Sunday, May 31, 2015

Death or Demons? - John 8:48-59

Death or Demons? - John 8:48-59
by Pastor Lee Hemen
May 31, 2015

It isn't new that when some folks can't win an argument with logic or rational thought they resort to name-calling. Like children at play who do not like the outcome, some adults will revert back to their childish behavior as well. After all, we can't be the ones who are wrong or at fault and our logic is always impeccable, right? In an argument, one does not have the license to be childish, abusive or immature. If a person has legitimate logical thoughts, they can give a reasonable voice to those thoughts in a constructive way.

Jesus faced those who disagreed with him but instead of using reasonable or logical arguments, they resorted to name-calling and being just plain mean-spirited. Let's discover how Jesus handled the issue of his detractors calling him demon-possessed and him trying to show them eternal life. It was a matter of death or demons…

READ: John 8:48-59

In this passage we join the conversation in mid-argument. We have covered much it already and are now getting to the finale. Jesus had just declared to them, "He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God." Since they had never heard God for themselves nor had a personal relationship with him, they concluded that…

I. Jesus was demon-possessed! (Vv. 48-51)

The Jews answered him, "Aren't we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?" "I am not possessed by a demon," said Jesus, "but I honor my Father and you dishonor me. I am not seeking glory for myself; but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge. I tell you the truth, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death."

  1. When my father was a child in order to win an argument someone might say, "Your mother wears Army boots!" meaning, that his mother was manlier than she should have been. It was a cheap shot at a person's parentage. Sadly, in our world today someone might retort, "Who cares!" or "Yes she does!" We find that when the argument does not go in the direction the Jewish leadership wanted they then began to attack Jesus personally with unfounded name-calling. They remark, "Aren't we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?"  They were calling him a half-breed, inferring that he wasn't a full Hebrew and therefore have no right to say the things he was teaching. And, of course, there is the racist inference that was popularly held that all Samaritans, being half-breeds, forsaking the real worship of God and his temple, were after all "demon-possessed"! Jesus would have none of their insidious insinuations concerning his heritage. He bluntly refutes their slander by telling them, "I am not possessed by a demon, but I honor my Father and you dishonor me." Unlike their superficial spirituality, Jesus always sought to honor his Father and, unlike the Pharisees, he never sought after glory for himself! Yet Jesus knew the One who did seek the glory and honor due Him, namely God the Father, "and he is the judge" of their actions and attitudes! Far from being demon-possessed, the truth is, "if anyone keeps [his] word, he will never see death!" At this, they thought Jesus was demon-possessed!

   EXAMPLE: Four people—a pilot, a professor, a pastor, and a hiker—were flying in a small plane when the engines died. The pilot said, "There are only three parachutes. Since this is my plane, I'm taking one of them." He put it on and jumped out. The professor said, "I'm brilliant and the world needs me, so I'm taking a parachute," and he jumped out. Then the pastor told the hiker, "I don't want to be selfish, so you take the last parachute." The hiker replied, "There are still two left, so we can each have one. The professor jumped out with my backpack instead of the parachute!" Though the professor thought he would land safely, his assurance was based on faulty thinking. There are those in our day and age who struggle with the gospel message, that if one trusts Jesus with their lives he will give them eternal life. It is a matter of faith, of trust. This is the catalyst of rebirth. It makes one wonder what more could Jesus do? The Jews were guilty of faulty thinking in that they thought Jesus was demon-possessed.

Like many in our world today who want to claim some kind of spirituality, but have no personal investment themselves, when confronted by the truth they show that…

II. They did not know who Jesus was! (Vv. 52-55)

At this the Jews exclaimed, "Now we know that you are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that if anyone keeps your word, he will never taste death. Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?" Jesus replied, "If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and keep his word.

  1. Of course not having a personal relationship with God, the Israelites were confused, and when someone is confused about something they mistrust in the first place, one often gets angry and the Jewish leadership does just that. So at Jesus' pronouncement of eternal life through keeping his word, they exclaim, "Now we know that you are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that if anyone keeps your word, he will never taste death. Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?" Jesus knew full well who he was. And, the crowd knew where Jesus was headed in his teaching. For their narrow minds it was simple, "Abraham died and so did the prophets," how then could keeping Jesus' word give one eternal life? They angrily retort, "Who do you think you are?" Now put yourself in the midst of what is occurring here, the crowd is angry, vehement, and is challenging Jesus' every word and notice what Jesus does. He calmly replies, "If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. Though you do not know him, I know him." Their attempt to dishonor Him was an attack on his Father, whom he knew full well! If Jesus had pridefully wanted to gain the glory, there would be none for God and it would mean nothing. Yet it is God who they tried to claim as their own, he was the one who glorified his Son. Jesus knew what he was talking about. They did not know God, but he did intimately, in fact if he had acquiesced to their faulty thinking and said he did not know God, he would have been a liar, just like them! Jesus boldly proclaims, "I do know him and keep his word." They did not know who Jesus was, but it did not matter. Jesus knew who he was, and further more and more importantly, God knew who Jesus was!

