Saturday, February 09, 2008

Still Here


Is this blog still active?


Thursday, July 26, 2007

90 Days With Jesus: Does Truth Matter?

John 8:42-47

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. 43Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 44You 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. 45Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! 46Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don't you believe me? 47He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God."

It appears, taking these words at face value, that there are only two options available to people. On the one hand, some clearly belong to God. On the other hand, some clearly belong to the devil. Within those two ownerships are people content to carry out the will of their respective father. On the one hand, if God is our Father, then we love Jesus. On the other hand, if the devil is our father, then we are hell-bent on murder. Within those two fatherhoods, there are two languages. On the one hand, if God is your Father, you can understand Jesus—the truth. On the other hand, if the devil is your father, you understand his language—which is lies. If you belong to God, you are able to hear what God says, it makes sense, and it is your life. If you don’t belong to God, you cannot hear what Jesus is saying, it makes no sense, and is, in fact, the very reason why you don’t believe (45). If you belong to God, you carry out God’s will and you, like Jesus, always do what pleases him (8:29). If you belong to the devil, then you want always to carry out your father’s desire (44). It’s a tough life.

But that is what Jesus is saying. He said it specifically to people who were listening to him that day—people who were challenging his authority to determine who is and who is not a true disciple. Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.’ Here are the things he is saying.

If we are truly his disciple, then we will hear and listen and understand and obey his commands, his teachings. If we are not, well, we’re not simply doing our own will. Those things that humans do contrary to the will of God are the terrible will of the devil; his desires. So frankly this means that many people in this world are serious trouble because they are doing the desires of their father, the devil. This means anything contrary to the will of God, anything that doesn’t please him, is the desire of the devil; that is, not that he wills it or commands it, but that he is ‘happy’ when people are disobedient to the will God. Whatever that means.

I’ll leave off that point for now that I might jump on another point. Jesus said, ‘Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me.’ What was it about the truth that so offended people and turned them away from Jesus? If we always say the truth will people always turn away? I think yes. Why? Because Jesus has said that some people only hear and understand the language of their father, the devil, which is lies. The truth is, some folks simply cannot understand truth.
There is this ongoing assault on truth in this world. It is reminiscent of the Ministry of Truth in 1984 which was really dedicated the propagation of lies. There is an undercurrent even in the church nowadays. There are many who say that we should be careful when we make claims about truth because, in their words, we can’t really know the truth. I think that is wrong precisely because it is like saying we cannot know Jesus, the embodiment of truth. But anything less than the truth is a lie, and thus ultimately the work of the devil. There is no room for the work of the devil inside the church. In other words, there is no room in the church for anything other than the truth, and no room for anyone in the church who is not for the truth. This is what Jesus will say later, "Everyone on the side of truth listens to me" (18:37b).

Philip Ryken is right: "Today the foundations are under attack. It would be hard to think of even a single major doctrine of the Christian faith that is not under attack in these postmodern times…But no attack is more fundamental that the attack on truth itself, the assault on the very claim that some things are true and others are false" (Philip Ryken, Only One Way, 83-84)
Another author, quoted by Ryken puts only slightly more bluntly:

"A solid sense of truth is foundering in America at large. Vaporized by critical theories, obscured by clouds of euphemism and jargon, outpaced by humor and hype, overlooked for style and image, and eroded by advertising, truth in America is anything but marching on…With magnificent exceptions, evangelicals reflect this truth-decay and reinforce it…Contemporary evangelicals are no longer people of truth." (Os Guinness, No God but God, 18, as quoted by Philip Ryken, Only One Way, 84).

In another book by Guinness, Time For Truth, he writes of the assault on truth and the rather insidious manner in which the assault takes place:

"Not only the possibility but the worthwhileness of truth and virtue are emptied of meaning. Whatever someone may profess, things are always other than they pretend, darker and murkier than they make out. Our proper response, we are taught, should be to view every claim with a sense of irony, interpret everything with suspicion, and pursue ‘truth’ and ‘virtue’ with the central agenda of unmasking and dismantling them." (32)

David F. Wells is even, perhaps, more unappealing to those truth dismantlers in the church. His book, No Place For Truth or Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology, is a scathing, damning rebuke of the no-truth generation of ‘theologians’ and ‘preachers’ manning the lecterns of Christian based colleges and universities and, more specifically, the pulpits of churches. In fact, he begins with the church (p. 6)—and mustn’t he? All those little children who are sent off to bible college each fall have had their primary education in things of God by the church: little felt Jesus’ and Pauls, happy stories of arks and ‘fitting’ the battle of Jericho, and such like. But how many go to college armed already with a degree in theology because their preacher cared that they know Scripture more than how to deal with a bad break-up? He writes,

"Outside is a world that ignores what is most important to Christians and that is in fact now organizing itself on the basis of that rejection. Within the larger society, secularism seems natural because it gives plausibility; within that same society, Christian faith seems odd, and the context strips it of truthfulness. The bias of our experience in the modern world tilts heavily against a perception that the Christian faith is true and equally heavily toward a perception that secularism is truth." (p. 87)

You can see that this is a big problem in our world. But if Jesus says, ‘you don’t believe me because I preach the truth’ (45), he also asks, ‘If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me?’ (46). It must have something to do with the one to whom we belong. If we belong to the devil, well, ‘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.’ Or we embrace the truth that is embodied in Jesus Christ. There can be no two ways about it and this is very limiting. But we see in this world the results of those who belong to their father the devil. We see their work: they are liars, they spread lies, they foment aggression and hatred based on lies. Sadly, there's a lot devil manipulation going on in the pulpits of American churches today.

This is why, in my humble opinion, it is becoming every more imperative for preachers of the gospel to preach the truth of Jesus. Jesus said he was not ‘here on my own, but the Father sent me.’ God wanted us to know the truth and sent the Truth in Jesus Christ. John wrote it earlier, "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14). The front lines against the assault on truth, which is in reality an assault on Jesus Christ himself, is the church. The church must continue to bear arms against this assault. There must be preachers who are willing to risk it all, that is, risk that people might not believe, and preach the truth. We must educate our young people before they go off to college and the university and the seminary (places where, with some exceptions, lies are continuing to be taught in the name of academic freedom). I’m calling for the church to preach the truth. Not that I have a right to make the call, but for the sake of those to whom we are preaching: The lies must be countered because when lies prevail, God is diminished; when lies take over, God is finished.

Of course this doesn’t mean that God somehow vanishes or goes away or that his will is thwarted—May it Never Be! But there is something to be said about God’s rejection of us. As Wells writes, it’s a two way street: "A Culture for whom God is no longer present believes everything…When we believe nothing, we open the doors to believing anything. And the same is truth within the precincts of the Christian faith" (p. 9). When lies are propped up and purported to be truth—why would God ‘hang around’? God’s will will, indeed, be done. We cannot thwart it, but we reject it and Him at our own peril. When we accept the lie, we reject the truth. And then what is left? What is left when truth is gone? What is left when God has, ultimately, rejected us? Why wouldn’t people want to believe the truth when Jesus spoke it? Probably because people, ultimately, love the lie.

I’ll close with Wells: "Anyone who believes in God and accepts the transcendent character of biblical revelation, as I do, must reject belief in all of those myths that the modern world has fostered about itself. Indeed, I find on the one hand that I believe more than many other evangelicals and on the other hand that I believe a great deal less than most of them do—more in the center, less in the periphery; more in the importance of truth, and not at all in the fabric of modern life." (No Place for Truth, 10).


Soli Deo Gloria!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

A Big Step


I have been blogging at this site for a number of years now and I have accumulated nearly 160 posts. I know this is paltry compared to many, but for me it has been a place to learn how to blog, to vent some frustration, and to share my world with others. Alas, the time has come for me to manage only one blog. From now on, I will only updating my blog at wordpress. You can access it at I'm still learning all blogging has to offer and I continue to experiment. I hope if you have enjoyed this blog, you will swim over to my wordpress blog and continue reading. Thanks for stopping by. This is not easy. I've had a lot of fun here.


Monday, July 23, 2007

90 Days With Jesus, Day 38: John 8:21-30: No Other Way but the Cross of Jesus

John 8:21-30

21Once 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." 22This made the Jews ask, "Will he kill himself? Is that why he says, 'Where I go, you cannot come'?" 23But he continued, "You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. 24I 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." 25"Who are you?" they asked. "Just what I have been claiming all along," Jesus replied. 26"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." 27They did not understand that he was telling them about his Father. 28So 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. 29The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him." 30Even as he spoke, many put their faith in him.

Let’s take a look at these words of Jesus and read them at face value.

There was a time when the people Jesus taught tried to seize him. They wanted to cling to him—but not for any reasons resembling righteousness. They had other designs on him that precluded accepting him at face value—that he was who he claimed to be. He gave them a lifeline (I wish I had a better metaphor here) and they rejected it. What was the only other option: You will die in your sin, Jesus said. This is the option? Acceptance of Jesus, belief that He is the One God sent, and there will be life outside of our sin. But rejection of Jesus is sheer stupidity because our last resting place will be our sin soaked lives.

