Posts Tagged ‘belief in Jesus’

John 6:52-59

52Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. 57Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. 58This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever.” 59He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.

I have spent a considerable amount of Internet space writing these meditations on John’s Gospel. I have spent a considerably amount of time reading John’s Gospel and trying to make sense of it for myself so that I would be able to converse intelligently with you. What I continue to find in John’s Gospel, however, is a return to the same themes over and over again. Well, mostly I keep coming back to the same theme in my writing because John keeps coming back to the same theme in his Gospel: Jesus is the only Way to salvation, to the Father, to eternal life and that apart from Jesus there is simply no hope. If we trust the Bible to be God’s Word once delivered to the Saints, then we must believe what it says about these matters. The Bible affords us no other options but Jesus. We are given licence to preach in no other Name; we are given no other Name under heaven by which we might be saved. The message we preach is valid only when it is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Many in this culture we live in, however, have managed to convince great numbers of people (Christians included and especially!) that there are other ways. Eugene Peterson calls this ‘Christian idolatry.’ In his small book Living the Resurrection he comments on this phenomenon:

“But what we also do is look around for ways to affirm and cultivate our new life in Christ outside our workplace. And we soon find, quite to our delight, that there is a lot to choose from. A huge religious marketplace has been set up in North America to meet the needs and fantasies of people just like us.There are conferences and gatherings custom-designed to give us the lift we need. There are books, videos, and seminars that promise to let us in on the Christian ‘secret’ of whatever it is we feel is lacking in our life—financial security, well-behaved children, weight loss, sex, travel to holy sites, exciting worship, celebrity teachers. The people who promote these goods and services smile a lot and are good-looking. They are obviously not bored.

“It isn’t long before we’re standing in line to buy whatever is being offered. And because none of the purchases does what we hoped for, or at least not for long, we’re soon back to buy another, and then another. The process is addicting. We become consumers of packaged spiritualities.

“This is also idolatry. We never think of using this term because everything we’re buying or paying for is defined by the adjective Christian. But idolatry it is, nevertheless. It’s God packaged as a product—God depersonalized and made available as a technique or a program. The Christian market in idols has never been more brisk or lucrative. The late medieval indulgences that provoked Luther’s righteous wrath are small potatoes compared to what’s going on in our evangelical backyard” (Eugene Peterson, Living the Resurrection, (NavPress: Colorado Springs, Co. 2006), 35-36. Emphasis his.).

It is unbelievable that this is the situation, but I’m glad to know that I’m not the only one who sees things this way. His is a warning to those of us who not only treat Christianity as if it were a cash-cow or who think that the Gospel can be promulgated through clever marketing campaigns or slick programming. Peterson is warning us that we are in danger of displacing God and replacing Jesus Christ with something less that is guaranteed not to create in us the sort of Resurrection Life that Christ has called us to live. Jesus said as much himself. “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” You can run from place to place, read book after book, follow all the rules of the super-teachers, adhere to all the principles of the preaching prognosticators and prophets, and yet still miss out on life because Jesus was not a part of your running around and consumption of goods. Most of this stuff is fast food. Only Jesus is a life giving, sustaining meal.

In other words, all this other stuff can either lead you to a deeper relationship with Christ or it can lead you to a deeper relationship with itself. It is easy to get caught up in all the goods and services and miss out on Jesus. Jesus says, from his own mouth—what he heard in the Father’s presence—that unless we find in him our complete nourishment then we are lifeless; that is, we are dead. Those who have no life in them are, for all intents and purposes, dead. Conversely, those who do find their nourishment in Christ’s flesh and blood are full of life; life now. It’s not even a life we have to wait for. It’s ours now! I believe His clear point is that those who are abiding in Christ are already living the Resurrected Life.

Look what he says. Six times he makes reference to those who eat his flesh and drink his blood. Note them well in verses 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, & 58. Such a repetition can only mean that he really wants us to get it into our head. He really wants to consider deeply how imperative it is for those who would follow after him to be in such close communion with him that his life, his flesh, his blood is ours. It is impossible to live without food forever. Eat his flesh, have life in you. Eat his flesh, drink his blood, have eternal life and be raised up at the last day. Eat his flesh, drink his blood, and you will remain in Christ and He in you. The one who feeds on Jesus will live because of Jesus. The one who feeds on this bread will live forever. We will have life, he says, because of Him. Life is His work in us. It is not from ourselves or from anyone or any place else. We have life, if we have it, because of Jesus.

He said: Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever. Manna is fine as far as it goes, but it is incapable of providing sustained, eternal nourishment that will guarantee a life beyond this life. The same is true today. There is nothing wrong with books, seminars, and all that stuff. I love books as much as the next person, but I am not naïve enough to think that it will be my vast (that’s hyperbole) knowledge of and wisdom from books that will secure me the sort life Christ has promised. Those things are fine as far as they go, but they are temporary things that will eventually wear out and need replacing. They will be chewed on, consumed, digested, eventually pass out of the body. But Jesus? No. Once you feed on Jesus He stays with you. And the longer you stay with Him, the Longer he stays with you. Jesus provides the life that the idols of this earth cannot, will not promise or provide. So why do so many preach these idols? Why do so many feed on them instead of Jesus?

Jesus is saying that if you want Life, true Life, Eternal Life, Living Life, Abiding Life, Forever Life then you must, and he does not equivocate, eat His Flesh and drink His Blood. There is simply no getting around this at all.

I Hope you find that after 27 Days with Jesus your life is becoming more and more His.

Soli Deo Gloria!

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John 6:41-51

41At this the Jews began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?” 43″Stop grumbling among yourselves,” Jesus answered. 44″No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. 45It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me. 46No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. 47I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life. 48I am the bread of life. 49Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. 50But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. 51I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

John’s Gospel as a whole contains mountains and mountains of stories relating various peoples’ objections to Jesus. There was always someone discontent with something he said, or something he did, or who he spoke to or with, or who he ate with, or where he went. These verses today begin with that idea: “At this, the Jews began to grumble about him because he said, ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven.’” There was some deep seated dislike, distrust and hatred of Jesus inside these people. And here’s the irony. The story that precipitated all this conversation was the miracle of the loaves and fish. When Jesus did that, everyone wanted to make him a king. As the story has developed in John’s Gospel, the people have grown more and more angry, more and more disconcerted, more and more distant, and eventually, they turn away from him altogether and ‘follow him no longer.’