   EXAMPLE: There is a lot of folks who think they have to "find themselves." They hardly know which end is up let alone find themselves! Someone once quipped, "They couldn't find themselves with a compass and a flashlight in a dark closet!" For whatever odd reasoning some folks think that if they spend time in introspection they will ultimately discover their true selves. What few folks realize is that they need look no further than the pages of Scripture. God already knows who they are and sent his son to give them what they need in life. The crowds of Jesus' day did not know what they truly believed, they did not truly know God, and the y certainly did not know Jesus. The wonderful truth is that they, like us this morning need only know Jesus!

Jesus was more than a man. He was more than a simple itinerant rabbi. He was more than just a thorn in the backside of the Jewish leadership. Jesus tells his audience exactly who he is…

III. Jesus is God! (Vv. 56-59)

Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad." "You are not yet fifty years old," the Jews said to him, "and you have seen Abraham!" "I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "before Abraham was born, I am!" At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.

  1. Here in John's gospel is the foundational truth of who Jesus is and why he came. But more than that herein is the core of why the Jewish leadership had such hatred toward him. Jesus continued to school them by relating, "Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad." While his Heavenly Father had sent him as the Messiah Savior, their earthly father Abraham longed for this day to occur and at the mere thought of it rejoiced over it! And, how do they respond, by their same incredulous spiritual blindness, "You are not yet fifty years old," the Jews said to him, "and you have seen Abraham!" Evidently they had forgotten God's promise, "I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you. (Genesis 12:3 NIV)" Jesus' detractors were ready to curse him and in fact they would later do so, and in doing so they reap the curse of God on themselves for rejecting him. Jesus had in fact seen Abraham and responds with that which he can only do, the truth, "I tell you the truth, before Abraham was born, I am!" What Jesus suggested was that he not only existed before Abraham, the one they claimed as the father of their nation, but Jesus was claiming he was God! Just as God declared to Moses when Moses asked him who to tell the Israelites who sent him, "Moses said to God, 'Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, "The God of your fathers has sent me to you," and they ask me, "What is his name?" Then what shall I tell them?' God said to Moses, 'I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you.' (Exodus 3:13-14 NIV)" Jesus now uses the very same phrase. It is not lost on his enemies, ""before Abraham was born, I am!" "At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds." Simply put, Jesus is God!

   EXAMPLE: I had been fishing for bluegill and was doing pretty good, then I noticed it had slacked off because the wind had pushed my boat away from the hotspot. I pulled up the anchor and tried again only to be pushed by the wind again away from the spot I wanted. I could not get my anchor to hold firm to the bottom of the lake. When it comes to my salvation it is anchored firmly in the heart of God and what Jesus did for me. My Rock is not moved by my sin, my emotions, my doubts or fears -- he holds fast to me even when I try to drift away -- the reason? Jesus is God!

Conclusion:

They thought Jesus was demon-possessed! The crowds of Jesus' day did not know what they truly believed, they did not truly know God, and they certainly did not know Jesus. Simply put, Jesus is God!

This article is copyrighted © 2015 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Who's Your Daddy? - John 8:37-47

Who's Your Daddy? - John 8:37-47
By Pastor Lee Hemen
May 24, 2015

One of the greatest detriments to our society's stability is the dysfunctional makeup of families; namely the amount of absentee father's in the home. According to the National Fatherhood Initiative, "There is a crisis in America. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 24 million children in America—one out of three—live without their biological dad in the home. Consequently, there is a “father factor” in nearly all of the societal issues facing America today." Children of absentee fathers are more likely to live in poverty, have emotional and behavioral problems, more likely to commit crime, use drugs, get pregnant, and more likely to face abuse and neglect. I see the affects of absent fathers daily where I work as a playground monitor.

