Monday, September 29, 2014

God’s Perfect Grip (John 6:36-40)

“But I said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and whoever comes to Me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will but the will of Him who sent Me. And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that I should lose nothing of all that He has given Me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in Him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”” (John 6:36–40, ESV) (Caps added to pronouns referring to God—Father and Son)

In the previous passage Jesus responded to their request for a sign to prove who He claimed to be arising from a discussion of God’s provision of manna to His people under the leadership of Moses. Jesus said that the Father had provided that daily bread and that the Father had also sent Him as the Bread of Life who would give eternal life to all that believed in Him. Yet, as we see in our first verse for today, the people having seen Jesus still did not believe. The signs, as incredible as they were, were not enough for the people to see and know and believe.

In response Jesus clearly stated His relationship with the Father and how their wills were aligned perfectly to accomplish what Jesus had told them He had been sent to accomplish. The result is that we have recorded for us today a passage full of assurance. It is full of the assurance of Jesus that the Father did send the Son. Jesus also assured His listeners that He, as the Son, was faithfully completing the will of the Father, and He assured them that the work He was going to accomplish would never fail in those who as a result of having seen Him believed.

“All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and whoever comes to Me I will never cast out.” There is much that can be said about this verse which we won’t even tap here. Tony Evans in his book, “Theology You Can Count On” wrote, “We as believers were promised or given to Christ by His Father in eternity past. … Every Christian is a gift from God the Father to God the Son.” What an incredible thing it is to know that God the Father loved us so much that He would give us to His Son, and that God the Son loves us so much that He would give Himself to complete the transaction by giving Himself on the cross for our sins. Every single one who comes to Christ was given to Him by the Father without a single one missing. And every single one who is given to Christ is fully accepted by Him and will never be cast aside.

Jesus made a strong statement that He would complete the purpose for which He was sent and not a single person who was given to Him by the Father would be lost. Furthermore there is absolutely nothing or no one who could snatch us from His hand as we read Jesus saying in John 10:28, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of My hand.” (John 10:28, ESV)

“And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that I should lose nothing of all that He has given Me, but raise it up on the last day.” Being His also means that we will be with Him for eternity. Sure, unless he comes prior to our physical death we all will die in our bodies, but Scripture assures us that when we step out of these bodies that we then step into His presence, and it also tells us that one day we will all be given bodies that are not made with human hands which are eternal in the heavens. Though it appears there may be a time between the two (spirit and body), both are assured as being certain.

“For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.” (2 Corinthians 5:4, ESV) Our bodies may be placed in the ground, but for believers our spirit lives in another realm—in the presence of God. Then one day we will be clothed. “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, Who will transform our lowly body to be like His glorious body, by the power that enables Him even to subject all things to Himself.” (Philippians 3:20–21, ESV)

“For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in Him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” Everyone who looks on the Son and believes is the crux of salvation. People are presented with Christ either in person as we see recorded in the Scriptures, through His Word, or by the word of one of His (Christians) and they then must make a decision regarding their own belief in Him. The crowd saw the works of Christ, they heard His claims, and they did not believe. Some may have believed, but most from the words of Scripture did not believe. And for those who died not believing, Scripture tells us that judgment awaits them as a certain thing. But for all who believe they are saved, and their salvation is absolutely certain. Jesus will not fail in this. There will be no mistakes. Think of this, as one who has trusted in Christ for your salvation you are not a mistake over whom God will change His mind or Christ will let us loose.

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38–39, ESV) 

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Jesus is the Bread that Fully Satisfies (John 6:30-35)

“So they said to Him, “Then what sign do You do, that we may see and believe You? What work do You perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’ ” Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the Bread of Life; whoever comes to Me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in Me shall never thirst.” (John 6:30–35, ESV)

Continuing on the people responded to Jesus having told them that this higher food came by believing the One who the Father had sent. The crowd was not confused over who Jesus was speaking. Their response shows this. Recognizing that He was speaking of Himself they asked for proof. They asked Him what He was going to do to prove Himself to them such that they would then believe. They were expecting some new work. He had fed them once, but their fathers were fed every day in the wilderness. It seems as if once was not enough for them. Jesus having them sit down as then gave thanks and broke the bread to be distributed to each of them, and then feeding 5,000 men until they were satisfied with leftovers to boot was not enough. They wanted more. Once was not enough, and their substantiation in asking for more was the repeated day after day provision for their ancestors while they were waiting in the wilderness.

For a little bit of background we can go to Exodus chapter 16, where the people found themselves in a barren place far from the pots of food that they had been granted under the thumb of the Egyptians. Verses 2 and 3 records for us, “And the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, and the people of Israel said to them, “Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”” (Exodus 16:2–3, ESV) In verse 4, the Lord God (YHWH, Jehovah) tells Moses, “Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in My law or not. On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather daily.”” (Exodus 16:4–5, ESV) Moses through Aaron then instructs the people as to what God had said even telling them that God would give them meat to eat in the evening. Following this they call the people to come before the Lord because He had heard their grumbling, which the people did. Verse 10 continues, “And as soon as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the people of Israel, they looked toward the wilderness, and behold, the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud.” (Exodus 16:10, ESV) And in verse 11 the Lord again speaks to Moses saying, “I have heard the grumbling of the people of Israel. Say to them, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread. Then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.’ ” (Exodus 16:12, ESV) And sure enough this is exactly what happened. Verse 21 adds, “Morning by morning they gathered it, each as much as he could eat; but when the sun grew hot, it melted.” (Exodus 16:21, ESV)

In verse 32 of our passage in John, Jesus continued by telling them that this food was not from Moses but from God in heaven. The daily bread that their fathers had received was bread sent directly to them by God from heaven. All they had to do was to gather just what they needed for that day (except for the day before the Sabbath when they would gather double and then rest). This was a gift to them from God that they just had to receive for themselves. And the bread they were to receive was coming in the same way being sent by the Father to them. This time it was coming in the person of the Son. It was not going to be in the form of physical bread that they pick up after the morning dew, but was going to be such that it gave life. “For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” Of course He needed still to clarify this last part as is evident by their response asking, “Sir, give us this bread always.”

