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Friday, September 22, 2017

“We Are Abraham’s Seed” – John 8:33

          Last week we learned that only Jesus can set a person free from spiritual bondage. When we gain knowledge of His Word and obey it, we grow spiritually and free ourselves from the bondage of sin.

“We Are Abraham’s Seed” – John 8:33

          Offended by Jesus’ statement about them being in bondage to sin, the Pharisees say to Jesus, “We are Abraham’s seed (descendants) and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free? John 8:33 Again, the Pharisees are looking with “natural” eyes, but Jesus is speaking of “spiritual” bondage. What they said was not true! The Jews had been in captivity and bondage several times throughout their history—to the Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, etc. As a matter of fact, these Pharisees were in bondage to the Romans at the time these words were spoken by Jesus. Unfortunately, the Pharisees were not free on earth or in heaven. They were under Roman rule and rejected Jesus’ rule.
            The Pharisees gloried in being the seed of Abraham, the earthly father of the Jewish nation. Perhaps they had forgotten that it was God who made the seed of Abraham a nation, not Abraham. It was also God who miraculously provided Abraham’s spiritual son to be born through a miraculous birth. It is in Isaac that God’s covenant with Abraham is established. (Genesis 17:21) As we both know, Isaac is a type and shadow of Jesus who was offered by the Father as the sacrifice for the atonement for sin just as Abraham through God’s instruction willingly offered Isaac as the atonement for sin on Mount Moriah. Abraham had other children but Isaac was referred to as Abraham’s only son by God (see Genesis 22:2). Isaac was the only one born through God’s miraculous power making him Abraham’s spiritual seed. Isaac wasn’t born until after God had made covenant with Abraham and gave Abram his spiritual name. The rest of Abraham’s children were Abraham’s fleshly seed. He had both fleshly and spiritual seed.
Instead of these Pharisees saying that they are a people of God, they said that they were Abraham’s seed. They gave the glory due only to God to Abraham. These Pharisees thought that the faith and righteousness of Abraham and God’s covenant with Abraham were sufficient to get them into heaven. After all, these Pharisees were servants of God, descendants of Abraham and keepers of the Law!  Our works and our earthly descent cannot get us into heaven. We are all sinners who must be saved by God’s grace.