While the absence of natural fathers in families is a terrible thing, the absence of having our Heavenly Father in a family can be far worse. Strong Christian fatherless homes fair far better than those without Christ. In fact, the effect is dramatic because there is a spiritual foundation that fosters respect, commitment, and personal integrity. Physically the Jews were the descendants of Abraham, yet they failed in their adoption as children of God. Here in John's gospel Jesus bluntly confronts them about this by asking them, "Who's your Daddy?" Let's discover what occurred and what the result was…

READ: John 8:37-47

Most children are curious about where they come from, but sadly in our day and age it seems fewer folks are concerned about their spiritual roots. We discover here that…

I. Abraham was not their father! (Vv. 37-41)

I know you are Abraham's descendants. Yet you are ready to kill me, because you have no room for my word. I am telling you what I have seen in the Father's presence, and you do what you have heard from your father." "Abraham is our father," they answered. "If you were Abraham's children," said Jesus, "then you would do the things Abraham did. As it is, you are determined to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. You are doing the things your own father does." "We are not illegitimate children," they protested. "The only Father we have is God himself."

  1. While Jesus' detractors wanted to discuss his heritage in order to detract from who Jesus said he was, he would have none of it and in fact tells them, "I know you are Abraham's descendants." Jesus knew because he was one as well! He could claim the same heritage they did and even more so because of whose son he was! He not only was God's one and only son, born of a woman and the Holy Spirit, but he was also naturally born into the Hebrew nation! The Jews Jesus was speaking to may have been physically Abraham's descendants, but they were not his spiritual children! Paul would write, "A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man's praise is not from men, but from God. (Romans 2:28-29 NIV)" In reality they had nothing to be proud of in dismissing Jesus, God's true son! Paul knew that God's promise of our adoption as God's heritage and children was fulfilled in Jesus, "In other words, it is not the natural children who are God's children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham's offspring. (Romans 9:8 NIV)" Jesus absolutely knew what he spoke of was true because he had experienced the truth of it in the presence of God himself, "I am telling you what I have seen in the Father's presence, and you do what you have heard from your father." They knew only their true father's lies and he was not Abraham! Like many in our day, they listen to one who deceives them! Like petulant children they respond, "Abraham is our father!" However, if they were truly spiritual children of Abraham, they "would do the things Abraham did." They should have responded to Jesus just as Abraham responded to the godly messengers sent to him! But they rejected Jesus and he bluntly tells them, "As it is, you are determined to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things." How could they claim Abraham as their spiritual father when they did not do as he had done? Jesus tells them, "You are doing the things your own father does." Jesus knew Abraham was not their father!

  EXAMPLE: The fight on the playground began with the age-old argument about one another's parentage. I asked the two boys who were involved in the fisticuffs if their parents would be truly proud of them fighting over what they called one another's parents. They both looked at their feet and mumbled, "Probably not." The Jews wanted to involve Jesus in a playground argument concerning their parentage. Instead of asking their Heavenly Father about Jesus they instead engage him in a verbal battle they could not win. Like many today who think they know God, they did not have the spiritual parentage they needed. Jesus knew Abraham was not their father!

The Jews tried to claim a false spirituality they did not have, "We are not illegitimate children," they protested. "The only Father we have is God himself." However, we discover that…

II. God was not their father! (Vv. 42-47)

Jesus said to them, "If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own; but he sent me. Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don't you believe me? He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God."

  1. You can tell a real family by how it acts and what the glue is that holds it together, it is filled with love and because God is love, his family would be filed with his love. Nothing could be further from this reality than this fact concerning the Jews; they were filled with bitterness and narrow-mindedness. Jesus tells them, "If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own; but he sent me." If they had truly known God they would have known who Jesus was and that God had sent him! Jesus then asks them a rhetorical question, "Why is my language not clear to you?" Of course they would not like the answer he gives them, "Because you are unable to hear what I say." Many in our world today have the same problem with their hearing as well, they are spiritually deaf! They cannot hear God because they are listening to the wrong spiritual father! Jesus gives them the reason for their deafness, "You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies." All other spirituality that does not come from God comes from another father, Satan! Satan is the enemy of the truth and the father of lies! He has been since the very beginning of all things! It is his intrinsic nature to lie! Sadly, far too many swallow his lies as spiritual food. Jesus retorts, "Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me!" Since those who do not know God love to hide in the darkness of their sin and love deception rather than the truth, they do not believe it when they hear it! Jesus asks them, "Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don't you believe me?" Of course Jesus had never sinned and yet they would not believe him because they would rather listen to a liar than God! God was not their father! When we are willing by faith to listen to what God actually says, then we will hear what he is telling us. This is why Jesus says, "He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God." Do you hear God; do you belong to God's family? The Jews could not hear Jesus because their ears were spiritually plugged. God was not their father!

