Sunday, May 1, 2016

All who are thirsty, Come. John 7:25-53

In this section of scripture, John records for us, at first glance, the highlights of what transpired on the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles, and in that context, a few seemingly disconnected declarations of Christ and various remarks from those in attendance.  And though it might be possible to give a running commentary on those disparate statements and try to tie them together into a sermon of sorts, I wanted instead to focus on primarily one statement of Jesus found in vs.37-39, which I believe is the main point of this section of scripture.

In this declaration, Jesus stood up in the middle of the Feast of Tabernacles, also known as the Feast of Booths and shouted out this statement in a loud voice.  Now this was a shocking thing that Jesus did at a very strategic moment.  But in order that you might get the full import of what happened, let me tell you a little about the Feast of Tabernacles which will help us to understand the context.

There were three great feasts which were mandatory for every male in the vicinity of Jerusalem to participate in; the Passover, Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles.  The Feast of Tabernacles is described in Leviticus 23.  That feast occurred in the 7th month, and began on the 15th day, and lasted 8 days, from Sabbath to Sabbath.  In this feast, the Jews were required to make huts or booths or tabernacles from green leaved branches, and to dwell in them during the week, so that they might commemorate the deliverance of Israel from bondage in Egypt, when they wandered in the wilderness.  It was to be a joyous feast, a time of rejoicing.  

One of the special ceremonies involved in the feast was on the last day, the priest would go to the Pool of Siloam, and dip a golden pitcher in the water and bring it back through the water gate to the altar.  As all the people gathered together, the trumpets would sound, and He then would pour the water into a basin which would run down through pipes to the altar.  This was to signify the water which flowed from the rock when the Israelites suffered from thirst in the wilderness.  

It was at just this point, when all the people are gathered together, and the trumpets had sounded, and the priest lifted the pitcher of water and the water gushed down upon the altar, that Jesus stood up and shouted in a very loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’”

Now that certainly was guaranteed to get everyone’s attention, wasn’t it?  I can imagine that everyone stopped and turned and stared incredulously at this person shouting out in the middle of this ceremony. So I want to examine this incredible declaration this morning and see what we can learn from it and how we can apply it to our lives.  Because, though the context of Christ’s statement was in reference to the Feast of Tabernacles, the truth of His words are just as relevant for us today.  

The first phrase that I would make note of this morning is “if anyone is thirsty…”  The correlation between the murmuring of the Israelites in the desert when they became thirsty for water and Christ’s invitation at the Feast should be apparent.  God led the Israelites into the wilderness, and fed them with manna from heaven in the morning, and quail in the evening.  He provided a cloud to guide them by day and a pillar of fire by night.  He gave them victory over their enemies, and delivered them from slavery.  And yet He allowed them to become thirsty so that they began to cry out. 

Why did God allow the Israelites to become thirsty?  I would suggest that it was to make them to desire God and to recognize their total dependency upon God.  I would remind you that Israel is a picture of the church.  And sometimes God allows us to suffer thirst as well. I would go so far as to suggest that if there were not difficult times in our life, then there would be little if any times of spiritual growth.  Though the grace of God provides all things for us to enjoy, and gives us life, and breath and health and many such things which we all too often take for granted, yet God allows us to remain thirsty for that which satisfies the soul.  

Men and women are continually seeking that which can never satisfy, which can never quench the burning thirst that all men feel in their soul.  We may try to satisfy our soul’s thirst with physical things, material things, but nothing on earth can satisfy the longing of our heart. Pascal, the philosopher said there is a God sized hole in our hearts that only He can fill.  And Solomon in Ecclesiastes 3:11 identifies that vacuum by saying that God has set eternity in their hearts.

It’s interesting that when Jesus said “out of his innermost being,” or literally, “out of his belly” He used a word in the Greek which is “koilia”, from the root word “koĆ®los" which means hollow, or cavity.  St. Augustine spoke of this very thing, when he said, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”  

And yet still man does not seek for that which satisfies, but seeks to slake his thirst on things which can never satisfy.  In Isaiah 55, God says, “Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy?”  The world today is eagerly seeking for something that will fill the void in their life, something that will satisfy the thirsting of their soul, and yet as the old country song says, they are “looking for love in all the wrong places.”  

I would suggest that is because mankind does not naturally seek the Lord. Romans 3:10-11 says, “as it is written,’THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE;  THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS,THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD.’”  Unless God stirs the heart, unless God brings conviction, unless God brings a person to a place of hungering and thirsting for righteousness, then man will continually seek to fill that void with things that can never satisfy his soul, and if he should die without the water of life in him, then he will be forever spiritually dead.

In Israel’s case, they had known the goodness of the Lord, and as a type of the church, we might say that they were a picture of the saved, believers if you will.  But yet they turned back to the worthless and elemental things, they lusted after those things which they had been delivered from in Egypt, and as such God was not pleased with them.  

I cannot leave this first question, without asking you this morning - what are you thirsting for?  Does your soul thirst for God?  Can you say like the author of Psalm 42, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, So my soul pants for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God;
When shall I come and appear before God?”  The question, “are you a believer” or “are you a Christian,” is much overstated I am afraid.  I think the answer is better evidenced than spoken.  And if you are not thirsting for God, for the living God, the living water, if you are not coming to appear before God at every opportunity, whether corporately or privately, then I would suggest that the evidence shows your desire is set on things of earth and not things of heaven.  

Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are those that hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”  If you find yourself in that state of the prodigal son, having grown tired of the husks and pods of the world which cannot fill the need of your soul, then Jesus said, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink.”  That is the next phrase I would like to think about for a moment.  Let him come to Jesus.  

