Wednesday, April 30, 2014

ON PURPOSE (John Chapter 18)

John 18:11, “So Jesus said to Peter, ‘Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup the Father has given to me?’”

What you think about the cross matters.  The preaching of “Christ crucified” is a “stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, both Jews and Greeks (it represents) the power of God and wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:23-24).  Key to the possession of a right perspective of the cross is the realization that Christ’s death was no accident, it was God’s purpose all along.

Jesus was well aware of “all that would happen to him” (John 18:5).  He had long before warned His disciples of His sufferings (Cf. Mark 8:31).  He had known about and predicted Judas’ betrayal before it happened (Cf. John 13:11, 19).  He had spoken before of the “cup” He would drink (Cf. Mark 10:38).  It was a cup the Father had given to him.  He had earlier labored, sorrowful of soul, in prayer concerning it, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39).

The events recorded in John chapter 18 were not matters of mere happenstance.  They were not accidental occurrences that worked to bring about an unforeseen calamity or supposed premature end to a “good man’s” life.  The death of the divine Son of God was according to the predetermined plan of God (Cf. Acts 2:23).  God had purposed all along to send His only begotten Son to suffer and die for our sins (Cf. John 3:16; Romans 5:8).  In His cross--and in all that led up to it--Jesus fully and willingly submitted Himself to the Father’s will (Cf. John 17:4).

A company of Judas-led men came “with lanterns and torches and weapons” to arrest Him (John 18:3).  It was no small group and included “a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees” (John 18:3).  They came with torches to search for him, but He did not hide.  They came with weapons to overcome any resistance, but He did not resist.  The mere affirmation of His identity, “I am He,” caused them all to draw back and fall to the ground (Cf. John 18:6), but He nevertheless voluntarily gave Himself up and was bound by them.  Had He chosen to resist all the armies of the world could not have worked to arrest and bind Him, but He had already bound Himself to the will of the Father and that bond would ultimately work to bind Him to the cross.

Despite having been forewarned, Peter was not understanding the events that were transpiring.  His response?  “He drew (his sword) and struck the priest’s servant and cut off his right ear” (John 18:10).  What was his plan?  Defeat the enemies of Christ “one ear at a time?”  Matthew’s gospel includes the rest of Jesus’ response to Peter’s ill-advised effort: “Then Jesus said to him, ‘Put your sword back into its place.  For all who take the sword will perish by the sword.  Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legion of angels?  But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so’” (Matthew 26:52-54)?

Jesus could have called “twelve legions of angels” to rescue Him, but He did not.  He purposed instead to subject Himself to the Father’s will.  In so doing He fulfilled numerous, specific, and centuries-old prophecies.  The words “fulfill” and “fulfilled” are used repeatedly in the passion account to describe His obedient response.

Even in His arrest His divine identity was clearly attested to, being made evident by His miraculous works.  By His Word, “I am He,” they all fell to the ground.  Peter cut off the servant’s ear, but Jesus “touched his ear and healed him” (Luke 22:15).  But they were hard-hearted and refused to believe. 

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son” (John 3:16).  The Son purposed to die in subjection to the Father’s will.  The cross testifies to the power, wisdom, and love of God!  “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us” (1 John 3:16).  No one took His life from Him, He laid it down of His “own accord” (John 10:18). The cross was no accident, it was God’s plan all along.  The Father gave Jesus a cup to drink, for our sake, He purposed to fully partake of it.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

A PRAYER FOR THE AGES (John Chapter 17)

John 17:24, “Father, I desire that they also…may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me.”

John chapter 17 constitutes what is commonly referred to as “Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer.”  In it we find Jesus’ intercession to the Father regarding: 1) Himself in His redemptive Work (1-6); 2) His earthly disciples (7-19); and all the others “who will believe in me through their word” (20-26).  It is preeminent amongst all the prayers found in the Bible, for here the veil is pulled back that we ourselves might listen in on a divine and intimate conversation between the Son and the Father.  It is a prayer which encompasses eons of time for it speaks to the heart of Christ’s redemptive work in restoring to man that which was lost in the fall.  It is a prayer which applies directly to the salvation and future destiny of all believers through the centuries, people from “every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9).

We, as believers in Christ, were prayed for by Jesus.  Even before He died for us, He prayed for us and for all the others who were given by the Father to Him (Cf. John 17:24).  He prayed regarding a variety of important matters, but near the end of His prayer He uttered these wondrous words, praying that we might be with Him and that we might see His glory.

Even now He is with us.  He has promised to be “with (us) always” and to “never leave (us) nor forsake (us)” (Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5).  And, positionally speaking, there is a sense that we are even now with Him, having “been seated…with him in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 2:6).  But He was speaking in His prayer of heaven, where He has gone to “prepare a place for (us)” (John 14:3).  Jesus’ prayer speaks to the heart of God’s saving purpose for us.  Salvation is bigger in scope than just saving us from sin and hell, it has to do with bringing us safely home to heaven, into His presence.  There was a time, before the fall, when man walked with God in intimate fellowship.  There will come a day, in Jesus’ presence, where we will experience that which was lost to us in the fall.  Even now our hearts yearn for that day, “we groan, being burdened…we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord...Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:4-8).  There’s no place like home!  Jesus has prepared for us a home.  He has prayed and purposed and worked to bring us to a home where “we will always be with (Him)” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).  Whether by death or the rapture His centuries-old prayer for His own—“(that) they will be with me where I am”--will be realized.

In His presence we will behold His glory.  Others have been so privileged.  So the Apostle John wrote, “We have seen his glory” (John 1:14; Cf.  John 11:4).  Peter wrote of his experience in viewing Jesus’ “transfiguration”: “we were eyewitnesses of his majesty” (2 Peter 1:16).  We ourselves, as believers, have likewise had our eyes opened to it: “For God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).  Even now the Spirit of God works to bear witness to the glory of Christ (Cf. John 15:26, 16:14).  But, this side of heaven, there are limitations.  In his book, “The Glory of Christ,” John Owen makes a distinction between the beholding of the glory of Christ by faith and by sight.  Both have the same object.  Both look to the same reality.  But the first is temporal and subject to degrees, the other is not.  By faith, we catch a glimpse of that which is unseen (Cf. Hebrews 11:1), but our vision now is limited.  “For how we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face” (1 Corinthians 13:2).  Now we “do not see him” (1 Peter 1:8), but the day is coming when we will “see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).  We shall not only see Him, “we shall be like him” (1 John 3:2).  I can imagine Jesus saying to His disciples, as he led them up that Mount of Transfiguration, “Come with Me, I’ve got something to show you!”  And so He has prayed and is in effect saying to us the same thing.  John Macarthur once told the story of a little blind girl.  She knew of the beauties of the world but only from her mother’s lips.  A noted surgeon performed a series of operations that successfully worked to restore her sight.  The day finally came when bandages were removed from her eyes so that she could see for the very first time.  The little girl ran first of all into her mother’s arms, then she ran to the window and she ran to the door and she turned around and ran back into her mother's arms and she said, "Oh Mother, why didn't you tell me you were so beautiful and the world was so wonderful?" And her mother replied, "I tried."

