Saturday, December 31, 2011

John 8 31 to 40

31 Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;
32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
33 They answered him, We be Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free?
34 Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin.
35 And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever.
36 If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.
37 I know that ye are Abraham's seed; but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you.
38 I speak that which I have seen with my Father: and ye do that which ye have seen with your father.
39 They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham.
40 But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham.

Key Observation:
Freedom is only possible through knowing Jesus as Savior.

If you continue in my word, then you are my disciples indeed. So begins this passage. One of the more difficult things for me to understand is perseverance. I understand the concept nicely: “He that has begun a good work in you will continue it until the day of Jesus Christ.” And: “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and he that comes to me I will in no wise cast out.” Conceptually, doctrinally I have not a problem one with the doctrine.

But it is in the practice, or the experience of what I see that the difficulties arise. For I am mindful also of the verse that says, “they went out from us because they were really not of us.” When does one leave off and the other begin? Of course I cannot look inside the heart and perceive the heart of man, so there are many times when I find myself wondering which is it, and how do I tell? I have personally given the gospel to people, watched them grow, but then also watched them fall away. There is a doctrine out there that says God will always bring them back, but that is frankly more than I can see, either from Scripture or from experience. This is not saying that I have not seen God bring many back, rather it is the few that He hasn’t that I find confusing. There are times when I just do not know.

I am thinking of two verses which seem somewhat oppositional: 12 If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us:13 If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself. (2 Tim.) I realize that Paul was speaking of two different circumstances here. He was obviously speaking to two different thoughts here. The first I take to be a quote from one of the gospels, the words of the Lord, that if we continue to deny him, he will also deny us before the Father, and thus we would be lost. The second is a bit of a conundrum. Matthew Henry confuses the issue by quoting a verse way out of context, a verse I believe written specifically for Christians about the wrath, or tribulation of God. “The elect are designed to obtain salvation: God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation.”

I can see the interpretation of this verse in two ways: 1) First, Paul seems to be talking about enduring hardships, and perhaps he then means that those of us that fall to the side out of grieving over hardship, will find God faithful, for He cannot deny himself. 2) Second, Paul could be talking about belief unto salvation, and God, remaining faithful to His word, will not deny Himself and will bring judgment.

Of the two, I am inclined to say the first is more likely correct. In our history, there are many saints that have remained faithful to the end, but there are also saints who gave in to pressure or torture, and could not find the strength to endure hardship. With this interpretation, what a comfort to know God expects not perfection from us, and is faithful anyway.

Whosover commits sin is the servant of sin. I understand the depravity of man to mean that I am lost totally from God, unable to even understand righteousness, and have nothing of mine that can stand before Him. Many times I have heard others say that God will weigh their works, and perhaps He will fudge a bit, but somehow they will come out alright and be allowed into heaven. This is absolutely against what the Bible teaches. There are none righteous, no not one, teaches Paul in Romans. All come short of the glory of God. If I am depending on my own works to get into heaven, as the young folks say, “It ain’t happinin”.
But I can depend on the works of God. Jesus was the propitiation for my sins, and not for mine only, but for those of the whole world. By simply believing Jesus, and in what He accomplished for the world, I can be cleaned, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Eph. 2:8,9) I take not the balance scale to heaven; instead I take the cross, and the resurrection which happened afterwards. If God should ask me one day, “ Why should I let you into my heaven?”, my only reply will be, “Because your Son died for my sins”. It is the only way I will ever find justification before God, and the fool who depends on the balance scale of good and bad to present to God is dooming himself to judgment.

He Is Able to Deliver Thee

1. 'Tis the grandest theme through the ages rung;
'Tis the grandest theme for mortal tongue;
'Tis the grandest theme that the would e'er sung,
"Our God is able to deliver thee."

2. 'Tis the grandest theme in the earth or main;
'Tis the grandest theme for a mortal strain;
'Tis the grandest theme, tell the world again,
"Our God is able to deliver thee."

3. 'Tis the grandest theme, let the tidings roll
To the guilty heart, to the sinful soul;
Look to God in faith, He will make thee whole;
"Our God is able to deliver thee."

He is able to deliver thee,
He is able to deliver thee;
Though by sin oppressed,
Go to Him for rest;
"Our God is able to deliver thee."

Lyrics: William Augustine Ogden

Friday, December 30, 2011

John 8 21 to 31

21 Then said Jesus again unto them, I go my way, and ye shall seek me, and shall die in your sins: whither I go, ye cannot come.
22 Then said the Jews, Will he kill himself? because he saith, Whither I go, ye cannot come.
23 And he said unto them, Ye are from beneath; I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world.
24 I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.
25 Then said they unto him, Who art thou? And Jesus saith unto them, Even the same that I said unto you from the beginning.
26 I have many things to say and to judge of you: but he that sent me is true; and I speak to the world those things which I have heard of him.
27 They understood not that he spake to them of the Father.
28 Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things.
29 And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him.
30 As he spake these words, many believed on him.
31 Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;

Key Observation:
You shall die in your sins unless you believe in Christ.


Many believed on Him. Again John gives us the idea of many. But, again, it is not clear if the belief was effectual or not; that is, did the people go on and believe in the resurrected Christ, or was their belief more of a passing fancy? I cannot be sure from the passage. It is evident to me that besides the ones who believed, there were also many who did not. I think that Jesus was highly controversial and everyone had an opinion of Him, some saying He is the Messiah, while others were saying He needed to be silenced.

Today I hear many opinions about this same Jesus. One solitary man has changed all of history. Millions of people claim to know Him and the power of His resurrection. Over hundreds of years many lives have been radically altered by their finding Jesus. From Isaac Watts to Chuck Colson, the world has seen dramatic transformation of men and women who have witnessed of the power of Jesus.

Not long ago, I sat eating lunch next to a woman and I had opportunity to discuss some of the things of the Bible with her. I was presenting the claims of Christ to her and not long into the discussion, she raised her objection. She said, ‘That may be what the Bible says, but how do we know it is true?’ She objected, I think, to the passage where Christ says, I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but through me. Overtly, at least, she objected to the truth of the Bible, questioning whether what we had today was really what was originally written.

It is beyond the scope of this short page to deal completely with her objection, but this is one fact “you can take to the bank”. Never have more men poured over manuscripts with fact-checking and comparisons, in checking the original words of Scripture. This is a field called ‘textual criticism’ and perhaps all you might need to know from this devotion is that there are thousands of extant manuscripts, and there is little variation in any of them. One of the few passages that are challenged is found in the first portion of the chapter I am now writing about. When I reach a passage like that, I always mention that it is of questionable authority. I am surprised that there are so few passages that are questioned. There are literally thousands of portions of early manuscripts that have been discovered, and Bible scholars are in agreement most of the time: the Bible is a reliable impartation of what actually took place during the early church.

What is the modern man to do with Jesus? I think I find three different, but common responses when I am talking to people about Christ. First, there are people who say He is a great teacher. But that option is not really open as a valid logical choice. In the passage just above, He claimed to be from above, and there are many other passages, including the verses at the end of this chapter, where Jesus takes the “I am” name or “Jehovah”, and the Jewish leaders sought to kill Him for what they thought was blasphemy.

Second, and logically, a person may think Jesus to be a lunatic. After all, He claimed to be God, to exist from eternity past, and He told men everywhere that all they had to do was believe in Him, and their souls would be saved from Hell. Isn’t that the message of a mad man? I would submit that an examination of what Jesus said and thought, and the reaction of the crowds around Him to His many miracles show that calling him a lunatic is not a logical option.

If, then, I do not find Jesus as a great teacher, and I do not find Jesus as a lunatic, what is the third option? The third and only viable option is that Jesus was exactly who He said He was. He is the Son of God, the Word made flesh, the Light of the world, the Lamb of God, and the great “I am”. He died on the cross, just as He planned, and just as He said, He is coming back one day both to collect His believers and to rule the earth from Jerusalem. Maybe that is an option that you might consider as we go into another uncertain year.

Ask Ye What Great Thing I Know

1. Ask ye what great thing I know,
That delights and stirs me so?
What the high reward I win?
Whose the Name I glory in?
Jesus Christ, the Crucified.

2. What is faith's foundation strong?
What awakes my heart to song?
He Who bore my sinful load,
Purchased for me peace with God,
Jesus Christ, the Crucified.

3. Who is He that makes me wise
To discern where duty lies?
Who is He that makes me true
Duty, when discerned to do,
Jesus Christ, the Crucified.

