was excommunicated from the temple and publicly condemned for the completely factual and honest testimony he offered.

Or, we could simply see it as the history of a man, who was born blind, and who, after many years of blindness, was given his sight. In that case we should ask at least three questions:

What happened, Where did it happen, and Who were the witnesses?

John 9:1-38 (Where did it all happen?)

1And as Jesus passed by,…”

(Passed by, where?) In the previous verse, John 8:59, we see that Jesus was just leaving the temple. The Pharisees had attempted to stone Him, but somehow, He walked away without their attacking Him…and it says, He “passed by.” The next verse says, “and as he passed by…” So, wherever he was, it was evidently quite near the temple.

“… he [Jesus] saw a man which was blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?

Possibly the blind man was begging just outside the temple. That was a common way for a blind or crippled person to seek sustenance, in that time period. (We see it also in Acts 3:1-3.) And, in verse 8, here, it says that had been the practice of this particular blind man. Whether or not he was begging when Jesus and the disciples saw him, is not important.

First Witnesses

So, to begin with, we have at least Jesus and His disciples as witnesses to what happened next. (So far, we can’t count the blind man, as he can’t see them.)

But the disciples asked whose fault it was that he should be born blind. To us, this seems a strange question: But to people who thought that all sickness is a judgment from God, it seemed a logical question.

There are people, still today, who think that “If you are living right, then nothing bad will happen to you.” But Jesus made it clear that bad things can happen to good people (Job was a prime example!) And, in the Psalms it was made clear that good things often happen to bad people. They often get rich by evil means, in fact. (Read Psalm 73) But they will face judgment, the same as everyone else, and God has not forgotten their evil.

Jesus gave a clear answer to His disciples: “Nobody was “at fault!” This was not punishment. In this particular case, God was about to receive great glory by demonstrating His power..

 Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.

Jesus reminded them that He was the Light of the world: (He had just told them that, earlier the same day.) And He commented that while he was in His earthly ministry, His light was the only obvious source. But, He also said the night was coming.

 I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.  As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.

He was probablywarning that no one continues working after they die. We can only “shine” for the Lord while we live. Every one of us faces the end of our “working day.” We have been given a job to do, and we will run out of time. Jesus knew His time was short: We need to see our lives in that same light. My bestunderstanding is that this is what He meant. So, what did He do?

What Happened?

When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay, And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing.

Jesus spit in the dirt, and made “mud,” as we would call it. He made mud, and wiped it all over the man’s eyes. Then He gave three commands:

  1. “Go” and
  2. “Wash”
  3. In the pool of Siloam,”.

The name “Siloam” means “sent”…was this an admonition that we (also) should go where the Lord sends us, and do what he commands? Or, as some commentators feel, was it a reminder that Jesus was sent from God?

I guess it could be either. But the result was that the man did “go where he was sent,” and he did “obey by faith”…and he came back seeing completely normally. So, now he is a witness, too! He knows what happened, and though he couldn’t point out the Man who healed him, because he had never seen Him, he knew his name. He knew the Name of Jesus! That is worth something all by itself.

More Witnesses!

The neighbours therefore, and they which before had seen him that he was blind, said, Is not this he that sat and begged? Some said, This is he: others said, He is like him: but he said, I am he. 10 Therefore said they unto him, How were thine eyes opened? 11 He answered and said, A man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed mine eyes, and said unto me, Go to the pool of Siloam, and wash: and I went and washed, and I received sight.  12 Then said they unto him, Where is he? He said, I know not.

The neighbors and other people were “witnesses,” too,”but all they saw was the result. They knew he had been blind before. They could see the change in the man’s life, as it was obvious that his eyes were healed. But they could not understand what caused the change. (They knew the “before” and the “after,” but they had no idea what had happened to him.)

They asked him for an explanation, and he told them in very plain language exactly what had happened, from his own perspective. That was his first testimony, and it was perfect!

This is a perfect example of what we are commanded in 1st Peter 3:15! They asked, he was ready, and he gave a straight answer! There was no “messing about” with human storytelling. Everything he said was the simple truth, without any “embellishment.” And what did the neighbors and other people do? Did they throw a party and celebrate with him and his family? Nope. They dragged him off to the Pharisees, for an investigation!

