The Poor Ye Have Always

The Poor Ye Have Always

© 2022 C. O. Bishop

John 12:7, 8

Then said Jesus, Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this. For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always.

Compare Deuteronomy 15:7, 10, 11

If there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren within any of thy gates in thy land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother:

10 Thou shalt surely give him, and thine heart shall not be grieved when thou givest unto him: because that for this thing the Lord thy God shall bless thee in all thy works, and in all that thou puttest thine hand unto. 11For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.

Introduction:

In the immediate context of John 12:8, if we only see the criticism of Judas and the response of Jesus, we could arrive at a wrong conclusion. It would be easy to assume that Jesus’s reply relegates the care of the poor to a lesser order of importance. And, compared to our immediate need to follow and worship Jesus (which Mary was doing, in this passage) all other things are secondary.

But Jesus was not diminishing the importance of attending to the needs of people around us. He was simply putting priorities in order. When we look back to Deuteronomy 15:10, 11, we see that Jesus was quoting His own Word, regarding the Poor. He had commanded the people of Israel to take care of their poor. It was not an option. It was also not just a “government function” such as welfare or food stamps. It was a personal responsibility, for every believer.

Why did Judas condemn Mary’s gift?

Mary, the sister of Lazarus, brought the very expensive perfume and anointed the feet of Jesus. Judas claimed to be offended that the money had not been used for something utilitarian, specifically, feeding the poor. (John gives us the inside story on that. He points out that, in reality, Judas was not at all concerned about the poor. He was a thief, and ironically, he was the “treasurer” for the group. He was jealous that the money was not being put in his own hands.)

But Jesus responded to what Judas claimed as his concern…the care of the poor. He said, in effect, “That is a constant need—no one denies it. But this is a “one-time-only” special gift. She has been saving up money for this act of worship, looking forward to my burial.”

Did Mary know that her action was looking forward to His burial? I rather doubt it. None of the disciples truly understood the plan and purpose of Jesus, in coming into the world. They simply loved Him for who He was, and what He was in their lives. That is a pretty good way to relate to Jesus, today, by the way. He does not demand that we understand all that He is doing. He wants our Faith and Love, each of which will result in obedience, which, in turn, will result in His being able to bless us even more.

What about the Poor?

As we read through the Old Testament, there is no question that God not only cares for the poor, but He expects His people to care for them as well. We should also notice that Israel was to care for their own poor. They were not told to try to meet the needs of every person in the World. They were taking care of those within their own sphere of responsibility.

Proverbs 29:7 says,“ The righteous considereth the cause of the poor: but the wicked regardeth not to know it.”

Psalm 112:5-9 says, A good man sheweth favour, and lendeth: he will guide his affairs with discretion. Surely he shall not be moved for ever: the righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance. He shall not be afraid of evil tidings: his heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord. His heart is established, he shall not be afraid, until he see his desire upon his enemies. He hath dispersed, he hath given to the poor; his righteousness endureth for ever; his horn shall be exalted with honour.

Church Responsibilities

The Church is not to turn a blind eye to the needs of people in our communities. We are to “consider” the cause of the poor: their needs and their problems. And we are to see whether there is some way for us to be a genuine help. We, as a church, continually look for ways to do just that.

As we study the New Testament, we see that this task has not changed. We are to care especially for other believers in our sphere of responsibility, and, as far as we are able, to care for unbelievers around us as well. In the same manner, God sends His rain, His sunshine, and His general supply to everyone, not discriminating between “just and unjust.” Remember, however, that we are not God, and while we can contribute, we are also limited in ability and wherewithal. We have to let Him lead us.

James 2:15, 16 underscores the responsibility of believers to other believers. In arguing the requirement that faith must carry through and produce action, James says, “15 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, 16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?

“Shoe Leather Faith”

We are encouraged to “be practical” in our care for one another. The entire book of James is directed toward “practical holiness.” It means “putting shoe leather on your faith.” Our faith is not only supposed to “talk the talk,” but also to “walk the walk.” James tells us to function in practical ways, and not just be “posers,” with a show of piety, but no substance.

We are to seek to reach out to those around us with the Gospel of Christ, as we are commanded to do. Paul says, regarding the Gospel of Christ,  “I am a debtor….” He considered that to be the one thing that he owed to all people. But we also want to make an effort to meet practical needs. The only question we need to ask is regarding “balance” and “priorities.” Paul pointed out that his primary calling was to reach the world with the Gospel.

Priority of Jesus

Jesus demonstrated the same thing in His ministry. At Sychar, in Samaria (John 4:34) Jesus told His disciples, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to finish His Work!” (And what was that work? Was it feeding the poor? He did feed them on more than one occasion. Was it to heal the sick? He certainly did a lot of that!) But, as the Living Word of God, the primary ministry of Jesus, daily, was to lead human souls to God. And His final goal was the Cross, to offer Himself as the satisfaction of the Righteousness and Holiness of God so that the human race could approach God and be saved.

The “harvest” he pointed out to the disciples, and the work He wanted to complete as “the task at hand,” was the harvest of souls. In that same passage, He said, “Lift up your eyes! Look on the fields! They are white already unto harvest!”

