Let's think about Jesus - who He is and why He came to our world. The Story of Jesus is a wonderful Story. It's the Story of the eternal Word, the Word become flesh - the 'Mighty God' has become 'Emmanuel' (God with us) (John 1:1, 14; Isaiah 9:6; 7:14). This is the fulfilment of the prophecies of Isaiah. The 'Mighty God' has become 'Emmanuel (God with us)' (9:6; 7:14). This is the Story of our salvation, the Story of Jesus Christ, the 'Mighty God' who became 'God with us'.
For our salvation, we need both - the 'Mighty God' and 'God with us'. Apart from 'God with us', the 'Mighty God' might seem remote, great in power yet detached from us. Apart from the 'Mighty God', 'God with us' might seem too homely, too much like a 'god' created in our own image. Jesus Christ is our Saviour. He is the 'Mighty God'. We know that He is able to save. He has become 'God with us'. We know that He is willing to save.
Jesus is the Lord - 'In the beginning ... the Word was God' (John 1:1). He is the Christ, the fulfilment of the Old Testament prophecies. The prophets looked forward to His coming. Now, we rejoice in 'the good news' of our salvation - 'Jesus ... will save His people from their sins' (Luke 2:10; Matthew 1:21). From the very beginning of His life on earth, Jesus is clearly marked out as different from the rest of us - 'that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit', 'the Holy Spirit will come upon you ... therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God' (Matthew 1:20; Luke 1:35).
Throughout His great Story, we see Jesus Christ as our wonderful Saviour, the only One who 'is able to save to the uttermost all who come to God through Him' (Hebrews 7:25). He is 'the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world' (John 1:29). He is the great Saviour concerning whom we can still say, 'the blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son, cleanses us from all sin' (1 John 1:7).
We give thanks to God for the great message of the Gospel - 'Christ died for our sins' (1 Corinthians 15:3). We rejoice in the great love which lies behind the death of Christ for our sins - 'God demonstrates His own love towards us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us' (Romans 5:8).The death of Jesus is not, however, the end of His Story. He has risen from the dead. We rejoice in the risen 'Lord'. Let us confess Him as our Lord (Acts 2:36; Romans 10:9).
The Story is unique. Our Saviour is unique. His Salvation is unique. It is only this Story, this Saviour and this Salvation which gives us the strength to face the future with the confidence which says, 'Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ' (1 Corinthians 15:57).
'Jesus Christ', our Saviour and Lord, 'the same yesterday and today and forever', continues to speak to us His gracious words of salvation - 'Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that He may have mercy on him, and to our God for He will abundantly pardon' (Hebrews 13:8; Isaiah 55:6-7).
Seven Words On Seven Chapters (John 1-7)
We look at the first seven chapters of John's Gospel. Our seven words are (1) Who; (2) What; (3) Wind; (4) Worship; (5) Wholeness; (6) Word; (7) Witness.
(1) Who is Jesus?
- Chapter 1: (a) the Word (v. 1); (b ) God (v. 1); (c) the life (v. 4); (d) the light of men (v. ) and the true light (v. 9); (e) the only begotten Son (v. 18) or the Son of God (vs, 34, 49); (f) the Lamb of God (vs. 29, 36); (g) Master (v. 38); (h) the Messiah or the Christ (v. 41); (i) the King of Israel (v. 49); (j) the Son of Man (v.51).
We focus our attention on another description of Jesus - "this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit" (v.33). This is based on the Spirit's descending, like a dove, to abide on Jesus (vs.32-33).
(2) What kind of Spirit does Jesus baptize us with? What kind of Spirit does He pour out upon us? What kind of Spirit does He give to us to live in us?
- Chapter 2: The Holy Spirit is "the Spirit of Jesus (Acts 16:7), "the Spirit of Christ" (Romans 8:9). To answer the question, "What kind of Spirit does Jesus baptize us with?", we look at Jesus Himself.
In chapter 2, we see the grace (vs.1-10), glory (v. 11) and holiness (vs. 13-22) of the Lord Jesus.
In these three words - grace, glory and holiness, we have a description of the work of the Spirit in the whole course of the Christian life.
- The beginning of the Christian life is grace.
- The destination of the Christian life is glory.
- The way by which we travel from grace to glory is the way of holiness.
The life in the Spirit is the way which takes us from grace to glory in the highway of holiness.
(3) The wind of the Spirit (3:8)
The Christian life is to be a life of going with the wind of the Spirit, and not against the wind of the Spirit (3:8).
The fourfold direction of the wind of the Spirit (3:16): The wind of the Spirit blows us in the direction of (a) the love of God; (b) the Saviour; (c) faith in Christ; (d) eternal life.
The life which goes with the wind of the Spirit, and not against the wind of the Spirit, is a life which is becoming, increasingly, more Christ-centred and, increasingly, less self-centred.: "He must increase, but I must decrease" (3:30).
This Christ-centred life in the Spirit is a life which is characterized by worship (chapter 4), wholeness (chapter 5), the Word (chapter 6) and witness (chapter 7).
(4) Worship in the Spirit and in truth (4:24)
Worship in the Spirit is not, simply, a warm feeling inside, a pleasant emotion which says, "I enjoyed that." It is not, simply, a vague inward spirituality which is characterized by inner contentment. Worship in the Spirit , true spiritual worship focuses attention not so much on our feelings but on Jesus Christ and all that He has done for us.
What we must remember is this: When we speak about the Spirit, we are speaking about the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit who delights to glorify Jesus Christ and to point us to Him, who is the Saviour of the world.
This is true spiritual worship - worship which leads us to magnify and exalt Jesus Christ, worship that leads us to give glory to the Saviour who love us and gave Himself for us, to give praise to the Christ who was crucified for us, to give honour to the Lord who was raised from the dead for us, to sing "Hallelujah" to the King who is coming again for us.
When the Spirit of God is at work in our worship, He will lead us to say of Jesus Christ, "this is indeed the Saviour of the world" (4:42).
(5) Wholeness in the Spirit
When we are truly worshipping in the Spirit, the Lord Jesus Christ will ask us this challenging question, "Do you want to be made whole?" (5:6).
He calls us to leave behind the old life, which is characterized by the weakness of the flesh. He calls us to live the new life, which is characterized by wholeness in the Spirit.
"Do you want to be made whole?"
The first essential for experiencing the mighty power of the Spirit of God is an intense desire for the Spirit of revival and renewal to be at work among us.
"Do you want to be made whole?"
Jesus Christ will pour upon us the Holy Spirit - the Spirit of revival and renewal, as you and I say, "Yes, Lord, I want you to do this for me?"
"Do you want to be made whole?"
(6) The Word of God and the Spirit of God
The call to wholeness comes to us through the Word of God. The Spirit of God speaks to us through the Word of God. The Holy Spirit speaks to us through the Holy Scriptures.
The contrast between the Spirit and the flesh (3:6) is re-emphasized in 6:63.
While the Spirit and the flesh are contrasted, the Spirit and the Word are not set against each other. The Spirit and the Word belong together. The Spirit uses the Word to bring us out of the weakness of the flesh and into the wholeness which is ours through faith in Christ.
(7) Witness (7:37-39)
This wholeness, which comes to us through the Spirit and the Word, is not for our own benefit only. The Spirit uses the Word to point us to Christ - the source of our wholeness, so that we, in turn, might point others to the Saviour.
When the Lord Jesus speaks of "rivers of living waters", He does not say that they will flow into the believer's heart. He says that they will flow out of the believer's heart.
The Spirit is given to us on the basis of Jesus' glorification - His death, resurrection and ascension. Because Jesus, the Lamb of God, has died to take away the sin of the world, the Holy Spirit is given to us so that we might share this good news with our needy world.
The Spirit empowers us for the work of mission, Christ's mission in the world.
- Ezekiel 47 - the development of Christ's mission
- vs.3-5: ankle-deep - Jerusalem; knee-deep - Judea; up to the loins - Samaria; deep enough to swim in - the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).
