Gospel of John; Chapter 18, “In the Garden”

John 18:  In the Garden

After finishing His prayer, Jesus and the disciples (minus Judas) cross over the Kidron Valley into the Garden of Gethsemane, an olive grove. In fact, Gethsemane means “olive press”.  What an appropriate name for the pressure Our Lord would suffer as He asked His Father 3 times if this “cup” could pass from Him.  We read in Matthew, Jesus says, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”  I know you know what it is to be overwhelmed-too much to do, too little time. Pressure. Sorrow. Fiery trials. Long dark nights when it seems the sun will never shine again. Realize you have a High Priest, the Lord Jesus who knows exactly how you feel and can empathize with you in the dark hours of sorrow, distress and anxiety.  He knows what it is to be overwhelmed.

Now when you read John’s account of this evening he does not report some of the same things recorded in the other three Gospels. John passes over certain details, because when he wrote the Gospel of John the other three Gospels had already been written and these details recorded in triplicate.  John explains his purpose for writing the account he wrote: “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, who are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.” John 20: 30, 31.

Jesus knew what was about to happen. He had told his disciples this was going to take place. He had spent the evening explaining these truths to them. He had told them: “I have told you these things that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But rejoice! I have overcome the world.”  I want you to notice Jesus steps forward and put Himself between the enemy and His disciples when Judas arrives with the temple guard to arrest Jesus. Stand still and do not be foolish and rush in as we will see Peter do.  Sometimes fools rush in where angels dare to tread. Do not get ahead of the Lord. We are to follow where He leads. He had stepped in front of his disciples to protect them. Peter wants to step outside of His protection to do it himself. Nothing can come into our lives except what the Lord has allowed.

For today’s lesson, I want us to look at five elements:

1.     The Garden.

2.     The Kiss

3.     The Sword.

4.     The Cup

5.     The Fire.

As we have studied the Gospel of John, we have become familiar with John’s style. John used symbols to convey important spiritual truths, for this is the way Jesus taught. He used symbols and parables and also designed His teaching to his audiences’ background. He spoke of bread, water; wine, light, dark, physical birth, spiritual birth.  When Jesus called His disciples he had them cast the net and haul in a record catch. He then told them, to “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.”  

THE GARDEN: OBEDIENCE

The Kidron Valley was east of Jerusalem between the city wall and the Mount of Olives. Its name means, ‘dusky or gloomy.’ (That name certainly describes the mood of the evening.)   This name probably described the water which ran through the valley because it was here the run- off from the temple grounds. For this reason it was often stained by the blood of the Temple sacrifices. On the other side of the valley lay the Garden of Gethsemane on the western slope of the Mount of Olives. Gethsemane actually means ‘oil press’, a fitting name as we will see what Jesus endured in the Garden as He was overwhelmed and felt the pressure to the point of death and sweat great drops of blood.  He understands when you feel the pressures of life and of obedience for He has experienced it Himself.

It is only fitting the climax of Jesus’ ministry should come in a garden. After all human history began in a garden, the Garden of Eden, which Jesus Himself designed and created. The first sin occurred in the Garden of Eden, when the first Adam disobeyed God.  Here in another garden, the Garden of Gethsemane, where the last Adam was obedient. The Garden is a symbol of obedience. Listen to Paul’s explanation:  “So it is written: the first man Adam became a living being, the last Adam (Lord Jesus) a life-giving spirit. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, after that the spiritual. The first man was from the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven.” (I Cor 15)

Now do you understand why Jesus told Nicodemus, “You must be born again.” This is a MUST BE. “No one can enter the kingdom of heaven unless he is born of the water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to the spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, “you must be born again.”

The first Adam brought sin and death into the world on all of mankind by his disobedience. The last Adam by His obedience brought righteousness and life to all who trust Him. He was obedient unto death. The first Adam’s bride came from his side. The last Adam’s bride came from the blood and water of his side, torn by the lance of the Roman soldier. 

So we see two gardens in our past which impact our present. There is another garden in the future. Look in Revelation 21 and 22, the last two chapters in the Bible. We read in Revelation 21: “Then I saw a new heaven and new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, coming down from heaven as a bride, beautifully dressed for her husband.  Then I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death, or mourning, or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. “We also read there is no sun or moon, because the glory of the Lord gives it light. There is no more night.  

Here is the future Garden: “The angel showed me the river of water of life, as clear as crystal flowing from the Throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the Tree of Life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. “Revelation 22.

THE KISS- TREACHERY.

It is a kiss of betrayal, even to this day referred to as the “kiss of Judas.”  In Jesus’ day a kiss was and still is a traditional gesture of greeting among friends in the Mid-East. Family members greeted each other with a kiss. And disciples greeted a rabbi with a kiss as a sign of devotion and obedience.  It was in the case of Judas the agreed-upon signal to point out Jesus. It is ironic this age-old gesture of greeting among friends was a symbol of treachery and betrayal.  Jesus said to Judas: “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?”  Judas had deceived his fellow disciples during the three years. He was a person always looking out for himself first. He had hitched his ambitions to this Jesus who Judas saw as a potential leader and thus his way to power and wealth.  For money was Judas’ master and he believed Jesus was the way to wealth and power. When he saw Jesus did not intend to take over politically, he realigned his future with the chief priests and Pharisees. Judas was not a godly man for he sought the counsel of the ungodly and stood with the sinners.  Judas was a tare among the wheat. A hypocrite who ended up with the very ones Jesus called hypocrites.  It is interesting Judas was an unbeliever who pretended to be a believer for his own benefit.  Peter who was a believer who would stand briefly with the unbelievers and pretend he was one of them for his own benefit as we will see.

THE SWORD

We will see the sword of Peter represents rebellion against the will of God.  Now what is interesting is Peter was sincere and courageous and wanted to protect the Lord Jesus, he was actually hindering the work Jesus came to accomplish. Peter was trying to keep Jesus from going to the cross.  Jesus had told them he was going to the cross and Peter tried to keep it from happening. Jesus told Peter he would deny him three times and Peter said he would not and in fact would die for him.  Peter was fighting the wrong enemy with the wrong weapon. The Lord had said I am and Peter said no you are not. The Lord said – get behind me Satan. Sometimes Peter talked when he should have been listening. And sometimes he slept when he should have been praying.  We also learn sometimes failure is a great teacher and is a necessary step in success.  “It is not by might or power but by the Spirit”…. was the lesson Peter had yet to learn.  “The word of God is alive and powerful and sharper than a two edged sword.” (Hebrews 4)    The sword of the Spirit is one of the divine weapons we have to pulling down strongholds and taking any thought against the Lord captive. It divides asunder anything which enters our mind which should not. It like the metal detector at the airport. We must learn to use it in the battle. It is both an offensive and defensive weapon. Peter would discover that the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, is the weapon God’s servants use in fighting their spiritual battles. In my early days of sobriety and Christianity, I discovered one verse which kept me from taking a drink which I had not been able to do so for 14 years, try as I might. But it is not by might or power but by the Spirit.

We are to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. Peter hated them and wanted to hurt them. He cut off Malchus’ ear, which Dr. Luke tells us Jesus replaced, healed. Since Malchus was the servant of the High Priest, Peter could have been arrested and even put to death.  Jesus was protecting Peter- He did not need Peter to protect Him.  We read in Luke 22, we read the last time Peter denied knowing the Lord, the Lord was being taken from the hearing and looked straight at Peter. Can you imagine the heartache and despair Peter experienced? He was so ashamed of himself.

Peter will be restored by the Lord as we will see in John 21.  Then on the day of Pentecost, Peter used the Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God and 3,000 souls were slain in the Spirit.

THE CUP

The cup represents submission.  The cup contained not only all the sins of the world, it also meant the Son would suffer, be separated from His Father, become sin, the very one who knew no sin and received the punishment for our sins.  We are told He suffered the shame, despising the cross for the joy set before Him.

Jesus asked His Father three times in the Garden if this cup could be passed from Him. And each time, He ended His petition with ‘not my will, but yours.’ Submission. Submission is not commitment; it is absolute surrender. Jesus knew the Father had mixed the cup, prepared it for Him. He knew the cup represented His Father’s will. To Jesus the cup represented complete obedience and submission to the Father’s will, even to death on the cross.  Jesus knew His Father was always at work. He also knew His Father always worked  all things together for good for those who loved Him.

We need never fear the cup the Father’s hands have prepared for us.  Jesus said, into thy hands I commend my spirit.  The cup He has prepared for you was prepared with love and wisdom. He will never place more on you than you can bear. Whatever trials you and I face, we can trust the Father’s love, wisdom, and faithfulness.  His grace is always sufficient.  He always does what will accomplish the most good,for the most people for the longest period of time by the best possible method.  He is too good to be unkind. And He is too wise to be mistaken. So when you cannot see His plan, cannot trace His hand, trust His heart.

THE FIRE

We saw Judas standing with the enemy although for three years he had stood with Jesus and the disciples.  But he went out from them, because he was never one of them. He was a tare among the wheat. He did not lose his salvation, he never possessed it.

Now we see Peter who was a believer, standing with sinful pretending to be one of them. Now this may shock you, yet how many times have you been prompted to speak up and out for the Lord in a group, but held your tongue for you did not want to cause trouble and upset anyone. Or for fear others would think less of you.   Peter stood by the fire warming himself in the company of the ungodly.  Sometimes we use the world to meet our fleshly needs rather than depend on the Lord. We convince ourselves we are just being reasonable. Our thinking is we have to go along to get along in this world. Yet the Lord had told the disciples and us- ‘ in me you have peace, but in the world you will have trouble. ‘

Now what happened to these two men? 

To understand what happened requires we need to understand the difference between Godly sorrow and worldly sorrow.

“ For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow leads to repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what the godly sorry produced in you: what earnestness to clear yourselves, what longing, what concern what readiness to see justice done. “  We will see Peter’s eagerness and earnestness to clear himself in John 21, when he cannot wait for the boat to get to shore, but jumps in swims ahead.

These two sorrows will be clearly portrayed in the lives of Peter and Judas. Jesus knew what Peter was going to do that night and told him: “ Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you like wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back ( repentance always involves a change in direction, a change in thinking, a turning point) ,strengthen the others. “ (Luke 22: 31, 32)  

Here is the contrast:  Peter wept over his sins and repented, while Judas admitted his sins but never really repented. Judas experienced remorse and regret, which are the earmarks of worldly sorrow, not godly sorrow which leads to repentance. He returned  ( turned back )to the Pharisees and the chief priest and gave them back their money. He recognized his betrayal.  He experienced remorse and regret, worldly sorrow. He had returned to those who represented the world seeking help. They had used Judas and now had no need for him.  In fact the account in Matthew 27 tells us they refused to put the money Judas returned in the treasury because it was “ blood money”.

Peter would be restored and this experience would enable him to serve with great power and blessing.   Judas committed suicide. There was guilt and grace in the Garden that night long ago. Peter was guilt of resisting God’s will. Judas was guilty of betrayal. But Jesus was gracious. In the garden Jesus surrendered to the Father’s will. He healed Malchus’ ear. He protected His disciples.  He would die for our sins. Amazing Grace- how can it be? My God and Savior has died for me.  Are you in a garden of gloom today? What is in your hand?  A cup of submission or a sword of resistance against God’s will?

Gospel of John; Chapter 17, Part 3

1John 17 Part 3:

Jesus in these passages from John 13- John 17 knew what the disciples would be facing in their lives and in the world and He was preparing them for what lay ahead. He wanted them to know what they possessed by virtue of His death, burial and resurrection. He wanted the disciples and us to know we would never be alone and there was no problem we face that God cannot handle.  These great promises are for us.   For if we continue in His Word, we are His disciples indeed. Jesus does not want us to just get by in life, He came to give us the abundant life.   And we must be careful we do not let the world conform us to the world’s idea of an abundant life. For Jesus was clear when he said, ‘a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions. ‘

So far in this remarkable night of the Last Supper, Jesus has told His disciples and us so much, it is almost too much to take in.  He has given them an example of serving by washing their feet and told them if they do this they will be blessed, happy. (John 13)

He has told the disciples and us: ‘these things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.’ (John 15)  He told the disciples to not let their hearts be troubled, but to trust Him. (John 14)  He also told us: ‘My peace I give to you.’  He told them in ‘a little while, their sorrow would turn to joy.  He said if we ask in His name, we would receive and our joy would be full.’

The message of this special night is comfort, peace, joy and all of this is found in Jesus. He said: “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have trouble, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16: 33)

Do you understand what you possess as a believer?  You have His Joy. You have His Peace.  You may ask anything in His name and you will receive that your joy may be full. ( And we know from the prayer Jesus taught us in Matthew 6 what we are to ask in His name: we are to ask” Our Father in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”)  Jesus taught us this is what to ask for in His name.  Remember: His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him. (2 Peter 1)  What do we need?  We need our daily needs met, give us this day our daily bread. We need our sins forgiven as we forgive others- so we can be restored to a right relationship. He restores my soul. We need to be led in the paths of righteous- He leads me not into temptation and delivers me from the evil one.

How do we come to take hold all of these possessions? The Christian life is a by grace through faith operation from beginning to end.  We share His life. He is in us and we are in Him. We have within us the Holy Spirit to guide us, protect us, teach us, and empower and enable us. “For it is God who works in you both to will and to do His good pleasure.” ( Phil. 2:13) We work it out with fear and trembling.

We not only share His life, we also know His Name. For His name reveals His nature. And Jesus came to reveal God to us, to show us what God is like. For Jesus was and is the exact representation of the Father. (Hebrews 1)  Jesus said He keeps us in the power of God’s name. And Jesus now resurrected is seated in heaven at the right hand of God and his enemies are under his feet, his authority. There is no name under heaven by which man can be saved. There is power not only in the blood, but in the name above all names.  As I said last week, God becomes our Father -in -law, because we were legally adopted, the Spirit of Adoption made this happen. A legal process. We could also say God became our Father in law because as a member of the body of Christ, the Church, we are the bride of Christ. But we can also claim God as our Father, because we have been born again, supernaturally by the Spirit. Just as I was born the first time naturally, I had the DNA of my earthly father and also was a natural born citizen of the USA.  In being born again supernaturally, we are partakers of our Father’s divine nature and citizens of heaven. We share His Name- we are Christians, this is our family name.

Now as Jesus closes this prayer we find two more possessions that are ours- that the Lord has provided:

“I have given them your Word. (John 17: 14)
“And the glory which you have given me, I have given them; that they may be one as we are one.  Father , I desire that they also whom You have gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold my glory which you have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the earth.” (John 17:22 & 24) “ But we all with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are being changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 3: 18)  The Spirit of God uses the Word of God to make us like the Son of God.

Let’s review what we are told we possess, what we have been given:

  1. We have His joy.
  2. We have His peace.
  3. We have His Life.
  4. We have His Love
  5. We have His name.
  6. We have His Word
  7. We have His Glory

These are the things God has given us we share with His Son. This is why we are called ‘joint heirs.”  The Lord wants you to know for certain what you have in Him. His joy is to see us filled with His joy.  The joy of the Lord is our strength.

THE WORD

It is important to notice the content of this verse: “I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.”  The world, the society and culture we live in, hates the Word of God and hates the people of the Word. From the very beginning the deceiver has said joy is found in the world, not the Word. The world wants to conform us to its system. It wants us to compromise our beliefs and accept as true and equal their beliefs. They call dark – light and light – dark. They call evil-good; and good- evil. When we express our faith and beliefs and speak the truth in love, they call us: bigots, racists, homophobic, hypocrites, intolerant and hateful.  And those are just the nicer words they use to describe us and our beliefs.

Jesus gave us His Word to cleanse us. “You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.” (John 15

His Word imparts joy. “Thy Word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart.” (Jeremiah 15: 16)

His Word protects us:  “Thy Word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against you.” Psalm 119

His Word directs me: “I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free.”Psalm 119.

His Word comforts me:  “My comfort in my suffering is this: your promise preserves my life.” Psalm 119.

I have put my hope in your word. Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light upon my path. Great peace have those who love your law.  (Psalm 119)

Jesus has set us apart. He sanctified us and sent us into the world, just as His Father sent Him into the world. We are in the world, but not of the world. The world wants to conform us. But we must be transformed by the Word of God.  As we travel through this world we must have a conscious awareness of God at all times. Sometimes circumstances, trouble and pain blind us to His presence. Like the travelers on the road to Emmaus whose hearts were darkened by the news, Jesus had been crucified and was now dead. Then along came Jesus, the Word of God who became flesh. All of a sudden he was right there traveling with them, this unrecognized stranger. He inquired why there were sad- Jesus came to seek and save the lost, he came to mend broken hearts and give us the words which would comfort us and restore our joy. He wants our joy to be full and He uses His Word to do this:

“And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning Him. Then their eyes were opened and the recognized Him and He disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He talked with us on the road an opened the Scriptures to us.” (Luke 24)

Why don’t our hearts burn within us?  Why are we lukewarm?  Do you know why something becomes lukewarm?  It has gotten away from that which made it hot. It has taken on the temperature of the environment, it has cooled to room temperature.  Our hearts do not burn within us because we do not spend time with Jesus Christ on the road of life. We do not have an intimate relationship which only comes from spending time with Jesus.  As a result we live lives defeated by sin. We live lives of fear of the unknown. We are self-centered. And when we are away from the Word of God, we become apathetic- lukewarm.

D L Moody said: this book will keep you away from sin, or sin will keep you away from this book.

How can the world overcome us when we have the Word of God to enlighten us, enable us, and encourage us?  It cannot. Do not believe the lies of the enemy. We overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil with the blood of the Lamb and our testimony. Remember our faith is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.

SHARED GLORY

In verses 20-26, our Lord focuses our attention on the future. He prays for those of us who live today. He has prayed for our security that we be kept safe. He has prayed for our sanctity, that we be set apart, in the world -but not of the world. Now our Lord prays for our unity. “Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory you gave me, that they may be one as we are one. I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have love them, even as you loved me.”

Jesus has prayed that we experience a spiritual unity like He and the Father have. We belong to the Lord and we belong to each other.

Did you realize as a believer you have the God’s glory with in you?  Did you further realize our unity, our harmony is based on the Spirit in our inner being?  We possess His glory and one day we will behold His glory in heaven when we see Him face to face.

The Spirit which indwells each believer wants to glorify and lift up the Lord Jesus. For when He is lifted up, He will draw men to Him. This is this treasure we have in these earthen vessels, the power and glory of the Lord in the person of the Holy Spirit.

When I was lost, the Word of God meant nothing to me. My mind was blinded. Paul likens it to a veil over my mind which kept me from seeing and understanding the Word of God. For a natural man cannot understand spiritual truths. They are foolishness to him. But when we turn to Christ, the veil is taken away.

“Now the Lord is Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. But we all with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory , even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”   This is God’s Law of Worship and Beholding. God tells us to worship Him. The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. We glorify Him when we worship Him. God tells us to worship Him, because He knows we adapt ourselves to the things and person we admire, idealize and devote ourselves to. God knows by beholding we become changed. Our character is transformed. This is the reason God wants us to worship Him, not only because He Alone is worthy of worship, but He knows anyone or anything else we worship will lead to degeneration. What we worship greatly influences our thought process. We constantly think about that thing, possession, position or person. And as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.

When lost people see us- behold us, what do they see? Do they see someone who wants the same things they do- possessions, power, pleasure, and the things of the world? The lost world cannot see God, but they can see Christians, and what they see in us is what they will believe about God. If they see love and unity, they will believe God is love. If they see hatred and discord, they will see us as no different from the rest of the world. If they see we are jealous and envious and want to get ahead and be admired – they see we are no different than the rest of them.  They will reject the message of the Gospel.  Jesus has assured us some will believe because of our witness.  But our witness must match our lives, our witness must be true and loving.

“For God who said, Let light shine out of darkness made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”

Now God is the One who worked in us to will and do His good pleasure.  We must work it out with fear and trembling. What He worked in us was the was the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.  This the treasure we possess in these earth vessels, our very bodies.

As we grow in the Lord, the glory within us begins to grow and to reveal itself in what we say and do and the way we say and do it. People do not see us and glorify us- that is what natural man does and wants. People see the Lord and glorify Him.  As a believer you and I possess the light of His Glory in our lives. This is why Jesus told us we are the light in the world of darkness. We are commanded to let our lights shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

The Spirit of God uses the Word of God to make us like the Son of God.

By this will men know you are my disciples that you love one another. Our love and unity is the witness the Lord wants us to portray in the world that the world might believe that Jesus was sent by God.

Do you know why I know I am going to heaven?  Jesus paid the price for me to go and I have accepted it.  I have my ticket.  Jesus promised me He was going to prepare a place for me in His Father’s house in heaven and He would come back and get me, so where He was I would be also. I have His promise- He gave me His Word and told me I would not have told you if it was not so.   And Jesus prayed to His Father: “Father I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.”  I have His prayer to His Father. Jesus asked His Father that I could come home with Him. And the Father always answers the Son’s prayer.  God always finishes what He starts.

We can overcome this world because:

*We have His Life living with us and within us. We share His life.

* We have His Name. When we were born again we became partakers of His Divine Nature that we might escape the corruption of this world.

* We have His Word. His promises.

* We share His Glory.

One day each of us will give an account of our ministry. For we have been sent out into the world, just as Jesus was sent into the world.  We will give a final report at the bema for our rewards.  I want to hear- “Well done thy good and faithful servant.”

Gospel of John; Chapter 17, Part 2: “Overcoming Power”

John 17 Part 2: Overcoming Power

Last week we began our study of John 17, the magnificent prayer of our Lord Jesus the very night of his arrest. Jesus had told us and the disciples in John 16: 33:  “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  In the prayer which followed this statement in John 17, we discover what we have received as a result of the finished work of Christ that enables us to overcome the world. The first truth we learn is the greatest gift we have received is we share the His Life. “For whosoever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith.”  Satan wants to obscure this truth of the finished work of Jesus Christ because he knows it is the basis for spiritual victory. “And they overcame him (Satan) by the blood of the Lamb…”  Peter wrote: “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. Through these He has given us His very great and precious promises so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” (2 Peter 1)  The Lord has declared this wonderful privilege we have as His children that help make us overcomers. Do not let the enemy, the thief rob you of your overcoming power through the finished work of Jesus Christ. Know who you are and what you possess for this will enable you to overcome

WE KNOW HIS NAME

In the Bible, a name refers the nature of a person, so his name revealed something special about the nature of the person bearing the name.  Jacob’s name for example was a “schemer” and his name came from a Hebrew root which means “to take by the heel”, that is trip up, to deceive. Isaac’s name means “laughter because he brought joy to Abraham and Sarah. Even Jesus’ name denotes He is Savior: “… and you will give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”  In John 1: 18 we read: “No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only who is at the Father’s side has made Him known.”  Jesus came to reveal the nature of God. This is why he told Phillip, ‘if you have seen me, you have seen the Father.’  Hebrews 1 tells us he is the radiance of God and the exact representation of God’s being.  There is no other NAME under heaven by which man can be saved. He is the way, the truth and the life.

When Moses asks what God’s name was in Exodus 3 at the burning bush, God told Moses:  “I am- I am.”  Jesus took the sacred name of God and made it meaningful to his disciples and us. Let’s review those names and what they reveal about the nature of God Almighty.

  1. I am the bread of life.
  2. I am the light of the world.
  3. I am the door to the sheep.
  4. I am the good shepherd.
  5. I am the resurrection and the life.
  6. I am the way, the truth, and the life.
  7. I am the true vine.

Now when we see how Jesus protected his disciples and kept them safe, in fact, commanded the soldiers who came to arrest him, to leave his disciples alone. We realize He, being the very nature, God can protect us and keep us safe and secure.

He is everything we need. Jesus also taught us God is our Father. What a special name which denotes our special relationship: God is our Father, and we are His children. Jesus revealed himself and his nature gradually, progressively over the 3.5 years he spent with his disciples. By his words and deeds, Jesus revealed to the disciples the nature of God as they were able to bear it and understand it.

By understanding his name, we understand his nature. We come to realize he has provided us with divine resources in order to glorify Him. He has provided us with divine weapons which are mighty to the pulling down of strongholds. No wonder the enemy of your soul, does not want you to know what you possess and how to use those precious promises and be a partaker of the divine nature. You and I can overcome the enemy. Greater is He who is in you, than he who is in the world.

We need to understand just as Jesus was providing one-on-one help, instruction and protection to his disciples, he is now able to provide one-on-one to us because He sent the Spirit to indwell us. Just as He prayed for the disciples, Lord Jesus intercedes and prays for us. We are as precious to Him as those disciples on earth were precious to Him. He loves us. He watches over us. He protects us. He guards our hearts and minds with all diligence. He provides us with peace in the storms. Nothing can separate us from His love.

What about Judas?  Why was he not kept safe? Simple reason- he was not one of his own. He went out from them, because he never was one of them. He was a tare among the wheat. Judas did not lose his salvation, he never had it.

Our security comes from the following truths:

Jesus prayed: “Father protect them by the power of your name.” His name is His very nature and He is Almighty God and nothing is impossible for him. And nothing can separate us from His love and nothing can pluck us from His hand.

We are the Father’s gift to the Son. Would the Father of lights from whom all good gifts come give His Son a gift that would not last? No! For all gifts He gives are eternal, not temporary. He gave us eternal life.

Our security rests on another fact:  we are here to glorify God. This is our chief end. If he saved us and we could be lost again, how could we glorify Him?  God is able to complete that which He has begun.

God has provides us with divine resources to glorify Him.  We have His promises. We have His Spirit. We have each other, the fellowship of the believers. We are to minister to one another and love one another.

Let’s review what Jesus revealed to us in His “I Am “statements.

I am the bread of life.  In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus in the beatitudes said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.”  When a person’s stomach is empty, he wants to be filled with food. Hunger is a craving which our physical bodies’ way of telling us we need food. Notice it occurs when we are empty. The person filled with self- righteousness does not hunger for the righteousness of God. Jesus when faced with physical hunger after 40 days of fasting was tempted by the devil to turn a stone into bread. Jesus replied from Deuteronomy: “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word which proceeds from the mouth of God.” And Proverbs tells us the Lord gives wisdom and from His mouth come knowledge and understanding. Jesus is equating eating and drinking to satisfy our physical cravings describes the way we receive Jesus Christ, the Word of God, the True Bread of Life into our lives to satisfy our spiritual craving.

I am the light of the world. The earth was void of life and in darkness until there was light. Jesus is the light of the world and life is in the light. We were born in darkness.  His word is a light upon our path and a lamp unto our feet. He reveals the truth. In the New Heaven, there will be no night, for the Son of God will be our light and the light of the universe. We have His life in us, so we have the light of the world. His Spirit illuminates the Word of God for us, so we can “see” the spiritual truths which are our exceedingly great promises.

I am the door to the sheep. Only way to enter into the shared life with the good shepherd is through the Door, the One who controls the way to eternal life. A door divides, secures, opens and gives access. Jesus is the Door.

I am the Good Shepherd.  Jesus said his sheep know his voice. And they recognize his voice. He will keep us safe and secure. No one can take his sheep away. Even if we stray, He will come find us and bring us home. He will not lose a single one of us. “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.”  Says it all doesn’t it? He supplies all our needs.  Don’t let the deceiver deceive you into thinking the grass is greener on the other side. The Good Shepherd makes us to lie down in green pastures. He leads us besides still waters. (Remember how he spoke to the wind and the waves and they obeyed him.) He restores my soul; he leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. (There is the power of His name. He restores and leads me for the reputation of God’s name is at stake.)

I am the Resurrection and the Life.  The story of Lazarus and the miracle he performed was the pinnacle of his miracles. Listen to how he describes death: “Our friend Lazarus sleeps; but I go, that I may wake him out of his sleep.”  Death is not the end of life. Death is not the extinction of being. Death for the believer is like sleep. The Lord Jesus has the key to resurrection and life, life in the body and life beyond death. He, who believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall live and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. The Lord Jesus who is the truth and cannot lie has guaranteed us eternal life without end in His presence in heaven. In fact he emphasized: “if it were not so, I would have told you.”

I am the way, the truth and the life. Jesus is the only way to heaven. He is entered by the strait gate and the narrow way. He has revealed himself to us through his creation, our conscience and the testimony of those who are His.

He is the truth. In John 8, Jesus says if you continue in my word, you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free. Jesus is not only the Word of God made flesh, He is the truth. For Jesus substitutes his name for the truth in John 8.  If the Son (the Truth) sets you free, you are free indeed. He is the life.  In Him was light and the light was the life of men. Genesis 1: 2 describes my life before being born again.  We were like the earth before light: we were in darkness and void, empty of the Spirit of God and the Spirit hovered over us and then God the Son spoke, and said : let there be light, and there was light.

He is the true vine. There are two vines: the True Vine, the Lord Jesus. And the Vine of the earth. The vine of the earth will be dealt with in the end times in Revelation 14, where the angel will thrust his sickle into the earth and gather the vine of the earth and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God.

We were all born in darkness and our spirit was void of the Spirit of God. The Spirit of God has departed Adam when he sinned.  Man was created in the image of God: body, soul and spirit. The spirit was placed in man which made him different from the animals which possessed a body and a soul (mind, will and emotions). Why did we receive a spirit? Because God is Spirit and must be worshipped in spirit and truth. Adam was created with a spirit so he could rule and reign with God and glorify Him. We glorify God when we worship Him. We were created to worship Him and thereby glorify Him and enjoy God forever.  Adam was created in perfection. In his body, he was healthy. In his soul, he was happy and in his spirit he was holy…until he sinned and the Spirit of God departed his spirit. And from that day on, we were all born with sinful natures, inherited from Adam. Our spirit was void of the Spirit of God. So we were spiritually dead and in spiritual darkness.  Our soul, (our minds, will and emotion) and our spirit are inseparable. Only the Word of God which is alive and powerful can separate the spirit from the soul. The Word of God is life giving, life transforming and life sustaining.  It is called the Sword of the Spirit because it divides asunder.

So we were born like Adam, we were soulish, sensual people. Our spirit dead in sin and trespasses had no influence over our lives. Our lives were driven by our souls. We did what was right in our own eyes, those things which appealed to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. Like the rich fool in Luke 12, we thought life consisted in the abundance of things. We lived to please our sensual nature. We wanted to be happy and healthy. We wanted to create our own paradise, our own Garden of Eden.  We wanted to go where we wanted to go. So we entered the broad way by the wide gate and followed the crowd. It was a way which seemed right to us but was leading us to destruction.  We could not understand spiritual truths, the supernatural, because the natural man void of the Spirit of God cannot understand spiritual truths. Jesus came to show us the way, the truth and the life and what would satisfy our deepest desires. Jude wrote: “In the last times, there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires. These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts (sensual, soulish) and do not have the Spirit.”  The natural man, the soulish man thinks his intelligence, and intellectual power of reason and logic are almighty. They believe they can find meaning of life and truth through their own finite minds, and discernment. The greatly prize wealth, power, intelligence, and physical beauty. They are ever learning but never coming to the truth.

We were lost and in darkness. Jesus came to seek and save the lost.

We had to be born again. Born in the image of the Last Adam, the Lord Jesus, and the Word who became flesh.

When Adam sinned, the Spirit of God departed Adam, because God could not abide in a sinful nature.  God told Adam this would be the result when Adam ate from the forbidden Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. So death and sin entered by one man, the first Adam.  “ For if by the trespass of the one man death reigned through the one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace  and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ. For just as through the disobedience of the one man, all were made sinners, so also through obedience of the one man, the many will be made righteous. “(Romans 5)

Even in the Old Testament we read:  “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put MY Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” (Ezekiel 36)

Cleansing refers to sanctification.

“May God Himself, the God of peace sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. “1 Thess. 5:23

We who are saved, born again have God’s peace, His pardon and His presence. We have become new creatures.  Our old lives were cut off at the Cross. We were born again of the Spirit. We now possessed a new heart and a new spirit and God could now place His Spirit in us and move us in the direction He wanted us to go. He became our Good Shepherd, the Bread of Life, the True Vine- everything we needed. The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He leads me in the way everlasting!

WE can be overcomers because we share His life. He lives within us.  We can overcome because He overcame.

We have his name, which Jesus came to reveal the very nature of God what the Great I Am is to us. He is everything.

We can be victorious, we can overcome. For God leads me in the paths of righteousness for HIS NAME’S SAKE.

Gospel of John; Chapter 17, “Overcomers”

John 17: Overcomers

As we continue our study in these remarkable chapters of John’s account of these last hours, we realize the depths of the disciple’s despair. The Lord did also. It had been a remarkable, unbelievable three and half years. Their entry into what would be the Lord’s last Passover had started with great anticipation and excitement on Palm Sunday.  Yet on Monday, they must have been upset after the Lord’s triumphal entry to have the Lord once again cleanse the temple. On Tuesday as he was teaching the in the temple, the Chief Priest and Elders confronted him regarding his authority. These men were already plotting how they might kill him.

And now on this fateful night the Lord had told them things which absolutely devastated them. He had told them: he would be betrayed by one of them; he was going away and they could not follow; and Peter would deny him three times before morning. Let’s pick up the story in John 16: 16.

A LITTLE WHILE

“In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me. “ NIV. The KJV adds, ‘because I go to the Father. ‘The disciples said to one another what does he mean – ‘little while’?  This sounded like a riddle to them. Remember what Jesus said at the beginning of the evening?  He told them as he washed their feet:  You do not understand what I am doing now, but later you will.  Jesus saw how troubled and baffled they were so he explained.  He told them they would grieve and mourn, while the world rejoiced.  The world and the demons rejoiced when Jesus was crucified while the disciples and Jesus’ family and loved ones grieved. But Jesus said their grief would turn to joy. And he gave them an illustration of a woman in giving birth has pain until her time comes.  Then when the baby comes, all the pain and anguish are forgotten because of her joy that a child is born into this world. Remember when Jesus was born we are told unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given. Overcomers are the ones who have received the son who is given.

