These sermons were first preached as part of a series on “A Statement Of Christian Faith”.
We focus our attention on verses 11-13, where we learn how to become a child of God and what it means to be a child of God.
It’s often pointed out that our world is very different from the world into which Jesus was born. We must, however, ask the question, “Is it really that different?” We can point to many differences. We must also recognize that there is a sense in which the world hasn’t really changed all that much since Jesus’ time.
We’re told, in verse 11, that Jesus didn’t get a very warm reception when He came to this world. He didn’t receive a hero’s welcome. He didn’t get the red carpet put out for Him. He wasn’t honoured as a VIP – a Very Important Person.
“He came to His own people, and His own people received Him not.”
His reception was no civic reception, no big occasion for invited guests only. It was a non-reception. They did not receive Him.
Jesus was born into the nation of Israel. He came as the Saviour of Israel. The nation of Israel did not welcome Him. They had no time for Him.
Is this not very similar to the situation in today’s world?
Jesus, the Saviour of the world, calls people to come to Him. They do not come. He pleads with them. They refuse to come to Him.
Down through the centuries of time, in many different lands, the story repeats itself; “He came to His own home, and His own people received Him not” (v. 11).
This is not, however, the whole story. In Israel, Jesus called people to follow Him. Down through the centuries, in many different lands, Jesus has continued to draw men and women to Himself.
The people of God may not be great in number, compared with the vast numbers who turn their backs on the Lord Jesus Christ.
We do not, however, lose heart. We rejoice in God the Father, who, in love, has brought us into His family as His sons and daughters.
As we consider two things – how to become a child of God and what it means to be a child of God, we may find it helpful to draw a comparison with the commitment of marriage and the relationship of marriage.
For some of us, marriage has not been a joyful commitment. It has not been a happy relationship.
It must be stressed that our relationship with God the Father through Jesus Christ is the source of true joy and happiness.
There is a basic difference between a relationship between two sinners, especially where one partner persistently refuses to acknowledge Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord, and the greatest relationship of all – knowing God as our Father and rejoicing in the privilege of being His children.
Looking at the ideal underlying marriage may help us to appreciate more fully how we become God’s children and what it means to be God’s children.
Prior to marriage, the man is a bachelor and the woman is a spinster. After marriage, the man is a husband and the woman is a wife. Marriage is a life-changing experience. You will never be the same again.
Even when a marriage fails, the man cannot simply return to being a bachelor and the woman cannot simply return to being a spinster. Through marriage, you become a different person. The bachelor becomes the husband. the spinster becomes the wife.
How does this help us to understand the Christian experience of becoming a child of God?
Before coming in faith to Jesus Christ, God is our Creator and we are His creatures. Once we have come in faith to the Saviour, everything changes. God is now our Father and we are His children.
The moment of coming in faith to the Saviour is a life-changing moment.. It is the moment when the creature of God becomes the child of God. It is the moment in which we come to know God, not only as our Creator but also as our Father.
He is no longer the faraway God. He is no longer the remote, detached and distant God. He is no longer the unknown God.
Now, we know Him. He is our Father. He loves us and He has come near to us in Jesus Christ.
Life can never be the same again, once we have come to know the father, through His Son, our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
The new life which we have begun is eternal life, a life which has no end, a life of praising our Father in time and for eternity.
A marriage begins with a question and an answer: Do you take this woman to be your wife? – I do. Do you take this man to be your husband? – I do.
The Christian life, life as a child of God, begins with a question and an answer: Do you take Jesus Christ as your Saviour? – I do.
Taking Jesus Christ as your Saviour is a decisive step, a life-changing act.
It is an act, which involves your total personality. It is an act which involves the mind, the will and the emotions.
* With your mind, you believe what the Bible tells you concerning Jesus Christ.
* With you will, you commit yourself to living in the will of God, living as a disciple of Jesus Christ.
* With your emotions, you experience the joy of knowing that God is your Father and that you are His child.
The most appropriate way of describing the experience of receiving Christ and becoming a child of God is this; it is a new birth, a heavenly birth. You are born again, born from above, born of God.
The questions which the Word of God sets before us are these:
* “Do you know God as your loving, heavenly Father?” or “Is there no more than a vague awareness of Him as your Creator?”
* “Have you received the Lord Jesus Christ as your Saviour? Are you a child of God, rejoicing in the love of God the Father, the grace and mercy of the Saviour and the power of the Holy Spirit?
* If there is any doubt, will you answer with faith now?
We praise God the Father: who created the universe and keeps it in being (John 1:1-13).
The Bible begins with the words, “In the beginning, God”. The Gospel of John begins with the words, “In the beginning was the Word.”
At the very beginning, there is Jesus Christ (John 1:1-3). He was there at the very beginning. He did not suddenly appear at the beginning of the New Testament.
It should not surprise us that we find Jesus in the pages of the Old Testament. From the very beginning, He is there.
“In the beginning was the Word.” Before Isaiah and Jeremiah, before David and Moses, before Abraham and Noah, before Adam and Eve, there is Jesus Christ.
It’s no wonder we find glimpses of the Lord Jesus throughout the Old Testament. Jesus was there before the Scriptures even began to be written (John 1:1-3).
What has the Lord Jesus been doing since the very beginning? – “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4).
Jesus has been constantly at work in the hearts of men and women, calling them out of their spiritual darkness and into His marvellous light, out of spiritual death and into eternal life.
How has Jesus Christ, the eternal Word of God, been speaking to men and women from the very beginning? He has been speaking to us through the created world (Psalm 19:1-4).
Those who get a taste of the Lord soon find that they get hungry for more of Him.
Once, we start to become aware of God the Creator, we long to know Him more fully, not only as Creator but also as Saviour.
To know His saving power in our lives, we must turn not only to the world created by God but also to the Word inspired by Him (Psalm 19:7-10).
How does the Lord speak to us through His Word? – “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came for testimony, to bear witness to the light, that all might believe through Him” (John 1:6-7). There is great benefit in reading the Scriptures day-by-day in our own homes. There is, however, also a special ministry of preaching and teaching which the Lord has appointed and anointed so that men and women hear the Gospel, be led in the light of God’s Word and be strengthened in faith. We should seek always to take advantage of every opportunity of hearing God’s Word preached.
The purpose of the preacher is not to exalt himself. It is to preach Christ – “He was not the light, but came to bear witness to the light” (John 1:8). Jesus Christ is described as “the true light that enlightens every man” (John 1:9). From the very beginning, He has been calling men and women to come to the light. This ministry of bringing men and women to the light has become much more clearly defined with the coming of Jesus into the world as a Man.
He now stands before men and women, presenting them with a choice: Will you choose light or do you prefer to remain in the darkness?
If you have come to Christ and are seeking to be an effective witness for Him, ask Him to lead you to those who have become aware of God the Creator and are now ready to be brought to Christ the Saviour.
Pray that God will give you the opportunity to bring others to hear the Gospel that they might find the Saviour.
Through receiving Jesus Christ in faith, we become God’s children. we are no longer merely God’s creatures. We have entered into a new relationship with God. He is our Father. We are His children. Through becoming God’s children, we come to enjoy His joy and peace. If our experience of this joy and peace is to be an ever-deepening experience, we must turn our attention, again and again, to Jesus Christ.
As we look to Christ, we ask three questions.
* Who is Jesus Christ?
* What does He give to us?
* How do we receive His blessings?
1) Who is Jesus Christ?
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1).
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
Jesus Christ is described as “the Word.”
What do we use words for? We use words to communicate with one another. We use words to speak to one another.
What does it mean to say, “Jesus Christ is the Word”? It means this – God is speaking to us.
God is communicating Himself to us. He is not a God who keeps His silence. In Jesus Christ, God speaks to us. He introduces Himself to us as the God who is “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
If we are to get to know God, we must come to Him by way of Jesus Christ (John 1:18).
Jesus is the Way to God the Father. He is the true and living Way. Through Christ, we are brought to a true knowledge of God and a living experience of God.
(2) What does He give to us?
“And from His fullness have we all received, grace upon grace” (John 1:16).
“Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17).
In grace, God pours blessings into our lives. They are blessings which we don’t deserve.
How does He do this? He brings Gospel truth to our attention. He speaks to us the Gospel promises, inviting us to come and receive the Saviour and the blessings which come with Him.
The Lord’s blessings are very precious.
Think of the joy which He gives to us. Think of the peace which He brings into our lives.
We rejoice in God’s gifts. More than that, however, we rejoice in the Giver.
“My goal is God Himself, not joy, nor peace, nor even blessing, but Himself, my God.”
There is no true joy apart from the Lord Jesus. He is our joy. He is our peace. We do not rest in our feelings. We trust in the Lord. He is the real reason for our rejoicing. Without Him, we have nothing. Without him, we live defeated lives. The joy is not there. The peace is not there.
Why? – Because Jesus is not there.
When Jesus is in our lives, everything has changed. Our circumstances may remain the same. Scripture speaks about the “various trials” we must face (1 Peter 1:6). Through Christ, we are able to face these trials with joy – a joy that is not superficial, a joy which is deeply and securely grounded in the peace which comes from knowing that the Lord Himself is there with us, no matter how difficult life may be.
The joy which the Lord gives is described as “unutterable and exalted joy” or “joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8).
The joy and the peace of the Lord becomes ours when the glory of the Lord breaks through into our lives.
“Heaven came down and glory filled my soul when, at the Cross, the Saviour made me whole. My sins were washed away and my night was turned to day. Heaven came down and glory filled my soul.”
(3) How do we receive His blessings?
We receive His blessings by receiving Him.
The Lord Himself is among us. He is speaking to us through His Word. His Spirit is bringing Christ to us. The Lord is giving us a glimpse of His glory. Jesus stands among us as the risen Lord. He invites us to begin a new life with Him.
Jesus comes to us with the Gospel. He comes to us with Good News. That’s what the word, “Gospel”, means – Good News!
A little girl was asked if she had ever received Good News. She said that she received Good News when she received the “Yes” replies to the birthday party invitations she had sent to her friends.
This little girl’s answer tells us something very precious about the Lord’s love for us.
We receive joy when we come to Jesus: !”If I come to Jesus, He will make me glad.” There is, however, another joy. It is the joy which we bring to the Lord when we come to Jesus: “there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10). We come to Jesus and we receive the joy of the Lord. We come to Jesus, and we bring joy to the heart of the Lord.
