EQUAL IN GIVING SPIRITUAL LIFE – John 5:24-25

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INTRODUCTION:

When we talk about the quality of physical life, we often use phrases like “in the prime of life”, “the good life”, “barely alive”, “in the peak of health”.  When we answer the question, “How are you?”, we may have responded with words such as “fine”, “OK”, “still kicking”, “so-so”, “could be better”, “could be worse”, “hanging in there”, “not very well”, “fantastic”, “doing well”, and a host of other descriptions.  There are many possible and reasonable answers to that question.

When we speak of physical death we sometimes use phrases like “deader than a doornail”, “deader than a doorknob”, “deader than a doormat”, “as dead as can be”.  But think about that logically.  When you’re dead, you’re dead, right?  You can’t get any deader than that!  If you’ve ever watched the movie, “The Wizard of Oz”, you may remember that Dorothy’s house fell on the wicked Witch of the East.  After the Munchkin coroner examined her body, he gave his professional conclusion very clearly and succinctly.

“As coroner I must aver,
I thoroughly examined her;
And she’s not only merely dead,
She’s really most sincerely dead.”

I think he got the point across very clearly, don’t you?  There aren’t degrees of physical death because it’s not a comparative term;  it’s a once-and-for-all term, with a few rare exceptions given in the Scriptures.  A mortician/embalmer may do such a masterful job of preparing the person’s body for viewing that everyone at the funeral service believes that the dead loved-one is only sleeping.  But even a “total makeover” is not going to bring that person back to life.

This passage of Scripture we are studying deals with spiritual life and spiritual death.  There is a basis for comparison here.  A spiritually lost sinner is as spiritually lifeless and helpless as a dead person is physically.  He cannot save himself and he cannot give himself spiritual life.  In this passage of Scripture, the Lord Jesus is telling His listeners that He not only has the power to give physical life, but He also has the greater power to give spiritual life with all its benefits, and to remove spiritual death with all its consequences.

I.  SPIRITUAL REGENERATING (verse 24)

Verse 24 begins with the words, “Truly, truly, I say to you.”  Jesus is once again telling them that He is speaking from personal knowledge and experience, therefore what He has to say is true.  To put it into our manner of speaking, Jesus is saying something like “Pay close attention to what I am about to tell you.”  “It is very important information.”  He continues by saying, “he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.”  This verse of Scripture has a lot to say to us.

The phrase “He who hears My word” is often misunderstood.  In this case, as well as in many other New Testament scripture passages, the word “hear” conveys the idea of listening, being receptive, and responding in obedience.  There were many who heard Jesus speak, in the sense that they were in “earshot” of Him and heard the words He said.   There have been many over the centuries since that time who have “heard” the gospel message with their ears, but with no concern or response.  It was “in one ear and out the other” so to speak.  When correcting a child, a parent might sometimes use the words, “Do you hear me?”.  Does the parent mean, “Did you hear the words I pronounced to you”?  No!  When I’ve heard those words spoken, the parent meant, “Are you going to do what I just told you or are you going to face the consequences!

There are some Old Testament scriptures that may give us a better perspective on this phrase, “He who hears my words”.  You will find that I often go to the Old Testament to seek a basis for the words of the Lord Jesus Christ:  how He said them, where He said them, to whom He said them, and why He said them.  There is a reason why I spend a great deal of time seeking answers to those questions in the Old Testament scriptures.  I am personally convinced that the Lord Jesus is often tying His words to the words God spoke to His people through the prophets.  He is thus reminding them that this isn’t the first time that similar words have been spoken to them,  He’s also implying that He is the “Prophet who is to come” – the Messiah.  I think we miss much of what Jesus is saying to His people if we fail to make that connection.

In this case, when the Lord Jesus says, “He who hears My words”, scripture passages galore should have come to the minds of His listeners.  Jesus is in Jerusalem, speaking to the leaders of His people, the Jews.  Do the words, “Hear the Word of the Lord” sound familiar to you?  If they do, imagine how familiar and convicting they would have sounded to the Jewish leaders standing before Him.  Moses, the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, and Micah, used those words when prophesying to the people of Israel and Judah, and usually those words were an indication of an impending judgment by God upon His people.

Here in verse 24, however, we have participles instead of verbs in the Greek text.  The beginning of the verse is literally saying, “The one hearing My word and believing the One having sent Me”, and the result is positive rather than negative.  It’s as if the Lord Jesus is showing them a contrast between those words of impending judgment, spoken by the prophets to their ancestors, and the words of pardon and eternal life that He is about to offer them.

Jesus refers to His Father as “the One who sent Me“.  He used that phrase several times while He was on this earth.  Does that sound impersonal to you – to refer to His Father in that way?  It did to me at first, but after doing some research, I think I understand why Jesus uses those words at times when referring to His Father.  Whom did God “send” in the Old Testament scriptures?  He sent Moses to lead the people of Israel and be His spokesman.  He sent the prophets to declare His words to His people and speak of things to come.  He also sent “the Angel of the Lord” to protect and defend His people.  Earlier in his Gospel, the apostle John said, in chapter 3, verse 17, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.”  The apostle Paul says in Galatians 4:4, “In the fullness of time God sent His Son . . .”.  By using the words “Him who sent Me”, Jesus is telling His listeners:  “You can’t believe the Sender and not believe the One who was sent.”  To put it another way, “You can’t believe in the One who sent His Son without believing in the Son Whom He sent.”