Listen, all the thirsting of your soul cannot be slaked in anything, nor in anyone but Christ.  He is the Living Water, which as He said to the woman of the well in chapter 4; “whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”

Coming to Jesus is the same as believing in Jesus.  If the sovereign call and conviction of God causes the spirit of man to thirst for righteousness, then coming to Jesus is the response of man.  No man can come to God unless the Lord draws him, but yet man must believe.  This is the doctrine of both the election of God and the responsibility of man.  Both are necessary.

So if you are thirsty, you must come to Christ. The reason that nothing else can satisfy the longing of the soul but Jesus is because He is the source of life; John 1:3, All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.  He is the sustainer of life; Hebrews 1:3, “And He is the radiance of [God’s] glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power.” And thirdly, He is the Spirit of Life; Romans 8:2, 9-11  “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. ... 9 However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.  If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.”

This is what Jesus had been trying to make clear to the people gathered in the temple that day.  He began by saying that He was teaching the word of God in vs.16, that He was sent from God in vs.28, that He knows God because He is from God, in vs.29, and in a little while He is going back to the Father in vs.33.  So to come to Christ is to believe in Him, that as John says in chapter 1, He was in the beginning with God, and He was God, and all things were made by Him, and He came into the world, and the world did not receive Him, and after He rose from the dead He ascended back into heaven to sit down at the right hand of God.  So in effect, Jesus is restating the same message He gave in Galilee in chapter 6, vs. 29 Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent."  And that believing in Him is equated to coming to Him. Vs. 37 "All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.”

This idea of coming to the Messiah as the source of life is found in the Old Testament in Isaiah 55:1 "Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; And you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.”  This is the invitation of Christ to all men everywhere and at every time as stated in Matthew 11:28-30  "Come unto Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”  

Let me ask you a question this morning - are you tired yet?  Are you tired of the rat race, are you tired of searching for peace, are you tired of searching for what might satisfy your soul?  Come unto Jesus.  Unload your burdens at His feet.  Let Him have your sins and your sorrows.  Let Him bear your burdens.  And He will give you rest.  He will give you rest when you finally reach the place where you are ready to surrender fully to Him.  Don’t hold anything back.  But lay it all down, all your sins, all your striving, all your works, all your life,  lay it down at the cross and find that Jesus has paid it all, and provided all that you will ever need. And in Him you will find rest for your soul. 

There is one more important element though in Jesus’ invitation.  And that is drink.  Come to Him and drink.  And I suggest that to drink of Christ is to trust Christ.  That means to follow Him, to live for Him, to leave all that you have in order to be His disciple. You could realize this morning that you are very thirsty. And  I could offer you a glass of water.  You could believe that I have a glass of water in my hand.  But until you drink of it, you will not be satisfied.  Drinking of Christ is the same idea as we saw in the last chapter with eating His flesh.  It is appropriating what is true about Christ for yourself and acting upon it.  Listen, saving faith is active faith.  Abraham believed God so he left Ur of the Chaldees, not knowing where he was going, and he went out to the place God told him to go.  Abraham believed in the promise of God that He would produce an offspring from Isaac through whom the world would be blessed, and so he offered his son upon the altar. There is no separation between active trust and faith.  

As I have said before, there are three aspects of saving faith; notitia, knowledge; assensus, assent or agreement; and fiducia, trust.  And we see all three in this invitation; knowledge that you are thirsty and cannot find satisfaction, assent is coming to Jesus, believing that He is the source of life, and trust, drinking from the fountain of life which is Christ, being willing to submit to His will and renounce your own.  That is saving faith.  Not just intellectual.  Not just knowledge of a few Bible facts.  Not just believing that He lived 2000 years ago.  But believing that in Him is life.  And then entrusting your life to Him, even if that means forsaking all that you hold dear, all that you hold onto for security.  Trusting Him and obeying Him.

Then what is the promise for those that know that they are thirsty, come to Jesus and drink of His fountain?  The answer is found in vs.38, “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” Now this is an interesting statement.  Jesus has just likened Himself to a stream of living water which gives eternal life to all who drink of Him.  And now He is saying, that to those who believe in Him, they also shall have living water springing up out of their soul.  Now how shall we interpret that?  

Well, to start with look at the next verse.  John gives us some commentary in vs.39 so that we might know what He is speaking of. “But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”  So we know that the rivers of living water that flow from the believer will be of the Holy Spirit, which at that time was not known because Jesus had not ascended into heaven and sent to the saints His Spirit. 

In John 15:26 Jesus tells the disciples prior to His crucifixion, that  "When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me.”  And Jesus elaborates on that statement further in the next chapter, John 16:13-14  "But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you.”

So what Jesus is promising is that for those that believe in Him unto salvation, He will give them the Spirit to live in their soul, so that we might know the words of  Christ, that we might do the works of Christ, and so that we might be like Christ.  That is the goal of our salvation, is it not?  That we might be united with Christ, so that we might do the works of Christ, and that we might be conformed to the image of Christ.

O ladies and gentlemen, do not be deceived by those that misrepresent the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  He came to give us life, and without His indwelling presence, we have not life. Romans 8:9, “But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” We cannot be saved unless we are born again by the Spirit.  We cannot have life unless the Spirit of Life gives us life.  And we cannot do the works of God unless we have the power of Christ that flows from our innermost being. 

Listen to the prophecy of Ezekiel 36:24-27  "For I will take you from the nations, gather you from all the lands and bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.” 

The Spirit of God not only is the agent of regeneration, but He is the agent of activation, whereby we desire to do the works of God. So that we are able to walk in His statues, and keep His ordinances.  He is the power filling us and flowing from within us which empowers us to do the will of God. So that we become the channel by which the living water is spread to the world.  

