John 6:35 - 51
Vs 35: This is the first of Jesus’ “I am” statements in the Gospel of John. Jesus repeats this phrase “I am the bread of life” so it is important to note that if Jesus repeats himself then this it is important.
Bread of Life – This is symbolic language. Jesus is not saying he is literally bread and we are to physically eat his body when we partake. Since the people were most likely following him because they were seeking bread he uses this opportunity to show himself as a symbol of life giving bread that satisfies.
Bread –In ancient Israel bread was an oblong or round cake that was as thick as one’s thumb. It was broken and not cut. In the Temple there was showbread which was consecrated to God as an offering. This is significant to note because Jesus chose bread as a picture of who is and what would happen to him. Jesus is the consecrated one who is the source of life and broken for all. When one partakes or believes in Him, he will have eternal life. This verse could also be translated as “I am the bread that gives life or causes life.”
Those who eat the bread of life and drink the living water will never go hungry or will never thirst again. Everyone who believes in Him will be satisfied and He will be the source of spiritual nourishment.
Vs 36: Jesus has been very open with his miracles and claims. He has not hidden much from his observers. He made some bold claims of being the Son of God, equality with God the Father, and he has performed miracles to back up his claims. There is even a point after feeding the five thousand that people started talking about him being The Prophet Moses. However, having seen all they saw they still do not believe.
Vs 37: This is a picture of God’s sovereignty and grace in the salvation of individuals. According to Jesus, God has an undetermined number of people He has given to Jesus (I say undetermined because first, there is no number given and second, this number includes all who believe even up to today are included in this group of people) as a gift. There were many (and remain many to this day) who had and have not come to faith Jesus Christ. A little later in verse 44 it states that God has not drawn them to himself yet. When they did come to him, they were forever preserved or secured because Jesus will never cast them out. Jesus is talking about preservation of the body of Christ. He speaks of anyone coming to him will be secure. What does this mean for us today? If you are in Christ, you belong to Him, and He will not cast you out. Jesus will never let you go. Now, this truth does not give us license to sin because your actions and deeds do reflect your heart. Becoming a follower of Christ means you have been transformed, your heart has changed, and you now live your life solely for the glory of God.
Now the question may arise, “Who has God given to Jesus?” First, this is not for us to know. We have to assume in this world that every unbeliever is potentially one that God has given to Jesus, and it is our joy and privilege to introduce them to the Him who died and rescued them. Second, the answer is ultimately found in verse 44 (anyone who believes) and it has been and will continue to be a debate among believers and unbelievers as to who the “anyone’s” are. The questions then arise “Does God choose us or do we choose Him?” “Does God predestine some for heaven and some for hell?” I am not God so I can’t say with 100% certainty the process God uses in determining those who belong to Jesus God is sovereign and He will do as He pleases for His glory and His purposes. Thus, He is not obligated to give us the ins and outs of how he rules and reigns. Jesus says, “Whoever comes to me, I will never cast out.” Whoever covers a lot of people. This literally means all who come to Jesus will never be turned away or cast out. There will be nobody in heaven against their will and not a single person will not be in heaven because of any other reason than they rejected Jesus Christ.
Vs. 38, 39: “I have come down from heaven” Jesus states his place of origin. He doesn’t say I came from my mother’s womb, but he says he has come from heaven. He may have been born of a woman on this earth, but his eternal dwelling is heaven. He came down from heaven not because it was his will or desire, but he came to do the will of God. The will of God was to announce the Kingdom of God, show the way to the Kingdom and to start the process of restoration to all creation and to all who believe through his death and resurrection, preserve those God has given him and raise them up on the last day.
Vs 40: His will is also for everyone who believes (commits to, puts trust in, have a saving faith in) in Him will have eternal life. This eternal life begins now and continues in the future beyond death and will eventually take on the form of the resurrection.
