THE AFTERMATH: A FALLING OUT – John 6:60-71

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INTRODUCTION:

There are books galore on the topic of leadership.  It would take you an eternity to read them all because new books about leadership are being written and published every day.  Have you ever read a book on following, or becoming a good follower?  I’ve never read, nor have I ever seen a book on that subject.  So I typed “books on following”, and “books on being a follower” into the web browser of my computer.  What I received in response was books on leadership.  I then typed, “how to be a follower” into my web browser and was given many YouTube sites telling me how to become a follower of someone’s social media site, such as Facebook, Twitter, and others.  With the click of a button or an icon, I can instantly become someone’s follower, and receive updates.  With the click of another button or icon, I can also instantly “unfollow” a person.   It’s as simple as that!  There are also many online courses being offered which will give you tools and techniques proven to increase the number of your followers.

In this age of social media, “following” has taken on a new meaning.  The number of one’s followers is a sign of popularity.  Gaining new followers can easily become an obsession, as well as a source of personal pride and competitiveness.  A friend of mine recently told me that he goes to social media sites mainly to get information.  He’s interested in keeping up-to-date on certain people and organizations.  What immediately comes to your mind when you think of the words “following” and “follower”?

TRANSITION:

During the lifetime of Jesus Christ on this earth, followers were often referred to as “disciples”.  In this passage of Scripture, John 6:60-71, we are going to study the effect that Jesus’ conversation had on His followers, and observe how Jesus responds to the situation.

I.  THE VERBAL REACTION OF MANY (verse 60)

In verse 60 of John, chapter 6, we find the immediate aftermath of Jesus’ conversation with His crowd of followers.  “Many, therefore, of His disciples, when they heard this, said, ‘This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?’ ”  The word “disciple” is the Greek word “mathetes”, which literally means “learner” or “pupil”, and the teacher was called a “didaskalos”.  The corresponding Hebrew words that were used during that period of time were the “talmid” and the “rabbi”.  In the first century, when you wanted to find out more about a person, and learn from him, you followed him around.  There may have been several motives for doing so, such as curiosity, entertainment, a desire to join the crowd, as well a personal commitment to that person.

For example, since you’ve come to this site and are reading this article, you may be a blogger yourself, and have your own blog site.  Let me ask you a question.  Can you follow a blog site without truly being a follower of that site?  I would say that the answer to that question is “yes”.  You can click the “follow” button or icon for a number of reasons.  You may have read one article, liked it, and clicked the “follow” button because you wanted to get email alerts when new articles are added to the site.  You may have clicked “follow” because you want your name and photo added to the list of other followers in the hope that readers might check out your site as well.  It’s a form of advertising.  Or you may have read several articles and are eager to continue to learn, grow spiritually, and share what you have learned with others.  Those are just a few possible motives.  As you can see, there are many possible reasons for following, and not all those reasons demonstrate long-lasting commitment.

Verse 60 says that “many“, not “all” of his listeners, had a negative attitude about the teachings that Jesus had just expressed to them, and they put their attitude into words, saying, “This is a difficult saying; who can listen to it.”  The Greek word translated “difficult”, literally means “hard”.  The word does not mean “hard to understand”, but “hard to accept” once you understood it.  You might say that Jesus’ words were “offensive” – His teachings were opposed to their own personal beliefs and prejudices.  Therefore they rejected His whole conversation.  True disciples wouldn’t react in that way.  A true disciple would be willing to listen, to learn, and to believe in Him because of who He is, even if the teaching might seem, at first, to be offensive.  The ancient Greek philosopher, Aristotle, made the following statement:  “Understanding is the reward of faith.  Therefore, seek not to understand so that you may believe, but believe so that you may understand.”  The Lord Jesus has already given this crowd of followers plenty of reasons to believe in Him and trust Him.

Bible expositor, Alfred Barnes, tells us the doctrines that were apparently offensive.  First, that Jesus was superior to Moses; secondly, that God would save all that He had chosen, and those only; thirdly, that He was the bread that came from heaven; and fourthly, that it was necessary that an atonement should be made, and that they should be saved by it.  Barnes goes on to say, “These doctrines have always been the most offensive that men have been called on to believe, and many, rather than trust in Him, have chosen to draw back to perdition.”

When these so-called disciples said, “Who can hear it?”, they meant, “Who can put up with it?”.  “Who can listen to His words any longer without losing their patience and responding with outbursts of anger?”

II.  JESUS’ RESPONSE TO THE CROWD  (verses 61-65)

The mumbling and grumbling has started again, and verse 61 tells us that Jesus is aware of it.  Now He is faced with a choice.  Is the Lord Jesus going to politely back away from the conflict?  Is He going to give excuses for His offensive words?  Is He going to say something like:  “I didn’t mean to . . . what I really meant was  . .That didn’t come out right . . . what I was trying to say is . . . I’ve had a lot on my mind lately . . . I didn’t sleep well last night , , , Maybe we should start this conversation all over again.”  Do those excuses sound familiar?  Have you ever used any of them yourself?  Be honest!