The maturity of a believer is marked by becoming a channel by which the gifts of the Spirit are used for the edification of the body of Christ.  For the building up of the body.  For the water of life that flows from you to those who are thirsty, even to those who are lost.  

Listen, the goal of Christianity isn’t so that you are set up for success, and have all your material needs met, and fulfill all your physical goals, so that you are fulfilled and satisfied.  No, the goal of maturity in Christ is coming to a place where the gifts of the Spirit are utilized to bring life to the world around you. That you become like Christ, doing the work of Christ.  Reaching  the lost with the water of life, refreshing the body with the water of Christ which flows through you and out of you.  Jesus didn’t die on the cross so that you might dam up the water and keep it all to yourself, but so that it might flow from Him to you, through you, to another and so spread to all the world.  You are to be a conduit for the flow of the Holy Spirit, not a culdesac. 

I’m not going to prolong the sermon this morning expounding the remainder of the text.  I believe that it is fairly straightforward and as such is easily understood.  But I do want to leave you today with an admonition, to consider what you are thirsty for.  What is your soul thirsting for? Is it thirsting for material gain, or for physical fulfillment, are you searching this world over for things that will never truly satisfy?  I hope not.  I hope that someone here today recognizes perhaps for the first time that they are thirsty for righteousness.  They long to be forgiven, to know freedom from the burden that they are carrying.  And for that person I say, Come to Jesus.  Drink from the living water.  He will give you rest. He will satisfy your longing and give life to your soul.

And also a word to the saints, to those who already have claimed to come to know Jesus, and have believed on Him.  I would remind you of the Israelites who murmured and complained in the wilderness because they were thirsty.  God supplied all their needs, and delivered them from so much, and yet they found themselves thirsty because they turned back in their hearts to the flesh pots of Egypt, and so God brought them to a place of thirst.  

My question for you this morning believer; are you thirsting once again for things of the world?  Have you lost your first love, and turned back to those elemental things from which you were once delivered?  They could never satisfy you then, you think they will satisfy you now?  Are you not supposed to be growing in the grace of God so that the living water flows out of you and brings life to others who are thirsting?  Has your appetite for the world overshadowed your usefulness as a channel for God?  I hope that you will reconsider your appetites.  David prayed for the Lord to renew a right spirit within Him.  A broken and contrite heart He will not despise.  Present your bodies to God as a living and holy sacrifice, and He will once again cause your innermost being to flow forth with rivers of living water, that you might be the source of blessing to others, even as Christ is the source of all blessing for you.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

The truth will set you free, John 7:17-24

I am going to put to the test your spiritual acumen this morning.  I know it’s early, and maybe you can’t think all that well first thing in the morning.  Todays message is not a story, maybe not so easy to understand, but nevertheless it is essential doctrine that must be understood and followed if we are going to be true disciples of Christ.  So consequently, I am not going to approach this text today in my typical fashion of exegeting each verse in order, but I’m going to expound on a few verses from the text, not focusing so much on the historical content but hoping to bring us to a deeper understanding of the underlying doctrinal principles found here.

I hope that most of you here today would already know the fundamental doctrine that salvation is by faith.  We read a passage that illustrates that last Wednesday in Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;  not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” So salvation is by faith.  But what is faith?  That is the question.  Well, we have the Biblical definition of faith in Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”  So you can combine those truths by saying that salvation is by faith in what is not seen, but believed to be true and evidenced by my life.

Now that is the essence of what Jesus said in John 7:17, isn’t it?  “If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself.”  So what Jesus is saying is believe in Me, and believe that My words are the Word of God, and then be willing to do what I say, and when you do that the truth will be evidenced.  Now that is counter intuitive, isn’t it?  Be willing to obey what God tells you, and when you do His will, the truth will be evident. That’s contrary to the way we normally do things.  We want to see the evidence, the proof before committing.  But Jesus says My words are truth, and when you are willing to believe that and do it, then you will know the truth.

Now that segues into another important statement of Jesus, which is found in the next chapter,  8:31, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”   See, freedom doesn’t just come from accepting that Jesus lived on earth, or that God exists, or even from knowing that the Bible contains truth.  True freedom comes from knowing experientially the truth. That means that you submit to it, and obey it, and act on it, even though all the  evidence may not be apparent when you start to do it.  That means that our faith which saves us is not just an intellectual assent, but trusting in what God has said, even when we can’t see the proof of it.

Jesus says you must continue in My word, if you are truly disciples of mine.  Continue means to keep on being obedient, to keep following His commands, to keep walking by faith in the path of God’s truth.  That continuance proves that His word is truth.  As we continue in it, we prove it, and as such we know it.  It’s so important to recognize the difference between realizing something is truth in a detached kind of way, and appropriating that truth to the point of trusting in it for yourself and committing yourself to it.  When you trust in God’s truth, so that you prove it, you know it is true, THEN the truth will set you free.  A lot of people believe in a kind of theoretical way that God’s word is true, or contains the truth, but they have never acted upon it, and as such they have never been set free.

So being set free, what does He mean?  What does it mean for the truth to set you free? Free from what?  Well, Jesus makes it clear that you are set free from the bondage of sin and death. Jesus said in 8:34, that “everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin.”  But that the Son will make you free indeed.  And so freedom comes from doing the will of God, even when that means not relying upon the natural senses for evidence, or upon your common sense, or even academic evidence, but believing what God says is truth, and acting upon it.