Would there be a time when Jesus was gone and they would look for him? Jesus seems to believe so and at that time they would no longer be able to find him. They can’t seize him to arrest him; they won’t seize him to escape sin. Jesus indicates here that sin is a nasty little secret that man is simply unable and unwilling to come to terms with. Perhaps we are content to ignore it or avoid it or revel in it. But he makes it abundantly clear that they would die in their sin and the place where he was going would be inaccessible to those who did. Does there come a point in the time of some folk’s lives when Jesus simply become inaccessible to them any longer? When it is impossible to repent of sin? When their only ambition is to sin? I kind of gather that if they would ‘die in their sin’ that means they persisted in their sin as well. They would be unable to get out of it.

This is a major, major problem we face in the world today. I’ll take Dr. Phil as an example of the problem He invites all sorts of people onto his television program—and, frankly, the only difference between Dr. Phil and Jerry Springer is that Phil doesn’t spend as much time mocking the people as Springer does. I’ll admit, Phil’s arguments and solutions are well reasoned, articulate, and, as far as they go, probably scientifically sound. In some cases, I’ll bet they work. The problem is that we never hear about the root of the problem. We hear people say ‘the problem is that my brother stole my identity and I hate him for it.’ Phil might say, ‘why did you steal his identity? Were you trying to get even? Was it revenge?’ What we don’t hear Phil say is this: At the core of this problem between two brothers is sin, a deeply entrenched, living, breathing, fallen-ness that has not too quietly taken over their lives. He may get confessions and he may do some reconciling, but he has not dealt with the core; he’s killed the weeds and planted flowers, but he’s done so in the same exact soil.

Jesus says it again: "You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you would die in your sins. If you don’t believe that I am the one claim to be you will indeed die in your sins." They will look for him and die in their sins. They will refuse to believe in him and die in their sins. Again I say it: We cannot get out of the dilemma we are in by ourselves. I don’t care how many feel good gurus PBS runs across a stage, I don’t care how many people stay in the Dr Phil House, I don’t care how many feel good stories are turned into After School/Hallmark Hall of Fame movies: Sin is in deep and it is not willing to let go just because we ‘get our house in order.’ Sin is relentless, pursuing with baited breath, hunting down the weak and the strong alike, the poor and the rich alike, the sinner and the saint alike. Sin is tireless, fearless and ambitious. It doesn’t care who the victim: Its aim is to devour.

And Jesus says that if we refuse to believe that he is I Am (this is what that nebulous phrase ‘the one I claim to be’ means) we are simply, utterly, beyond hope. There is only one Name given by which men (and women) might be saved: Jesus. If we are not clinging to Him what hope have we? So I do not think the answer is to send people some sentimental story of how someone with a lot of courage overcame the monsters hiding under their bed, or some inspirational story of how someone’s faith helped them get through a particularly nasty bout of splattergoit (a particularly nasty ailment non-muggles can get; certain readers will get it). I don’t think that such inspiration, however inspirational it may be, will get us through sin. It will not erase sin. It will not cure sin. PT Forsyth well makes this point when he writes,

"Even a loving God is really God not because He loves, but because He has the power to subdue all things to the holiness of his love, and even sin itself to His love as redeeming grace. A sympathetic God is really God because He is a holy, saving, redeeming God; because in Him already the great world-transaction is done, and the kingdom of his Holy love already set up on His foregone conquest of all evil. The great and crucial thing is done in God and not before Him, in His will and not in His presence, by Him and not for Him by any servants, not even by a son. It is an act of His own being, a victory in His own immutable and invincible being. And to be saved, in any non-egoistical sense of the word, means that God gains His own victory over again in me, and that I have lost in life’s great issue unless He do. God’s participation in man’s affairs is much more than that of fellow-sufferer on a divine scale, whose love can rise to a painless sympathy with pain. He not only perfectly understands our case and our problem, but He has morally, actively, and finally solved it. The solution is for ever present with Him." (The Cruciality of the Cross, 60-61).

Forsyth is convinced that this happened at Calvary: "And our faith is not merely that God is with us, nor that one day He will clear all things up and triumph; but that for Him all things are already triumphant, clear, and sure. All things are working together for good, as good is in the cross of Christ and it’s saving effect." (62)

So when they ask him, "Who are you?" Jesus’ response is understandable: "Just what I have been claiming all along." What has he been claiming about himself? Well, re-read chapters 1-6 to get the gist. And besides, why should he continue to repeat his answer to the question they ask? They haven’t believed him up to this point, why should one more repetition all of a sudden change their minds? And just like happens with the disciples in chapter 16: They did not understand what he was telling them about his Father (16:17-18). So he nails them one more time: "When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I AM I AM (the meaning of that innocuous phrase ‘the one I claim to be’). This is a declaration that He is God, YHWH. This is his open avowal that He is God in the Flesh, God among us, God come down, God tabernacled among us. This is Forsyth’s point, echoing Paul: "All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the World to Himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them" (2 Corinthians 5:18-19 NIV). Jesus is saying that will fully understand when we see Him crucified. It is in the cross that all of what Jesus said makes sense because it is there that we see how God dealt with the problem of this world. It is in the cross that God makes his open declaration of who Jesus, what His purpose is, and How God means to conquer us. It was not in any other way but the cross.

Jesus says, "…I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me…I always do what pleases him." Jesus did not even invent this stuff any more than Christians did or Paul in particular. Jesus spoke the Word of God—It was God who ‘told’ him what to say. It was God who sent his message to earth through Christ. It was God who revealed this plan. It was God who said: "Jesus is the I AM I AM." This is no mere invention or parable of men—and God did not send the Christ here so that he could help us get over all the stuff that the gurus and doctors of this world tell us we need to get over. God sent His Christ to this world to deal with sin.

Another major problem we have in this world is this conception of sin so that even in some of the major denominations in this world right now there is no such thing as sin. Sin is being eradicated as a problem: The church has effectively dealt with sin in this world by declaring sin to no longer be sin. Take homosexuality for example. Many preachers claiming to be Christians have thrown all their eggs into one basket and claimed that they can be practicing, fornicating homosexuals and Christians and still get clear of God’s wrath. And they invite many others to participate with them in their delinquency. But it is not just homosexuals and their apologists.

Well if this is true—that what the Bible calls sin is no longer sin because man has declared it to not be sin—then of what need or use is there for Jesus? If Sin is allowed in then Jesus may as well leave because the two are incompatible. The price of sin cost Christ his life. I don’t see how people can do it. I don’t see how the blood of Christ can be trampled on, I don’t see how Christ can be publicly humiliated all over again, I don’t see how the cross can be turned upside down and sin welcomed with open arms. Truly what the book of Hebrews says is true: There is no sacrifice left. The author of Hebrews wrote in the tenth chapter:

26If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. 28Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? 30For we know him who said, "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," and again, "The Lord will judge his people." 31It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebrews 10:26-31).

Thus Jesus says: You will look for me and you will die in your sins. Why? Because there will come a time when he will not be found. Find Him while He may be found.

Soli Deo Gloria!

90 Days With Jesus, Day 37: John 8:12-20: The Scandal of Jesus' Particularity

John 8:12-20

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." 13The Pharisees challenged him, "Here you are, appearing as your own witness; your testimony is not valid." 14Jesus 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. 15You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one. 16But if I do judge, my decisions are right, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me. 17In your own Law it is written that the testimony of two men is valid. 18I am one who testifies for myself; my other witness is the Father, who sent me." 19Then 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." 20He 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.

One has to admit, with even the slightest reflection on this world, that this world is, indeed, a pathetically dark and dismal place. Not a day can go by when we don’t read of some sickening new manner of killing or some despicable new manner of torture being invented by some decrepit and dilapidated person made in the image of God. It is rather disturbing, to say the least. Who among us doesn’t live with some sort of fear that we ‘might be next’ on some twisted deviant’s hit list? Who among us hasn’t been, at some point, afraid of the dark and what might lurk there?


This chapter begins no differently than chapter 7 had ended (if we exclude, only for literary purposes, 7:53-8:11). Jesus speaks to the people, the people (leaders) argue with him, and when it was all said and done they tried to seize him, but no one was able to ‘because his time had not yet come.’ I have this idea in my head that Jesus’ time was not yet come until he said everything that he was meant to say. His time would be in the fullness of time—what Annie Dillard calls ‘the scandal of particularity.’ Or what Paul wrote in Romans, "You see, at just the right time…" (Romans 5:6a). Is God’s time so particular that things never happen apart from ‘just the right time’ or was it only with respect to Christ Jesus that the time was just right? If God is so particular, the I think nothing happens apart from just the right time. But how can it for people who pray ‘your will be done on earth as it is in heaven’?