The disciples would not see Jesus for three days. He would be arrested in hours, crucified and buried. They could not see Him. This word, see, could also mean they did not understand what had happened. Then in three days they would see Him, in his resurrected, glorified body. They now would began to understand as Jesus would spend the next 40 days with them in His Glorified body  showing them in the Scriptures how they  foretold of all this which had happened. It as if they would say to one another, ‘now I see what He was talking about.’

Jesus then tells the disciples and us: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

What follows next in John 17: 1-26, the entire chapter is instructions and truths which we are to apply to become overcomers in this world. It is considered by many to be the greatest prayer in the Bible. We will take our time digesting what is here for us. I want us to be encouraged by this prayer, but more than that, I want you, my family, and myself to know what the Lord has done for us and has given us and all that He will continue to do for us now that He is in heaven. This will allow us to become overcomers.  John wrote in I John 5: 4:  “And His commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.”

THE PRAYER OF THE LORD

Your Bible may have three subheadings for this chapter which are:  Jesus prays for Himself; Jesus prays for his disciples; and Jesus Prays for all believers.  Jesus will reveal four truths which will help us be overcomers.

John 17: 1-5   WE BELEIVERS SHARE HIS LIFE

Glory came down.

“After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that you Son may glorify You.”    Since the second chapter of John, we have heard the Lord say on numerous occasions:  “My hour (time) has not yet come.”  Jesus was on a divine timetable.  As each of us are also. The Lord saw you last day before the first ever begun. Jesus prays for the Father to glorify him, for the purpose of glorifying the Father. This is an important truth and illustration of a lifestyle we are called to live, a life of mutual submission. Understand Jesus asked to be glorifed, not for himself, but so that he could glorify the Father.  Now in Ephesians 5: 22, we read:  “wives submit yourselves to your husband, as unto the Lord.”  Now this verse caused quite a furor in recent years with Women’s Liberation movement. First of all you need to read the verses preceding and following in order to put this in context. It begins back at verse 15.  When you read the verses from Ephesians 5: 15 through 21, you understand Paul is telling us how to live wisely, making the most of the opportunity, for the days are evil. He tells us not to be foolish but understand what the will of God is. Be not drunk with wine, which leads to debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.   Then notice verse 21:  “Submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.”  Paul is calling for all Christians to submit to one another.

He then tells the husband to love his wife as Christ loved the church and gave himself for it; that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word.  The Christian marriage is to be a picture of mutual submission. The wife wants the best for her husband and sacrifices for him. The husband wants the best for his wife and sacrifices for her. Paul then addresses the family in Ephesians 6, telling children to obey their parents, and reminds us this is one of the 10 commandments which gives us a promise of long life.  And fathers (parents) do not provoke their children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. In other words, mutual submission, the children want to submit to the authority of their parents for they want to honor them, and the parents want the best for their children, so they sacrifice for them.  Just like God the Father has sacrificed for us, His children.

Paul then addresses slaves and masters, or in our case employees and employers.  And again the principle of mutual submission has employees who obey their employers and do their best to honor them and the Lord and the employer treats them the same.  So Jesus is doing in His prayer what He taught us to do in the model prayer, we call “The Lord’s Prayer” in Matthew 6, “to hallow (honor, glorify) His Name. Jesus is glorying the Father by finishing the work He was sent to do. He tells us in this prayer, “for you granted him (Jesus speaks of himself in the 3rd person) authority over all people that He might give them eternal life to all those you have given Him. “  Remember what Jesus said to the woman at the well?  “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you could have asked him and he would have given you living water.” (John 4: 10)  The gift of God is not just forgiven sins and eternal life. Those were just the actions which had to take place for us to receive the greatest gift of all- God Himself.  We must remember we have God living within us.  God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.  One God- whose name is God. Father, Son and Holy Spirit describe their function, their role.  Whoever has the Son has the Father, and it is the Spirit which indwells us and seals us that bears witness to us this is true.

Jesus came to the world, not to condemn us but to save us. He had been given the authority over all people.  He told the woman , if you knew who I was, the Son of the God, the Messiah, God in flesh, you could asked me and I would give you the gift of eternal life, the very life of God. In Him was life and that life was the light of men.  Let’s look at what has been given:

  1. The Father’s love. For God so loved the world He gave His only begotten Son to die for us in our place for our sins. God is love, this is His very nature.
  2. He gave His Son the Authority over all people who believed to give them eternal life.. That whosoever believeth in Him, should not perish but have everlasting life. We have the gift of eternal life when we place our faith in Jesus Christ as payment for our sins.
  3. God the Father’s love is His gift to us. And His gift is His Only Begotten Son. He gave Him for us. God demonstrated His love for us, that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
  4. We, believers, are God the Father’s gift to the Son. We have been given to Him. We are His and He is ours. Can you imagine how much they love us? Can you imagine how special you are to God? Oh what manner of love is this the Father has lavished on us, that we might be called the sons and daughters of God.

A shared life. Jesus said, “I in them, and you in me. May we be brought to complete unity.  This shared life is eternal. All good gifts come from the Father, in whom there is no shadow of turning. All of His gifts are eternal. As a believer, I share my life with Him, and He shares His life with me.  As believers we are partakers of His divine nature.

What is eternal life? “This is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” One cannot know the Father apart from the Son.

How do we overcome the world?  By the power of the shared life of Christ. “Everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he/she who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

The enemy of your soul, the devil, wants to obscure this truth of the finished work of Jesus Christ. He knows these truths are the basis for spiritual victory. “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.”

Now Jesus prays to the Father, He has completed the work He was sent to do. And now He asked the Father to glorify Him in His presence with the glory He had before He came to earth. God the Son became the God-Man born as a babe in Bethlehem.  John said we beheld his glory.

Glory came down and glory filled my soul. Is the glory of the Lord the passion of your heart? Do not let the deceiver keep you from taking full advantage of your position and possessions. You share the Life of Almighty God, Wonderful Counselor, Prince of Peace. Unto you a Son is given

This is the life He shares with me. I am a partaker of His Divine Nature.  Jesus said I am in them (this is you and me) and You (God the Father) in me (Jesus)

A threefold cord which cannot be broken, nothing can ever separate us from the love of God

So who am I?  I am an overcomer because I share His life.  “And His commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. (a gift from God Ephesians 2) Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. And this is the testimony God has given us eternal life and the life is in His Son. He who has the Son of God has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. ( I John 5)

Gospel of John; Chapter 16: The Advantage

John 16:   The Advantage

“But I tell you the truth, it is for your good, (advantage, NKJV) that I am going away. Unless I go away the Counselor (Comforter) will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.” (John 16: 7)

ADVANTAGE is a condition or circumstance that puts one in a favorable or superior position. We will through this study learn about the Holy Spirit who is our Advantage and gives us the advantage.

Now before we learn more about the Holy Spirit, the Counselor, Helper, Comforter, let us begin with the bad news first.

Jesus tells the disciples in John 15: 18:“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.”

HATE- To feel intense or passionate dislike for someone. The opposite of love. Intense hostility and aversion, usually deriving from fear, anger, or sense of injury. When you read that definition it really hits home as to what we see on the news and hear about in our communities.

Jesus tells the disciples and us, who are believers, since the world hated Him, they will also hate us. If they persecuted Him, they will persecute us. We are beginning to see this happen in America.  It has been happening in other parts of the world for some time now. I believe our modern definition of hate reveals their reasons- fear, anger and sense of injury.  Anger that God calls sin- sin. Fear that God and His Word are true and thus convicts them and can send them to a place called hell.

Now when Jesus speaks of the world He is not speaking of the earth, this globe which He created. He is speaking of the culture, the society without God. And we know from the beginning Jesus told us the way which leads to eternal life is through the strait gate and the narrow way and few enter in; while the way which seems right to man, which leads to destruction is through the wide gate and the broad way, which many enter.  As President Obama said, “we are no longer just a Christian nation.”  This is a statistical fact.  The decline of the church is well documented. The unbelievers are many, the believers are few.

Now the world system is based on conformity. They want us to stay in step with its advances and freedoms as they redefine what is right and wrong. They believe knowledge has advanced to the degree, we no longer accept the Bible as truth. Oh, they say, it has some good principles, but it is an ancient book filled with myths, promoting bigotry, and intolerance and is not accepting of other’s beliefs. * Be sure you understand, we believe a person has the right to believe what they believe, but we do not have to accept it as true or equal to our beliefs.   They believe they have advanced to the point they have the wisdom to decide for themselves what is right and wrong.  Behind all of these beliefs is the father of lies, the deceiver from the beginning, Satan.  This philosophy is nothing new or advanced, it is as old as the Garden of Eden. And Cain was its first convert who started the first religion based on doing what one thought was right in their own eyes. He was also the first murderer.

John has chosen to share with us the signs, or miracles Jesus performed which those who witnessed them, could not explain away.  Jesus taught as no man had taught. He did works which no one had done. He walked on water, He spoke to the wind and the waves and they obeyed. He changed water into wine; multiplied loaves and fed thousands; cleansed the leper; gave sight to the blind and raised a rotting corpse to life.  There has never been, since the beginning of time, a time when God has left Himself without witnesses. Each of us as believers are witnesses to the miracle of becoming new creatures.

So the world hated Jesus in light of what He had done.  Their rejection and hatred of Him was not based on lack of evidence. It was based on willful ignorance. This is the verdict, light has come into the world, but men preferred darkness because their deeds were evil. (John 3)   Jesus said, “They hated me without reason.” (John 15: 25)  This rejection and hatred was foretold in the Old Testament in many places including Psalm 35:19.  “When the Counselor (Comforter, KJV) comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of Truth, who goes out from the Father, He will testify about me. And you also must testify (bear witness, KJV) for you have been with me from the beginning.” In John 14: 26, Jesus said, “I will ask the Father and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever.” In John 15: 26, Jesus says, “When the Counselor comes whom I will send to you…”  The Holy Spirit, who is a person, who is referred to by Jesus as he, is sent by the Father and the Son.  For Jesus said I am in the Father and the Father is in me- they are one and the Spirit is also one with them. He was there in the beginning, the Spirit of God hovered above the waters in Genesis 1: 2 and was in them and with them, when  they said in Genesis 1:26 -Let US make man in our image …   It has always been One God in Three Persons, the Trinity.

Now we know the world society and culture today draw their sustenance and satisfaction from the vine of the earth. This is their system of government, philosophy and economics which leaves God out.  It promotes the works of the flesh- which are clearly articulated in Galatians 5.  Read the paper and follow the news and you will see our government has changed it laws to accommodate this society and economy which is based on the vine of the earth, not the true vine. Read the local newspaper, and you will see it is not just happening in the big cities, it is everywhere. In the last part of the 20th century this vine of the earth began to grow and spread its tentacles into every area of our lives and culture. Removing prayer and the Word of God from our public schools, abortion on demand, legalized gambling, prostitution and drugs became the laws of the land.  This world society and culture demanded those rights and those who spoke against these changes were deemed intolerant. Then in the 21st century, believing themselves to be “enlightened”, they made same-sex marriage legal.  They want us to tolerate their beliefs while they will not tolerate ours. Paul was right when he told Timothy in the later days we would see people abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits.  Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared with a hot iron.

Somehow the world does not want to believe the story of creation, the flood, and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.  Again Paul says they are always learning, never coming to the truth.  Peter says, ‘that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts. And saying, where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation. For this they are willingly ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of the water by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. And by the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the Day of Judgment and destruction of ungodly men.’ (2 Peter 3)

THE HOLY SPIRIT, OUR ADVANTAGE.

Notice the kindness of the Lord Jesus as He looked upon these forlorn 11 men with whom He had spent the last 3.5 years. “Because I have said these things you are filled with grief. But I tell you the truth; it is for your advantage that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.

The Holy Spirit is a person, not an “it.” He is always referred to as he or him. You cannot have a personal relationship with an “it”, you can only have a personal relationship with another person.

Here are some of His names which also speak of his activity in our lives: comforter, counselor, advocate, helper, paraclete (one who comes alongside) convicter of sin, deposit, seal, earnest, guide, teacher, revealer of truth, the spirit of truth, spirit of God, spirit of the Lord Jesus, spirit of life, witness.  Remember this, from the very beginning, God decreed it was not good for man to be alone. He created us for a relationship with Him and with one another. The Bible is based on two commands:  to love the Lord, thy God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself.

His primary purpose for which he was sent to earth was to exalt the Son of God. He energizes us believers so we can bear witness and carry out the Great Commission. He gives us gifts, power, and sheds the love of God abroad in our hearts, and produces the fruit of the Spirit in our lives.

“When he comes, he will convict the world of sin, righteousness and judgement.”  Let’s look at those three activities:

Convict the world of sin: “In regard to sin, because men do not believe in me.” The only way man gets converted is to be convicted. I was so convicted of my sin on September 16, 1977, I could not live that way anymore. Man will not get saved, until they are convinced they need a Savior. First step of AA was we came to believe we were powerless over alcohol and our lives had become unmanageable.  Came to believe a Higher Power could restore us to sanity.

Righteousness- righteousness speaks of the righteousness of Christ. The Holy Spirit’s work is to convince anyone who has asked the Lord to save them they now have a right standing with God. We have been justified. We have peace with God through Christ Jesus’s redeeming work.

And judgment refers to the judgment of the prince, the ruler of this world system, the devil is dethroned. And greater is He who is in you than the one in the world.

The Holy Spirit enters into your life, the moment you believe. You are indwelt and sealed once and forever. You are now a partaker of His Divine Life. The Spirit baptizes you into Christ. It is the picture of a cloth being immersed into a dye.  The dye changes the cloth into something which did not exist before. It is a new creation and so are we from the moment we are saved.

In I Corinthians 2, Paul tells us: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him, but God has revealed it to us by His Spirit. The Spirit searches all the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man, except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.”  (The Spirit of God is God. He is eternal, has always existed. He has all knowledge. He has all power. He is omnipresent.  All of these are attributes which only God possesses. And now God indwells you. You are not alone. You have the Advantage, you have God living within you and with you. Your body is His temple. Your heart is His throne. He will never leave you, but you can grieve Him.  Scripture confirm he is one and the same as God. In Acts 5, we read the story of Ananias and Sapphira. Peter says to Ananias:  You have lived to the Holy Spirit. Then Peter says you have not lied to men but to God. Peter knew God and the Holy Spirit were one and the same. ) Paul continues in 1 Cor 2:  “WE have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.”

The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth who reveals the truths of God to us:

  1. Holy Spirit reveals to us the realm of spiritual victory.
  2. He reveals the heart of God to us.
  3. He reveals the wisdom of God to us.
  4. He reveals our need for God to us.
  5. It begins with conviction of sin in order for us to get saved.
  6. Once saved, He convinces us of our right standing with God.

The natural man when he looks at the word of God cannot understand the spiritual truths, the supernatural cannot be understood by the natural.   ‘Their minds are veiled when they read Moses. But whenever they turn to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is that Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass(mirror) the glory of the Lord are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.’ The Spirit of God uses the Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God to make us like the Son of God. (2 Cor. 3)

The Word of God changes us, transforms us from the inside out. It occurs when we study the Word of God, and study for the purpose of obedience. We must hear, read, study, meditate, memorize and all for the purpose of doing it.

If the Holy Spirit is our teacher, we are then His students. He will test us. So we must study to show ourselves approved a workman who needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth. Any workman knows the vocabulary and language of his/her occupation and field of work. So should we as God’s co-laborers understand the language of the Gospel and be able to explain the message of salvation.

We have a three fold enemy of our souls:  the world, the flesh and the devil. They conspire to conform us to this world’s thinking and behavior. The weapons they use are: lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and pride of life. Notice the three-fold enemy uses three weapons. How do we combat these enemies?

God has not given us a sprit of fear but of love, power and a sound mind. We have a three- fold God:  God the Father, Son and Spirit who has given us these three- fold weapons: love, power and a sound mind.

The Spirit enables us and energizes with the same power which resurrected the Lord Jesus.

The Father enriches us with His love. For God is love and we love Him, because He first loved us.

The Son, who is the Word of God, transforms our minds so we can have the mind of Christ.

It is up to you how much time you spend in the Word of God. There is in my opinion, no more important spiritual discipline than the intake of God’s word. It needs to be done daily.

Remember faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.

Study the Word. Meditate on the Word. Now you are prepared to pray. These three go together and it is meditation which links the Word of God to our prayers and prayer life.

If you continue in my word, you are my disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free. And if the Son sets you free, you are free indeed. (John 8)

Make 2018 a year spent in God’s Word and you will be blessed, strengthened, encouraged, comforted, guided, taught,  and experience freedom.  But more important, your understanding and faith will grow and  –  you will become more like Him.

Gospel of John: Chapter 15: The Vine Life – The Secret of Living

John 15:  The Vine Life: The Secret of Living

There are three vines mentioned in the Bible:  the past vine; the present vine; and the future vine.  Let us look at the past vine and the future vine, then concentrate on the present vine, the True Vine. To better understand these truths we will look at the parable from the day before as recorded in Matthew 21 as well as the truths recorded in Psalm 80 and Isiah 5. Before studying these notes, please read the following passages:  John 15: 1-15; Psalm 80: 8-16; and Isaiah 5: 1-7.

THE PAST VINE.

The day before on Tuesday of this week which started on Palm Sunday and ended with the Lord’s crucifixion, Jesus had debated with the chief priests and the elders. We read of this debate in Matthew 21. Jesus told a parable to this impressive group. It is called the Parable of the Tenants.  Read this passage from Matthew 21: 33-40; see the reply of the chief priests and elders in verse 41 and the outcome of God’s actions in verses 43 & 44 and we are told in verse 45& 46, the chief priest and the elders knew he was talking about them. This parable leads us to understand the teaching of the Lord in John 15 by learning what God had done with his past vine, the nation of Israel.

Psalm 80: 8-16 tells us the story of the nation of Israel, God’s Past Vine. “You (God) brought a vine out of Egypt; You drove out the nations and planted it. You cleared the ground for it, and it took root and filled the land. The mountains were covered with its shade, the mighty cedars with its branches. It sent out its boughs to the sea, its shoots as far as the river.”  This describes the story of Israel how God allowed them to grow in number in Egypt then freed them in the story of the Exodus. God transplanted His Vine, the nation of Israel in Canaan and it flourished. God had given them everything they needed to succeed as a nation. But through their disobedience God took action upon them.  In Isaiah 5 we read of what all God did for the nation of Israel:  He planted the cleared ground with choicest vines. He built a watchtower in it and cut out a winepress as well. “Then He looked for a crop of good grapes, but it yielded only bad fruit. “ What more could I have done for my vineyard than I have done for it? When I looked for grapes why did it yield only bad? Now I will tell you what I am going to do to my vineyard: I will take away its hedge, and it will be destroyed. I will break down its wall and it will be trampled. I will make it a wasteland neither pruned nor cultivated. The vineyard of the Lord Almighty is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are the gardens of His delight.”  The Past Vine was the nation of Israel blessed with every blessing by God. God had taken them out of Egypt, carried them through the parted Red Sea and planted the nation in Canaan, the Promised Land. Hedged them about and entrusted the nation to a series of divinely appointed leaders, husbandmen. Their disobedience required God’s judgment and chastisement.

THE FUTURE VINE

The future vine is called the “vine of the earth”.  This is what the world, the unsaved, depends upon for their sustenance and satisfaction. This is the culture and world system we live in today. It is guided by:  the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. It is in this soil they cultivate their lives. A life which finds its satisfaction and pleasure in the sins of the flesh. These are those who say Christianity is a man-made myth and does more harm than good. They despise the Word of God for it produces guilt which their seared conscience says is unfair and those who call sin- sin; are bigots, intolerant of others’ freedoms. Here is what this vine produces:  sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery, idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy, drunkenness, orgies and the like. I warn you those who live this way will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5) Debauchery is defined as excessive indulgence in sensual pleasure. Witchcraft comes from the Greek word- pharmakeia, from which the modern word, pharmacy comes. Quite often the ‘magic spells’ by witches and witch doctors involved the use of mind altering drugs. We can easily see how drugs, such as alcohol, ecstasy, LSD, marijuana, and prescription drugs reduce our ability to make sound judgements. They dull the pain, and increase pleasure. But in the end destroy the soul.

The harvest of the vine of the earth is described in Revelation 14:  “Take your sickle and reap, because the time to reap has come, for the harvest of earth is ripe. Take your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of grapes from the earth’s vine (the future vine) because its grapes are ripe. The angel swung his sickle, gathered its clusters and threw them into the winepress of God’s wrath.”

THE PRESENT VINE

The Present Vine is the True Vine, the Lord Jesus, Himself.  Jesus has told us He came that we might have life, and have it more abundantly.  He told us the thief came to kill, and steal and destroy your life. Ultimately the thief is Satan, our adversary who wants to destroy us. The thieves he uses are many and varied. They appeal to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. He keeps us from the abundant life by offering substitutes which like wine, sparkle in the cup but in the end sting like the serpent’s bite. Life is our most precious possession. Right now you are wasting your life, spending it on the things of this world which are temporary, or investing your life in those things which are eternal and of God and therefore God-pleasing.  Here is the bottom line: YOU ARE THE ONE WHO DETERMINES THE COURSE YOU WILL FOLLOW IN THIS LIFE.  You can enter by the strait gate to the narrow way or pursue the broad way which is entered by the wide gate. We are told many enter the wide gate, but few find the strait and narrow way which leads to eternal life. We know the way- and must tell others.

DO YOU WANT TO KNOW THE SECRET TO LIVING THE ABUNDANT LIFE?

Remember this message in these chapters of John from 13-17 are to Christians only. Jesus in this chapter 15 will share the 5 spiritual secrets that lead to the abundant life.  Do not miss these secrets for they are the keys to the secret and purpose of life.

First there are three questions we must answer correctly if life is going to have any meaning for us.  Who and what am I? And why am I here?  We are all born searching for something. I recently was frustrated for almost two hours trying to find a screwdriver which would fit a key screw which had to be removed in order to put the batteries in this toy from China. If I could not find that which would unlock this compartment, the toy was useless.

If we cannot find what unlocks the mystery of life’s meaning, life makes no sense. Who am I? What am I? Why am I here?  My two hour search to find a way to unlock the battery compartment of this toy would have been a lot easier if the manufacturer, the creator of the toy had supplied me with what I needed.  To find the answer to our question- we need to ask the One who created us, for what purpose were we created?  His instruction book, the Bible tells me: I am created by Him and for Him. The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.   Now since creation, there has been another voice who is the father of lies who has told us God cannot be trusted. He is not the answer to your question. He cannot be depended upon. This deceiver offers a shortcut to pleasure, always using the things God has created for good into evil. Since the fall, we are all born with a sinful nature and are drawn to those things which appeal to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. Are these sins pleasurable? Yes, for a season. But leave one emptier than before and the search to find those things which will please us grows more desperate and deeper into sin.  Look around you today and compare what you watched as a family on television a generation ago as to what is on there now.  Look at marriage the institute God created for the purpose of ruling and reigning with Him and multiplying and see what an aberration it has become.   These are the “fruits “of the earths’ vine. How bold the enemy has become. And we are told this is because he senses and knows his time in near the end. The battle was won at Calvary.  The warfare has continued just as it continued after defeat was certain at D-Day in WWII.    God has never been without a witness. He not only has believers in each generation, He also has creation which declares His glory night after night and is understood in every language that there is a Creator.  He also has the internal witness of the conscience bearing witness to what is right and wrong, although the conscience of many has become seared. And a seared conscience is more the norm than a convicted one.

Jesus tells us who we are, what we are and why we are here. “I am the True Vine and my Father is the gardener.” (KJV calls the Father, husbandman. A Husbandman is the farmer; one who plants and watches over the vine and its fruit to receive it and rejoice in it.)  I am the Vine and you are the branches. “

There is our explanation: Jesus is the Vine, the Father is the Vinedresser, the Constant Gardener and we are the branches. The sap which flows from the vine to the branches would represent the Holy Spirit who brings the life of Jesus into our lives, just as sap brings the life of the vine into the branches.  We are here to bear fruit. Once you realize this simple, but profound fact you have found the meaning of life: who you are, what you are and why you are here.

The reason God saved you is that you might bear fruit in this world. We live in a hungry world. If we look for sin to fill us and please us- it makes one even hungrier and thirstier. Look at entertainment.  We were satisfied with three channels of television when we were growing up. Today, our culture devours entertainment- we have 300 channels and even more can be found and there are thousands of shows of all types to be watched. And we can watch this so-called entertainment on TV, computers, laptops, smartphones, anytime, anywhere.

God created you and saved you to bear fruit in this world. You are a branch and He is the Vine. He has placed you where you are that you might accomplish His special purpose. There is fruit to be produced where you are- that no one else can produce.

So here is SECRET NO. 1:

The secret of living is fruit bearing.  God did not create you, and Christ did not die for you that you might go through life getting. God created you and Christ purchased you that you might go through life giving. It is this giving which give us joy.

SECRET NO. 2:   the secret to fruit bearing is abiding. The branch which does not bear fruit is taken away, for apart from Him we can do nothing. The branch which does not bear fruit will be taken away and cast into the fire.  This is not a believer, for we are saved and indwelt and Jesus Himself, told us it is “forever”.  He will not leave us nor depart from us. He will however, chastise, rebuke, and scourge us for the Father disciplines those He loves. The branches that burn are “Judas Branches”; they are tares among the wheat. They are fig trees with many leaves of activities, but no fruit.  Pruning is evidence of the Gardener’s activity in a believer’s life. The Vinedresser, prunes that you might bear more fruit. He cuts away that which keeps you from being more fruitful

SECRET NO. 3. So the secret of living, knowing the reason for life is fruit bearing. And the secret to fruit bearing it abiding. What then is the secret to abiding?  OBEDIENCE. Obedience leads to abiding. Listen to the Lord Jesus: “If you keep my commandments you abide in my love; just as I keep my Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” The farmer knows he must obey the laws of nature to enjoy the fruit of his labor. We must also obey the laws of God or else suffer the consequences. We will reap what we sow. Sow to the flesh and reap corruption; sow to the Spirit and reap life everlasting. Adam the first gardener, farmer/husbandman lost his position due to disobedience. Likewise, Israel as God’s Vine which was to be fruitful and multiply, lost its position due to disobedience. Thus God Himself became our True Vine, and our Last Adam, who when tempted in the Garden, did not yield to self will and was obedient even to death.  The secret to abiding is obeying.

SECRET NO.4:  The secret of obeying is loving.  Jesus said:  “If anyone loves me, he will keep my commandments.”  One can obey out of fear of punishment. One can obey out of a means of selfishness, that is obey in order to get something they want.  These types of obedience are not fulfilling. Obedience out of fear of punishment does not bring joy- it breeds a type of resentment and image of God as a harsh judge who is hard to please and quick to condemn. For the one who obeys God in order to get something from Him, that one will be angry with God and accuse Him of not being fair when not receiving what they asked for. They treat God like a vending machine in which they have inserted the coins of obedience and pull the lever of what they want, only to find it does not drop into their hands and they are angry at the vending machine. Love is the highest form of obedience for it comes from the heart. It wants only to do what pleases God, the One they love. God always looks at the heart for there is where motives lie.

SECRET NO. 5:  The secret of loving, the key to obedience which leads to abiding and fruit bearing is knowing the Lord. Knowing Him personally. Knowing Him intimately. Knowing Him as He longs for you to know Him.   For what comes to your mind when you think about God is the most important thing about a person. (A.W. Tozer)  “ No longer do I call you slaves; for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from my Father, I have made known unto you. “ (John 15: 15)  The better you know Jesus Christ, the more you will love Him. “And this is eternal life, that they may know Thee, the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” John 17: 3.  This is the beginning of salvation.  It is then our privilege and responsibility to “grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Guess what else?  The more you love Him, the more you will become like Him and think like Him.  The more you love Him, and love Him above all else, the more this will enrich the love you have for others, your spouse, children, friends, etc. The more you know about the Lord, about God, the more you will know and understand about yourself.

If you are going to fruitful and bear fruit for the Lord, then you must spend time with Him each and every day.  There is no more important spiritual discipline that the daily intake of scripture.

What are the elements to involved in a fruitful life?  Read Romans 12: 1, 2:  “I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual act of worship. Do not be conformed any longer to the pattern of the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. The you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is- His good, pleasing and perfect will.”

  1. Give God your body. He wants His life to work in and through your body.
  2. Give God your mind. God wants to transform your mind through His Word.
  3. Give God your will, that you might prove what His will is.
  4. Give God your heart. For the heart is seat of worship. And He alone is worthy of our worship; plus what we worship we become like.

As you begin to abide in the Lord and bear fruit, you must be watchful for the enemy wants to keep you from bearing fruit. So watch and pray. There are little foxes, those sins you have classified as little or insignificant, more of a bad habit but not that harmful, which want to steal your fruit and damage the branch in doing so. We also have make sure we stay clean, through confession and repentance of sin.  For the leaf with is covered with dirt is unhealthy and is not receiving enough light which is part of the fruit bearing process. There is also insects and various forms of blight which can spread in the garden.  The insects of gossip in the church body, the sarcastic criticism and the lack of preparation for worshipping the Lord in Spirit and Truth.  There are also storms which can come- or an early frost, but the Lord Jesus has told us how to storm-proof our lives through hearing and putting into practice His teaching, His laws, His principles.

The abundant life is yours and Jesus has given us the instructions for having the abundant life and more than that- He has give us Himself.

May you in 2018, discover the life-changing principles of fruit bearing which are abiding, obeying, loving and knowing.

Tomorrow morning, the first day of a new year you can meet with the Lord Jesus.  Where?

“I come to the garden alone, while the dew is still on the roses, and the voice I hear falling on my ear, the Son of God discloses.

And He walks with me, and He talks with me, and He tells me I am His own; And the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known!”

Gospel of John, Chapter 13, Part 1: “It’s Time”

John 13, Part 1: It’s Time.

The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Jesus, who is never less than God and never more than man, senses the coming to a close of his public ministry. John has recorded 7 signs (miracles) and the messages they stimulated.  For 12 chapters we have followed Jesus’ earthly ministry. Since John 2 at the wedding in Cana, Jesus has told us repeatedly, ‘my hour has not yet come.’ He was on a heavenly timetable. He had been sent by the Father to do His will. Now Jesus knows the time has come.  What would appear on earth to be horrific suffering, would bring about in heaven’s view the crowning point of glory of the plan of salvation created by Triune God before the foundation of the earth. All of history had been moving to this point. Jesus now as a man, tells us: “Now my heart is troubled and what shall I say? Father save me from this hour? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father glorify your name!” (John 12:27)  Jesus knows what it is to despair, to feel pain, sorrow and joy. This is what makes Him our perfect High Priest for He knows what it is to hurt, emotionally and physically.

I believe this emphasis on timing reveals when a servant of God is doing the will of God, he/ she is immortal until it is finished.

THE TIMELINE

Jesus had entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday to the Hosanna’s of the crowds.  On Monday of this week, Jesus cleansed the temple for the 2nd time. On Tuesday, we read in Matthew’s account he debated with the religious leaders who sought to trap him and obtain evidence for his arrest.  We are not told what occurred on Wednesday, but now in Chapter 13, we come to Thursday where Jesus meets with the disciples in the Upper Room to observe Passover. Keep in mind, the Jews counted the beginning of a day at sunset.   Jesus had known in this 3 + years of ministry, He could not be arrested, let alone that they could kill Him, until the hour had come. And now the hour had come. Jesus knew it was time. He knew Judas would betray Him.

Jesus is about to reveal the love He has for you and me and for everyone. For God had sent His only Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that through Him, the world might be saved.

We also read Jesus not only knew his hour had come and that Judas would betray him; he also knew the Father had put all things under his power.  Jesus knew he had come from God and that he was returning to God.  Do you know that without a doubt?  Do you know you exist because God willed for you to exist? He chose your parents and the time and place in which you were born. You and I were created by Him and for Him.  We were created to reflect His glory by loving Him with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. Augustine said, “You (God) have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find rest in you.” This is why Jesus urges all of us who are weary and heavy laden from our search to come unto Him and He will give us rest. We live today in a restless world, where love is sought but is over before it begins. Have you found this rest? It can only be found in God through Jesus Christ.

JUDAS

The evening meal was being served and the devil has already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon to betray Jesus. The KJV says: “the devil having now put into the heart of Judas to betray Jesus.” The word translated “put” literally means “to throw”.  It reminds us of the fiery darts of the wicked one. Judas was not a believer, so he did not have a shield of faith with which to quench the fiery darts.

WHAT JESUS DID

Now that Jesus knows the hour has come, knows all things are under his power, and He knows Judas is about to leave and betray him to the religious leaders what does Jesus do with this knowledge?

It is certainly not what the disciples expected. Jesus knowing these things- “got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel wrapped around him.”  Remember when water is used for cleansing it is a picture of the Word of God. The One who John told us was the Word of God washed the dirty feet of his disciples. This was the job of the lowest servant in the household. In fact, Jewish servants never washed the feet of their masters, only Gentile servants performed this task.  If the host of a dinner washed the feet of a guest, it would mark a special affection for that guest.

What an object lesson of humility!  That the Son of God, would take on the role of a bond servant. Get on his knees and cleanse us of our filthy sins. It had a profound impact on the disciples. Peter would later write, and urge his readers to “be clothed in humility.”

Notice the contrast of what Jesus knew and what He did:  He knew all power and authority had been given to Him by His Father, God Almighty. What would Jesus do with this absolute power and authority?  He would rise up from the table to get down on His knees and wash the disciple’s feet. Yet Jesus had told us, ‘the son can do nothing of himself’. He came down from heaven to do the will of the Father.  He was Sovereign but chose to be become a servant. He was rich, but became poor for our sakes.  He was Lord and Master but served His followers.  Here is the clue:  our humility grows out of our relationship with the Father and our desire to do His will, not ours.  Jesus is about to share with us the secret of joy. He is giving us a picture we cannot avoid, God serving others.