Now let’s look at the next statement of Jesus which will help us to see how this is acted out and applied in our walk. Jesus accused the Jews of breaking the law of Moses which they claimed to be upholding, because they were trying to kill Him.  And of course, they deny it.  So in vs. 22 Jesus said, ”For this reason Moses has given you circumcision (not because it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and on the Sabbath you circumcise a man. If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath so that the Law of Moses will not be broken, are you angry with Me because I made an entire man well on the Sabbath?”  

Now first we need to understand circumcision in order to understand the text.  I’m sure everyone here has a general idea of what circumcision is without me having to go into detail. But do you know what circumcision symbolizes?  It represents the cutting away of sinful flesh, so that you might live in the Spirit.  It was a  picture of the man’s sinful nature which is passed on from generation to generation, and which needs to be cut away in order for the promise of blessing to come from God.  

Jesus is referencing circumcision because it was routinely performed on the Sabbath when a child’s eight day after birth fell on Saturday, and even though it was considered work it was acceptable because it was mandated through the law.  Jesus, on the other hand, was being condemned for HIs work of healing the lame man on the Sabbath.  So what Jesus points out is the hypocrisy of saying that it was ok to cut away the flesh through circumcision on the Sabbath and yet condemn Him for freeing a man from the enslavement of the flesh on a Sabbath.

See, when Jesus healed the lame man at the pool of Bethesda back in chapter 5, He not only removed the impediment of the flesh, but He gave him life in the Spirit.  The lame man, you will remember, encountered Jesus in the temple, and Jesus revealed Himself to Him, resulting in salvation; new life in the Spirit.  So that this man was able not just to walk physically, but to walk in the Spirit, to walk as a new creation in a new life.  This is a picture of salvation for us. The Sabbath then, argues Jesus, should be a day for freeing men from enslavement to the flesh so that they can walk in the Spirit.

Now let’s make sure we understand all that is implied by  this new life in the Spirit.  First of all, when you are given new life through salvation, you are given a new nature.  That’s the good news.  But the bad news is that you still have the old nature. So now there are two natures in you warring against one another. Rom. 7:22-23 “For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man,  but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members.”

So there is within us a war between the old man and the new man, or the physical versus the spiritual.  Which one wins is up to you.  Which one becomes dominant depends upon which one you listen to, the one you are obedient to. The way of faith is to cut away the old nature. Or to look at it another way, to starve the old nature. To ignore it’s cries for the lusts and passions that it craves. In effect we put to death the flesh, or as Paul said,  we "crucify the flesh" and walk in accordance to the Spirit. That is the way of sanctification, and the way of a true disciple.  That’s the way to have fellowship with God, to love God, and to know the truth of God experientially in your life. This is the path to freedom, to put away the old nature, and put on the new nature.

I was trying to explain this to a Christian the other day who had backslidden and fallen back into sin.  And so I likened it to waking a sleeping dragon.  There should be a sign posted in your soul somewhere which says, “don’t feed the dragon.”  Because when you wake him up, and then feed him, he is going to want more, to take over your life again.  The only way to deal with him at that point is to starve him to death until he becomes too weak to roar any more and eventually becomes dormant.  So Paul says we wait eagerly for the final redemption of our body when this natural man is exchanged for a glorified, sinless body.

Unfortunately, so many Christians miss out on true freedom because they are looking for some sort of experience or feeling or emotion that shortcuts obedience.  But there are no shortcuts.  God works through our sufferings to bring us to sanctification.  Even Jesus, the Bible says in Hebrews 5:8 “leaned obedience from the things which He suffered.”

Sometimes you may not feel close to the Lord.  But the way that intimacy happens is the result of listening to the truth, then obeying the truth, and then the feelings come as you are being obedient.  Don’t rely on feelings.  But as you draw near to God, He will draw near to you and as you trust the Lord, and rely on the Lord, and have intimacy with the Lord, then you will experience the joy of the Lord.

So this new life in Christ requires that we put to death the old nature, and live according to the new nature.  Or to say it another way, to turn away from the old paths, renounce the old lies of the world, and walk after the Spirit, according to the truth of God’s word. Ephesians 4:21 tells us to do that very thing.  “Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him,  throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception.  Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God--truly righteous and holy.”

Listen to what Paul says about this new nature in Romans 8:4, I’m going to read from the New Living Translation;  now that we are in Christ we  “ longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.  Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit.  So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.  For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God's laws, and it never will.  That's why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.  But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.)  And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God.  The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.  Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do.  For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live.  For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.  So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God's Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, "Abba, Father."  For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God's children.  And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God's glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.  Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later.”

Now that is the practical application of what it means to cut away the flesh through circumcision.  What Paul calls having been circumcised in our hearts. This is the practical application of what it means to walk by faith and not by sight, to walk in the Spirit and not according to the flesh. It is living according to the new nature, and putting to death the old nature. Letting go of the things of the flesh which are our security, in which we put our hope, and trusting in that which is unseen, yet true, things of the Spirit.

Then notice the next statement of Christ which I want to capitalize on, verse 24; "Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.”  Now I don’t want to go sailing off on a different tack with this verse, but I can’t help but point out this verse to those people who like to quote “judge not, lest you be judged.” Here it says we are to judge, but to judge with righteous judgment.  Now I will let you figure out what that means in that context.  

But to stay within the context of my message this morning, I would just say that this statement is really the culmination of all  I have been trying to say to you.  And that is, that we cannot depend on our natural sight, but we must use spiritual discernment if we are going to know the truth so that the truth will set us free.  But unfortunately as Christians, I think far too often we hold onto a token amount of what we think is the truth of God, presumably to secure our salvation, but we still hold onto, and rely upon the great variety of lies from the world and the devil.  