Christ asks us, “Do you want to receive joy?” He also asks us, “Do you want to bring joy to the heart of God?”
We may answer the first question selfishly, concerned only with what we can get out of Christ. The second question challenges us to seek God’s glory rather that simply seeking our own pleasure.
“What is the chief end of man?” – “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. ” Notice the order – first, God’s glory and, then, our joy.
The hymn, “Amazing grace”, contains a fine combination of receiving from the Lord and giving glory to Him – “I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see … singing God’s praise.” These words provide us an echo of the words of Luke 18:43, where we read of a blind man receiving his sight, following Jesus and praising God.
Have you received God’s salvation? Have you begun to glorify God?
Having received God’s salvation, having begun to glorify God, let us go on to follow Jesus, “living together in justice and peace, caring for the world and for each other.
The story of Jesus Christ begins with the words, “In the beginning” (John 1:1).
The Old Testament prophets paved the way for Jesus Christ. They spoke of His coming.
According to John 1:45, Jesus Christ is “Him of whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote.”
When we come into the New Testament, we find that the first preacher is not Jesus the Saviour. It is John the Baptist.
John was the forerunner of Christ. he was the last in a long list of men sent from God to prepare the way of the Lord. John was not the Son of God. He was the Lord’s messenger, pointing his hearers to the Son of God. John was not the Lamb of God. He was the preacher who directed attention to the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29).
In the opening chapter of John’s Gospel, we read much about John the Baptist, but our main focus of attention is to be on the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God who became the Lamb of God.
In this chapter, Jesus is described as both “the Son of God” and “the Lamb of God” (vs. 34, 49 / vs. 29, 36).
This is the story of Jesus Christ. The Son of God became the Lamb of God.
The story of Jesus Christ takes us from Bethlehem to Calvary. It tells us the story of how the Son of God became the Lamb of God.
Coming in faith to Jesus Christ, we acknowledge Him to be both the Son of God and the Lamb of God.
As we come to Christ, confessing Him as God’s Son and trusting Him as our Saviour, we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (v.33).
Christ gives the Holy Spirit to all who trust Him. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are enabled to confess Christ before men and to live as His witnesses.
We can learn a great deal about what the Holy Spirit seeks to do in our lives, as we look at four of the first followers of Jesus,
(1) John the Baptist (v. 36)
(2) Andrew (v. 41)
(3) Peter (v. 42)
(4) Nathaniel (v. 51).
First, in our witnessing for Christ, we are to point people to the Saviour of sinners.
Second, we are to give our personal testimony – “We have found the Messiah.” He has fulfilled the meaning and purpose of our lives.
Third, we are to give the testimony of transformed lives, lives which are founded on Christ, the Rock of our salvation.
Fourth, we are to live and speak as a people of hope, looking to Christ who is our Hope of glory.
As we approach the Lord’s Table, let us ponder all that Christ is – the Son of God, the Lamb of God, the Coming King. Let us ponder the cradle, the cross and the crown, and let our hearts go out to Him in praise and worship.
The miracle of turning water into wine is described in John 2:11 as “the first of His signs.”
The word, “sign”, is the word which is normally used in the Gospel of John to describe the miracles of Jesus. It is a word which stresses the spiritual significance of Christ’s miracles.
As we read the miracle-stories, we must learn to look for what they teach us concerning salvation in Jesus Christ.
John describes Jesus’ signs with a view to leading us to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ: “these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His Name” (John 20:31).
When we read the story of the turning of water into wine, we must seek to learn what God is teaching us concerning the new wine of the Spirit.
The contrast between water and wine speaks to us of the contrast between what we were before Christ came into our lives and what we have become through the love and power of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Think of what you were before coming to Christ. Think of what Christ has done for you and give all the glory to Him.
Before coming to the Saviour, we were lost. In Him, we have been found. Before trusting the Lord Jesus, we were guilty. In Him, we are forgiven. Before coming to the Lord, we were in bondage to sin. In Him, we are free.
This is the new wine of the Spirit – found, forgiven and free.
In Christ, we are found.
Sometimes, we hear people saying, “I’ve really found myself.” This is not, however, the testimony of the Christian. The believer does not say, “I’ve found myself.” Our testimony is this: “I’ve found the Lord.”
There is a sense in which we’ve found ourselves. We’ve found the meaning and purpose of our lives. Nevertheless, it must be emphasized that the meaning and purpose of our life is found in Christ.
When we think more deeply about our experience of finding the Lord, it is not so much that we have found Him. He has found us.
The water did not turn itself into wine. Jesus turned the water into wine.
This is how it is with salvation. This is how it is with the new wine of the Spirit. We do not turn ourselves into Christians. It is the Lord who performs a miracle in our hearts – the miracle of the new birth.
Until Jesus performed this miracle, the water remained water. It would never be anything other than water. When Jesus performed this miracle, the water became wine.
This is how it is with the new birth, the new wine of the Spirit.
By ourselves, we are guilty sinners, suffering from a sickness which is, humanly speaking, incurable. This sickness, the Bible calls sin. It is a terminal illness. there is no way of recovering from it, unless the Lord performs a miracle of His grace. We cannot cure ourselves. We can only be cured by the love and power of the Lord.
Without Christ, we have no hope.. The truth concerning our life without Christ is this: “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).
Once the Lord has found us, a new story of our life has been written: “the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
When the Lord Jesus Christ celebrated the Last Supper with His disciples, He said to them, “I tell you I shall not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that Day when I drink it with you in my Father’s Kingdom” (Matthew 26:29).
The new wine of the Spirit is not merely something which belongs to this earthly world. It is the beginning of a heavenly life, which we will share with the Lord forever in His eternal Kingdom.
Those who have been found by the Lord Jesus Christ shall never again be lost. Jesus says, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of My hand” (John 10:28).
Found by the Lord, we are also forgiven by Him. You cannot forgive yourself. You have to be forgiven by someone else.
When you sin against someone else – a husband, wife, brother, sister, friend, neighbour – you cannot simply say, “I forgive myself.” You need to be forgiven by the person you’ve sinned against. You cannot give forgiveness to yourself. You can only receive it as a gift.
It is the same with God’s forgiveness. We have sinned against God. We need to be forgiven by God.
Forgiveness is an essential part of what we may call the new wine of the Spirit.
When, at the Last Supper, Jesus gave His disciples wine to drink, He said to them, “this is My blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28).
The water could only be turned to wine by Jesus. Our sins can only be forgiven by Jesus
Jesus turned the water into wine. Jesus turns guilty sinners into forgiven sinners.
This is the new wine of the Spirit.
In Christ, we are found. In Christ, we are forgiven. In Christ, we are free.
The freedom which we have received in Christ is not a freedom to do as we please.
* We are set free for obedience, set free to obey the Lord in a way that we could never do before.
* We are set free for service, set free to serve the Lord in a way that we have never served him before.
Christian freedom is like the freedom of the prisoner of war. We are no longer defeated, captive and taken out of the battle. We are now free to fight for the Lord, to fight in His strength and win victories for Him.
In the story of the turning of water into wine, we read of water being turned into a strong drink.
When we receive the new wine of the Spirit, we receive strength, strength to live for Jesus. We are able to live for Him in a way that we could not do before we came to Christ.
The contrast between the old life and the new life is highlighted in Ephesians 5:18, where the Apostle Paul writes, “do not get drunk with wine … but be filled with the Spirit.”
The world’s way is the way of getting drunk with wine. It is the way of “debauchery.”
The Lord’s way is the way of the new wine of the Spirit.
The contrast between being filled with the world’s wine and being filled with the new wine of the Spirit is both encouraging and challenging.
* We are encouraged. We have not received the spirit of ‘Johnnie Walker’ (or ‘Jack Daniels’). We have received the Spirit of Jesus Christ.
* We are challenged. We are not to be filled with the spirit of ‘Johnnie Walker’ (or ‘Jack Daniels’). We are to be filled with the Spirit of Jesus Christ.
Being filled with the new wine of the Spirit may not be the world’s idea of a ‘good time.’ It is the way to true happiness.
Found, forgiven and free – this is the Gospel’s description of a Christian.
Are you a Christian? – found by Christ, forgiven by Christ, free in Christ.
By cleansing the temple, Jesus provoked an immediate reaction from His critics. They challenged Him, “What right have you to do this?” They said to Him, “If you have this authority from God, show us a miracle to prove it” (John 2:18).
Jesus answered them with a curious statement. They completely misunderstood Him.
He said to them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19).
The Jews were quick to let Jesus know what they thought of this statement – “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” (John 2:20).
What they didn’t realize was this – Jesus was speaking about “the temple of His body” (John 2:21). He wasn’t threatening to tear down the Temple of Jerusalem. His words were prophetic. He was speaking of His death and resurrection.
This is made clear in John 2:22 – “When therefore He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this; and they believed the Scripture and the Word which Jesus had spoken.”
When Jesus cleansed the temple, this was not merely an action of moral outrage. Jesus was preaching the Gospel. He was proclaiming the Good News that salvation would be freely offered to all people through His death on the Cross and His resurrection from the dead.
By cleansing the temple, Jesus was saying this: “the repeated, animal, sacrificial offerings of Judaism would be replaced by the one and once-for-all offering of Himself by Jesus Christ, the Son of God, in death and resurrection” (John Marsh, Saint John, p. 161).
When Jesus cleansed the temple, He was saying that the sacrifices of sheep and oxen would no longer be required since our salvation does not depend on such sacrifices. Rather, it depends on the atoning Sacrifice of our Saviour, Jesus Christ, who died for our sins and was raised again so that we might have eternal life through faith in Him.
This is the true and deeper significance of the cleansing of the temple.
The Temple at Jerusalem was concerned with many sacrifices – the sacrifices of sheep and oxen. The Cross of Christ sets before us one Sacrifice – “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”(John 1:29).
This is how we are to understand our worship. We do not worship God by bringing to Him sacrifices of animals. We worship God by accepting the great Sacrifice which Christ has made for us.
* We come humbly before the Cross, and we say, with the Apostle Paul, “God forbid that I should glory save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Galatians 6:14).
* We come humbly before the empty tomb, making Paul’s prayer our very own: “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection” (Philippians 3:10).
John 3:16 – It’s the heart of the Christian message. It’s a summary of the Gospel. It’s the Gospel in a nutshell.
