Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Seeking Glory from the Wrong Source

 "I receive not honour from men.  But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you.  I am come in My Father's name, and ye receive Me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive.  How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?  Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust.  For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed Me: for he wrote of Me.  But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe My words?"  John 5:41-47

"I receive not honour from men...."  Jesus Christ, as God, is not in need of man's approval.  This principal is the guide for how each believer should live his life.  The approval of man is not needed in the believer's life because the Lord is the only One that need be pleased, as Paul wrote, "...not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts."

"But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you."  This is a bold statement that can only be made by God.  The tense of this verb I know is very powerful; it leaves no room for doubt.  God alone tries the heart and the reigns.  He alone knows the thoughts that come into our hearts, every one of them (Ez. 11:5).  By making this statement, Jesus is providing one more proof of His indisputable deity.

"I am come in My Father's name, and ye receive Me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive.  How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?"  Christ came in the very name which the Jewish people claimed to love so much and yet He was rejected.  These people drew nigh to Jehovah with their lips but their heart was far from God.  Those who claim to love God and yet reject His very messengers, yea, His very Son, clearly demonstrate their true colors.  All over this world, and especially in the United States, churches (or rather social clubs) are filled with people that profess an outward love for God, but they seem to delight in just about anything but His truth.  The Bible is burdensome and not fully authoritative to them.  Straight preaching is shunned as dogmatic and not befitting the religious atmosphere.  Why?  Because the unregenerate heart delights in just about anything but the full truth of God.  The unregenerate man and the carnal Christian desire to have men think well of them rather than choosing to please God only.  The word here for honor is the same word for glory.  These men wanted to be glorified by others rather than be glorified by God.  Acceptance of the world's messengers and rejection of God's is a full-proof sign that the individual so doing is seeking glory from any source but God.  At the heart of such an attitude lies a proud spirit which refuses to be subject to the truth of it's Creator.  Christ's statement of "him ye will receive" is not a statement in which some uncertainty may exist.  He is making a certain and authoritative prediction that when a false messenger comes, he will be accepted by these unbelievers.  Such was the case throughout the Old Testament.  False prophets came by the hundreds with their "thus saith the Lord" when God had not even spoken to them, but when a true prophet came, they shunned and persecuted Him (Jer. 23).

"Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust."  Jesus is not saying that He will sit passively by while the enemy goes unpunished, but rather, He is letting us know that He does not need to rush about in an attempt to defend Himself (as we often feel we need to), because He is God and the words that He has spoken will stand forever as a judge and standard that cannot be blotted out.  Those who trust in their so-called ability to keep the righteousness of the law will be damned to hell, because the law clearly points out man's sin and inability to live up to God's standard, while at the same time, pointing men to the perfect righteousness of Christ for complete justification.

"For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed Me: for he wrote of Me."  The wording in the original text makes this a statement of impossibility.  These men did not truly believe in the writings of Moses; therefore, they could not possibly believe in the One Whom Moses wrote about.  God documented the heart of His law in painstaking detail in the book of Deuteronomy (a book written by Moses), and these people clearly ignored the spirit of the law demonstrated in that book and others.

"But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe My words?"  This statement must have cut them to the heart.  Theses Jewish leaders prided themselves in their belief and observance of Moses' law.  However, their refusal to seek God with their whole heart clearly showed that they did not truly believe what Moses said.  The Bible is a book centered around the fear of God and humility.  When one ignores these vital themes and seeks glory and honor from men for prideful purposes, they have ignored God's call documented in Psalm 27:8, "When Thou saidst, Seek ye My face, my heart said unto Thee, Thy face LORD will I seek."  Jesus Christ alone received full approval of the Father; therefore, to shun His ways and His call is to court the ways of death.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Four Witnesses (conclusion)

"Search the Scriptures;
for in them ye think ye have eternal life:
and they are they which testify of Me. 
And ye will not come to Me, that ye might have life." 
John 5:39-40

The last witness of which Jesus makes mention is the word which God has spoken.  This witness trumps all others because it endures forever.  Men pass away and make mistakes; the physical performance of a work can only be seen by those present; a voice from heaven, though marvelous and glorious, benefits only those which heard it; however, the written word preserves all of these other witnesses and passes down from generation to generation the truth of God.  Where would man be today were it not for this promise, "...the Word of our God shall stand forever"?  Even more marvelous than the voice of the Father from heaven is the Father's voice contained in Scripture.  Peter said concerning his experience on the Mount of Transfiguration, "For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty.  For He received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to Him from the excellent glory, This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased.  And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with Him in the holy mount.  We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts (II P. 1:16-19)."  The word of God is more powerful than even the most powerful experience.  Concerning the value that God places upon the witness of His written word, the Psalmist said, "...Thou hast magnified Thy word above all Thy name."