  EXAMPLE: When she was asked to stop, she refused to do so and suffered the consequences of her actions and attitude. She had to go to the Vice Principal and explain her defiance and disrespectful attitude. Of course at first she denied any culpability in her actions. There are those who will try to deny their ungodly refusal to trust Jesus. Jesus would teach that God would know his family by the spiritual fruit they produce and in fact he would relate that just saying you belong to Jesus will not cut it in his coming kingdom, "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 7:21 NIV)" Sadly, like far too many in our day, we discover that God was not their father!

Conclusion:

Jesus knew Abraham was not their father and God was not their father either!

This article is copyrighted © 2015 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

The Truth Will Set You Free! - John 8:30-36

The Truth Will Set You Free! - John 8:30-36
By Pastor Lee Hemen
May 17, 2015

Shel Silverstein once quipped, "Tell me I'm clever, Tell me I'm kind, Tell me I'm talented, Tell me I'm cute, Tell me I'm sensitive, Graceful and wise, Tell me I'm perfect - But tell me the truth." Contrary to what some would like you to believe, there can only be one truth. However, for some the truth is completely relative, meaning it is only relevant when it benefits them or agrees with their own preconceptions. In our day and age where many think that lying is just part of life, we would do well to remember what Mark Twain wrote, "If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything."

Jesus was the embodiment of the truth. He never lied nor did anything for his own benefit; his life was one of complete honesty, humility, and sacrifice. God knew that if he was going to relate the gospel message of salvation by faith through Jesus, Jesus would have to be completely truthful in every area of his life. In fact, Christians are to "Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom! (James 2:12 NIV)" Jesus would later ask the Heavenly Father to "Sanctify" those who follow him "by the truth" because he knew that his "word is truth. (John 17:17 NIV)" This is why here in John's gospel we learn that the truth will set you free, let's discover what this means.

READ: John 8:30-36

My father used to tell us, "A man is only as good as his word." What he meant was that if someone said they agreed to something, they would definitely follow through. A man's word would be dependable. Not everyone in our world today agrees with this but everyone wants others to do so! Jesus was completely dependable and he knew…

I. Everyone needs to know the Truth! (Vv. 30-32)

Even as he spoke, many put their faith in him. To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."

  1. When we read that "Even as he spoke, many put their faith in him," doesn't mean that the fickle crowd all of a sudden got religion or was saved; this is not what John means. More than likely he meant that some of the crowd began to realize that Jesus was indeed the Messiah he claimed to be. They began to possibly realize that Jesus was exactly what he claimed and nothing more or perhaps he was a great Prophet. They could see something different in his life, they heard it in his teaching, and saw it in the miracles he performed. They understood that Jesus did only do what pleased God and noting else. He did not seek glory for himself or for his followers. He only glorified God! Interestingly, we read that "To the Jews who had believed him" Jesus begins some heavy teaching. Perhaps Jesus knew some of them were ready to understand more fully what he was about or perhaps he knew that while many were willing to "believe" they were not willing to commit. There are those who say they believe in God or that they believe in Jesus, but what they believe and what they do with their lives says otherwise. I believe this is why Jesus immediately follows up with the concise comment, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples." The term "hold" here meant to abide, continue, dwell, endure, be present, remain, stand, or stay firm in Jesus' teaching. Not simply feel the urge one moment and then the next moment live otherwise. Far too many have a heartburn faith. They will burn to be filled and then walk away sated only to feed from some other trough that makes them feel good. If one wants to be called a disciple of Christ, one must hold to his teaching moment by moment, "Then you will know the truth, and truth will set you free!" The freedom Jesus spoke about was the freedom gain from the sin condition that infects everyone and freedom from the bondage of trying to please God. The truth of the gospel is not a fleeting feeling, a principle to post on Facebook, or an urge to be filled; it is a way of life! The truth is Jesus Christ and everyone needs to know the truth!

  EXAMPLE: Sadly, there are those who claim Jesus but who will pridefully tell you that they will allow their children to make their own decision concerning spiritual things. What? They would never dream of saying, "I eat healthy myself, but I am going to allow my children to decide for themselves what they eat." Or, "I don't play with poisonous snakes, but I am going to allow my children to decide for themselves if they want to or not." There is a reason God told us "Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it. (Proverbs 22:6 NIV)" The idea here in Scripture is that the parent takes the time to train their children in the Lord daily and they would then continue to walk in their faith. Too few Christian parents actually train their children in the truth of the gospel Jesus Christ. We discover here that ignorance is not bliss; everyone needs to know the truth!