The Lord Jesus is telling His listeners, and each of us, the relationship between hearing and believing.  Both knowledge and faith are involved in salvation.   The apostle John’s thinking about faith is unique to the New Testament.  Faith is based on the testimony of historical witnesses.  At that particular point in time, Jesus was giving a testimony about Himself, and that testimony was authenticated by the Father.  Eternal life was the result of listening to that testimony and choosing, by God’s enabling, to believe Him by putting their trust in Him as their Messiah, the Son of God, sent by the Father.  At that moment eternal life began.  The focus of Jesus Christ in verse 24 is on the object of one’s faith.  The Lord Jesus has just been telling them that He is equal to the Father in working (verse 19), in knowing (verse 20), in resurrecting (verse 21), in judging (verse 22), in honor (verse 23), and now in regenerating (verse 24).  They have received Jesus’ testimony concerning Himself.  Now He is inviting a response from them.  Only faith in Him as the Son of God and the Father’s Representative results in “eternal life, no judgment, and passing from death to life”.  No One else and nothing else can bring those gifts as a result.  Only Jesus Christ is equal to the Father in regenerating – giving spiritual life.  As Jesus said in John 10:27-28, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me, and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand”.  “Following” is the outward evidence of genuine belief.

You and I have saving faith when we understand what the Bible says about Jesus Christ, and when we act upon that truth by putting our trust in Him as our Lord and Savior.  When that happens, events occur in heaven and in your lives.  It will be a life-changing event, as the Lord Jesus begins to conform us to His image and as we take delight in spending time with Him in His Word and prayer.  So the words “eternal life”  also refer to a change in the quality of our lives while we are on this earth.

Dr. H.A, Ironside, the famous Bible expositor and pastor of Moody Bible Church in Chicago a generation ago, said that a friend of his preached on a similar passage of Scripture, John 3:36.  At the close of the meeting, his friend went down to the church door to greet people as they were leaving.  A lady who was troubled about her soul came by the door and the preacher looked at her and said, “Well, how is it with you tonight?  How is your soul; have you been born-again?  Are you saved?”

She said, “I don’t know, sir.  I hope so.”

He said, “Well let me go over that text with you again.  It says, he that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life.  Do you believe in the Son?”

She said, “Oh yes, I do sir.  I believe in Jesus Christ.”

He said, “Well, do you have everlasting life?”

She said, “I hope so.”

He said, “Well, let’s look at the verse again: he that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life.  Do you believe in the Son?”

She said, “Yes I do.”

“Do you have everlasting life?”

“I certainly hope so.”

“Well, read it again”

And so they went through the same thing again, and finally he said to her, “You know, when you were a little girl they spelled very differently from what they did when I was a boy.”

She looked at him and said, “What do you mean; I’m not so much older than you.”

He said, “Well, evidently when you were a girl, H-A-T-H spelled hope.  When I was a little boy, H-A-T-H spelled hath.”

She said, “Oh!  I see it!  He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life!”

It makes you wonder how many truly born-again Christians are still hoping for something that they already have!  I say that because, on the night I believed in Jesus Christ, after having the Gospel message presented to me, and all my questions answered, I memorized several verses on assurance of salvation, including John 5:24, before going to bed that night.  The concept and the promise were so amazing to me that I needed to go over and over that realization in my mind so that I could remove all doubts and enjoy what was now mine.

The promise of the Lord Jesus in verse 24 not only includes the free gift of eternal life which we do not deserve; it also removes the judgment that our sins really deserve.  The believer “does not come into judgment”.  A poll conducted for the Times Mirror Company in 1993, revealed that more than four out of every five Americans agree that “we all will be called before God, at judgment day, to answer for our sins.”  I was surprised to find that figure to be so high, only because I wasn’t expecting people to be so honest and willing to admit their own accountability to God.

Dr. H.A. Ironside said that one of the first illustrations that ever made a real impression upon his young heart was a simple story which he heard a preacher tell when Harry was less than nine years old.  It was of pioneers who were making their way across one of the central states to a distant place that had been opened up for homesteading. They travelled in covered wagons drawn by oxen, and progress was necessarily slow.  One day they were terrified to note a long line of smoke in the west, stretching for miles across the prairie, and soon it was evident that the dry grass was burning fiercely and coming toward them rapidly.  They had crossed a river one day before but it would be impossible to go back to that before the flames would be upon them.  One man only seemed to have understanding as to what could be done.  He gave the command to set fire to the grass behind them.  Then when the space was burned over, the whole company moved back upon it.  As the flames roared on toward them from the west, a little girl cried out in terror.  “Are you sure we shall not all be burned up?”  The leader replied, “My child, the flames cannot reach us here, for we are standing where the fire has already been!”

What a picture of the believer, who is safe in Christ!

“On Him Almighty vengeance fell,
Which would have sunk a world to hell.
He bore it for a chosen race,
And thus becomes our Hiding Place.”

The fires of God’s judgment burned themselves out on Him, and all who are in Christ are safe forever, for we are standing where the fire has been.(H.A.Ironside, Illustrations of Bible Truth).

Verse 24 ends with the words, “but has passed out of death into life”.  The Lord Jesus is saying that those who believe in Him immediately pass from spiritual death and judgment into spiritual life, never to be condemned.  The only way this could be possible would be for Jesus to be judged in our place and pay the penalty Himself, which He would accomplish on the cross of Calvary (Philippians 2:5-8).  For those of us who have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ, our judgment is now in the past, paid-in-full, and God the Father has signed off the debt.  It’s written in blood – the blood of His Son.  A change of reservations was made.  Your reservation for hell was immediately cancelled and your reservation for heaven was immediately written down in the book compliments of the Owner (your Heavenly Father).  You have first-class accommodations awaiting you, and you will be treated like family forever because you’re a child of God!