4. Who defeats my fiercest foes?
Who consoles my saddest woes?
Who revives my fainting heart,
Healing all its hidden smart?
Jesus Christ, the Crucified.

5. Who is life in life to me?
Who the death of death will be?
Who will place me on His right,
With the countless hosts of light?
Jesus Christ, the Crucified.

6. This is that great thing I know;
This delights and stirs me so;
Faith in Him Who died to save,
Him Who triumphed over the grave:
Jesus Christ, the Crucified.

Lyrics: Johann Christoph Schwedler

Thursday, December 29, 2011

John 8 12 to 20

12 Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.
13 The Pharisees therefore said unto him, Thou bearest record of thyself; thy record is not true.
14 Jesus answered and said unto them, Though I bear record of myself, yet my record is true: for I know whence I came, and whither I go; but ye cannot tell whence I come, and whither I go.
15 Ye judge after the flesh; I judge no man.
16 And yet if I judge, my judgment is true: for I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent me.
17 It is also written in your law, that the testimony of two men is true.
18 I am one that bear witness of myself, and the Father that sent me beareth witness of me.
19 Then said they unto him, Where is thy Father? Jesus answered, Ye neither know me, nor my Father: if ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also.
20 These words spake Jesus in the treasury, as he taught in the temple: and no man laid hands on him; for his hour was not yet come.

Key Observation:

The testimony of two, Jesus and His Father, bear witness, but are rejected by many people.

Jesus again says He is the light of the world. Again I notice that the Scripture includes the world, not just the elect. I think that God has always had a two-fold message: 1) to make the offer of salvation to the entire world, 2) that offer is contingent upon the person’s belief, which will always make them to be one of the elect. “He that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” Last night I made an interesting short Bible study, collecting the verses throughout the New Testament that seem to indicate the scope of God’s outreach to start with the world, although it is obvious that God absolutely foreknew that many would never respond, “because men loved darkness, for their deeds were evil.” Here are the verses indicating outreach to the world:

1.) 2 Corinthians 5:19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.
2.) 1 Timothy 2:6
Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.
3.) John 12:31,32
Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.
4.) Matthew 20:16
So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.
5.) Matthew 22:14
For many are called, but few are chosen.
6.) 2 Peter 3:9
The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
7.) 1 John 2:2
And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.
8.) 1 John 4:10
Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
9.) John 3:8
The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.
10.) John 3:15
That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.
11.) John 3:16
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
12.) John 3:17
For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
13.) John 3:18
He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
14.) John 3:36
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.
15.) John 4:14
But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.
16.) John 4:42
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.
17.) John 5:23
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.
18.) John 5:40
And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.
19.) John 5:51
I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.
20.) John 7:37 In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.
21) John 16:8 When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment.

I always figured there were about 15 verses that I could pull up right away to show the offer of God’s salvation is extended to the world. In about an hour, I was able to come up with these 21 verses, and the list is in no way exhaustive. In understanding atonement, these verses must be taken into account, and it will do the interpreter no good to try to “unsay” the verses by pretending that these verses only mean the elect. Such forcing of scripture will only take one away from the Scripture he needs to venerate. John Piper calls this a legitimate or “bonafide” offer. McGee has an interesting comment (which I also used yesterday) on John 7:37: “This is free will, friend. “If any man.” That means you. God is offering a gift to you. Also here is election: “If any man thirst.” The question is, “Are you thirsty?” Have you perhaps been drinking at the mud holes of the world, and have you been finding that they are not satisfying? “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.” You can come to Him and receive Him as your Savior.”

Many arguments have been made over atonement, and I do not hope to end those quarrels, for some do not seek to understand Scripture in its plain sense, but try instead to constrain “wayward” verses to follow their own creeds. By collectively taking these verses together, I do hope that it will be seen that God, indeed, is absolutely just in judging people who refuse to believe. The charge of double predestination, or of condemning some to hell without any possibility of belief on their part is ludicrous, and all the more, in light of these verses. Many of the above verses illustrate the God does indeed draw all men to Himself. Man is responsible to respond to the message of God. but without that drawing salvation for any of us would be impossible, for we are irrevocably caught in our own sin, and utterly unable to extricate ourselves apart from the grace of God.

“Today if you hear His voice do not harden your hearts.” (Hebrews 4:7) So we see that some are not able to enter into the kingdom of God because of unbelief. (Hebrews 3:19) If you thirst, if you want to see the light of the world, if you want to eat the bread of life, it is to Jesus you must come. There is no other door to heaven by which you may come. But the mystery is if you choose to come, then you are already one of the elect, whom God foreknows. He that comes to Jesus will in no wise be cast out. Come today.

McGee, J. Vernon (1990-01-30). Thru the Bible 1-5 (5 Volume Set) (Kindle Locations 101284-101287). Grupo Nelson. Kindle Edition.

O How I Love Jesus

1. There is a name I love to hear,
I love to sing its worth;
It sounds like music in my ear,
The sweetest name on earth.

2. It tells me of a Savior's love,
Who died to set me free;
It tells me of His precious blood,
The sinner's perfect plea.

3. It tells me what my Father has
In store for ev'ry day;
And though I tread a darksome path,
Yields sunshine all the way.

4. It tells of One whose loving heart
Can feel my deepest woe,
Who in each sorrow bears a part,
That none can bear below.

O how I love Jesus,
Oh, how I love Jesus,
Oh, how I love Jesus,
Because He first loved me.

Lyrics: Frederick Whitfield

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

John 8 1 to 11

1 Jesus went unto the mount of Olives.
2 And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them.
3 And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst,
4 They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.
5 Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?
6 This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.
7 So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.
8 And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.
9 And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.
10 When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?
11 She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.

Key Observation:
This portion does not appear in the earliest manuscripts. However, McGee tells us: “Augustine writes that it was omitted because of a prudish fear that it would encourage adultery.”
McGee, J. Vernon (1990-01-30). Thru the Bible 1-5 (5 Volume Set) (Kindle Locations 101329-101330). Grupo Nelson. Kindle Edition.

I find it interesting that again and again the leaders try to trap Jesus into some sort of verbal sin, blasphemy or whatever. Here the Pharisees bring Him a woman, specifically challenging Him to dare to show her mercy. Each time, Jesus perfectly keeps the Law, yet shows the mercy through the Law that God meant men to show all along.

Here is a woman taken in the very act of adultery. Was she yet undressed? I can easily imagine the Pharisees wanting to add to the difficulty of Jesus by presenting the woman exactly in the state which she had been taken. (I have always wondered if Saul of Tarsus was among one of these groups of Pharisees that keep challenging Jesus) I ask this question because of the action of Jesus, who stoops down, perhaps avoiding looking at the woman, and writes on the ground. Perhaps He was embarrassed, if not for Himself, for the sake of the woman.

I am not told many things which I wonder about here. I imagine such a woman, taken by the religious rulers, would be in quite an awful emotional state. Perhaps tears were streaming down her face as she knew that she quite easily could be stoned for her deed. Perhaps she had struggled, and with torn clothing, tears, and whatever bruises they may have inflicted in dragging her along, she faced Jesus. I love the fact that my Lord did not look at her, but gave her respect, and told her to go and sin no more.

He was able to turn the tables on the religious leaders, giving them an answer they did not expect: He who is without sin, let him cast the first stone. I find it remarkable that these men whom I tend to think of as “whitewashed walls” (a reference that Jesus later makes, a metaphor telling them they are whitewashed tombs, or walking dead people) were aware enough to realize their own shortcomings. I wonder if they knew enough about each other that just looking at each other was self-condemning. At any rate, they were convicted by their own sins, yet even as with Judas, this conviction led not to repentance. Contrast the woman, who knows her own sin, even as does the whole group, who calls Jesus Lord. Her belief grants her the mercy of God, and Jesus commands go and sin no more.

There is no sin for which forgiveness cannot be granted, unless it is the sin of unbelief. What must we do that we might work the works of God, asks the crowd. Jesus replies, This is the work of God, that ye believe in Him whom He hath sent. In the last chapter Jesus said, if any man thirst let him come unto me and drink, McGee comments:

“This is free will, friend. “If any man.” That means you. God is offering a gift to you. Also here is election: “If any man thirst.” The question is, “Are you thirsty?” Have you perhaps been drinking at the mud holes of the world, and have you been finding that they are not satisfying? “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.” You can come to Him and receive Him as your Savior.”
The Scripture says if any man come unto me, I will in no wise cast him out. If you are making the mistake of believing you are too rotten for God to forgive, let me suggest that you might be getting close to seeing your sins the way that God does, in all of their degradation and filth. Perhaps you can identify with this woman, almost naked, beaten, and emotionally at her end. And even as she, Christ’s sacrifice on the cross was sufficient, that she could walk away from her old life of sin toward her new life of faith. What a good God we have, rich in mercy and longsuffering towards us!
McGee, J. Vernon (1990-01-30). Thru the Bible 1-5 (5 Volume Set) (Kindle Locations 101284-101287). Grupo Nelson. Kindle Edition.