Jesus says, "Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of Me."  These Jewish leaders believed that within the keeping of the righteousness of the law lay the secret to eternal life; however, they missed the fact that "...the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ that we might be justified by faith (Ga. 3:24)."  As Moses expounded the heart of God's law in the blessed book of Deuteronomy, he spoke of Christ and exhorted his hearers to flee to The Prophet, "The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto Him ye shall hearken...I (God) will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in His mouth; and He shall speak unto them all that I shall command Him.  And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto My words which He shall speak in My name, I will require it of Him (Deuteronomy 18:15, 18-19)."  The instances in which the Law and the Prophets mention Christ and His coming are vast and too many to expound here.

One would think that with all the Scripture pointing out men's hopeless condition of sin and pointing to the perfect righteousness of God that men would flee to the love and mercy of Jesus Christ, yet this is not the case.  Jesus says next, "And ye will not come to Me, that ye might have life."  The witness of John, the witness of the works, the witness of the Father, and the witness of the Scriptures are not enough to the heart that will not humble itself.  Pride will send a man straight to hell.  To bow the knee to Jesus is to admit that we have a wicked heart, it is to admit that He is King and that He alone has the power to save.  Truly, "the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked; who can know it?"  Let us bow the knee to Jesus in humble, childlike faith.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Four Witnesses (Part II)

"But I have greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father hath given Me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of Me, that the Father hath sent Me. And the Father Himself, which hath sent Me, hath borne witness of Me. Ye have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His shape.  And ye have not His word abiding in you: for whom He hath sent, Him ye believe not." 
John 5:36-38

The second witness of Christ's Person is the works that He does.  As godly as John the Baptist was, the works which Christ did are more convincing.  It's one thing to hear someone testify concerning an individual, but it is quite another to actually see the impact that the individual has on others.  Christ said that the Father had given Him the works to finish, and that He did them.  Too many people who want recognition for their so-called spiritual works are busy about their own agenda rather than doing the will of God.  In order to determine whether or not a person's works are truly of God or not, simply examine whether or not those works compliment what is taught in Scripture.  Works that are designed to draw attention to an individual rather than to glorify God are always invalid. 

Even more authoritative than the works however, is the fact that the Father has sent the Son, and has testified of that fact.  At the baptism of Christ and at the Mount of Transfiguration (most likely Mt. Hermon), God said in an audible voice "This is My beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased."  These individuals standing here had not heard the voice of God and none has seen God.  "And ye have not His word abiding in you: for whom He hath sent, Him ye believe not."  These "religious" individuals had a great deal of man's religion but they had no true relationship with God.  Disbelief in Christ and disobedience to His commands are indicative of an unchanged heart.  A true believer in the Word has the word of God written on their hearts; "...I will put My laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to Me a people (He. 8:10b)."  These individuals, however, were lost and would not believe regardless of the evidence, because they refused to humble themselves before the King, Jesus Christ. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Four Witnesses

"There is another that beareth witness of Me; and I know that the witness which he witnesseth of Me is true.  Ye sent unto John, and he bare witness unto the truth.  But I receive not testimony from man: but these things I say, that ye might be saved.  He was a burning and a shining light: and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light." 
John 5:32-35

This section begins a discourse concerning the four witnesses of Jesus.  The first witness is John, the second is the works of Christ, the third is the Father, and the last is the Scriptures.  As we will see, a logical progression of significance is evident in these witnesses. 

The first witness is that of a man, John the Baptist.  Though he is the least of the four witnesses, he is by no means insignificant.  He was a selfless, Spirit filled man whose attitude of humility, dedication, holiness and courage flies in the face of "mainstream Christianity."  Jesus said, "...I know that the witness which he witnesseth of Me is true."  Each believer should strive to have this type of testimony.  Christ was not concerned that John would misrepresent Him in any way.  Can this be said of most?  Many people who profess Christ claim that He would condone their wicked actions rather than separating from the world in an effort to win it for His glory.  "As the cold of snow in the time of harvest, so is a faithful messenger to them that send him: for he refresheth the soul of his masters (Pro. 25:13)."

The Pharisees and Jewish leaders sent to John as recorded in chapter one and asked if he were the Christ, Elias, or that Prophet and John said no.  He plainly told them that he was a voice of one crying in the wilderness, one who pointed people to the way of repentance and faith in the true Christ.  John was a faithful witness and yet God is not in need that men testify of Him.  Deity does not require that Its own creation validate Its position.  Yet, God allowed these things, yea, ordained them for a special purpose, and that purpose is "...that ye might be saved."  There is an unnecessary personal pronoun here in the Greek text making this statement very emphatic.  A literal rendering would be " order that you, you might be saved."  God ordained the witness of John for the special purpose of giving men an extra advantage toward salvation.  God loves souls, and goes to great lengths to meet their needs.

