THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD
Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
August 2, 2020
12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” 13 So the Pharisees said to him, “You are bearing witness about yourself; your testimony is not true.” 14 Jesus answered, “Even if I do bear witness about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. 15 You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one. 16 Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me. 17 In your Law it is written that the testimony of two people is true. 18 I am the one who bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me.” 19 They said to him therefore, “Where is your Father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” 20 These words he spoke in the treasury, as he taught in the temple; but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come.
21 So he said to them again, “I am going away, and you will seek me, and you will die in your sin. Where I am going, you cannot come.” 22 So the Jews said, “Will he kill himself, since he says, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come’?” 23 He said to them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. 24 I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.” 25 So they said to him, “Who are you?” Jesus said to them, “Just what I have been telling you from the beginning. 26 I have much to say about you and much to judge, but he who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him.” 27 They did not understand that he had been speaking to them about the Father. 28 So Jesus said to them, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me. 29 And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.” 30 As he was saying these things, many believed in him.
— John 8:12-30, ESV
Light is the first commandment of God, “Let there be light” (ref. Genesis 1:3). Light is perhaps the most powerful substance in the universe, without which we would be frozen and blind. Light is used as one of the most enduring symbols known to man, always speaking of something good, often a symbol of God.
“Yahweh (the Lord) is my light,” (ref. Psalm 27:1) wrote David in the Old Testament psalm. “God is light,” John wrote in his first New Testament epistle, “and in Him is no darkness at all” (ref. 1 John 1:5).
So imagine Jerusalem’s surprise when the preacher from Galilee, pushed down in public opinion polls by the Pharisees, months away from His humiliating arrest, conviction, and condemnation, stood up and proclaimed, “I am the light of the world.”
This is the second of seven great “I Am” statements made by Jesus and recorded in the Gospel of John. They are all bold, they are all the gospel in a nutshell, and they all light the way to God. But this one may be the most powerful and personal of them all.
The Light of the World is God
Once again we are looking at Jesus on His last days at His last Feast of Tabernacles. The annual festival featured two foundational rituals. One of them involved water, when the high priest would carry a golden bucket of water from the Pool of Siloam to the Temple and pour it out upon the altar. Jesus capitalized earlier on that one to offer the masses “living water” (ref. John 7:38).
The second ritual involved light. Each night four golden oil-filled lamps lifted seventy feet high would illuminate the Temple grounds. The water symbolized the provision of God and the light celebrated the presence of God.
The light of the world is God. He is light, He gives light, and without Him there would be no light. For the Israelites, not believing in God would be like not believing in light.
Everyone believes in light. You can see it, feel it, experience it. But where does light come from? Light predates the switch, the inventor Thomas Edison, the experimenter Benjamin Franklin, and the first cave man to ever spark a fire. It goes back to creation, and someone had to be the first one to turn it on. The very presence of light leads us to pursue belief in an original and personal God.
In the Old Testament, one expressed his or her faith in God by believing in a sacred promise. It was the promise of “Immanuel” (ref. Isaiah 7:14), God with us. This is the promise of the Messiah. This is what the water and the light anticipated at the Feast of Tabernacles.
Now in this New Testament age, one expresses his or her faith in God by believing in a sacred promise about a specific person. He is God with us. He is the Messiah. He gives the living water of God the Spirit and He shines the light of the God the Father. He is God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Light of the World is Jesus
Jesus made a splash at the water ritual by proclaiming Himself as the promised Messiah with living water to give. Now He dares go even farther, standing near the light of four giant menorahs, claiming to be “the light of the world.” Everyone understood what Jesus was saying, whether they believed Him or not.
The unbelievers struck first. Represented by the Pharisees, they challenged Jesus’ claim to be the Messiah by accusing Him of self-promotion, of being the sole witness to His success. They actually had a point in that the Old Testament required two or more witnesses to make a legitimate claim.
They could have called Simon Peter to the stand as the second witness, but they did not know Simon Peter. They could have called any number of Galileans who had learned to trust Jesus, but the snobbish Jerusalem Jews did not know any Galileans. They could have called God to testify, but as Christ told them, they did not know God. Unbelievers do not know God, and they often attack those who do.
The only way to know God today is to repent from a worldly point of view believe in someone who is not of this world, namely the Lord Jesus Christ. He shines the light of the Creator, the Father, Yahweh, the great “I Am.” He shares the light by claiming “I Am the light.” And He spreads the light of the gospel through the power of the Holy Spirit. God — Father, Son, and Spirit — is light and to know Him is to come out of the darkness.
But it is Jesus, God the Son, who shines the light in such a way you can see it. People walked with Him in life. People were standing there at His death. People close to Him witnessed His resurrection and ascension up to Heaven. This story of Jesus is the light of the gospel.
The Light of the World is the Gospel
The gospel is the good news of God’s salvation, wrought by the person and work of Jesus Christ. By grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, a person can know God, become a child of God, be forgiven of all sin, and inherit eternal life. But the gospel is hard for people to believe, because unbelieving people live in darkness. It is impossible for them to seen, unless God’s grace turns on the light of faith for them.
Let’s see if this story has flipped four light switches for you.
Do you see Jesus as the Son of David, the promised Messiah?
Do you see Jesus as the Son of God, coming from the Father, from above to earth in order to make a way for those on earth to go above to Heaven?
Do you see Jesus as perfect, sinless, always pleasing the Father, and the only suitable sacrifice for sinners?
Do you see Jesus high and lifted up as He prophesied here, up upon on the cross, up from the grave, and ascended up into Heaven?
Like the four giant menorah at the Feast of Tabernacles, all four of these lights should come on for you if you are enraptured by grace and endued with faith by the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The light is God, the light is the Lord Jesus Christ, the light is the gospel, and the light is, you, if you truly believe.
The Light of the World is You
Though Jesus staked this claim near the end of His earthly life, “The light of the world” harkens back to something the Lord said at the beginning of His ministry. In His famous “Sermon on the Mount” He told His future followers this: “You are the light of the world” (ref. Matthew 5:14).
Of the seven “I Am” statements in the Gospel of John, this is the only one that applies to both Christ and the Christian. The most staunch and strong believer in Jesus cannot be for others the bread, or the door, or the good shepherd, or the resurrection, or the way and truth and life, or the true vine. But once we have received the light from the Lord, we shine it for others to see and follow.
If you are a skeptic or scoffer, or if you believe but only nominally and superficially, or if you admit you like the darkness you are living in because you do not want your sins exposed by the light, I beg you to let the light of Jesus Christ shine on you. Yes, you will have to repent of those sins, you will have to commit to Christ and obey God’s word, you will have to change and be challenged every day. But, you will live, by the light, and not die in darkness.
If you are a true follower of Jesus Christ, do not hide your light. Like the simple song says, let it shine, don’t let Satan blow it out, and don’t hide it. Live a life of light, publicly worshiping and serving your Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.
THE BUSINESS OF FORGIVENESS
Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
July 26, 2020
They went each to his own house, 1 but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2 Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. 3 The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst 4 they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. 5 Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” 6 This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. 7 And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. 9 But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”
— John 8:1-11, ESV
I miss John Prine. Outside of the Psalmist, and Isaac Watts, and Bob Dylan, He is the most honest, gracious, and redemptive songwriter to ever pen a tune. Due to his age and preexisting conditions, he succumbed to Covid-19 on April 7.
Prine is also one of those rare artists who saved his best for last. “The Tree of Forgiveness,” his final album, is far and away his best. It earned his highest ranking ever on the charts and garnered for Prine his tenth and eleventh Grammy nominations, plus his third Grammy Award, for lifetime achievement. The title of the album came from a line in its closing song, “When I Get to Heaven.” When he gets to Heaven, Prine wrote,
Then as God is my witness, I'm gettin' back into show business,
I'm gonna open up a nightclub called “The Tree of Forgiveness,”
And forgive everybody ever done me any harm.
All of us should aspire to have this final song in life, “When I Get to Heaven.” But you cannot get there unless you climb up the “Tree of Forgiveness” and taste some of the free and un-forbidden fruit. I’m not sure God has a nightclub waiting for us in Heaven, but I do know He is in the business of forgiveness.
The business of forgiveness is pictured here in a spurious text, John 8:1-11. It presents us with a scandalous sinner. And, it centers on the sublime Savior who owns this business of forgiveness. He is a controversial character Himself, who under the greatest of pressure and nearing an appointment with His own death, somehow found the perfect words to say to diffuse a deadly situation and bring peace, and forgiveness, to all who will have it.
