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Sunday, August 5, 2018

posted Aug 5, 2018, 8:12 PM by Site Administrator

JESUS FEEDS THE FIVE THOUSAND

 

John 6:1-13

Key Verse 6:

 

When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, "Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?" 6 He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.

 

First, "Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?" (1-9). Look at verses 1-2. Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the sea of Galilee (that is the sea of Tiberias), 2and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the miraculous signs he had performed on the sick.According to Lukes gospel, the disciples had just returned fromshort-term mission trip. They were probably worn out and ready to rest. It’s like us after a long game of soccer and ultimate frisbee. All we want to do is go back to church and relax and enjoy pizza. Jesus, sensing how worn out his disciples were, had planned on a retreat to give them time to recover. Maybe he had some pizza already prepared for them at the picnic spot. But things did not go as planned.

 

The crowds had seen Jesus perform miraculous signs and were excited with him. So, when they saw where the boat was heading they went after Jesus. They had seen what he had done and wanted to see more, running around the lake to get to him.Maybe when the disciples saw the crowds coming they sighed.It’d be like getting to church, smelling the pizza, then remembering you have 7 back to back bible studies that start in just a few minutes on campus. You’re dream for a restful rest of the day just evaporates before your eyes.

 

When Jesus saw this crowd coming, he could have been angry with them. They were ruining his plans to have a private retreat with his disciples. But instead of getting angry at the crowds Jesus took this as an opportunity to teach his disciples.So, what did Jesus do? First, he went up a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. This way they’d be separated from the crowd, ready to serve them. Jesus called his disciples out from the crowd and had them come to him. Originally, his disciples were just like the crowd. But when they had accepted Jesus’ calling their spiritual position was changed from members of the crowd to leaders and shepherds for Gods flock.

 

Many people want to have a great position as a leader, so what do they do? Many go to seminary and get a PhD in theology. They think that by having that piece of paper they are qualified to lead Gods flock. But real positions of spiritual authority don’t come from a piece of paper, or even one’s own efforts. Real authority comes from accepting Gods calling upon them. We remember John the Baptist's rebuke to his disciples saying "A man can receive only what is given him from heaven." John the Baptist's position wasn’t earned; but given.Likewise, the disciples hadn’t earned this title but had been given it by Jesus. Then once they had the title, Jesus worked hard to shape them up into men worthy of it. He’d worked hard to teach them and help them to grow up into great men of God.Now with this crowd Jesus was going to help them to pick up a leaders and a shepherds mindset.

 

Look at verses 5-6. Let’s read these verses together:

 

"5When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, "Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?" 6He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.

 

The crowd didn’t come for food, but Jesus saw their condition. They’d just went all the around the sea of Galilee, probably walking many miles to get to him. The people were probably collapsing from exhaustion. Jesus saw their condition and had compassion on them. He wanted to feed them and restore them. So, to do this he singled out Philip and asked "where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?"

 

What was Philips response? Philip looked at the crowd, maybe he pulled out his pocket calculator "ok, there’s 50 people over there, at 4 bucks a meal that’s $200. Then there’s another 200 over there that’s another $800. I’ve got $2.75 in my pocket, between us disciples we’ve probably got $14.75, man this is going to be tough." Then he looked at the droves and droves of people. An endless sea of people to be fed. As he tried to calculate it the numbers just became more and more ridiculous.The number wouldn’t even fit on his calculator! Finally, he threw up his hands and exclaimed "eight months wages wouldn’t be enough for each one to have a bite!" Philip looked, calculated the situation and saw that it was impossible. The passage says that Jesus had asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. Philip was a smart man, but despite his brilliance he failed Jesus’ test.

Why did Philip fail? Philip accurately analyzed the situation and concluded that it was impossible to feed all these people. But that’s not what Jesus wanted. When looking for a solution, Philip only looked at what he and the other disciples were capable of doing. When he saw things that way the situation was impossible. But Jesus didn’t want Philip to look at his own strength but to turn to Jesus for the answer.

 

Often when faced with challenges we look to ourselves for the answer. Then when its something we can’t overcome we throw up our hands and say "Its impossible! Maybe if I had a bit more money or time or bible knowledge I could do it. But as things are, it’s impossible.As shepherds we’re already up to our necks in school and work and our own sin problems. It seems like we’re barely keeping ourselves afloat. Then with our few precious hours we have to spare each week Jesus asks "where shall we buy bread for the campus to eat?" Maybe we want to cry out "8 months wages wouldn’t be enough for each one to have a bite! Jesus I’m buried in my school work, I don’t even have a minute to spare!" or our sheep are so unresponsive that we feel we can’t help them. No matter how much we pray and struggle for them it seems nothing changes. We seem incapable of feeding them. When we just look at our strength, shepherding life seems impossible and we’re only filled withbitterness and despair as we look at the impossible task we’re supposed to do. Truly, in serving Jesus we must not look at just what we can do alone.

 

As Philip was running his calculations Andrew, Simon Peters brother, was also looking at the situation. He too saw that it was impossible, but he found something and he brought it to Jesus. Look at verses 8-9 let’s read these verses together. Let’sgo "Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, "here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?" Andrew looked at the situation and like Philip, concluded that it was impossible. But unlike Philip he tried to find something, some possibility, and to bring it to Jesus. When he saw a small boy pulling out his lunch sack his mind went "aha" and he told the boy "come with me" and brought him to Jesus. Maybe he triumphantly presented him saying "Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish. Here Jesus, here’s something for you to work with." Andrew brought this boy to Jesus, why? B/c he could see a glimpse of the idea that Jesus would be able to feed this entire crowd with this lunch sack.How? He didn’t know. But he was willing to try and to bring something to Jesus. But then, rather than keeping his focus on Jesus and hanging onto what he’d glimpsed, he looked again at the crowd. Then reality hit him and he said "but how far will they go among so many?"