Set it in your heart as the grand objective while lies in the heart of our Savior and is at the heart of His redemptive work—to bring us home to Himself and unveil to us the full majesty of His glory.  On the day of that unveiling He will be “marveled at among all who have believed,” just as He had once prayed (2 Thessalonians 1:10).

Monday, April 28, 2014

HE SHALL GLORIFY ME (John Chapter 16)

John 16:14, “He shall glorify me.”

These four words speak to the primary purpose and intent of the person of the Holy Spirit in this age.  His ministry is to glorify Jesus Christ.  Charles Spurgeon put it this way, “It is the chief office of the Holy Spirit to glorify Christ.  He does many things, but this is what he aims at in all of them, to glorify Christ.”

The term translated “glorify” here is the Greek, doxazo, which means “to cause the dignity and worth of some person or thing to become manifest and acknowledged.”  His ministry therefore is to manifest the dignity and worth of the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.  This is what He is ever endeavoring to do.

In his book, “Keeping in Step with the Spirit,” J. I. Packer speaks of what he called the “floodlight” ministry of the Spirit: “I remember walking to a church one winter evening to preach on the words “he shall glorify me,” seeing the building floodlit as I turned a corner, and realizing that this was exactly the illustration that my message needed.  When floodlighting is well done, the floodlights are so placed that you do not see them; you are not in fact supposed to see where the light is coming from; what you are meant to see is just the building on which the floodlights are trained.  The intended effect is to make it visible when otherwise it would not be seen for the darkness, and to maximize the dignity by throwing all its details into relief so that you see it properly.  This perfectly illustrates the Spirit’s new covenant role.  He is, so to speak, the hidden floodlight shining on the Savior.  Or, think of it this way.  It is as if the Spirit stands behind us, throwing light over our shoulder, on Jesus, who stands facing us.  The Spirit’s message to us is never, “Look at me; listen to me; come to me; get to know me,” but always, “Look at Him, and see His glory; listen to Him, and hear His Word; go to Him and Have His life; get to know Him, and taste of His gift of joy and peace.”

The Spirit of God works in the lives of God’s children to accomplish this purpose.  He is ever-working to open our eyes to the glory of Christ.  It was He who first unveiled to us the truth regarding the glory of Jesus (2 Corinthians 4:3-6).  He has ever since been working to make Him better known to us.  It is He who opens our eyes to the “the hope to which he has called (us),“ “the riches of his glorious inheritance,” and “the immeasurable greatness of his power” (Cf. Ephesians 1:18-19).  By His strength and presence alone can we “comprehend…what is the breadth and length and height and depth and…know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge” (Cf. Ephesians 3:15, 18-19).  It is He who causes us, “in the beholding the glory of the Lord,” to be “transformed into the same image” (2 Corinthians 3:18).  Glorious Christ-like virtues are replicated in us by Him (Galatians 5:22-23).

For worship to be acceptable it musts be “in spirit and truth” (John 4:23).  Consistent to His Christ-exalting ministry those who “worship by the Spirit of God” are those who “glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh” (Philippians 3:3).  This spiritual axiom is helpful when it comes to the practice of discernment.  If any work fails to exalt the Lord Jesus Christ it cannot be a work of the Spirit of God!  Charles Spurgeon once spoke to this, “There are many ministries in the world, and they are very diverse from one another; but this truth will enable you to judge which is right out of them all.  That ministry which makes much of Christ, is of the Holy Spirit; and that ministry which decries him, ignores him, or puts him in the background in any degree, is not of the Spirit of God.  Any doctrine which magnifies man, but not man's Redeemer, any doctrine which denies the depth of the Fall, and consequently derogates from the greatness of salvation, any doctrine which makes sinless, and therefore makes Christ's work less,—away with it, away with it.  This shall be you infallible test as to whether it is of the Holy Ghost or not, for Jesus says, "He shall glorify me."  IT WERE BETTER TO SPEAK FIVE WORDS TO the GLORY OF CHRIST, THAN TO BE the greatest orator who ever lived, and to neglect or dishonor the Lord Jesus Christ.”

“He shall glorify Me!”  Praise God for the Christ-revealing and Christ-exalting work of the person of the Holy Spirit!  If our endeavor is to behold the glory of Jesus, we find, in the Helper who indwells us, One who has been appointed to that very task!

Friday, April 25, 2014

GREATER LOVE (John Chapter 15)

John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command you.”  John 15:17, These things I command you, so that you will love one another.”

Ernest Gordon was one of many British soldiers captured by the Japanese in the battle for Singapore in WW2.  Ultimately he and thousands of other captives were taken to Banpong, Thailand.  The Japanese command forced these prisoners into hard—sunrise to sunset—labor in building a 258 mile railway to further the Japanese war effort.  They were mistreated and tortured, fed little, and given no medical attention.  Work was not going fast enough, so workers were beaten.  Many died as a result of torture, beatings, and disease.

Gordon was not a Christian, but during his captivity he saw things that caused him to consider Christ.  One such occasion was when a soldier was determined to save his best friend when he became ill.  He gave up all of his own rations, without telling of his sacrifice, for the benefit of his friend.  His sick friend recovered.  He himself later died of starvation.

On another occasion, at the end of a day’s work, a guard declared that a shovel was missing.  In a fit of uncontrollable rage, he yelled, “All die!  All die!”  Just as the guard was to begin shooting the captives, a man stepped forward.  “I did it,” he said.  The Japanese guard slammed the stock of his rifle onto the captive’s head.  The captive sank to the ground, dead.  When the shovels were counted afterwards, they were all there.  The guard had been mistaken.  The captive laid down his life for the sake of the others.

These acts of sacrificial love caused some of the prisoners to think.  One of the captives was a Christian, but Gordon argued against his faith.  He couldn’t understand how God could allow the death of 20 men a day to such ill-treatment.  “Why doesn’t God so something?” he asked.