As amazing as it might seem, they did not get it. Their desire to have their needs met had them singularly focused, and they totally missed what He was really saying. But Jesus led them exactly to the right point. In fishing terms we might say they took the bait and now it was time to set the hook which is exactly what Jesus did telling them, “I am the Bread of Life; whoever comes to Me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in Me shall never thirst.” He had been speaking about God’s eternal provision for them, and when they asked for it to be given to them Jesus told them that He was that provision. It was Himself that He had been speaking about all along, and by believing in Him they would never hunger and never thirst. Obviously Jesus was speaking about more than the physical twinge that they had felt in their stomachs the day before. He was sent to give them more than mere food and drink. He was sent to give eternal life.

It is only through believing in Jesus as the One sent by the Father that any of us are guaranteed eternal life. Matthew recorded for us from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in the Beatitudes, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” (Matthew 5:6, ESV) 

Friday, September 26, 2014

The Real Work is Belief (John 6:22-29)

“On the next day the crowd that remained on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with His disciples, but that His disciples had gone away alone. Other boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor His disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus. When they found Him on the other side of the sea, they said to Him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set His seal.” Then they said to Him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.”” (John 6:22–29, ESV) (Caps added to pronouns referring to Christ and the Father)

And so morning came. The crowd, still on the other side of the sea went down to the shore where the boats would be moored to see that Jesus was not there. Knowing that He did not leave with His disciples they wondered where He was. As they were wondering other boats from Tiberias came near, and realizing that Jesus was not there they boarded those boats and set off for Capernaum where Jesus’ disciples had gone possibly thinking that they might know where He was or that He might somehow be with them. And sure enough, when they arrived on the other side they found Him.

Amazed that He was there they asked, “Rabbi [Teacher], when did You come here?” His being there did not make any sense to them, and so they were moved to ask that question. Myself, I would have likely asked “HOW?” John does not tell us if Jesus answered their question. Rather, Jesus responds to their effort to find Him and redirects the focus of their search in verses 26. “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.” For them their search was more than just one of curiosity having observed Jesus performing signs and miracles. They actually benefitted from what He had done. They were there when He prayed giving thanks, broke the bread, and everyone was fed—eating until they were satisfied. And they were there when 12 baskets of bread fragments were gathered up afterward. He took care of them, and I’m sure they were hopeful that He might do so again.

Jesus’ next words were, “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you.” They had gone through a lot of effort to find this man who had fed them. But Jesus told them that all of their effort in order to get things that are temporary was missing the real mark. They should be seeking after that which lasts resulting in eternal life, adding in the third person that this was something that the “Son of Man” would give to them.

Daniel wrote in the vision given him of the end times, “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a Son of Man, and He came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him. And to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.” (Daniel 7:13–14, ESV) This was understood to refer to the Messiah (Christ), and this is a title which Jesus used to speak of Himself. Similarly the term “Ancient of Days” used by Daniel refers to the Father. What Daniel had visions about is in part what Jesus was speaking to them about. The Son of Man (Jesus) was sent by the father to give eternal life, and what these people were to seek after was not after someone who would feed them daily, but who would provide for them up and into eternity. Next He added, “For on Him God the Father has set His seal.” Daniel wrote that the Ancient of Days was to give dominion and glory and an everlasting kingdom to the Son of Man. Jesus affirms the words of Daniel here with His statement. Indeed this was the plan of God the Father to set His seal on God the Son—the Son of Man.

Having received these words from Jesus the people asked what they should do in order to be doing the works of God that resulted in the food that endures to eternal life that Jesus had spoken about. He had their attention and they were pursuing how they might shift their effort to deserve this greater benefit. What must they do? This is what they wanted to know. What kind of works would qualify them to receive this special blessing?

In response Jesus told them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” I’m sure this was not the answer that they had expected. It is not the answer that most people expect. We all like to think that we do something special or that we are special in some way such that we deserve or earn what we get. Jesus removed all of the works that possibly could be done off of the table. There was no physical work they could do. There was not even any “spiritual” work that they could do. He told them that the work that leads to eternal life is belief in Him who the Father had sent (the One that already had been identified by Jesus as the Son of Man). Simply put, they could only receive this life by faith.

We’ve already read about the tension that existed between Jesus and the religious Jews. They were after Him because He broke the rules they built their lives upon and because He claimed God to be His Father. There existed among them a concept that works is where things rested, and Jesus was telling them something radically different. Their receiving eternal life was not based upon their own works, but their belief. Recognizing this they would then have nothing in themselves of which to boast. The apostle Paul wrote to the believers in Rome, “Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.” (Romans 3:27–28, ESV) To the Corinthians believers he added, “so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”” (1 Corinthians 1:31, ESV) Paul understood the heart of the Jewish elite. He was once one of them, and his credentials were exhaustive. But in Christ He found out just how empty all of them were. Writing to Titus, who Paul referred to as his “true child in a common faith” (Titus 1:4) he wrote, “He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:5–7, ESV)

One of the earliest verses I learned concerning being saved by faith and not works is Ephesians 2:8-9, which reads, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8–9, NASB95)

These people had gone to great lengths to find further blessing from this man who had fed them and satisfied their temporary need in a miraculous way. They were willing to continue that work in order to receive continued benefit. Jesus turned the table and told them that there was a greater gift, one that was not a result of works but came from believing in the One that God the Father had sent. Things have not changed since those words. Salvation today comes in the same way by believing in the One sent by God who is Jesus the Christ, who laid down His own life for our sins and took it back up again to give us eternal life. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Christ Conquers Fear (John 6:16-21)

“When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were frightened. But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” Then they were glad to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.” (John 6:16-21, ESV)

Three of the four gospel accounts (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) are referred to as the Synoptic gospels. This is because they share many characteristics in common including material covered, language used, and order, whereas the gospel of John seems to be much more reflective in nature. Synoptic means of the same eye or same vantage point, and they seem to share this in common. It is very easy to lose sight when working through any of the gospel records that the events accounted from in one may be accounted for in others as well. This is particularly true of the synoptic ones. As I have been reading through the gospel of John I have, to a significant degree, relied on the information which John has provided with limited regard to the other records. Realizing that all of these gospels were written by men through whom the Holy Spirit brought these things to mind so that they would accurately record them (John 14:25-26; 1 Peter 1:21), we see in comparing them that each of the men also was moved in different ways by the Spirit to emphasize certain aspects of an event over others.