 

Andrew did the same thing as Philip. He looked at the situation and realized that on his own strength it was impossible.It would cost tens of thousands of dollars to feed this entire crowd. Even if they had the money, where could they go to buy food? They were in the middle of nowhere. But he didn’t stop there but he struggled to find something to bring to Jesus.Andrew included the Jesus factor in his calculations. As a result, he was able to see the possibility of overcoming the situation.The possibility of feeding this entire crowd somehow through Jesus. Why did Andrew succeed when Philip failed? Its b/c he had faith in Jesus. What was his faith? It was that Jesus could do something, what? He didn’t know what. But something, when Andrew was willing to believe that Jesus could do something he searched for something to bring to him.

 

We’re often like this, in a limited situation. Our sheep’s condition seems impossible. We teach them but it seems like we’re just giving them empty words. No matter how much we teach them they don’t ever seem to change, to be fed. So, we wonder "how am I supposed to do this? How am I supposed to feed my sheep when what I have does nothing for them?We look at the scale of our campuses. Santa Monica college has 35,000 students. CSULB has 37,000, El Camino has 22,000, USC has 45,000. How am I to feed them when it's just me and a few other shepherds for so many? When we look at the scale of what Jesus asks us to do we feel overwhelmed. We want to say "8 months wages wouldn’t be enough for each one to have a bite!But when we go Andrews way and say "ok, on my own this is impossible, but with Jesus it can be done." Our view changes. Then we start to think about how we can bring something to Jesus so he can work in the situation. We think "ok I’m limited, but Jesus isn’t. If Jesus can create the entire universe out of nothing surely he can do something here.And we think of what we can bring to him to work with. With Jesus we can see the possibility of feeding the entire campus so we look and think "what are my 5 loaves and two fish that I can bring to Jesus?"

 

We are all limited in one way or another. Most of us are limited in many ways, we’re short on time, short on cash, we don’t have great prestigious titles like pastor or seminary professor to get the students to listen to us or hear what we say.Maybe we’ve only studied a few weeks more passages than we’ve taught. Then we’re terrified our students will ask us to study twice a week because that means we’ll run out of new notes for them in a few weeks. We’re all limited, but when we bring what we have to Jesus a miracle can start from there.

 

Second, "Have the people sit down" (10-13). When Andrew brought the boy with his lunch sack to Jesus, Jesus started working. When we’re willing to bring something to Jesuswith faith that he’ll do something with it, even if it’s as small as a child’s lunch sack, he starts to work with that. Jesus told his disciples to have the people sit down. A proper environment had to be prepared. If the people were all just milling about they wouldn’t be ready to hear the message and they wouldn’t know where the food had come from. So, Jesus had his disciples get involved. He told the disciples to have the crowds sit down. This would be dangerous, maybe the disciples would tell the crowds "everyone have a seat, food will be here shortly." All the while the disciples knew that there was no food available. If the disciples didn’t deliver the crowd would be angry, thinking the disciples had been playing a trick on them. Having a crowd of 5,000 angry at you could turn very bad, very quickly. The disciples knew this but still they trusted that Jesus would do something, what? They didn’t know, but something, somehow,to provide food for this crowd.

 

Jesus could have just fed the crowd himself. Jesus is God.He is not limited by this situation or any other. But rather than doing this all on his own he drew his disciples into it. He made them really have to entrust themselves to him and believe that this situation would turn out good, even if they couldn’t see how.This is what Jesus asks of us. He says "will you trust me? Will you work and follow my direction even if it seems impossible?Jesus challenges us to trust him rather than the situation, rather than our own understanding of how things will go. Even when there’s so much on the line, Jesus asks us to trust him. When we do… we’ll let’s see what happened.

 

Jesus took the loaves that Andrew had gotten, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. It was a miracle! With just one boys small lunch sack, Jesus was able to produce enough food to feed thousands of people! When the disciples were willing to just believe in Jesus, to trust him rather than their own calculations, a great work of God occurred. This is what happens when we trust God rather than the situation.

 

What Andrew brought to Jesus seemed ridiculous. Feeding all this crowd with one lunch sack is like feeding an entire campus with one French fry. But when Andrew brought this to Jesus didn’t reject him or say "What! That’s all you’ve got?! Get out of here! You’re pathetic." But instead he took what Andrew brought, gave thanks and multiplied it. Jesus took what Andrew brought. It was small pathetic, not some great offering worthy of the God of all creation. But when Andrew brought it Jesus happily accepted it. What we have may be so small. Maybe only an hour or two a week. But we see here that when we bring what we have to Jesus, even if its one French fry’s worth, he’s happy to take it and work with it.

 

 Then Jesus gave thanks. What was he thankful for? Was it for the lunch sack? No, the material to work with was never an issue. Jesus could just as easily have produced food for these people out of thin air as he did out of this boy’s lunch. But there was one thing that Andrew brought to Jesus that was very special. One thing that made Jesus very thankful. His faith.When Andrew approached Jesus, he approached him with trust that Jesus could do something with what Andrew was bringing to him. And he approached him with trust that Jesus wouldn’t reject this tiny pitiful seeming offering. Andrew had faith in Jesus’ power and faith in Jesus’ goodness. For that Jesus was very thankful. What can we do to please Jesus? Not much.We’re sinful beings, unreliable in the best of times. Plus, when we think about it, anything we bring to Jesus is just something he gave us in the first place. "Here Jesus, here’s my time""Thanks, I’m the one who gave that time in the first place""Here Jesus, my efforts" "Thanks I’m the one who gave you the body your using for me" "Here’s my tithe" "I gave you your job." Anything we bring to Jesus is really just bringing back to him what is already his. Those don’t really move Jesus. But there’s one thing we can bring to him that he really treasures, our faith. We can bring a decision to trust in his goodness and his power. We can choose to bring to him our faith that when we offer him something, it won’t be wasted but he’ll take it and use it. When Andrew was willing to make that act of faith, that act of trust in Jesus, Jesus gave thanks. Jesus was thankful to God for his disciple’s hearts trust in him.

