THE GOOD SHEPHERD
Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
August 30, 2020
11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.
14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”
19 There was again a division among the Jews because of these words. 20 Many of them said, “He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?” 21 Others said, “These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”
— John 10:11-21, ESV
The third and fourth of seven “I Am” statements made by Jesus in the Gospel of John are bound together in one beautiful sermon. Yet the gravity of each “I Am” declaration requires us to weigh each one individually. They go together. They stand alone. This is yet another perfect Johannine paradox.
“I am the door” is stated twice in vs. 1-10. This two-fold proclamation affirms Jesus is God and Jesus is the only way to God. Inside “the door” is two-fold life, eternal and abundant. It is grand announcement, transcendent, exclusive, corporate, cool.
“I am the good shepherd,” also expressed twice with much elaboration in vs. 11-21, is equal in inspiration of course, but quite different in tone. It is a personal promise and speaks of God in ways that are imminent, embraceable, personal, warm-hearted.
We must go through “the door” to be saved, to be sure. But it is “the good shepherd” who does the saving. Jesus Christ is the one who saves us, sustains us, and secures for us the eternal and abundant life. Let us take a close look at who He is as “shepherd” and experience what He does for we who qualify as “sheep.”
The Good Shepherd is God
Shepherds were a common sight in Israel. They pioneered a noble, if not profitable, profession. It was hard and dangerous work. Wolves are mentioned in the text, and other biblical passages speak of predatory lions and bears, too.
There was actually a Jewish law in Jesus’ day that required shepherds to stay put in the face of one wolf, but they could run for the hills if two or more wolves reared their heads. Like any profession, shepherding had its bad and good representatives, so there were bad shepherds who would neglect or abandon the sheep, and there were good shepherds who would do their duty and then some.
Jesus did not liken Himself to any ordinary shepherd, or even a good shepherd. He said, “I am the good shepherd.” The use of the definite article “the” means Jesus is the only one of this kind of shepherd. The superlative choice among three adjectives available for the word “good” means even more.
In His encounter with a rich young ruler (recorded in the three other Gospels), the man did not call Jesus the good shepherd, but he did call him the good teacher. Jesus seized on his use of the word “good” and said, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone” (ref. Luke 18:19). In so saying, Jesus meant either He was not good, or that He is God, who is great and good.
Combine all four Gospels and discover that Jesus is both good and God. When this perfect goodness and the fulness of deity takes bodily form (ref. Colossians 2:9), He comes out looking like a shepherd, “the good shepherd.”
“The good shepherd,” the Lord Jesus Christ, loves His sheep, so much so He is willing to stand in the face of a million wolves and die in order to save them.
The Good Shepherd is Savior
“The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep,” said the good shepherd Jesus Christ.
This was a startling statement, made some six months ahead of Calvary. On the surface, it did not make sense at first. No shepherd would die for a sheep, not even a good one. Human life is simply worth more than sheep life.
So while it would have been stunning to think of a man dying for a sheep, it becomes even more unfathomable when you consider God’s willingness to die for man. But that is exactly what our God did for us, for His people, on behalf of and in place of, “for the sheep.”
A “hired hand” would not protect the sheep, but rather turn and run. Hired hands represent non-Christian religions who use religion as a false security blanket. Hired hands can be nominal Christians, too, who make superficial professions of faith only to tuck and run when real discipleship is required. Such a hand cannot lead you to God nor protect you from the onslaughts of the world, the flesh, and the devil.
A “wolf” would not die for the sheep, but rather kill them if possible. Wolves represent more precisely those worldly lusts and devilish desires that devour the very people to whom they promise pleasure. A wolf could be illicit drug, sexual immorality, or even a simple dollar bill that woos a person out of the safety of home and hearth into the killing fields where souls die and go to Hell.
Hired hands fail and wolves kill but “the good shepherd” saves! Jesus saves lovingly (ref. John 3:16), Jesus saves sacrificially (ref. Romans 5:8), and Jesus saves willingly (vs. 18).
Sheep are always in danger and the greatest danger is death. But “the good shepherd,” who is God, died so that the sheep never have to perish, but have everlasting life.