But why were the people so offended? What was so difficult for them to comprehend? Jesus gave them two scenarios. In one scenario, they were fed some bread that filled their bellies for a day until they were hungry again. In a second scenario, they were fed The Bread of Life and were satisfied forever. Again with the irony: They did not want bread that would help them live forever. They wanted bread on the table today. You know as well as I do that in the church today, many are saying: Jesus is all about bread on your table today. And as long as preachers say this, the flocks will grow. But as soon as Jesus said: “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (and he said it more than once, to be sure!), the people ran away, fast and furious.

These words, Jesus says, are not something to grumble over or about or because of. They simply did not like that Jesus said, “I came down from heaven.’ And they grumbled. And grumbled. And grumbled. Then they ‘argue sharply among themselves.’ John says later, in verse 61, ‘aware that his disciples were grumbling about this…’ Then some turn back and ‘no longer follow him.’ I sense in here, to a degree, that Jesus just kept raising the ante, the bar, the standard, the qualifications for being truly considered his disciple. And the more he raised the bar, the more they raised their voices in protest. He said, “This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” Then they argue. Clearly they were not too well versed in the use of metaphor.

They missed some things in Jesus’ words. They missed that he said he would raise them up at the last day (43), they missed that he said ‘everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me’ (45), they missed him saying that he had seen God (46), they missed that whoever believes has everlasting life (47), they missed that humans who seek to subsist on mere bread will die (48), they missed that there is a bread a person can eat and not die (50), that whoever eats the bread will live forever (51). They missed all this ‘live forever’ nonsense and focused in on that one tiny phrase ‘eat his flesh.’ At the same time, Jesus did not mince his words. There is no life at all apart from our appropriating his flesh into ours. There is no eternity save for those who have found their only survival in His survival. There is no eternal life for those who steadfastly refuse to participate in the life and death of Jesus. There is no eternal life for those who are more and only concerned about a king who feeds bellies here with bread that is not of himself. But Jesus shows the absolute pricelessness of what He offers to humanity when he says, “This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the World.” How can any such sacrifice have a value stamped upon it? His sacrifice for the world is beyond compare, beyond measure, beyond our comprehension. It is incomparable; utterly unrepeatable.

This caused only more argumentative debating and grumbling among the people. Strange or funny how people get hung up on the smallest aspects of the Gospel and thus are utterly turned away from it. Strange that these folks who wanted Jesus to be their king a couple days ago should turn on him so quickly when they find out his real motives and his real designs on their lives. They did figure out that it was necessary to consume Jesus; they just could not figure out how. So they rejected him altogether on the basis that his claim was utterly absurd. That is as near as I can figure.

I’m writing this rather late. I am on vacation and I had intended on writing earlier. I got caught up in a story I’m reading and a baseball game that was not quite as thrilling for the home team as last night’s game was. So it’s late, but I hear what Jesus is saying. What comes through loud and clear is that Jesus is offering eternal life to those who want it. What is necessary is a level of faith in him so deep that it can only be described in terms of eating his flesh. What is described by Jesus here is, to an extent, the forsaking of those confidences we place in the bread of this world. What is heard by those he spoke with that day is something like, “How will everyone eat his flesh? Eight months wages wouldn’t buy enough for everyone to have a single cell.” And yet the demand is no less demanded. Eternal life is found only by those who so identify with Christ through faith that it appears they have consumed his flesh, or been consumed by him. Either way, those who wish to live forever, according to Jesus, are left with no alternatives: It is either in Jesus or not at all.

What he goes on to teach us is that this way he is speaking of is terribly difficult and not at all strewn with marigold petals or lined with mammoth sunflowers. It is hard and at least most of the people did figure that much out and turned back. Dietrich Bonhoeffer saw this too.

“The path of discipleship is narrow, and it is fatally easy to miss one’s way and stray from the path, even after years of discipleship. And it is hard to find. On either side of the narrow path deep chasms yawn. To be called to a life of extraordinary quality, to live up to it, and yet to be unconscious of it is indeed a narrow way. To confess and testify the truth as it is in Jesus, and at the same time to love the enemies of that truth, his enemies and ours, and to love them with the infinite love of Jesus Christ, is indeed a narrow way. To believe the promise of Jesus that his followers shall possess the earth, and at the same time to face our enemies unarmed and defenceless, preferring to incur injustice rather than to do wrong ourselves, is indeed a narrow way. To see the weakness and wrong in others, and at the same time refrain from judging them; to deliver the gospel message without casting pearls before swine, is indeed a narrow way. The way is unutterably hard, and at every moment we are in danger of straying from it. If we regard this way as one we follow in obedience to an external command, if we are afraid of ourselves all the time, it is indeed an impossible way. But if we behold Jesus Christ going on before step by step, we shall not go astray. But if we worry about the dangers that beset us, if we gaze at the road instead of at him who goes before, we are already straying from the path. For he is himself the way, the narrow way and the strait gate. He, and he alone, is our journey’s end. When we know that, we are able to proceed along the narrow way through the strait gate of the cross, and on to eternal life, and the very narrowness of the road with increase our certainty. The way which the Son of God trod on earth, and the way which we too must tread as citizens of two worlds on the razor edge between this world and the kingdom of heaven, could hardly be a broad way. The narrow way is bound to be right” (The Cost of Discipleship¸ Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 190-191).

May your 26th Day with Jesus be Full of Grace & Peace.

Soli Deo Gloria!

John 6:30-40

30So they asked him, “What miraculous sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? 31Our forefathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'” 32Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34″Sir,” they said, “from now on give us this bread.” 35Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. 36But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. 37All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”

Michael Horton wrote in his essay Christless Christianity, “The Greeks love wisdom, so show them a Jesus who is smarter at solving the conundrums of daily living and the church will throng with supporters. Jews love signs and wonders, so tell people that Jesus can help them having their best life now, or bring in the kingdom of glory, or drive out the Romans and prove their integrity before the pagans, and Jesus will be laureled with praise. But proclaim Christ as the Suffering Servant who laid down his life and took it back up again, and everybody wonders who changed the subject. The Church exists in order to change the subject from us and our deeds to God and his deeds of salvation, from our various ‘missions’ to save the world to Christ’s mission that has already accomplished redemption.”