 

Then Jesus took what Andrew brought and distributed to the people as much as they wanted. At first glance this situation had seemed impossible. But as the disciples saw food spreading through the crowd they must have been awestruck. Then when they were all done and got back to Jesus they could see a sea of people all putting food in their mouths. It must have been an overwhelming sight. At first, they thought that this situation was impossible and indeed without Jesus it was. But when they were willing to trust Jesus he quickly worked and soon the situation was conquered and everyone was fed. There must have been many "wows" and high fives among the disciples as they saw this. When we face challenging situations, like the challenge of feeding our entire campus with just a few hours a week, it can seem overwhelming and we can be tempted to quit without even trying. But when we bring the situation to Jesus like this then our view changes and we pick up great hope and vision of transforming things. Then this impossible situation becomes a chance to reveal Gods glory, then despair turns to excitement.Praise Jesus for impossible situations! These are the times where we can really learn how to put our trust in him and to develop faith in what he’s able and willing to do.

 

After everyone had had enough to eat. Jesus told his disciples to gather the pieces that were left over. To let nothing be wasted. So, the disciples gathered 12 baskets with the pieces left over. Now not only was the crowd fed, but each disciple had their own personal gigantic basket full of food to enjoy. When they were willing to bring what they had to Jesus, the result was an overflowing abundance and everyone, both shepherd and sheep were satisfied. When we bring what we have to Jesus, the result will be the same.

Through this passage I was really touched and inspired.Before Jesus’ calling I was a nobody going nowhere in life. All throughout school I was a troublemaker and a weirdo. I was in the principal’s office on an almost daily basis in elementary school. I was someone who just barely put forth enough effort to pass my classes and survive. In short, I was just like the disciples, living for small things and not having any vision for myself. My dream was to get rich, somehow, get a boat and spend my life traveling the world. But Jesus, through giving me my one word that I would no longer be Jacob, someone who struggles with man, and instead would be Israel, someone who wrestles with and pursues Gods blessing, gave me a new hope and vision for my life. I recently was able to eat at a high-end steakhouse. As I sat there, eating my meal, I watched an elderly lady in an electric wheelchair eating her meal and talking about a trip to Ireland. I watched and internally said "that’s where your fantasy would have ended up Rob. Old, with your life worn away and behind you, feeling like you were living the high life but completely ignorant of Gods will for you." As I saw where my "fantasy life" would have really ended I just prayed thanking God for the new life he had given me and that I was denied my worldly dream.

 

Jesus called me up the mountain so to speak through bible studies on CSULB. I would walk up the hill to the library on top of campus to be taught Gods words. As I continually went up that mountain, God called me from my old life of living for myself to instead living as a shepherd over his flock. I started living as a shepherd in 2008 and have been doing so ever since.God has been building me up from someone who’s joy in life was YouTube to someone who envisions filling the world with thousands of divisions of shepherds, feeding the entire planet with God's word.

 

Through this passage I’m inspired to see that 8 months wages isn’t what I need. I don’t need to be in better shape or have more time or money to effectively serve Gods work.Instead what I truly have to have is belief in Jesus. As I have that sort of belief, one where I truly see it as certain that he’ll work through me, not possible but certain, I can come to him in prayer and bring him all I have, my entire person.

 

I grew up as a Philip, I learned that if you can’t do it on your own it can’t be done and to always have a backup plan.Even in serving God all I leaned on was my own ability to teach and make the passage clear. But through this passage I can see that its not by my own efforts Gods work can be done. Instead when I bring what I have to Jesus in prayer, he can empower my five loaves and two fish to become a real meal that students can be fed with.

 

I’m married, work full time and have a one-year old daughter. My hands are already full with that and I only have a few spare hours, two days a week, to go onto campus and to fish and to teach. But when that time is first offered to Jesus in prayer saying "here Jesus you take this and put substance behind it" then those few hours a week can be more than enough to feed the students on Santa Monica college. Through those, Gods words can begin to grow and sprout in students’ hearts and soon they too can be working as shepherds for Gods flock. Gods work can start and grow mightily when I just bring him my five hours on two nights on SMC.

 

Before my way of serving Jesus was 8 months wages. I would debate creation versus evolution with my friends, attempting to convert them with intellectual arguments and debate. It never worked and only produced endless arguments that never went anywhere. But now, rather than struggling with students by my own strength I struggle to come to Jesus in prayer, to bring what I have before him to use. I pray, "Jesus, please cause your words to sprout and gain weight in my students’ hearts. Let them be able to see it as true and unable to deny what your will for them is." As I’ve done so, it's been completely transformative for me. Now rather than always arguing, I just teach and let God do what really only he can do.Several of my students are becoming more responsive to bible studies. Their testimonies are getting better and longer. I can see God is starting to do a great work on SMC and I’m excited to see what will come of it. When we just bring what we have to Jesus, he’ll gladly take it and work with it to feed more than we could ever imagine.

 

One word: Bring Your Five Loaves And Two Fish To Jesus

Sunday, July 29, 2018

posted Jul 29, 2018, 10:50 PM by Site Administrator


 

I HAVE COME IN MY FATHER'S NAME

 

John 5:31-47

Key verse 5:43

 

I have come in my Father's name, and you do not accept me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him. 