13 They brought to the Pharisees him that aforetime was blind. 14 And it was the sabbath day when Jesus made the clay, and opened his eyes. 15 Then again the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. He said unto them, He put clay upon mine eyes, and I washed, and do see.

Here is another “sabbath day healing! Jesus seemed to do it on purpose, to expose the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. Over and over, Jesus healed on the sabbath, and they were offended every time! But they couldn’t escape that they were now witnesses, too!  They saw only the effect…they did not know him before, and they rejected all testimony from others.

16 Therefore said some of the Pharisees, This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the sabbath day. Others said, How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles? And there was a division among them.

Even the Pharisees could see there was a problem: The one group said, “He must be a ‘bad guy!’ He’s working on the sabbath!” The other group said, ”How can a ‘bad guy’ heal the blind??” There was a division among them, because the Truth was staring them in the face, and they were rejecting it! So, they went back and began questioning the healed man again.

17 They say unto the blind man again, What sayest thou of him, that he hath opened thine eyes? He said, He is a prophet.

The only possibility the healed man could think of, is that anyone who could heal like that must be a prophet of God. He had just been made the recipient of a first-class, “Old Testament-style” miracle!  And the only people who could do such things, according to scripture, were prophets of God!

18 But the Jews did not believe concerning him, that he had been blind, and received his sight, until they called the parents of him that had received his sight. 19 And they asked them, saying, Is this your son, who ye say was born blind? how then doth he now see?

Of course, the next step is to accuse the blind man of lying: that he had not been blind at all! If there were no other witnesses, this would not necessarily be a bad thing to suspect. But all of the neighbors, and other people who brought him in, could testify that they had seen him for years, begging near the Temple…and that he had indeed been blind. But that wasn’t good enough! They dragged his parents into it!

20 His parents answered them and said, We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind: 21 But by what means he now seeth, we know not; or who hath opened his eyes, we know not: he is of age; ask him: he shall speak for himself. 22 These words spake his parents, because they feared the Jews: for the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that he was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue. 23 Therefore said his parents, He is of age; ask him.

So, they called in the man’s parents…how strange! (Now, some commentators suggest that the “man” was simply “over thirteen,” thus, having passed his Bar Mitzvah, he was “legally able to give testimony.” They see that as why he was legally “of age,” but still under his parents’ authority.

I would remind you that, in Exodus and in Numbers, the people under twenty were considered children, and not old enough to be counted in the census, or to be a part of the collective decision to reject God’s offer of the land. So, everyone over twenty at the time of that rebellion, died in the wilderness during the next forty years, and all those who remained were, after that period of time, “of age.”)

My guess would be that the man was at least 20, and possibly thirty, as there were certain public responsibilities a man could not partake in unless he was at least 30. (That is why Jesus did not begin His public ministry until He was 30.)

God lets us see the “inside story,” here: He tells us why the parents were afraid to back their son in his testimony. They were afraid of being kicked out of the temple! (Besides, they did give honest testimony: “Yes, that is our son! Yes, he was born blind! Beyond that, we have no idea what is going on, here! You will have to ask him!” Yes, they were afraid of the Pharisees, but they also were being completely honest and logical.)

 24 Then again called they [the Pharisees]  the man that was blind, and said unto him, Give God the praise: we know that this man is a sinner.

They were commanding the healed man to recant, and to agree with their claim that Jesus was not the One who healed him! They accused Jesus of being a sinner!

What was His Defense?

25 He answered and said, Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see.

This is the “bottom line” testimony of every believer. Jesus saved me! Jesus has changed me! (“I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see!”)

A personal testimony always has that advantage: it is hard to argue with someone’s personal experience, though it is possible that a person could be mistaken or even lying. In this man’s case, all he could tell them was, “Look, fellows! I was born blind! Today is the first time in my life that I have ever seen anything! You can say what you want about Jesus, but he healed me!”