The other choice would be to stand His ground, give further evidence of the truth of His statements, and then move along in the same direction, full-speed ahead..  This is the course of action that Jesus pursues in spite of their opposition.  It’s full-speed ahead!  He begins by asking them a question:  “Does this cause you to stumble?”  He’s letting them know that He hears what they are saying, and He also knows the condition of their hearts.  The word “stumble” is the Greek word “skandalizei”.  We get our English word “scandalize” from that Greek word.  Jesus is saying, “Are My teachings offensive to you?”  “Do they go against what you want to believe?”  He is also leading into what He is about to say next.  His second question, found in verse 62, is “What then if you should behold the Son of Man ascending where He was before?”  Jesus is not telling these followers that they will see His ascension into heaven because Acts 1:6-13 tells us that only the eleven apostles watched that happen.  Jesus is speaking hypothetically.  One of the statements that offended some of these followers was that Jesus claimed that He had come down from heaven.  Now He’s saying, “What if you saw me ascend to heaven – the same place that I told you I came from?”  “Would that offend you all the more?”  You might say, from Jesus’ response, that He is separating the chaff from the wheat!

In verse 63, Jesus explains His purpose for saying those things to them, and He also  reasserts His authority or right to say them.  “The spirit gives life; the flesh accounts for nothing,  The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.”  I don’t personally think that Jesus is speaking about the Holy Spirit here, even though the beginning of His statement is also true of the Holy Spirit.  He’s clarifying His analogy by saying that He’s referring to the spirit of man, not his physical flesh.   A man’s spirit is his source of life, and God gives him that spirit.  His listeners were very familiar with Genesis 2:7, which says, “The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”  The Greek word translated “spirit” here in verse 63, is pneuma, which literally means “wind” or “breath”, and is sometimes used to refer to the Holy Spirit as well.  Jesus is speaking to them in  Hebrew (Aramaic), and the word Jesus probably used is ruach, which also means “wind” or “breath”.  So there is nothing lost in translation between the two languages.  The Scriptures describe Jesus’ death on the cross with the words “He gave up His spirit” (John 19:30; Matthew 27:50).

Now, in verse 64, Jesus “hits them with a bombshell” when He says to the crowd of followers, “There are some of you who do not believe.”  He’s implying, “You know who you are, and I know who you are also.  You can’t hide anything from Me.”  The apostle John goes on to explain the basis for Jesus’ words:  “For He knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray Him.”  As God, Jesus was all-knowing, but having taken the form of a man, He temporarily laid aside the use of that attribute.  It was the Father who had revealed that information to Him.  Jesus has “opened the exit doors even wider” for those who weren’t truly His followers, and don’t want to be His followers because they don’t really believe in Him.

Preacher and author, Henry Drummond, was once asked to address a meeting at the exclusive West-End Club in London, England.  He began with these words:  “Ladies and Gentlemen, the entrance fee into the kingdom of God is nothing, but the annual subscription is everything.”  There were many in Jesus’ audience who wanted to be part of the club but didn’t want to pay the subscription fees.  Jesus had quite a following that day, but very few genuine followers.

What Jesus then shares, in verse 66, defies their understanding, and hurts the foolish pride of many of His listeners.  He reiterates what He said in verse 44, when He says in verse 65:  “no one can come to me unless it has been granted him from the Father.”  Jesus is telling them that faith is a gift.  It’s impossible for us to believe by our own enabling.  Only God can draw a person to Himself.  He’s also implying that hearing His words doesn’t necessarily lead to faith.

III.  THE DESERTION (verses 66-67)

Then it happens.  Hundreds of these followers turn away from Jesus and begin to walk away, wanting nothing more to do with Him.  Verse 66 says, “As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew, and were not walking with Him anymore.”  The Greek word literally means “the majority”.  There were more people leaving Him than there were of those who were staying with Him.

Have you ever felt sadness because people who were close to you didn’t come through for you?  Did you ever feel a sense of abandonment by the majority of those around you because of something you said or did?  How would you feel if over half of the friends on your social media sites decided to “unfriend” you at the same time because of something you said or did?  What would be your reaction if most of the followers of your blog site decided to “unfollow” you on the same day because of something you wrote?  Would you feel a twinge of sadness and abandonment?  I certainly would!  God gave each of us emotions and, even if we don’t always express them, we feel them deep down inside and it hurts!  The Lord Jesus had a human nature like ourselves, with the same emotional makeup that each of us possesses.  Let’s see how He responds to what was happening to Him at that moment.

IV.  JESUS QUESTION TO THE TWELVE (verse 67)

Verse 67 gives us Jesus’ initial response.  “Jesus said therefore to the twelve, ‘You do not want to go away also, do you’?”  I personally believe that Jesus said those words to the twelve disciples with sadness in His heart, and I think that sadness was evident to them by His facial expression and by the way He spoke those words.  This should come as no surprise to us.   The prophet Isaiah described the Messiah as “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3).  This was probably one of many times that Jesus was saddened and grieved at people’s rejection of Him and His words.  In this case, Jesus is hoping to receive some encouragement from the twelve.

V.  PETER SPEAKS FOR THEM ALL (verses 68-69)

Simon Peter was quick to respond, in verses 68 and 69, saying, “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.”  I don’t know whether Peter could have said it better, and that’s just what Jesus needed to hear at that sorrowful moment in His life.  Peter affirmed who Jesus was, attested to the truth of Jesus’ words, and expressed his faith in Him.  Peter was also speaking on behalf of the other eleven disciples, assuming that they all believed as he did.