- v. 6: "Son of man, have you seen this?"
- Revelation 22 - the outcome of Christ's mission, the healing of the nations (v. 3); reigning for ever and ever (v. 5).
Three Very Important Questions
Three very important questions - questions that demand a personal answer: Who is Jesus? What can Jesus do for us? What will we do about Jesus?
(1) Who is Jesus? Is He a mere man? or Is He somebody special?
Every one of us must answer the question, "Who is Jesus?"
- Jesus is the Word of God (John 1:1).
- Jesus is the Son of God (John 1:34).
Jesus does not merely speak God's Word. He is the Word of God.
Jesus is more than a servant of God. He's the Son of God.
(2) What can Jesus do for us? Could He do something wonderful for me? Could He change my life? Could He turn boredom into satisfaction? Could he turn confusion into certainty? Could He turn aimlessness into purpose? Could He turn cynicism into testimony? Could He ... ? - Yes! He can. Jesus is able to do great things for us.
- He can give satisfaction to the bored.
- He can give certainty to the confused.
- He can give purpose to the aimless.
- He can give a testimony to the cynical.
Jesus can do all these things for us. He can give us all these blessings.
Through faith in Him, we become God's children (John 1:12). Through faith in Him, we receive the forgiveness of our sins (John 1:29). through faith in Him, we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (John 1:33).
Isn't this amazing? We can become God's children. we can have our sins forgiven. We can have the Holy Spirit living in us. John 1:12 tells us that we can become God's children - and it tells how we can become God's children - by receiving Christ as our Saviour, by believing in Him.
(3) What will we do about Jesus?
Jesus gives us something to think about. He does more than that. He calls us to make up our mind about Him. There's a time for thinking about it - and there's a time for making our decision. There can be no sitting on the fence. We must make up our mind about Jesus. We must decide to trust Him. we must decide to follow Him.
Am I for Jesus, or am I against Him? - This is the question that each of us must answer. Will I be a disciple of Jesus, or will I be an enemy of Jesus? This questions calls for answer - a personal answer, an immediate answer.
Three very important questions: (1) Who is Jesus? This question has been answered. He is the Son of God. He is the Saviour of sinners. (2) What can Jesus do for us? This question has also been answered. He can make us new people. He can make us God's children. (3) What will you do about Jesus? Has this question been answered? The question comes from Jesus. The answer must come from you.
The Joy And Seriousness Of Being A Christian
We're going to look at the Lord Jesus in two very different situations. We will see two sides of Him - two sides which belong together.
In John 2:1-11, we see him at a wedding, celebrating with the newly-weds, sharing with them in their happiness.
In John 2:12-16, we see Him as the religious reformer, strenuously defending the purity of worship in God's House.
These two sides of the Lord Jesus show us something about the purpose of life.
The Westminster Shorter Catechism begins with question, "What is man's chief end (purpose)?"
The answer is given, "Man's chief end (purpose) is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever."
Glorifying God and enjoying God - the two belong together.
In the Christian life, there is both privilege and responsibility - the privilege of being a Christian and the responsibility of being a Christian.
In John 2, we learn about the joy of being a Christian and the seriousness of being a Christian. We learn that the joy of being a Christian and the seriousness of being a Christian are grounded in Christ's joy and Christ's seriousness.
In Christ, joy and seriousness went hand-in-hand. They are to go hand-in-hand in the Christian.
* First, let's look at Christ's joy and our joy. He does not call His followers to be kill-joys. He wants to make us happy, to give us true happiness.
C. H. Spurgeon, the nineteenth-century preacher who was known as "The Prince of Preachers", had some rather caustic yet very wise words of advice for his students. He was critical of the severe, austere kill-joy, the kind of person who spreads gloom everywhere. He was critical of the religion of the black clothes, the kind of religion which is suspicious of all joy and happiness.
Spurgeon said, "I know men who, from head to feet, are so ministerial in their dress that no particle of manhood is visible." Then he says, "An individual who has no geniality about him had better be an undertaker, and bury the dead, for he will never succeed in influencing the living." He continues, "I commend cheerfulness to all who would win souls; not levity and frothiness, but a genial, happy spirit."
Jesus was no monk in a monastery, no hermit hiding from the world of ordinary men and women. Jesus was to be found where people are.
Here, we see Him at a wedding.
On another occasion, we see Him at the home of Martha and Mary. We also see Him sharing a meal with Zacchaeus, a tax-collector.
We see Him, washing His disciples' feet.
If we think that being a Christian means being aloof, displaying a holier-than-thou attitude, then we haven't learned it from Jesus.
Let's look more closely at what Jesus did at the wedding. What we have here is a miracle - a miracle with a message.
The message is contemporary. This miracle teaches us that the Lord Jesus Christ is still at work today, seeking to transform human life.
Whenever Jesus comes into someone's life, he brings a new quality of life. Without Him, life is dull, stale, flat, drab and uninteresting. With Him, life is thrilling, wonderful and exhilarating.
Do you think that this is an exaggerated contrast?
This miracle shows us that there can be a transformation in life, like water being turned into wine.
Will we let Jesus give us this true joy, which is deep and permanent?
* Second, let's look at the seriousness of Christ's anger, as He clears the Temple.
Jesus is no sentimentalist. He's someone who needs to be taken seriously.
His joy and His seriousness belong together. Like Him, we are to have both joy and seriousness - not joy without seriousness, not seriousness without joy, joy and seriousness together.
Let's think of this in terms of our worship, but we must never worship Him without reverence,
It is only as we realize something of the holiness of God that we will truly be filled with the joy that comes from knowing that the holy God loves us.
Never come to the House of God completely unprepared. Prepare yourself by prayer. Remember that you are coming to God's House of prayer.
Never come to God's House, as if you were "pally with the Deity." we can come to God with confidence in Him, but we must come with true respect, always remembering who we are speaking to - God.
Jesus' clearing of the Temple (John 2:7-22) produced two different reactions
- The disciples were surer than ever that Jesus was the Messiah;
- The Jews demanded what right Jesus had to act like this.
Jesus' response to His critics was remarkable. He spoke of His resurrection. Temple worship would pass away. Jesus would rise again.
The Jews put all the emphasis on the place of worship. Jesus put the emphasis on the spirit of worship (John 2:23-25);
Jesus was remarkable - His unusual actions and His words of wisdom. This had an effect on people - "many believed."
What did Jesus do?
He refused to cash in on a moment's popularity. He knew human nature - our fickleness, our instability.
Jesus wanted disciples, not decisions.
Will you be His disciple - one who will be His true follower all the days of your life?
A Christ-Centred Life And A Christ-Centred Ministry
- "He must increase, but I must decrease" (John 3:30).
One ministry was about to end. Another ministry was about to begin.
The second ministry would be greater than the first ministry.
- The first ministry was the ministry of John the Baptist.
- The second ministry was the ministry of Jesus the Saviour.
What a difference there is between a Baptist and the Saviour.
Plenty of people can baptize. Only one can save - Jesus.
- "He must increase, but I must decrease" (John 3:30).
This is an abiding principle of the Christian life. The servant must decrease. The Saviour must increase. There must be less of self, and more of Christ. We must learn to focus on Christ as the very centre of our faith and life, our worship and witness. We will receive blessing from our Saviour, as we learn to keep Him at the centre of every part of our life.
- "No one can receive anything except what is given him from heaven" (John 3:27).
What does the servant of the Lord bring to the people of God? We can only bring what is given to us by he Lord. God gives His Word to His servants, so that His people may give glory to the Lord.
