John 8:12 The Light Of The World

John 8:12
The Light Of The World
The Light Of The World

John 8:12 MKJV   Then Jesus spoke again to them, saying, I am the Light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.

Jesus has truly been the “light of the world” and everyone from Ghandi to Lincoln to Mother Teresa has walked by His light. No teacher other than Jesus is so highly regarded as worthy, and even Mohammed said that Jesus was the only perfect person who ever lived.

The teachings of Jesus are often lauded as a “high moral ethic” however they also constitute the pathway to eternal life! The words of Jesus are ‘spirit and are life”: John 6:63 MKJV   It is the Spirit that makes alive, the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit and are life.

Those that follow Jesus are not morally and spiritually ignorant, they do not walk “in darkness” and confusion about life, and they do not stumble in their walk with God but abide in a teaching that is certain and is true.

The teachings of Jesus purge us inwardly of hatred, unforgiveness, hypocrisy, worldliness and carnality. His teachings uproot sin from within us and thus we are made into a people of a pure heart and a loving disposition – by the Holy Spirit.

Obedience is the key to knowing the Light for it is “He who follows Me” that attains the light – not just those who “have opinions about Me”. John 7:17 MKJV   If anyone desires to do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it is of God, or I speak from Myself.

The reverse is also true, not only does obedience lead to truth - but sin leads to error. Heresy often begins as an attempt to justify a most-cherished sin – such as greed or homosexuality or fornication. Thus certain verses have to be “re-interpreted” and the light is lost as Jesus is disobeyed.

But what is the practical use of being enlightened? Surely money and sex are far more useful and enjoyable than mere enlightenment? What use is knowing the Truth and living in the light if it is a poor and joyless existence? These are the sort of questions people ask when they look at the sacrificial lives of certain Christians. People associate enlightenment with Yoda in Star Wars and Ghandi and Buddha and rightly conclude it is weird and ascetic and “not for them”.

However Christian enlightenment is not about astral travel or states of being. It is the simple certainty that God loves you. This holy certainty irradiates all of life, removes all confusion and anxiety and makes sense of both world history and everyday life – including our own identity. God’s love directs our actions and ensures their rightness and appropriateness and gives us a solid grounded-ness as an individual human being.

The enlightenment Jesus brings enables you to truly know who you are, and that who you are is already accepted in God, without any need for striving or change (though, paradoxically change will come as we realize that we do not have to change in order to be loved.)

The acceptance by God is prior to the changes God makes. This is much like marriage, where the love in the relationship enables us to go about the necessary changes. We marry first, and change later. We are loved by God first and get sanctified later on.

Without the light that Jesus brings our lives will slowly but surely become discordant and maladaptive, we will not understand our actions or ourselves and we will search for love and acceptance in ways that are ultimately self-destructive. Without God’s enlightenment we can end up like the Hollywood actors, or Princess Diana, outwardly blessed but inwardly a complete mess. Money, sex and power cannot bring about inner congruence or self-understanding.  Only the love of God, found in the face of Jesus Christ, can do that.

Psychoanalysis can bring flashes and insights but it cannot bring salvation, analysis is like the light of a firefly – compared to the light of the Sun. For salvation is in realizing you are in a safe Universe, were you are loved by the Creator Himself and that you are an eternal being who will never cease to exist or stop enjoying His life and His love.

Jesus is the true light of life and no other source of “light” can do – not Einstein nor Buddha nor Oprah Winfrey nor Dr. Phil. This is not to say that what these people say is not useful or good, it is simply not adequate when faced with the twin problems of sin and death. We need the cross to put our mess to death, and to completely forgive it and forget it - not just to rearrange it or understand its childhood origins. As Paul wrote:

1 Corinthians 1:18-25 MKJV  (18) For the preaching of the cross is foolishness to those being lost, but to us being saved, it is the power of God.  (19) For it is written, "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and I will set aside the understanding of the perceiving ones."  (20) Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the lawyer of this world? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?  (21) For since, in the wisdom of God, the world by wisdom did not know God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save those who believe.  (22) For the Jews ask for a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom;  (23) but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block, and to the Greeks foolishness.  (24) But to them, the called-out ones, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God.  (25) Because the foolish thing of God is wiser than men, and the weak thing of God is stronger than men.