We see this in comparing this particular event of Jesus walking on the water, which is also found in Matthew 14:22-33 and Mark 6:45-53, but not mentioned by Luke. Both Matthew and Mark give a great deal more detail as to the actual details, with Matthew including Peter calling out to Jesus and briefly walking on the water before he turned his eyes to what he was doing and not to Christ and began to sink. Not one of these accounts in in conflict, but we do see that each had some aspect which stood out to them maybe more than another.

John seems to really be much more contemplative, being focused on the miraculous signs of Jesus and the responses of the people involved. He also knits together other events which tie the greater work of Christ together into a very personal narrative as opposed to a historical record of what transpired. Even in this passage he continues with a focus on the demonstration of miracles by Jesus. This time He showed His power over the laws of nature by walking on water. Reading from Matthew and Mark we know that this occurred immediately following the feeding of the 5,000. When Jesus withdrew to the mountain He sent His disciples away ahead of Him so that He might have a time alone of prayer. When evening came they went down to the sea and got into a boat in order to cross the sea to Capernaum. As they went out it grew dark and Jesus still had not caught up with them.

Progressing along the wind started to blow strong and the sea became very rough. Our translation says that they had gone about three or four miles, but the actual original distance was measured in stadia, saying that they had gone twenty-five or thirty of them which would amount to about 600 feet each. This would have been quite a way out, but it was also still away from their destination. Other than possibly another boat they had no expectation of seeing anyone or anything until they saw a form  moving across the water which they presumed it to be a ghost, and they were very frightened. Of course, John tells us that it was Jesus who was coming near the boat, but they had no idea who or what it could be. As their fear grew Jesus spoke to them saying, “It is I; do not be afraid.”

Having been startled before and even having a vivid imagination about the things lurking in my dark closet as a kid I can only imagine the mixture of anxious emotion and relief that they felt when they realized it was Him. Still learning who He was, they must have been amazed at His ability to just walk out on the water even though He had already done some pretty amazing things in their presence. But the greatest relief came when they could rest in the joy of being reunited with Him even in these most unique of ways. Our passage tells us that they were glad to take Him into the boat.

The other accounts tell us that they continued across to the destination where they arrived in Gennesaret and moored their boat. For John, the moment Jesus stepped on the boat the miracle was accomplished and they reached their destination. Reflecting back on the account and all of the miracles of Jesus I can just imagine him in later days remembering the impact of those moments when Jesus appeared to him, entered the boat, and the winds were calmed. Nothing else on this adventure mattered beyond the recognition of what Jesus had done.

As I think about the nature of John’s record as opposed to the others I try to picture the special relationship that existed between him and Jesus such that John would say of himself that he was the “disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23; 20:2; 21:7, 20). Sure, Jesus loved them all because He told them so, but John saw the relationship between himself and Jesus as particularly close. And as I read the gospel of John his love for Jesus rings loud and clear.

Thinking of the great love that John expressed in his writings my mind was taken to his briefer letters and in particular 1 John in which love is a major theme. There we read in 1 John 4:7-12 and 19, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.” … “We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:7-12, 19, ESV)

It is such an encouragement to know that God loves us with an infinite love and that He sent His Son, His only Son, to bring us back into that relationship through forgiveness which only comes through faith—faith which also comes from Him. Even today we get to taste His love in many different ways knowing that one day we will get to experience it fully in His presence.

“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. …” (1 John 3:1, ESV)

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Jesus is King and God’s Timing is Perfect (John 6:15)

“Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.” (John 6:15, ESV)

Yesterday I included this verse in the consideration of the events surrounding the feeding of 5,000. It was a reasonable thing to do considering the context. But this morning I attended Sunday school where I was blessed to be able to present the message at a church without a senior pastor. The individual leading this study time started by bringing us to Isaiah 9:1-7 and a prophetic look at the end times. As I read along with him, and he got to verses 6 and 7, I was immediately reminded of John 16:15 where we ended yesterday.

Isaiah wrote, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.” (Isaiah 9:6–7, ESV)

And as the teacher continued he took us to Isaiah 11 with the picture of these Jews here in John who were anticipating a coming king continuing to grow in my mind such that I knew I needed to revisit John 16:15.

“There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear, but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.” (Isaiah 11:1–4, ESV)

I could not help but think as we read these verses of those who were amazed that Jesus had fed so many of them with so little and their resulting desire to take Him away and make Him king. Isaiah had spoken in such a glorious way of Him coming, and many surely knew his words. We even know them today as these words from Isaiah have become traditional ones that Christians read year after year as we celebrate Christmas and the birth of our Savior. But for the Jews these verses were mistakenly seen as a prophecy that spoke of a coming king who would take up His reign right then and there. They were not seeing that He would come for a time, leave, and then return. His leaving was not in their concept of how He would come, and consequently many were looking forward to being freed from foreign rule and once again having their own true king who would bring peace and justice forevermore. This hope came from their understanding of the words of Isaiah, and in thinking to take Jesus away they were prepared to put Him in place as this anticipated king.

The hard part is that while the people were right about Him being that king, they missed the prophecies that spoke of the suffering that He must go through before He would establish this kingdom. While there are numerous prophecies pointing to the coming of Christ, the Jews had missed or misunderstood the others speaking of His death and resurrection, of which Isaiah 53 is one of the most pointed and graphic. Including only a few verses here, it is worthy of stopping to read the entire chapter.

“Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For He grew up before Him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; He had no form or majesty that we should look at Him, and no beauty that we should desire Him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces He was despised, and we esteemed Him not. Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:1–6, ESV)

What an incredible description of what Jesus would come to do for us! Humbling Himself as a man He did not even take on a super-man form but assumed a body and role that would not point to Him for who He really is. But this is what He did for us, and the Scriptures foretold this hundreds of years in advance. Though it is much, much easier to see after the fact, another passage which accurately portrays what Christ would go through is Psalm 22. Jesus even says the first words of this psalm while on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken Me?” (Psalm 22:1a, ESV) And we find other portions of this psalm accurately being played out in passages like Luke 23:35 and Matthew 27:35. While they may have missed it, Jesus death was prophesied in the Old Testament Scriptures.