The Questionable Story
Those of you who use any kind of Study Bible will notice the notes that call this text into question. There is only scant evidence of its inclusion in early editions of John, and also in Luke. The text disappears from the copied manuscripts of the Gospel of John until it emerged in the second millennium. If you understand the Feast of Tabernacles, with its great emphasis on water and light, then you can see how John 7:37-52 should be immediately followed by John 8:12ff. Also, John never used the combination “scribes and Pharisees” elsewhere in his Gospel, although it is found often in Luke.
On the other hand, it was a Judean story, which primarily interested John as opposed to the Galilean domination of the Matthew, Mark, and Luke. It painted the Pharisees in a bad light, the only color John used when discussing the group, Nicodemus excepted. The character, courage, and compassion of Jesus is spot on with everything else we read about Him in the rest of the Bible. Furthermore, great saints like Augustine and Calvin attest to the genuineness of this text.
So while the placement of the story may be questionable, it is unquestionable to me that this is an inerrant account of the nature of sin and the character of Jesus. It most likely occurred not at the Feast of Tabernacles, but at the subsequent Passover, which would be Jesus’ last. The motif of sleeping on the Mount of Olives and rising early to go to the Temple and teach matches nicely with the other biblical narratives surrounding Passion Week.
In the story a woman’s life is on the line, but so is Jesus’. He is the one the Pharisees really wanted, and they orchestrate these events to put the Lord between a rock and a hard place, between Jewish customs and Roman jurisprudence, between Old Testament law and New Testament grace, between the death penalty and lifesaving mercy. This so-called spurious story is a spiritual story of a scandalous sinner and a sublime Savior.
The Apprehended Sinner
We do not know her name, we only know what she did. Actions do speak louder than words. Because of one action and in a few words, this person is known to us only as “a woman … caught in adultery.” How would you like to have that written on your tombstone?
Perhaps this was an original story in John that got cut out because the church did not want to be seen as going to easy on adultery. After all, adultery breaks one of the Ten Commandments of the Old Testament. It is forbidden in the New Testament as well. Adultery does more to break down virtue and break up families than almost any other sin. It is a serious transgression and the wounds it causes should be taken seriously; but, not with a pharisaical attitude.
The Pharisees … boo! Even though adultery is terrible and the woman is culpable, she does not seem to be the worst sinner in this story. When a little boy is cheating on a test in school and a little girl points it out in public to the teacher, who is wrong and who is right, and who gets our sympathy and who gets our disdain? It is our fallen human nature, or is it the vestige of imago deo, or a little bit of both, that causes us to pity the criminal and punish the police?
But the Pharisees were not the police. They were perpetrators, having conspired to set the whole thing up to shame the woman and corner Christ into a no-win situation. They were chauvinists, too, for where was the man caught in adultery? They were abusers of Scripture, for not all adultery is commanded to end in stoning, otherwise how did King David die of old age? They were cruel, without compassion, trying to make themselves look spiritually rich at this other sinners’ expense. They, not the woman, were the most scandalous sinners in this story.
All to often we team up with them, the woman and the Pharisees. Anytime we if we have lust in our hearts, or anytime we have been unfaithful to God, we are the woman caught in adultery. Anytime we think someone else’s sin is worse than our own, or we want someone punished for a sin we too are guilty of, we are Pharisees.
So who is the scandalous sinner now? Who desperately needs forgiveness now? We all do. We all need to go shopping in the business of forgiveness.
The Merciful Savior
The business of forgiveness is run by the ultimate Joe Cool. Jesus is His name, and grace under pressure is His game. The way He was born, the way He slid in and out of the Temple at age twelve, the way He came on the scene and conducted Himself during His three years of public ministry, were supremely sublime. I especially love this story, spurious or not, for He was never more cool, calm, and collected than right here.
Christ did not answer them at first, which means that He, the God-man, took time to think before He spoke, a practical lesson for us all. When He did speak, Jesus correctly applied Scripture where the Pharisees had misinterpreted it. When stoning is to be carried out, it has to be instigated by the witnesses to the capital crime, and it is stipulated that said witness cannot be in any way party to or guilty of the same crime (ref. Deuteronomy 13:9, 17:7). Therefore, the Lord’s words based on God’s word came out this way:
Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.
This devastated and disarmed the Pharisees, who were no doubt already collecting rocks. They were guilty of spiritual, mental, and in some cases physical adultery themselves. Their murderous plot was foiled, both to kill the woman before the Jews and to kill Jesus before the Romans (though they would succeed on another day). So they crawled back into the hole they came out of and went away, at least for a time, leaving Jesus and the woman alone, to conduct the business of forgiveness.
The Business of Forgiveness
The business of forgiveness begins with just you and God, alone. You must stand before him, guilty of a multitude of sins, the greatest of which is unfaithfulness to Him. You cannot hide your guilt from Him, for He has seen it all. And you must know He has the power and authority to punish you, capitally and eternally.
The business of forgiveness is run by God, and God alone. God alone has the power to forgive sins, which Jesus claimed during His ministry, thereby claiming to be God. The woman caught in adultery would not have known Jesus as God, at first, but by the end of the episode she did call on the name of the “Lord.” I think the woman saw something in Jesus’ eyes that she had never seen in another man. Instead of lust, she saw love. Instead of arrogance, she sensed forgiveness, which was confirmed when Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you.” Perhaps she saw in His eyes a reflection of her past self, sinning in a bed in which she did not belong. Perhaps she saw in His eyes an image of His future self, condemned by Pilate, nailed to a cross, buried in a tomb. The business of forgiveness requires such a sacrifice.
The business of forgiveness deals in currency issued by God in a two-sided coin. On one side of the coin is faith, the faith that recognizes the Lordship of Christ and calls upon His name, His grace, and His mercy. On the other side of the same coin is repentance, the gift and the will to “go, and from now on sin no more.” Without faith in Jesus and repentance from sin, you cannot receive anything from God’s business of forgiveness.
The business of forgiveness is open to everyone. However, people do not usually come on their own. They have to be brought, or in the woman’s case, caught. Those Pharisees unintentionally did this woman a favor, for they brought her to Jesus, and His business of forgiveness. Have you been caught? Or, is your sin known only to you and God. Either way, come on in. Enter into God’s business of forgiveness, where amazing grace and abundant mercy are absolutely free.
THE TRINITY FROM GALILEE
Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
July 19, 2020
37 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
40 When they heard these words, some of the people said, “This really is the Prophet.” 41 Others said, “This is the Christ.” But some said, “Is the Christ to come from Galilee? 42 Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the offspring of David, and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David was?” 43 So there was a division among the people over him. 44 Some of them wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him.
45 The officers then came to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, “Why did you not bring him?” 46 The officers answered, “No one ever spoke like this man!” 47 The Pharisees answered them, “Have you also been deceived? 48 Have any of the authorities or the Pharisees believed in him? 49 But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed.” 50 Nicodemus, who had gone to him before, and who was one of them, said to them, 51 “Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?” 52 They replied, “Are you from Galilee too? Search and see that no prophet arises from Galilee.”
— John 7:37-52, ESV
The Gospel of John sets out to prove at least two points about Jesus of Nazareth. Number one, He was, is, and always will be the Lord God (ref. 1:1-14, 10:30). Number two, He was, is, and always will be the promised Messiah, the Savior of God’s people (ref. 20:31, 4:42, 3:16). Jesus is Lord and Savior!
These points are hardly proven more plainly as on the last day of Jesus’ last Feast of Tabernacles. Jesus says things and things are said about Jesus that prove Jesus is Lord and Savior. They also provide a wide open window of opportunity to believe, to be saved, and to be sure of it.
The Trinity from Galilee
Part of the closing ceremony at the Feast of Tabernacles was the water ritual. The high priest would fill a golden bucket with water from the Pool of Siloam, then take it to the Temple and pour it out upon the altar. The celebration of water was a celebration of God, past and present and future. It remembered God’s past provision of water from the rock during the Exodus, it thanked God for the present water in the pools, rivers, and seas, and it trusted God for future water from the upcoming rains. Life depends upon water and water depends upon God; therefore, God is the giver of life, which is what the Jews celebrated at the Feast.
Now imagine yourself there, at the water libation ceremony, and this rumored Messiah or mad man, Jesus of Nazareth, stands up and shouts that He, the carpenter’s son from Galilee, is the supreme source of life-giving water. What was Jesus saying? He was saying that He was, is, and always will be God.
Jesus was saying He is the same as the Father. He gives life to those who believe in Him (ref. 10:30, 14:9). During the Exodus from Egypt to Israel, God gave the Jews water from the rock to keep them alive, otherwise they would have perished. Jesus is that God and that Rock. Now, He offers the living water of spiritual salvation so that people will not perish but have everlasting life.
