THE GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM

THE GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM 
by Barry Henning, Pastor of New City Fellowship in St. Louis


What is the "Gospel of the kingdom"? It is the good news that God, in his great love, has come to redeem a people for himself, through the work of Jesus Christ, who will be set free from their bondage to sin and enabled through the gift of his Spirit to become a people of justice, mercy and a humble walk with God. We announce the Gospel of the kingdom just like Jesus did - by doing justice and preaching grace.

"Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom...." -Matthew 4:23

"For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ." -Acts 28:30-31

"For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins" -Colossians 1:13, 14

"To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father - to him be the glory and power for ever and ever! Amen." -Revelation 1:5,6



I. God's Zeal for His Kingdom Reign on Earth


            What is the kingdom of God? A "kingdom" is a "king's domain"; a place ruled by a king.    God's kingdom is the place of his rule. However, it is not tied to a particular geographic      location. His place of rule is in our hearts (Luke 17:21). One of the ways God's purpose for       our lives is summed up is by this phrase: "seek first God's kingdom and his righteousness"            (Matthew 6:33).


            Are there core values of the kingdom of God? What kind of "rule and reign" does God intend      to exercise over us? What does it look like to make seeking "his kingdom" the priority of our       lives?

            The central, defining, core values of God's kingdom are summed up for us in Micah 6:8       "He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To      act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."

            The core activities that God himself describes as the fulfillment of this lifestyle include:

            To act justly:
      To make sure you personally treat others with all goodness, rightness and justice in every         situation of life- as a merchant (Lev 19:36), an employer (James 5:4,5), a spouse       (Ephesians 5), a parent (Eph 5), a citizen (Romans 11), a homeowner (Deut. 22:8)
      But also to take an active role in helping others when you see them being treated them          with injustice. In other words, to do whatever good we can for those who are being         oppressed. (Isaiah 58:10)

      Those most vulnerable to injustice and to whom we are called to pay special attention are          the       widow, the orphan, the immigrant and the poor. (Jer.22:16; Jas 1:27; Lev19:10,          33,34; Exodus 23:9 ) 



To love mercy:

To be the kind of person who delights in showing compassion for people in need - when we          see people in pain, distress or misery, to step in and take action to relieve their need.

This applies to all kinds of need- but God calls us to pay attention to obvious physical need: hunger, shelter, clothing, sickness. (I John 3 , Luke 10, Isa 58) What is so unusual about God's mercy, is that it comes from a God of grace: we extend such help even to people        who are unworthy or, who deserve just the opposite; we even show mercy to our enemies.(Matthew 5:43 ff, Romans 12:17)


To walk humbly with our God:
           
      We will not pursue this lifestyle from a position of arrogance, superiority or       condescension, but from a humble walk with God. A humility that trusts God to do His            will, His way - no matter what others may think, Satan may say, or our own hearts may            speak; a humility that means we will not rely on human sources of strength, but on the           Spirit's power, (Zechariah 4:6) even boasting in our weakness (2 Cor 12:9ff) .

That humility will stem first from seeing our own need for, and reception of God's mercy and favor in our lives through the Gospel, so that, the deeds of justice and compassion will not be marked by a motivation of making ourselves feel good or important, but they will be     done as a true expression of the love of God, with careful concern for the person's true need,    and "quietly" - without drawing a lot of attention to ourselves (Isa 42:1-4).

      These three traits of justice, mercy and humility are at the heart of God's character. As children of his kingdom, all his discipline, love, care and promises will be bent towards     shaping our lives as people who are marked by these traits. They are God's summarized          definition of what he means whenever he uses the word "righteousness". The       outworking of these issues defines the significance and direction of every other issue for             the children of the kingdom- whether its loving your spouse, raising your children,         working at your job or loving your neighbor- the one next door, the one on your way to           work, or the one on the other side of the world.


In order to keep maturing as the body of Christ we need to understand more fully where God is taking us through the trials and discipline he brings into our lives as his children. Those     whom the Lord loves, he disciplines (Hebrews 12:5-11). That discipline is taking us to a     "harvest of righteousness" produced by a solid, unshakeable faith in the Gospel. The "righteousness" the author of Hebrews refers to is this justice, mercy and humility that we see God calling for in the book of Isaiah. God did not have one plan for his people in the Old             Testament and a different one now. What is different is the full, completed work and          revelation of the Gospel in Jesus Christ that deepens and expands our freedom to fulfill this             work of God.

            Another part of our maturing together as God's people is deepening in our understanding of         what the Lord's will is. Paul says:


"For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins." -Colossians 1:9-14

            The more we look at the nature of God's righteousness and the kind of people he is calling us        to be, the more we have a deep sense of our need for the grace of God and the work of Christ      in our lives as the only source of our hope. God's desire in maturing us is not, however, to bring us to the point of seeing our need, have us run to the Gospel, receive God's free mercy       and love and then say, "Ah, I am free," and stop there.


            Paul says: "You my brothers were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge                        the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single           command: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" Galatians 5:13,14


II. The Message and Means of the Gospel: God's Answer for Our Transformation

            Isaiah's Gospel Proclamation: God's Grace through Jesus Christ

            How do we change from being sinners (not living a life of justice, mercy and humble            walking with God) to becoming God's glorious, holy people who reflect God's character and    live out the kind of life he has called us to?