Vs 41 - 42: When the Jews heard this, they grumbled among themselves. They took offense of Jesus saying he came from heaven. They knew who his physical parents were so there is no way he could be from heaven. There wasn’t anything special or unique about Joseph and Mary that would make him a heavenly being. It’s odd that they weren’t upset with his claims of being a life giver but were upset about his claims of coming from heaven.
Vs 43 - 44: Jesus tells the Jews not to grumble. Verse 43 is key, and it is very important for us to know and believe. No one comes to Jesus unless God draws him (through the Holy Spirit). The Greek word for draw means to pull or drag, requiring force because of inertia. In some translations it is can be used as drawing as that of a magnet. In one regard it sounds violent especially when you hear words like drag or force. But our human nature (because of sin) resists God’s drawing because we do not want to change or be transformed. Even though God may draw us to him as a parent drags a child back when the child wanders into a busy street, highway, or parking lot. From an onlooker’s perspective the parent may look violent and unloving, but the parent is showing the greatest form of love. The child’s will desires to be free and run without restraint, but the parent sees the danger the child faces and will do whatever he needs to ensure the child’s safety. The child can resist but the parent will gather the child to himself and keep the child from harm. This is what is implied when God draws people to himself. Maybe you have experienced this in your life where God was working but you continually resisted his grace because sin had such a strong hold on us. Moreover, God is more powerful or compelling that our attraction to sin.
Not even one of us follows Jesus because we thought it would be nice to be a Christian. We belong to Jesus because through God’s great love and grace He has drawn us to himself and He calls us from our sinful ways and through His Spirit He transforms our hearts from hearts of stone to hearts of flesh. God drags us out of our sins and brings us to himself.
A great biblical example of this is found in the account of Jonah. Jonah resisted God yet God used extreme measures (even forceful) to get Jonah to do His will.
Vs45 – 48: Jesus re-iterates that he is the bread of life.
Vs 49: Jesus shows how he differs from the Manna God provided to Israelites in the desert. Both the manna and the bread of life are from heaven yet one is eternal and life giving and the other is perishable and temporary. The manna sustained the Israelites in the desert, but it did not give them life. It took care of the physical needs of them. The bread of life is eternal and life giving and anyone who eats (figuratively) of this bread shall never hunger again (spiritually).
Ultimately in this passage we have looked at today we see several truths.
What is the meaning of Christmas? The answer to this question can be found in another question. It is one Jesus asks Peter, his disciple.
Matthew 16:13 – 17
In this passage, Jesus asks a simple and straight forward question, “Who do the people (the crowds) say I am?” Peter responds, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others say Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” Jesus then asks a more direct question, “Who do YOU say that I am?” Peter replies, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus says, “Blessed are you Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.”
How would you answer this question if Jesus asked you, “Who do YOU say I am?” Take a moment and think about it. How do/would you answer this question? Is He the Christ/Messiah, the Son of God? Is He the Lord of your life and the Savior of the world? Christmas is about declaring that Jesus has come to set the captives free and to give life to all who believe. What does that mean for us 2000 years later?
Romans 3:23 says, “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” Before we can truly declare who, Jesus is, we must know where we stand before God. According to this passage we are all sinners. This is a truth that levels the playing field for all humanity. Every person in this room is a sinner. This may seem like a harsh statement to some of you on this joyous evening. Maybe this statement offends you or hurts your ego a bit! Whether we like it or not it is true. We are sinful and we will never measure up to the glory of God. What do I mean by God’s glory? It is His splendor; it is the outward manifestation of His attributes. God desires that we share this splendor, He desires that we become like Him, to be Christlike. Unfortunately, sin keeps us from sharing it.
We are sinful, and we fall short of God’s glory, and this gives us entitlement to one thing… Death! Romans 6:23 reads, “For the wages of sin is death.” The only thing sinful humanity deserves is eternal separation from God, which is death. How many times have you heard someone say I demand justice, or he/she deserves better than this. We are quick to seek justice and fairness when an offense is shown to us, but truth be told we should be thankful that God does not show us justice, nor give us what we deserve because I don’t think we would get what we thought was due to us. We are entitled to nothing except death and separation.