VI.  JESUS’ RESPONSE TO THE TWELVE (verses 70-71)

In verse 70, Jesus corrects Peter’s words, but I think there is much more to Jesus’ words than just correcting a misconception on Peter’s part.  It reads, “Jesus answered them, ‘Did I Myself not choose you, the twelve, and yet one of you is a devil?’ “  The verse indicates that He is speaking those words, not only to Peter, but to all twelve of the disciples.  Why would Jesus say such a cutting remark?  In those days, calling someone “a devil” was pretty strong language. Was Jesus just releasing His frustrations or did He have a specific purpose in mind?

I don’t personally think that Jesus’ emotional state changed from sadness to anger in verse 70.  I believe that Jesus said those words with sadness in His heart, in His eyes, and in His words.  As He looked around at the twelve, His eyes may have lingered at the face of Judas as He said the word “devil”.  It may have been similar to the look on Jesus’ face when He turned to look at Peter after the cock crowed and Peter had denied Jesus three times.

The Lord Jesus loved Judas and wanted him to come face-to-face with his own greed.  He gave Judas the responsibility of being the keeper of the money box (John 12:4-6; John 13:21-29) to show him how easily he gave into the temptation to rob from it.  As we shall see, Jesus will wash Judas’s feet, pray for him, and show him honor.  It saddened Jesus that one who was in such close proximity to Him on a daily basis for three years, would be so distant from Him in his heart.  The Lord Jesus had chosen Judas to be one of the twelve, showed him love and concern, revealed Himself to him by His life and miracles, and offered him eternal life.  He even gave Judas the power to heal diseases and cast out demons when He sent the twelve out two-by-two to proclaim the Gospel. (Luke 9:1-11; Matthew 10).  But it was all in vain.  Judas hardened his heart again and again.

In verse 71, the apostle John adds the following personal comment:  “Now he meant Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was going to betray Him.”  He said those words because he, Peter, and the other disciples had no idea that Judas was not a true follower of Christ.  Judas played the role so well that none of the other disciples noticed any differences.  John was as shocked as all of the others, and wants to make that known to his readers.

CONCLUSION:

Are you a genuine follower of Jesus Christ?  Have Jesus’ words, in this passage of Scripture, caused you to consider whether or not you want to be identified with Him and follow Him?  Have you turned away from Him in the past?  Many in that crowd walked away from Jesus because they didn’t want to acknowledge that He was the Messiah, the King of heaven and earth; they didn’t want to believe in His teachings.  They didn’t want to acknowledge their own sinfulness, and didn’t want to turn the control of their lives over to Him.  Do you feel an emptiness inside and a need to know God?  He wants to reveal Himself to you as you read and study His Word.  It’s not too late to turn around and choose to follow Him and become obedient to His Word.

If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, and your life bears witness to your commitment to Him as your Lord and Savior, do you feel sadness as you look around you at those who refuse to acknowledge the Lord Jesus Christ and respond to Him by repentance and faith?  Are you willing to ask God to give you a greater compassion for the lost, and a burden to pray for them consistently and confidently, trusting God to change their hearts and draw them to Himself?  God wants to turn that sadness into joy in answer to your believing prayers.  We can never pray enough for those who don’t know the Lord.

CONSTRUCTION SITE:  COMPLETED

 

THE FIRST DISCIPLES – John 1:35-42

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INTRODUCTION :

You’re on the playing field and it’s after-lunch recess at your elementary school.  You’ve just been chosen to be the captain of one of the soccer teams.  You and the other captain will now be taking turns choosing people to be on your teams.  Who do you choose?  It’s a tremendous responsibility, isn’t it?  You want your team to win but you also want your friends to be on your team and they may not be the best players.  Once you start choosing, your new teammates start telling you who to choose:  “”choose him”, “choose her”.  All kinds of thoughts are going through your mind as you look at the children waiting to be chosen.  “He’s a good kicker” . . . “she’s a fast runner” . . . “he doesn’t ‘hog the ball’ ” . . . “she’s the best goalie”.  Winning the game may depend upon your choices, and everybody wants to win.  If you don’t win, you may be considered to be the one to blame because you made the choices.  If your team doesn’t win, you may not be chosen to be a captain anymore.  You have to make your choices in a hurry because you don’t have much playing time before the bell rings and you’re back in class again.  That’s a lot to worry about on a full stomach!  It’s not always easy to make choices, is it?  It’s especially difficult when other people are affected by your choices.

In this passage of Scripture, the Lord Jesus is making some choices.  It was the day after His baptism.  John the Baptist witnessed the voice from heaven and the Spirit descending as a dove, and had proclaimed that Jesus was the Messiah.  This was to be the first day of Jesus’ discipleship ministry.  It was time to begin choosing “His team” – the men whom He would be training, and who would continue the ministry after Him.  It was also a day when He would be getting some help in the selection process.

I.  HELP FROM JOHN THE BAPTIST (verses 35-37)

Verse 35 begins with John the Baptist standing beside two of his disciples as Jesus is about to pass by.  I don’t think this was a coincidence.  On the previous day, John baptized Jesus, saw and heard the miraculous events, and proclaimed that Jesus was the Messiah.  These two disciples may well have been there and witnessed those events also.  I personally think that John the Baptist spent some time talking to His disciples about Jesus, preparing them to be at the right place at the right time so that he could introduce them to Jesus.  As the forerunner, John was not only preparing the nation for the Messiah’s arrival, but also the individuals within the nation of Israel who had repented in response to his preaching and were eager to follow the Messiah.  When he points out Jesus, he uses the same title again:  “Behold, the Lamb of God“.  He is inviting his disciples to follow Jesus.  Verse 37 says, “The two disciples heard him speak and they followed Jesus.”  They did what John the Baptist wanted them to do:  they left him and followed Jesus.  We know from verse 40 that one of those disciples was Andrew, and the other person was probably John, the writer of this gospel.  He prefers to leave himself unnamed.