All the equations in all the physics books in the world, and all the teachings of the great philosophers cannot make sense of your existence the way the love of God in Christ can.

John 8:1-11 The Woman Caught In Adultery

John 8:1-11
The Woman Caught In Adultery
The Woman Caught In Adultery

John 8:1-11 MKJV   But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.  (2) And early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him. And He sat down and taught them.  (3) And the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman taken in adultery. And standing her in the midst,  (4) they said to Him, Teacher, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.  (5) Now Moses in the Law commanded us that such should be stoned. You, then, what do you say?  (6) They said this, tempting Him so that they might have reason to accuse Him. But bending down, Jesus wrote on the ground with His finger, not appearing to hear.  (7) But as they continued to ask Him, He lifted Himself up and said to them, He who is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone at her.  (8) And again bending down, He wrote on the ground.  (9) And hearing, and being convicted by conscience, they went out one by one, beginning at the oldest, until the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.  (10) And bending back up, and seeing no one but the woman, Jesus said to her, Woman, where are the ones who accused you? Did not one give judgment against you?  (11) And she said, No one, Lord. And Jesus said to her, neither do I give judgment. Go, and sin no more.

Today’s verses are absent from some major manuscripts but ancient authors attest to their truthfulness and say that they are to be included. These verses ring with the authenticity of Jesus’ actions and as such have always had a prominent place in Christian teaching.

Jesus does not criticize the Law, which is holy and just and good (Romans 7:12) nor does He justify the woman, in fact Jesus tells her plainly to stop sinning. So these verses do not countenance “antinomianism” – which is the utter disregard and disrespect of law. Rather Jesus reinforces the idea that there are absolute standards and that God’s commandments should always be obeyed.

Christian faith and God’s grace are not licenses to sin. Instead grace is given to help us become holy. Jesus did not approve of her sin but rather gave this woman a chance to get her life together at last.

Chapter seven of John was about the Feast of Tabernacles which was a very festive time, when everyone lived in ‘booths” and in this easy-going holiday atmosphere casual sexual relationships were not unknown. This woman was simply unfortunate enough to be caught in the act.

“Early in the morning” (v. 2) – Jesus was a diligent teacher and was at His post from first light, ready to teach all who might enquire.

“And He sat down and taught them” – Jesus seems always to teach from a seated position, not from a high pulpit. Gill’s commentary on Matthew 5:1 where Jesus sits to deliver the Sermon On The Mount is interesting:

and when he was set: not for rest, but in order to teach; for sitting was the posture of masters, or teachers, see Matthew 13:2 Luke 4:20. The form in which the master and his disciples sat is thus described by Maimonides (z).

"The master sits at the head, or in the chief place, and the disciples before him in a circuit, like a crown; so that they all see the master, and hear his words; and the master may not sit upon a seat, and the scholars upon the ground; but either all upon the earth, or upon seats: indeed from the beginning, or formerly, "the master used to sit", and the disciples stand; but before the destruction of the second temple, all used to teach their disciples as they were sitting.''

With respect to this latter custom, the Talmudists say (a), that: "from the days of Moses, to Rabban Gamaliel (the master of the Apostle Paul), they did not learn the law, unless standing; after Rabban Gamaliel died, sickness came into the world, and they learnt the law sitting: hence it is a tradition, that after Rabban Gamaliel died, the glory of the law ceased.'' 

Teaching from a sitting position may just be Jewish culture but it has many advantages - not least of which is that it minimizes “stage theatre”. The emphasis falls on the Word and not on the “actor”.