Thankfully the message doesn’t end there.
“…but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.”
There is hope in this horrible news, the truth that has been hidden is now revealed … “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” (Romans 5:8) This is the good news! This is the Gospel message! This is why Jesus came to the earth as a humble infant… To bring life, hope, joy, and peace. Take a moment again and let this passage sink in. God loves you! How do you know He loves you? Because of the Christmas message. “And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” God has made a way for humanity to receive life through his only son Jesus. There may be a few people who might possibly be willing to die to save the lives of some good people; but Christ went well beyond that. He died in the place of the powerless (“feeble,” v. 6), the ungodly (v. 6; 4:5), sinners (5:8), and even His enemies! (v. 10). Through Jesus Christ we receive life, we inherit eternal life.
Romans 10:9, “If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Public profession and inner faith are the two conditions. You must publicly declare your commitment to and belief in Jesus Christ and secondly, you must believe in your heart that he is Lord of all both living and the dead. The declaration and faith are synonymous (or at least they should be). The Bible is clear that the way we live our lives and the words we speak reflect our spiritual state. Salvation comes through acknowledging that Jesus Christ is Lord and savior of all. If you truly believe this, then your life will reflect it.
When you confess Jesus as Lord you are justified (made right with God) and when you believe in your heart Jesus died in your place you are saved from eternal death and separation. The outcome is peace with God. Romans 5:1 reads, “Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us.” In your sinful state you are at war with God. Now in Christ Jesus the war is over, the price has been paid, and the death you deserve has been transformed to life. Through the work of Christ all causes of enmity between our souls and God have been removed. We have been changed from foes to friends by a miracle of grace.
What better gift can you receive this Christmas season than to receive the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ? By God’s grace, love, and mercy you can be at peace with God, and this should not be taken lightly. A great price has been paid for you and me so we can have an abundant of life both now and for all eternity. We should never take this for granted. We should never enter a relationship with Jesus Christ nonchalantly; this is a serious and lifelong commitment. If we choose to be exposed to the truth, then this will require a change in your life and there is no turning back. When you choose to accept the truth, it will forever change the way you look at life, live your life and share your life with others. John 8:31, 32 reads, “Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” When you accept the truth… We are all sinners who are saved by grace because we serve a loving, merciful, and gracious God… then you will know true freedom. When Jesus Christ becomes your Lord and Savior you will be freed from the bondage of sin and evil. You have heard the phrase, “Freedom is not free” it is true a great price was paid by Jesus Christ so that you could know and live in the freedom that God truly intended for you.
Today is the fourth Sunday of Advent. If you recall, each Sunday represents one of four symbols of Advent and they are hope, joy, peace, and love respectively. Thus, this Sunday represents love. Jesus spoke about love often. In fact, the subject of love and obedience is the dominant theme in the Gospel of John. Every time Jesus speaks about it he refers to either loving one another, loving Him, loving his Word, loving the Father, or being loved by both the Father and Son. Love is an important theme in the message and teachings of Jesus, not only in the Gospel of John, but throughout his ministry here on earth. Thus, we can safely conclude that showing and receiving love is an integral part of the Christian life. When we love one another, and we show love to those who hate us we show the world that we belong to the Father. Since love is integral to being a disciple of Jesus it is imperative that we not only show love to one another and to God, but also that we receive it. Love is a given and is a necessity in every believer’s life.
Ironically Jesus’ command to show, live in, and receive his love ultimately brings about the hatred of the world towards those who are followers of Jesus. Not surprisingly since Jesus spoke so much about love he did not speak very much about hate. However, when he did, He never spoke of it in a positive way. He taught just the opposite. He taught us not hate our enemies but to love them. He taught to hate evil and love righteousness. In today’s passage we see one more example of how God’s love for the world can lead to the world hating us and Him.
Unfortunately, as followers of Jesus we will experience and receive hatred, animosity, and loathing personally and in our lives usually without good reason. The words Jesus spoke about hatred in this passage are hard to accept but they are a harsh reality we must all face and come to terms with.