The significance of His being “lifted up” is brought out well in the hymn, “Man of Sorrows”:
“Lifted up was He to die, ‘It is finished’ was His cry; Now, in heaven, exalted high; Alleluia! What a Saviour!”
Jesus was lifted up to die. He was nailed to the Cross. His death was for us. He went to the Cross for us. Through the death of Christ, we are saved from our sins.
There is, however, another “lifting up.” Jesus is now, in heaven, exalted high.
Christ’s story did not end with His death. It is the story of victory over death. The raising of Jesus from death is expressed powerfully in the words of the hymn:
“Up from the grave He arose, with a mighty triumph o’er His foes; He arose a Victor from the dark domain, and He lives for ever with His saints to reign: He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!”
Through the death and resurrection of Jesus, we have the assurance of both the forgiveness of sins and the gift of eternal life.
This is expressed, beautifully and simply, in the words of the children’s hymn:
“Jesus loves me! He who died heaven’s gate to open wide; He will wash away my sin, let His little child come in.”
When we sing the chorus of this hymn, we are reminded that the love of Jesus is the Bible’s central theme:
“Yes! Jesus loves me! The Bible tells me so.”
Love is at the heart of the Bible. Love is at the heart of the Gospel.
Nowhere is this more clearly expressed than in John 3:16.
The Amplified New Testament offers us this version of this verse:
“For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He (even) gave up His only-begotten (unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish – come to destruction, be lost – but have eternal (everlasting) life.”
Make it personal! God loves you. God gave Jesus for you. Jesus came to earth for you. Jesus died on the Cross for you. Jesus was raised again for you. Jesus offers to you the gift of eternal life. Will you come to Him now, and be sure that God loves you, thatGod loves you, that God has forgiven your sins, and that God is waiting to welcome you into His heavenly and eternal glory.
If you have never made it personal, I invite you to do so now.
Receive Jesus Christ as your personal Saviour and you will be able to say from your heart:
“Now I belong to Jesus, Jesus belongs to me, not for the years of time alone, but for eternity.”
He has triumphed over evil. Jesus is Lord of life and of all creation (John 3:22-36).
We begin with a great description of the Lord Jesus Christ – “He who comes from above is above all … He who comes from heaven is above all” (John 3:31).
Compare Jesus with the great characters of the Old Testament – Noah, Abraham, Moses, Isaiah – and the New Testament – Peter, Paul, John, James. You will come to this conclusion: Jesus is above all.
The others speak of the Lord, our God and Saviour. Jesus is our Saviour, our Lord and our God. Jesus is above all. Concerning Jesus alone does the Scripture say: “at the Name of Jesus every knee shall bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11).
When the Bible speaks of Jesus’ absolute superiority over all, it emphasizes His triumph over all the powers of evil. When we truly believe that Jesus has won the victory over all that stands between ourselves and God, we are truly able to say: “On the victory side, on the victory side, no foe can daunt me, no fear can haunt me, on the victory side. On the victory side, on the victory side, with Christ within, the fight we’ll win, on the victory side.” Through Christ, the victory is ours.
As we think of these words of John the Baptist: “He who comes from above all is above all … He who comes from heaven is above all” (John 3:31), we should also recall his words from John 1:29 – “Behold (look)! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” If the victory of the Lord is to be ours in an ever-deepening experience, this is what we must do – look away from ourselves and our defeat to Jesus Christ our Saviour and His victory. Jesus won the victory for us when He died upon the Cross for us. If, however, we are to enjoy His victory as an ongoing experience, we must seek to cultivate a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
This relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ is to be a relationship of faith, prayer and love. In this relationship, we learn, more and more, to say of Jesus: “He who comes from above is above all … He who comes from heaven is above all” (John 3:31).
(a) A relationship of faith
“It is not by measure that He gives the Spirit” (John 3:34).
The Holy Spirit is given to those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Through faith, we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 3:14). Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus shares His risen life with us. The Word of God describes the believer in this way: “The Spirit of God dwells in you” (Romans 8:9).
Jesus is the Lord who came from above, from heaven. The Holy Spirit brings Jesus into our hearts. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we know the presence of the Lord Jesus with us here and now. Through the presence of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, we have the assurance that we dwell with the Lord Jesus forevermore.
The Christian life begins with faith – believing in the Lord Jesus Christ. By faith, we receive Christ into our hearts and lives. The Christian life must also continue in faith. We have received Christ in faith. Now, we are to walk with Him in faith (Colossians 2:6). We began with faith. We are to continue with faith (Galatians 3:2-3).
(b) A relationship of prayer
“He whom God has sent utters the words of God” (John 3:34).
Jesus Himself is “the Word of God” (John 1:1; John 1:14). To get to know Jesus ourselves, we must give careful attention to the words which He has spoken. A relationship of prayer is not only a matter of our speaking to God. Before we speak to God, we must learn to listen to Him. God speaks to us through His Word. we reply to Him when we speak to Him in prayer. We come to faith in Christ when we hear and believe t he Gospel (Romans 10:17; 1 Peter 1:23-25). we grow in faith, as we build our lives on Christ, as we learn of Him from God’s Word. Growing in faith, we learn to listen to God and we learn to speak to God.
(c) A relationship of love
“He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).
We began with a description of the Lord Jesus Christ: “He who comes from above is above all … He who comes from heaven is above all” (John 3:31). We moved on to a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ – a relationship of faith, prayer and love. It is a relationship of faith in the Lord Jesus. It is a relationship of listening to the Lord Jesus and speaking to Him. It is a relationship of love for Jesus. Surely, as we look at these three things together – faith, prayer and love, we must say, with Paul, “The greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13).
Out of love for Jesus grows the deep-seated desire to become like Him, giving all the glory to Him, acknowledging Him to be “above all.” Jesus increasing, ourselves decreasing – this is the Christlike pattern which God wishes to reproduce in our lives. God is at work within us through the power of the Holy Spirit. God speaks to us through His written Word – the Bible – so that we may become more like His living Word – the Lord Jesus Christ. Through His Word and His Spirit, God is at work in us so that Jesus may be “above all” in our lives.
“I must decrease, but Christ in me must increase.” Make this your spiritual “ambition”. Let the self-centredness of the past be replaced by a new Christ-centredness in the future.
Here, we see Jesus at work, sharing the Gospel, leading the Samaritan woman to faith. We see Jesus, bringing many Samaritans to faith (John 4:39; John 4:41-42).
Notice how the situation develops. Jesus does not set out with the specific goal of speaking about the deep things of the faith to the first person he meets. The story begins with a weary Man – Jesus, sitting down beside the well (John 4:6). There was, however, a deeper dimension. Jesus is walking in the Spirit. He is in the centre of the Father’s will. He is ready to speak the Word of the Lord whenever the opportunity presents itself.
The story continues with a very natural conversation-opener. Jesus says to the woman, “Give Me a drink” (John 4:7). It soon becomes clear that the deeper dimension – Jesus is walking in the Spirit – is about to influence the direction of the conversation. When we are walking in the Spirit, we must be ready for conversations to move in the direction of the things of God. The Spirit will give us opportunities to share the Good News of Christ with others.
Jesus speaks of “living water” (John 4:10). When we have the life of Christ within us, the life of the Spirit in our hearts, we will be given opportunities to share that life with others. We share this life as we speak for Jesus. This sharing will, however, be more than a matter of words. it will be a matter of life – sharing the life which God has put into our hearts, sharing the life of Jesus.
With His whole life centred on doing the Father’s will – “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to accomplish His work ” (John 4:34), Jesus is ready for this opportunity to give to the woman the “living water” which He alone can give. As we go around, here and there, with this intention – to do the Lord’s will, we can expect God to use us to bring blessing to others.
In this story, how does God use Jesus to fulfil His purpose? This is not only the story of one woman. It is the story of “many Samaritans” and “many more” (John 4:39; John 4:41). When we are faithful in sharing Jesus with one person, who knows what may result from this?
Many more believe. This is not because of the woman’s testimony. It is because of the Lord’s own Word. This is the work of the Holy Spirit. We give our testimony. Through our weak words, the Holy Spirit gives His testimony. The Holy Spirit uses our inadequate words to point men and women to the Lord Jesus.
As the Holy Spirit works, the Church is created. When Jesus leaves Samaria, He does not leave behind only one believer. Through His Word, there are many believers. He leaves behind many believers. What strength and encouragement these believers received from each other as, together, they rejoiced in their new-found faith – Jesus Christ is “indeed the Saviour of the world” (John 4:42). This is our faith. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we must encourage one another to go on in this faith.
At the heart of our Bible reading from John’s Gospel, we have two healings – the healing of a boy suffering from a fever (John 4:46-54) and the healing of a man who had been ill for thirty-eight years (John 5:1-16). In our reading from the Psalms, we have a man crying out to God for spiritual healing – the healing of a life, hardened by sin and guilt. When we come to Jesus’ miracles of physical healing, we must learn to look beyond the physical healing. We must seek to learn what God is teaching us concerning the healing of our whole life. What is God saying to us about our salvation in Jesus Christ? – This is the key question we must ask when we read the Bible. Scripture leaves us in no doubt about its central theme – “the Holy Scriptures are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15).
In the two healings, – the boy with the fever and the man who had been ill for thirty-eight years, we learn lessons concerning salvation. The key moment in the healing of the boy is found in John 4:50 – “Jesus said to the boy’s father, ‘Go; your son will live.’ The man believed the word which Jesus spoke to him and went his way.” When we hear Jesus saying, “your son will live”, do we think only of physical life? Do we not also get a hint of the eternal life which Jesus gives to all who trust Him? When we read the words, “your son will live”, we should recall John’s purpose in writing this Gospel: “these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His Name” (John 20:31). When we read the words – “The man believed the words that Jesus spoke to him”, do we not, again, get the hint of a deeper dimension? Believing the word also involves trusting the Person who speaks the word. we hear the Word of God and we put our trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. This is God’s way of bringing us to Himself, God’s way of bringing us into a real experience of His salvation.
When, in John 4:53, we read, “The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, ‘Your son will live’; and he himself believed, and all his household”, surely we are reading more than the story of a physical healing. This is the story of salvation. I’m sure that this man would look back on this hour in the same way that John Newton, the author of “Amazing Grace”, looked back to his conversion: “‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved. How precious did that grace appear the hour I first believed.” Again, in the story of the healing of the man who had been ill for thirty-eight years, there are lessons concerning salvation. When, in John 5:6, Jesus asks the question, “Do you want to be healed?. we must hear, in His question, another question – “Do you want to be saved?”