We can easily see that “feeding the poor” is also within the scope of His will for us, but Jesus was not telling them to go “feed the poor.” He was telling them, “These are people who need the Savior: Let’s get busy, and lead them to the Lord! The Harvest is right there in front of you!

What is our Priority?

Can we go too far into “social work?”  Yes, I believe we can lose sight of our objective, and begin to feel that “we exist to feed the world.” Feeding the poor is only a part of what we are to do: the actual assignment was to take the Gospel to the whole world.

Consider a fireman, working in a fire department: he may be given the daily task of organizing the map box. Or he man be assigned to change the oil in the fire trucks or to cook a meal for the fire crew. But that task does not change his prime directive; his job, which is to fight fires!

Prime Directive

Our “prime directive” is to preach the Gospel. Jesus gave His “last request” several times. It always involved taking the Gospel of Christ to the lost world. All the other “tasks” are incidental to the prime directive. If we are failing to draw people to Jesus Christ, then, no matter how many “hungry mouths we feed,” we are not doing what we were told to do!

If the fire alarm rings, and the firefighter in our example above says, “Sorry, I’m busy organizing the maps!” then he will no longer be a firefighter! We are called to reach the dying World with the hope of Eternal Life. As we go, we are to meet people’s other needs as well. The other needs are not the primary goal.

Living Examples

Jim and Judy Burdett, the missionaries we support, spent 40 years doing just that. The result has been three fully functioning churches, several pastors and Bible teachers and evangelists, as well as the entire New Testament translated into the Dom language.

But! Every morning, Judy got up, and, on her porch, she cared for the minor medical needs of the people. Jim helped with their physical building projects, and he provided transportation to the nearby town on occasions when people had needs. Judy taught literacy so that the people could read the portions of the New Testament as they were completed. Jim and Judy met people’s physical needs as God provided, and, in their hospitality and generosity they proved themselves to be good neighbors.

But they never forgot their prime directive. Their priorities were correct: They were there for one reason: to reach those people with the Gospel and, in doing so, to translate the New Testament into their language. And that is what they accomplished!

Similarly, we are called to set our priorities. We are not to lose sight of our stated purpose, but, as a part of that given assignment, we are to “be good neighbors,” to “love the unlovely,” to “feed the poor,” to “care for widows and orphans,” etc. Those are the “side tasks” that demonstrate the Love of Christ. They accompany the Gospel we are commanded to share. The “side tasks” are not to be ignored, but they are not to replace the preaching of the Cross.

Hidden Agendas

In Judas Iscariot’s case, there was no question: The scripture tells us that he had a “hidden agenda.” He was a thief and he wanted access to the money. But we can have hidden agendas, too. We may hope to do enough of the supplemental things that we escape responsibility for the central assignment. (Sorry: that is not possible!)

Entire church denominations have become servants of a “social gospel,” as opposed to the preaching of the Cross, the message of Salvation. In fact,“Sunday Schools” were begun in England, not as a tool of the Gospel, but as a means to get children out of the factories, and educate them. They were to teach them to read and write and use arithmetic. They were schools, and the government required the shop owners to release the children from work every Sunday, to attend those schools.

Were the schools valuable? Absolutely, they were!  Were they fulfilling the Great Commission in any way? Possibly, but marginally so, at best, unless the people providing the education had the personal goal of leading people to Christ. In that case, perhaps it really was a means by which to reach souls for Christ. (And. yes, in learning to read, they were also reading scripture, so probably some became believers that way.) But the goal was social reform, not evangelism. By the way, the British commonwealth schools still teach Bible classes in some places. But they are not often taught as the Bible being the Word of God.

Changed Course

The “public schools” that emerged as a result of that initial move toward “educating the masses” were initially run by God-fearing men and women, so they probably still had a good effect. But the public school systems have deteriorated until the government schools finally have become enemies of the Gospel.

It is easy for a missionary organization to forget their prime directive as well. Many missions have failed in that way. (Some missionaries in history have even been drawn away to become government spies!) The key to avoiding such “derailments,” is for each individual to personally remember that the Great Commission is still in force today. We are to remember that it applies to all believers individually. It is unlikely that a large group of believers who each hold that core belief could easily be diverted. Without that conviction, we can be distracted by politics or social reform and collectively forget our assignment.

There is a saying, that, “When you are up to your armpits in alligators, it is hard to remember that you originally went in to drain the swamp.” That saying is intended to be humorous. But it is still a pretty accurate assessment of why we become distracted by the various alarms sounding all around us. It tells how we tend to lose sight of our objectives.

Lord Jesus, refocus our attention on our prime directive, the Great Commission, and fix our hearts on honoring Your written Word and living in Obedience to You as the Living Word.

Why did Jesus Weep? What Application is There for Us?

Why did Jesus Weep?

© 2022 C. O. Bishop

John 11:32-37 (Compare Romans 12:15; Hebrews 4:15, 16)

32 Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. 33 When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled. 34 And said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see.

35 Jesus wept.

36 Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him! 37 And some of them said, Could not this man, which opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died?

Introduction

We often hear about John 11:35 in terms of it being the “shortest verse in the Bible.” That is true, of course. But it doesn’t have much bearing on what it means for us as believers. Who cares that it is the shortest? That fact is interesting, perhaps, but in itself is meaningless. The content of every verse is what we need. What does it say, and what does it mean? And, ultimately, how can I apply it to my own life?

