Month: December 2017

Jesus Conman, Madman or God/man? (John 8:31-59)

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This whole section records a heated discussion with accusations and counter accusations regarding the question; ‘Who is Jesus?’ (John8:25)

This is the question that every person on the planet needs to answer at some stage in their life or on the day Jesus  Himself returns.  We really only have three options when it comes to answering that question;

  1. Jesus is a Conman
  2. Jesus is a Madman
  3. Jesus is God/man

The Jewish people argumentatively engaging with Jesus here in John 8 were leaning towards options 1-2:

  • They mocked Jesus defaming his identity & character pointing out that they believed He was a child born as a result of sexual sin (vs41)
  • They said He wasn’t of pure descent, was a Samaritan and not a Jewish person (vs48)
  • They claimed He was demon possessed (vs48)
  • They charged Him as arrogant and a madman thinking He was greater than the hero of the Jewish faith – Abraham (vs53)
  • They summarise their arguments with the question – ‘Who do you make yourself out to be?’ (vs53)

They considered Jesus as both a madman and a conman trying to trick people.  Jesus knows where this line of thinking comes from – it’s source is in fact from none other than the devil himself (vs44).  Jesus knew that the devil’s desire was to kill Him and deceive people.

All through John chapters 5-8 we have seen glimpses of Jesus’ divinity, His unique Father/Son relationship, His ability to give eternal life to whoever He wants to, His ability to perform miracles of power (walking on water, multiplying food, healing invalids, His teaching and understanding, His ability to forgive & His authority in the Temple courts…

All of these glimpses are in stark contrast to the challenge brought by these ones who were opposing Jesus who think Jesus is an evil conman or just a madman.  In John 8:58 Jesus in direct answer to their questions regarding who He is (vs25&53) Jesus says plainly;

“Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am” – John 8:58

Jesus categorically declares – I AM.  I am God, I am the ‘I AM’ who revealed Himself to Moses in the burning bush (Exodus 2:14)!

Also in this passage Jesus makes the statement we know so well; “…if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (vs36).  This is a clear claim by Jesus to his divinity too, only God can free people from sin, satan, sickness and death!  Jesus doesn’t offer to relieve or comfort but to set free entirely.  Jesus is God, Jesus has total authority over sin, satan, sickness & death.

Behold Jesus.

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Thirst, drink, be filled (John 7:37-39)

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Jesus is at the Passover Feast and He stands up and cries out;

“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ ”

(John 7:37-38)

What is Jesus referring to?  

We don’t need to speculate because John tell’s us in vs39 that Jesus was speaking about the Spirit  those who believed were about to receive once Jesus had been glorified.  Jesus was speaking of the baptism in the Holy Spirit which we can read of again being promised in Luke 24:49 and then can read about being poured out in Acts 1-2.

But what is ‘Baptism in the Holy Spirit’?

Baptism in the Holy Spirit is a personal encounter with the person of the Holy Spirit, who then gives us spiritual gifts to equip us to witness effectively, to break with sin and to enable us for life and godliness.

Baptism in the Holy Spirit is:

  • A promise to be clothed with power from on high (Luke 24:49)
  • A gift (Acts 1:4-5)
  • Experiential (Acts 2:1-4, Acts 8:18, Acts 10:44)
  • Allowing yourself to be totally immersed in God (meaning of the word – baptised)
  • Power from on high for service to God (Luke 24:49 & Acts 1:8)
  • Enabling power for life and for godliness (2 Peter 1:3)
  • Most often evidenced by the receiving of the gift of tongues (Acts 2:1-4, Acts 10:46, Acts 19)

The Need

Jesus told the disciples to wait until they had received power from on high (Luke 24)

Clearly Jesus thought that the baptism in the Holy Spirit was essential because in John 16:5-11 he told the disciples; ‘it is to your advantage that I go…because then the Helper will come”  And who doesn’t need help?

Different Groups of people with regard to the baptism in the Spirit

  • Those who are longing to be filled (Acts 2) spoke in tongues praising God
  • Those who were receptive (Acts 8:14-19).  These were Christians who had a second experience unclear what happened but was ‘wow!’ enough for Simon to want to buy it
  • Those who are hostile – Saul (Romans 8:1-3, 9:1-2 & then was filled with the Holy Spirit 9:17-18)  2nd experience spoke in tongues as a result of this encounter
  • Those who were unlikely (it’s for all), Gentiles (Acts 10-11) spoke in tongues praising God
  • Those who were unaware previously but grew in faith by hearing (Acts 19:1-6)spoke in tongues and prophesied

How do I get baptised in the Holy Spirit?