When Jesus brings healing, He brings a wholeness of life, which the Bible calls “salvation.” Jesus was not only concerned about the man’s physical health. He was also concerned about his spiritual welfare. In John 5:14, Jesus said to the healed man, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse befall you.” You may enjoy good health, but are you saved? – This is the question which the Gospel keeps on pressing home to our hearts. People often say, “The most important thing is your health.” The Gospel says, “The most important thing is your salvation.” Are you saved? Do you want to be saved? These are the questions God is asking. He waits for your answer.
The prayer of the Psalmist, in Psalm 51, may help you to come to know the saving power of the Lord Jesus Christ. Here, we see the Psalmist, confessing his sin to the Lord: “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned, and done that which is evil in Thy sight” (Psalm 51:3-4). We hear the Psalmist, crying to God for salvation: “Hide Thy face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from Thy presence, and take not They Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Thy salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit” (Psalm 51:9-12). We also learn of the Psalmist’s prayer that he might be a witness for the Lord: “Then I will teach transgressors Thy ways, and sinners will return to Thee … my tongue will sing aloud of Thy deliverance. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall show forth Thy praise” (Psalm 51:13-15).
As we consider prayerfully the Psalmist’s words, we must look away from ourselves to the Lord Jesus Christ. God’s purpose is that “all may honour the Son, even as they honour the Father” (John 5:23). To those who imagine that they can worship God without coming, in faith, to the Saviour, the Lord Jesus issues this warning: “He who does not honour the Son does not honour the Father who sent Him” (John 5:23). To each of us, Jesus speaks this word of Gospel promise: “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life” (John 5:24). Has this great ‘miracle’ happened in your life? Have you passed from the death of unbelief into the eternal life, which is received by faith?
The Scriptures (John 5:39-40).
There’s a Rabbinical saying which tells us that “he who has acquired the words of the law has acquired eternal life.” Jesus takes issue with this statement from the Jewish rabbis. He tells us that having the Scriptures does not mean that we have eternal life. We must go where the Scriptures leads us. We must go to Jesus.
You can have the Scriptures and never read them. You can read the Scriptures and grow in head-knowledge. You can be acquainted with the teaching of the Scriptures. You can be fully aware of the Bible’s teaching concerning the way of salvation. Nevertheless, there is still a decision of faith in Christ, a decision which must be taken on the basis of what the Scriptures teach.
John 5:37 speaks of the divine witness, the witness of the Father to Jesus Christ. Scripture also speaks of the witness of the Holy Spirit to Jesus Christ. The Spirit takes the Word of God and uses it to speak to us of Jesus Christ, our need of Him and His power to meet that need. An important passage which speaks of this work of the Spirit is John 16:8-15. John 16:13 – He is the Spirit of truth who guides us into all truth. John 16:14 – He glorifies Jesus, taking the Gospel of Christ and declaring it to us.
In this work, He convicts us of sin, righteousness and judgment (John 16:8-11).
* He shows us our sin, highlighting the sin of unbelief (John 16:9).
* He reveals Christ to us as “Christ our righteousness” (John 16:10; 1 Corinthians 1:30).
* He emphasizes to us that, without Christ as our righteousness, we remain in our sins and we remain under the judgment of God (John 16:11).
It is possible to be in the powerful presence of the Spirit and yet turn away without coming to Christ – “you refuse to come to Me that you may have life” (John 5:40).
We begin with John 6:35 – “Jesus said to them, ‘I am the Bread of Life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.”
A great deal is said, in John 6, about bread – the feeding of the five thousand (John 6:1-14), the reminder of this miracle – “boats from Tiberias came near to the place where they ate the bread after Jesus gave thanks” (John 6:23), Jesus’ message on the Bread of Life (John 6:26-40), the continuation of this theme (John 6:48-51, 58).
A lot is said about bread, yet the important thing is not bread itself. bread is simply a symbol, pointing beyond itself to Jesus. When we think of bread, we think also of the Lord’s Supper. When we think of the Lord’s Supper, we think not only of the bread and the wine. Our thoughts turn to the Saviour, of whom the bread and the wine speak.
In the Lord’s Supper, Jesus stands before us as the One who calls for our decision. There is no automatic guarantee that all who hear the preaching of God’s Word do, in fact, receive the blessing of which God’s Word speaks. There is no automatic guarantee that all who receive the blessing to which these symbols point. Jesus stands before us, saying to us, “What is your response to Me?” Some hear God’s Word with courtesy, but they do not come to Christ. Some partake of the sacrament with dignity, but they do not come to Christ. Jesus says, “Let’s get beyond outward appearances. How is your heart towards Me?”
Following the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand, we see an interesting response to Jesus (John 6:14-15). The people make what appears to be a positive response to Jesus (John 6:14). It is, nevertheless, based on a misunderstanding of who Jesus really is and what Jesus has come to do (John 6:15).
There are many people who respond to Jesus in precisely this way. They feel good about Jesus. They come along to Church. They sit under the ministry of God’s Word. They come to the Lord’s Table. They eat the bread. They drink the wine. Somehow, they miss the point of it all. They never really get beyond the symbols. They come to the Lord’s House. They hear the Lord’s Word. They receive the Lord’s Supper. The symbols have become more important than the Saviour. When we come to the Lord’s House, hearing His Word and celebrating the Lord’s Supper, let us make sure that we come to the Saviour – receiving Him as well as the symbols which point to Him.
Later on, after Jesus’ message on the Bread of Life, we see another reaction to Jesus (John 6:41-42). Here, we have the Jews murmuring at Jesus, saying that He is a mere man, who has no right to say, “I have come down from heaven.” we cannot assume that all who hear the Good News of Christ will come, in faith, to Him. There will always be those who, like the Jews, refuse to come to Christ and receive eternal life. When we read of this reaction among the religious people of Jesus’ day, we cannot expect that things will be any different in our day. There was religious unbelief in Jesus’ time, There is religious unbelief in our time. We must not hide behind our religion. We must be honest before God; “Take care, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God” (Hebrews 3:12).
We dare not remain content with the outward ceremonies of the Church. We must look beyond the ritual. We must look on to the Reality – our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
In His message on the Bread of Life, Jesus says, “Do not labour for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life” (John 6:27).
What is “the food which endures to eternal life”? Jesus makes it perfectly clear that He is speaking about Himself: “For the Bread of God is that which comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world” (John 6:33). Following this statement, there comes a request: “Lord, give us this bread always” (John 6:34). Jesus’ reply is emphatic: “I am the Bread of Life” (John 6:35).
If, when we partake of the Lord’s Supper, we are content with the outward observance without coming in faith to the Saviour, we receive nothing other than the food which perishes. If, on the other hand, we come, in faith, to Christ, we enjoy the promised blessing: “”he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst” (John 6:35).
When we gather at the Lord’s Table, we remember, with thanksgiving, the dying love of our Saviour. through faith, we look beyond the symbols of bread and wine. we draw near to the Saviour whom they signify. we hear Jesus saying, “the Bread which I shall give for the life of the world is My flesh” (John 6:51). We say to Jesus, “Thank You, Lord Jesus, for dying on the Cross for my sins.” We hear Jesus saying, “For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me and I in Him” (John 6:55-56). We know, in our hearts, that this is much more than the outward ceremony. This is the inward reality of Christ, living in our hearts. We look to Him in faith. He comes to live in our hearts.
As we approach the Lord’s Supper, we may find that the story of the feeding of the five thousand has some important lessons for us. In John 6:12, Jesus tells His disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, that nothing may be lost.” There are two lessons here.
* First, Jesus was concerned that nothing should be lost. In John 6:39, we read, “and this is the will of Him who sent Me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given Me, but raise it up at the last day.” Those who have come, in faith, to Jesus will never be lost (John 6:37). It is only those who have refused to come to Christ who will be lost. They will be lost because they have refused to be saved through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. For those who have come to the Lord Jesus, there is here a precious and treasured lesson concerning the assurance of salvation.
* Second, we notice that the fragments were to be gathered up. This gathering up of the fragments points us forward to our heavenly and glorious, eternal destiny as the redeemed people of God. John 11:52 tells us that Jesus died not for the Jewish nation only. He died “to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.”
As we consider our sure and certain hope of eternal life, received through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, we might well end with a verse we could so easily overlook. It is John 6:23: “boats from Tiberias came near the place where they ate bread after the Lord had given thanks.” Notice how the place is described – “the place where they ate bread after the Lord had given thanks.” The Lord gave thanks for the bread. We also must give thanks – not only for bread but for Jesus Christ, the Bread of Life. Thanksgiving – this must be the keynote of our celebration of the Lord’s Supper. Thanksgiving – this must be the keynote of our whole life: “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18); “always and for everything giving thanks in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father” (Ephesians 5:20); “And whatever you do, in word or dead, do everything in the Name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Colossians 3:17).
Here, I will lay special emphasis on John 6:60-71 and John 7:37-52.
The Gospel sets before each of us a choice. It is a choice between futility and fullness. Life without Christ is a life of futility. Life in Christ is fullness of life. The situation facing us today is strikingly similar to the situation the first disciples. we are told in John 6:66 that “many of the disciples drew back and no longer went about with Him.” The same thing is happening today. Many people are turning back from following Christ.
What are the consequences of their choice?
What is the alternative to their choice?
Peter answers these questions for us in John 6:68. Jesus has asked the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?” (John 6:67). Peter replies, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
To turn away from the Lord Jesus is to head off into a spiritual “no man’s land.” There is nowhere else to go. To turn back from following Jesus is to drift into a life of futility. there is, however, an alternative to the life of futility. It is Jesus Christ, in whom alone there is fullness of life.
The contrast between futility and fullness may be highlighted by stressing the difference between the words of Ecclesiastes 1:2 and the words of our Saviour in John 10:10. Ecclesiastes 1:2 describes very aptly the mood of our time: “Meaningless! Meaningless! … Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless!”
Into this situation of futility comes the Lord Jesus, bringing, with Him, fullness of life: “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
If we are to enjoy fullness of life in Christ, we must go forward in faith, refusing to turn back from following Christ. as we seek to follow the Lord Jesus, we will soon discover that there are many obstacles along the way. Jesus makes this very clear. When He speaks of fullness of life, He also warns us that there is a “thief (who) comes only to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10). There are “thieves” who would steal us away from following Jesus. these “thieves” seek to kill the life of Christ within us. They seek to destroy our fellowship with the Lord, leading us away from a life of fullness to a life of futility. In this spiritual conflict, we are called to be faithful. Faithfulness to Christ is not something that we can take for granted. There is always the life of futility, threatening to pull us away from the fullness of life, which is in Christ.