Jesus’ Response

            “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. I know you are Abraham’s descendant. Yet you are ready to kill Me, because you have no room for My Word. I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you do what you have heard from your father.” John 8:34-38
          The Pharisees believed that they were a part of the favored family of Abraham because of their earthly lineage. Jesus is trying to show these Jewish Pharisees that they need to be set free from the slavery and bondage of sin. This is a spiritual problem in the heart of mankind because we inherited the sin nature of the first man – Adam. Jesus is telling them that the mere fact that they are the natural descendants of Abraham gives them no title to the freedom and blessings that belong to God’s spiritual children. As long as they remained bondslaves of sin, spiritual freedom is impossible. Jesus is the only Way for sin to be removed so we can enter into God’s spiritual kingdom.
            A slave has no permanent place in the family. He or she lives in the house but is not part of the family making him or her an heir of all that belongs to the Father. Jesus is the Son of God who will set them free from eternal bondage to sin and give them a place as sons and daughters in the spiritual family of God.
Next, Jesus gives the evidence that they are slaves to sin. “You are ready to kill Me, because you have no room for My Word.”  Jesus knows their hearts. Belief in the power of Jesus’ Anointed Word will set them free from the bondage of sin and make them sons and daughters of God. Saving truth is revealed by God by His Spirit not from any person or humanistic wisdom. Jesus is telling these Pharisees what He has seen in the Father’s presence because He was with the Father and the Holy Spirit before anything was created. Jesus understands spiritual matters because He is spiritual and holy (without sin) even as He walked the earth.
Those who continue practicing sin are slaves to that sin. There is no freedom in sin, only bondage. The power of Jesus’ Word and Spirit and our willingness to obey it will set us free from sin. Our obedience is rooted in our love for God and Jesus, not through demand. We are to hide His Word in our hearts. The Pharisees’ salvation was not in Abraham, but in Jesus. The Son Jesus who is the Word of God brought to life abides with the Father forever (eternally), and so do all who believe in the Son and His Word. Jesus can make us free because He is the Son of God and the Word of Truth. He makes us free from God’s wrath for sin, the penalty of the Law and delivers us from the condemnation of sin. He also delivers us from the power of Satan. All of this makes us free to serve God. Only the sinless blood of Jesus could set all captives free from the power of sin.
We must know the truth and the truth will set us free! Too many don’t know the truth because they haven’t studied it. If we don’t know the truth by rightly dividing it, we can’t be changed by it. Every person must be accountable to God for what we believe. We can’t stand before God and blame our Pastor for our lack of knowledge of God’s Word. It is our responsibility to search it out for ourselves. We must learn, accept and receive the Truth in our hearts and actions. This is what sets us free! 
God made His ways known to Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, etc. Jesus makes God’s ways known through His holy life. God is known by His Word and character, not by His power and miracles although they too help us trust God. If God is our Father, we must show God’s nature and character.
Again the Pharisees say, “Abraham is our father.”  Jesus responded, “If you were Abraham’s children, then you would do the things Abraham did. As it is, you are determined to kill Me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. You are doing the things your own father does.”
What things did Abraham do?
·         He loved God.
·         He had faith in God.
·         He submitted to (obeyed) God’s Word by faith.
·         He stepped out in faith in God to go where he didn’t even know.
·         He willingly offered his son Isaac as a sacrifice for sin at God’s instruction.
·         He showed His love for others and willingness to serve..
·         He welcomed the heavenly visitors into his home and fed them.
·         He defended Lot and fought off Lot’s enemies.
·         Abraham was called “a friend of God.”
            Legalists can’t be called children of Abraham because Abraham was justified by faith not Law. There was no Law at the time of Abraham. Those who expect to be made righteous through keeping the Law are not followers of Abraham. Instead, believers of God must walk in the faith of Abraham. The Law condemns but Jesus redeems!
These Jewish Pharisees could not “hear” Jesus’ Word because they had no faith in Him. Their own understanding of God prevented them from hearing the Truth from Jesus. They had no heart for His Word or desire to learn His will. As long as Jesus and His Word have no place in them or any human, they remain slaves to sin.
You are doing the things your own father does.”  Jesus is referring to the devil but He doesn’t directly say so until they again insist that they are not illegitimate children implying that they are not like Him whom they believed was illegitimate because He was born in the flesh of Mary out of wedlock. 

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Who Are You? -- John 8:25-32


      Jesus has been revealing to the Jewish Pharisees that He is the One God sent to show them the Father and to save them from the bondage of sin. Still they question Him because they are looking with “natural” eyes while Jesus is speaking in the “spiritual.” Jesus came from the spiritual realm and that is where He is returning. Believers in Christ must also be “born” from above – spiritual birth through Christ -- and continue to mature spiritually from being a babe in Christ to a mature Christian. As children of God, our goal is higher. God has high standards. It is the pure truth anointed by the Holy Spirit that helps us reach God’s higher goal.

Who Are You? – John 8:25

        The Pharisees ask Jesus this question. Jesus responds, “Just what I have been claiming all along.” In other words, “I am what I am telling you.” He is not lying to them. He only speaks Truth. Jesus is the truth personified. However, in His flesh body, He relied upon the Father to instruct Him, just as we are to rely upon the Godhead to instruct us. Jesus taught:

·         The pure Truth

·         About Himself

·         About His Heavenly Father

·         About the Holy Spirit

·         Plainly

·         In Parables

You may recall that God told Moses in Exodus 3:14, “I am who I am.” Then God told Moses to tell the Israelites that “I am has sent me to you.” God did send Moses to lead and deliver the Israelites from earthly bondage in Egypt and to lead them to the earthly Promised Land of God. This foreshadowed the ultimate and perfect One whom God would send to the Israelites and the whole world to deliver all from spiritual bondage to sin and lead all to the Heavenly Promised Land. Jesus is that Great “I am.” These religious Jewish leaders refused to believe Jesus. God wants it to be known that He is eternal, present and active. His faithful love and care and his desire to redeem His people will be with them. “I am” will be His name forever. So God sent Jesus who is also eternal to deliver His people from spiritual, eternal bondage to sin and to teach us the ways of the Father. Moses couldn’t do this.

