The Studious Type

Please read John 5:36-40 & 2 Timothy 2:14-19 in your Bible.  I used the NIV (1984) to prepare this article.

In a Dec. 16, 2018 article in The Jerusalem Post, Yafit Ovadia reported that a digitized time capsule will be on board an unmanned spacecraft when it is launched to the Moon this spring.  The time capsule will contain Israel’s Declaration of Independence, a traveler’s prayer “Tefilat Haderech,” the Bible, the Israeli flag, maps of the State of Israel, the national anthem, a photograph of Ilan Ramon (Israel’s pioneer astronaut who died on the Space Shuttle Columbia), and pictures drawn by Israeli children. The spacecraft will be carried by into space by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, making Israel the fourth country after the US, the USSR and China to attempt a lunar landing mission.

Israel will spend $95 million to put the unmanned lander on the moon, which is a bargain compared to NASA’s Apollo 11, which cost the US close to $9.9 billion in 1969.  80% of the funding was raised from private donors.

<https://www.jpost.com/Jpost-Tech/Business-and-Innovation/Space-IL-to-launch-first-spacecraft-to-the-moon-574579?utm_source=bg&utm_campaign=weeklybrief&gt;

I hope and pray the project is successful so afterwards I can say, “They can put a Bible on the moon; you can open one and read it!” There’s a great potential for sermons and exhortations to get people into t word of God!

Before we get started, let me clarify one thing.  We refer to Jesus as the Word of God (capital “W”) because He is the personal revelation of God to us.  In Jesus’ words & deeds we learn all we need to know to b saved.

We refer to the Bible as the word of God (small case “w”) to distinguish the specific revelation of God, the words on the page.   It may be a little confusing otherwise.  So I hope you can follow this: we must have the Word of God in our heart before we can truly understand and use the word of God.  A life-changing study of the Bible begins with a life that has already been changed by Jesus.

BIBLE or “BALONEY?”

(Which of the statements below are actually found in the Bible and which originate elsewhere?)

  1. “The Lord helps those who help themselves.”
  2. “To the woman he said, ‘Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”
  3. “I also gave them over to statutes that were not good and laws they could not live by.”
  4. “The arrogant cannot stand in your presence; you hate all who do wrong.”
  5. “Do not do to others what you do not want others to do to you.”
  6. “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left.”
  7. “You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.”
  8. “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him.”
  9. “A wise king winnows out the wicked; he drives the threshing wheel over them.”

Jesus Christ is the Word of God we must know first.

  1. We don’t study the Bible to earn salvation (John 5:36-40).

CONTEXT: These verses are part of Jesus’ rebuke of JEWS who faulted Him for working a miracle on the Sabbath, as is spelled out in verse sixteen; SO, BECAUSE JESUS WAS DOING THESE THINGS ON THE SABBATH, THE JEWS PERSECUTED HIM.  In this portion of His reply Jesus revealed who He really was, attempting to persuade them that He had the authority to act in ways their version of the Law prohibited.  (Maybe you could say He pulled rank on them!)  He attempted to show them that He was their Messiah, the one whose coming had been foretold in the Scriptures they studied.  Toward the end he concluded, “YOU DON’T BELIEVE T ONE HE SENT” (v. 38).

COMMENT: Studying the Scriptures will not, by itself, make anyone right with God.

In verses 36-40 Jesus appealed to the witness of Scripture because they held the Scripture in high regard.  However, the problem was they had misused the Scriptures to justify their prejudice and excuse their sin.  They were good students in the sense that they DILIGENTLY studied God’s word.  Jesus gave them that compliment.           Unfortunately, they approached the Scriptures with a closed mind and a bad motive: “YOU THINK THAT BY THEM YOU POSSESS ETERNAL LIFE.”  In other words, they sought to master the word of God intellectually and morally and thereby earn or deserve eternal life.  They sought to provide for themselves a place in heaven.

This thinking is identified in one of their own authoritative writings, “The Sayings of the Fathers.”  Here are two examples:

“He who has acquired the words of the Law has acquired for himself life in the world to come.” (2:8)

“Great is the law for it gives to those who practice it life in this world and in the world to come.” (6:7)

The end result was self-condemnation.  Jesus said, “THESE ARE THE SCRIPTURES THAT TESTIFY ABOUT ME, YET YOU REFUSE TO COME TO ME TO HAVE LIFE” (vs. 39-40).  We’d like to think this sort of thing never happens in the Church, but it does.  People can study the Book without ever knowing the Author.  Of course, they will never get it right and will not enter heaven, but they may gain enough proficiency to fool themselves and/or fool others.  People search the bible for evidence supporting their theology, when the process is supposed to work the opposite way.

William Barclay warned, “[The Jewish religious leaders] did not humbly learn a theology from scripture; they used scripture to defend a theology which they themselves had produced.  There is still a danger we should use the Bible to prove our beliefs and not to test them.”

  1. We study the Bible to show we’ve received salvation (2 Timothy 2:14-19).

CONTEXT: Because he was a pastor, Paul challenged Timothy to hold himself to a higher standard, including biblical literacy.  Timothy’s best defense against false teachers, busybodies and other trouble-makers in the church is to know God’s word and hold fast to it.

COMMENT: Every follower of Jesus needs to increase their understanding and use of the Bible.  There is no other way except to study it.

Paul wrote that Timothy was to PRESENT himself to the church as a leader who met three important qualifications.

APPROVED.  The word literally meant “has passed the test.” It was used to refer to building materials that were inspected and worthy: it was a metal object refined by fire, a stone cut to the mason’s specifications.

WHO DOES NOT NEED TO BE ASHAMED.  Like the materials he uses, the builder’s craftsmanship is also evaluated and deemed worthy.

WHO CORRECTLY HANDLES THE WORD OF TRUTH.  The phrase CORRECTLY HANDLES pictures a farmer handling a plow, making a straight furrow or a builder whose wall is plumb or road straight.  This is a WORKMAN who faithfully studies the word of God in order to understand it truthfully, apply it rightly, and teach it in a way that makes genuine disciples of Jesus.

What is the difference between Jesus’ teaching and Paul’s?  Only a difference of focus; both talk about diligent study of the word.  Jesus approved only one use of the Bible; to receive salvation, not to create it.  He condemned self-righteousness.  Paul called Pastor Timothy to handle Scripture with extra care.  Timothy would not earn salvation by taking this care, but he would show others how to be saved by teaching Scripture in this way.  Taken together, these teachings commend the diligent study of God’s word, but only if you first know who Jesus Christ are and have accepted His gracious salvation by faith.

Jesus Christ is the Word of God we must know first.

          Though many of the Jewish religious leaders were excellent students of the Bible (most of them had memorized the Old Testament in its entirety!), Jesus condemned their failure to see the truth.  In order to know the truth, we must become more familiar with what God has revealed through daily study and practice.  To illustrate that fact, I now offer you the answers to the “Bible vs. Baloney” quiz.  Number one is a quote from Benjamin Franklin and number five is a quote attributed to Buddha.  If anyone says they can be found in the Bible, they’re feeding you baloney.  How did you do?