We live a culture of competition and criticism. I fear our churches are growing in knowledge rather than growing in grace and we are becoming puffed up in knowledge. Andrew Murray has a book about the abiding life. He states: “Humility is the only soil in which grace grows.”

 

SIMON PETER

“He came to Simon Peter, who said to him “Lord are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”   Are you in a place where you do not understand what Jesus is doing?  Are you questioning Him, like Simon Peter as to why He is doing something in your life which upsets you?  This message is for you. In fact, all through the Scriptures, we see the Lord allow things to happen which perplexed, worried, and hurt those who loved Him.  Imagine the disappointment of Martha and Mary.  Put yourself in the Egyptian prison with Joseph. Climb up on the Mount after an agonizing three -day journey to sacrifice your son as Abraham did.   And yes- find yourself observing the scene in heaven, where Jesus is crying out, “My God, My God, why has thou forsaken me?”

How can we possible understand His ways which are higher than our ways. He speaks and a universe comes into being.  And Peter, who was impulsive, who was a man of action, who wanted to do things which seemed right to him would tell us later:  “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him, who has called us by His own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us His very great and precious promises so that through them you ma participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil.” (2 Peter 1)   Sounds like Peter was beginning to understand.

But on this fateful night of the Last Supper the beginning of what would be three days of sheer despair and events which would devastate these men, Peter says to the Lord Jesus: “No, said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.  Answered: “Unless I wash you, you have no part of me.”  To which Peter replied: “Then, Lord, not just my feet, but my hands and head as well.” Jesus answered, “A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean though not every one of you.” (Jesus knew Judas was going to betray him)

THE LESSON

“When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “ Do you understand what I have done for you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed (happy, KJV) if you do them.” (John 13: 12-17)

When as a sinner, an unbeliever we get saved, we are bathed all over. All our sins, past, present and future are forgiven. Revelation 1: 5, John writes: “To Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins with His own blood, and has made us to be a kingdom of priests to serve His God and Father…”

However as we walk through this world, it is easy to become defiled. But if you have been saved, you have been baptized by the Holy Spirit and do not need to get saved again. You need not be bathed again. You need to be cleansed. “If we say we have no sin, the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1)

Why is it so important that we keep our feet clean?  Because if we are defiled, have unconfessed sin in our lives, we cannot have communion with our Lord. He can have no part with us.

Our relationship and our salvation are eternal and cannot change. However our fellowship with the Lord can be interrupted until we are cleansed through confession.

The picture and instructions to the priest in the Old Testament illustrate these truths. And remember John and Peter both tells us we are now a Royal Priesthood.

When a priest was consecrated in the Old Testament, they were bathed all over. (Exodus 29:4) However, during his daily walk, when he became defiled. It was necessary for him to wash his hands and feet in the bronze laver in the courtyard. (Exodus 30: 18-21)  Only then could he enter the Holy Place and trim the lamps, eat the holy bread, and burn the incense.

The Lord cleanses us through His blood in His atoning work on the cross. He was the perfect sacrifice once and forever and for all who believe. He also cleanses the believer through His word. The water of the Word keeps our hearts and minds clean so we can avoid the pollutions of this world. But when we do sin, John tells us we have an advocate who will hear our prayers of confessions and cleanse us and forgive us and restore us.  Although we must remember sin can have consequences.

Peter at first did not want the Lord to perform this lowly service upon him, until the Lord told Peter, He could not have fellowship with him unless He washed his feet. Then Peter wanted Jesus to wash him, bathe him all over.

What is the lesson here for us:  Do not question the Lord’s will or work. Don’t try and change it. The Lord knows what He is doing. It may seem impossible to you that anything good can come from it, but the Lord says you do not understand what I am doing now, but later on you will.

Jesus said, I have done this as an example for you to follow. To serve others. To realize no one work is better than another. The person working in the nursery is as important and necessary as the preacher preaching the sermon; the teacher teaching the lesson is no more important than the one who opens the doors and greets people. No servant is greater than his master; no messenger greater than the one who sent him.

 

 

THE RESULT.

“Now that you know these things, you will be blessed (happy, KJV) if you do them.”

Mary broke her alabaster jar which contained the precious perfume.  The lad gave Andrew his meager lunch and Jesus broke the bread and blessed it.  Brokenness is the path to blessing.

Humility is the path to holiness which leads to happiness.

Happiness is the result, the by-product of a life lived in the will of God. God gives grace to the humble, but resists the prideful.

 

When we humbly serve others where God wants us to serve, we walk in the light as He is in the light and we enjoy fellowship with God and one another.

Ask anyone during this Christmas season what would make them happy?  And listen to the answers you will receive. Ask children what they want for Christmas and they can give you a ready list.   I actually used to write to Santa Claus and give him a detailed list of what I wanted. Sometimes not only describing the product but giving specifics- brand, product number etc.

We thought these would make us happy and they did for a while. We live in a world constantly looking for that something or someone special to make us happy. Yet is seems to be illusive, never quite quenching our thirst, our longing.

Augustine was right: “You (God) have made us for Yourself and our hearts are restless until it rests in you.”

Our Lord did not take on the role of a servant, a household slave, to push us down: He lifted us up.  Jesus said, if I, your Lord, your Master, your Teacher have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.

In these last moments with His disciples Jesus is teaching them to serve.   This is why James tells us not to be just hearers of the Word, but be doers.

Jesus said if you want to be happy for the rest of your life, now that you know these things- do them.

It is never too late to do the right thing. We have learned from Mary to do what we can, do that much and do it now.  WHILE THERE IS STILL TIME- IT’S TIME TO DO IT.

Gospel of John: Chapter 14 – “Heart Trouble”

John 14: Heart Trouble

Let not your hearts be troubled.  Do you have heart trouble today? Not physically, but emotionally and spiritually.  A troubled heart. The disciples were finishing their meal, now known as the Last Supper in the Upper Room.  Jesus has told them three things about to happen which had cast a pall over the evening. The victorious entry in Jerusalem on Sunday was suddenly forgotten in the bad news Jesus was now conveying to them.  Jesus has told them: there was a traitor among them; Peter, the bravest of the 12 would deny Jesus three times before morning; and worst of all, Jesus said I am leaving you and you cannot follow me now.

Hope deferred makes one heartsick. These 11 disciples, (Judas had departed) were devastated with this news. I do not know the condition of your heart today. But I know, you know by now what it is to have your hope deferred; to receive bad news, to experience sadness and loss. In other words you have experienced heart trouble.  The heart is the center of our being. It is not the organ which pumps blood, it is our soul. It is the spiritual part of us where our emotions and desires dwell.

Jesus will give the disciples and us some wonderful assurances to claim as ours, they are our antidote for a troubled heart. Many people with heart trouble, angina, take nitroglycerin to open the blood vessels to relieve the pressure when they feel pain.  Here Jesus gives us our antidote for heart trouble.  He says, “Let not your hearts be troubled, you believe in God, believe also in me.”  This is what we must take for a troubled heart- we must take Him at His Word, just as the nobleman did in John 4. He did not need to rush home to see if Jesus’ word could be trusted, he took Jesus at His Word and rested, assured his son would live as Jesus said He would.

There are several ingredients in this medicine Jesus gives us who are heart sick because of deferred hope. Let’s look at each one, and may the Holy Spirit witness to you the absolute truth of each of these:

  1. If you are saved: You are going to heaven. Jesus tells us “in my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there now to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place I am going.” Heaven is a real place. If were not so, Jesus would have told us. Remember He is the truth, He came to testify to the truth. God made us to dwell with Him. He wants us to live with Him. Heaven is my Father’s home and it is home for all of His children. This is where God the Father dwells and Jesus is there at his right hand. Heaven is called: a kingdom, an inheritance, a country, a city and home. Home is where the heart is- and where your treasure is, your heart will be also. Jesus, the carpenter, is building his church, His body, on earth; and building a home for the church in heaven. Words cannot express the grandeur of this place, eye has not seen, nor ear heard nor has it entered into the hearts and minds of men what God has prepared for those who love Him. Heaven is a prepared place for prepared people. God has placed eternity in the hearts of mankind. Mankind searches for paradise on earth. They long for the Garden of Eden for something which can provide them with heaven on earth.  I like the description in Revelation which tells me what is NOT there: no more death, no more sorrow, no more crying, no more pain, no more night. Thomas wanted to make sure he knew the way.  Jesus says He is the only way to the Father and the Father’s house. He does not point the way- He is the Way, The Truth and the Life.
  2. We can know the Father, Almighty God. Phillip wanted Jesus to show them the Father. Phillip wanted to see God for himself. What does it mean to know someone? We can know the facts about someone. We can google them and get facts about their life. For example, I shook hands with George Bush the elder. I know a lot of facts about him. He is lefthanded, he played first base on Yale’s baseball team, where he went to college. His father was a US Senator. I know he was a pilot in the Navy in WWII. I have been outside his home in Kennebunk Port. But I do not know him personally. We can know facts. Many of the scribes and Pharisees knew the facts about the Word of God, but they did not know the one called, The Word of God. There is a knowing which comes from understanding the truth behind the facts. Jesus said He was the Truth. There is an intimate relationship like the relationship of a husband and wife. A deeper knowing and this is what Paul longed to know Him, the Lord Jesus. We are told we can know Him and have this mind in us which is in Christ Jesus. Often my wife and I are thinking the same thoughts which comes from the intimate knowledge we have of each other which has grown over the years. Now you and I have not seen Jesus physically. But we have sensed His presence. I have seen Him in His Word, as surely as I picture the hero or villain or character in a novel. God has given us the gift of imagination so we might visualize in our minds for this is the purpose of stories. They are the language of the heart. They put facts in context. They allow us to see with the eyes of our heart. God would have us use this gift for good, the devil will use it for evil. But if we believe the One who is called the Word of God spoke and the universe came into being and is controlled by Him, why would our hearts be troubled if He is your Loving Father?  For Jesus and the Father are one. If you have seen Jesus in your mind, with the eyes of your heart, you have seen God. And you can know Him. He longs for you to see Him as He really is. Notice again believing Jesus and what He says is the Rx for a troubled heart. “Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me.”  Do you believe this? If you do, then you can know God personally. Phillip had seen God, because he had seen Jesus. I have seen Jesus through John’s description, as surely as I have seen Abraham Lincoln through the stories I have read and the accounts of eyewitnesses. You and I can know God personally and intimately. It means spending time with Him. He speaks to you through His word.
  3. Privilege of Prayer. Can you imagine what it will be like when we get to heaven and hear the prayers of those on earth during the Tribulation. We know now we are surrounded by a great crowd of witnesses who have gone on before us into heaven. I do not understand all of the wonder of heaven, but prayer is our greatest privilege as his children. We can come into the throne room of heaven to seek grace to help in time of need. There is an old hymn which admonishes us: “Oh what peace we often forfeit, oh what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.” Jesus says “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things that these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask for anything in my name, and I will do it.” Let us make sure we understand what is involved here. First of all we will not do greater things than the Lord; the servant is not greater than the master. The “greater” here refers to quantity, not quality. And we are able to do more because has sent His Spirit to indwell us. It is in fact, God doing the work through us accomplished through prayer. “For it is God who works in us both to will and to do His good pleasure.” (Phil.2) we are to ask for what Jesus would ask for which is to glorify the Father. In His name, means we ask what Jesus would ask for. How can we know what Jesus would ask for? He tells us what he would ask for: It is to ‘hallow His name.’ John would write in I John 5:  “This is the confidence we have in approaching God, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us- whatever we ask- we know that we have what we asked of Him.”   Does this mean you cannot ask Him for other things?  No of course not. Listen to the Model prayer Jesus gave us:  “ Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, they will be done on earth as it is on heaven. “  So our prayer starts out with the goal of our prayer is to hallow His name, bring glory to it, honor it.  Next we want His kingdom to come and rule and reign in our lives. We want His will to be done.  So in asking for those three things, we know we are asking what Jesus would ask:  Father glorify your name, your will not mine be done. Now we can then present our petitions to Him:  Give us the provisions we need, our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive others. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. So when we ask for those things we need to do God’s will, He will grant them. Now if we ask for something we think we need to do God’s will, but the Lord does not want to provide it- it is not needed. Example:  Paul thought he needed to have the thorn removed from his flesh, because it was keeping him from being productive in his work for the Lord. But the thorn was actually God’s will for his life, so Paul would rely on God not on himself.  A lesson we all need to learn.
  4. He has given us the Holy Spirit. When Jesus ascended to heaven and was exalted above all else with all authority and power under Him, He sent the Holy Spirit to indwell and seal us. He told the disciples I will send another. Jesus was leaving the disciples, but He was not leaving them as orphans. The Spirit of God had dwelt with the disciple these 3 and half years in the person of Jesus Christ. He had lived with them night and day. He had guided them, guarded them and taught them. Now He was leaving, but He sent the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Godhead, to not live with them but in them. This is the same Holy Spirit who indwells and seals and lives within each of us who are saved. This is the Holy Spirit of God who came at Pentecost. He is called Comforter, a Comforter who not only comforts but strengthens. He is called our Advocate, Counselor who defends us against the lies of the enemy. He is the Spirit of Truth who inspired the Word of God, and illuminates it for us. He reveals these truths to us that we might know what has been given to us by God. He is our teacher, just exactly like Jesus was the disciple’s teacher. He will never leave you or depart from you. But the way you treat the Holy Spirit is the way you are treating Jesus. Are you grieving Him? The world has not received the Holy Spirit. They walk by sight and not by faith.
  5. As believers, we enjoy the love of the Father. Jesus said: “He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” Judas, not Iscariot asked Jesus: “But, Lord why do you intend to show yourself to us and not the world?”  Are you beginning to realize these disciples had as many questions about what to do and how to do it, as we do? When the Holy Spirit comes into your life, He sheds abroad the love of God in your heart.  We who are saved are loved by God the Father and God the Son and indwelt by the Spirit of God who witnesses to us God loves us. It is interesting in the story in Genesis 18, Abraham and Sarah have three visitors.  It is the Pre-incarnate Lord and two angels. Notice the Lord does not go down to Sodom and Gomorrah to see Lot, He sends the two angels. He was at home with Abraham, but He was not a home in Sodom and Gomorrah. He has revealed Himself to us, the church. He indwells each believer with His Spirit. He has given us the Great Commission. We are to be witnesses to God’s love by loving Him, one another and our neighbors as ourselves. We are to tell the story of how He came into our lives. Our personal testimony is our witness. We tell the truth about how we were, what happened and what was the result of this change. The Lord waits patiently in heaven giving opportunities for sinners to repent and be saved.  You do not have to be a theologian to tell your story.  Several years ago a writer for a Christian magazine interviewed Charles Swindoll and James Dobson for an article. These two men were at the zenith of their ministries with books, speaking, preaching, teaching via radio and television reaching millions of people. The writer asked both men who had impressed the most in their lives regarding the Lord. Both men, separately being interviewed, immediately answered Professor Howard Hendricks. So the writer had to find this professor and interview him. She did and discovered the popular professor at Dallas Seminary had influenced hundreds and hundreds of ministers and missionaries. She asked him who had most impressed him. And Professor Howie, as he was known, told her immediately his eighth grade Sunday School teacher. What did he teach you that so impressed you, she asked?  ‘I cannot remember a single lesson he taught us, said Hendricks. “But he loved us and showed us his love by spending time with us. “ In Christ Jesus, neither circumcision or uncircumcision has no value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” ( Galatians 5: 6)   We are to share this love which has been shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. We are to love others as Jesus loved us.  This is the 11th commandment. What the world needs now is love, sweet love, it’s the only thing that there is just too little of…
  6. He has given us the gift of peace. Jesus said: “My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” ( John 14:27) The Lord’s peace is not like the world’s peace.  The peace of the world depends upon resources.  The peace the Lord Jesus gives depends upon a relationship.   To be right with God brings joy and peace. The world depends upon personal ability. We depend upon the Lord Jesus Christ. The world works for peace. In Christ, peace is a gift. The unsaved, natural man enjoys peace when there is no trouble. The saved enjoy peace in spite of trouble. The world walks by sight and depends on externals. We walk by faith and depend on the internals. Greater is He who is in us, that he who is in the world.   Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. He is the antidote for heart trouble.

Gospel of John, Chapter 12: Honoring the Lord Jesus

John 12: Honoring the Lord Jesus

We are told whenever two or three gather together in His name, He is in the midst of them.  The opening of John 12 gives us a time line: it is six days before the Passover.  But John’s remembrance of this occasion also gives us a portrait of the local church where every week 2 or 3 are gathered in His name and He is in the midst of us.

Jesus started his ministry at a wedding. Now he closes his ministry by a visit to a home.  The home is where the church began, and because of persecution it is where it often begins in many places in the world. Perhaps the church will return to homes where we enjoy fellowship with one another and with the Lord Jesus. We are told this dinner was given to honor Jesus.

Lazarus is a picture of the believer. Like Lazarus we were all dead spiritually in sin and trespasses.  Now we are alive spiritually and in fellowship with Jesus, just as Lazarus on this fateful evening at supper with the Lord Jesus in this home. Lazarus’ life was a witness to the miraculous work of Jesus, raising him for the dead.  You and I are witnesses to what Jesus has done in our lives. We are not what we used to be and are now in the process of sanctification to become like Jesus.  Lazarus’ life was a witness to the redeeming work of Jesus Christ.  Martha was working, she was serving him.  And Mary was at His feet, worshipping Him. In fact this story is about her act of worship.

Let’s look at Lazarus:  he had suffered a grave illness; a disease so deadly it took his life. He was changed forever by this event as well as his sisters because they had all suffered and experienced a great loss, even though it was for the good and Lazarus was restored to health. For in the Christian life there are gains which can only come from suffering.  I wish there was another way to learn certain truths and have our faith enlarged and strengthened, but it is clear suffering is a part of our life and journey of faith.

LOSSES IN SUFFERING

In every battle there are losses and suffering, even for the victor. Lazarus, Martha and Mary had learned this through the experience of Lazarus’ death.  What were those losses?

LOSS OF CONTROL

As I have often stated, control is an illusion. It is like believing you are in control driving your car because you steer it, control the speed, and can stop it whenever you need to stop it. Until- you experience driving on ice.  Black ice is what we are warned about, for it does not appear to be icy. We like predictability. We like the certainty of knowing the results like 2 +2= 4.  We spend enormous amounts of time planning in business, and in life. Preparing to manage and predict and control, mapping out where we will go next week, and next year and beyond. But life cannot be managed, it can only be lived.  Our first response when we experience loss of control is to regain control. Get our lives back on track, on schedule, our to-do list up to date and checked off. To not gain control is to be out of control. We feel shame because we are not meeting the standards our culture and society recognize as successful and good. Can you imagine the panic and the suffering of Martha and Mary upon the death of Lazarus? It was not just the loss of a loved one, it was the loss of someone on whom they depended to keep their life on track.

LOSS OF IDENTITY

The last 25 years of my career were the peak years of my career. I reached my peak earnings, ability and recognition.  I had established a reputation and enjoyed the work I was doing. Then it was over in one day when our company was bought out by our joint venture partner. Men are known for their work, they identify with their career because it gives them identity and meaning and satisfaction. The more successful they are, the more satisfied they are. Then when time and age and change take this away, they suffer a loss of identity. The professional athlete has usually been recognized and idolized since they were teens. Actors and actresses were known for the roles they played. When they can no longer perform and are no longer needed for those purposes, they begin to wonder what is the purpose of life.  For them and many of us, our purpose had been all about us and what we do.

We understand it is normal to mourn these losses. But these losses must not obscure our sense of what we can become. You may curse your fate or count your possibilities. Paul wanted to go to Rome to preach to the masses, perhaps envisioning filling up the Coliseum with thousands to hear his preaching. Instead, he ends up in a Roman prison in chains.  His response:  “Now I want you to know, brothers, that was has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. “  Really?  This setback was a setup for a comeback. This evil was intended for good by God.   Paul had learned and knew, God was working all things together for good for those who love the Lord, who have been called according to His purpose. His purpose is to make us like Jesus, to conform us to His image.  And suffering losses of those things which entangle us is part of His plan.

LOSS OF CERTAINTY

What once was predictable is no longer predictable. Who or what can we depend on when these losses occur?  What is the purpose of this suffering?  Paul answers the question of us in 2 Corinthians 1: “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered.” (Paul is giving us information we need to understand about suffering.)  “We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life.” (Paul is saying things were beyond our ability to control. We were hopeless.)  The Paul tells us the reason this occurred to them and the reason this will happen to us. “But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.”

We are to trust the Lord with all our heart, and lean not to our own understanding. In all our ways acknowledge Him and He shall make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3)  And yet we feel we have lost our place in society. We are no longer needed in certain areas. Others, younger, smarter, better prepared have come to take our place.  Sounds rather depressing, doesn’t it?

GAINS IN SUFFERING

  1. Clarified values. One of the greatest gains we make in suffering is to discover what is really important, really valuable. Our value system gets changed. Things which had been secondary become primary.  Price tags get changed from the temporary to the eternal. This story of Mary and her sacrifice with the costly perfume revealed Judas’ value system. He knew the price of everything, but the value of nothing. Money which was his god became such a curse, he threw it away.
  2. Freedom. Mary had saved this over years. It represented either her dowry for when she got married or for her old age, her retirement plan. These things we believe we need to be happy can often become things which enslave us.  We have loved those things- inanimate objects: houses, cars, clothes, jewelry, golf clubs, shotguns, etc.  Why are so many of our age group now downsizing?  Because we have spent a lifetime accumulating these things which we find at this time in our life, a burden to maintain.
  3. A new and deeper trust in God. Paul said those things which happened to them in Asia which caused them to suffer beyond their ability to endure happened so they would learn to trust, and rely on God, not on themselves. Let’s face it, most of us will not trust the Lord with all our heart, until we are out of options and must depend on Him completely.

AN ANALYSIS OF MARY’S ACT OF WORSHIP

Mary’s lavish gift makes us uncomfortable and it made Judas so uncomfortable he wanted her lavish gift to be condemned as wasteful.  Jesus told Judas very quickly to leave her alone.  When we read the account Mark, we read she  first broke the alabaster box which contained this precious perfume worth a year’s wages cost.

  1. Mary did what she could do. Lazarus was enjoying fellowship with Jesus. Lazarus is never quoted in Scripture as saying anything. He was a quiet man. He enjoyed being with Jesus, fellowship was his act of worship. It was what Lazarus could do. Martha served the Lord by working, by serving food. She was a worker. She knew she was worshipping the Lord using the gift He had given her. Mary knew she could not cook like her sister Martha, I believe. She knew how much she loved to sit at the Lord’s feet and listen to Him. He had taught her about life and death. She wanted to express her love for Him, just as Lazarus did with his witness, and Martha did with her gift of serving. How could she show Him how much she loved Him? What could she give Him? She could only give Him what she realized He had given her. She would give Him her perfume, her most valued possession.  Her dowry, her life savings, for surely He had saved not only Lazarus but her and Martha also. She went and got her most valuable possession: her alabaster box of nard perfume. Mark’s account tells us she broke the box. I think she may have done that because something within her, was telling her not to go overboard. Just measure out a few drops, that would be sufficient and she could save the rest as she had planned for her dowry or when she was old and needed it. She broke it – because then she had no other options but to pour it all out on Jesus. Sometimes we look at others who have more talents for gifts than we do:  a beautiful singing voice, the ability to play a musical instrument, or speak with great wisdom and insight and think we can do nothing like that. So rather than doing what we can- we do nothing. Jesus only wants us to give what we can. And we can only give what He has given us. The little boy had his lunch which his mother had given him. He could only give to Andrew what his mother had given to him. Jesus broke the bread and blessed it. Brokenness is a path to blessing.  Mary broke the alabaster box for then there was no turning back.  Moses had been stripped of his power and prestige and now 40 years after he left Egypt as a wanted murderer, God has called him to serve Him. Moses has nothing to give but a rod. God said give me what you have- the rod in your hand.   Mary did what she could.
  2. Mary did that much. She could not give what she did not have. She could not give more than she had. She could only give what the Lord had given to her. He had given her brother life in place of death. And she knew He had given her eternal life also. He had given her hope and He had given her His love. How could she give back anything which matched His love and sacrifice for her?  She could only give Him what she could. She could only do that much. And she did it. She did what she could with what she had, she did that much. She gave it to Jesus.
  3. Do it now. Sometimes Jesus tells us to do something in a small still voice. We rationalize we can’t do that right now, later on when we have the time and more resources we will do that the, but not now. If Mary had waited – she would have never had the opportunity to anoint Him. He would be dead and buried in a week. The women who went out on Sunday morning to anoint Him, did not get the opportunity to do so. Do it now- now is the appointed time.

Mary prepared Jesus for His death.

This is one the most important things we do is prepare people for death. We prepare people for dying. No one wants to think about that now.

But in preparing them for dying, we prepare them for living.

We help them and ourselves deal with suffering and loss.

We help them clarify their values.  We provide them with freedom.  Jesus said if you continue in His word, you will know the truth and the truth will set you free. And if Jesus sets you free, you are free indeed.  It was for freedom that Jesus set us free.  Free to live life the way it is supposed to be lived by knowing the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

We often attend funeral which honor loved ones. We have dinners for people who have served faithfully to honor them for their faithful service.

Why not invite Jesus to your home and honor Him?  I know you are thinking, what can I give Him that would match what He has done for me?

What can I do?  You can only do what you can do You can only give what God has given you.  You can do that much and you can do it now.

Worship is the center, the heart of Christianity.  We need to come back to the heart of worship and Honor the Lord with our fellowship, with our service, with our giving which express our love.

Gospel of John: Chapter 11, “Waiting for Jesus”

John 11: Waiting

for Jesus

John has carefully selected the miraculous signs of Jesus during his ministry on earth.  His first was to turn water into wine at the wedding in Cana of Galilee.  In today’s study in John 11, we see one of his most well-known miracles, the raising of Lazarus from the dead.  His last miracle before his own resurrection is at a funeral. Two of life’s gladdest and saddest hours- a wedding and a funeral, one at a beginning, the other at what appears to be an ending. Both are events which impact the individual and the  family .

After Jesus’ encounter with the Pharisees he had returned to the place where John the Baptist had been baptizing in the early days. We read here he stayed and many came to believe in him.( John 10:41)  We believe this place to be at Bethabara beyond the Jordan in Perea about 25 miles from Jerusalem. 

Now Jesus has just told us:  “The thief comes to steal and kill and destroy. But I have come that you might have life and life more abundantly.”   Yet we know death is certain, only the time of death is uncertain.   This is why this story, the raising of Lazarus is so appropriate, for it deals with the two most important issues for mankind:  life and death.   Jesus is the answer to the abundant life and Jesus is God’s answer to mankind’s death.

In the first miracle where Jesus turned the water into wine, His mother informed Jesus of the problem, “ They have no more wine.”  This miracle begins with the sisters of Lazarus ( Mary and Martha) informing Jesus:  “ Lord, the one you love is sick.”   Since there are several Mary’s in the Gospels, John identifies her as the one who anointed the feet of our Lord with costly perfume and wiped it with her hair. Notice in both of these instances their prayer does not include instructions on what or how Jesus is to deal with the problem, they simply inform Jesus of the problem.  Prayer in its simplest form, does not presume to tell Almighty God what to do about the problem, just to inform Him of the problem.  King Jehoshaphat when faced with a vast armies coming at him from all sides we are told: “ Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. The people of Judah came together to seek help from the Lord.”  King Jehoshaphat admitted: “ For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”  Jesus, Himself, had said He did nothing of His own, but depended on the Father to show Him what to do.   Do their prayers which range  from the lesser problems of life, ‘ they are out of wine’ to these desperate problems of  life and death issues: a loved one’s  grave illness, to a vast army preparing to attack you, reflect how you pray? Is prayer your first response or last resort? Do you come to cast your care upon the One who cares for you, or do you come with instructions as to how He should solve your problem?    The Roman Centurion knew Jesus did not have to come to his house to heal his servant, he could do it from a distance.  The nobleman who implored Jesus to come to his home for his son was near death, was convinced Jesus did not have to come, but placed so much faith in His Word,  he actually stopped for the night to rest.  Are you at rest in the Lord’s word concerning your concerns?

Moses at the burning bush encounter when told by the Lord to go free his people came up with excuse after excuse why he could not do this:  people would not believe him, he was not an eloquent speaker, etc.  God replied: “ Who gave man his mouth? Who made him deaf or mute? Who give him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I the Lord?  Now go. I will help you speak and teach you what to say.”  Is this not the way of the Lord who says He does not change?

The home of Lazarus and his two sisters, Mary and Martha, was a home away from home for Jesus. He loved them and they loved and supported Him.  Here is the picture: 25 miles away, Jesus is with the disciples enjoying a time of teaching and preaching with great results. Meanwhile in Bethany, Mary and Martha are caring for their dear brother Lazarus who is gravely ill. Having sent word to Jesus informing him of the situation, they must be eagerly awaiting his arrival.  We believe the messenger came back to tell them he had delivered the message to Jesus personally.  The sisters had probably figured Jesus would drop everything and come immediately to their aid, or maybe just heal from a distance as they had heard he had done before. Surely in their minds, they thought if Jesus did this for people he did not know, they could  be sure He will take care of those who loved Him.

THE RESPONSE TO THEIR PRAYER

“ When he heard this, Jesus said, “ This sickness is not unto death. No it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days.” 

Did Jesus address this message to the messenger the sisters had sent? I believe it makes sense he would have expected Jesus to reply to the request. And since the messenger had traveled 20-25 miles, he would wait until the next day to return with Jesus’ reply.  Imagine their shock and sorrow when Lazarus dies. For we know Lazarus had already died when Jesus started back two days later, as Jesus plainly tells the disciples on the way back in verse 14:  “ Lazarus is dead.” 

So when the messenger arrives without Jesus, Lazarus was already dead when. Yet  His message was  now to two grief stricken sisters whose brother had already died : Jesus said, “  this sickness is not unto death but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified.” How can this be?- they must have thought.

Our familiarity with the story and knowing the happy ending takes away the sting of death and the sadness surrounding it.   For the sisters the death of Lazarus was a tragedy. They depended on him for everything. But to make matters worse, Jesus had let them down. He could have kept this from happening. They experienced the same  emotions we do when we hear bad news, when we get a diagnosis of a major illness, when a loved one passes away. We pray and pray and pray, but when the answer comes it seems wrong, even cruel and heartless.  Don’t you care Lord, we are perishing, the disciples proclaimed in the boat in storm on the Sea of Galilee while Jesus slept in the boat. Ever said or thought that?  Don’t you care Lord? 

Death would not have the last word.  Jesus is the Alpha and Omega. He is the first word which created life and He is the last word regarding death. He is Lord over life and death.  He is the Lord over time- He invented it, He created it. And as John has told us from the beginning, his hour had not yet come.  He had come to do the will of his Father and until he had completed that will at Calvary, it was not finished.

0N HIS ARRIVAL

Sometimes in life, it seems as if we spend a lot of time waiting. Waiting on the results of the test the doctor performed; waiting to hear if a child has arrived at their destination; waiting to hear if we got the job; and the list goes on and on.   The Lord wants us to believe Him. He wants us to know and has shown us in our life and in the lives of many whose story he has told us how waiting on the Lord is a part of our journey of faith. “Wait on the Lord, I say, wait on the Lord; be of good courage and He shall strengthen your heart. Wait, I say on the Lord.” ( Psalm 27)

Waiting on His arrival creates anxious moments of confusion and sorrow sometimes. Waiting on the Lord to “ come through for you” is a time when the enemy attacks with the fiery darts of doubt, ‘ hath God really said?’  The writer of Psalm 27, said he would have lost heart unless he believed he would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.   Jeremiah was so devastated by the conditions he was in danger of losing hope. “ yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope.”  Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning , great is your faithfulness.

Jesus says to his disciples: “ I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”  Jesus was not glad because of the sadness which Lazarus’ death had created. He was glad for He knew the outcome and what joy it would bring and what glory it would create.

At last, four days after Lazarus had died and been buried- JESUS ARRIVES.  It appears to all, He has arrived too late.  But things are not always as they appear, are they ?

ABUNDANT LIFE. 

It is interesting to notice the word: live spells evil backwards.  And lived spelled backwards spells devil. It is often said, ‘ youth is wasted on the young.’  And life also teaches us ‘ I got old too  soon, and smart too late.’  These words come from people who have lived life for decades. It is an expression of sorrow and regret for having spent their lives on things which in the end counted for so little.  Some have said, it would make more sense if our lives were lived backwards.  “ If only I had___________ or what if____________ .  You fill in the blanks because they represent regrets over the past, and worries over the future. We all have them. But the good news is  when Jesus arrives in our life, you are a new creation. You get to start a new life, an abundant life, eternal life and now understand what makes the difference in life. It all starts when Jesus arrives in our life.  Live life over?  Yes. You have been born again. Jesus was the beginning of your physical life.  You exist because He willed for you to exist. And you exist for one reason- for God to give Himself to you. He is the death of your old life. He is the giver of your new life. He is the author of life. And until you enter into His story you will not discover the plans He has for you. You get to start life anew. A new beginning. No matter how late it arrived, it extends into eternity.   Even knowing this,  we often get confused and caught up with the things of the world.   The emphasis in John 11 is on faith in His word.   Jesus had a lesson for all of us in this story..  Let us look at the time line here:

Day 1:  the messenger comes to Jesus with news of Lazarus sickness. We are told when Jesus arrives, Lazarus has been dead and buried four days.  This means Day 1 Jesus received the news from the messenger, Lazarus had already died.  It takes a day to cover those 20-25 miles, so the messenger would not have returned the same day.

Day 2: the messenger returns to Bethany with the message Jesus had given.

Day 3: Jesus waits another day, we are told he waited two more days,  then departs.

Day4: Jesus arrives in Bethany.