He also wrote, “If the message that the church proclaims makes sense without conversion; if it does not offend even lifelong believers from time to time, so that they too need to die more to themselves and life more to Christ, then it is not the gospel. When Christ is talked about, a lot of things can happen, none of which necessarily has anything to do with his doing, dying, rising, reigning, and return. When Christ is proclaimed is in His saving office, the church becomes a theater of death and resurrection, leading to genuine lives of witness, love, fellowship, community, and service—yet always requiring forgiveness and therefore always coming back to the good news concerning Christ.” (Issue: “Christless Christianity” May/June Vol. 16 No. 3 2007 Page, 14)

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They want signs. Many today want signs too. I have been writing about such folks for a few days now. Church buildings are filled with people who are astounded at the fancy building where they sings songs and go to McD— in the front lobby after the worship. Card sliders collect the offering on Sundays as if people were standing in line at Giant E—. Before you know it, we will be able to have virtual communion where we only imagine eating the loaf and drinking the cup. It’s a funny thing, in an ironic, terrifying sort of way, what the church has become. It’s not that all these modernizations are necessarily evil. It is that they signify a greater change in the church which is the lack of theological depth and appreciation for the things of God. I happen to be familiar with a congregation that is currently in the process of what appears to be a major expansion of their building. I also happen to know that this congregation does not have a baptistery and does not serve communion except in a private out of-the-view-of-everyone-room. I don’t know if there are any crosses inside or not. A new building is not evil; a shortened Gospel is. And in my estimation there is a correlation between the two.

Realistically speaking, we are much like the people in this story. They forgot that it was God who provided bread (manna) for them, not Moses; we have forgotten that is was Jesus who died for us, not some super preacher.

Jesus here says that these people did not recognize one very important aspect of life: It was God who provided for them and not Moses. They placed far too much value on Moses because they did not know the ultimate source of their own sustenance. If they knew where the manna came from, or rather who it came from, they would not be so hung up on Moses. As it was, however, they were hung up on Moses. Notice what else Jesus says: For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. There is a better source of nourishment that gives life not just to a few people scattered around Israel, but to the entire world. I wonder if we have such a grand conception of the Messiah?

Look, people today are no different: “Sir, from now on give us this bread.” Just like the woman at the well, “Sir, from now on give me this water so I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming back here to draw water.” The difference is that she got it and these ones did not. She won’t go thirsty; they won’t go hungry. It’s all the same meaning: Jesus provides what this world cannot which is a satisfaction beyond this earthly life. Believing in Jesus results in hunger pangs abated, thirst slaked, and the death sentence rescinded. And what can stop Jesus’ work? Nothing. He says, all that the Father gives him he will never drive away. He will lose none of those whom God has given him. He will raise them up at the last day. I know that not too many Restoration Church type of people believe in the doctrine of eternal security, but here in John 6 a pretty good case can be made that one you are saved, there is nothing anyone or anything can do to snatch you from Jesus. I like that idea much better than the idea that somehow I can be lost after being saved.

Finally Jesus says that it is the Father’s will that everyone who looks to the sun and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. Sadly, not everyone will look to him, even fewer will believe in him, and I image that what Jesus said about the way being straight and narrow is true: Even fewer will be raised up at the last day. But for all those who hope and believe and put their faith in Jesus, there is this promise: Eternal life. It is a sad, sad reality that some will never look to Jesus. There is security with him, unrest without him. So what I cannot figure out is why more churches are not preaching this Jesus who saves. Why are so many preaching things that are bound not to last, things that cannot save, things that are simply, irredeemably, meaningless for the human condition? Jesus said that the will of God is that everyone look to Jesus for salvation. The work of God (v 29) is to believe in the One God has sent; to recognize who gives life and who does not. Jesus said: Even the mighty Moses is not the giver of something so simply as daily bread. Now if Moses could not do that, how can any other human give bread for eternity?

My hope is that those who read these words will look to Jesus. We who preach the Gospel must stay on task and preach Jesus. The church must stay on task and demand that their preachers preach Jesus Christ Crucified. There is no excuse for not doing so; and there is no substitute for Jesus. God has given one Loaf to all of humanity. His Name is Jesus.

I hope this 2 day of 90 is Blessed for you and yours in Jesus.

Soli Deo Gloria!

John 4:43-53

43After the two days he left for Galilee. 44(Now Jesus himself had pointed out that a prophet has no honor in his own country.) 45When he arrived in Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him. They had seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, for they also had been there. 46Once more he visited Cana in Galilee, where he had turned the water into wine. And there was a certain royal official whose son lay sick at Capernaum. 47When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death. 48″Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.” 49The royal official said, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” 50Jesus replied, “You may go. Your son will live.” The man took Jesus at his word and departed. 51While he was still on the way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living. 52When he inquired as to the time when his son got better, they said to him, “The fever left him yesterday at the seventh hour.” 53Then the father realized that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” So he and all his household believed.

Let’s begin today with a quotation from the venerable Eugene Peterson who begins by noting that this short section contains the second sign that Jesus performed and that in this section there is both an affirmation and a criticism of signs. After the man comes and requests Jesus to heal his son Jesus says, negatively, ‘Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.’ Now Peterson writes, “But the father, undeterred, persists, as if to say, ‘I don’t care about signs, I want you to heal my son!’ And then comes the interesting part: Jesus tells him, ‘Go; your son will live’; and ‘the man believed’ and left without any evidence of the healing, which is to say, quite apart from sign or wonder. The father responded believingly to Jesus without benefit of a sign, we might almost say without the distraction of a sign. Jesus’ word, not the sign, formed the man’s belief. It was not until the next day as he neared home—it was a twenty-mile hike between Capernaum and Cana—that he learned that his son got well at the very time of the day before that Jesus, in Cana, had said that he would.” (Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places, 95)

So, even before the sign was complete, the man believed. This is amazing! And it is contradictory. It is contradictory because, nowadays especially, people tell us and, have others convinced, that what is necessary for forming faith is not the preached word but the recounting of someone’s ‘story’ or the recounting of how ‘Jesus has touched me’ and made my life meaningful, or satisfying, or the recounting of some experience based this or that of how Jesus loved me so much that I got over everything I ever feared or some such jabberwocky. It’s not that those things are wrong. Oh, don’t misunderstand me; what they are is rather insufficient. What they are is incapable of being a platform upon which to build a life of faith in Christ. They will not stand the fires of the furnace of trial and temptation. They are simple insufficient for building a life as a disciple. Yet there are plenty who want to insist upon relegating the difficult, doctrinal, and biblical preaching of theology in favor of these rather faddish techniques. If we can, some think, just tug at the heartstrings enough then we should find a crowd out there ready for Jesus.