We must always remember the real contrast between life without Christ and life with Christ.
In the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32), we see the difference between futility and fullness. Away from the Father’s house, the prodigal son lived a life of futility. Once he had returned to the Father’s house, he was no longer the prodigal son. He had become the restored son. he had been restored to a fullness of life, which he could never have known while he was away from the Father’s house. No matter how long we may have been in the Father’s house (or in the Father’s love), we must never forget what life is like away from the Father’s house.
As we look at the two ways of life – the way of futility and the way of fullness – , we must not look back with a yearning to return to the old life. rather, we must look back and say, “That life is over, finished.” We must look back and say, “That way – the way of futility – is a dead-end street, a road that leads me nowhere. I have no wish to return to that life.” As we look back, we must learn to say, with thanksgiving to God, “I was lost but now I am found” (Luke 15:32).
What is the life of fullness into which the Lord Jesus brings us?
Peter, in John 6:68, describes it as eternal life – “You have the words of eternal life.”
Jesus, in John 7:37-39, stresses that this life is not to be written off as ‘pie in the sky when you die’, life in a far-away and distant heaven, life which has no relevance for our life here-and-now. It begins with the new life of the Spirit.
Once, I was speaking at a meeting which had two sessions. During the first session, I stressed that eternal life is not merely ‘pie in the sky when you die.’ During the interval, someone said to me that it’s also ‘steak on the plate while you wait.’ Jesus does not only give us a place in heaven. he also gives us fullness of life here-and-now,
This fullness of life, this new life in the Spirit, is described by Jesus in John 7:38 – “He who believes in Me … Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.” Through the power of the Holy Spirit within us, we can look at the many temptations to return to the life of futility and we can say, “We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37). With the Spirit of the living God in our hearts, we can “see the sights that dazzle”, and we can turn from them to the solid joys which only Christ can give. we have the new life of the Spirit, the fullness of life in Christ. We can say, “Fading is the worldling’s pleasure”, for we know that the world can offer us nothing which even begins to compare with Jesus Christ. No longer is there “a God-shaped blank” in our lives. Jesus has filled our lives with His fullness – the fullness of a love which will never let us go, the fullness of a love which will never let us down, the fullness of a love which leads us onward to victory and upward to heavenly glory.
Whenever we consider the Bible’s teaching concerning the forgiveness of sins, there are three things which must be emphasized – (i) We are all sinners; (ii) To all, the offer of forgiveness is extended; (iii) To all, the call for faith is issued.
When I lived in Glasgow, there was a lady in our Church prayer meeting who prayed regularly that people would be convicted and converted. This expression, “convicted and converted”, helps us to see the way in which the Lord leads us into a real experience of the forgiveness of sins.
First of all, we need to be convicted – convicted of our sins;
Secondly, we need to be converted – converted to faith in Jesus Christ.
This expression, “convicted and converted” helps us to understand the difference between the woman caught in adultery and “the scribes and the Pharisees.”
The scribes and the Pharisees were convicted but they were not converted. they were conscious of their sin but they did not come to the Saviour. It is possible to be convicted without being converted. there is no joy in being aware of your sin if you do not come to the Lord Jesus and receive the forgiveness of your sins.
The woman caught in adultery was not only convicted. she was also converted. She came to Jesus with a burden of guilt. She went away with the joy of knowing that her sins had been forgiven. For the rest of her life, she could look back on that day, and say: “My sins are gone, gone, gone, far away, Happy day, Happy day.” Forgiveness makes a world of difference to our lives. Once we have the assurance that our sins have been forgiven, our lives can never be the same again. The woman caught in adultery would never be the same again, after this day when she met Jesus. She would never forget the words which Jesus spoke to her: “Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again” (John 8:11). In these words, Jesus speaks of the grace which forgives the sins of the past, the grace which lays claim to our lives in the future. Jesus stresses that those who have been forgiven by Him are to go on and live for Him.
How did the woman caught in adultery live, after she had been forgiven by Jesus? Did she live like the scribes and Pharisees? There is no way that someone who has really tasted the joy of forgiveness can ever be satisfied with living like the scribes and Pharisees. Their religion was a religion of legalism. They knew plenty about rules and regulations, but they knew nothing of the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. they tried very hard to keep their rules and regulations – especially when other people were watching them. They did all this in their own strength. They knew nothing of the power of the Spirit of God. This was not the way for one who had really experienced the Lord’s forgiveness. The woman caught in adultery had been forgiven by the Lord Jesus Christ. She went on to live by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.
There was a world of difference between the woman caught in adultery and “the scribes and Pharisees.” She was convicted and converted. They were convicted without being converted. She would look back on this day with happy memories – memories of the day she met Jesus, the day she was forgiven by Jesus. They would remember this day as a day they would rather forget. The memory of this day would be, for them, a very uncomfortable memory. from that day, the woman lived by grace. Her accusers lived without the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is not, however, the end of the difference between the woman and her accusers. There was not only a world of difference. There was an eternity of difference – different in this world, different in the world to come.
To the scribes and Pharisees, Jesus did not say, “Neither do I condemn you.” This is what He did say, “You will … die in your sins” (John 8:21). Why did Jesus use such strong language when He spoke to these men? Jesus was urging them to respond to Him, to have faith in Him. Even when Jesus said to them, “You will … die in your sins” He was calling them to faith – “you will die in your sins unless you believe that I am He” (John 8:24). Even to those who had shown no inclination towards faith, Jesus is still holding out the opportunity of the Gospel, the opportunity to believe, the opportunity to be saved.
The Gospel opportunity is here for each and every one of us. It is an opportunity which can be lost. It is an opportunity which may never return. “Now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2). Now is the time for faith . Today, we have heard the promise of the Gospel – “Neither do I condemn you.” Today, we have heard the warning of the Gospel – “you will die in your sins unless you believe that I am He.” Trust the Lord Jesus Christ. Rejoice in the assurance of forgiveness – “There is … no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).
John 8:31-59 – especially John 8:31-32 and John 8:36
When Jesus began His teaching ministry, He quoted from the prophet Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has sent Me to preach Good News to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives … to set at liberty those who are oppressed … ” (Luke 4:18). The Gospel, which Jesus proclaimed, is a Gospel which brings freedom. The Gospel brings freedom when it comes to its hearers in the power of the Spirit of the Lord.
What is freedom? What is this freedom which the Gospel brings? To understand what it means to be set free by the power of God’s Spirit, set free by the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we must first understand what freedom in Christ is not.
Sometimes, people think of freedom in terms of being as free as a bird – free to do as we like, free to do whatever we please, whenever we please. This idea of freedom – freedom without responsibility – is far removed from the true meaning of freedom in Christ. We have not been set free to do whatever we like. We have been set free for God, to do God’s will. Christ has set us free so that we might live for Him and not for ourselves. we have been set free so that we might live as disciples, men and women who are living in the power of the Spirit of the Lord. Sometimes, people think of freedom like this – we are free to choose good and we are free to choose evil. This is not the way in which the Scriptures speak of our true freedom in Christ. Jesus tells us that choosing evil is not an act of freedom. It is an act of bondage. Whenever we choose the wrong way rather than the right way, we do not act in freedom. we are not free. We are in bondage. We need to be set free. We need Christ, the only One who can set us free to be what God wants us to be.
Freedom has nothing at all to do with choosing to live in ways which are not pleasing to the Lord. True freedom in Christ has everything to do with being filled with the Spirit of the Lord. The way of freedom is the way of the Spirit. The nearest the New Testament comes to defining freedom is in 2 Corinthians 3:17 – “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” Freedom has nothing at all to do with being free to do as we please. Freedom has everything to do with living for the Lord.
It may be helpful to compare our true freedom in Christ to the freedom gained by a prisoner of war who escapes from his captors. While he is in the concentration camp, the prisoner of war cannot fight for his country. He cannot fight for the cause. When he gains his freedom, he is not free to do whatever he pleases. He is free to take part in the war. he is free to fight for the cause. Christian freedom is a bit like that. Before we come, in faith, to Jesus Christ, we are held captive by the enemy. We are unable to fight against the enemy. He has us in His evil control. When Christ sets us free, He empowers us to wage war against the enemy, to stand up for Jesus, to fight for Christ as soldiers of the Cross. We are set free so that we might live as true disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In John 8, there are three very important verses, which teach us a great deal about the life of discipleship. These verses are John 8:36 – “If the Son makes you free, you are free indeed”; John 8:32 – “You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free”; John 8:31 – “If you continue in My Word, you are truly My disciples.” There are three lessons here – (i) The life of discipleship is a life of freedom; (ii) The life of discipleship begins when you are set free by the Lord Jesus Christ; (iii) We grow in the life of discipleship as we learn to live in the light of God’s Word.
(i) What does it mean to say, “The life of discipleship is a life of freedom”? The hymnwriter. George Matheson, shows a deep understanding of true freedom in Christ, when he writes, “Make me a captive, Lord, and then I shall be free.” He describes true freedom in terms of being the Lord’s captive. In Christ, we are no longer “slaves of sin”: “But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness” (Romans 6:17-18). George Matheson’s hymn contains these fine words: “Imprison me within Thine arms, and strong shall be my hand.” We do not find true strength by asserting our own will over against God’s will. we are truly strong when we are committed to the Lord, obedient to His will. By ourselves, we are weak. In Christ, we are strong.
(ii) We can only live as disciples when we when the Lord Himself is our strength. Without His power, we are nothing. We cannot even begin to live as His disciples. George Matheson expresses this so well: “My heart is weak and poor until it master find. My power is faint and low till I have learned to serve; My will is not my own till Thou hast made it Thine.” We draw our strength from Christ. Jesus said, “I am the Vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
(iii) We grow as disciples as we build our lives on the truth of God. Jesus emphasizes this point very strongly in John 15:7 – “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you.” If we are to grow in prayer, we must build our faith and our lives upon God’s Word – “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love” (John 15:10).
If we are to grow in love, we must build a living faith on the teaching of God’s Word -”These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11). If we are to grow in joy, we muse feed upon the Word of the Lord, letting His teaching form the rock-solid foundation for our lives.
