faith

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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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.

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.

Faith (Mark 5:21-6:6)

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pistĕuō (Greek): to have faith (in, upon, or with respect to, a person or thing), to entrust, to believe, commit (to trust), put in trust with.

Faith is believing God.  Faith is to put one’s trust in God regarding something when one has yet to still see the outcome.  Faith is believing and acting according to that belief.  Faith is always rooted in SOMEONE or something.

Jarius the Synagogue ruler had a need, his daughter was desperately ill.  Jarius has seen or heard of myriads of people being healed by Jesus and on that basis Jarius believes that Jesus is worth approaching and reveals his faith when He says to Jesus (Mark 5:21-23); “Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live”.

Coming to Jesus revealed his belief that Jesus was worth coming to, imploring Jesus to lay His hands on his daughter puts his belief about what was possible with Jesus on display.

Similarly, the woman who has seemingly unsolvable long-term medical issues believes, has faith.  Scripture clearly explains that the reason for her action was;

She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” (Mark 5:27-28)

Her thinking was, Jesus is the answer to my unsolvable problem – that’s faith!  And faith is what God loves.  Jesus commends the woman for her faith (vs34) and Jesus urges Jarius to keep believing (vs36) when he hears the news that his daughter has passed away.

Why does God love faith?  

Is it because of the relational component that there is to faith?  

I remember teaching my children to swim in the pool and in the ocean.  I remember so clearly just wanting those little freaked out kids to trust their dad, to believe that he would not let them get hurt or worse, to believe that he knew what they could handle.  I know what it feels like now teaching my 18yr old how to drive, when she is panicking that she can’t do something I know she can do, or drive somewhere where I know she can drive, I know what it feels like to just want her to trust me, to trust that I’ll help, I’ll direct and counsel and together we will achieve things she will be proud of and delighted with in the end…  Faith has a relational component to it.

God loves it when we trust Him, when we choose to believe He is good, He is loving and all powerful and that He knows what’s best for our lives.  Will you trust Him, will you have faith like this woman, faith like Jarius?  They saw their unsolvable problems solved because they believed!

In closing, Mark 6:1-6 is set in stark contrast to this.  Jesus goes to his hometown and He encounters the exact opposite of faith, people don’t believe they disbelieve He is anything special and so it says;

And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them.  And he marveled because of their unbelief. (Mark 6:5-6)

Jesus still did some miracles, but it was not much, He was astounded at their unbelief and as a result of their unbelief, His hometown lost out on what might have been if only they had believed like the woman, like Jarius.

Will you believe?

Do you trust Jesus in everything?

Are you living today, filled with the faith that God loves?

False teaching (2 Thessalonians 2:1-17)

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The Thessalonian church faced persecution from those outside of the faith, which the apostle has addressed in chapter 1.  Now in chapter 2 he turns his attention to another form of opposition that can be even more difficult to withstand: false teaching.

Some had been claiming that Jesus had already returned, and that the Thessalonians had somehow missed it (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3)!  Sadly this sort of stuff still happens today.  Just the other day the world was supposed to have ended – ooooops did you miss that!

Did you know that according to some, the so-called “Rapture” was supposed to have happened on Sep 23rd 2017.  Some doomsday so-called Christians who seem more focused more on crazy number patterns & astronomy than on the Bible itself put together a Youtube clip watched by 4.5million people in under 2months claiming such.  

And yet, no surprise really, but we are still all here.  Or did Jesus come back and we  somehow missed; ‘Jesus’ shout of command’, ‘the voice of the archangel’, the trumpet blast of God’ ‘and dead people rising up everywhere’ (1 Thessalonians 4:13-16)…? 

Friend, “Let no one deceive you in any way” (vs3), “we ask you brothers not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed” (vs2).  Jesus is coming back, he will destroy the anti-Christ with just the breath of his mouth (vs8) – no contest!  There will be displays of power and false signs and wicked deception from Satan himself (vs9-10) but we are all called to ‘love the truth and so be saved’ (vs10)

And Jesus Christ Himself is the way and the truth, and so believing in Him, trusting in Him is the only way to life eternal.  So do it, trust Him, believe in Him, and call all you know to do the same.

And, if you have already believed in Jesus, stand firm (vs15) and hold to what you know from Scripture and may Jesus Himself comfort your hearts and cause you to do great good works in the world because of Him (vs16).