Looking at verses 24-29, I personally observe five resurrections mentioned by Jesus.  In each case, the resurrection came to pass as a result of the words of Jesus.  In verse 24, we have already looked at the first resurrection – the spiritual regeneration and resurrection of all who hear Jesus’ words and believe.  At the moment of genuine belief in Him as Lord and Savior, one has eternal life, release from the condemnation for one’s sin, has passed from spiritual death to spiritual life, and has a changed life.  The second resurrection is given in verse 25.  I believe that Jesus is referring to the physical resurrections from the dead that He is going to perform while on this earth.  At that point in time the Lord Jesus hadn’t performed any resurrection miracles yet, but they were soon to come.  There were three of them recorded in God’s Word, and in each case the resurrections occurred at the voice of Jesus.  The third resurrection is given in verse 26, and I believe that Jesus is referring to His own physical resurrection from the dead in fulfillment of His words.  The fourth resurrection, in verses 27-29a is the resurrection of life – the call of believers to the judgment seat of Christ.  The fifth resurrection, mentioned at the end of verse 29, is the resurrection of unbelievers to judgment and condemnation.  In this sermon we are studying the first two resurrections and will save the other three for the next construction project.  There is much yet to learn from verse 25.

II.  RESURRECTIONS TO PHYSICAL LIFE (verse 25)

In verse 25, the Lord Jesus makes the same oath again, saying “Truly, truly, I say to you”.  I take those words to mean that Jesus is about to say something different; that He is attesting to something else that He is going to do.  He says, “An hour is coming and now is.”  There are things that are going to be happening, and they are just about to happen.  What is it that’s about to occur?  The Lord Jesus continues, “when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear shall live.”  My conclusion is that Jesus is talking about those people whom He is going to physically raise from the dead while He is here on this earth.  He has not performed any physical resurrection-miracles yet, but it’s going to start happening very soon.

Before we look at the resurrection-miracles of Jesus, let’s first look at the physical resurrection-miracles in the Old Testament so that we can use them as a basis of comparison.  In I Kings 17, the son of the widow at Zarephath dies, and we see Elijah’s response and God’s answer:  “Then he stretched himself upon the child three times, and called to the Lord and said, ‘O Lord my God, I pray Thee, let this child’s life return to him’.  And the Lord heard the voice of Elijah, and the life of the child returned to him and he revived.” (I Kings 17:21-22).  The restoration to physical life came as an answer to prayer.  God was the One Who resurrected the child, not Elijah.

The second resurrection-miracle is found in II Kings 4:32-35.  The Shunammite’s son dies and Elisha’s response is similar to that of Elijah.  “So he entered and shut the door behind them both, and prayed to the Lord.  And he went up and lay on the child . . . and the flesh of the child became warm . . . and the lad sneezed seven times and the lad opened his eyes.”  Once again God restored life in answer to prayer.

By contrast, when Jesus raised the dead, He didn’t pray or apply “life-saving techniques”.  He spoke or gave the command and the person was instantly restored to life.  “Talitha Kum!” (which translated means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise!” (Mark 5:41).   “Young man, I say to you, arise!” (Luke 7:14).  “Lazarus, come forth!” (John 11:43).  They came back to life as a result of hearing His voice.  God alone can do that – give life and restore life by just saying the word!  In the account of creation in Genesis we find God saying, “Let there be” , . . “and there was”.  Psalm 33:6 says, “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of His mouth all their host.”   The patriarch Job said, “The breath of the Almighty gives me life.”   Jesus’ resurrection-miracles, and the way in which they were performed, were irrefutable proof that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God.  The people who watched those miracles occur could come to no other rational, logical, or Scriptural conclusion!  They already believed that God is the Creator, and the only Creator and Controller of the universe.  Therefore Jesus Christ must be God.

The Jewish leaders, as well as all of the Jews, revered Elijah because of his amazing miracles, especially the raising of the widow of Zarephath’s son.  But as you can see, the Lord Jesus is infinitely greater than Elijah, and Elijah would wholeheartedly agree.

CONCLUSION AND APPLICATION:

Jesus claimed the power to raise people from the dead.  Did you notice that the dead always responded to the voice of the Lord?  What about the living?  How did they respond?  That’s a different story, isn’t it?  Very few of those who heard the words of Jesus and saw His signs, even His resurrection of people from the dead, responded in faith and followed Him.  But did that stop Jesus from continuing to declare Who He was, or from explaining God’s plan of salvation?  Not at all!

I may have shared a principle with you before, but it bears repeating because I have observed that Jesus followed this principle during His ministry on earth.  Here is the principle:  “Expose people to as much truth over as long a period of time as they will allow you.”  It’s important that we understand the first word in that quote.  The rest of the words are evident.  The word “expose” means to communicate, not only by our words but also by our lives.  People are looking for truth, and most of them not only want to see it in writing and hear it spoken, but also to observe it being lived out in a person’s life.  People want truth that will set them free from their hopelessness and emptiness, and bring purpose, meaning, joy, and direction into their lives.  If we are truly Christians, indwelt and empowered by the Spirit of God, our lives will be evidenced by a love for God and His Word, a love for people, a hope for the future, and joy in spite of circumstances.  Is that a description of you?  If so, don’t become discouraged in your witness.  Keep growing in your walk with the Lord and faithfully being a witness for Him by word and by life.  The Spirit of God is working in the lives of people.  Many of those who may be silently watching you and questioning the things you are saying, may later want what you have and be ready to know the Giver of life eternal.  Nothing we do in obedience to the Lord is without reward in this life and the next.