When I had our dog put down someone later remarked, "Well now she is happy and running around in heaven" I just looked at them. They were shocked that I did not believe our dog went to heaven; after all I am a pastor! I blandly asked them, "What constitutes a 'good' animal over a 'bad' animal?" Did they think all the mosquitoes, flies, ants, slugs, triceratops, tyrannosaurus rexes, wooly mammoths, snakes, whales, dolphins, sharks, eagles and vultures made it as well, or just dogs and cats that we liked in life? Spiritual ignorance is nothing new and here we discover in John's gospel that…

II. Not everyone knows the Truth! (Vv. 33-36)

They answered him, "We are Abraham's descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?" Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

  1. Now remember that Jesus was speaking to those who had "put their faith in him." And notice how they respond to his doctrine that they had to hold on to his teaching. Like folks who try to justify their shallow faith today they retort with a truly ignorant statement, "We are Abraham's descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?" Of course they had been slaves to all most everyone! They were slaves to the Egyptians, slaves to the Babylonians, slaves to the Persians, Philistines, Moabites, Ammonites, Assyrians and they were now slaves to the Romans! And the great big elephant standing in the temple was that they were now slaves to their sin! This is why Jesus came, to set them free; to seek and save the lost! There are some who think that this response was from those who had not placed their faith in him, but John specifically and deliberately tells us that he was speaking to those who had "put their faith in him." Jesus gives them the truth they needed to hear but probably would not listen to, "I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin." Everyone sins. Everyone is a slave to the sin condition of the world! Claiming their ancestral pedigree did not excuse their spiritual ignorance. This is why Jesus responds by telling them, "Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever." Jesus wants us to fully understand that only those who would choose the truth of the gospel message, that he is indeed the Savior Messiah, would be saved. Like many today, they had no sense of their bondage to sin! Some think that since they feel they are a good person they are spiritually okay, some think that if they walk into a church once in a while they are spiritually okay, and there are those who actually think because their spouse, their parents, or some relative is a pastor, deacon, or faithful then they are spiritually okay -- nothing is further from the truth! One is only set free by the one who buys your bondage, Jesus. This is why Jesus tells them, "So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." Sadly, not everyone knows the truth!

  EXAMPLE: My Dad used to say, "A shade tree mechanic is only worth the free advice he gives -- nothing." The same is true for those who give spiritual advice but know nothing of what they are talking about. The problem the Jewish people had was that they had forgotten what God desired. They were depending upon spiritual leadership that knew nothing spiritually about God. They knew how to follow their man-made rules and keep themselves wealthy while the common folk suffered. Kind of like today's politician. People are easily fooled by birds who sing loud but who only want to feather their own nest. Their spiritual blindness is seen here in John's gospel. Sadly, not everyone knows the truth!

Conclusion:

Everyone needs to know the truth but not everyone knows the truth!

This article is copyrighted © 2015 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Not of this World! - John 8:21-29

Not of this World! - John 8:21-29
By Pastor Lee Hemen
May 10, 2015

Moms are not of this world. They must have some kind of internal sensor system that lets them know when their offspring have stopped hearing their genteel suggestions. I know this to be true because my Mom used to tell us, "You're not listening to me!" as a child. I often wondered how in the world she could know that I wasn't listening to her. Was it the glazed look in my eyes, the impatient wiggling, or the constant yawning? Whatever the clues, she knew I was spaced out and not listening.

Jesus had the same kind of problem with his detractors; they simply refused to hear what he was trying to teach them about himself. In this section of John's gospel we find Jesus confronting the deaf ears of his enemies. They simply refused to understand that he was not of this world, let's discover for ourselves what occurred and why it is important for us this morning.

READ: John 8:21-29

My mom often had words of wisdom she would impart to us. Things like, "If you don’t hear what I am telling you, young man, you will afterwards!" She knew we could either listen and do what she said or be disobedient and not listen and not do what she asked us to do in the first place. If we didn't listen, we would suffer the consequences of our decision. Here in John's gospel we discover that…

I. They refused to listen to the words of Jesus! (Vv. 21-24)

Once more Jesus said to them, "I am going away, and you will look for me, and you will die in your sin. Where I go, you cannot come." This made the Jews ask, "Will he kill himself? Is that why he says, "Where I go, you cannot come'?" But he continued, "You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins."