The Good Shepherd is Personal
When God saves, He does not save flocks, He saves sheep, one at a time. Salvation must be personal. You will not go to Heaven because your parents were sheep, or because you married a sheep, or because you rubbed shoulders with sheep. You must personally become a sheep through a personal relationship with “the good shepherd.” Jesus said, “I know my own and my own know me … and they will listen to my voice” (vs. 14-16).
All Christians are sheep who were once goats, and I don’t mean the greatest of all time. We were sinners separated from God and spiritually dead. But when we are reached by grace and gripped by mercy, it is“the good shepherd” who has left the ninety-nine for a moment in order to come and claim just one sheep, personally.
Goats become sheep when they are chosen by the Shepherd, converted by the Shepherd, and secured into the sheepfold by the Shepherd. Goats become sheep when they “listen to my voice,” Jesus said, when the word of the Shepherd turns them around in repentance and opens their eyes in faith. Then begins this personal relationship between the Shepherd and the sheep, which logically and theologically leads them into the corporate relationship of the sheepfold, which is the church of the living Shepherd.
It is my understanding that you cannot herd goats. They won’t listen to a shepherd, they won’t band together, they don’t care for one another. But sheep are different. Though they come to the Shepherd one by one, they do band together, they follow the Shepherd together, pursue godly things that honor the Shepherd, and are used by the Shepherd to produce more sheep, generation after generation, bringing them into this eternal and abundant fold.
Jesus is God and Jesus is Savior, but He must be your personal God and Savior to consider yourself a sheep. So hear the Lord’s voice, heed His call, and start showing the signs of a sheep. Baaaaaa!
The Good Shepherd is Controversial
As Jesus gathers His flock with the gospel, there erupts “a division … because of these words.” The flock is fine, well fed, protected, eternally secure. The division is among the goats outside who cannot seem to make up their mind about “the good shepherd.”
Jesus of Nazareth, “the good shepherd,” claimed to be the only God and Savior for those in a world of lost goats to become sheep. Let me make your options simple by using an age old alliteration. Jesus Christ was either a liar, a lunatic, or He is Lord.
If He was a liar, He was also a fool. He made no money off His scheme, achieved no high office, and let himself get caught in a conspiracy between the right and the left only to be crucified in the middle. But His lies were not the reason for His demise, for He told none.
If He was a lunatic, as every other would-be messiah has proven to be, then He would have been forgotten like a lump of coal on the ash-heap of history. There would not be a thousand books written about Him, nor would the book of books have a second testament. So He could not have been mad.
That only leaves us with the last option, Jesus Christ is Lord. If Jesus is Lord, then let the clamor and division cease. Let sin no more abound. Let unbelief be erased. Repent and believe the good news about “the good shepherd,” and accept Him as your personal God and Savior today.
Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
August 23, 2020
1 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. 2 But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5 A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” 6 This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. 7 So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
— John 10:1-10, ESV
Every four years we have a presidential election. Each one seems to become more acrimonious than the one before. No longer does one party present their ideas as better for the country than the other party’s, but rather each side predicts the violent death of America if the other side wins. With the future of the free world at stake, I suppose we should pay attention and vote wisely.
A similar tug of war took place near the end of Jesus’ public ministry. There was no separation of church and state in those days, because the state of Israel was the church, so to speak, the visible expression of the kingdom of God. Among the religio-political parties vying for control were the legalistic Pharisees, the liberal Sadducees, the big government Herodians, the ideologue Essenes, and the militant Zealots. One of them arose to fiercely oppose the would-be Messiah from Galilee, lest Jesus take away their power and prestige.
This opposing party was the populist Pharisees, who promised the people lower taxes on earth and a simple path to Heaven, by keeping their man-made, cookie-cutter religious rules. Jesus, on the other hand, preached giving to Caesar what is Caesar’s, plus a more comprehensive plan of salvation that required giving absolutely all of one’s heart, soul, mind, and strength to God.
The Pharisees warned that if people followed Jesus, Israel would be ruined and the Romans would take over (as if they hadn’t already). Plus, Jesus, they said, was a notorious sinner who kept breaking their Sabbath rules, so there was no way He could lead people to be right with God.