Another Year Is Dawning

1. Another year is dawning;
Dear Father, let it be
In working or in waiting,
Another year with Thee;
Another year of progress,
Another year of praise,
Another year of proving
Thy presence all the days.

2. Another year of mercies,
Of faithfulness and grace,
Another year of gladness
In the shining of Thy face;
Another year of leaning
Upon Thy loving breast;
Another year of trusting,
Of quiet, happy rest.

3. Another year of service,
Of witness for Thy love,
Another year of training
For holier work above.
Another year is dawning:
Dear Father, let it be
On earth, or else in heaven,
Another year for Thee.

Lyrics: Frances Ridley Havergal
Music: Samuel Sebastian Wesley

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

John 7 40 to 53

40 Many of the people therefore, when they heard this saying, said, Of a truth this is the Prophet.
41 Others said, This is the Christ. But some said, Shall Christ come out of Galilee?
42 Hath not the scripture said, That Christ cometh of the seed of David, and out of the town of Bethlehem, where David was?
43 So there was a division among the people because of him.
44 And some of them would have taken him; but no man laid hands on him.
45 Then came the officers to the chief priests and Pharisees; and they said unto them, Why have ye not brought him?
46 The officers answered, Never man spake like this man.
47 Then answered them the Pharisees, Are ye also deceived?
48 Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on him?
49 But this people who knoweth not the law are cursed.
50 Nicodemus saith unto them, (he that came to Jesus by night, being one of them,)
51 Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth?
52 They answered and said unto him, Art thou also of Galilee? Search, and look: for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet.
53 And every man went unto his own house.

Key Observation:
People disagreed about Christ, but everyone was talking about him: the people were divided about whether He was a prophet or the Christ, and the Pharisees saw Him as competition and thus tried to have Him arrested.

Jesus famously said, I have not come to bring peace, but rather a sword. In this passage I see Jesus divinely protected from the hands of angry men, who eventually got their way with the Messiah. Is that not sovereignty of God ineffably mixed with the freedom of man?

Again those who studied the most about the Christ seem almost to be at a disadvantage, for they thought that the Christ was to be born in Bethlehem, and the world mistakenly thought Christ to be of Galilee. Nicodemus appears again in this chapter, speaking in behalf of the Christ, but it is unclear whether Nicodemus is a believer, or merely sympathetic.

I find it interesting that many who studied were yet deceived. When I look for that pattern among men in the world of today, it is not at all hard to find a parallel. Many people have come to the Word of God, fascinated by its pull, perhaps somehow sensing the great things in the Word, but are without capability of discerning truth. Was Nicodemus among those of Jesus’ time? Certainly these men were scholars enough to both expect the Savior and know of His birthplace. But it helped them not when confronted with the actual Messiah. So close and yet so far!

In the main thrust of this passage, I would point out that Jesus had gone up secretly to this feast, unknown to his disciples, and, at least in part, He went secretly because He had already become a wanted man. But look at the way the soldiers could not lay a hand on Him. They were awestruck with the power of His message, they said. But I cannot help but wonder if they were not being held back by the very power of God.

So I have Jesus subject to his world and being forced to travel secretly rather than openly. But I also see Jesus sovereignly stopping an early arrest, for His time had not yet come. Here I see the mystery of the sovereign God laying down His immutable will in the everyday world. One the one hand sovereignty and power from God, but on the other hand Jesus facing His problem as any man might, hiding Himself until appropriate times. Is that not a mystery? I find it profoundly so.

Evidently one way of contextualizing the problem of Jesus was that He wanted His message out to the people who might hear it. Remember there was sharp division among even the regular people for some said He is the Christ while others said He was no more than a prophet. Complicating everything was the fact that the Pharisees, the peers of Nicodemus, already wanted to arrest Him. Jesus could not let this happen, and yet needed to get His message out, so what He did seems like a balancing act of hiding and revealing Himself.

Is that not what He is doing in the world today? There are many false followers, digging through the Word furiously, but missing everything that would point the way to the Savior. Such people are puffed up in their pride and false knowledge, and are not humbling themselves before God. But to others, and sometimes in unexpected ways, He reveals Himself and dramatically changes a life. How do I know? Because He did that with me. Has He done that with you?

We find Him not through our minds, nor by devising dastardly doctrines, but rather by humbling ourselves, opening our souls before Him, and coming to Him as a little child.

Hebrews 11:6
But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

Matthew 18:4
Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

John 6:37
He that comes to me I will never drive away.

His mercy is sure and if we wait until we understand Him we will never come. I say that to you as one who came to Him a bit differently than many. John 14:6 says: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father but through me.” I saw the Truth, and did not know about either the way or the life. Those I was discipled in after I knew Him as Truth. Lay aside your expectations about God, lay aside your feeble works with which you would please God, and find out what He says. He is waiting with open arms. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” Say with me, “I believe. Dear God, help my unbelief.” The best place to start finding out about this One in whom you would believe is in John, for John tells us much about the Savior of the world.

Love Lifted Me

1. I was sinking deep in sin, far from the peaceful shore,
Very deeply stained within, sinking to rise no more,
But the Master of the sea, heard my despairing cry,
From the waters lifted me, now safe am I.

2. All my heart to Him I give, ever to Him I'll cling
In His blessed presence live, ever His praises sing,
Love so mighty and so true, merits my soul's best songs,
Faithful, loving service too, to Him belongs.

3. Souls in danger look above, Jesus completely saves,
He will lift you by His love, out of the angry waves.
He's the Master of the sea, billows His will obey,
He your Savior wants to be, be saved today.

Love lifted me! Love lifted me!
When nothing else could help
Love lifted me!

Lyrics: James Rowe

Monday, December 26, 2011

John 7 31 to 39

31 And many of the people believed on him, and said, When Christ cometh, will he do more miracles than these which this man hath done?
32 The Pharisees heard that the people murmured such things concerning him; and the Pharisees and the chief priests sent officers to take him.
33 Then said Jesus unto them, Yet a little while am I with you, and then I go unto him that sent me.
34 Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, thither ye cannot come.
35 Then said the Jews among themselves, Whither will he go, that we shall not find him? will he go unto the dispersed among the Gentiles, and teach the Gentiles?
36 What manner of saying is this that he said, Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, thither ye cannot come?
37 In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.
38 He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.
39 (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)

Key Observation:
Many of the people believed on him.

Key Verse:
I have always picked up a sense that John emphasizes the multitudes, the crowds, the throngs of people much more than do the other gospel writers. Here John tells us that many people believed on Him, a phrase in my mind that instantly triggers an assumption for salvation, but I do not know that is what John means. If I do the basics of interpretation and find out who was speaking and to whom and when, I might arrive at different speculations.

Certainly Christ had not yet died; while it is perfectly true that belief has always been the vehicle of salvation, I should question what it was that they believed. My dubiousness comes from the prior chapters, where Jesus did not commit himself to any of the people for He knew all people, and knew what is in their heart. Having said that, there are two favorable things that I see in this passage. First, the people were evidently thinking they had found the Messiah, because of the miracles which they had seen. Second, the Pharisees reacted with violent answers when they heard the multitude’s beliefs. They sent soldiers to arrest Jesus.

Again I find myself wondering about this crowd after the resurrection. Did they all believe in the Christ? There is no way that I know of checking such an answer out, at least on this side of heaven, but won’t it be neat to at least someday meet those who were saved by believing on this day. Historically we know that many thousands embraced the faith in Acts. Maybe some of these same people were among them.

Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. One of the early references to the gift of the Holy Spirit, something I am in constant thankfulness for. His gifts are without reproach, says the Scripture, and the Holy Spirit is to be indwelling us for the rest of eternity. On this day after Christmas, that is something truly to be thankful for.

Behold the Saviour of Mankind

1. Behold the Saviour of mankind
Nailed to the shameful tree!
How vast the love that Him inclined
To bleed and die for thee!

2. Though far unequal our low praise
To Thy vast sufferings prove,
O Lamb of God, thus all our days,
Thus will we grieve and love.

3. Hark, how He groans! while nature shakes,
And earth's strong pillars bend;
The temple's veil in sunder breaks,
The solid marbles rend.