As an example of this particularity, I offer this quote by Karl Barth, but I offer it with a small disclaimer. I confess that I am not entirely familiar with Barth’s theology. I have read three of his books (Dogmatics, pt 1, Romans, and Homiletics), they are difficult reads, and I make no profession to understanding all that he said. To be sure, this quote I offer here may not have the complete context, but it appears that what Barth is doing is showing that even the smallest (most particular) of details was not left up to chance, his race any more than the timing. As to the stated principle I agree; as to the consequences of this principle, I’m not sure. He wrote,

"The Word did not simply become any "flesh," any man humbled and suffering. It became Jewish flesh. The Church's whole doctrine of the incarnation and the atonement becomes abstract and valueless and meaningless to the extent that this comes to be regarded as something accidental and incidental. The New Testament witness to Jesus the Christ, the Son of God, stands on the soil of the Old Testament and cannot be separated from it...The Christian kerygma as it is addressed to the world has this statement about an Israelite at its very heart. This means nothing more or less than the bringing of the world into the sphere of the divine dealings with the people Israel. It does not speak generally of the existence of a Son of Man who became man for many (with many in view), but of the fact that the Jesus who has come as the Messiah of Israel has come into the world as the Saviour of the world...His universality is revealed in this particularity." (Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics IV.1, 166-7)


Jesus also said this: "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." He makes this statement or a statement similar to it in three other places in John’s Gospel (11:9, 10 and 12:35). It’s not the content that I am concerned about here (although John has introduced this conflict between light and dark as early as the first chapter in his Gospel). Rather, it is this other scandal of particularity, mentioned by Barth in the quote, but stated absolutely here by Jesus. It is this: there is no salvation apart from Jesus. Christians did not invent that claim. Christians did not ask for it to be that way. Christians are those who have accepted it as the truth. Christians are those who have said, "If Jesus said it, then how can anyone else say it?" Of course, others can say it which is precisely what makes the claim of Jesus so revolutionary: He backed up his claim at Calvary.

So he says, ‘If you knew me, you would know my Father also.’ There is virtually no difference between this statement and the one he made in verse 12. If you want to know the Father, then you must know Jesus. It’s rather obvious why this statement is so continually repeated in John’s Gospel. Over and over again: Jesus is the Way, Jesus is the Light, Know Jesus-know the Father, Look to the Son—formulate any combination you like and it all adds up to the same thing: Jesus is all we have.


Finally, there was the particularity of testimony. "I am one who testifies for myself; my other witness is the Father, who sent me." Of no one else has the sky cracked open and the Father testified as such but Jesus. Even when Moses and Elijah stood on the Mountain of Transfiguration (Matthew 17, etc.), only of Jesus did the voice say, "This is my Son, listen to Him." When the terrified disciples opened their eyes who was left? Moses? Elijah? No; only Jesus. Only of Jesus did God say, "This is my Son whom I love, with Him I am well pleased." There is simply no getting around it and that is why John continues to draw us back to it time and time again. He is concerned that we understand just how particular God is when it comes to salvation, eternal life, walking in the light—or any of the other metaphors you wish to copy from John—His way; the Jesus Way.

There are a great deal of people and preachers available right now whose sole purpose it is to distract people from this particularity. It the purpose of John to show us in as many ways possible that those folks who try to turn our eyes from Jesus are lying liars who tell lies (a little Al Franken humor there). John keeps bringing us back to the same message time and time again by recording for us the various times, places, and ways that Jesus expressed this truth about himself. If you are reading John hoping to come to some other conclusion or learn some other thing you are not getting what John is writing.

The Scandal of particularity took three forms here. One was from Jesus’ mouth: I am the light of the world (which means no one else is). A second was from the Father’s mouth: He testified about Jesus in a way about which he testified to no other. A third was in the matter of time: He came in the fullness of time. Think you now, at this moment in your life, that there is any less scandal of particularity? Think you now that God’s providence has guided you any less?

Soli Deo Gloria!

Friday, July 20, 2007

90 Days with Jesus, Day 36: John 7:53-8:11: The Sound of Grace

John 7:53-8:11

53Then each went to his own home. 1But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. 3The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4and said to Jesus, "Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?" 6They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." 8Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10Jesus straightened up and asked her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" 11"No one, sir," she said. "Then neither do I condemn you," Jesus declared. "Go now and leave your life of sin."

You know, as well as I do, that people are mean. People have very little conscience most of the time. It has been seared, corrupted, abused, and conquered by ourselves in complete cooperation with the Enemy. People will use any means at their disposal to attack and vilify Christ—or His church. I have always wondered about the man in this story. I’d like to know how it is that a woman was ‘caught in the act of adultery’ but a man was not. This alone shows that they have no real regard for the law. Sadly, we see a lot of this in our own culture. You might say it is a double-standard. Really, it’s a blatant disregard for the law, a thumbing of the nose at righteousness, an unmitigated scoffing at true justice.

That said, this particular pericope does not revolve around these mean, arrogant scofflaws. If they had read the law they would have seen this: "‘If a man commits adultery with another man's wife—with the wife of his neighbor—both the adulterer and the adulteress must be put to death’" (Leviticus 20:10). They also would have read in the 10 Commandments that the command ‘do not commit adultery’ has no particular sexual identity attached to it. In other words, it does not say ‘a man shall not commit adultery’ or ‘a woman shall not commit adultery.’ It says, pardon the archaic KJV language, ‘thou shall not commit adultery.’ They were quite wrong that day to bring only the woman before Jesus. (Sort of makes one wonder if the very man she was caught with was among those wanting to stone her.)

They understood the Law: They were, in fact, required to stone the woman and the man. Jesus doesn’t deny that the woman should have been stoned. On the contrary, he issues the command: Stone her. Jesus was not going to abrogate the Law just because they were trying to trap him. However, neither was he going to allow them to abridge the Law just because they were trying to trap him. The Law is the Law—the Law cannot be done away with. ‘Go ahead. Stone her. Who will be the first? Don’t hesitate.’ Jesus has no qualms about the punishment of the guilty: ‘Go on. Stone her.’

So, why does Jesus do what he does? Why does he say what he says? Why does he allow this woman to escape unscathed by the smooth stones and jagged rocks they were about to hurl in her direction? (Can you imagine this woman laying there in the dirt: ashamed, dishevelled, hair matted and gnarly, tears cutting wadis across her skin, eyes bloodshot, afraid to look up, afraid to take her hands away from her face? Perhaps she had heard of Jesus—there was whispering and rumors of him all around (see chapter 7). Can you imagine how she felt when she heard Jesus say, ‘Go ahead. Stone her.’ I well imagine that a chill went up her spine.) But I think that is not entirely what she heard. Maybe it was more like: thud, thud, thud, thud, thud. One by one. One after another. Then some murmuring. Then some shuffling. Then some rustling of garments. What does forgiveness sound like? How do we hear it? What sound echoes through our ears when that water washes us clean? Annie Dillard wrote that man catches grace like filling a cup under a waterfall. It’s an overwhelming thing. A torrent of mercy. A waterfall of grace. A tsunami of forgiveness. It’s more than we can handle; it’s more than enough.

What does grace sound like? Can we hear it? Can we see it? Can we taste it? Can we feel it? Can we smell it? Thud. Thud. Shuffle. Murmur. Shuffle. Thud. Thud…

Amidst her crying and sniveling, amidst her weeping and whimpering, the sound of rocks and stones was heard. Those boulders hauled on carts to Jesus had miraculously turned to tiny pebbles when they hit the ground and yet their thud was heard—not least by those who had gathered around Jesus that morning to listen to him teach. Those stones carried in their hands and pockets had become giant boulders these men could no longer hold on to under the weight of their own perjury. I don’t suppose for a minute those men who accused her actually forgave her. I don’t suppose they were willing to extend grace because they did not want to experience grace themselves. They walked away because they had no choice: Jesus had vanquished them. Theirs was a grace not given freely but begrudgingly. My point is that they didn’t walk away because they were forgiving her but because the Bird had caught the fowler in his own snare.

If the LORD had not been on our side—let Israel say-
2 if the LORD had not been on our side when men attacked us,
3 when their anger flared against us, they would have swallowed us alive;
4 the flood would have engulfed us, the torrent would have swept over us,
5 the raging waters would have swept us away.
6 Praise be to the LORD, who has not let us be torn by their teeth.
7 We have escaped like a bird out of the fowler's snare; the snare has been broken, and we have escaped.
8 Our help is in the name of the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. (Psalm 124)

Man catches grace like filling a cup under a waterfall.

But the story did not end just there either. There’s one more scene that takes place after the accusers had gone and Jesus was left alone with the sinful woman and those who had gathered that morning to listen to him teach. Jesus again acknowledges that this woman was guilty although he does not condemn her. Maybe this goes back to John 3:17: "For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him." Yes. The mistake, however, is in thinking that Jesus did not judge this woman. He did, in fact, judge her. What he didn’t do was act in accordance with the judgment he leveled. He was perfectly ready to allow her to be stoned—on a certain condition. In this act, he also judged those men who wanted to stone her. Jesus did judge, but he did not condemn. This in no way means, however, that he approved her actions or condoned her indiscretion or applauded her sin. No. She was guilty.

Here’s what he did: He showed her grace and forgiveness. Still it did not end there because he also said: "Go now and leave your life of sin." I take this mean this: Forgiveness and grace sets us free to a new life. Once forgiven, we can no longer remain in our old way of doing things. We can longer continue in the decrepit filth of sin. Once set free, we are no longer slaves. Free to live a new life, free to take on a new character, free to to pursue righteousness and holiness. There is no longer a sin life for the one forgiven. "Release from a life contrary to the will of God is always with a view to life according to the will of God" (Beasley-Murray, John, 147).