In my estimation, this simply will not do. This will not produced disciples with the courage and conviction to stand in the face of persecution and defend Christ. But the kind of faith displayed by this man says this: ‘The Word of Christ is sufficient; so I go and expect to find my son well.’ This man knew Jesus in what way? Reputation? Rumor? Had he met him before? Either way, all we can say about this is thus: He trusted the Word of Jesus implicitly. He needed no other confirmation from anyone except the Word of Jesus. Will this sort of faith be found on the earth now? Will this sort of faith do in the church today? Is it enough for those who call on the Name of Christ to be their Savior for His word to be sufficient? Bruce Milne is surely correct, “Faith based on signs and miracles must not be mistaken for true faith, however, which is why Jesus does not encourage it. It fails to honour God, since by it he serves us rather than the other way round” (John, BSP, 92).

Let’s insist then that this is true for today as well. Let’s insist then that our faith be built upon that which cannot be trumped, overturned, corrupted or defeated. Let’s insist that while miracles and signs may carry some weight that they do not, in fact, form a proper substitute for true Biblically defined faith; faith of substance. Let’s insist that in the church the word of God be properly proclaimed—all of it, too! Verse 50 says this: “The man believed in the Word Jesus spoke to him, so he left.” Let’s insist that preachers preach the Word of Christ to us that instills such courage and faith that we, too, can and will believe the Word of Jesus the way this man did.

The irony here is that this man believed apart from seeing any sign from Jesus even after Jesus insisted that people would not believe unless they saw signs. I think Jesus said this to the man almost rhetorically. That is, Are you like everyone else who will not believe unless they see things like signs and wonders? And the man, judging by his response, insists that he believes regardless; he wants his son well again.

Some time ago I marked a note in the margin of my Bible in response to Jesus’ words, ‘You may go. Your son will live.’ I wrote: As if this is all the man needs: Your son will live. As if that’s all the man needs. As if that’s all the man needs. Do you get it?

I hope this 17th of 90 Days is Blessed for you in the Lord!

Soli Deo Gloria

John 4:39-42

39Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” 40So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. 41And because of his words many more became believers. 42They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”

“Christianity is not up for sale. Its price has already been fixed and that price is the complete and ongoing surrender to Christ of those who embrace him by faith. It can only be had on his own terms. It can be had only as a whole. It refuses to offer only selections of its teachings. Furthermore, the Church is not its retailing outlet. Its preachers are not its peddlers and those who are Christians are not its consumers. It cannot legitimately be had as a bargain though the marketplace is full of bargain hunters…No. Let us think instead of the Church as its voice of proclamation, not its sales agent, its practitioner, not its marketing firm. And in that proclamation there is inevitable cultural confrontation. More precisely, there is confrontation between Christ, in and through the biblical Word, and the rebellion of the human heart. This is confrontation of those whose face is that of a particular culture but whose heart is that of the fallen world. We cannot forget that.”—David F. Wells, Above All Earthly Pow’rs, 308-309

First, the Samaritans came out from the town because of the woman’s testimony and as a result of this coming out many believed in him. Well this was certainly the intended result. Her testimony was compelling whatever ‘He told me everything I ever did’ might actually mean. I disagree that she ‘shared her experience’ with the town folk. Instead, she went and shared Jesus’ words, ‘he told me everything I ever did.’ It was not her experience that persuaded people, but Jesus’ words. Even so their faith did not end there. Jesus stayed with them for two more days. Then verse 41.

Second, ‘And because of his words many more became believers.’ So this woman’s testimony did not stand on its own. Jesus’ testimony confirmed what she had been saying and also had the effect of causing many more to become believers. Again, the intended result—producing believers—was accomplished. But it was not mere experience that persuaded the first group and an additional group. No, again, it was the words of Jesus. They heard for themselves what Jesus was saying. They heard for themselves his testimony. Because of his ‘words’ many more became believers.’

Here’s the part that is most important to consider in today’s meditation: We know that this man is really the Savior of the World. They believed something about Jesus because of something Jesus said. It had something to do with what he told them, something we are not privy to. What did he say over the course of two days that so convinced them? Better, how did all these people give up their day jobs for two whole days to do nothing but sit and listen to what He had to say? (Did they take breaks for volleyball or shuffleboard? Did they sit in a circle like a sort of ‘Sermon in Samaria’? What was the content of his instruction to them?

I hate to harp on this, but here’s the simple truth. There were no gimmicks, no tricks, not nonsense, no fliers, no banners, and certainly no side-show. These people went out and listened to what Jesus had to say. On the other hand, there’s this: Jesus had something to say. I suspect that the content of his message is found in part in the words he spoke to the woman. I suspect he discoursed about freedom of worship, His identity as Messiah, eternal life, Living Water, springs of water that well up inside, the reaper gathering wages for eternal life and all such things. But whatever it was, it was surely the Gospel. The fact remains, the people went out to listen and Jesus had something to say.

Churches need to get a grip on this. People come to worship, they come from cities, they come from the country, they come from here and there; we meet them by wells, water-coolers, at ball games, at the soccer field, and all such places as this and more. So, when they come out, when we meet them, do we in fact have something to say? I don’t mean fluffy nonsense that has nothing to do with pointing to Jesus, the Messiah. I mean precisely that: Do we persuade them about Jesus the Messiah? I suspect that is the real content of Jesus’ message that day. They believed precisely because he took the time to explain things about himself. This is also our job: If we expect people to believe, then we must tell them about Jesus. Jesus must be the content of our message, our testimony, our proclamation. If we don’t tell them about Jesus how can they ever announce, “We know that He really is the Savior of the World”? And isn’t that quite the point of Gospel proclamation?