  1. Jesus is now trying to get his fellow Hebrew brothers to listen to him but they are having none of it. His words were falling on spiritually deaf ears. They had already decided that they would not listen to Jesus and they were determined not to do so. So, "Once more Jesus said to them, 'I am going away, and you will look for me, and you will die in your sin. Where I go, you cannot come.'" He would go away, by dying on the cross even for those who were not listening! If they would only listen and believe, they would know the truth for themselves! Jesus' is trying to relate to them that they might try to look for him again, but they would not find him. Perhaps it was a cryptic reference to the empty tomb and it would be too late after he was gone because they would "die in [their] sin" because of their unbelief in Jesus as the Messiah! How sad to know his own people would be so spiritually deaf they would refuse God's ultimate gift! And how truly sad that even today there are those who think they know better than Jesus, they know what true spirituality is, they know Jesus died for their sin of unbelief and yet they refuse to listen! Notice Jesus' comment makes them ask some truly ignorant questions, "Will he kill himself? Is that why he says, 'Where I go, you cannot come'?" Jesus wasn't going to commit suicide; instead he would willingly lay down his life for all mankind! Jesus continued by telling them exactly what the problem was, "You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins." Those who love the things of the world more than they do the things of God have a hard time in listening to the truth of God's word. They were more concerned for themselves than for the things of God! And the same is true this morning as well for anyone who refuses to listen to the words of Jesus!

  EXAMPLE: "You're not listening to me!" my mother would relate to my brother and me. Often it was after she had told us to stop fighting, clean up our room, go outside, come inside, or to stop doing what we were doing that was driving her nuts. Listening for my mother meant understanding the intent and content of what she was relating to us and then immediately acting on what she had just imparted to us! If we did not, we suffered the consequences of our refusal to listen and understand her words!  This would happen to the Israelites because of their attitude and actions as well! They refused to listen to the words of Jesus!

My Mom told us one time when we were being kind of disrespectful toward her by not listening, "You are walking on thin ice." It was her way of warning us that she was about to crack and rain all over our parade. We were failing to understand our condition just like the Israelites were in John's gospel…

II. They did not understand their spiritual condition! (Vv. 25-27)

"Who are you?" they asked. "Just what I have been claiming all along," Jesus replied. "I have much to say in judgment of you. But he who sent me is reliable, and what I have heard from him I tell the world." They did not understand that he was telling them about his Father.

  1. Like a lot of us who get caught doing something we know we should not be doing, or in this case, not listening like we should, Jesus' detractors use the age-old comeback, "Who are you?" Kind of like, "Who are you to try and tell us we will die in our sins!" It is the same kind of remark I often get from folks who get angry over their own spiritual deafness who all of sudden realize they are wrong about what they believe but refuse to admit it and retort, "Who are you to judge me!" Can you imagine the frustration Jesus had to have felt at this time? His own people, whom he loved, lived for, would die for, and to whom he desperately would try to win over and who he would sacrifice himself for are deliberately refusing to understand his words! Like rebellious children who refuse good advice because they know they are wrong, but refuse to admit it, they turn away from eternal salvation! When they self-righteously demand, "Who are you?" Jesus responds is, "Just what I have been claiming all along!" He had no hidden agenda, no secret mysteries, and nothing to hide from them! In fact, if they would only listen and understand, he had "much to say in judgment of" them! Not to condemn them, but to gain their salvation from their sin because he was trying to relate to them what he had "heard from him", his Heavenly Father! They needed to understand that it would be their sin-condition that would condemn and judge them. God was indeed "reliable" to the Jews just as he had always been throughout their history and now he had sent them the Messiah that they needed at just the right time! And in fact, Jesus relates, "What I have heard from him I tell the world!" He was actively sharing his gospel to anyone who would listen to his words and understand them! How sad again to know that "They did not understand that he was telling them about his Father!" They did not understand their spiritual condition! 

  EXAMPLE: My Mom liked the line out of the movie Cool Hand Luke with Paul Newman where the prison warden calmly relates to the prisoners, "What we have here is a failure to communicate." She would use this line on us when she thought she was not getting through to her unruly brood of two boys. I had to laugh because I used the exact phrase the other day when dealing with a malcontent on the playground! He refused to listen to what I was trying to calmly tell him. There are those in our day, just as in Jesus' day, who refuse to listen and understand their sin-condition! The Jewish leaders did not understand their spiritual condition!