PT Forsyth has said this same thing rather beautifully in his book The Cruciality of the Cross.

"The feeble gospel preaches, ‘God is ready to forgive’; the mighty gospel preaches ‘God has redeemed.’ It works not with forgiveness alone, which would be mere futile amnesty, but with forgiveness in a moral way, with holy forgiveness, a forgiveness which not only restores the soul, but restores it in the only final and eternal way, by restoring in the same act the infinite moral order, and reconstructing mankind from the foundation of a moral revolution. God reconciles by making Christ to be sin, and not imputing it (2 Cor. v. 21). The Christian act of forgiveness at once regards the whole wide moral order of things, and goes deep to the springs of the human will for entire repentance and a new order of obedience." (51-52)

Here is a beautiful thing: Set free. Go and leave your life of sin. If you have been set free by the Son, you have been set free indeed. From what do you need to be set free?

Just what does grace sound like to you?

Soli Deo Gloria!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

90 Days with Jesus, Day 35: John 45-52: We're Only Safe with Jesus

John 7:45-52

45Finally the temple guards went back to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked them, "Why didn't you bring him in?" 46"No one ever spoke the way this man does," the guards declared. 47"You mean he has deceived you also?" the Pharisees retorted. 48"Has any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed in him? 49No! But this mob that knows nothing of the law—there is a curse on them." 50Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier and who was one of their own number, asked, 51"Does our law condemn anyone without first hearing him to find out what he is doing?" 52They replied, "Are you from Galilee, too? Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come out of Galilee."

Merrill Tenney makes a good point about the cooperative work between the Sadducees & Pharisees: “Since the high priest belonged to the Sadducean party, the coalition of the Pharisees and Sadducees was significant. The two groups were strongly opposed to each other in doctrine (Acts 23:7). In spite of their differences, their common animosity toward Jesus induced them to combine for action against him” (The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, John, 88). Isn’t it amazing how people from such divergent positions can unite together against a common cause, in this case Jesus? I’d be willing to bet you could do the same thing with conservatives and liberals in our government: as long as Jesus is the object of their scorn, united they will be. We see this taking place at the end of every Gospel story. Jews and Romans, notoriously hateful of one another, working together to see Jesus crucified. The world had grand designs on itself and Jesus is not a part of those plans: he must be ruthlessly eliminated, purposely cut-off, permanently disabled.

Still it is difficult not to see the courage of those guards who were commissioned to arrest Jesus and yet came back sans Jesus, empty-handed. And what were they impressed with? “No one, no man, has ever spoken the way this man does.” He is unique in instruction, singular in his prophecy, unparalleled in his revelation. No one speaks like he does. This does not mean that Jesus was far more eloquent than anyone else (although, I’m not saying he wasn’t). It means that his teaching was remarkable for its content. It’s what the people said after he preached the Sermon on the Mount: “When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law” (Matthew 7:28-29). Or in Mark 3:27: “The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, ‘What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey him.’”

They were overwhelmed by Jesus’ teaching—the content of his teaching. No one compared to him and these guards had never heard anything like it before. I suspect that the religious authorities were a bit perturbed by this sort of ‘compliment’. “You mean he has deceived you too? Has any one of us believed in him? That is supposed to be a sign of authority or intelligence. In other words, “Look, you hayseeds, us smart folk haven’t believed in him, and those folks who have are accursed. Why, then, would you want to be associated with a group of cursed people? Wouldn’t you be wiser to be on our side and do what you are told since we, obviously, are smarter and not cursed?” Well that cinches it for me! I’m gonna follow the smart folk of this world because the obviously know much more than I do. They are far better equipped to handle all the details of who and what we should believe in. Right?
Nicodemus has a little courage too. Who knows what his intent was? I don’t, but at least he was willing to stand up to general decency and give a curtsy to the law: Does our law condemn anyone without a trial? But these folks did not even want to listen to Nicodemus or the guards let alone Jesus. Jesus was not going to get a fair trial in that town—and the end of the Gospels bear this out in full force. I cannot help but notice, however, that Nicodemus (this time) allowed those who opposed Jesus to have the last word. Maybe it was by design. Maybe he said just enough to allow those in opposition to Jesus to indict themselves and show their true colors?


So where does a prophet come from? Their last words are: “Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come out of Galilee.” In a sense, Jesus did not come from Galilee because he was, in fact, sent from the Father. He points this out several times. That is clearly not their point; it may be mine.

What they did was this. They worked with their avowed theological enemies in their opposition to Jesus, they resorted to snooty condescension and intellectual hubris, and they were about to commit an illegality by denying someone the full scope of the law’s protection (condemnation without trial). You can see they were going out of their way to oppose Jesus at every turn, every twist, every point they could. And they did so quite apart, it appears, from any pangs of conscience whatsoever. They wouldn’t listen to the guards. They wouldn’t listen to their own (Nicodemus). They wouldn’t listen to the Law (which Nicodemus invoked).

Sadly, folks do the same sort of things today. I hate to keep saying it, but that was the overall point of chapter 7 of John’s Gospel. What shall we do? What shall we say? How shall we respond? Shall we respond with bewildered fear like the guards? Shall we respond to citing technical aspects of the Law as Nicodemus did? Shall we respond in silence when insulted as Nicodemus did? At some point we are all going to have to say something about Jesus. I don’t think indifference, apathy, or silence is going to cut it. Those who speak the loudest, and those who hold the power of intimidation, and those reputed to be intellectual giants will not always be the ones to win or hold sway over the majority. What is required is someone brash enough to testify to what they believe in the presence of uncontrolled outrage and hatred.


Chapter seven took quite a while to traverse. There’s a lot of important theological material in this chapter. I’d like to leave you with a couple of important observations as we finish this chapter and proceed to chapter 8 of John on our 90 Days with Jesus journey.

First, Jesus does not move according to our time schedules. We can no more make God adjust his plans than we can extinguish the sun. He has his own purposes, his own plans, his own time-table for how and when things on this earth will be accomplished. To be sure, we are a part of that plan, but we are not privy to all the details. So while we pray, we bear in mind his sovereignty and wisdom. And while we live, we continue to have faith that God has not abandoned us or forgotten us. We lovingly trust and obey and have confidence that even when our plans fall to pieces and fail miserably His do not.

Second, Jesus expected much opposition from those who opposed him. That sounds a wee bit redundant but what else can I say? Opposition from those who oppose Christ does not lessen as time goes on but in fact increases and grows more vehement. There is a great deal of tension in chapter 7. There are those who can’t make up their minds, there are those who have already decided they are opposed, there are his brothers who think he’s a kook, and there are the disciples who silently follow Jesus. There is much violence and a lot of tension and maneuvering in this chapter. I don’t think Christians in the West have clearly marked this in their lives. We enjoy relative peace and comfort in our lives. I wonder if we are fully prepared for the sort of opposition that we can certainly expect at some point? Those opposed to Jesus will not long tolerate those who follow Jesus.

Third, Jesus said that his teaching was not his own, but that it came from the one who sent him, namely, God. If this is true, and I assume beyond doubt, that it is, then what is the response of people who hear these words? More, what is the content of those who profess to be prophets for the church? If the content of our preaching is not in line with that of Jesus’ preaching then how can it possibly be in line with message of God the Father? The reason we have the Scripture is precisely so that our preaching and teaching remain orthodox. More preachers would do well to put away their books on purpose, secrets, best lives, and prayers of obscure OT characters and open their Bibles and see exactly what Jesus preached and taught. If our teaching and preaching does not line up with His, there is reason to believe that we are not preaching orthodox Christianity.

Fourth, Jesus said that if we have thirst we should go to him and drink. Scarcely can I imagine this means anything other than that Jesus is the only way to salvation and that what he means to give us is the means of our preservation and sanctification (viz., the Spirit). I must be critical again of what I see in this world of churchianity. There is a mass exodus away from serious theological thinking and deep, passionate, committed study of God’s Word in favor of some short term psychological feel-goodism. Peruse the shelves at the local Christian bookstore and you will find they resemble the self-help section of Barnes & Noble with the only exception being the word ‘Christian’ affixed to the dust jacket somewhere. If Jesus gives the Spirit then we should be in pursuit of Jesus and the Spirit will create the life in us that we lack. In my estimation, this is tied directly to the Jesus’ words that his teaching is not his own but from the One who sent him. Our problem is that we have are profoundly suspicious of God’s Word and we are highly concerned as to whether or not it is reliably sufficient to create in us the new life God has promised. And if we cannot trust the Bible’s reliability, how can we preach it? Thus we resort to preaching from the books of popular authors who make Scripture palatable and easy, but no more reliable.