Another incident spoke again to Gordon’s heart.  Frequently as the prisoners made their way through the local Thai villages they would come across yellow-robe Buddhist priests.  The philosophy of these priests was non-attachment to the world.  If a prisoner dropped at the side of the road, and was obviously dying, they would purpose to ignore him.  They demonstrated no concern for the plight of the captives.  One day the captives passed through a village where the people, at risk to themselves, gave them food and medicine.  Upon inquiry, it was discovered that the village had been evangelized to Christ through the work of a missionary.  Gordon was forced to again question the ultimate source of such love.

These three instances, amongst others, ultimately were used by God to draw Gordon into a saving relationship with the Lord Jesus.  Other prisoners trusted in Christ as well.  The prisoners began to hold worship services.  They prayed.  They created a Bible-lending library.  They shared their faith with others.  On Christmas day 1943, over 2000 men attended a service.  Though captive in a camp, Jesus worked to set them free to worship--their captivity was transformed by numerous acts of faith and sacrifice.

Years following his rescue and release, Ernest Gordon wrote his great spiritual classic, “Miracle on the River Kwai.”  The book includes this quote, “I know the depths to which men could sink and the heights to which they could rise.  I could speak from the experience of despair, but also of hope; of hatred, but also of love; of man without God, but also of man sustained by God.  God in Christ has shared man’s suffering…even that experience which seems to defeat us all, namely, death.”  The book ends with this sentence, “He comes into our Death House to lead us through it.”

The activity of sacrificial love by the Spirit-led believer flows ultimately from the One who died on Calvary (1 John 4:19; Romans 5:5).  Its presence in one’s life gives testimony to the Risen Christ and the greater love He has demonstrated in laying down His life for us (John 3:16; 1 John 3:16).  That we might replicate His self-sacrificial manner is a mysterious and wonderful work of His grace.  Apart from Him we can do no such thing (Cf. John 15:5), but by His gracious presence His love can indeed flow through us.  What loving word or deed, in obedience, does God have planned for you and me to express this day?  May it be done with a finger pointing towards Calvary!

Thursday, April 24, 2014


John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.  Not as the world gives do I give to you.  Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

Jesus warned His disciples of His imminent departure from them: “Little children, yet a little while I am with you” (John 13:33; Cf. John 14:28).  They had good reason to be troubled by the prospect.  They had abandoned all to follow Jesus.  He was their Master, they had devoted themselves to His cause.  They had been led and instructed by Him and they couldn’t imagine life apart from Him.  He was aware of their anxiety and counseled them, “Let not your heart be troubled.  Believe in God; believe also in me” (John 14:1).  He repeated that same admonition (i.e. “let not your hearts be troubled”) later in His conversation with them (Cf. John 14:27).

We should note, first of all, that Jesus is aware of our propensity to be troubled of heart.  Life in this sin-cursed world is filled with troubles of all different varieties.  Jesus would later warn His disciples, “In this world you have tribulation” (John 17:33).  How prone we are to be anxious amidst our troubles.  But it is good to know that “Jesus knows all about our struggles.”  In Him we have One who can “sympathize with our weaknesses,” having been “tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).  The disciples were troubled of heart and He was well aware of their need.

Peace has always been an elusive dream for those who dwell on this trouble filled planet.  Man instinctively yearns for the tranquility of soul that was lost to him as a result of the fall.  St. Augustine once said, “Thou hast made us for Thyself and our hearts are restless until we find rest in Thee.”  But to this day the world works and plans and negotiates for peace to no avail.  There is a kind of peace that the world gives (John 14:27).  It is of the temporary and circumstantial variety.  It is insecure, easily forfeited, and never a tranquility of soul or sure antidote for the troubles that are sure to come.

Jesus promised to His disciples a peace of supernatural origin.  The Greek word translated peace in this passage is eirene.  According to Vine’s Expository it speaks of “the harmonized relationships between God and man, accomplished through the gospel…(and) the sense of rest and contentment consequent thereon.”  The term is related to the Hebrew shalom, which refers to “a harmonious state of the soul” (Vine’s).  Distinct from its worldly counterpart, Jesus promised to His disciples a tranquility of soul that was firmly rooted in their relationship with Him.  It was a peace that He Himself would give to them.

Later, in this same conversation with His disciples, Jesus said, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation.  But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).  In Him we can have peace.  We can possess tranquility of soul.  If we look for it elsewhere we will surely be disappointment, but “there is a place of quiet rest near to the heart of God,” near to the Savior who loves us and died for us.  He has overcome the world.  He has conquered our greatest foes.  No trouble can assail us that He has not already triumphed over.  He is able, by His presence, to set a garrison about our troubled-prone hearts and minds that we might experience “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7).

The disciples were troubled by the news of Jesus’ pending departure.  They had been troubled before on other occasions.  One day at sea a fierce gale arose and threatened to sink their boat.  Jesus was asleep in the stern.  “They woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing’” (Mark 4:38).  “And he awoke and rebuked the win and said to the sea, ‘Peace!  Be still!’  And the wind ceased, and there was great calm” (Mark 4:39).  He who rules the winds and the waves cares.  “He’s the Master of the sea, billows His will obey.”  If you’ve got “Jesus in your boat” you’ve no reason to fear.  He who brought a “great calm” to the storm-tossed seas is able to do the same in troubled-filled hearts.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014


John 13:33-34, A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

In anticipation of His pending suffering and death (Cf. John 13:33), Jesus gave to His disciples a new commandment that was to henceforth govern their relationships with one another.  The glorious nature and scope of this new commandment was such that it brought a new word into the vocabulary of the church—agape.  Vine’s Expository Dictionary defines the verb form, agapao, as follows: “The characteristic word of Christianity, and since the Spirit of revelation has used it to express ideas previously unknown, inquiry into its use, whether in Greek literature or in the Septuagint, throws but little light upon its distinctive meaning in the NT.”

There was an “old” commandment which previously worked to govern man’s relationships: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31).  But as with any of God’s commands, there is a tendency on man’s part to look for loopholes and find reasons to try to make exceptions.  The parable of the Good Samaritan was Jesus’ response to a man seeking to justify himself, asking “And who is my neighbor” (Luke 10:29).  Most of us do not find it too difficult to love (in a “love your neighbor as yourself” manner) those who reciprocate.  The standard is not that high.

The new commandment ascends the standard in which we are to love to a much higher plane.  It is no longer, “love your neighbor as yourself,” but instead love “just as I have loved you” (John 13:33).  Love is elevated in Jesus’ command to a previously unseen and unimaginable manner.  The world had never previously witnessed anything like it.  Romans 5:7-8, “For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

“God is love” (1 John 4:8).  Love in innate to His being and personality.  Jesus, in His sacrifice on Calvary, manifested that which is true of God.  Apart from His sacrifice, and the Spirit’s work in revealing to us the truth of it, we would forever lack the capacity to comprehend God’s kind of love.  1 John 3:16, “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.”  The world throws that “love” term all around and uses it in sorts of questionable ways, but true love has been defined for us by Jesus.  What does true love look like?  It looks like a God-man dying on a cross for our sins.  It looks like sacrifice.  It looks like forgiveness.  It looks like putting the needs of others ahead of one’s own (Cf. Philippians 2:3).  It looks like laying down one’s life for the sake of others.  It looks like Jesus.