Though the Holy One of Israel sent the witness of John for the benefit of men, men did not appreciate it.  The text says that they rejoiced for a time in John's bold light that he had in Christ, but they soon fell away.  John's message of humility was too much for the proud heart to receive.  According to Matthew chapter three, some Pharisees and Sadducees came to John's baptism of repentance without any true desire to repent.  John said to them, "...O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?  Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: and think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.  And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire."  This is not the message most men are looking for.  Israel at the time of Christ was not looking for a humble king who would die for their sins and lead them into the way of humility and sacrifice, but rather they were looking for a popular prince who would overturn the Roman empire's authority and exalt them as a nation on their own terms.  However, such are not the ways of God, and so, like many, Israel rejoiced for a short time in the witness of John and then fell away after weighing the cost of such doctrine.  The seed had fallen into stony ground and when the sun grew hot it withered away (Matthew 13). 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Just Judgment

"Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.  I can of Mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and My judgment is just; because I seek not Mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent Me.  If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true." 
John 5:28-31

In verse 25, Christ spoke of a resurrection which, in context, seems to be earlier and more positive than the one which He speaks of here.  Based upon His simple explanation of salvation in verse 24 followed by the immediate discussion of an hour that is coming "and now is" in which the ones who hear His voice shall live, it would seem that this resurrection reflects in many ways the resurrection of the saints who rose immediately after His resurrection (Matt. 27:50-53), as well as a possible inference to the rapture of the Church.  In any case, the resurrection that He now speaks of is both positive and negative.  A complete resurrection and full judgment of all is something that is clearly taught throughout Scripture.  Isaiah 26:21 says, "For, behold, the LORD cometh out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity: the earth also shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain."  The book of Daniel is probably the clearest concerning the future events of which Christ is speaking, "And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt (Dan. 12:2)."  After the ministry of Christ on the earth, John would receive the Revelation from Jesus and would complement the teaching of Christ concerning this resurrection.  "And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.  But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.  Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power...(Re. 20:4-6a)."  This is the positive resurrection, but after the Millennial Kingdom, the wicked shall also be resurrected; this is the negative resurrection.  "And when the thousand years are expired...I saw a great white throne, and Him that sat on it, from Whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.  And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.  And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.  And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.  And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:7a-15)."  A resurrection to damnation is a truth that terrifies the ungodly.  It is something that they would prefer not to talk about, but it is a truth that is not going away. 

Jesus says, "...they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation."  He is not preaching a salvation by works.  He is not preaching a salvation by works; He is teaching the simple truth that works are inseparably linked to the hearts beliefs.  The individual is known by his fruits.  Those that have done good (the word means to make or produce) are those who by faith have trusted in the salvation that only God can offer and have therefore demonstrated this change of heart by their actions.  Those that have done evil (this word is different and means to practice, do, or perform) are those who have made a decision to reject God's way of salvation through the Messiah and have demonstrated the fruits of that decision by their ungodly lives.

Jesus goes on to say, "I can of Mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and My judgment is just; because I seek not Mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent Me."  This is an amazing statement.  Jesus as God in the flesh was fully submitted to the will of the Father at all times; therefore, His judgment was, is, and always will be faultless.  So many of us who claim to follow God are busy about our own agendas while giving God lip service when we would do far better to be completely submitted to the will of the Father as is Christ the Son.  We claim to follow and love Jesus but yet we do not according to His works.  He did and does all things in perfect harmony with the God-head and here we be, struggling with the concept that God should have full control of our lives.  Our judgment is too often unjust and faulty because we do not have the attitude of "...of mine own self I can do nothing...."  If the perfect Son of God conducted Himself this way, how much more should we as sinners?!  Christ had no impure motives.  His only desire was to do right in accordance with what the Father wanted.  This is exactly how we must live.  Our desires, passions, motives, plans, judgments, beliefs, and feelings must be completely wrapped up in the desires of God.  What does the Father want?  Where does He desire me to be?  What does He want me to say?  How does He want me to react?  These are just a few simple questions every Christian should ask themselves on a regular basis.  Our own judgments would be much purer and praiseworthy if they were made based upon what we hear from God in the Bible.  He is the Judge of all the earth!

"If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true."  As will be seen, Jesus had four different witnesses.  He did not come simply demanding worship and obedience with nothing to back it up.  His followers must have the same attitude.  Our works should bear witness that we are indeed His children, and if they cannot, then sin lies at the door; or perhaps worse; perhaps no true conversion has taken place. 

Someday soon, the entire world will kneel before the King, the Lord Jesus Christ; and He will, in perfect righteousness, judge all.  This judgment will be true and right because He, as God and man, has no impure motive whatsoever, but He seeks only that which pleases the High and Holy Father.  Let us do the same; and from our lives will come a judgment that is true. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Honor the Son

"For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: that all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father.  He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him.  Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.  Verily, verily, I say unto you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.  For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; and hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man."  John 5:22-27
These opening verses remind us that a professed belief in God while discrediting the deity of Christ is not true belief in God at all.  The one who does not honor the Son as God, does not honor the Father as God.  Man's religion boldly declares a reverent belief in God while denying the deity and saving grace of the Son.  Such "belief" is not belief at all.  Without belief in the Son, true belief in God is not possible.  I Peter declares this to be so when in chapter one verse twenty-one God plainly says that true belief in the Father comes only through belief in the Son, "Who by Him (Christ is the context) do believe in God, that raised Him up from the dead, and gave Him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God."  This is not to say that a person cannot give mental assent to the existence of God, but saving faith does not come without belief in the Son. 