When we build on the truth of God, going on with the Lord day-by-day, we will be true disciples. In the presence of the Lord, each of us must answer honestly the searching question: What kind of disciple am I? – A disciple in name only? Or a real disciple, a true follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, living in the power of the Spirit of the Lord? God waits for your answer.
At the heart of the ninth chapter of John’s Gospel, there is a testimony. It is a very short testimony. It is contained in a single verse – John 9:25. “One thing I know, that though I was blind, now I see.” This is an extremely powerful testimony. These few words strike a chord in the heart of the believer. “I once was blind, but now I see.” This is the testimony of all those whose lives have been touched by the love of Christ. When our lives are touched by the loving hand of the Lord Jesus Christ, our hearts rise to Him in worship: “When I feel the touch of Your hand upon my life, it causes me to sing a song that I love You, Lord.” When the “amazing grace” of the Lord Jesus Christ takes hold of our lives, we begin a new life that is filled with love for Jesus.
When the man spoke these words – “I once was blind, but now I see”, this was not the end of the story for him. This was the beginning of his new life. The new life would grow and develop. When we give our testimony, it is not simply a description of the way in which we began the Christian life. It is a testimony concerning all that the Lord has done for us since that day when we trusted Christ as our Saviour. We have been saved by the grace of God. We are being kept by the power of God. When we give our testimony, we praise God for bringing us to faith in Jesus Christ, and we praise Him for keeping us in the faith of Jesus Christ.
What is the new life that the Lord Jesus Christ has given to us? – (i) It is a life of love; (ii) It is a life centred on Jesus: (iii) It is a life of wholeness; (iv) It is a life of mission.
(i) A life of love
There’s a Gospel song , which contains these fine words: “Love lifted me. When no-one but Christ could help, love lifted me.” This is the believer’s testimony – “Love lifted me.” What no-one else could do, Christ has done for us. He alone is able to lift us out of our sin, because He alone is our Saviour. Only Christ can give us new life, since He alone is the risen and living Lord.
Later on, in this Gospel song, we find the words: “Jesus completely saves. He will lift you by His love.” This is the believer’s message. When we have been lifted by the love of Christ, we have more than a personal testimony. We have a message to share with others. We give our testimony, “Love lifted me”, and we say to others, “He will lift you by His love.”
This is precisely what the healed man did . In John 9:25, he gave his personal testimony. In John 9:27, he invited his critics to follow Jesus – “Do you too want to become His disciples?” Here is a model for us to follow. We have become disciples. We must now seek to make disciples. In love, Christ has drawn us to Himself. In love, He uses us to reach out to others.
(ii) A life centred on Jesus
When the blind man was asked, “How were your eyes opened?” (John 9:10), he began his answer with the words, “The Man called Jesus” (John 9:11). Jesus was at the centre of the man’s life. The Christian life is a life of looking to Jesus, a life of seeing Jesus. When we say, “I once was blind, but now I see”, what we are really saying is this: “Now, I’m looking to Jesus. Now, my eyes are fixed on Him.” Once our eyes have been opened to see Jesus, we must keep on praying, “Open our eyes, Lord. We want to see Jesus.”
The more we see Jesus, the more He will rise in our estimation, the more He will be exalted in our eyes. We see this in the case of the healed man. In John 9:11, he speaks of “the Man called Jesus.” In John 9:17, he says, “He is a prophet.” In John 9:35-38, he confesses his faith in Jesus Christ as “the Son of God” (Authorized Version) or “the Son of man” (Revised Standard Version). The expression, “the Son of man”, should not be seen as a weakening of our faith in Christ as the Son of God. Notice what Jesus says, in other places, about “the Son of man”- “The Son of man must be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life” (John 3:14-15); “The Son of man will be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him; and when He is killed, after three days, He will rise” (Mark 9:31); “They will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (Matthew 24:30).
Is Jesus becoming more and more precious to you? Is He coming to mean more and more to you? True Christian growth is marked by a growing love for Jesus.
(iii) A Life of Wholeness
When the blind man received his sight, he received wholeness. Until that day, his life was incomplete. He could not see. When Jesus touches our lives, He makes us whole. Closely connected with the word, “wholeness”, is the word, “holiness.” There is no wholeness without holiness. Our lives are incomplete if we are not walking in the way of holiness. There’s a children’s chorus which says, “I’m walking on the King’s Highway.” What does this mean? – The King’s Highway is the Highway of holiness. In Isaiah 35:8, we read about the Highway of Holiness: “And a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Holy Way (Revised Standard Version) or the way of holiness (Authorized Version).” We are walking on the King’s Highway when we are walking on the Highway of Holiness.
Whenever we think of the love of Jesus, we must also think of His holiness. Jesus, our loving Saviour, is also Jesus, the holy Son of God. Jesus’ love is a holy love. It is not a gushy, sentimentalized thing. His love is holy. It is filled with moral strength, strength of character. If we are to show the love of Christ to the world, we must also show His holiness. living as men and women who are different, men and women who have been changed by the holy love of Christ.
(iv) A Life of Mission
You’ve heard the phrase, “on fire for the Lord.” There was a real difference between the healed man and his critics. He had just received his sight, and, with it, he received a mission. straightaway, he was seeking to win his critics for Christ: “Do you too want to become His disciples?” (John 9:27). the healed man was on fire for the Lord. His critics were also on fire, but they burned with a very different fire. They were burning with the desire to have Jesus killed. They did not know who Jesus was (John 9:29), because they did not want to know Him. they refused to recognize what the Lord had done for the blind man. In the face of such unbelief, we, who must continue to give our testimony: “He opened my eyes” (John 9:30). We must pray for our critics – “Open their eyes, Lord, and let them see Jesus.”
What does it mean to have eternal life? There are two important dimensions in eternal life. There is life after death, and there is life before death. There are a great many people who never give any thought to an after-life. The question, “Is there life after death?” rarely crosses their mind. they are content to live from day to day, taking each day as it comes. These people are, however, interested in another question: Is there life before death? When they hear of Jesus Christ, they ask, “Can He change my life here and now? Can He make a difference in my life right now?
The Gospel answer to that question is an emphatic “Yes”. Jesus Christ does not only give us heaven. He give us new life here and now.
The two sides of the life which Christ gives to us must be emphasized.
There is life before death. Jesus calls this: “abundant life” (John 10:10).
There is life after death. Here, Jesus speaks of “everlasting life” (John 3:16, Authorized Version).
Eternal life has a beginning, but it has no end. It begins when we come in faith to Jesus Christ to receive from Him the new life which He alone can give, the abundant life which is far better than life without Christ. Without Christ, life is empty. In Christ, there is abundant life. Apart from Christ, we have mere existence, just going on from day to day with no real sense of meaning, purpose and direction. With Christ, everything is different.
This great change is well described in the words of the hymn: “What a wonderful change in my life has been wrought since Jesus came into my heart!” Jesus makes a difference here and now. He also gives us a life which has no end. This is also emphasized in this hymn: “I’m possessed of a hope that is steadfast and sure, since Jesus came into my heart!”
These are the two dimensions of eternal life. It is life with a new quality. It is life with an everlasting duration.
When we think of the abundant quality of eternal life, we can testify with the hymnwriter: “All that thrills my soul is Jesus; He is more than life to me.”
When we think of the everlasting duration of eternal life, we rejoice in these words from the hymn, “Amazing grace”: “When we’ve been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun, we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we first begun.”
When we read the words of our Lord Jesus Christ in John 10:28 – “I give them eternal life”, our hearts are filled with joy – the joy of the Lord.
When we read the rest of the verse, our hearts are filled with even greater joy: “they shall never perish.” These are great words!
The truth of Jesus’ promise is presented very effectively in a Gospel song: “He didn’t bring us this far to leave us. He didn’t teach us to swim to let us drown. He didn’t build His home in us to move away. He didn’t lift us up to let us down.”
When we read the words, “they shall never perish”, we may be painfully aware of the many temptations which we face. we are aware of the Lord’s presence, but we are also aware of the activity of Satan. He is always seeking to snatch us out of the Lord’s hands.
What does Jesus say to us about Satan? – “No one (not even Satan himself) shall snatch you out of My hand.”
Years ago, on a mission in Brodick, on the island of Arran, I heard an interesting song, the words of which have remained in my mind: “Why do Christians never turn back? They could, if they desired. Or, could it be that Christians are permanently fired with a love for a life they’ve found to be so real? They’ve found the perfect living in a God who is ideal for today.”
Jesus has given us abundant life. When we are tempted to turn back from following Jesus, we find, in our hearts, an echo of the words of Peter: “Lord, to whom shall we go?You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).
Through faith in Jesus Christ, we look forward to life after death. Our sense of expectation is greatly increased by the marvellous fact that we have received life before death: “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine: O what a foretaste of glory divine!”
Abundant life, here on earth, is a foretatse of life, in heavenly glory, with the Lord. We are not in heaven yet, but we have been heaven in our hearts, because we have Jesus in our hearts: “Heaven came down, and glory filled my soul, when, at the cross, the Saviour made me whole. My sins were washed away, and my night was turned to day. Heaven came down, and glory filled my soul.” It is a wonderful thing to know that eternal life has begun. It is an even more wonderful thing to know that it shall never end.
Many Christians have come to faith in Christ through a little booklet entitled, “Journey into Life.” This is a good description of what it means to become a Christian. Becoming a Christian means beginning a journey into life. This journey is a never-ending journey. The life, which Christ gives, is not only abundant life. It is also everlasting life.
Have you begun the journey into life?
If not, you can begin, today, your own personal journey into life. Let Jesus Christ lead you into this journey into life.
How does Jesus strengthen our faith? He directs our attention to Himself. He is not only the One who raised Lazarus all these years ago. He is also the Saviour of all who put their trust in Him. Jesus directs our attention to Himself, in John 11:25, when He says, “I am the Resurrection and the Life; he who believes in Me, though He die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.”
Let’s look at the story of the raising of Lazarus and see what it teaches us concerning believing in the Lord Jesus Christ. Let’s see what it teaches us concerning the resurrection life which He gives to all who trust Him.