            God's amazing answer: to become a people who love, we can only start and continue in that process if we continually receive God's justice, mercy and grace as a free gift through faith in           the work of "The Suffering Servant", Jesus Christ, on our behalf. The way into the kingdom             of God is itself the greatest demonstration of God's justice, mercy and humility: Jesus Christ      takes our sin upon himself, grants us the gift of his righteousness as our covering and he            presents us to the Father as his "brothers", "sons of the living God"- justice, mercy and God's humility meet us at each of these points.

            So then, we are not called to look to our own resources to become such a people of God. As a        matter of fact, Paul tells us plainly: "What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not             pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; but Israel, who         pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it. Why not? Because they pursued it not by          faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the 'stumbling stone.' As it is written:

'See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.'" Romans 9:30-33


"Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they might be saved. For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness. Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes." Romans 10:1-4



John 7:16-18 True Doctrine

John 7:16-18
True Doctrine


John 7:16-18 MKJV   Jesus answered them and said, My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me.  (17) If anyone desires to do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it is of God, or I speak from Myself.  (18) He who speaks of himself seeks his own glory, but he who seeks the glory of Him who sent Him is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him.

Each of the three verses we are considering today contains a world of truth! These three verses are of great utility when it comes to assessing the various truth claims of various Christian spiritual teachers.

v. 16 - Jesus answered them and said, My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me.

Jesus had great reverence for Truth that lay beyond Himself, beyond His own thoughts, and beyond His human cognitive processes. He did not “make things up” for the sake of novelty, or to impress people but rather received and spoke eternal truth to which He also submitted.

Having a holy reverence for established truth and a humble regard for one’s own intellectual powers is the mark of a true teacher. A certain televangelist a few years ago said the ‘anointing” told him there were nine gods, a trinity of the Father, a trinity of the Son and a trinity of the Holy Spirit! Fortunately he was promptly rebuked my many and made to submit to doctrinal correction. We cannot play fast-and-loose with the Scriptures and with the fundamentals of the faith.

Those who seek to establish “new” approaches to Christian truth mainly end up in the wilderness or in heresy. You simply CANNOT redefine morality to make it more acceptable to some elements of the media. We are not allowed to have personal doctrines of our own idiosyncratic construction – though we may indeed explore the Word, but should we find something we think is new, we should cautiously bring it to light before others and see how it fits with other Scriptures and the main doctrines of the faith.

The apostle Peter puts it this way: 2 Peter 1:20-21 ASV knowing this first, that no prophesy of scripture is of private interpretation.  (21) For no prophecy ever came by the will of man: but men spoke from God, being moved by the Holy Spirit.

In other words we cannot just cook up our own private doctrines must wait on God, who generally will also reveal the same truth to others also. If Jesus did not make up His own theology – but instead listened to the voice of the Spirit, then surely we should also! Humility before God, and listening reverently to and for eternal truth, rather than always trying to invent new things, is the mark of the true Christian teacher.

v. 17 - If anyone desires to do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it is of God, or I speak from Myself. 

This verse tells us that the first step in finding out the Truth is being wiling to obey it and live it!  God does not give Truth to us for us to write a thesis about, or to admire, or for the sake of intellectual curiosity. Truth is to be lived.

If we really want to follow God, and do His will, then we will be properly aligned with God the Holy Spirit, who will empower us and give us wisdom and discernment so that we will be able to know “of the doctrine, whether it is of God”.  By contrast, disobedient people will go astray, because if they do hear the truth, they will just disregard it.

v. 18 - He who speaks of himself seeks his own glory, but he who seeks the glory of Him who sent Him is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him.

People who are always cooking up new teachings are basically vain – and seeking their own glory and their own theological significance. The urge to “say something new so I can get my book/paper published” is very strong in academic circles. Some of these theological innovations are simply horrendous attempts at self-glory with little regards for the facts or the consequences – the Da Vinci Code being a case in point. I have just finished reading a book that claims to totally reinvent religion and philosophy – of course it just falls into more than a dozen old errors!

But someone who is carefully seeking the “true Truth’ and the glory of God, and diligently seeking to find out ‘what is really so” rather than chasing the latest ideas of men, is truly a good person. As Jesus said such a person: are true, and no unrighteousness is in Him.

Arriving at Truth is always a slow, humble process involving great reverence and caution. Scientists take a dozen years to find out one small set of facts about a drug combination or the ecology of a certain species. Theological truth is certainly no easier to come by. The mark of a good teacher of the Word is a deep and prayerful reverence for the text and a love of the facts – even if those facts are difficult, socially unacceptable or “traditional and boring”.

Just as a physicist does not make up the laws of physics that he or she personally prefers – but simply discovers those that are actually in existence, so we cannot make up spiritual laws just because we like them, but must humbly and obediently seek to find out those spiritual laws that are real and are true.


John 7:11-15 The Untaught Teacher

John 7:11-15
The Untaught Teacher


John 7:11-15 MKJV   Then the Jews sought Him at the feast and said, Where is He?  (12) And there was much murmuring among the crowd concerning Him, for some said, He is a good man; others said, No, but he deceives the crowd.  (13) However, no one spoke openly of Him, because of the fear of the Jews.  (14) Now about the middle of the feast, Jesus went up into the temple and taught.  (15) And the Jews marveled, saying, how does this man know letters, not being taught?

Jesus moves into an atmosphere of such hostility that He is literally “unmentionable” - However, no one spoke openly of Him, because of the fear of the Jews. Now obviously everyone at the feast was an Israelite – so the group they were afraid of was not their own Jewish race but rather the elite Judean hierarchy – who John calls “the Jews”.