When the messenger arrived back home, he would find Lazarus dead and buried. He would tell the sisters what Jesus said. But how could they believe His Word when their brother was dead and buried. Jesus was urging them to believe Him, no matter how discouraging the circumstances might appear. He had sent His word to them:  this sickness is not unto death but for the Glory of that the Son of God might be glorified.

Now the disciples were confused as well. They knew Jesus loved this family- why did he delay? Why did He not heal from a distance?  God’s love for us is a perfecting love. Sometimes a tough love. Jesus was careful to tell us we would have trouble in this world. He has shown us His actions from Genesis all through the Bible with stories of those who went through unspeakable hardships yet assures us He is working all things together for good for those who love Him.  Love and suffering are not incompatible. They work together.

The Lord’s message to the sisters was NOT that Lazarus would not die, but that the ultimate result would be the glory of God. This is a story we need to remember when we face disease, disappointment, delay and even death, that our encouragement is the Word of God. We must live by faith and not by sight. Their situation seemed hopeless. Yet the Lord has said: “ And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.” (Psalm 50)

Each experience the Lord allows to come into our lives is about increasing and strengthening our faith. But it requires a proper response from us. Jesus had sent a promise to the two sisters and now we are about to see how they had received it.

As the sisters had waited for Jesus’s Arrival, they had been crushed by his seeming lack of urgency and concern. They both had come to the conclusion, if Jesus had been there, their beloved brother Lazarus would not have died.

THE WORD WHICH GIVES HOPE TO THE HOPELESS

There will be three groups who witness this miracle: the disciples; Martha and Mary and the Jews who had been with Mary comforting her. Martha had gone out to meet Jesus when she heard of his arrival.  She was aware of the threats upon Jesus’ life and how coming to their home so close to Jerusalem would put his life in danger. “ Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “ if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”   This is an interesting statement.  It is a bold statement which says we believe you are who you say you are and can do what you say you can do. Nothing is too hard for you. But yet we sometimes doubt He will do it for us.

I believe Jesus sees in Martha what He sometimes sees in us during a time of disappointment. He sees we want to believe Him with all our heart, but circumstances are preventing us from doing so.  As He sees our hearts and understands our weakness, He encourages us with His Word.  Jesus gives her a reassuring promise. “ Your brother will rise again.”   You hope will rise again- you will not lose hope.  For He is the God of all Hope.  Paul wrote: “ For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of Scriptures we might have hope. “  Peter said , “ Lord to who shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” He has the words of life. He is the Word of God. In Him was life and His life was the light of men.

Watch Martha’s response to His Word: “ I know he will rise again in the resurrection of the last day.”  Jesus now responds to her faith which is growing.  Jesus said to her, “ I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, will live, even though he dies; and whoever believes lives and believes in me will never die. DO YOU BELIEVE THIS?” 

“ Yes, Lord,” she told him, “ I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world. “  Next Jesus meets with Mary who is weeping and Jesus is moved by her sorrow and deeply troubled.  He is truly a man acquainted with sorrow, a man of sorrows.  He is our perfect High Priest because He understands our pain.  His Deity is about to be displayed, but here in the shortest verse in the Bible: “ Jesus wept”; we see his humanity. 

As they approach the tomb, the cave where Lazarus’ body lay behind a rock, the crowd has now collected around them. Jesus is here. He has arrived. As they approach the tomb, Jesus tells them to roll away the stone. Martha protests there will be a bad odor for he has been buried for four days. Jesus reminds her of His promise:  “ Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” This goes back to the message he had sent back to her and Mary.

The roll away the stone. Jesus prays to his Father and He thanks Him for what He is about to do and also reminds us of the purpose:  ‘ ..this is for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”

Jesus then calls Lazarus by name to come forth  And Lazarus comes forth from the grave wrapped in the grave clothes.  Jesus has overcome death and the grave. Here is a picture of our death, burial and resurrection. Raised to walk in the newness of life. Notice Jesus tells them to take off his grave clothes. We must put off the old and put on the new. And this is what we are to  do as we make disciples teaching them who they have become and how they should now walk in the light as we help the take off the old and put on the new.

THE RESPONSE

There were those who believed and placed their faith in Jesus. There were others who went and reported to the Chief Priest of what they had seen.  They began to seek how to kill Jesus and also Lazarus as the Passover was growing near.

The hour was drawing near, which Jesus had been moving toward  during these three plus years. The question which was the question of many was : “ What do you think?” For as a man thinketh in his heart so is He.

The question is “ What do you think?”  Do you believe the Lord is who He says He is? Do you believe He can do what He says He can do?  Do you believe you are who He says you are? Do you believe you can do what He says you can do? 

If your answer to these four questions has been yes, perhaps your faith is like Martha’s.  you have been disappointed by God’s lack of response to your prayers. Or that He allowed something to happen you believe He could have prevented. You are hurt, but you still believe Him.  And maybe your answer to the first two questions are yes; but the answer to the last two questions are: I am not sure, I don’t know what I think sometimes. I believe. Help my unbelief.

Now that is what Martha’s reply to Jesus revealed a faith that believes, help her unbelief. How does Jesus help her faith?  By His Word.  Because faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.

The Word of God must be active and alive in our life.  Be not a hearer only, but a doer of the Word.

ROLL AWAY THE STONE OF UNBELIEF.

 

Gospel of John; Chapter 10: The Abundant Life

John 10: The Abundant Life

The conversation Jesus was having with the Pharisees at the end of chapter 9 is continued in chapter 10.  Thus we read what is a continuation of their conversation here in chapter 10. Jesus has just healed a man who was born blind. He is presenting his credentials as the Messiah with these miracles, or signs as John refers to them- for they are proof of who He is. In Isaiah 35, we read of the works the Messiah would do:  “Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. “

When John the Baptist was in prison awaiting execution, he sent his disciples to ask Jesus if He was the one who was to come, or should they expect another?  Jesus answered them by telling to go tell John what they had heard and seen: “the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the dead hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.” (Matthew 11)

Jesus then tells the Pharisees, the man who does not enter by the gate (door) into the sheepfold but climbs in by some other way is a thief and a robber.  A thief is one who takes away another’s property by stealth. He sneaks in the house. The robber takes it by violence. The robber intimidates.  Since Jesus is talking to the Pharisees about the “sheepfold” it refers to the nation of Israel. Psalm 100 says we (nation of Israel) are His people, the sheep of His pasture.

The word picture which Jesus is drawing is of a sheepfold, which in Jesus’ day would be a public pen where the shepherds would bring their flocks at night. It would be a fenced area with a gate where multiple flocks were brought at night. The watchman would be the gatekeeper. The flocks represented the tribes of Israel.

Jesus is saying he is the true shepherd who entered by the gate or door. Some would say John the Baptist was the gatekeeper as he introduced Jesus as the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”. But if you go back and read about John the Baptist, it was foretold he would be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from birth. (Luke 1). So we can ultimately say the gatekeeper or watchman is the Holy Spirit who opens the ears of the sheep to hear His voice.

When Jesus says He came in by the gate or door, He is saying he came lawfully, legally. He came as a fulfillment of the prophecies of the Old Testament. His miracles were signs and credentials he was presenting to the religious rulers, but they were spiritually blind. He came in by the law in the fullness of time. Born of a virgin in the town of Bethlehem, a descendant of David. No one else could have had the credentials He did. The Pharisees had just asked Jesus, “Are we blind, too?”  Jesus is making it very clear they are blind.  The blind leading the blind.

The reaction of the Pharisees was not something unexpected. We read in Jeremiah: “Woe to the shepherds who are destroying the sheep of my pasture, declares the Lord.”  The Lord then says He will gather the remnant of the flock Himself. He states He will raise up to David, a righteous branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. (Jeremiah 23)   If you have ever done any genealogy search for your family, you realize there are many branches in a family tree.  But prophecy made it clear how this One would be recognized and Jesus had fulfilled and was fulfilling all the many prophecies. But these religious leaders were spiritually blind.  This is why Jesus told Nicodemus, he could not see the kingdom of God, unless he was born again of the Spirit.

Jesus now introduces another word picture of Himself with another “I AM” statement. Jesus says I am the door.  Think about a door:  a door divides/ separates; a door secures; a door opens; a door gives access. Jesus is the door. He is the door which opens to the abundant life, eternal life.  He stands and knocks at the door of our hearts, our lives, and ask to be invited in so He can share His life with us.

Now the sheep in the community pen were not branded. Nor did the Eastern shepherds of Jesus’ time use sheep dogs to herd the sheep and drive them. They led them and the sheep recognized their voice as surely as a beloved pet dog recognizes his master’s voice. Jesus said his sheep know his voice. They will not follow strangers.  They will not be tossed to and fro by false teachers, thieves who want to steal from the master’s flock with false teaching.  Jesus said he came to testify to the truth and those who side with the truth listen to him. A shepherd leads his sheep. He goes before them. He knows where he is leading them- to still waters and green pastures. He will lead us into the way everlasting. He will not lead us into temptation and will deliver us from evil. He comforts me and protects me with His rod and his staff.

Jesus says he is the good shepherd, the true shepherd. He is the Way. He is the Truth. He is the Life. He is the only One who can lead us to the Father, there is no other way.

The true shepherd saves. By me if any man enters in he will be saved.

The true shepherd provides.  You shall go in and out and find pasture.

The true shepherd secures. The thief comes to steal and kill and destroy. I have come that you might have life.

The true shepherd satisfies. I have come that you might have life and have it more abundantly.

Jesus came that we might have life, eternal life, abundant life. But this promised life is only on His terms. On his terms we can have life now and forever on a higher plane, a life in the Promised Land.  How is this done?   How can we have the abundant life?

THE ABUNDANT LIFE

Now we must understand in the eyes of God all of humanity can be divided into two categories. Those who are lost, the natural man and those who are saved, born again.  Now among those who are born again, there are two categories:  the spirit filled and the carnal.

The natural man cannot understand the supernatural. He believes it to be foolishness. Unless he is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God, for it is spiritually discerned and he does not have the Spirit of God.  The natural man is dominated by self, sin and Satan. He is under the dominion of the one who is called the prince of power of the air. He or she may be a moral person, a good parent, good spouse. They may also be immoral and depraved. But a lost person is not necessarily a hideous monster. Many of them are sitting next to you in church, belong to the same clubs you do, root for the same football team and care about many of the things a Christian does. He or she does not judge things by the same standards we do.  They are blinded to the truth. Their philosophy of life runs the gambit from paganism to a hodgepodge buffet of beliefs, both moral, amoral and immoral. Self is the judge of all they do.

The saved person, the spiritual man is described as one who is rightly related to God through faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ. This relationship was brought about by the Holy Spirit. So we have received the Spirit of God that we might understand what God has given us. The saved man, has the Holy Spirit dwelling in him or her. They are being taught and empowered by the Spirit. The spiritual person judges spiritual things, the Bible is our source of truth by which we judge and try to live our lives by.

The Spirit-filled Christian has accepted Jesus Christ as Savior. They have yielded to Christ as Lord. And they have appropriated Christ as their life.  Paul describes this in detail in Romans 6,7 & 8.  In Galatians 2: 20 we read a description of this process:  “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless, I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me. And the life I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.” We are partakers of His divine nature. This represents the highest plane we can live on.  However, we do not always abide on this plane.

Unfortunately, we do not always live Spirit-filled, and Spirit-led lives. We have His divine nature, but we also have our old nature. When we give into the demands of the old nature, the flesh, we are described as carnal. The carnal Christian lives their life partly unto God and partly unto himself. There is divided control in their life, usually in one particular area of sin which so easily entangles them. These two natures are side by side. They travel on parallel paths. This is why Paul writes of his own experience, whenever he wanted to do good, evil was always present.

These three planes are the levels upon which we live and carry out our daily lives. The natural man in God’s view lives on the lowest plane. Their description of the abundant life, the good life can be as simple as eat, drink and be merry. You only go around once, so live life with gusto. Others want to build their own kingdom of wealth, power and possessions. Others want to do good works which they will leave behind as a legacy. But their lives are measured by standards which they have adopted, standards which might include truths, half-truths, and outright lies. Some are happy and well -adjusted, or appear to be. But things are not always as they seem. They have chosen a way that is right to them. They have entered the wide gate and headed down the broad way. There is a veil over their minds and they cannot ‘see’ the truth. But we must continue to cast the seed, water it and God’s role is to produce growth.  Many of these have built an empire, a successful business and in the eyes of the world, a successful life. They have climbed the ladder of success only to find at some point in the eternal future they have leaned their ladders against the wrong wall.

All of us were born searching for something. God placed eternity in our hearts. We were born spiritually dead.  We were without form and in darkness until the light of the Gospel came into our lives and we discovered what it was we were created for and why we exist.

We will study this in depth in John 15, the Abiding Life. Where Jesus will tell us He is the True Vine and the Father is the constant gardener, the owner of the vineyard.  We discover the secret of living in the right relationship with the One who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. The secret of living is to know we were created to glorify God. By this is God glorified, that we bear much fruit.  The secret of living is glorifying God by fruit bearing. Notice it is not fruit producing. The secret to fruit bearing is abiding, this is the only way we can bear fruit. The secret to abiding is obeying.  And the secret to obeying is loving. And the secret to loving is knowing.

Listen to how Jesus describes eternal life, life abundant, and life with the Father.  “This is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (John 17) How do we come to know God?

The Gatekeeper, the Holy Spirit will let the True Shepherd into the sheepfold. He will open the sheep’s ears to hear their Master’s voice. “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How, then can they call on the name of the One they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the One of whom they have not hear? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?  And how can they preach unless they are sent? AS it is written, how beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.   But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah said, “Lord, who has believed our message? Consequently, faith, comes from hearing and hearing by the Word of God. “Psalm 19 tells us the heavens declare the Glory of God.  But we also are to be salt and light and let the light of the Gospel shine into their eyes. We are to teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you always unto the end of the world.

An abundant life awaits each of us believers- it is our possession. It is the Promised Land. But we must enter into the abundant life by grace through faith.  It is grace which has brought us thus far and it is grace which will take us home.

The natural man is laboring to build an abundant life. The carnal man is confused about the abundant life for his old nature keeps taking control of certain areas of his or her life. The Spirit filled Christian is walking in the light as He is in the light and in fellowship with fellow believers and God.  We seem to forget or not take seriously the spiritual truth, that when we gather together to worship Him, He is in our midst.

HOW TO BUILD A SPIRIT-FILLED, SPIRIT-LED ABUNDANT LIFE

Just writing this sub-title was such a challenge, I thought about changing it. But isn’t this what we want to do? That is the question. So let’s use a real world example, just like Jesus does.

Have you ever built a house?  Gina and I did. And we still talk about how it made us feel to move into it- to see it built from the foundation up.

So the first thing Jesus tells us to build a spirit-filled abundant life is the foundation.  He instructs us in Matthew 7.  “Anyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down and the winds blew and beat against the house, yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. The first step in building a good house is a solid foundation. The first step is to make sure your life is built on the solid rock, for all other ground is sinking sand. Like the foolish builder who built his house on the sand.  I would also point out Jesus is letting us know storms come into both the lives of the saved and the lost.  How foolish not to build your life on the One called the cornerstone. My life is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. I believe in the virgin birth, the Word of God who became flesh; who was crucified for my sins, and I was crucified with Him; I believe He arose on the third day in a glorified body and ascended to heaven where He was exalted and sent the Holy Spirit who indwells me.

After the foundation is laid, we begin to build the superstructure, the house itself. We pictured each room as it would be. Then when all the walls were up, the doors and windows in and the roof is on, we have standing before us a house, a home. Jesus the Carpenter of Nazareth has built this for us. He created this earth on which we live and exist. He is currently building a retirement community in which I will live forever.  You see, Jesus has moved in with me. I live with Him and He lives with me. The abiding life

Now once the foundation is laid, and the superstructure is completed, the interior has to be designed and decorated. This is the work of the Holy Spirit, our interior decorator. He comes to cleanse us from the inside -out, put everything in place and order, so that we live each day reminded of the One who made it all possible. The One who even now is preparing a place for us which we cannot even imagine how wonderful it will be. When you walk in the completed, brand new house, you love everything about it. It is so clean and pristine, it sparkles. The Interior Decorator has done a work and created a wonderful place for you.  But it must be maintained. It must be cleaned regularly.

The abundant life is very simply the life lived with Jesus at home in your heart. You can be in a five room house with three children and be content, because Jesus is at home in your heart, seated on the throne of your heart.

But let your old nature come into your home, and take control and take the place in your heart reserved for Jesus, and your home will become defiled. He will let the enemy take control of your evening with entertainment which will grieve the Holy Spirit. Your old nature will cause you to be discontented with the home you once loved because of envy and lust of the eyes, wanting more of the world, until your life becomes crowded and your carnal heart has crowded out the word of God.

So remember what brings us joy- bearing much fruit. And remember unless the Lord builds a house, the builders labor in vain.

Jesus said, life does not consist of the abundance of possessions. King Solomon had more than anybody had, but found these possessions, this wealth was meaningless. Paul on the other hand had learned to be content regardless of the situation. Life without God is meaningless. Life with God is life as God intended it to be. He always wanted to live with you and me.

The abundant life begins the moment we trust Jesus as Savior. He becomes the foundation of our new life. He becomes the superstructure, which we now supernaturally share with Him. And He brings into our life the décor and surroundings which glorify Him daily.  He is the light of our life. He is our life. The abundant life.

 

 

 

 

Gospel of John; Chapter 9, “I Was Blind, But Now I See”

John 9: I Was Blind, But Now I See

There was an explosion in coal mine in West Virginia some years back. The explosion trapped the miners hundreds of feet down into total darkness. When the rescue team broke through to them and managed to get a light through to them, one of the miners said, “Well why don’t they turn the light on?” His fellow miners realized the explosion had blinded him. In the darkness, in the absence of light, he did not know he was blind. The light revealed that he was blind. The lack of sight does not mean the light is not there. It reveals our condition. What is true physically is also true spiritually.  It reveals we are spiritually blind because we were born spiritually blind.  This story is another miraculous sign which illustrates the truth of spiritual blindness and how one can receive the Light of the World.  This miracle was one of the signs Jesus was the Messiah. For it was said, ‘the blind shall receive their sight.”

“As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

“Neither this man or nor his parents sinned,” answered Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. As long as it is day, we must do the work of Him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am still in the world, I am the light of the world.”  (John 9:1-5)

This miracle or sign as John refers to them as, is a further illustration of what Jesus claimed in John 8 when he said he was the light of the world, and “ whoever follows him will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. “

Now the disciples mistakenly believe this man’s condition was a result of sin, either his or his parents. Jesus says it is neither. He says this has happened so the work of God may be displayed, (made manifest, KJV).  In other words it was to bring glory to God. Now to an unbeliever this sounds like a cruel trick for God to play on an innocent baby. This attitude is expected from an unbeliever, but we find as believers we also sometimes question God’s goodness when there is tragedy.

This brings us to a question about WHY God created man.  The ‘whats and whys’ of life often bring us to question our very reason for being. For what purpose was I created, and how do we explain why bad things happen to good people? In this case, a baby is born blind from birth. And Jesus has clearly stated this happened for the purpose of glorifying God, and displaying His Wonder and Power in a work only God could do. Only God can turn disabilities into something that will bring good to people and glory to His name.

THE WHAT AND WHY OF OUR EXISTENCE

Genesis 1 tells us God created man in His Own Image. We were created to rule and reign with Him and thus He gave Adam and Eve dominion over all the earth.  In Isaiah 43:7 we read: “Every one that is called by my name; for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him.”  Colossians 1 tells us we were created by Him and for Him.   And Revelation 4: 11 sums it up:  “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for thou hast created all things and for thy pleasure they are and were created.”

We were created by Him and for Him and for His pleasure. WE exist and received life that God might give Himself to us. Therefore the Westminster Catechism makes this well-known statement on the basis of God’s Word: “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”  Why were we created?  We were created to worship Him; to evangelize; to witness; to make disciples, to fellowship with one another and God; and to have a ministry which God ordained for us to walk in using our spiritual gift.

Guess what we do in our spiritual blindness?  We seek to glorify ourselves by this fallen world’s standards.  Success, wealth, power, looks, fame, popularity, and all that goes with it. Instead of lifting up the name of God, we want to make a name for ourselves. Do you see how we can be conformed by the world which blames God for bad things and tragedies?  Jesus told us in this world we would have trouble, trials and tribulations. He also told us to rejoice for He had overcome the world. We like smooth sailing with no storms, but Jesus in His Sovereignty sends us into storms for a variety of reasons. James says these are to mature and expand and strengthen our faith.

This sign is once again a living parable which illustrates spiritual blindness through physical blindness.

The truth is this:  anyone without Jesus Christ is spiritually blind.  This man was born physically blind so we all are born spiritually blind.  John has already laid the groundwork for this miraculous sign. First John told us in John 1: “In Him (Jesus) was life; and the life was the light of men.”  In John 3, he told Nicodemus he could not see the kingdom of God unless he was born again.  This is because we were born the first time spiritually blind.

Jesus also told Nicodemus and us this truth:  “This is the verdict, Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light, because their deeds were evil.” (John 3: 19)

Let us go back to Genesis to understand why we are born this way.  What happened when Adam sinned?  Adam was suddenly without the Spirit of God in his spirit. Adam was void, empty, spiritually dead.  He was a temple in which God could no longer live. For God had told Adam on the day he sinned against God he would surely die.  He died spiritually immediately as God’s Spirit departed. He died physically later.

Since the life of the Lord was the light of men, when the Lord went out of Adam, the life went out. And when the life went out, the light went out. Since God created his creation to recreate after its own kind, all born of Adam were born without the Spirit of God. Born spiritually dead and spiritually blind.

Therefore this man in John 9 who was born blind is a physical illustration of the spiritual truth that every man, woman, boy and girl who is without Jesus Christ in their life is spiritually blind. Everyone of us were born this way, with this condition.

We know a lost person can have 20/20 eyesight and yet is spiritually blind and cannot ‘see’, comprehend spiritual things.   Ephesians 4:18 say that those who do not know Christ have had their ‘understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through their ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart.’ Their foolish hearts were darkened.

Notice in verse 8 of this story, his neighbors tells us the man was a “beggar”. Yet the enemy of our soul has convinced us the only riches worth having are the riches of this world, money, fame, power, possessions.  Listen to what Jesus said to those who said to those at the church at Laodicea:  “You say I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing. But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, blind and naked.”    The rich man in the parable in Luke 16 lived a life of luxury while Lazarus lived the life of a diseased beggar.  Yet it is the rich man in Hades who pleads and begs Father Abraham to send Lazarus with a drop of water and later to send Lazarus to warn his brothers of this place.  A beggar for eternity.   Do you begin to see what has happened in the fall?  Man who was created to be royalty- to rule and reign with God Almighty, Creator of all things, has been reduced spiritually to the status of blind beggars. They have been deceived by the father of lies.

THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THIS HEALING OF THE BLIND MAN

Before Jesus acts, He repeats: “I am the Light of the World.” Having said that Jesus spits on the ground and made mud (clay, KJV) and He anointed (put NIV) it on the man’s eyes and said, Go wash in the Pool of Siloam.  John reminds us the word Siloam means ‘sent.”   What Jesus just said, “I must work the works of Him who sent me.”  This whole event goes back to Jesus’ statement in John 8 he was the light of the world, sent by his Father.  The significance of the mud or clay is man was created by God from the dust of the ground. Paul calls our bodies, these earthen or clay vessels.  The first miracle Jesus did was the turning of water into wine using the water from the clay pots which held the water for ceremonial washing.  Clay represents the humanity of man. If you have ever gotten a foreign object in your eye, you know how irritating or painful it can be. You are told to wash the eye thoroughly, to irrigate it. By placing clay in the man’s eye, it encouraged him to obey. The Holy Spirit irritates us sometimes as He convicts of our sin.   Clay speaks of our weakness our failure and spiritual inability. We are told our God remembers our frames are dust.  Our High Priest, the Lord Jesus understands this.  In our humanity, our spiritual blindness is like this clay in the blind man’s eyes.  Jesus does not leave this man in that condition, He tells him to go wash his eyes in the Pool of Siloam.  Whenever water is used for washing in the Bible it is a symbol of the Word of God. As this man obeyed the word of God, he was healed of his blindness.   What had happened to this man physically was his eyes were healed and could now receive light.

The Holy Spirit comes into our lives to impart truth.  He becomes the receiver we need to see the One who is the Light of the World. As we will see in this blind man’s story, spiritual understanding comes gradually, it is a progressive process. We are now enabled to ‘see’, that is understand spiritual truth because we have received the Spirit. “No eye has seen, no hear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has planned for those who love Him. But God has revealed it to us by His Spirit.  The mind of sinful man, the man without the Spirit of God cannot see these truths, they are foolishness to him.  But we have received the Spirit of God that we might understand(see) what God has freely given us.  I Corinthians 2.

THE STAGES OF GROWTH

As the blind man progresses in his knowledge, so will we as we have been enabled to see and hear and conceive what God has in store for us. And as we do we begin to be transformed from the inside – out by the Word of God. The Holy Spirit now lives within us. The Spirit of God now uses the Word of God to make us like the Son of God.

Now once again Jesus has healed on the Sabbath.  He was deliberately challenging the religious leaders. Let us observe the blind man’s progress. He is asked four times in this story how he was healed, who healed him.  When we ask “how” we want to understand the process. Nicodemus asked Jesus ‘how can a man be born again?’  When asked to describe his experience the blind man simply told his story. All he knew was a “man called Jesus” did this miracle. He did not know who Jesus was. He only knew His Name. It is the only name under heaven by which men can be saved. He did not know where he came from or where he had gone.

Next the Pharisees questioned the former blind man. They wanted the details of his miracle. They wanted to make sure this man was really born blind. Also they were gathering facts, about how Jesus did this miracle. When they heard he made clay on the Sabbath, they could accuse Jesus of breaking the Sabbath law.  People who do not want to believe, will always look for errors and reasons to doubt and not believe. People today refuse to look at the evidence honestly. The Pharisees concluded Jesus could not be a true prophet of God if he broke the Sabbath law.   When the former blind beggar was asked who he thought Jesus was, he replied, “a prophet.”

In an attempt to discredit the miracle they would imply this was not the blind beggar, but someone who looked like him.  A clever ploy used by Jesus to deceive them. They asked his parents to verify this was their son. “Is this your son? If he is, how does he see?”  He was their son, they answered. They did not know how he was healed or who healed him.  The parents then tell the Pharisees, “He (their son) is of age- ask him.”

The former blind beggar is brought before the Pharisees again and instructed: “Give glory to God, we know this man (Jesus) is a sinner.” He replied to them: “Whether he was a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know, I was blind but now I see.”  Once again we see the word How- How did He open your eyes?   I have told you already, and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples?

This reply infuriated the Pharisees. “You are his disciple. We are disciples of Moses. We know God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t even know where he comes from.’ The former blind man is no theologian, but he knows the truth. Listen to the boldness of his reply: “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly man who does his will. Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”  The Pharisees are furious and cast the man out- excommunicate him.

Jesus heard that he had been thrown out and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”  Notice Jesus went and found him. He found his lost sheep. The sheep know his voice. This man had never seen Jesus, but he had heard his voice.  Blind people have acute sense of hearing. I knew a young man while at Lambuth named Jerry Crook. Jerry had been blinded in an automobile accident. My roommate and childhood friend, Max Lewis, knew Jerry from CMA.  We used to eat lunch together and also ran around together for a brief time at Lambuth. Jerry went his way and I went mine. Thirty years later, I saw Jerry in the Memphis Airport wearing the collar of a priest. I went and spoke to him, calling him by name. He recognized my voice after all these years. The Apostle Paul had an accident like Jerry which took his physical sight. We know it was no accident and I believe Jerry has probably discovered the same.  Jesus said his sheep know his voice. “Who is he sir, asked the man. Tell me so that I may believe in Him. Jesus said, you have now seen him, in fact, he is the one talking to you”.

Then the man said, “Lord I believe and he worshipped him.”    Why were we created? To worship Him. To Tell others about Him and what Jesus had done. To make disciples. To have fellowship with Him and one another and to have a ministry.  Observe the stages of understanding:   From a man called Jesus to a prophet, to a man of God, to Lord.  This man was not a theologian, he could not even read. Yet he had seen the light. And walked in the light.

The Pharisees were like that miner, they stood in the presence of the Light of the World, but could not see. Proof they were spiritually blinded.  “The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood.” (John 1)

“You are the light of the world. Let your light shine before men, that they might see your good works and praise your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5

“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound which saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.”

Gospel of John; Chapter 8, Part 2

John 8, Part 2: Free Indeed

Jesus had just made the remarkable statement : “ I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  Now the Pharisees challenge Jesus’ teaching and his lack of witnesses.  Jesus tells them His Father testifies of Him. Moses, the Prophets, the Psalms all spoke of Jesus.

When Jesus spoke of his Father, who sent him, the Pharisees asked Jesus, “ Who is your father?”   We will see later, they knew of his birth and the rumor Jesus was illegitimate. Jesus states a basic truth: you do not know me or my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father.

Then Jesus makes a statement which speaks of an eternal truth. “ I am going away, and you will look for me, and you will die in your sin. Where I go, you cannot come.”  Jesus was speaking of His death on the cross, his resurrection and ascension to heaven. The Jews to this day still look for the Messiah.  Paul writes their minds are veiled, they are in darkness when they read Moses.  Unless they turn to Jesus, the veil will not be lifted. If they do not turn to Jesus, they will die in their sins. Their destination will be hell, the cannot come where Jesus is, which is in heaven. But we know He is not willing that any perish, but all come to repentance. God never willed anyone to hell.

The spiritually blind Pharisees do not understand and think Jesus is speaking of suicide. So Jesus continues to offer the truth.  “ You are from below, I am from above. You are of this world, I am not of this world. I told you  that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins.”  Heaven is a prepared place for prepared people. Jesus came to show us the way, the truth and the life.

He specifically tells them of how His death will occur according to Scripture. “ When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am the one I claim to be, and I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. The One who sent me is with me; He has not left me alone, for I always do what please Him. “  When we read the accounts of the crucifixion in the Gospels, we read of the signs which occurred that fateful day. The sky turned dark in mid-afternoon; an earthquake split rocks and the veil in the temple was rent from the top to the bottom.  Graves were opened and the bodies of many holy ones who had died were raised to life. They went into the city and appeared to many people. When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw all this, they were terrified and the centurion proclaimed, surely this was the Son of God. ( Matthew 27)  We know as far as Jesus resurrection, He was seen by over 500 witnesses.  These gospels were written while these eyewitnesses were still living. These were real people verified by other sources in the recording of history: Pilate, Herod, and Caiaphas were real people. These are historical facts. When historians want to verify a historical event, they use several methods:  archaeological discoveries, manuscript evidence, eye witnesses to the event, and the character of the eyewitnesses. This  is what has led well-known historians to say they know of no other event in history better and more fully proven than the resurrection Jesus.

A NEW KIND OF FREEDOM

Now we come to some very familiar, often quoted verses.  Beginning at verse 30 John  records the impact of Jesus’ teaching: “ Even as he spoke, many put their faith in him. To the Jews who had believed in him, Jesus said: “ if you hold to my teaching you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” ( NIV)   “ Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed on Him, if you continue in my word, then you are my disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” (KJV)  Whenever Jesus talked about discipleship, he prefaced the statement with the word- if.   Examples:  If you love me, keep my commandments.  If any man follows me, he must deny himself.

Turn the verse around and it reads:  If you are my disciples indeed, you will continue in my word.  If you are really my disciples, you will continue in my word.  Jesus is sifting the wheat from the chaff. He is stating the evidence of saving faith, it is a faith which continues in the word of God.  The study of his word and obedience to his word are evidence of saving faith. Like a newborn babe desires milk, we desire the Word of God. It is our nourishment, the bread of life, it is alive and powerful . It is life giving, life changing and life sustaining.

People heard the word, the incorruptible seed on this day.  For some it bounced off their hardened hearts, and the birds took it away. Others received it with joy, but the soil was shallow due to a rock underneath, and it did not take root and withered. Others were crowded out by the cares of the world, the pleasures of sin.

What was this new kind of freedom?  Do we not all want to be free? Yet we are born in darkness and spiritual blindness.  The opposite of freedom is slavery. Jesus says you are slave to sin. You serve sin. Sin is your master. And since everyone sins, everyone is a slave to sin. We yearn to be free. The enemy has blinded us to real freedom, a new kind of freedom.  Have you sinned since you became a Christian?  Of course you have, we all have sinned, even since we became a Christian.

How does sin enslave one?  It enslaves us by producing a compelling desire, more desirable than anything.  When you sin as a Christian,  you are by your actions  saying I desire this sin more than Jesus.

The Pharisees did not understand the spiritual truth and replied to Jesus : “ We are Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage.”  What incredible willful blindness. They were at that very moment the slaves of the Roman Empire, the generation before them had been under the Greek Empire, and the list goes all the way back with Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Egypt.

Again quoting from the  KJV Jesus answered them: “ Verily, verily, I say unto you, whosoever commits sin is the servant of sin.” This is present tense, which implies this is an ongoing lifestyle of sin.  The Jesus explains: ( NIV) Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs forever. “  The servant comes to work in the morning and leaves at night. He does not live in the home, he goes back to his home after the day of service.  The son lives there. We have been adopted into the household of God. He is our Heavenly Father. Jesus, is our true elder brother.

In verse 36, Jesus substitutes his name for the truth, because He is the truth and came to testify to the truth:  “ If the Son sets you free, you are free indeed. “

I was a slave to alcohol.  At first it produced pleasure, it was fun. I was experiencing what I thought was freedom from my parents rule. Off at college, I could make my own decisions and do what I wanted to do, when I wanted to do it.  I had the desire to sin. I had the opportunity to sin. I had the ability to sin.