II.  HOSPITALITY OFFERED AND ACCEPTED (verses 38-40)

Jesus must have heard the sound of their steps behind Him because “He turned, and seeing them following, said to them, ‘What do you seek?’ ”  Those four words are the first words spoken by Jesus as recorded in John’s Gospel.  Notice that He did not say “Whom do you seek“, but “What do you seek“.  To put it into everyday English, Jesus was saying, “What can I do for you”, or “How can I be of service to you.”

The two men responded politely, “Rabbi, where are you staying?”  They had a lot on their minds to talk to Him about, and thinking that He was busy, asked if they might stop by later at the place where He was staying.    They wanted to know more about Him and get to know Him.  Notice that they call Him “Rabbi” (Teacher).  They weren’t ready to call Him “Lord” yet, so they addressed Him as “Rabbi”.  This title literally means, “My great one”.  It is similar to the title “doctor” that is addressed to the professor that has earned a doctorate degree in his field of study.

Jesus’ answer must have surprised them, but I’m sure they were overjoyed to hear it!  He said, ‘Come and see”.  Jesus showed them immediate hospitality, offering them the opportunity to spend the rest of the day with Him as His guests.  John mentions that it was ‘the tenth hour” (either four o’clock in the afternoon according to Jewish time, or 10:00 a.m. Roman time.  We don’t know for sure).  They chatted with Him on the way to the place where He was staying, and then had all the time they wanted to ask Him questions and express their feelings and concerns in the comfortable atmosphere of a home.

I worked as a checker and stocker in a grocery store for over three years.  The owner told me that whenever someone asked where an item was located in the store, whenever possible, to take the person there myself rather than just telling them where it is..  He said, “It’s our way of showing people that we appreciate them as our customers and are glad to serve them.”  I found that I enjoyed doing that act of service, and the short conversations we had in the process of going there brightened their day and my day as well!  I can imagine that the two disciples enjoyed the conversation on the way to their destination and felt much more comfortable sharing their hearts with Jesus after they arrived at the place where He was staying.

While in college I spent several weeks of my summer vacation in a Latin-American community in East Los Angeles, California.  While there, I learned the meaning of the phrase “mi casa es su casa”,  It means “My house is your house”, and they really meant it!  I had never experienced such hospitality before, and from people who hardly knew me!  Knowing the way Jesus treated people, He probably showed the same kind of hospitality by providing refreshments for these two men, and maybe a meal as well!  Who knows?  They might have even spent the night!

III.  HELP FROM ANDREW (verses 41-42)

After spending the day with Jesus, Andrew was convinced that Jesus was the Messiah, and John was convinced also.  Verse 41 tells us that Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, “found first his own brother Simon“.  The word “first” can also be translated “first thing in the morning” or “early in the morning”.  Andrew could hardly wait to tell the good news to his brother!  He searched for his brother Simon until he found him, and then told him,  “We have found the Messiah“.  In parentheses it says “which translated means Christ”.  “Messiah” – now that’s a word that would make a Jew stop and pay attention!  The Jews had been waiting for, looking for, and praying for the Messiah to come for many years.  The word “Messiah” in Hebrew and the word “Christos” in Greek have the same meaning.  Both words mean “anointed” or “anointed One”.  In those days kings were anointed with oil at their coronation.  That practice is still followed in some countries today.  “Messiah” and “Christ” both mean “God’s Anointed King”.

Andrew not only told Simon about  finding the Messiah, he also took Simon along with him to introduce him to Jesus.  I picture in my mind Andrew and Simon walking at a fast pace, and Andrew is telling his brother about all the things Jesus said to him the previous day.  In the New Testament scriptures we find very little information about Andrew.  But almost every time his name is mentioned, he is bringing someone to Jesus.  Andrew was content to be in the background escorting people to Jesus!

In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, Alexander Whyte pastored a large church in Edinburgh, Scotland.  During that time a salesman by the name of Rigby would travel to Edinburgh regularly just to hear him preach.  He would often invite other businessmen to accompany him to the services.

One Sunday morning he asked a fellow traveler to go to church with him.  Reluctantly, the man said yes.  When he heard Whyte’s message, he was so impressed that he returned with Rigby to the evening meeting.  As the preacher spoke, the man trusted Christ as his Savior.