Jesus was saying He is the same as the Son, the Savior of the World. He saves those who believe in Him (ref. 3:16). The “thirst” Jesus mentions is soul thirst. J.C. Ryle described it as “anxiety of soul, conviction of sin, desire of pardon, and a longing for peace.” It is the desperate need for salvation, and Jesus’ name literally means “God saves.” This is why God sent His Son, to Israel, to the Feast, to the cross, and to the whole world.
Jesus was saying He is the same as the Spirit. And, He gives the Spirit to those who believe in Him (ref. 16:7ff). The text here does not say the Spirit is yet to exist, because the Spirit is God, and God has always existed. The Spirit was alive and well in the Old Covenant (ref. Psalm 51:1) and in the early days of the New Covenant (ref. Luke 1:15, 1:41, 2:25; John 1:32, 3:5, 3:34, etc.). Jesus was preaching evangelistically to unbelievers who had yet to receive the Spirit, because they had yet to glorify Jesus by acknowledging that He was, is, and always will be God.
You see, God has always been a single, supreme being who reveals Himself to man as a Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In Creation, the Father ordained it, the Son spoke it into existence, and the Spirit hovers over and maintains it. In re-creation, or salvation, the Father ordained it, the Son accomplished it, and the Spirit applies it to the human heart. The three work as one, and the three are one, and when you see, hear, or believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, you are receiving and putting your faith in the one, true, triune, and living God.
Jesus is God. Jesus is Lord. Jesus is the Trinity, from Galilee. Only, He was not actually born in Galilee, was He?
The Division over David
Of all of the men of God in the Old Testament, only one was prophet, priest, and king. His name was David Bar-Jesse, from the tribe of Judah. He prophetically preached the word of God and penned Holy Scripture. He provided priestly intercession for the people of Israel and was privy to the sacramental bread. And, he was the second and greatest King of Israel who led them to occupy all of the promised land (which was held only during his reign and that of his son, Solomon).
So great a man after God’s own heart was David, that God promised a descendent of David’s would be the promised Prophet, Priest, and King over Israel, the people of God, forever (ref. 2 Samuel 7:16-17). Of the three major Jewish feasts — Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles — the latter was infused with the most Davidic-Messianic fever.
So after Jesus’ bold pronouncement, the people speculated and separated. Some said Jesus was “the Prophet,” which is synonymous with others’ statement that Jesus was “the Christ,” the Messiah. Others, especially the religious rulers, said Jesus was an imposter and deceiver. After all, Jesus came from Galilee, and David was clearly a Judean, born in Bethlehem and died in Jerusalem.
In reality, so was Jesus. He was born in Bethlehem (ref. Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:1ff; Luke 2:1ff) and He died in Jerusalem. And He was, according to the flesh, a descendent of David (ref. Matthew 1:1; Luke 3:31).
Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Son of Man, a man named David. This makes Jesus the Messiah. This makes Jesus Lord and Savior. This makes Jesus Prophet and Priest and King. Jesus preached the God-honest truth, Jesus intercedes for sinners like you and me, and Jesus saves all those who crown Him king of their lives. But in our short lives there are small windows of opportunity to believe.
The Window of Opportunity
Jesus certainly stuck out His neck to preach the gospel at the Feast of Tabernacles. Already the plot was thick to have Him arrested and killed. It would have to thicken another six months before it could be accomplished.
Some at this Feast would not make it to the next Feast, the Passover. Some would never see, hear, or meet Jesus again. Nicodemus, the Pharisee who came to Jesus by night in the early days of Christ’s ministry, and who will appear again after His death on the cross, encouraged the leaders and the laypeople to give Jesus a hearing, now.
Thus says the Lord: “In a time of favor I have answered you; in a day of salvation I have helped you.”
— Isaiah 49:8
Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.
— 2 Corinthians 6:2
I believe in the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man. I believe faith and repentance are gifts and commandments. I believe in election and evangelism.
And I believe when one hears the gospel of Jesus Christ, he or she must act with great urgency. It is a window of opportunity, and one never knows when the window will be closed. Today, you’ve attended the last day of the Feast with Jesus. There may not be another day.
Jesus Christ is either a liar, a lunatic, or He is Lord. Jesus Christ is either a mere mortal man with delusions of grandeur, or He is the promised Messiah and only Savior of the world. He speaks to us today as the embodiment of God and the giver of the Spirit. Listen to Him. Believe in Him. Accept Him as the Lord and Savior of your life and it is life you will have, forever, with the Trinity from Galilee.
WHY SHOULD ANYONE BELIEVE IN JESUS?
Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
July 12, 2020
25 Some of the people of Jerusalem therefore said, “Is not this the man whom they seek to kill? 26 And here he is, speaking openly, and they say nothing to him! Can it be that the authorities really know that this is the Christ? 27 But we know where this man comes from, and when the Christ appears, no one will know where he comes from.” 28 So Jesus proclaimed, as he taught in the temple, “You know me, and you know where I come from. But I have not come of my own accord. He who sent me is true, and him you do not know. 29 I know him, for I come from him, and he sent me.” 30 So they were seeking to arrest him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come. 31 Yet many of the people believed in him. They said, “When the Christ appears, will he do more signs than this man has done?” 32 The Pharisees heard the crowd muttering these things about him, and the chief priests and Pharisees sent officers to arrest him. 33 Jesus then said, “I will be with you a little longer, and then I am going to him who sent me. 34 You will seek me and you will not find me. Where I am you cannot come.” 35 The Jews said to one another, “Where does this man intend to go that we will not find him? Does he intend to go to the Dispersion among the Greeks and teach the Greeks? 36 What does he mean by saying, You will seek me and you will not find me,’ and, ‘Where I am you cannot come’?”
— John 7:25-36, ESV
Why should anyone believe in Jesus?
This is the second negative question “The Jews,” the religious rulers of Israel, were planting in people’s brains as Jesus’ public ministry began to wind down. The plot against Him was thickening, the accusations made against Him were sickening, and the end to their means was life-threatening. “Is not this the man whom they seek to kill? (vs. 25)”
The powers that be had labeled Jesus a demoniac and libeled Him as a false prophet. They did not want anyone to listen to Jesus. As the great pastor and writer Warren Wiersbe said, “It is much easier to label and libel people rather than listen to them.” This is good wisdom when it comes to listening to the Lord, and to other people as well.
They not want anyone to listen to Jesus because they did not want anyone to believe in Jesus.
Though they tried to silence Him, the Word of God would not be stopped. Thought they dissuaded people from believing in Him, the Son of God continued to preach and plant seeds of faith in His future followers. Are you listening to Jesus? Do you believe Jesus is the Christ? You should believe in Him!
Jesus is the Expected Messiah
“But we know where this man comes from, and when the Christ appears, no one will know where he comes from” (vs. 27).
The religious rulers who opposed Jesus were wrong where it matters most. They were incompetent interpreters of the inerrant word of God. Therefore, they were wrong in their conclusions about the expected Messiah, the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Messiah, as predicted by Old Testament prophecy, would indeed be a mystery man, but His origins and arrivals would not be unknown. He was to be born in Bethlehem (ref. Micah 5:2), raised in Nazareth (ref. Matthew 2:23), minister primarily in Galilee (ref. Isaiah 9:1-2), and in Jerusalem be crucified, resurrected, and ascended into Heaven (ref. Isaiah 52:13-53:12). Holy Scripture reveals these and hundreds of other reasons why you should believe in Him!
In these fulfillments and more, Jesus proved to be the Messiah, and the Messiah proves to be the Son of God, “In him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily,” (ref. Colossians 2:9), sent to mankind. The Gospel of John will have much more to day about the deity of Christ (ref. 10:30, 14:9, all seven “I Am” statements, etc.). But Jesus clearly claimed to be the Christ, a man sent from God and God sent to man. You should believe in Him!
We all make errors in judgment, and minor mistakes can be overcome. But erroneous interpretations of Scripture lead to fatally flawed conclusions about God. The worst mistake in the world is to judge Jesus wrongly, as the Jews were doing in this text. He is the Christ, He is the Messiah, He is the man sent from God and the true and living God sent to man. You should believe in Him!
Jesus is the Incarnation of God
“And here he is, speaking openly, and they say nothing to him! Can it be that the authorities really know that this is the Christ?” (vs. 26)
“Yet many of the people believed in him. They said, “When the Christ appears, will he do more signs than this man has done?” (vs. 31)
Jesus’ speech and signs were performed perfectly, although the religious rulers did not believe it. Recently, CNN’s Don Lemon’s claimed, “Jesus admittedly was not perfect when he was on earth.” He fits right in with the Pharisees, Sadducees, and other blind guides of Jesus’ day. Idiots know no historical bounds. Jesus, however, proved the losers and the lemons wrong, by being perfect (and humble) in every way.