If you are not a Christian, are you willing to give more thought and consideration to the One who raised the dead by just saying the words?  If Jesus Christ can have such power over physical life, and can give eternal life, imagine what He can do in your life if you put your trust in Him.

CONSTRUCTION SITE:  COMPLETED

There are also over 100 completed sermons on this website and it’s always “Open House” here.  Please take a look around the block!  There are sermons from  Philippians, James, Jonah, the Gospel of John, and other seasonal and assorted messages.   Thanks for taking a look, and may the Lord bless your time in His Word.

 

BEHOLD YOUR GOD – Background and Survey of the Gospel of John

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FORWARD:

This study through the Gospel of John is going to keep us busy for over a year, and possibly over two years.  The apostle John says in I John 1:1, “From the very first day, we were there, taking it all in – we heard it with our own ears, saw it with our own eyes, verified it with our own hands.  The Word of Life appeared right before our eyes; we saw it happen! (The Message).

Have you ever wondered what it must have been like to see the Lord Jesus face-to-face, to hear His voice, to hear Him call you by name, to embrace Him, to watch the expressions on His face, and to observe all the things He said and did while He was on this earth?  Does thinking about that fill your hearts with joy and excitement?  My desire is to try to imagine and simulate that first-hand experience as I study the text.  I plan to incorporate more of the Old Testament scriptures and the other three Gospels into the study, where appropriate, so that we might see Him in as much detail, and with as much clarity as possible.

I.  INTRODUCTION:

Was there ever a time in your life when you asked yourself the question:  “Which book of the Bible should I read first?”  Has anybody ever asked you that same question, seeking your advice?  A question that is often asked by Bible translation teams is “Which book of the Bible should we translate first?”  The answer to those two questions is often the same:  the Gospel of John.

William MacDonald made this observation:  “The Gospel of John is the most familiar and perhaps the best loved book in the Bible.  Charles R. Erdman says of this Gospel:  “It has induced more people to follow Christ, it has inspired more believers to loyal service, it has presented to scholars more difficult problems, than any other book that could be named.”

II.  WHY ARE THERE FOUR GOSPELS?

That’s a commonly asked question also:  “Why are there four gospels?”  Actually, there is one gospel, written from the perspective of four different men who were moved by the Holy Spirit to write what they wrote.

Matthew, formerly named Levi, was a Jewish tax collector who became a follower of Christ.  His purpose in writing was to demonstrate to his fellow-Jews that Jesus was the promised Messiah, the “anointed One”, whose coming was prophesied in the Old Testament scriptures.  He begins his gospel with a genealogy of Jesus going back to Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation.  Matthew also quotes from the Old Testament scriptures more often than any other gospel-writer.  His intention is to show that Jesus fulfilled the prophesies that were written concerning the coming Messiah.

Mark, also called John Mark, focuses on the Lord Jesus as a servant.  A theme verse is Mark 10:45 where Jesus says, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His live as a ransom for many.” (NIV)  We find no genealogy in Mark’s gospel, but we see Jesus involved in the lives of people.

Luke is writing to the Greeks, and looks at Jesus as a man.  Many of the Greek gods and goddesses had a pretty-sordid history and didn’t relate well to people.  The genealogy in Luke’s gospel goes all the way back to Adam, showing that Jesus was truly a member of the human race.  Luke also gives more insights into the birth and childhood of Jesus than any other gospel writer.

John looks at Jesus as God.  He focuses on the deity of Christ.  John’s gospel contains no details about the birth or the childhood of Christ.  It also contains no parables, no temptation scene, no Gethsemane, and no mention of scribes, publicans, lepers, or demoniacs.

III.  WHO WAS THE AUTHOR?

The writer of this account of the life and teachings of Christ was John, the son of Zebedee.  He and his brother James were fishermen along with their father.  While James and John were mending their nets, Jesus came by and called out to them, asking them to come and follow Him (Mt. 4:21-22; Mk. 1:19-20; Lk. 5:9-11).  They both immediately left their nets and followed Him.  John outlived the other disciples and wrote three letters.  He also wrote “The Revelation of Jesus Christ” while living as an exile on the island of Patmos.  In this writing, John gives a message to each of the seven churches in Asia and writes down a description of the visions he received from God

IV.  WHAT WAS JOHN’S PURPOSE?

We find John’s purpose for writing his gospel near the end of his book.  John 20:30-31 says, “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not recorded in this book.  But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.”  (NIV)  John’s purpose was to provide the answer to these two questions:  First, “Who is Jesus Christ?”  And secondly, “What is to be our proper response to Him on the basis of who He is?”

Since John’s Gospel was the last to be written, and the others were already being copied and distributed, it makes me wonder whether Matthew, Mark, and Luke might have met with John concerning certain events which were not included in their accounts.  If so, the apostle John did a good job of “filling in the blanks” as well as focusing his attention on the deity of Christ!

There are three key words in John 20:30-31, and they need a bit of an explanation:

Signs” – John recorded six miracles that are not recorded in the other gospels:  the water changed into wine (chapter 2), the nobleman’s son healed (chapter 4), the paralyzed man healed (chapter 5), the healing of the man born blind (chapter 9), the raising of Lazarus from the dead (chapter 11), and the second great catch of fish (chapter 21).  Each one of these miracles, or signs, demonstrates Christ’s deity and authority.  These signs were performed on other people or for the benefit of other people.

Believe” – is the response that these signs were intended to produce.  The word is used 98 times in John’s gospel, and refers to a personal commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord.  We find in John’s gospel that those who believed in Jesus Christ became His followers, whereas those who refused to believe became His opponents.

