Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Discretion of Jesus Christ

"When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard
that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John,
(Though Jesus Himself baptized not, but His disciples,)
He left Judaea, and departed again into Galilee." 
John 4:1-3

The end of chapter 3 is the last time that we hear from John in this particular Gospel. He is referred to again in later chapters, but his active speaking is over. The truth of the matter is that John truly did decrease while Jesus increased. Matthew 4 says that John was imprisoned about this time.

"When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John...." The Lord was always about the work of leading people into the true kingdom of heaven. The souls of men are very important to God and should be to His Church as well. At about this point in Jesus' ministry, hostilities from Herod begin to arise (Matt. 4:12), and the unbelieving Jewish leaders start to cause contention toward the ministry of Jesus. The Lord exercises discretion and chooses to relocate for the purpose of continuing His Father's will. Christ's hour had not yet come. It was not time for Him to be handed over to the Jews and it was not God's will that He be executed by Herod; therefore, "He left Judea...." This word can be understood as to let go, or forsake. Discretion guided Him and kept Him in God's will by knowing when to leave and when to stay.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Individual Responsibility

"For He whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God:
for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto Him. 
The Father loveth the Son,
and hath given all things into His hand. 
He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life:
and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life;
but the wrath of God abideth on him." 
John 3:34-36

   As chapter 3 comes to a close, John finishes his witness by first bringing to light The Spirit of Christ. He says, "For He whom the Father hath sent...." John reaffirms that the ministry of Christ was not derived by fleshly means, nor does it seek its approval from men. "...speaketh the words of God...." This is the mark of a true servant. It is very easy to say that we are servants, or men and women of God; but the proof is in the doctrine that we propagate. Being a lover of truth involves speaking the words of God, even when they fly in the face of our interests and agendas. "...for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto Him." Christ's ministry here on earth was not accomplished in a partial power of the Holy Spirit, it was accomplished with the full power of God. This leaves all men without excuse. The Pharisees could not look at the life of Jesus and find something of the power of God lacking. The Spirit of God shined through the works of Christ to the fullest extent possible. The truth of God's triune nature is very evident in this verse. Here we see God the Father working through God the Son by the agency of God the Holy Spirit. One means of identifying the true servant of God is identifying the presence, or absence, of the Spirit. This Blessed Comforter never works contrary to the truth of Scripture. He does not operate on emotion or passion. He is Holy and performs only that which brings glory and honor to God. His presence in the Christ-like life will be evident by a life that is producing the Spirit's fruits: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance (self-discipline), seeking God's truth, holding fast to the faithful word and many others. Christ displayed all of these in a flawless manner. The Christian, being yet a sinner in his flesh, will not display these flawlessly as did Christ, but they will, to some extent, be evident. The Holy Spirit of God is most powerful. A life that is void of Bible principle and is ruled by emotion and passion and rebellion is not of the Spirit. As Paul said in Romans, "Now, if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His." No man has any excuse to disbelieve in the works of Christ because the Spirit of the living God was there present in all of the works of Christ, and His presence was not held back. In principle, God desires for all of His children to demonstrate a life where the Spirit is fully in control (Eph. 5:18). If we are living a life that is not exemplary of godly behavior, it is not because God has given us the Spirit in a measured capacity; it is because we have chosen to yield to something other than Him such as faithlessness, pride, fear, hatred, bitterness, self-pity, arrogance, lust, emotion, passion or some other evil behavior.

    John next approaches The Power of Christ. He says, "The Father loveth the Son and hath given all things into His hand." The tense of the verb has given is very strong and emphatic. It has the meaning of something that cannot be reversed regardless of adversary or occurrence. It conveys the meaning of an action that has taken place in the past, will always be relevant in the present, and will forever continue into the future. Though true Christianity has its numberless foes, the fate of man's religion has already been decided. I Corinthians 15:24 comes to mind at this point, "Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power." False professors abound and apostasy ravages its millions, yet, in the end, Christ will sit upon the throne forever. Yes, and even now He sits upon the throne of the right of God, angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto Him. It is sinful for a Christian to live in fear and faithlessness when they have such a Master. Faithlessness and fear are choices. We all choose to serve what we want. Let us choose to serve the One who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.