Doubt is not the great enemy of faith; self-sufficiency or self-righteousness is.  People who have doubts are testing their faith.  They possess at least the humility to confess they don’t have all the answers and are working to try to better understand.

People who think they have it figured out are self-deceived.  They know the words and actions that give an appearance of godliness, but because they have sought to achieve it on their own, they do not have life in Christ.

Because salvation is by grace, no self-reliant person will ever have it.  Being proud of one’s big brain or big heart prohibits a person from putting their trust in Christ.  William Barclay commented on this passage, “The function of the Bible is not to give life, but to point us to the One who can.”

Our attitude needs to be the same as the Apostle Peter.  On an occasion when many of His followers left Him, Jesus asked the twelve if they’d be leaving too.  Peter’s reply is instructive; he said, “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life?”

Peter’s reply shows us two things we need to practice:

One; refuse to compromise on the word of God.  One of the core doctrines of our faith is that the Bible is the revelation of God.  We don’t have to argue with people who think they know better, but we must stubbornly insist on the Bible as the authoritative rule of faith and practice.

Two; refuse to quit on the Word of God capital “W,” Jesus Christ.  He is the single source of eternal life.  That is an unpopular notion among people who have self-made religion but not Christianity.  Again, we don’t have to argue with anybody but we must not surrender this truth.

I realize not everyone is “bookish,” but there is no substitute for studying and applying God’s word to realize spiritual maturity.

 

RESOURCES:

Sermon #1302

The Daily Study Bible Series, William Barclay

The Zondervan Bible Commentary

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Last Supper, Last Words (5 of 5)

upper-room

(Please pick up your favorite Bible and read John 17:20-26.  I used the NIV (1984) to prepare these remarks.)

A man had been shipwrecked on a remote island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, spending the last twenty years utterly alone.  When a ship finally discovered him, his rescuers were impressed with the three buildings he’d built & asked him about them.

“Well,” the man replied, “this is my house and that building over there is my church.  It is a wonderful church and – to be honest – I hate to leave it.”

“And what is that third building yonder?” a rescuer asked.

“Oh, that is the church I used to go to,” the man replied.

(Via “The Joyful Noiseletter.”)

Why is that joke funny?  Is it because it’s a little too close to the truth?

  1. Jesus prayed that the world would believe He was sent by the Father. (17:20-21)

He said, “MAY THEY ALSO BE IN US” that is, “May my followers be in fellowship with God.”  We need to go back to chapter fifteen to Jesus’ image of the VINE & BRANCHES to understand the object of Jesus’ prayer.  There He taught every separate branch must remain in connection to the vine in order to survive and BEAR FRUIT (words and deeds useful to glorifying God and building the Kingdom of God).  There Jesus used the word ABIDE to describe the closeness of our relationship with God.  As we observed in our study of 13:15, 21, 23, Jesus identified LOVE of God as obedience.

An objective of abiding and one kind of fruit-bearing is making disciples; as Jesus said, “SO THAT THE WORLD MAY BELIEVE.”  An outcome of have a relationship with God is having a witness to His reality.  This news is too good to keep to ourselves.  Our fellowship with God isn’t just for our own salvation but also so that God may use our words and deeds to help others be saved.

In these verses Jesus clarified what the WORLD is to believe; “THAT YOU SENT ME.”  Jesus’ power and authority flowed from the Father, enabling Him to accomplish His mission in the world. Similarly, we receive power and authority through the Holy Spirit to do the work the Father has set before us.

  1. Jesus prayed that the world would believe that complete unity is possible. (17:21-23)

The ultimate standard for unity is found in God’s nature, specifically, in the Trinity. In verse twenty-one Jesus prayed “THAT ALL OF THEM MAY BE ONE, FATHER, JUST AS YOU ARE IN ME AND I AM IN YOU.”  When you consider what Jesus is praying for, it is staggering: He asked the Father that His followers would have a depth of unity JUST LIKE the unity in the Trinity!  We struggle so much to barely communicate, to get along and be civil, this kind of unity is hard to believe.

I will let you in on a secret; all God’s moral standards are beyond our capacity to achieve on our own.  If we could do it on our own, why would we ever turn to God?  God sets impossibly high standards because they’re right, because they’re best for us, and to deepen our relationship with Him.

This works when we succeed in doing right, because it is through the Holy Spirit He has made us able to succeed.  This also works when we fail to do right, because we can ask God and others to forgive us and move on.

In verse twenty-two Jesus again requests unity for His Church; “I HAVE GIVEN THEM THE GLORY THAT YOU GAVE ME, THAT THEY MAY BE ONE AS WE ARE ONE.”  The word GLORY refers to the visible manifestation of God’s presence.  Jesus has given us all we need from God the Father to be in divine unity with Him and with each other.  This verse reaffirms we are to be in unity JUST AS God the Father, Son, and Spirit are one.

In verse twenty-three Jesus expanded on our unity in 2 ways.  First, He prayed, “I IN THEM AND YOU IN ME.”  The Trinitarian depth of unity isn’t something we achieve; it is God’s gracious gift.  Second, He prayed, “MAY THEY BE BROUGHT INTO COMPLETE UNITY.”  The unity God gives is COMPLETE.  God’s standard for relationships is COMPLETE UNITY, no exceptions or conditions.

The outcome of unity is TO LET THE WORLD KNOW two things.  One, that Jesus was sent into the world by God the Father.  Two, [YOU] HAVE LOVED THEM EVEN AS YOU HAVE LOVED ME. This is the message Jesus wants you and I to take to the world.  One way we demonstrate the truthfulness of this message is loving and living in unity.  How can the world take the message seriously if the messengers don’t live as though they believe it?

  1. Jesus prayed that the world would believe that a glorious future awaits the faithful. (24)

“I WANT THOSE YOU HAVE GIVEN ME TO BE WITH ME WHERE I AM” is a prayer directed at a future moment.  Go back to John 14:1-4.  What did Jesus promise His disciples?  He promised a heavenly home with lots of room!   That should create confidence.

Though it may sound incredible, Church is supposed to be a taste of heaven.  Our fellowship on Earth ought to be so characterized by UNITY that we are together experiencing what heaven will be like.

We don’t truly serve God if our main motive is something other than His glory.  We work to invest in eternal rewards and not for praise, power, or profit.  (See Matthew 7:21-23.)

“AND SEE MY GLORY, THE GLORY YOU GAVE ME BECAUSE YOU LOVED ME.”  In this verse Jesus organized his prayer chronologically.

“BEFORE THE CREATION OF THE WORLD” refers to the time before creation and before Jesus’ birth.  Jesus existed as God before He entered into human history as one of us.

“TO SEE MY GLORY” refers to Jesus’ time on earth, the Incarnation, when His glory was perceived by physical eyes.

