MORE ABOUT JESUS
Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
April 26, 2020
30 “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me. 31 If I alone bear witness about myself, my testimony is not true. 32 There is another who bears witness about me, and I know that the testimony that he bears about me is true. 33 You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. 34 Not that the testimony that I receive is from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved. 35 He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. 36 But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me. 37 And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, 38 and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent. 39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. 41 I do not receive glory from people. 42 But I know that you do not have the love of God within you. 43 I have come in my Father's name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. 44 How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? 45 Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. 46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?”
— John 5:30-47, ESV
Why did you gather with the church today? Did you pick a place to make you feel good, or feel good about yourself? Or, do you assemble with the body of Christ to learn more about Christ? Why are you here?
Why do you read your Bible? Are you looking for secret answers to financial success, or some special knowledge to make you superior to others? Or, do you search the Scriptures to see more about the Savior?
I could ask similar questions about any number of spiritual disciplines practiced by people who call themselves Christians. These are important things done for important reasons. But they are only right in God’s sight when done for the right reasons. So, why do you do attend church services, read the Bible, pray, and other such things? The great hymn writer Eliza Hewitt said it simply and best:
More about Jesus would I know,
More of His grace to others show;
More of his saving fullness see,
More of His love who died for me.
We come to worship to experience “more about Jesus.” We study the Bible to learn “more about Jesus.” We should order every aspect of our lives so that they are “more about Jesus.” To help us in this pursuit comes this grand text in the Gospel of John that teaches us “more about Jesus.”
More About Jesus’ Motives
Why did Jesus do the things that Jesus did?
More important that a person’s hands is a person’s heart. The hands won’t work if the heart won’t beat. And it is a person’s heart that gives the motives for the things the hands do.
Jesus, with the heart and hands of God, did many things. He preached many sermons, healed many people, even raised a few from the dead. But why did Jesus do the things that He did? The text reveals at least two reasons.
Jesus was captivated by God’s will. His earthy life and ministry was dictated by “not My own will but the will of Him who sent Me” (vs. 30). Remember that Jesus is fully God and fully man, Son of God and Son of Man. As a man He was poor and not rich, castigated and not championed, executed in an early death rather than living a long, rich, prosperous life.
So much for His best life now. The humanity in Jesus surrendered to the deity of Jesus in order to accomplish the overall plan of Almighty God. Why such surrender?
Jesus was concerned about saving souls. Everything Christ did was “so that you may be saved” (vs. 34). Jesus was motivated by eternity. So, He spent His earthly life to redeem God’s people, so that we can have eternal life by grace alone through faith alone in the atoning work of Christ alone.
One always leads to another. You show me a father or mother, a pastor or a church member, or anyone who is totally dedicated to the will of God, and they will bring a harvest of souls in their wake. Jesus only left a hundred or so you could count, but there were thousands of others influenced who eventually came to Christ, and millions perhaps billions more since He first came to earth.
When Jesus comes again, the only ones to benefit will be those who did God’s will and those who are saved, which defines both the Christ and the Christian. Think about it, and make your life more about Jesus.
More About Jesus’ Witnesses
What did others say about Jesus?
You’ve heard of the false cult of Jehovah’s Witnesses, so let’s take a look at the true testimony of Jesus’ witnesses. This passage tells us more about Jesus from the mouth of four witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
John the Baptist testifies about Jesus. “You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth” (vs. 33). John the Baptist preached on the deity and eternality of Jesus Christ, the one who was born after him but came before him. John the Baptist preached on the humanity and atoning work of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God. John the Baptist preached on the necessity of repentance toward and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. John the Baptist was a good witness for Jesus Christ!
Miracles testify about Jesus. “The very works I am doing bear witness about Me” (vs. 36). Jesus did not do miracles to show off, to raise funds for an airplane, or any other of the false reasons the false prophets used today. Jesus did real miracles, things that only God can do, to testify to the fact that He was, is, and always will be God. They gained attention for the gospel message, God testifying about God.