The next morning, as Rigby walked by the home of Pastor Whyte, he felt impressed to stop and tell him how his message had affected the other man’s life.  When Whyte learned that his caller’s name was Rigby, he exclaimed, “You’re the man I’ve wanted to see for years!”  He went to his study and returned with a bundle of letters.  Alexander Whyte read Rigby some excerpts – all telling of changed lives.  They were men that Rigby had brought to hear the gospel.  Like the Samaritans who had been led to Jesus by the woman at the well, these men “believed in Him because of the word” of Rigby.  (Our Daily Bread devotional)

When Andrew introduced Jesus to Simon, verse 42 says that Jesus “looked at him”.  The Greek word used here, emblepein, means to “look at intently”, to “focus one’s gaze upon”.  Jesus was looking beneath the surface at Simon’s character, which was hard-headed and impulsive.  Then He says to Simon, “You are Simon the son of John; you shall be called Cephas” (which translated means Peter).  Once again we are given the Hebrew name (Peter), and the Greek equivalent (Cephas).  Those two words mean “rock”.  Jesus is saying, “I can turn your weaknesses into strengths if you will follow Me.”  As we progress through the Gospel of John we will find that it’s going to take some doing for God to change unstable Peter into a rock.  But Peter is moldable and God will change Peter into a new person who fits his new name.

The gospel writer Matthew tells us just when Peter and Andrew, James and John, left all to follow Christ.  Here are his words:

From that time Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.”  And walking by the sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen.  And He said to them “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.  And they immediately left their nets and followed Him.  And going on from there He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and He called them.  And they immediately left the boat and their father, and followed Him.”  (Matthew 4:17-22 NASB)

Have you found the Messiah?  Have you been introduced to Him by a friend, a family member, or through your own study of the Bible?  If you know who He is, have you believed in Him; have you committed your life to Him, to worship Him, serve Him, and glorify Him as your Lord and King?  If Jesus Christ is not reigning in your life and you are not growing closer to Him and becoming more and more like Him, then you have yet to “find your Messiah”.

If you have truly found the Messiah, you will know.  It’s a life-changing experience when the King of heaven and earth begins to reign in your life.  Just don’t forget to tell others that you have found the Messiah.  Don’t keep the joy all to yourself.  Remember, you’re a child of God and an ambassador for the King!  May you enjoy the privilege of introducing many to your King, the Lord Jesus Christ!

 

 

CONSTRUCTION SITE:

Welcome to another work-in-progress!   I think my study of John 1:35-42 is complete, other than some possible “finishing touches”.  I’m getting all my tools and equipment ready to move to the new construction site next door:  John 1:43-51.  Hope you will grab your tools also, and study this next passage of Scripture along with me.  Please visit other completed projects on this website.  May you continue to “grow in grace and in the knowledge of the truth”.  WORD OF CAUTION:  As you’re hammering the nails of Truth into your life, remember to keep your eyes on the nail, not your fingers!  The Lord Jesus was a carpenter, and I’m sure He could tell you that from personal experience!

 

THE PROFILE OF A LEADER – II Timothy 2:1-7

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INTRODUCTION:

William Sangster, a popular preacher and writer of the 1950’s, said this:  “The church is painfully in need of leaders.”  In the Scriptures God is frequently described as searching for a man of a certain type;  not “men”,  but “a man”;  not a group, but an individual.             I Samuel 13:14 says, “The Lord has sought out for Himself a man after His own heart.”  In Ezekiel 22:30 God says, “I searched for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the gap . . . but I found no one.”  Are you such a person?  What kind of a person is it that God is looking for?  In II Timothy 2:1-7,  the apostle Paul, after telling Timothy to “be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus”, describes such a person by using four images:

I.  A TEACHER (verse 2)

In verse 2, the first image Paul uses to describe the Christian leader is that of a teacher.  A college student was having difficulty with his studies so he finally decided to talk to his professor.  He complained, “I’m studying hard.  I’m doing my best, but I just can’t retain what I read or try to memorize.  Do you think it would help if I hired a tutor?”

Clearly understanding the young man’s problem, the instructor replied, “No, I wouldn’t recommend that at all.  You don’t need a teacher, you need a pupil!”  He knew that learning is increased when we share our knowledge with others.

This professor’s advice reminds us of believers who know many Bible facts but still have a poor understanding of scriptural truths.  They attend church every Sunday, listen faithfully to religious broadcasts, and study the Scriptures personally;  yet they seem to lack a working knowledge of the Bible.  What’s the problem?  They never do anything with that information!  They don”t need to be taught more;  they need to tell others what they have learned.  As they put it into practice, they will begin to understand it more fully.  That is what Paul said to Timothy in verse 2.  The things Paul said were confirmed by many witnesses as being the truth of God.  There are many teachers today who compromise the Scriptures so that they are acceptable to the mentality of this age in which we live.  Paul is telling Timothy to “entrust” the things he’s learned from him to faithful men.  The word “entrust” gives the picture of a precious treasure being placed in the safekeeping of another person.  We each have things that we treasure, either because they are expensive or because they have sentimental value.  If you were going on a trip, would you hand these items over to a total stranger?  No!  You would give them to a trusted friend with information on how to care for and protect them.  The Gospel is a precious treasure and should be given to “faithful men” who won’t misuse it or abandon it.

The teacher is described in verse 2 as equipping others to teach, not satisfied with just communicating the message.  The nature of the Gospel message demands that it be propagated or reproduced in the lives of others.  The ultimate goal of the teacher is to see God’s Word passed on to others, and through them to still others.  That is the key to reaching this world for the Lord Jesus Christ.