The context was Lazarus’ death and the grief it had caused his family and friends. In thAt context, the fact that Jesus also wept takes on much more meaning. Was He just “overwhelmed with grief” at having lost His friend? That seems unlikely, since He knew He was about to raise him back to normal life. It seems far more likely that Jesus wept for the grief that the others were experiencing.

Get the Whole Context

In verses 1-14, we saw that Jesus knew all about what was going on in Bethany. Though he was a long distance away, He knew that Lazarus was sick. He knew that it would ultimately not result in death, (v.4) but in His own glorification. He waited two days after hearing the news that Lazarus was sick, before leaving. This was so that Lazarus would not have “just died” when Jesus arrived. He waited that long so that Lazarus would have been dead long enough that no one had any doubt about his death. In fact, they would know that his body would have begun to decay!

Then Jesus told His disciples that He was going back to Judaea. They were worried that He would be killed. He finally explained to them that Lazarus was dead, and that He, Jesus, was going to “awaken” him. They were still pretty anxious about going back to a town so close to Jerusalem, but ultimately, they all went along.

When Jesus arrived, the majority of the people who initially met Him were believers. Some said to Him, “Lord, if you had been here, Lazarus would not have died.’ Others, to one another, said “This man healed the blind. Couldn’t he have prevented the death of His friend?” So, we can see that many of them at least had a rudimentary faith in His ability to heal.

What about Death itself?

The issue they were all struggling with, was “Why didn’t you save his life?” But it had not yet occurred to most of them, that Jesus could actually raise the dead. Martha seemed to have a glimmer of the idea. She believed that Jesus could ask God to bring Lazarus back from the dead. (See verse 22: She said, “Even now, whatsoever you will ask of God, God will give it to you.”)

Can God raise the dead?

So, the question now is, “How far does the authority of Jesus, the Messiah, really extend? Can He raise the dead?” We need to remember that this is not the first time God raised the dead. In 1st Kings 17:17-24, we see that the son of the Widow at Zarephtha had died. Elijah asked God to restore him, and God honored that request and raised the boy back to life.

2nd Kings 4:1-37 tells of Elisha, the protégé of Elijah, and another child God raised from the dead. And, at the end of Elisha’s life, long after his death, in 2nd Kings 13:20, 21, we see some men sent out to bury the corpse of a dead man. But, because the men saw a band of enemy raiders coming, they hurriedly let the man’s body down into the grave of Elisha.

It must have been a shocking experience to those men: When the dead body touched the bones of Elisha, it sprang back to life! (I especially enjoy this story, as I imagine these men assigned to do the burying, running back within the city walls to escape the raiders, and looking back to see the dead man running with them.)

Finally, in Ezekiel 37, though it was “just a vision,” it still spoke of the authority of God to raise those who had long been dead. In that particular case, it referred to the resurrection of the Jews as a nation, both physically and spiritually.

But; Can Jesus Raise the Dead?

So, the concept of being raised from the dead was not new: it is just that none of them had ever seen it, and now they would see whether Jesus actually possessed the authority He claimed. That is the real question: “Does Jesus truly have the Authority He claims to have?” We still ask that question today: “Can Jesus really take care of me and my family? Is His blood really sufficient to take away all my sins? How sure am I, really, that everything He says is really true? And, Does He really caree about me?”

Jesus wants us to be sure. He wants us to know that we have eternal life, now, not waiting until we die to find out whether we were “Good Enough.” 1st John 5:11-13 says that He wants us to know that we have eternal life… not hope, or just be persuaded, or think so. He wants us to know it.

The Widow of Zarephtha had already believed that Elijah was a man of God. She agreed to make the small cake of bread for him, because he promised that her little barrel of meal and her little jar of oil would not run out until the famine was past. And it didn’t!

But then her son died. She immediately reproached Elijah, in grief and anger. But he took the dead child from her, carried him up to the loft where he was living, and prayed for God to “return his soul to his body.” And God did so. Her response was “Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the Word of the LORD in thy mouth is Truth!”

God wants us to be that sure!

How can we Experience Eternal Life?

We know from the Old Testament stories that God is completely capable of getting us safely home to Himself. We believe that His authority carries beyond the grave. But He wants us not only to be sure that we already have eternal life through faith in the shed blood of Jesus. He also wants us to be secure in the knowledge that He is with us now.  He wants us to trust Him to carry us through all of life, and through death itself. This is not a “pie in the sky when you die” idea. We are called to experience that Eternal Life in the here and now!

In John 17:3, Jesus said “ And this is Eternal Life: that they may know thee, the one true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” The word translated as “know,” here, is the Greek word, “ginosko,” meaning “experiential knowledge.” Not just “knowing a lot about a person,” but having an ongoing, living, growing relationship with that person. If we are to experience eternal life today, then we need to be in that ongoing, experiential relationship with Jesus.

We can “have” eternal life, because we have placed our faith in His completed work at the Cross…faith in His shed blood for our sins. But to experience it in a real, everyday way, we need to be walking with Him.