While the chains of enslavement were being forged about my life, I was blind to what was happening. Sin blinds one to the truth. Unless someone intervenes,  we are in a free fall to destruction.   It was a  way which seemed right to us, but its end is destruction.  Some of the habits we form through the practice of this particular sin, so enslave us we believe even after we have been saved, we cannot give them up.  Smoking for many of us began as a harmless, sophisticated habit. Nicotine is highly addictive. For many the  desire still exists, it is still compelling and the opportunity and ability to commit it is available.

Deception is obvious. Many times family intervenes and confronts the one enslaved to drugs or alcohol to take them into a treatment center. The one who is enslaved says they are not enslaved, they can quit anytime they want to quit.  The problem is they have no desire to quit.  They are in a free-fall which will end as badly as the sky diver who jumps from the plane, only to find they have a defective parachute.   I tried and tried to quit drinking in my own will power. But my old nature was no match for the master of sin.  I needed not only a new master, I needed a new way of thinking, for as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.

When Jesus says true disciples continue in His word, He is speaking on an ongoing, continuous study of His word and adherence to it for the rest of our lives.  One can send children to school for learning, and at some point in time they graduate. We are students of Christ and his teaching for all our lives right into eternity.

How does the word set us free from the slavery of sin?  We have a new master. We have been born again, our old nature has been crucified and buried. Buried with Christ, my sins have been buried and carried away, as far as the east is from the west. Into the deepest part of the ocean where there is no fishing allowed. My new nature desires  Jesus above all things.

Free indeed means:  free from the desire to do this sin. I no longer have a desire to drink alcohol.

I no longer seek an opportunity to drink alcohol.

I no longer have the ability to drink alcohol. Why?  Because a dead man cannot drink. I have been crucified with Christ. ( Past Tense). Nevertheless I live. ( A present fact). Yet not I, but Christ liveth in me. ( A truth, a fact which Paul says we must reckon or count as true) and the life I now live, I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me. ( The exchanged life which took place at conversion. Jesus wants to share his life with me, as I share my life with Him.)  Galatians 2: 20

He knew how miserable I was in my slavery. He heard my cry that morning as surely as He heard the cries coming up from the enslaved Israelites in Egypt.  He inclined his ear to me and lifted me up out of the miry pit I was stuck in and could not get out of in my own strength and will. He literally kept me from falling.

To take away the desires of my old nature, he took away my old nature. He crucified me with Him. My old nature was buried with Him.  Paul says we need to know these facts: “ Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed and that henceforth we should not serve sin. FOR HE THAT IS DEAD IS FREED FROM SIN.”

A dead man has no desire. A dead man cannot smoke or drink.  WE ARE NOW FREE NOT TO SIN.

Paul then concludes and tells us how this works.  DO NOT MISS THIS.

“ Let not sin reign in our mortal body, that you should obey it in the lust thereof. Neither yield your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin; ( do not give your old nature an opportunity to sin, do not entertain sinful thoughts, but cast them out, replace them with truth) but yield yourselves unto God; as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. “ ( Yield to the truth of God’s word)

I was sick and tired of not being able to stay sober. I was wretched. I was miserable. The wine which had sparkled in the cup had turned into poison and its sting was close to taking my life. I was so weary of life, I did not want to live.

Hear our Lord’s invitation:   Come unto me all you that are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. ( There is a rest that is given at salvation) Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am meek and lowly in heart ; and you shall find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” ( Matthew 11: 28-30)  I was given that rest on the day I was saved, September 16, 1977.  What began then continues to this day is the sanctification process which is ongoing. It is an apprenticeship where I work by His side, yoked with Him. For the yoke is the place of learning.

Now I am a child of God, a son. I abide forever with my Father in the Father’s house.  I was adopted.  Adoption is a legal process by which one becomes a member of a family. It is initiated by the parent.  Regeneration is the work of God and as a result I am born into the family of God. Now as a legal member, born into the family I have an inheritance. I am in fact, a joint heir with Jesus.   The Holy Spirit has shed abroad in my heart the love of God. I have the peace of God, I have access to the power of God, the mind of Christ, and the gift of faith.  I have been freed and am being freed of the desire to sin. I strive to have a conscious awareness of God at all times, to set my mind on things above so I will not seek an opportunity to be tempted. Deliver me from temptation is my prayer, which Jesus, Himself taught us to pray.

Jesus said  if you are really my disciples, you will continue in my word. Thy word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against you. He drew me to His word from the day I was saved. He gave me a promise from early on and that one promise ( I Cor. 10:13) prayed back to Him kept me from giving into the desire to drink, because my new nature desired Him more than a drink. He kept me from drinking , removing the opportunity that very day I prayed it.

I was about to fall from 10 stories to my death on that September morning, so here is my everlasting testimony:

“ To Him, who is able to keep me from falling and to present me before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy, to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore. Amen.

 

 

Gospel of John: Chapter 8

John 8:

As chapter 7 ends, we see the Sanhedrin in a meeting about Jesus and his teaching. The temple guards have returned empty-handed, unable to arrest Jesus. And Nicodemus has spoken up for Jesus by saying it is wrong to condemn anyone without first hearing him to find out the truth.  Both Nicodemus and the temple guards are ridiculed by the Sanhedrin.  The chapter ends by saying:  “Then each went to his own home.”  So a long day ends and as night falls everyone returns home, but Jesus.

John 8: 1 tells us:  “Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.”  The Lord who is maker of heaven and earth, had no earthly home. “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath nowhere to lay his head.” (Matthew 8: 20)

(Now your copy of the Bible may add a note, this account of the woman caught in adultery was not in some of the earlier manuscripts. This account is present in over 900 early manuscripts, but some omitted it. Augustine said some omitted it because they feared it would encourage adultery. However, it follows logically from the preceding events in John 7 and is consistent with Jesus’ teaching and fits in this location as Jesus issues the statement: “I am the light of the world.”)

At dawn, Jesus was in the temple courts teaching with a crowd of people gathered around him. It is in this early morning setting, the story takes place. “The teachers of the law (scribes) and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in the act of adultery. They made her stand in the before the group and said to Jesus: “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question to trap him in order to have a basis for accusing him.”

Now let’s follow the time line. The Sanhedrin was in a late night meeting. They went home, Jesus went to the Mount of Olives and had returned to the temple courts at dawn. I believe, this whole thing was planned, a set- up, in which the man is conveniently not arrested. Since she was ‘caught in the act’, there had to be a man present when they took the woman.

In John 1: 17, John writes: “For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Christ.” The law was given to reveal sin, to uncover it. “Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.”(Romans 3: 20)   When God gave the Law through Moses it was given to show man his inability to keep the law and thus, ‘all sinned.’  The ceremonial law, the instructions for sacrifices were given also so that guilt could be covered until it was cancelled at Calvary.

The law and grace do not compete, they complement. One cannot be saved by the law by keeping the law. Jesus was the only one to ever keep the law, every jot and tittle. But no one can ever be saved by grace, without first being convicted of sin by the law.

Moses and the law were very, very important to the Jewish people and the Sanhedrin now wanted to trap Jesus with this obvious act of law breaking for which the punishment was death according to the Law of Moses. Either way Jesus decided had repercussions. Remember Jesus is not only grace, he is truth. He cannot set aside the law of Moses and set the woman free. Her sin must be paid for, and this is just what Jesus would do at Calvary. He came not to condemn the world, but that through Him the world might be saved. If he says stone her, he would lose the support of the people, the sinners and publicans who were his friends.  He would also be arrested by the Romans for they did not allow the Jews to carry out executions.  If he ordered them to free her, he would be guilty of not keeping the law of Moses.  If he said nothing, they would accuse Jesus of not having wisdom.

The case is laid out before Jesus. The law is clear. The trap is set.  What will he do? Surely He cannot escape this cleverly laid trap must have been the thoughts of his accusers.  “But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger.”  We can visualize their smug faces, their knowing smiles, the sly wink of the eyes, the nodding of heads implying we have him now.  They think he is stalling trying to decide how he can get out of what appears to be an ‘airtight case’.   We do not know what Jesus wrote in the dust that dawn morning. We do know it was by the ‘finger of God’ which carved the Ten Commandments given to Moses.

Jesus straightens up and says:  “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw as stone.” The law required the guilty woman be stoned and the man also. The law required that witnesses be produced and that a witness begin the execution. The accusers are the ones breaking the law. The law says the man must be stoned also. If caught in the act, as they said she was, the man was present, but let go. The law required the man also to be stoned, and called for witnesses to cast the first stone as testimony.  In capital cases, the law required there be two witnesses plus the man who also committed adultery.   So guess who had also broken the law?  The very ones accusing the woman and trying to trap Jesus.  As they considered what Jesus had said, they realized they were not without sin, for they had broken the law’s requirements.

Notice Jesus stoops again after he makes this statement, which probably gave them time to consider what they had done. The scribes were the experts in the law, and they knew Jesus was absolutely right. If Moses himself had been there, he would have consulted the written law and thrown the case out of court, because they had not produced the man or the two witnesses.

So the truth was upheld according to God’s law. And grace was about to be extended to this woman.  She had certainly been humbled by this public display of her sin and God gives grace to the humble. Finally when all of her accusers have left, Jesus says to the woman: “Woman where are your accusers? Has no one condemned you? She said, “No one, Lord. (KJV) And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” Remember what Jesus said earlier in John 3? He did not come into the world to condemn the world, but that through Him, the world might be saved. Jesus did not dismiss this woman’s sin, He died for it!  She now had a new Lord and a new life.  How ironic:  her accusers left guilty, she left forgiven and with joy in her heart for her guilty stains were washed away.    Want some more irony? Theologians believe this took place in the Court of the Women.  It was also there a huge candelabra provided light. This great golden candelabra was a great golden piece of workmanship which symbolized the shekinah glory of God which guided the Israelites in their wilderness journey.

THE WILDERNESS JOURNEY

This whole week which had just passed in this account in John 7 where the nation of Israel celebrated the Feasts of the Tabernacles was a remembrance and a memorial to what God had done in Israel’s deliverance out of slavery in Egypt. How Jehovah God had provided for them in the wilderness journey. Providing a pillar of fire at night to lead them. His Shekinah Glory filling the Tabernacle. How he provided manna, bread from heaven and water from the rock which Moses struck.   How fitting now as perhaps the sun is rising as dawn gives away to a new day, the morning light is  now lighting up the court and Jesus makes the third “I am” statement.  Each of these statements coincided with three of the wilderness journey miracles or as John would call them- signs.

“When Jesus spoke again got the people, he said: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”  Jesus had performed a miraculous sign when he fed the thousands with the five loaves of bread. He said I am the true bread of life which comes down from heaven.  He cried out with a loud voice on the last day of the festival when they poured out the water, which symbolized, the water which came from the rock which Moses struck. That water symbolized Jesus who was smitten for our sins, and from his side came water and blood. Blood to cover our sins, all our sins. And water which symbolized the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus sent and is sending, a stream of living water which will flow within each Spirit-indwelled believer.

The Lord Jesus came to redeem mankind and reveal God to mankind. Jesus, the greatest teacher ever, used the ordinary things to speak of the extraordinary, the physical to illustrate the spiritual; and the temporary to explain the eternal. When we get saved, we receive the Spirit who teaches us and reveals to us those things which God has freely given us.

We will hear more of these great “I Am” statements. For God revealed Himself to Moses in Exodus 3 as “I AM THAT I AM.”

I AM THE LIGHT is the highest claim Jesus has made so far in the Gospel of John. As the sun is the center and source of life for all things on the earth, so is the Son the center and source of life for those of us who believe in Him. In 1 John 1: 5, we are told “God is the light of the World. In Him there is no darkness at all.   Physical light is essential for all life. Physical light is a very complicated subject. It travels at the speed of 186,000 miles per second, which means in the snap of your fingers, it has traveled around the earth 7.5 times. We cannot see light, we can only see what it reveals. It is such a mystery; Albert Einstein came to a point in his career, when he stated:  “I will do nothing but study light from now on.”

Light is characteristic of God. It was the first thing God created in Genesis 1. Before light came into the world, the earth was without form and void, empty and in darkness.

This was my life before God came into it- without purpose and empty. A vacuum of emptiness in my life the devil told me he could fill.  He is a liar. He is a deceiver. He is an imitator.  I believed him, so have each of us. I saw the light- have you?

So we begin to see through Jesus’ teaching and miraculous signs who God is and what He wants to do for each of us.

He wants to take us out darkness into the light. In Him, Jesus, was life, and that life was the light of men.

He wants to set us free from the sin which enslaves us. The Jewish people had just celebrated one of the three festivals which memorialized their delivery from slavery in Egypt and their wilderness journey.  Egypt is a picture of the World, which is under the influence of the evil one as the Pharaoh in the time of Moses illustrated.   The Egyptian slave master which held the Israelites in bondage represented the sin which held us in bondage. Moses was sent by God to deliver God’s people from bondage, out of darkness into light; out of slavery into freedom.

Jesus who is the Word of God is a light upon our path and a lamp unto our feet. We are to look to Him as the children of Israel looked to the pillar of fire. We are to follow Him in like manner, looking to Him as the Light of the World.

Gospel of John: Chapter 7

John 7:

John’s Gospel has moved us quickly through Jesus’ ministry with his selected signs and encounters. We are now in the last 6 months of Jesus’ earthly ministry.   We read:  “After this Jesus went around Galilee, purposely staying away from Judea because the Jews were waiting to take his life.”  The KJV says ‘he would not walk in Jewry, because the Jews sought to kill him.’ There is a gathering storm in the life of Jesus, but the Gospel of John has given us a sub-theme of which Jesus had spoken of since the wedding in Cana about a divine time schedule in which ‘ his time had not yet come.’ Verse 2 tells us the feast of tabernacles was at hand.    Along with the Passover and the Pentecost, the Feasts of Tabernacle was one of the three feasts every Jewish male was required to attend.  It was also probably the most fun of the three feasts. It celebrated Israel’s deliverance out of Egypt. They camped out for a week in booths. They had parades of torches at night to commemorate the Lord leading them with a pillar of fire at night. The also brought water from the pool of Siloam and poured out water to remind them of the Lord provided water from the rock. On the last day of the feast, they would pour out a double portion.

John 7 is divided into three sections:  before the festival, in the middle of the festival and the last day of the festival.

HIS BROTHERS’ ADVICE

Ever have people offer you advice, you did not ask for?  Of course you have. They view your situation from the outside and offer their advice as to what you should do, although they do not understand or know all the facts regarding your situation.  Their motives might be well-meaning, but often there is an undertone of criticism that says you are not doing the right thing.  Jesus had already turned down the crowd’s desire to make him king. He was a celebrity. He was one of – if not the best known person, in the area. Many had seen his miracles, or had first- hand accounts of those who had seen his miracles and heard his teaching. He was a phenomenon who had created a flurry of activity and talk, while undermining the traditions of the Jewish religious leaders.  Now against his backdrop, Jesus is at home and his brothers, who do NOT yet believe in him. They are offering advice on what he should do, and how he should act and take advantage of the large crowd gathered for the feast of tabernacles in Jerusalem. “You ought to leave here and go to Judea, so that your disciples may see the miracles you do. No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.”  For even his brothers did not believe in him.  (Mary had four sons: James, Joseph, Simon and Judas. James would write the book of James and Judas, the book of Jude. But they did not at this time believe in him.)   Their advice, I believe, was given with an underlying tone of sarcasm.  If he really was who everyone was claiming he was, he should go right up to Jerusalem and do some miracles and take over.  They did not have all the facts.

JESUS’ REPLY TO HIS BROTHERS

Again we hear Jesus refer to his divine time schedule he is following. “The right time for me has not yet come; for you any time is right.”  Jesus says any time is right for you because you come and go at your own desires. They were not depending on their Heavenly Father or living in harmony with His will.  We are surrounded today by people who go where they want to go when they want to go without ever considering the Lord’s will.  It is interesting this unbelief of Jesus’ half-brothers was prophesied in Psalm 69:8: “I am become a stranger unto my brethren, and an alien unto my mother’s children.”  Psalm 37 begins by telling us not fret because of evil-doers ,nor be envious of those who do wrong, for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away.   Later on, in that same Psalm, we read: “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and He delighted in his way.”  Do we wait on the Lord’s timing or get ahead of Him and do what we want to do, when we want to do it? Do we fret about evil-doers, or even more likely are we envious of the rich and famous?   If we are honest with ourselves, we are often   envious of the rich and famous- of their magnificent homes and possessions and the ease with which they travel in luxury?  John writes in I John 5, ‘the whole world is under the control of the evil one.’ The world system is the enemy of God. The sinner and the wicked feel at home here, it is their den.  But for the saint, the world system and culture is a lure and temptation for the saint. Remember our enemies and the enemy of God are threefold:  the world, the flesh (old nature) and the devil. It is the ‘prince of this world’ who manipulates this system with its motivating factors: the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life. These three factors are determining the steps of the majority, their direction in life. The majority has entered the wide gate and the broad way. Jesus said many enter there. It is a way which seems right to man, but the end is death.   Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. He is the narrow way and the strait gate, few enter there, yet it leads to the abundant life. The rich man in Luke 16 had an abundant life. His decades on earth were lived in ease and luxury as he received the good things, while Lazarus received the bad things. Sometimes our lives, as good as they are, appear to be as troubled and lacking as Lazarus’ life when compared to the rich.  You must also realize the rich man in Luke 16, saw Lazarus every day and did nothing to comfort or help him.    Remember how Jesus started His Sermon on the Mount? “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those that mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be filled.”(Matthew 5)  Jesus also reminds us when He comes to establish his kingdom in Matthew 25, he will bless and reward those who fed the hungry, gave drink too the thirsty, clothed the naked, looked in on the sick and visited those in prison.  Jesus also said it was easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than a rich man to get into heaven.  Yet he said all things were possible through God.  Perhaps his brothers at this time were jealous of the attention their brother was getting. And they were getting nothing out of it. Their advice was based on a worldly view. Satan is still trying to tempt Jesus and uses his family to tempt him.

THE MIDDLE OF THE FESTIVAL

We read in verse 14 after his brothers had left: “Not until halfway through the Feast did Jesus go up to temple courts and begin to teach.”  His timing and sudden appearance in the temple in the middle of the festival week was in God’s perfect timing as prophesied by Malachi:  “Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple…” (Malachi 3) Notice the reaction of the Jews, the religious leaders, to Jesus’ teaching:  “The Jews were amazed and asked, “How did this man get such learning, without having studied?” (how knoweth this man letters, having never learned? KJV)  Intellectual snobbery is still with us today, especially in religious circles.  Churches seek those with letters after their names.

Jesus answers their question:  “My teaching is not my own. It comes from Him who sent me.” Jesus is making it clear his doctrine comes from his Father.  He then makes this statement of how to prove he is teaching the truth. “If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.”   Jesus is saying by obeying what God tells us to do, God’s Word will prove itself true to those who sincerely seek to do it. First we must hear the word, for faith comes from hearing and hearing by the Word of God. The incorruptible seed is cast; this is how it is heard. The parable of the seed and the sower describes the types of heart which it lands upon. What Jesus is saying you must choose to do God’s will. We are not to be hearers only, but doers.   Here is an example of how this works:  “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there might be food in my house. Test me in this says the Lord Almighty, and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing you will not have room enough for it.”(Malachi 3) Now you can hear this bold claim of the Lord’s but until you actually do it, you cannot test it. Study how the tithe is to be given and the do so according to all the Lord has told you.  We know the tithe must be the first portion, the first fruits. You are not to wait until you have paid all others then pay the Lord what is left over. The first tenth belongs to the Lord. You give the first as an act of obedience and trust.  Cain’s offering was not accepted. Not because it did not contain blood, because the tithe does not have anything to do with forgiveness of sin which requires blood. Notice what it says in Genesis 4: “And in the process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground as offering, unto the Lord.”  He did not bring the first fruits. He brought it when it was convenient for him, when perhaps he had gathered all the fruit and then sure he had enough, he brought it later.  We bring the first- so it can redeem the latter. God did not accept Cain’s offering, NOT because it was plant – but because it was given in a careless, disobedient and selfish manner. I believe this verse tells us Cain did not bring the first fruits, thus recognizing the whole harvest belonged to the Lord and all productivity came from Him. Cain gave it when he was ready, and when he had collected all the harvest. We must trust the Lord’s faithfulness, and money and possessions is one of the areas in which we are tested.  Everyone’s teaching stands or falls by the fruit it produces in the lives of those who embrace it and base their lives upon it. Over forty years ago as young man of 31, I put the Lord’s teaching to the test. It makes the drunkard- sober, the hopeless- hopeful, the crooked- straight. It transforms. The Word of God is life giving, life changing and life sustaining.

Every person comes to base their life and life decisions based on something they believe to be true.  If they believe there is no God, and the Bible is only an ancient book written by men whose motive was to control others, then they will do what is right in their own eyes. The natural man who cannot understand spiritual truths will base his decision on superficial judgements because they do not have all the facts.  This is what Jesus says to his enemies, his critics in verse 24: “Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgement.

THE QUESTION: IS JESUS THE CHRIST?

Notice the question 2000 years ago on this very day Jesus is teaching in the temple, it is the same today.  Is Jesus the Christ? “Have the authorities really concluded that he is the Christ?” And the debated continued: “But we know where this man is from; when the Christ comes, no one will know where he is from.”  Jesus’ response:  “Then Jesus still teaching in the temple courts cried out: “Yes, you know me, and you know where I am from. I am not here on my own, but He who sent me is true. You do not know Him, but I know Him, because I am from Him and He sent me.”  At this they tried to seize Jesus, but no one laid a hand on him, because his time had not yet come.  But the Pharisees sent for the temple guard to arrest him.  He was disturbing their peace!

THE LAST DAY OF THE FESTIVAL.

The very last day of the festival would be the seventh day. On this day the priests would march around the altar and draw water and pour it out. Water they poured out was symbolic of the water Moses drew from the rock. * Water for drinking is one of the symbols of the Holy Spirit in the Bible.  Water for cleansing or washing is a symbol of the Word of God.*

On this last day when the poured out the water, Jesus cried out with a loud voice: “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” Do you hear the longing of the Savior’s heart in this invitation?   John tells us, by this living water reference, Jesus meant the Holy Spirit.

Moses smote the rock and from it came water. The Lord Jesus was smitten at the cross. After His resurrection and resurrection ministry, Jesus ascended to heaven and sent the Holy Spirit to earth to take His place. The Holy Spirit has been flowing all over the world since that day at Pentecost centuries ago. The flowing of the Spirit does not stop.  The Spirit is filling men and women, boys and girls from every nation on the face of the earth. Mightier than any river from the Amazon, the Mississippi, the Nile or the mighty roaring Niagara Falls, the Sprit is the greatest power on earth. And to know that this power which raised up Jesus , this incomparable power in the third person of the God Head, the Holy Spirit is in each of us who believe is all the more remarkable. How can we take Him for granted? How can we not be consciously aware of Him at all times?  He fills every believer in every way.  We have all of Him- the question is does He have all of you?

Today, the question is still debated: Who is this Jesus?  Some thought that day, he was a prophet. Others believe He was the Christ. But for others, Jesus was a problem. He was a threat to their way of life. Thus the people were divided then as they are now.

The temple guards who were sent to arrest Jesus came by to the Jewish leaders – empty-handed. They had not arrested Jesus or taken him into custody. When asked why they had not arrested Jesus, the temple guards replied: “No one ever spoke the way this man does.” And may I add, no one ever will. No one will ever love me like Jesus.

Nicodemus speaks up for Jesus. John refers to Nicodemus as the one who came to Jesus at night. Nicodemus had been drawn to Jesus by his teaching and his miraculous signs. I believe after his visit with Jesus in John 3, Nicodemus must have been studying the scriptures to see what they said about the Messiah, the Christ. He wanted to have Jesus come speak to the group. If any of them who continued to talk about Jesus being from Nazareth, from Galilee and therefore not qualified to be the Messiah according to scripture, they could have checked the records and discovered Jesus was born in Bethlehem and was a descendant of the house of David.  Genealogy records were kept in the temple. The Jews had their own form of Ancestry.com.   Their knowledge of Jesus was based on half-truths and ignorance. The half-truth- he was from Nazareth of Galilee. Ignorance- they had not looked at the birth records to see where he was born and from the house of David.    Now the Sanhedrin and these supposedly learned men are baffled. When they asked the soldiers, these temple guards why they had not arrested Jesus, they said they had never heard a man speak like him. When one cannot come up with an answer to the argument, they attack the speaker with ridicule. To the temple guards they say, ‘are you deceived too? ‘  When Nicodemus suggest they proceed according to their law, which is to hear a man first before condemning him, they laugh at Nicodemus and say are you from Galilee too?

Guess what? They did not have all the facts!  They did not want to know the truth. So it is today, people do not want to know the truth. It is inconvenient. It is a threat to their lifestyle. It interferes with their pleasures.  They will not listen and learn.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gospel of John, Chapter 6; Part 3: The Bread of Life

John 6 Part 3:  The Bread of Life

The title of this lesson comes from Jesus’ declaration He is the Bread of Life come down from heaven.  He is the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us. We realize the Word of God which is to be engrafted into our souls, is truly in every sense, “soul food.” So let’s pick up the story the day after the feeding of the five thousand.

The next day the crowd finds Jesus on the other side of the lake. Because there had only been one boat and Jesus had not entered it with his disciples they were curious as to how Jesus got to the other side. “Rabbi, when did you get here?”  Notice Jesus does not satisfy their curiosity. Jesus knows why we are seeking Him, because He knows the heart of men.  Your carnal nature always wants something. James said in James 4: “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”  We read in John 2, many people were following after Jesus when they saw the miracles, but Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew what was in their hearts.

Jesus said in essence, I know what you are looking for- not me, but what I can do for you. You want the gifts, not the giver. You want it for your own pleasure.  Now what Jesus says next closely parallels closely to what Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well. Jesus told her as He is telling this crowd, He is the source of eternal spiritual life.   Today people are no different; their thoughts rise no higher than their physical needs, their own pleasure.  They wanted another miracle. If Jesus was not going to provide miracles, or as John referred to them, “signs”, they would not follow Him.  This is why it was said, ‘the Jews demand a sign.’  We will see in this passage, when Jesus does not provide a miracle and his teaching becomes difficult, many would leave him.

Jesus tells the crowd, “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God has placed his seal of approval.”  (Remember what happened at Jesus’ baptism, the Father spoke from heaven, “this is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.”) Jesus has told these people as he told the woman at the well, there was a water which could satisfy her thirst so she would never thirst again. Jesus was pointing to things which sustain our physical life.   Jesus used the metaphors of bread and water which are necessary for physical life to spiritual bread and spiritual water for eternal spiritual life. John told us at the very beginning of the Gospel of John this fact: “In Him was life and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness does not understand.”  Jesus used the physical to illuminate spiritual truths. John had purposely referred to Jesus as the Word who was with God and was God.  And it was the Word which created everything and now the Word had become flesh and dwelt among them.

In creation, God created everything and when He did, He also created the source or resource from which that living thing would derive and sustain its nourishment for life.  For example, He placed fish in the seas and waters for the seas and waters would be their source of life, providing everything the fish needed for life. Away from the source of life brings death; a fish out of water cannot survive. Same for the plants and vegetation which were sustained by the earth.  He, also created Adam from the dust of the ground, but it was God’s own breath which gave Adam life. God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and Adam became a living soul.  The fruit of the earth sustained Adam and Eve’s physical life, but their spiritual life was dependent on their relationship with God. He told Adam and Eve they would eat the plants of the field, but because of their sin, their physical bodies which came from ground would return to the ground. God told them when they sinned, they would die spiritually. They did die spiritually the moment they sinned, but physically they would die later.  Pick a flower from your garden and it will die, for it is away from the source of its life. You can place it in water, but water is not enough to keep it alive for long.  Adam and Eve died spiritually, but they lived on for a while, just as a rose might maintain its beauty for a while after being picked and placed in water, but will soon wither and return to dust. When Adam and Even sinned, it was if they were flowers which decided they no longer needed the earth from which they drew their being. The flower which says to the earth, I am pulling out of here.  I want to be placed in a lovely vase.  The plucked flower soon withers and fades. The same is true of the branch and the vine. Jesus will later give us the metaphor of the vine and the branch in John 15.  But clearly tells us the branch can do nothing apart from the vine. They believed the lies of the deceiver that there was a more desirable, pleasurable life apart from God. Mankind has been believing that lie ever since the Fall.

But the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth has by His divine power given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him.  He will provide all that you need.

We were born spiritually dead but physically alive.  This is why we must be born again, spiritually. The flesh came from the earth, it will return to the earth. Dust to dust was not spoken of the soul. The spirit within man lives on, for the spirit came from God, our spirits are immortal. Since God made bodies of plants, animals and man from earth the bodies return to earth. Dust to dust.  He told Adam his body would return to earth. But this was not spoken of the soul, the spirit of life in man. The spiritual part of man cannot die. This is consistent teaching throughout OT and NT.  Ecclesiastes12: 7 tells us:  “And the dust returns to the ground from which it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.” The body and the spirit separate at death. Then one’s spirit will exist in one of two places – heaven with God, or hell with the fallen angels. We who believe will have our works judged for rewards, but live forever with the One who loved us and gave His life for us.    Jesus promised eternal life to those who believe in Him. “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives in and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this? “ ( John 11)  Paul believed this and wrote: “ For I am convinced 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. “ (Romans 8)  Death is not the end of existence. We will return to God to spend eternity with Him or without Him.

Q AND A

At the mention of the word, work, the crowd wanted to know what works they must do which God requires. What follows is what we would call a “Q and A” session.   Jesus answers their question:  “The work of God is this: to believe in the one He has sent.” Jesus is saying I am the source of eternal life.  Just as Jesus had told the woman at the well: “If you knew the gift of God and the who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water. “ (John 4)  Jesus is telling this crowd, I am the bread of life.

The peoples ask a question and Jesus gives an answer.  But people want to believe in something they can see.  I will believe it when I see it, is the answer of the carnal man. Give us a sign.  In Luke 16, Jesus tells of a rich man in Hades. He is in torment and thirst. He sees Lazarus, the beggar at rest in Paradise at Abraham’s side. He wants just a drop of water, but Abraham tells him there is a gulf which separates them that now cannot be spanned. The rich man in Hades then asked Abraham something remarkable. He asks Abraham to send Lazarus to his father’s house to warn his brothers of this place of torment. Abraham replied, they have Moses and the Prophets, let them listen to them. (Remember Jesus said, Moses spoke of Him.) No, father Abraham, replied the man, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent. He said to him, ‘if they will not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead. “The crowds had seen Jesus raise a man named Lazarus, brother of Martha and Mary, from the dead after he had been buried for 4 days. And more than 500 people had seen the resurrected Lord after His public death.  Death always involves separation, but the spirit does not die, it returns to God for judgement of works for rewards or judgement of sins for punishment, in the place of eternal separation from God.  And it that awful place of darkness there are those now who want us to witness to their loved ones, so they will not end up in hell.

At the mention of the word- work, the crowd wanted to know what works they must do which God requires. And Jesus answers their question:  “The work of God is this: to believe in the one He has sent.”  Jesus is saying I am the source of eternal life to those who believe in me, the one sent by God. This is all God requires- faith and trust in His Son.

Now the Q and A continues:  “So they asked him, “What miraculous sign will you give that we may see it and believe you?  What will you do?  Our forefathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written: He gave the bread from heaven to eat.”

Here is Jesus’ answer:  Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

Their answer:  “Sir, they said, “from now on give us this bread.”

His reply, his declaration: “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe.* All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away (no wise cast out, KJV)*. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will, but to do the will of Him who sent me. And this is the will of Him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up in the last day I.”  Jesus tells us, it is the Father’s will that everyone who looks to the Son will be saved.  Peter tells us God is not willing that any should perish, but all would come to repentance. And remember what Jesus said in his discourse with the Jews who questioned him about healing the man on the Sabbath. “These are scriptures which testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me.”(John 5:40) *he Father gives Jesus all who will come to him, that is election. And whoever comes to Him or refuses to come to Him is an act of free will.

Their response:  They grumbled. “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he say, I came down from heaven.”?

Jesus reply:  “Stop grumbling among yourselves. (Remember how the Jews grumbled in Exodus.) No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up the last day. It is written in the Prophets.”  Jesus is telling us the Father uses the Word of God, for it is alive and powerful to draw us. Jesus is the Word of God in flesh. It is through the teaching of the Word of God that God draws people to the Savior.   I believe, the Father also draws people with His love, but not all people respond.  As I have said many times, Jesus wept for Jerusalem and said how often He had longed to gather them as a mother hen would her chicks.  The word longed speaks of a great desire, so great it brings the Lord Jesus to tears. He had longed to gather them, but says they were not willing.  It is the will of God that saves, it is the will of man that damns. A sinner hears, learns, and comes as the Father draws him or her.  A mystery to me, but the truth nevertheless. We are born again of the incorruptible seed, the Word of God.  Jesus said this is the verdict, light has come into the world, but men preferred darkness because their deeds were evil. People hate the light because it reveals how ugly they really are.

Jesus then tells the crowd: “Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from Him comes to me.” This is why Jesus said It is written in the Prophets, why He told the disciples in his resurrected ministry that Moses and the Prophets spoke of him. “I tell you the truth; he who believes in me will have everlasting life. I am the bread of life. Your forefathers ate manna in the desert, yet they died. But there is a bread which comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

In the desert after God had delivered the Israelites out of Egypt under the leadership of Moses, God sustained the Israelites for 40 years with manna from heaven. The word manna in Hebrew means “what is it.”(Exodus 16)  The manna came at night from heaven, and Jesus came to this earth when sinners were in darkness. The manna was white, which represents purity, just like Jesus. It was sweet to taste and met the needs of the people. It sustained their life. The Word of God is life-giving, life-changing and life-sustaining.  JESUS IS THE WORD OF GOD.

Now the manna was on the ground so one had to stoop down to pick it up. If they did not pick it up, they would have walked on it. The Lord offers Himself as the bread of life. Take Him into our life which is what eating and drinking represent.