- In the service of the Lord, there is something we must never forget: "He who comes from above is above all" (John 3:31). In the service of the Lord, is there a guarantee of 'success'? - Let's look at Jesus' ministry: "He bears witness to what He has seen and heard, yet no one receives His testimony" (John 3:32). "No one receives his testimony" - Does that sound depressing? Are all of us to expect a great 'success story'? Is the authenticity of a ministry to be assessed by human criteria - How many people are coming to the services? How much money is being given to the church? We must always ask the question, what is most important - 'success' or obedience? Have not some become so infatuated with the idea of success that they have sacrificed reality and depth in order to get the success that means so much to them? What does this kind of success amount to? Not very much at all - if it amounts to a denial of the principle: "He must increase, but I must decrease."
- Worship in the Spirit and truth (John 4;24), preaching in the power of the Spirit (Acts 4:31) - These are the things that matter so much to the Lord. To lose sight of the importance of the things that matter most is to turn things around. It's to make "I must increase" more important than "He must increase." What happens when we start thinking like this? - "The glory has departed" (1 Samuel 4:21-22).
- "The One whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit" (John 3:34).
In the ministry of our Saviour, we see something very different from the departure of the glory. We see the revelation of the glory. God's Spirit is given. God's Word is spoken. God is glorified. Sinners are saved. There's a new song of praise to the Lord, a song that exalts the Name of Jesus our Saviour, a song that says, "Hallelujah", a song that says, "Praise the Lord."
- "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him" (John 3:36).
Wherever Christ is preached in the power of the Spirit, there will be salvation. This blessing comes when the Lord's servants are faithful in preaching both the Gospel promise and the Gospel warning. How will people seek salvation unless they are told that they need to be saved? The warning is to be heeded, the promise is to be believed - and Christ is to be glorified.
Jesus And The Woman At The Well - Learning From Jesus
Jesus is tired. He rests at the well. A woman comes along ...
Out of this very ordinary situation comes a great opportunity to speak of spiritual truth.
Jesus doesn't barge in like a bull in a china shop.
He makes an intriguing comment about "living water" (John 4:10), and, then, He waits for the woman's reply. She asks Him to explain what He means (John 4:11-12). She asks. Jesus answers. His answer is a call to faith.
He doesn't start pleading with the woman - putting pressure on her. He gives a general answer to her question. His answer leads to her next question, "Sir, give me this water ... " (John 4:15).
The woman recognizes the uniqueness of "this water." Jesus is speaking about something different.
She's still confused. She's doesn't understand what He's talking about - but she wants to understand.
Suddenly, Jesus changes the direction of the conversation. He asks her to go and get her "husband" (John 4:16). What's going on here? What's this all about?
Jesus is leading her beyond a general conversation about "living water." He's inviting her to think about herself, her own situation, her own need of "living water." He's leading her to a deeper knowledge of herself and Himself (John 4:17-19).
The conversation moves off in a more general direction (John 4:20). Perhaps, the woman feels that it's getting too personal.
What is this conversation about? Is it about places where people worship? No! It's about Jesus. It's about our Saviour. Everything comes back to Him (John 4:25-26).
Jesus has led the woman to say that she is looking for the Messiah. She's looking for the Christ (John 4:25). He tells her that He is the Messiah. He is the Christ (John 4:26).
Do we want to lead people to Jesus? May God help us to learn from Jesus.
Jesus And The Woman At The Well - Learning From The Woman
When she began her seeking, she was thoroughly perplexed and mystified.
The words of this stranger seemed to be absurd.
Did this stop her seeking? No! She kept on seeking. She didn't say, "I don't understand this. I'll just forget I ever heard it." What she did say was this, "I don't understand this, but I do want to understand."
Before we move from her seeking to her speaking, we must note the connection between seeking and finding - Jesus said, "Seek and you will find" (Matthew 7:7).
Once the woman had found, she had to speak. She had to share with others what she had found (John 4:28-29).
Her speaking led to others' seeking. She challenges them to think about Jesus. She asks them, "What do you think?"They begin to seek for Jesus (John 4:30).
They seek, and they find - "Many of the Samaritans from that city believed in Him" (John 4:39).
Finding the Lord has two stages: (a) They "believed in Him because of the woman's testimony" (John 4:39); (b) "Many more believed because of His Word" (John 4:41).
It is only after the second level of faith - believing because of His Word - that seeking leads to speaking (John 4:42).
It is only when faith is grounded in God's Word, and not merely man's word, that the hesitancy of speaking becomes the boldness of speaking.
Have you moved from seeking to speaking?
The Generation Gap
The Generation Gap - The old and the young cannot or will not understand each other.
How do we tackle the problem of the Generation Gap?
Do we seek our answer with the adult generation? - By demanding that young people comply with their parents
Do we seek our answer with the youth culture? - By demanding that adults embrace the attitude of their children
Neither of these alternatives gets to the root of the problem. There is, however, a third alternative. We can take the problem to Jesus.
In my own experience, the Generation Gap has never been a great problem. Why? - Because the problem was taken to Jesus.
As I entered the years of adolescence and early adulthood, I committed my life to Jesus Christ.On the same night, my father also committed his life to Jesus Christ.
I was fifteen. He was forty. It looked like the perfect situation for a generation gap. The generation gap never quite developed.
Why? - Because we both found the perfect solution: Jesus.
In Jesus Christ, there is neither young nor old. The real spiritual relationship is not the father-son relationship. It's the relationship of being brothers in Christ. In God's family, we are all sons, and none of us is a Father. We are all children of God, and He alone is our Father.
When we understand this, the father will not demand that the son be just like him, and the son will not demand that the father become a youngster like him. Both will share a common goal - to be like Christ, the perfect Son of God our Father.
Rather than speaking of the "Generation Gap", we should speak of the "Jesus Generation."
In John 4:43-54, we see a generation problem, a problem involving a father and his son. It is not, however, the problem of a generation gap. There is no hint of a generation gap.
It is a problem for both the father and his son. It is a problem that neither of them could solve. It is a problem which is taken to Jesus.
We are not told precisely what age the son was. We're not told exactly what his illness was. We're told that the problem was taken to Dr. Jesus.
Each of us suffers from a spiritual illness - sin, and we must go to Dr. Jesus for His remedy.
What was Jesus' remedy?
"Trust and obey, for there's no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey."
Jesus says, "Go, your son will live" (John 4:50a). "The man believed Jesus' words and went" (John 4:50b).
The man trusted and obeyed. Then, when the man trusted and obeyed, came the blessing, the healing.
Within families, there is always the possibility of the development of a generation gap. This generation gap becomes a real problem when another gap has not been bridged - the gap between man and God.
No matter what side of the generation gap you may be on, remember this: we are all, by nature, on the wrong side of the gap between man and God. There is, however, something else that we must never forget: Jesus has bridged the gap between man and God.
So Little Feeds So Many.
Andrew looked at the bread and fishes, and asked, "How far will they go among so many?" (John 6:9). He did not understand how so little could feed so many - but this didn't stop him bringing the boy, with his bread and fishes, to Jesus. This was an act of faith. Andrew says to Jesus, "Here am I. Here is the boy. Here is the bread. Here are the fishes."
We look at the situation in today's world. there is so much to be done - but we can do so little. what are we to do? We are to say, "Here I am, wholly available. as for me, I will serve the Lord ... The fields are white unto harvest, But O, the labourers are so few, So, Lord, I give myself to help the reaping, To gather precious souls unto You" (Chris Bowater).
If Andrew is to be viewed as a man of faith, what are we to say about the boy? He could have said to Andrew, "This is mine. You're not having it." He could have said that, but he didn't. the boy was ready to be led to Jesus. He wanted to give his bread and fishes to Jesus.
This is still the question to be put to people today. Will you come to Jesus? Will you give yourself to Him?
What happened when the boy came to Jesus, when he gave his bread and fishes to Jesus? - A great miracle happened. Out of so little came so much.
What do we learn from the story of the boy who brought his bread and fishes to Jesus? - Out of small beginnings comes a mighty work of God: "God chose the weak things of the world to shame the wise ... so that no one may boast before Him ... Let him who boasts boast in the Lord" (1 Corinthians 1:27,29,31). When God does mighty things, let us give all the glory to Him.