“TO BE WITH ME WHERE I AM” refers to the time between Jesus’ going back to heaven (Ascension) and the future, where we will be united with Him in heaven.

  1. Jesus prayed that the world would believe their righteous Father loves them. (17:25-26)

The WORLD doesn’t know the Father but it must.  Why don’t worldly folk know the Father?  There are at least four reasons:

One, they are under the influence of the system that hates God and actively works to destroy faith.

Two, the system is under the influence of Satan, the “prince of this world.”

Three, the devil blinds unbelievers to the truth, even clouding their minds when they read the Bible (see 2 Corinthians 4:4).

Four, another reason people don’t know the Father is the failure of church folks to introduce them.

Having observed these four reasons, the fact remains that everyone exercises their free will; people actively reject God.  They are not innocent or ignorant victims.  The Bible says unbelief is an act of wickedness and that unbelievers are self-condemned.

Jesus revealed the Father to the WORLD.  In John 10:9 + 14:6, Jesus said no one can come to the Father except as He leads them. Romans 5:1+2 promises we have ACCESS to God’s saving grace, but only by means of Jesus Christ.

“THEY KNOW YOU HAVE SENT ME” is Jesus’ assertion He clearly communicated the Father: no one can make excuses.

“AND WILL CONTINUE TO MAKE YOU KNOWN.”  Jesus keeps this promise through you and me.  He makes God known through us!

LOVE is the best means by which we make God the Father known to the world.  We use words, of course, but actions speak louder than words.  The faith about which we speak must be made evident in words and deeds.

Jesus prayed for all believers and for all to believe.

The final scene in the upper room is one of prayer.  The final moments of Jesus’ freedom would also be a time of prayer.

Those facts ought to be instructive to us.  Jesus depended on prayer, we must too.

Today we’ve looked at the subject of Jesus’ final prayer with His disciples and noted two things for which Jesus prayed.  First, He prayed for all who would believe in Him and follow Him.  He turned His attention from the Eleven to future generations of believers and prayed for us.  He prayed for us to have unity & love as means of witness and blessing.

He also prayed for all people, that the world might come to know Him as Savior and Lord.  While He knew this would not be the case, Jesus nonetheless asked the Father for every living soul to be saved.

Are you living in a way that makes it clear God answered Jesus’ prayer for you with a “Yes?”  Jesus prayed that all His people would be distinguished from the WORLD by their unity and love.  These are two means by which we gain a hearing with folks outside our faith.  We earn the right to be witnesses for Jesus and supporters of our church by making these virtues so evident that they can be perceived by all people.

Last Supper, Last Words (4 of 5)

God Wins 2

(Retrieved from http://gods411.blogspot.com/2013/11/god-always-wins.html on 3/13/18.)

Please read John 16:17-33 in your preferred Bible.  I used the NIV (1984) to prepare this message.

Don’t be discouraged by the world’s opposition.

I read a post by Jason Cole, pastor of Fellowship Christian/

Church of Christ in Knoxville, TN.  You need to understand the folks in that denomination take Communion at every worship service.  He wrote; “Baptists don’t take Lord’s Supper every Sunday so they can have room for there [sic] big meals Sunday afternoon.”

<Retrieved from https://www.sermoncentral.com/illustrations/sermon-illustration-jason-cole-humor-lordssupper-761?+ref=TextIllustrationDetails on 3/9/18.>

This post is several years old, but I feel I need to say, “Hey Jason.  Those are fightin’ words.  Come join us here at Emmanuel any Sunday.  We’ll have the Lord’s Supper AND a big meal afterward!  Every Baptist I know can do BOTH! We’ll show you how it’s DONE, son!”

I mention this in part because it’s funny and in part to say we don’t take the Lord’s Supper any less seriously because we observe it once a month.  In these Sundays of Lent we’ve focused our attention on the Last Supper, the occasion on which everybody’s celebration of Communion is based.

We’re learning a great deal about how Jesus used this final time with His disciples to prepare them for the next few days and for life and ministry beyond them.

  1. The disciples’ confusion. (16:17-18)

To put this in context, we need to go back and read v. 16.  <Read it.>  We can assume Jesus is predicting His death (“YOU WILL SEE ME NO MORE”) and His Resurrection (“THEN AFTER A LITTLE WHILE YOU WILL SEE ME”).  However, we have the benefit of history and Scripture.  The disciples had neither and this sentence on its own is rather obscure and difficult to understand.

They didn’t understand His timing.  THEY KEPT ASKING, “WHAT DOES HE MEAN BY ‘A LITTLE WHILE?’”  Verses 17+18 show that this supper was not a lecture by Jesus, but an evening’s worth of conversation.  I think the fact that the disciples kept on discussing this implies that they were more than a little puzzled, maybe even perturbed, by these mysterious statements.

They were pondering 14:28 & 16:5+10 where Jesus said He was GOING to the FATHER.  They must’ve wonder how and why this was going to happen, as well as when it would take place.

They didn’t comprehend His mission.  Though it seems to us Jesus spoke plainly, the disciples were involved in the moment and, typical to human nature, did not grasp the scope of Jesus’ mission. Their expectations also got in the way of seeing the whole truth.  They expected Jesus to inaugurate the worldly kind of kingdom for which they’d hoped.

  1. Jesus’ explanation. (16:19-28)

He promised their GRIEF would turn to JOY.  Their grief and joy would be the opposite of the world’s (v. 20) because the source of their JOY is Jesus, not the WORLD.  Jesus illustrated their change of heart by referring to the change in the way a new mother feels when giving birth (v. 21).  It can be a dramatic change from pain to joy. Similarly, the disciples would be filled with GRIEF at Jesus’ death and then filled with a greater JOY when He was resurrected.

He promised them power in prayer.  Part of the disciple’s JOY on THAT DAY would be the exercise of greater authority and power in prayer (vs. 23-24).  From His Resurrection forward, Jesus’ followers would be marked by “Yes” answers to prayer because they would pray in His NAME.  In the Bible a person’s NAME summarizes their character, purpose, nature, and power.  This means that praying in Jesus’ name is going to involve more than the rote addition of his name to a prayer.  The outcome of a Holy Spirit-powered prayer life is COMPLETE JOY.  Another augmentation of prayer is our direct connection to God via prayer (vs. 26-27).

It means to pray for the things Jesus would ask of the Father, to pray in the Holy Spirit as He did, to express in our prayers a complete dependence on God.  Jesus devoted Himself to private times of prayer and once prayed so intently that drops of blood rolled like sweat off His brow.

Powerful prayer is not a matter of words, gesture, or posture, but depends wholly on our relationship with Jesus Christ (v. 28).  The Bible describes Jesus as our Mediator (see 1 Timothy 2:5) and as being seated on the right hand of God the Father (see Luke 22:69), making intercession for us (see Romans 8:34).  Our relationship with God is based on LOVE.  God the Father loved us first and showed it by sending Jesus to us, to obtain salvation.  Having done that, Jesus went BACK TO THE FATHER to mediate for us.  Without His mediation, living a godly life would be completely impossible.