Jesus then says his flesh is the bread of life which he offers to the world. God fed the nation of Israel for 40 years in the desert, but Jesus offers Himself to the world, not just for our sins, but for the sins of the world.  Jesus is using a human analogy to convey a spiritual truth. Food is essential for life, and Jesus is essential for eternal life.

The question arises from the Jews who are now arguing among themselves. “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?

Jesus answers them:  “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood; you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise him up at the last day.”  At the mention of blood man are turned off. But we know life is in the blood.   Jesus is proclaiming to be greater than the manna in the desert, for those people ate it and died. He said those who hear him and believe him have everlasting life.

“On hearing this, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” It was not hard to understand, it was hard to accept it once you understood it. It was true on that day, it is true to this day. Aware of the grumbling among his disciples, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? What if you see the Son of Man ascent to where he was before? “

Then Jesus explains that his language was figurative and spiritual, not actual and physical.

“The Spirit gives life, the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. Yet some of you do not believe.”  Jesus was referring to Judas who would betray him.

We read from that time, many of those who had been following him, turned back and no longer followed him.  Jesus turned to his disciples and said, “Do you want to leave me, too?” Simon Peter answered Jesus back. “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One from God.”

How do we eat His flesh and drink His blood?  Through the Word of God, the incorruptible seed which gives life. At the Last Supper Jesus explains the visual picture of his body and shed blood as necessary for the new birth:  He took the bread and broke it, and said this is my body, broken for you. Take and eat. Then he poured the wine. ( Remember, his first miracle? He turned the water into wine.) Jesus said this is my blood of the covenant which is poured out for many, take and drink.  Eating and drinking is believing and receiving.

There is a movement called the ‘emerging church’.  Those pastors who are a part of this movement do not say like Billy Graham said for years in his crusades, “The Word of God says…”.Listen to them and watch them. Ask yourself is the Bible, the Word of God in their hands and they are preaching and teaching out of it. They, with good intentions, want to lead people to Christ, but sense his name is offensive. As far as good intentions go, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.   Instead they will say a man named John who was a disciple of Jesus said.  They have softened their stance on sin; they do not want to offend people in the hope of being ‘seeker friendly.’

But the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation for all who believe. Paul was not ashamed of it socially, morally or intellectually. The Word of God is alive and powerful as a two-edged sword, it divides asunder the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

The preaching and teaching of the Word of God always leads to a sifting of the hearts of the listeners. God draws sinners to the Savior through the Word of God.  The Holy Spirit convicts the sinner of sin and righteousness. To be saved a person must hear the Word of God, not about the Word of God.

Those who reject His Word, will reject the Savior. Those who receive His Word will receive the Savior. They will experience the new birth, eternal life.   We have a world, a society which obviously is desperately seeking to satisfy something in their life, a gnawing hunger for which they have accepted the bread of deceit from the father of lies.   We are to offer the Bread of life. We are to feed the hungry.

Paul warns us in 2 Timothy of what will occur in the last days, men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. @ Timothy 4.   People want to hear words, teaching in keeping with their own evil desires. They will not listen and learn from the Father, from the Word of God.

Gospel of John; Chapter 6, Part 2: “A Troubling Storm”

John 6, Part 2:  A Troubling Storm

“Jesus, knowing that they intended to make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.” (John 6: 15)

The people had decided this was the kind of king they wanted: one who would supply their material needs.  Jesus withdrew from the crowd to prevent this from happening and sent his disciples by boat by across the lake to Capernaum.   We are told in the passage: “By now it was dark and Jesus had not joined them. A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough. (The KJV, states: ‘and the sea rose by reason of a great wind that blew.’)   A sudden storm arose on the Sea of Galilee, in the dark of night and Jesus was not with them.

What a picture of life:  storms which come into our lives in the darkness of night. Some storms are of our own making, others are those which Jesus has not only allowed, but sent us into.  Mark tells us in Mark 6:  “Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go ahead of him to Bethsaida. After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray. When evening came, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and He was alone on land. He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them.  “

Jesus had led them to middle of nowhere to teach them a lesson on a deserted mountaintop. There He would thank His Father in heaven and break the bread and feed 5,000 men all they could eat from the little boy’s lunch of 2 fish and five barley loaves.  They had the leftovers in the boat with them, 12 baskets full.   WE now understand the feeding of the 5,000 was the lesson, but the storm was the examination to see if they had learned the lesson.

Jesus comes walking to them on the water and we read ‘they were terrified.’ But He said to them, “It is I, fear not.” In Mark 6, we are told: “The wind died down. They were completely amazed, for they had not understood about the loaves, their hearts were hardened.”   Remember the area where Jesus had the people sit down to eat as was described in John 6: 10?  “There was plenty of grass in that place…”  Now He has caused the wind to cease the waters are still.  “The Lord is my Shepherd, he leads me beside still waters, He makes me to lie down in green pastures, He restores my soul.”

Jesus had sent them into the storm. They were filled not only with the bread and the fish; they were filled with a sense of power, excited about the miracle. But a storm was just ahead.   We have those days and nights when everything is perfect. We are ‘sailing along through life’ without any problems. Then a storm of adverse, troubling circumstances strikes like a sudden storm on the Sea of Galilee.

No wonder people today are so frightened by the physical hurricanes, the threat of war, while an economy teeters on the brink, and a government seems to be completely ineffective. It is dark and Jesus has not come into their lives. Nor do they know He is on the throne high above in heaven praying with His eye on the storm and those He loves.  What an absolutely terrifying place to be- alone, in the dark, in the middle of trouble, without Jesus in your life.

What a comfort it is to hear his words:  It is I, fear not.

The disciples we are told in the other gospels were straining at the oars.  They were stuck in the middle of the sea. Could not seem to go forward and in the darkness could probably not see the shoreline behind them. They had plummeted spiritually, physically, emotionally and mentally from the high of the day’s miracles to the reality of a life-threatening storm. Yet the One who created the seas knew exactly where they were, and they were exactly where He wanted them to be – in the middle of nowhere in a stormy sea, and unable in their own strength to make any progress.  “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtains, where Jesus, who went before us has entered on our behalf. He has become our high priest, forever, in the order of Melchizedek. “(Hebrews 6)   Here is our first anchor:  There is nothing which comes into your life except that Jesus either causes or allows. One way or the other, you are guided by His Providential care. It may be too dark for you to see Him, but He has his eye on you. Your storm is not beyond His control. The anchor holds.

Do you see what Jesus is doing? He is teaching his disciples. He wants them to grow in their faith. So He allows storms to come into their life. Remember He will never place more on you than you can bear. But do not forget His goal which is to make you Holy, not happy.   So by studying how Jesus trained His disciples we see part of the plan of growth includes growing through troubling circumstances.

I don’t know about you, but suspect you are probably like me, I want to avoid trouble. I mean, really, who enjoys trials?  Not me. But then after a while, you realize the Lord puts you through these for they are one of the most important ways He uses to enlarge our faith.  David wrote: “Thou has enlarged me when I was in distress.” Psalm 4: 1)   Adrian Rogers said, “Faith is like film, it is best developed in darkness.”  God may have you in the dark room of development. But know this truth:  God’s plan for our spiritual growth includes storms and trials.  When I was growing up we bought Wonder Bread, it builds strong bodies in 12 ways!  Bread is necessary for physical growth. And Jesus is teaching us about the bread of trouble and trials. It is part of God’s plan for our spiritual growth. And Jesus is the Bread of Life. He is our Daily Bread.

Now here is the next anchor we must not forget in storms. Jesus, our Great High Priest is praying for us, just as He was that night on top of the mountain.  Jesus has a perfect view of our life and situation in which we find ourselves in the middle of. He sees it all. He has His eye on me and mine. “Thou shall guide me with thy counsel and afterward receive me to glory.” (Psalm 73: 24)  And as the song we all know tells us:  His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me.   He lives today in heaven, and he ever lives to make intercession for you and me.

We take prayer requests each week and we send them out to probably close to 75 people. But think of this- you are on Jesus’ prayer list!  If He is for you, who can be against you?

The miracle of feeding the 5000 with the two fish and the five barley loaves was the lesson. Now comes the test to see if they understood the miracle. Jesus has sent them without his presence into a storm in the dark of night. Mark writes: “…for they had not understood about the loaves, their hearts were hardened.” (Mark 6: 52)    They had not forgotten the miracle; they had 12 baskets of leftovers at their feet.  In the midst of their problems, they had forgotten the Lord. He who had fed 5000 with this boy’s simple, sparse lunch could keep their boat from sinking.  This is the problem with miracles. We continue to depend on miracles. Want miracles, believe in miracles. But here is another lesson:  MIRACLES DO NOT PRODUCE FAITH WHICH LASTS.  We always want another miracle.

The disciples wanted another miracle; they wanted to be out of the storm and this life threatening situation. But what they needed, was not another miracle. They needed the Miracle Worker- Jesus Himself.

Now the disciples had been fighting this storm for some hours, which probably seemed endless to them. Jesus waited for just the right time to come to them. His timing is always perfect. He comes at exactly the right time. Why does He seem to delay?   Here is our answer:  “Therefore will the Lord wait, that He may be gracious unto you.” (Isaiah 30: 18)   After all it is Isaiah who tells us the Lord can make a way, where there is no way.

I believe, and this is my belief, the greater the delay, the more gracious He can be.  The story of Lazarus bears this out. Jesus delayed until Lazarus had died and been buried for four days.  Martha and Mary were so disappointed in the Lord for his delay and told him, ‘if you had been here our brother would not have died. ‘They had suffered grief and disappointment which had broken their hearts.  Can you not imagine how great their joy was because their grief and disappointment had been so great and devastating? Now can you imagine when we all get to heaven- what a day of rejoicing that will be?! Let your hearts be lifted and gladdened with the thought He always comes at the right time. And when you look back after these times, you realize when you thought you were in the middle of nowhere; you were actually in the center of God’s will. His eye was upon you. He already knew before He sent the storm what He was going to do.

We are guarded by His power. Jesus came at just the right time that night. He came walking on the water. His presence terrified the disciples until He spoke to them.  “It is I, be not afraid.”  Have you heard your Master’s voice and believed?  He has told us:  I am the bread of life. I am the door, I am the great Shepherd, I am the water of life, I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  And I am in the midst of your storm.  Do you see He walked on the stormy sea?  The stormy sea raised up by the mighty winds was about to go over their heads.  Jesus came along and showed them what they feared was under His feet.

Jesus is telling the disciples and us- fear not I am with you.  I am the Great I Am.  I am your present help in time of trouble. I am always with you and will never leave you.

Here is what Jesus wants us to remember and know:  “In the world you shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer; for I have overcome the world.” (John 16. 33)

Is the boat of your life being filled with stormy seawater? Are the winds of troubling circumstances of all types blowing against you? Are you stuck in seemingly impossible situation of which you cannot get out of, try as you might?   Remember where Jesus was during their most difficult hours when they strained against the oars?  He was on top of the mountain praying for them.

“I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made the heaven and the earth. “Psalm 121.

GOD’S PURPOSE.

In all of this we want to keep in mind, God has a purpose in all of this.  “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. For those God foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son. ..”

There it is we are being guided by God’s purpose. And as stated earlier, His purpose is not make us happy, but holy.  Even when you are in a dark storm at sea and taking on water. He is the Lord who made the heaven and the earth.

What we realize in this semi-private miracle just for the disciples is the miracle had three parts. He calmed the storm, the winds and the sea obey Him. He walked on water.  And He immediately had the boat reach the safety of the shore, from the middle of the sea. He overcame the laws of time and space.

Will the Lord be able to accomplish His purpose in you?  You may be wondering and worrying you are not going to get there.  But we have this promise, another promise to anchor our souls.  “He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. “  He will complete it. (Phil 1: 6)

WHAT DO YOU NEED DURING A STORM?

Peace. These miracles assure us God will see us through to the other side. Nothing is too hard for Him. He will supply your needs.

He will guide you through the storm.

He has a plan for you- to grow you. Trouble is the means through which we grow. Remember it is God who gives the increase.  He enlarges our faith in distress.

He is praying for you. He has His eye on you.

He is your present help in time of trouble. Trust Him.  Even when you cannot see Him, or understand His plan, trust His heart.

His almighty power protects and guards you. What is over your head is under His feet.

He has a purpose for you.  So do not panic in the storm. Thank the Lord for the storm because you know it will not sink your boat, but build up your faith.

His delay is not a delay, it has as its goal to be gracious to you.

Gospel of John: Chapter 6, In the Middle of Nowhere

John 6:  In the Middle of Nowhere

The miracle of feeding the 5,000 was of such magnitude that is it recorded in all four gospels. It appears from these four  accounts, Jesus and the disciples were trying to get away from the crowds for some much needed R& R. In Matthew 14, we are told it is after the execution of John the Baptist this takes place and Jesus and the Disciples have to gone to a remote, deserted place, in the middle of nowhere. In Mark 6, we also are told the 12 disciples had just returned from a mission trip also and Jesus and the disciples were getting away from the crowd for some much needed rest. In Luke 9, we gather one more detail, they were near the town of Bethesda, which is where Phillip was from and thus, the reason Jesus ask Phillip where they might find food.

Jesus and the disciples had just sat down when Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him.  He asked Phillip: “ Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” Notice John tells us the reason Jesus asked Phillip:  to test Phillip, because Jesus already knew what he was going to do.  In the other Gospel accounts we are told the disciples told Jesus because it was such a remote place and it was getting late, they should send the crowd into the surrounding countryside and villages to find food. ( Mark 6)   But probably because it was remote and the men, women and children were tired, , Jesus replies “ They do not need to go away, you give them something to eat.   I love the statement, Jesus already know what He was going to do.  Do you know what that means to you personally?  Wherever you are, you might think you are in the middle of nowhere, stuck and cannot seem to get anywhere.  Jesus already knows what He is going to do.

So this question to Phillip is a test question, John tells us. Phillip is doing some calculating, some mental math. Sizing up the crowd, taking into consideration the remote location, he comes up with a worldly solution.  What is the world’s solution for needs?  Money. Phillip estimates it would take 8 months’ wages to buy enough bread for a bite. Think about it:  we have a drug epidemic- the government is budgeting billions of dollars.  Public education  is in trouble- spend more money.

So the first two suggestions offered are: send them away, we can’t help them;  raise money, but it would be an impossible task to raise that much money, find a source and then it would be inadequate.

Here comes Andrew with a little boy who had a small lunch, two little fish ( sardine size) and five small barley cakes. Even though he brought the little boy with his little provision, Andrew summed up the impossible situation:  “ But how far will they go among so many?” So we have three suggested strategies among the disciples:  send them away; need more money than we have and a resource which could feed 5,000.  Andrew has brought a small lunch, but he has already concluded it can do no good in a crowd this large.

It was Paschal, the great physicist and philosopher, who said there is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every person that can only be filled by God.  It is an empty place. It is a place of great desire, it is like the hunger of a starving man, the thirst of a lost man in the desert. It is a desire which only God can provide. And His Provision is His One and Only Son, Jesus. Ann Graham Lotz wrote a book which came from a prayer she prayed when there was so many desperate problems in her life, she could not seem to pray for all her needs and her family’s needs. So in a state of desperation, she cried out to Father God, “ Just give me Jesus!” Jesus is God’s supply for our all our needs.

Everyone in the crowd that day were probably tired, hot and hungry.  In addition, Jesus and the disciples needed some “ down time”, they were drained.   But know this, when Jesus asked Phillip ‘ where shall we buy bread?” Jesus was not in a panic, needed advice, or was unsure of what to do.    Guess what ?  In heaven, there is never any panic, or uncertainty. There are only plans.   The Lord tells us ‘ I know the plans I have for you.’  And like the disciples we often try to figure out how to accomplish what we believe are the plans by leaning to our own understanding.   Those who said send them away were just being practical. It was late, everyone was tired, and because of the location, they needed to go somewhere else to find their needs met. Is this not what we Christians have allowed the government to do ? To take care of the poor, the sick , the hungry, the unemployed. After all, it is why we pay taxes.  Scrooge said it was why the work houses and debtor’s prisons existed. Not my problem. This is why I  pay taxes, said Scrooge. This is someone else’s responsibility, not mine.

So far the first two suggested solutions are solutions any agnostic,  atheists or Scrooge  would come up with:  we cannot do anything about this – so send them elsewhere. Money could solve the problem, but you would need a lot and it would only be temporary and insufficient. It would not really satisfy their needs.

Do you see what the disciples were leaving out in their trying to solve this problem?  They had left Jesus out of the solution. Phillip had left Jesus out of his equation.   In Algebra, we are told to find the X factor and it will supply the answer.

Got a seemingly impossible problem in your life? See a problem in our culture, our community, our nation which seems too big for any of us to solve?    A debt too large to pay? A direction our country is headed in, we cannot get turned around?  Let me ask you- who are you asking to help you solve the problem?  Meet the need?  Pay the debt?  Or at this time in your life, are you saying, I am just too old ?

In Genesis 18, the pre-incarnate Lord visits Abraham.  The Lord asked Abraham where is Sarah?  She is there in the tent.  Watch what happens next:  “ The Lord said, “ I will surely return to you about this time next year and Sarah and you will have a son. Now Sarah was listening at the entrance of the tent which was behind him. Abraham and Sarah were already old and well advanced in years, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “ After I am worn out and my master is old, will I now have pleasure?”  Then the Lord said why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘ will I really have a child, now that I am old?” Is anything too hard for the Lord?”

Whatever problem you are facing, or our nation is facing, our community, and the church listen to this direct quote from Almighty God:  “ I am the LORD, the God of all flesh, is there anything too hard for me?” ( Jeremiah 32:27)

No problem too large. Do not leave the Lord out of your equation. Our problem is we are not using all our strength. Imagine a little 5 year old boy trying to lift a 50 – pound rock. It is impossible for him to do it, no matter how hard he tries. So what does he do?  He ask his father to help him, for his father’s strength is his strength also, his source. It is his ever present help. So remember this- there is no problem too hard, too big for Jesus to solve.  Yet – even though we say it and believe it- do we rest in that or do we worry and try to figure out how we can do it with our finite strength and finite knowledge.

Jesus said “ come unto me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. “ Do you notice how “ restless” our culture is today?  They must be constantly in motion, in contact with others, texting , tweeting and messaging with our smart phones which have created a nation with Attention Distraction Disorder. Do you see how desperate they are to fill the hole in their lives.  To not have their phone with them, makes them feel disconnected, lost, out of touch. When we do not have this marvel of technology right with us- are separated from it for just hours, we feel incomplete, out of touch, there is a hole in our life and we are anxious and restless.

These disciples were tired, this crowd of people were tired. They needed food, drink, rest.  Guess what- when we are tired, worried, hungry for something which will satisfy us, thirsting for something which will quench our thirst, looking for love, for pleasure, for security, and worn completely out, because we cannot find that ‘ something or someone ‘ to complete us.

America is an affluent nation. Consumer spending accounts for 70% of our economy. Yet it is very strange, that affluence breeds boredom. This is why we go shopping many times, because we are bored. Amazon makes it easier, because you do not even have to get out of your easy chair or leave home.   We have thousands of options of entertainment on our large, flat screen televisions, which we can also access on our smart phones or computers or I-pads, yet we are restless, every clicking our remotes.  We are looking for the quick fix, the easy solution, the one we can manage ourselves.  We live in a restless world. And in a restless world like this is, love is over even before it begins. Ever searching, never finding. Distracted. Worn out restlessness.

Jesus says take my yoke upon you and learn from me.  The yoke is used to harness strength. The strength of two oxen is twice as great as the strength of one. Pulling together makes the burden easier to move. The yoke is where we learn. The yoke is where we how Jesus to come alongside us and help us for nothing is too hard, too big, too heavy for Him.  He says we can learn from Him because He is gentle and humble in heart, and you will find the rest for your souls. He is the shepherd who leads you beside still waters and makes you to lie down in green pastures, where he “ restores your soul”.

Notice the three things Jesus wants to do for you:  give you rest;  teach you, for the yoke is where you learn, working side by side with Him in the apprenticeship of sanctification; and in the end, you will find rest for you soul.

No problem too big for God.

No person too small to use. A little boy ( I visualize a 6 or 7 year old)  Not many mighty, nor many noble, are called, but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise and the weak to confound the strong. (I Cor. 1)

Notice what this little boy did?  He took what he had. He took all he had and he transferred it to Jesus to multiply.

The so-called, ‘ social gospel’ wants to feed the hungry. And we, as Christians, are to help feed the hungry.  And organizations , like RIFA are a blessing and a good work. The social gospel meets the temporary needs, and they are important to meet. But the Saving Gospel meets an eternal need.  There are those who  need rest, clothing, food, shelter, soap and soup. But they need salvation. They need Jesus.  Jesus is about to reveal He is the spiritual bread, the bread of life.

Now here is what we need to see in this situation , this miracle or as John calls them – signs. There is a deeper meaning to why Jesus fed the 5000 bread in this miraculous manner. You see the fact that Jesus fed them physically, met their temporary needs, allowed Jesus to tell them about spiritual bread, about salvation, and saving faith.

The people Jesus fed that day were hungry the next day, 24 hours later. They wanted Him to feed them again.  Jesus told them “ Do not labor for food that perishes but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you  because  God the Father has set his seal on Him.

What we are all seeking for, hungering for, thirsting for is righteousness.   We are to seek Jesus because Jesus is made unto us, “ wisdom and righteousness.” ( I Cor 1:30)

Feeding, clothing and providing for people in need is a good thing.  It takes care of an immediate need they have.   If you are sick and have fever and pain. The doctor can give you something for the pain and the fever.  But they are temporary, the doctor needs to find the cause of the fever and the pain.

Next week we continue in this story which took place the next day.

But for today’s lesson we have learned the following:

  • Do not leave Jesus out of the equation when trying to figure out how to solve a problem. Remember nothing is too hard for Him.
  • We have a BIG GOD. He always has a plan that will work.
  • The Lord loves to use those who in the eyes of the world are “little people”.
  • He uses the weak and the foolish, the ordinary people to do the extraordinary.
  • Bring what you have. Bring all that you have. Transfer it to Jesus. He will transform it.

Gospel of John: Chapter 5, Part 2: My Father and The Son

My Father: John 5, Part 2

The Fourth Commandment states:  Remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy. Observance of the Sabbath was a chief characteristic of Judaism.  Jesus observed the Sabbath and was in the synagogue on the Sabbath.  The Pharisees were extreme legalist. As such they defined what “work” was and was not on the Sabbath.  This was done with the oral tradition, the tradition of the elders and the written man-made laws of the Misnah.  Jesus said he came to keep the law, every jot and tittle. God’s law, not man’s law.  He would fulfill the law and never break God’s law.  In Mark 2, Jesus had an encounter with the Jews over the fact that while passing through the grain fields, his disciples picked some of the grain and ate it. The Jews said he was breaking the law of the Sabbath.  Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”

“So because Jesus was doing those things on the Sabbath, the Jews persecuted him. Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at work to this very day, and I, too, am working.”  Now the Jews did not take issue with Jesus that God was working on the Sabbath.  For God has not taken a day off since sin entered the Garden. Can you imagine the chaos if God said, do not disturb me on the Sabbath, no calls, no prayers, no visitors, I will be taking the day off.  No, the Jews reasoned God was always at work, what they took issue with is Jesus referring to God as “My Father” in the singular possessive pronoun.  They perceived, rightly so, Jesus was making himself equal with God.   Remember what Paul wrote in Phil. 2: 6&7:  “Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped…” In John 14, Jesus told Phillip, who asked him to show them the Father, that if he had seen him (Jesus) he had seen the Father.  Hebrews 1 tells us Jesus, the Son, is the exact representation of God.  John 1 tells us ‘no one has seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side has made Him known.’ He is called the WORD, because He, the Lord Jesus, is the exact expression of the Father.

Jesus was trying to break through to these blind religious men.  But do not miss He is also teaching his disciples and us (who are also learners) how to listen to the Father and follow Jesus’ instructions.

Jesus answers them in verses 19-20:  “ I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does, the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does.”

What does equality mean with God mean?

  1. Jesus does not operate independent of the Father.
  2. Jesus is in constant touch with the Father.
  3. He does what He discerns the Father is doing. He does the will of the One who sent Him.
  4. The Father loves the Son, He also loves us. For this reason He shows us what He is doing so that we might join Him in His work.

Now you realize the temptation of Jesus in the desert by the devil in Matthew 4 was temptation to act independently of the Father.  This is the basis of all sin- to do it ourselves, a way that seems right to us. Jesus said He could do nothing apart from the Father. And has told us the same in his teaching on the vine and the branch in John 15.  Any work done without Jesus is dead orthodoxy, just as dead as the works of these legalistic Pharisees.  It is lacking power and is therefore ineffective. Any church relying on self and methods of man is relying on man not God. In Him is life- works without Him are dead.

The Jewish Sanhedrin was made up of Pharisees, predominantly, who had the responsibility of investigating any new preachers or teachers to make sure they were not false teachers. This is the reason they had gone to question John the Baptist. This is why they are always present in the crowd when Jesus is teaching.    Jesus wanted to show these religious zealots it was their beliefs not his behavior that was at fault.

These Jewish leaders had taken the Sabbath, which was God’s gift to mankind, and had turned it into a prison of regulations and rules which one could not possibly keep. For example a man could get his ox out of the ditch on the Sabbath, but a man who had been paralyzed for 38 years and was miraculously healed, could not carry his mat on the Sabbath.  A physician could not heal on the Sabbath. Jesus deliberately challenged their legalistic traditions and man-made laws.

Having just told them He did what the Father showed him, Jesus gave them a preview of what He was about to do.  He says to these Jews: “Yes, to your amazement, He will show him even greater things than these (healings). For just as the Father raised the dead and gave them life, even so the Son gives life to whom He pleases. Moreover, the Father judges no but has entrusted all judgment to the Son that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Father, who sent him.”  You can imagine how shocked these Jews were at what Jesus was claiming.

THE CROSSOVER

Jesus prefaces this statement with ‘verily, verily, I say unto you’:  something He said when He wanted to make sure they understood what He was about to say was of the utmost important. So let us listen to this all important truth which contains a promise and the qualifications for receiving this promise.

“I tell you the truth, (verily, verily I say unto you) whoever hears my word and believes Him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”  Do you see who qualifies to receive the promise?   It is whoever hears my word and believes Him who sent me.  What is the promise?  This person has eternal life- present tense from that moment on for eternity!  And they will not be condemned.

This person has crossed over from death to life. How do we cross over?  When we kneel at the Cross of Calvary. See the picture, you are kneeling and the Cross is over you and you are covered by the blood.  Having been convicted of your sins, you have asked God to show you mercy.  Actually, Jesus asked God to forgive you on the Cross when He said, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.”  We should never get over the Cross, for it was at the Cross where my sins were paid for and I crossed over from death to life. It’s still the Cross.

Now Jesus speaks of two time periods: one is a time to come, future. The other is a time which has come.

THE TIME WHICH HAS COME

This is time when the dead in Christ will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. You see the time has come when the spiritually dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and hearing, will believe and receive salvation and eternal life. This time has already come and the Word of God saves countless lives each and every day. This time has already come and there is still time for anyone who believes to be saved.

THE TIME IS COMING

The time is also coming in the future when the physically dead will be called to resurrection by the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ. They will live as they are raised from the dead, from the grave on the Last Day.

HOW CAN THIS BE? “For as the Father has life in Himself, so He can grant the Son to have life in Himself. All things were made by Him and without Him was not anything made that was made. In Him was life, the life was the light of men.” (John 1: 3-4)

He will also be judge of the living, the believers, for rewards for the quality of their work and judge of the dead, those whose names are not found in the Lamb’s Book of Life for their punishment. The Judge will be honored that day. Every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ, the Judge is Lord.

DOCTRINE OF THE TRINITY

The Trinity is a mystery we cannot fully comprehend. But we can discern the order of the Trinity.

The Son is not independent of the Father, but rather dependent on the Father and works in tandem with His Father.  They are inseparable. The Son speaks the Father’s words and declares the Father’s judgments. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are eternally equal in Person in one Godhead in three persons. The Son obeys the Father and listens to the Spirit to fulfill God’s plan. This is why Jesus came to show us how to live in dependence upon the Father. This why He sent the Holy Spirit, another who is Comforter, Advocate and Teacher. To help us understand the things God has freely given us.

THE WITNESSES.

Jesus says I have three witnesses:  John the Baptist’s testimony; the miracles, signs, which even Nicodemus said, we know you are a teacher sent from God , because no one could do the miraculous signs you are doing.  And Jesus told them, you have the Scriptures which testify of me. Remember when Jesus was resurrected, he told Cleopas and his companion on the road to Emmaus and his disciples how Moses and the prophets and Psalms spoke of Him. Jesus said to these legalistic, self-righteous Pharisees, the reason you do not hear the Father’s voice concerning me, is the word does not dwell in you.

This phrase, the word dwelling in you, is important to understand. This is at the very heart of what it means to be a disciple. In John 8, Jesus said: “If you continue in my word, then you are my disciples indeed, and you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free. “ If you abide (dwell) in me and my word abide in you, you shall ask what you will, and it will be given to you.”  (John 15)  The abiding life is the theme of John 15, the vine and the branch.   “ Let the Word of Christ dwell richly in you and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts. “ (Col. 3: 16)

What does it mean to have the word of Christ dwell in you?  It means to internalize its truths so it guides our whole life. We embrace it and put it into practice. These Jews did not have the word of God dwelling their hearts, it was in their minds. The Word of God is alive and powerful. It is life giving, life transforming, and life sustaining. The mind is where knowledge dwells. The heart is where love dwells. Jesus said to these Jews, ‘you do not have the love of God in your heart.’ (vs. 42) Romans 5 tells us the ‘love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Spirit.’

APPLICATION FOR DISCIPLES

Jesus said: Follow me. So let’s follow his example, his lifestyle and how he lived day-by-day. Mark 1 said Jesus got up early in the morning, to spend time with his Father. He has told us we can do what He was doing and even do greater things, because He is now in heaven and has sent the third person of the Godhead, another, who will indwell us and seal us and never leave us. The Spirit is from God so that we may understand the things God has freely given us. Words taught us not by human wisdom, but in words taught us by the Spirit expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words.

So here is what Jesus has shown us:

  1. Jesus is equal with the Father, but voluntarily subjects himself to the Father. So must we.
  2. Jesus listens to the Father, and then does what the Father is doing. This is our example how we listen and obey. Not hearers only, like the Pharisees, but doers of the word.
  3. Eternal life begins now for those of us who have put our faith in Jesus Christ. There is therefore now no condemnation for those of us in Christ Jesus. Our chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. How do we glorify Him? By bearing fruit.
  4. In Him is life, there is no other source- not religion nor works. Those are works of flesh, not fruit of the Spirit which the branch bears only when it abides in the Vine.
  5. Like Jesus, our example, we are to live utterly dependent upon the Father; we are not function independently. Apart from Him we can do nothing.

At the empty tomb, Mary has encounter with the risen Lord and did not know it was the Lord.  She supposed him to be the gardener. She asked him if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him and I will take him away. Jesus said to her “Mary!” And she turned to Him and said Rabboni! (Which is teacher). Jesus said to her, “ Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, “ I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.”  (John 20)   He is my Father, He is my God.

We have been adopted. We can pray to our heavenly Father and He can show us where He is working and we can join Him there.  He will do this as He did for Jesus, because He loves us.

Jesus says to us, “Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me. I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. “(John 14)

We have a threefold enemy, the world culture which wants to conform us. Our flesh, our old sinful nature in which dwells no good things. And the devil who is a relentless foe who goes about like a roaring lion. He wants us to doubt the Word of God and His promises. We have an external source of temptation, the world which is under the control of the evil one. An internal enemy, our old nature, who is always present when we want to do good. And an enemy who wants to destroy us.  But greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world.

I believe the enemy is filled with fury, because he knows his days are short. (Rev. 12)  As he grows even bolder, so must we.

The signs are becoming clearer.  The battle has intensified. Be on guard. Watch and pray. Things are not what they seem. The things which are seen are temporal, and the things which are not seen are eternal. The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the Word of My God stands forever, unchanging, for My God and My Father does not change.

Is He your Father? Have you been born again?  If you have- you now possess eternal life. You are partakers of His divine nature.

You can call Him anytime- He loves to hear from you. After all He is Your Father and Your God.

Gospel of John, Chapter 5: Would You Be Made Whole?

John 5: Would You Be Made Whole?

This is a story which has two parts. In the first part we will see the healing of a paralyzed man on the Sabbath.  An obvious violation of the man-made rules the Pharisees had invented which causes a confrontation between Jesus and the Pharisees in the second part of this story next week.

John gives us the setting of this miracle. The place is called Bethesda, which means “house of mercy”, and is located near the Sheep Gate.  There are five covered porches surrounding the pool.  It was here under the cover of these porches a great number of disabled people used to lie- the blind, the lame, the paralyzed.

*Now if you are reading in the NIV, verse 4 is missing. If you are reading in another version, you have a verse which explains why they are gathered around this pool: For an angel went down at a certain time and stirred the water; then whoever stepped in first after the stirring was healed of whatever disease they had.  This verse does not appear in original manuscripts.  This verse was added later to explain why these disabled people gathered here and why the man Jesus was about to heal told Jesus he had no one to put him in the pool when the water was first stirred.

Jesus knew about his man, just as he knew about the woman at the well and that he had been in this condition for a long time. Jesus asked the man, “Do you want to be made whole? (I prefer the use of the word, whole, rather than well in the NIV)

Let us pick up the story at this point with the disabled man’s reply to Jesus’ question: “Do you want to be made whole?”  “Sir, the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”  Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk. “At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. The day on which this took place was the Sabbath, and so the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.” But he (the healed man) replied, “The man who made we well, said to me, “pick up your mat and walk.”   So they asked him, “Who is this man who told you to pick up your mat and walk?”

The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there. Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him: “See, you are made whole. Sin no more, lest a worst thing come upon you.”  I italicized the word temple because this man had gone to the House of God to thank Him for making him whole.