May God help us to learn from the boy. May we stop saying, "This is mine. You can't have it." May we start giving ourselves to Jesus and giving all the glory to Him.
Jesus Is The Bread Of Life (John 6:35-40).
Have you ever been really hungry or thirsty? - Find food. Find drink. Eat it. Drink it.
Are you spiritually hungry and thirsty? Find the Bread Of Life, come to Him and be fed.
Some do not believe. They will not believe. They refuse to believe.
What is God's purpose for you? What does He want to do in your life?
He wants to bring you, lovingly, to the position where you will come, in faith, to Jesus Christ, in the full assurance that you are accepted by God on the basis of Christ's death for you.
He does not call on you to wait until you've improved yourself.
He calls you to come to Him now, as you are.
God's purpose for you is that, recognizing Jesus Christ as your Saviour, you should receive eternal life as a free gift, which, once received, can never be taken away from you.
Grace, Gratitude, Glory
Joining The Church Or Following The Lord?
Jesus calls us to follow Him. Are you and I following Him? or Have we settled for something less?
When we speak about church membership, we must ask ourselves, "Where does Jesus fit in? Is He at the centre of our life? or Has He been sidelined, while we settle for something less than following Him?"
Let's think about church membership. What does it mean to us?
- (1) There is the church member who joined the church because thus is what other people were doing at the time. It was never really anything to do with following Jesus. It was more about following the crowd. When the crowd drifts away from the church, so does this kind of church member. How different is the true disciple who says, "If no one joins me, still I will follow.
- (2) There is the church member who joined the church because he was interested in the activities associated with the church. This kind of church member is a great enthusiast for his own particular organization, but he shows no enthusiasm for following Jesus. He may give the appearance of worshipping the Lord, but, sadly, the worship of God comes a very poor second to the other activities. This kind of church member may be very dedicated to a particular organization, but he has not learned the attitude if the true disciple - "My goal is God Himself"; "Give me but Jesus, my Lord, crucified."
- (3) There is the church member who joined the church because he had an interest in religion. He will never tire of speaking of "my church" and "my minister", but he does not speak of "my Saviour." When the conversation begins to get close to personal faith in Christ, he finds it remarkably easy to take it back to the church and the minister. An interest in religion is not the same as commitment to Jesus Christ. However much he may to steer conversation away from personal commitment to Christ, this type of person needs to hear the words that were spoken to Nicodemus by Jesus: "You must be born again" (John 3:3).
- (4) There is the church member who has joined the church on the basis of a total misunderstanding of Jesus Christ and His message. He sees Jesus as an example and a teacher, but he hasn't even begun to see Jesus for what He really is - the Saviour of sinners.
If we were to take out of the church, all of these different types of church member, I wonder how many people we would have left. I fear that we would be left with very few.
The question each of us must face is this: Am I following Jesus?
- If we are to answer this question honestly, we must ask a second question: What is the true reason for following Jesus?
Peter gave us a great answer to this question: "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).
Here, we have Gospel truth.
- Peter says, "Lord, to whom shall we go?" because he realizes that he cannot save himself.
- Peter says, "You have the words of eternal life." He makes it very clear that he needs Jesus as his Saviour. What Peter could not do for himself, only Jesus could do for him.
May I ask you about yourself? Have you ever taken your stand alongside Peter? Have you ever acknowledged, honestly, before God that you are a sinner, totally unable to save yourself and totally dependent on Jesus Christ as your only Saviour?. Have you ever truly said to the Lord Jesus Christ, "Thou must save, and Thou alone"?
Here, we have the heart of the Gospel. Jesus Christ is the mighty Saviour of needy sinners: "He is able to save to the uttermost all who come to God through Him" (Hebrews 7:25).
Jesus Christ offers Himself to you as your Saviour. With Himself, He offers you the gift of eternal life, to be received by faith in Him.
Don't be content with believing that Jesus, the Son of God, is your teacher and example. Receive Him as your Saviour. Believe that He died for your sins. Believe that He is able to deliver you both the guilt and the power of sin. Commit your life to Him.
So many people are going away from Jesus. He asks each one of us, "Will you also go away?"
Make sure that you respond to him with the great words of Peter: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words if eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that You are the Holy One of God" (John 6:68-69)
Living Water (John 7:37-39)
(1) We begin with the context of Jesus' great invitation -
(a) the Feast of Tabernacles;
(b) the teaching of the Old Testament Scriptures.
(a) The Feast of Tabernacles
(i) Its historical significance
It reminded the people of Israel that they had been wanderers in the desert, dependent on the grace and mercy of God to provide for them in their need.
(ii) Its agricultural significance
It was a Harvest Thanksgiving.
A priest took a golden pitcher, which held about two pints. He filled it with water from the Pool of Siloam. He carried it through the Water Gate, to the altar of the Temple, where it was poured out as an offering to God.
This was a vivid thanksgiving for God's good gift of rain.
It was an enacted prayer for rain.
It was a memorial of the water which sprang from the rock, while God's people were travelling through the wilderness.
It was in this context that Jesus spoke His tremendous words concerning Himself as the Giver of Living Water.
Perhaps, Jesus intervened at the very moment that the water was being poured out at the altar.
The people were thinking of the water which refreshes the body. Jesus directed their thoughts to the water that refreshes the soul. As the people were being reminded that they could not live, physically, without water, Jesus declared to them that they could not live, spiritually, without Him. This is still true today.
(b) the teaching of the Old Testament Scriptures
The worshippers knew the teaching of the Old Testament Scriptures. They knew the promises which God had given to His people through His prophets. They awaited the fulfilment of God's promises.
(i) "With joy, you will draw water from the wells of salvation. And you will say on that day, 'Give thanks to the Lord, call upon His Name; make known His deeds among the nations, proclaim that His Name is exalted'" (Isaiah 12:3-4).
This promise of God was known among the people who eagerly awaited the coming of the Saviour. Now, Jesus was proclaiming that the dawn of its fulfilment had come in His coming. The fullness of blessing was to come through His death and resurrection and exaltation. It is because Jesus has died for us, been raised for us and is now exalted for us that the Holy Spirit is offered to us and given to us.
(ii) "For I will pour water on the thirsty land and streams on the dry round, I will pour My Spirit upon their descendants and My blessing on your offspring" (Isaiah 44:3).
Here, we have a marvellous promise of God concerning the great outpouring of His Spirit. Christ has died. Christ has been raised. Christ is now exalted. Withe work of salvation completed, God pours out His Spirit upon all who trust Christ.
(iii) "On that day, living waters will flow from Jerusalem" (Zechariah 14:8).
Christ died at Jerusalem. Christ was raised again at Jerusalem. The Spirit was, first, given, in the fullness of Christ's salvation, at Jerusalem.In view of the fulfilment of this promise in Christ, we rejoice in Him, for "living waters flow from Christ", who "is not a dry and worn-out cistern, but an inexhaustible fountain, which largely and abundantly supplies all who will come to drink" (John Calvin).
After all the years of Israel's waiting, Jesus proclaimed that the time of fulfilment had come. We note the effect of Jesus' words - "there was a division among the people over Him" (John 7:43). There was also a division among the Pharisees (John 7:50-52). Some believed, while others did not believe (John 7:40). Do you believe?
(2) Now, we look at the challenge of Jesus' great invitation.
Jesus is still the great divider of people, Some believe in Him. others do not believe in Him.
There is a new quality of life, a new satisfaction to be found in Christ. This life must be received by faith. This call to faith places before us a decision concerning in Christ.
as we think about Jesus' great invitation, let's think about the Christian's spiritual autobiography.
(a) Thirsting - the pre-conversion experience;
(b) Coming or believing - the conversion experience;
(c) Drinking and flowing - the post-conversion experience.