How loving of a person am I?  That’s kind of a trick question.  If I am so foolish as to measure my capacity to love by how others are doing I might not fare too badly in my self-examination (Cf. 2 Corinthians 10:12), but others are not the standard, Jesus is.  In Men’s Bible study we’ve been making our way through a study called “Leading with Love.”  The book is taking us phrase-by-phrase through a study of 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.  That description of love is a description of all that which is beautifully revealed to us in Christ.  He is the standard.  He commands us to love others just as He has loved us.  Ephesians 5:1-2, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.  And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us.” 

God expects us to behave as His children and if we are to behave as His children we are going to need to love one another with His kind of love.  He points us to the cross and says—look there to My Son, remember what He has done for you, walk in that very same manner!  The challenges of this endeavor are too big for any of us.  Apart from His empowering and instructing presence we could never hope to love in this manner (Cf. John 15:5, 12).  He has indwelt us with the Spirit of God that His fruit might be born in us (Cf. Galatians 5:22).  We can only love to the extent that we are filled with, and walk by, the Spirit (Cf. Ephesians 5:18, 25; Galatians 5:16).

Tertullian, an early church leader, once wrote, “It is our care for the helpless, our practice of lovingkindness, that brands us in the eyes of many of our opponents.  ‘Look!’ they say.  ‘How they love one another!  Look how they are prepared to die for one another’.”  “They will know we are Christians by our love.”  The practice of God’s kind of love is the “mark” which distinguishes us to be children of God (Cf. 1 John 3:10, 4:7-8, 4:20-21).

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

THE LAZARUS PLOT (John Chapter 12)

John 12:10, “So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well.”

Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.  Lazarus had been dead and lying in a cave for four days.  By His mere word Jesus called him forth.  It was an amazing miracle that testified clearly to the true identity and glory of Jesus (John 11:40).  There were many witnesses: “Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him” (John 11:45).  There were two differing responses to that remarkable event.  There were those who believed and those who refused to accept the truth. 

The chief priests and Pharisees heard about what happened.  They “gathered the council and said, ‘What are we to do?  For this man performs many signs.  If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation’” (John 11:47).  They had no heart or concern for the truth, but were concerned instead about their “place” and the earthly benefits associated with it.  The verdict of their council?  “From that day on they made plans to put him to death” (John 11:53).

The miraculous raising of Lazarus from the dead was a problem for them.  A great multitude sought after Lazarus (John 12:9).  “The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness” (John 12:17).  The word regarding Jesus was spreading. 

The light of the world came into the world—and there are but two possible responses to Him—come to the light (love the light) or hate the light.  John 3:19-21, “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.  For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.  But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

So the religious leaders met together and came up with a plan.  Kill Lazarus.  Put him back in a tomb.  Put a stop to his living testimony regarding Christ.  Stop the word from spreading.  Stop people from believing in Him.  It mattered not what the truth was.  They hated the light.  He revealed things about them that they didn’t want disclosed.  He was a threat to their livelihood.  Instead of accepting the clear testimony borne by the miracle, they plotted to put Lazarus back in the grave!

Jesus Christ died on a cross and was buried in a tomb.  A stone, a seal, and a Roman guard were set in place to keep the light extinguished.  Their evil deed accomplished, the religious leaders rested.  But the light escaped.  The religious leaders assembled, took counsel, and bribed the soldiers to lie about what happened (Cf. Matthew 28:11-15).

Risen from the dead “He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs” (Acts 1:3; Cf. 1 Corinthians 15:5-7).  Peter and John and the others were witnesses to the light.  Filled with the Spirit they were boldly “proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead” (Acts 4:2).  So the religious leaders “gathered together” in another council (Acts 4:5).  They put Peter and John on trial and conspired again to extinguish the light of the truth (Acts 4:9).  They charged Peter and John “not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus” Acts 4:18).  But the light, the witness to the truth of Jesus’ resurrection, could not be stopped.  People kept on believing.  The religious leaders kept on threatening and even murdering, the Apostles kept on preaching (Acts 4:31, 7:57-60, 12:1-2).  And so it has been ever since.

Light-haters are always working to suppress the truth.  But the Sun still shines as does the truth concerning the Son of God.  Lazarus lived.  Jesus now lives.  Nothing can change the truth.  You can try to shut up or lock up those who bear witness to the truth, “but the Word of God is not bound” (2 Timothy 2:9)!  And not all will hate the Light.  Some hear the truth of the gospel—the power of God unto salvation—and believe (Cf. Romans 1:16).  They come into the light and rejoice in His glory!

Monday, April 21, 2014

COME FORTH! (John Chapter 11)

John 11:43, “He cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, COME OUT!’”