Jesus was perfect in speech. In His sermons He never said anything that contradicted Scripture, scientific evidence, or the right sensibilities of mankind. He was honest, He was loving, He was courageous, and He was kind. From the sermon on the mount, to these sessions at the Feast of Tabernacles, to His last Passover, Jesus spoke with the ability and authority of God. Even unbelievers marveled. You should, too, and you should believe in Him!
Jesus was perfect in power. The signs pointing to His deity were bonafide, organic, verifiable miracles that created powerful and positive changes that only God can make. He made food multiply and walked on water. He made the blind see, the deaf hear, and the lame walk. He made dead people come to life, and gave His life in death so that spiritually dead people can live forever. No one can do these things except God. Jesus is God. And you should believe in Him!
If I could speak without ever making an error, then you should believe in me and follow me and do whatever I command. But I can’t, and you shouldn’t. If Bennie Hinn would walk in here right now and take heal my myopia, my arthritis, and make my hair grow back, I would believe in him and follow him and do whatever he commands. But he can’t, so I won’t. But the Lord Jesus Christ spoke the perfect and pure word of God, and touched people with the power of God, you should believe in Him!
Jesus is the Only Way to Heaven
Jesus then said, “I will be with you a little longer, and then I am going to him who sent me. You will seek me and you will not find me. Where I am you cannot come” (vs. 33-34).
As God, Jesus is omniscient and sovereign. As Messiah, He was a gentleman, with no intention of staying where He was not wanted, nor forcing people to follow Him against their will. So before the finale of the Feast of Tabernacles, Jesus told His largely unbelieving audience He was leaving and going to a place where they could not come.
Jesus returned to His earthly home in Galilee, but anybody could have gone there. In a few months, He would return to Jerusalem for the Passover, the last Passover. A million or more would be there. But after that, Jesus was going to His real home, above the realm of sight, where only the faithful can follow.
In the person and work of Jesus Christ, God brought Heaven to earth for the purpose of bringing people on earth to Heaven. But “you cannot come” if you do not believe in Him. Pharisees and Sadducees do not go to Heaven. Unbelievers do not go to Heaven. Adherents of alternative or false religions other than true Christianity do not go to Heaven. Rejectors of religion altogether do not go to Heaven. Good people who ignore the good news, or gospel, of Jesus Christ do not go to Heaven. The only people who can follow Jesus into Heaven are those who follow Him on earth in true repentance and genuine faith. This is why you should believe in Him!
I know such talk sounds offensive in this enlightened age in which we live. Actually, claiming Christ’s words, “I Am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (ref. John 14:6), in any age or culture is dangerous, as it got Jesus killed in His own day. But the gospel is true, and it is the only path to walk if you want forgiveness of sins, real meaning in life, and Heaven everlasting. Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. This is why you should believe in the Lord Jesus Christ!
WHY SHOULD ANYONE LISTEN TO JESUS?
Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
July 5, 2020
14 About the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and began teaching. 15 The Jews therefore marveled, saying, “How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?” 16 So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me. 17 If anyone's will is to do God's will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority. 18 The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood. 19 Has not Moses given you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why do you seek to kill me?” 20 The crowd answered, “You have a demon! Who is seeking to kill you?” 21 Jesus answered them, “I did one work, and you all marvel at it. 22 Moses gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. 23 If on the Sabbath a man receives circumcision, so that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because on the Sabbath I made a man's whole body well? 24 Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”
— John 7:14-24, ESV
Why should anyone listen to Jesus?
That was the question “The Jews,” the religious rulers of Israel, were putting forth to the people as Jesus’ public ministry began to wind down. It was a negative, rhetorical question lodged against the most positive rhetoric ever preached, the good news of the kingdom of God delivered by the Son of God.
Christ’s critics claimed He was no King, just a nobody from the peasant class of Galilee. They said Jesus was no Messiah, merely a megalomaniac trying to pull people away from the Jewish religious establishment. They said Jesus was not the Lord sent from Heaven, but a demon-possessed pawn in the palm of Satan.
The critics today are a little kinder. They say Jesus was a good man, but not the God man. They say He preached the truth, but the religious truths of yesterday are not practical for the prerogatives of today. They say He showed people the way to God, but today there are many ways to God of which Jesus is only one, not the only One.
So why in this present age would anyone want listen to Jesus? This passage in the Gospel of John would like to give us at least three reasons.
The Teaching of Jesus is of the Finest Quality
Teachers, preachers, and other public speakers have about thirty seconds or less to compel someone to listen to what they have to say, then about thirty minutes or less to tell them what they have to say. The ways to make first impressions and hold attention spans have changed throughout the centuries, but Jesus faced the same public pressures that preachers have faced throughout history.
How did Jesus do? It seemed people could not take their eyes, or ears, off of Him. His preaching and teaching was other-worldly, yet at the same time it contained this world’s finest intellectual, emotional, and volitional quality.
In terms of intellect, Jesus is the one man in human history who really knew everything. His perfect mind was put on display every time He preached. Even His contemporary critics marveled that Jesus had “grammata” (“learning” in vs. 15), which would have been unnatural for a mere carpenter’s son from Galilee, but not surprising for the supernatural Son of God.
In terms of emotion, Jesus preached not only from the head, but straight from the heart. His great, heart-felt messages were the only explanation for the great range of emotions that were returned to Him, either in loyalty or loathing. Passion begets passion. Jesus’ emotional range could climb to the highest form of love for God and then descend to the hottest form of indignation for the enemies of God. There was not much middle ground at the feet of Jesus.
In terms of volition, or will, God’s will was Jesus’ sole ground and goal in preaching. “If anyone’s will is to do God’s will,” He said in vs. 17, they would acquiesce to the life-changing quality of Christ’s words. This is what excellent preaching and teaching does, it informs the mind, inspires the heart, and it moves the will to conformity with God’s will. No one has ever preached or taught as perfectly as the Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, more than eleven people should have listened to Jesus then. Many more people should be listening to Him now. And we can! The Bible contains four Gospels, each Gospel contains passages which some editions color in red.
The red words cut the deepest,
The red words are the call.
The red words come from Jesus,
And they mean the most of all.
— Vince Gill, “The Red Words”
I challenge you to read the red words of Jesus, then tell me who is more intelligent than Him? I beg you to hear the words of Jesus, and tell me who loves you more than Him? I charge you to read the commandments of Jesus, and tell me who is more worthy of Him of being followed and obeyed. All people should listen to Jesus, because of the sheer quality of His words, and because they are the words of God.
But the red letters are not the only words from God. There is quality, authority, and gravity in the black letters, too.
The Teaching of Jesus is of the Highest Authority
There are two mentions of the word “authority” in this text. Also, two sources of God’s authority are revealed. One, of course, is the word of Jesus Christ, who plainly speaks with the beauty, quality, and the authority of God. The other, mentioned by Jesus, is the “law of Moses.” Here is where the black letters come into important view.
God is one, but He reveals Himself to us in the Holy Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God has one voice, but He channels His voice through all three persons of the Trinity. There were times, albeit rare, when God the Father spoke audibly. There was a season, of some thirty years of life which included three years of public ministry, when God spoke through the person and work of the Son, Jesus Christ. And through many years in many ways through many authors, the Holy Spirit has spoken through Holy Scripture, beginning with “the law of Moses.”
The Pentateuch (five books of Moses) is known to the Jews as the “Law.” People of faith in the Old Covenant also recognized God’s hand and authority in the “Writings” (Joshua through Song of Solomon) and the “Prophets” (Isaiah through Malachi). Early Christians received and revered the New Covenant through the writing of the “Gospels and Acts,” the “Epistles,” and the “Revelation.”
“All Scripture is breathed out by God …”
— 2 Timothy 3:16
Jesus is clearly claiming here that His spoken words and the written word of God, now known as the Bible, both carry the highest authority possible, the authority of Almighty God. When the Word of God, Jesus Christ, speaks, people should listen. When the word of God speaks, the Bible, speaks, people should listen. But, they don’t.
“Now I think I know,
What you tried to say to me.
And how you suffered for your sanity,
And how you tried to set them free.
They would not listen, they're not listening still,
Perhaps they never will.”
— Don McLean, “Vincent”
And this is where the controversy comes in.