It seems the man was beginning to catch on, regarding the politics involved, here: From this point forward, his answers begin to take on a different flavor. They have “crossed a line,” in his mind, and he begins to “push back” a little, defending his own testimony: defending his faith!

26 Then said they to him again, What did he to thee? how opened he thine eyes? 27 He answered them, I have told you already, and ye did not hear: wherefore would ye hear it again? will ye also be his disciples? 28 Then they reviled him, and said, Thou art his disciple; but we are Moses’ disciples. 29 We know that God spake unto Moses: as for this fellow, we know not from whence he is.

This is another odd line of attack. “We know about Moses (whom we have never seen, but we have read about him in the Torah.) But this man we know nothing about…so he must be bad!”

30 The man answered and said unto them, Why herein is a marvellous thing, that ye know not from whence he is, and yet he hath opened mine eyes. 31 Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth. 32 Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind. 33 If this man were not of God, he could do nothing.

Isn’t it interesting that a formerly blind beggar is given enough wisdom to “walk the Pharisees through” the logic they needed to figure out the Origin of the Power of Jesus!

He offered three points of fact, and a conclusion. The facts::

  1. God doesn’t hear sinners!
  2. If a man is a worshipper of God, and an obedient servant of God, God does hear him.
  3. No one in the history of the World has ever healed the eyes of one born blind.

His Conclusion:

If the man were not of God, He could do nothing!” (It’s odd: they didn’t respond well to his little “Lesson in Logic!”)

Rejection!

 34 They answered and said unto him, Thou wast altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us? And they cast him out.

Yeah, proud people don’t like getting “schooled” by people they consider inferior to themselves. They get pretty huffy about such things. And, since they were in a position of power, they “pulled rank” and had him excommunicated from the temple. I’m sure that hurt him, emotionally. He had just received the biggest blessing of his life, and the result was that he was rejected by his community. But he had at least a rudimentary knowledge of Jesus: He had “been through something” with Jesus!

Knowing Jesus

 35 Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God?

This is kind  of a touching scene: Jesus went and found the man he had healed. He had never seen Jesus before, and had only once heard his voice. Jesus probably found him feeling pretty discouraged…dejected…depressed, maybe. But he asked whether he “believed on” the Son of God. It means “do you place your faith on the Son of God?”

36 He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him? 37 And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee. 38 And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him.

He worshipped Him! Jesus willingly received the worship of this man and others! That only leaves about three possibilities:

  1. He is crazy, and he thinks he is God. Or…
  2. He is an incredibly audacious Liar, and wants other people to think He is God. OR…
  3. He really is God!

This man finally made the connection that this was Jesus: the one who had healed him. And he suddenly knew that there was another possible person who could heal, other than just a “Prophet of God:” (Of course!) GOD can heal a man who was born blind! Jesus had his total respect and gratitude before, when he thought Jesus was “just a Prophet.” Now Jesus has the man’s faith and devotion and love. Now the man knew Jesus was God!

What about Us?

There are all sorts of lessons we can learn here: One is that we need to have our eyes opened by Jesus. Also, we need to know from His Word how we were born again,. We also need to be ready to give an answer and able to say, “He saved me!” Finally, it behooves us to at least be able to offer some defense of our faith. Even if it is just the simple statement that “I believe in ‘the Jesus of the Bible!‘ There is no substitute for Him.”

Lord Jesus, open our eyes, so that we can see as this man did, how you have healed us of the sickness of our souls, and set us free from our slavery to sin. Let us speak to Your glory.

“Before Abraham Was, I AM”

Before Abraham Was, I AM

© 2022 C. O. Bishop

John 8:51-59

Introduction:

Last week we examined the concept of “finding freedom in Christ:” finding ourselves freed daily from the continuing destructive power of sin in our lives, as well as gaining permanent freedom from the eternal penalty of sin. We were able to determine that only believers were eligible for either of those two aspects of freedom. And it follows that only people who have been freed from the penalty of sin, so that they no longer face condemnation from God, will also find the eternal freedom from the presence of sin, which will be enjoyed by all believers.