Hatred and the World
As a follower of Jesus do you ever wonder why people hate Christianity? It doesn’t take much convincing to show that Christianity is not always portrayed in a positive light in this world, media, and social circles. You may have heard Christians referred to or maybe you have been called narrow-minded, a bigot, a hate monger, a hypocrite, an extremists, or judgmental. Why is this? Well, unfortunately it’s because there are so many professing Christians that either are one of the previous mentioned or it’s because of who we represent and who are associated with.
John 15:18 - 27
Verse 18: “If the world hates you…” Jesus speaks to his disciples a warning that when they go out into the world (after his death and crucifixion) they and the message they proclaim will be met with hostility and hatred. He informs them that they will be be hated in this world and he gives them reasons why.
Before we get to his reasons, we need to define what Jesus means when he is talks about the world… There are three possible meanings.
Verse 19: If the disciples belonged to this world, then they would have been accepted by the world. They would be loved and welcomed by the world. The truth is believers do not belong to thie world, simply because we have been chosen or called out of the world by Jesus and we will be hated for this. We must resist the temptation to think that since we are called out of the world, we are…
1.Better than those in the world. This is where self-righteousness kicks in. We know this is not the case since we are all sinful and redeemed by the blood of Jesus and his grace and we are given eternal life through mercy, grace, and faith.
2.To shield ourselves from the world. Jesus tells us to be in the world and not of the world. We are called to love one another, our enemies, and our God. We cannot shelter ourselves from the ungodly world around us. God has placed us here to be the light of Christ and to share the Good News to a world that desperately needs good news.
3.To be so concerned about not being hated by the world that we try to fit in or be accepted by the world so as not to offend and come across as better than others. We don’t want to be thought of as irrelevant or archaic that we distance ourselves from Jesus so that we can be viewed in a positive light.
Verse 20: This verse relates directly to the third temptation. We must be reminded that our master, savior, and Lord was hated, persecuted, humiliated, and forsaken by the world so we should not expect to be treated any better. I get tired of meeting people that think they need to water down the Gospel or try to defend God so that Christianity doesn’t not look so bad. Some think they can make the Gospel and the teachings of Jesus so attractive and less offensive that it will be more appealing to the world. I agree with Matt Chandler, Pastor of the Village Church when he said, “The Gospel will never be considered cool by the world.” The world didn’t accept Jesus and the world will not accept us.
The second part of this verse scares a lot of people, but we must know and accept this, “If they persecuted me, they would also persecute you.” We should not marvel when we are met with hatred and resistance because of our belief and convictions. We should expect to be made fun of for our faith, cursed at for our devotion to Jesus and scoffed at for the Savior we love and obey. I also don’t believe that we should go out in the world and look to be persecuted so we can validate our faith. We should live as Christ commands, and we should expect to be treated the way He warns.
Verse 21 - 25: Plain and simple if one hates the son then he hates the Father as well. “They hated me without a cause”. The hatred of Jesus by the world is unjustified. There is no reason other than hatred of all that is right. All Jesus represents is good.
Verse 26, 27: However, when the Helper (as we know as the Holy Spirit) comes he will bear witness of who Jesus is and the disciples will bear witness of Jesus because they have been with him since the beginning of his ministry.
Chapter 16:1: Jesus gives reason for this discourse. He is warning and encouraging his disciples so that WHEN they experience hatred by the world, this will not cause them fall away. He warns about persecution and hatred that is to come and when they face their persecutors, they should remember His words of encouragement.
It is hard for me to come to terms with this as I am a person who likes to be liked. When I experience animosity from those who are of the world, I take it personal and I need to be reminded often, that it is not me they hate it’s the Jesus I serve and my hope and security must be rooted in that.
Verse 2: The disciples will experience intense persecution by those opposed to Jesus. They will face individuals who will call for public humiliation or death because of the Jesus they follow. Recall the life of the Apostle Paul (who was called Saul) when he looked approvingly on the persecution of Christians. He thought he was doing God a favor by persecuting Christians.