 

First, "The very work I am doing testifies that the Father has sent me" (31-40). In chapter 5, we studied about Jesus healing an invalid for 38 years by telling him, "Get up! Pick up your mat and walk!" Jesus had pity on this man for his long suffering and made him well. But this man was not thankful for what Jesus had done for him. Instead, when his personal benefit was at stake, he betrayed Jesus by dumping all blame of breaking the Sabbath law on Jesus. As a result, Jesus was in trouble, being accused by the Jews as a lawbreaker. Why did Jesus work even on the Sabbath? Jesus told them, "My Father is always at his work to this very day. And I too, am working." At this, they tried all the harder to kill him, not only because he broke the Sabbath Laws, but also now because he called God his Father making himself equal with him. So, Jesus showed them how great he was: the very one God loved so much and thereby assigned him as the judge of all; he was the Son of God that if anyone heard his voice, that person would have eternal life, crossing over from death to life. That's Jesus' own testimony about himself. Jesus said to them in verse 31, "If I testify about myself, my testimony is not valid." In the court, one's own testimony about himself is not valid. So Jesus came up with four testimony speakers who testified in his favor. 

 

The first testimony speaker Jesus mentioned was John the Baptist. Look at verses 32 through 35. John was the forerunner of the Messiah, and the purpose of his coming was to reveal Jesus to the world so that they might believe in him. John testified about Jesus saying, "Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." John baptized people with the water, but he told that Jesus was the one who would give them the baptism with fire and the Holy Spirit. John shouted about Jesus, saying, "I have seen and testify that this is the Son of God." (In 1:34) Jesus says in verse 35, "John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light." 

 

The second testimony speaker was the very work Jesus was doing. Look at verse 36. Let's read this verse together: 

 

"I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the very work that the Father has given me to finish, and which I am doing, testifies that the Father has sent me." 

 

A well known servant of God like John the Baptist testifying about Jesus was really effective. But Jesus had testimony weightier than that of John the Baptist. What was it? It was the very work Jesus was doing in his day to day life. The way he lived his life, what he did and what he pursued showed who he was. When you see a person who goes out in uniform, patrols all day long, and issues speeding tickets, you can tell that he is a police officer. When you see a person who works at the hospital, issuing prescriptions and performing surgery, you can tell that he is a doctor. By seeing how people spend their time, what they do, what they pursue in their life, you can tell what kind of people they are - firefighters, nurses, CPAs, businessmen,... In the same way, by seeing how Jesus lived, what he did and what he pursued in his day to day life, we can tell who he was - a servant of God, sent by God to do his work. Some people promote sinful environment by their sinful behaviors, and we can tell that surely they are not from God. Some people just work hard to make their lives successful, or to enjoy fun and pleasures this world offers. They enjoy long vacation, and travel all known exciting sight-seeing attractions such as Cancun, the Bahamas, and we can tell that they are not sent by God.

 

But how did Jesus live his life? What did he do? What did he pursue in his life? Did he pour out his time, energy and talent for a successful life to eat better and to live in a bigger house? Did he work hard to enjoy all kinds of luxuries and convenience in the world? No! If he were there on his own, he too would do things for himself just like other people did, using his time and energy for his own pleasures. But he did not do so. Instead, using every flying minute, he taught people the word of God, struggling hard to help them repent and turn to God - that's how he spent his time on earth, and he even died for this purpose. Why? It was because he was sent by God to do what God wanted. He was living according to the will of God. The way he lived, the work he was doing testified that he was not on his own, but sent by God. That was testimony weightier than that of John the Baptist. Many people say that they are children of God. But what they do speaks more loudly who they truly are than their own words. The kind of work they do testifies who they truly are. 

 

What is God's seal of approval upon us that we are sent by Him? If a well known servant of God like Billy Graham testifies about us publicly in the TV interview that all the shepherds and shepherdesses aShepherds Church are real disciples of Jesus, it will be really cool - we are officially recognized as servants of God. But we have testimony weightier than that of Billy Graham. What is it? The very work we are doing in our day to day life! It is the way we live our life here on earth. Check out how we live our life - always struggling with the word of God, spending many hours in studying and teaching the word of God, and then, struggling to write deep testimonies for hours, some people doing daily bread every day; despite continuous rejection and hot California sun, we keep struggling to find sheep day in and day out; we teach them the word of God, helping them repent and turn to God, to choose God over money, pleasures or success; we carry them in our hearts, and our whole concern is how to help them receive God's words and turn to God decisively. Indeed, this is how we spend our day to day life, and this is how we will spend our entire life. What kind of people are we? Certainly, the way we live our life, the work we are doing testifies that we are servants of God, sent by God to do his work. The very work we are doing testifies who we are. Paul says in Romans 10:15, "And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!"" If you bring good news, in God's eyes, even your feet are beautiful! This is testimony weightier than that of Billy Graham that proves that we are sent by God. 

 

The third testimony speaker was God the Father. Look at verses 37 and 38. Let's read these verses together: 

 

37 And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, 38 nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. 

 

At the beginning of Jesus' messianic ministry, when he received the baptism from John the Baptist, the heaven opened, and the Holy Spirit came down on him in the form of dove, and God the Father told him, "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased." (Mk 1:11) Later, on the transfiguration mountain, God testified about Jesus in the same way. 

 

Jesus says, "You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent." Here Jesus pointed out what great blessings they forfeited only because they did not believe the one God sent - they failed to hear God's voice; they failed to see his form, andhis word did not dwell in them. They were God-believing people. It is all God-believing people's dream to hear his voice, see his form and his word dwelling in them. Hearing his voice shows that their relationship with God is bi-directional, mutual, not that they just do all kinds of religious things in worship of God, but also, God responds by speaking to them; it means that not only they struggle to worship God and love God, but also God knows them, recognizes their struggles and services, and He intervenes. When their relationship with God is like this, their worship of God is not just conceptual or religious, but very personal, real and practical, and there is such deep confidence and joy in worshiping and serving God. 