"...I say unto you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live."  Christ is spoken of as the Firstborn from the dead.  Prior to Christ, no one rose from the grave to live forever.  He was the first to die and rise from the dead, never to die again.  This life-giving power positively affects those who die the death of the righteous.  Simple belief in Christ as Savior, acknowledging personal sin and having a heart attitude of turning from it, guarantees the repentant sinner a sure place in heaven at the feet of Christ.  Without belief in the Son, there is no true belief in God, because the Son has been given all power by the Father, power not only to deliver from death, but also power to bring condemnation upon the ungodly.  The day is coming when all the Christ-denying people of the world will be brought to their knees in humble acknowledgment of the deity of Christ.  At the Great White throne of judgment, the chance for forgiveness will have past.  Let each wise-hearted person come to Christ in humble faith in this life while there is still time, because "it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Heb 10:31)."

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Victory Over Death

"Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father do: for what things soever He doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.  For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth Him all things that Himself doeth: and He will shew Him greater works than these, that ye may marvel.  For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom He will."
John 5:19-21

Jesus Christ walked in perfect and continuous harmony with the will of God.  As our supreme example in every area of life, we are instructed by His actions to live each moment of each day in consistent awareness of God's desires for us.  As Christ's authority and power was drawn from God the Father, so we, as Christians, are under the headship of Christ, appointed to be His servants, and given over to this destiny.  This should not be viewed as a misfortune, but rather, as a divine pleasure, as we have the opportunity to demonstrate loyalty to the One Who gave His all for us.  It is a man's "reasonable service" based upon the price that has been paid by God, the great King.  Christ's actions mimicked those of the Father.  Sadly, this is not the case with many believers.  Most people attempt to live independent of Christ, doing daily what pleases self rather than what pleases God.  The believer's actions should be filled with God's holiness, His concern for the oppressed, His hatred of worldly lusts, His righteous deeds and pure thoughts.

"...the Father loveth the Son...."  God has respect unto none but unto His Son.  No man, or angel, or any other creature can take the place of Christ in the heart of God.  God the Father has said to none other than to the Son, "Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek."  God has shown the Son His works in a way that He has not shown them to any other, "...and sheweth Him all things that Himself doeth." 

"...and He will shew Him greater works than these, that ye may marvel.  For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom He will."  The works of Christ complimented what He claimed to be.  His works caused even the enemy to be amazed.  A Christian's works ought to compliment what they claim to be in Christ.  Their works should demonstrate wisdom, compassion, purity, prudence, consistency, temperance, peace, joy, holiness, devotion, and the list goes on.  God has power over death.  Death is an enemy (I Co. 15:26); therefore, it requires a conqueror, and God is that Conqueror.  He has given this power over death to His Son, that He might be our perfect Savior.  It is one of the hallmarks of His deity.  None other can be the savior of man because none other has power over death.  Christ has that power because He is God in the flesh.  When He died on the cross, He gave His life up of Himself in full control over death, "No man taketh it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of My Father."
He is the Victor over sin and death.  He has been vested with the power over death, the enemy to which all men are subject.  Therefore, let as many as desire victory over death and hell flee in humble faith to the One Who can grant the gift of an endless life.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Constantly Working

 "The man departed, and told the Jews that it was Jesus, which had made him whole.  And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay Him, because He had done these things on the sabbath day.  But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.  Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill Him, because He not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God."  John 5:15-18

It seems that this man's motives were not good.  He never praises Christ, he never thanks Him for the healing; all he does is run to Christ's enemies.  This decision on his part yields harmful results to Christ's ministry.  Ingratitude always has harmful effects.  Because of this man's foolish decision to be an informer to the Jews, the Bible says, "And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay Him, because He had done these things on the sabbath day."  It is interesting to note here that the Critical Text completely eliminates the phrase and sought to slay Him.  All of the verbs in this verse are of the imperfect tense.  They speak of continuous action in past time.  Rendered literally, they would read, "...therefore the Jews were persecuting Jesus, and they were seeking to kill Him, because He was doing these things on the Sabbath."  This attempt to hinder His ministry and take His life was not a one time event that lasted a single day.  One can sense the continual fervency with which these children of hell sought to take the life of the King.  Jesus openly displayed the thoughts of their hearts when He rehearsed what they were thinking, "This is the Heir; come, let us kill Him, and let us seize on His inheritance (said they, Matt. 21:38)."  Notice also how Jesus' actions of healing on the Sabbath are rendered as continuous.  Healing on the Sabbath was a regular part of His ministry.  Good works know no days of rest.  God delights in righteous deeds seven days a week.  Exercising a love for one's neighbor is never prohibited.  Only the oppressive religions of evil men attempt to make ritual more important than relationship. 