Life” – refers to the result that belief brings.  In John 5:24 Jesus said, “i tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.” (NIV)  Eternal life begins at the moment that we invite Jesus Christ to come into our lives and be our Savior and Lord.  John 10:10 says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that you may have life, and have it to the full.”  Jesus said that we can have an abundant and fulfilling life right now if we belong to Him.

V.  WHAT WERE JOHN’S METHODS?

John records the testimonies of seven eye-witnesses:

John the Baptist – “After me comes a Man who has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me. . . . And I have seen, and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”  (John 1:30-34)

Nathanael – “Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel”  (John 1:49)

The Samaritan woman – “Come, see a man who told me all the things I have done; this is not the Christ, is it”? . . . And from that city many of the Samaritans believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me all the things that I have done.”  (John 4:29, 39).

Peter –  “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  And we have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.”  (John 6:68-69).

Martha – Yes, Lord, I have believed that you are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.”  (John 11:27)

Thomas – “Thomas answered and said to Him, ‘My Lord and my God’ “.  (John 20:28).

John – “Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God”. (John 20:31)

Each of these people had personal conversations with Jesus and proclaimed that Jesus was God.

John also records the seven “I am’s” of Jesus, (Jesus reveals Himself seven times using the words “I am”).

“I am the bread of life” (chapter 6)

“I am the light of the world” (chapters 8 and 9)

“I am the door”  (chapter 10)

“I am the good shepherd”  (chapter 10)

“I am the resurrection and the life” (chapter 11)

“I am the way, the truth, and the life” (chapter 14)

“I am the true vine”  (chapter 15)

In each of these descriptions of Himself, Jesus points to His deity, and thus His ability to meet their deepest needs.  Also, each time Jesus uses that format to describe Himself, He is bringing to their minds the question that Moses asked the voice that was coming from the burning bush, and the answer he received.  In Exodus 3:!3, Moses said to God, “behold I am going to the sons of Israel, and I shall say to them, ‘the God of your fathers has sent me to you.’  “Now they may say to me, ”What is His name?’  What shall I say to them?”  In verse 14 God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, “I AM has sent me to you.  That was God’s covenant name to the Jewish people, and Jesus is using it to refer to Himself (YHWH, usually pronounced as  Yahweh or Jehovah).

Finally, John records 27 personal interviews with Jesus.  Some of them were extensive and some were very brief.  The Lord Jesus wanted people of all belief systems and all walks of life to know who He really is, and that He cares for them.

If the things that John is saying about Jesus Christ are hard for you to believe at this point in your life, you are not alone.  John will be giving more and more evidence to verify Jesus’ claims.  Please continue to study this book with me and give it some thought and reflection.  I have personally observed that many people, including myself, have had an unclear concept of Jesus Christ and His teachings.  The Gospel of John, more than any other New Testament book, cleared my mind and changed my heart.  That is one of the reasons why I want to study it again.

It’s time to move on to the next construction site:  John 1:1-3.  I hope to see you there!

 

ON THE WARPATH AGAINST CONFLICTS – James 4:1-10 (Continued)

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Welcome back to James 4:1-10!  I am continuing where I left off in the previous sermon section.  We are now studying verses 5-10.  Verse 5 is one of the most difficult passages in the whole Bible to interpret.  No one knows for sure exactly what it means except God, James, and his original readers.  Rather than boring you by listing all the possible meanings and the reasons for them, I am going to show you the verse in several of the most popular translations.  Then I will give you my opinion as a diligent student of God’s Word.

Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? (NIV)

Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose:  “He jealously desires the Spirit which he has made to dwell in us”? (NASB)

Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The Spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?  (KJV)

Or do you suppose it is in vain that the scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit which He has made to dwell in us”?  (RSV)

As you can see, there are some obvious differences between these translations. Remember that the epistle of James is considered to be the first New Testament writing, even before the Gospels.  Remember also that James is writing to Hebrew Christians, and in this verse he is still in the process of scolding them for their broken fellowship with God and with one another.

That being said, James is not quoting a passage of Scripture here in verse 5.  There is no such Scripture verse in the Old Testament, or in the New Testament, for that matter.  There is not even a verse that comes reasonably close to saying those words.  This being so, we can eliminate any quotation marks.

So why does James use the words “the scripture says”, when it doesn’t say it?  I believe that James is talking about scripture as a whole.  He’s talking about a principle that is contained in the Old Testament scriptures, rather than quoting a specific scripture.  Let’s take a look at the literal Greek text of verse 5 before I venture further:

Or do you think that vainly the scripture says:  to envy yearns the spirit which dwelt in you?  (Greek Interlinear New Testament)

I propose that James may be saying something like this:

Do you think that scripture is saying empty words when it says that our inner spirit is prone to jealousy?

James knows that his readers have a high regard for the Scriptures, at least in their minds.  That was part of their upbringing.  But there is no evidence of that regard for the Scriptures in their lives.  So he is saying, in effect, “Think back to the very beginning of the Scriptures and work your way forward in your minds . . . Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, the tower of Babel, the Flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, and the history of the people of Israel.  Isn’t it obvious that pride, jealousy and envy have been the temptation and fall of man from the very beginning, and ever since”?  James wants them to be ashamed of their behavior because the Scriptures have condemned it from the very beginning!

A psalm of David comes to mind.  At the end of his song, David says,

“Search me, God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxious thoughts, See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24)

That’s the kind of a response that James is seeking from his readers.  They can’t hide their attitude and behavior from an all-knowing and all-present God!