John 11:44, “The man who had died CAME OUT.”
Lazarus died.  They wrapped him in grave clothes and laid him in a cave.  A stone, lying against the entrance, prevented the stench of his rotting corpse from reaching the nostrils of the living (Cf. John 11:39).  Many had come to console his sisters (Cf. John 11:19).  They all gathered together and wept.  Jesus arrived—too late, they thought, to be of any help.  “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died,” Mary said (John 11:32).  Jesus saw Mary weeping and the others weeping with her.  “He was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled” (John 11:33).  “Jesus wept” (John 11:34).
Jesus came to the tomb.  His surprising command, “Take away the stone,” was met with reluctant concern: “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days” (John 11:39).  Lazarus was dead and gone, buried and rotting away, when Jesus called him forth.
The stone was removed (John 11:41).  Jesus offered a prayer to thanks to God (John 11:42).  Then “He cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out’ (John 11:43) and Lazarus “came out” (John 11:44).  At His command, life was imparted.  At His command, Lazarus came forth. 
The lost sinner is dead in his trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1).  Physically he may walk and he may breathe, but spiritually speaking he is as dead and lifeless as Lazarus lying in that grave.  He is as utterly helpless to do anything to rectify his lost condition (Romans 5:6), as Lazarus was to revive himself.  There is no one on earth who can do anything to bring life to a dead soul.
“In Him was life” (John 1:4).  He has “life in Himself” (John 5:26).  He is “the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25).  He came to die for sins and “destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil” (Hebrews 2:14).  It was “impossible” for Him to be held in death’s power (Acts 2:24).  He is the “living One, (who was) dead…and (is) alive forevermore” (Revelation 1:18).  Those who trust in Him as Savior and Lord instantaneously pass “from death to life” (John 5:24).
How wonderful the day, believer, when life was imparted to your sin-dead soul by the Lord Jesus Christ!  Your first birth anticipated future death, re-birth brought eternal life.  Identified with Christ in His death, you were raised with Him to “walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4).  You were “made alive together” with Him (Ephesians 2:5).  Jesus is now your life (Colossians 3:4).  You were dead!  Now you are alive in Him (Cf. Galatians 2:20)!  How did it happen?  Solely by the grace of God (Ephesians 2:1-10)!
“Death and the grave are never satisfied” (Proverbs 27:20, CEV), but they will gain no satisfaction in the death of one of His redeemed.  He who called Lazarus from his tomb and rose triumphantly from His, will call us forth from ours.  “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22).  Lazarus came forth from his tomb in earthly garb, but in Jesus’ return the believer will experience a more glorious exodus in which He “will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body” (Philippians 3:21).
Loved ones in Christ have departed us.  But the Day of Christ’s return draws near.  He will “descend from heaven with a cry of command…and the dead in Christ shall rise first” (1 Thessalonians 4:16).  He cried out to Lazarus and Lazarus came forth.  He will come from heaven with a shout and the dead in Christ will rise up to meet Him.  Jesus, the Life-Giver, has the power to do that.  He emptied Lazarus’ tomb and will empty countless others in His return.  He says “come forth” and they do.

Friday, April 18, 2014

THE GOOD SHEPHERD (John Chapter 10)

Years ago, while driving down a county road near Roseburg, a strange sight caught my attention.  A sheep in the adjacent field had caught its head in a wire fence.  I pulled over to the side of the road.  The sheep, stuck and confused, was crying out, “Baa, Baa,” but there were no other sheep around and no shepherd nearby to hear.  I supposed that it might have eventually freed itself, but decided to go to the nearby home and tell the owner. 

We humans are like sheep.  The Bible frequently uses this apt description.  The English dictionary does too.  Amongst the various definitions given is “a person who is too easily influenced or led.”  In other words—“vulnerable in their stupidity.”  Why would a sheep stick its head in the fence?  Didn’t it know any better?  Being stuck there, how would it then be delivered from its predicament? 

Isaiah 53:6 speaks to our need: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way.”  We’ve all gone astray.  We’ve all, in sin, made stupid choices.  We’ve wandered down dubious pathways and gotten our heads stuck in places where they didn’t belong.  The Apostle Peter likewise spoke of this human tendency to waywardness: “For you were continually straying like sheep” (1 Peter 2:25).

Jesus declared Himself to be the “Good Shepherd” (John 10:11, 14).  In contrast to others who were “not concerned about the sheep” He does care (John 10:13).  “And seeing the multitudes, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and downcast like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36).  We are, in sin, “distressed and downcast,” the good news is that there is One is sympathetic to our need.  The good shepherd came “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).  “The tax-gatherers and sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him” (Luke 15:1).  They were wayward sheep in need of a shepherd who would care for them.  “Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, ‘This man receives sinners and eats with them.’  And He told them a parable saying, ‘What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it?  And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.  And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ (Luke 15:2-6).  He has sought us out and heaven itself rejoices once we are found (Cf. Luke 15:7).

He is the good shepherd.  He is good by nature and good in all that He does (Cf. Psalm 119:68).  His loving concern for us is without question because He has sacrificed everything for us.  King David was a shepherd and a good one.  “When a lion or a bear came and took a lamb from the flock (he) went out after him and attacked him, and rescued it from his mouth” (1 Samuel 17:35).  Jesus, the good shepherd, demonstrated His loving concern in “laying down His life” that he might conquer our greatest enemies—sin and death.  Four times in eight verses this expression, “laying down His life,” appears (John 10:11-18).  His essential goodness, as a loving and well-qualified shepherd, has been demonstrated in that He willingly gave His life for us.  No one took it from Him, He laid it down on His own initiative (John 10:17-18).  He cared that much for His wandering sheep.

In the laying down of His life He bore our sins.  Isaiah 53:6, “All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.”  “He gave His life, what more could He give?”  The Good Shepherd “bore our sins in His body on the cross that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.  For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian for your souls” (1 Peter 2:24-25).

How good it is to have a Good Shepherd loving us and caring for us and watching over us!  From time to time we might find ourselves, like that stupid sheep, in some pretty strange predicaments.  It’s good to know that we have in Jesus a Guardian for our souls, a Good Shepherd who cares (Cf. 1 Peter 5:7).  “Savior, like a shepherd lead us, much we need Thy tender care!”

Thursday, April 17, 2014

DOUBLY BLIND (John Chapter 9)

John 9:40-41, “Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things and said to him, ‘Are we also blind?’  Jesus said to them, ‘If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.”

It was an unprecedented miracle that clearly testified to the truth regarding Jesus.  When Jesus healed the man born blind “the works of God (were) displayed in him” (John 9:3).  The blind man, his sight having been restored, testified to the unprecedented nature of the miracle: “Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind” (John 9:32).  John the Baptist had previously sent messengers to Jesus, asking, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another” (Matthew 11:3)?  First mentioned in His response to John was the fact that “the blind receive their sight” (Matthew 11:5).  Isaiah had prophesied of the ministry of the coming Messiah, “The eyes of the blind shall be opened” (Isaiah 35:5).  Jesus fulfilled prophesy in opening the eyes of the man born blind.  It was an “attesting sign” revealing Jesus to be “the Christ, the Son of God” (John 20:31).

In Jesus “the true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world” (John 1:9).  There are but two possible responses to the Light—reject Him or receive Him (Cf. John 1:11-12), love the light or hate it (John 3:19-21; 7:7).  Both responses were clearly evident in the aftermath of the blind man’s healing.  He was healed of both physical and spiritual blindness, but the religious leaders were and remained blind to their blindness.

The man born blind had been a beggar (John 9:8).  The neighbors recognized him and saw him seeing and didn’t know what to think.  Some said that it was him others suggested that it was merely someone who looked like him.  He kept saying, “I am the man” (John 9:10).  So they asked him how his eyes were opened.  He attributed the work to Jesus.  They brought the man to the Pharisees (Cf. John 9:13).