He promised to teach them PLAINLY (v. 25).  Much of Jesus’ teaching was in the form of parables.  These were stories with meaning was hidden to those who refused to have faith but apparent to those who did.  Superficially, they were stories about common enough events, but the particulars of the stories were “figurative;” they were symbols of other things.

Often enough, Jesus’ own disciples didn’t always understand the parables.  They sometimes asked for an explanation.  On one such occasion, Jesus said, “THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE SECRETS OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD HAS BEEN GIVEN TO YOU, BUT TO OTHERS I SPEAK IN PARABLES, SO THAT, ‘THOUGH SEEING, THEY MAY NOT SEE; THOUGH HEARING THEY DO NOT UNDERSTAND.’” (Luke 8:10)

It may sound like Jesus was being evasive, but He taught in parables precisely because they had that quality of separating believers and unbelievers.  After His Resurrection, Jesus would not use figurative teaching like the parables, but He promised instead, to teach them PLAINLY ABOUT GOD THE FATHER.

  1. The disciples’ understanding. (16:29-30)

They praised His plain speaking: “NOW YOU ARE SPEAKING CLEARLY AND WITHOUT FIGURES OF SPEECH.”  We can appreciate how they might’ve gotten heartily sick of NOT understanding, of being unable to appreciate the symbolism Jesus used to present truth to them.  In any event, they seem pretty happy to hear things stated in obvious ways.  It worked, because they made a bold statement of faith.

Encouraged by Jesus’ promise, they declared a bold faith, making three statements in v. 30.  “YOU KNOW ALL THINGS” = That is something that is only true of God; this is evidence that the eleven believed Jesus to, in some sense, BE God.  “YOU DO NOT NEED TO HAVE TO ANYONE ASK YOU QUESTIONS” = They anticipated a time when Jesus’ divine nature

would be obvious to all; no one would need to ask if He was the Messiah or not.  “THIS MAKES US BELIEVE YOU CAME FROM GOD.”  That is, the He is the Messiah.

  1. Jesus’ prediction. (16:31-33)

Jesus rejoiced in their belief. There are two ways to translate v. 31, as the NIV relates in a footnote.  One is as a question; “Do you now believe?” or as a statement, “YOU BELIEVE AT LAST!”

I prefer the statement version because it applauds and affirms what the disciples have just declared by faith.  The faith they had was not highly developed but, to be fair, we all start at an elementary level and then develops as we learn about and experience God.

He warned of a scattering, but promised His presence (v. 32).  “A TIME IS COMING, AND HAS COME WHEN YOU WILL BE SCATTERED, EACH TO HIS OWN HOME.  YOU WILL LEAVE ME ALL ALONE” predicts their abandoning Jesus at His arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane.”  Interestingly, in John’s account of Jesus’ arrest there is no mention of the disciples running away.  In 21:1-2, after His Resurrection, Jesus appeared to Peter, James, and John, who had returned to their homes in Galilee.

“YET I AM NOT ALONE, MY FATHER IS WITH ME.”  One of the repeated themes of this section is Jesus’ warning the disciples, another is Jesus’ close relationship to the Father.  It is a great comfort to know Jesus is our Advocate before the Father.  We have strength to endure trials and persecution.

He warned them of TROUBLE, but promised He overcame the WORLD.  As we saw Him do in 13:19, 14:29, and 16:1-4, in v. 33 Jesus explained that His purpose was to warn His disciples, preparing them for what was coming next.  Everybody desires PEACE but too few recognize where PEACE is found: in Jesus (“IN ME YOU MAY HAVE PEACE”).  This is one of the most comforting verses in all the Gospels, isn’t it?

Jesus acknowledged while we live IN THIS WORLD we will have TROUBLE.  BUT – we don’t need to be overcome by these troubles because Jesus has OVERCOME THE WORLD!

Don’t be discouraged by the world’s opposition.

Last Supper, Last Words, (3 of 5)

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Retrieved from http://www.newlife4kokomo.org/unfazed-how-to-deal-with-opposition/.

Please read John 15:18-6:4 in your version of the Bible.  I used the NIV (1984) to prepare these remarks.

Opendoorsusa.org compiles a “World Watch List” that reports on countries where persecution of Christians is strongest.  According to their most recent report, the top five worst places to be a Christian are, in order, North Korea, Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan, and Pakistan.  Probably no one is surprised to hear those names.  You may be surprised to hear that India is 11th on the list, Ethiopia 39th, our neighbor Mexico is 39th and Columbia is 49th.  When you see them on a map, these countries circle the middle part of the globe, with more tolerant countries to the north and south.

Christians have established and enjoyed freedom in America for so long we find it hard to imagine state-sponsored or societal persecution of the Church.  In our own country, what I would call “practicing Christians” number only 20% of the population.  Given our cultural situation, this is not a statistic we can just ignore.  It is not impossible to believe that persecution is ever more than a generation away.  Whatever form it may take, Jesus’ followers should expect opposition from the devil and his people.  At the Last Supper, Jesus was preparing His eleven disciples to deal with opposition on a worldwide scale and to a lethal degree.  His teaching?

Don’t be discouraged by the world’s opposition.

  1. God’s people will be opposed by the world. (15:18-25)

We can be sure the WORLD will oppose Jesus’ people as it opposed Jesus.  He gave us six reasons for this persecution.

#1 – IT (the world) HATED ME FIRST (v. 18).  Jesus is first in all things, including being hated.  In the Gospels we see hatred being directed at Jesus, not the disciples.

#2 – You don’t belong to the WORLD (v. 19).  This word for WORLD in New Testament era Greek does not refer t0 this planet, but to human culture and systems that set themselves against God. Commentator William Barclay has a great definition of the world: the WORLD is “human society organizing itself without God.”

When we are born again we are born into God’s heavenly rule and our primary citizenship is there.  This is why the Bible tells us that we have been called “out” of the world though we still live in it (see John 15:19).

#3 – The relationship between SERVANT (us) and MASTER (Jesus) in verse twenty.  They persecuted Jesus; they will PERSECUTE us.  The SERVANT (or disciple) identifies with the master and shares the master’s life, so what the MASTER faces, the SERVANT does also.

That can work advantageously too.  If they had OBEYED Jesus’ teaching, they would obey ours too.  Saved folk don’t immediately go to heaven because God wants to use us to bring others to faith.

#4 – They don’t know God the Father or recognize God the Son (5:21+6:3).  Sometimes it’s hard enough to remember the names of people you’ve met, say nothing of recognizing people you don’t know.  What’s true in earthly life can also true in spiritual life; it’s impossible to know God without faith in Jesus (see John 14:6).

#5 – Because Jesus exposes their sin, they are GUILTY (22+24).  In John 3:19-20 Jesus taught that evil people prefer the darkness because it hides the evil they do.  We’ve all seen how hypocrites hate to be exposed for what they really are.  They react negatively and strongly to the one who has exposed them.