4. 'Tis done! the precious ransom's paid,
"Receive my soul," He cries!
See where He bows His sacred head!
He bows His head, and dies!

5. But soon He'll break death's envious chain,
And in full glory shine:
O Lamb of God! was ever pain,
Was ever love, like thine?

6. Thy loss our ruin did repair;
Death by death is slain;
Thou wilt at length exalt us where
Thou dost in glory reign.

Lyrics: Samuel Wesley, Sr.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

John 7 21 to 30

21 Jesus answered and said unto them, I have done one work, and ye all marvel.
22 Moses therefore gave unto you circumcision; (not because it is of Moses, but of the fathers;) and ye on the sabbath day circumcise a man.
23 If a man on the sabbath day receive circumcision, that the law of Moses should not be broken; are ye angry at me, because I have made a man every whit whole on the sabbath day?
24 Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.
25 Then said some of them of Jerusalem, Is not this he, whom they seek to kill?
26 But, lo, he speaketh boldly, and they say nothing unto him. Do the rulers know indeed that this is the very Christ?
27 Howbeit we know this man whence he is: but when Christ cometh, no man knoweth whence he is.
28 Then cried Jesus in the temple as he taught, saying, Ye both know me, and ye know whence I am: and I am not come of myself, but he that sent me is true, whom ye know not.
29 But I know him: for I am from him, and he hath sent me.
30 Then they sought to take him: but no man laid hands on him, because his hour was not yet come.

Key Observation:
At this point in Jesus’ ministry, the Jewish leaders were actively trying to kill Him.

Christmas morning here. Not the same as it was when I had my young children over. By now we would have exchanged gifts among the kids, and Mom and I might be getting ready for a nap, which the noisy children would not let us have anyway. I will be going to my daughter’s this afternoon, and can expect lots of noise then, but right now the house is so quiet.
I notice that Jesus is having to fend for his own life, but the Scripture is very clear to us that Jesus gave His life, and no man took it from Him. In statements like that I see the awesome sovereignty of God complementing the willful sinfulness of man, for it can be argued that the ruler’s intent to destroy Christ did find ultimate success. I wonder at the might of our God, who is able to take the wayward hearts of men, and design a plan for the rescue of the world. Divine sovereignty and free choice of men quilting together in a tapestry too complicated for me to understand!
Which brings me to what I would like to show this morning, and that is the fulfillment of God’s prophecies concerning the birth of Jesus. I am using Josh McDowell’s Evidence that Demands a Verdict, and only treating the main prophecies.

By presenting these few proofs, (there are many many more) I would like to show there is credible proof of Jesus being whom He said He was. Presenting proofs will never convince the hard skeptic, for a veil remains over his heart lest he should see and repent. Rather these verses are to show that there is much credible reason for believing that something incredible happened to mankind some two thousand years ago. Our gracious and loving God made a path whereby we might be restored to Him, and believing, be saved.
Happy Birthday Jesus!

Angels We Have Heard on High

1. Angels we have heard on high,
Sweetly singing o'er the plains:
And the mountains in reply,
Echoing their joyous strains.
2. Shepherds, why this jubilee?
Why your joyous strains prolong?
What gladsome tidings be
Which inspire your heav'nly song?
3. Come to Bethlehem, and see
Him whose birth the angels sing;
Come adore on bended knee
Christ the Lord, the newborn King.
4. See Him in a manger laid,
Whom the choirs of angels praise;
Mary, Joseph, lend your aid,
While our hearts in love we raise.
Gloria in excelsis Deo!
Gloria in excelsis Deo!

Lyrics: French carol

Saturday, December 24, 2011

John 7 10 to 20

10 But when his brethren were gone up, then went he also up unto the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret.
11 Then the Jews sought him at the feast, and said, Where is he?
12 And there was much murmuring among the people concerning him: for some said, He is a good man: others said, Nay; but he deceiveth the people.
13 Howbeit no man spake openly of him for fear of the Jews.
14 Now about the midst of the feast Jesus went up into the temple, and taught.
15 And the Jews marvelled, saying, How knoweth this man letters, having never learned?
16 Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me.
17 If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.
18 He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory: but he that seeketh his glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him.
19 Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keepeth the law? Why go ye about to kill me?
20 The people answered and said, Thou hast a devil: who goeth about to kill thee?

Key Observation:
Jesus came teaching the doctrine of God, and many sought His death because of it.

I am thinking of the first Christmas, and wondering at the celebration that the whole of the United States manages to put on. In spite of all the hoopla about Government needing to take a neutral position for religion, I am surprised pleasantly each year when I catch a bit of the mood that comes over the whole country. This year, while I certainly see that spirit going on, there are some worrying trends. First, I have noticed the phrase “Happy Holidays” out there a lot this year, perhaps because the intrusion of the state to remind us (and compel us) not to be anything but “religious neutral”. I have sought to combat the secularization of Christmas by wishing Jesus happy birthday, but I know that most think little, if any, of the solitary man who came to forever change the world.

Second, and more worrisome to me, is the growing compelling growth of what I call the “secularized country” which appears to be growing wilder and more unruly. This week was marked by a headline about a man randomly shooting passerbys on the highway. Last week was marked over headlines about someone electronically offering people jobs in a remote location so that they could be killed. Random crazy people, just like always, you might think, and I might agree. But what of the multiple riots I have seen erupt as shoppers are fighting for sale items? I fear that the tenor of the U.S. is turning more than a little bitter, an event which seems to be a worldwide phenomenon. I have seen wisps of anti-Semitism coming out of my own country this past year, and as a Christian, I understand the often repeated historicity of these events point to a spiritual battle going on that natural man does not realize. Certainly the middle east is garnering sympathy for their hatred of the nation Israel, and I know Israel’s smarter politicians have to be wondering how much longer can they hang on to their own country.

Many Christians today have to live their entire lives out in secret, and when I compare the lack of freedom in their countries to my own, I am thankful that I live in “the most remarkably free country” for Christians in the world. But still I perceive the dark curtain against Christianity to be near, and ready to slip into place at any given moment. Still, for now, I can look forward to winning more people to Christ, while He yet lingers, and while the age of grace is coming to a close.

Even when Jesus was born, was He not forced to remain secret? Did not Herod seek his death by genocide of an entire generation of babies? In this passage, I find that Jesus had to say one thing to his disciples, and do something else. His very coming and going had to be done with stealth, for fear of the Jewish leaders who sought already to kill him. Evidently they were doing this hunting for Jesus on the quiet, for we have the reply of the people to Jesus: “Thou hast a devil: who goeth about to kill thee?”, indicating that they themselves did not know of the plot.

What else did “they”, the common people, not know? I find that they did not know nearly enough to save themselves by believing Jesus. They knew not his birthplace, they knew not Him to be born of a virgin, and they recognized not His message to be from God. He was the Light of the world, John tells us, but men loved darkness for their deeds were evil. In this chapter, John says, “many in the crowd” put their faith in Him. But even when I read many, I ask myself just how “many” of the many also believed Christ’s resurrection later? I find it amazing that the temple guards were sent to arrest Jesus, but found themselves unable to lift a hand to do so. When questioned about it, they reply that they had never heard a message like this. But I think it was the Son of God, working to quiet the spirits of men until He was ready to give Himself.

Today on Christmas Eve, we Christians value not so much the baby, though we rejoice in His being sent to the world, but rather we value the One who gave Himself for us, dying so that we might live, and being raised again, so that we might have sureness of hope. Merry Christmas to you all and remember “Happy Birthday Jesus!”

Away in a Manger

1. Away in a manger, no crib for a bed,
The little Lord Jesus laid down His sweet head:
The stars in the sky looked down where He lay;
The little Lord Jesus, asleep on the hay.

2. The cattle are lowing, the Baby awakes,
But little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes;
I love Thee, Lord Jesus! look down from the sky,
And stay by my cradle till morning is nigh.

3. Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay
Close by me forever, and love me I pray;
Bless all the dear children in Thy tender care,
And fit us for heaven to live with Thee there.

Lyrics: Verse 3: John Thomas McFarland

Friday, December 23, 2011

John 7 1 to 10

1 After these things Jesus walked in Galilee: for he would not walk in Jewry, because the Jews sought to kill him.
2 Now the Jew's feast of tabernacles was at hand.
3 His brethren therefore said unto him, Depart hence, and go into Judaea, that thy disciples also may see the works that thou doest.
4 For there is no man that doeth any thing in secret, and he himself seeketh to be known openly. If thou do these things, shew thyself to the world.
5 For neither did his brethren believe in him.
6 Then Jesus said unto them, My time is not yet come: but your time is alway ready.
7 The world cannot hate you; but me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil.
8 Go ye up unto this feast: I go not up yet unto this feast: for my time is not yet full come.
9 When he had said these words unto them, he abode still in Galilee.
10 But when his brethren were gone up, then went he also up unto the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret.