The Teaching of Jesus causes the Greatest Controversy
If the teaching of Jesus and the right interpretation of Scripture is true, then the Jewish religious leaders of Jesus’ day were wrong. He is, and they were. So, they killed Him.
Jesus scolded them for not listening to Him and for not interpreting and obeying the Bible correctly as well. The Old Testament had a lot to say about honoring the Sabbath, but Jesus’ healing on the Sabbath, the “one work” (ref. John 5:1ff) referred to in the dialogue, in no way violated the word of God. It violated some of their man-made misinterpretations and additions to the word of God.
If the teaching of Jesus and the right interpretation of Scripture is true today, then every other religion is wrong, and the whole of mainstream culture — politics, courts, media, entertainment, etc. — is going the wrong way. So, what will our present world do with Christ, and Christians? This is a fight for which you want to go down with the Lord Jesus Christ, dying to self and taking up your cross and following Him.
Remember that Jesus’ words in this text arise at the peak of His unpopularity. In six months, He will be hanging on a tree. He offered His teaching, but the people would not listen. They wanted a different kind of Messiah made in their own image. So, they used their influence to persuade people not to listen to Jesus.
The world today is doing the same thing and asking the same question. Why should anyone listen to Jesus? Why should anyone honor and obey the Holy Scriptures? Whey should we obey God, when we can all just go our own way?
“All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned — every one — to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”
— Isaiah 53:6
We stand today, as they did in Jesus’ day, at a great crossroad. Go your own way, listen to the sirens of the world, or listen to your own autonomous voice, take pleasure now and punishment later. Or, go the Jesus way, repent and believe, trust and obey, live your life according to the gospel and the word of God. They road you choose will determine your destiny for eternity.
“Judge with right judgment,” Jesus said. Listen to Jesus. He is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God!
THE ANTI-CHRISTIANS ARE EVERYWHERE
Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
June 14, 2020
1 After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He would not go about in Judea, because the Jews were seeking to kill him. 2 Now the Jews' Feast of Booths was at hand. 3 So his brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples also may see the works you are doing. 4 For no one works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.” 5 For not even his brothers believed in him. 6 Jesus said to them, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always here. 7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil. 8 You go up to the feast. I am not going up to this feast, for my time has not yet fully come.” 9 After saying this, he remained in Galilee. 10 But after his brothers had gone up to the feast, then he also went up, not publicly but in private. 11 The Jews were looking for him at the feast, and saying, “Where is he?” 12 And there was much muttering about him among the people. While some said, “He is a good man,” others said, “No, he is leading the people astray.” 13 Yet for fear of the Jews no one spoke openly of him.
— John 7:1-13, ESV
John is the most skillful biblical writer of all when it comes to defining and describing what a Christian is. He is also quite proficient at teaching us what a Christian is not. As we continue to slog through the slough of despond in John’s Gospel, describing the final months of Jesus’ life when unbelief became militant, we meet a diverse group of anti-Christians.
Anti-Christians are the offspring the Anti-Christ, a figure forged by John in his epistles (ref. 1 John 2:18, 2:22, 4:3; 2 John 1:7). The Anti-Christ has spawned a multitude of extra-biblical and pseudo-prophetic books meant to strike terror in the hearts of readers. But the Anti-Christ does not come to us with horns on his head, fangs in his mouth, and a pitchfork in his hand. He simply walks into our homes, business, and churches dressed like an ordinary man. He is a brother, a banker, or even a Baptist preacher.
But an anti-Christian is fully what a Christian is not. He is an unbeliever who uses his unbelief to belittle and battle true belief. Our families, the world, and the church, are full of them.
Anti-Christians in the Family
Jesus Christ was surrounded by anti-Christians in His own home. “For not even His brothers believed in Him” (vs. 5). Many Christians today, no matter how Christ-like they are, have the same problem.
Protestant theology and the plain reading of Scripture attest to the fact that Jesus has blood brothers, albeit half-brothers. Joseph and Mary had children together after the virgin birth of Jesus. Two of the boys were named Jacob (James) and Judah (Jude), after whom two of our New Testament epistles are named.
What little is said about them in the Gospels is not good. They joined with their mother to try to have Jesus institutionalized at the beginning of His ministry (ref. Mark 3:20-21). As His ministry nears its end, they are seen here making fun of Him. James and Jude were certainly not Christians at this point; therefore, they were anti-Christians.
It is sad and perhaps shocking that people can be so close to Jesus and not believe in Him as Lord and Savior. Maybe the brothers were jealous. Maybe the brothers were callous. Maybe the brothers were trying to be humorous. One thing is certain, they did not believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.
We who are Christians have members of our families who are not, and it is the saddest fact of life to face. They do not share our faith commitment to Christ. They do not share out time commitment to worship and serve Christ. And, they will not share our eternity with Christ, unless they repent and believe.
How are we to respond to anti-Christians in our own families? Jesus will show us the way.
Anti-Christians in the World
Jesus had to face brothers who did not believe in Him, and a whole world who hated Him. The hostility increased as Christ’s steps to the cross grew shorter. “The world ... hates Me,” (vs. 7) Jesus said.
“World” is a word John uses differently according to context. Overall, he makes it clear that while “God so loved the world,” the world does not love God, nor His Son Jesus Christ. The world, apart from saving grace, is anti-Christian.
The world, contextually the lost world, is much like Jesus’ brothers at this time. They do not have time for Jesus. People are busy making money, busy making love, making movies for Netflix. Sundays and other days spent worshiping God, reading the Bible, engaging in church ministry does not fit into the world’s otherwise busy schedules. A schedule where Jesus is absent is anti-Christian.
The lost world enjoys its sin and does not want anyone, not the Christ and not some Christ follower, telling them that they are wrong. In these modern times, it seems the only thing a person can do wrong is to tell a person they are doing wrong. The world does not want the church telling them what to do. It does not want the police to tell them what they cannot do. Such moral relativism and criminal nihilism is decidedly anti-Christian.
The anti-Christian world is seldom ugly as it has been lately, though. Normally, the world makes beautiful art, films, and music. It believes in social justice and social programs. But people in this world do not repent and do not believe, which are the definitive New Testament prerequisites for being saved and becoming a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. Non-Christians are by nature anti-Christians.
The anti-Christian and the Christian are as different as love and hate. If you love this present world with all of its sins, then you hate the gospel of Jesus Christ (see also 1 John 2:15-17). If you love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, as Jesus commanded (ref. Matthew 22:26ff), then you will hate sin and the destructive effect it has upon people.
That the anti-Christians are in the world all around us is no secret. Is there a secret to reaching them? Jesus will show us the way.
Anti-Christians in the Church
It should not surprise us that many of our family members are unbelievers, nor that unbelief is the dominant belief in the world at large. What is shocking still to me, however, is how many anti-Christians there are in the Christian church.
The context of every text in the Gospels is a religious context. “The Jews” (of vs. 1 and vs. 13) were the most religious people on the planet, in ways good and bad. The good astutely adhered to the Old Covenant while waiting for the dawning of the New Covenant. The bad perverted the Old Covenant and prevented people from being introduced to the New Covenant. It was a mixture of the good, the bad, and the ugly.
“The Jews” more specifically in the Gospel of John point to the religious rulers of Judea and Jerusalem who were adamantly opposed to the Lord Jesus Christ. They intimidated the people, too, and bullied anyone suspected of belief or even sympathy towards Jesus Christ. They ignored the good news, and they were bad and ugly about it.
As Jesus prepared to appear at the Feast of Tabernacles, about six months after the feeding of the five thousand and six months before His last Passover, the anti-Christian elements of Jesus’ family, the world, and the Jewish “church” were all conspiring against Him, against Christ. They were anti-Christ. There was virtually no one left who would speak up for Jesus, for the Christ.
Do not think this is merely an Old Covenant Jewish problem? Today it is very much a New Covenant church problem. If you take into account all the Christians in all of the churches of the world today, most of them are worldly and anti-Christian. They deny the cardinal doctrines of the Christian faith, pillar the five pillars of the Great Reformation, and live lives untethered from the most basic teachings of Holy Scripture, which they relegate to myth and legend. Most Christians today are actually anti-Christians.
So what are the real Christians supposed to do? Jesus will show us the way.
The Christian Response to Anti-Christians
How did Jesus respond to His brothers, to the lost world around Him, and to the religious hypocrites of His day?
Jesus loved His brothers. He lived with them and provided for them for thirty years. They may have mocked Him, but He loved them. They may have abandoned Him at the cross, but He came to them after the resurrection.
We must be the resurrection to our families. We must show them the love of God that saves by loving God in front of them and loving them in front of God. So often, love find a way and leads people to the way.