“Now about the middle of the feast, Jesus went up into the temple and taught.  (15) And the Jews marveled, saying, How does this man know letters, not being taught?” About the middle of the feast – that is on the third or fourth day, Jesus goes up into the temple and starts teaching. He was not a learned professor – just a carpenter from Galilee, who knew His stuff” and startled the crowds so that they said, “How does this man know letters, not being taught?”

Jesus was certainly literate, could quote Deuteronomy and other Scriptures from the Greek Septuagint, and writes in the sand in John 8 - but He was not formally “lettered” or qualified in an academic sense. “The marvel was that Jesus showed Himself familiar with the literary methods of the time, which were supposed to be confined to the scholars of the popular teachers” (Westcott).

Wisdom and education do not necessarily oppose one another, but are actually independent of one another. This was brought home to me when I went to Papua New Guinea and found some very wise and godly church elders in tribal areas, with minimal education and little “formal theology” but a wonderful grasp of Christ and well-worn Bibles. Revelations through dreams and visions were so common as to be considered quite normative. They were quite literally “taught of God”.  It is not a mastery of Greek verbs that makes a saint, but the ability to hear from God in the spirit.

Many an erudite person seems to have a poor marriage or goes off on foolish tangents – because their human spirit is unbalanced and they simply do not hear aright from God!

I am all in favor of a good education – and so is the Bible, but unless the spirit is right, all the education in the world will not form Christ in a human being.  When the spirit is wounded or inflated, or dull or puffed up and proud, or obstinate and unbelieving no amount of education can help. Many skeptical liberal scholars, with brilliant minds, are unable to hear God correctly, because they are spiritually out-of-tune.

Jesus however was perfectly in tune with God and saw life with utter clarity and transparency. John often emphasizes this direct reception of knowledge from God via the Holy Spirit:

John 6:45 MKJV   It is written in the Prophets, "And they shall all be taught of God." Therefore everyone who hears and learns from the Father comes to Me.

1 John 2:27 MKJV   But the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as His anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true and no lie, and as He has taught you, abide in Him.

(See also John 14:26, 1 John 2:20, 1 Corinthians 2:10-16, Hebrews 8:10,11, Isaiah 28:23-29 etc.)

Jesus was not taught by man - but by God, who instructs us in the inner man, via our conscience and forms beliefs that are true within us. After Adam fell the human mind became darkened and it is only God who can bring the light that helps us to see things properly. Fallen minds reason in their fleshly self-interest and thus often oppose God and are hostile to Him. The fallen mind rationalizes far more than it reasons - and finds countless excuses for sin, greed, enmity and immorality.

People who pursue peace find the biggest obstacle to peace is in their own minds – their own fears, prejudices, excuses, wrong beliefs and insecurities. It is only as we follow Christ and listen to God that we begin to see through ourselves and our peer-group programming that is deep within us. As we are taught of God we are released from racial hatreds, envy, strife, contention and the love of money. God teaches us to have different attitudes – beatitudes! Only Christ can teach a Jew to love an Arab, or an Irish Protestant to love a Catholic.

Light is the test of true learning - and love is the test of how much light we have!

1 John 2:9-10 MKJV   He who says he is in the light and hates his brother is in darkness until now.  (10) He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no offense in him.

Those taught of God have a different attitude – an attitude of love that is without hatred, rancor and strife - while those merely taught by man are frequently argumentative and full of strife. A preacher can have a D. Min. and write academic papers but if that preacher is full of ethnic hatred, or bitter resentment, then he or she is still in darkness! Which is why Paul writes:

1 Corinthians 8:1-3 MKJV  (1) But concerning the sacrifices to idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies.  (2) And if any man thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know.  (3) But if any one loves God, he has been known of him.

To sum up: We need both human knowledge (of cars and computers) and also the divine attitudes and wisdom that comes from being taught by God. Knowledge without love and light can be hateful and deadly. The world needs people who are taught by God – and they will be our real teachers. The sign that someone has been taught by God is an unusual level of wisdom, love and spiritual light. Hatred is a sure sign that someone has not been taught by God - and that person is still in darkness. Thus the hostile, hateful Jewish experts of the Law were in darkness while the “unlettered” carpenter from Nazareth, who was full of love and wisdom, was the One taught by God.





John 7:2-10 Jesus’ Unbelieving Brothers

John 7:2-10
Jesus’ Unbelieving Brothers


John 7:2-10 MKJV   And the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles was near.  (3) Therefore His brothers said to Him, Move away from here and go into Judea, so that Your disciples also may see the works that You do.  (4) For no one does anything in secret, while he himself seeks to be in public. If you do these things, reveal yourself to the world.  (5) For His brothers did not believe in Him.  (6) Then Jesus said to them, My time has not yet come, but your time is always ready.  (7) The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it, that its works are evil.  (8) You go up to this feast; I am not yet going up to this feast; for My time is not yet fulfilled.  (9) And having said these things to them, He remained in Galilee.  (10) But when His brothers had gone up, then He also went up to the feast, not openly, but as in secret.