Jesus exposed their sin indirectly in His teaching.  He set forth God’s righteous standard and they fell far short of that.  He exposed their sin indirectly in His living, as His moral and spiritual life was in perfect conformity with God’s standard.  Jesus exposed their sin directly by publicly condemning their hypocrisy .

His most vicious enemies were hypocrites who resented His teaching because it blew up their self-deceptions and their public perceptions.  Ironically, hypocrites don’t feel guilt because their self-deception goes so deep, but Jesus said in both these verses that they are, in fact, GUILTY people.

#6 – Because they hate God the Father and we are related to Him (vs. 23-24).  There is no separating God the Father from God the Son; nor is there any way to separate God the Son from His people.  The hypocrites would soon display hatred of God the Son by having Him nailed to a cross.  Jesus wanted them to know hatred of Him was the same thing as hating the Father.

The WORLD will HATE God’s people.  To HATE means to dislike so much persecution is the result; detest or abhor.  The tense of the verb indicates the WORLD’s hatred is ongoing.  In this case, Jesus and His Church are hated undeservingly.

They HATED Jesus even though He did MIRACLES among them (24).  In the Bible, one of the purposes of MIRACLES is to validate the message of anyone who claims to speak for God.  Jesus’ MIRACLES validated His message and still some people HATED Him.

Let’s go one further: most of Jesus’ MIRACLES were acts of kindness.  He did healings and exorcisms by the dozens.  He raised the dead and fed thousands.  These were never displays of power intended to impress.  Jesus used divine power to help people.  What kind of a person is going to HATE Him for that?  Not a good or godly person.

Their hatred fulfills prophecy (v. 25).  Jesus quoted Psalm 35:9 & 69:4.  We don’t normally refer to that part of the Old Testament as LAW, but Jesus saw it that way.  It was a “law” in the sense that you could expect hypocritical people to behave this way just about every time.  Notice Jesus said “THEIR LAW” to make it clear that the hypocrites do not even keep their own standards, say nothing of God’s.

  1. The Holy Spirit helps us keep our testimony in spite of opposition. (15:26-16:4)

He is the SPIRIT OF TRUTH (26).  The Holy Spirit gives us opportunities to TESTIFY to the TRUTH, the words of testimony, and courage to speak them.  Our part is simply to follow through and do it.  The Holy Spirit also helps us under-stand and apply the Bible to our own lives and use it to help others.  To what the Spirit provides, we add our personal experience, Bible knowledge, personality, and inner convictions.  Put it all together and we are a witnessing MACHINE!

The Holy Spirit will TESTIFY about Jesus and with His help, we will also TESTIFY about Him (26-27).  We can and should use the communication tools and technology available to us, within reason.   However, we tend to think that mass media is going to be sufficient for our outreach.  I have said this before, publicity and programs will never replace people.

The vast majority of people (more than 80%) who are in church are there because someone invited them personally.  God has chosen you and me to make personal invitations and I fear we are not keeping up our end of the deal.

As we saw in 14:29 and in 15:19, 16:1+4 are part of Jesus’ purpose in these last minute instructions: to prepare His disciples to stand firm in the face of what was about to happen to them.  Jesus’ teaching here is for His disciples in the first place.  We do well to note the original context, as always.  But we also need to understand the principles and apply them to our own context.  This means Jesus’ words prepare us for two things: to be a witness and to suffer worldly opposition for our witness.

Opposition will even come from seemingly religious people (16:2-3).  Jesus’ strongest opposition came from the Pharisees, people who were highly esteemed in their culture as scrupulously religious folk.  But it’s not hard to be very religious yet not possess a bit of love: that’s hypocrisy.

Jesus warned His disciples that violent opposition will come from people who’ve convinced themselves their violent acts are a form of service to God.  In the book of Acts we see how Saul persecuted the Church until Jesus confronted him on the road to Emmaus.  He fulfilled this prophecy, as have other religious people in all the times since Jesus said these words.  It’s particularly disappointing when family members betray one another, but Jesus wanted us to be sure that we had been warned; to expect opposition and thereby not be discouraged by the world’s opposition.

Last Supper, Last Words (2 of 5)

Swaney

Please take a moment to read John 14:15-31 in your Bible.  I’ve used the NIV (1984) for my research.

If you’ve been watching the Olympics for the last EIGHTEEN DAYS, you’ve been treated to some pretty amazing athletic performances.  However, the biggest controversy may be over an Olympic skier who became an internet sensation for her horrible performances.

Hungarian freeskier Elizabeth Swaney is the subject of some angry athletes’ social media posts, accusing Swaney of “scamming” her way into the Olympics.  Under heavy criticism about her qualifications to even compete in the Olympics, Swaney told CNBC on Wednesday she was “striving to achieve” the level of an Olympic skier.  Swaney became a sensation when she came in last place in the women’s ski halfpipe for Team Hungary.  She was unable to complete even the most basic tricks but did succeed in not falling down.

In an interview Swaney said she is capable of landing tricks on waterski ramps, but “I just haven’t been comfortable enough yet to land those tricks on snow.”  Swaney’s grandparents are from Hungary which allowed her to compete for that team.  That’s one loophole in the rules.  The other loophole was that Swaney “competed” in World Cup events and by finished in the top 30 by only going to events that had less than 30 competitors! <Retrieved from https://www.cnbc.com/2018/02/21/olympic-skier-elizabeth-swaney-i-did-not-scam-my-way-into-the-games.html on 2/23/18.>

Let me tell you some good news: there will be no “scammers” in heaven.  There are no loopholes to exploit, no way to cheat, and no fooling God, who knows our hearts.

Everyone in heaven will be there because they walked in Jesus’ footsteps.  They received His gift of salvation by faith.  Having been adopted into God’s family, we show forth God’s love, following the guidance of God the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit gives us leadership in loving.

  1. Our love FOR God is manifest in obedience. (14:15, 21, 23-24)

Jesus started this section with the word IF.  “IF” is a little word with big implications.  With it Jesus effectively says, “You can claim to love me, but those who really love me will obey my commands.”  Obedience is keeping God’s commands to love.  Remember them?  Love God first, others second, self last.  Easy to say, harder to do, yet it is the doing – not the saying – that really counts.  God gives us the Holy Spirit to encourage, empower, and guide us into keeping these commands.

  1. The love OF God is manifest in the Holy Spirit.

We get the Spirit through our faith-connection with Jesus = “I WILL ASK THE FATHER…” (16).

We understand the Holy Spirit Jesus by studying what Jesus told us about Him.  For example, there are five things we can learn from this passage.

First, the Spirit is ANOTHER COUNSELOR (16).  The Greek word for COUNSELOR is paraclete.  It is such a rich word in the original language, it is difficult to translate into English and do it justice.  It means “a person summoned to one’s aid,” but can be translated as “Comforter, Helper, Advocate, Teacher, Mediator, Legal Advisor, Intercessor,” and “Friend.”  All that means the Holy Spirit is our greatest supporter and our most capable assistant all rolled into one!