 

Humans cannot see God's form. When any human sees God's form, his glory is so overwhelming that simply human body cannot bear it, and thereby, that person dies. Of course, that's not what Jesus is talking about. Instead, here seeing God's form shows their personal contact with God - their divine,miraculous, or even mysterious experiences with God; it's so amazingly great that once anyone has that kind of divine experience of God, their eyes are opened to the reality of God, then, in view of God's presence in their life, they see everything differently; thus, their life changes. Many Christians have a kind of Kamikaze suicide squad faith - they say that no matter what, they believe. But that kind of human determination is so weak; at the challenges of life, such faith is often being dashed to pieces. Also, some Christians have a very fatalistic view of their Christian life. Simply, their Christian life is so hard, painful and miserable, but since their eyes are opened to the truth that God exists, heaven is real and hell is real, they have no other choice but live as Christians continually - painful Christian life. Their Christian life is like wounded wolves, growling, vicious and ready to attack because they have already too many wounds and scars that they cannot allow even one more. All these Christians are greatly mistaken. They are still blind. Christian life is not so painful and miserable like that; it is not doing Christian things endlessly. Instead, it is the life of seeing God's form, experiencing God in such a divine and amazing way. When you love God and seek God really, at the right time, God reveals Himself to you - usually, when you reach your limit, or when everything in your life is at stake, or when you lose everything in the world - how come only or usually in such conditions? I don't know why. But it seems that, when we are in that kind of condition, when we reach our limit, there we become really real and sincere, and thereby, a channel through which God can reveal Himself to us is formed. Then, once you have such a divine encounter with God, you see that you are not struggling alone, but together with God. Then, your Christian life is not torturous, or it is not just your own mind play, saying, "I think I believe. I think I believe." When you see God's form that way, you have real treasure in your mortal body that you become strong and your Christian life is wonderful. Then, you are no longer ordinary human, but someone very special, who know the Creator God. Such people are strong.

 

God's word dwelling in us shows God's word exercising its influence in us, shaping up our perspectives and life according to God's desire. Maybe, this is the most important struggle all God-believing people have; or it is a very important goal of all Christian struggles. Abraham lived in Canaan according to God's word - that's God's will for him. But when life's challenge came, when financial difficulties rose, he left Canaan and went down to Egypt for survival. At that time, he was not planted in the Promised Land, because God's word was not planted in him. Then, after experiencing God's help and blessing in regard to his wife Sarai and money matter in Egypt, he understood God's will and returned to Canaan; he traveled all the way to the original place where he had first built an altar to the Lord, and there, he started his life of faith all over again, with a new heart's complete determination that he would never ever leave the promised land. He was indeed planted in the promised land - now God word dwelled in him. God-believing life is not about doing all kinds of good looking things or doing all kinds of Christian things endlessly. Instead, it is about God's word dwelling in us. Jesus says, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then, you will know the truth and the truth will set you free." (Jn 8:31-32)

 

Jesus said to the Jews, "You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, 38 nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent." All these blessings could have been given to them, only if they believed the one God sent as God's servant for them. But by rejecting the one God sent as God's messenger for them, they forfeited all these blessings. So, without hearing God's voice, without seeing God's form, and without God's words dwelling in them, they just did all kinds of religious things, becoming proud of their righteous life and Bible knowledge, despising others who were not like them. Outwardly, they looked devout, but actually, they were becoming enemies of God - Satan's instruments. 

 

Today, still God sends many of his servants to people. Only if people believe those who are sent by God as God's messengers, they will open their eyes, see God's glory and havesalvation in Christ. If they accept the one as God's messenger personally sent to them, they can see clearly that God is concerned about them, and cares for them; they can see that God has watched over them, and paid attention to their cause; there, they realize that they are not alone, but God has been with them all the time; they can see that God loves them and wants to lead them, even by sending his messenger personally to them; there, they are happy and joyful with God; they are thankful to God for his grace and love for them. Only if they believe the one sent by God as God's messenger for them, their eyes are truly opened to God's love for them, and they enter into real fellowship with God. Today, God brings amazing blessings to us by sending his servants to us. Those who accept them as God's messengers personally sent to them, enjoy all these blessings - seeing God and hearing his voice and, God's word dwells in them. 

 

The fourth testimony speaker is the Scriptures. Look at verses 39 and 40. Let's read these verses together: 

 

39You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, 40yet you refuse to come to me to have life. 

 

The Jews were zealous about the Scriptures. They studied the Scriptures all the days of their lives. Why? Because their understanding was that, by the Scriptures, they would possess eternal life. Wow!! They had really a wonderful perspective, far better than that of many Christians who never really study the Bible. As a result, they had good understanding of what the Bible was talking about. They knew that the Messiah was coming, and they even knew that the Messiah would come from Bethlehem as the Son of David. But it was ironic that these Bible believing and Bible studying Jews rejected Jesus of whom the Bible actually testified. They failed as God-believing people. Their failure shows that accepting Jesus is not the matter of understanding or knowledge, but of heart. 