  • Believe in Jesus (John 7:38)
  • Look to Jesus he is the one who baptises with the Holy Spirit (John 1:33)…
  • Thirst/desire the baptism of the Spirit (John 7:37)
  • Ask God for the baptism of the Spirit (Luke 11:9-13)
  • Receive/drink (John 7:37-38 see ESV footnote) have your thirst satisfied by the Holy Spirit

But is baptism in the Holy Spirit a second experience – do we not receive the Spirit at salvation? 

Well the answer is, ‘yes and yes’.  As PJ Smyth says;

“Just as it is biblically indefensible to underplay the receipt of the Spirit at conversion, so also is it to underplay the on-going receipt of the Spirit after conversion…Importantly, whether or not you claim a major ‘baptism in the Spirit’ experience or not, you must remain in on-going pursuit of the Spirit, because scripture speaks of ‘fillings’ of the Spirit post both conversion, and, depending on your interpretation, post a major ‘baptism of the Spirit’ experience that followed conversion.”

Way too much time has been wasted haggling over when we get filled with the Holy Spirit, what is far more important is that we are continually filled with the Spirit so as to bear fruit as Jesus’ words ring in our ears; “apart from me you can do nothing”.

We need to be continually filled with the Spirit in order to live the Christian life, therefore we believe in and anticipate an infilling of the Spirit at conversion (which can’t happen without the work of the Spirit) and also anticipate subsequent in-fillings of the Spirit that are real and tangible as recorded in the book of Acts.

So, keep being filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18) so that you might be full of the life of God (John 7:37-38)!

Unreasonable? (John 6:1-21)

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There is a crowd large gathered, after all Jesus has been doing signs and wonders.  Jesus was seeking out some down-time but as the crowds gather Jesus chooses a grassy hilltop on which to teach them.

Seeing approximately 10 000 – 15 000 men, women and children gathering to hear Him Jesus leans over to Phillip and essentially says; ‘How are we going to feed all these people?’.  Philip is astounded.  I can imagine him thinking; ‘This is unreasonable, this is not our problem, we don’t have the resources for this, Lord what are you suggesting?’

Can you empathise with Philip? 

Have you ever felt like God was being unreasonable?  

John doesn’t record Philip ever recovering from his feeling limited by their apparent available resources – in South African currency Phillip estimated that it would have cost R20 000 to buy enough bread to go around.

What is going on here?

Why would God ask us to do what only He can do?  

John 6:6 contains the key to the answer to questions such as these.

He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. (John 6:6)

Jesus is not scatterbrained, hasn’t lost the plot, isn’t unaware of realities and constraints.  No Scripture pointedly reveals Jesus’ motive in the scenario; ‘He said this to test him’.  Jesus was not uncertain as to how He was going to deal with this dilemma of so many people and feeding them, John records; ‘for He Himself knew what He would do.’

There is a difference between what we think we believe, what we say we believe and what we do believe.  What we truly believe is revealed by our responses to situations and our actions.

I know this feeling.  It’s easy sitting in your room with your bible or sitting in church listening to preaching or in a small group discussion thinking or saying what you believe… And then it happens!  Something arises in real life and that belief is tested, is it real, do I really believe?

Philip no doubt has just been with Jesus, heard Jesus’ clear claims to being the divine Son of God, has seen Jesus do amazing miracles – but did Phillip truly believe?

Jesus sets up a scenario that will test him, will squeeze out of Philip and the other disciples whether they truly believe that Jesus is God, that Jesus has authority over all things.

Paul writes to the Thessalonian believers in such a way that it is clear that he can empathise with Phillip, Paul knew what it felt like to have God test his faith, test him to see what was really in his head and heart. (1 Thessalonians 2:4)

Likewise, James urges believers to consider it pure joy when we are tested, when our faith is put on trial because such tests from God give us the opportunity  to see steadfastness grow in us so that we might mature in our faith not. (James 1:3)

What’s happening in your life that might be God testing you?