"But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto (until now), and I work."  One comforting and convicting trait of our King is His constant attention to the things of God.  How sad it is to be neglecting the work of the Master for occupations perceived to be more important.  God is constantly and effectually working in this world.  As the Psalmist says, "Behold, He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep (Ps. 121:4)."  God is constantly about the business of doing what is good and right.  The Christian should be the same way.  Righteous deeds should have no vacations.  Meditation, prayer, study of the Scriptures, witness, helping those in need should be an everyday part of the believer's life.  Yes, the Master is working until now; therefore, we should be working.

"Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill Him, because He not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God."  This is one of the most direct statements concerning Christ's deity that the book of John has to offer.  The word rendered His in the phrase that God was His Father, is not the typical form for expressing possession.  It means one's own.  It is a word which emphasizes that something belongs to one person and to no other.  It is the word from which we get our English word idiom.  God is the Father of Christ in a way in which He is not toward any one else.  As the last part of this verse states, Christ is equal in deity to God the Father.  Though they are two different Persons, they are one God.  One's mind can't help but wander to Philippians 2:6, "Who (Jesus), being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God...." 

The Creator of the universe saw fit to put on humble flesh and flawlessly work out the perfect will of God.  He was constantly engaged in that which is useful and good.  He was undeterred by ingratitude, persecution, criticism, threats, and heartache.  He was consistently righteous from day to day.  Shouldn't we do the same?

Saturday, November 3, 2012

A Conspicuous Lack of Praise

"The Jews therefore said unto him that was cured, It is the sabbath day: it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed.  He answered them, He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed, and walk.  Then asked they him, What man is that which said unto thee, Take up thy bed, and walk?  And he that was healed wist not who it was: for Jesus had conveyed Himself away, a multitude being in that place.  Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee." 
John 5:10-14

An individual who is not walking according to the love of God as described in I Corinthians 13 is usually quite easily identified.  They tend to gloss over the spiritual and physical well being of people and focus solely on their own agendas; such was the case with these Pharisees.  Untouched by the healing of a man who had been lame for thirty-eight years, they callously throw around the letter of God's Law while ignoring the heart of God.  Believers can act this way, but such behavior is indicative of a person who is not circumcised in heart.  Such people walk on in their sin, untouched by the wickedness that they sow.  God says concerning such people, " man repented him of his wickedness, saying, What have I done?....(Jeremiah 8:6)"  It would do us all well to live in a frame of mind that encourages us to say daily before the King of heaven, "What have I done?"

The man answers and declares how that Christ gave him the command.  The Son of man is Lord even of the Sabbath day (Mt 12:8).  "And he that was healed wist not who it was: for Jesus had conveyed Himself away, a multitude being in that place."  Christ was never seeking glory for selfish reasons.  He did not need to engage in vain attempts to back up His works with more words than were needed.  His works clearly declared what He was and is.  Jesus simply performed a righteous deed and then humbly conveyed Himself away, thus allowing the effects of that deed to have its way in the hearts of people.

"Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole...."  The tense of this verb art made whole is stressing the consummation and duration of the action.  What Jesus does, He does well, and His work lasts.   The wise hearted who live their lives submitted to His ability will see the same effect in their works.  Why do so many believers view their labor as insufficient and unrewarding?  Why do so many come to the end of their lives and view all as empty and vain?  The reason is because all done outside of Christ and His Spirit will not last; but that which is done according to His word will endure and have righteous and enduring effects in the lives of people.  "...sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee."  This command literally means to stop doing something that you are doing.  Christ is not telling this man to be sinless.  No man can be completely free from his nature while living in this body (Romans 7), but rather, Christ is urging him to have a change of heart toward God and toward his own sin.  He is urging him to come to repentance.  This man displays a conspicuous lack of worship and praise toward Christ.  The text does not specifically say that he did not get saved, but one cannot help but come away with the feeling that this man was happy to be walking, but was not concerned with repentance.  Not all who are in affliction will do right simply because they have been shown mercy.  Some are not as wicked as they would like to be for the sole reason that they cannot get around.  God is full of wisdom and mercy.  He knows just how to deal with every heart; whether or not that heart will accept Him.  Christ did not gloss over this man's sin simply because he had a hard time of it for many years; in fact, He points out that this particular infirmity was brought on by sin, and He encourages the man to repentance lest he walk into greater judgment.  But, the text is silent concerning praise on the healed man's part and in the next verse we shall see that he carries back the identity of Christ to His enemies.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Wilt Thou Be Made Whole?