In addition to His death and crucifixion there are also prophecies about His resurrection. David wrote in Psalm 16:8-10, “I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let Your Holy One see corruption.” (Psalm 16:8–10, ESV) Sure, they may have seen this as David possibly referring to Himself, but again New Testament quotes of this by Peter in Acts 2:29-32 point to the subject being Christ.

Needless to say, to the Jews who were seeking to put Jesus in place as their king, these Old Testament prophecies were a mystery to them and subsequently they misunderstood the process which Jesus must go through before finally establishing Himself as King. Jesus, on the other hand, had this end clearly in mind and removed Himself so that the plan of the Father might not be thwarted in any way. (Having said this it is helpful to be reminded that this did not mean Jesus hid Himself from them, but that He was careful to do what the Father had intended. Throughout all of His encounters we continue to read of those who believed and received eternal life.)

Jesus knew that one day all of these things would truly be completed and He would return for His people and on that day they would recognize Him for who He truly is. In Revelation 19 we read a description of Him mounted on a white horse ready to deliver Israel and to establish His millennial (1,000 year) reign when He will sit on that throne in their midst which they had been promised from ages past.

“Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The One sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems, and He has a name written that no one knows but Himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which He is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following Him on white horses. From His mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On His robe and on His thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.” (Revelation 19:11–16, ESV)

After that thousand year reign we read of a further judgment and the once and final casting of Satan into the lake of fire and sulfur to be tormented day and night forever and ever (Revelation 20:10). Following this the scene shifts to Him sitting on a great white throne where He will sit in final judgment as the books are opened to reveal the lives of men, with only one book containing those who are granted eternal life (Revelation 20:11-15). Then in Revelation 21 and 22 we get an incredible description of the new Jerusalem where God and the Lamb reign forever. As the Revelation concludes Jesus states several times that He indeed is coming soon to which the concluding words are, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! …” (Revelation 22:20-21, ESV)

God will fulfill His promise to the Jews and He will complete in all of us that which He starts. He is indeed faithful and He will bring it all to pass in His perfect timing. 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Enough Bread for All (John 6:1-15)

“After this Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. And a large crowd was following Him, because they saw the signs that He was doing on the sick. Jesus went up on the mountain, and there He sat down with his disciples. Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand. Lifting up His eyes, then, and seeing that a large crowd was coming toward Him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” He said this to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do. Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little.” One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?” Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, about five thousand in number. Jesus then took the loaves, and when He had given thanks, He distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted. And when they had eaten their fill, He told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten. When the people saw the sign that He had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” Perceiving then that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by Himself.” (John 6:1–15, ESV) (Caps added to pronouns referring to Jesus)

I’m still thinking about Jesus’ comment in John chapter 5 when He said that the things He was yet to do would make people marvel (verse 20). On the heels of chapter 5 and Jesus’ strong statement to the Jews about His relationship with the Father and the fullness of the authority granted Jesus, John presents another amazing sign demonstrating that Jesus is for real. Some unspecified amount of time after this encounter with the Jews Jesus had left Jerusalem and crossed to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. We read that Jesus went up on the mountain where He sat down with His disciples. Giving us some perspective on timing we are told that it was at the time of Passover (April).  Being up there He looked out to see a large crowd moving in. By this time His reputation had grown, and our passage tells us that a large group of people were gathering to see Him. I can just imagine among the crowd that there were some who were either ill and in need of healing or knew someone who was. And there were definitely those who were following Him to see what He would do next.

Matthew gives us a bit more information on this event (as well as the other gospels), telling us that Jesus had compassion on them healing their sick. He also tells us that evening had come and them being in a desolate place meant they had no ability to find food. The disciples urged Jesus to send them away, but Jesus resisted telling them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” (Matthew 14:16, ESV) From the various gospel accounts this must have been a baffling response from Jesus. Looking back to John’s record we read that Jesus asked Philip where they were going to buy bread to feed all of these people. Throughout all of our encounters so far it has been established for us that Jesus uses questions and actions in order to stimulate a response which He can then direct toward His intended end. In this case Jesus already knew the answer to feeding the crowd, but He asked His disciple “to test Him” as our passage reads. He was asking in order to demonstrate something bigger than His disciples would not have imagined, something that would clearly cause everyone to marvel at the outcome.

Philip looked at the money that they had and how that even if they spent every bit of it on bread there would not be enough to give everyone even a little bit. Simply put, they did not have the financial resources to solve the problem so this could not be the answer. It is then that Andrew chimed in that he had found a boy that had five barley loaves and two fish, but even this would be horribly inadequate for so many people. Looking at the shared resources Andrew saw that there still was not enough. Having heard from both of these men, Jesus told everyone to sit down. Our passage records that there was a large area of green grass where the men sat down of which there were 5,000 in number. That was a huge crowd realizing that this was just the count of men (see Matthew 14:21), not reflecting the number women and children of which we know there were some as the loaves and fish which Andrew discovered were possessed by one of the boys.

After they were seated Jesus prayed and gave thanks. Then He distributed the bread and the fish among those who were seated. Our passage then records that everyone ate a tiny, tiny morsel, scraping to find the smallest crumb. NO! It tells us that they all ate until they were satisfied and there were still leftovers. In fact, there were enough leftovers to fill twelve baskets with the remaining fragments of the loaves, which surely was more than they started with. Imagine the looks on their faces. Imagine the amazement as the miracle that Jesus worked was clearly demonstrated in the super abundance of what was left over with each person knowing that he had had enough. The murmur in the crowd must have been astounding. Who is the man? Did you see what He did? Their overwhelming response, we are told, was that they concluded that Jesus must be “the Prophet who is to come into the world!”