The Feast of Tabernacles or “Feast of Booths was the “Jewish camping feast” (Goodenough) at the end of the harvest season and went for seven and after the exile for eight days, with people living in tents and in booths made of wicker branches. It was of such social significance that it was simply often called “The Feast”. Sociologically it was not unlike the Christmas-New Year celebrations in many nations, though it had a very different religious significance – of gratitude to God for His blessings and a remembrance of their dwelling in the wilderness. The dwelling in tents broke down social barriers and contributed to the general attitude of merriment. By the time of Jesus an eight day had been added and a water-pouring ceremony where every morning of the celebration a priest went down to the Siloam Fountain, whence he brought in a golden ewer water which was pored on the altar of burnt-offerings, amidst the singing of the Hallel (Pss, cxii-cxvii) and the joyful sound of musical instruments. This becomes the setting for “living water” comments Jesus makes later in this chapter.

The brothers of Jesus seem to be ironic in their comments; John makes clear they did not yet believe on Him and perhaps, like many siblings simply thought that Jesus was being self-promoting. “Go and make a star of yourself you big show –off” seems to be the line of their thoughts. There may have been an additional “and get yourself killed doing it” at the back of their thoughts as well. There is possibly some resentment at His popularity.

The brothers ask Jesus to: “reveal yourself to the world.” But Jesus in contrast makes clear that His job is to reveal the world to itself and to expose their deeds as evil. “The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it, that its works are evil.” Jesus us no Pollyanna optimist, He sees very clearly the evil in the hearts of men - from which they need to be redeemed. In Luke says we are still “evil” even in our best moments:

Luke 11:11-13 MKJV   For what father of you, if the son asks for bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a snake for a fish?  (12) Or if he shall ask for an egg, will he give him a scorpion?  (13) If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?

“Then Jesus said to them, My time has not yet come, but your time is always ready.”  The unbelieving brothers are simply drifting with the tide of the times, going along with the “world” and its obligations. They exist outside of the times of the Spirit, but in contrast Jesus has  “times” ordained by God. 

John uses the Greek word “kairos” to denote time here. Kairos is the event-time word (in contrast to clock-time). Event time is “you can watch TV after you have washed up’ in contrast to “you can watch TV at 7:30”. One event (washing-up) determines the next (watching TV) - or in Scripture “first the gospel must be preached as a witness to all nations (first event) then the end shall come (second event)”. Thus “kairos” is used in Scripture to denote God’s special timing of divine events. Jesus must wait for God’s timing before He can go up to the Feast.

“And having said these things to them, He remained in Galilee. But when His brothers had gone up, then He also went up to the feast, not openly, but as in secret.”  Jesus did not go up with the family caravan (see Luke 2) and did not announce Himself but simply mingled in, and went up in secret without any fanfare.

Jesus was aware of the populism of His cause, of thousands coming to hear Him and of some wanting to make Him their King. This could have derailed His agenda and seriously marred His training of His disciples. It was also at a point when reaction was building and people were seeking to kill Him. Thus wisdom dictated that He keep a low profile.

Jesus knew that “the world’ without a faith connection to God, is evil, and to be King of that disconnected world is no honor in eternity. Jesus was not trying to play “I am the King of the castle” or to be among the famous A-List Jewish celebrities. Instead He was trying to produce repentant, contrite, prayerful believing saints fit for Heaven. Jesus was interested in changing the spirit of a man for eternity, and not in exterior honors. So Jesus did not do the “normal” things that political aspirants did back then: “For no one does anything in secret, while he himself seeks to be in public. If you do these things, reveal yourself to the world; His agenda was on a far higher plane.




John 7:1 Jesus Walks In Galilee

John 7:1
Jesus Walks In Galilee


John 7:1 MKJV   After these things Jesus walked in Galilee, for He did not desire to walk in Judea, because the Jews sought to kill Him.

Jesus goes where He is welcome. When the Judean Israelites (the Jews) sought to kill Him he did not say, “this people are so far from God and so much need salvation that I will stay here and take the risk.” Instead Jesus went where He was welcome  – to Galilee.

Just this week two friends of mine in Manila have received specific and highly credible personal death threats from Muslims. In other parts of the letters they were sent, all workers among Muslims in the Philippines were threatened with holy war and terms like “blood will flow” were used repeatedly. I am included in this second group of threatened people though my personal assassination is very unlikely as I now live in Los Angeles.

What do I do? Does my organization soldier on? Do we withdraw? How much risk can I ask my co-workers to take? Do we “move to Galilee”?

Underneath all this is the question: “Is the salvation of murderous Muslims really that important?” 

Jesus instructs His disciples thus: Luke 10:10-12 MKJV   And into whatever city you enter, and they do not receive you, going out into the streets say,  (11)  Even the dust of your city which clings to us, we wipe off against you. Yet be sure of this that the kingdom of God has come near you.  (12) But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable in that day for Sodom than for that city.

In other words we are to give all people a reasonable chance to hear the gospel, but if they do not wish to hear the gospel that is their problem – and a mighty big one!

The Christian worker is not a kamikaze pilot. As noble as suicidal courage may seem Jesus did not indulge in it – until He knew he had to, in order to complete His work. Martyrdom is never a prominent theme in the New Testament and is never specifically encouraged. In fact the general injunction is “flee”!

Matthew 10:23 MKJV   But when they persecute you in this city, flee into another; for truly I say to you, In no way shall you have finished the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes.

Matthew 24:16 MKJV   Then let those in Judea flee into the mountains.

Matthew 2:13 MKJV   And when they had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise and take the young child and His mother and flee into Egypt. And be there until I bring you word, for Herod is about to seek the child to destroy Him.

Christian faith is primarily a way of peace that avoids conflict and steers away from combative personal stances. The only deliberate human sacrifice called for in Scripture is Jesus Christ, and while most of the apostles laid down their lives for the gospel, they did not rush into such a fate like a Palestinian suicide bomber.