Seeing the Dead Raised

We might be tempted to think, “Well, why doesn’t God raise the dead today, and make everyone believe?” There were people right there who saw Lazarus raised, who definitely were not persuaded to place their faith in Jesus. Quite the opposite: they plotted to kill him! Not only that, but, in the next chapter, it occurred to them that they had better include Lazarus in the bargain. (“Gotta kill him too, or people will believe in Jesus anyway!”)

In Luke 16:19-31, we see the story of the “other Lazarus.” In it, the dead rich man argued that “…if they see someone raised from the dead, they will believe!” Abraham answered, “If they will not believe Moses and the Prophets, neither will they believe, though one be raised from the dead.” This passage in John 11, 12 is clear proof of that truth! Those who rebelled against Jesus were determined to oppose him despite having seen undeniable proof of His deity!

So, How does it Help Us, to Know that Jesus Wept?

Compassion should have been strong in every priest.

In the Old Testament, we see that some of the human High Priests were not very compassionate. And the High Priest at that moment (when Jesus was raising the dead) was a character named Caiaphas. He was the leader of the group that wanted Jesus murdered! (How “compassionate” is that?)

In Exodus 28:29-30, the High Priest was called to carry the names of the tribes of Israel on his shoulders and on his heart. Leviticus 16:1-6 says that the High Priest had to offer a sacrifice for his own sins, before he could minister as the mediator for the people. Hebrews 5:1-3 confirms this. The High Priest is supposed to “have compassion on the ignorant and on them that are ‘out of the way.’’” This is specifically because “he himself is surrounded by his own infirmity.” And that was just referring to the human high priests. They were flawed individuals themselves! And they were to have compassion upon others for that very reason.

Jesus is the Perfect High Priest

And, in Hebrews 4:15, 16, we see that “We do not have a high priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities.” I often point out that “our feelings are not always an accurate reflection of reality.” That is true, but the fact remains that the feelings themselves are a reality that we have to deal with! And Jesus is aware of our feelings and is compassionate toward us in our frailties.

Jesus had no sin, but He suffered as though He were just like any other human. He felt the grief of the people, and “wept with those who wept.” He genuinely felt their grief, and shared in it for their sake. He did not just say, “Chin up! This too shall pass!” or any other such inane platitudes: He wept with them because of their grief, even though He knew He was about to bring them indescribable Joy.

We are called to Join Jesus in His Priesthood

Jesus is the True High Priest… but every believer is called to serve as a priest in the Body of Christ. We are to be His hands and feet and heart in our lifetime here on Earth, reaching out to those around us in genuine compassion.

This is part of the unity of the church: we are all part of one body, the Body of Christ. And when one part of the body is injured, it affects the whole body to one degree or another. Every living body exhibits this care for itself. If there is an itch on the back, for example, the whole body contorts itself to relieve that discomfort by reaching to scratch it. If a toe is injured, the whole body responds to protect that toe by limping or hobbling along, avoiding further injury. We are to care for one another at that level, spiritually and emotionally, as well as physically.

Weep With Those Who Weep

Romans 12:15 clearly commands us to “Weep with those who weep, and rejoice with those who rejoice.” This is not a command to “pretend” grief or “pretend’ joy. It is a command to extend our hearts to the needs of those around us. We should feel their sorrow as our own and feel their joy as our own. Ultimately, of course, that makes us pretty vulnerable to being hurt. But it also opens us up to experiencing the blessing of God flowing through us to those who are hurting, in the world around us.

If we genuinely care about the needs of those around us, then, as Jesus did, we will often find ourselves weeping in sympathy with those who weep, and experiencing the joy of those who rejoice.

Lord Jesus, open our hearts to be like You, caring deeply for those around us, and deeply, genuinely empathizing with them as You demonstrated in Your life. Help us to demonstrate the Agape Love so that the World will see Your face in us.

I AM the Resurrection and the Life

I AM the Resurrection and the Life

© 2022 C. O. Bishop

John 11:25, 26

Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?

Introduction:

Last week, we discussed the entire story of John 11:1-46. It is the story of the revival of Lazarus of Bethany. In the middle of the story, Jesus stated, “I Am the Resurrection and the Life.”

This is one of the great  “I AM” statements in the Gospel of John, (including an identifier.) If we see the Gospel of John as addressing the Deity of Christ, presenting Him as the incarnate God, then we could list the “I AM” statements as follows.

“I AM” statements by Jesus in the Gospel of John.

(Key verse is “Before Abraham was, I AM.” John 8:58) Seven amplifications: I AM the:

  1. Bread of Life (John 6:35, 48, 51)
  2. Light of the World (John 8:12)
  3. Door of the Sheep (John 10:6-9)
  4. Good Shepherd (John 10:11, 14)
  5. Resurrection and the Life (John 11:25, 26)
  6. Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6)
  7. True Vine (John 15:1, 5)

Notice that only one of these eight passages (John 8:58) gives the clear Old Testament Name of God: “I AM.” All seven of the other passages serve to qualify and amplify the main point.

Remember Chapter One

When we discussed John 8:58, we already knew that Jesus is God. John 1:1 introduces the concept, and John 1:14 makes it clear. John 1:3 states that He is the Creator of all things. Verse 4 states that He is the only source of Life, while verses 4 and 5 together show that He is the only source of Light. And, in John 1:29, we see that Jesus is God’s sacrificial Lamb. Through Him, the sins of the World were to be taken away. Those are pretty heavy doctrines to offer in the first chapter of the epistle! But they all are foundational to everything that follows.