Is there anything God’s asked you to do that you think is unreasonable?

Friend.  God’s not malicious, He’s not having fun with you.  No, your heavenly Father wants to test the genuineness of your faith, wants your faith to grow and to mature.

Andrew did better than Phillip in this moment.  Philiip doesn’t manage to lift his thoughts above the challenges and constraints and reasons why he can’t do what Jesus is suggesting he do.

Andrew at least thought about what they did have and believed Jesus could do a miracle.  He probably didn’t know what Jesus would do, didn’t know the magnitude of the miracle Jesus would do, but his actions do reveal that he did believe Jesus was able to, was going to do something astounding and miraculous.

What do you have in your situation?

Focus on what God had entrusted you with.

Give that to Him for His purposes mixed with faith.

And watch Jesus grow your faith and reveal His majestic power and purposes.

The Highlights Package! (John 5:18-30)

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In the gospels, there sections where its like you’ve switched to the highlights package!  Sections like this seem packed with revelations about who Jesus really is, how Jesus relates to the Father and the Father to the Son or Spirit – John 5:18-30 is a section just like that.  Having just healed the invalid at the Pool of Bethesda on the Sabbath, Jesus’ authority & His claimed identity and or relationship with God is being challenged by some Jewish people and then Jesus speaks in a way that is just packed with self-revelation.

So let’s survey this short section and marvel at all we can glean about the Godhead from what Jesus said in it:

  1. ‘Truly, truly, I say to you’ (vs19) – Jesus is often referred to as ‘Rabbi’ by people engaging with Him.  That is how they saw Jesus, as a teacher.  But Jesus was unlike all the other Rabbi’s!  They used to quote Scripture, quote one another.  Jesus, however, is recorded by John as saying; “Truly, truly I…” 25x in his gospel.  Jesus’ authority was remarked on by those who heard Him, Jesus didn’t come to interpret other’s teaching, He came as God the Omniscient One in human flesh bringing direct revelation understanding to those who listened.
  2. ‘the Son can do nothing of his own accord…’ (vs19) – In stark contrast to the first half of vs19 is this phrase.  Here we learn that although fully God, Jesus came to do the will of God the Father.  Despite Jesus having all authority as God, Jesus came to serve the will of God the Father.  Jesus’ will was to serve the will of the Father.
  3. ‘For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing’ (vs20) – there is a beautiful relationship between the Father and the Son described here.  God the Father loves the Son and so shares all that’s in His heart and mind with the Son.  The Father draws the Son into His plans and purposes as a Son not a servant!
  4. ‘the Son gives life to whom He will’ (vs21) – both the Father and the Son have the ability to suspend the normal progression of life and death.  In this the Father and Son are equal in their power to raise to life or give eternal life.
  5. ‘The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honour the Son.’ (vs22-23) – the Father wants the Son honoured by all!  For this reason there are roles assigned by the Father exclusively to Jesus so that Jesus may be honoured before all people.
  6. ‘Whoever does not honour the Son does not honour the Father who sent Him’ (vs23) – one cannot divide up the Godhead, one cannot choose to honour the Father but not Jesus.  This verse contains the revelation that all other religions like Judaism, Islam, Jehovah’s Witnesses stumble over – to reject that Jesus is God is to reject God Himself.
  7. Believing in Jesus results in eternal life! (vs24) – again Jesus quotes no one, but exclaims with utter conviction and authority that anyone who believes what He says about Himself and salvation, that person has eternal life.  Such a person has passed from death into life that’s eternal.  Anyone who makes statements like this is either a terrible con-man, a certified nutcase or is really God Himself.
  8. ‘He has given authority to execute judgement’ (vs27) – The Father has assigned the role of Judge to Jesus.  Jesus is the One before every man, woman and child from every age and every culture will stand one day.  We all have an appointment with Jesus the Judge that we didn’t schedule, but we can’t avoid, or be late for, or re-schedule.  Our personal opinion about that appointment doesn’t change its reality one iota, but knowing Jesus is our Judge who will execute judgment encourages us to reach out to Him now while we can so that He becomes our Saviour and Friend in such a way that we will never have to fear that day again.
  9. ‘I can do nothing on my own…I seek not my own will but the will of Him who sent me’ (vs30) – what humility from the Judge of all the earth!  Jesus’ submission to the Father and His preoccupation with pleasing the Father is inspiring!  May I, may we be like Him.

