As you might have noticed there have been no new blog posts in the past week. Several reasons for this. First, the three Coming to Jesus blogs from John Six generated a ton of traffic, so I thought it best to leave them up for awhile. But other factors have waylay-ed Yours Truly temporarily. This past week was finals week for our youngest son Jeremy, and we spent the week helping him prepare for a big biology exam, as well as going to watch him finish out the regular wrestling season at the Northwest Conference tournament last Saturday and the league championship dual meet on Wednesday. With the semester over and this Saturday off before the final three weeks of post-season culminating with the state tournament on Feb. 19-20 in the Tacoma Dome, I finally have some time to do a little blogging. We did have SFC on Thursday, and as usual it was great. Anyway, that’s why you haven’t seen anything new going up here in the past week. But stay tuned: who knows what February will bring?
We saw yesterday in John Six that before a sinner can come to Jesus in saving faith he must be one of those given to Christ by the Father . Once given, coming, believing, and being raised on the last day are certain because they ultimately depend on God.
A second prerequisite is seen in v. 44: No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. This thought is repeated in v. 65 and refers to the process of regeneration wherein the dead sinner is made alive in Christ and his heart is opened to respond to the gospel call. Faith does not precede the new birth inasmuch as a dead person is incapable of responding to any outside stimuli. He must be made alive before he has the ability to believe. Nor does Scripture teach the erroneous doctrine of prevenient grace, whereby God grants to all the ability to either receive or reject the gospel.
Now here is where it gets interesting. In v. 45 we read: It is written in the prophets: “And they shall all be taught of God.” Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. This rounds out the three prerequisites to coming to Jesus in faith: (1) One must be given to Christ by the Father; (2) One must be drawn to Christ by the Father; (3) One must hear and learn from the Father.
This third prerequisite is highly instructive when we think that faith involves not only knowledge of Christ, but also assent to the truth and trust in the person of Christ. But how does one get the knowledge that Christ is real and that the gospel is true? When our oldest daughter was little she asked me once how I knew Jesus was real and that he came back to life after his death. Many ask this same question, and assume that because we cannot prove the truth of the gospel scientifically, we cannot know it for certain. This would be the case were it not that God Himself imparts the information and conviction of its truth revelationally in the process of regeneration. This is what it means when it says that those who come to Christ have heard and learned from the Father.
A practical application is that you cannot argue someone into faith by providing evidences and rational proofs. Such an evidential approach presupposes that man in the unregenrate state somehow has the ability through rational investigation to come to the knowledge Christ. Better yet to encourage the sinner to get on his knees and beg God to open his heart and mind to the truth.
God bless you richly as you ponder and apply these precious truths from the lips of the Savior.
Yesterday we established that in the context of John Chapter Six coming to Jesus and believing in Jesus are synonymous; and it is possible to “seek Jesus” without coming to Him in saving faith. Some people come to Jesus in saving faith and some do not. Why?
Probably the most common answer given for why people do not come to Jesus in saving faith is that they do not want to, or choose not to. No argument there. The unregenerate sinner is dead and trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1) and thus incapable of wanting or choosing to come to Christ in faith. He lacks the ability to understand who Christ is, to want Christ, or to trust Christ. Driven by the flesh the unbeliever always chooses that which gratifies the sin within. This commitment to the flesh might manifest itself in “seeking Jesus” through some kind of religious activity; or it might take the form of wanton license. There is no qualitative difference between the two. The difference between a muddy pig and a clean pig is purely cosmetic.
In John 6:35 Jesus promises that those who come to Him in faith will never hunger or thirst. It is clear from the context that he is not talking about physical hunger and thirst, and that He is speaking of his body and blood as food and drink metaphorically. So who are those who come to Jesus in saving faith?
Those who are given to Christ by God the Father (vv. 37-40). All of these will come and Christ will raise all on the last day without exception. Since it is clear that not all will come to Christ in saving faith it follows that not all are given to Christ by the Father. In other words you are not given to Christ because you come and believe; to the converse, you come and believe because you have been given. Christ puts it this way in John 10:26: But you do not believe because you are not of my sheep. Jesus could have told these Jews, You are not my sheep because you do not believe; but instead He tells them just the opposite. Coming to Jesus in faith is not the prerequisite to becoming one of the sheep. The primary reason anyone ever comes to Jesus and believes in Him is because he has been given by God to Christ. In other words you have to be one of the sheep to believe.
All this presupposes election and predestination, one of the clearest doctrines in the New Testament. God the Father has from eternity chosen His sheep from the mass of fallen humanity. These elect are given to Jesus and they alone–without exception–will come to Jesus in faith and will persevere to the end and be resurrected by the Saviour on the last day. It is a sure thing. A done deal.
But there is more to this story. Being given to Jesus by the Father is but one prerequisite to coming to Jesus in faith. Stop by the room tomorrow for the full meal deal.