Jesus countered by claiming that if the people followed the Pharisees, they would become twice as much children of Hell as the Pharisees themselves. It was an ugly campaign, but it produced one of the most beautiful chapters in the word of God, John 10, where Jesus’ message is essentially, don’t follow them, follow Me.
We begin with the first 10 verses, with Jesus’ recurring claim of deity and constant offer of salvation. They are packed in His third of seven “I Am” slogans recorded by John. Jesus said, “I am the door.”
The Door is Legitimacy
The Pharisees were constantly critiquing Jesus as unqualified to sit on the thrones of David (as Savior) and God (as Lord). They bore false witness about Jesus being born in Galilee (He was born in Bethlehem, Judea), raised by peasants (Mary and Joseph were from the royal line of David and the messianic tribe of Judah), and a breaker of God’s law (He only broke their man-made, legalistic rules, never the word of God).
Jesus counters by claiming, “I am the door,” the only legitimate entrance and access to the kingdom of God, which is likened to “sheep” in a “sheepfold” in this chapter. On the other hand, all of the other leaders and parties, especially the Pharisees, were “thieves,” “robbers,” and “strangers.” They were the illegitimate ones, offering false gospels and empty promises.
It was established then, and it remains true today, that the only way to have legitimate access to the true and living God is through “the door” of Jesus Christ and Christianity. And God is guarding the door, assisted by “gatekeeper” preachers heralding the word of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ.
If you listen to the wrong message and try to slip in using another religion, God will ban you like a “thief.” If you try to buy your way in with money, your money will perish like that of a “robber.” If you try to convinced Him you belong because you are a good person, He will not hear you and draw you near to His heart because you are a “stranger” to Him.
Do you want God in your life? Do you want to be involved in the life of the kingdom of God, and live in it forever? Then you have got to enter in the right door, the only legitimate door to God and God’s kingdom. Jesus said, “I am the door.” I vote for Him!
The Door is Salvation
When you walk through the door of Christ, by grace through faith, you find salvation. Jesus said the second time, “I am the door,” then followed, “If anyone enters by me, he will be saved.” “Saved!”
The Pharisees were insulted, for they saw no need for themselves or anyone else to be saved by Jesus. Good people who play by the rules don’t need to get saved. If anything, they felt they were saved already by their own works. They saw themselves as the “sheep” of God’s “sheepfold,” even the “shepherd” assigned to bring others inside. But in actuality they were wolves in sheep’s clothing.
Yet people followed the Pharisees then, as they do now. You ask the typical non-Christian or nominal Christian today, the man on the street or the mainline Protestant, the secular humanist or the lapsed Catholic, “Would you like to be saved?” They will laugh in your face. “Saved?” “Saved from what?”
Do you know what steals like a “thief,” takes away like a “robber,” and leaves you cold and alone like a “stranger?” Sin. Sin is the disobedience or disregard of God’s perfect will, best described and discerned from His holy word, the Bible. We all sin, and the perfect and holy God does not take it lightly. This is why sinners need the salvation found just inside “the door.”
It is hard to reach people who are lost in the throws of the drunkenness of alcohol and drugs, for they feel too good. It is hard to reach people who are lost in the pleasures of sexual immorality, spurning biblical marriage and morals, because they feel too much. It is hard to reach people who are lost in their own pride, greed, and lust for money, for they feel too little. It is hard to reach people who are lost, when the thieves and robbers and strangers of this present world have hypnotized them to feel like they not.
Jesus is different. He loves you enough to tell you the truth. His word teaches that we are all sinners, by nature, by commission, and by omission. His law condemns us to earthly consequences and eternal punishment. But His gospel saves us, with the imputed righteousness of His perfect life and the atoning for sin in His sacrificial death.
Many doors lead to sin. One door leads to salvation. Jesus said, “I am the door.” I vote for Him!
The Door is More
You know John 3:16. Take a look at John 10:10. It adds more to the salvation promised by God through Jesus Christ.