In John 2:1-11, we began to see His Authority over Nature and the physical world. (He transformed what had been plain well-water into high-quality, aged wine!) Later in chapter 2, He claimed authority over the Temple, He cast out the people who were making it a place of commerce. (It strikes me that perhaps some people today have become guilty of this sin. They are making merchandise of the church, and becoming rich at the expense of the testimony of the Gospel.)

In John 3:3-19, we discovered that Jesus is the only Savior, and that we each must be born again through faith in Him, to enter into God’s fellowship.

In John 4:1-42, we discovered that Jesus’s top priority was to reach to the world with the Gospel: that He definitely did not limit His Mercy to Israel.

In John 5:22, 23, we discovered that He is the Eternal Judge, and is to be honored in the same manner as the Father is to be honored.. Finally, in John 6:35-51, the I AM statements begin.

Why the multiple “I AM” statements?

John 8:58 makes a “spelled out” statement (“Before Abraham was, I AM!”) The people clearly understood and they responded with violence. Without such a clear statement, the people might have “missed the point” in all the other seven statements. Grammatically, each of those statements were no more significant than simply saying, “I am Jesus.” 

But, together with the clear statement that He is God, they become very significant, as He begins to explain all that His name implies. (Bear in mind that the name “Jesus” means “Jehovah saves,” or “Jehovah is Savior.”) And in Isaiah 43:11, God confirmed that apart from Himself there was no Savior. It was another clue to His eternal identity as the Creator God.

Throughout the Gospel of John, we have seen and learned the reality that He is truly the “all-in-all” for us. We have no other Hope, we serve no other Master, and we will face no Higher Judge. He is the Eternal God: the Creator, the Sustainer, the Savior and the Judge!

We saw increasingly powerful, miraculous proofs of His Deity, and increasing statements of His sufficiency. In chapters four and seven, He offered the Living Water. The scripture states that He was referring to the Holy Spirit, who was not yet given. But, when we look back to Jeremiah 2:12, 13, we see that the God of the Old Testament was the only “fountain of Living waters.” The Jews should have understood that promise as being a claim to divinity, as well!

The Warnings

The warnings really began much earlier, in John the Baptist’s ministry. (Matthew 3:7-12) John warned the Pharisees and the Sadducees (many of whom would become Jesus’s fiercest enemies) that judgment was coming. He warned that God was “winnowing the wheat harvest,” and, while He would gather the “grain,” He would also burn the “chaff” with unquenchable fire.

In John 3:3-19, Jesus warned Nicodemus, one of the Pharisees (who became a believer,) that unless he experienced the new birth, he would never see God’s Kingdom. He explained in verse 19 that the Light of God had come into the world, and the World was rejecting that light.

Death and Judgment

But everyone knew that death was a reality. Some were terrified at the prospect: some simply accepted it. Or possibly, as they do today, they may have philosophized about it, claiming it was “nothing to worry about.” But death really can be something to worry about! And Jesus clearly warned the Pharisees, in John 8:24, that they would die in their sins if they rejected Him.

So, “dying in one’s sins” is surely something to fear. John 1:29 promised the removal of our sins. John 3:16-19 explained how that rebirth could happen…and the result if it did not.  

Chapter four gave examples of people in whom it did happen: and these were Samaritans. They were a people utterly rejected by Israel, but people whom God justified by Grace, through faith, plus nothing.

Finally, in John 11:43, 44, we see an example of someone who died in faith…whose sins had been removed by God. We see proof that there is “life after death,” and that Jesus has full authority over Life and death. We see a man, a believer in Jesus, raised from the dead, revived, after his body has begun to decompose.

The Solution to The Final Threat

In the midst of this drama-filled scene, we see a very solid, clear statement: “I AM the Resurrection and the Life.” Jesus has already made it clear to everyone that, while Eternal Life was offered to all, not all would receive it. He already said that He is the only door of access to the household of God. Now He answers the question, “What about believers who die?”

He first pointed out the overarching principle that He alone is the Resurrection and the Life. Had they thought of it, they could have recalled Ezekiel 37, where the prophet was given a vision of a valley full of very dry, very dead bones: human skeletons. They were so dried and scattered that they were no longer even connected to one another. God asked Ezekiel, “Can these bones live?” And Ezekiel replied, “Thou knowest!” It was the only honest and faith-driven answer he could give. Then he witnessed, in vision-form, the resurrection of Israel as a nation, to a right relationship with God.

Jesus Alone!

Jesus said that He himself is THE resurrection and THE life! This includes both spiritual resurrection (remember, we all started out spiritually dead) and the physical resurrection we see here in John 11:43, 44.

Hebrews 9:27 makes it clear that everyone is destined to die, physically, and that judgment will surely follow, one way or another. 1st Corinthians 15:51, 52 points out the one exception, and allows us the hope that we will be part of the generation that skips “the valley of the shadow of death,” and goes directly to be with the Lord. But the overwhelming majority will get there through that valley. And Jesus shows us “what the valley looks like for believers.”

Remember that in Psalm 23, David said, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.”