II.  A SOLDIER (verses 3-4)

The second image that Paul uses is that of a soldier.  You could say that if any apostle was an authority on soldiers, it was the apostle Paul.  He had been in prison and chained to soldiers during much of his Christian life.  What comes to your minds when you think of a soldier’s life?  In verse 3, Paul describes a soldier as one who is willing to suffer hardship.  The apostle Paul was a good soldier of Jesus Christ because he suffered for the cause of Christ, and had the scars to prove it.  There was a popular saying during World War II:   people would often say to each other, “there’s a war on!”  It was a reminder to them that hardships were to be expected and accepted.

Fellow Christians, there IS a war on!  We, as Christians, are in a war against the world, against our own sinful flesh, and against Satan.  Are we willing to accept all the hardship that comes as a result of identifying with the cause of Christ?  As modern-day believers, we may not all experience great persecution for our faith, but we do face hardships and trials.  Our faith in Christ is not an escape from them, but it does give us the strength to endure them.

In verse 4, Paul says that a soldier is obedient and loyal.  The words “on active duty” describe the life of a soldier of Christ as a constant battle.  There are no “furloughs” or “vacations” from the Christian life.  Constant and complete dedication is needed.  A soldier  also does not “entangle himself in the affairs of everyday life”.  A Roman soldier was forbidden to engage in civilian occupations and was told to avoid becoming overly involved in the affairs of the market-place.  He was a soldier first and his loyalty was to be to his commander.

The Christian is also to be single-minded.  This may mean laying aside certain habits, amusements, pursuits, and maybe even certain relationships, not necessarily because they may be wrong in themselves, but because they may be an entanglement, keeping us from performing our primary responsibilities as servants of the Lord Jesus Christ.

III.  AN ATHLETE (verse 5)

In verse 5, Paul uses the image of an athlete to describe the Christian.  The word “competes” comes from two Greek words which were used together to describe a “professional” as opposed to an “amateur” athlete.  It was a full-time dedication of one’s life to excellence in the athletic event or events he had chosen.  Paul says that the goal of the athlete is to win the prize by “competing according to the rules”.  Several athletes in the 1976 olympic games were discovered to have taken prohibited drugs.  Their medals were taken away from them.  All those years of preparation and hard work were for nothing!

As a Christian leader, the standard is God’s Word, and we have several umpires observing what we do and how we do it.  We have the divine umpire, and He doesn’t miss a thing.  But we also have the Christians and non-Christians around us.  I’ve personally found that some non-Christians will tempt you, test you, argue with you, and antagonize you, but inwardly many of them want you to succeed, to pass their tests, because they want something worth believing, and worth giving themselves to.  God is looking for faithful Christians, faithful to Him and to His Word,  whatever the cost.  And some day we will win the prize when God rewards our faithfulness to Him.

IV.  THE FARMER (verses 6 and 7)

The fourth image that Paul uses to describe the Christian leader is that of the farmer.  In verse 6, he describes the farmer as being “hardworking”.  The word means working to the point of weariness and exhaustion.  As a kid, I remember spending a week with a friend on his parents’ farm.  We went to bed early every night and got up really early every morning.  His mother made the biggest breakfasts that I have ever seen!  There were eggs, pancakes, potatoes, meat, rolls, fruit, and hot cereal.  I soon found out why there was so much food.  We worked hard after breakfast gathering the eggs, feeding the chickens, cows, horses, and pigs, spraying the weeds, and picking the ripe fruit and vegetables.  By lunch time, and also at supper time, I was famished and ate lots of food.  After the week was over, I can remember coming home exhausted.  Now I knew why their son liked to spend a week with us once in a while!

The farmer must be content to keep working hard,  and also to keep waiting.  More than any other worker, the farmer has to learn that there is no such thing as quick results.  It takes months after the seed is sown and the ground is continually watered and cultivated, that the fruit, vegetables, and grain finally begin to ripen and can be harvested.  But all that hard work will finally pay off.

The Christian life is also hard work  The Christian too must learn to work hard and also to wait.  Often he will sow the seed of God’s Word into the hearts of others and see no immediate results.  Sometimes it takes years of sowing and watering before some people respond to the Gospel message and are saved.  But we must, like the farmer, keep on working and waiting.  The pastor and author, John R.W. Stott, said:  “This notion that Christian service is hard work is so unpopular in some happy-go-lucky Christian circles  today.”

SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION:

Let me summarize the qualities of a good Chrtistian leader.  As a teacher, he should be characterized by faithfulness to uphold the truth of God’s Word, and a zeal to see it reproduced in the lives of faithful people, and then passed on to others.  As a soldier, he is to be undistracted from his calling and willing to endure anything for the cause of the Lord Jesus Christ.  As an athlete, he is to be above reproach in his actions, attitudes, and methods, both before the eyes of the world and the eyes of God.  And as a farmer, he is to work long and hard, trusting God for the harvest to come.

Will you be such a person:  the kind of person that God and His church seeks after;  the kind of person that this world needs?  Will you be able to say confidently to those you are teaching and helping to grow spiritually, what the apostle Paul said in verse 7:  “Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything”?