Jesus' teaches spiritual truth in homely terms that everyone of us understand - thirst. He speaks of physical thirst. he teaches us about spiritual thirst.
To the worshippers at the Feast of tabernacles, Jesus said, "The water of the feast cannot quench your spiritual thirst. I alone can do that for you."
To us,Jesus says, "I still quench spiritual thirst. I can do this for you."
Have we become so familiar with Jesus that we fail to embrace Him with joyful faith and receive abundant life?
The worshippers, who knew their "hymn book" (the book of Psalms), would be familiar with the Psalmist's words concerning spiritual thirst: "My soul thirsts for God, for the living God" (Psalm 42:2). "O God, Thou art my God, I seek thee, my soul thirsts for Thee, as in a dry land, my soul thirsts for Thee, my flesh faints for Thee, as in a parched land" (Psalm 143:6).
We, also, have the great hymns concerning the quenching of spiritual thirst.
"See! the streams of living waters, Springing from eternal love, well supply Thy sons and daughters, And all fear of want remove. Who can faint while such a river ever flows their thirst to assuage - Grace, which, like the Lord, the Giver, never fails from age to age."
"I heard the voice of Jesus say, 'Behold, I freely give the living water; thirsty one, stoop down and drink and live': I came to Jesus, and I drank of that life-giving stream; My thirst was quenched, my soul revived, And now I live in Him."
Some of the worshippers at the Feast of Tabernacles sang the words of the Psalms, yet they refused to come to Jesus for the quenching of their spiritual thirst. What about you? You sing the words of the great Gospel hymns. Have you come to Christ for the quenching of your spiritual thirst?
(b) Coming (or believing)
To come to Christ is to believe in Him. To come to Christ in faith is to "embrace Him as He is held out to us in the Gospel" (John Calvin).
The way in which we are brought to Christ is most wonderful. Many people do not know that they are thirsty. They do not what they are thirsty for. All the time, the Spirit is creating thirst. Then, the gracious Word of God begins to reach them and their eyes and hearts begin to focus on Jesus. They find him to be the Answer to their deep thirst and their deep longing for real life. What about you? Have you come to Christ? Have you found life in Christ? Can you say, 'Christ has found me'? If not, why not make today your day for coming to Christ and beginning a new life?
(c) Drinking and flowing
This is to be the Christian's ongoing experience - drinking in the "living water" of Christ, letting the "living water" of Christ flow through us.
The "living water" must flow to us before it can flow through us to others.
If the "living water" does not flow through us, we must ask ourselves seriously the disturbing question: Has the "living water" flowed into my life?
"No one can possess or be indwelt by the Spirit of God and keep that Spirit to himself. Where the Spirit is, He flows forth. If there is no flowing forth, He is not there" (William Temple).
"My heart overflows with a goodly theme. I will address my verses to the King. My heart overflows with praise to my God. I'll give him the love of my heart." - An overflow of praise to God.
"As we share, and as we live,as we receive, and as we give, we will build up each other till we all attain the fullness of the stature of Christ" - An overflow of blessing to others.
Drinking and flowing - Do not ask God to bless you without also asking Him to make you a blessing to others.
(3) The comfort of Jesus' great invitation (John 7:39)
"From His fullness, have we all received grace upon grace" (John 1:16).
Jesus described the Spirit as the Comforter. We must draw great comfort from the knowledge that Jesus gives His supreme gift, the Holy Spirit, to all who believe in Him.
(a) We are not left alone in our weakness. The Spirit brings to us all that Christ died to provide for us. This is why Jesus emphasized that He had to be glorified. and, then, the gift of the Spirit would follow. the Spirit brings us into a living experience of the benefits of Christ's death for us.
(b) We are not left to our own changeableness.
There is a permanence about God's gift of the Holy Spirit. We are so changeable. Our circumstances change. So do our moods. The Spirit of God does not change. Receiving the Spirit is not a "one-off." It is the beginning of an ongoing life of blessing. Water relieves thirst, and provides for the continuation of life and fruitfulness. The Spirit brings with Him more than forgiveness for the past. He also brings power to live for Christ now.
(c) We are not left to our own insignificance.
The promise of "rivers of living waters" is given to every believer. With the promise comes responsibility. we are called to be more than believers. We are called to be servants, soldiers, prophets and apostles.
Set Free By The Truth Of The Gospel (John 8:32)
Much modern preaching tends, in the words of the prophet Jeremiah, to say to men and women, "Peace, peace" where there is, in fact, "no peace." The Gospel, on the other hand, to use the words of the prophet Joel, places "multitudes in the valley of decision." The Gospel places you and me crossroads between faith and unbelief. It is a crossroads at which you must make a decision - either to trust Jesus Christ as Saviour, or to trust in your own selves, your religion, your good works. Which will it be - Christ or or man-centred religion?
When Jesus Christ preached the Word of God, His preaching had one of two effects on His hearers - either they believed and were saved, or they were antagonized, and they objected to Him, threatening Him, taunting Him and persecuting Him.
When the Gospel of Jesus Christ is preached, simply and honestly, it is never comfortable to listen to. The Gospel never leaves people the way they were. Either, it thrills them, or it infuriates them. The Gospel places every one of us at the crossroads. Will it be faith in Jesus Christ and salvation, or unbelief (even religious unbelief) and condemnation?
"God sent His Son not to condemn the world but that the world might be saved through Him" (John 3:17). These great Gospel words are followed by an urgent call to faith - "He who believes in Him is not condemned; he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the Name of the only Son of God" (John 3:18).
Jesus says to each of us: "If you continue in My Word, you are truly My disciples, and the truth will set you free" (John 8:31-32).
To all of us, Jesus asks very serious and insistent questions: What about your religion? What about your church membership and church attendance? Can it be described in terms of continuing in the Lord's Word? Can it be described as a life of true discipleship? Can it be described as knowing the truth and being set free by the truth of the Gospel?
Perhaps, you are the type of person who says to yourself, "The Gospel of Christ is all right as long as it's concerned with generalities, and doesn't get too personal in its challenge."
This type of person accepts Jesus as the great example and teacher, and even acknowledges that He is the Son of God. When, however, he hears the personal challenge of the Gospel, he starts to back away.
I wonder if this is an apt description of you. You are a religious person. You attend Church regularly, but you don't like to hear about the need to be converted, the need to be born again.
Is it because we don't like to hear that we are lost sinners for whom there is no hope apart from faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, our only Saviour?
When Jesus says, "Unless you are converted, you shall perish", we tend to say to ourselves, "I'm really quite a good person. Why all this talk about conversion?"
When Jesus says, "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God", we tend to react hastily, "I've been a religious person all my life. Why all this talk about being born again?"
What we tend to forget is this: We really are sinners whose only hope of being accepted by God is based on the death of Jesus Christ. If you look at your life in the light of Christ's death for you, you can come to no other conclusion than this: If Jesus Christ needed to die on the Cross for me, I must be a great sinner with a very great need of a great Saviour. Alongside the Saviour and His death upon the cross for our sins, there is no room at all for the claim that God will accept us on the basis of our religion and good works.
Jesus said, "You shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free" (John 8:32).
The freedom which Jesus offers to you and me is grounded in a knowledge of the truth about ourselves, that we are sinners, who can do nothing to save ourselves. It is based on the truth about our Lord Jesus Christ, that He is our only Saviour.
This knowledge of the truth, and this experience of being set free by the truth, is very far removed from the religion of a great many Church members, who attend Church regularly. Many have a form of religion, which is sheer slavery - a slavery to custom and tradition. Such people are religious because they are afraid not to be religious. They speak of their childhood days in this way - "When we were young, we were made to go to Church." They are religious people, simply because they have never known anything else. That's the way they were brought up. It's their custom and tradition. It's what they were taught by their parents and grandparents.
This is not the freedom which Christ promises. It is nothing more than a shallow and superficial belief - a second-hand faith, which is bound by custom, tradition and fear. There is no comparison between this kind of religious bondage and the knowledge of the truth, which Christ gives and which sets the believer free.