The Jews had long been looking for a prophet who would come with the word of God and instruct them (Deuteronomy 18:15). They were expecting that this person would come and remain with them. They were looking for the promised king who would come to rule them, and they were ready to be delivered from their political persecution. Expecting that God would send this person in this particular way, Jesus perceived that they were ready to drag Him off and proclaim Him king. But Jesus knew this was not the plan of the Father. Yes, He was sent with the words of the Father. Yes, He would one day rule as King of kings and Lord of lords. But this was not the time, and He could not allow the crowd to mess with God’s plan so He withdrew from them, even leaving His disciples behind. Matthew adds that he sent them away to get in a boat and go ahead of Him to the other side (Matthew 14:21).

As I was re-reading this passage I was reminded of communion. I remembered the passages speaking of Jesus sharing the Passover with His disciples for the last time until they were to do it again in His Father’s kingdom, and I thought about the words of Paul as he affirmed communion as something to be shared among all believers on a regular basis. I was reminded that as Jesus broke the bread and gave it to His disciples He told them, “Take, eat; this is My body.” (Matthew 26:26) And I thought about the words of Paul as He had been instructed by the Lord saying, “and when He had given thanks, He broke it, and said, “This is My body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.”” (1 Corinthians 11:24, ESV) Reflecting on these I also thought about the extra fragments that remained after the 5,000 were fed.

When we share in communion today, as Christians have throughout the centuries, we do so with the knowledge that God the Son became man to give His body for us so that we might be saved. He shed His blood for the forgiveness of our sins. We do this knowing that the effectiveness of His work on the cross was not limited to 12 or even 5,000, but was for all who would believe without limitation. The hyper-abundance of fragments that were gathered into the twelve baskets gave me cause to think about how limitless was Jesus ability to give life to all who believe. When Jesus broke the bread there was no limit to who it would reach. 

Continuing into John chapter 6 we will read how people continued to stumble over who He claimed to be and how they rejected what He had come to do because they could not accept who He is. Multiple times in this chapter we read Jesus’ words claiming Himself to be the Bread of Life. The first time, in verse 35, was Jesus direct statement that this is who He is. The second, in verse 41, we find that the Jews grumbled because this is who He claimed to be. Then in verses 47 and 48 we read, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life.” (John 6:47–48, ESV)

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Evidence Speaks - II (John 5:39-47)

“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about Me, yet you refuse to come to Me that you may have life. I do not receive glory from people. But I know that you do not have the love of God within you. I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive Me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote of Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”” (John 5:39–47, ESV) (Caps added to pronouns referring to Christ.)

Jesus just told them that they did not have the word of God abiding in them, yet here He tells them that they have searched the Scriptures. There is obviously a difference between the two. In their searching the Scriptures to find eternal life they missed what the Scriptures really had to say concerning it. They had built up a system of do’s and don’ts as a means of “pleasing God” and missed the point that what God desires of man is their wholehearted belief in Him and faith in His plan for deliverance. The end was never to be found in making sacrifices and keeping the commandments because the sacrifices were inadequate and the commands themselves demanded perfection that none could meet. Rather it was about believing in Him and then in response performing these other things as acts of obedient worship.

These Jews had become harsh and legalistic, not having the love of God in them. This is evidenced by them looking to the man carrying his bed rather than seeing that he was healed. Were their hearts filled with the love of God then they surely would have rejoiced with the man in his healing by God. But no, they would rather attack him for breaking one of their added rules which were put in place to establish how man could prove his obedience.

Jesus came in the Father’s name and He spoke of the great things of the God while He performed many signs that could only have come through power of God, and they did not receive Him. Jesus sought no glory for himself saying, “Look what I can do!” And for that they rejected Him. But should He have come in His own name and pointed to His own good works then these performance based people would have accepted Him gladly as one of the club. They were all about the pats on the back and they could relate to others who did the same, and none of them were seeking after the glory that would come only from God. In His Sermon on the Mount Jesus spoke at great length about the distinctions between those who He called hypocrites who were all about the show and the immediate recognition as opposed to those who are humble and who are storing up their treasures in heaven.

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19–21, ESV)

Jesus separated any judgment that He might make of them before the Father and took them straight to one who they did recognize in Moses. Moses had given the law upon which they built their religious system, but in doing this they missed totally what Moses had said. If they had really believed the words of Moses then they surely would have accepted Him because Moses had written of Him. Jesus does not quote anything of Moses, but a search of the five books of Moses will show that he clearly spoke of Christ.

“The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to Him you shall listen—” (Deuteronomy 18:15, ESV) Moses said these words and the Jews to whom Jesus was speaking did not accept these words nor did they listen to the One sent by God. And it was not just Moses who they did not listen to. God sent numerous prophets to call them to repentance. One of them was Ezekiel who is given a description of the people to whom he was being sent. “And he said to me, “Son of man, I send you to the people of Israel, to nations of rebels, who have rebelled against me. They and their fathers have transgressed against Me to this very day. The descendants also are impudent and stubborn: I send you to them, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God.’ And whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house) they will know that a prophet has been among them.” (Ezekiel 2:3–5, ESV)

How much different is it today when people pick and choose what they want to believe? Rather than seeking after God with their whole hearts they grasp on to what they want to find and ignore the rest. Psalm 139 is an incredible declaration of how awesome our God is and how well He knows us. At the end of the psalm David cried out, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139:23–24, ESV)

The words are there. They’ve always been there. But a hard heart does not see them. Jesus told His disciples that the world would know that they are His disciples by their love for one another (John 13:34-35). The apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian believers, “Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you? You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” (2 Corinthians 3:1–3, ESV) He did not need their letters of commendation because their changed lives spoke loudly of Christ and the power of the Spirit of God to change hearts.

Today we who are saved continue to be a living testimony of this truth as we are daily being  changed more and more into the likeness of Christ. Though words are important in order to share the message our lives serve as the living proof that Jesus truly is the Christ who came to give life. We have a firm foundation of faith based on fact that undergirds that which we know and desire for others. I love Paul’s prayer request at the end of Ephesians. “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.” (Ephesians 6:18–20, ESV)

An ambassador is one sent by an authority who knows the authority well and has been given power to represent that authority. The Bible declares that we are ambassadors for Christ, and in that we can go out not in our own power and authority but with the power and authority of the Spirit of God working in us as we proclaim Christ and call people to reconciliation to God. “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” (2 Corinthians 5:20, ESV)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Evidence Speaks - I (John 5:30-38)

“I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent Me. If I alone bear witness about Myself, My testimony is not true. There is another who bears witness about Me, and I know that the testimony that he bears about Me is true. You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. Not that the testimony that I receive is from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved. He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given Me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about Me that the Father has sent Me. And the Father who sent Me has himself borne witness about Me. His voice you have never heard, His form you have never seen, and you do not have His word abiding in you, for you do not believe the One whom He has sent.” (John 5:30–38, ESV) (Caps added to pronouns referring to God.)