Key Observation:
Josh McDowell connects the Feast of Tabernacles to Rest and Reunion with Christ.

I wonder why Jesus seems to often hid from His own disciples that which He is going to do. I am guessing it works with the deep plans of God. In yesterday’s devotion, I noted that I probably would be very uncomfortable with knowing the hearts of men, and what their ultimate fate was. For whatever reason, Jesus kept some of his comings and goings quiet. In this chapter I get quite a bit more information about Jesus’ comings and goings.

First of all, I would note that there were three main feasts, which I think were Passover, Pentecost, and the Feast of Trumpets. Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread occur at nearly the same time, and I understand those two feasts have to do with Jesus sacrificing Himself on the cross. Remember the Scripture says: “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again.” One of the things I learn in this chapter is that the Jewish leaders were already seeking the life of Jesus. As I would expect they were unable to put their hands on Him for His hour had not yet come.

1) (verse 13) “But no one would say anything publically about him for fear of the Jews.
2) (verse 25) “Isn’t this the man they are trying to kill?”
3) (verse 30) “At this, they tried to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his
time had not yet come.”
4) (verse 31) “Some wanted to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him.”
5) (verse 45) “Finally the temple guards went back to the chief priests and Pharisees, who
asked them, “Why didn’t you bring him in?””
6) (verse 46) “No one ever spoke the way this man does,” the guards declared.

In summation, I find six instances where men sought to seize Jesus, just in this chapter, and never did a man lay a hand on him. Jesus was close to offering Himself up as a sacrifice, but His time was not yet. With scarcely a thought, our God come in the flesh, could have at any moment, completely overcome His enemies, but if He did, you and I would not have the gift of eternal life offered to us. He submitted, and no man took His life. He freely gave it, that I might have life with Him.

Now a continued word about the feasts. If I know the reason for the Passover, and I understand the reason for Pentecost was to remember the coming of the Holy Spirit to abide in us forever, then what must I understand the Feast of Trumpets to mean? Josh McDowell, among many others, places this feast to commemorate the return of Jesus to the earth. (p. 150, Evidence that Demands a Verdict) I agree wholeheartedly and have wondered if the time of Christ’s return is not going to occur at this time, in a yet unknown year. Many scholars have agreed that this is a strong possibility, but of course, no one knows that time of His return.

This much I do know. The Passover Lamb was sacrificed at the very moment my Lord died on the cross. God, in anticipation of the event, set up a commemoration of the event nearly two thousand years earlier, and it came to pass exactly as God had planned. His second coming is also preplanned and will come to pass exactly on the day that God has intended all along. At the very least, this fact should make me know that my God is completely sovereign. Surely He shall laugh at the world leaders and mock all their fruitless plans (Psalm 2). Our God Reigns! And no one shall undo that which God has foreordained.

Rock of Ages

1. Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy wounded side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure,
Save from wrath and make me pure.

2. Not the labors of my hands
Can fulfill Thy law's demands;
These for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone:
In my hand no price I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling.

3. While I draw this fleeting breath,
When mine eyes shall close in death,
When I rise to worlds unknown,
And behold Thee on Thy throne,
Rock of ages cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee.

Lyrics: Augustus Montague Toplady

Thursday, December 22, 2011

John 6 59 to 71

59 These things said he in the synagogue, as he taught in Capernaum.
60 Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it?
61 When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you?
62 What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before?
63 It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.
64 But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him.
65 And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.
66 From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.
67 Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away?
68 Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.
69 And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.
70 Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?
71 He spake of Judas Iscariot the son of Simon: for he it was that should betray him, being one of the twelve.

Key Observation:
Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him. Before the beginning, before creation, Jesus has insight into souls that you or I seldom have.

What an advantage it would be to know the outcome of the person I am talking to about Christ. Honestly there have been a few times when I have known the people to whom I am speaking very well, and I know the Spirit is doing His work, and I am sure that person is going to come all the way to belief. But this is different. Christ knows from the beginning. He knows before He starts talking to a person, just exactly how and when that person will react. McGee gives a wonderful “approximate” quote from Spurgeon: “Spurgeon’s answer was something like this, “If the Lord had put a yellow stripe down the backs of the elect, I’d go up and down the street lifting up shirttails, finding out who had the yellow stripe, and then I’d give them the gospel. But God didn’t do it that way. He told me to preach the gospel to every creature that ‘whosoever will may come.’”

But if I reflect on it just a moment, I would not really want to know the outcome of every person’s life. How tragic to know most of the world is perishing. I currently estimate that no more than 2 out of 6 people on earth have anything to do with Christianity, and I know that God will winnow out the believers from among these. How sad it would be to look at people with the eyes of God and see their eternal destiny. Remember the rich young man, whom Christ looked at (Matthew 19, Mark 10, Luke 18). Mark alone gives to me a very interesting additional fact. It says: “Jesus looked at him and loved him.” It is interesting to me that some who teach irresistible grace seldom have anything to say about this verse; it seems that the love of God is quite resistible and here is a concrete example of it.

Of course John says in many places that God loved the world, and that whosoever may come, so what we see specifically from the example of the rich young man is but one example in the larger world. But I think of how hard it would be to be God, to love someone, to send your Son to redeem that person, and to watch that person turn away with a hard heart. And, beloved, it will not be any better for those who turn away. For how will it be to be in hell, to suffer eternally, and to know the whole time that God loves you, and there is nothing to be done about it, ever. I understand that I only look at things partially, not wholly through the lens of the righteousness of God, but it seems to me that the willful waywardness of man must distress our God terribly. Did He not send the Son that we might be redeemed? Did He not leave obvious evidence of Himself in creation, as it says in Romans 1:20? It is no accident that in the parable of the tenants (Matthew 21), the landowner is pictured as a merciful and kind owner, doing everything for his tenants, even to the sending of his own son. That landowner is a picture of God, and is meant to teach us of God’s mercy. Has He not done everything that wretched man might be saved? And having done everything, there is nothing left but for man to remain in the condemnation that we have had since Adam. How shall it be on that day, if the wretched should know God, know and experience his fate, and know there is nothing that the Loving and Just God can do! Take advantage of His grace today. Has He not said that anyone who comes to him I will in no wise cast out? You may ask, how can I come if I am not one of the elect? McGee answers this way: “Someone may ask, “You mean that if I’m not the elect I can still come?” My friend, if you come, you will be the elect. How tremendous this is!” The grace of God is without measure, and I grow more aware of it each day.

McGee, J. Vernon (1990-01-30). Thru the Bible 1-5 (5 Volume Set) (Kindle Locations 101035-101036). Grupo Nelson. Kindle Edition.

McGee, J. Vernon (1990-01-30). Thru the Bible 1-5 (5 Volume Set) (Kindle Locations 101031-101034). Grupo Nelson. Kindle Edition.
Wonderful Grace of Jesus

1. Wonderful grace of Jesus,
Greater than all my sin;
How shall my tongue describe it,
Where shall its praise begin?
Taking away my burden,
Setting my spirit free,
For the wonderful grace of Jesus reaches me.

2. Wonderful grace of Jesus,
Reaching to all the lost,
By it I have been pardoned,
Saved to the uttermost;
Chains have been torn asunder,
Giving me liberty;
For the wonderful grace of Jesus reaches me.

3. Wonderful grace of Jesus,
Reaching the most defiled,
By its transforming power,
Making him God's dear child,
Purchasing peace and heaven,
For all eternity;
For the wonderful grace of Jesus reaches me.

Wonderful the matchless grace of Jesus,
Deeper than the mighty rolling sea;
Higher than the mountain, sparkling like a fountain,
All sufficient grace for even me;
Broader than the scope of my transgressions,
Greater far than all my sin and shame;
O magnify the precious Name of Jesus,
Praise His Name!

Lyrics: Haldor Lillenas

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

John 6 47 to 58

47 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.
48 I am that bread of life.
49 Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead.
50 This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die.
51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.
52 The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat?
53 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.
54 Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.
55 For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.
56 He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.
57 As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me.
58 This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever.

Key Observation:

He is life itself!