OK, here is the stuff I promised from John Chapter Six. There is a lot to share, so this might become a serial blog post. Two-part minimum for sure. I am calling it Coming to Jesus because the Lord uses this expression as a synonym for believing in Him.
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; the one who comes to Me shall never hunger, and the one who believes in Me shall never thirst,” (v. 35).
Having defined coming to Him as believing in Him the Lord mentions this kind of coming four more times in the context: vv. 37, 44, 45, and 65. I will not quote these verses here but will talk about them in the next blog post. Read and familiarize yourself with them as well as the general context.
Having shown that coming to Jesus=believing in Jesus in this context, I will talk today about what coming to Jesus is not. Then in the next blog post I will get into the prerequisites–what has to happen for a sinner to come to Jesus.
Seeking Jesus is not coming to Jesus in this context. After having their bellies filled, the multitude concluded that Jesus was “the prophet coming into the world,” and they wanted to make Him their king (vv. 14-15). The Jews of Jesus day misinterpreted the prophecy of Deuteronomy 18:18, which predicted that one day God would raise up a prophet like Moses. They were looking for a military leader who would free them from the Romans just as Moses had led the Israelites from Egyptian bondage. You might remember that in John 1:21 the Jewish leaders asked John the Baptist if he was “the prophet.” In asking this question they were thinking in terms of a political military leader. WRONG!
In response to their desire to make him a king, Jesus withdraws and joins the disciples later. The next day on the other side of the lake the multitude is said to have been seeking Jesus (v. 24). But what does this mean? Jesus gives the answer in verse 26: Truly, truly I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled.
This kind of “seeking” is not spiritually genuine because it is based on a desire to meet one’s fleshly felt needs with no understanding of who Jesus really is or desire for what He offers. For in the natural unregenerate state there is none who seeks after God (Rom. 3:11).
And yet there are entire churches and movements built upon the premise that as a starting point of ministry to the lost you must find out what the felt needs are of the masses and then tailor your methodology to meeting these felt needs as a means of wooing the lost into the Kingdom of God. The assumption is that folks are really seeking the Lord, and we need to loosen up and quit acting like stuffy Christians. If they want puppet shows, then give them puppet shows. Or hip-hop worship music. Or latte’ and muffins. Or 12-step groups. Or oil changes and tune-ups. Or stand-up comedy. Do your homework and find out where the seekers itch and then scratch like crazy! Oh, and while you’re at it, shorten the sermons and go light on sin. Emphasize the love of God and focus on our victim-hood and need for healing of hurts and increased self-esteem.
Seriously. Read the book of Acts and show me where the apostles ever took a survey to find out what the felt needs of the community were. Or when they put their heads together to find out what style of worship music would attract seekers. Or where they watered down the Gospel to make it sound less offensive.
Read all of John Chapter Six. You will see that all these seekers turned away and left when Jesus told them the truth about their spiritual needs. They had absolutely no interest in that. All of the meeting of their felt needs in the world would not bring them or any other so-called seeker a fraction of a millimeter closer to God.
So what has to happen before someone really comes to Jesus in faith as described in this text by the Lord? Stay tuned and we will pick it up here tomorrow. And I will give you fair warning: What Jesus has to say will rub your flesh the wrong way. Guaranteed!
We see the news reports coming out of Haiti: hundreds of thousands missing and dead. Thousands more injured and bereaved. Homes destroyed. Supplies of food, water, and electricity shut off. Imagine yourself in that situation for a moment. Your home in shambles. You are cold, hungry, and thirsty. Wearing the same clothes you have worn for a week. Your spouse is dead and your children are missing. Much of the aid coming in from outside donors is being siphoned off by corrupt political bureaucrats. Looting, rape, and even murder are becoming more common as time rolls on. As you look to the horizon for hope the prognosis is bleak. Again, put yourself into that position if you can even imagine it. What would be going through your mind?
First, what if you were an unbeliever? You might be angry at God; but then again you might just accept it as a random occurrence–wrong place at the wrong time. I cannot help but believe you would be trying to extract some hope and meaning from your circumstances. You might sink into a deep despair and even contemplate ending it all. Then again, you might throw yourself on the sovereign grace and mercy of God. Please pray that as Christian relief workers meet the physical needs of the beleaguered Haitians they will be sensitive to those receptive to the life-changing Gospel of Christ. Remember, this is a nation held in bondage for many years through pagan superstition.
What if you were a believer? It would be a life changing experience. As a Bible believer you would know this was not a disaster from which God is removed, watching as a helpless bystander. You might believe He decreed it and was in total control of it–as I do–or you might feel a bit more comfortable saying He allowed it. In any event He could have prevented it but chose not to for reasons known only to Him. Knowing God is your rock gives you someone to trust and cling to in those times of deep pain. You would also be a blessing and comfort to others around you. Please pray for all the native believers in Haiti, as well as the Christians pouring in from around the world. May the love of Christ flow through them.