Verse 3: Jesus informs them that they are facing hatred and persecution because they do not know the Father and His love in not in them. They completely miss the point of purpose of Jesus’ act of redemption.
Verse 4: These things are told to believers so when the time does come, we will remember it is not us they hate, it’s the Jesus we serve they hate.
The idea that God loved the world that hated him is a hard pill for the Israelites and for Christians to swallow. The Jews knew that God had favored them as a nation. He made promises to them; He blessed them and committed to being their God (and He remained faithful in keeping these promises).
Now Jesus was not saying God only loves Israel exclusively, but He loves the world. His love is not restricted to a race, a nation or a select few it is for the world (literally the kosmos – the inhabitants of the world, humans). We need to be careful in our understanding of God’s universal love for the world. He loves the world and its inhabitants so much that he provided a way for humanity to be saved and made right with him through his one and only Son Jesus Christ. Those who accept this gift (whoever believes –puts complete trust- in him) will receive the new birth which includes eternal life (Kingdom of God).
Those who do not will perish – The word literally means to be lost, ruined, or destroyed. To perish is the opposite of eternal life; hence those who do not put complete trust in Jesus will face destruction, ruin, or loss. The truth is, since God so loved the world there is no need for anyone to perish. A way has been provided by which all might be saved, but a person must acknowledge the Lord Jesus Christ as personal Savior.
This verse can easily be summed up as this, “God’s love for humanity was so great that he gave his best gift he could possibly give, his unique Son Jesus Christ, so that anyone who puts complete faith and trust in him will not face ruin, loss and destruction but will instead have true life for ever and ever.”
This is Jesus’ mission. Contrary to some people’s opinion God’s plan is not to destroy, judge, or condemn humanity. He is not a cantankerous old man in the sky just waiting to do away with sinners. Jesus tells us his plan is not for condemnation (or judgment) that will come later. His purpose is to bring salvation to the world through faith in Him.
This is a profound testimony of humanity. Jesus says, “This is why there is judgment…” The shining light (Jesus) came into the world of darkness to shine brightly the light of salvation. The light exposed darkness and evil for what it is and shone brightly as the glory of God. However, when the light came and illuminated the darkness some people chose to remain in the darkness (and continue their evil deeds in the secret) and not run to the light (which not only illuminates but consumes darkness). Why did they choose darkness over light? Because they preferred to live their lives without God; their hearts are wicked, and their deeds are evil. They are not willing to live their lives in the truth or light. People who choose to walk in their own ways and disregard the ways of God in turn hate the light and refuse to come to the light because they are afraid that their evil works will be exposed. The wicked do their deeds in secret and are afraid of the light because the light will expose their evil deeds; so, the light becomes a natural enemy to the dark. Even today those who are unbelievers are threatened by Jesus Christ. His truth and light expose their sinfulness and makes them uncomfortable and ultimately their sin/darkness pushes them farther away from Jesus and they hate him for this. “The best way to reveal the crookedness of one stick is to place a straight stick beside it. Coming into the world as a Perfect Man, the Lord Jesus revealed the crookedness of all other men, by comparison.”
Those who love the truth will run to the light and do their works openly because they are good and they from God. As one author writes, “Jesus becomes like a magnet. His people are drawn to him and welcome his revelation.” You and I (at least those who believe) are attracted to the light of Christ and we do our works openly for the world to see, not for our benefit but for the glory of God and so that others may glorify God in turn.
In the Summer of 2004, my family and I witnessed a presidential motorcade near the City of Erie, PA. There was a lot of preparation and security that went into this short visit, and it was extreme and necessary. For months in advance security measures were put into place. A plan was devised for the best possible route for the motorcade to travel. The president of the United States of America was coming, and the city needed to prepare to ensure the safety and success of the visit of the most influential leader in America. We heard that the procession would be traveling near the church I worked at, and we went to a place where we knew we would see it. The spectacle was amazing! There were multitudes of police vehicles, busses, and SUV’s approaching as we stood on the side of the road. Black SUVs with secret service agents holding guns and helicopters flying overhead, it was awe inspiring. And this was all for one man.