Have you seen the commercials that come on television during football season (Dear Lord, Let there be a football season this year?!). They taught the Southeastern Conference as the best and claim that to the member institutions and their states (including Arkansas and Georgia!), football means more. The SEC offers the best players, the smartest coaches, the greatest game experiences, the most champions. Amen!
People who walk through the door and accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior are not better than other people. But, we most definitely enjoy better lives. We have more. We have more quantity of life and more quality of life. We have a better eternity and a better existence. Our lives, because the door we have entered through, just means more.
Spurn the Pharisees and your own pride, walk through the door of the gospel of Jesus Christ, be born again by grace through faith in Christ, and you will have more. You will have more time when this life is over. The time is infinite and it is called eternity and the location is Heaven. But that is not all.
Before you go to enjoy your immeasurable life in Heaven, you will live the most meaningful life possible on earth. I did not say pleasurable, prosperous, or pain-free, I said meaningful. You life will just mean more, if it is lived for Christ and His kingdom.
You will give God glory in your public and private worship. You will give God pleasure in the way you walk as a disciple and help to make other disciples. You will give God joy in your fellowship with Him and your fellow sheep. You will give God help, yes, you will partner with God, as a means of ministry to others and in the mission to spread the gospel all over the world. All other lives are temporary and ultimately empty. The Christian life just means more.
And, you just might enjoy it, too. Luther championed sex, martial sex which he freed the priests to seek and enjoy. The Puritans had beer for breakfast. Spurgeon told the funniest jokes in Elizabethan England, drank brandy, and smoked big cigars. When Covid-19 is over, I’m going back to throwing my PPP’s, Pastor’s Patio Parties and dining out regularly with members of the church family. Being a Pharisee is gloom and doom and death; being a Christian is eternal and abundant life.
But, to be a Christian, you have to go through the door. Jesus said, “I am the door.” I vote for Him!
Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
August 16, 2020
1 As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4 We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6 Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man's eyes with the mud 7 and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.
8 The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar were saying, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” 9 Some said, “It is he.” Others said, “No, but he is like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” 10 So they said to him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” 11 He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed and received my sight.” 12 They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”
13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. 14 Now it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. 15 So the Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them, “He put mud on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.” 16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” And there was a division among them. 17 So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him, since he has opened your eyes?” He said, “He is a prophet.”
18 The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight, until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight 19 and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” 20 His parents answered, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. 21 But how he now sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” 22 (His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should confess Jesus to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue.) 23 Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”
24 So for the second time they called the man who had been blind and said to him, “Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner.” 25 He answered, “Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” 26 They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” 27 He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” 28 And they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29 We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” 30 The man answered, “Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. 32 Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” 34 They answered him, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” And they cast him out.
35 Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36 He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” 37 Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” 38 He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. 39 Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” 40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.
— John 9:1-41, ESV
The best selling and most often recorded song of all time was not written by the Beatles or Bob Dylan. It was written by a Reformed Pastor by the name of John Newton. Newton, as you may know, was an English slave trader who was converted to Christianity in 1748. In 1790, while carrying out his pastoral practice of writing hymns to accompany his sermons (he wrote at least 280), he penned “Amazing Grace.”
The biblical inspiration for the beautiful hymn came from, among other places, this story in the Gospel of John. It is the sixth of seven “signs,” or prominent miracles recorded by John, and it repeats the second of seven “I Am” statements made by Jesus. In the miracle, Jesus heals a young man born blind, whose famous testimony, “Though I was blind, now I see,” (vs. 25)
is echoed in Newton’s famous first verse.
Remember that virtually every miracle performed by Jesus is a parable preached by Jesus. The miracles are parables that proclaim the good news of salvation, by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. That Jesus saved this man’s sight is grace indeed, but that Jesus saved the man’s soul, that’s amazing grace.
This is the story of “a man blind from birth” (vs. 1). He did not lose his sight, he never had it, and had no idea of what it is like to see. It was not his fault that he was blind, per se, nor any fault of his parents, it was just his lot in life, a lot cast by God (ref. Exodus 4:11) in order to glorify God (vs. 3, ref. Romans 8:28).