The Pharisees interrogated the man born blind, but not to find out the truth.  It was a Sabbath day when “Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes” (John 9:14), so the Pharisees had already therefore concluded that Jesus could not be the Messiah.  In fact, His previous healing on the Sabbath had given rise to their hatred of Him (Cf. John 5:16, 18).  It should be noted that the Pharisees were involved in a great hypocritical cover-up.  They had invented hundreds of petty religious laws that governed nearly every aspect of their lives.  Many of these laws had to do with what could and could not be done on the Sabbath.  They thought that in the keeping of these rules they were made righteous, but they were not righteous.  They were “whitewashed tombs…full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness” (Matthew 23:27).  They were “blind guides” (Matthew 23:16) lost in sin and oblivious to their need.  They hated Jesus because He stripped away the whitewash to reveal the truth of that which lay within their hearts (Cf. John 7:7).

The religious leaders did not believe that the blind man had been healed, so they called and interrogated his parents.  In an effort to suppress the truth the Jews had already worked to threaten, with expulsion from the synagogue, anyone confessing Jesus to be the Christ (John 9:22).  So the parents refused to say how their son’s eyes were opened (John 9:20-21).  So for a second time the Pharisees interrogated the healed man.  He did not waver and spoke the truth regarding what he had experienced (Cf. John 9:24-24).  “If this man were not from God, he could do nothing,” he said (John 9:33).  The infuriated Pharisees cast him out, but Jesus found him and opened his spiritual eyes to the truth about Himself (John 9:35-41).

The blind man was twice healed of blindness (once physically and again spiritually), the religious leaders were doubly-blind to truth.  They were blind to their need and blind to the truth regarding Jesus.  And so are we all until the Spirit of God works to open blind eyes as He convicts of sin and witnesses to the glory of Christ (Cf. 2 Corinthians 4:4; John 16:8-11, 14).  “I once was lost but now am found; was blind but now I see” is the wonderful testimony of those who have had their eyes opened to the glory of Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6)!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


John 8:24, “Unless you believe that I am he, you will die in your sins.”

Set before us is a clear and succinct statement of warning and remedy.  The warning is to all since “all have sinned” (Romans 3:23).  Sin demands and deserves punishment (Romans 6:23).  God is holy and just.  A day of judgment looms in which “the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 4:6).  They will “suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might” (2 Thessalonians 1:9).

To die in one sins is to die and then stand before God with no remedy in hand.  No defense or excuse will work to deflect His wrath.  No amount of self-righteousness will stay His fury.  To die in one’s sins is to depart this life, troubled as it may be, to an existence of eternal woe.  One can only imagine the pain and suffering of such a place, where there is eternal weeping and gnashing of teeth (Cf. Matthew 13:42).  There is a great chasm fixed between heaven and hell—there will be no future escape from pain or sorrow for the one who dies in his sins.

The broad path that leads to destruction is well-traveled (Matthew 7:13).  It seems right to men, but ends in death (Proverbs 14:6).  We are all broad-path travelers by nature.  We are delivered from that doomed pathway only by God’s intervention.

The “unless” at the beginning of our text speaks to God’s remedy.  There is a way, one way, by which certain doom can be averted.  The remedy lies in a Person and is bound up in our response to Him.  The Gospel of John was written to proclaim the truth that “Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God” (John 20:30).  Seven recorded miracles testify to His deity.  Likewise, He Himself made seven “I Am” statements that affirmed His identity.  Two of these statements are in this context of our text.  In the first Jesus declared, “I AM the light of the world” (John 8:12).  In the second He said, “Truly, truly I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.”  In response to His statement the Jews “picked up stones to throw at him,” having clearly understood that which He was declaring concerning Himself (John 8:59; 10:31-33).

It is in this One—the divine Son of God who died for sins—that a sure remedy for sin can be found (John 1:29).  That He has done all that is needful to save us is without question.  The resurrection was proof-positive that God had accepted His once-for-all payment for sins (Romans 1:4, 4:25; 1 Peter 3:18).

“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).  A couple of years ago a man drowned in saving his son.  His two year old son had fallen overboard.  He dove into the fast moving water and handed his son to his father-in-law, but then he slipped underwater and did not resurface.  He gave his life for his son whom he loved.  God, in love, gave His son for rebellious sinners like us—so that we might not die in our sins (Cf. John 3:16).  “Amazing love, how can it be that Thou My God shouldst die for me?”

The remedy for sin is appropriated by faith: “Unless you believe that I am He.” John’s gospel purposes to declare the truth about Jesus that “by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31).  Salvation is appropriated by faith and only by faith.  90+ times the word “believe” appears in John’s gospel.  The message, from beginning to end of the gospel account, is that salvation is by faith in Him (Cf. John 1:12-13, 3:16, 3:36, 8:24, etc.).  This message—salvation by faith alone in Christ alone—is reiterated in numerous other Scripture texts (Acts 16:31; Romans 1:16, 10:9; Ephesians 2:8-9, etc.).

What is faith but trust?  To believe in Him is to trust in Him.  He proclaimed the truth about Himself.  Some picked up stones to throw at Him…to their doom (John 8:59).  Others believed in Him and were saved (John 8:30).  102 years ago yesterday the “unsinkable” Titanic hit an iceberg and began to sink.  People donned life-jackets.  Some were fortunate enough to find a seat in a lifeboat.  Those lifeboats proved life-savers for those who got on board.  They were saved, others perished in the cold North Atlantic.  Jesus is a life-boat to those “sinking deep in sin.”  To trust in anything else is to remain in one’s sins.  “You can’t get to heaven in a leady old boat, ‘cause a leaky old boat it just won’t float.”  To refuse to “obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus’ is to face certain and inescapable doom (2 Thessalonians 1:8).  To believe in Him is to receive God’s remedy and the abundant and eternal life He alone can impart.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

LIVING WATER (John Chapter 7)

John 7:37-39, “On the last day of the great feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’  Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”

Sacrifices took place on each day of the Feast of Tabernacles.  On the great day, the last day, a procession of worshippers made their way to the temple.  When they reached the Pool of Siloam, a priest filled his golden pitcher with water.  We should note that the name “Siloam” is “Shiloh” in the Hebrew (meaning “one sent”) and was a name that spoke prophetically of the coming Messiah.  The procession then made its way to the temple and just as the priest passed through the water-gate (so named for this particular ceremony) he was welcomed by a three-fold blast of the Priests’ trumpets.  The priest was then joined by another who carried the wine for the drink offering.  Both ascended the rise of the altar together and then together simultaneously poured out the water and the wine into funnels which then led down to the base of the altar.  Immediately after ‘the pouring of water,’ the “Hallel” Psalms (113-118) were chanted by all the people.  The Feast –in every aspect—anticipated the coming Messiah (Cf. Zechariah 14:16, 8).  Year after year for centuries it had been observed in the hope of its ultimate future fulfillment.