Here’s the first lesson. By ourselves, we cannot believe. It is only through the mighty power of the Lord that we are brought to faith in Christ. This point may be illustrated from the story of Lazarus. Before Jesus came along, the situation could be summed up in three chilling words: “Lazarus is dead” (John 11:14). It was only when Jesus spoke the life-giving Word that Lazarus was raised from the dead: “Jesus cried with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out.’ The dead man came out” (John 11:43-44). This miracle of the raising of Lazarus is an excellent illustration of the way in which we are brought to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Apart from Christ, we are “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). Through Christ’s Word of resurrection power, we are “raised” to “newness of life” (Romans 6:4). This miracle of being raised to newness of life has been described very well by Charles Wesley: “He speaks, and listening to His voice, new life the dead receive.”
Here’s a second lesson. Faith, if it is to make a real difference in our lives, must be faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Before Jesus came, “many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother” (John 11:19). There are many today who will be quick to tell us what they think. They will rush with their offer of help. When we are “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1), our need will not be met by any and every well-wisher who comes along with a word of advice. Our need will only be met by the One who is able to meet our need – Jesus Christ, “the Resurrection and the Life” (John 11:25). Jesus Christ is able to raise us to newness of life because He Himself is the risen Lord. He is able to give us life because He is the living Saviour. If we are to have a sure hope for time and eternity, our faith must be firmly based on the promise of our Lord Jesus Christ: “I am the Resurrection and the Life; he who believes in Me … shall … live” (John 11:25).
A third lesson concerns serving God in the power of the risen Christ. We are not called to faith in Christ for our own benefit only. We are to serve the Lord. If we are to serve Christ in the power of His resurrection, we must do so on the basis of our new relationship with the Father. In John 11:27, we learn that Jesus is “Christ, the Son of God.” Through faith in Christ, we become sons and daughters of the living God. He is our Father, and we are His children. As children of the living God, we dare not imagine that we can serve the Lord in our own strength. Jesus did not do God’s work in mere human strength. Before doing this mighty miracle, Jesus spoke to His Father – “And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, ‘Father … ” (John 11:41), If we are to be true followers of Jesus, we must follow Him in prayer. We cannot truly serve the Lord if we do not seek His blessing in prayer. It has been said that “Prayer is evangelism with all its carnal trappings shorn off.” If our so-called ‘Christian service’ is not grounded in prayer, it is not really Christian service at all. The Lord’s work is to be done in the Lord’s power. If it is not done in the Lord’s power, it will be done without the Lord’s blessing. When we look at Jesus’ prayer, we see that He begins with thanksgiving. Jesus remembered the feeding of the five thousand. On that occasion, Jesus had prayed, and the Father had answered prayer (John 6:11). Now, Jesus was saying to the Father: “I thank Thee that Thou hast heard Me” (John 11:41). Now, in this situation, Jesus re-affirms His faith in the Father, the God who hears and answers prayer – “Thou hearest Me always” (John 11:42). The miracle of the raising of Lazarus was an answer to prayer. The blessings for which we long – men and women coming to faith in Christ – will also come to us as answers to prayer. Jesus prayed that “they may believe that Thou didst send me” (John 11:42). Jesus prayed for men and women to come to faith in Him. The Father answered His prayer. Can we doubt that God will also answer our prayers? Jesus has said, “I am the Resurrection and the Life; he who believes in Me … shall … live” (John 11:25). Let us pray, in faith, that men and women will come to believe in Jesus and find life in Him.
A final lesson concerns the fulfilment of our faith. The faith into which we come when we are raised to newness of life is a faith, filled with hope, the hope of heavenly and eternal glory, the hope of “rising again in the resurrection at the last day” (John 11:24). This hope is not something which remains distant and remote from our everyday life. It is the “resurrection at the last day” which inspires us to serve the Lord here on earth. We pray and work to the end that many more people will come to have this testimony: “Now, I belong to Jesus, Jesus belongs to me, not for the years of time alone, but for eternity.”
This is the testimony of all who have come to know Jesus Christ as “the Resurrection and the Life.” It is the testimony of all who have received His resurrection life.
John 12:1-36a – especially John 12:12-36a
When Jesus entered Jerusalem, shortly before His crucifixion, He was greeted by “a great crowd” (John 12:12). He was greeted with praise: Hosanna! – “Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” (John 12:13). The people viewed Jesus as the fulfilment of the Old Testament prophecies concerning the coming King. This is made even clearer in John 12:15, where the words of Zechariah 9:9 are quoted: “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your King is coming, sitting on an ass’s colt.”
“Your King is coming, sitting on an ass’s colt” – This is a description of Christ’s first coming. When, however, we turn to His second coming, we have a very different description: “they will see the Son of man coming in clouds with great power and glory” (Mark 13:26).
If we are to avoid being bogged down in this earthly world, which is passing away, we must never lose sight of this glorious fact – Jesus is coming again.
Soon after Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, some Greeks came to Philip with this request: “Sir, we wish to see Jesus” (John 12:22).
This is a prayer which we also can pray: “Open our eyes, Lord. We want to see Jesus.” Seeing Jesus involves both a backward look and a forward look. We look back to His first coming. we look forward to His second coming. If we are to see Jesus as he really is, we must not only look back to His first coming. We must also look ahead to His second coming in power and glory. Jesus is not simply a figure from ancient history. He is the King of glory, the King who is coming in all the glory of His heavenly and eternal Kingdom.
Why do we want to see Jesus? What do we see when we look at Jesus? – These are two very important questions. They are questions we must ask whenever we pray, “Open our eyes, Lord. We want to see Jesus.”
Why do we want to see Jesus?
Is it just a matter of historical curiosity – we want to learn more about an important figure from the past? Surely, there is more to it than that. Do we, on the other hand, want to learn about His second coming, and lose ourselves in daydreaming about heaven? Jesus does not want to draw us away from the present, away from the challenge of living for him right now.
Why do we want to see Jesus? Here, we must strongly emphasize the call to live as disciples of Christ. Jesus does not take us back to the past to leave us there. there is no point in learning all about Jesus then, if it does not inspire us to live for Him now. Jesus does not take us on into the future to leave us there. He teaches us about His second coming, so that we might come back into the present with a renewed commitment to living for Him now.
Why do we want to see Jesus? As we think about the meaning of the prayer, “Open our eyes, Lord. We want to see Jesus”, we may find it helpful to think, for a moment, about another prayer: “Day by day, O dear Lord, three things I pray, to see Thee more clearly, to love Thee more dearly, to follow Thee more nearly, day by day.”
Why do we want to see Jesus more clearly? – It’s because we want to love Him more dearly.
Why do we want to see Jesus more clearly? – It’s because we want to follow Him more nearly.
When we pray, “Open our eyes, Lord. We want to see Jesus”, we are really saying, “Help me to love Jesus. Help me to follow Jesus.”
What do we see when we look at Jesus?
Let’s take a look at Jesus. Let’s take a look at three great statements He made. each of these statements invite us to look back at Jesus’ first coming and to look on to His second coming. John 12:23 – “The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified.” John 12:32 – “I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.”John 12:31 – “Now shall the ruler of this world be cast out.”
* John 12:23
What did Jesus mean when He called Himself “the Son of man”? What did Jesus mean when He said that the hour had come for Him to be glorified?
To understand the meaning of the title, “the Son of man”, we must go back to Daniel 7:13-14 – “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him. And to him was given dominion and glory and kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.”
When Jesus said that the hour had come for Him to be glorified, he was thinking of the Cross. The Apostle Paul spoke of the glory of the Cross: “God forbid that I should glory save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Galatians 6:14). When, however, we hear Jesus speaking of the glory of the Son of man, we must not think only of Jesus’ death for us on the Cross. We must also think of the glory of the Lord’s Return. Jesus is coming again in power and glory: “they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (Matthew 24:30).
* John 12:32
What did Jesus mean when He said that He would be “lifted up”?
Jesus is speaking about the Cross – “He said this to show by what death He was to die” (John 12:33). We see Jesus lifted up on the Cross. As we dwell on this thought of Jesus being “lifted up”, our thoughts move on to Jesus, “lifted up” in heaven. The twofold meaning of Jesus’ being “lifted up” is brought out well in the fine hymn, “Man of sorrows”: “Lifted up was He to die, “It is finished” was His cry. Now, in heaven, exalted high: Alleluia! What a Saviour!”
* John 12:31
In the light of both Christ’s victorious death and His triumphant return in power and glory, we are to affirm the casting out of Satan, “the ruler of this world.” When Christ returns in power and glory, His triumph over Satan will be complete. On that Day, when the Lord returns, every knee will bow before Him and every tongue will confess that he is Lord (Philippians 2:10-11). With such a glorious hope, we need not fear the future. We can move into the future with confidence, the confidence which comes from knowing that Christ is Lord of all. we do not know what may be waiting for us in the future, but we do know this – Jesus is waiting there, and He is Lord, the Lord who loves us and is leading us on to His eternal glory. What a marvellous future is ours, as we look away from ourselves to our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
The Day of the Lord’s Return is often presented as such a faraway and distant Day that it makes no real difference to the way we live our lives here and now. This is not the way in which the Bible speaks of Christ’s Return. The Bible speaks of that Day as a Day of salvation for those who receive Christ as Saviour and a Day of judgment for those who refuse Christ as Saviour. According to Jesus, salvation and judgment are not to be placed in a remote future which is so faraway that it creates neither joy in the believer nor fear and trembling in the unbeliever. Jesus says that salvation and judgment, while they have a future fulfilment in the Day of His Coming, are, in the first instance, events which are going on in our lives right now.
Jesus came to save. He makes this clear in John 12:47 – “I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world.” Nevertheless, there is judgment because many refuse to accept His offer of salvation, many refuse to trust Him as Saviour. Jesus speaks of this judgment in John 12:37-40. The words of Isaiah, quoted by Jesus here, are very relevant to our world today. Isaiah lived in day when there was judgment. there was much unbelief. There was much spiritual blindness. There was much hardness of heart. There were few people turning to the Lord. There were few people rejoicing in the Lord’s salvation. This is very like our own day.
These are difficult times. It is not easy to stand up for Jesus Christ. It was just the same in Jesus’ time. Following these sad words concerning God’s judgment on man’s unbelief, we read some words of encouragement in John 12:42a – “Nevertheless many even of the authorities believed in Him.” Sadly, however, this is followed by some discouraging words – “but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: for they loved the praise of men rather than the praise of God” (John 12:42b-43). What are we to make of such people? – They “believed in Him, but … did not confess it.” The Word of God speaks of those who “will be saved, but only as through fire” (1 Corinthians 3:15). When the Lord Himself returns, it will become clear who belongs to Christ and who does not. On that Day, it will be seen clearly that, while some have walked closely with the Lord as faithful disciples, keeping the Lord at a distance.