All I’m saying is that churches would do better from the pulpit if churches had preachers who stood up and pointed to Jesus and not to anything else. I’m steadfast on this belief. There are other venues for learning about good sex, managing finances, raising children and the like. But the only place people will hear the Gospel is from the church. The Church, in my judgment, must be about the business of proclaiming Jesus: Every time, All the Time, and At Every Opportunity. It is Jesus people need; it is Jesus people must hear about.

Jesus is the One, the only One, Who is the Savior of the World. That we must not forget.

I hope your 16th Day of 90 is Blessed in the Lord!

Soli Deo Gloria!

John 4:27-38 

27Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?”  28Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 29“Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” 30They came out of the town and made their way toward him. 31Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.” 32But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.” 33Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?” 34“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. 35Do you not say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. 36Even now the reaper draws his wages, even now he harvests the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. 37Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. 38I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.”

“Jesus came to the fountain as a hunter…He threw a grain before one pigeon that he might catch the whole flock…At the beginning of the conversation he did not make himself known to her, but first she caught sight of a thirsty man, then a Jew, then a Rabbi, afterwards a prophet, last of all the Messiah. She tried to get the better of the thirsty man, she showed dislike of the Jew, she heckled the Rabbi, she was swept off her feet by the prophet, and she adored the Christ.”—JA Findlay, as quoted by George Beasley-Murray, John, (Word Biblical Commentary), 66

There are two stories going on at the same time in these verses. The woman is busy running back to her community to announce that she has met someone who could be the Messiah. While she is doing that, Jesus is giving his disciples another lesson in theology. Really the lessons in the verses for today are not terribly complicated, so I would like to make but a couple of observations as we prepare to close out this chapter and our week together, as we prepare to worship together on Sunday.

First, as I have noted, the most striking feature of this entire chapter, the most enduring image, the most profound observation is found in verse 28: ‘Then, leaving her water jar…’ I could get stuck on this verse all day. It is so full of meaning and grace. It is so full of redemption and salvation. It hits me the way Jesus using those ceremonial watering jars filled with water to perform his first sign: Water into wine. There we learned Jesus was better. It strikes me like Jesus telling Nicodemus that he needed a new birth of water and Spirit because his physical birth (i.e., being an Israelite) was not sufficient. It smacks me like the woman’s first question to Jesus: “Are you greater than our Father Jacob.” It clobbers me like Jesus’ statement, “A time is coming, and how now come, when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.” Or, “You will see greater things than this.” It is a parable, this leaving behind her water jar, whether she intended it to be or not. It speaks volumes about the progress she has made from ‘will you give me a drink’ to ‘I who speak to you am he.’

She left behind that which satisfied her only for a moment and returned to the people, the people who evidently shunned her daily, and announced to them: Could this be? It is reminiscent of what Philip said to Nathanel, what Andrew said to Peter, what John the Baptizer said to his disciples: We have found the Messiah! This woman, this unnamed, Samaritan woman with a jaded, checkered past, and questionable character, and suspect lifestyle is one of the fist evangelists to announce the arrival of Messiah. In a very similar way we see Jesus refusing food when his disciples return. She forgot about, or purposely disdained, her water jar in her hurry to get back and announce to the people of Sychar that she had found Messiah. (On a slightly side note which I may pursue later, some commentators note the similarities and contrasts between the story of Jesus and Nicodemus (3) and Jesus and this Samaritan woman. I would note one outstanding difference: She had no fear of going and announcing Jesus to people. We have no such information about Nicodemus.)

Second, there are the disciples who had just returned to find Jesus talking with the woman. Evidently they thought something was amiss, but they kept quiet about it. They were, as usual, very concerned about food. What they prove about themselves is that they are still stuck back in verse 15: “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” They, unlike the woman, had not progressed along very far at all. Their minds are still on earthy things; they had yet to let go of their water jars: “Could someone have brought him food?” They are stood in stark contrast to this Samaritan woman who left behind her water jar and went back to town, not to buy food as the disciples had done, but to announce the Messiah.

There is probably something to be said about this without obscuring the theological point. But have you ever seen someone who all of the sudden has an awakening to the identity of Jesus? And how do they compare with those insiders who have been walking with him for some time? Well, this woman, left her jar for Jesus; the disciples left Jesus for food. I don’t want to abuse the text of Scripture, but that much is obvious, isn’t it? And what I wonder about are those who have walked a long time or even a short time compared with the Newly Awakened and have lost their zeal. In other words what Jesus says, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” I think that was a crushing blow to those disciples who had gone to get food. Remember those at the beginning: Andrew went and found Peter. Here’s what it says, “The First Thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, ‘We have Found the Messiah.’ And he brought him to Jesus.” We might readily assume that the first thing Philip did was find Nathanael.

Well, here are the twelve. They arrive in fertile territory, where barely any seeds had been planted, and they are first concerned with food, second concerned with why Jesus is talking to this woman, and third concerned with why Jesus won’t eat. The woman starts off the same: Concerned about water. But as it slowly dawned on her who Jesus was her priorities shifted: Her job was to tell. Maybe I’m making too big a deal out of it.  But why does it seem to be the exact opposite for those who have followed Christ for a short or long time? That is, why with new people does the awareness of who Jesus is dawn, and for those who have followed Him, the awareness sets? New disciples enthuse; older disciples grow, well, complacent?

So when Jesus says, “I sent you to reap what you have not worked for, Others have don done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor,” I think he is talking about that crowd of people from Sychar who are walking out at the heals, beck and call, of the unnamed Samaritan woman. I sense in her statement, “He told me everything I ever did,’ something more than just ‘he told me about my 5 husbands,’ because, if in fact she was shunned by the community because of her reputation…well, everyone would have known ‘everything she had ever done.’ She went and proclaimed Christ. There was something in her testimony that provoked more than a passing interest. This crowd of Samaritans were the harvest Jesus was speaking of. Nevertheless, Jesus says, all have a share in the harvest; all have a share in the joy. All receive the same day’s denarius.