Security in Eternal Freedom

So, the eternal freedom from the penalty of sin, which was granted to you the moment you believed, is yours forever. The eternal freedom from the presence of Sin, is also ours, guaranteed, in the presence of the Lord, but we will not experience it in this life: so long as we still possess our sin natures, the presence of sin and the problem of sin will persist.

But the freedom from the power of sin, experienced in our lives today, is what Jesus was inviting the believing Jews (in verse 30) to learn and experience. He told them that if they continued in His Word, they would become His true disciples: He told them that they would experientially know (“ginosko”) the Truth (which turned out to be Himself) and that He would make them free. We saw that concept reiterated in verse 36, where He said that the Son would make them free.

Rejecting Freedom and Dishonoring God

We also saw that, while the believing Jews may have rejoiced in His promise, the Pharisees who were also precent, were offended by His promise of freedom.

Jesus spoke to them, saying that if they had been “of God,” (as they claimed to be) they would have received Him and honored Him, because He was of God. But since they were not of God, they could not receive the words He spoke. And they dishonored Him, in spite of His truth.

Who do You Honor?

John 8:48-50

48 Then answered the Jews, and said unto him, Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil? 49 Jesus answered, I have not a devil; but I honour my Father, and ye do dishonour me. 50 And I seek not mine own glory: there is one that seeketh and judgeth.

One has to consider, even as a believer, whether one’s words and actions honor the Lord. Years ago, a man who professed to be a believer, and even a bible teacher, suggested some rather “Madison-avenue” ways he advocated for the church or for missionaries to raise money for the ministry. I expressed my feeling of repugnance toward such actions, and he replied, “The bottom line, Chet, is that it works!”  

What is the “Bottom Line,” for Believers?

I was still uncomfortable with that reply, but, as he was much older, and in a position of some honor, I kept my thoughts to myself, as I couldn’t quite put my finger on what was bothering me. Hours later, as his comments echoed in my mind, I realized, that whether something “works” or not should never be the “bottom line” for believers.

The “bottom line,” for believers, has to be the question, “Does it Honor God?!” It has never been the church’s mission to make money, and things that “smell like the World” should be viewed with deep suspicion, and considered very carefully, before engaging in such practices. There are many practices which, while perfectly legal, are still immoral, and never honoring to God.

The people to whom Jesus directed this rebuke were not believers. They claimed to be followers of God: they were the well-respected “pious businessmen” of their day: the “religious professionals,” just short of the priesthood. But they were deliberately dishonoring a man who was honoring God with His life.

That behavior revealed who they really were! We need to carefully avoid doing anything like this, for whatever reason. We don’t want to “trash-talk” other people, whether for political reasons or any other reason. It does not Honor God to do so.

Honoring God through Obedience

Jesus did not seek glory or honor or wealth. He sought to carry out the directives of the Father. Remember John chapter 4: When Jesus entered Samaria, and stopped while the disciples went into the city of Sychar to buy food, he was already on the edge of behavior the Jewish leaders would hate. When He publicly held a conversation with a Samaritan woman, He was crossing the line! Even His disciples were astonished at that behavior! But His motivation became clear, when He said, “My food is to do the will of Him that sent me and to finish His work!”

Jesus had not been trying to gain social standing, or the favors of the religious authorities. He was not seeking His own honor, either, but rather, that of the Father. And there in John 4:1-42, the immediate result was the salvation of many lost souls in Sychar.

Had the Pharisees realized that Jesus sought no personal honor, but sought only to please and honor God, it should have changed their attitude toward Jesus. But they hated Him and just wanted Him silenced. They were absolutely not interested in what he was teaching, except that they felt it constituted a threat to them.

If a Man Keep My Saying, He shall Never see Death

John 8:51-53

51 Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death. 52 Then said the Jews unto him, Now we know that thou hast a devil. Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and thou sayest, If a man keep my saying, he shall never taste of death. 53 Art thou greater than our father Abraham, which is dead? and the prophets are dead: whom makest thou thyself?

Jesus made the “blanket statement” that whoever kept His word would never die. The Pharisees now seized upon His promise of eternal life, and said again that Jesus must be demon-possessed.

They pointed out that Abraham and all the patriarchs and prophets were dead. Their point was that if all the “greats” of the faith had died, what was He claiming for himself?