The Father testifies about the Son. “The Father who sent Me has Himself bore witness about Me” (vs. 36). Speaking of God testifying about God, the Father spoke on several occasions concerning the Son. The Son spoke on every occasion with the authority of the Father. Furthermore, the Holy Spirit speaks constantly to draw people to the Father through the Son. God is always testifying about God.
The Scriptures testify about Jesus. “You search the Scriptures …, and it is they that bear witness about Me” (vs. 39). Get baptized and get involved in your church. Understand that your very salvation is a work of God, a miracle of grace. Dedicate yourself to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Then, get into the word of God, the Scriptures. You will know more and more about Jesus. You will be more like Jesus, in ways that will bless you and try you.
More About Jesus’ Enemies
If Jesus is so good, and He is, and if Jesus has such excellent witnesses to testify on His behalf, and He does, then why in the world would Jesus have any enemies? The world, the flesh, and the devil are always hostile to the King of kings and the kingdom of God, and never more so when all three are combined in false religion.
This is an otherwise positive text in John’s Gospel that has a negative context. Jesus’ original audience for these saying were “The Jews [who] were seeking to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God” (ref. 5:18). By the time of John’s writing, the late first century, Jerusalem had been sacked, the Temple burned down, and the religious ruler Pharisees had scattered to the wind. John simply refers to them as “the Jews,” meaning the religious hypocrites who set themselves up in opposition to the Son of God. It was, and is, easy to spot them.
Enemies of God “do not have the love of God within” (vs. 42). They may appear to love God and the things of God outwardly, but within they only have love for themselves and the things they can use religion to gain, like money and power. Their messages are always more about them, sometimes more about you, but never more about the sound doctrines of Jesus Christ.
Enemies of God distribute and promote false teaching, and false teachers flock together. “If another comes in his own name, you will receive him” (vs. 43) and “you receive glory from one another” (vs. 44). I’ve watched enough religious television, for research purposes of course, to notice how many times the televangelists refer to one another and one another’s false “word of faith” doctrines. The more you learn about Jesus, the more you are able to recognize these wolves in sheep’s clothing.
Enemies of God do not believe in God and the gospel of Jesus Christ. “You do not believe,” (vs. 47) is their bottom line. If one does not believe in the humanity and deity of Jesus Christ, if one does not believe in salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, if one refuses to accept these truths from the inspired and authoritative word of God, then one does not believe in God.
Jesus famously said, “Whoever is not with me is against me” (ref. Matthew 12:30). He has had enemies ever since. Actually, we were all once His enemy, until God revealed to us more about Jesus. Now, more about Jesus is what our lives are all about.
More About Jesus
This text raises a lot of questions and provides some good answers. But there is more about Jesus, in John’s Gospel, in the New Testament, in the entirety of the word of God. All of the Bible bears witness about Jesus, more and more about Jesus.
More about Jesus let me learn,
More of his holy will discern;
Spirit of God, my teacher be,
Showing the things of Christ to me.
More about Jesus in His Word,
Holding communion with my Lord;
Hearing his voice in ev'ry line,
Making each faithful saying mine.
More about Jesus on his throne,
Riches in glory all His own;
More if His kingdom's sure increase;
More of His coming, Prince of peace.
THREE REVELATIONS ABOUT RESURRECTION
Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
April 19, 2020
19 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. 21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. 22 For the Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.
24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.
25 “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. 28 Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29 and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.
— John 5:19-29, ESV
We are living in a current climate of fear because of the coronavirus pandemic. People fear leaving their home. People fear getting sick. People fear dying. Such fear is rational and even healthy for the most part for most people. But Christians are not most people, and one thing Christians should never fear is death.
Jesus Christ was clearly not afraid of death. As a matter of fact, He courted in at least a couple of ways: He performed miracles on the Sabbath to madden the Pharisees; and, He declared openly that He is the only begotten, the unique, the one-of-a-kind, Son of God and therefore, “equal with God” (ref. 5:18).
As we move forward in the Gospel of John, Jesus defies death by doubling down on His declaration of deity. In doing so, the Lord reveals the key reason why He does not fear death. It is because He, being God, has the power to raise the dead. Only God has this power, the power of resurrection.