In other words, we claim Christianity, but we live as if it’s all about the here and now.  We say we trust God, but in reality we trust what we can taste, touch, or feel.  And that is not exactly the life of faith, is it?  Not according to the definition of Hebrews 11:1 - “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”  

Now Jesus rebukes these Jewish leaders because they were judging, or looking at things as they appeared outwardly.  They did not have spiritual discernment because they were not spiritual. They had not been born again by the Spirit of God. They did not have the Spirit of God in them, so their spirit was dead.  As 1Cor. 2:14 says the “natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.”

Listen, these Jewish leaders prove that it is possible to be very religious, to be knowledgeable about the Bible, to claim Jehovah God as your God, and still be spiritually dead, and as a result, spiritually blind.  I worry about some people that attend our church from time to time.  If you asked them, I’m sure they would claim to be a Christian, and yet they do not understand the kind of things that I am talking about today.  And even more to the point, they live very obviously in the here and now, as a citizen of the world, entranced by the things of the world, and perhaps unbeknownst  to them, enslaved by the world.  

This statement of Christ could be said differently and still, I think, retain the principle that Jesus is teaching.  We could say, “don’t look at things as they are externally, and be attracted to them or believe in them.  But look at things spiritually, and be attracted to the things unseen.  That is spiritual discernment so that you might know the truth.

That is what Jesus means when He said, “judge with righteous judgment.” He’s not necessarily talking about judging people, He is talking about spiritual discernment. Having eyes that have been opened spiritually, so that you might know spiritual truth. Spiritual discernment is being able to know truth from error, to recognize the lie of this world, and believe the truth of God’s word.  

Now these Jewish leaders missed the truth that would have set them free because they were looking at external things, and depending upon external appearances.  They loved the externals.  They loved banging a gong or blowing a horn to announce their good deeds.  They loved the chief seats in the synagogues, the seats of prestige and power.  They loved parading their good works and claiming their righteousness based on the law.  They loved their long robes and funny hats and all the bells and whistles which showed their religious pedigree.  

Jesus did none of that.  I don’t think you could have picked Jesus out of a crowd and said anything special about Him.  Isaiah 53:2 says, “He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should ]be attracted to Him. He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face. He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.”  

So the Jews scorned Him because He came from Galilee where they believed the second class citizens lived.  They scorned Him because they didn’t think that He had the right credentials to be a teacher. They derided Him because He hadn’t graduated from the right rabbinical schools.  They scorned Him because they were jealous of the authority with which He taught, and the power that He had.  They looked at Him in derision because they didn’t think that He had the right kind of evidence of being the Messiah that they considered important. Ultimately, the thought that if they needed a Savior, it would have to be someone more important looking than He was in order to be of use to them.  So they rejected Him on the grounds that He didn’t meet their expectations, and I also I think because they were afraid that the kind of kingdom He was espousing would result in them being dethroned from power.  

And as a consequence they did not believe His teaching.  And because they didn’t believe His words then of course they would not do His will, and because they would not do His will, they would not know the truth, and because they did not know the truth, they were not set free from their sins.  

I’m afraid a lot of people are like the Jewish leaders.  They are happy with a form of religion, which is a religion made up of half truths.  Which amounts to nothing more than a lie.  But they are happy there, perched upon their thrones, in which they judge truth based on their criteria. From the throne of their self rule they live as they want to live, and do as they want to do.  And as such they reject the will of God, living in the natural world, while claiming to have some part of the spiritual. 

But that is not the way of the new life.  We must cut away the old nature if we are going to be set free from sin and live in the new life. And that happens through true repentance.  That is really what Jesus is saying in vs.17.  If you are willing to submit to do God’s will - that is repentance, you give up your will in exchange for God’s will.   If you repent, then God will give you His Spirit, and having spiritual discernment,  you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.  

I hope that you will examine yourself today in light of God’s word and see if you are really of the faith, or if you have never actually renounced the world, put away the old nature and lived by faith in the new nature.  True discipleship is simply recognizing truth from God,  then submitting your will to obey the truth, and asking God to help you be obedient to the truth. I pray that you will believe the truth, and that the truth will set you free.  

Sunday, April 17, 2016

True disciples versus false disciples, John 7:1-17

Jesus Christ is without a doubt the most important figure in the history of the world.  He was born more than 2000 years ago, contrary to the laws of life. He lived in poverty and was reared in obscurity. He exchanged a royal robe for a pauper’s ragged coat. He did not travel extensively. Only once did He cross the boundary of the tiny country in which He lived; and that was during His exile in childhood.

He possessed neither wealth nor influence. His relatives were inconspicuous and He had neither training nor formal education. Yet in infancy He startled a king; in childhood He puzzled doctors; in manhood He ruled the course of  nature, walked upon the waves as if pavements, and hushed the sea to sleep. He healed the multitudes without medicine and made no charges for His service.

He never wrote a book, yet all the libraries of the country could not hold the books that have been  written about Him. He never wrote a song, and yet He has furnished the theme for more songs than all the songwriters  combined. He never founded a college, but all the schools put together cannot boast of having as many  students. He never marshaled an army, nor drafted a soldier, nor fired a gun; and yet no leader ever had  more volunteers who have, under His orders, made more rebels stack arms and surrender without  a shot being fired.

He never practiced medicine and yet He healed more broken hearts than all the doctors far and  near. Every seventh day businesses and public offices close down and multitudes wend their way to  worshiping assemblies to pay homage and respect to Him. The names of past, proud statesmen of Greece and Rome have come and gone. The names of past scientists, philosophers, and theologians have come and gone, but the name of  this man abounds more and more.

Although 2000 years between the people of this generation and the scene of His  crucifixion have passed, yet He still lives. Herod could not destroy Him and the grave could not hold Him.
He stands  upon the highest pinnacle of heavenly glory, proclaimed of GOD, acknowledged by  angels, adored by saints, and feared by devils, as the living personal Christ, our Lord and Savior.