 

Second, "I have come in my Father's name" (41-47).The Jews failed as God-believers. Why did they fail, even after having such a good perspective about the Bible and eternal life, and even after making such sincere efforts to study the Bible diligently throughout their entire life? Now in verses 41 through 47, Jesus shows the reasonsLook at verses 41 and 42. Jesus said to them, "I do not accept praise from men, 42but 1 know you. 1 know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts.The first reason was that they did not have the love of God in their hearts. They were the Jews who had the Bible and worship service. The Jews despised the Gentiles calling them dogs and pigs. They thought that they were the very ones who loved God and honored God. They said, "If not we, then, who loves God?" But Jesus told them, "I know that you do not have the love of God in your heart." The Jews did not accept Jesus whom God sent not because they did not know who he was, but because they did not love God; instead, they loved something else such as wealth, or their own reputation in the society. This then, explains why some people, even after enjoying Bible studies for a while, reject us as God's servants or refuse to commit themselves to God - simply, they do not have the love of God in their hearts; instead, they love something else; they even refuse God's will upon their life so that they can pursue or secure what they really love

 

"I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your heart." What shocking statements these are. Our God sees everything hidden; our Bible knowledge, religious activities or even our perfect record of worship service attendance cannot hide from God who we truly are, or what we truly love; all men stand before him naked, and all their shameful and secret deeds, thoughts and desires are exposed to him naked. When we think about this statement of Jesus, we are alarmed, and come to have the fear of God. What would Jesus say to us? Would he say to you, 'I know that you love me'? How horrible it would be if Jesus says to you or to me, "know that you do not have the love of God in your heart." We must ask this question to ourselves with a fearful and trembling heart, "Do I truly love God or something else? What would Jesus say about me?" Those who do not have the love of God in their hearts do not accept the one God sent; instead, they make excuses and say, "I go to other church."

 

Look at verse 43. Let's read this verse together: 

 

431 have come in my Father's name, and you do not accept me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him. 

 

Here, Jesus explains another reason why the Jews did not accept him as the one sent by God. It was because he came to them in God's name. What does it mean that people rejected Jesus because he came in God's name? What does it mean that if someone else comes in his own name, people will accept him? The one who comes in his own name comes to people for his own purpose. A politician running for election come to people with many good words, promising them good things. He does so to gain their votes and thereby, be reelected. His purpose is not to be rejected, but accepted, honored and praised. So this man does not say anything offensive to others so as to gain their hearts. When someone else comes to God's people in his own name, he does not say words that can offend them. Instead, he uses words that are acceptable and pleasing to them. Even when people are doing what is sinful, and even if God's wrath is coming for their sins, he speaks to them the words that are pleasing to their ears, such as, "God bless you," or "God is with you." Such a person is a false prophet. 

 

But Jesus did not come in his own name for his own purpose, but in God's name to serve God's purpose. He was there not to gain people's heart for himself, but to serve God's will. They were God's people, believing in the Bible, keeping the worship service absolutely, and doing all kinds of God-worship things. Yet, in God's eyes, they were not doing right; that's why he sent his servant to help them see things right, and turn to God and do what God wanted them to do. So when Jesus came, he challenged them to repent, disapproving what they had been doing, not giving them any credit, rebuking them of their sinful lives. Instead of saying, "Peace be with you," he rebuked them harshly, saying, "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs ... on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness." When people heard this, they were offended, so they hated him. The prophets in the Old Testament also came to people in the name of God. God sent them to warn them of the coming wrath and to help them turn to God in repentance. So when they came, they did not try to purchase people's hearts for themselves, but they tried hard to serve the will of God. They rebuked people of their sins and challenged them to repent and turn to God. People who were loaded with sinful desires felt so bad and offended that they persecuted these prophets and even killed many of them. Those who come to people in God's name will be rejected, but those who come in their own name will be loved and praised. We too must make our choice very clear - whether we come in our own name or in God's name. If we come in our own name, we have no reason to go against the flow or challenge others to repent of their sins; instead, we will bless them saying, "God loves you. God loves all kinds of people; God understands your weaknesses. God bless you." But if we come in God's name, we disapprove the lifestyle of people and challenge them to repent of their sinful way of life, and turn to God. People may not recognize us as God's servants. But it's totally okay. What's the meaning of the approval from those sinful people? Nothing. We just want to serve God's will no matter what, because we want to please Him alone who sent us.

 

Look at verse 44. "How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?" When they were so concerned about what others would think of them and had a desire to be praised and recognized as devout men of God by others, there was no room for them to pursue the praise that came from God. What they loved and pursed was praise from men as devout men of God. For this, they made great effort - praying in the market place, getting certificates to show others how great and devout they were, and obtaining good titles and positions in the religious society. At that time, indeed, there was no love of God in their hearts. Let's live before God alone! Let's have the love of God in our hearts. We don't need any man's approval, but the approval that comes from God. 

 

As a conclusion, Jesus said to them, "If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?" It is really shocking that this was how Jesus saw them. In his eyes, they did not believe what Moses wrote - the five books of Moses from Genesis to Deuteronomy, which they held as the Canon, the most authentic parts of the Scriptures. They were the ones who would despise all evolutionists saying that God's creation is really real. They ever thought that they believed the Bible. But Jesus said that they did not. We must not be like people who casually say that they believe everything that is written in the Bible. Instead, we must be real before God, making sincere efforts to accept God's words and live by them. Let's pray that God's words may dwell in us firmly.

 

In this passage, we learned why the Jews rejected Jesus. It was not because of any other reason but because they did not have the love of God in their hearts; despite their clean, moralistic life, despite their great knowledge of the Bible, they did not have the love of God in their hearts; instead, they loved something else such as praise from men or wealth. When their hearts were filled with the desire for something else than God, they had no interest in God's will. So, they rejected Jesus who came to them in God's name. We must check out what is there in our hearts - the love of God, or the love of something else. We must not be deceived by our zealous Christian life either - that's the trap all the Jews fell in. Instead, we must love God alone, and nothing else. Whoever loves anything in the world, the love of God is not in him. May God bless us that we may love God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our strength.