The first revelation in this text is that since Jesus Christ has the power of resurrection, the Son of God is God. Secondly, it reveals that resurrection, to be beneficial, must be spiritual before it is physical. Thirdly, it reveals there will be a day when all of mankind is resurrected before the God who created us, and this will be “good” for some and terribly “evil” for others. So, we need to take a good look at these three revelations about resurrection.
A Revelation About God, Who Has the Power of Resurrection
The first amen (ESV “Truly, truly;” KJV “Verily, verily;” Greek “Amen, amen”) Christ gives in this sermon is a partial take on the tri-unity of God, or the Trinity. There is one God in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Trinity includes the glorious unity between God the Father and God the Son.
A normal father-son relationship in the first century would have been based on love, vocation, and authority. A father who loved his son would find such love reciprocated. A father who worked as a baker, or carpenter, or fisherman, or tax collector, etc., would diligently train his son to perfect the same work. When the father had fully trained the son, the son would become a partner and given a signet ring or some other symbol of authority which matched the father’s, so that the person and work of the father and son would virtually be one.
Though the parallels are plain, God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son are not a normal father and son. They are the supreme Father and Son. There is a supreme love between them, the Son was a supreme learner as He grew from virgin-born baby to Suffering Servant (ref. Luke 2:52; John 15:15; Hebrews 5:8), and in their unity they wield the same supreme authority over death.
Only God can raise the dead. The Father does it. The Son does it. Therefore, the Son of God, Jesus Christ, is God. Of course, all other religions besides biblical Christianity deny this, as do the cultic versions of Christianity like Mormonism and Jehovah’s Witnesses. But believing this revelation, that the Son has power over resurrection because He was, is, and always will be God, is necessary for salvation. For whoever calls upon the name of the Lord (God) will be saved (ref. Joel 2:32; Romans 10:13).
If Jesus is not God, He cannot save; but, He is and He does; therefore, He demands and deserves to be heard. For hearing can lead to saving, and salvation is a resurrection.
A Revelation About Salvation, Which is a Resurrection
The second amen speaks of the resurrection of salvation. The formula is quite clear. Whenever someone effectually hears the word of God and the gospel, and truly believes in God’s revelation of Himself in His Son, Jesus Christ, he or she has “passed from death into life.” In other words, they have been resurrected.
Salvation by resurrection is necessary because all of mankind is dead, spiritually, before God (ref. Genesis 2:17; Ephesians 2:1), and dead men have no desires and make no decisions. A drowned man cannot save himself from drowning. A man without a heart cannot reach out and grab a new one to implant into his chest. A lost man cannot catch the Spirit of God and breath Him into his soul. You and I are dead to God, until God resurrects us.
Salvation by resurrection begins when one “hears my word” and “believes.” Paul said it this way in Romans, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (ref. Romans 10:17). The gospel goes out over a valley of dry bones (ref. Ezekiel 37), but when God is pleased to save someone, the hearing of the gospel is carried by the Holy Spirit to the hearer who repents and believes and is born again, resurrected “from death to life.”
Salvation by resurrection is not a matter of free will, but God’s will (ref. vs. 21). Dead men don’t have free will. But men and women and boys and girls resurrected by the free grace of God have freely and willingly believe in God with all their resurrected heart, mind, soul, and strength.
Salvation is not a decision. It is not a transaction. It is not payment for services rendered. It is a resurrection. It is an absolute miracle of God. And it is given by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.
And, at the end of days, every person will have to stand, alone, before God.
A Revelation About Judgment, the Final Resurrection
The last “amen” describes the last amen.
While only a chosen few receive the resurrection of salvation, all of mankind will eventually experience a final resurrection at the end of the world, or Judgment Day. Everyone who has ever lived will die, with the exceptions of Enoch, Elijah, and all who are living at the second coming of Christ. Virtually everyone who has lived will die, then everyone who has died will live. We will all be resurrected and reunited with our bodies when the final trumpet finally sounds, and we will all stand before God, the Lord Jesus Christ, upon His throne of judgment.