Such we can say from the vantage point of history and the testimony of the Word of God. Though millions today that claim to believe His teaching, that are attracted to Jesus, yet Jesus Himself said that many are called but few are chosen, that many will seek to enter His kingdom but will not be able. Though many are attracted to Him, there is a tremendous difference between true and false disciples.  Two thousand years ago, even  his own family did not believe in Him and his own nation rejected Him and put Him to  death.  Even after feeding 15000 people and healing many of the sick in attendance, when He began to preach His gospel many of His disciples stopped following Him. John 6:66 says,“As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore.”

Those disciples who came for the miracles but left after the message were obviously superficial. They were disciples or followers in name only.  There were still the 12 however.  Christ’s inner circle.  And when the others left Him, He turned to them and said, “You do not want to go away also, do you?”  Peter, acting as spokesman answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.”  But even then, Jesus said that one of them had a devil and would betray Him. 

So Jesus ministry was characterized by true and false disciples.  I believe much of Jesus’ teaching is to show a distinction between His followers,  to separate those that followed Him for superficial reasons, and to develop true discipleship. Jesus seems to almost go out of HIs way to talk people out of following Him.  Let me give you  just a few examples.  

In addition to telling people that they had to eat His flesh and drink His blood, Jesus told those who wished to follow Him to let the dead bury the dead, and not even go to their father’s funeral.  He told a rich man to sell everything he had and give it to the poor and then to follow Him. At another time He told a crowd that unless they hated their father and mother and family, and even his own life, he could not be His disciple.  Then He told them to pick up a cross and follow Him. He said in Luke 14:33  "So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.” Jesus told others to leave their nets, their professions as fishermen, and He would make them fishers of men. 

I could go on and on. Jesus called disciples to abandon all that they held dear in life for the sake of knowing Him.   I’m sure most of us would have responded to this call for radical abandonment  with the response; “you lost me at hello.”  But sadly this call of leaving all for Christ is not the gospel message of the modern church today.  We have changed the message to be as accommodating and appealing as possible.  We don’t ask for anyone to leave anything, but to come as you are.  We don’t ask for any sort of personal sacrifice; but say all God wants is a relationship with you because He loves you so much.  

If we are not careful, we find that we have redefined discipleship.  We are guilty of twisting the Jesus of the Bible into a version that 21st century hipsters are more comfortable with.  A non condemning, non controversial genie who is able to grant wishes upon our command and more importantly, places no demands upon us.  

But that is not the Jesus of the Bible. Jesus never presented discipleship as anything close to being easy.  The Jesus of the Bible talked about offering Himself as a human sacrifice for sin, and man’s need to repent for the forgiveness of their sins, and the people rejected Him.  When He condemned religionists of His day as hypocrites in turn they hated Him and plotted to kill Him.  So it says in 7:1 that Jesus avoided going to Judea, which was the seat of religion in Israel, because He knew that they wanted Him dead.  

His home by the way was in a small city called Capernaum, in Galilee, which had a population of about 1500 people.  We can assume that  it was the family home.  And so about six months after the feeding of the 5000/15000 on the seashore of the Sea of Galilee, His brothers come to Him and said, “Leave here and go into Judea, so that Your disciples also may see Your works which You are doing. For no one does anything in secret when he himself seeks to be known publicly. If You do these things, show Yourself to the world.”

From a logical perspective, what they said seemed to make sense.  It seemed to be good advice for how to raise up a ministry, or in Jesus’ case, how to establish your Messiah-ship. But their motive was not really in the best interests of the kingdom of God.  The underlying motivation for their comments are found in vs.5, “For not even His brothers were believing in Him.” So even His own brothers were false disciples.  They were perhaps willing to benefit from their relationship with Him if in fact He could pull off some sort of coup in the socio/religious culture that they belonged to.  But in fact they did not really believe that their own brother was the Messiah, much less the Son of God.

In chapter 6, you will remember, the crowds were taken back by His claims of having come down out of heaven, and they said in vs. 42, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does He now say, ‘I have come down out of heaven’?” Now in chapter 7, you have His brother’s agreeing with the crowd.  After all, they had grown up in the same house with Him 24/7.  They shared the same parents, or so they thought.  How could He have come down from heaven? 

Matthew’s gospel identifies His brothers. Matt. 13:54-58 “He came to His hometown and began teaching them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, "Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers? Is not this the carpenter's son? Is not His mother called Mary, and His brothers, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this man get all these things?" 57 And they took offense at Him. But Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household., And He did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief.”

So from that text we know that Jesus didn’t do many miracles in His hometown because of their unbelief. And in John 7 we learn that even His brothers didn’t believe in Him.  That explains why they say, “IF you do these things show them to the world.”  They didn’t even believe that He had done any real miracles. 

I see a parallel here in the life of Joseph from the Old Testament.  Joseph was hated by his brothers, because they were jealous of him.  And so they scorned him and eventually plotted for his death.  Jesus’ brothers did not plot His death, but I do think that they rejected Him and really wanted Him to get out of town.  He was an embarrassment to them.  And His greater brethren, meaning the family of the Jewish nation did plot His death, even as with Joseph.

The Bible does indicate that His actual brothers did eventually come to believe in Him, even as Joseph’s brothers eventually came to bow down before him.  But it was not until after Christ’s resurrection according to Acts 1:14.  Tradition tells us that Simon became a servant of the church for many years.  And James became the author of the book of James, the leader of the church in Jerusalem, and a martyr for the faith.  He describes himself in his epistle as "James a servant of God and the Lord Jesus Christ,” establishing Jesus as Lord, Messiah and equal with God.  Jude describes himself also as a servant of Jesus Christ. And then in his book he speaks about looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.  So His brothers eventually come to recognize Him as the Son of God, but at this stage they are filled with contempt and scorn for Him. Though they could claim a relationship with Him, yet they could not claim true discipleship.