We may need to die in the service of Christ, but generally we should avoid it. Mostly we should do the sensible thing, the thing that Jesus did, and go and safely “walk in Galilee” for a while. God does not lay the salvation of the world on our shoulders. The Great Commission is merely to preach the gospel - saving the world is God’s job, not ours.

If God goes where He is welcomed then perhaps that is a good ministry strategy for us as well. Instead of struggling for years in a prickly and hostile church trying to make changes that are always resisted, a pastor should “go where he/she is welcome” even if that means working in secular life for a while. God has not obligated us to dwell in the midst of personal hostility – instead we are “called to peace” (Colossians 3:15, 1 Corinthians 7:15). God even hides His servants away from the fury of man - like Elijah by the brook Cherith.

For many years I have (wrongly) felt it to be cowardly, sinful and self-indulgent to seek peaceful circumstances or to desire “a quiet life in all godliness” (1 Timothy 2:2).  This, I mistakenly thought, was “wimping out”! Yet peace is simply the set of circumstances that allows me to function as God made me to function. A bird is at peace in the air, and our cat is at peace sleeping on the top of my laser printer! Peace is dwelling in the state that God knows is best for us! (Which even may be very busy – but not hostile and destructive!)

Except in rare and exceptional circumstances we should not seek conflict and we should generally avoid hostile and personally destructive environments.  This may mean dropping a sarcastic and abusive boyfriend or finding a better job. If living with a drug addict, an alcoholic or an abusive relative is personally destructive and overwhelming we can take some time out and “walk in Galilee”. Remember we are not required to redeem all mankind, or to “save” them no matter how obdurate and impossible and dysfunctional they choose to be!





John 6:41-47 Unless The Father

John 6:41-47
Unless The Father



John 6:41-47 MKJV   Then the Jews murmured about Him, because He said, I am the bread which came down from Heaven.  (42) And they said, Is this not Jesus the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How now does this One say, I have come down from Heaven?  (43) Jesus therefore answered and said to them, Do not murmur with one another.  (44) No one can come to Me unless the Father who has sent Me draw him, and I will raise him up at the last day.  (45) It is written in the Prophets, "And they shall all be taught of God." Therefore everyone who hears and learns from the Father comes to Me.  (46) Not that anyone has seen the Father, except He who is from God, He has seen the Father.  (47) Truly, truly, I say to you, He who believes on Me has everlasting life.

The Jews did not believe but made comments about His earthly origins. Instead of addressing their question Jesus goes to the root source of their unbelief – not being taught of God.

Some people have zero spiritual intuition. Literal to the last they “just don’t get” even the most obvious of the parables and entirely miss the signs of times. Other people are spiritually sensitive and attuned and pick things up very quickly; they have a life-long curiosity about meaning, spirituality and deeper religious matters. These are learners in spiritual things are “being taught by God”.

That is why Jesus says things such as:
Matthew 11:15 MKJV   He who has ears to hear, let him hear and
Matthew 13:12 MKJV   For whoever has, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance. But whoever does not have, from him shall be taken away even that which he has.

There are those who are being drawn by God to Christ, and those who are oblivious to spiritual matters. From an early age I was interested in Greek and Roman myths and spirituality in general, then in existentialism, then in astrology, the New Age, Zen and finally Christianity. I was always very sensitive as a young person and spiritually curious. This I believe was God at work in me slowly drawing me to Himself.

Each of us, who are in Christ – and reading this, are being taught by God  (v. 45 above) and this devotional is just one small part of His instructing you. As I used to say to my bible college students in Australia – unless God teaches you, you will learn nothing.

I noticed that about one-third of bible college students really “get it” and grow while two-thirds are hardly changed at all by two years in the Scriptures. This is largely independent of the lecturer’s style. Those who are spiritually hungry will learn even from a poor lecturer. But those who are self-satisfied would hardly learn even from John Stott himself. (That is not to say we should lecture badly).

All spiritual growth is a divine miracle. It took Jesus 3 seconds to raise Lazarus but three YEARS to get His disciples to learn the truth and to truly believe in Him!

Coming to Christ is God’s work in us: “No one can come to Me unless the Father who has sent Me draw him, and I will raise him up at the last day.  (45) It is written in the Prophets, "And they shall all be taught of God." Therefore everyone who hears and learns from the Father comes to Me.”

God communicates with our spirit to teach us the things of Christ: 
1 Corinthians 2:9-10 MKJV  (But as it is written, "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard," nor has it entered into the heart of man, "the things which God has prepared for those who love Him."  But God has revealed them to us by His Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, yea, the deep things of God.


God reveals to us, the deep things of God, things that eye has not seen, nor ear heard! He does this through the Holy Spirit so that we might know the things of God.  (1 Corinthians 2:9-16)

“Therefore everyone who hears and learns from the Father comes to Me.” (As I did!) Though we may wander down many wrong tracks if we truly follow the voice of conscience and truth and spiritual sensitivity we will always end up face to face with Jesus Christ at the end of the day.

On our own we cannot get there, we will be as argumentative and blind as the Jews in John’s gospel. Everything works against us finding God on our own - our mind is fallen, our light is dim, our efforts are insufficient, our flesh is strong, and the world is full of spiritual deception that lures us away from the truth.