Judgment

        Jesus also tells these Jewish Pharisees, “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.” 8:26 Jesus could have judged these leaders, but He didn’t come the first time to judge. He came to seek and find, save, teach, heal and multiply. At the end of the age, He will judge in righteous judgment.

Son of Man lifted up – John 8:27-29

        The Pharisees didn’t understand that Jesus was speaking of His Heavenly Father. So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am the One I claim to be, and that I do nothing on My own but speak just what the Father has shown Me. The One who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do what pleases Him.” John 8:28-29 Jesus is speaking of a time soon when He will be lifted up on the cross as a criminal to die for all sin by these very men He is speaking with. The prophet Isaiah prophesied of the suffering and glory of the Servant in 52:13. Keep in mind that the Pharisees knew and taught the Older Testament scriptures. They should have recognized that Jesus is showing them that He is the Servant who would suffer and then be lifted up in glory. Through Jesus’ suffering many would be forgiven, justified, redeemed and set free from sin. His suffering also led to His exaltation and glory. Jesus did God’s will perfectly and was highly exalted as a result. Either these Pharisees will see the truth of Jesus in the crucifixion, resurrection and ascension as their Savior and Redeemer or they will see Him in the judgment when they see Him as Judge.

Those who believe in Jesus and His finished work of the cross are to be citizens of heaven above. We are to live “in” the Lord. This means we are to live like Him. The worldly cannot receive the Spirit of Truth because they are spiritually blinded to the Truth through their rejection of Jesus. The opening of our eyes to the truth is the work of Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Without Him, we are blinded.

Jesus said that God is always with Him because He always does what pleases Him. In other words, Jesus was obedient to the Father continuously, perfectly and completely. No one else can make this claim! Sin separates a person from Holy God. Jesus has the very mind of God because He is sinless (holy). Jesus who is sinless has been the nature of God throughout all eternity from beginning to end. He is full of grace and truth. (see John 1:14)

            “Even as He spoke, many put their faith in Him.” V30 Jesus’ words and wisdom are powerful. There is no wisdom greater or more powerful than the Word of God. His words brought many to salvation through their faith in Him.

True Discipleship – John 8:31-32

Then Jesus spoke to “the Jews who believed in Him” and His words, “If you hold to My teaching, you are really My disciples. Then you will know the Truth, and the Truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32 Jesus is telling these new converts that true discipleship requires not just knowing the Truth, but believing and walking in it. When we gain knowledge of His Word and obey it, we grow and mature spiritually. Then the Word will "abide" (live) in us. The truth will liberate us from false truth, ignorance, sin and Satan’s dominion. When Jesus spoke on earth, He was speaking pure truth. Real liberty comes from pure truth. Our “natural” man is in bondage to sin and the devil. Jesus gave the characteristics of one who is a genuine disciple of His – he who continues in His word. These will know the truth and the truth will set them free.This implies that those who don’t know the Truth are in bondage. Unfortunately, the “natural man” without Christ is destitute of righteousness and God’s spiritual life. (see Isaiah 64:6-7)  Our “natural man” is also without spiritual wisdom and spiritual power and therefore, unable to do any spiritual good for God and man. And, our “natural man” is destitute of freedom because of our bondage to sin and the devil. Man is a fallen creature who is totally depraved because he is under the dominion of sin and cannot cease from sin. (see 2 Peter 2:14) Jesus said in John 8:34, “Everyone who sins is a slave to sin.” Jesus gives His audience the remedy. Nothing but the Truth of Jesus Christ can deliver them.

At the endtime, for those who refuse “to love the truth and so be saved (2 Thessalonians 2:10), God will send “a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie.” (2 Thessalonians 2:11) Truth is redemptive; a lie is destructive. We are told to love the truth that sets us free. The father of Truth is God; the father of lies is Satan. Jesus is telling these Pharisees who have it in their hearts to kill Him that there is no exception to this truth. In His grace and truth, Jesus is warning even those who want to kill him that He is the only way out of spiritual bondage and into eternal life. Their lineage to Abraham can’t save them.




Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Jesus Continues Teaching in the Temple Area -- John 8:20-23


        Last week, we learned about witnesses. To continue in John 8:20, Jesus is teaching in the temple area near the place of the treasury where the offerings were received. He is speaking to the Pharisees who are a Jewish sect who commonly held feelings of superior sanctity. They were teachers of the Law who added an enormous amount of tradition that was passed down from one generation to the next. They practiced external righteousness being more concerned with the outward appearance than the inward feeling. (Taken from the Blue Letter Bible) Jesus reprimanded the Pharisees for this in Matthew 15:2-6. In other places in Matthew, Jesus called them a “brood of vipers.” (see Matthew 12:34; Matthew 23:33) 


Treasury
        The treasury was where charitable donations were deposited. It was between the Court of Women and the Court of Israel, so both male and female worshippers would be walking through this court. There were 13 trumpet-shaped vessels into which worshippers would put the various offerings used for the sacrifices and upkeep of the Temple. The first and second trumpet were for the ½ shekel of silver required of every male of age. It was considered a “ransom for their souls.” (Eldersheim in his book “The Temple” -- pg 47) (see Exodus 3:12) Jesus was God’s Sent One who would ransom many souls. (see Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45; 1 Timothy 2:6) Sin can only be atoned for by the shed, sinless blood of Jesus. He is the One who bridges the deep divide between heaven and earth.


The Sanhedrin
        The hall of the Sanhedrin Council was also between the court of women and the court of Israel (men), so it was in earshot of those to whom Jesus is directing His teachings.
         In the Older Testament, God commanded Moses to “bring me seventy of Israel's elders who are known to you as leaders and officials among the people. Have them come to the Tent of Meeting that they may stand there with you" (Numbers 11:16).  This eventually became the Great Sanhedrin in ancient Israel. The Sanhedrin Council was basically the supreme court of ancient Israel. It was made up of 70 men and the high priest. In the Second Temple period, the Great Sanhedrin met in the Temple in Jerusalem. The court convened every day except festivals and on the Sabbath. The Sanhedrin as a body claimed powers that lesser Jewish courts did not have. As such, they were the only ones who could try the king or extend the boundaries of the Temple and Jerusalem, and were the ones to whom all questions of law were finally put. 
        The Sanhedrin had assembled this day to counsel against Jesus. Jesus had no fear of those who were opposing Him or the council. He spoke the Truth boldly. His Divine origin and Divine destination gave Him the right to say what He said about Himself and His Heavenly Father. His opponents were ignorant of this knowledge because they refused His words and didn’t believe that He is who He says He is.
           “Yet no one seized Him, because His time had not yet come.” John 8:20 Jesus had no fear of His opponents because He knew that they could not touch Him until the Father’s timing. While walking on earth in His flesh body, Jesus was in complete submission to His Heavenly Father’s will. Jesus lived and died to the pleasure of God -- not men. The Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are undivided. It is the full Godhead that works to bring people to Christ and transform them into the image and likeness of God. The Godhead never contradicts one another but are always in agreement. God is not more powerful than Jesus and Jesus is not more powerful than the Holy Spirit. They are equal in power and might. This, my friends, is true unity. One part of the Godhead is not exalted or separated from the other. They are One and they act as One. Jesus and the Holy Spirit work together as One to do the Father’s will on earth as it is in heaven. They also work together in heaven as One with the Father. At the end of Revelation, the river of life (Holy Spirit) flows from the Father and the Lamb (Son). It was as the Lamb that Jesus was seated upon the throne in holy heaven, not as the Lion. Why? Heaven is the place of holiness and peace.