    In his labor to show that all men must seek after none but Christ, John ends by addressing The Individual's Responsibility. The Scripture says, "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life...." The one who is believing into the Son is having eternal life. This would be a literal translation. Notice the direction of the belief. It is into Christ. People make choices every day concerning their direction of belief. We choose to believe in ourselves, others, our surroundings etc. But the one who turns from sin unto God is the one who chooses to believe into Christ. Paul said of the Thessalonians that they had "turned unto God (toward God) from idols (away from)...." Notice that individual responsibility involves a turning. The heart cannot serve two masters. It must turn from one to another. The heart must choose to turn away from what it has served in the past and turn to what it will serve in the future. The one who decides to believe in Christ has made a choice to be delivered from the sin that once ruled him and to now be ruled by a different Master, the Master whom he has believed into. But the fate of the unbeliever has already been decided, and they live in a constant state of peril under God's judgment.

   "...and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him." The unbeliever will never see eternal life. Each and every person has one major responsibility and that is "to believe on His Son Jesus Christ, as He gave us commandment." The unbeliever is in a constant state of being under God's wrath. No great sin is required to be under God's wrath. The unbelieving moral man and the vilest of criminals will suffer the same fate in hell fire, because both are making a conscious choice to reject God's only way of salvation, and that is through the blood of His dear Son. Thus John did his best to show these men that Christ and Christ alone is preeminent and that He is the only means of salvation. John desired no attention for himself. He was a truly humble man who did his best to point all men to the Messiah. Let us do the same.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The One From Above

"He that cometh from above is above all:
he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth:
He that cometh from heaven is above all. 
And what He hath seen and heard, that He testifieth;
and no man receiveth His testimony. 
He that hath received His testimony hath set
to his seal that God is true." 
John 3:31-33

John is still answering the disciples of the Jews, and in his answering we can see him attempting to show them the way of salvation and warn them of their rejection. In these verses he first mentions Christ and His Supremacy. He says, "He that cometh from above is above all...." This statement points directly to the deity of Christ. False teachers can mock, the world can derive its own forms of religion, more and more people can take upon themselves the spirit of an antichrist; but when it is all said and done, Christ is above all and "every knee shall bow...and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. John then points to the fact that he himself (great prophet as he was) is of the earth. Christ must become more prominent because He alone is the way of salvation. All others are simply men.

John points next to Christ and His Testimony. He says concerning Christ, "And what He hath seen and heard, that He testifieth...." Jesus did not speak that which He desired, but His will was, at all times, in complete harmony with that of the Father. Later in John 7 He will say, "...My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me." Those who say they believe in God but reject Christ and His teachings are inconsistent. Christ testified only of the things which the Father had shown Him. John is pointing out to these unbelievers, that to reject Christ's teachings is to reject the doctrine of heaven from whence Christ is.

John points lastly to Christ and His Reception. He says concerning this testimony, "...and no man receiveth His testimony." This verb is indicating continuous present action, literally, and no man is receiving His testimony. Christ came unto His own Jewish people, but His own received Him not. And so it is. The unbelievers and scoffers have always been more numerous than those that fear God. At times, it seems as though none care to turn from sin to God. Christ said Himself, "...wide is the gate...which leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat. Because strait is the gate...which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it." But there will still be those who humble themselves and seek God, because John goes on to say, "He that hath received His testimony hath set to his seal that God is true." A seal is a stamp. They were used extensively in the Bible days to certify or approve something. They indicated authority and genuineness. The person who believes the message of Christ is certifying in their life that God is indeed true in all that He says. True belief in God cannot come apart from belief in His Son. I Peter teaches this plainly when it says concerning Christ, "Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things...from your vain conversation...but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God." A person can say they believe in God, but without accepting the doctrine of the One from above Who has spoken only that which the Father has shown Him, true belief in God cannot come. On the other hand, the one who accepts the testimony of Christ, certifies (sets to his seal) in his heart that God is true. Such a decision is not a light thing. Many say they believe in Christ but they deny the things of which He testified. Reception of His words is a declaration in one's heart that God is indeed genuine and on the throne.

In all of this, John is pointing his opponents to the Light of Christ which they so desperately need, but which they are so desperately resisting.