My Mom used to tell us, "You think you are so smart, just wait until you are as old as I am." Of course ti did not help the situation when I would quip, "No one is that old!" What she meant is what Jesus ws trying to impart to his listeners here in John's gospel, namely that…

III. The proof is in the pudding! (Vv. 28-29)

So Jesus said, "When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am the one I claim to be and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him."

  1. The proof is in the pudding. Ever wonder where that saying came from? It is actually a mangled form of the original phrase, which was “the proof of the pudding is in the eating.” A dish may have been made from a good recipe with fresh ingredients and look delicious, but you can really only judge it by putting it in your mouth. The actual taste is the only true criterion of success. It dates back to 1605 and the shortened version became popular in the 1950s here in the USA. Jesus was basically telling his detractors that "the proof was in the pudding" when he replies to their demand, " When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am the one I claim to be and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me." They would understand one day soon that what Jesus said was true. Jesus knew what he spoke to them was true because he only repeated what he heard his Farther say to him concerning their salvation! He only spoke what the Father taught him! He did not come up with something new on a whim or to try and fool them into thinking he was the Messiah. In fact he would tell them that he was absolutely sure of what he taught because, "The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him." Now we all can claim a lot of things about ourselves, we can make up stories to try and impress others, but Jesus would never have done so. His ultimate proof was his death, burial, and resurrection! Why would he make up some absurd tale to try and gain followers when he would die a horrible death! The recipe he was making came from the ingredients he was proclaiming and the instructions came directly from God the Father, now it was up to the Israelites to believe it or not. The same is true for all of us. The proof is in the pudding!

  EXAMPLE: My mother had a recipe box full of her favorite recipes. In fact, Katie and Denise both have some of the favorite recipes of Thelma's. In this giving and using of those recipes is a wonderful truth we also find here in John's gospel. A good recipe is only as good as the one who follows the directions that were given by the one who gave it in the first place. Jesus followed the directions of his Father. In fact, you may not know if what you are making is as good as the original until you have tried it yourself. You know, taste tested it like your faith in Jesus. It is no good until you taste the Lord and see that he is good and what he says about himself is true or not. The proof is in the pudding!

Conclusion:

They refused to listen to the words of Jesus! They did not understand their spiritual condition! The proof is in the pudding!

This article is copyrighted © 2015 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Saturday, May 02, 2015

The Light of the World! - John 8:12-20

The Light of the World! - John 8:12-20
By Lee Hemen
May 3, 2015

People seem to be always searching for who they are; but what does that really mean? We can exercise to change our body shape. We can educate ourselves in order to change our intellectual state. And, we can meditate to try and change our spiritual state, but none of these truly change who we intrinsically are. Paul would write, "I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature" and in fact he understood that "Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. (Romans 7:18; 8:5 NIV)" We are what we are, sinners by nature and by choice, and the only means by which we can change our innermost self is by coming by faith to the one who created us in the first place. Again, Paul wrote, "Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. (Romans 8:8 NIV)"

Thankfully, Jesus understood exactly who he was and what he was supposed to with his life. Here in John's Gospel we find him beginning to expose to the folks exactly who is was and what that meant for the whole world. His depiction teaches us that he is the light of the world. Let's discover for ourselves what that meant and what it means for us today.

READ: John 8:12-20

John began his writing by reminding us, "In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. (John 1:4-5 NIV)" And here we find Jesus openly telling the crowds…

I. He is the Light of the World! (Vv. 12-14)


When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." The Pharisees challenged him, "Here you are, appearing as your own witness; your testimony is not valid." Jesus answered, "Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid, for I know where I came from and where I am going. But you have no idea where I come from or where I am going.

  1. The Prophet Isaiah predicted the Messiah, "The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. (Isaiah 9:2 NIV)" That light is the light of the world. John related that after his actions in the temple courts, "Jesus spoke again to the people." He was not finished with what he wanted to share and his pronouncement must have startled them. He boldly states, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." His tie into what Isaiah had predicted would not be lost on them. Jesus is declaring that he is not just someone imparting the truth of God's word; he is "the light of the world." He is the illumination a sinful world needs. And interestingly, the Feast of Tabernacles included the lighting of giant lamps in the Court of the Women in the temple area. Their light was to remind the Jewish people of how God was with them in their wanderings in the wilderness in a pillar fire at night (Numbers 9:15-23). Jesus' light is different however because "whoever follows" Jesus would "never walk in darkness" again! The darkness Jesus is referring to is sin, and in fact they will "have the light of life", meaning eternal life. “Light” in the Bible is a symbol or reference of God and His holiness. Jesus is “the Light,” the only light and not merely a glimmering or another bright spot among many lights. Of course, "The Pharisees challenged him, 'Here you are, appearing as your own witness; your testimony is not valid.'" They knew Jesus was indeed testifying to the fact he was the Messiah! Self-confirmation would be considered pride in the extreme in this case; however Jesus also had the testimony of God the Father. This is why "Jesus answered, 'Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid, for I know where I came from and where I am going. But you have no idea where I come from or where I am going.'" His accusers had no clue that he was the Light of the world!