When the believer has come to know the truth of the gospel, he is able to say with real conviction: "I know this to be the truth of God. I know it to be true because it has changed my life."
What is it that the believer confesses to be the truth of God? It is the Gospel. This is what changes our lives - the knowledge of Jesus Christ, the Saviour who invites you to receive forgiveness for all of your past sins, the Saviour who says, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock, if you open the door, I will come in" (Revelation 3:20). He says, "I will make you a new person. I will empower you with the Holy Spirit." Jesus is the Saviour, who invites us to receive His free gift - the gift of eternal life. We receive this wonderful gift through faith in Jesus, our Saviour.
How are the blessing of God's salvation to become ours? Is it, through self-centred religion, in which you are so confident that your good works will be good enough? No! We receive God's wonderful gift of salvation through faith in Jesus, our Saviour.
Trust in Christ. Believe that He died for you. Believe that He has taken your sins upon Himself so that all of your sins might be forgiven. Believe that Jesus is the risen Lord, the living Saviour. Believe that He gives you His great gift of eternal life. Believe that He will keep you in the way of faith, the way that leads to His heavenly and eternal glory.
Bring Your Sin To The Saviour Of Sinners.
Sin is our greatest problem. What are we to do about it?
We ask the question, "What are we to do about sin?" We ask this question, and, then, we ask another question, "What can we do about it?"
When we realize how big a problem sin is, we became aware that we need help. We need more than self-help. We need salvation. This cannot come from ourselves. Salvation must be given to us, It must come from outside of ourselves. It must come from above. It must come to us from our Saviour, Jesus Christ.
We have a problem with the idea that salvation must come to us from outside. The problem is ourselves. Here, we come to the heart of sin. What is sin? It's self-centredness. G K Chesterton hit the nail on the head when he said, "What's wrong with the world? I am." Sin is our problem. Salvation is God's solution.
What is sin?
- Sin is self-will: "I did it my way"
- Sin is self-indulgence: "Looking after No. 1"
- Sin is self-confidence: "We can work it out"
- We say, "I did it way." Where did it get us?
- We talk about "Looking after No. 1." Who is No.1?
- We say, "We can work it out." Can we?
The more we look at self-centred thinking, the more we realize that it is very shallow thinking. It doesn't take us to the heart of our problem.
Before we can even begin to answer the question, "What can be done about sin?", each one of us must recognize that we have a big problem, a problem that's too big for us to deal with on our own.
This leads us to an important point that needs to be made if we are to face the fact of our sin honestly. We cannot run away from our sin. We dare not pretend to ourselves that we're not as bad as we really are.
We must recognize that there's a big difference between admitting and confessing. We're not to offer a half-hearted admission of guilt. We're to make a real confession of our sin. we need to acknowledge the self-centredness of our whole life. This will mean more than, looking at some particular situation and saying, "I was in the wrong. it was my fault." It will mean looking at our whole life, and saying, "I am wrong." The problem is not just one or two problems, or even a whole lot of problems, we may have. I am the problem.
There is a big difference between a shallow and superficial admission of guilt and a real confession of sin. Saying, "I'm sorry", when we really mean, "I wish I hadn't messed up", is not the same thing as a real confession of sin. Confessing our sin is more than saying, "I'm sorry things have turned out this way. I wish I had done things differently." That's more about regret than it is about saying "No" to sin and "Yes" to Jesus.
Saying "No" to sin and saying "Yes" to Jesus - the two belong together. How can we have one without the other? We may try to say "No" but if we do not turn to Jesus for His help, we will fail to live a new life and we will fall back into sin. If, on the other hand, we do say "Yes" to Jesus, we cannot expect to remain the same as we were before we came to Him.
Saying "No" to sin and saying "Yes" to Jesus - This is what it means to confess our sin and trust in the Saviour. A real confession of sin arises out an awareness of how who God is and what He has done for us. He is the holy God. When we begin to see how holy God is, we begin to see how sinful we really are. When we begin to see what a great thing the God of His love - He gave His son to be our Saviour, we find, arising in our hearts, a desire to say "No" to sin and say "Yes" to Jesus. God gave His Son to put away our sin - forgiving our sin and giving us His power to triumph over sin. As we come to appreciate the wonder of God's great salvation, we will want to say "No" to sin and "Yes" to Jesus.
Jesus has done so much for us. Let us say "No" to the sin that sent Him to the Cross for us. Let us say "Yes" which took Him to the Cross for us. Jesus can still do great things for us. He calls us to put our sinful past behind us and to walk with Him into his future - a future in which there will be more of His blessing and less of our sin.
- Dear God, I am sorry that I have left You out of my life, and sinned against You in thought, word and deed, Thank you for sending Jesus to die on the Cross so that I could know you for myself. forgive my sin, and give me the power of Your Spirit to live for You every day, until You bring me to be with You forever, in heaven. For Jesus' sake. Amen.
- Questions And Answers (John 9)
- John 9 is a chapter that's full of questions and answers.
- (1) Question: " ... who sinned, this man or his parents ... ?" (John 9:2).
Answer: "Neither ,,, this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life" (John 9:3).
- (2) Question: "Isn't this the same man who used to ... beg?" (John 9:8).
Answer: "I am the man" (John 9:9).
Whatever we may have been, the grace of God is able to lift us up. Praise the Lord!
- (3) Question: The "How" question - "how were your eyes opened?" (John 9:10).
Answer: The "Jesus" answer - "The man called Jesus ... " (John 9:11).
May God help us to look away from ourselves and say, "This is what the Lord has done for me.
- (4) Question: "Where is this man?" (John 9:12).
Answer: "I don't know" (John 9:12).
When, at first, you don't find Jesus, keep looking for Him. he has given us His promise: "Seek and you will find."
- (5) Question: "How can a sinner do such miraculous signs?" (John 9:16).
Answer: Sometimes, a question needs to be answered with some more questions - Is this man a sinner? Do His miraculous signs not show Him to be something more than a sinner?"
As our questions move from beyond unbelieving questions to questions that are listening for the answer of faith, we begin to hear God's answer: This is My Son. This is your Saviour.
- (6) Question: What have you to say ... ?" (John 9:17).
Answer: "a prophet" (John 9:17).
Here, we have a step in the right direction. By itself, the miracle does not demonstrate that Jesus is the Saviour. Saving faith comes later. It comes through Christ's self-disclosure (John 9:35-38). Without the Gospel explanation, miracles remain strange events for which we can find no explanation. When Jesus reveals Himself to us as our Saviour, we see that all the pieces of the jigsaw fit together to make a beautiful picture. No longer do we see miracles as strange events that leave us wondering what to make of it all. We see Jesus as our great Saviour.
- (7) Question: "Is this your son ... born blind?" (John 9:19).
Answer: "We know that he is our son ... born blind" (John 9:20).
What we are, in ourselves, is no obstacle to the grace of God. We recognize that the man's blindness was not caused by sin (Go back to the first question and answer - John 9:2-3). We should, however, say two things about the man's blindness and our sin. His blindness was no problem for Jesus. Our sin is no problem for Jesus. He gave the man his sight. He gives us the forgiveness of our sins.
- (8) Question: "How then does he now see?" (John 9:19).
Answer: "We don't know" (John 9:20).
What a non-committal answer! When people don't want to acknowledge what's staring them in the face, they say, "We don't know." That's not really an answer at all! That's evading the question. This question calls for the answer of faith - not for "We don't know"!
- (9) Question: "What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?" (John 9:26).
Answer: "Do you want to become His disciples?" (John 9: 27).
Here's a call to commitment. Let there be less "We don't know" and more "Yes, Lord. We want to be Your disciples."
- (10) Question: "Do you believe ... ?" ( John 9:35).
Answer: "Tell me that I may believe" (John 9:36).