Preparing for the visitation of someone of significance is important so that everything happens properly and without issue, and this is true with the coming of the Lord of lords and King of kings, Jesus. However, with his arrival he did not have a motorcade with police vehicles, guns, busses, helicopters, and SUVs… No, he had a man, a voice calling out in the wilderness to prepare for and proclaim the arrival of King Jesus. His name was John the Baptist. Today is the second Sunday of Advent and Advent is a time of reflection, repentance, and preparation for the coming of our Lord Jesus. Traditionally, the four themes of Advent are hope, love, joy, and peace. The theme of love is often connected to John the Baptist and his message of getting ready for the teachings of Jesus.
John The Baptist – We don’t know a lot about him, but this is what we do know,
1. John was of priestly descent. His father was a priest, and his mother from the lineage of Aaron (Moses’ brother). Both were reconsidered righteous before God. (Luke 1:5,6)
2. John was strong in Spirit. He was a person of energy and strength; and quite charismatic as you can imagine.
3. He lived in the desert (or wilderness) for most of his adult life until his public ministry began.
4. He was an odd-looking fella clothed in camel hair and a belt and he ate locusts and wild honey.
5. In his public ministry he preached the baptism of repentance for forgiveness of sins.
6. He had disciples.
7. He made preparations for the coming Messiah.
Matthew 3:1 – 6
Vs 1 - 4: Matthew describes him as the fulfillment of Isaiah 40:3, “I am the voice crying out in the wilderness, ‘make straight the way of the Lord.’” He declares that He was the one who was laying the foundation for the One who all of Israel has been anticipating… The Messiah.
He came preaching about the coming Kingdom of God and baptizing people for the repentance of sins.
Vs 5 – 6: The religious leaders of this time didn’t really appreciate what John was proclaiming and doing. He rebukes the leaders and warns them about coming judgment. His purpose was to …
1. “Prepare the way for the Lord’s coming.”– John proclaims that the King is coming. The coming Messiah has been prophesied for centuries. The religious leaders knew this, but they were not ready. The nation wasn’t ready. John declares that he is here to warn the people that the way of the Lord needs to be prepared. All preparations should have been made, but they weren’t. So, they better get their act together.
2. “He baptized them in the Jordan River “– One of the ways the people could get their act together was through repentance and baptism. But the leaders questioned his authority to baptize. John declares that the people need to repent as they confessed their sins and were baptized as a symbol of cleansing.
John 1:19 – 26
Vs 19: The religious leaders (probably the Sanhedrin) sent some priests and Levites to question John about who he was. They asked John who he was… This was not just a casual “Who are you?” question. They were coming to find out specifically if John was the Messiah, Elijah, or the Prophet.
At this point in history Israel was under Roman leadership and they had lost their sense of independence. There was a great sense of anticipation and hope for the Messiah to come and deliver the nation because it seemed the board was set for his imminent coming. The Jews believed the Messiah was coming to set Israel free from captivity and establish his Kingdom through the nation of Israel.
Vs 20 - 21: John fervently denies that he is the Messiah. He says he is neither Elijah nor the Prophet (which was believed to be one like Moses). They thought he might be Elijah because Malachi 4:5 reads, “Look, I am sending you the prophet Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the Lord arrives.” They were wondered if he was the fulfillment of the prophecy. They thought the prophet was Moses because Deuteronomy 18:15 says, “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him.”
Vs 23: John tells them who he is and why he has come. He is the fulfillment of Isaiah 40:3, “I am the voice crying out in the wilderness, ‘make straight the way of the Lord.’” He is the one who laying the foundation for the One who all of Israel has been anticipating… The Messiah.
