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)

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