There’s much more to say about these matters. I submit to you that it is a theological problem we have in our churches. Too many are concerned with bread and milk—not many want to dig deep and unravel the complexities and perplexities of the real, biblical Jesus. What ends up happening is exactly what we see in John 7: A bunch of people who can’t make up their minds who Jesus is, what he is about, whether to arrest him or not, whether he is a prophet at all or The Prophet in fact. This is the problem we are faced with in our world. There is not enough teaching on what the Bible says about Jesus. The violence increases. The hostility does not abate. The animosity continues supplanting the popularity. It should be no different now. When Christ again is being truly preached from pulpits in the Church we will see the opposition rise. So long as we are content to be popular among the world’s inhabitants we will be ‘safe’. Safe, however, is always a relative term. What is better? Being safe from the world and caught in the hands of angry God or being in constant mortal peril and yet being guarded by the Lamb who is the Lion?

“What have been the eras of the Church’s greatest influence? What have been the moments of its most powerful impact on the world? Not the epochs of its visible might and splendour; not the age succeeding Constantine, when Christianity became imperialist, and all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them seemed ready to bow beneath the sceptre of Christ; not in the days of the great medieval pontiffs, when Christ’s vicar in Rome wielded a sovereignty more absolute than that of any secular monarch on the earth; not the later nineteenth century, when the Church became infected with the prevailing humanistic optimism, which was quite sure that man was the architect of his own destinies, that a wonderful utopian kingdom of God was waiting him just around the corner, and that the very momentum of his progress was bound to carry him thither. Not in such times as these has the Church exercised its strongest leverage upon the soul and conscience of the world: but in the days when it has been crucified with Christ, and has counted all things but loss for His sake; days when, smitten with a great contrition and repentance, it has cried out to God from the depths” (James S. Stewart, as quoted by David F. Wells in Above All Earthly Pow’rs, p 310).

There you have it. I’m sorry about the length of this post. I hope that does not deter you from reading and taking to heart what I have to say. Until chapter 8 I remain, affectionately yours in Christ.

Soli Deo Gloria!

90 Days with Jesus, Day 34: John 7:37-44: Jesus the Thirst Quencher

John 7:37-44

37On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. 38Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." 39By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified. 40On hearing his words, some of the people said, "Surely this man is the Prophet." 41Others said, "He is the Christ." Still others asked, "How can the Christ come from Galilee? 42Does not the Scripture say that the Christ will come from David's family and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?" 43Thus the people were divided because of Jesus. 44Some wanted to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him.

The debate raged on for yet another day of the Feast. On the last day Jesus made matters worse for those attending the feast by standing up and shouting: If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. He has said that those who would follow him must eat his flesh and drink his blood (John 6). He has told a Samaritan woman: "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water" (John 4). He has told that crowd of bread-eaters, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty" (John 5). Now he says it again in John 7: I am the thirst quencher. If you want a truly satisfying drink, come to Jesus. If you truly desire your parched throat to be slaked, come to Jesus. When nothing satisfies, come to Jesus. Or, don’t wait until you are thirsty: Come to Jesus and never experience thirst.

This is nothing new. It has been said in Scripture before and it will be said again. Thirst is a basic need for humans and who can satisfy it here on earth? I drink 4 to 5 bottles of water a day and drink tea, and other beverages on top of that. I am always thirsty. My thirst is never satiated, never quenched, never alleviated, assuaged, appeased. It’s a constant gnawing in my throat, a constant rumbling in my stomach. Who can save us from this wretched life of never satisfied cravings, desires, and drives? Is there no escape? But it is not really about actually satisfying the thirst, hunger, or appetite, or sex drive. No. Jesus didn’t say that, did he?

Jesus did not say, ‘Come to me and I’ll give you a drink of water you will not soon forget. Come to me and I’ll hook you up with a Long Island Iced Tea you won’t forget!’ No. Jesus said nothing of the sort because he knows too well that we will never be satisfied. It’s the old adage for the alcoholic: 1 beer is too many, 100’s not enough. Jesus did not say, ‘Come to me and I’ll give you a buffet that never ends!’ Jesus said, ‘If you are thirsty, come to me and drink.’ We don’t go at him for a cup of Oolong or Earl Grey or Columbia’s best. He said, and it is most important that all readers take careful note of this, he said: ‘If you are thirsty, come to me and drink.’ (I take it there are some folks who are, in fact, not thirsty.)

You see, what he is saying rather explicitly is that our desire should be for Him. We fix our eyes on what is unseen, not what is seen. We fix our eyes and hearts on Jesus. He is our goal. He is our delight. He is our satisfaction. This is what Paul meant in Philippians:

"I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength."

He is saying that our circumstances do not matter, at least they are inconsequential, compared with our position in Christ. In Christ we are always satisfied. In Christ we are never thirsty even though we are dehydrated. In Christ we are ever living even though every day we are dying a thousand deaths. Our hope is not found in the amount of anything we have or our lack of anything we don’t have. Our hope is first and always found in Christ. He is our goal and He is our crown. Jesus did not say, ‘Come to me and we’ll go to Outback together every day.’ He said, and it is most important for everyone who reads John’s Gospel to note this, he said, ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.’

‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water I will give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life’ (John 4:13-14).

‘Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.’ Eugene Peterson wrote, ‘Resurrection is the work of the Holy Spirit in Jesus, raising him from the dead and presenting him before the disciples; resurrection is also the work of the Holy Spirit in those of us who believe in and follow Jesus’ (Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places, 232). Live the Resurrection now. Whoever goes on believing in Jesus has streams of living water flowing through him now. The Spirit has been sent (see John 13-17; Acts 2; etc.). We live even while dying and death has no grip on those who have been declared alive by the One who destroyed death. What can death say or do to those in Christ? Death will never molest the Resurrected!

But again there are objections to Jesus, complaints against his words, agitation that he dare proclaim himself to be something, division over whether he is telling the truth or not. Some want to seize him; others do not. No one does anything.

We do understand though, don’t we? The claims are rather outlandish, peculiar, preposterous, fantastic, and extravagant. "All this from a man whose home-town we are well acquainted with, whose siblings we know, whose chairs we sit upon when we eat dinner? No. The Messiah has to be some other larger-than-life character whose origins are unknown, or at least Olympus like. How can Messiah come from a backwater country like Galilee? But what about Bethlehem? At least he would come from Jerusalem." And people were divided because of these things. They were divided on that day when he shouted the words; they are today when the words are repeated. Many simply cannot find life so valuable, so wonderful, that they will even take the chance that Jesus may have been telling the truth. They are not that thirsty. Aquafina suits them fine.

Still his words stand for us. We will judge them to be rather outlandish and preposterous or we will judge them to be the very words of God. We are not afforded the luxury of not making a decision though. Thus we are left with the question: Can the Christ be as normal as a Galilean? Or must the Christ be some other-wordly, supernatural, miracle working, freak side-show Bob? Is he about meeting our expectations or being exactly who He is? We are left with a choice between these two positions. Jesus either is or he is not. We are either thirsty and go to Jesus for quenching or we aren’t and don’t. There’s life nowhere else but Jesus. I’ll end today with John’s words in the Revelation 21:

1Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."

5He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" Then he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true."

6He said to me: "It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. 7He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son. 8But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death."

Take Good Care of One Another!

Soli Deo Gloria!

[PS—also see, Revelation 22:17, Isaiah 12, 44:1-5, 58:11; Psalm 1.]

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

90 Days With Jesus, Day 33: John 7:32-36: It's Time for Jesus

John 7:32-36

32The Pharisees heard the crowd whispering such things about him. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees sent temple guards to arrest him. 33Jesus said, "I am with you for only a short time, and then I go to the one who sent me. 34You will look for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come." 35The Jews said to one another, "Where does this man intend to go that we cannot find him? Will he go where our people live scattered among the Greeks, and teach the Greeks? 36What did he mean when he said, 'You will look for me, but you will not find me,' and 'Where I am, you cannot come'?"

DA Carson wrote in his book A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Priorities From Paul and His Prayers, the following words of wisdom concerning John 7:

"If God had perceived that our greatest need was economic, he would have sent an economist. If he had perceived that our greatest need was entertainment, he would have sent us a comedian or an artist. If God had perceived that our greatest need was political stability, he would have sent us a politician. If he had perceived that our greatest need was health, he would have sent us a doctor. But he perceived that our greatest need involved our sin, our alienation from him, our profound rebellion, our death; and he sent us a Savior" (109)

The Pharisees heard that people were whispering such things like, "Have the authorities really concluded that he is the Christ?" So, in an effort to stave off such ridiculous ideas, such trivial scuttlebutt, they sent in the troops to do what others had been unable to do: arrest him (recall in verse 30 others tried to lay hands on him but he escaped them). I don’t suppose that the Pharisees’ guards would have any better success than any others had; still they try.

But the Pharisees also heard people saying things like, "When the Christ comes, will he do more miraculous signs than this man?" So, in their attempt to forestall such frivolous conversations the Pharisees did what they did best: They sent someone else to deal with Jesus. Oh, they wouldn’t dare go and try to arrest him themselves (remember later that Jesus’ trials were conducted at night, in secrecy). These Pharisees had no intentions whatsoever of letter people even have the hint of a hint that Jesus might actually be who he claimed to be. But it was not yet his time.