When there is a dispute between two individuals and neither of their stories can be corroborated it is difficult to determine who is correct. In cases like this they might both be lying and they might even both be telling their own “enhanced” piece of truth without regard to the portion that affects the other individual. The reality is that you just don’t know which one to believe. As Jesus continued to confront His accusers He reiterated that He was not doing anything on His own. He was appointed to judge and His judgments were based upon what He had heard and these judgments were just. He did not have any personal agenda in them, but was given to perfectly doing the will of the Father who sent Him.

The Jews believing Him was another issue. They had their agenda, they were opposed to Jesus, and based upon what we know followed they made no change in their opinion. Jesus went on to tell them that if it were just Him who had said these things without any corroboration then they would have every reason to doubt Him. He even went further to say that if He were the only one who had claimed this and there were no other substantiation then His testimony would indeed not be true.

Jesus also told them that while His testimony did not come from man and that He really did not have any obligation to support what He had said, because of His desire that their hearts might be changed and people would be saved He would support what He had said by telling them of the witness of others. The first of them is found in one who they had personally examined, John the Baptist, who proclaimed the immediate coming of the Lamb of God who would come in power and truth. The second witness is the signs and wonders, and the third is the Scriptures themselves. We’ll look at witness of John and the signs and wonders today and then the Scriptures in the next post.

“There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the Light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the Light.” (John 1:6–8, ESV)

“The next day he [John the Baptist] saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” … “I myself did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.” (John 1:29, 33–34, ESV) 

John was one that they themselves saw as a bright and shining light from God as he came to declare repentance and the coming of the Lord. They rejoiced for a while in his message. After all, the coming of the Messiah was what Jews had been looking forward to for a very long time. They knew the promises of Scripture and the message of John that He would soon come was good news. Some, I’m sure might have even had on their minds the words of the prophets such as Malachi.

“Behold, I send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, He is coming, says the Lord of hosts.” (Malachi 3:1, ESV) 

Jesus went on to say that the word of John was not all there was, and were it a trial his word as a single witness would be insufficient proof. He pointed them to an even greater proof in pointing to the works that He had done. He told the Jews that the works that “the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me.” It was not just a matter of a couple of guys staking claim to one of them being the Messiah. No, the Father had sent the Son with the ability to do signs and wonders which testify of and bear witness to His veracity. Jesus’ words were backed by action, and the action was undeniable. Remember that this whole incident started with Jesus telling a man who had been unable to walk for thirty-eight years to take up his bed and walk, only to have the Jews confront him for carrying his bed on the Sabbath.

He bluntly told them that they were in no position to judge whether or not He was for real on behalf of God. They had never personally heard the voice of God. They had never personally seen Him, and they did not have His word in them. The first two statements probably were easily accepted, but I imagine that these self-appointed enforcers of the law did not particularly care for the last one. Telling them that they did not have His word in them meant that they did not know what they were speaking of. They had no authority in this area and as such could not sit in judgment, adding that if they really did have the word of God in them then they clearly would accept Him as the One sent by God. By their lack of acceptance they proved their lack of real understanding and their ignorance of these things of God.

In our world there are huge numbers of people who have their concept of God and how He should do things. They even take His word and twist it to suit their own agendas or personal desires. This does not make them right and it does not change the character of God. What it does do is prove how distant they are from Him and how little they know of His truth.

There are a number of great books available written by men who sought to prove the claims of Christ or even to disprove them and subsequently were left with no other conclusion than to accept that He is really who He claimed to be. These men include C.S. Lewis an Oxford professor and writer, Francis Collins a geneticist and physicist, Malcom Muggeridge a British journalist among a long list of other credentials, and more recently Lee Strobel who has written numerous books including “The Case for Christ.” Today driving home I heard David Limbaugh interviewed about his new book, “Jesus on Trial,” where he spoke about applying his lawyer’s eye to the evidence concerning the truth of Christ. All of these men and so many others have come to salvation or made a significant change in their spiritual walk based upon gaining a greater understanding of just how true these claims really are.

Jesus said that He would give them further evidence because He wanted people to be saved, and this evidence continues to change lives today. It is an amazing thing to know that our faith is not something that is simply to be heard and believed. God has thought so much of His truth that He has manifested it in such a way that the evidence speaks through time and affirms His truth. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Two Resurrections – A Matter of Life and Death (John 5:25-29)

“Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.” (John 5:25–29, ESV)

We finished our last look at Jesus’ response to the Jews with the words recorded by John, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” Here Jesus continued to clearly draw the line concerning eternal consequences. While some have tried to read various things into this passage which do not fit the context or are not consistent with the entirety of Scripture, Jesus here is demonstrating the continuity of the Son (Himself) coming with the eternal plan of the Father. God has a history which the Jews knew. He had revealed and proven Himself to them, and those who believed in Him were saved by faith under the hope of His promise.

This has been the case up until Jesus’ coming. Man believed and it was counted to Him by God as righteousness. We read about this, for instance, in Hebrews chapter 11 which speaks of the many who had come before who were counted as righteous because of their belief evidenced by their lives of faith. We read that by faith Abel offered up a more acceptable sacrifice. We read of Enoch, who showed his faith by living a life pleasing to God, even being taken up by God such that he would not even see death. We read of Noah who by faith followed God’s instructions by building and entering the ark and became an heir of righteousness by faith. By faith Abram obeyed. By faith received the power to conceive and bear the son of promise through whom would come the Christ. The chapter goes on to declare one after another of people who by faith believed God and evidenced their belief by their life. Not one of them do we read of any action saving them except by the faith that moved them to respond.