Let’s break that into small pieces. Remember, this describes physical death for believers only:

  • Yea, though I walk (Not “fall,” or “collapse”)
  • through (Not “into,” but “through.” Death is not a “destination” for believers, but a passage through, to something else…something which is not a fearful place or thing.)
  • The valley (Not the “pit,” the “abyss,” or any other sort of trap or place of interment.)
  • Of the shadow of death (Not  the “final reality and permanence of irremediable death.”)

And the result of this promise was that the psalmist was not in fear, but at peace, knowing that his Redeemer was with him.

Jesus is that Redeemer, and the Resurrection and the Life

The prophet Job also foresaw this final resurrection, as a believer, in Job 19:25, 26.

He said, “I know that my redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the Earth: and though, after my skin, worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.”

That Redeemer (whom Job knew, and trusted, and whom he hoped to see in his resurrected body) was the same Jesus in whom we now trust.

He was the same in the time of Job as He was in the time of Lazarus of Bethany. And He is still the same today. Jesus proved His deity and His authority and His faithfulness through all the ages, and He continues to do so today.

He wasn’t just capable of temporarily reviving a dead human body which had begun to decay. He removes the curse of death entirely. He has restored us to eternal fellowship with the Holy God from whom we were estranged. He has begotten us again, as children of that Holy God. We are permanently in Him, because He is not only “the Resurrection,” but also “the Life.” We already have eternal life in Him; by His Grace, through Faith…plus nothing.

So, What are Our Choices?

As unbelievers, the only choice we had was whether to respond in faith to the promise of redemption, confessing our guilt, and our need for a Savior….or not.

As believers, the only choice we have (moment by moment) is whether to continue in faith, walking in fellowship with Him, and obedience to Him…or not.

If we walk with him in faith and obedience, then we reapthe peace and confidence we can have in knowing Him as our Redeemer, our Protector and our Friend. If not, then, while we are “just as saved as Lot was,” we will not enjoy the benefit of that relationship, any more than Lot did. And, in the end, we will gain no more reward than he did. Salvation is a gift, not a reward.

Choose Life!

Jesus is the Resurrection, all right: but He is also the Life. We are called to experience His life through faith and obedience, not just make a one-time “deposit of faith,” and hang onto the “receipt,” as it were, hoping that “everything will be all right.” We have a steady, unshakeable confidence, if we embrace His Life, as well as His Resurrection, and experience that Life daily, as we walk with Him. With David, we can say, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.”

If you want to have confidence that “God is with you,” then focus your attention on you being “with God.” Jesus asked Mary, “Believest thou this?” Do you really trust Me in this matter? He asks us the same thing.

That is a question you should be asking yourself, as well: If you really believeit, then bank on it and live as though you believe it. Serve as if you believe it. He has given you eternal life and a gift by which to serve Him. Believe Him and get on with the job!

Lord Jesus, fill us with the confidence of Your Eternal Presence and acceptance, and approval. Teach us to walk with You by faith, and to experience your Joy and Peace as a result. Raise us up as your ambassadors, to shine as your beacons of Hope in this lost and dying 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.

“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.

Division because of Jesus

Division because of Jesus

© 2022 C. O. Bishop

John 7:40-53

Introduction:

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

Who is Jesus?

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

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

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

Where Did He Come From?

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

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

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

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

The Division

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

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

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

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

And the Pharisees accused them of being deceived.

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

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

Does Consensus equal Truth?

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

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

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

Research Confirmed God’s Word

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

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

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

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

Nicodemus Used God’s Word Correctly

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

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

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

Limited Understanding Produces Wrong Answers

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

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

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

53 And every man went unto his own house.

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

Division Today

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

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

Jesus Predicted Division

Matthew 10:34-36

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

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

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

2nd Timothy 3:1-5

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

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

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

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

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

Shine as lights!

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

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

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

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

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

Holding Forth the Word of Life

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

Will everyone love it? Nope!

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

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

The Living Water Throughout Time

Living Water, Throughout Time

© 2022 C. O. Bishop

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

Introduction

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

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

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

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

“Living Water” or Cracked Cisterns?

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

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

The Power and Limitations of Living Water

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

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

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

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

The River From the Altar

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

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

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

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

The Current Path of the Brook Kidron

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

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

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

Jesus offered the “Spring of Living Water”

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

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

“Come unto me and Drink”

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

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

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

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

How does this apply to the Old Testament Prophecies?

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

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

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

Looking Back

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

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

Back to the Riverbank

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

A Living Timeline

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

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

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

Sometime later… “Afterward

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

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

Final Observations

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

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

What about Us?

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

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

Results

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

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

What changes us?

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

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

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

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

My Doctrine is not Mine, but His that Sent Me

© 2022 C. O. Bishop

John 7:14-25

Introduction:

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

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

My Doctrine is not Mine, but His that sent Me

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

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

What was the source of the teaching?

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

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

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

How Can We tell the Difference?

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

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

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

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

Personal Glory and Personal Gain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What about the Law?

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

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

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

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

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

What about the Sabbath?

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

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

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

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

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

Why were the Authorities silent?

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

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

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

What was different about Jesus?

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

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

The Doctrine is not Ours but His that sent us!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2022 C. O. Bishop

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

Introduction:

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

Problems with Tracts

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

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

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

What is the Gospel?