Memory Verse:
McGee says of this passage: “He came down to this earth: “the Word was made flesh” (John 1:14). He is going to the cross to lay that human life down there as a sacrifice to pay for your sins and my sins. Friend, when you partake of that, that is, when you accept that, you are saved. Someone may say, “Oh, that’s so vivid and so strong.” That’s what they said in that day, too.”

He further said: “This, obviously, is something that is not to be taken literally because He was right there before them. He is not saying for them to begin to eat Him and to drink His blood! What He is saying is that He is going to give His life. In that Upper Room He made it very clear that the blood is the symbol of life. “For the life of the flesh is in the blood … ” (Lev. 17:11). God had taught the Israelites that truth from the very beginning when He called them out of the land of Egypt. There at Mount Sinai Moses gives them this great axiom, “the life of the flesh is in the blood,” which is also medically true, by the way. The life of the flesh is in the blood. And Jesus is giving His life. He will shed His blood upon the cross and give His life. Salvation is by accepting and receiving Him in a most intimate way.”

I wonder about bread. I do remember the old advertisements Roman Meal had for their bread. They pictured soldiers marching all day long on bread, and thus brought the idea of complete nourishment to mind, hopefully increasing their sales. But the idea of bread being completely nourishing is one found in the Bible as well. Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word which proceeds out of the mouth of God. As McGee reminds me, the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. When we believe Him, we partake of his sacrifice on our behalf. His blood and body being shed for us on the cross is vital to our being saved.

I have learned in my life of almost 60 years that as I gaze upon the Christ who gave Himself for me that the light of this world grows strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace. He does shine more brightly in my life with each passing day. I hope it is a truth which you have discovered for yourself.

McGee, J. Vernon (1990-01-30). Thru the Bible 1-5 (5 Volume Set) (Kindle Locations 101090-101096). Grupo Nelson. Kindle Edition.

McGee, J. Vernon (1990-01-30). Thru the Bible 1-5 (5 Volume Set) (Kindle Locations 101077-101080). Grupo Nelson. Kindle Edition.

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

1. O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There's a light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!

2. Through death into life everlasting
He passed, and we follow Him there;
Over us sin no more hath dominion
For more than conquerors we are!

3. His Word shall not fail you He promised;
Believe Him, and all will be well:
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell!

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

Lyrics: Helen Howarth Lemmel

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

John 6 41 to 46

41 The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, I am the bread which came down from heaven.
42 And they said, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? how is it then that he saith, I came down from heaven?
43 Jesus therefore answered and said unto them, Murmur not among yourselves.
44 No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.
45 It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.
46 Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father.

Key Observation:
The Father draws us (election) and the Son raises us up on the last day.

I first notice that the Jews murmur because Jesus claims equality with God. They do the “right” thing when they hear something that does not sound right, and they begin to go over what they know, asking themselves if Jesus came from heaven, why do they know his father is Joseph and his mother is Mary. I notice that they are only half right, and there is their tragic error. Born of a virgin was something they just did not know, and on the basis of what they knew, they were acting credibly. The trouble was that they had gotten half their facts wrong. I recall elsewhere they ask the question: “Can any good thing come out of Nazereth?” Again, they assumed they knew the birthplace of Jesus; in fact, they did not. The irony is that the Christ they had been waiting for was right in front of them, and they did not recognize Him. They did not know Him to be born of a virgin, and they did not know He was born in Bethlehem.

Josh McDowell does a very fine job with presenting all the prophecies that came true in Christ, in his book: Evidence that Demands a Verdict. Had the Jews but known their facts, they would have seen much more credible evidence. Especially fine is McDowell’s chapter on “The Messianic Prophecies” (Chapter 9). In this chapter, McDowell covers over 60 prophecies concerning the life of our Lord. I commend it to your study!

I go off half cocked over issues, and find that I have to eat a large portion of humble pie because of my behavior. Part of growing old has been to gain a few seeds of wisdom where at least I know I am very prone to being wrong. That way I can plan a little bit for my stupidity. But this failure on the part of the Jews is wrapped up with election, and becomes much harder to understand. I am told that we have to be drawn to God, and that this is the work the Father does. I am told that we have to be convicted of our sin, and that this is the work the Holy Spirit does. Just looking at Jesus, even if we could see Him for who He is, is not enough. John 6:37 mixes the elements of election and responsibility beautifully together: “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.”

Someone pointed out to me the other night that the same Scripture which tells me so profoundly of God’s sovereign election also says “whosoever will may come” and “come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” God must elect; we must come. Perhaps the reason the Jews here is this passage could not see the Messiah before them, was that they had eyes which would not see, and ears which would not hear, lest they see and hear and be saved.

He that hath seen me hath seen the Father. Would I have been any more alert than they? Would I have seen God in the flesh when I saw Jesus? I am not sure I can say that, but I can say when God sought me I came. Today, if you hear the voice of God, don’t shut it out. Come and be saved.

Come to the Savior

1. Come to the Savior, make no delay;
Here in His Word He's shown us the way;
Here in our midst He's standing today,
Tenderly saying, "Come!"

2. "Suffer the children!" oh, hear His voice!
Let ev'ry heart leap forth and rejoice;
And let us freely make Him our choice;
Do not delay, but come.

3. Think once again, He's with us today;
Heed now His blest command, and obey;
Hear now His accents tenderly say,
"Will you, My children, come?"

Joyful, joyful will the meeting be,
When from sin our hearts are pure and free;
And we shall gather, Savior, with Thee,
In our eternal home.

Lyrics: George Frederick Root

Monday, December 19, 2011

John 6 36 to 40

36 But I said unto you, That ye also have seen me, and believe not.
37 All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.
38 For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.
39 And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.
40 And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.

Key Observation:
Here is the full-fledged mystery of election. “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me” as well as “every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life.” Side by side sovereignty and human choice are given to us to believe.

“That ye also have seen me, and believe not.” Jesus makes a very big point about His coming. He came to set men free from their sin, and did not come to condemn any. “Whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.” And again: “For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” (John 3) To understand the just view of God, I think I need to go all the way back to Genesis. In Genesis, when my forefather sinned, he condemned the whole of the human race. God would have been entirely just to let man perish; instead He chose to send the Son to freely redeem all who come to Him. All who come to Him, not just part. The offer is an offer made to the whole world, but of course God foreknew from the beginning of time those who would or wouldn’t come.

I think this is why Jesus could make so many statements in His ministry that are far beyond me. He could look at a man, know his heart, and the way that man was going to go. So we have statements like: “But He did not commit Himself to any of them, for He knew all men.” (J. 2:24) There is no point at which we the created can surprise the Creator. He is so far above us, knowing all ends from the beginning, that such a surprise could never be. I read somewhere recently (wish I remembered where) that if even one surprise like that were to occur, God would be no longer God. Jonathan Edwards certainly argued persuasively that God would not be able to plan anything out if such surprise were possible.

Judicially then the human race is condemned; it is the unmerited mercy of God that He deigned to extend grace to mankind. That is the coming of the Son. Pardon granted to all those who all who come to Him freely and without condemnation. Christ died for all sins and when I believed He had already died in time past, and yet had died for all my sins, which all were future then. The sins which I have not yet committed—those too Christ died for. If ever I dwell on the Grace of God, the penalty suffered for me, and the pardon which is given to me, how shall I then live? To live other than striving to be an obedient adopted son should be unthinkable—yet I know my hard heart and how quickly I can turn from what I should be. With Paul, I must shout, “Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

Blessed Assurance

1. Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.

2. Perfect submission, perfect delight,
Visions of rapture now burst on my sight:
Angels descending bring from above
Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.

3. Perfect submission, all is at rest,
I in my Savior am happy and blest:
Watching and waiting, looking above,
Filled with His goodness, lost in His love.

This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long;
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.

Lyrics: Frances Jane (Fanny J.) Crosby

Sunday, December 18, 2011

John 6 28 to 35

28 Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?
29 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.
30 They said therefore unto him, What sign shewest thou then, that we may see, and believe thee? what dost thou work?
31 Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat.
32 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven.
33 For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.
34 Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread.
35 And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.

Key Observation:
The only “work” which we may do, and are commanded to do, is believe on him whom he hath sent.

I started reading “A Defense of Calvinism”, by C.H. Spurgeon last night, and I do enjoy my Spurgeon. Yet, in his opening, he starts out with a misplaced zeal for God, not wanting to take any credit for his salvation, which is indeed a Biblical doctrine, but needs to be understood properly. But before I look at what Spurgeon said, I need to first look at this passage: “Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.” The question is really simple; what must we do, that we might work the works of God. Jesus replied to the question, “ye believe”. Yet I have dozens of friends who look at this passage and say, “See, God’s work is to force you to believe. Man has nothing to do with salvation. Otherwise it would be a work, and then I could not say my salvation is all due to God’s grace.”