"And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years.  When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, He saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole?  The impotent man answered Him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me.  Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.  And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: and on the same day was the sabbath." 
John 5:5-9

Christ's compassion on the needs of others is an ever present reminder of God's life-giving character.  God's nature is to relieve the oppressed, comfort the downtrodden, loose the prisoners, heal the sick, and restore men.  A Christian must emulate this character.  An unconcerned believer is a spiritually sick believer.  Christ never turned a blind eye to people's needs.  Thirty-eight years is a long time to be crippled.  At this point, everyone would have given up hope for the man's recovery apart from a miracle.  Jesus says, "Wilt thou be made whole?"  This question can certainly be viewed in a physical context, but viewing it in a spiritual context is not doing any injustice to the Scriptures.  "Wilt thou be made spiritually whole?"  The Scriptures have born witness to many generations of God's love toward mankind.  He has offered life through belief in His Son and the message rings throughout the ages, "Wilt thou be made whole?"  But many do not wish to be made whole.  Too many people love their sin too much to flee to God.  Jesus said concerning unbelieving people, " will not come to Me...."  People lie sick in their sin, pining away in their degradation and still find it in their hearts to say No to God.  Had this man asked Christ for forgiveness of sins his wish would have been granted as fast as that of the penitent woman spoken of in Luke chapter seven; however, this man asks for neither physical nor spiritual healing but dwells upon all the obstacles to his healing.  Doubtless, to some degree he must have been greatly discouraged having observed for many years someone else stepping down into the healing waters.  His address of Sir is the same word translated many other places as Lord.  Here, the title is not used in recognition of Christ's position but rather as a common address of respect.  Christ does not leave him in that state despite his ignorance, discouragement and lack of faith but says to him, "Rise, take up thy bed, and walk."  The tense of these commands is different.  The first two commands are a one time, point in time action, and the third command has the idea of commencement followed by continuous action.  The idea is this, "Rise at once and take up your bed at once and begin walking and keep on walking."  Christ speaks with divine authority as He clearly demonstrates His superiority over even the angel-touched waters.  God the Father had sent a greater Healer than an angel; He had sent His only Son.  No delay is seen between the command and the healing.  A common trait of false prophets who masquerade as healers is their need to have "time" to heal.  This is due to the fact that they are liars and have no God-given power to heal.  Christ gave the command, and immediately the deed was done.  The Scripture adds, "...and the same day was the Sabbath."  As Christ stated in Matthew 12:12, " is lawful to do well on the Sabbath....", thus fulfilling God's law of love for Him and neighbor. 

Though many who were healed never thanked Christ or gave God glory, Jesus did not hold back from doing good to all people.  A lack of gratitude or recognition would deter most from seeking the welfare of others, but God's nature is not so, because He has come to seek and to save that which was lost (Luke 19:10).

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Righteousness Revealed

"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ:
for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one
that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. 
For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from
faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith." 
Romans 1:16-17

Romans chapters one through three lay out very clearly that all men, the heathen, the hypocrite, and the Hebrew (religious) are without excuse before God. So that God might show the exceeding riches of His grace in Christ Jesus, He must first show all men that they are equally condemned.

"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek." This word for power is the source of our English word dynamite. The holy Gospel of repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ is exceeding powerful. It requires no pomp, programs, or pride to make it effective. The Word of God is quick and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword. Christians profess that they believe in the power of the gospel to change people but yet they find it necessary to water it down, change it, mingle it with entertainment, and twist and distort it in order to "win" people. This is wickedness. The Holy Gospel is the only thing upon which God has placed His blessing unto salvation, and this Gospel is open to all men, both Jew and Gentile. The Jew is as much a target of God's grace today as he has ever been. May no Gentile fail to share God's grace with the precious soul of a lost Jew.

"For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith." People all over the world and down through the ages have sought to appropriate by many different works the righteousness that pleases God; however, God's righteousness is the only thing that can make a person fit to enter heaven, and this righteousness is not obtained outside of humble faith in the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, the One Who died for the sins of all mankind, the spotless Lamb of God. The phrase from faith to faith is literally out from faith and into faith. Salvation is obtained through faith. Faith is the foundation upon which a relationship with God is built; however, faith does not end there. Faith is also the foundation upon which fellowship with God is built. The Christian life is one long experience of faith. Out of faith in Christ Jesus the child of God is born and this leads into a lifelong walk of faith in that same Christ. One might put it this way, From faith of salvation and into the faith of sanctification. " it is written, The just shall live by faith." As it is written! What a statement of Divine preservation of God's Word! The tense of this verb expresses, at the minimum, this thought, It has been written, therefore it is written and always shall be! One's mind instantly rushes to verses such as Isaiah 40:8, "The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the Word of our God shall stand forever." So what has been written? ...The just shall live by faith (the just one out from faith he shall live). This statement is taken from Habakkuk 2:4 where God told the frustrated prophet, "Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith." Two types of people roam the earth today; those who serve their pride and those who humbly bow to God in faith. God's righteousness, blessing, and eternal forgiveness are obtained by no other means than humble faith in His Sacrifice, Jesus Christ. Christ is the sinless Lamb, only He has met God's standard; therefore, man must cease from his own futile attempts to obtain righteousness and humbly submit to the righteousness of God, which is freely offered to all through faith in Jesus Christ. And, so God's righteousness is revealed to all who will accept it by faith, as the wise preacher put it, "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding."