We hear the question, "Do you believe?" We ask the questions, "How am I to believe? What am I to believe?" Jesus is the answer to our question. everything is leading us to Him. The desire to believe, the search for faith - It all comes from Him. He is working in us. He is creating faith in our hearts. He teaches us what it means to have faith. He shows us that real faith is faith in Him.
- (11) Question: "Are we blind?" (John 9:40),
Answer: " ... you claim to see ... your guilt remains" (John 9:41).
There is a blindness that does not come from sin (See, again, the first question and answer - John 9:2-3). There is another blindness that comes directly from our sin. It is the result of our sin. It is a blindness which Jesus can remove - but we must want Him to remove our blindness. We must want Him to forgive our sins. We must want Him to be our Saviour.
"One Thing I Know ..." (John 9:25).
"One thing I know, that though I was blind, now I see" (John 9:25).
Every believer can share his /her personal experience of Christ.
Many people say, "I don't know very much." They use this as an excuse for their failure to speak a word for Jesus.
The man, who received his sight, didn't use his lack of knowledge as an excuse for not speaking for Jesus. He said, "I don't know." Then, he said, "One thing I know, that though I was blind, now I see" (John 9:25).
To help us learn the lesson that every believer can and should share his / her personal testimony, when the opportunity, let's look at the context in which these words were spoken.
There are three factors which contribute significantly to this context:
- the relation between Jesus and the man;
- the relation between the man and his world;
- the man himself.
(1) Jesus and the man
There are two moments of contact between Jesus and the man:
In both instances, we note the initiative of Jesus.
- In the first instance, there is no indication that the man came looking for healing from Jesus. All we are told is this: Jesus healed him.
- In the second instance, we are told that Jesus "found" the man. Isn't that the right order? Sometimes, we say, "I found Jesus." Is it not more true to the Gospel and Christian experience to say, "Jesus found me"?
When Jesus found and healed this man, He changed the man. When a person encounters Jesus, he / she can never be the same again.
One of the first changes was this: the man's new-found faith was put to the test. No-one can become a disciple and expect to evade the testing of his / her faith.
(2) The man and his world
The man's world was made up of three groups of people. Each of these groups had a different attitude towards him.
- the man's neighbours had an attitude of indifference towards him;
- the man's parents had an attitude of compromise towards him;
- the Pharisees had an attitude of rejection towards him.
These attitudes of indifference, compromise and rejection face us today.
- Think of the indifference of the person who hears the Christian's personal testimony and says, "So what!"
- Think of the compromise of the person who hears the Christian's personal testimony and says, "I know, but ... "
- Think of the rejection that comes from the person who hears the Christian's personal testimony and says, "Rubbish!"
We must learn not to be influenced by such attitudes. we must learn to be faithful to God.
(3) The man himself
Here, we look at the man's experience, testimony and influence.
- The man's experience: his eyes were opened. This is what happens to the believer when Christ is received into his / her heart (2 Corinthians 4:3-6).
- The man's testimony: he had received his sight. This is the Christian's testimony (Acts 26:18).
- the man's influence: a whole lot of people started thinking about Jesus.
This man gave Jesus the opportunity to call the Pharisees to trust Him as their Saviour.
As we consider the man's experience, testimony and influence, we must ask some important questions about our own experience, testimony and influence.
- Have I any personal experience of Christ, opening my eyes to see Him as my Saviour?
- Have I a personal testimony to Christ as the Saviour, who has changed my life?
- Has the Lord used me to bring other people to Him?
These are questions which require a personal response from each and every one of us.
- “We would see Jesus” (John 12:21).
The word, “see”, can be used in different ways.
* Being able to see, physically
Some can see. Some are blind. If we have poor eyesight, we need spectacles. To see Jesus, we need the spectacles of Scripture. We need two lenses - the Old Testament which points forward to Jesus, and the New Testament which says, “He has come.”
* Seeing something first-hand, with our own eyes
It is wonderful to see famous places - Buckingham Palace, the Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty, Niagara Falls, Disney World. To see Jesus, we need to go to Him, with the eyes of faith. We go to the Cross. It’s the old, rugged cross, the emblem of suffering and shame. At the Cross, we see, in shining letters, the great message, “God is love.”
* Seeing through the eyes of others
There are places we’ve never visited. Through newspaper and television, we have seen these places. Sometimes, there is bad news. If we turn to God’s Word, there is Good News concerning Jesus, His death for us and God’s love. Believe the good News - and come out of darkness and into the light of God’s love.
“Not yet” becomes “The hour has come” (John 12:23). The time for Jesus's crucifixion is drawing near.
For Christ, The Glory Road must be seen in relation to His suffering and death (John 12:24).
* The Road of the Broken Will
* The Road of the Loving Heart
* The Road of the Pierced Hands
* The Road of the Cleansing Blood
The Broken Will - “Not My will, but Thine be done” (Matthew 26:39).
The Loving Heart - “The Son of God loved me ... “ (Galatians 2:20) - “love so amazing, so divine”.
The Pierced Hands - The hands, that blessed children and healed the sick, were nailed to the Cross for us.
The Cleansing Blood - “Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins” (Heb 9:22); “The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses us from all sin” (1 Jn 1:7).
The Death and Resurrection of Christ (John 12:24) - the vital principle of the Christian life (John 12:25-26; Romans 6:4-6,11-13)
“The ruler of this world is cast out” (John 12:31): Satan - defeated for us (Hebrews 2:14-15)
By His death, Jesus has dealt with sins, sin and Satan:
* salvation from the guilt of sin - forgiveness;
* salvation from the power of sin - Our problem is not what we do. It’s what we are. “He breaks the power of cancelled sin”;
* salvation from the power of the devil - Satan is defeated. We live in the victory of Jesus. What a great salvation!
As we listen to God’s written Word, we hear the voice of Jesus Christ, God’s living Word. Christ speaks to us through the Scriptures.He speaks to us concerning Himself.
Jesus is the Son, the Saviour and the Servant. He is God’s Son. He is our Saviour. Here, we focus on Jesus, the Servant. He’s God’s Servant. He serves God by serving us. He serves God’s purpose, the purpose of our salvation. We see Jesus’ love in John 13:1. When Jesus “began to wash His disciples’ feet” (John 13:5), Peter didn’t understand (John 13:7). The washing of the disciples’ feet is to be understood in the light of the Cross. We get a glimpse of something bigger than feet-washing: He “loved us and washed us from our sins by His blood” (Revelation 1:5). Peter’s first reaction was negative (John 13:8). Peter missed the point: “If I do not wash you, you are not clean” (John 13:8). If we are to belong to Christ, we must see Him as our Saviour, who has redeemed us through the shedding of His precious blood. Peter, then, responds with great enthusiasm (John 13:9). Jesus tells us that we need ‘all over’ cleansing (John 13:10). We need new birth, and we need to keep clean. “Not everyone of you” (John 13:10) raises the question, “Lord, is it I?” (John 13:25).
* Jesus invites us to come with Him on a journey.
* He assures us that He has made the travel arrangements for us.
* He assures us that He has a specific destination marked out for us.
* Jesus speaks the truth because He is the Truth.
* He will guide us on the way because He is the Way.
* He will lead us to life because He is the Life.
* At the start of our journey, we must know that He is more than a good example. He is our Saviour.
* We walk with Him in the way - following Him. He is our Lord.
* He is leading us on to God’s Kingdom. Christ is King.
* Jesus is the Way. Without Him, we can’t even begin to walk on the Christian way.
* Jesus is the Truth. Without him, there can be no assurance of salvation.
* Jesus is the Life. Without Him, there is no Christian life.
“He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). In Jesus, we see love. In Jesus, we see God. We see God’s love - the love that knows no limits - love for God’s enemies; love that is undeserved - love for the unloved and unlovely; love that keeps on loving - love for those who have failed. In Jesus’ love, the love of God reaches us and changes us. “Jesus loves me” - This calls for simple, childlike faith. This is where our love for Jesus and our love for others begins. It begins with the love of Jesus for us. It begins with simple faith in His love. It goes on from there to change the way we live. By His example, Jesus teaches us to love our enemies, to love the unloved, to love those who have failed.