What are we to make of those who try to get the best of both worlds? They “believe” in the Lord, yet they refuse to come out into the open and confess Christ clearly as their Saviour and Lord. We must not be quick to pass judgment on them. Jesus warned us: “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matthew 7:1). On the other hand, we must be quite clear about this – secret discipleship is an impossible policy, a contradiction in terms. Either the secrecy will kill the discipleship, or the discipleship will kill the secrecy. Each of us is pulled in two different directions. there is the pull of the world, pulling us downward, pulling us away from the Lord and back to the world. On the other hand, there is also the call of the Lord, calling us onward, upward and Godward. We must pray for ourselves and for others that the call of God will have the victory in our lives.
What are we to say about those who “believe in Him”, but will “not confess it”? We must remember that it is not our responsibility to say who will be saved and who will not be saved. When Jesus was asked the question – “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” (Luke 13:23), it appear, at first, that He did not really answer the question. How did our Lord reply to this question? This is what He said: “Strive to enter by the narrow door” (Luke 13:24). Think about this reply for a moment. Is not this, in fact, the best answer to the question? When we start thinking, “How many of these people are really saved?, Jesus says to us, “Make sure you’re saved.”
When Jesus spoke about salvation, He also spoke about judgment. There is a narrow gate which leads to life, and there is a wide gate which leads to destruction (Matthew 7:13-14). To each of us, Jesus says, “Enter by the narrow gate” (Matthew 7:13). Once we have entered by the narrow gate, we dare not live as secret disciples. If we ourselves have been saved by the Lord Jesus Christ, we have a responsibility to share the Good News of Christ with others. If we take seriously what Jesus Himself said about judgment – “He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings has a judge; the word that I have spoken will be his judge on the last day” (John 12:48), we must be faithful witnesses and not secret disciples, faithful witnesses who are earnestly seeking to win others for the Saviour.
If we are committed to being faithful witnesses for Christ, we have no better pattern to follow than the pattern of Jesus’ own life and ministry: “For I have not spoken on My own authority; the Father who sent Me has Himself given Me commandment what to say and what to speak … What I say, therefore, I say as the father has bidden Me” (John 12:49-50).
We, who believe in the Lord, are to speak for Him. Being a faithful witness, rather than a secret disciple, is not an incidental aspect of being a believer. It is not an optional extra. After all, Jesus Himself said, “I know that His commandment is eternal life.” Let us pray that the reality of our faith will be seen in the obedience of our lives.
“In My Father’s House … ” (John 14:1).
When we think of God the Father, we think, first of all, of His love – His Fatherly love for us.
We read about this in the Scriptures: “As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear Him” (Psalm 103:13).
Jesus speaks to us of the Father’s love. With His attention firmly fixed on His Father’s House, in which there are many heavenly mansions, Jesus says to us, “Let not your hearts be troubled” (John 14:1).
Jesus speaks to us of His loving, heavenly Father, so that we might have peace – “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you” (John 14:27).
His peace is not an uneasy peace like the pact of peace which exists between nations who are ready for war – a negotiated agreement not to use weapons of mass destruction.
The peace which Jesus gives is divine peace, the peace of God.
Concerning this peace, Jesus says, “not as the world gives, do I give to you” (John 14:27).
It is only Jesus who can truly say to us, “Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27),
No world leader can truly speak these words to our hearts.
When politicians speak of peace, we know very well that the history of our world continues to be a history of nations rising up against nations.
When Jesus speaks of peace, we know that He gives to us a heavenly peace, a peace which does not belong to this passing world, a peace which endures.
Jesus can truly give to us the peace of which he speaks since He alone is the One who fully reveals to us the Father’s heart of love.
When Jesus speaks of the Father, He does not speak only of the love of God. He speaks also of the holiness of God.
In His great prayer in John 17, Jesus addresses the Father in this way: “Holy Father” (v. 11).
In the prayer which He taught His disciples, Jesus placed His first emphasis on the holiness of God the Father: “Our Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy Name”.
When we say, “God is love”, we must recognize that He is a special kind of love.
* God is holy love.
When we say that God is holy love, we are saying that His love is characterized by holiness.
– There is no human love which can compare with His love: “Love divine, all loves excelling.”
– His love is greater than anything we could ever imagine: “O perfect love, all human thought transcending.”
* God is wholly love.
When we say that God is wholly love, we are saying that He is fully love.
There is, in God, a wholeness of love, a fullness of love.
If we want to find out what love is, the best place to look for an example of love is God.
How do we look at God?
Jesus said, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).
If we want to see what God the Father is like, we must look at Jesus.
As we look at Jesus’ life and death, we discover that God the Father is a God whose heart is filled with both holiness and love.
We see this beautiful combination of holiness and love in Jesus’ dealings with the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11),
We know how the scribes and Pharisees reacted to the woman caught in adultery.
Their hearts and minds were filled with one thing only: condemnation.
Jesus, on the other hand, responded to the woman with compassion: “Neither do I condemn you” (John 8:11).
This compassion was not mere sentimentalism.
This was compassion without compromise – “Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again” (John 8:11).
– We see, in Jesus’ action, the Father’s heart of holy love.
– We hear, in Jesus’ words, the Father’s voice of holy love.
At the cross, we also see this wonderful blending together of the holiness of God and the love of God,
We see Jesus bearing the world’s sin. He takes our sin. he receives our penalty. for sins which He had not committed, Jesus took the punishment.
When Jesus cried out to the Father, “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?”, He was acknowledging the holiness of God.
If sin was to be forgiven, sin had to be punished. If sinners were to rejoice in the forgiving love of God, the Saviour had to bear the pain of being forsaken by His Father, as the divine judgment was pronounced on the sin of the world.
The Cross was, for Jesus, a bitter cup, a deeply painful experience. the pain was not, however, merely physical pain. it was the pain felt by love. Jesus experienced an indescribable depth of pain, precisely because He loved us. He looked at the nails which held Him to the Cross, and He knew that these nails had been put there by the hands of man, the hands of those whom He loved.
Despite His pain, Jesus did not stop loving us. Revealing the Father’s own heart of love towards us, Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
As Jesus suffered pain on the Cross. it was not the nails which held Him there. It was love – love for you, love for me, love for every one of us.
Let us never forget Jesus who suffered and died for us. In Jesus, we see God the Father, who is, at one and the same time, the holy Father and the loving Father. As we rejoice in divine love, let us never forget that God is perfectly holy.
It is precisely this holiness which brings home to our hearts two things we must never forget – the seriousness of our sin and the wonder of God’s love, grace and mercy.
At the Cross, we learn of God’s love and so we are bold to approach the holy God with confidence and with a real sense of privilege that God should love us, the sinners who sent His Son to the Cross.
“I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
(1) I – the son of Mary and the Son of God; I – the child born at Bethlehem, the child who is called the “Everlasting Father” (Isaiah 9:6), the Creator of heaven and earth.
(2) the world – The Bible teaches us that the world is both fallen from God and loved by God.
The Bible warns us:
“Do not be conformed to this world” (Romans 12:2).
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If any one loves the world, love for the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15).
Nevertheless, the Bible also tells us that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.
Taking these two aspects of the Bible’s teaching together, we learn two lessons:
First, we are loved by God;
Second, we are to love God.
We must not take God’s love for granted. we must not live as the world lives, with little thought for God or His Son, Jesus Christ.
God’s way of overcoming the world is a rather strange way. It is not the way of brute force. it is not the way of worldly power. It is not the way of the dictator. God’s way is the way of love. God’s way centres on a Babe born in a stable, because there was “no room at the inn.” It centres on a young Man, put to death on a Cross “outside a city wall.”
Christ’s victory is not a matter of uncertainty. He has won the victory. His victory is a fact which we must believe. It is a fact upon which we must build. In our own conflict with evil, we must take our stand on Christ’s victory.
When Christ, from the Cross, cried out, “It is finished” (John 19:30), this was not a cry of despair. It was a shout of victory. Jesus had triumphed over all the powers of evil. Jesus won the victory for us. Through Christ’s victory, we can now say, “In the Name of Jesus, we have the victory.”
Jesus’ words, “I have overcome the world” come to us in the context of “tribulation.” Jesus does not only speak to us words of triumph and victory. He also speaks a word of realism: “In the world you have tribulation.”
We don’t like to hear about tribulation. Perhaps, we feel that it doesn’t fit in with the Christian message. we must not, however, live with our heads in the sand. we must not pretend that life is something different from what it really is.
“In the world you have tribulation” – this is a painfully accurate description of our human experience in this world.
“In the world you have tribulation” – this is not all that Jesus says to us. He also says, “I have overcome the world.”
“In the world you have tribulation” – these are the words which we must face honestly if we are to really appreciate the greatness of Christ’s triumph over all the powers of evil.
“In the world you have tribulation” – this is the dark backcloth against which the Christian message is set.
“In this world you have tribulation.”The years of our life, in this world, are passing. We are moving ever closer to the end of our life on this earth. This is something which makes us anxious.
There is the anxiety which comes upon us as we think of wasted opportunities to trust Christ, to confess Christ, to serve Christ.
There is the anxiety which comes upon us as we think of the future. The question of the future, the ultimate future, is always before us: are you ready to meet the Lord, your Maker?
When we consider the things which make us anxious, we may wonder, “How can I be of good cheer”? We began by hearing and believing Christ’s words, “I have overcome the world.” We take His words and we stand upon them and, through faith in Christ, the triumphant Victor over evil, we say, “I have overcome the world.”
Whatever is happening in the world around us – in our own personal world, in the world of our own local Church and community, in the world of our nation and the Church in our land, in the world of the nations and the Church’s worldwide mission, we take our stand upon Christ’s words, “I have overcome the world.”
Whatever is happening in our world, we can still be of good cheer because we know that God is still the God of our salvation. We can face the future with the joy of the Lord because we know that Jesus is with us still. We don’t know what may yet lie ahead of us – “In the world you have tribulation”, but we do know this: the risen, living Lord, Jesus Christ who is “the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8) still says to us, “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
We may have to face difficult times. We will not have to face them alone. We will face them with Jesus. Whatever difficulties may come our way, let us draw strength from the words of Christ, “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”