There was no cure for blindness then, just as there is no complete cure now. No miracle worker, not even Moses nor Elijah, had ever healed blindness, neither have any charlatan televangelists like Bennie Hinn or Joel O’Steen. If blind you are, it is blind you will stay, apart from the miraculous grace of God.
This man had made peace with his blindness. He lived in darkness, it was a darkness he was used to. When Jesus found him, he was doing what blind people did in those days, sitting down beside the road begging for coins. This he did day after day, until the day “the Light of the world” (vs. 5) entered his darkness.
It is clear here that the only thing that could bring this man out of blindness and into sight, out of darkness and into the light, was the miraculous grace of God, held in the powerful hands of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus was a miracle worker in His day, though a discriminate one. He healed on His terms, in His time, and in His own various and sundry ways.
In this miracle, John’s sixth sign, Jesus took the initiative, as God always does. He was aware of the man’s suffering, and allowed it up to this time in his life. The Lord did something unusual, combining spit and dirt to make mud to cover his blind eyes. The Lord did something usual, too, by giving a command, this one to go and wash in the Pool of Siloam, which required faith, repentance, and obedience.
The man believed in the word and work of Jesus. He turned from his begging bench toward the Pool of Siloam, the very illustration of Christ’s living water. He obeyed the Lord and washed himself in the water. Then, though he was blind, he could now see.
The religious and legalistic Pharisees were upset with Jesus, the healed blind man, and his parents. Jesus had performed, and they had received, a miraculous work, but it was a work performed on the Sabbath Day, in violation of their extra-biblical rules.
The parents threw their son under the bus. They did not want to get kicked out of the synagogue and lose their works-based-religion and social status. They should have been singing Jesus’ praises and taking their son on his first sight-seeing tour, but they cowed down to the crowd.
The man, perhaps as young as 13 or as old as 20, stood up to the Pharisees and stood apart from his parents. In the process, he was transformed twice. He received his physical sight. Though he did not know what Jesus looked like, blind as he was during their first encounter, he recognized Jesus’ voice. Upon hearing the word of God and seeing the Son of God, he believed, as attested to the change in address from “sir” to “Lord” (a nuance correctly captured by the two different English renderings of the one Greek word “Kurios”).
“Whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.”
— Joel 2:32; Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13
While only 39 million people in the world today are born physically blind (less than 1/2 of 1% of the population), 100% of human beings are born spiritually blind. Theologians call this condition total depravity. It is the absolute inability to see God, seek God, or give God the only thing that pleases Him, namely faith (ref. Hebrews 11:6), on your own. It is a state of sin and unbelief, to which the vast majority of people become accustomed.
Like the man born blind, we are helpless until we are helped by the Lord. People can help, with prayers and witness. Church attendance can help, where the Bible is rightly preached and the sacraments are regularly observed. There are many means of grace. But there is only one source of saving grace, and that source is our sovereign Lord.
If you see salvation as something you can earn, you will never have it. If you see salvation as some kind of cooperative effort between you and God, like Pelagius and Arminius and Finney, then you are badly mistaken. If you see salvation as a miracle of divine grace, like John and Paul and Augustine and Luther and Calvin and Spurgeon, then you see correctly. But remember, such sight is a miraculous gift of God’s saving grace.
Salvation is a gift that makes a blind man see, a lame man walk, a dead man live. Salvation is a gift given by a discriminate God, who has chosen the recipients before the creation of the world, then reaches them in different ways and means. Salvation is a gift given when the word of God is heard, and the grace-enabled response is faith, repentance, and obedience, just like the man in this story.
Thought the particulars differ from person to person, people who are saved by grace always experience joy, persecution, and resolution. I wish we could do away with the middle man, but he is part of the proof of our salvation.
Joy comes from seeing, walking, and living with the Lord. The Bible makes sense. The church is a delight not a drudgery. And the heavenly insurance policy, the assurance that Heaven awaits at the end of your journey on earth, is an unimaginable comfort.
Persecution comes from within, religious folks like the Pharisees, even family members and friends who do not share or understand radical faith. Persecution comes from without in the world in which we live, ever more so as the days for Christ’s return approach. Battle lines are drawn, choices have to be made, but for those who have been saved by grace to follow the Lord Jesus Christ, there is only one road.