The accusers swirl around the seated Rabbi (Jesus) and He just ignores them, writing on the ground. (v.6) Jesus knew they were trying to test Him and His legendary compassion. How could Jesus both have compassion and keep the Law? His clever answer “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone” stopped them in their tracks and “being convicted by conscience, they went out one by one, beginning at the oldest, until the last” - the older Jews being surer of their sinfulness.

The balance between compassion and justice is always being played out in the courts and in hiring and firing decisions. Are we “too soft’ or are we “draconian”? Where should the “line be”? There are innumerable good arguments on both sides. Jesus seems to see great value in giving the woman a chance for repentance. Jesus thinks “long-term” about the great value of a truly penitent soul. Sometimes we can get bogged down in the immediate circumstances and not think of what God can do in and through the person who has sinned.

Jesus never seems to be interested in accusing and condemning people, for He knows that the Devil and all his demons love to do that - along with many people. There is more than enough condemnation in the world, what Jesus wanted to do was bring salvation, to bring sinners to repentance and to seek and to save the lost.

The essence of Christianity is grace not law, and being constructive rather than being destructive. We should be eager to see sinners repent and far less eager to see them executed. A couple of verses from Ezekiel make God’s attitude clear on such things:

Ezekiel 18:23 MKJV   Do I actually delight in the death of the wicked? says the Lord Jehovah. Is it not that he should turn from his ways and live?

Ezekiel 33:11 MKJV   Say to them: As I live, says the Lord Jehovah, I have no delight in the death of the wicked, except in the turning of the wicked from his way, and so to live. Turn, turn from your evil ways; for why will you die, O house of Israel?

Vengeful, legalistic religion that is quick to judge and slow to forgive is the precise OPPOSITE of the attitude of God and of Jesus!

Matthew 5:7 MKJV   Blessed are the merciful! For they shall obtain mercy.

“And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.  And bending back up, and seeing no one but the woman, Jesus said to her, Woman, where are the ones who accused you? Did not one give judgment against you?  And she said, No one, Lord. And Jesus said to her, Neither do I give judgment. Go, and sin no more.”

It took two or three witnesses to give judgment in a death penalty case (Deuteronomy 17:6) and so Jesus was legally correct in letting the adulterous woman go, as all the other witnesses had fled in shame.

On Judgment Day all the accusations that we have flung against others will seem trivial in comparison with our own sin. No one who truly comes face to face with his or her own conscience can accuse anyone else of anything!

Does this mean that sin is not sin? Certainly not! While Jesus does not condemn her sin (Neither do I give judgment), neither does permit it. His last words to the woman were “go and sin no more”. Mercy simply gives us a renewed opportunity to become holy – which we should take very seriously indeed!

John 7:45-53 The Contention About Christ

John 7:45-53
The Contention About Christ

The Contention About Christ

John 7:45-53 MKJV   Then the officers came to the chief priests and Pharisees. And they said to them, why have you not brought him?  (46) The officers answered, never did any man speak, as does this Man.  (47) Then the Pharisees answered them, Also, have you not been deceived?  (48) Is it not true that not any of the rulers or of the Pharisees have believed into him?  (49) But this crowd, not knowing the Law, is cursed.  (50) Nicodemus said to them, (he who came to Jesus by night, being one of them),  (51) Does our law judge the Man before it hears Him and knows what He does?  (52) They answered and said to him, are you also from Galilee? Search the scriptures and see that a prophet has not been raised out of Galilee.  (53) And they each went to their own house.

The envious Pharisees have found their “theological point”: “He is from Galilee, the Christ is from Bethlehem, that settles it, for no prophet comes from Galilee”. They did not BOTHER to check out their statement! It suited them, and they stuck to it!

This reminds me of other such erroneous “devastating proofs” e.g. that being slain in the Spirit is demonic because all those who fell under the Spirit in Scripture fell forwards not backwards! Or that tongues is demonic because some Hindu group also speaks in tongues. By such logic prayer would be demonic because Hindus say prayers. Such “reasons” are pretexts, not proofs! In reality they are desperate defensive strategies called upon by those who feel threatened by the new move of God.