Why did Jesus refer to Him as ANOTHER Counselor?  There are two reasons I can think of: because He continues the work of Jesus in the world.  Also, so we can see all the members of the Trinity expressed in this passage: God the Father sent God the Son into the world.  When God the Son returned to heaven, God the Spirit was given to help Jesus’ disciples.

Second, because He is the SPIRIT OF TRUTH (17).  The Holy Spirit leads us into all truth but unfortunately, not all people will accept that truth.  In fact, our culture is increasingly hostile to two assertions that are central to our faith: one, that absolute truth exists and two, that God has revealed it to us.

Third, because the WORLD cannot know Him (17).  Jesus – the first Counselor – came to us in a physical body.  Because of that, He occupied time and space and could be perceived by the five senses.

The Holy Spirit – the second Counselor – exists as a spirit.  As such, He is not limited to a single time or space and cannot be perceived by the five senses; this is one reason the WORLD cannot know Him.  The WORLD only trusts what it can physically perceive.

There are more than eyeballs and ears involved here.  In John’s writings, the word WORLD refers not to this planet, but to the system that pervades all worldly cultures and is contrary to God. Satan is identified as the “PRINCE OF THIS WORLD” (30) and he exerts his influence to oppose God and His people.  However, Satan has NO HOLD on Jesus because three years earlier, Jesus endured Satan’s temptations and stayed faithful to God.  It is only by faith that any of us can perceive God.  People who love the WORLD have rejected God and thereby will not/cannot see Him.

Fourth, because He lives in Jesus’ followers (17).  “BUT YOU KNOW HIM,” Jesus said.  As we have faith in Christ, we have the Spirit.  Jesus declared, “HE LIVES WITH YOU AND WILL BE IN YOU.”

God has chosen to partner with His people in order to share the good news with people who have not yet believed.  The Spirit will guide and help us; this news is too good to keep to ourselves.

Fifth, because He WILL TEACH YOU ALL THINGS and REMIND YOU OF EVERYTHING I HAVE SAID TO YOU (26).  The word TEACH implies the Holy Spirit helps us understand Jesus’ teaching, eternal truths.  The word REMIND makes me think this isn’t knowledge for its own sake but it must to be applied to our daily lives, helping us make godly choices.  The word EVERYTHING means that this promise of the Spirit is unconditional.  The Holy Spirit will provide us with all we need to keep God’s commands.

  1. Jesus comforts us with His promises.

“I WILL NOT LEAVE YOU AS ORPHANS,” he declared; “I WILL COME TO YOU” (18).  This promise will be completed at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

Instead of being ORPHANS or treated like orphans, we’re adopted into God’s family.  More than that, we are one with God as Jesus described in v. 20.

“YOU WILL SEE ME” is such an important promise, it gets two mentions (19, 28-31).  Verse nineteen is a promise set in Jesus’ day.

He said, “BEFORE LONG, THE WORLD WILL NOT SEE ME ANY MORE.”  Jesus lived in the world 33 years.  After His death and Resurrection, He went back to heaven.  It is to His Resurrection and Ascension Jesus referred.  “BUT YOU WILL SEE ME,” Jesus promised. In 1 Corinthians 15:6 we are told Jesus appeared to more than 500 of His followers after His Resurrection!

On a broader scope, this is a promise for us (28-32), referring to the Second Coming when we will all see Jesus (see 1 Thessalonians 4:16).  In these verses Jesus comforted His disciples saying His departure is good news because He is going to God the Father.

This is a reference to Jesus taking the seat of honor and authority in heaven, at the right hand of God the Father (see Romans 8:34).  From that advantaged point Jesus acts as our Mediator, speaking to God the Father on our behalf.

“I HAVE TOLD YOU NOW…SO WHEN IT HAPPENS YOU WILL BELIEVE” (29).  – This statement is virtually a word-for-word repeat of 13:19, which we read last week. When things get repeated, we should pay close attention.

One of Jesus’ aims in His Last Supper teachingswas to prepare His disciples so that when events unfolded as He predicted, they would keep their faith in Him.  But His intended audience was much bigger than those eleven men: “THAT THE WORLD [would] LEARN THAT I LOVE THE FATHER AND DO EXACTLY WHAT MY FATHER HAS COMMANDED ME” (v. 31).

Here is a third fantastic promise: “BECAUSE I LIVE, YOU WILL LIVE” (19).  In 1 Corinthians 15:20 Paul identified Jesus as the FIRSTFRUITS of the resurrection of all who believe.  Jesus’ statement here establishes a link between Jesus’ Resurrection and ours.  Because Jesus won victory over death and lives forever, so will we who are in Him.

We are promised fellowship with the Father (20).  The word “Trinity” is the name the Church has given to the three-part nature of God.  Father, Son and Spirit are distinct persons in one personality.  It is not a doctrine we have embraced because it is easy, but because the Bible affirms that Father, Son, and Spirit are all God, but there is only one God.

The point is, being three-in-one, God exists as a community within Himself.  His very nature is to be in relationship.  Jesus

invites us to join Him in this close relationship, the ultimate version of community.

Jesus promised, “I WILL LOVE AND SHOW MYSELF” (21).  Love is the divine standard and brings us into relationship with God.  Love was the reason Jesus came to Earth and did all He has done for us, including giving us the Holy Spirit.

Verse twenty-seven is a classic promise, one that through the ages, has uplifted people of faith: “MY PEACE I GIVE YOU” (27).  Jesus’ PEACE is contrasted with what the WORLD calls “peace.”  Jesus’ PEACE is lasting and independent of circumstances.  It is a PEACE that banishes troubles and fears from our HEARTS.

The Holy Spirit gives us leadership in loving.

Jesus spent the last hours before His arrest preparing to live in a world that was going to be turned upside down.  He predicted the events of the next few days so His disciples would be ready to trust Him to fulfill all God’s promises.

Today these words serve a similar purpose for us.  Jesus speaks to prepare us to live in the WORLD, in a system dominated by evil that is hostile to the truth.  The best thing we have to counter this system is love.  The best source of love is the Holy Spirit.

Let us live in love by living in Jesus and following the Holy Spirit.

Last Supper, Last Words (1 of 5)

gentle

Please read John 13:18-32 in your favored version of the Bible.  I used the NIV (1984) to research these remarks.

While watching the Olympics recently, I saw that one of the networks has jumped on the recent live musicals fad to offer “Jesus Christ, Superstar” on Easter.  Personally, I don’t recommend watching it.

Since its first performance the rock opera “Superstar” has fueled debate about its portrayal of the biblical events.  We don’t have time to get into all that this morning, but I mention it because one of the failings of the musical is that it is about Judas, not Jesus, and it mistakenly portrays him as being politically motivated to betray Jesus.