As you contemplate this story, you might wonder in a place of such sickness, blindness, lameness, why didn’t Jesus heal everyone?  Jesus came to seek and save. Jesus came as Savior. He came to save us from our sins. He came to heal us of our spiritual disability.  This man was healed, but he would still die someday. But Jesus told us;” I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. ( John 11)   Lazarus was raised from the dead, his life was restored. However, Lazarus would eventually die.  The priority of the Lord was and is always to deal with our spiritual condition first and foremost.

Here is the truth: “Though our outward man perishes, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.” 2 Corinthians 4:16)   Out outward bodies are growing weaker as they age, yet our inward man is being renewed day by day- this is the equivalent of the “ fountain of youth” many are seeking today.

Jesus healed just the one man that day. He was teaching a great spiritual truth of which the healing was a symbol or sign. His message is we are all spiritually impotent, without strengthen, unable to walk according to the Spirit. Without strength to resist temptation, powerless over sin.  Apart from Him we can do nothing.  But we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.  Here is the power for living. He was standing right in front of this man who did not have power to stand up and walk.

Jesus is the answer to our spiritual disability, our spiritual impotence.

Now notice Jesus asked the man, ‘do you want to be made whole?’     Whatever may be said of God’s Sovereignty and man’s free will, one thing is sure. The human will play its part. The Lord will never save someone against their will.  When he wept for Jerusalem, and proclaimed how often he had longed to gather them as a mother hen does here chicks, he lamented, “You were not willing.” He did not say, you could not- he said you would not, an act of the human will.

Now let’s do an analysis of this miracle, or as John calls them a “sign”. Let us look what is the message, the instructions which the Lord is telling us in performing this miracle.

WHAT THE SIGN IS TELLING US

The first step to being healed of spiritual paralysis is to admit we are powerless.   I have a spiritual birthday coming up, on September 16th.  I was saved on September 16, 1977.  I had a conversation with the Lord Jesus that morning, just as sure as Nicodemus, the woman at the well, the nobleman and this paralyzed man.  As a result of that conversation He sent me to an AA meeting which was taking place just moments away and just moments after my conversion.  Here was what I heard, which Jesus intended for me to hear, when I entered this meeting as they had begun to read the 12 steps. Here are the first three steps of AA I heard that morning when I entered into a church basement to a 10:00 am AA meeting:

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol and our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

Listen to what happened to me and what happened to this man at the pool of Bethesda:  “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. “ (Romans 5)

Every person on the face of the earth who is without Christ is without strength and powerless.  I was born and you were born incomplete. We were without Christ and we were born in bondage. We are sinners by birth, sinners by nature, sinners by choice and sinners by practice. You can rename it, re-define, but we are all born this way. This is why we must be born again.

So here is the first step to realize we were born with a sinful nature void of the Spirit of God. The primary source of our weakness, the inability to walk as God intended us to walk is sin. Jesus linked this man’s sin to his inability to walk. This is why Jesus told him to go and sin no more, lest something worse happen to him.  * Not all sickness is caused by sin, but we believe death entered the world as a result of sin. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life.

The source of our spiritual disability is sin.  We were created to glorify God, to reflect His image. Sin is coming short of the glory of God. (Romans 3: 23).  It is the hole in our life, the gap between our sinful lifestyle and the glory of God is the source of our weakness. God wants us to be holy as He is holy. And we do not have the strength and never will in our own strength.

This paralyzing force of sin is we cannot be what God would have us to be.  I could not stay sober to say my life. This man could not walk. And each year, his condition got worse, the muscles in his legs begin to atrophy and wither. His muscles were deteriorating.  The longer a person stays in the throes of alcohol, or drugs or any type of addictive sin, the course of the disease of sin continues to worsen until it leads to death.   So it is with people who are without Christ. The longer they live, the harder their hearts become and their condition worsens.  But do not give up hope, for nothing is too hard for the Lord, including the stone heart of an unbeliever.

This man had been in this condition for 38 years. His bitterness about his life is obvious, and he has an excuse which he has used for years. When Jesus asked him – do you want to be made whole?  The man had the excuse he had used for years- my problem is I do not have anyone to put me in the water first when it is stirred.

So we see we must realize we are powerless over sin in our own strength.

We must realize the condition will only get worse until we say to the Lord; I am powerless over my sin. Please come into my life and take over or else I will die. This is an act of our will.

When Jesus said to this man, “Do you want to be made whole?”  Jesus was actually asking this man, what is your will in this matter?  Jesus wanted this man to activate his will. God will never make you choose.  God will not coerce your will, but He will enable it.   God says he is not willing that any should perish, but all would come to repentance. He takes not pleasure in the death of the wicked. He did not create hell for man, but for the devil and those fallen angels who followed him rather than God. This why the most important commandment and invitation Jesus offers is “Follow Me.”

BEGINNING THE WALK.

John did not write this book so paralyzed; sick, blind people could be healed of physical illnesses. John tells us why he wrote this Gospel:  “These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:31)

John wrote this gospel and recorded these miracles, which he refers to as signs so that lost people might be saved and have the abundant life. He wrote it that we might receive the strength from above, so that by believing Jesus we believers could walk in victory, day-by-day.

Jesus offers the man a choice: would you be made whole?

Then Jesus told him to do something. This was a command which required obedience.  Remember our four steps from last week.  We must: hear the Word, believe the Word, Obey the Word, Rest in the Word.

Turning the  water into wine, required the servants to hear the command of Jesus, believe He could turn the water into wine, obey the command by taking the water into the master of the banquet, and rest in their faith that what Jesus commanded would be so.

With the woman at the well, we see a woman who took Jesus at His Word and believed Him without seeing a miracle to validate His words. The people of Sychar believed his word. The nobleman believed his word and now this man will believe his word.

The man had a choice. He could believe Jesus had the power to heal him and make him whole or not. Jesus did not reach down to give him a hand and assist to get up. This man had to get up to his feet and take up his mat and walk. Getting up and walking did not heal this man. He was healed by the power of Christ. His walking demonstrated he had been made whole.

THE SPIRITUAL PRINCIPLES:

“For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is a gift of God, not of works, lest any many should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should WALK in them.” (Ephesians 2: 8-10)

All things are possible with God.

There are three key prepositions in these verses:  by, through and unto.  This is the ordained order of these truths always in this sequence.

How was this man made whole?  By Grace.  Same way I was saved and made whole, by grace. And this is true of everyone who is saved.  This man was paralyzed. He was powerless and could not walk. I was powerless over alcohol and my life had become unmanageable. I could not stay sober.   Salvation is by grace.

Salvation is also through faith. Faith is the gift God offers. When we accept the faith He provides, it is exercised by obedience. We must hear the word. Believe the word. But we must not be hearers only; we must be doers as James tells us in James 1.  Faith is belief with legs on it.  It results in works.

Brings us to the last preposition, unto good works. We are saved by grace through faith unto good works.

We are not saved by good works, but we are saved to do good works which God had planned before for us. This is why Jesus warned us of the thief who comes to steal and kill and destroy. Jesus said he came to give us life and life abundant.  Do you see what the enemy has done from the beginning?  He, who is the father of all lies and the deceiver, has planted a corruptible seed- that God is not faithful and cannot be trusted and taken at His word. He portrays God the Father as a stern taskmaster, a kill-joy. That God is withholding the abundant life from you, while the enemy has a life more rewarding, more enjoyable, and more pleasurable and you can do what is right in your own eyes.

Jesus makes it clear as we study his teaching and listen to his conversations with people He encountered. He told us a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions. How does Jesus provide us with the “abundant life”?  Good question.  The Lord Jesus provides us with the abundant life by giving us Himself. The enemy of your soul has convinced our culture today and he done so since the fall of man in Garden, the abundant life is in money, wealth, power, fame, and all that goes with it.  But if we observe the life of the rich and famous we find higher incidents of divorce, infidelity, children in trouble and a never ending search for happiness, for a sense of satisfaction.

So here is the order we see, and the sequence in which it always operates:  Salvation is by grace, through faith, unto good works.

Jesus is the answer to your disability. Faithful is He who calls you who will also do it. (I Thess. 5:24) This means He will provide you with the strength to walk the walk, day by day.

The Christian life is a by grace through faith operation from the moment.  This is why Paul wrote: “As you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk you in Him (Col. 2: 6).” How did we receive Him?  By grace through faith. How do we then live and walk in Him?  The same way.  God will replace your disability with his ability.

APPLICATION:

Admit you are powerless over sin and your lack of strength, your disability to walk as God intends you to walk.  Recognize He can provide you with the strength you do not have. In fact, His strength is made perfect in your weakness.  Don’t keep sitting where you are – get up and come to Jesus.

God wants to supply all your needs. This starts with salvation for the unbeliever and strength for the believer.

Trade your disabilities for His abilities.  Remember the currency of exchange in heaven is faith.

Don’t stay where you are- get up and go with Him.  FOLLOW ME, SAID JESUS AND I WILL MAKE OF YOU WHAT I CREATED YOU TO BE AND CALLED YOU TO BE.

 

Gospel of John: Chapter 4: 43-54 – The Nobleman’s Son

The Nobleman’s Son:  John 4:43-54

I love the Word of God.   As John has told us, this name also applies to the Lord Jesus. In the beginning, John writes, was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.  He tells us later, the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.  God the Son became flesh, His glory was encapsulated in a body prepared for Him. Like the tent in the wilderness, the Glory of God which once dwelt in the tabernacle in the wilderness, now dwelt in the earthly tent of a human body.  I love the Lord Jesus, the Word who became flesh. Who loved me and gave Himself for me.

I also love the printed Word of God.  The longer I study it, the more I love it, the more I learn.  It is hard to explain the wonder of it all, try as I might. When I teach from any of the books of the Bible, I hear the voice of God and see the Lord Jesus on every page.  But when we turn to the Gospels, we are able to read the very words from the Lord’s lips to our ears. I always visualize Him in the setting which the writer, quite often an eyewitness. describes.  In this lesson we will learn the all-important four steps to faith which begins with hearing the Word of God.

Jesus would stay two more days in Sychar in Samaria as a revival swept through the city. He then returned to Galilee and once more visited Cana in Galilee where He had performed the miracle of the wine at the wedding.  Now follow the story as recorded in verses 46-54.

“And there was a certain royal official (nobleman, KJV) whose son lay sick at Capernaum. When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death.”  The word, nobleman, used in the KJV, was by its very meaning, ‘a king’s man.’  The king probably meaning King Herod.  This royal official was a rich, powerful man, an authority figure who was used to giving orders and having them obeyed.

Now there is obviously an audience surrounding Jesus. Jesus answers the man, but his answer is for the audience also:  “Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders, you will never believe. “ The nobleman says, “Sir, come down before my child dies.”  You can hear the desperation in his voice, you can see the tears in his eyes and we can empathize with his situation.  It is almost as if Jesus is blunt with him.

“Jesus replied, “You may go. Your son will live.”  The man took Jesus at his word and departed. While he was still on his way, his servants met him with the news that his son was living. When he inquired as to the time when his son got better, they said to him, “The fever left him yesterday at the seventh hour. (1:00pm) Then the father realized that this was the exact time Jesus had said to him, “your son lives.” So he and all his household believed.  This was the second miraculous sign Jesus performed having come out of Judea.”

This is a story about genuine faith.  Do you realize what faith is in heaven?  It is the currency of exchange.  Jesus told the two blind men in Matthew 9, “according to your faith will it be done to you.” We exchange our faith for doubt. We exchange our faith for hope, when we are hopeless. We exchange our faith for sight and certainty, when we cannot see and are uncertain. Faith exists in the area of the unseen, the unrealized and unknown. This is where faith is most valuable. It is the currency of heaven. We have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places; our faith is how we draw from this account. And even the faith with which we believe is a gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.  “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we cannot see.” (Hebrews 11:1 NIV)  “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” KJV. The word substance refers to the title deed with which one claims his/her inheritance. Notice also the word which starts this verse: NOW- faith is in the present tense. This is why Jesus told us not to worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Don’t go out into the future to borrow some more. His grace is always sufficient.

OBSTACLES TO FAITH

Obviously, we want to possess a strong faith.  But what is even more important is we have a strong faith which possesses us. Here are the obstacles to faith. And remember from the very first sin which occurred in the Garden, the enemy wants you to doubt God’s Word.  The Word of God which is the incorruptible seed by which we are saved.  So let’s look at the obstacles:

  1. Obstacle #1: Second hand faith. The nobleman had heard about Jesus. He came to get Jesus to take him back home with him in the hope he could save his dying child. He was desperate. He had a major, major crisis in his life. A matter of life and death.  Salvation is always a matter of life and death.  Often God has to allow us to come to desperate crisis situations in our lives so we can get our priorities in life in order. Jesus replies to this man and the people about him, “unless you people see signs and wonders you will never believe.” The nobleman is not there for a theological debate. He says to Jesus, “Sir Come down before my child dies.”  Jesus replied, “You may go, your son will live.” This man has come with 2nd hand faith, borrowed faith from other’s testimony about this man Jesus. But you see, your mother and daddy’s faith will not save you, it must be personal. Jesus asks his disciples one day, “Whom, do men say that I am? “ And the disciples told Jesus what others believed who he was.  Jesus then asked them, “Whom do you say I am?”  This was personal belief, personal faith. Peter answered, “Thou are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” ( Matthew 16)  It does not matter who others says Jesus is – it only matters who you believe He is. This is why we must know who Jesus is, what He offers and how to receive it.   Jesus is saying you demand a sign, a miracle, and a wonder in order to believe. They are not hungry for God, they are hungry for the miracles of God. Jesus said in John 6, the day after feeding the 5000, “you seek me because you ate the bread and were filled.”  In fact when we demand a sign we dishonor God. We are saying to God, we do not take you at your word, you must prove yourself with a miracle.  I need proof you are a God who keeps his word.
  2. Obstacle #2. This one is a big one.  Our faith is self-centered. We realize this nobleman was interested in Jesus for just one reason- he has a dying son he wanted to live. He came to Jesus in desperation as his last hope of having any chance of saving his son. You may ask is it wrong to pray for your loved one’s sickness, or any other problems we have? No, we are encouraged by God to call on Him. But what was the nobleman’s priority?   He wanted Jesus for what Jesus could do for his son, his family. He wanted his will to be done not God’s will. “Without faith it is impossible to please God and those who come to Him must believe that He is and is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him, (not what they can get from Him.) Hebrews 11: 6.    Jesus told us not to worry about our life, about food and clothing for life was much more than that. He knows this is what the pagans seek after, and He knows you have need of those things also. But seek you first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added. ( Matthew 6) We are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. We are to seek His will, His rule and reign first. We can then love our families best when we love Him first and foremost. He has promised to supply our needs.  Will you take Him as His Word?  Or do you demand He do what you ask Him to do, when you want him to do it and how to do it?  This man was a loving father who wanted to give his son, something he could not give him. He wanted to see him healed and with a future. He loved his son and wanted to give him good gifts.  Jesus said if you earthly fathers, being wicked, know how to give good gifts, how much more would your Heavenly Father give you.  ( Matthew 7)  Now do not leave this section thinking, does this mean I cannot ask God for things for myself and my family, especially if there is a crisis.  No, whatever concerns you, concerns God.   But this man’s problem is he has yet to bow down at the feet of Jesus and worship Him. So many people today, including Christians, are concerned only about our health, our welfare, our children, our families, and our future- but not about the kingdom of Jesus. Our priority is not glorifying God and maintaining a right relationship with Him.  Jesus told us: “The seed that fell among the thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go their way they are choked out by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature “(Luke 8) Do we add ‘not my will, but thy will, Father to the end or lists of wants and needs we bring to Him? Do we mean it or is it an empty vow? Are you disappointed when God does not answer your prayer the way you want Him to answer it?  To be honest, we usually are, but then later on we often see His wisdom and His Ways which are higher than ours.  But whether we see it or not- we believe His ways are best.
  3. Obstacle #3 – A strong-willed faith. This is often the type of faith which grows out of a self-centered faith. It relies on personal strengths and disciplines. This nobleman was a man who had been successful in life. He was disciplined. He was a hard worker. He was intelligent. He could by his own power control things about him.  He would tell this Jesus what to do, when to do it, and how to do it. Peter was a man of great physical strength, who depended on his physical strength to get things done. Paul wanted a thorn in his flesh removed so he could operate at full strength. Until the Lord refused to remove the thorn, telling Paul His grace was sufficient and His strength is made perfect in weakness. This is a lesson we all have to learn. Faith is not so much receiving from God the things you want. But is accepting the things God gives.  But what you will soon find out as this nobleman did, is the Lord is able to do exceedingly, abundantly more than you can ask or imagine. This man wanted something very important to him and his family to happen, he wanted his son to live. What he and his family got was so much more.  Jesus gave him and life and life abundantly.  Eternal life. Now we have not been told anything about his man that he was sinful or mistaken in coming to the Lord Jesus.  He was in the right place, pleading with the right person for help.

THE STEPS OF FAITH

  1. “So then faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” The nobleman was standing in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene, the incarnate Word of God.  He had asked Jesus to come, Jesus told him to go. If you want to believe, you have to have something to believe in. And what we have is the Word of God, the incorruptible seed. The Word which is alive and powerful. It is life giving, life sustaining and life transforming.  I spent a 14 year period in my life without hearing the Word of God, by choice. I had been raised in a Christian home, went to church all my years growing up, but when I went off to college at 17, I decided to live life my way, not my parents’ way nor God’s way. I had a second hand faith.  Like Nicodemus, the Samaritan woman and this nobleman, I had heard about Jesus. But I did not know Him personally, until He allowed me to come to a life or death crisis.  Then on September 16, 1977, I came to know Him personally. We began a life journey together, a personal relationship.  It began just like with these people. It began with a conversation. I took Him at His Word. He gave me a promise I could stand on, which allowed me to endure temptation without giving in to it. He saved my life. The nobleman in his desperation had a conversation with Jesus and believed what He told him. He took Him at His Word.  Faith comes from hearing and hearing from the Word of God.
  2. Believing the Word. His believed the word of Jesus. He believed His promise. He did not have to perform a miracle for him to believe. He did not have to have proof that He could be trusted.
  3. He obeyed the Word of God. Jesus said, “go your son will live.” He went. He obeyed.
  4. He rested in the Word. He rested in the word. You can imagine the man had experienced sleepless nights with his son’s critical illness. When he arrived in Cana he had probably not slept a wink the night before. Capernaum is about 20 miles from Cana.  A 7-8 hour journey by foot, probably half that by chariot, which he probably had. He had arrived in Cana to see Jesus at 1:00pm.  Leaving shortly after his conversation with Jesus, he could have been home before dark that night. He was exhausted physically, mentally and emotionally.  He stops on his journey and spent the night. He went to sleep that night, laid his head down on the pillow of the Promises of the Lord Jesus and slept the best night of sleep he had had in days.*Realize this man has not yet seen his son, but he has believed. Jesus said if you believe you will see.  When he was still on his way home the next day, his servants came to give him the news of his son’s miraculous recovery. The nobleman asked at what hour it had occurred, and they told him the 7th hour- the same hour Jesus had said his son would live.  He and his household believed.  They were all saved. They had received not just life but life abundant.

“Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him. Rest in the Lord. Commit your way to Him. (Psalm 37)

APPLICATION: Jesus has now gone back to heaven in his resurrected body. He cannot come to the hospital to visit your loved one. Remember Mary said to Jesus when Lazarus died, “Lord if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”  When Jesus was on earth, he could not be in two places at once. But He is showing us He does not have to be.  John refers to these miracles as signs, meaning there is something Jesus wants to teach us. He is showing us He is Lord over space, over time, over nature.

He has sent His Holy Spirit to indwell me and never leave me.  Jesus has shown He could heal this man’s son without being present.   I have all of Jesus, He is my ever- present help. I have the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.  God speaks to me through His word. When we find a promise in the Word of God He has for us for such times in our lives the Spirit will bring it home to our heart and we can stand on the promise. We can rest in the Lord and wait on Him. Wait, I say on the Lord, wait.

So our greatest need is assurance in the place of doubt.  We need assurance of His presence. God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you. So we say with CONFIDENCE, the Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? “(Hebrews 13) “I have put my hope in your word.” (Psalm 119: 81) *Hear the Word. *Believe the Word.  *Obey the Word.* Rest in the Word.

“I pray to have a conscious awareness of God AT ALL TIMES.”  Johnye Elizabeth Fortner. My mother.

While preparing this lesson, I had the distinct impression, to go by my old church, Woodland Baptist Church, and give a copy of my book to Len Kennedy, the minister of music. I told him Woodland had been on my heart and in my prayers. It was such an important place and time to me in my life and the lives of others.  I loved this church and what it had been to me and my family. Tears came up in Len’s eyes as he shared with me, how encouraged he was by former members reaching out to him.

He then shared this verse with me, a verse which Gina and I have claimed many a time:  “I would have lost heart, unless, I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait on the Lord, be of good courage and He shall strengthen your heart. Wait, I say on the Lord. (Psalm 27)

I do not know what circumstances you are in today or what you are waiting on the Lord to do. I do know the word unless is a word of faith, which is the very currency we exchange in heaven for encouragement, hope and strengthened hearts.

Are you in God’s waiting room today?  Then first of all you are in the right place, His Waiting Room.  We have all been there, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Caleb, even the Lord Jesus said, “My hour has not yet come.”

“I waited patiently for the Lord: And He inclined to me and heard my cry. He brought me up out of a horrible pit. Out of the miry clay and set my feet upon a rock. He established my steps. He has put a new song in my mouth- Praise to our God, many will see it and fear and will trust in the Lord.” (Psalm 40)

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He leads me…..  The two most powerful words which have changed the world, which were spoken by our Lord, are:  FOLLOW ME.

 

 

Gospel of John: Chapter 4 – Come Thirsty

John 4:  Come Thirsty

As Jesus ends his encounter with Nicodemus, let us once again listen in to the end of this conversation as Jesus makes  the following statements about which there can be no confusion. He tells Nicodemus, “ For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that through Him , the world might be saved.”  Jesus then says almost bluntly to Nicodemus- “… whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”  Remember what Paul said in Romans 8? “ There is therefore now no condemnation  to those who are in Christ Jesus.”   The trial has been held in the council of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit and the  verdict is read:  “ This is the verdict (condemnation, KJV) Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.”

We see a brief mention of an argument between John the Baptist’s disciples and a certain Jew about who is baptizing the most converts, John the Baptist or Jesus.  John’s disciples are fearful of everyone going to Jesus and his ministry shrinking.  John the Baptist says Jesus must become greater and he must become less.  And John the Baptist confirms, “ Whosoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whosever rejects the Son will not see life, for Gods’ wrath remains on him.”

Now we move from one remarkable conversation  to another. This difference between these two people could not have been any further apart to the people of that time. Nicodemus was a Jewish man, a Pharisee, a religious, respected ruler.  The next conversation is with a Samaritan woman, immoral, disrespected and ignorant of spiritual and religious truths.

Jesus and his disciples are headed back to Galilee.  We read, “ Now he had to go ( must needs, KJV)  through Samaria.  He did not have to go through Samaria to get back to Galilee, and most Jews would not travel through Samaria. Just so we understand, Samaritans were despised by Jews.  Samaritans were mixed breed of Jews and Assyrians, a result of the Assyrian captivity of the northern tribes in 721 B.C.  They were not allowed to worship in the Temple in Jerusalem and had set up their own synagogue on Mount Gerizim.   Now remember earlier in John 2, Jesus told us mother, “ my hour has not yet come.” Jesus is following His Father’s will, on His Father’s divine time schedule. His decision to take this route through Samaria we will see is in order to do his Father’s will.   Jesus and his disciples have arrived at high noon. The disciples  have gone into town to obtain food.  Jesus is tired and resting by the well. The Samaritan woman comes to draw water at noon, an unusual time to draw water, but probably a time chosen by her to avoid the women from town.

THE CONVERSATION. 

Have you ever noticed most relationships begin with a conversation?  Jesus starts the conversation.  He will start a conversation with what is at hand, the common denominator, the simple need for water. They both need water. This woman lacks the knowledge which Nicodemus had.  Jesus is going to impart three of the most important facts every person on the face of the earth needs to know:

1.      Who He ( Jesus) is.

2.      What He has to offer.

3.      How anyone can receive it.

Jesus is about to cast the seed, the incorruptible seed, the Word of God. We will see as Jesus tells us in the parable of the seed and the sower, the seed will land on one of four types of soil, which represent the condition of one’s heart.  The four conditions are: hard heart, shallow heart, crowded heart, and prepared heart.   We will see as the story and conversation unfolds, she has a shallow heart, which hears and interest springs up , but the soil will need to be prepared, deepened, plowed up.

Jesus starts the conversation with a simple request:  “ Will you give me a drink?”  He is respectful, putting himself in the lower position of asking her a Samaritan woman for a drink.  Remember there is a deep racial barrier of hatred and animosity  between the Jews and the Samaritans.   She wants to begin a civil rights debate: “ you are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman, how can you ask me for a drink?”  It is as if she wants to bait him, to cause him to grow angry and debate these racial differences .

Jesus, however, responds using the natural to describe the supernatural, the spiritual. He tells her “ if you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water.”

Notice her reply- for instead of harsh words, his gentle manner of respect has created a similar change in her attitude toward him. First she had called him a “ Jew” and now she calls him, “ Sir.” The whole expression of her face has changed along with her attitude toward this unusual man. “ Sir, you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us this well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and flocks.”  She is puzzled but interested.

Jesus replies:  “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks this water I give will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”  Jesus who created oxygen and hydrogen and combined two parts of oxygen with one part of hydrogen created water. He is using the physical truths to demonstrate spiritual truths.

So by now, she has encountered two marvels, first of all things,  a Jew had asked her for a drink. Second, he claimed to have living water , which he was quite willing to give her. She replies, “ Sir give me this water, that I may not thirst again, nor have to keep coming to the well to draw water.”  THIS WOMAN HAD COME THIRSTY.

Now Jesus is offering her eternal life a gift. But Jesus always has to deal with the question of sin.  If we say we have not sin, the truth is not in us, and we lie. But if we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Jesus must put his finger on what causes our thirst which cannot be quenched.  The cause of this thirst: sin. 

The soil of the heart must be broken. The plow of conviction must do the work. You see, if one wants eternal life, the cause of death – sin-  must be removed.

Jesus says to her, “ go call your husband.”  This woman who has been most talkative up until now, offers her briefest exchange.  “ I have no husband.” 

Jesus said to her, “ You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”  No lecture on sexual immorality, no verbal “ raking her over the coals”, no stern lectures or harsh words. He wanted her to know He knew her sins, and she had to admit them.

From calling Jesus a Jew, to the respectfully calling him “ Sir,” now she adds another as Jesus knew all about her, she calls him: Prophet. But now she is uncomfortable because he knows her history. She attempts to change the direction of the conversation to a religious debate.    She talks about her religion. “Our fathers worshipped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is Jerusalem.”

She resorts to tradition and the claim of heritage, the same as the Jews did. She goes back to ‘ our fathers.’ But Jesus takes her remark and uses ‘ the Father ‘ over against her fathers.  Now in today’s environment of re-defined tolerance we are told not just to accept another’s right to believe what they want to believe, but to accept what they believe, especially in religions, as being equal. When marriage was redefined, President Obama, said we should accept the marriage of a man to a man or a woman to a woman as being as honorable as the traditional God ordained marriage between a man and a woman.

Jesus is saying in plain, clear language:  all religions are not equal, nor acceptable to God. They who do not have the Son, do not have the Father. They worship in ignorance and unbelief. Jesus said you Samaritans worship what you do not know.  He tells her the truth: you do not know who to worship, where to worship or how to worship.  This is not hate speech. This is speaking the truth in love.  The only faith God accepts is the faith which came through the Jews.  Through the seed of Abraham, through tribe of Judah, of the family of David, of the city of Bethlehem.   The Bible is of Jewish origin. God gave His Word through them. They were faithful to write it down and preserve it. (God chose Abraham and his offspring to be the people, the vessels through whom He would bless the world. )God the Son came to earth in a Jewish body prepared for him. God chose to send the Lamb of God through the Jewish people. This is why Jesus said, “ Salvation is of the Jews.”  God’s offer of salvation is available to all who believe. To all races, to all genders, to all backgrounds. It is an all inclusive offer. God is not willing that any should perish , but all would come to repentance. But it is an exclusive offer, no one comes to the Father except by Jesus Christ.

Jesus then tells us, “ Yet a time is coming and now has come, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks. God is Spirit, and His worshippers must worship Him in spirit and in truth.”  We must have the Spirit of God which comes at conversion in order to know the spiritual truths, for the natural man cannot understand the supernatural, the spiritual. We have the Holy Spirit in our hearts who leads us to worship the Lord in spirit and in truth which is found in God’s Word and poured into our hearts. We engraft His Word into our hearts and souls and then the Spirit of God is able to lead us into true worship.  

Now the woman had received some knowledge somewhere in her teaching, she knew about the Messiah, but she did not know who he was. She says, “ I know that Messiah, called the Christ, is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”   

Now Jesus reveals to this woman, an immoral Samaritan woman, he is the Messiah.  He has told there the three most important truths she needs to know:

1.      He Jesus is the Messiah, the Savior of the World.

2.      He controls the gift of salvation, forgiveness of all sins and eternal life.

3.      It hers for the asking. Ask and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock and it will be opened.

If you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart God has raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. (Romans 10)

“ For by grace are you saved by faith and that not of yourselves, it is the GIFT  of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.” ( Ephesians 2: 8,9)

“Therefore , just as sin entered the world through one man( first Adam), and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned…”  But the GIFT  is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the GIFT  that came by the grace of one man , Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!  Again the GIFT  of God is not like the result of one man’s sin.”  ( Romans 5)

Guess what happens next?  Just at the critical moment of their conversation- an interruption as the disciples come back from town with the food. But guess what- our role is to cast the seed, break the soil, water it, but it is God who gives the increase. The Holy Spirit will not be hindered by interruptions.

Now John in his gospel draws attention to how Jesus was teaching the disciples in private moments those truths which the needed to know. This trip was not just for the Samaritan woman the well or for the citizens of Sychar who come out to hear Jesus. This trip was for His disciples also.  This was Jesus’ ongoing discipleship and training program using every moment every day to teach them through example.  The disciples have returned with food.  They ask Jesus, aren’t you going to eat, Rabbi?  Jesus said I have food to eat  of which you do not know. What is that food?  Did someone bring you something?  Again Jesus uses the natural and physical to teach the spiritual.  My food is to do the will of Him who sent me, and to finish the work.  Finish the work of what was God’s plan of redemption even before He created the world. Jesus is on His Father’s time table to finish the work His hour has not yet come.

Jesus then talked about the harvest and told the men to look at the fields for they were already white, ripe for the harvest.  Yet the harvest was in a place they would have never looked. And I believe even as Jesus spoke these words, they looked up and saw the crowd coming out of the city to hear Jesus because of the woman’s witness. 

Revival would come to Sychar in Samaria and Jesus would stay two more days. They came because of what the woman said. But watch what happens:  “ They said to the woman, “ We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”  Their faith had found a resting place. It rested not on someone else’s testimony, but on the word of Jesus. Unlike the Jews who asked for a sign in order to believe. The Samaritans asked for no signs.  On Christ the Solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.

Do you see the impact just one person can have on another person’s life?  Remember we are salt and light. Salt not only preserves, salt makes you thirsty. Sin cannot quench your thirst. To drink alcohol in excess will dehydrate one and they awaken the next morning more thirsty than ever before.  In Luke 16, in the story Jesus tells about the rich man and Lazarus, where the rich man ended up in Hades in the Place of Torment. Listen to what this rich man, who seemingly in life had everything, asked Father Abraham for: “ Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip his finger in the water and cool my tongue, because I am in torment in this place.”  A place of perpetual and unquenched thirst.

This woman came not knowing:

1.      Who Jesus was.

2.      What He had to offer

3.      How she could receive it.

Jesus said if you knew the gift of God and who controls is , you could ask Him and He would give it to you. Now repentance was required, sin had to be confessed. For after all it was sin which had left this woman so thirsty.  She had come to the well that day- SHE HAD COME THIRSTY. She went away satisfied, forgiven and now knew who Jesus was, what he had to offer and how she could receive it. To receive the love of God , we must receive His Son.  The GIFT  that keeps on giving.

“If anyone thirsts , let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in me, as the Scriptures has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” ( John 7)   “ Come all you who are thirsty, come to the waters” ..Isaiah 55:1

COME THIRSTY

 

Gospel of John; Chapter 3, Part Two: The Lamb’s Book of Life

John 3 Part Two: The Lamb’s Book of Life

The reference to Moses lifting up the brass serpent in the desert is recorded in Numbers 21. It is a story of rebellion and sin.  This incident reveals: God’s judgment of sin by sending the fiery serpents whose bite brought death, for the wages of sin is death. It also reveals His grace and the role of faith.  For by grace are you saved through faith. There is another important element which took place in this story, the people confessed their sins. They asked Moses to intercede for them and he does. God responds in grace and provides a solution and cure for the poisonous bite of the fiery serpents. God instructs Moses to make a brass serpent and put it on a pole and anyone who was bitten looked to the brass serpent and lived. This was the role of faith, as one looked in faith to the serpent to be healed, their faith in the promise of God made them whole.

Lifted up has two meanings regarding Jesus Christ. He was lifted up physically and literally on the cross at Calvary.  And lifted up also means to be exalted and we read Jesus ascended up to third heaven and was exalted to the highest place of honor and glory and power. When we exalt Him with our lives, our testimony and actions, we lift Him up and draw men, women, boys and girls to Him. Jesus said he must be lifted up. We must be born again and Jesus must be lifted up, exalted. We are to continue to exalt Jesus today, even though it is becoming politically incorrect to do so, it must be done.