The only way that the sinner can find grace is if the Father draws him. This is known as preeminent grace (pre-before, veno – to go) that is the grace that goes before conversion to draw us to God. None of us can say “I have such a high IQ that I managed to find faith in God through my own cogitations.” We can only say “I believe because the Father taught me, and showed me Christ.”

Yet we have to be willing to be taught and we have to choose to believe. Which is why Jesus ends up today’s passage with: Truly, truly, I say to you, He who believes on Me has everlasting life.



John 6:35-40 The One Who Comes To Me…

 John 6:35-40
The One Who Comes To Me…

John 6:35-40 MKJV   And Jesus said to them, I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes on Me shall never thirst.  (36) But I said to you that you also have seen Me and do not believe.  (37) All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will in no way cast out.  (38) For I came down from Heaven, not to do My own will but the will of Him who sent Me.  (39) And this is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all which He has given Me I should lose nothing but should raise it up again at the last day.  (40) And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes on Him should have everlasting life. And I will raise him up at the last day.

Today we will pick up the last verse from yesterday (v.35) and go on to look at some of the Bible’s most interesting verses about our common salvation.

Eternal life requires an infinite resource to sustain it and faith in Christ will give us the spiritual resources (bread of life) that will sustain us for eternity. All other sources of power will fade away or be limited in some way. All complexity requires maintenance, or it falls into decay – and life is complex! So God sustains the believer through Christ who works in us for our good.

In verse 36, Jesus then accuses the crowd of unbelief, of being cynical spectators in the salvation story wanting “one more sign” before they will believe – and thus never believing! They actually saw Jesus do the miracles – and yet still did not believe!

Verse 37 says: “All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will in no way cast out.”  Salvation is like a train to Heaven.  Anyone who wants to can get on the train, and no one who gets on the Salvation Train will ever be thrown off. And everyone who the Father wants on the Salvation Train will be aboard. The Salvation Train is Christ and all who are “in Him” (through grace, by faith) are on the path to salvation – and will arrive, for the train is safe.

Verse 38 tells us that Jesus came not to do His own will – which is also in line with the prayer in Gethsemane: Matthew 26:39 MKJV   And He went a little further and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.

Some create great problems for the doctrine of the Trinity in this supposed conflict between the will of Jesus Christ and the will of the Father. They ask: “How can one God have three separate wills, that is a will for each of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit?” An analogy might be a perfect marriage, which does not stifle individuality, but still makes the two people into one. It is in the nature of personality to want to unite with another, and it is also the nature of personality to exercise free will. Jesus Christ would not be a full person if He did not possess a free will – and neither would the Father! But the will of Jesus Christ is a freely surrendered will. God is complicated and in His complexity He is a Trinity of three eternal persons in one essential and unified Being. Each person has utterly and totally free will, but that free will is exercised in harmony and grace and perfect unity.

The last two verses tell us about the sureness of our resurrection glorification: (39) And this is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all which He has given Me I should lose nothing but should raise it up again at the last day.  (40) And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes on Him should have everlasting life. And I will raise him up at the last day.

Not all who thought they followed Jesus were those  “which He has given Me I should lose nothing.”  Those who followed for bread, or to make Jesus a political Messiah or for personal profit like Judas – these fell away. They were followers but not true believers. What then are the characteristics of true believers who will be raised on the last day? “That everyone who sees the Son and believes on Him should have everlasting life.”  They see (Literally behold, gaze continually at) Christ and believe in Him. Jesus’ words are taken with utmost seriousness by true believers - they obey His commandments and love His righteousness.

False followers have a strong personal agenda that is primary and which God must fit into – bread, political power, money, and various personal desires. When God offends their personal agenda, and asks for Isaac to be put on the altar, they turn back from the faith. On the other hand true believers can sing “All to Jesus I surrender, all to Him I freely give” and truly mean it.

We need to spend much time beholding Jesus and believing Him. The verbs are present participles “who is seeing the Son and who is believing on Him” – and this implies continuous action, it is not a one off spiritual experience but a daily habit of faith in Jesus the Son of God.

In the end it must be God’s will, not our will and God’s ambitions and interests, not our ambitions and interests, and to such folk, the true believers salvation is safe and sure and guaranteed.

Jesus Christ the Son of God will come in glory and power and will raise true believers on the Last Day. We will have both eternal life and a glorious, eternal and immortal resurrection body (1 Corinthians 15:35-58) and become like the angels in Heaven. Luke 20:35-36 CEV   But in the future world no one who is worthy to rise from death will either marry or die. They will be like the angels and will be God's children, because they have been raised to life.

That is worth sacrificing our personal desires for!


John 6:28-35 The Bread Of Life

 John 6:28-35
The Bread Of Life

John 6:28-35 MKJV   Then they said to Him, What shall we do that we might work the works of God?  (29) Jesus answered and said to them, This is the work of God, that you believe on Him whom He has sent.  (30) Therefore they said to Him, What sign do you show then, so that we may see and believe you? What do you work?  (31) Our fathers ate the manna in the desert, as it is written, "He gave them bread from Heaven to eat."  (32) Then Jesus said to them, Truly, truly, I say to you, Moses did not give you that bread from Heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from Heaven.  (33) For the bread of God is He who comes down from Heaven and gives life to the world.  (34) Then they said to him, Lord, evermore give us this bread.  (35) And Jesus said to them, I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes on Me shall never thirst.

The crowd are always trying to turn the conversation back to “give us bread” (v.31 & v.34) they are focused on having God meet their physical needs. But Jesus is trying to point them to the meeting of their spiritual needs.