“Where I Go, You Cannot Come.”
        Once more Jesus said to them, “I am going away, and you will seek Me, and you will die in your sin. Where I go, you cannot come.” John 8:22  Because the Pharisees wouldn’t believe in Christ and His Word, they would die in their sin. They are in bondage to their self-righteousness, their unbelief, their hatred toward Jesus and their bondage to their human, intellectual knowledge of the truth. With His grace and truth, Jesus is trying to warn these Pharisees of this as God told the prophet Ezekiel to do with Israel in Ezekiel 3:16-19. God’s ways don’t change! The Pharisees opposing Jesus cannot ascend to heaven with Jesus because they have rejected their only Savior. Being “in sin” will be the cause of their spiritual death. They will die unpardoned and unforgiven because their sins will not be atoned for by the shed, sinless blood of Jesus. There is no eternal life without Jesus. Those who do not believe in the Son of God – Jesus – can’t enter into the higher (spiritual) life with God. Sin separates us from God. The shed blood of Jesus removes our sin from the Father’s sight and declares us righteous restoring us to the Father and eternal life.
            God sent Jesus to earth to die for the sin of the whole world. In His comment about where He was going, Jesus was speaking of His death, resurrection and ascension to the Father. Jesus, who is all-knowing, was aware that the cross was before Him.
            Jesus was speaking to these same Pharisees in John 7:33-34 when He said, “I am with you for only a short time, and then I go to the One who sent Me. You will seek Me, but you will not find Me; and where I am, you cannot come.” Jesus’ closing hours on earth are coming. The seven days of the Feast of Tabernacles is almost over. The Jews will be leaving Jerusalem for their homes. Jesus spiritually will also soon be returning to His eternal home with the Father. After Jesus is crucified, resurrected and ascended, these unbelievers will realize His words were true.
            Jesus didn’t leave this earth without assuring that a time will come when humanity will seek Him and find Him. (see John 8:22; John 13: 33-36; John 14:4) Jesus said this after His death on the cross. Jesus had to shed His sinless blood first, then be resurrected and ascend to the Father. These were the most important events in human history. His chosen apostles witnessed all of this. They heard Him speak of these things and saw the infallible proofs of the empty tomb and His resurrection, ascension and post-resurrection appearances. They also experienced the coming of God’s Holy Spirit at Pentecost. These chosen ones “heard” Jesus’ word and “saw” these events. (see Acts 10:39-43) The result is many people have received eternal salvation because Christ’s chosen ones witnessed of these things and boldly spoke of them.

“Will He Kill Himself?” John 8:22
        Again these Pharisees were looking through their fleshly eyes. They thought that this death was the only way He could go out of their reach. Since they had murder of Jesus in their hearts, perhaps they were hoping that Jesus would do the job for them! The Jews condemned suicide considering it a heinous sin worthy of descent into the darkest pit of hell. No doubt the anger and hatred in their hearts toward Jesus made them think that He may be worthy of such a descent.

“You Are From Below; I Am From Above.” John 8:23
        Jesus is showing these Pharisees the difference between their lower nature (earthly/fleshly) versus His higher (Divine/holy) nature. He is telling these religious leaders that He is the cure for their sin and separation from God. Unfortunately, they did not believe that they were sinful or separated from God because they had served God and Israel as religious leaders and teachers of the Law.
        Jesus’ finished work on the cross is the only bridge that connects what is above (heaven) and with what is below (earth). 
            Jesus continues, “You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the One I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins.”  Although Jesus is “in” the world, He is not “of” the world. He came from heaven and remained holy because He had no worldly sin. These religious leaders did not understand His words and His Divine holiness even in His earthly body. All of humanity by origin and nature of our flesh through the sin of the first holy man – Adam—are of the sensual, corrupt passions of the earthly.  Not Jesus! He is the Seed of God not man. He remained Divine (holy) even in His time on earth in the flesh. No other person can make this claim. Jesus by origin has the nature of heaven – pure and holy. In Him, the Divine and human meet. Jesus, by the power of His Word and Holy Spirit, will do the work of transforming sinful humanity back to their original holy nature in the first Adam before sin began.  God said in Leviticus 11:44-45, “Be holy, for I am holy.” The Apostle Peter repeated this in 1 Peter 1:16. Those who believe in Jesus and His finished work on the cross are to be citizens of heaven above by growing in holiness.