Then, two great resurrections will take place. There will be the Judgment Seat of Christ (ref. Romans 14:10; 2 Corinthians 5:10), where the “good” according to Jesus will be ushered into a new heaven and earth. Then, there will be the Great White Throne of Judgment (ref. Revelation 20:11), which consigns the “evil” to Hell. Common thinking would make Hell almost obsolete, since the common man considers himself to commonly “good” and not “evil.” But the two terms bear a closer look.
“Good,” in the Greek text, is “Agatha” (which transliterated makes for a lovely, old-fashioned name for a girl). It literally describes one who has benefited and is a benefit to others. Those who have received the grace of God are gracious. Those who have faith in God, live and share faith. Those who genuinely follow the Lord Jesus Christ, are clearly the “good” people referenced here by Christ Himself.
“Evil,” in the Greek text, is “Phaula” (which transliterated is almost, but not the same, as another lovely, old-fashioned name for a girl). It is a word much broader than the limited, contemporary meaning of someone who is bad to the extreme, like a pedophile or a serial killer or an Adolph Hitler. “Evil” in Jesus’ day referred to anyone or anything fatally flawed, unacceptable to God, or worthless, which aptly describes depraved, unbelieving, human beings who fill their lives with temporary things which will be worth nothing in eternity. Their Bibles are unopened, their prayers are unspoken, and their hearts are unbelieving; therefore, they will be banished from God in “the resurrection of judgment.”
Amen, amen, verily, verily, truly, truly, this is the way this world is going to end. Jesus Christ has come once and lived, loved, died and rose again. Believers in Jesus Christ have been born again, risen from spiritual death, and given eternal life. All people will be raised to face the returning Christ at His second coming, and the majority of humanity will be banished from God and from Heaven forever.
I do not know if we are living in the end time or not. I do know we are living in a most unusual time. We are confronted with death, the number of dead people due to the coronavirus, every day. We should take precautions. We should search for a cure. But, we should not be afraid of death.
Consider the cure of the word of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ. Repent, believe, and follow the Lord, which is the only cure for death. Jesus was not afraid of death. Trust Him, and you will never have to fear death yourself.
A TALE OF TWO CROWDS (REVISITED)
Matthew 21, 27
Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
April 5, 2020
8 Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”
— Matthew 21:8-9, ESV
20 Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. 21 The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” 22 Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said, “Let him be crucified!” 23 And he said, “Why? What evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!”
— Matthew 27:20-23, ESV
46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
— Matthew 27:46, ESV
I approach Holy Week with two books in my hands, the good book and a good book. The good book, of course, is the Holy Bible, especially the Gospel accounts of the last week of Jesus’ life. A good book, which is an understatement for one of the finest novels every written, is A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens.
To understand how one is illustrated by the other, you’d have to look at two crowds’ reaction Jesus Christ, one on Palm Sunday (Matthew 21) and the other on Good Friday (Matthew 27). Then, turn to the opening words of Dickens’ novel:
It was the best of times, It was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.
The two crowds which surrounded Jesus during the original holy week were not one and the same, as many sermons suggest. On Palm Sunday, Jesus was heralded by an influx of Galilean pilgrims arriving in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. On Maundy Thursday at twilight, they would share the seder, then pack up early Friday morning and return home. Most of them would not learn of Jesus’ arrest, trials, and crucifixion until much later.
The only crowd left standing on Good Friday was composed of religious zealots stirred up by the hypocritical leaders who had long opposed the Lord Jesus Christ. Their conspiracy was complete, the Roman governor complicit, and at their voices and hands Christ would be crucified. They would not learn until the third day that their plan did not work.
I have shared this scenario of a tale of two crowds at many Holy Week services over the years. This year I want to revisit the theme and share some thoughts, old and new. Crowds, whether cheering or cruel, are usually wrong. Jesus Christ is always right, and the only one who can give us a right standing with God.