Everything in the feast pointed to the promised Messiah—the sacrifices made, water taken from the pool of Siloam, the entrance through the water-gate, the Psalms sung, etc.—but, for the most part, the multitude of thirsty souls present did not recognize that the fulfillment of promise stood in their midst.  Many in today’s world struggle to find clean drinkable water, but even more live day-after day thirsty of soul for God.  I’ve read of those adrift at sea without water.  Ironically, they yearn to have their thirst assuaged though encompassed by water on ever side.  The problem with sea-water is, of course, that it can never work to satisfy a person’s thirst.  Being filled with salt the drinking of it results instead in a greater thirst and compounds the need.  Sin is like that.  It deceptively promises to meet our needs, but only serves to aggravate our condition.  Man’s thirst for life (restored relationship with God) can only be assuaged in Jesus Christ.

On the last day of that great feast as the priest poured out the water—an act which anticipated the pouring out of a living water through the coming Messiah—“Jesus (the Messiah) stood up and cried out, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink’ (John 7:37).  His reference to “living water” was to the ministry of the Spirit who was to come (Cf. John 7:39).  The Spirit did come at Pentecost.  He has ever since provided an inexhaustible torrent of “life” that works to enliven from within those who are born again.

During a particularly difficult time in his missionary work in China, Hudson Taylor, was blessed by the truth of this passage.  He wrote to a friend, “And now I have the very passage for you, and God has so blessed it to my own soul? John 7: 37-39: ‘If any man thirst, let him come unto ME and drink.’ Who does not thirst? Who has not mind thirst, heart-thirsts, soul-thirsts or body-thirsts? Well, no matter which, or whether I have them all—“Come unto me and’ remain thirsty? Ah no! ‘Come unto me and drink.’  What, can Jesus meet my need? Yes and more than meet it. No matter how intricate my path, how difficult my service; no matter how sad my bereavement, how far away my loved ones; no matter how helpless I am, how deep are my soul-yearnings—Jesus can meet all, all, and more than meet. He not only promises me rest—ah, how welcome that would be, were it all, and what an all that one word embraces! He not only promises me drink to alleviate my thirst. No, better than that! ‘He who trusts Me in this matter (who believeth on Me, takes Me at My word) out of him shall flow….Can it be? Can the dry and thirsty one not only be refreshed—the parched soul moistened, the arid places cooled—but the land be so saturated that springs well up and streams flow down from it? Even so! And not mere mountain-torrents, full while the rain lasts, then dry again…but, ‘from within him shall flow rivers’—rivers like the mighty Yangtze, ever deep, ever full. In times of drought brooks may fail, often do, canals may be pumped dry, often are, but the Yangtze never. Always a mighty stream, always flowing deep and irresistible!” (J. Hudson Tayler, “J. Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret”).  Jesus promises in Himself to provide “living water” to those who believe in Him!  As you thirst in this life for life look unto Jesus.  He alone can fully satisfy the needs of our God-thirsty souls.

Monday, April 14, 2014


John 6:51, “I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he shall live forever; and the bread also which I shall give for the life of the world is My flesh.”

Jesus spoke to the multitude.  It was late and they were hungry.  Miraculously, He multiplied the loaves and the fishes and fed them all (five thousand men in addition to the women and children; John 6:10).  The people saw the miracle and assumed Him to be the prophet spoken of by Moses.  They intended to take Him by force, to make Him king (John 6:14-15).  He withdrew from them.  They followed Him.  When they found Him they asked Him how He got there.  He responded with what is commonly referred to as “the Bread of Life” discourse.

The context of Jesus’ message is that great miracle.  The people were seeking after Jesus, but for all the wrong reasons, as Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled” (John 6:26).  They were seeking after Jesus because He filled their bellies.  The rest of the discourse is Jesus’ corrective response.

Prominent in the discourse are the words “life,” “live,” and “living.”  I count eighteen occurrences of these terms.  I’m reminded of that which was stated in the beginning of the gospel account—“In Him was life” (John 1:4)—this chapter is another example of the continued emphasis on this theme.  Some main points regarding the Bread of Life:

  • The Bread of Life was sent from heaven by the Living Father (John 6:32, 41, 51, 57).
  • The Bread of Life is true and living bread (John 6:32, 51).
  • The Bread of Life is able to impart life, those without It have “no life” (John 6:33, 35, 50, 51, 53, 54, 57, 58).
  • The Bread of Life must be “eaten” to be of value (John 6:50, 53, 54, 56, 58).

The people did not respond well to Jesus’ message.  His statement, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves” (John 6:53), was too difficult for them (John 6:60-61).  Many of His disciples withdrew and turned away (John 6:65).  “Jesus said therefore to the twelve, ‘You do not want to go away, do you?’” (John 6:67).  “Simon Peter answered Him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  And we have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God’” (John 6:68-69).  Multitudes were seeking after Jesus, but for all the wrong reasons.  They liked that he filled their bellies, but they had no interest in the Bread from Heaven which would grant them true life.
Numerous varieties of bread are available at the local supermarket, but no bread on earth can impart true life to the spiritually dead (Cf. Ephesians 2:1).  And while much concern and effort in life is directed towards obtaining physical bread (food), every man’s greater and deeper need is for the true bread that can impart true life.  True life is bound up in the person of Jesus Christ.  True life = eternal life (John 17:3) = abundant life (John 10:10).  The Father and the Son have true life in themselves (John 5:26).  It is God’s prerogative to impart this “true life” on His terms.  He draws sinners to the Son (John 6:44, 65).  They believe in Him (John 6:29, 40, 47, 69) and receive eternal life as a result (John 6:40, 51, 54, 58).  He is the bread of life.  Have you partaken of Him?  To eat His flesh and drink His blood (Cf. John 6:53) is to receive Him by faith (Cf. John 1:12).  His promise?  “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst” (John 6:35).  True life, eternal and abundant, is to be had in Christ alone.  He is the “food which endures to eternal life” (John 6:27).  He alone can satisfy man’s deepest need and desires.

Friday, April 11, 2014

A DEEPER HEALING (John Chapter 5)

“Do you wish to get well?”  What kind of question is that to ask of an invalid?   But that’s exactly what Jesus asked the man lying beside the pool (John 5:6).

The man had been an invalid for 38 years.  He was paralyzed and all alone and completely helpless.  He was gathered there with a multitude of others desperate souls—blind, lame, and paralyzed.  Some manuscripts, but not the earliest and most reliable, insert the following after verse 3 by way of explanation, “waiting for the moving of the water for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool, and stirred the water: whoever stepped in first after the stirring of the water was healed of whatever disease he had” (John 5:4).  It commonly supposed that this Scripture portion was added by some copyist who wanted to provide an explanation for why the people gathered there. 