Behold your God.  Behold, Jesus.

Satisfy (John 4:31-34)

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All through the gospel of John, Jesus uses physical everyday items people knew about to describe spiritual realities.  Up to this point in the gospel Jesus has used the following everyday items;

  • Light (to communicate the spiritual reality of Jesus’ purity in John 1:4-5)
  • Temple (where God & humankind meet, which is now Jesus Himself in John 2:19-22)
  • Physical Birth (the need to be born again, born spiritually in John 3:3-8)
  • Wind (relating to the move of the Spirit in John 3:8)
  • Water (the Holy Spirit within believers in John 4:7-15)
  • Food (that which truly satisfies John 4:31-34)

In this encounter with the woman at the well, there is a moment when the disciples return from their mission to find some food in the village.  They are astounded that Jesus is speaking with a woman, especially to a Samaritan woman (vs27) but don’t say anything to Jesus.

Maybe they were changing the subject onto something less controversial, maybe they did not wanting to risk delaying lunch with a new teaching from Jesus…?  Whatever it was they urge Jesus to eat something (vs31).

Jesus’ reply must have surprised them further.  “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” (vs32).  I can imagine the disciples maybe even feeling agitated that Jesus had some secret stash of food that they hadn’t shared in or didn’t know about.  ‘Had someone in this foreign town brought food to Jesus they wonder?’

But Jesus was once again doing what he often did, using an everyday item to explain a spiritual reality.  Jesus goes on to say;

“My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to accomplish His work.” (vs34)

Jesus had told the woman that He had water that would sate her thirst forever (vs13-14), here Jesus explains to the disciples that there is something more satisfying to Him than even food!  They went into town, hungry, eager to find satisfaction for their hunger.  They urge Jesus to eat, in order that He can be satisfied too.  Jesus replies; I have something that satisfies me more than food!

Jesus lived with a longing, a desire, a motivation pulsing inside Him to do the will of His Father.  Jesus’ passion to fulfill the will of the Father, to please the Father, is a theme that will develop all through this gospel (see John 6:38 for example).

Jesus’ passion to do the will of God was so real, so tangible Jesus likened it to what the disciples were feeling, their hunger for food.  Jesus compares the satisfaction they felt after eating with the satisfaction He felt when He had done the will of the Father.

What a challenge!  What satisfies you?  What do you wake up longing for?

May I, may we be more and more like Jesus who was motivated to constantly do the will of the Father in all circumstances and was in turn satisfied, felt that happy full feeling when He knew He had done the will of the Father.

Sharp Contrast

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The Gospel explained in three verses.  Verses 16, 18 & 36 of chapter 3 of John’s gospel present a full and clear picture of the Gospel hope that we have in Jesus and the desperate situation of those who reject Jesus.

‘For God so loved the world(vs16)

The good news Jesus introduces here is news that would have been radical to the Jewish hearer – that God so loved, not just Israel but the whole world.   God had foretold of this widening of His blessing to encompass the whole world when He covenanted to bless Abraham and that Abraham in turn would bless all the familes of the earth.  The prophets had prophesied about this too like when Zechariah prophesied about the future incarnation of Christ and the impact this would have on the nations not just Israel;

Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion, for behold, I come and I will dwell in your midst, declares the Lord.  And many nations shall join themselves to the Lord in that day, and shall be my people. And I will dwell in your midst, and you shall know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you. (Zechariah 2:10-11)

‘that whoever believes in Him(vs16)

The offer is as wide as can be, it is to anyone, to whosoever.  But the offer is not without condition.  The condition for all people, whoever they are, is that they must believe.  They must have faith in or put their trust in Jesus Christ, God’s Son.

‘should not perish but have eternal life(vs16)

The result of believing in Jesus is that the believer can be assured that they will not be die/perish or be destroyed in the judgement to come but will enter into perpetual/eternal/everlasting/forever life!

‘Whoever believes in Him is not condemned(vs18)

All those who believe in Jesus are not and will not be condemned.  They will not be judged or damned by God the righteous judge.