For me, it is Jesus’ response that is most intriguing. "I am only with you a short time, and then I go to the One who sent me." It’s a response to those who were coming to arrest him. I wonder if he is saying something like, "Look, leave me be and I’ll be gone soon enough. I’m not planning on being here long enough for you to be making all this fuss. Let it be, let me be, and then I’ll be out of your way and you will have me to contend with no longer." He could have been saying something like that. Then he adds a second phrase, "You will look for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come." Where I Am?? What did he mean by that: Where I am?

But they glossed over all that too. They were more concerned about where he was going than about where he was. They knew where he was from, supposedly, but they did not know where he was going. They could go to where he was from, but they would not find him when he left. This conversation leaves one gasping for air. At some level Jesus was saying this: There will come a day when I will be gone, not as easily accessible as I am right now when you want to arrest me. On that day you will look for me, you will want me, you will need me, but I will not be found. He makes it clear: You will look for me. I have a suspicion that they will be looking for him for reasons other than to arrest him. I have a suspicion that there will be a little more fear of God in their eyes then than there was that day when they wanted to arrest him.

There is, to be sure, a time limit. We don’t happen to be privy to it. God has not, in his wisdom, decided that this is information that we happen to require while accomplishing his work. But there is a time limit. We don’t know when the thief will come in the night or when the Bridegroom will return. We don’t know when the archangel will sound the last trumpet and the Son of Man will descend with the clouds. We are sort of in the dark on this one. Jesus said there is a time limit: "I am only with you a short time, and then I go to the one who sent me. You will look for me, but you will not find me; and where I am you cannot come."

Later Jesus will say: "Then Jesus told them, "You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. Those who walk in the dark do not know where they are going. 36 Put your trust in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light." When he had finished speaking, Jesus left and hid himself from them" (John 12:35-36). Clearly, there is a time limit. And yet still people refuse to come to Jesus to have life. It’s not a joke. It’s not a risk worth taking. If we don’t seek him while we can there will come a time when seeking will not be an option. Are you seeking him? What are you waiting for?

Their response demonstrates their ignorance and hubris: "What does he mean when he said, ‘You will look for me and not find me,’ and ‘Where I am, you cannot come’?" Translation: We can find anyone we want—you can go as far as the Greeks and we’ll find you. You can’t escape us, you mere human ("Where does this man intend to go that we cannot find him?"). Who do you think you are? Are you magic? Are you a traveler? At least they were concerned about what his words meant—although, John provides us with no answer to their questions. They did not perceive that there might come a day when they would be cut-off from access to Jesus. Oh, humans are so flush with confidence! Scarcely a day goes by, nary a minute ticks away when some human, some place, does not boast of their ability to conquer any obstacle. Jesus was saying, if I read correctly, here’s one obstacle you cannot conquer because the only way to conquer it is through me and you reject me! Of course those who reject Jesus will not find him: Truthfully speaking, they won’t want to.

Be Blessed and a Blessing!

Soli Deo Gloria!

90 Days with Jesus, Day 32: John 7:25-31: Responding to Jesus

John 7:25-31

25At that point some of the people of Jerusalem began to ask, "Isn't this the man they are trying to kill? 26Here he is, speaking publicly, and they are not saying a word to him. Have the authorities really concluded that he is the Christ? 27But we know where this man is from; when the Christ comes, no one will know where he is from." 28Then Jesus, still teaching in the temple courts, cried out, "Yes, you know me, and you know where I am from. I am not here on my own, but he who sent me is true. You do not know him, 29but I know him because I am from him and he sent me." 30At this they tried to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his time had not yet come. 31Still, many in the crowd put their faith in him. They said, "When the Christ comes, will he do more miraculous signs than this man?"

In yesterday’s meditation, we learned that Jesus’ teaching does not come from himself but the Father. People thus reject Jesus’ teaching at their own peril: In rejecting His teaching they are rejecting the authority behind the teaching (The Father), the subject of the revelation (God’s Will), and the intentions behind the prophecy (transformation by God’s intent). Now what he is saying here is this: "I am not here on my own, but he who sent me is true."

But notice what the people’s response is to this newest revelation: More objections. They object to Jesus’ teaching because they are convinced that he is not educated enough or, at least, that he was not educated by the ‘right’ people or the ‘right sort’ of people. Now they object to him again: "But we know where this man is from; when the Christ comes, no one will know where he is from." Objection after objection. They keep looking for reasons to not follow Jesus and searching for excuses not to believe in him. Furthermore, their response to him is always the same: violence, persecution, attempts at murder. They really do not like Jesus and search for any reason they can to lay him to waste. This time it is no different: At this they tried to seize him.

So here then it was not their ignorance that prevented them from knowing and loving Jesus. It was, in fact, their knowledge. In verses 14-15, they objected because they did not know where Jesus got his teaching form. Here they object because they do know where he is from. Jesus cannot win either way. But I think there is something more to it than that. I think these people were just, much like many in today’s world, searching and searching for reasons to reject Jesus. But if I hear Jesus’ answer correctly, then I am hearing him say to these people who objected: No, in fact, you don’t know me at all. As Jesus will later say in the Gospel: "If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well." He also says, "Anyone who has seen me has see the Father" (John 14:7-9).

I suppose that if people want to find reasons to object to Jesus they will find them easily enough. There is an entire discipline of Biblical studies dedicated to the task of refuting such objections (it’s called apologetics). Murray thus says that, in spite of the fact that we live in a different time and age and culture than when this book was first written, ‘…the revelation of God in Christ is directed to our age no less than to people in the first century of our era…And the challenge of Jesus’ claim to be the bearer of the revelation of God and the instrument of his redemption demands of every one of us an answer that we can give before the judgment seat of God, for that is what in the end will be required of us’ (Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 36, John, GR Beasley-Murray, 123).

So, the particular objections John wrote about may or may not be particularly relevant to us in this present culture. We are not Jews who would fret about something such as where Jesus was from or where he got his teaching (ie., his education). Indeed, the questions were even deeper than that in John’s context. Just examine all the different things people were saying about him in the chapter (v 1-5, 12-15, 25-27, 31, 35-36, 40-52). They objected to nearly every conceivable aspect of his life: Education, pedigree, race (he was from Galilee), etc, and at every objection they were ready to arrest him or kill him or persecute him. Still, in our culture we face a not entirely different set of objections that all trace their main point back to the same root: People still do not want to believe that Jesus is the Way, the exclusive Way, to the Father. "For even his own brothers did not believe in him." What about him did they not want to believe in? Well, read chapter 6 again and see!

This is the problem we face today. It’s not so much that people even object to Jesus necessarily. Many religions have grasped him and melted him into their pantheon of religious instruction. But Jesus is no mere teacher of wonderful, blissful things (as I pointed out yesterday). As long as Jesus is a good teacher, a humanitarian, an animal lover, an anti-global warming poster child, or some other such non-sense, Jesus is ‘just alright with me’ is the mantra for many folks—even Christians! But when cross-carrying Christians, rightfully and under obligation and mandate and because of love, preach that Jesus is exclusively the Messiah, God, the Crucified and Resurrected Sovereign Lord, well, then those who have lauded his teaching, moral character, and social activism turn back and no longer follow him. It is not strange to me at all that chapter 7 follows chapter 6 in this sense: Jesus made, in chapter 6, some of his most divisive, contumacious, and public claims to exclusivity yet in John’s Gospel, and many turned back, following him no longer. Now we see in chapter 7 their objections articulated, their hatred escalated, and their violence accelerated.

This is no different from our own world. And, to be sure, people cannot have it both ways. You cannot have Jesus the good, moral, upstanding citizen teacher and reject his exclusive claims to Supremacy and Sovereignty. This will not do. David Wells rightly notes, "The only way in which we can be God-centered, then, is to be Christ-centered, for God is salvifically know known nowhere else. It is popularly argued to the contrary that to be Christ-centered is to be other than God-centered because it excludes all religious options other than Christianity and hence excludes much of what God is doing in the world today. Whatever the attractions of this argument, it is simply unscriptural. It makes the reality of God diffuse, assails the uniqueness of his revelation in Christ, dispenses with Christ’s saving death, and upends the premise of the entire biblical narrative, which is that God alone has reality, while the gods and goddesses of the pagans are nonentities. The New Testament unequivocally sounds the note of Christ’s uniqueness, the clarion call of historical particularity, which vitiates every other religious claim" (God in the Wasteland, 132).

So, if God is doing anything in this world, he is doing it through Christ. Apart from Christ, God does nothing. He holds all things together in Christ. He saves through Christ. So, if people have rejected Jesus on this ground or that ground they have rejected God’s appointed heir, God’s appointed Messiah, God’s chosen Servant. Apart from Christ there is no one sent from God. Jesus came from God and that very fact teaches us a great deal about the manner in which we should respond to Jesus.

I hope You are Blessed and a blessing today!