When one really sees the gospel and resolutely follows Jesus, there is a peace that the Apostle Paul says passes all understanding (ref. Philippians 4:7). It is all of grace, it is an ever deepening faith, and it is all about the Lord Jesus Christ. It makes one want to sing.
Amazing grace! how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed!
Through many dangers, toils, and snares,
I have already come;
'Tis grace hath bro't me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.
The Lord has promised good to me,
His word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be
As long as life endures.
When we've been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We've no less days to sing God's praise
Than when we first begun.
— John Newton
WHEN FAITH DOES NOT SAVE
Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
August 9, 2020
31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 33 They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” 34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37 I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. 38 I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.” 39 They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham's children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, 40 but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. 41 You are doing the works your father did.” They said to him, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father—even God.” 42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. 43 Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. 46 Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? 47 Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.” 48 The Jews answered him, “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” 49 Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. 50 Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it, and he is the judge. 51 Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” 52 The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon! Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.’ 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?” 54 Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ 55 But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” 57 So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” 58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” 59 So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.
— John 8:31-59, ESV
The second of five pillars of the Great Reformation is “Sola Fide,” or “Faith Alone” saves. This distinguishes Reformed churches from Roman Catholicism, which touts faith plus sacraments, and Churches of Christ, which preach faith plus baptism, and the contemporary Church of Oprah, which believes any belief will do as long as you are a good person.
While I would not leave the Reformed tradition to embrace any of the above religions, I must confess they have a point. While I support the second pillar of “Faith Alone,” I confess there is a faith that does not save. It is not faith alone, but a faith that remains alone, unaccompanied by biblical obedience, genuine repentance, spiritual disciplines, and a pattern of good works.
Such is the superficial faith that plagued many Israelites of the Old Covenant, whose lips gave service to God but whose hearts were far from Him. It is the unsaving faith of modern day revivalism, which woos people down an aisle to make an emotional decision for Christ, which wears off as soon as the emotion dies down. It is the worthless faith without works criticized by Paul and James in the New Testament. It is the faith that is aptly illustrated by fickle followers of Jesus during His last days at His last Feast of Tabernacles.
Faith does not save when it is not accompanied by obedience to the word of God.
Apparently the Lord had made a big impression upon people in Jerusalem. His astounding claims of possessing living water and true light, backed up by three years worth of miracles and messages, had prompted a profession of faith from many. So they came forward at the end of the festival, like a crowd streaming down the aisles of a Billy Graham crusade or a Baptist church revival, and Jesus counseled with them.
Jesus’ first word to those making profession of faith was, “If.” He did not have them fill out a pledge card, or write a date down in their Bibles to never doubt, or give them any other kind of false assurance. He admonished them to prove it. Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, but salvation is not a profession of faith alone. It is a proven faith.
Jesus made the following declarative statements: “If you abide in My word, you are truly My disciples” (vs. 31); “Whoever is of God hears the words of God” (vs. 47); “If anyone keeps My word, he will never see death” (vs. 51); and, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (ref. John 14:15). Consider the converse of those statements. Look at what the Gospel writer John wrote later, “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says, ‘I know him,’ but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (ref. 1 John 2:3-4).
The only way to prove that faith alone has saved you is to prove your faith is not alone. It is accompanied by obedience to the word of God, the Bible. The commandments in Scripture are relatively clear and uncomplicated. Those who profess faith in Christ are to be baptized into the membership of the church. They should attend public worship on the Lord’s Day and always put God first in their hearts. They should subject their speech, their sexual morals, their home, and their habits to the Lordship of Christ and the word of God. A Christian cannot achieve perfection is this life, for such belongs only to Christ, but he or she will be committed, obedient, and faithful to the faith they profess in the Lord Jesus Christ. If not, then they have a faith that does not save.
Faith does not save when there is no repentance from sin.
The opposite of saving faith and its ensuing faithfulness to God is an unsaving faith marked by the perpetual practice of sin. It is a faith without repentance, which is all too common in our modern Christian culture.