The crowd starts off with a polite question to the Rabbi “What shall we do that we might work the works of God?” I think this was meant to impress Jesus with their piety, flatter Him a little, and put Him in a good mood so they would get what they wanted – which was bread. As a missionary I have sometimes been asked to preach in a church and later found out this was just “buttering me up” in the (vain) hope that they would get funding from Australia or America. This question to Jesus is quite similar.

Jesus replies with the quite curt: “This is the work of God, that you believe on Him whom He has sent.”  Faith is Jesus as the Son of God enables us to “work the works of God”, indeed without such faith we “can do nothing” (John 15:5). The true work of God is faith, and all other works flow from that one main work of trust in God.

For instance as a missionary I must first trust the Lord and step out in faith, as I step out in faith and trust God, then from the work of faith flow the other works of teaching, mercy and compassion. The work of faith begins and under girds the whole enterprise- and if that faith should flag, then I end up with a bureaucracy not a ministry.

The next two verses boil down to them trying to strike a bargain with Jesus around the proposition: “Give us bread and we will believe in You”.

(30) Therefore they said to Him, What sign do you show then, so that we may see and believe you? What do you work?  (31) Our fathers ate the manna in the desert, as it is written, "He gave them bread from Heaven to eat."

Jesus then decides to use this as a jumping off point to preach the gospel:

(32) Then Jesus said to them, Truly, truly, I say to you, Moses did not give you that bread from Heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from Heaven.  (33) For the bread of God is He who comes down from Heaven and gives life to the world. 

This is very similar to the same “hook” Jesus used with the woman at the well except that “living water” is replaced with “bread from Heaven” and later “bread of life”. Jesus of course is referring to Himself as the true Bread from Heaven (thus making this a good passage for Communion.) Jesus is the One who came down from heaven to give spiritual life and nourishment to all who believe.

The “manna in the wilderness” was simply a type of the true Bread from Heaven, which is Christ. Thus is the Old is fulfilled in the New.

and gives life to the world” – Christ gives life to the world, to all who will receive it in this world, and without Christ the world is life-less. Without Him we are utterly dead in our trespasses and sins - but by grace He has given us new life and raised us with Him to sit in heavenly realms (Ephesians 4:1-7). 

1 John 5:11-12 MKJV   And this is the record, that God has given to us everlasting life, and this life is in His Son.  (12) He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.

Totally missing the point the crowd asks: “Lord, evermore give us this bread.” And Jesus responds:  “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes on Me shall never thirst.”

The spiritual hunger of mankind is met in Christ and finds more than enough to satisfy even the most ravenous spiritual appetites. There is so much to Christ that we can never devour it all.

There is a dearth of preaching about Jesus, His attributes and character and miracles and nature – and the people are hungry and thirsty while some pastors share ideas and stories and notions and talk about good things but not God things. Paul preached nothing but “Christ and Him crucified” and I try to make sure every sermon of mine has Christ at the center.

Jesus is the food and drink of the Christian soul and if we are to feed our sheep we must feed them Jesus. Let’s focus our sermons and bible studies on Jesus Christ and His salvation and we shall see true church growth in both grace and number.



John 6:27 For God The Father Sealed Him…

John 6:27
For God The Father Sealed Him…

John 6:27   Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for that food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you. For God the Father sealed Him.

We will focus for today on the final phrase in John 6:27 “For God the Father sealed Him”.  Anything that happens to Christ is of great importance to those who are in Christ so we need to enquire into what is meant by the sealing of Jesus.

John only uses the word “seal” on one other occasion in his gospel: John 3:31-33 MKJV   He who comes from above is above all; he who is from the earth is earthly and speaks from the earth. He who comes from Heaven is above all,  (32) and what He has seen and heard, that He testifies, and no one receives His testimony.  (33) He who has received His testimony has set his seal to this, that God is true.

There the “seal” could be to do with verifying that the witness of Jesus is true and that God is true. So here “seal” may have to do with ‘authenticating” the testimony of Jesus – firstly, at His baptism “this is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” and then through the testimony of John the Baptist, and through the miracles and the inner witness of the Holy Spirit. In this case we could also read, “For God the Father has authenticated Him” – indeed God the Father is always authenticating His Son – most notably through the resurrection from the dead. (Romans 1:4)

Secondly, there is a spiritual sense to the “seal”.  The seal says that we belong to God as one of His servants: Revelation 7:2-3 MKJV   And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God. And he cried with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea,  (3) saying, Do not hurt the earth or the sea or the trees until we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads.

The seal of the Living God marks those who are spiritually alive – the true servants of God in Christ. Thus Jesus had the “stamp of God” upon His life.  He was a marked man, marked out as belonging to the Father and set aside for His work.

This sealing is an inner work of God through the Holy Spirit.


2 Corinthians 1:22 MKJV  (22) And He has sealed us and having given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.


Ephesians 1:13-14 MKJV in whom also you, hearing the Word of Truth, the gospel of our salvation, in whom also believing, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise,  (14) who is the earnest of our inheritance, to the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.

Ephesians 4:30 MKJV And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you are sealed until the day of redemption.

The way that God knows those who are truly His, and discerns the true believers from the “fakes” is by checking the “seal” – the imprint of the Holy Spirit in their lives. Those with the Holy Spirit are His, and those who merely imitate the faith without this interior reality are not.

When we get to Heaven we will probably not be given a test on our theology or correct denominational affiliation, rather God will check for faith in Christ and for the presence of His seal – the Holy Spirit.