Denominations demonize each other by using these pretexts. Rarely will a Calvinist sympathetically check out Arminianism, or a Pentecostal genuinely try to understand a Southern Baptist or vice-versa. The perpetuation of foolish differences and spiritual ignorance comes about because of these “false proofs”. I once taught simultaneously at a Baptist seminary and a Assemblies of God seminary and said the same things in both places. I used the same textbooks (NIV Study Bible, Lion Handbook of Church History, Grudem’s Systematic Theology, etc.) in both places. The Baptists thought I was a good Baptist and the Pentecostals thought I was a good Pentecostal! The areas of agreement were in fact far greater than the areas of difference!

Nicodemus tries to get them to see reason and act justly according to the evidence but he is rudely rebuffed. People who feel threatened by change value their defense mechanisms and will not listen to pointed and obvious questions that challenge their unreasonable positions.

The temple guards come back empty-handed from trying to arrest Jesus and when asked why they had failed they answer: “Never did any man speak as does this Man” Jesus spoke with such grace and truth that they knew He was a good man, and not just a good man, but a Man beyond all others!

The Pharisees, if they had been reasonable God-fearing people, should have asked “What did Jesus say that was so good?’

Instead they said: “Also, have you not been deceived?  Is it not true that not any of the rulers or of the Pharisees have believed into him?”  In other words: “We are the elite, we are the people to be believed, you are too dumb to make up your own mind, and you certainly should not be believing that Galilean carpenter, you are deluded, none of “those that matter and are wise” believe such things!

This provoked Nicodemus to declare his colors as one being sympathetic to Jesus. It is impossible to be a secret believer for long because one day we will have to speak our mind on some issue and show that Christ is our all in all!

Ecclesiastical hierarchies are often under the delusion that they are the theological elite who determines what “the unwashed and ignorant masses” (“But this crowd, not knowing the Law, is cursed.”) should or should not believe about God. This position of commanding authority with regard to belief has been greatly undermined by the: 
a) printing press making the Bible widely available
b) universal literacy and widespread tertiary education

c) Translations of the Bible into the vernacular
d) excellent commentaries that are readily accessible to the layperson

e) Recent wealth of theological material and discussion on the Internet
f) Most seriously, the blatant differences and contradictions among the “experts”.
Now the ordinary person has all the tools they require to do their own searching and to arrive at their own conclusions about God independent of the ecclesiastical authorities.

The best that bible teachers can do now is to invite people to the Scriptures and point people to God, and let them arrive at their own conclusions. We are no longer the “gurus” at the top of the pyramid of theological belief – and that is a good thing. 

Saying that ecclesiastical hierarchies no longer control what people should and should not believe about God, is NOT the same as saying anyone can believe anything they like. Beliefs about God need to be accurate and to be based on the facts, which include Scripture ably, interpreted with the aid of language aids and archaeology and other such helps. There is not much “wiggle room”, we cannot play fast and loose with the incarnation, the cross, the resurrection or the Trinity for example.

The Reformers spoke of the perspicacity of scripture, which meant that any ordinary Spirit-filled and guided Christian believer would find the main doctrines of Scripture to be perfectly clear with diligent effort. This was meant to combat clericalism, the restriction of Scriptural interpretation to Roman Catholic clergy. We have to walk a fine line between abdication and anarchy. When we abdicate we hand over bible interpretation to so-called “experts”, when we choose anarchy we hand it over to speculative nonsense. BTW I thoroughly recommend Douglas and Fee’s excellent book “How To Read The Bible For All Its Worth” which is available at most good Christian bookstores.

We cannot let elitist clerics arrogantly dictate our beliefs, neither can we let whimsy and fashion and the mood of the moment dictate them. They must be carefully based on evidence (does our law judge the Man before it hears Him and knows what He does?) and also, weighed up under God by the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

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