Their suggestions are indicative of false disciples as well.  They basically are espousing the mantra of modern evangelism; that if you are successful, if you have a big crowd, then you must be doing something right.  That’s why they wanted Him to go to Judea.  Why hide out in Smallville Galilee when the big crowds and the success was in Judea. If you’re really the Messiah you are going to have to become popular with the multitudes and accepted by everyone. But notice that’s not Jesus’ plan for taking over the world.  In chapter 6 Jesus spent about 2 days teaching the 15000 people.  But they all deserted Him there when they found out the cost of discipleship.  So for the next 6 months Jesus spent all His time primarily with just 12 guys - discipling them.  That was His plan for establishing the kingdom of God in the world.

Jesus’ commission is the same to us; Matt. 28:19-20 "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,  teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” The command is not go into football stadiums and attract a crowd.  Not to organize giant crusades and get a lot of people to walk and aisle and repeat a prayer.  But make disciples, and teach them, note that, teach them, to observe all that I commanded you.  Attracting a crowd is easy if you have enough money.  But making disciples is hard work.  It’s time consuming.  It’s not done in a single outreach.  It’s not done in a short term mission trip.  It’s a long term affair. It’s teaching disciples to be doers of the word and not just hearers, not just superficial disciples.

Now the occasion of His brother’s suggestion to go to Judea is because it was the time of the Feast of Tabernacles.  There were three feasts which Jewish men were required to Jerusalem to celebrate.  The Feast of Tabernacles was one of those feasts, which lasted 7 days.  From a human perspective, it would have been a great opportunity for Jesus to appear before every able bodied man in Israel and start doing some miracles and show everyone that He was indeed the Messiah.  

That’s another indication of false disciples, by the way.  They are attracted by signs and wonders.  Great crusades happen in our country all the time which purport to be visited by signs and wonders.  One just happened last week I believe in Los Angeles, the city of the angels.  And one of the organizers of that event claimed to see a giant golden angel up in the sky above the stadium as he was driving in on the freeway.  Their whole program was about signs and wonders.  I heard one speaker proclaim that everyone there was going to be able to walk behind someone afterwards and know everything about that person.  I guess that is what they consider a word of knowledge.  There were people who were acting “drunk in spirit” all over the auditorium.  

But the Bible warns about such signs and wonders as a means of leading people into a false discipleship. .  Matt. 24:24 "For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect.”  Jesus rebuked others who followed Him for seeking signs and wonders in John 4:48 So Jesus said to him, "Unless you people see signs and wonders, you simply will not believe.”  And Paul warns in 2Thess. 2:9 about “the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved.”

Jesus is not interested in accommodating man’s agenda, even if it’s His own family members who are pushing it.  So He responds, “My time is not yet here, but your time is always opportune. The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it, that its deeds are evil. Go up to the feast yourselves; I do not go up to this feast because My time has not yet fully come.”

There are a couple of points that need to be made concerning this important statement.  First of all, God has His own timetable and agenda, and we need to be aligned with it, rather than trying to get God to accommodate ours.  Jesus had an appointed time that He was going to go into Jerusalem and present Himself as the Messiah.  It would be 6 months later at the Passover Feast.  At that time, Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey and the crowds celebrate His coming as the Messiah, the son of David.  A week later, He is crucified as the lamb slain for the salvation of the world.  That is the timing of God, and Jesus is fully in agreement with that plan.  This was the plan of God before the foundation of the world.  And though it doesn’t look like it to His brothers or His disciples, all is going according to God’s plan.

Listen, I’ve said before that there is no safer place than in the will of God, and there is no safe place outside of the will of God.  It should be a great comfort to us to know that we are in the will of God, so that even when it seems like everything is going wrong, we can trust that God is in control, and He has a plan and things are going according to His plan.  If you are going to be a disciple of Christ, then you have to get in tune with the timing of God, and then trust in His sovereignty to accomplish His will in HIs time.  All our anxiety is usually because we have a different timetable and different expectations than God has.

Trusting God is hard work. Faith is hard work. The idea that faith is easy is contrary to scripture. It’s hard to walk by faith and not by sight.  I heard a story that illustrates trust.  It’s setting is back in the day when televisions still required antennas on roofs.  Something that has gone by the wayside in the digital age.  But this man was up on his roof fixing his television aerial when he slipped and began to slide down toward the gutters. He tried to catch himself, but he went over the edge. He managed to grab hold of the rain gutter as he dropped, and he hung there, suspended in the air. He couldn't look down and he didn't know how far it was to the ground, and in his desperation he cried out. "Oh, God help me!" And a voice replied, "I am ready to help you." And he said, "Tell me what to do." The voice asked. "Do you trust me?" He said, "Yes, I trust you." The voice said. "All right then. Let go." And man asked, "Is there anybody else up there who can help me?”  Trusting God isn’t always easy.  Letting go of things we depend upon though is fundamental to really trusting in God.

Secondly, if you are on God’s timetable, doing God’s will, then you are in opposition to the world, and the world is going to hate you.  True disciples are hated by the world.  But contrarily, false disciples love the world, and so the world does not hate them.  Now why is this true?  Well, because if you are a true disciple, then you are in agreement with what Jesus said, “it hates Me because I testify of it, that its deeds are evil.”  That’s it.  We call sin, evil.  And we testify that their deeds are evil.  