 

 

THE POWER OF THE TONGUE – James 3:1-12

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I’m going to describe a particular part of our bodies in the first person, as if I’m that part of our bodies.  Here goes:

I may be the strongest muscle in your body.  I am considered to be the strongest muscle for my size.  I have been known to lift over 80 times my weight, but don’t put me to the test!  I am busy during the day and all through the night, and I never get tired.  I may be kind of rough on the surface, but I’m smooth underneath.  I’m about 4 inches long and I am the only muscle in your body that is only connected to your body at one end.  I can heal myself faster than any other part of your body. Thanks to your nose and my buds,  I’m learning to develop a taste for things.   I used to come out of my den more often for people to see me,   but now I only come out when you need help eating an ice cream cone, or when the doctor says, “open your mouth, stick out your ‘tongue’ and say ahhhh”!  As you’ve  probably guessed, I’m the muscle that would be speaking this message aloud to you right now.

As strong as our tongues are physically, they boast of even greater power for good and for evil both emotionally, socially, and spiritually.  I think it’s significant that, right after the apostle James writes about evidences of genuine, saving faith, he talks about the tongue.

James has already explained two characteristics of the true, maturing Christian. First, in chapter 1, James says that the true Christian is patient in times of trouble. Secondly, in chapter two, James says that the true Christian practices the truth. Here in chapter 3, James says that the third characteristic of a true believer is that he has power over his tongue.

James now goes for the jugular vein of the Christian life – the problem of the tongue. No other section of the Bible speaks with greater authority and impact on this subject than does James.

The words of the Lord Jesus Christ put this problem of the tongue into perspective. The Lord Jesus said in Matthew 15:11, 18-19: “Not what enters into the mouth defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man. . . . the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man”. We need to realize that the heart and the tongue are directly associated with each other. Through its every word, the tongue broadcasts the condition of the heart.

In order to impress on us the importance of controlled speech, and the great consequences of our words, James gives us six pictures of the tongue: the bit, the rudder, fire, a dangerous animal, a fountain and a fig tree. You can put these six pictures into three categories that reveal the three powers of the tongue.

I. THE POWER TO DIRECT: THE BIT AND THE RUDDER (3:1-4)

James begins chapter 3 by saying, “Let not many of you become teachers.” The Greek word “didaskaloi” is used in the New Testament epistles to refer to teachers of God’s Word, rather than the alternate meaning of “masters” or “rulers” when referring to the Jewish rabbi’s. James is not discouraging Christians from using their gifts and abilities to benefit the local congregations. He is warning against the misuse of that privilege to gain power and prestige. Those motives and desires are not the marks of a true teacher of God’s Word. A teacher’s words are not to be used to exalt himself but to accurately explain the Word of God and exalt the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ.

In verses 3-5 James uses the examples of the bit and rudder because each of them, like the tongue, is small yet powerful. The bit is a very small item that goes into the horse’s mouth in order to overcome the power and the wild nature of the horse. However, it is not the bit that controls the entire horse. It is the experienced rider, using the bit and bridle in the proper ways, that controls the horse. In the same way, the rudder on a ship is a very small item in comparison to the ship, and it has to overcome the forces of the wind and the waves and currents. However, it is not the rudder that controls the entire ship. It is the experienced pilot or helmsman, who operates the rudder in the correct ways, that controls the ship.

Unless the Lord Jesus Christ is the Savior and Lord of our lives, we are not going to be able to keep our tongues from evil, nor will we always be able to say the right thing at the right time. There are evil forces inside us and in the world around us that are fighting for control of our hearts and our speech. King David had a temper, as we all do, and he prays in Psalm 141, “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth, keep watch over the door of my lips. Do not incline my heart to do any evil thing.”

II.  THE POWER TO DESTROY:  THE FIRE AND THE DANGEROUS ANIMAL  (3:5-8)

In verses 5-8, James compares the tongue to a fire and to a dangerous animal.  A fire spreads very quickly and is very destructive, causing damage that can’t be easily repaired, if it can be repaired at all.  In one town where I pastored, a neighbor came to the door yelling, “Help, my kitchen is on fire!”  I grabbed the portable fire extinguisher out of my car and ran to her house, where I saw smoke coming out of the back door.  As I entered, I had to duck down because of the smoke.  I could see the fire on the wall above the stove and sprayed it with fire-retardent powder until the extinguisher was empty.  When I went outside to get some fresh air I could hear the fire truck coming.  The firemen went inside, sprayed the wall area and checked the ceiling and attic.  Afterward, they asked us to come inside to see the damage.  The wooden spice rack above the stove had caught on fire and the fire chief pointed to a couple of places where the flames had burned through the drywall and had charred the wood.  He said that if I hadn’t been there and put the fire out when I did, it would have gone up the two-by-fours and into the attic and roof by the time they arrived just moments later.  It would have become a house fire rather than just a kitchen fire, and the house would probably have been damaged beyond repair.  That was a scary lesson about the swiftness and destructiveness of fire!

James tells us that the tongue can have a similar effect when we use it to gossip about or slander others.  Evangelist Billy Graham used the following illustration to point out the destructive and lasting effect that our words can have:  There is a story of a woman in England who came to her vicar with a troubled conscience.  The vicar knew her to be an habitual gossip – she had maligned nearly everyone in the village.  “How can I make amends?” she pleaded.  The vicar said “If you want to make peace with your conscience, take a bag of goose feathers and drop one on the porch of each one you have slandered.”  When she had done so, she came back to the vicar and said, “Is that all?”  “No,” said the wise old minister, “you must go now and gather up every feather and bring them all back to me.”  After a long time, the woman returned without a single feather.  “The wind has blown them all away,” she said.  “My good woman,” said the vicar, “so it is with gossip.  Unkind words are easily dropped, but we can never take them back again.”  (Day-By-Day with Billy Graham, Sept. 17)

Fire spreads, and the more fuel you add to that fire, the faster it will spread and the farther it will spread.   Time does not erase or correct the effects of the sins of the tongue.   God wants us to confess these sins and let Him take control of our speech, but the fires we have already kindled and fueled will continue to spread, just like the goose feathers being blown away by the wind.  Realize also that those fires we kindle will also burn us.  People who have been hurt by us will no longer trust us, and the word gets around, and our credibility is gone.  There are many lonely people today who are suffering the consequences of their false and malicious words, and yet refuse to change or admit their guilt.