Jesus shined a light in the lost world. At the Festival which featured rituals of pouring water and lighting candles, Jesus offered living water and the light of the world. His true righteousness, not self-righteousness, and His direct preaching of the gospel provided a saving light at the end of a lost tunnel.
We must be the light of the world to lost people in the world. We must shine for Jesus in our faith commitment and our moral character, We must offer them as much forbearance and tolerance as Scripture will allow. If Christ is alive in us and the Bible is true to us, perhaps the living Word and the written word will find a way to change their hearts the same way He has changed ours.
Jesus rebuked religious charlatans. This is the one group of anti-Christians that even the Christ could not take. “The Jews” killed His reputation and then killed Him, but Jesus never backed down from them for a moment. Where is Christ now, and where are they?
Liberal theologians and prosperity gospel preachers are the parasites sucking the life out of Christianity today, and we must expose them and remove them from our midst at every opportunity. They are the anti-Christs that the true Christ just could not stand.
The only antidote for anti-Christians is true Christianity. True Christianity shows itself in love, moral excellence, and courage. True Christians’ lives are the means of grace that fuel the gospel and can turn anti-Christians into Christians. This is the reason why we are still here, in our families, in the world, and in the church.
DROPOUTS AND DISCIPLES
Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
June 7, 2020
60 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” 61 But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? 62 Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) 65 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”
66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 67 So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” 70 Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.” 71 He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was going to betray him.
— John 6:60-71, ESV
Last year the number of church members who do not attend church services or offer other signs of spiritual life reached 65% (according to Barna Research). Southern Baptists are among the worst, as on any given Sunday 75% of our members cannot be accounted for. During last century’s heyday of Billy Graham Crusades and local church revivals, 90% of persons making so-called professions of faith never followed up with baptism and membership in a local church.
But these numbers pale in comparison with the evangelistic ineffectiveness of Jesus as described in the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John. Here our Lord preached the gospel to approximately 20,000 people and wound up with only 11 real disciples of Christ. In the concluding verses of the chapter, that ugly cloud of unbelief is traced by a silver lining of genuine faith and real discipleship.
The word “disciples” in this context is used about as loosely as the term “Christian” in our age. Titles and testimonies too often do not tally up. Thousands of people were following Jesus during His next to last Passover pilgrimage, but it became clear that their faith was superficial for selfish reasons. Once Jesus laid out the gospel plain and clear, claiming absolute lordship and demanding real repentance and faith, the crowd began to drop out, for a variety of reasons.
Dropouts find the gospel is too “hard.” Not everyone is a United States Marine. The higher you try to climb on the educational ladder, the easier it is to quit before completion. And while there is no shame in not being a soldier or obtaining a Ph.D., it is a curse to put your hand to the gospel plow and then turn back.
When Jesus told the crowd they must consume His flesh and blood He meant they must be consumed with His person and work, the gospel, the kingdom of God, New Testament Christianity. You cannot get the benefits of Jesus’ life and death until you are willing to live for Christ and die to self. You should not count on going to Heaven if you have given lip service to the gospel but no life’s service to the kingdom of God and Christ’s church. Perfection is not required, but commitment is absolutely necessary, and keeping your commitment can be hard. Dropouts don’t do it.
Dropouts find the gospel is “offense[-ive].” The Greek word is “scandalon,” from whence we get our English word “scandal.” A scandal is an harmful, embarrassing, scandalous situation caused by someone’s sin.
The cross of Christ is the greatest scandal in the history of the world, perpetrated by all of the sinners in the world against the Savior of God’s people. Confessing to being a sinner and crying out to God for mercy is something the typical man finds untenable. Many may drop into the church for a season to release some tension or enjoy some social benefits, but the scandal of the cross will eventually offend them, or bore them, and give them a reason to walk away.
Dropouts discover that the gospel is impossible for the “flesh” to “believe.” This prompted Jesus to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted by the Father.” There can be no faith in man apart from the grace of God.
The lost man suffers from total depravity unadorned by irresistible grace. The flesh can fake it, but belief in the Gospel of John is always used as a verb, usually present tense. The lack of ongoing discipleship is proof that a profession of faith is false, and those who drop out simply evidence the obvious that they were never saved in the first place.
Dropouts now make up the quantitative majority of the modern church. Disciples, however, are the real quality of Christ’s church.
Jesus’ last words in the last part of John six is addressed to “the twelve,” “yet one of you is a devil.” That means at the end of this day, Jesus had eleven true disciples sitting at His feet. They were uncommon men who would change the world, yet there are some things about them that all disciples have in common.
Disciples call on the name of the “Lord,” and mean it. Though the Bible tells us in both Covenants, “Whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved” (ref. Joel 2:32;Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13), many who have said it throughout history never really meant it. At the end of the day, and at the end of every person’s life, what you say means nothing if not backed up by what you do or what you’ve done with your life.
A disciple by definition is disciplined to take actions based on the doctrines of their mentor. In the case of Christianity, Christ has commanded many spiritual disciplines. He commands baptism, responsible church membership, holiness of life, generosity of spirit, witness of lips and life, and agape love. Disciples are never perfect in this life but always persistent, in keeping with the key doctrine of the perseverance of the saints.
Disciples hunger for “the word” of God, hear it and heed it. Those first eleven had a wonderful advantage, hearing the word of God from the Word of God face to face. They would stumble and fall but they would never fail to get back up and follow. They treasured God’s word above bread, above healing, above money, and just about any other thing.
Simon Peter, the leader, would to on to write that the ensuing generations of Christians would have an even better gift than hearing Jesus in person, that of the Holy Scriptures, which to us today are “the words of eternal life.” A body that refuses to eat is either sick or dead. So is a so-called disciple who has no desire for the Bible or biblical truth. Disciples crave it more than candy.
Disciples “believe” that Jesus Christ was, is, and always will be “the Holy One of God,” and live their lives accordingly. Jesus’ signs and the sayings send forth the message of the deity of Christ. The 99.99% just did not get it, but the .01 percenters did, transformed by grace and taking constant actions, revealing they are the true disciples.
If Jesus is God, and He is, He made you. If Jesus is Lord, and He should be, He saved you. If you believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, your life will show it, consistently and persistently. Disciples do not drop out. They drop everything else to be disciples. Find a church full of them and stick with them. Be a disciple, not a dropout.
Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
May 31, 2020
35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.
36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe.
37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
41 So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” 43 Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. 44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. 45 It is written in the Prophets, And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me— 46 not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” 52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” 59 Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum.
— John 6:35-59, ESV
As we have progressed through this lengthy sixth chapter of the Gospel of John, the longest chapter in the fourth Gospel and fourth largest in all four Gospels, I have been hinting to you that the unfortunate ending will be unbelief on an unbelievable scale. After drawing His biggest crowd ever and miraculously feeding them all, after walking on water to get away from their earthly entanglements to make Him king, and after preaching to them again on the other side of the sea in Capernaum, everyone in this crowd of thousands will walk away from Jesus, except for twelve.
Here then, in this largest part of the long chapter, is an autopsy of unbelief. From the aftermath of the fourth and fifth of seven “signs,” to the giving of the gospel in the first of seven “I Am” statements, to this worldly crowd’s response, lies seven reasons why people do not believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Unbelievers do not believe because they have not been chosen by God.
In the Old Covenant, the people who believed in the true and living God were the chosen remnant from among the chosen people of Israel. God passed over all the other nations of the world and made people from one small nation His elect, His chosen people. Is God a racist, discriminating against all other races but the Jews? Is God unfair, denying equal access and opportunity to all people? No, God is Almighty, Sovereign, Omnipotent. He has the power and He has the right to pick the people He wants for Himself.
In the New Covenant, the people who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ are called the church, the bride of Christ. Does God not have the right to choose His own bride? Yes, He does and He does, through the ordo salutis of election, predestination, effectual calling, and regeneration (ref. Romans 8:28-30; Ephesians 1:4; Titus 3:5, etc.). God chooses, members of the church are brought in and saved, and together with the redeemed of Israel will live with the Lord forever.
God is the Whosoever Who wills (ref. Romans 9:14-18). Mankind is the whosoever who won’t, apart from the grace of God. Grace by biblical definition is not a human right, not a human ability, not a human condition. Grace pours into people the faith to come to Jesus (vs. 37). Grace draws and enables people to follow Jesus (vs. 44). Grace is not given to everyone, or else it would not be grace.
The mystery of grace is great, especially since both God and man have certain freedoms. God uses His freedom to bring people into His kingdom. Man, on the other hand, uses his freedom to reject God, as exemplified by this crowd of unbelievers.