‘but whoever does not believe is condemned already because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God’ (vs18)

In sharp contrast is the current and future position anyone is in who does not believe in Jesus.  There is no nuetral ground here.  Our post-modern pluralistic world likes to make space for and validate every perspective but that is not the teaching of Scripture.  As inclusive as the ‘whoever’ is positively in vs16, that same ‘whoever’ is now inclusive of all who do not believe.

All who do not believe are at this very moment condemned by God!  They are in the most dangerous position imaginable right now and will be into eternity if there is no change.  They will be damned by God because they rejected God’s only Son whom God lovingly sent to save them from their sinful condition and consequences.

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.’ (vs36)

Re-iterating what He has already said, Jesus repeats the wide offer that anyone may believe in Him and that those who believe already have in this life entered into the eternal life only He can give us.   The Christ follower is not waiting for something that is only future but enters into real life now in this present age already.

However, again in sharp contrast whoever disbelieves/not believes/is disobedient/obeys not/is unbelieving will not experience this life that’s possible now or into eternity because their position is that the justifiable righeous indignation of the Holy One remains on them now and forever.

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All are invited to believe, all who believe will be forgiven and be given life eternal now and forevermore all because of Jesus’ life, death & resurrection, because of the love of Father God.  And yet not all will believe, and those who reject Jesus are right now in this present moment condemned already and have the wrath of God focussed on them.

May we who have already believed, tirelessly take this kind offer God’s made to ALL so that whoever believes will be forgiven, saved & will receive everlasting life now and forever.

Signs (John 2:1-25)

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This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him. (John 2:11)

John records 7 signs in his gospel that all point to Jesus’ being the Messiah.  This one is the first of those.  It happens in a quite unique context, the context of a party, no mourning, no suffering mentioned, no demonic influence needed to be overcome.

Jesus and His disciples have only been together as a band of brothers for about 3 days by now.  They must have still been getting to know one another, working out relationships, who’s who, and probably thinking; ‘what are we going to be doing together and what does this all mean’?

Jesus gets invited to a wedding, along with some of His other family members and the disciples get invited to join in.  They get there and at some point in the wedding the wine runs out.  Jesus’ mother who knows that the angel’s promised about Jesus, maybe sensing that its time for Jesus to get into the limelight hints to Jesus; ‘They have no wine’.

Was she just a busy-body, after all it wasn’t her responsibility, was she just compassionate for the host, or was she wanting a stage for her son?  Jesus’ response to her seems to hint towards Him feeling like it was the latter!  ‘Mom; it’s not my time yet!’ back-off please…

And yet on the quiet, in full view of the servants and His freshly chosen disciples Jesus reveals His power over physics and chemistry turning water into choice vintage wine by the gallons.

Jesus doesn’t take centre stage, isn’t looking for fame or notoriety but what He has just done doesn’t go unnoticed by his new followers.  In this moment John records that Jesus, ‘manifested His glory’ and the result was that ‘his disciples believed in Him’ (vs11).

The miracle was a sign, one that pointed to Jesus’ true nature and His purpose.  When those men saw what Jesus did – they believed.

After the wedding John records that Jesus and after a few days off at Capenaum go into Jerusalem and Jesus goes into the temple and in what must have been a surprising act to the disciples and those there in the temple – rebukes those who are selling and trading in the outer courts of the temple; “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” (vs16)…

Who did Jesus think He was?  

By what authority was He doing these things?  

Why was He calling Almighty God His Father?

Some Jews in the temple challenge Jesus effectively saying; ‘On what authority are you doing these things – show us a sign that you have authority to say and do this here?’

The disciples saw the sign in Cana at the wedding, they had believed and yet they must have felt awkward in this moment, is what Jesus is doing appropriate?  Now those who didn’t know who Jesus was and didn’t believe they want a sign…

Jesus answers them with what is essentially a riddle that the disciples only got after Jesus’ death and resurrection; Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.””  (vs19)

The sign these Jews should have seen was that Jesus was doing what He was doing in the tempe because of who He was – the Messiah.  But it was a veiled sign at this point not even abudantly clear yet to His own followers.

From our vantage point in redemption history we can see that even Jesus’ actions in the temple were actually a sign of His authority of His passion for His Father’s house.

We have the advantage of the New Testament, we know the whole story now of Jesus’ life death and resurrection, we have the greatest sign of Jesus’ nature, identity and purpose (the cross).  The question is do you believe like Jesus’ disciples did?