In conclusion I have this to say. Open your eyes. Look around. There is a harvest waiting to be reaped. Seeds have been planted, I can’t imagine any less now than then, and are bursting through the soil. And what Jesus says is this: These seeds do not take a long time to produce fruit. You say, ‘Four more months and then the harvest.’ Jesus says, “Open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the reaper draws his wages, even now he harvests the crop for eternal life.’ There’s no time like the present. Eternal life has already begun for those who can accept it. It’s time for you and me to get our minds on the business at hand. It’s time for you and me to get our minds off of water, food, water jars, and eating and get our hands, heads, hearts busy with doing the will of God. Dare I say that when we do we shall find joy, satisfaction, and plenty beyond what this earth can provide, beyond what the culture promises?

I hope this 15th Day of 90 is Blessed For you in the Lord.

Soli Deo Gloria! 

“No serious discussion of the relation of Christianity to other faiths can proceed very far without coming to grips with the towering figure of Jesus. Sooner or later, the blunt question put by Jesus to his followers–‘Who do people say I am?’ (Mark 8:27 NIV)–must be confronted.”-Harold Netland, Dissonant Voices: Religious Pluralism and the Question of Truth, 235 as quoted by DA Carson in The Gagging of God, 315

John 4:1-10

1The Pharisees heard that Jesus was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John, 2although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. 3When the Lord learned of this, he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee. 4Now he had to go through Samaria. 5So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about the sixth hour. 7When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8(His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) 9The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) 10Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

This is the first of our meditations on John chapter 4. We’ll be here for the next five days reading about Jesus’ encounter with an unnamed Samaritan woman. What strikes me here is that John tells us that Jesus was tired, that he ‘had’ to go through Samaria, and that he asks this woman for a drink—he is thirsty! There is something magnificent about Jesus being tired and thirsty and having to do something that he, according to all the smart people, did not have to do. I suppose all of this might be beside the point, but I have not found John to be one who throws words around for no purpose. He uses words carefully and not necessarily liberally. So later on he will famously tell his readers that the woman ‘left her water jar behind’ as a way of telling us that because she met Jesus she forgot about her worldly problems. It’s sort of the same way the author of the book of Judges tells us, the Samson narrative, that Samson’s hair started to grow back apart from the notice of the Philistines. It’s a narrative clue giving you and me information that the characters in the story may not have. The woman did not know that Jesus had to go through Samaria. She did not know, when she woke up that day, that a tired and thirsty Jewish Male would be at Jacob’s well and ask her for water.

I might also add this: Why did Jesus wait behind by the well when the disciples went into town to buy food? Did it take 12 men to get food? That’s a lot of food! Why didn’t Jesus go with them? Why did he wait? Well, all of this could be just my fanciful desire for there to be something more going on than there actually is. It could just be that Jesus was tired, thirsty, and didn’t feel like going into town to get food. Later on he does say, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.” Maybe he wasn’t hungry and food was their idea, not his. Who knows?

Ironically, it is Jesus who begins the conversation by asking this unnamed Samaritan woman for a drink. We are told rather pointedly that Jews and Samaritans do not ‘associate’ with one another. The NIV footnote informs us that this could also mean ‘they do not use one another’s dishes’ or something to that effect. Whatever the case is Jews and Samaritans did not get along well at all with, sadly, the Israelites leading the way on hate and dislike. What’s worse is that this woman was, well, a woman. So, here’s Jesus. All alone. A man. A woman. Talking. Preachers don’t do things like this in today’s world. In today’s world that is taboo. Someone might get the wrong idea or spread a rumor or gossip and cause the ruin of reputations or formulate all sorts of sick mind fantasies. Not so with Jesus. Jesus talks to anyone, anywhere, and he really could not care less what people think or say. (Later John says, in verse 27, the thing all of us were thinking: “Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, ‘What do you want?’ or ‘Why are you talking with her?’”)

I think the woman is either offended or surprised at Jesus’ request. I’m not sure which it is. I’d like to think surprised, but something tells me that she did not like Jews any more than Jews liked her. I cannot get into this too much, but there is something to be said about this (and I don’t want to get too far away from the theological point Jesus was making). But how many times in our lives have we come across someone and written it off as mere chance or coincidence? How many times have we purposely refused to talk to someone precisely because we were terrified of what someone else might say about us; what they might say about us? Or how many times do we simply go out of our way to avoid someone because of what we think we know about them? Yet here is Jesus for all intents and purposes going out of his way on purpose to meet with this unnamed, Samaritan woman. That was bad enough. At this point we have yet to read verses 16-18 which, when read and understood, will surely make this situation far worse for Jesus and his reputation probably will not hold up under scrutiny. Interestingly, Jesus was more concerned about this woman than he was about himself. The servant life, the Cross driven life, carries this burden and refuses to be stigmatized or calloused by the world’s peccadilloes. Jesus sat down—he didn’t stand up, back way off, wait for his disciples so that all hint of scandal could be diffused. He sat down, meaning he meant to stay for a while, and he initiated the conversation.

And then it gets fun. Jesus said, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” Jesus cuts to the chase and begins to unveil his identity to this woman.

This is not something for mere admiration. Forsyth wrote how some people, liberals in his day, viewed God. They think ‘God is our helper and no more. He is not a real sense, but only a figurative sense, our Redeemer. He helps us to realise our latent spiritual resources and ends. There is no break with self and the world, only a disengagement from an embarrassing situation” (The Cruciality of the Cross, 65). Jesus did not engage this woman in conversation that day to merely help her through a bad day or to help through her embarrassing marital situation or to help her through all the, undoubted, abuse she had endured at the hands of many men, or even, really, to help her physical thirst be quenched. He unveils to her not the solution to all of life’s woes and inadequacies and injustices and tediums, but he unveils to her himself. And it is only after she realizes who Jesus is that she eventually leaves her water jar behind. Jesus did not stop by Jacob’s well that day merely to engage in polite conversation about water, or merely to rest, or merely to break all sorts of social and racial taboos. Jesus sat down that day to reveal to this woman the Savior of the World: Himself.

Finally, did Jesus ever get his drink of water? He asked, but John never tells us if he got it or not. And the woman who came to draw water? Did she ever get her drink? Oh, I think she did! What happened though is that Jesus diverts attention away from her physical need, thirst, and redirects it to himself. He does the same thing later in chapter 11 when he raises Lazarus: He diverts Martha’s attention away from her grief and redirects it to himself. Essentially he is saying, “I am the solution to your grief, the victory over death (”I am the Resurrection and the Life”)” and here in chapter 4, “I am the solution to your thirst (”I you knew the gift of God…He would have given you living water”).”