Unbelievers do not believe because they refuse to repent.
Believing and repenting go hand in hand, and the depraved man has neither in either hand. He refuses to believe and he refuses to repent. Saving faith is for only those who turn away from their sin and self-centeredness and come to Jesus (vs. 37). Unbelievers are unrepentant.
Faith is easy but repentance is hard. Faith can be faked but repentance must be real. Faith can be manipulated to make God do for you, but repentance reorients your life to where you give everything to God.
Repentance requires you to give up your pride, surrender your control, and place all your worldly goods in the hands of God. In this era of the modern gospel, people seem glad to superficially believe but reluctant to spiritually repent. But without repentance, Jesus said, people will perish in unbelief (ref. Luke 13:3,5).
Unbelievers do not believe because they cherish their will above God’s will.
Jesus, being God, was completely consumed with the will of God. Jesus, being fully human yet not bound by human sinfulness, was completely free to do His own will. It became clear by the time Jesus arrived in the Garden of Gethsemane that there was more than a mild conflict between the two wills of two persons of the Godhead, Father and Son. Yet what did the Son do?
The Son’s surrender to the will of the Father should be of supreme interest to us. It also should have supreme implications for us. Salvation, accomplished and applied, requires total submission to the will of God.
I did not say salvation requires total perfection with the will of God, for only Jesus Christ accomplished this perfect righteousness. But faith is accepting this righteousness, and faithfulness is the deep desire to do the will of God. True believers live in pursuit of the will of God. Unbelievers never will.
Unbelievers do not believe because they underestimate the end of time.
“The last day” is an expression in the New Testament used only in the Gospel of John. How many times? Why seven times, of course. It speaks of the second coming of Christ, when time as we now know it will be now more. It speaks of Judgment Day, when believers are collected with Christ and the wrath of God is poured out upon all unbelief.
Do you believe this day is coming? Believers do, and are prepared for it. Unbelievers, however, either do not care or have the wrong idea about the end of time.
Unbelievers live for the here and now. They are concerned with comforts and freedoms. They accumulate money and material goods. They either do not believe in Heaven or wrongly believe Heaven is a place where everybody goes in the end. Wrong belief is unbelief.
Unbelievers do not believe because they deny the deity of Christ.
People who don’t believe in Judgment Day are going to be really surprised when they see the Judge. He is Almighty God, the Creator, the Alpha and Omega, and He is the Lord Jesus Christ.
The people in Jesus’ day, although they had witnessed Him feed the five thousand and walk on water, did not believe in Him as Lord and God. They called Him “the son of Joseph,” but He is the Son of God.
People inside and outside the church make the same mistake today. Jesus is doubted and dismissed as merely a good man, a wise teacher, or a benevolent monk. Scholars in the name of Jesus blaspheme His holy name by teaching the Gospels are mythological accounts of an unlucky religious leader from ancient Palestine.
Jesus’ repeated claims and proofs of deity and lordship are eagerly believed by genuine Christians. Scoffers and doubters are unbelievers. A Jesus who is not Lord is a Jesus who cannot save.
Unbelievers do not believe because they ignore the Bible.
The Father and the Son are one, along with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit inspired the Holy Scriptures, so those born of the Spirit are inspired to search the Scriptures regularly and hear and heed the word of God.
But most people are not interested in coming to Christ and learning the Bible. The Bible is the best selling and least studied book of all time. It is a treasure of salvation and assurance, of serious and joyful living, and a comfort in time of sorrow and death. Belief craves the Bible, the word of God. Unbelief does not have a healthy appetite for Holy Scripture.
Unbelievers do not believe because they do not understand the cross.
Christ’s last teaching to the crowd was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back and kept him from passing through the eye of the needle into the kingdom of God. Jesus offered Himself to them as the broken bread and the slain lamb. People should have believed Him then, people should believe Him now, but somehow they just won’t.
While all of the Bible is literally true, all of the Bible is not to be taken literally. Excellent literature, especially from the eastern hemisphere, is rich in metaphor, parable, and symbolism, such as Jesus’ reference here to eating His flesh and drinking His blood. The Jews dropped the ball by thinking He was taking about cannibalism. The Roman Catholic Church confused the issue a thousand years ago by creating the false doctrine of transubstantiation. Jesus was plainly talking about the cross, then embarked on a one-year mission to get there.
Upon the cross of Calvary, the bread of life was nailed to a tree. The blood of the lamb of God flowed freely to the ground. Whoever believes in the reality of Jesus and the centrality of the gospel, “Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever” (vs. 58). Faith saves, while unbelief is doomed to die.
The indictment against unbelief in this passage can be placed in reverse and serve as a roadmap to saving grace. Only God knows who the elect are, but you can know you are one of the chosen if you repent, desire God’s will, believe in Heaven, trust in Christ, honor His word, and come to Jesus through the cross. The whosoever will travel this narrow road, while the broad road of unbelief remains for whosever won’t.
THE BREAD OF LIFE
Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
May 17, 2020
22 On the next day the crowd that remained on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. 23 Other boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 24 So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus.
25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” 26 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” 28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” 30 So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” 32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”
35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.
— John 6:22-35, ESV
Jesus created a monster with a miracle, a five-thousand-headed food monster. With another miracle, walking on the water, He escaped from their plan to make Him their king by force in order to force the King to give them free food and other material things.
Now, on the other side of the Sea of Galilee with His disciples, Jesus faces the monster again. The only thing that could make them go away was the preaching of the gospel with an emphasis on the sovereign grace of God. This Jesus did, and by the end of the chapter, the monster is gone.
People still pursue Jesus for all the wrong reasons. They use Him as a good luck charm, a genie in a bottle, or a ticket to get out of Hell free. But God governs by providence, not luck. God did not become a man to grant everyone three wishes and their best life now. And, God will not spare anyone from Hell who does not come to Him on His terms.
The Search for the Bread of Life
Let’s try to give the crowd credit where credit is due. The text tells us they were “seeking Jesus” (vs. 24) and Jesus agreed, “You are seeking Me” (vs. 26). Surely seeking Jesus is a good thing, isn’t it?
Seeker sensitive churches started sprouting up a generation ago and now have a stronghold on church culture. The basic idea is to create services that lost people love (just think about that for a minute or two). In many cases, crosses and other Christian symbols are intentionally removed to not offend (just like in communist China?!). Language is censored to get rid of words like sin, repentance, and judgment (just read anything by the late Robert Schuller). Sacred psalms and hymns are replaced by loud rock bands, staged lighting, and sometimes even smoke machines (I actually like concerts, but not for Sunday worship). And, biblical sermons are replaced by moral therapeutic deistic pep talks (thank you, Christian Smith, Mark Noll, David Wells, and Wade Clark Roof). Such churches are often found full, as is the broad road leading to destruction (ref. Matthew 7:13).
It is impossible for lost people to seek salvation from the Lord (ref. Romans 3:11). This is because man in his natural state is depraved, spiritually disabled, sinful, and selfish to the core. What lost people will seek from the Lord, however, is anything that will entertain them, stroke their ego, or enrich their pantries or pocketbooks.
Jesus encountered such seekers on the road from Capernaum to Jerusalem. They did not come to Him as God, which is where His signs were pointing, but as a genie who could grant them wishes for bread. “Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves'” (vs. 26).
The fact is they were seeking for something. But that something or someone was not God. They were solely focused on “food that perishes” (vs. 27), according to Jesus. Such food can mean real food and drink, of course, but bread can also represent money and material things. And most people, including many church people, are simply using the eternal God to get the earthly things they want most.
Are material things unimportant to God? No, or else Jesus would not have fed them earlier, and He will feed a four-thousand-headed monster later. But material things should not be the foundation and focus of our lives. Yet, money and material things are the bread that most people want from God.
Jesus shows us a better way, better bread, of which He is the exclusive source.
The Source of the Bread of Life
There are three ways to get bread. You can make it yourself. You can go to the store and buy a loaf of bread. Or, someone can give you bread.
There are also three ways to look at salvation. You can save yourself, by works or by being a perfect person (I witnessed our current President saying he never asks for forgiveness because he never does anything wrong). You can buy your salvation, like the Roman Catholic church was selling in Martin Luther’s day (which sparked the Great Reformation). Or, you can receive salvation as a gift of grace.
Jesus offers the latter. “My Father gives you the true bread … “ (vs. 32). He was not talking about something to eat, or money to buy things, but salvation. The Savior tended to talk about salvation, and The Savior saves. In order to freely offer salvation to those present and future, Jesus says and John records the first of His seven great “I Am” statements:
Jesus said to them, “I Am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in Me shall never thirst” (vs. 35).