Verse 13 of Hebrews 11 points to the hope that they had to believe in a promise that they had not yet received and could only trust that God would do what He had promised. “These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.” (Hebrews 11:13, ESV) Jesus, Himself, spoke of this side of their hope when He said in John 5:17, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” (John 5:17, ESV) Jesus had come into the world, and in Him the hope that those who had gone before was being realized. As He spoke to the Jews He spoke to them as the One who had come, but had not yet gone to the cross. Those of faith were in that period of drastic change. Their hope of a Savior who would give life to those who believe was to be fully realized in Jesus who is the Christ and who would soon shed His blood for the forgiveness of sins and the gift of salvation by faith.

So He said to the Jews, “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.” When Jesus conquers death through the resurrection He will have finished the work of bringing about all that was required to give eternal life to man. The hour is coming because He had not yet completed this. The hour is now here because after thousands of years of looking forward the Christ had been born as a man and was preparing Himself to complete that which the Father had promised.

Jesus had already demonstrated His power to restore life to the gravely ill and to give healing to those in need. At the moment He was standing before His accusers and telling them that the Father had not only given Him the power to do those things, but He had been given authority over life itself and the ability to restore life eternally to those who were lost. Along with that He also stood before them and told them that He had full authority as the righteous Judge over those who remained in unbelief and rebellion. To those who believed He would give them the assurance of eternal life and those who did not would remain in judgment.

He did not come to remove physical death, but He did come to give life to some and also to judge others. In the process of this unfolding men have continued to die and consequently will all be resurrected to receive the result of their belief or their unbelief. For those who believe they receive eternal life and for those who do not the result is eternal judgment. One is of unimaginable glory and the other of unimaginable torment, not to be desired by anyone. For those saved by faith they have a great hope that does not perish at death, but rather provides their entrance into His presence forever.

“And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:12–15, ESV)

“For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.” (2 Corinthians 5:1–5, ESV)

“He who prepared us for this very thing is God!” The work that God began in creation will be completed and those who place their trust in Him and are saved have been given His guarantee found in His Word and His Spirit given to all believers. There is no middle ground. There is no balancing of the scales because there is absolutely no good that man can do enough of that will offset the smallest amount of sin compared to our infinitely perfect God. Jesus is the perfect One who was sent to pay that price and to fully satisfy the Father.

He pulled no punches in telling this to the Jews, and His Word pulls no punches in declaring this to any who will hear. Because of His great love He sent His Son to save man. Man was not created for judgment, but for relationship and God has made this possible through His Son.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Like Father Like Son (John 5:19-24)

“So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what He sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son and shows Him all that he Himself is doing. And greater works than these will He show Him, so that you may marvel. For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom He will. The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” (John 5:19–24, ESV) (Caps added to pronouns referring to the Father and the Son.)

In the last portion of this passage John told us that the reason that Jesus was being pursued by the leaders among the Jews was not only because He was performing miracles on the Sabbath but because He claimed that God was His Father. And right on the heels of this statement, Jesus confronted that very issue with them. The first thing He told them was that He wasn’t doing any of these things of His own initiative or invention, but that He was working in concert with the Father. What He observed of the Father, He Himself as the Son did. It is the ultimate embodiment of the famous phrase, “Like father like son.” There was no distinction between them in their actions. They were in full cooperation with each other and one hundred percent consistent. If the Jews had a problem with the actions of Jesus, He was telling them that they really had a problem with God the Father. There was no difference between the ordinances of God the Father and the actions of God the Son. They truly were One. There was no back-peddling on His claim that God was His Father, but He dealt with it head on confirming that this was exactly what He meant.

Next, He went on to declare the love of the Father for the Son and His total and absolute openness to everything that He was doing. There were no secrets in the Godhead. What the Father knew He revealed to the Son, and this was just the tip of the iceberg. As God become man Jesus was going to have much more revealed to Him by the Father, and these things will be so impressive that all man can do is marvel in response. Jesus was going to continue to perform signs and wonders in order to prove that He truly is the Son sent by the Father, and these miraculous things extended even to His power over life itself. I’m sure that the Jews would admit that the Father had the power to raise the dead and give life to them, but where they fell short was recognizing that Jesus, as the Son, had that same power. He told them that He was able to give life to whomever He wished. Knowing that their initial complaint was about the man carrying his bed on the Sabbath, Jesus escalated things well beyond what I’m sure they were expecting to hear.

Beyond that He told those who had been judging Him that power of the Father over judgment had been given to Him. They had no authority from God in this area, but Jesus had been given full and absolute authority. And with this authority came the realization that everyone one day will honor Him just as they would honor the Father. Many would come to recognize Jesus and believe in Him during their lives, but there were also going to be many others who would come before Him eternally judged and be forced to confess that He indeed is Lord.

“And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:8–11, ESV) (Caps added to pronouns referring to the Father and the Son.)

Not honoring the Son is equal to not honoring the Father. There is no difference. The Father had sent the Son and fully granted Him all authority. Jesus told the Jews no uncertain terms that they had better come to grasp with this or incur judgment. Jesus drew a line, and that line had nothing to do with how good they were or how well they kept commandments or statues including those concerning the Sabbath. The determining factor in passing from judgment to eternal life is found in hearing His words of Jesus and believing that the Father had sent Him. Jesus did not pull any punches with them. He made it clear that He is the Son of God sent to save man from His sins. There is no middle ground. There is no compromising that He might have been a good teacher or a prophet, because if He were not the Son of God then all of these words would be lies and He would disqualify Himself. Jesus knew who He was and He knew Who sent Him, and He laid it all out before His accusers. He is the Christ, and the time was soon to run out for them to recognize this truth. (Note: I’ve been switching tense from past to present recognizing that God is eternal, but also trying to balance that much of what we read about Jesus occurred in time.)