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

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

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

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

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

My Time is not yet Come

John 7:1-9

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

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

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

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

Worldly Counsel

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

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

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

Jesus’ Counsel

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

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

What was Jesus telling them?

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus Knew The Will of God

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why does the World Hate Jesus?

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

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

The World Hates Light!

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

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

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

John 7:25-30

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

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

Six points:

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

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

John 8:20 says,

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

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

So, “Who is in control, here?”

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

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

Our Confidence

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

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

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

Separating believers from unbelievers

Separating believers from unbelievers

© 2022 C. O. Bishop

John 6:60-66 (context; verses 52-59); John 5:24; John 10:27, 28

Introduction:

We have come to a “crisis,” in John chapter 6: Jesus had just taught that His flesh and blood were necessary for people to have eternal life. Earlier, we explored why this was such a hard thing for the Jews to accept. But there are different options in how we respond to hard teaching. Knowing that a teaching is either true, or partly true, or false, we have to decide how to respond. We can compare against God’s Word to see if it is true. That is what the Berean believers did in Acts 17:11. But, even after we know it is absolutely true, we have to decide how to respond.

Balking at Hard Teaching

60 Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it? 61 When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you? 62 What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before? 63 It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. 64 But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him. 65 And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father. 66 From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.

We already read the context for this passage: the verses immediately before: That was a hard passage to understand. But, for two reasons, this is also rather hard to grasp, even for believers today: The first reason is the sadness we feel, as we read that many of Jesus’s disciples abandoned their devotion to Him. They walked no more with Him! Yes, that is sad…and it still happens today! The other thing that makes it a hard passage, is that we tend to equate salvation with discipleship, and the two are not the same.

Salvation and discipleship are not the same

This is a hard concept, but let’s consider Judas: he was a disciple, but was not a believer! Jesus pointed this out in John 13:10, 11, when He said “ye are not all clean.” And after Judas left, in John 15:3, He said to the remaining eleven “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.” All twelve had heard the same words…the difference was that Judas had not believed in Jesus as his Savior.

There are others in scripture who were believers, but who were not disciples. Lot was a saved man, but did not walk with God: he did not “follow Jesus” (that is what a disciple is…a follower.) And there were many others. Why might someone fall into that category?

Other Biblical Examples

Are there Biblical examples of real believers “balking at hard teaching?” Are there Biblical examples of real believers who “ran away from God?” Sure, there are!

  • John the Baptist initially refused to baptize Jesus, saying that he himself needed to be baptized by Jesus. But he changed his mind, and he went ahead and obeyed.
  • Peter initially refused to have Jesus wash his feet…but he changed his mind and obeyed.
  • Jonah initially refused to go to Nineveh, but (with some convincing) eventually he changed his mind and went…(still in a bad frame of mind, but he went and he obeyed.)

Do you see a pattern there? These were genuine believers who stumbled over the command of God, but they repented. (That is what “repentance” is…changing your mind: turning around, going back, and doing what you should have done.)

Believers or Unbelievers?

So, as we read John 6:60-66, are we reading about believers or unbelievers? Notice that it says they were disciples. Remember that the word “disciples” only means “followers.” They were following Jesus, but their reasons for following varied wildly. He had just taught that his flesh and blood were necessary for their eternal life. That specific teaching was difficult enough that people still struggle with it, today.  But they had a choice to make:

  • They could accept it (and accept the fact that they couldn’t fully grasp His meaning),
  • They could argue about it, trying to force it to “make sense” to human minds, or
  • They could flatly reject it as unthinkable.

Some argued, and complained that it was a hard saying; difficult to grasp. But Jesus knew their hearts: He knew who believed and who did not. He also knew who would eventually betray him. If we sneak a peek at the verses ahead, we see that Judas was there, as one of the Twelve: He stayed with Jesus when others left! But he still was not a believer. So that is not necessarily the dividing line. So how did Jesus respond to their complaint that this was “a hard saying?”

Jesus had just told them that His flesh and blood (as pictured in the Passover Lamb) were absolutely necessary to their salvation, and that faith in Him was the only entrance into eternal life. They had a hard time with that statement. There are many, still today, who struggle with the concept that Jesus is the only way God offers for Salvation. They argue against it, saying “all the billions of people who do not believe in Him cannot all be wrong: they could not all be lost!”

Is there anything “wrong” with Jesus being the only way of salvation?

This is an emotionally attractive, but completely illogical reply: As far as we know there is only one “cure” for many deadly diseases. What shall we say of all the millions who have died from malaria, the plague, polio, or any other deadly disease? “Well, it just isn’t fair: there must be another way!” No, the hard truth is: they either get the medicine to save their life, or they die.

There is a new treatment available that can cure Hepatitis C: it is effective on a high percentage of people, but it is extremely expensive, so it simply will not be available to all those who suffer from that disease. (Lesser treatments can hold it at bay, but cannot cure it. But this cure is financially out of reach for most people…The Gospel is free, to all!)

Today, there is a single, “collective antivenin” which is effective for about 85 of the 140 different species of venomous creatures in Australia. The government has tried to make it as widely available as possible, so people who are bitten have a chance to get it and save their lives: but if they can’t get to where it is, or, if they refuse to accept it, they will surely die! There is no other way! That is just reality! Romans 5:12 may not sound “fair,” either, but it is a fact: “Sin came into the world through one man, and death by sin, thus death passed upon all, for all have sinned.”