How could He promise that if someone kept His Word, they would never die?

The Promise of Eternal Life

Remember, back in John 3:16, Jesus had promised that “whoever believed in Him would not perish but would have eternal life.” Again, in John 5:24, He had said “whoever heard His word and believed on Him who had sent Him, had eternal life immediately.” In John 4:14 and John 7:37, 38, he had promised the indwelling Holy Spirit, who would become a “fountain of living water, springing up within the believers.” So, this was nothing new, really. But they seized upon His Word, and challenged Him again.

54 Jesus answered, If I honour myself, my honour is nothing: it is my Father that honoureth me; of whom ye say, that he is your God: 55 Yet ye have not known him; but I know him: and if I should say, I know him not, I shall be a liar like unto you: but I know him, and keep his saying.

So, Jesus took them back to the issue of Honor: He said, “if I were to honor myself, it would be valueless.” But He said that the Father was honoring Him. He reminded them of what He had told them earlier, that they did not have a relational knowledge of God, but that He Himself did have that personal, relational, and experiential knowledge of God. He concluded that if he were to knuckle under and imply that He was no different than they, not knowing God, personally, then He would make Himself a liar “…like unto you!” (It is starting to get personal, here!)

Before Abraham Was, I AM

Jesus went on to say that the patriarch Abraham had rejoiced to see my day” (the day of Christ.) Abraham was a prophet, and he had seen the coming deliverance. He had rejoiced, to see that day coming. Further, Abraham had seen Jesus, face-to-face! (Remember the meal of beef, bread and butter, and milk?) He had conversed with Him personally, and addressed Him as the Judge of all the Earth! But Jesus only said,

56 Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad.

Abraham knew Jesus, walked with Him, obeyed Him. and rejoiced in His promises and presence.

57 Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?

Of course, the Jews were incensed by that statement, too, and they derided Jesus, saying, “You aren’t even fifty years old, yet! How can you claim to have seen Abraham?”

58 Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.

What did Jesus Mean?

Now, in today’s English, we might have simply thought it was bad grammar, and that Jesus was failing to maintain the correct past-tense in the sentence. He began by saying, “before Abraham was” (which clearly is a past-tense condition) but ended by using a strictly present-tense statement of self-existence.  (Did the Jews question His grammar?)

Nope! They took up stones, intending to stone Him to death, for what was clearly blasphemy. They knew Jesus was using the eternal “I AM,” by which the Old Testament God had identified Himself to Moses. They saw that He used it as if He Himself were God! And, the fact is, that is exactly what He was doing! The Pharisees had no question about His intent! They knew that He had just claimed to be the God of Israel!

Seven statements in St. John

When Jesus had earlier claimed to be the Light of the World, they had missed the point: They did not realize that, for Him to be the Light of the World,  He had to be the light of the Gentiles as well as the Light of Israel. He had to be far more than just a carpenter and an itinerant street-preacher.

When He had claimed to be the “Bread of Life that came down from Heaven,” they were offended, but still did not make the connection that He was claiming to be not only their sustenance but their sustainer!

This is only the beginning, as there are five more heavy identifiers which He will use in the Gospel of John, regarding Himself. But this one makes His overall intent very clear: He definitely is claiming to be the God of Israel, in the flesh, and is confronting them face-to-face!

And that is how they understood it, too! Couldn’t they have applied Isaiah 7:14, where the prophecy reads that the child born of the virgin shall be called Immanuel? (meaning “God with us!”)  But they gave no thought to whether what He said was true: they only wanted to silence Him and to kill Him. That proved all His estimation of “who they were” and “what the intent of their hearts was,” to be clearly the truth!

59 Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.

They still were not able to carry out their murderous intent. He was still the One in control, and His time had not yet come.

Who are We dealing with, here?

I think we tend to forget who Jesus really is, ourselves. Though we never slander Him, we seldom think of Him as being identical to the God who parted the Red Sea and drowned the entire Egyptian Army. We seldom see Jesus as the One who spoke the World into existence, and who created everything in it, completely by His own authority, and from His own, limitless imagination.