The Bible, on the other hand, gives two motives for Judas’ actions.  One is greed.  He embezzled from the group’s purse and asked for a bribe to turn Jesus over to the leaders who wanted him dead.

The second motive is one we will see in today’s passage: the evil influence of Satan.  Judas acted in free will but he eventually became so committed to betraying Jesus that he actually sold out to the devil.  Judas’ character is a startling contrast to Jesus’.

Jesus’ gentleness to His betrayer is an example for us to follow.

  1. Jesus predicted His betrayal. (13:18-21)

Verse eighteen shows two things about Jesus.  One, I KNOW THOSE I HAVE CHOSEN means He knew the hearts of His disciples and loved them anyway.  Remember, He washed 12 pairs of feet.

The depth of Jesus’ love is powerfully illustrated in his treatment of Judas.  Jesus blessed the disciples in verse seventeen.  However, lest Judas think that he was part of that blessing Jesus said, “I AM NOT REFERRING TO ALL OF YOU.”  Judas’ betrayal was not worthy of blessing.  Just the opposite; he is cursed.  In Matthew 26:24 Jesus said, “The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”

Two, it was part of His mission to fulfill prophecy.  Jesus fulfilled prophecy by His choice to be obedient to God’s will and Judas by his choice to disobey.

Jesus quoted Psalm 41:9 to give the disciples insight into His emotional state.  He quoted all but the first part; EVEN MY FRIEND, WHOM I TRUSTED.  In this Psalm, David complained to God about his enemies, including his own son, Absalom, who betrayed him.  Jesus is saying that this Psalm has both historical and predictive elements.

He elaborated by using the most dastardly deed done by a trusted friend.  There are two seemingly contradictory phrases in verse eighteen:

SHARES MY BREAD indicates friendship, family, intimacy, and  hospitality.

LIFTED UP HIS HEEL refers to an Eastern expression for showing contempt to another.  These insights reveal the striking and emotional nature of Jesus’ words.

In verse nineteen Jesus paradoxically revealed His betrayal in order to help His disciples understand who He was: “SO THAT WHEN IT DOES HAPPEN YOU WILL BELIEVE THAT I AM HE.”  In this sense, verse nineteen is a word of prophecy.  When it comes true, the disciples are to consider it proof that Jesus is who He claims to be: the Son of God.

In verse twenty Jesus revealed that He and the Father were one and the disciples would join them in that unity of character and purpose.  Thus, anyone who accepted the disciples, accepted Him and anyone who accepted Him accepted God the Father.

Verse twenty-one shows the human side of Jesus’ nature.  The fact that His heart was TROUBLED may indicate a hope to receive  comfort from His disciples.  This would be a natural expectation from a human being.  Moreover, the text says Jesus was DEEPLY TROUBLED; that is the same word used to describe Jesus’ emotion in 11:33 when he saw the grief of people at Lazarus’ tomb.

  1. Jesus revealed His betrayer. (13:22-26)

As plain as Jesus made the “big reveal,” the twelve still didn’t get it (22).  HIS DISCIPLES STARED AT ONE ANOTHER: This is the kind of detail an eye-witness would mention. It is how you would expect folks to react to such a surprise.  They were AT A LOSS TO KNOW WHAT HE MEANT.  This happens a lot in the Gospels.

In verses twenty-three to twenty-five, questions were raised. Notably, by THE DISCIPLE WHOM JESUS LOVED, who has traditionally been identified as John.

Simon Peter’s rush to know specifics fits with what we know of his character.  Making use of his being next to Jesus, John simply asked Him, “LORD, WHO IS IT?”

Judas is unmistakably identified in verses twenty-six and twenty-seven.   Jesus’ answer was confusing at first.

At a time when bread was used in place of tableware, it was customary to use bread to scoop up meat or some other dish as one ate.  (As our Ethiopian brothers and sisters do today.)  It was also customary for the host of a dinner to make a point of giving a special morsel to honor a guest.

When Jesus chose this means of identifying His betrayer, it seemed that He was honoring and exposing Judas at the same time.  I believe Jesus is showing grace to Judas, showing him love, and maybe offering him one last chance to repent of his decision.

  1. Satan entered Judas. (13: 27)

The phrase SATAN ENTERED INTO HIM is extraordinary.  Let’s explore what it means.

Don’t miss the detail in verse twenty-seven; AS SOON AS JUDAS TOOK THE BREAD, SATAN ENTERED INTO HIM.  Judas’ willingly receiving the bread is his way of accepting his role, the moment of his decision to accept the role of betrayer, and his ultimate sell-out to Satan.  There was nothing “magical” about the bread; it is the act of accepting it when Jesus had specifically imbued it with meaning that has Judas crossing a line that demarked the “point of no return.”

This phrase marks a clear break between Judas the disciple and Judas the betrayer.  Judas gave up on any “second thoughts” or temptation to back out for any reason.  It means that Judas gave himself fully to the evil purpose that was the devil’s will.  Back in 6:70-71 we read, THEN JESUS REPLIED, “HAVE I NOT CHOSEN YOU, THE TWELVE?  YET ONE OF YOU IS A DEVIL!”  (HE MEANT JUDAS, THE SON OF SIMON ISCARIOT, WHO, THOUGH ONE OF THE TWELVE, WAS LATER TO BETRAY HIM.)

In Mark 5:12 and Luke 8:30 this phrase refers to evil spirits being sent into a herd of swine, which then drowned themselves.  Talk about spiritual evil and its deadly effects!

Jesus dismissed Judas with the words, “WHAT YOU ARE ABOUT TO DO, DO QUICKLY.”  I can think of reasons for Jesus to send Judas away.  One is to make the rest of the Last Supper time spent only with the eleven.  The other is to get the sequence of events leading to His crucifixion started.

Judas wasted no time: AS SOON AS JUDAS TOOK THE BREAD, HE WENT OUT.  The mention of NIGHT is historically accurate, but also symbolic; in John’s Gospel, NIGHT describes moments when evil reigns.

  1. Judas left to enact his betrayal. (13:27-30)

Verse twenty-seven makes it clear Jesus understood fully Judas’ role in what was to happen that night.  He had already predicted many times that it would happen.  Jesus knew when He would be betrayed, who would betray Him, and why it was necessary He be betrayed.  But now time was running out; He needed to get Judas going to move events along.

Skip ahead to verse thirty.  Did Judas feel exposed and that’s why left quickly?  Did he worry about reprisals or being restrained by the eleven?  Was their any guilt or shame in his heart or had the devil pushed all that away?

His emotional/spiritual condition aside, by getting up and leaving, Judas made a further choice ally himself with the devil’s purpose and committed himself again to the course of betrayal.  Ironically, this was one occasion where he was obedient to Jesus’ command.

Go back to verses twenty-eight and twenty-nine.  For their part, the disciples still didn’t get it: NO ONE AT THE MEAL UNDERSTOOD WHY JESUS SAID THIS TO [Judas].