Sometimes we think that the only way to be effective evangelists and witnesses for God is to solve the physical problems people have and then introduce God as the purpose or reason behind our good deeds and joy. People politely listen so they can get what they really want from us or Him. I think it should be exactly the opposite. Jesus first introduced himself. I believe we must first confront people with the reality of God, with the presence of Christ–they must hear the Gospel. It is through the Gospel that people will come to faith (Romans 10). Jesus saves; water does not. In other words, what people most need in their lives is Jesus Christ.

I hope this 13th Day of 90 is Blessed for you in the Lord Jesus.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Friends,

I’m in my study. It’s a beautiful day outside–I’m inside. I’m making phone calls, returning e-mails, ordering office supplies, and typing on my laptop a post for my blog. Right now I’m waiting on hold with the office supply people; part of an order was backordered and I’m curious to know how long I have to wait. In the meantime, I have a confession to make.

I just received an e-mail from a company who would very much like me to attend a leadership conference in Washington, Dallas or Orlando–cost is on $199.00, which sounds reasonable until you factor in fuel, food, lodging, and all the books I would undoubtedly need to purchase once I arrived for this three day conference. Oh, David Crowder Band will be playing; I’d go just for that. There’s other reasons I wouldn’t go.

One reason, the only reason I’ll expound on here, is that I watched the trailer. The trailer began by showing a clip of JFK, then moved on to MLK, and then to Ronald Reagan–all stalwarts in their respective fields; leaders without peers. But I think that is the very reason I cannot go. The irony of this: I heard a lot of names dropped–impressive names. But I didn’t hear anything about Scripture or even Jesus for that matter. I watched a 2:02 video trailer (minutes, seconds) and here’s what happened.

I heard about choosing the go to the moon. I heard about someone having a dream. I heard about someone else demanding that someone else tear down a wall. I learned about ‘impacting culture,’ which in my judgement is a totally fallacious and meaningless enterprise; it cannot be done; it will not succeed. The fact is, with all the people in this nation who claim to be Christians, the impact should already be felt. I don’t mean at the polls, or in elections; those aren’t the real indicators of impact. Think of Star Wars episode IV when Luke Skywalker and the rest of the rebels are going up against the Empire’s weapon of Mass Destruction: The Death Star. One rebel made a pass, fired his proton torpedo, pulled out of the trench and lamented, “No, it only impacted on the surface.” When Luke Skywalker flew down through the trench, fired his proton torpedo, it entered the exhaust port, flew into the center of the ‘Star’ and destroyed it and all who were on it. For the rebels, there was no success in merely impacting the Death Star. I’m funny like that. I’m not interested in impacting the culture. Christ wasn’t either for that matter. He came and blew up the stereotypes and the status quo and, in a manner of speaking, he totally wrecked culture. Jesus did not come here and say, “OK, let’s see how this Christianity thing will fit into the prevailing culture.” He came and said, “I am the culture.” There’s a big difference that has been lost on a generation of Christians whose preachers and prophets are far less concerned with Scripture and Truth than they are with the size of their congregations and buildings.

Here was the accusation leveled against those Christians, “We gave you strict order not to teach in this name. Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood” (Acts 5:28). I don’t think we can be accused of this any more. The Church is far to welcoming to culture. The Church is far to concerned with having a good name among the pagans. The Church is far too accomodating to those who reject Christ, far too sensitive to their ‘felt’ needs, and far to willing to overlook the problem that Christ died for: Sin. The fact is, the world’s opinion of Christ and His Scripture doesn’t matter or change the veracity of it. It is true whether the world rejects it or accepts it.

Anyhow, this conference I mentioned. I watched 2 minutes and 2 seconds of worth of trailer. When they got around to mentioning who would be speaking or whatever, the video mentioned first a musician, second a musician, and then some other ‘leaders’ who have, no doubt, important things to say. It is about ‘unleashing 20-30 somethings to action.’ I heard zero calls to exalt Christ or to submit to Scripture or to repent from sin. I heard a lot about ‘impacting culture’; nothing about being profoundly counter-cultural. I heard a lot about serving the world; nothing about repenting of sin. I heard zero, count them, zero, calls to Scripture. And no mention of Jesus undoubtedly the greatest leader to ever lead.

Here’s my thing. I just don’t think I fit in anywhere. I feel, I’m very serious about my feelings, left behind, left out, out in left field somewhere because I find this sort of stuff seriously missing the mark, and irrelevant. I don’t see the point. Is this what is necessary to ‘unleash 20-30 somethings’? Isn’t this really beside the point? Wouldn’t the devil love for us to be sidetracked in such a way? I’m 36 and I don’t find it particularly necessary to be unleashed. Why should people need motivation to be unleashed to live what they supposedly believe? Has God ordained such things to promote His agenda? I feel like a 30 year old with no place to call home because I can’t understand those who are of the opinion that I need more motivation to believe, live, and do what is right. And how shall this be done for these folks? How shall we be the exact opposite of everything this culture says we should be? Yes, another leadership conference is what we need.

I’m sort of rambling on a bit. I feel that way today. Our motivation should be other, I think. I don’t need soul-stirring concerts, emotionally charged atmospheres, competition for my feelings, or exceptionally motivational speakers to energize or unleash my potential; and I don’t think anyone else does either.

I think what we need is a fresh look at the Cross. If the cross does not motivate us, unleash our energy and energize our potential, if the Cross does not stir in us a love for God, then I don’t want to be stirred, unleashed or energized. I don’t want what this world calls and offers up as motivation for service. In my estimation, it will be short lived and meaningless–no matter how exceptional the cast of speakers. What is needed is the Cross. “We love because He first loved us.” “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers” (1 John 3:16).

Look to the cross. And may God have mercy on those who think that more is necessary to motivate us than the Cross. And May God have mercy on those who think they need more than the Cross.

jerry

(I’m sorry this is so late. This is Sunday’s meditation. Number 11 soon!) 