The Gospel came, was received & was passed on… (1 Thessalonians 1:5-10)

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1) The Gospel CAME to you… vs5

‘not just with words’

This means at least two things; firstly, it did come with words, words are important, we must share the good news about Jesus with our words as Christ followers, with our preaching as the church.

‘but also in power and in the Holy Spirit’

Secondly, words alone are not enough but need to be confirmed with God’s power which at least is God’s miraculous power at work through Holy Sprit in anyone who believes.  More than this it can also point to external miracles of healing etc that authenticate what is being spoken of about God/Jesus.

So when we share the good news we should pray for our words to come with Holy Spirit power and we should step out in faith allowing God to use us to authenticate His word with acts of power!

 ‘and with full conviction’

The Gospel was proclaimed as it is, the truth and so was proclaimed with confidence and or it was received with full conviction by those who heard it.

2) And you RECEIVED it…vs6

The Thessalonians received the good news about Jesus with joy that was given by the Holy Spirit in spite of much affliction from the surrounding culture (opposition/persecution) because they believed.

Do you remember that feeling of bubbling joy, the feeling that something was exceedingly right when you came to faith in Jesus?  

Coming to faith might mean much struggle, much that needs to change or even opposition… But nothing can rob one of the joy of knowing, sins are forgiven, future is secure, identity & belonging are resolved forever!

3) You were TRANSFORMED & you RESPONDED passing it on to others…vs8-10

The result of the Gospel in their lives was that they became an example for other believers.  The Gospel sounded out from them in the whole region, more than that their faith was reported way further….

The testimony that rung out from them was specifically how they had; ‘turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God’ and how you’re now waiting ‘for His Son from heaven’.

True Gospel transformation starts with the gospel coming to us, then us responding to it with faith and then our being transformed so that we become ‘speakers’ relaying the very same Gospel to others.

Meditate again on your salvation, the goodness of the Gospel message.

Meditate again thanking God for saving you, for convincing you, for giving you freedom and joy in the Holy Spirit.

Ask God to use YOU, to let the Gospel ring out from you, your lips, your life.

We need reminding… (Joshua 23)

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After a long time had passed, as Joshua is close to the end of his life he gathers all of Israel and speaks to the leadership of the nation in a way that is very reminiscent of Moses’s Deuteronomy sermon in the last moments of his leadership (see the whole book of Deuteronomy but especially chapters 29-33.

Joshua re-iterates very similar words to those of Moses, as their leader he calls them to remember three things;

  1. To remember what God has done for them (vs3,9-10, especially vs14)
  2. To remember what God requires of them (vs6-8, 11-13) to do and not do
  3. To remember the warning of God’s jealous wrath should they turn away from God in compromise and idolatry (vs15-16)

The call to remember is a repeated refrain in the Old Testament, passage after passage points back to the covenant with Abraham, the actions of God for His people to deliver them from Egypt, the covenant and commandments given to Moses, the sin and unbelief in the wilderness, God’s punishment on that generation, God’s faithfulness to ‘every word’ of His promises to His people in giving them the Promised Land and fighting for them…… As you read on in the OT, the refrain goes on and on, through the prophets and God’s various mouthpieces and even into the NT with books like Hebrews having a definite call to remember in them.

Why?

Well we so easily forget. More than this, remembering God’s faithfulness to us in the past (past faith) is the foundation we need to have faith in the present with all its challenges and its the foundation we need to have faith for the future we can not yet see.

Remembering, recounting, telling and re-telling the ‘God-stories’ of our lives, reading the ‘God-stories’ of Scripture are so vital to our faith.

I want to urge you to remember how God has worked in your life (starting with what Jesus did on the cross for you) and spend time thanking God again.

Remember things you can and have thanked God for and let the memory of those God-stories fuel your faith again for the present and the future.

Lastly, remember that warnings are no good to us unless we are warned by them. God promises to deal with the compromise and sin of Israel, the breaking of covenant (vs15-16). We live under a new covenant of grace but sin is still an offence to our Holy Father. We will never be punished for our sin because Jesus was crushed for our iniquities (Isaiah 53:4-6) but we can miss the life and the nearness and blessing of God that He wanted us to experience.

Is there any ongoing sin in your life that you know you need to repent of?
I urge you to repent & to turn from it, to seek out help if you need help.