As we bring these truths forward as Christians we can find great encouragement in knowing that Jesus personally made these claims concerning Himself. There are many pseudo-Christian groups out there who attempt to make Him into someone less, but Jesus did not give that as an option. We also are to be encouraged knowing that everything He said was one hundred percent truthful and accurate. He spoke and acted with full knowledge and authority. As such we can trust what He said. We can also be encouraged as we read these gospel and other accounts in the Bible knowing that Jesus Himself said that they Holy Spirit would bring these things to remembrance to His disciples when it was time to record them. “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (John 14:25–26, ESV) Peter, speaking on this wrote, “For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:21, ESV)

Speaking to those who have not trusted in Christ for their salvation, we can share with them boldly assured that Jesus is who He declared Himself to be. Responding to those who try to throw Him into a box with other religious leaders, we can clearly say that Jesus did not give us that option. Either He is truly who He claimed He was or this was the greatest hoax ever played on mankind. But history does not support a hoax. There is historical proof concerning Him, and there are a number of great resources to help in this area. But my favorite resource is the Word of God, and in particular 1 Corinthians 15 where we have the historical proof of the resurrection. The ultimate proof of His power over life is the proof of His own resurrection, and because He lives He gives life to all who believe. Just as the Jews were told that they needed to come to terms with this truth, so will every man ever born and that’s just the way it is whether they want to admit it or not. We cannot divide what God declares to be indivisible.

It would be great to read that the Jews immediately changed their position concerning Jesus and believed. But later in John chapter 10, after Jesus again claims His oneness with the Father, we read that they were ready to stone Him. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are One.” (John 10:27–30, ESV) (Caps added to pronouns referring to the Father and the Son.)

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Suffering for Doing Good (John 5:14-18)

“Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because He was doing these things on the Sabbath. But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because not only was He breaking the Sabbath, but He was even calling God his own Father, making Himself equal with God.” (John 5:14–18, ESV, caps added to pronouns referring to Christ)

We live in a time when we are seeing people go out into the world to preform humanitarian service in the name of Christ among people who don’t know Him and even among those who vehemently reject Him. This antagonism is growing dramatically such that in this last group we have been seeing increased reports of these humanitarians and growing numbers of Christian people groups being taken captive, abused, threatened with their lives, and even killed because of the country from which they come and the Lord which they serve. Sometimes it’s hard to distinguish whether this is happening to them because of their national or cultural origins or because they are Christians. America, for example, has a long tradition of helping those less fortunate or in distress, and this tradition can be traced back to its traditional Christian values—values that seek to do good to all people. It is this principle of doing good that has opened the doors in many countries to Christian missionaries, and it is the working of that good in practical and needed ways that has softened many hearts to the gospel of Jesus Christ. But it is also the commitment of His followers to stand for Him regardless of their nationality that has resulted in much of the persecution we see. Though much good is being done, there are those who are repulsed so much by Christ and Christianity that they cannot accept the good being done by His people.

In this encounter with the man at the healing pond Jesus did not identify Himself to the man when he healed Him. Instead He withdrew into the crowd, and we saw what happened as the man was confronted because of His breaking of their Sabbath rules. They were more concerned about their standard and their ways than they were about the good that was done. This is not to say that the ends justify the means, but that the rules they were enforcing were man made ones which went way beyond what God had established. In this case the particular rule was one which was established for the welfare of man.

We read from the Bible that Jesus came to fulfill the law and give life. In the process of this He performed many signs and wonders. Among them was His healing of this man who didn’t even know who He was. We see here that not everyone who Jesus performed a miracle for believed in Him, but that Jesus had compassion on them because of their need and responded to provide them relief and in so doing evidence His power.

Our passage for today tells us that Jesus later went back and found the man in order to identify Himself. The curious thing is that the passage does not record the man dropping to his knees in worship of Him, but rather it tells us that the man went and found those who had confronted him and told them who it was that had healed him. But before he left to tell those who it was that had healed him, Jesus did have something to say to the man. He told him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” We have no idea why the man was unable to walk for so much of his life and we have no real reason to believe that it was a result of sin. But having made the man whole Jesus instructed him to live as a whole man and not go back into a life of sin which would have its consequences. We read this in passages such as Galatians 6:7-8 which reads, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” (Galatians 6:7–8, NASB95) There is no special class of sinner. All who sin are in need of forgiveness and salvation which comes from belief in Christ who is its grantor.

This is the last we hear of the man. The focus then switches back to those who were seeking after Jesus because of the works that He had been doing on the Sabbath. But as we read from our passage it was about more than just the miracles, it was also about His message. When they confronted Jesus, He responded to them saying, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” (John 5:17, ESV) He didn’t beat around the bush. He told them that as God had been working up until that time, so is He (Jesus) working now. He claimed to be the Son of God. He claimed to be the Christ—the sent One of God. As such Jesus was a threat to them and the system they had put in place. The One sent to seek and to save the lost and the One who had come as their eternal Lord and King did not match their expectations and reinforce their practices. He was a threat to all they held on to, and as such He had to be eliminated. It didn’t matter what good He did, what mattered is what He stood for. In rejecting Him they could not find good in what He did, but rather they sought every opportunity to find fault and trap Him in some way. They could not accept His claim, and thus they could not accept Him or anything He did.

As we continue to move through this encounter we’ll take a look at the lengthy response which Jesus makes to them. But for now, this passage serves for me as a great reminder that not everyone will accept the good that we do as followers of Christ. In fact, there will be some who reject us just because of who we are, and in rejecting us we are reminded that it is because of Him in us that this is done. In Luke chapter 10 when Jesus was preparing to send out seventy-two disciples to proclaim repentance He told them, “The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.” (Luke 10:16, ESV)

The apostle Peter wrote, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.” (1 Peter 4:12–16, ESV)

The apostle Paul wrote quite a bit about how we are to walk in these times. In 2 Thessalonians 3:13 he exhorted us with, “As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good.” (ESV) And in Ephesians 5:16 he reminded us of the importance of considering how we use our times because of the times in which we live, “making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” (ESV)

Starting today with a focus on the persecution going on around the world we are reminded in a very stark way of the reality of Paul’s words. We are encouraged to stand with Him knowing the very real spiritual battle in which we are engaged, and we can be drawn to pray for those even now who lives are threatened because of who they worship. Our God is good. He is in absolute control and He will bring to pass that which He intends even to the destruction of evil and the salvation of all who believe in Him. And He will never forsake those who place their trust in Him and suffer in His name.

Peter went on to say, “Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.” (1 Peter 4:19, ESV)