And, even when we briefly consider these things, we may momentarily rejoice at His creativity and power, but we still feel free to “go do our own thing,” whenever the notion hits. Somehow we still feel that we are “free moral agents,” and that we are under no absolute obligation to follow the will of our Creator, Savior, and God. (But we are under just that obligation!)

What Manner of Man?

When Jesus calmed the storm, the disciples in the boat had feared for their lives before He acted, but they were more afraid, afterward: They asked, “what manner of man is He, that even the wind and the waves obey Him?”

And yet, after He had stated His will for their lives, and after His death, burial and resurrection, most of them (in John 21) had decided to go back to commercial fishing. Jesus called them away from the fish for the last time, and redirected their thoughts to His command.

After they received the Holy Spirit, in Acts chapter 2, they seem to never have lost sight of the objective anymore. They all seem to have faithfully walked with Him after that.

So, What about Us?

Each of us already has been born again. Each of us already has been indwelt by the Holy Spirit: So, why are we still so easily distracted? Why do the things of the world so easily entangle us?

In Hebrews 12:1, 2, the writer begs us to consider all those that have gone before us, and take their example:

Hebrews 12:1, 2,

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

The great cloud of witnesses he mentions are the whole group named, or alluded to, in the previous chapter. It was not that they are “watching us”, as “witnesses” of our behavior, but rather, that they have all testified to us. They testify as witnesses of what God can do in the lives of believers who are committed to His will. And, on the basis of their testimonies, he commands us to “lay aside every weight.”—”Get rid of anything holding you back, just as a competitive runner would lay aside any heavy clothing or baggage, in order to run well.”

What is Holding You Back?

But he also calls us to lay aside the “sin that so easily besets us.” What is there in our lives that regularly trips us up? What passions do we regularly obey, that are detrimental to our obedience to Christ? These are questions for self-examination. I point no finger at anyone, except myself. And yet, the command is there for us all to see.

Finally, He commands us to “Look to Jesus, the Author and finisher of our faith.” Take Him for our example of commitment and obedience. He says that it was “for the Joy that was set before Him” that he “endured the Cross, despising the shame” of that Cross, and, as the eternal champion, He has “sat down on the right hand of the throne of God” the Father.

Get in the Race!

He calls us to emulate His example: not just sit on the sidelines, and wave flags and cheer. We are to enter the race ourselves and run!

The Pharisees to whom He spoke were his enemies. Most of them would never believe in Him. But there were believers in the group, and those were the ones to whom He extended the invitation to walk with him and learn from Him, and be set free from their sins by His power in their lives.

That invitation has been extended to us, as well. We need to answer that invitation daily, follow Him, and reap the benefits He promised.

Lord Jesus, stir our hearts to follow You, and to follow Your example. Teach us to look for Your will, and listen for Your voice, Teach us to read Your Word, seeing Your face in the pages, and obey Your commands faithfully. Make us the Men and Women of God You have called us to be.

Finding Freedom in Christ

Finding Freedom in Christ

© 2022, C. O. Bishop

John 8:33-47

Introduction:

We addressed the issue of discipleship last week, but only the fact that Jesus wants us to transition from just being His offspring, having been born again into His family. He asks that we grow up, into full-grown mature sons, who can actively follow Him in true discipleship.

He concluded by saying that they would know (experiential knowledge—”gnosko“) the Truth, and the Truth would make them free. We determined that, since the word He used for “know” was the experiential “gnosko,” as opposed to just knowing a fact, that He was inviting them to learn to know Him, through an ongoing, permanent relationship, and that that relationship would set them free. But, the Pharisees found this promise offensive. They said that they were already free, and always had been!

Freedom From What?

33 They answered him, We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free?

Now, they were talking utter nonsense! It was denial of the silliest kind: Why? Because, as they spoke, they were currently a slave-state to Rome, and they had been enslaved to other enemies, listed in scripture, at numerous times throughout their history! But Jesus did not address their political history. Jesus addressed the real issue: their Spiritual Slavery.

What Does His Name Mean?