We are not given further information regarding this matter, but it seems likely that some kind of superstition developed regarding the healing powers of that particular pool.  There were community pools in Jerusalem in that day.  Some were spring fed, which could account for the movement of the waters.  There were a lot of sick people in need of healing.  Desperation can give rise to various superstitions—not too many years ago blood-letting was a common practice!

So in the Bethseda pool “lottery” the first one into the water won.  The prize was to the swift or the strongest or those invalids having friends who would help them to get there first.  But this particular man had no one to help him get into the water.  When the water was stirred up, and while he was going another stepped down before him (John 5:7).  The man had been an invalid for 38 years.  For nearly four decades he had suffered.  Jesus saw the man and “that he had already been there a long time” (John 5:6).  And Jesus said to him, “Do you want to be healed” (John 5:6)?

Not every particular sickness or malady is the direct result of sin, but all human maladies are rooted in original sin.  Adam and Eve sinned against God and unleashed a contagion of ills that have infected us all.  No descendant of Adam is untouched in life by the grievous consequences of the curse.  And in response man is prone to look to all kinds of supposed solutions for deliverance. 

“Do you wish to get well?”  There is a sense in which God asks that question of us all.  In response to sin we look to a variety of solutions and rationalize or excuse our sin-sourced infirmities with a wide array of explanations.  A multitude of the spiritually paralyzed gather at the “pool” of superstitious and humanistic solutions to man’s besetting ills.  But if we do wish to get well--with respect to being cured from sin--there is but one alternative.

Jesus did for the invalid what no one else would have been able to do.  He healed him—compassionately, instantly, and perfectly.  He didn’t need an angel’s assistance.  He required no “stirred up” waters.  He told the man to “get up, take up, and walk,” and that’s what the man immediately did (John 5:8-9).  Jesus is able to do the same with the sin-paralyzed (Cf. Ephesians 2:1).  He is willing and able to forgive, cleanse, and re-birth them that so that they might walk “in newness of life” (Romans 6:4).  It matters not if they’ve been a spiritual invalid for many years or few.  The presence of no external means of support is no hindrance to His ability to heal.  He alone is able to heal us “from all our soul’s diseases.” 

Joni Earackson Tada suffered a paralyzing injury at a teenager.  She desperately wanted to be healed.  When friends would visit her hospital room she would ask for them to read from John chapter 5 about the man lying by the pool.  Her sister later took her to a healing conference in Washington DC, but no genuine healings took place there.  Discouraged and distraught she began to harbor a bitter spirit.  But then she cried out to Jesus for help.  She experienced in Him a deeper healing, a healing from sin (Cf. Psalm 139:23-24).  For decades since she has testified to Jesus’ ability to grant such a healing to those who look to Him.  She has said, “Don’t be thinking that for me in heaven the big thing will be to get my new body…I want a glorified heart (i.e. perfectly healed from sin).  On a visit to Jerusalem not too long ago she visited the pool at Bethseda.  She leaned there on the guard rail of the old ruins.  While there alone speaking to Jesus she said, “Oh Jesus thank you for a no request for physical healing, because the no answer to a request for physical healing has worked to purge my heart from sin.”  You can hear her testimony via the following link:

Thursday, April 10, 2014

LIVING WATER (John Chapter 4)

They couldn’t have differed more as to their station in life.  Nicodemus was a self-righteous Pharisee, the woman at the well was an immoral woman (John 4:18).  He was a religious leader, she was a despised Samaritan (John 4:9).  He came to Jesus, Jesus went to her and said, “Give me a drink” (John 4:7).  That innocuous matter then engaged them both in a discussion of serious spiritual matters.  But it should not escape our attention that Jesus, “who came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10), was not averse to conversing with a woman like the woman at the well.   The woman, being a woman and a Samaritan, was surprised that He did (John 4:9).  The disciples were likewise surprised (“They marveled that he was talking with a woman;” John 4:27).  Nicodemus and his Pharisee friends certainly would not have been seen with her (Luke 15:1-2).  But Jesus was not bound by cultural expectations or phony social distinctions.  He “came into the world to save sinners” and found in that woman one well qualified with respect to His purpose (1 Timothy 1:15).  His ministry and message was (and is) equally applicable to the religious and irreligious alike.

Jesus was well aware of her situation.  He said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here,” to which she replied, “I have no husband.”  Jesus then said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband.  What you have said is true” (John 4:16-18).  Jesus knew all about these matters.  Later she would testify “He told me all that I ever did” (John 4:39).  He knew about her sins, failures, and present estate.  But none of these things worked to prevent Him from reaching out to her.  The religiously proud would have readily disapproved of and discarded her as one being outside of God’s ability to save, but Jesus valued her and spoke to her of precious spiritual truths.  God is well aware of our sinful estate, but in Jesus we find One who has sought us ought nonetheless (Cf. Luke 19:10).

The conversation between Jesus and the woman and the well was all about water.  He asked for water.  She wondered why a person such as Him would ask for that from a person such as her (John 4:9).  Jesus spoke to her of the gift of God and the living water He alone could provide (John 4:10).  He offered to her living water and said, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again.  The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:13-14). 

None of us can live long without water.  Regular consumption of H2O is essential to a person’s physical health.  There is no kind of water which can forever quench a person’s thirst.  It is therefore necessary to drink again.  What is true in the physical realm holds true in the spiritual.  We are born with a thirst for God that cannot be fully satisfied in any man devised way (Cf. Ecclesiastes 3:11).  The pursuit of meaning and purpose in life apart from God is compared to drinking from a “broken cisterns, that can hold no water” (Cf. Jeremiah 2:13).  Sin promises satisfaction, but the “fleeting pleasures of sin” leave us thirsty still (Hebrews 11:25).  The woman at the well had experienced such matters.  She had a thirst for God, but did not know how it could be satisfied.

Jesus offered living water to her, living water that would forever satisfy her deepest longings and become in her “a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14).  On a later date He would stand before a multitude and declare “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:37-38).  Who doesn’t thirst?  Life can leave us parched of soul, but Jesus invites us to come and satiate our soul needs in Him.  The invitation is to “whoever”--religious and irreligious, men and women, Jew, Samaritan, Gentile, rich men and poor—no matter their present estate, they can have their soul needs fully met in Him.  He is a “fountain of living water” to those who trust in Him (Cf. Jeremiah 2:13; Revelation 22:1).  She went to well to get water, she found Jesus there and in Him eternal life (Cf. John 4:39-42).