In Israel, a long time ago, Jesus did great things. He’s with us here-and-now. There’s a difference between emotional nostalgia (living in the past) and living faith. Jesus’ words, in John 14:12, were spoken to the disciples, as a group. He was preparing them for their future in His service. He was calling them - and He's calling us - to move forward with Him and for Him - in the power of the Holy Spirit and with prayer (Acts 1:8,14).
The Ministry of the Holy Spirit (John 14-16)
- John 14:21 - A vicious circle can become a victorious circle!
We are not victims. We are victors through our victorious Saviour. This victory is brought to us by the Spirit - the Comforter, the Encourager, the Helper. He helps us to love Jesus and keep His commandments (John 14:15). He is our Teacher - “He teaches as all things”. He teaches us all that we need to know if we are to go on loving Jesus and keeping His commandments. “He testifies of Jesus” (John 15:26) - and He gives us power to testify for Jesus (John 15:27). He glorifies Jesus (John 16:14). He creates in us love for Jesus. He produces in us obedience to Jesus. He reminds us of that things Jesus said (John 15:26). He guides us into all truth - speaking to us the Word that He hears (John 16:13).
How does the Holy Spirit glorify Jesus in our lives?
* He teaches us to reject the way of sin (John 16:9).
* He teaches us to choose the way of righteousness (John 16:10).
* He teaches us to go the way of Jesus, the way of salvation - not the way of judgment (John 16:11).
* He is the Holy Spirit. God forgives sin. He also hates sin - especially the sin of unbelief (John 16:9). The Holy Spirit leads us out of unbelief. He leads us to put our faith in Christ.
* Choosing the way of righteousness will mean rejecting the way of Pharisaism
* Rejecting the way of sin and choosing the way of righteousness = walking in the way of salvation. Through the Holy Spirit, we receive power. We do not stand against Satan - “the prince of this world” (John 16:11) - in our own strength. We stand against him in the mighty victory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
We read Jesus’ words, “I am the Vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me, and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
We learn, from Him, that fruitfulness is God’s purpose for our lives. Before we can be fruitful, we must know that God loves us and that Christ has redeemed us through the shedding of His precious blood (Romans 5;8; 1 Peter 1:18-19).
* Bearing fruit for Christ arises out of being cleansed by Him - “You are already clean because of the Word I have spoken to you” (John 15:3).
* Bearing fruit for Christ arises out of abiding in Him - “Remain in Me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me” (John 15:4).
Cleansing begins when we put our faith in Christ - and it continues throughout our life of faith. It is a continuing and ever-deepening reality which becomes more and more real to us as we learn to walk with the Lord, trusting in Him and obeying His Word. This cleansing does not end with ourselves. We are to have a godly influence on other people. We are to “bear fruit” for our Saviour.
We learn so much from Jesus’ words about the vine and the branches.
* The vine and the branches belong together.
* There can be no branches without the vine.
* The vine bears fruit by way of its branches.
What are the lessons for us?
* Christ and Christians belong together.
* There can be no Christians without Christ.
* Christ bears fruit by way of the lives of Christians.
If we are to be fruitful for Christ, we need more than His promise (John 15:5). We also need to hear His Word of warning: “If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned” (John 15:6). The promise encourages us to keep on walking with our Saviour. The warning calls us back to Him when we start to walk away from Him.
How are we to keep on abiding in Christ? How are we to bear fruit for Him?
* We must remember His “love” (John 15:10). Everything comes from His love. Our obedience to Him means nothing if it’s not grounded in His love for us.
* We must get to know Him better, as we read His Word and speak to Him in prayer (John 15:7). Our walk with the Lord will never become a close walk, if we don’t spend time in His presence, learning from His Word and receiving His strength.
* The more we remember the Lord’s love for us, as we feed upon His Word and draw strength from Him, the more our obedience will be filled with His “joy” (John 15:11).
A circle of friendship, discipleship and apostleship: Jesus’ circle were first friends, then disciples and, after that, apostles.
* Friendship - the foundation of discipleship and apostleship
Personal - Discipleship and apostleship are not based on an impersonal contract of employment. It’s based on love. It’s about people - not numbers. They were known by name.)
Chosen - discipleship and apostleship were glad service - not grudged service
* Discipleship - learning for apostleship, learning to serve the Lord
Personal - The way in which the Lord teaches us is uniquely personal.
Continuing - Formal education ends early in life. Divine education continues throughout life: learning to obey love’s sweet lessons - loving God and loving one another.
* Apostleship - taking love into the world
Patterned - Christ’s sacrificial love (John 15:12-13)
Committed - Specific purpose - to go into the world and bear fruit by sharing the love of Christ with others.
A circle of friendship, discipleship and apostleship: This is what we are to be - based on Christ’s love, learning to love Him and sharing His love.
“I chose you to go and bear fruit - fruit that will last” (John 15:16).
* Christ’s commission to His apostles;
* the written ministry of Christ’s apostles;
* the spoken ministry of Christ’s apostles
Like the first disciples, we are called to bear fruit for the Lord. The Lord is looking for a response from us - “You must be born again” (John 3:3). “Confess with your mouth” (Romans 10:9). Will we go the way of the crowd - or the way of Jesus? His way or our own way? Say, “Yes”, to Jesus (John 21:15-17). Say “Yes” to Faith in Christ; Maturity in Christ; Fellowship in Christ.
Before we can bear fruit for Christ, we must belong to Him - faith in Christ, we must grow in Him - maturity in Christ, and we must encourage one another to keep on walking with Him and living for Him - fellowship in Christ.
* The purpose of John’s written ministry - faith in Christ (John 20:31). Without faith in Christ, there can be no Christian life. Receiving the Christian life comes before living the Christian life. You muse become a Christian before you can live as a Christian. Faith in Christ - This is where we must begin. John states his purpose in writing - straight after doubting Thomas becomes believing Thomas (John 20:25,28). Having faith in Christ is more than being acquainted with Him. It’s more than being attracted to Him. It’s confessing Him as our Lord and our God. Through faith in Christ, we receive new life, eternal life - “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). Christ in you, here-and-now - That’s new life. Christ in you, the hope of glory - That’s eternal life.
* Once you’ve begun the Christian life, you’re to grow in the Christian life. Through the teaching of God’s Word, we’re to become disciples (Matthew 28:19-20). Disciples - This is more than decisions: “Let us go on to maturity” (Hebrews 6:1). If we’re to go on to maturity, we’ll need teaching from God’s Word (Ephesians 4:11-16). This teaching must come to us with the authority of God (Matthew 28:18-19). Through the Word of God and the Spirit of God, we are led on to maturity in Christ.
* Growing in Christ is growing in fellowship (Ephesians 4:15-16). When we respond in faith to the message which comes to us from God’s Word and God’s Spirit, we are “added to te number of believers” (Acts 2:47). When we are brought to faith, we’re brought into fellowship. In fellowship, we grow to maturity (Acts 2:42; Hebrews 10:24-25). How are we to encourage one another? We’re to worship together. We’re to study God’s Word together. We’re to pray together. Together, we grow. Divided, we fall.
We read, in John 15:16, about bearing fruit. We must remember that there’s no shortcut to fruitfulness. We must follow the pathway of faith in Christ, growing in Christ and fellowship in Christ. This is the way in which we will be kept strong when the times of testing comes: “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first” (John 15:18). Bearing fruit for Christ won’t be easy. It wasn’t easy for His first disciples. They had to learn about faith, growth and fellowship. They had to receive strength from the Lord. It’s no different for us. Like them, we have Christ’s word of encouragement: “I chose you to go and bear fruit - fruit that will last” (John 15:16).