Go back and see why Jesus was named “Jesus,” in the first place: in Matthew 1:21, the Angel of the Lord commanded Joseph that he would “…call his name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their Sins.” (This promise adressed the reality of original Sin! It was a more precious promise than the promise of the land, or the promise of the kingdom!)

Save His people from what? The Roman government? Some “internal political danger?” No, it was far more basic and powerful than that: the entire Human race has been enslaved to Sin, and, through sin, we are also enslaved to the fear of death, ever since the Fall of Man in the Garden of Eden. The Law of Sin and Death has shown every single one of us to be enslaved to sin, in all ages, through every culture.

Who are His People?

He came to save His people from that slavery! So, who are His people? We can pretty much guarantee that those who originally heard that promise would have assumed He meant them: the Jews! (“Well, obviously, WE are the people of God!”)

But; remember the earlier chapters of John: who did we see Him claim as “His people?” He claimed the believers, not only there, but throughout all History! Before the Jews existed, He claimed the believers! In every country, He chose believers! Naaman, the Syrian, became a believer, and God accepted him. The thief on the Cross became a believer, and Jesus accepted him. Abraham, who lived three or more generations before the name “Jews” was ever used, believed God, and God credited it to him as righteousness.

And, yet, as we read those histories, we see that those individuals were not “free from sin.” They still sinned. Some of them sinned a great deal!

What does Jesus mean, then?

“Positional truth versus Conditional truth” may be part of the answer: God said that in the believer’s case, He would no longer remember their sin. That is true, but it isn’t very satisfying, by itself: we want a practical freedom from sin.

34 Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. 35 And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever. 36 If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.

Conditional Slavery

So, here, Jesus begins to answer that question: He said whoever “practices sin” is a slave to sin. The King James Version translates that word as “commits”…we use the word “commit,” to indicate any single offense. (Either I have or I have not “committed” a crime.) But that word “poiōn” is almost always (353 times) translated “do”, and only nine times is translated “commit.” And, in this particular passage, it is a present tense, active verb: it is someone practicing sin in the “continuous, present-tense” sense of the word.

So, while positionally, I am no longer a slave to sin, the warning is, that when I exercise my will to practice sin, then I have placed myself back under the authority of my old sin nature, and I have again become currently enslaved to it. My condition is terrible at that point, but my position is still unchanged.

Positional Freedom

The people to whom Jesus actually was speaking were positionally free already, because they had already believed in Him (see verse 30.) The Pharisees who were rebelling against His words were positionally enslaved: they had never laid claim to Jesus as their Savior: they did not believe in Him.

He offered that practical freedom only to those who believed, according to verses 31 and 32…He tells us, as believers,that we can walk in holiness and obedience. How? By immersing ourselves in Him! By continually building that relationship, and with it, the relational, experiential knowledge of the God we serve, we allow the Son to make us Free! That is what sets us free! An unbeliever can’t walk with Him at all! That offer can’t even be made to them, except in the smallest sense. If they chose to know Him as their Messiah—their Savior—then they would have been positionally clean; Positionally free.

Spiritually Enslaved

But the unbelievers were not qualified to even begin that journey! They were truly enslaved to Sin. They proved it by their response to the Light that He was shining into their lives. Jesus had already warned them that unless something changed, they were going to die in their sins. He went on to address the Pharisees as a group:

Who is your Father?

37 I know that ye are Abraham’s seed; but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you. 38 I speak that which I have seen with my Father: and ye do that which ye have seen with your father.

Jesus said that He, Himself, was imitating His father: and that they were failing to do so, because they were imitating their spiritual father, whom He has not yet identified.

39 They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham. 40 But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham.

The Jews claim Abraham as their father…so do the Arabs! And both are technically correct, in terms of physical genealogies! Abraham was the father of Ishmael, through Hagar, and he was the father of Isaac, through Sarah. And, relationally, it wasn’t doing either group a bit of good! Neither group is emulating their physical forefather, Abraham.

You are acting like your Father!

Jesus pointed out that they were not acting like Abraham’s children. Abraham demonstrated real faith in his life, and, when confronted with Melchizedek, he accepted Him for who He was, and he brought an offering. Jesus revealed that they were not acting like that, thus they must have a different father than whom they claimed.