In verse 6, James gives some welcome words of relief and encouragement:  “But he gives more grace” (NIV).  The word translated “more”  actually means “greater”.  As sinful as we may be, God’s grace is “greater” than our sinfulness.  As the hymnwriter wrote so eloquently:

Marvelous grace of our loving Lord, Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt,  Yonder on Calvary’s mount outpoured, There where the blood of the Lamb was spilt.  Grace, Grace, God’s grace, Grace that will pardon and cleanse within, Grace, grace, God’s grace, Grace that is greater than all our sin.

James then quotes from Proverbs 3:34, which says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (NIV).  I think it’s a common tendency to focus our attention on the second half of that verse, sometimes to the exclusion of the first half.  But have you experienced the opposition and resistance of God when you’ve been filled with pride?  A British pastor mentioned seeing this warning over an unusually low church doorway:

“The height of this door is somewhat less than the average height of the human person; if therefore you are up to average, or above, in height, be especially careful how you approach and pass through, lest an accident occur.”  Someone had placed beneath the warning a welcome summary:  “BEND OR BUMP!”

I am six-foot, four-inches tall, and for over three years I lived in a house that had two door-frames which were lower than my height.  One of them was the back door, and the other was the bathroom door.  I lost track of how many times I bumped my head against one or both of those door-frames.  Sometimes I didn’t duck far enough and I would scrape the top of my head.  I was tempted to wear a helmet!  Finally I learned how far I needed to tilt my head in order to avoid meeting resistance.  Then a wonderful thing happened!  I didn’t have to think about it any longer.  Ducking under doorways, whether I needed to or not, had become a habit, by the grace of God!  However, after we moved to another house, and other circumstances changed, I found out the hard way that I had to learn the lesson all over again!

We are never humble enough, are we?  Humility is something we are to ask for from God.  But we are never to thank Him that we have attained it!

Herb Vander Lugt, in a Daily Bread devotional, offers three tests of humility. First, how do you rate in the precedence test?  Do you feel low when others are honored because they outshine you?  Are you filled with envy and dominated by a competitive spirit?  Are you like Jesus’ disciples who disputed among themselves about who was the greatest?

Second, can you pass the sincerity test?  A man once said, “I thank God that whatever faults I might have, I’m not proud!”  Someone jokingly replied, “You shouldn’t be.  You have nothing to be proud of!”  At this the fellow became indignant and retorted, “I haven’t?  Well, I’ve got as much to be proud of as you have!”  This immediately revealed that he was not genuinely humble.

Third, how would you score in the criticism test?  Do you react unfavorably when someone points out your failings?  What if someone rebukes you?  Do you become hostile and defensive, trying in some way to justify yourself?  Do you retaliate by finding fault with others?  Or do you remain meek and unruffled?

Those aren’t easy tests to pass, are they?  And God doesn’t “grade on a curve”, if you know what I mean.  His standard is perfection, not “above average”.

In verses 7-10, James tells his readers, in no uncertain terms, how to put this quotation from Proverbs into effect in their lives.  James must have been a very godly man, and greatly loved and respected by these scattered churches, in order for him to be able to reprimand them in such ways, as a father reprimands his children.  James was also the half-brother of Jesus Christ.  I can imagine that every time they saw him or heard from him, they were reminded, not only of his close spiritual relationship to Christ, but also of his physical relationship as Christ’s brother.  The two of them may even have had some physical resemblance.  We don’t know.  But once again James is chiding these believers as a father would chide his misbehaving children.  He and the Spirit of God know that this is what they need to hear.

In verse 7 James says, “Submit yourselves, then, to God, resist the devil and he will flee from you.”  There are two parts to this command, and the second is dependent upon the first.  The Greek word translated “submit” is actually a military term.  It means to “place oneself under the proper rank”.  God is the Commander-In-Chief, and therefore deserves our undivided allegiance and obedience.

Last week I failed to submit to God and resist Satan.  I wanted things done my way and according to my timetable.  The result was an outburst of anger on my part.  There was no excuse for it.  Is there an area of your life that has not been submitted to God?  Do you still maintain control over areas of your life?  The Lord Jesus lived and died in submission to His Father.  In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will but yours be done”.  (Luke 22:42)  You might want to commit this little rhyme by D.L. Moody to memory, as I have, and it may come to your mind often:  “Be humble or you’ll stumble!”

The second half of verse 7 is dependent on the first half.  It says, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”  Ephesians 4:27 says:  “Do not give the devil a foothold.”  Here in verse 7, the word translated “resist” or “oppose” literally means “stand against”.  Evangelist Billy Graham said, “Many jokes are made about the devil, but the devil is no joke.”  Demonic activity and Satan worship are on the increase in all parts of the world.  The Bible says that because Satan realizes that his time is short, his activity has increased more than at any other time in history.  The Lord Jesus overcame the devil, not by argument, but by simply quoting Scriptures.  That’s’ why it is so important to learn and memorize Scripture passages.

Peter goes on to talk more about this in his letter.  He says of the devil, “resist him, steadfast in the faith” (I Peter 5:7-8).  The apostle Paul tells us in Ephesians 6 to “stand firm” once we have been clothed with the armor of God.  When I returned to my barracks after receiving Christ as my Savior and Lord at an Overseas Christian Servicemen’s Center in Thailand, I started having doubts about my salvation.  So I opened my Bible and looked up the five verses on assurance of salvation that I was given, and i read them over and over again.  Then I went to sleep.  In the morning I had all five of those verses memorized and had no doubts about my salvation.