I do not hope to correct the record or solve the election and choice issue, which has been going on for hundreds of years. I do like Augustine’s fine essay on Grace and Free Will. It is a great read, especially for anyone that seems to be overawed by the thrust of overzealousness on the part of some regarding election. As regards the above passage about believing God, I think it best to let the Bible speak as it ought in all cases, that is for itself, something I feel that Calvin would also agree with. As I understand it, God’s election works in man; God calls all men, as the Bible says many are called but few are chosen. Wrapped up within the election, is the bonafide choice of men, and somehow God makes it work so that it all harmonizes, probably in a way that is beyond our ability to conceive.

Spurgeon starts off his work by saying which makes me wonder: “when I see some of the worst characters in the street, I feel as if my heart must burst forth in tears of gratitude that God has never let me act as they have done!” Is Spurgeon saying that predestination is for the unelect as well as the elect? When I first read this sentence I thought of the publican, self-righteously praying and thanking God that He is not as other sinners. Our Lord teaches that such prayers are examples of self-righteousness, and thus are not prayers at all. But Spurgeon seems to be saying the opposite. By giving God all credit for his own salvation, and taking none for himself, Spurgeon is saying that God is sovereign in all things, even to the choices that men make, for good or for bad. I fear this leads inevitably to what is termed “double-predestination”, a doctrine which essentially teaches man makes no choices at all, but it is all God in man who is really making the choices. That doctrine is plainly against the whole tenor of the New Testament. It is certainly against the tenor of the book of John, where believing and life are the key words of this gospel.

I do think that this is a basic misunderstanding of faith; is not faith that the Bible teaches the very opposite of works? Is that not what Christ was saying to these who asked him what they must do to work the works of God? Arguing from the negative is not usually a strong plank of argumentation, and so should be used sparingly, but do you not find it odd that God does not simply clear up the mess with a slightly different version of what Christ replies? Could not Christ have saved hundreds of years of debate by simply saying: “You can do nothing for it is God who works in you to bring you to faith in spite of yourselves.It is God who does everything."? It is very true that Jesus teaches that some are elected. But the same Jesus teaches that, teaches also that the world is convicted both of sin and of the righteousness of Christ by the Holy Spirit.

I do find the arguing of Spurgeon endearing when he talks about God’s election of himself. Let me repeat a few of the wonderful things he noted:
1) “When I was coming to Christ, I thought I was doing it all myself, and though I sought the Lord earnestly, I had no idea the Lord was seeking me.”
2) “The truth flashed across my mind in a moment—I should not have sought Him unless there had been some previous influence in my mind to make me seek Him.”
3) “Then, in a moment, I saw that God was at the bottom of it all, and that He was the Author of my faith, and so the whole doctrine of grace opened up to me, and from that doctrine I have not departed to this day, and I desire to make this my constant confession, "I ascribe my change wholly to God."

I find it interesting to compare my own calling with the testimony that Spurgeon shares. In my own conversion it was very obvious to me that my calling was a God-thing, and not me at all. I did not have to wait for later prayer and meditation, as did Spurgeon, to know that all glory and honor is due to the Father for my salvation. I do agree wholeheartedly with all the three points I listed above, and with the many fine other points of reasoning Spurgeon has about God’s election in his own life.

I think the main point of disagreement comes only in belief; it seems obvious from the following verses that we are charged to believe:
1) “He knows that he tells the truth and he testifies so that you also may believe.” (J. 20:35)
2) “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.” (J. 20:31)
3) “Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but he that believes not stands condemned already.” (J. 3:18)
4) “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.” (Here we are told “rejection” will keep the wrath of God on the non-believer. (J. 3:36)
5) “So he and all his household believed.” (J. 4:53)
6) “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” (J. 6:40)
7) “But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe.” (J. 6:36)
The famous song sings whosoever will may come, and so the Scripture says (J. 3:15), but apparently the Calvinist believes that is limited to those whom God elects. But who, I ask, does He elect? He elects those who believe. Have you ever seen anyone elected who has not believed? Neither have I. God alone knows those who are elected in the future; we can only see their election after their belief. It is absolutely not arguable that God does the calling, that He woos our spirit with conviction, and as Spurgeon would hold, that He has everything to do with our coming to the Son. “We love him, because he first loved us.” (1 J. 4:19) But the question remains, why would Jesus hold us responsible to believe if we were not to respond? And if we are responsible to respond, to the point of righteous condemnation if we do not, how is it God doing the believing? At least with the worse doctrine of double predestination, it is consistent to say that God is the author of unbelief.

Ezekiel 3 gives us a famous verse about the wicked: “When I say to a wicked man, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you do not warn him or speak out to dissuade him from his evil ways in order to save his life, that wicked man shall die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood.” I know that many would look at this verse and say, it being Old Testament, that it does not apply, but I think it does have bearing on the principles by which God has chosen to put out the gospel. Does not Paul, the great defended of election, also say: “And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news?'"

I get the implication of this passage. We have the responsibility from God to do our best in carrying the message of grace to a lost world. The great commission makes it our responsibility; we have the very help of God’s Spirit to go before us to carry this message. I have always thought about the implication of what would happen if we do not carry the message forward; is it not there that the truth of Ezekiel’s words may apply?
Are we not accountable to do that which God has charged us?

Long ago I heard a simple story where Jesus was meeting with his disciples, and outlining His whole plan. He told them of the great commission, of the gift of His Holy Spirit, and of His thoughts of church planting. When he finishes his long and complete discourse, one of the disciples, having second thoughts, asks the Lord, “What if your people do not carry the message?” To which the Lord replied, “I have no other plan.”

I know how disconcerting it has been to my close friends who I have discussed these things. I have seen the looks of dismay, and heard their strenuous objections saying, “You can’t really believe that! That would mean that we are responsible for the souls of men.” I know not whether we are responsible for the souls of men. If I understand the bema seat of judgment aright, we will not be punished at all, for Christ Himself has been punished for all sins. But who is to say that we will not miss rewards because of what we did not do, including that message of salvation to that lost one? I do know one thing—it is the plan of God to spread His gospel through such unworthies as me, and I ought to do the best job I can when doing it, using prayer and the power of the Spirit in witnessing, that some might be saved. Look back to what Paul said. I don’t know what else he could be implying when he asks: “How shall they hear without a preacher?”

My views of carrying the gospel are bolstered when I read of such saints as George Mueller, who never wanted to pass up a chance to witness, from fear that he would be out of the will of God. Still I do recognize that much of the world does not let the message of Christ come into their world. Spurgeon recognized this when he said, “Could He not have caused me to be born with the skin of the Hottentot, brought forth by a filthy mother who would nurse me in her "kraal," and teach me to bow down to Pagan gods, quite as easily as to have given me a pious mother, who would each morning and night bend her knee in prayer on my behalf?” With Spurgeon, I recognize a whole lot of good fortune to my life that I even heard the gospel, and I heard it in a country where freedom of religion is a founding tenet. Moreover, I see much in the election of God when countries are so blind to the gospel that they would kill you for speaking the name of Christ. All I am saying is that God Himself has bidden us both to believe and to witness. We ought to be circumspect in doing both, especially as we see the Day drawing nearer.

Spurgeon, Charles H. (2010-05-14). A Defense of Calvinism (Kindle Locations 54-56). Unknown. Kindle Edition.
Spurgeon, Charles H. (2010-05-14). A Defense of Calvinism (Kindle Locations 40-42). Unknown. Kindle Edition.
Spurgeon, Charles H. (2010-05-14). A Defense of Calvinism (Kindle Locations 37-38). Unknown. Kindle Edition.
Spurgeon, Charles H. (2010-05-14). A Defense of Calvinism (Kindle Locations 32-33). Unknown. Kindle Edition.
Spurgeon, Charles H. (2010-05-14). A Defense of Calvinism (Kindle Locations 17-18). Unknown. Kindle Edition.

What a Friend We Have in Jesus

1. What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Ev'rything to God in prayer!
Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
Oh, what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Ev'rything to God in prayer!

2. Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged,
Take it to the Lord in prayer:
Can we find a friend so faithful
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our ev'ry weakness,
Take it to the Lord in prayer.

3. Are we weak and heavy laden,
Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge;
Take it to the Lord in prayer:
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer;
In His arms He'll take and shield thee;
Thou wilt find a solace there.