 41 Ye do the deeds of your father. Then said they to him, We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God.

Now they increased the stakes, and claimed God as their Father! So, what is wrong with that? I have lost count of the number of times I have had someone tell me, with great piety and dignity, that “Everyone is a Child of God!” (Well, we are about to discover that it is simply not true!)

Physical Behavior reveals Spiritual Parentage

42 Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me.

Response to the Light reveals Character

43 Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word.

You are probably getting tired of hearing me repeat J. Vernon McGee’s story about the animals’ responses to his lantern, in the barn: they reacted differently to the light, because they were different inside. The rats fled from the light because they were rats, creatures of the night, and they saw the young man with the light as their mortal enemy. The birds in the rafters sang when they saw the light, because they were creatures of the day; creatures of the light, and they thought the lantern was sunrise!

Spiritual Heritage

Jesus said that His detractors were behaving just like their spiritual father.

44 Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.

He said their spiritual father was Satan, and that their incompatibility with truth (and therefore light) as well as their insatiable desire to kill anyone who called them on their sin, were the evidence that proved their parentage. They were at that moment (and repeatedly) showing themselves to be liars and murderers. I remember the first time I read this, thinking, “But Satan never killed anyone!” Then I realized that when he convinced Adam to sin, he killed the entire human race! Yes, Satan was a murderer from the beginning! The question is, what are we going to do about our spiritual heritage?

Why Did they Not Believe?

45 And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not. 46 Which of you convinceth me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me?

When the woman caught in adultery was accused, in verses 1-11, Jesus dismissed the accusers by suggesting that whoever was without sin should cast the first stone. Here, He did no such thing: He simply challenged them to make the accusation. (“What sin am I accused of? Which of you can rightfully accuse me?”) Then He pressed it further, saying, “and if I have been telling the truth all along, why have you not believed Me?

We are uncomfortable with this exchange, because it accuses us as well. (If I know that God’s Word is true, then why do I still rebel against it? Why do I not agree with it across the board?) The problem is that I still sin: I still have a sin nature, and I am prone to deciding, “Well, this is ok! This is small! I can do what I want, here! I’m the one in charge right now!”

Who is in Charge?

But that sort of thinking has no real stopping point: once I decide that I can rebel against the truth, there is no logical stopping point. I declare myself to be the Sovereign in my little sphere, and I effectively attempt to “evict God”…or, at least, “dethrone” Him!” At that point I am as surely enslaved to sin as if I had never been saved!

The only saving Grace is exactly that: Saving Grace. I have peace with God, in the sense that He will never again treat me as His enemy. But I do not have the Peace of God! I am not experiencing that love-relationship that He promised would free me from my sin. Speaking to the Pharisees, Jesus said,

 47 He that is of God heareth God’s words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God.

The Pharisees were proving their parentage. We, as believers, need to carefully consider what we are demonstrating: In our lives, every day, we have choices to make. How we make those choices at least shows “who is on the throne” in our lives. Our old Sin nature is still there, and it will still “take charge” if we allow it. It will then manifest itself in our resulting behavior. We will behave in a self-centered manner, thinking primarily of how things affect us, rather than how we can affect others for good.

How I respond to God’s truth, as a believer, demonstrates my condition: am I in fellowship with God, or am I just living the self-willed life?

Peace and Freedom are for Believers!

Jesus spoke to the believers when He made the promise of Freedom! Peace with God can only come to those who have received Gods Grace. The Peace of God can only come to believers who are in fellowship with Him and are living in His Grace.

You have to decide. I have to decide, moment-by-moment and day-by-day, “Will I choose to experience His Peace, and His Freedom from the tyranny of Sin in my life?” The Freedom He promised only comes as we walk with Jesus in faith and obedience. Yes; as born again believers, we belong to Him. But we still need to live as His disciples, by Faith and Obedience..

Lord Jesus, we desire to be free from our slavery to sin. We desire to experience your Peace and Your Freedom. Free us from our sins and teach us to walk with You by Faith. Teach us to Obey by faith. Teach us to Love by Faith. Make us your disciples in Truth.

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.