John 3:9-21

9″How can this be?” Nicodemus asked. 10″You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? 11I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. 14Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. 16″For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”

There is a book I have enjoyed by a man named Dietrich Bonhoeffer who was a Lutheran preacher in Germany during the tulmultuous times of the 1940’s. He was hanged in April 1945 after vigorously opposing the regime set up by the Nazis. The book is called The Cost of Discipleship. This is no book for the faint of heart or the weak of stomach. In it Bonhoeffer makes perfectly clear that there is no room in the disciples’ life for what he calls ‘cheap grace.’ Cheap grace is, in Bonhoeffer’s words, ‘the deadly enemy of our Church,’ (page 1, paragraph 1, sentence 1!). “Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate” (Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, 45). In Bonhoeffer’s writing, discipleship is directly linked to the cross of Christ. In fact he writes, “Here the call to follow is closely connected with Jesus’ prediction of his passion” (86). He then goes on to describe this Passion for his readers:

“There is a distinction here between suffering and rejection. Had he only suffered, Jesus might still have been applauded as the Messiah. All the sympathy and admiration of the world might have been focused on his passion. It could have been viewed as a tragedy with its own intrinsic value, dignity and honor. But in the passion Jesus is a rejected Messiah. His rejection robs the passion of its halo of glory. It must be a passion without honour. Suffering and rejection sum up the whole cross of Jesus. To die on the cross means to die despised and rejected of men. Suffering and rejection are laid upon Jesus as a divine necessity, and every attempt to prevent it is the work of the devil, especially when it comes from his own disciples; for it is in fact an attempt to prevent Christ from being Christ. It is Peter, the Rock of the Church, who commits that sin, immediately after he has confesed Jesus as the Messiah and has been appointed to the primacy. That shows how the very notion of a suffering Messiah was a scandal to the Church, even in its earliest days. That is not the kind of Lord it wants, and as the Church of Christ it does not like to have the law of suffering imposed upon it by its Lord” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, 86-87).

In John’s Gospel scarcely a conversation goes by where Jesus does not allude to or flat-out say he is going to be crucified. This conversation with Nicodemus is certainly no different. Nicodemus, however, just did not understand all this talk of being born again, being born of water and Spirit, being born from above; none of it made any sense to Nicodemus and the last words we hear from him are: “How can this be?” He’s incredulous. I sense him saying something like, “Jesus, what are you saying? You are talking about things that no one is going to believe. You are making demands that no one can meet. Who then can be saved?” Or, maybe he understood it and was saying, “You mean to tell me that being a good Israelite is not enough? If what you are saying about the Spirit is true, then anyone can get into this Kingdom! They won’t even have to be Jewish! How can this be!?” Of course he did not say all that, but he came close. How can this be? And after a good ribbing from Jesus about his inability to understand simple things like birth and water and wind, Jesus lays it all out for Nicodemus. Jesus says it boils down to belief in the Crucified One: “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life.” Belief, thus, is tied to the crucified Lord; salvation is tied to the cross; eternal life is fixed in His death.

I think what this means, then, is that it matters what we believe about Jesus. It matters whether or not we serve a crucified Lord or not. It matters whether or not we believe he came from God and was sent by God. It doesn’t change the fact of it being true if we believe or not, but John seems to be making a connection between who Jesus is (and why he came, and what he did) and our salvation, our eternal life. Everyone who believes in the Son of Man who must be lifted up will have eternal life. Whoever believes in him, the one God gave—God’s one and only Son—will not perish but have eternal life. Note this: Whoever does not believe in him stands condemned already because he has not believe in the name of God’s One and Only Son. It is impossible to not make a decision for Christ. You either actively decide for Him or you passively choose against Him. Those who refuse to actively believe in Jesus—the One from God, God’s Only Son, God’s Crucified Son—already stand condemned. There’s no waiting until the end; they are already over and done. I wonder if they can be rescued? Do you realize that there are people who are walking around this earth right now and for all intents and purposes have this giant sign flashing above their heads that says, “Condemned! Condemned! Condemned!”? And, I wonder, will they be rescued? Can anyone help these condemned folks? Yet they refuse to come to Christ to be healed.

This is the message of the Gospel. There is only one hope: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. These last few verses teach us essentially one thing: You are either walking in the light or you are not. You either hope to conceal your evil deeds by hating the light or you come out into the full blaze of his glory that your deeds may be seen—that they have been done through God. Sadly, many in this world still cling to evil. It’s hard to fathom; difficult to comprehend. Men revel in their evil deeds and love darkness. All the while darkness enslaves men, holds them hostage, makes them mere puppets and here’s what’s worse: Evil does not take men and women captive because evil has an agenda for evil’s sake. No, evil takes hold of men and women in order that men and women will continue to reject God and be condemned. Evil is just a means to an end not an end itself. The end is to have people reject light, hate light, reject God’s One and Only Son. The ultimate evil is the ongoing rejection of Jesus Christ.

Here’s what we know. God sent his Son, His one and only Son, into the world to save people who, despite God’s demonstration of love for them, choose to perish, choose to do evil, choose to be condemned, and choose to hate the light. This is our argument: We’d rather live in utter and complete misery than to submit to the Crucified Lord. And here’s the irony, God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world. But not humans, we are far too content with our misery, with the darkness, with our condemnation. Bohoeffer’s words are ever true: He was a rejected Lord. Folks think Jesus is here to make life difficult and complicated. Jesus came to make life simpler by removing the burden of our slavery to the flesh. This is exactly why the cross must be at the center of our proclamation. Until people see in the cross their utter failure, their utter lostness, their utter condemnation, all their sin, they will never be united to God. The cross must be preached, and this is why Jesus preached it (in verses 14-15). People must be confronted by the cross because only in the cross are people confronted with the darkness and suffocating nature of their sin and their slavery to it. If people do not see the crucified Jesus they will never recognize themselves for who they truly are apart from him.

What’s ironic here is that Jesus says this: For God so loved the World that He sent His One and Only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. The irony? God knew all about man: His rejection of the Light, his condemnation, his persistence in loving darkness, his hatred of the light—indeed, God knew all this about man, and sent His One and Only anyhow. He sent His Son despite what He knew about man; He sent His Son precisely because of what He knew about Man. Even more ironic is tha tall He asks from us is Belief.

I hope your 10th Day of 90 was Blessed!

Soli Deo Gloria!