Lyrics: Joseph Medlicott Scriven

Saturday, December 17, 2011

John 6 22 to 27

22 The day following, when the people which stood on the other side of the sea saw that there was none other boat there, save that one whereinto his disciples were entered, and that Jesus went not with his disciples into the boat, but that his disciples were gone away alone;
23 (Howbeit there came other boats from Tiberias nigh unto the place where they did eat bread, after that the Lord had given thanks:)
24 When the people therefore saw that Jesus was not there, neither his disciples, they also took shipping, and came to Capernaum, seeking for Jesus.
25 And when they had found him on the other side of the sea, they said unto him, Rabbi, when camest thou hither?
26 Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled.
27 Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed.

Key Observation:
Men saw the earthly but not the heavenly.

Those who seek Jesus are not necessarily seeking heavenly things, and may be missing the point entirely. When I was a young and fresh convert, I took a course from Moody Bible Institute on Christian cults and found to my surprise that it was relatively easy to define a cult. Perry, running for president, got into trouble for suggesting that Romney was in a cult. Those who are outside Christian circles did not get his point, since those who know not Christ see little difference between one brand of religion or another.

Just what makes a Christian cult? There is no rule that fits for everything, and I suppose Jim Jones and his followers definitely would fit the meaning of a cult, though I do not remember the essentials of what they believe. But those are small fringe movements, and their beliefs can quite easily go extreme in one fashion or another. I would even argue that Jeremiah Wright’s church would constitute a cult, since they have a system of beliefs quite different from orthodox Christianity, and which, to my understanding is inclusive of Moslems as well.

The mainline cults are a bit easier to typify. And in each case the focus has to be around the person of Christ. Who is He? The apostle John teaches us that the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. He teaches clearly that the Father and the Son are one in equality. In every major cult, this is where I find sharp differences. The person of Jesus is twisted to be the firstborn of God, or an angel. Even in the case of the Moslems, they believe Jesus is a prophet, but that Jesus will serve the Imam who returns, in clear contrast to the Bible teaching Jesus is the King of Kings and will rule the world one day.

If Jesus has declared that He is equal and then commands us to follow Him, how can we possibly follow Him if we do not understand His true nature. “I and the Father are one.” “He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.” His enemies at least knew what Jesus was claiming, and further they knew, that if those claims were false, that Jesus was guilty of the greatest blasphemy and deserved death. The Scripture says, “Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him. . . because He was making himself equal with God.”(John 5:18) Again at the end of chapter 8, it says the leaders again “picked up stones to stone him”. Again Jesus was claiming the great “I am” name for himself.

It seems to me to be a basic truth that people are still doing what they were doing in Jesus’ day. They are still trying to redefine Jesus to be what they want Him to be. They wanted a King who would feed them, and that is what they saw in Jesus. Something akin to a great Prophet, but they would never accept Him as who He was claiming to be.
When trying to explain that who Jesus is, I usually take the following line:

me: “Suppose I were to call you Jesus, my friend.”

my friend: “Okay.”

me: “Now I say the Bible says ‘Believe in Jesus and you shall be saved.’ So I believe in you. What happens?”

my friend: “I would think if you are depending on me to be saved, you are in a world of hurt.”

me: “Precisely, for I have placed my trust mistakenly in you, believing you to be Jesus.”

my friend: “So what are you saying?”

me: “I am saying that we better believe in the one Jesus presented in the Bible, or we are likely to find ourselves in the world of hurt that you were talking about.” I would then go on to present what the Bible does clearly present about who Christ is.

The Bible presents a clear picture of Jesus. He was sent from the Father. He was in the Beginning. He shares authority with the Father, and in terms of man, God has given the Son authority over all things. He is the Light of the World, the Bread of Life, the Word made Flesh, and the Lamb of God. All of these things are clearly presented in the gospel of John, who again wrote his book so that “you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 21:31)

Christ the Lord Is Risen Today

1. Christ the Lord is ris'n today, Alleluia!
Sons of men and angels say, Alleluia!
Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!
Sing ye heav'ns, and earth reply, Alleluia!

2. Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia!
Where, O Death is now thy sting? Alleluia!
Dying once He all doth save, Alleluia!
Where thy victory, O Grave? Alleluia!

3. Love's redeeming work is done, Alleluia!
Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia!
Death in vain forbids Him rise, Alleluia!
Christ hath opened Paradise, Alleluia!

4. Soar we now where Christ has led, Alleluia!
Foll'wing our exalted Head, Alleluia!
Made like Him, like Him we rise, Alleluia!
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia!

Lyrics: Latin carol, 14th century; Verse 4: Charles Wesley

Friday, December 16, 2011

John 6 16 to 21

16 And when even was now come, his disciples went down unto the sea,
17 And entered into a ship, and went over the sea toward Capernaum. And it was now dark, and Jesus was not come to them.
18 And the sea arose by reason of a great wind that blew.
19 So when they had rowed about five and twenty or thirty furlongs, they see Jesus walking on the sea, and drawing nigh unto the ship: and they were afraid.
20 But he saith unto them, It is I; be not afraid.
21 Then they willingly received him into the ship: and immediately the ship was at the land whither they went.

Key Observation:
Jesus sought God in “alone” times, and presented Himself as the Son of God always.

“It is I; be not afraid.” Jesus, the gospel tells me, withdrew to a mountain alone, probably seeking God the Father. I find myself with lots of questions over this passage. What took the disciples away? For what reason did they deign to leave without their Lord? The outcome, for me at least, would be too predictable. Leaving without thought or regard for my Lord would be the surest way of getting myself into a fierce storm that I know of.

I am not told why the disciples felt the need to go over, but is it not interesting that they found themselves on a wayward course just as soon they found themselves without the Lord? I would assume that Jesus walking on the water was, in part, for the benefit of presenting Himself as God to the disciples.

I also find it odd that John leaves out Peter’s walking on the water. No commentator that I have read seemed to speculate on this—and I surely do not know the answer. I speculate that the purpose of John was to do just as he said with his gospel: “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” Surely this was the apostle’s aim in recording what he did, and he may have just felt that telling of Peter and his walk on the water would detract from the miracle of God.

Interestingly McGee looks at some of these verses with the same sort of questions I have had when I first committed much of the gospel to memory. Immediately, it says, they got to the other side. I have always wondered whether that in itself was another miracle. McGee says: “This may be another miracle, or John may mean that with no delay they reached the other side since the water was now calm. Or it may be the language of love—with Him in the boat it didn’t seem far to the other side.”

“It is I, be not afraid.” Are not these His first words to a believer? Do they not echo always in my life? Encountering God has got to be the supreme experience of my lifetime, and the testimony of the Spirit of God seems to resonate with my Spirit, that knowing Jesus should put me beyond fear. There is little that man can do to me in comparison with that which the Lord has already done with me. Disease and death may ravage this aging body, but I do not fear disease or death, for that which the Lord has given me is greater. I think of Paul’s declaring: “To live is Christ and to die is gain.” My life, my soul, indeed all of my fortune, is wrapped up in the promise of God. As Paul also observes, “If these things are not true, then we are, of all creatures, most miserable.

But they are true! The atheist says in his heart, and sometimes aloud, there is no God. Scripture says that he is a fool. God looks at their rebellion with a mixed attitude. On the one hand He derides their folly and will condemn, but on the other hand, God has sent His Son into the world for this very reason, that whosoever believeth may come freely to God. I do say freely, but notice I do not say without punishment, for the sins of the world were taken by the Son of God, that all men might have the possibility of pardon, if they will but believe. I can follow my friends right down to their graves with the good news, but past the grave there is nothing that I can do for their salvation. There is nothing that God can do either, for He has done everything already. “He that believeth not is condemned already, because He has not believed in the name of the only begotten of the Father.” What a mercy we have to receive forgiveness right now!

McGee, J. Vernon (1990-01-30). Thru the Bible 1-5 (5 Volume Set) (Kindle Location 100962). Grupo Nelson. Kindle Edition.
Alas, And Did My Savior Bleed

1. Alas, and did my Savior bleed,
And did my Sovereign die?
Would he devote that sacred head
For sinners such as I?

2. Was it for crimes that I have done,
He groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity! Grace unknown!
And love beyond degree!

3. Well might the sun in darkness hide,
And shut its glories in,
When God, the mighty maker, died
For his own creature's sin.

4. Thus might I hide my blushing face
While his dear cross appears;
Dissolve my heart in thankfulness,
And melt mine eyes to tears.

5. But drops of tears can ne'er repay
The debt of love I owe.
Here, Lord, I give myself away;
'Tis all that I can do.

Lyrics: Isaac Watts