Soli Deo Gloria!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

90 Days with Jesus, Day 31: John 7:16-24: Pez-Dispenser Jesus

John 7:16-24

16Jesus answered, "My teaching is not my own. It comes from him who sent me. 17If anyone chooses to do God's will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own. 18He who speaks on his own does so to gain honor for himself, but he who works for the honor of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him. 19Has not Moses given you the law? Yet not one of you keeps the law. Why are you trying to kill me?" 20"You are demon-possessed," the crowd answered. "Who is trying to kill you?" 21Jesus said to them, "I did one miracle, and you are all astonished. 22Yet, because Moses gave you circumcision (though actually it did not come from Moses, but from the patriarchs), you circumcise a child on the Sabbath. 23Now if a child can be circumcised on the Sabbath so that the law of Moses may not be broken, why are you angry with me for healing the whole man on the Sabbath? 24Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment."

Suffice it to say that I have not written for a while. I feel badly about that. I have been at camp, and on vacation, and working a week prior to camp trying to accomplish two weeks worth of work in one week. I should be back on schedule now, and gladly. I have missed musing over John’s Gospel and sharing with you those musings. So, John 7.

Sometimes people asked Jesus questions and he did not really answer their question (see chapters 13-17) but instead offered some other explanation or monologue on some seemingly unrelated topic. Here, however, things are a bit different. Someone asked Jesus a question ("How did this man get such learning without having studied?") and Jesus answered directly: "My teaching is not my own. It comes from him who sent me." In other words, he didn’t need to study. That is, what man could possibly provide him with what he was saying? His words are not the mere repetitions of what other humans have said, nor are they there mere regurgitation of rules taught by men that have no real authoritative backing—because those who teach them don’t obey them. His teaching comes not even from a ‘higher authority,’ as if God were an authority just above that of man, and his teachings were only slightly elevated.

This teaching is not even some sort of undemanding informational enterprise designed to make us more intelligent, wiser, or more fulfilled. If it were that, well then I suppose it would be the teaching of men. I think what Jesus says here points to this teaching being quite beyond a simple infomercial for God. In fact, this is God’s revelation. Jesus is not simply relating information; he is revealing the heart of God. He is, again, not just passing along useful hash. There is an urgency to his revelation that we ignore to our detriment. What Jesus says, "He who speaks on his own does so to gain honor for himself, but he who works for the honor of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him." Take note, he says, of what I am saying because I am not saying this stuff for my sake, but for yours: that you may test and approve God’s will. If Jesus was (and he was!) opening his mouth and God was speaking through it then we need to be paying close(r) attention to what he (God) is saying. What will become of us if we ignore him? "In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things and through whom he made the universe" (Hebrews 1:1-2). Don’t ignore the words of Jesus.

The problem with Jesus is this: Many people think he was only a fount of wisdom as if God came down to earth simply to make us smarter people. Did God come down to impart to us a wisdom that could propel us into the higher ranks of academia? Or did God come down to impart to us a wisdom that would make us wise unto salvation, wise to His will, wise to our desperation apart from Him and His intervention? "It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us the wisdom of God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption" (1 Corinthians 1:30). Or, "God chose the foolish things of this world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him" (1 Corinthians 1:27-29). Too many, however, stop at ‘Jesus the wisdom…’ and never get to the point of ‘righteousness, holiness, and redemption.’ But what is wisdom if we remain lost? What good are smarts in hell?

Paul went on in Corinthians to say this: "We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory" (1 Corinthians 2:6-8). This is exactly what John said at the beginning of his Gospel: "He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him." Jesus did not come to merely impart to us wisdom in the sense that we think of wisdom: Stacks of papers, posters mounted on plaques on our study walls, loads of letters behind our names. No. That’s not why Jesus taught; that’s not what he taught. He points out to his audience, his accusers, that he is what they are not: consistent or Right.

They were anxious to kill him because he taught what was in accord with God—nay, he taught the perfect will of God and it was precisely this that offended them! Isn’t that ironic? But these very people would break the Law in order to preserve the Law. Ironic, isn’t it? And these very people, those ones so concerned about Jesus’ academic credentials were ready to kill him because he did on the Sabbath to a whole man what they did on the Sabbath to one part, that is, healed. He calls them on it: "Now if a child can be circumcised on the Sabbath so that the law of Moses may not be broken, why are you angry with me for healing the whole man on the Sabbath?" He tells them in no uncertain terms that they are hypocrites unable to make a correct judgment. Ironic, isn’t it, that the most learned among us have the most trouble grasping the most obvious truths?

I read the following statement at an on-line forum:

After taking 5 organic chemistry courses I could envision the chemical proceses (sic.) needed to make organic life without God's help. Isn't the reason a high percentage of scientist are atheist because they have leaned a lot more that the average person? Many scientist still believe in God for emotional reasons, or to fit in a society that considers non-believers immoral. It takes knowledge, intelligence, and a bit of imagination to understand evolution. But to "understand" God all it takes is blind faith. (, religion forum)

I think this was the problem with those who intellectually accosted Jesus that day. They were interested in information, not transformation. Jesus did not come to this earth to dispense information like a Pez-dispenser dispenses candy. Jesus came to this earth and revealed God both in his person and in his preaching. And thus they were offended at him, at his teaching, and at his credentials. I guess they thought that because he didn’t sit at their feet and study that they had a monopoly on teachers and what could be taught by those teachers. This is yet another of those instances when the brilliance of God simply overwhelms me: It is precisely because it is from God that I cling to it. It is precisely because no man can lay claim to it that it is overpowering. "If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own." It is the very fact of what Jesus said, the manner he said it, and the ones he said it to that persuades me that He is who He said He is.

Is it too simplistic to say: You will never know unless and until you taste and see? The gaining of all the wisdom in the world is absolutely meaningless if it doesn't make us wise unto salvation in Christ. Jesus was not anti-intellectual but neither did he see the point of learning for learning's sake.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

90 Days with Jesus, Day 30: John 7:10-15: What Are People Saying About Jesus?

John 7:10-15

10However, after his brothers had left for the Feast, he went also, not publicly, but in secret. 11Now at the Feast the Jews were watching for him and asking, "Where is that man?" 12Among the crowds there was widespread whispering about him. Some said, "He is a good man." Others replied, "No, he deceives the people." 13But no one would say anything publicly about him for fear of the Jews. 14Not until halfway through the Feast did Jesus go up to the temple courts and begin to teach. 15The Jews were amazed and asked, "How did this man get such learning without having studied?"

I wonder if you see the same things in John’s Gospel that I see? Do you see parallels with our world? Do you see similarities between their culture and ours? Seriously, take away all the plastic gizmos and electronic hickamagiggies and really tall buildings and you are left with the same thing as existed in Jesus’ day. There are still people and as long as there are people, nothing will ever really change. Frankly, I’m kind of tired of the whole thing. Every time I read the paper or the scan the Internet I am bombarded with the dregs of society, the scandal of the politicians, the mischievousness of Hollywood, and the downright stupidity of sinners. There’s a new way to sin invented every single day.

Jesus refused to go to Jerusalem during the feast in order to gain popularity. Bruce wrote, ‘Jesus’ going up to Jerusalem ‘as it were in secret’ is in marked contrast to his brothers’ insistence that he should court publicity’ (173). Really it is quite astounding that Jesus has no inclination to go up in order to make a spectacle, or to parade around for applause, or to play the monkey to his organ-grinder brothers. Jesus is shown here as one who moves according to His time schedule and no one else’s. Again, Bruce, ‘The evangelist’s point is rather that the whole incident marks his steadfast resolution not to run before the Father’s guidance nor lag behind it’ (173).

When he finally arrives in Jerusalem, it is to no fanfare, no trumpet blasts or PA announcement or Monday Night Football commentary. He arrives in secret and doesn’t even go up to the temple until half-way through the Feast. When he did go up, it was to teach. Then people could only find some reason to snarl about him, ‘How did he get such learning without having studied?’ (Solomon wrote, "…much study wearies the body" (Ecclesiastes 12:12).)

These verses we are looking at today are filled with people’s objections to Jesus. The first objection is that he doesn’t appear on other people’s time schedules, "Where is that man?" In other words, he should be here now. We demand he appear before us. We demand that he make his appearance. We demand…we demand…we demand…some folks get done doing nothing but making demands of Jesus. Some folks get done doing nothing with Jesus but wondering why he is not moving according to their wishes. "Where is that man?" they ask in a snarl of anger and not a little hubris. But I suppose we have a right to demand Jesus appear when we want him to, don’t we?

Then some folks say, ‘He is a good man.’ But I don’t put much stock in folks who say this either. It was all whispering, a hush-hush affair. People didn’t want to say anything, good or bad, about Jesus for ‘fear of the Jews.’ So I don’t put much stock in folks who are willing to whisper niceties about Jesus but are not willing to make any sort of public declaration about Him. What good is whispering when Jesus said that we are to be like Lights shining in dark places, cities on hills, shouting from the rooftops the things said in secret? What place is there for us to be ashamed of the Gospel? What good is a good man if no one is willing to stand up for him, talk about him, or share him with others? What good is a good man if all those who know he is good live in fear of what others might say or do? Nah. I’ve got no use for Messiah whisperers even if they say the right things.