Kinda’ puts things in perspective. Last week our youngest daughter got a little puppy, and it is the first dog we have had in our home in seven or eight years. Before the earthquake in Haiti probably our biggest inconvenience was having a dog peeing on the rugs, chewing up slippers, yapping and keeping us awake at night, and staring at us when we ate. At least we have a home, food, family, water, warmth, power. Think about this, and continue to pray and give as you are able. If you have an opportunity to go serve on the front lines, then may God bless you richly.
Oh, and that stuff I told you about John Six–it’s coming.
Have you ever eaten so much rich food that you finally had to push yourself away from the table, stuffed to the gills? Of course you have. I always feel this way after attending the lutefisk feed at the local Sons of Norway Hall. The secret is knowing when to call it quits.
This will be a short post because I have just pushed myself away from the Word of God after being buried under an avalanche of revelatory blessing. Do you ever have those times in the Word where you just want to jump up and dance and scream and generally act like David did when he danced before the Lord in his boxers? To the casual bystander you might look like a blithering idiot, which is why you should always have the outburst in a private setting, like the man-cave.
Funny thing is I have been a little sick and weak and woke up at 6 am, a full hour past my usual wake up time. With steaming cup of hot very black coffee in hand I stumbled out to the man-cave, sat down, and resumed where I had left off yesterday in the Greek text of John Chapter Six. God hit me hard with some really amazing insights into his plan of salvation I had never quite seen this clearly before. I would like to share these morsels of food for the soul; but like the anaconda that has just swallowed his dinner whole, I honestly need some time to digest it. So today I will be pondering and meditating on these insights, and possibly bouncing them off a brother or two. Then, Lord willing, I will be able to get what God has shown me from my feeble brain to my fingers, to the keyboard, and online for you to see.
For me the lesson is that even if you are sick and weak, and even if you felt too tired to make your normal wake-up call, crack that Word anyway. First thing I did when I sat down this morning–I believe even before I took that first eye-opening sip of coffee–was to thank the Lord for the day and ask Him to bless and open His Word. God does not get tired or sick, and He never sleeps. His Word is eternal. It is always living and powerful; it is always profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness. Today God had a spiritual breakfast fit for a king prepared for me, and I am absolutely stuffed. Thank you, Lord!
Connie and I are off soon to watch our youngest son Jeremy wrestle in a tournament today. I hope we will have time to stop at McDonald’s for Egg McMuffin, hash browns, and OJ.
Enjoy the long weekend! And keep watching for the next blog post. It should be good.
With holidays, illness, and high school wrestling season all converging in past weeks we took a temporary break from SFC. Last night we gathered in the man-cave for some much needed male bonding in Christ. The man-cave is now equipped with a flat-screen TV I received as a Christmas gift, and a small refrigerator will be the next amenity. It is the most awesome place–you need to join us some night and see for yourself!
We had a newcomer last night, and he felt right at home as we talked about life in the Lord. So simple and yet so powerful. We spent time talking about our experiences and Bible verses we had been reading. We closed it out with a time of prayer. This morning as I reflect back over my life I realize how important these informal times of fellowship are. When we attend church we are involved in a structured corporate worship experience, and that is as it should be. But sprinkled throughout the week are those little pockets of koinonia that punctuate and provide added meaning and motivation. My Christian brothers are such a blessing to me.
Like the guy who sits next to me at the gym on the machine or in the steam room. Some of the best fellowship I can remember happened in the locker room of the Bellingham YMCA. Or the guy who makes the local coffee joint his office away from home. Not that I frequent it regularly, but he is always there to share an encouraging word and the right hand of fellowship. Or my friend from Seattle who calls me to share theological reflections. Or my son’s art teacher (a believer) who shows up at the wrestling matches to watch him compete and talk with me about various stuff. Or the guys who show up to the man-cave for SFC. What would we do as Christian men without these brothers and without these moments of fellowship?
We need one another in this spiritual fight of faith. Iron sharpens iron. Fellowship throughout the week charges our batteries, it encourages and motivates us. Fellowship is so cool! That’s really all I have for today, but it is a lot if you think about it. God bless all of you throughout this great day.
Yesterday at the eye doctor’s office as I waited for Connie to be fitted with new contacts, while I was looking at boxes of contact lenses in the display case, my eyes were drawn to a beautiful shade of blue on one of the boxes. As I admired the color a question popped into my mind: Whose beautiful color of blue is this? Sound like a dumb question–well it isn’t. The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof. Everything in the continuum of time, space, matter, and energy belongs to the Lord, and it is on loan to us as human stewards created in the divine image.