Now today and in every generation since the fall in the Garden we have a serpent problem. We have all been snake bit with sin, poisonous venom which leads to death unless we look to our ‘brass serpent’ the Lord Jesus Christ.  Man has been trying to create his own solution to this problem since the fall. Adam and Eve tried to shift the blame and cover it themselves. Cain thought he had a better solution than God and wanted to deal with the problem his own way, which did not include the shedding of blood. God told Cain, his way was unacceptable. He also told Cain if he would do what was right, he would be accepted, but sin was crouching at his door and its desire was to have Cain.   The only solution is to look to Jesus, lifted up on the cross, to save us from our sin, the poisonous bite of the serpent.

Today people still want to blame someone else for their problems. They want to cover it up. They say there is no problem, but 15 minutes of nightly news will tell us that is a lie. They want to rid themselves of guilt by redefining sin.  But there is only one cure, one anti-venom, the blood of Jesus. By believing Jesus, looking to Him we will find redemption.  We either live in obedience to God or in disobedience to God. Herein lies the problem with disobedience.  Disobedience seems like more fun than obedience. Obedience appears more  difficult, harder to do, and unpopular also.  After all, disobedience represents the broad way and the wide gate which many enter in. It is a way which seems right to man, but ends in death. The way of obedience is a narrow way and a strait gate, few enter there.  Why is it so hard to be good and so much fun to be bad?  The fact that we have this attitude which asked this question is proof we have a sinful nature. That we have been deceived and believe the lie of the enemy, the deceiver and father of all lies.

The lie, a very subtle one, is God is withholding good things from you. That God is unfair, harsh and a “kill-joy.” Yet Jesus came to give us life and life more abundantly. It is the enemy who steals and kills and destroys. The devil is the kill joy.  Not surprising then, the first miracle Jesus performed was to turn water into wine, as symbol of joy. Jesus was literally the “life of the party” at the wedding in Cana.  And Scripture tells us this:  “The Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.” (Psalm 84)  To walk uprightly is to walk in obedience to God, the straight and narrow way which leads to eternal life.   One of the symptoms of this deadly poison called sins, is to view God does not have your best interest in mind.

Here is what God sees and it makes Him weep. Jesus wept. Jesus cried out –‘O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets, how I longed to gather you as a mother hen would her chicks, but you would not.  God sees what sin does.  He sees the hurt in people’s lives, their pain, guilt, shame and worry. He sees the young girl who has believed the lie about sex and finds herself in an unwanted pregnancy then believes the lie of abortion and find herself guilty and ashamed. God sees the damage the lies and disobedience cause. He sees the damage of drugs, pornography, addictions, greed, oppression, violence, domestic abuse, fear, worry, anxiety and depression. He is not indifferent. He will go to the most extreme measure to cure the problem.  God Himself because of His Love, will do something no one could have imagined.  A love so amazing it prompted the song writer to write- ‘amazing love, how can it be, that God my Savior has died for me?

God sees the cause and the effect. And for this reason, God had a plan before the foundation of the earth, a solution to poisonous bite of the fiery serpent. Let’s break down the most well-known verse in the Bible, John 3: 16 into its 10 key words:

  1. God
  2. Loved
  3. World
  4. Gave
  5. Son
  6. Whosoever
  7. Believeth
  8. Perish
  9. Have
  10. Life

Now there are two other small words I want to mention briefly: for and so.

The word, for, is used by Jesus like the word, therefore, as he explains to Nicodemus why the Son of Man must be lifted up.  The cross is a must be for salvation. The perfect sacrifice which takes away the sin of the world, which only Jesus Christ could achieve, for nothing can wash away our sins, but the blood of Jesus. The reason for this action is because of God’s love for the world. Paul tells us: “If God be for us, who can be against us?  You will live forever with either God for you or against you. *THINK ABOUT THAT FOR A MOMENT.  The little two letter word, so, speaks of the extent to which God would go because of this love.  You can say to someone dear to you:  I love you. Or you can add:  I love you so much, words cannot convey how much… You could expand this verse to say- God loved the world so much, He gave His only begotten Son.  The word so means in this manner or in this way. He demonstrated His love, in this way, that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. He did this so (in that way) He could forgive us of our sins.

This is why Jesus said, why you worry about life, food and clothing and run after the things the pagans do.  Jesus said they seek after these things, but if you being God’s own children seek first His kingdom He will give you all these things. Obedience or disobedience. Choose the way you will go.

Now let’s pair these 10 words into 5 pairs and you will see God has thought of everything, provided the whole world with a solution for our problem.

  1. God and Son. The giver and the gift. The greatest gift ever. The gift of God to the whole world. The greatest sacrifice ever. Jesus said if you knew the gift of God and who it is who controls this gift, you could ask Him and He would give it. For everyone who asks, receives. For by grace are you saved by faith and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God…
  2. Loveth and gave. God is love. And love always involves giving. Love sacrifices. Love is not self-seeking. Love is not easily angered. Love keeps no record of wrongs. You are a newborn babe with no past, only a future.
  3. World and whosoever. The offer of salvation, the forgiveness of sins, eternal life is offered and is available to the whole world- all 7 billion of its inhabitants. The offer is universal and all inclusive. It is not only universal, it is individual.  Whosoever is the blank space in the Lamb’s Book of Life reserved for you, where the Lamb Himself wants to write your name in with His blood. Once your name is written in this Book, it can never be blotted out. At the Great White Throne, the lost are those whose name was not written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. They will be judged for their sins and sent into eternity because their name never was recorded in the blank space the Lamb wanted to write it, he wanted to gather you- but you would not.
  4. Believeth and have. God extends His Hand, His arms are open wide. He stands at the top of the ladder and bids you to come up to Him. He knocks at the door of your heart. He revealed Himself to you in creation, night after night His voice went forth. Everyone everywhere understood it. Their consciences bear witness to right and wrong. He has extended His hand to you with the gift of salvation. When you reach up with the hand of faith and accept- the transfer is completed.  Believe and receive, then you have it and it will never be taken from you.
  5. Perish and life. These two words could not be more opposite. They represent the two ways. Two eternities. The broad way ends in death, which is hell, eternal separation from God. Heaven, eternal life in the presence of the Lord Jesus in a place He has prepared for us. Because He is for us.

God is not indifferent. God is not a harsh judge who takes pleasure in the death of the wicked. He is not willing that any should perish, but all would come to repentance.  God is not unfair. He is love, just, holy, merciful and kind.

Let’s turn our thoughts toward a great passage of Scripture in Romans 8. It begins and ends with the greatest of news, of conditions which you can experience as a believer, one whose name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

Listen how it starts: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus, the law of the Spirit of life, set me free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8: 1&2)

Then there is this other wonderful passage and promise:  “And we know that God works all things together for good for those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8: 28)

And so Paul begins a conclusion:  “What then, shall we say in response to all of this:  If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all- how will he not also along with Him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring charge against us? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? Christ Jesus, who died – more than that, who was raised to life and is at the right hand of God, is interceding also for us. Who will separate us from the love of God?  Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger of sword?  As it is written: For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered sheep to be slaughtered.  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height or depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

If you are a believer, a child of God, God is for you. He is on your side. He is not against you. He whispers in your ear or shouts above the noise of the life’s storms, Fear Not I am with you.

If God is not for you- He is against you.  You should be afraid, very afraid.

Paul has brought us a logical conclusion.  Since God has given up His only Son for us. Why would we expect Him to not give us what we need?

Paul has told us in this one chapter of Romans 8:  there is therefore now no condemnation of those in Christ Jesus. He says we have been set free from the law of Sin and Death by the higher law, the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus.

He tells us He is working all things together for good for those of us who love Him.

The enemy means it for evil, but God will use it for good.

Then Paul concludes by giving us clear logic and  the assurance there is nothing, absolutely nothing in this world , seen or unseen, present or future which can separate us from the love of God.

So why am I worried and fearful?  Because we doubt His promises.

“All things work for our good; though sometimes we don’t see how they could.

Struggles that break our hearts in two, sometimes blind us to the truth. Our Father know what’s best for us, His ways are not our own. So when the pathway grows dim, and you just don’t see Him, remember you are never alone.

God is too wise, to be mistaken. He is too good to be unkind. So when you can’t see His plan; when you can’t trace His hand, Trust His heart.

He sees the master plan; He holds the future in his hand. So don’t live as those who have no hope. All our hope is found in Him. We see the present clearly. He sees the first and last. And like a tapestry He is weaving you and me. To someday be like him.   He alone is faithful and true. He along knows what is best for you.”

The prodigal son believed disobedience was more fun than obedience. So he was lured to the wide gate, the popular gate, and the wide way which many entered. Sin is pleasurable for a season. Wine sparkles in the cup but in the end stings like a snake. Off we go out from under the rules of our parents to do what is right in our own eyes.  The enemy wants to lead you away from the destiny God has for your life.

The enemy wants to steal the wayward lamb from the Good Shepherd. He goes about like a lion seeking whom he may devour. A thief, a murderer, the father of all lies, the deceive, the destroyers.

But our True Elder Brother, the Lord Jesus, us unlike the elder brother in the parable. He left home to go to far country to find his younger brother and bring him home, like the lost lamb. God the Father and the household of heaven, rejoiced when you and I were found.

A feast is being prepared for us now, a robe has been given, the sandals of the Gospel have been put on our feet and we the ring on our finger, which represents power and authority. We are now in the Kingdom of God.

And God if for us—- who or what can be against us?  Nothing Paul says emphatically and completely can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus.  There is therefore now no condemnation. You have been set free.

Is your name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life?  If it is nothing can blot it out.

 

Gospel of John; Chapter 3 – Born of the Spirit

John 3: Born of the Spirit

At the end of John 2, we read Jesus performed many miracles at the Passover feast, and many people saw the miracles and believed in His name. But Jesus did not entrust ( commit ) himself to them, for he knew all men. He did not need man’s testimony about man, for he knew what was in man’s heart.  John tells us many believed in his name when they saw the miracles, the miraculous signs he did. Their faith was in the miracles he did. We will see this become the reason many followed him.  Their faith was not in Jesus, it was in the miracles of Jesus.

Isaiah prophesized : “  These people honor me with their lips , but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.”  Jesus spoke these words to the Pharisees and  added:  “ you have let go of God’s commands and are holding to the traditions of men.” ( Mark 7)    Samuel said, “ Men look on the outside, but God looks in the heart.”

Jesus is the God- Man. Here he exhibits the omniscience of God. He knows all men- universally.  And He knew each individually.  He did not commit himself to those for he knows  what was in their hearts and did not commit Himself to  them.  Notice what Jesus said in Mark 7, you have let go of God’s command and are holding to the traditions of man. Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount, “ you have heard it said of old” which is a  reference to the teaching of their elders.  The Pharisees and Scribes had written two books, the Misnah, and the Talmud. These still exist to this day.  The Misnah is a book made up of sections on how to apply the Ten Commandments in every- day life. What one can do or not do on the Sabbath which would be considered work covered 24 chapters.  The Talmud was a commentary on the Misnah.  ( For example I have books in my library which offer commentaries on books of the Bible. One commentary I have on the book of John is over 400 pages.  In the NIV, the book of John covers 46 pages, with foot notes.  Without footnotes, it would probably on cover about 25- 30 pages. )

Now it is not that I do not appreciate the work of others who have studied  and shared their views and interpretations.  But I have but one teacher- the Holy Spirit. He helps me discern the truth. For He always testifies to the truth.  It is His testimony I must believe.

We read the last verse of John 2 which says: “ …for he ( Jesus) knew what was in a man.”  And it leads us to the first verse of John 3: “ Now there was a man of the Pharisees , a member of the Jewish ruling council.”  Understand a Pharisee in the time of Jesus was considered to be extremely religious, zealous in keeping the law, following the minutia of the Misnah in all the rituals, diet, ceremonies, cleansing, sacrifices and keeping the Sabbath. Nicodemus was religious, rich, respected and a ruler.  Jesus knew what was in the heart of Nicodemus, for he knew all men and knew what was in this man’s heart.

Nicodemus must have heard what Jesus said and saw what he did in the temple. But Nicodemus had been taught all his life, that what a man needed to please God was clear instructions and hard work to follow those instructions, keeping the law. In some ways we all have this in our hearts, that we can please God with our works, our efforts, our good deeds, and in doing so , God will accept us. Nicodemus recognized in Jesus an ability to teach in a way he had never heard before. Nicodemus was convinced Jesus was a teacher sent from God for no man could do the miraculous signs Jesus did. He knew in his heart Jesus was sent from God.

Nicodemus would seem to anybody viewing his life, to have it all. Money, respect, position, a leader and a morally good man. He is even humble enough to come to Jesus this carpenter from Nazareth.  His words and actions reveal he is a man unsure of his standing with God. He has no assurance of God’s acceptance of his good works, of all his efforts to keep the commandments.  Perhaps he had been to hear John the Baptists, as had many of the Pharisees.  Now this man appears on the scene, this Jesus of Nazareth, a carpenter from Nazareth, a “ nobody’” in the eyes of the Sanhedrin.  No degrees, no pedigrees, no writings, no followers except six other nobodies, some rough neck, unlearned fishermen.

Yet…Nicodemus heard Jesus teach, saw what he did and came at night to see him.  Recognized him as a superior teacher, and as a  man who must have been sent by God, for no one could do what he did. Nicodemus uses the plural “we” referring to other members of the Sanhedrin who believe Jesus is somebody special.  If he thought Jesus would be impressed that other members of the Sanhedrin were impressed with his teaching and therefore Jesus would respond favorably he was mistaken.  Nicodemus thought he  would lead the conversation.  But Jesus’ reply comes directly to the point, like a sharp sword it divides the thought and intentions of Nicodemus’ heart.

Jesus replies: “ I tell you the truth, ( verily, verily, KJV- meaning this is the most important thing I can tell you)  no one can  see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”   A new birth is essential, absolutely necessary. The Greek word used here is interesting. The word is anothen.  It literally has three meanings:  to do it a second time; a new beginning; and it also mean from above. We will see all three occur. We will see we are born again a second time, spiritually. It something radical a new beginning  which comes from above and as a result we are a new creation.  A newborn babe, born again not of the corruptible, but the incorruptible seed, the Word of God. ( 1 Peter 1; 23)

Listen to what Nicodemus says in reply: “ how can a man be born when he is old? Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb.”

Notice the first word Nicodemus uses:  how.  How not why.  Ask a teenager to do something and he/she might reply : ‘why?’ – Which speaks of rebellion, which usually  is the start of an argument. Or they can answer how- which implies I will do it, show me how- teach me how to do it. After all we had to be taught how to mow the yard, do the laundry, make up our beds, etc.  This is the role of parents for children.  This is why God chose to identify Himself as our Father which art in heaven. The person who realizes and says with great humility- I know no good thing dwells within me is a person who is humble. The Pharisees thought highly of themselves. This is why Jesus told the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector who went down to the Temple to pray. This parable compared two extremes- the confident self-righteous Pharisee and the despised, humbled tax collector. The Pharisee depended on his good works, his keeping of the law.  The tax collector does not plead his good works, he pleads for the mercy of God. Jesus said the tax collector went home justified, not the Pharisee who exalted himself, but the man who humbled himself.  Nicodemus has humbled himself to come to Jesus seeking advice and teaching. He has a teachable spirit.  The seed of the incorruptible word of God is about to be planted.

Realize the impact of this conversation. It is the most important conversation ever held. It contains the most well known verse of the Bible and the most profound truth. Let’s listen in as John did that night Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews came to see Jesus. Jesus is about to answer the question of Nicodemus and the question of every doubter- How can one be born again?

Jesus answered:  “ Verily, verily ( I tell you the truth) no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.”

Now to be in the Kingdom of God is to belong to God; to be part of His rule, His reign and His domain. Paul tells us we are transferred from the “ kingdom of darkness, ruled by the god of this world, into the kingdom of the Son of His love.” This same one John told us is the Light of the World. Out of darkness into light occurs at salvation.   Jesus saw in Nicodemus’ heart a hunger and emptiness of a man who wanted so desperately to please God and be accepted by God.

What does Jesus mean when He tells Nicodemus and us, we must be born of the water and the Spirit.  Does being born of the water, mean our first physical birth?  I think it is obvious we must be born the first time, which is out of the water of our mother’s wombs, into the kingdom of this world. Does it mean baptism of water?  No baptism of water cannot save one. None of the Old Testament Saints who are in heaven today were baptized in water. Baptism denotes death in the New Testament. But I believe Jesus is telling us there are two factors involved in the 2nd birth, water and the Spirit. Water is a symbol of the Word of God. In John 17, Jesus prays, “ Sanctify them through the truth; thy word is truth.” In John 15, Jesus says, “ you are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.”  I believe to be born again from above, to be cleansed of all your sins, the Holy Spirit uses the Word of God applied and believed in our heart.

Again let us go back to Genesis 1, where John began his Gospel calling Jesus the Word of God who was with God in the beginning and who was and is God . “ In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void and in darkness and the Spirit hovered above the face of the waters”. There it is the Spirit and water. There I was in darkness, my life without purpose, void, empty.  The Spirit was hovering over me. Then came the light- God spoke and said let there be light. John the Apostle told us Jesus, the Word God became flesh and dwelt among us. In Him was life  and the life was the light of men.

Now let’s go back to what John the Baptist told the delegation of priest sent from the Sanhedrin who ask who he was and why was he baptizing Jews as well as Gentiles.  John the Baptist had been the phenomena of the day, drawing huge crowds.  His reply to the delegation of priests would have been brought back to the Sanhedrin, perhaps Nicodemus was even with them when they went to question him, but he undoubtedly heard the report of what  John the Baptist said, “  I baptize with water, but there comes after me One who will baptize you with the Spirit. This man on whom the Sprit comes down on and remains will baptize with the Holy Spirit.”

John the Baptist’s baptism stood for repentance.  There is no regeneration without repentance they go together. No repentance, no new birth. No new birth, no entering the kingdom of God. Cannot enter it, cannot see it, that is understand it. The Spirit of God used the Word of God to bring light into darkness in the creation account. This is exactly what occurred in my life and yours when you were born again. When we say we have been born again, we are compared to a baby, a new infant which desires the Word of God like a new infant desires milk.  But also think about this- a newborn infant has no past, only a future.

When were born the first time physically, we inherited from our parents, our ancestors. We were born in the flesh. Jesus tells us, “ That which is born of the flesh is flesh…”  We inherited the sinful nature. God de also made man to be inhabited by God.  We were created by Him and for Him.  The human spirit was designed to be inhabited by God. After the fall, when sin came into the lives of Adam and Eve, the Spirit departed. God does not intend the change the flesh, the old nature. You do not put new wine in an old wine cloth.  The old nature is at war with God and the new nature, which is God in you. “ The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can it be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.” ( Romans 8)

“…That which is born of the Spirit is spirit. “  When you and I were born in the flesh, we entered this physical world.  A world which are told is under the control of the devil. We received a physical body which allowed us to identify with the physical environment through our five natural senses: sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste.  This is how we sense and understand our physical world.  Notice we call these our natural senses, because they allow us to associate and identify with the natural world. We are referred to in Scripture as the natural man, also known as the old nature when we get saved.   We are told in I Cor. 2, the natural man cannot comprehend, cannot understand spiritual truths, for they lack the Spirit to reveal those truths to them.  When one cannot understand something , we use our natural sense of sight to describe this as ‘ not being able to see.’  In other words they are as we were before the new birth- spiritually blind.

Here is the bottom line- we are born lost. In bondage to sin, imprisoned by our old nature which cannot be redeemed. But when the Holy Spirit comes into our lives, we become a new creature. Our sins are cleansed, the Holy Spirit comes into our lives to indwell us and seal us.  A new life has begun.

Jesus then tells Nicodemus:  “ Marvel not that I said you must be born again.” Then He proceeds to give a second illustration of the work of the Spirit as He compares it to the wind. One cannot see the Spirit, and one cannot see the wind. Nor can one tell where it comes from.  Weather forecasters try to predict and forecast where the wind will blow, where a hurricane will reach land, but they do not know.  The action of the Spirit on the soul of the sinner and the saint is like the wind in the natural world. As the branches of the tree are moved and reveal the movement of the unseen wind, so are the thoughts , words and deeds of a person’s life evidence of an invisible force at work in their lives.   The wind can be soft and gentle in a child’s heart and mind or it can be  tornado which makes one fear and seek shelter.

The Spirit had been stirring the heart and mind of Nicodemus and he knew he had to speak to this man called Jesus. As Jesus spoke to him, Nicodemus began to realize, here he was this teacher of Israel, this religious man, who had no peace.

Jesus , who is the Greatest Teacher ever, continues with this lesson of life eternal. He tells a bewildered Nicodemus: “I have spoken to you of earthy things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?”  We realize the natural things of earth, including birth, how nature reproduces after its own kind, how the wind, which we cannot see, blows,  how the seed dies in the ground to germinate and bring new life, were all pictures of something spiritual and heavenly.

What does this mean?  Jesus was talking a man who had  knowledge of Scripture. Jeremiah predicted a new creation would be given; Ezekiel said God would take out your old sinful heart of stone and give you a new one.  And there were many more statements about a new birth and a new life.  Jesus would later tell people the Scriptures testify of me.  Jesus is saying the Scriptures testify of me, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, the prophets, and Nicodemus as a teacher of the do not understand these things.

Nicodemus’ problem is not what he does or does not do; nor is his problem what he knows or does not know- his problems is what and who he is .  A lost man trying to keep the law to attain acceptance from God.   Jesus is about to give Nicodemus and us the source of salvation.  It is interesting after this encounter with Nicodemus, Jesus and his disciples will go down to Samaria, where he will tell a woman who clearly does not have the knowledge of Scripture that Nicodemus has, about the source of salvation.  The conversation will revolve around water and the One who is the source of a spring of eternal water.

Here Jesus tells Nicodemus the source of salvation.  “ No one has ever gone into heaven, except the one who came from heaven, the Son of Man.  Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”

I am going to stop there for John 3: 16 deserves our full attention.

I believe  Nicodemus became a believer, but not at this time. But I believe the full truth of what Jesus said came to Nicodemus when Jesus was crucified, nailed to that cross and lifted up, that it all came together for Nicodemus.   We know Nicodemus would accompany Joseph of Arimathea when he asked Pilate for the body of Christ.

Gospel of John, Chapter 2: The Wedding

Gospel of John, Chapter 2: The Wedding

Let me go back and give us a refresher as to what has occurred in the Gospel of John so far.  In John’s telling of what happened with the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist, he established a time line which can be confusing. In verses 19-27, John tells us this is the record of what happened when the delegation of Jews came to ask John the Baptist who he was.

Jesus had actually been baptized over six weeks ago by John the Baptist. We area of John the Baptist’s account of this baptism in both Matthew and Luke.  We know the dove which represented the Holy Spirit came down from heaven and remained on Jesus. The dove represents the Holy Spirit. In the Old Testament, the Spirit would come upon individuals, but would not remain.  Again let me take you back to the Book of Genesis. In Genesis 1, the Spirit is described as hovering over the waters. Then in the story of Noah, we see Noah send out the dove from the ark. But the dove found no place to light and rest upon, but now the Spirit has alit on Jesus and remained with him.  Jesus had then been led by the Spirit to be tested and tempted in the wilderness for 40 days. This is recorded in Matthew 4.  John ends this account of John the Baptist’s encounter and investigation by the priests by telling us: “this all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing”.  John then gives us an account day by day for the next few days which will lead us to the wedding at Cana.   John tells us the day after the encounter with the priests, John the Baptist points out Jesus as the Lamb of God. (We can then assume Jesus has returned from his 40 day fast and encounter with Satan.)  John and Andrew follow him. We read in John 1:43, the day after Andrew and John had spent time with him, Jesus calls Phillip to follow him. Phillip invites Nathaniel to come and meet Jesus, who Phillip now claims to be the One Moses wrote about. Their encounter leads to Jesus revealing to Nathaniel he, Jesus, is the ladder on whom he will see angels ascending and descending.  The ladder Jesus referred to was the ladder Jacob had seen in a dream and the ladder reached down from heaven to earth.

(A word about angels ascending and descending:  we know from the story of Job, the angels come before God to report. Therefore we can assume angels are ascending and descending between heaven and earth.  We know there are angels who guard children (Matthew 18); minister to believers, (Hebrew 1:14) are assigned over nations, as we read in Daniel)

Now as we begin Chapter 2, we are told on the third day they attend a wedding in Cana.  This will be Jesus’ first miracle.  He has with him six disciples:  Peter, Andrew, James, John, Phillip and Nathaniel.   Three words are used in the New Testament to describe what we call miracles:  miracles ( dunamis/dynamite) meaning powerful, mighty works; wonders, something supernatural, which produces wonder among those who witness it; and signs, meaning there is a significance deeper meaning to these mighty works.

At the beginning of his public ministry, Jesus’ first miracle is at a wedding; his last public miracle was at a funeral, the raising of Lazarus. The first miracle or sign at the wedding in Cana is connected with one of life’s gladdest moments, a new beginning. The last is connect with one of life’s saddest moments a funeral.  Yet if we are the ‘bride of Christ’, Jesus tells us we will never die.

Moses’ first miracle in Egypt was to turn water into blood. The law was given by Moses. The first miracle of Jesus is to turn water into wine. Wine is associated with joy.  Jesus was full of grace and truth. Jesus was fully God and fully man; never less than God, never more than man. He was completely balanced.

We also read Jesus’ mother was in attendance also. John never mentions the name Mary in his gospel.  We believe the Bible is divinely inspired. Omission of the name of Mary may have been part of the divine inspiration.  There were already errors taking root in the church. Perhaps one of the early ones was worship of Jesus’ mother. We know to this day, the Catholic Church reveres Mary and prays to her. She is believed to have been immaculately conceived and a perpetual virgin. She is referred to in Catholic Church as the Virgin Mary. Sometimes called the Queen Mother 0f Heaven.  Prayers are said to her in hope of her influencing her son to act. Some of the error arises from the “seed of the woman” passage in Genesis 3 and Paul’s reference to the first Adam and Christ as the last Adam, thus Mary must be the last Eve.

Notice the situation in which the first miracle occurs at a wedding.  Having run out of wine, the mother of Jesus says to him, “They have no wine.”  Jesus rebukes her gently: “Woman, what have I to do with you? Mine hour has not yet come.”  All of her life, Mary had endured suspicion due to the circumstances of Jesus’ birth. She knew who Jesus was and how he was conceived. Perhaps what Mary wanted was for Jesus to display a miracle which would prove he was who she said he was.  As we read the passage we will see his miracle was not made public as the master of the banquet did not know where the wine came from. If Mary wanted Jesus to perform a public miracle to clear her of suspicious circumstances surrounding Jesus’ birth, it did not happen. We must remember Jesus is our High Priest, we can approach directly. He is the One Mediator between God and man.  He is the only name under heaven by which we can be saved.  No one comes to the Father except by Jesus.

We believe the miracle, unknown to the attendees, was to bring joy to the wedding. After all, it was God who established the institution of marriage and family.  The other reason Jesus performed this miracle was to reveal his glory to his six new disciples. They were convinced and we read –“his disciples put their faith in him.”

Now we must also notice Jesus performed his first miracle using what was available. After all God said to Moses, “what is that in your hand?”  (Exodus 4)  It was his staff, a stick- but God used the staff as a symbol of His divine power.

Jesus still uses what is available. There were six large water pots used for ceremonial cleansing. These water pots represented the Old Testament covenant of ceremonial cleansing. They symbolized Judaism and its rituals. They had now fulfilled their purpose.  This new wine symbolized a new creation, Christianity. Not a ritual or a religion, but a relationship which was full of joy, unspeakable, rich and full of glory.

It was also the beginning of signs designed to display the glory of Lord convincing the disciples to place their faith and truth in Him.

The water pots were filled with water to the brim. Jesus then told them to draw some out and take it to the master of the wedding banquet. Obviously, this required a step of faith by the servants.  But also there is a picture here of our lives as Christians. Paul refers to us earthen vessels, clay jars or water pots just like these.

We are commanded in Ephesians 5:  “Be NOT drunk with wine wherein is excess, but be filled with the Spirit.”  We are those water pots. As we are filled with the water, the Word of God, we are to ladle it out to those who thirst for righteousness.  As I often say, “my duty is not to fill your cup, but empty mine.” We will read in John 4, of Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well. Jesus tells the woman if you knew who it was who asked you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would give you living water.”  The Holy Spirit wants to fill you with the Word of God so that you might ladle it out.

Do you see what we need?  We need a nation of John the Baptist who creates thirst for righteousness for someone they can trust to bring meaning and fulfillment in their lives. Where are these 21st century John the Baptists?   People need to hear the Good News.   The nation of Israel, God’s chosen people had been in a 400 year spiritual drought. John’s preaching was preparatory to the coming of Jesus. It struck a spiritual chord and renewed an interest in the Messiah who would make their nation great again. Has not our nation, America, entered into a spiritual drought?

There is only one Holy Nation; it is the Church the Bride of Christ. It appears to me, we have run out of wine – the honeymoon our country, America, enjoyed with the Lord Jesus in its early days has been replaced by a nation where everyone does what is right in their own eyes.  We have desecrated the very sacred institution of marriage and family the Lord created.   It is much like it was in the days of Noah, when man though of evil 24-7.  Our cities have turned into the Sodom and Gomorrah as it was in the days of Lot.  Jesus said in Matthew 24 we were to learn from the fig tree. “ Now learn from the parable of the fig tree; when the branch is yet tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is nigh. So likewise when you see all these things, know that is near, even at the door. Verily I say unto you, this generation shall not pass, until all these thing are fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.”(Matthew 24)

Where are we today as the church, the bride of Christ?  Are we like the church at Laodicea?  It was a wealthy church in a wealthy city. Their diagnosis:  lukewarm.  How does something get lukewarm?  It gets away from the source which made it hot. It takes on the temperature of its surrounding environment. Your hot coffee left to sit on the counter, becomes room temperature, lukewarm. Not fit to drink. Were it hot or iced coffee it would be fit to drink.  Lukewarm is a combination of apathy and neglect. Remember what the couple said on the road to Emmaus when the resurrected Lord revealed himself and then vanished? “Did not our hearts burn within us, while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”

JESUS CLEARS THE TEMPLE

If they had a local paper, this would have been the headline:  Jesus clears the temple.  We read in verse 13, as John is recalling things chronologically; the Jewish Passover is at hand.  We know the Passover is a feast celebrated even to this day as a commemoration of Israel’s Exodus from Egypt.  It was celebrated on the 14th day of Nisan (March/April).  Jews from all over the Roman Empire came to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. This was a national feast which lasted a week.

On Passover Eve, the head of each household cleansed the house and made sure to gather all the leaven in the house and remove it.  Yet no one thought of cleansing the House of God.  Jesus will take on the role as the head of the household to cleanse the Temple of leaven, which is a symbol of sin. Leaven puffs up dough. Pride, a sin God hates, puffs one up. He resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

This will be the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. It starts in Jerusalem, in the temple. He is making himself known through these “sign” he is the Messiah. But he will be rejected by the leaders of the Jewish faith. He came unto His own, but they received Him not. (John 1)

Now remember, the last Old Testament prophet Malachi tells us:  “See I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant whom you desire, will come, says the Lord Almighty. But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire, a launderers’ soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites.”

Gina and I were in Marrakesh Morocco several years ago on business.  We shopped in the ‘souks’ which were like kiosks. The area was crowded, dirty, and noisy with all of the haggling and bartering over prices and goods. We purchased a rug there in an event which we still recall to this day, which took about 3 hours to get the price we wanted.

I believe those souks, those crowded open stalls were much like what Jesus encountered when he came into the temple this first Passover of his ministry.  Here was supposedly a sacred structure being desecrated and turned into a market place. Today religion is a big business. The courtyard of the temple was where all of the business traffic was centered. There were at the time of Jesus, four courts.  These courts were: the court of the Gentiles, the court of women, the court of Israel and the court of the priests.  These had become places of business, the “souks’ the stalls and tables of the merchants.  Much like the flea market.

Oxen, sheep, and doves and other creatures generally used for sacrifices were sold here. There was a cattle market adjacent to the altars for convenience. All sacrifices had to be of approved animals.  The temple even had their own flock of sheep in which the purchaser of these were guaranteed acceptance as having no flaw.

All the pilgrims come for the celebration had to pay an annual temple tax.  Common currency could not be accepted, it had to exchanged for temple currency. This currency exchange was a profitable business and the temple received a percentage of all monies.

They had turned Passover into a profitable season of selling and exchanging and bartering. The Feast had brought great crowds into Jerusalem. It was a busy time for all types of businesses.  The Passover Celebration had become to them what Christmas has become to merchants today.

The Lord’s heart was moved at the sight of all this business traffic in His Father’s House, a House of Prayer. He fashions a scourge of cords for driving out the oxen and begins to overturn tables and drives them out single handed.  The disciples must be frightened at his actions. Jesus has taken on the “establishment”.  He has put himself in direct opposition of the Sanhedrin and their members. He has put them on notice. He has proclaimed Himself the Son of the Father, the Son of God.

His disciples would later recall the words of Psalm 69 which says of the Messiah: “Zeal for your House has consumed me.”

The Jewish Authorities were not long in reacting.  They wanted to know by what authority Jesus had done this.  They asked for a miraculous sign.  Paul would later say, the Jews demanded a sign.  We will see later in this chapter how there are those who came to Jesus because of his miracles, his signs.

Jesus said here is your sign:  “Destroy this temple, and in three days, I will raise it up.” John looking back at this statement writes, he had spoken of his body. And of course we know when we get saved, the Holy Spirit enters into our lives and our bodies become the temple of the Holy Spirit. For as early as Exodus 4, we learn wherever God is – is holy ground. Even if it is a burning bush in the desert.

Next week we will listen to one of the most well known conversations in history. Nicodemus and the Lord Jesus in a one-on-one conversation.  So my invitation to you is like the invitation of Jesus- “come and see” what it was all about.  For it contains truths you want to know.