Our Daily Bread devotional once shared a story about a boy who had a similar experience.  A school boy was brought to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ through that wonderful verse in John 5:24, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but is passed from death unto life.”  However, when the lad arrived home and was sitting on the davenport by himself, the devil began to disturb him and tried to make him think that Jesus had not really saved him at all.  At length the struggle in his heart became so fierce it seemed as though the adversary of his soul was actually under the couch talking to him.  For a while he did not know how to answer Satan and his taunting charges; but finally the Holy Spirit reminded him of James 4:7 about resisting the devil.  Opening his pocket Testament, he placed his finger on John 5:24 and then, reaching his arm under the davenport, he said aloud, “There you are, Satan, read it for yourself!”  In that moment victory was won, assurance of salvation was gained, and the evil one left him.

Has the devil been troubling you?  If so, resist him with prayer and the Word of God.  Put on the “full armor of God”.  Submit to the will of God and depend on the power of God.

Verse 8 sounds like a pious platitude or a godly principle that James is giving the churches, but I don’t think that was his intent.  Based upon what James says before it and after it, I think it should be written:  “Draw near to God!”  “And He will draw near to you!”  Are you getting a different perspective on this passage of Scripture?  I sure am!

I hope you have someone who can be “brutally honest” with you, and you accept it, repent, and grow as a result.  I also hope you have someone  with whom you can be brutally honest.  It works both ways, doesn’t it?

The words “draw near” were used in the Old Testament to refer to the priests as they brought the sacrifice before God.  In Exodus 19:22  Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord spoke saying:  ‘By those who come near Me, I must be regarded as holy; and before all the people I must be glorified.”  God wants us to see Him as holy, and to treat Him as holy.

In the rest of verse 8, James explains in more detail what he said previously in that verse.  James says, “Wash your hands, you sinners!”  When you were a child, can you remember being taken to the bathroom by your mother or father because, even though you washed your hands before dinner, as you were told, they still weren’t clean?  Can you remember being shown how to do it properly?  I can remember being told to get my hands wet, get enough soap off the soap bar to wash my hands, my fingers, between the fingers, as well as my fingernails and wrists.  Then I was shown how to rinse my hands so that all of the soap and dirt went down the drain, not on the towel.  The dirt wasn’t supposed to be seen anymore, not on my hands, not on the towel, not in the sink, but down the drain.  We couldn’t enjoy the time together as a family and the evening meal until our hands were washed and clean.  In the same way, we can’t enjoy the closeness of fellowship with God unless we recognize our sins, repent of them, and are cleansed through His forgiveness.

James brings out their failure to do this by saying, “you sinners”!  If somebody said those words to you, would you be tempted to say, “It takes one to know one!”

The Greek word that James uses is the word “hamartoloi”, which speaks of an habitual sinner, a hardened sinner.  Their sins were obvious, resulting in a bad testimony, both to believers and unbelievers.  No wonder James is so upset!  They profess to be godly but their actions deny it.  He also calls them “double-minded”, their minds and hearts being divided between the things of God and the lusts of this world.  So their sinfulness includes, not only outward actions but also inner thoughts and attitudes.  Therefore James says “cleanse your hands . . . and purify your hearts.”  King David also brings this point across in Psalm 24:3,4 when he says, “Who may ascend to the hill of the Lord?  Or who may stand in His holy place?  He who has clean hands and a pure heart . . . “. (NKJV)

Do you sometimes go into the presence of the Lord as you read God’s Word, pray, or fellowship with other believers, without first examining your conscience and your actions, and then admitting and repenting of those sins before God? Is there someone whom you have offended, who hasn’t yet received an apology from you?  You may be familiar with this accrostic:  ACTS.  It stands for:  adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication.  It serves as a reminder of what should be included in our prayers.  Maybe it might help if we re-arranged the letters so that it said CATS:  CONFESSION, adoration, thanksgiving, and supplication.  You cat-lovers might like that!  And it might help us to remember the importance of confession before coming into the pesence of God.

When the Lord Jesus was asked, “Which is the greatest commandment?”, He added five important words to the command given by God in Deuteronomy chapter 6.  Jesus says, “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:39).  God wants us to be single-minded in our love for Him and in our devotion to Him.

Are you double-minded or single-minded?  An examination of your thoughts, words, and actions will give you the answer if you are willing to be honest with yourself and with God.  Our behavior, both publicly and privately, demonstrates who is truly first in our lives.

Do you find it hard to be single-minded in your devotion to God?  Be honest!  God’s grace is sufficient, but the battle is never over, is it?  It goes on from moment to moment (Ephesians 4:29).  So purification is often necessary, just as the priests had to go through the purification process every time they prepared to go into the presence of God.

The words used in verse 9 may sound depressing: “grieve”, “mourn”, “wail”, “gloom”.  But James is reminding them of God’s words to the people of Israel through the prophet Joel:  “…return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning”.  (Joel 2:12).  Psalm 34:18 says, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”  A principle that can be drawn from these Scripture passages is:  “Don’t take sin lightly”.  Don’t take your sin lightly because all sin grieves the heart of God.

James is really stirring up some dust, isn’t he?  There has been a lot of scolding going on, and it’s not over yet!  It reminds me of what David and his men went through when Shimei, a member of Saul’s family, starts hurling curses at him.  But that’s not all he hurled at him!  Let me read sections of this confrontation as given in II Samuel 16.  “He pelted David and all the king’s officials with stones . . . Shimei said, ‘Get out, get out, you murderer, you scoundrel!