A dangerous animal also has the power to destroy.  Some are dangerous because of their strong, swift and powerful bodies, many of them equipped with claws and sharp teeth or tusks.  If you’ve ever been to Lion Country or to a Wildlife Safari, you know what I am saying.  Yet  James states that man has been able to tame some of these animals from every species. But, he adds in verse 8:  “No one can tame the tongue”.  Sounds discouraging, doesn’t it?     Don’t lose hope!  I believe that what the Lord Jesus said about riches and salvation in Matthew 19:26 is also true about the tongue:  “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Other animals are dangerous because they are poisonous.  My first overseas duty in the Air Force was at Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai Air Force Base in northern Thailand.  A group of us new arrivals were in an orientation briefing.  One of the warnings we were given was to beware of a particular snake called the krait snake.  The bite of a krait snake has little or no pain, and can cause a false reassurance to the victim.  It feels like the bite of an ant or a mosquito.  The person may not even realize that he’s been bitten.  There is very minimum evidence of local swelling.  Symptoms include a tightening of the facial muscles within one to two hours, inability of the person to see or talk, and death from respiratory failure (or suffocation) within 4-5 hours.  The krait was called the “two-step snake” because its venom was so powerful and acted so quickly.

Our tongues can also have a poisoning effect on others, and on ourselves as well.  Have you ever injected a malicious remark or comment into a conversation in the hope that it might spread to the person you wanted to hurt?  Have you ever yelled at someone in a moment of anger, or shouted profanity?   Maybe you were on the receiving end of those kinds of outbursts,  How did it make you feel?   A.T. Robinson, in his book, “Studies in the Epistle of James”, makes this observation about the defiling effect of our words:  “It is now known that angry words cause the glands of the body to discharge a dangerous poison that affects the stomach, the heart, the brain.”  King David, in Psalm 140:3, had these words to say about evil and wicked men:  “They sharpen their tongues as a serpent;  poison of a viper is under their lips.”

III.  THE POWER TO DELIGHT:  THE FOUNTAIN AND THE FIG TREE (James 3:9-12)

In verse 9 James recognizes that the tongue is good at times.  It is not altogether evil.  But it is inconsistent.  He uses the illustrations of the fountain, the fig tree, and salt water to get his point across.

Have you ever had your mouth washed out with soap?  It isn’t a pleasant experience!  An older kid in our neighborhood was accustomed to using filthy language, and whenever my younger brother and I were around him we tried to imitate him.  One day my mother overheard our conversation.  Since I was the older son, and should have been a good example to my brother, I received the cleansing treatment first.  I could hear my younger brother snickering as I was going through the ordeal.  Then it was his turn!  He didn’t think it was funny anymore!  The soap she used had a pleasant smell to it but it did not taste good!  As you probably aready know, it wasn’t my mouth and tongue that were the real source of the problem.  It was my heart.  But having my mouth washed out with soap gave me a change of heart!

My mother got the point across and the lesson was learned.  As I think of my mother, I cannot remember her ever cursing, swearing or using filthy language.  I’m thankful to God and to her that the use of such language has never become a habit for me.  However, there are other kinds of language that we all have been guilty of and struggle with.  Evangelist Billy Graham says,  “You can use your tongue to slander, to gripe, to scold, to nag, and to quarrel, or you can bring it under the control of God’s Spirit and make it an instrument of blessing and praise.”

In verses 10-12, James uses three illustrations:  the fountain, the fig and olive trees, and salt water,  to show the nature of things.  Water is not sweet and bitter at the same time from the same fountain, is it?  A fig tree cannot produce olives, can it?  Nor can an olive tree produce figs.  And salt water cannot, of itself, produce fresh water, can it?  Nature is consistent because God made it that way.

Man was also created to reflect the image of God (Genesis 1:27).  James says earlier in his letter:  “No one can tame the tongue”;   no one, that is, except God.  You may remember in Exodus 15:23-26 that the people of Israel came to Marah on their journey to the Promised Land.  The word “Marah” means “bitter”, and the waters there were bitter.  They couldn’t drink the waters, and they couldn’t change the condition of the waters, but God did.  When God told them to cast a particular tree into the water, the waters became sweet and drinkable.

If your speech is not reflecting the character of God, and other areas of your life are contrary to God’s will, you may want to make sure that your relationship to God is genuine, and that the Lord Jesus Christ is truly the Lord of your life.  The theme of the book of James is:  “genuine faith produces genuine works”.  If there is any question in your mind, God wants to enter your life if you will turn from your sinful ways and let Him come in and take control of your mind, emotions and will.  Then your words will become words of praise and thanksgiving to God and to others; words that heal, comfort and encourage; words that are beautiful to hear; words that give glory to God.