This is the gospel in one sentence, one statement. It begins with God. It offers grace. It demands repentance and faith.
Jesus is the great “I Am,” which His original Jewish audience would have heard as, “I Am God.” Salvation cannot be earned, it cannot be bought. It must be received from God by receiving God in the person and work of the Son of God, Jesus Christ. The five-thousand-headed monster eagerly received the material bread which is here today and gone tomorrow. Jesus told them they needed eternal bread, they needed Him, as God and Savior. “The bread of life” received today will stay with you forever.
Who gets the bread of salvation? “Whoever comes to Me,” Jesus said. This is repentance. This is turning away from sin, selfishness, and self-control of you life and giving that life to the Lord Jesus Christ. Repentance is a gift from God (ref. Acts 11:18) that enables one to turn to God, or “Come to Me,” in Jesus’ words.
Why repent? Because you believe. “Whoever believes in Me,” Jesus said, will be saved. Faith is the gift of God that keeps on giving to God, and receiving from God spiritual gifts and the eternal blessing of salvation.
The source of salvation is the bread of life. You will die without food, and a piece of bread for a man starving to death is life, physical life. You will die in your sins and suffer an eternal death without the bread of life. Jesus Christ is the bread of life. We all need him more desperately than we need air, food, water, or anything else.
As we will see in the remainder of this chapter, the people Jesus fed with miraculous bread rejected the monumental offer of the bread of life. They wanted what Jesus could do for them, but they did not want Jesus. His offer of bread remains on the table.
Please, take it. It is soul food, salvation for your soul. If you already have it, you know it, and you want more, more of Jesus. If you do not have it, and you are not hungry for the Lord, then I can do no more for you than Jesus did for this selfish and spiritually dead crowd. But if you have a spiritual hunger, for forgiveness, for assurance of life after death, for a reorientation of life that truly puts the true and living God in the center, then pay attention, hold out your hands, and heart. The bread of life can be yours, today and forever.
NOTHING TO FEAR
Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
May 10, 2020
16 When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, 17 got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. 18 The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. 19 When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were frightened. 20 But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” 21 Then they were glad to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.
— John 6:16-21, ESV
My middle name is Franklin, named after my father, who was named by his father, in 1941. Obviously, Pop was a big fan of the President at the time, and he was not alone. Franklin Delano Roosevelt (I’m glad my middle name is not Delano) is the only US President to be elected to serve not one, not two, not three, but four terms.
While historians and political philosophers argue over his legacy, there is no debate about his strong leadership and superlative oratorical skills. Everyone knows his most famous line from his first inaugural address: “The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.”
The context behind the quote included a great depression at home and a brewing world war abroad. People were afraid, they were very afraid, and they had a right to be afraid. People are afraid today, of a new and dreadful virus, of the ensuing economic difficulties, of whatever China may do next.
Fear is a part of every generation, every life, even every Christian’s life. But is fear really to be feared? Could fear be a something good that leads us to something better?
In this episode in John’s Gospel, the fifth of the seven great signs is shown. Jesus walks on the water. The presence of God and the word of God puts the fear of God into followers of the Son of God, until faith in God takes over. Here is what they learned from the Lord, and here is what we can learn from them:
Fear is a Gift from God
“They were frightened” (vs. 19), those twelve disciples, in a small boat on a medium-sized lake surrounded by large mountains. The cut of those rocks could whip the wind upon the sea in such a way that waves raise up large enough to sink a boat. Added to their seafaring fears was their scared faces when they thought they saw a ghost, walking on the water towards them. They were very afraid, and fear does not feel good.
Fear feels bad, but is fear a bad thing? No, fear can be a good thing, even a healthy thing, that God has given to us for our good. There are many phobias (the Greek word for fear found in this text) that help protect us and guide us through life.
Fear is a sign of good sense. I have a bit of acrophobia, which helps keep my feet on the ground and my hands on the rail when I am in high places. I have a big case of ophidiophobia, which is why I never became one of those snake handling preachers. I, like many others, suffer from glossophobia, which is the fear of public speaking, which makes me prepare incessantly and pray unceasingly to deliver sermons. Fear makes us prepare and put up safeguards that are simply signs of good common sense.
Fear is a sign of godly respect. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (ref. Psalm 110:10; Proverbs 9:10). “Hear the word of the Lord, you who tremble at his word” (ref. Isaiah 66:5). Healthy fear makes us listen to the right words from the right person for the right reasons, especially when that person is God and the source is God’s word, the Bible. The fear of God honors God and keeps us from committing sins that will do harm to others and ourselves.
Fear is sign for help. Fear can make you ask for help, especially from the Lord, who is always in the boat with you. Fear can make you place your hand on the rail, or take someone else’s hand, or put your hand in the hand of the man from Galilee.
Jesus’ disciples were afraid because Jesus had put them in the boat and sent them into the storm (ref. Matthew’s and Mark’s account). They had been in a similar storm before, but Jesus was in the boat with them. This time He was not, yet. They feared death, a healthy fear. They knew they needed Jesus to save them, a good spiritual observation. Then, Jesus showed up, and fear was conquered by faith.
Faith is a Gift from God
It was not a ghost, but God who came to the twelve in the boat. This fifth sign of John points once again to Jesus doing something that only God can do; therefore, Jesus Christ is God, Jesus Christ is Lord! Believe in Him! And they did, at least eleven of the twelve, as they brought Jesus into the boat and arrived safely at shore. Christ came into their lives once again, bringing faith in Christ with Him, and kindled it in His disciples.
Faith is a present from the Lord. Faith is primarily something God gives us to before we turn it back over to Him. Jesus will later reveal to His followers in John’s Gospel that they follow Him by the faith He first gives to them (ref. John 15:16). Paul wrote that faith is a gift from God (ref. Ephesians 2:8). Peter wrote that faith is a gift from God (ref. 2 Peter 1:1). James wrote that faith and every other good gift comes from God (ref. James 1:17). These are impeccable witnesses, so the case should be closed concerning the origin of faith.
Faith is the presence of the Lord. God is real, whether one believes in Him or not. But faith makes Jesus personal, in the boat, in your life. Faith is a humble, sometimes desperate, yielding control of your boat and your life to the Lord. The disciples obviously remembered this day when Christ came into the boat, as every Christian should remember the day Christ came into our lives, by grace through faith, took control, and conquered our fear of death.
Faith is the promise of the Lord. Faith is the gift that keeps on giving, through the inspired and enduring word of God (ref. Psalm 19, 119, Romans 10:17, 2 Timothy 3:16; etc.) God gives the gift of faith through the gift of His word, when we receive it, hear it, believe it, obey it. It was a word from Jesus, God incarnate, that inspired the disciples’ faith, calmed their fears, and brought them safely to shore.
Only One Gift Will Endure Forever
With a final word, Jesus conquered their fears with faith. “It is I; do not be afraid” (vs. 20). God gave the disciples a reason to fear by sending them to the sea. He gave them the faith to overcome their fears with His word and His presence. Faith endured after fear was gone.
In the original language, that phrase is only four words. A literal rendering is, “I Am, no fear.” Jesus Christ is Lord (the purpose of the seven signs and the seven “I Am” sayings in the Gospel of John is to demonstrate the deity and saving power of the Lord Jesus Christ). If you have faith in Him, in His person and work, then the day will come when you will have absolutely no fear, no fear of heights, no fear of snakes, no fear of speaking, no fear of death.
In every epoch of biblical history, God has come to His people in fear and given them faith. To Israel, Moses, and Joshua, God replaced fear with faith (ref. Genesis 46:3, Exodus 20:20, and Joshua 11:6). To Elijah, Nehemiah, and King David, God replaced fear with faith (ref. 2 Kings 1:15, Nehemiah 4:14, and Psalm 56:4,11). To Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel, God replaced fear with faith (ref. Isaiah 44:8, Jeremiah 1:8, Ezekiel 3:9, and Daniel 10:12,19). To Joseph, Mary, the shepherds, the Apostle Paul, and the Apostle John, God replaced fear with faith (ref. Matthew 1:20, Luke 1:30, Luke 2:10, and Acts 18:9; Revelation 1:17.). To the disciples on that boat on that night, God replaced fear with faith in Himself and His word (vs. 19-20).
In every case and to every person God says, “I Am, no fear.” If you repent, believe, and obey the Lord Jesus Christ, the great I Am, God incarnate, the feeder of five thousand, the walker on the water, the Savior of the world; then, you have faith. And if you have faith, you really have nothing to fear, not the coronavirus, not death, not even fear itself.
Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org