When Abishai asked for permission to cut off his head, David answered . . . ‘Leave him alone; let him curse, for the Lord has told him to.  It may be that the Lord will look upon my misery and restore to me His covenant blessing instead of His curse today.”  (II Samuel 16:5-14).  David’s response was to submit to God and accept his punishment humbly.  Accepting that harsh a rebuke wouldn’t be easy, would it?  Especially for a king and his army!  But rather than complain, give excuses. or retaliate, David admits his sinfulness and asks God for mercy.

In verse 10, James gives a short summary of what he has been chiding them about, especially in the previous nine verses.  He says, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.”   How do you respond to your prideful attitude? Has your pride ever caused you to become angry with yourself?  Aren’t you then responding to your pride in a prideful way?  “I can do better than that!”  “I’m capable of a better attitude than that!”  James has been saying, “You should be mourning and weeping because you have not been letting God have HIS WAY in your life.  We can’t “do better than that” apart from the power of God, and our humble dependence on Him from moment to moment.

The first commandment that God gave to Moses was this:  “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.  You shall have no other gods before me.”  Self is a god, isn’t it?  And it’s a god that’s worshipped by more people than any other god in our world today.  How can we possess any other godly, character quality if we are proud?  Are people going to see Christ in us if we have not been humbled?  The answer is a resounding NO, because Jesus describes Himself as “meek and humble of heart” (Matthew 11:29).

Some of the greatest men had to find humility before God used them.  Preacher and evangelist Dwight L. Moody often pointed to the example of Moses.  Moody said:  “Moses spent 40 years thinking he was somebody; then he spent 40 years on the back side of the desert realizing he was nobody; finallyhe spent the last 40 years of his life learning what God could do with a nobody!”

In Matthew 23:12 Jesus said, “he who humbles himself will be exalted.”  And no one has humbled Himself more than the Lord Jesus Christ, and no one has been exalted higher than He.  Philippians 2:3-1l is a long passage of Scripture but it’s worth quoting so that we may read it again and think it over, and make it personal.

“Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.  Let each of you look, not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.  Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bond-servant, and coming in the likeness of men.  And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.  Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”  (NKJV)

True humility is such a rare commodity in this world today that people notice it, are entrigued by it, are amazed by it, and hopefully will be drawn to the only One who can produce it in the life a Christian who is yielded. to Him.  Wouldn’t you agree that the greatest exaltation we could ever receive in this life is for Christ to be exalted in us?

We live in an “instant society”.  There’s instant coffee, instant breakfast, instant messaging, and instant almost-everything.  But there’s no such thing as instant humility.  There is no seminar, no “crash course”, and no pill or pie  that can make you humble.  And humility is a necessary ingredient for godliness.  As the apostle Peter says in I Peter 5:6, “Humble youirselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time. (NIV)  But the best things in life are worth the wait, aren’t they?

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This work-in-progress is progressing.  I hope your study of God’s Word is progressing also.  There is much more work to be done!  I hope we can get any obstacles out of the way.  Keep your hard hats on!  If you see punctuation, grammar, or spelling errors, please be patient.  I will get to them in the “finishing work” if not before.   The Master Designer will show us how to fit everything into place as we progress.  He has His blueprints in hand!  Thank you for visiting this construction site.  Please come back soon!

 

NEW YEAR 2014

2013, Bible sermon, death, Epistle of James, heaven, hedonism, Joy, Joy on Christmas Day, Matthew 5, New Year's Day, New Year's Eve, old age, overworked?, People, Worried?

Are you in the habit of making New Year’s resolutions?  One dictionary defines a resolution as “a firm decision to do or not to do something”.  Another dictionary says:  “a serious decision to do something.”  From those definitions I get the impression that resolutions are choices we commit ourselves to do. What are you looking forward to in 2014?  What are you dreading?   What do you hope to find?  What choices did you make in 2013?  Are you satisfied with those choices? The search engine Google put a short film on U-Tube entitled “What Did The World Search For This Year.”  It focused on personal and world events that made life worth living in 2013.  At the end of the film are written these words:  “Search On“. I hope that you have come to this site to gain an eternal perspective on life, and to seek God’s  wisdom to guide you on your continuing search for answers and meaning to life.   The Bible tells us that there are only two things in this world that are going to last forever:  God’s Word and people.  In Matthew 24:35 the Lord Jesus told the parable of the fig tree, and said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.”  In I Peter 1:24-25 the apostle Peter quotes from Isaiah 40 when he says:  “All flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower of grass.  The grass withers and the flower falls off, but the word of the Lord abides forever.” The other entity that lasts forever is people.  They will live forever in one of two places:  heaven or hell.  In John 5:24 Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My words, and believes in Him who sent Me, has eternal life.  He will not come to judgement, but has passed from death to life.”  By contrast, the apostle John records in Revelation 20 what he saw in a vision:  “And I saw a great white throne, and Him that sat on it. . . . And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God, and the books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life. . . . And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” The wonderful and exciting thing about heaven is that it lasts forever.  The terrible and terrifying thing about hell is that it lasts forever.  Each year brings you closer to death, and also to eternity.   May you choose to have a joyful eternity by receiving the Lord Jesus Christ into your life as your personal Savior and Lord.  Then every day and every year until eternity will be filled with joy, inner peace, and unfading hope.

Please let me know your honest reaction to this New Year’s Eve message.  I will gladly respond to any comments you make and any questions you might have.  My purpose was not to dampen your spirit, but to put the year in perspective.  These were a few of the thoughts that came to my mind this New Year’s Eve.  I’m interested in knowing your thoughts also.  Thank you for visiting, and a happy New Year to you!