Verse 24 – 28: – By what authority was he baptizing? According to D.A. Carson in his commentary on John, “Their interest is in what authorizes John’s baptismal practices. It is not that baptism is unknown. Some Jewish groups practiced ‘proselyte baptism’, i.e. proselytes were baptized in the process of converting to Judaism… Candidates baptized themselves. One of the things that characterized the baptism of John the Baptist is that he administered it.” He continues, “They want to discover by what authority John is baptizing Jewish people as part of the preparation for the Kingdom of God he is announcing. Looking around for an adequate authority to sanction so extraordinary a practice, they wonder if he is an (end times) figure.”
John the Baptist’s whole ministry (and life for that matter) was devoted to pointing people to Jesus. He was a heart changer. He knew his place in life. He had a humble (and strong) sprit to him. He was not self-promoting; he was a Jesus promoter. He had no agenda of his own, he had God’s agenda. He was more concerned with people being right with God by preaching a message of baptism of repentance and forgiveness of sins. His purpose and goal were to show people a new way of life and a true relationship with God through the Messiah (Jesus Christ).
The religious leaders were all about rules, conformity, and power. Their whole lives and ministry were about keeping the law and being pious. They were rule enforcers. Their “religion” was more about doing than being. They were very much into self-promotion and power simply by imposing rules and regulations on people based on their interpretations and beliefs. The clothes they wore were lavish and their attitudes were conceited. They had no concern for God’s agenda; they were more about God changing his agenda to fit their plans. There was no talk of repentance and forgiveness and submitting to God. It was all about the rules. Their righteousness was based in outwardly keeping the rules.
When I look at these two groups of people, I am reminded of that these attitudes (heart changers and rule enforcers) are still among us today. Thankfully there are heart changers in this world today. There are believers today who are dedicated to promoting Jesus and his Kingdom and preaching a message of repentance, forgiveness, and salvation through Jesus Christ. They understand that their faith is not a result of keeping rules and pointing out the sins of others self-righteously. They are submitted to the one (Jesus) who has shown them the way to the Kingdom. A heart changer receives a new heart when Jesus becomes their Lord and Savior. They don’t just become better versions of themselves, they become new creations in Christ. The old has passed away and the new has come.
Unfortunately, there are still people and attitudes among us today of the rule enforcers These individuals depend on “doing” more than “being”. In their minds their fulfillment of duties, “being a good person”, and policing other believers validate them as Christian. They attend church on a semi regularly basis, they push morality, allegiance, and condemnation on others and overlook their own actions. Maybe they will put some (in some cases a lot of) money in the plate when it comes around, fight for the rights of the unborn, campaign against the evils of culture, but do not have a faith in Jesus Christ. Their doing is what they think saves them. There is little to no change in heart; they are the same person they have always been and maybe there is a little compartment in their life for God (on Sunday or when they are in a difficult situation. You get the picture.
The question I want to leave with you today is this… Are you a heart changer or are you a rule enforcer in your relationship with Jesus? Are you putting all your chips in the fact that you are a good person, you follow and enforce the rules as insurance for eternal life? Or have you repented of your sins, sought forgiveness, and given your heart completely over to Jesus to transform your life?
This message is still relevant and applicable to us today.
How is your heart? Are you ready for the coming King? This Christmas season we need to prepare ourselves for the advent of the King of kings who came to this world as a human to bring restoration and hope. We also need to check our hearts as we prepare and anticipate the return of Christ when He comes once again, not as a humble defenseless child, but as the victorious sovereign King of all creation who comes to establish His Kingdom here on earth where He will rule and reign for all eternity.
Are you ready for this day? I know I am, and I pray that as we continue through this Advent season your heart will be prepared as you worship our King on high.
Jeff has been in full-time ministry for thirty years. He currently serves as Executive Director at Anchor House Ministry at SeaPort Manatee in Palmetto, FL and he is a part-time Campus Pastor at West Bradenton Southside in Bradenton, Florida.
Jeff Has authored A Lent Devotional (A Spiritual Journey to Lent) an Advent Devotional (The Advent of Jesus) and a devotional on the book of James (James: Where Faith and Life Meet). All three are available on Amazon.
He is married to Carrie and they have four children, Micaiah, Gabe, Simon, and Berea.
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