Let me tell you something that you need to really understand.  This is the defining point of true disciples versus false disciples.  The defining point between true and false disciples is their deeds.  Don’t get me wrong.  You are not saved by works, you are saved by grace.  But don’t get Jesus wrong either.  You shall know them by their fruits.  The most damning statement of Jesus was for false disciples, found in Matthew 7:20-23  "So then, you will know them by their fruits. Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’”  

So their fruits are the deeds that they did.  Notice that they did signs and wonders.  They even cast out demons and performed many miracles.  They named the name of Jesus.  And yet they were not true disciples because they practiced lawlessness.

Now that is exactly what Jesus accused the Jews of in vs.19.  He said to them,  "Did not Moses give you the Law, and yet none of you carries out the Law? Why do you seek to kill Me?” They claimed the righteousness of the law, but they did not carry out the law.  They sought to kill Him, in opposition to the law.

Their hatred of Jesus was equal to murder, and so it beget a plot to murder Him, which was eventually fulfilled.  So if you are a true disciple of Christ, then the world will hate you.  That really is the irony of the seeker friendly church model, isn’t it?  That we are trying to ingratiate ourselves to those who really hate what we stand for.  Because what we stand for is the truth of God’s Word which declares sin as evil, and defines it by God’s law.

So Jesus did eventually go up to the Feast of Tabernacles, but secretly.  That means that He did not enter into Jerusalem with a big fanfare.  His family would have been part of a large caravan, and His coming would have been with thousands of pilgrims, which would have probably instigated some sort of great political, religious rally to make Him King.  But He was not interested in their agenda, He was interested in fulfilling God’s agenda. So He shows up midweek, without fanfare, and when they find Him, He is teaching in the temple.

But notice that there was grumbling going on amongst the people concerning Him.  Vs.12, ‘There was much grumbling among the crowds concerning Him; some were saying, “He is a good man’; others were saying, ‘No, on the contrary, He leads the people astray.’ Yet no one was speaking openly of Him for fear of the Jews.”

Notice that neither of those comments are the marks of true disciples.  Jesus was not just a good man.  Either He was God incarnate, or He was a lunatic.  Most of the world’s false religions say that Jesus was a good man.  But they fail to believe that He is God.  That He is alive, having risen from the dead and ascended into heaven.  And as such their belief is of no avail.  Believing that Jesus is a good man will not save you.  Of course, the other half of the people were under the influence of the religious leaders who were saying that He was a deceiver.  But neither group were professing saving faith, and neither group spoke openly about Him for fear of the Jews.  That word Jews is used of the religious Jewish leaders.  They feared being ostracized, or kicked out of the temple because of any allegiance to Christ.  

I read a quote by DA Carson which said, “as the social cost of claiming to be a Christian increases, the percentage of nominal Christians decreases.”  I believe the day is already here when being a true disciple of Christ will bring persecution in the social arena, which may cost you your job, or mean you are sued for everything you have and then some, or even thrown in jail.  That day is here.

So Jesus starts teaching in the temple.  And the Jews hearing Him, ask in astonishment, “How has this man become learned, having never been educated?”  This is the great thing about preaching the Word of God.  It’s the wisdom of God. The Holy Spirit working in us, in conjunction with the Word of God, teaches us the things of God, so that we have the wisdom of God.  You want wisdom?  Read the Word of God.  [1Co 1:25 NASB] 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

Notice Jesus says in John 7:16-17 "My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me.  If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself.”  Jesus spoke the words of God.  When He refuted the devil in the wilderness, He quoted from the Word of God.  This is the habit of Jesus when He preached.  So as well I believe it’s a good habit for preachers to preach the Word of God.  Jesus goes on to say, “He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who is seeking the glory of the One who sent Him, He is true, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.”  We have a lot of glory seeking preachers out there today who speak in order to glorify themselves.  They speak to gain a crowd, to please people, to entertain people.  And they fail to preach the full counsel of God.  Jesus testified that people’s sin was evil.  He preached the Word of God in it’s fullness.  Only when man is convinced of His sin does he come to know his need for a Savior.  And only when man has come to know Jesus as His Savior will he come to serve Jesus as Lord.

But here is the key Jesus gives us in those passages regarding true discipleship.  He says, “If anyone is willing to do His will, that is the Father’s will, he will recognize the teaching is of God.”  (my paraphrase) Here is the key to true discipleship.  You first have to come to a point of being willing to submit and obey the will of God, and when you do that, when you obey, then God will reveal more truth to you.  This is the principle I have mentioned so many times, that of progressive discipleship.  When you are obedient to the light God has shown you thus far, then He will reveal more to you.  God’s word is a lamp unto your feet and a light unto your path.  That means it’s walking revelation.  As you walk out the truth in obedience, God will continue to lead you.  Too many people want to see the light at the end of the tunnel before they start to walk.  That’s not discipleship.  Believe and obey.  Trust and obey, for there’s no other way. 

Well, there is more to this message that Jesus gives during the Feast, but it will have to wait for next Sunday.  In the meantime, I believe that you have been given enough light to start to be obedient to the light you have.  I hope that you will prove to be a disciple this week by your deeds and not just your claims on Christianity.  I hope that you are indeed a true disciple.  If not, then today is the appointed day of salvation.  Salvation is simply believing all that Jesus claimed He was, that He was the bread of life which came down out of heaven, that men might eat of Him and receive eternal life.  To eat of Him is to receive Him, as Savior and Lord.  To be willing to forsake the world, even all that life offers, in exchange for eternal life.  To be willing to take up your cross and follow Him.  True discipleship is not without a cost.  But the reward is so much worth it all. “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”