They thought Jesus had sent Judas on a typical kind of errand SINCE JUDAS HAD CHARGE OF THE MONEY.  It was customary to give offerings to the poor as a means of observing the Passover. They rationalized; maybe Judas went out TO BUY WHAT WAS NEEDED FOR THE FEAST or TO GIVE SOMETHING TO THE POOR. These events happened during the most holy of Jewish holy days; the Passover, which was a feast day.  It’s human nature to find the ordinary in things we don’t understand.

  1. Jesus spoke to His glorification. (13:31-32)

The key word here is NOW (verse thirty-one).  Our Bibles separate verses thirty and thirty-one into different sections; I think this is incorrect because the word NOW links them.  This means there was something about Judas’ going forth that glorified Jesus as God the Son and also God the Father.

GLORY is the presence of God manifest in one or both of two ways: in light (a supernatural radiance visible to the eyes) and/or in acts of divine power; miracles.  In this situation, Jesus promised His disciples God’s presence was going to be revealed in a way they had been warned about but still did not expect: Jesus’ resurrection.

Jesus’ response to Judas’ betrayal was gracious and dignified.  We must be characterized by such behavior when we deal with those who oppose or persecute us.

As He did in other teachings (17:22), Jesus is directly attesting to the unity between Himself as God the Son and God the Father.  The chain of acceptance (verse twenty) and the chain of glorification (verse thirty-two) both explore aspects of the unity present between God and His people, also between members of the Trinity.

Jesus’ gentleness to His betrayer is an example for us to follow.

            So there you have it.  Whatever else may have been rummaging around in his head, Judas betrayed Jesus for money.  He was so sold out to the idea of betraying Jesus that the devil became his partner.

This depth of betrayal is too stunning for us to take in.  That’s one reason some people have sought to make excuses for Judas; to humanize him or at least make his decision a more ordinary thing.

Another mistake we make about Judas is thinking we’re nothing like him.  The Bible makes it plain that every sin is an act of betrayal.  It is rebellion against God.  Every sin carries the same deadly consequences as Judas’ treachery.

The good news is that Jesus has shown us the same tender mercy He showed Judas in the upper room.  He gives us multiple chances to repent and resist the devil.  He offers forgiveness that is complete and eternal.

Real Lovers

(Please read 1 John 4:19-5:5 in your preferred version of the Bible.  I used the NIV.)

Real love can be identified by three unmistakable qualities.

  1. The life a real lover is marked by love.

Our love originates in God’s love for us. Verse nineteen continues the thought began in verse eight: WHOEVER DOES NOT LOVE DOES NOT KNOW GOD, BECAUSE GOD IS LOVE.  Real love originated in God.  This means that we are to love in the way God has loved us; unconditionally and universally.

Love for one another is the “flip side” of loving God.  Love for God & for others is not divisible.  IF ANYONE SAYS (v. 20) is the Elder’s reference to the false teachers that have plagued the church. The falsehood of their teaching is exposed by their lack of love.

A genuine experience of God is always verified by a loving character.  In this way, love is a test for truth.  While they are separate commands, you can’t have one without the other.  If someone claims to love God, but hates (has no love) for their brother, then their claim is proven false: HE IS A LIAR, John wrote.

No one can really love God – who is spiritual and invisible – and have no love for their brother, who is physical and visible.  The opposite is also true: you can’t truly love others until you have God’s love in your heart.

Love is more than a feeling; it is a command.  As V. 21, whatever God commands is the ultimate necessity.  So when the false teachers claimed a personal experience of God as the authority of their teaching, their lack of love betrayed them as false.  WHOEVER LOVES GOD MUST ALSO LOVE HIS BROTHER is linked with Jesus’ love commands (see Matthew 22:34-40; Mark 12:28; Luke 10:25-28).

Belief in Jesus is where real love starts.

Verse one set forth the doctrinal distinctive that separates real lovers from false ones: EVERYONE WHO BELIEVES THAT JESUS IS THE CHRIST.

– JESUS refers to the human side of our Savior’s nature. As per Christmas, He was born into our human family and lived a human life.

– CHRIST refers to the divine side of our Savior’s nature. He is God & man at t same time.

– Failing to believe one or the other or both disqualifies you as a real lover.

Those who affirm this faith are BORN OF GOD.  Jesus said that in order to be saved, a person must be born again.  Belief in Jesus as both God and man is the first step toward being born again.

  1. The life of a real lover is marked by obedience.

Loving others is demonstrated by obeying God.  We show our love for God by loving each other.

– This is true in a relational sense. When we worship together, part of

worship is fellowship; strengthening relationships.  When we serve together, part of service is fellowship; it unites us in a common cause.

– This is true in a spiritual sense. Being united in Christ, believers share the Holy Spirit who joins us to God and each other.  Paul wrote that we share the mind of Christ.  While this doesn’t seem to guarantee agreement on specifics, it guarantees a common purpose.

– This is true in a moral sense. As individuals & as a group, we aim to do the right thing in the right way at the right time.  God’s love deals with sin by forgiving it, not by making excuses for it.

Obedience is the way we express love for God.  To encourage us, the Elder adds, AND HIS COMMANDS ARE NOT BURDENSOME.  This is a point he made four times in the Gospel of John (14:15, 21, 23; 15:10) and two other times in his letters (1 John 2:3-5; 2 John 6).

This is true for at least three reasons:

– God has issued His commands to love out of love. Forgiveness and forbearance are implied.

– God has empowered our love by the Holy Spirit who illumines His word and motivates us.

– God has put us together with one another to educate, encourage, and share the work.

  1. The life of a real lover is marked by victory.

We were told in verse one how to be BORN OF GOD.  In verse four we’re told what happens to people who are BORN OF GOD: we overcome the world! In this letter, overcomers are identified by:

– Doing what is right (2:29).

– Avoiding what is wrong (3:9; 5:18).

– Loving one another (4:7).

In John 16:33 = “I HAVE TOLD YOU THESE THINGS, SO THAT IN ME YOU MAY HAVE PEACE.  IN THIS WORLD YOU WILL HAVE TROUBLE. BUT TAKE HEART! I HAVE OVERCOME THE WORLD.”  To John, the WORLD is the system of negativity and evil that has aligned itself against God.  The WORLD can be intimidating and/or tempting, but it has no power over people who are BORN OF GOD.  We’re no longer part of that system.

There’s nothing in us that make us overcomers; it is another act of grace on God’s part.  The way we access the VICTORY Jesus won is by FAITH.  In that sense, FAITH is the victory (v. 5).  The VICTORY is available only to HE WHO BELIEVES.  Only the people who have a right relationship with God share in Jesus’ VICTORY.   The VICTORY is based on a specific belief; ONLY HE WHO BELIEVE THAT JESUS IS THE SON OF GOD.

A central truth about Jesus Christ is that He is both God and man.  Those who affirm this truth have VICTORY over the WORLD.  This is essential because God said so, and because our salvation requires it.