The Blood of Jesus was shed, once for all, as God’s only solution for the lost state of the Human race. The Church has tried, over the years, to make that Salvation available worldwide. There are only two barriers: our reticence to share it with others, and their unwillingness to believe in it. And that’s the teaching they stumbled over, in John 6:31-51.

Jesus Tested the Character of their Faith

Jesus asked, “You think that was hard? What will you think when you see Me physically ascendback into Heaven where I came from?” Why is that a test? They already balked at the “hard teaching” that “faith in His blood is our only hope for salvation.” Now He pointed out why He was their only hope: He is God in the flesh! He was the Deity they claimed to worship.

You see, so long as we see Jesus as “strictly human,” no matter what else we may attribute to Him, we will struggle with His authority, we will question His unique, exalted position, and we will resent the fact that other people are actually worshipping the Person we see as a man. I once had a pastor tell me, “I don’t want people praying to Jesus!” (Why did he say that? Evidently he did not believe Jesus was the true God, in human form.)

Can a true believer deny the deity of Christ?

Is it possible to be a believer and not know that Jesus is God in the flesh? Yes, it is, and there are many who do struggle with that concept, but it requires that one be seriously ignorant of God’s Word, to miss that point.

On the other hand, some do see that truth in Scripture: but they struggle with it, and eventually rebel against it, denying His Deity. In their case, I question the reality of their faith in Him as the Savior, since they reject the fact of His Person; the fact that He is truly God in the Flesh. Is it possible that they are really believers, and just badly deceived? Yes…I believe it is possible. But I would be very concerned about how they arrived at that point.

The Jews, who heard Him, actually should not have had a struggle with that idea: They had the prophecy from Isaiah 9:6 saying that “the Son” who was promised to them, would be called “The everlasting Father!” Give that some thought! I cannot “explain” how the Son should be called the “Everlasting Father!” But there is no argument: It is simply stated as a fact, and it is to be simply accepted! (Or…you can reject it, and walk away. And that is what many of them did.)

The Question of the Deity of Christ

The fact that Jesus truly is God is a core teaching of the Bible. (John 1:1, 3, 14, 18)

  • He was the Creator God who made all things material or immaterial. (John 1:3)
  • He was the Speaking God who walked in the Garden in the cool of the day, and spoke with Adam and Eve. (John 1:18)
  • He was the Promising God who ate Abraham’s food, and talked with him face to face.
  • He was the Judging God who destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. (Genesis 18, 19)
  • He was the Miracle-working God who judged Egypt and rescued the children of Israel.
  • He was the Creator of all things, the Eternal Judge of all things, and the Promised Savior. (John 1:3; 1:14; 5:22; 5:24; 10:27, 28)

Either this is all true, or the Bible is not true. Either this is all true, or Jesus is not the Savior. That is a simple fact. There are no “degrees” of truth here.

Why reject this doctrine?

All of the cults speak highly of Jesus, calling Him a Mighty Spirit Being, a Great Teacher, a Prophet, even a “lesser god,” in some cases, but they can never admit that He is literally the Sovereign, Almighty God!

You see, if they admit that Jesus is truly God, then they also have to admit that they, themselves, are not the servants of God. And they have to face the facts: they, themselves, are under His Judgment. Jesus hinted at that, by stating that they were going to see Him ascend back into heaven. And they decided that was just too much! So, they quit!

How can I know I am saved?

I have known people who apparently were genuine believers, but who abandoned their faith. Their lives reflected that loss. They were sad wrecks of what once had been a glorious reflection of God’s Grace. Are they still saved? How can we know for sure, in our own life?

If there has ever been a time in your life when you placed your hope in Jesus’s blood as your only hope for salvation, trusting in Him alone for forgiveness of sins, and eternal life, then you are saved, and you cannot be lost. (John 5:24 says If you have believed in Him, then you have eternal life, and you shall not come unto condemnation, but have crossed over from death unto life”)

1st John 5:11-13 clearly teaches that God wants you to KNOW that you have eternal life.

What happens if I don’t follow Jesus?

Even if I truly am “one of His sheep,” if I do not walk with the Shepherd, I am in constant danger of attack by my enemies and I cannot avail myself of His protection. I am “enlisted in His army,” but I am refusing to wear the armor He commanded me to put on!

Jesus said, “My Sheep hear my voice, and they follow me, and I know them, and I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish.”

“Following the Shepherd” is the normal walk for a believer. Failing to follow Him does not negate His promise of eternal life, but it does “void the warranty” on his guidance and protection.

There are consequences!

If I fail to follow Jesus, then the very least I can expect is unfruitfulness. The next thing I can expect is the absence of Joy and Peace. You see, even though I am a believer, if I am no longer walking with Jesus, then I am not benefitting from the relationship “in the here and now.”

That is what happened, here in John 6:60-66. Some of those disciples may have been true believers…but some were not. Jesus knew which were which. We do not. But we can examine our own hearts and see where we stand with God…and decide where we ought to be, and what we need to change, to get there.

Lord Jesus, open our eyes to our own condition as believers and encourage our hearts to change, to repent, to go back and follow you.