The Crowd on Palm Sunday
It was the best of times on Palm Sunday, or so it seemed. A million or so were said to be streaming into the city of Jerusalem. Many of them were from the farming and fishing villages of Galilee. They typically camped out northeast of the city on the Mount of Olives. That’s where Jesus stayed with His disciples.
When the Son of God gave the go to enter the city, a big crowd formed around Him. They gave, the very shirts off their backs, to Jesus, and giving to Jesus is always a good thing. They praised the Lord with loud hosannas, and praising Jesus is always a good thing. They professed faith in Jesus as the Messiah, and professing faith in Jesus is always a good thing. All of these things are always good things, unless like most good things, they come to an end.
Now as the dark gathers into the sky,
And legions of might go thundering by;
Regions of light grow dim and then die,
And we with our wings wait for morning to fly.
— Jackson Browne
As the week wore on the excitement did not last. Arguments ensued between the Messiah and the men at the top of the religious Jewish pyramid. The scene grew tense as Roman soldiers appeared everywhere to enforce the Pax Romana. Popular opinion turned against Jesus and by Friday, this crowd was gone.
Andrea and I watched Spartacus on the night Kirk Douglas died. The ending is painful and dramatic as Spartacus’ wife and child are ushered safely out of Rome, while the man who made them free is dying on, of all things, a cross. The best of times ended for the Palm Sunday crowd when they snuck out of the city on Good Friday morning, just as three crosses were being raised outside the city gates.
The Crowd on Good Friday
It was the worst of times to be involved with the crowd that gathered on Good Friday. The rural Galileans were gone and the religious Jerusalem Jews remained, as did the Roman soldiers and Imperial governor, Pontius Pilate. They would have their way with Jesus.
They made a bad bargain, setting free Barabbas instead of Jesus. The world will always choose the sinful and scandalous over the godly and God. They displayed bad faith, obeying the religious rules of the Pharisees and Sadducees rather than the grace and mercy of God. They created bad blood, for themselves, when they ordered Christ’s crucifixion then boasted, “His blood be on us.”
There is no excuse whatsoever for the antisemitism that has existed in this world for centuries. Shame on the Egyptians for enslaving the Jews for four hundred years. Shame on General Titus and the Roman soldiers who destroyed the city and Jerusalem and massacred their citizens in AD 70. Shame on Adolf Hitler and the Nazis of Germany for the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust. But shame on the Jewish people for what they did to Jesus on this day, this worst of times, that we ironically call Good Friday.
This is how I spend my days,
I came to bury, not to raise;
I'll drink my fill and sleep alone,
I play in blood, but not my own.
— Bob Dylan
No Crowd at the Cross
When the crowds were gone, save the small group at His feet and the two thieves on His right and left, Jesus uttered seven last sayings from the cross. The one that is the most lonesome is the fourth.
“Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani.”
A cross holds only one. On one cross, Jesus died. When Jesus died, He died alone, no crowd was with Him. He was forsaken by His disciples, though the Apostle John was near. He was forsaken by His family, though mother Mary was near. He was forsaken by the Heavenly Father, though paradoxically God is always near. But God the Father did forsake God the Son, pointedly parting the precept of omnipresence in order to make propitiation for the sin and salvation of God’s people.
Our sin is paid by Christ. Christ’s death opens the curtain to our salvation. One Savior saves one person at a time. No crowd is required.
The final words for us are to flee from the crowds for the one true Savior. Flee from the crowds of the megachurch which offers non-biblical excitement instead of biblical doctrine and worship. Flee from the crowds of self-righteous and Pelagian religions who think the cross is superfluous for good people saved by good works. Flee the crowds and go to the one, the one true person at the one true place where wrath and mercy meet, and by grace alone be saved through faith alone in the person and work of Jesus Christ, who died, alone, for you.
It was the worst of times for Jesus. It can be the best of times for you. Trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and accept the reward and rest that only He can give. Think of Jesus on the cross, then consider the final words of Dickens’ hero Sydney Carton, who quoted John 11:25 and then said this to close the book:
“It is a far, far better thing that I do than I have ever done;
it is a far, far better rest I go to than I have ever known.”
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