Then some complain about Jesus and say, ‘No, he deceives the people.’ Oh, just imagine that! This was a trick of those others who did not like Jesus. They thought his only ambition was to subvert the lower classes of people, you know, those without education, those who don’t know better. Professor Bruce instructs us again, "…others maintained that his deeds of mercy and power were simply a smokescreen to cover his real intentions: he was actually an impostor, claiming to be what he was not, and thus misleading the common people" (174). There are plenty of folks running around the world right now claiming very similar things about Jesus.You know one of the greatest perpetrators of this accusation: Dan Brown, author of the best-selling book The D* V**** C***. The whole premise to the book is that Jesus is not who he claimed to be, and that his disciples have gone out of their way to cover up the ‘truth’ about him. Same claim; different time.

Then there were those who complained about his level of education: ‘How did this man get such learning without having studied?’ This objection Jesus answers: "My teaching is not my own. It comes from him who sent me. If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own." It’s like Jesus can tolerate all other objections and complaints but he will not sit quietly by while people malign the Word of God. It is this objection that Jesus answers—perhaps because it carries the most weight. Perhaps it is because, as he has said and will say again, that rejection of his teaching is ultimately a rejection of God who sent him.

What is more amazing is that Jesus is being talked about even when he wasn’t around. People were saying all sorts of things about him that were either not true or only half-true (which means they were lies too). People had very little understanding of what he was, who he was, what he was doing. So later he tells them, ‘Yes, you know me, and you know where I’m from. I am not here on my own, but he who sent me is true. You do not know him because I am from him and he sent me’ (28-29). If you want to know the Father, you have to know me—but they did not want to listen to the things Jesus was saying.

We demand of Jesus. We are silent about Jesus. We falsely accuse Jesus. We reject his teaching because he has no recognizable pedigree. Nothing in the world changes. People are no different today than they were in Jesus’ day. I wonder when people will start getting it? If the Scripture is true, and I believe it is, there are a lot of people who are on the wide road that leads to eternal damnation. If Jesus was indeed telling the truth and He alone is the Only Straight and Narrow Path to God, then there are a lot of people already frustrated by God’s judgment. What are people around you whispering about Jesus? What are they saying? Better, are you prepared to talk to them and ‘set the record straight’? Are you prepared with an answer? Can you speak intelligently about the Messiah? The right information is useless if you keep it inside and to yourself.

I hope your 30th Day with Jesus is Beyond Measure!

Soli Deo Gloria!

90 Days with Jesus, Day 29: John 7:1-9: His Time, not ours

John 7:1-9

1 After this, Jesus went around in Galilee. He did not want to go about in Judea because the Jewish leaders there were looking for a way to kill him. 2 But when the Jewish Festival of Tabernacles was near, 3 Jesus' brothers said to him, "Leave Galilee and go to Judea, so that your disciples there may see the works you do. 4 No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world." 5 For even his own brothers did not believe in him. 6 Therefore Jesus told them, "My time is not yet here; for you any time will do. 7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that its works are evil. 8 You go to the Festival. I am not going up to this Festival, because my time has not yet fully come." 9 Having said this, he stayed in Galilee.

First, I must apologize that I am now so many days delinquent on my commitment to writing these meditations. For the two or three who actually read them, I am sorry. I had a rather long assignment to accomplish today. I will be at Church camp next week and I had to prepare lesson outlines for my teachers. That’s done. Now I’m prepared to do some writing for you, my loyal readers.

Second, if you are interested, I recently read an article in the June 24, 2007 issue of the Christian Standard about a church having difficulty in their ‘neighborhood’ ("God1, County 0") Well, needless to say, the article infuriated me. Sad thing is, I do not normally even read the Standard since it has become a hodge-podge of mega-church mania and money-making. It’s not about what it should be, but I’m not on the board of directors or a shareholder in the corporation that owns them, so I can only resort to writing letters to the editor. After reading the above article, I wrote a letter to the editor of the paper and, shock of all shocks, they actually published it at their website. You can access my letter, ‘Are you Kidding?’ here: It’s not a pleasant letter and it has stirred debate at in the forum section. You can access this ongoing debate over the worth of my letter at: Thanks for allowing me to advertise a bit. Perhaps later I shall have more to say about the article I responded to and about the nature of the letter I wrote, that is, what my main complaint was.


This is about priorities and about timing and about Jesus. Jesus had firmly decided he was not going to go up and put himself in a position where his life was going to be threatened. Only Jesus could determine the time of his death, not humans. So, since he knew they were plotting against him, he stayed away.

But his brothers persisted. They want him to go up since it was clear to them that ‘he wanted to be a public figure.’ Well, maybe they wanted him to be a public figure. Maybe they were chiding him a bit. They had their reasons. Maybe they really wanted to know who he was and what he was about—they didn’t believe him after all. They wanted him to show himself to the world, since he was ‘doing these things.’ But Jesus again would have none of it. And it is here that I shall make my points for this meditation.

First, he said that it was not his time yet and for us any time will do. He was in control of his time schedule and he was not about to be moved or persuaded to move against that time schedule just because the people around him were anxious for him to do so. He wasn’t interested in making a public show, in a public place, for reasons of mere publicity. That is, becoming a public figure was not his ambition. Romans says he died in the fullness of time. I’m sort a literalist on this matter: I believe he died at precisely the moment in time when he was supposed to, not a minute too soon, not a minute too late. His timing was impeccable and—better—in perfect accord with God’s will.

I think this teaches us about our time too in that maybe our timing still isn’t God’s timing. Perhaps it is true that for us anytime will still do. We are not so picky about when things get done so long as they gone done now, on our time schedule. We’re not long on patience and perseverance and endurance. We’re built for the short run, not the long obedience in the same direction. People have even sung songs about, "It’s better to burn out, than to fade away."
Second, he says that the world cannot hate us, but it does hate Him. And why? Because he testifies that what the world does is evil. This is clearly (one aspect of) what sets Jesus apart: He does not side with the ways of this world. He does not applaud the world. He does not go the world’s way. And because of it, the world hates him. You ever wonder why so many people in this world absolutely despise the Christ of God? It is precisely for this reason: Jesus properly preached and lived still testifies against the world and the world’s evil. That’s right. The Jesus of Scripture still has no affection for the sin of this world or the people who perpetuate that sin. There’s very little, if any, love the sinner hate the sin. They are inseparable as far as Scripture is concerned.

Jesus shows us, by not going to the Festival when his brothers asked him to that he is not here to serve our purposes and our time. Our motivations for him are not nearly what his motivations are for himself. He eventually became a public figure, but not because he went up the Festival. He became a public figure, he drew (draws!) all men (people) unto himself in the cross (See John 12). This too is the primary manner in which Jesus testifies against the world. In his cross is not only salvation but judgment. He levels this against the world and testifies against our sin by dying for it.

There seems to be very little offense to Jesus any more. With the exception of Islamists and the Hindus I have mentioned in other posts, the world is in deep love with Jesus. Unfortunately, it is the Jesus of Forbes 500 and not the Jesus of Scripture. The Jesus of Scripture is radically counter-cultural. The Jesus of Scripture is manifestly opposed to the wickedness of this world. The Jesus of Scripture is not moved by our agendas or schedules. The Jesus of Scripture is cross-driven and commands that his disciples be cross-driven too. There is no way to escape this life that Jesus calls us to. Further, why does the world love the church? Is it because the church has refused to testify that what the world does is evil? Is it because the church has become a haven not for the repentant but for the delinquent who are in need of God’s love apart from God’s judgment? PT Forsyth wrote, "If we spoke less about Gods’ love and more about His holiness, more about His judgment, we should say much more when we did speak of His love" (The Cruciality of the Cross, 73).

I mentioned an article above. The article is the story about a church in Colorado. The church is fighting, kicking, screaming in court, in the papers, in their community because the local commissioners will not let the church expand their building to accommodate children who want to ‘dance and groove to contemporary Christian music.’ The gist of the letter I wrote to the Standard is that I don’t fee sorry for the congregation in the least (and that the Standard was profoundly wrong to publish the essay). They (the church) are not being persecuted. They are not martyrs. They are not being told by the commissioners of the county not to speak in the Name of Jesus. They are being told they can’t build a bigger building. Now, if those county commissioners ever decided in the future that this church can’t preach the Gospel, if they ever tried to close the doors because the church was preaching against sin, or announcing God’s judgment on those without Christ, or talking about a Crucified Lord Jesus—well, then I might be concerned for the church. It’s a matter of priorities. Right now that church has, from all outward appearances (and I grant that I am not living there to hear the sermons each week), a messed up set of priorities--this whole building things stinks because it is a diversion. They want us to feel sorry for them, to chastise the commissioners with cries of 'that's illegal' and 'persecution,' all sorts of other blah, blah. But I submit to you that if the church (not just Colorado, but in the entire world) actually preached what Scripture says about Jesus, and what Jesus says about this world, the church would be far less liked, far less tolerated, and have far fewer buildings at all. There wouldn't be fighting over a building expansion; they'd be fighting for their very lives like Christians are doing in the Middle East and elsewhere. Then we would see if we are on the crucified & resurrected Jesus’ side, serving His purposes, in His time, or if we just want to set Him up as some public figure, on our time schedule, for our purpose.

My contention is that it cannot be both ways.