 

One Word:I Have Come In My Father's Name

 

Sunday, July 22, 2018

posted Jul 24, 2018, 10:51 AM by Site Administrator

WHOEVER HEARS MY WORD…

 

John 5:16-30

Key Verse 5:24

 

I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.

 

First, "For the Father loves the Son,..." (16-23). In the previous passage, we learned how Jesus healed the invalid of 38 years by simply saying his word, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” This man had wasted the past 38 years of his precious life just complaining. But Jesus did not allow him to complain any more. Instead, he gave him a clear direction to get up and live a powerful life. When the word of Jesus was heard in this man, his feeble and shriveled muscles and bones gained new strength and he got up. But this man was not thankful for what Jesus had done for him. When his personal benefit was at stake, he betrayed Jesus’ grace by telling the religious cops that it was Jesus who had directed him to pick up the mat and walk on the Sabbath. Because of his betrayal, now Jesus was charged with two felonies: one, running his clinic on the Sabbath, and two, directing others to work on the Sabbath. What was Jesus’ defense? Let’s read verse 17 together:

 

Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.”

 

Here, Jesus explained to them the reason why he worked even on the Sabbath. It was because his Father had been working hard even on the Sabbath, so he, the Son, also worked on the Sabbath. While the Father was working hard, how could the Son just take it easy, relax and do nothing? He couldn’t, so he worked hard. “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.” This short sentence of Jesus makes us think a lot. Many people think that things automatically are to go as God planned. But that’s not true. Instead, this expression shows that God is working hard to make sure that everything goes according to his plan and purpose. Things go according to God’s plan and purpose due to God’s hard work. He has never rested, but has worked hard to make sure that everything goes according to his will. The word, “Sabbath” means “rest.” After creating the universe and everything in it in six days, God wanted to celebrate his six days’ creation. So on the 7th day, he proclaimed a universal holiday so that all his creation would celebrate what He had done for them. On that day, He rested from what He had done, and blessed all creation to participate in His rest. But sadly, the first man Adam sinned, was disconnected from God, and thereby, could not have rest in God any more. Due to his sin, mankind became miserable and endless wanderers on earth who would work and work only to return to the dust. God had pity on lost mankind, and decided to bring them back to his rest. Thus, God’s mission for the lost world began, and since then, God has been at his work all the time. Still, God’s mission has not been completed. In Genesis chapter 2:2, we see God resting on the first Sabbath, but  since then, there is no record in the Bible that he has rested; instead, in today’s passage Jesus says that God has been working all this time, and even today he is working without taking any Sabbath rest. For the past 6,000 years, God has been at his work to bring lost mankind back to his rest.

 

Jesus says, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.” When Jesus the Son knew how hard His Father was working, he could not take it easy, relax and rest. Instead, in honor and respect for His Father, he too worked hard even on the Sabbath, even at the risk of his own life, teaching the word of God to many and healing the sick. Now God is at his work today and our master Jesus is working also. Then, what should we, children of God, do? Should we relax and pursue our own comfortable life here in the world? Should we take it easy, only enjoying beautiful Southern California weather and delicious food all the time? No! Surely, it is not the time for us to rest, but the time for us to work hard together with God the Father and the Son, Jesus. It is not the time for us to think about resting or pursuing a comfortable life, but instead, we must actively participate in God’s redemption work by teaching students the word of God diligently. One time, a hard working servant felt very tired and thought that he needed some rest. So he visited his shepherd, a prominent spiritual leader and said to him that he needed some rest. Then, his shepherd told him, “Work harder, and you will have rest in heaven.” We have this hope to enter the true and eternal rest in heaven. So, let's throw away any hint of an easy going life or desire for rest on earth, and instead work hard until we enter the true rest in God. Let’s remember these words of Jesus our Lord all the time: “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.”

 

When the Jews heard this, they should have appreciated Jesus’ burning heart’s desire and his hard work to serve God’s redemptive purpose even on the Sabbath. But they did not know God at all even though they had a lot of Bible knowledge. Instead, they got angrier than before and tried all the harder to kill him because they thought that not only was Jesus breaking the Sabbath, but he was also blaspheming by calling God his Father, making himself equal with God.

 

So, in verses 19 through 23, Jesus told them great things God did for him, showing God's special affection for him, thus proving why it was totally okay for him to call God, "my Father." Jesus says in verses 19 and 20a, "I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does." Here, Jesus explains how he could heal the invalid of 38 years by just simply saying, "Get up! Pick up your mat and walk." It was impossible for any human being to do, but Jesus did it. How could he do that? Jesus says that he could do that because he saw his Father doing the same thing, so he figured it out and now he did it. In the Old Testament, God healed many people of their diseases, and the Jews just read about them, and were amazed. God did not show them how he did it, so no human being could do it. But God showed his Son Jesus how he did it, and so Jesus too could do it too. It was because God loved his Son. Jesus says, “For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does.” “The Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” It was like a family recipe in which a father only shares it with his beloved son or daughter. Now no one knew this special family recipe but only Jesus. So in the whole world only he could do that. How come his Father showed only him how to make this family recipe? Because he is his Son! A special bond was there. With this Jesus proved the special bonded he enjoyed with his Father. The miraculous works Jesus had been doing proved the Father’s deep and special love for His Son. When the Jews saw Jesus doing all those miraculous works of which no human being could do, they had to recognize God’s special love for Jesus, and honor him as the Son of God.

 

Jesus also says that the Father will show the Son even greater things than these. What can be even greater than all the miraculous healings he had performed so far? Jesus says, "For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to those whom he is pleased to give it." Whatever God did, Jesus can do without limit because God showed him everything. This really proves the Father's love for the Son.