  EXAMPLE: Many folks today have no idea what it means for Jesus to be the Light of the World. Because of his holiness, his presence, and his authority Jesus can change those who place their faith and trust in him. He changes them from the world of sin and darkness into the realm of God's holiness and truth. This is why John wrote, "In him (Jesus) was life, and that life was the light of men. (John 1:4 NIV)" Jesus would say that those who "walk in darkness do not know where they are going" and that "I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness. (John 12:34, 46 NIV)" In our day of electricity we are shocked when the lights go out because we depend so much on it to see by. So we light candles, uses battery-powered lanterns, or huddle in the dark and go to bed. Yet far too many are not saddened by their own spiritual darkness and become satisfied making their own pathetic dwindling flame. Fake light cannot outshine the true light of God and Jesus is the Light of the World!

There is an old saying that "ignorance is bliss" and while this may be true for some things, where it concerns eternal things, it can be deadly. We discover here in John's gospel that…

II. Some never see the Light! (Vv. 15-20)

You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one. But if I do judge, my decisions are right, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me. In your own Law it is written that the testimony of two men is valid. I am one who testifies for myself; my other witness is the Father, who sent me." Then they asked him, "Where is your father?" "You do not know me or my Father," Jesus replied. "If you knew me, you would know my Father also." He spoke these words while teaching in the temple area near the place where the offerings were put. Yet no one seized him, because his time had not yet come.

  1. The problem with Jesus' detractors was that they were judging "by human standards." They saw Jesus as a perhaps a good deluded person like so many others who had claimed to be the Messiah but had died. However, Jesus was not here to do so; he did not pass judgment on anyone! Jesus' judgment concerned more of how God's teachings were being perverted and how he needed to introduce them again to who God truly was personally. The Jews had a hard time understanding the personal nature of God because for them god was someone you tried to please by strictly following his rules. This simply was not true. So, Jesus addresses their argument concerning his testimony, "But if I do judge, my decisions are right, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me." Literally he was telling them he and God stood side-by-side on the same level! And in fact he tells them, "In your own Law it is written that the testimony of two men is valid. I am one who testifies for myself, my other witness is the Father, who sent me!" While their judgment was humanly oriented, biased and limited by their sinfulness, his was not. He was with God! We see here how Jesus tells them of this other witnesses; he was not alone in his testimony. He stood right beside the Father. His testimony therefore was completely valid! Curiously they ask him, "Where is your father?" Were they puzzled about his personal teaching, were they being sarcastic and thought his earthly father was already dead, or perhaps they believed something else. Whatever their reasoning, they did not know Jesus nor his Father, because if they had known Jesus, they would have known his Father was God. I believe that perhaps they did indeed understand what Jesus was referring to and they did not like what they knew he was teaching about himself, so they sarcastically ask where his father is. Again, interestingly this was all mute in that while "He spoke these words while teaching in the temple area near the place where the offerings were put. Yet no one seized him, because his time had not yet come." Jesus was working on God's timing and not his enemy's. Some never see the Light!

  EXAMPLE: I have one of those emergency radios with a light that you can wind up. I also have one that is just a flashlight from IKEA that you wind and use, but even though you pump or wind them like mad, they only last for a few minutes at best. Sadly, as I stated earlier, some never see the light of God. They try to illuminate their spirituality with artificial light. They try to live good lives, think good thoughts, or do good things and perhaps all three at the same time! Yet the sad truth is that if these things could bring us closer to God, make us intrinsically good people, or make the world a better place -- Jesus did not have to come and die on a cross and rise from the dead! Instead of understanding the testimony, the witness of God himself in the form of Jesus, they rely on their own distorted ideas concerning eternal truth! Again, this is why John began his gospel, his testimony concerning Jesus with, "In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. (John 1:4-5 NIV)" Sadly, some never see the Light!

Conclusion:

Jesus is the Light of the World! Some never see the Light!

This article is copyrighted © 2015 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.