Monday, October 8, 2012

House of Mercy

"After this there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.  Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches.  In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water.  For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had."  John 5:1-4

The identification of this particular feast cannot be determined for certain.  It may have been a feast which was not commanded by God (Lev.23), but rather was held by tradition.  The Passover is mentioned again in chapter six, so whatever the occasion, it was near that time or before it. 

The Bible says that "Jesus went up to Jerusalem."  The Bible often speaks of people traveling "up" to Jerusalem because this city is situated higher than the surrounding country. 

The mercy and love of God is seen throughout these verses.  Why should Christ choose to return to Jerusalem after the rejection that He had already faced?  Only the long suffering nature of God could motivate such action.  The pool of water here mentioned is Bethesda which means house of mercy.  On the crowded steps of these porches lay numerous sick folks seeking relief from their affliction.  Even in the midst of an apostate nation such as this, God's mercy toward men shines forth as He commands one of His many angels to touch these waters with health and healing, thus providing a small haven of relief for those in need.  The fact that they could not go to the religious leaders and find help is both surprising and at the same time not surprising.  The prideful cloak of religiosity is never truly helpful to anyone.  From a distance it appears fair, but it is a tattered and torn garment which deserves only to be at once discarded.  These people lay on the porch of the pool known as the house of mercy in order to avail themselves of the mercy and love of God.  Even with the massive and ornate temple standing on the hill in the distance, the only place where one could find real physical relief was a small, humble pool of water that God had decided to touch. 

NOTE:  The critical text completely eliminates verse four.  Critically minded individuals whose hearts are racked with disbelief discount the legitimacy of such an account as "an angel troubling the water," claiming that such an event is too odd and out of place.  One need not give in to such blatant disbelief.  Is the Holy One of Israel who created the universe in six days incapable of troubling a small pool of water so that people might find relief in the middle of a tormented and oppressive society?  I think not.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

From Faith in a Word to Faith in THE WORD

"The nobleman saith unto Him,
Sir, come down ere my child die. 
Jesus saith unto him, Go thy way; thy son liveth.
And the man believed the word that Jesus had
spoken unto him, and he went his way. 
And as he was now going down, his servants
met him, and told him, saying, Thy son liveth. 
Then enquired he of them the hour
when he began to amend.
And they said unto him, Yesterday at the
seventh hour the fever left him. 
So the father knew that it was at the same hour,
in the which Jesus said unto him, Thy son liveth:
and himself believed, and his whole house. 
This is again the second miracle that Jesus did,
when He was come out of Judaea into Galilee." 
John 4:49-54

     It is interesting to note that even though Christ knew of the man's initial lack of faith in His position as the Messiah, He did not refuse to grant the pleading man's request.  The Lord sends no one away empty if they truly desire help.  He grants the nobleman's request with authority and says, "Go thy way; thy son liveth."  The verb liveth is a present continuous action.  A literal, translation would be, "Your son is living." Christ in His omnipotence had the ability to pronounce the baby living even as they stood there and spoke.  His power is immediate and supreme.  This immediate healing would also serve to lead the father to saving faith as we shall soon see.  The text says that the man believed "in the word" that Jesus spoke to him.  This initial belief was not in the person of Christ, but rather in His ability to heal the child (literally infant). 

     As the father makes his way back home, the servants bring the good news that only reaffirms what Christ already pronounced to be true.  They use the same words as Christ, "Thy son is living."  Upon further questioning, the father discovers that the child began to recover at the very moment that Jesus spoke the words, "Thy son liveth."  The text then says, "...and himself believed...."  At this point, the man's faith becomes very specific and personal.  There is great emphasis on the belief being personal as indicated by the word himself.  This man came to faith in Christ's position as Messiah.  It is humbling to note God's patience and condescension in this passage.  The Lord could have stopped with the statement, "Except ye see signs and wonders ye shall not believe," but He chose to grant the man's request and provide him with a sign that would lead him to a belief that brings healing to the soul.  The man's faith in Christ also lead to the belief of all in his house.  The man of the home can greatly influence his family for either good or evil.

   "This is again the second miracle that Jesus did, when He was come out of Judaea into Galilee."  The miracles of our Savior were never for vain or foolish reasons.  They were always performed in perfect accord with the will of God for the purpose of bringing about belief in the person of Christ (J. 14:11).  Christ's tender mercies displayed here, led a lost nobleman from faith in a word of healing to faith in the person of the Healer.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Conditional Faith

"So Jesus came again into Cana of Galilee,
where He made the water wine. And there was a
certain nobleman, whose son was sick at Capernaum.  
When he heard that Jesus was come out of Judaea
into Galilee, he went unto Him, and besought Him
that He would come down, and heal his son:
for he was at the point of death.  Then said Jesus
unto him, Except ye see signs and wonders,
ye will not believe." 
John 4:46-48

In Cana of Galilee Christ demonstrated once before His power over creation, and He is about to do it again.  The Scripture tells us that this nobleman or ruler was from Capernaum, the same city which demonstrated a hard heart on more that one occasion.  Initially, it would seem that this father did not believe in Christ as the Messiah, but desperation is evident in his actions.  God can use anything to drive a person to Christ.  It is a sad fact that often God has to bring severe trials into our lives in order to get our attention. 