THE NECESSITY OF THE SPIRIT

Romans 2:29 MKJV but he is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision is of the heart; in spirit and not in letter; whose praise is not from men, but from God.


Romans 8:9 MKJV But you are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone has not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His.

Romans 8:14 MKJV For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.

1 John 3:24 MKJV And he who keeps His commandment dwells in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit, which He gave to us.

1 John 4:13 MKJV By this we know that we dwell in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.

Romans 8:29 (above) tells us that we are not validated as true Christians by:

 a) an outward mark or ceremony such as circumcision.  
 b) By “letter”, that is by observing spiritual rules or laws. 

 c) By human approval and recognition that is “the praise of men”.

Romans 8:9 tells us that without the Spirit dwelling in us we are “none of His”.

Romans 8:14 tells us that the essential characteristic of the sons of God is that they are led by the Spirit of God.

1 John 3;24 tells us that we know that God dwells in us by the Spirit which He gave us.

1 John 4:13 says that we know we dwell in God – is because He has given us of His Spirit.

Thus, true Christianity is a God-wrought interior work of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Church membership rolls may have their uses but they are no register of the saved. The saved are registered by being sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.

Thus, Christ was sealed with the Holy Spirit as a servant of God and this then brought about His authentication as a Servant of God and the consequent miracles that authenticated Him. It was His anointing, not any human diploma or ordination that marked and sealed the ministry of Jesus Christ.



John 6:22-27 Seeking Jesus Aright

John 6:22-27
Seeking Jesus Aright

John 6:22-27 MKJV   The following day, the crowd standing on the other side of the sea had seen that there was no other little boat there except that one into which His disciples had entered, and when they saw that Jesus did not go with His disciples into the little boat, but that His disciples had gone away alone,  (23)  (however, other boats from Tiberias came near the place where they ate the loaves, the Lord having given thanks),  (24) therefore, when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor His disciples, they themselves also entered into the boats and came to Capernaum seeking Jesus.  (25) And when they had found Him on the other side of the sea, they said to Him, Rabbi, when did you come here?  (26) Jesus answered them and said, Truly, truly, I say to you, You seek Me not because you saw the miracles, but because you ate the loaves and were filled.  (27) Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for that food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you. For God the Father sealed Him.

The crowd is now seeking Jesus – for all the wrong reasons and so Jesus is playing the spiritual equivalent of hide and seek. In fact in the remainder of John 6 He says such hard things that almost all (except the disciples) turn away and stop following Him.

Jesus wanted true believers not adoring followers. Jesus did not receive glory from men, or seek their praise or want them to follow Him in order to make Him feel important or successful.

In fact Jesus was not very ‘seeker sensitive’. He made people go out into the wilderness to find Him, he told incomprehensible parables and made it clear that it was tough to be a true believer e.g. “take up your cross and follow me”.

Jesus intrigues the crowd when He got to the other side of the lake so they ask: “Rabbi, when did you come here?”  To which Jesus does not give an answer. Instead He tells them they were seeking Him for all the wrong reasons: Truly, truly, I say to you, You seek Me not because you saw the miracles, but because you ate the loaves and were filled.

He then corrects their priorities in the next verse: “Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for that food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you. For God the Father sealed Him.”

These verses alone should be enough to sink the so-called prosperity gospel. Personal satisfaction, especially material satisfaction, is not the aim of life nor is it the purpose of Christ’s mission here on earth.

We are not to put our life’s energy into materialism but into the pursuit of eternal reward.

Matthew 6:19-21 MKJV   Do not lay up treasures on earth for yourselves, where moth and rust corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal.  (20) But lay up treasures in Heaven for yourselves, where neither moth nor rust corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.  (21) For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Luke 12:22-23 MKJV   And He said to His disciples, Therefore I say to you, Be not anxious as to your life, what you shall eat; nor for the body, what you shall put on.  (23) Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing.

Indeed the bread of life is Christ Himself and the doing of His will. John 4:34 MKJV   Jesus said to them, My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to finish His work. Later in this chapter Jesus will graphically describe such spiritual food as “eating His flesh and drinking His blood”.

We often get God wrong, we want Him to be our “Heavenly Jeeves”, a convenient butler who thinks of our every comfort and who is brought into service with just a simple prayer. But God is no man’s servant!

God is not convenient.  He wants true sincere spiritual worshippers who worship Him in spirit and in truth and who seek eternal life – not just bread and fish. As we shall see later Peter left all and followed Jesus for His words – which were words of eternal life. In the end that is all we get – words. But what words! Words that impart eternal life!

Many of us in ministry take stock in mid-life and see our contemporaries zooming ahead of us in financial and social position while we struggle on. Then we wonder: “if it was worth it all”. We look at our bookshelves and our Greek lectionaries and wonder if our pursuit of truth has got us anywhere. But we have Christ and we have the words of eternal life. And we will have no idea how much that will be worth until we get to Heaven.

In the end the whole Christian life is a wager – that pursuing eternal life and the “food that does not perish” is worth it.

One thing is sure – that if you just pursue material things you end with nothing at the end of the game. Naked you come into the world and naked you leave it (1 Timothy 6:7). All that work is for stuff that perishes, which means it is for nothing in the long haul.

What we gamble on is that we can take our wisdom and faith and sanctification and grace and holiness and love with us beyond the grave. These things, our souls tell us, will last. So they are the things that we should work for.



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