Jesus’ first sermon was “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (ref. Matthew 3:17). He also said, “Unless you repent, you will perish” (ref. Luke 13:3,5). Repentance is a change of mind and heart that turns away from sinful habits and toward faithful obedience to the Lord. Again, repentance is not perfection, but it is the practice of holiness rather than the practice of selfish sins, like spending Sundays for yourself instead of God, or engaging in repeated sexual immorality, or spending your life striving for money and material things at the expense of a spiritual and faithful life.
The bad news about the common man is that he is depraved, spiritually dead, powerless to fight against sin and selfish pleasures. The good news about the gospel, when brought home by the Holy Spirit with true faith and repentance, is that, in Jesus words, it will “set you free” (vs. 32) from being that person “who practices sin [as] a slave to sin” (vs. 34).
The people professing faith in Jesus on this day denied their need for repentance, for freedom from the slavery of sin, of needing to be washed clean of wrong and empowered to do right. They did not repent. They did not obey. They looked like a great number of contemporary church members today. They have a faith that does not save.
Faith does not save when it clings to religion rather than the gospel.
Not every lost church member blows off church attendance. Some of them don’t miss a Sunday. Some of them have memorized sections of Scripture. Some of them get elected to church leadership positions. But like the false believers in Jesus’ day, these people have faith in religion, not in the real gospel of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.
The people who came forward to profess faith on this day were Jews, staunchly practicing their Jewish religion. They were at the required Festival. They were in and around the right Temple. They clung to the right patriarch, Abraham, the literal grandfather of Israel. But when presented with the full gospel, the gospel of faith in God’s Son that requires faithfulness to God’s word, they let go of any acceptance, affection, or allegiance to Jesus Christ.
They fell back on their religious commitment instead. Since they could say, “Abraham is our father” (vs. 39), they could claim God as their Father, too (vs. 41). They did not need a personal relationship with Jesus. They thought their membership in the Jewish faith would be enough to earn them acceptance with God.
I am an obituary reader, morbid though it may seem. And though I do not mean to be as critical as this may sound, I am always dismayed when someone is eulogized as being of the Baptist faith, or the Methodist faith, or the Catholic faith, or any other denomination or tradition. Being Jewish cannot save any Jew who rejects Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, nor is salvation found in being a Baptist or Methodist or Catholic or whatever. If your faith is in religion rather than the person and work of Jesus Christ, then you have a faith that does not save.
Faith does not save when it attacks Christ or true Christians.
Not all unbelievers and false believers overtly attack true believers. But, it is common, and proof that a person is no closer to God than Pluto is to the Sun. When Jesus told those who professed faith in Him that they really had no faith at all, they went on the attack.
First they said to the Lord, “You are a Samaritan” (vs. 48), the equivalent of a racial slur. Then they said Jesus was demon possessed (vs. 48, 52), which was blasphemy. At the end of the day, “They picked up stones to throw at Him” (vs. 59). But it was not Jesus’ time to die, not for another few months, so their attack failed and they all fell away to resume their lives without saving faith.
I have been under attack in every place I have ever served. It is not because I preach false doctrine, but because I preach the true gospel of real repentance, genuine faith, and persevering obedience to the word of God. It is not because I violated the church constitution and bylaws, but because I reformed them to be congruent with the Scriptures. It is not because under my watch people were not added to the church rolls, but because I removed people from the church rolls who were living in sin or forsaking the church. I have been called a legalist and I have been called a liberal. I have been called a goody two shoes and I have been called that drinking and dancing preacher. I have seen my family’s faith grow during these trials and I have watched family members abandon the faith because of the pressure.
But my problems pale in comparison to those endured by the Lord Jesus Christ. He suffered rejection by the Jews in this story, and the vast majority of mankind rejects Him still. He escaped stoning here but He could not, He would not, escape the pain and death of the cross.
Jesus was, is, and always will be the eternal God and only Savior. Yet true, historic, and biblical Christianity has never been harder to find. This is in spite of the fact that most people in our culture claim to have faith. I’m afraid the faith they have, is a faith that does not save.
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.
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