All true knowledge is God’s knowledge. 2+2=4 does not exist as an abstract truth in its own right independent of God. 2+2=4 as a reflection of God’s infinite knowledge and wisdom. All matter is God’s matter. The food we eat, the water we drink, are all God’s. The beautiful colors of a rainbow or of a sunset are God’s colors. All beauty is God’s beauty. All light issues forth from the Creator. God is the source of all life and consciousness. In Him we live and move and have our being.
The unbeliever looks at the beautiful blue contact lens box and thinks–”Oh what a wonderful shade of blue!” But his unconscious assumption is that it is a beautiful not-created-by-God shade of Blue. When a Christian sees a pretty color he realizes it is a reflection of God’s nature, and he praises God for His wonderful expression of beauty in His creation. That is worship. Lifestyle worship.
Worship is not some isolated activity that occurs in a small corner of our lives when we are singing songs in church on Sunday morning. Because evidence of God’s goodness and greatness abound through general revelation in creation and conscience, the opportunities for worship are ever present. Even in the optometrist’s office looking at a pretty blue lens box. Do not be like a brute animal who stares dumbly at the green grass. Thank and praise God for the beautiful color of the grass, the smell of the grass, the feel of it under your bare feet. That is lifestyle worship.
Inasmuch as it has been appointed for men to die once, and after this the judgment (Heb. 9:27).
Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints (Ps. 115:16).
This morning at 5 am I read an email from a dear brother of long standing who wrote with bittersweet news: a friend we attended Bible college with back in the mid 1970s passed away yesterday.
Since I will not be able to attend the memorial service I would like to offer a short eulogy in memory of John Thompson. John was one of the most gracious and loving brothers in Christ I have been honored to know. Not once in the few years I was around him did I ever hear a harsh, critical, or judgmental word from his lips. He was always available to lend a listening ear and a helping hand. Just a big teddy bear of a guy. I know he leaves behind a wife (Sharon), and beyond this I am sorry to say I do not know any additional family details. Please pray for Sharon and the family of John Thompson. Also pray that his memorial service will be a powerful testimony to the risen Lord and the reality of His eternal kingdom.
Let this be a time of reflection for all of us–young and old. We are pilgrims passing through. As the old hymn so rightly tells us, this world is not our home. We never know how much more time the Lord will give us. You young folks might think you have an endless sea of time before you; but trust this fifty-seven year old preacher–before you know it you will be where I am. In the meantime God could call you home unexpectedly. In any event, one day your appointed date with destiny will arrive.
Resolve to finish strong in Him. Forget what has happened in the past–it is over and you cannot change it. Stop worrying about the future because you can’t do anything about that either. Cling to Christ and trust His work of redemption. Trust His Word and His indwelling Spirit. Be alert to the little opportunities to serve Him and others in His name. Be a faithful steward of your time, your talent, and your treasure while God graciously grants you life and breath on His Planet Earth.
To all the friends and family of John who might read this post, please feel free to offer your own word of eulogy or fond memory of our brother. Our loss is heaven’s gain.
Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name, beholding the signs which He was doing. But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men, and because He did not need anyone to bear witness concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man (John 2:23-25).
I have always found this verse intriguing and instructive. Jesus finds Himself on the receiving end of accolades from a multitude of His kinsmen. Most of us would have basked in the limelight, but Jesus did not. In fact it says He did just the opposite: He did not entrust Himself to them. The word to entrust here is the same Greek word translated believe throughout John’s Gospel. Jesus did not believe in man, have faith in man, and ultimately did not trust man. He knew in advance that the same fickle crowd which would hail His triumphal entry would one week later cry Crucify him!
Christ had no illusions about fallen humanity. It says He knew what was in man and He needed no outside testimony to inform Him. There is a timely word here for believers living in the post-modern and supposedly post-Christian world. We live in the age of humanistic belief in collective self-potential. Humanity marches onward and upward on a cultural, political, intellectual, technological, and spiritual Tower of Babel. Many Americans (not to mention Europeans) look to the arm of government to solve every woe from poverty to health care to crime to alleged global warming. As Christians we are to submit to government as a minister of God for the punishment of evil-doers and rewarding of those who do good. But we are not to trust in civil government as a savior. Such blind allegiance results not in freedom, but in greater bondage.
We all have special people in our lives whom we love dearly. We trust these individuals to a much greater degree than we do others; and that is as it should be. A wife ought to be able to trust her husband, and a child his mother. But even special people are limited in what they can do for us. Only God can redeem us, sanctify us, and resurrect us. Not only that: even the most special people in our lives are indwelt with sin, and they can and will let us down sometimes. No matter how much we would wish it otherwise, it just isn’t so. Rose-colored glasses are of no help.
God, not man, is in ultimate control of this world. He alone is worthy of our trust. Do not trust today in the feeble arm of the flesh. Entrust yourself to Him who holds you securely in the palm of His hand.