The man entreated Christ to come and heal his boy.  Christ's reply was intended to provoke self-examination on the part of the ruler.  He says, "Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe."  The last part of this sentence will not believe is very strong.  It carries with it the idea of absolute impossibility.  Israel as a nation had become so hardened that belief outside of physical signs and wonders was an impossibility.  The Lord pronounced a blessing upon those who believe and yet have not seen (John 20:29).  Signs and wonders may be afforded an individual, but such things are not always a guarantee.  God is looking for the man, woman, or child who has a heart that is toward truth, whether or not a sign follows.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Wise Men Receive Him

"Now after two days He departed thence,
and went into Galilee.  For Jesus Himself testified,
that a prophet hath no honour in his own country. 
Then when He was come into Galilee, the
Galilaeans received Him, having seen all the things
that He did at Jerusalem at the feast: for they also
went unto the feast." 
John 4:43-45

Christ heads north into Galilee after ministering to the Samaritans, but He bypasses "His own country (literally fatherland)" because of their unbelief.  Christ was raised in Nazareth but Capernaum is often referred to as "His country."  This is likely the place being spoken of here.  As a whole, Capernaum rejected the works of the Prophet who spent much of His ministry in their midst.  Jesus said, "...a prophet hath no honour in his own country."  All human beings are prone to such an attitude.  Familiarity, jealousy (Matt. 13:53-58), and physical prosperity can encourage rejection.  The Bible admonishes us to have a consistent desire for truth, all truth; "The full soul loatheth an honeycomb; but to the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet (Proverbs 27:7)."

There were, however, some wise Galileans who decided to receive the works of Christ.  They also were at the Passover feast and had seen the works of Christ there; thus, in these verses we see an age old truth; there are those who gladly receive the works of God and there are those who reject.  Rejection comes at a price.  Christ said concerning the rejection of Capernaum, "And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.  But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee (Matthew 11:23-24)."  Let the wise of heart "receive Him."

Sunday, September 9, 2012

A Ripe and Ready Harvest

"Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.  And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together.  And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth.  I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labour: other men laboured, and ye are entered into their labours.  And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on Him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did.  So when the Samaritans were come unto Him, they besought Him that He would tarry with them: and He abode there two days.  And many more believed because of His own word;  And said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard Him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world."  John 4:35-42

   When quoting the first verse of this section, we must be cautious to quote it as a question, because Christ was asking His disciples a rhetorical question.  He expected a yes answer to His question.  In asking this, He was comparing their spiritual apathy for lost souls to a farmer who sits back and says "I still have four months, and then harvest will be here, no need to hurry right now!"  The disciples of Jesus cannot afford the luxury of such waiting.  The truth of the matter is, souls are all around waiting to be harvested for the Lord.  Christ said, "Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields...."  The word here for fields is literally country, region, or land.  No matter what dispensation a Christian finds themselves in, there is always a region waiting to be harvested for God.  The souls of this region were tender and ready to respond to truth, but the disciples were focused on other things.

    Christ now begins a lesson which we would all do well to heed.  He says, "And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together.  And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and  another reapeth."  Some must sow the word of God and some must reap the fruits of those efforts.  Not everyone can sow and not everyone can reap.  It would be nice if seeds could be planted and a crop harvested the next day, but unfortunately, that is not the case.  Crops require time, water, heat, and food to grow.  It often takes many months before they are ready to be harvested.  The man who gives the gospel and does not see a response in the people is not necessarily any less spiritual than the man who preaches once and sees immediate results.  If both are walking with God, then the one sowing the word and one reaping the word are both in the will of God.  Let not the man sowing judge the man reaping, and let not the man reaping condemn the man sowing, but let Christ be glorified in all things as Paul states, "I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase." 
Christ goes on, "I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labour: other men laboured, and ye are entered into their labours."  The word for labor here has the idea of great toil or trouble.  Many Old Testament prophets had gone through great heartache and pain to prepare a people ready for the Lord.  Men like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Habakkuk, Malachi (and many others) had seen little, if any, physical results of their prophesying.  For the most part, they were met only with rejection and severe persecution.  These disciples of Christ had entered into the labors of past men and were given the privilege of reaping the harvest with the holy gospel of God.  God's grace is manifold.  He gives grace to sow and He gives grace to reap.  None can lift themselves up in pride, but both the one sowing and the one reaping must fall before the feet of God and give Him glory.

   The passage finishes by showing us the precious harvest that was reaped that day in the hated town of Samaria.  Christ wants His disciples to get their eyes off of temporal things and focus on the abundant harvest that God has.  Some will be the sowers and some will be the reapers, but all who obey the call are in the will of God.  The rejected Samaritans were very grateful that God has a world-view concerning souls.  They recognized His desire to redeem all men and showed their perception by making this statement, "Now we believe...for we have heard Him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world (italics mine)."