 

Jesus also says, "Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son,..." As the Creator, God has to judge each of his creatures according to what each of them has done on earth. But, instead of judging all his creatures, God entrusted the job of judgment to his Son Jesus. God exalted Jesus highly above all names with authority to judge them all. Why did he do so? He did so, because He loved the Son so much that He wanted him to be honored and respected by all the people. Whoever honors the Son, honors the Father who sent him. The Jews said they loved God and they said they were worshippers of God, but when God sent someone to teach them and show them what he wanted them to do, they rejected him, thus they rejected God. Those who did not honor the one God sent to them did not honor God the Father. By showing them glorious things God did for him, Jesus proved God's love for him, and thereby, showed them that it was totally okay for him to call God "my Father."

 

Second, "Whoever hears my word,..." (24-30). Look at verse 24. Let’s read this verse together:

 

24"I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.

 

So far, Jesus showed them who he was and how glorious he was - God's beloved Son who had power to heal and authority to judge all. After establishing his own credentials this way, Jesus showed them what he did for the world. As the judge of all, as God's beloved Son, with such power and authority, Jesus gives eternal life to everyone who hears his words and believes in God. This is really amazing. Normally, those who have power and authority want to exercise it by telling others to do this and that. Even a security guard wants to exercise his authority. But Jesus is different. With such great authority to judge all, Jesus gives eternal life to everyone who hears his word. This shows what kind of person he is. What kind of person is he? He is a good person having good intention for us, and being concerned about our wellbeing and happiness. Jesus has good plans for you; Jesus wants you to have eternal life.

 

So what is eternal life? Eternal life is the very key theme the author talks about in John's gospel from the beginning to the end. He first testified about this eternal life in John 1:4, saying, "In him was life and that life was the light of men." In him was zoe, eternal life, and that eternal life was the light of men. Eternal life was the very life Nicodemus wanted to have, but when he didn't have it, his life was empty and he was miserable and depressed despite his great success and achievement. Eternal life is the very life the thirsty Samaritan woman looked for, but could not find in her husband; but when she turned to Jesus, she found it in him and she was overjoyed and satisfied - when she had eternal life in Jesus, all her thirst problem was gone, and she no longer lived as a self-seeking woman or as a condemned sinner, but as an evangelist bringing all the townspeople to Jesus; she became powerful and a happy woman. John's purpose in writing this book is so that people may believe that Jesus is the Son of God, and that by believing in him they may eternal life, zoe. (Jn 20:31) Now in this verse, Jesus shows that having eternal life is directly related to not being condemned. "Whoever hears my word and believes in him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned." When you have this eternal life you will not be condemned and your sin will not bother you. But when you do not have eternal life, you will be condemned. Many people’s misunderstanding is that when they go to heaven they will have eternal life. But if they don’t secure eternal life now, they will not secure it later. Today we need to secure enteral life. Also, by saying, "he has crossed over from death to life," Jesus shows that those who do not have eternal life are dead. There are so many students who study hard on our campuses - they get good grades and pursue their career sincerely; yet, they do not have eternal life, so in Jesus' eyes, they are dead people, walking zombies. So even though they are studying hard, they are zombies. They do not have real life, but they just exist by the means of 8 hours of sleep and 3 meals a day. All these people live under condemnation and will be condemned to eternal destruction.

 

But the good news is that when these spiritually dead people hear Jesus' word and believe in God, they come to have eternal life. Right at that moment, they cross over from death to life. Jesus does not require too much for people to have eternal life, but just the minimum: hear his words and believe in God who sent him. When you hear the word of God, you must believe in God. By the way, what does it mean to believe in God? It means to believe in Him that He is good. When you hear the word of God, you must respond with faith in God, believing that God has a good plan for you, believing that God loves you. At that time, you cross over from death to life. This is the reason why we must diligently study the word of God so that we may hear Jesus’ words and believe in God. And this is the reason why we must diligently teach students the word of God because whenever the word of God is preached, there is a chance for people to have eternal life. When we teach the word of God, this miracle of crossing over from death to life will occur in the lives of many souls.

 

Look at verse 25. Let's read this verse together:

 

I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.

 

Here, Jesus proclaims the beginning of a new era, the era in which dead people hear the voice of the Son of God and come to have life, eternal life. How can the dead hear the voice of the Son of God? The dead, by definition, do not hear anything; they do not show any response to any stimulation. When you say to a dead body, “Hey, you owe me $50,” that person does not show any response. When we teach students the word of God, we understand this very well. We teach them the beautiful story of God's love for them – For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life – and as we do so, we even shed many tears. We teach them about true satisfaction in Jesus - no more thirst, but a spring of water, welling up to eternal life – and we are so happy; we talk to them about enjoying life forever in the kingdom of heaven and about the glorious resurrection body, and teach them with such great enthusiasm, sometimes clapping our hands together and saying, “Man, I’m pumped,” and as we teach sometimes a lot of spit comes out. But they do not show any response, except yawning or checking the time on their cell phones, then playing it off as though we didn’t see them. Why do they do this? Because they are dead. So we feel frustrated as if we are speaking to the wall. So, we cry out to God for help with many tears. Then, at a certain moment, one word of God is heard in their heart that they suddenly respond to God’s word saying, "Yes, you are right. I must repent." Or they say, "God loves me," and they cry and cry. Or they say, "Jesus says to me, "Son, your sins are forgiven," and they cry and cry. They begin to show a response to God’s words, then their life changes completely. Indeed, the dead hear the voice of the Son of God. Right at that moment, they cross over from death to life. Right at that moment, eternal life is given to them. We are living in this blessed era when the dead can hear the voice of the Son of God and cross over from death to life immediately. We are witnesses of this blessed era - we ourselves have experienced this miracle - by hearing just one word of God, we crossed over from death to life and started our new life in Jesus Christ. I had studied the Bible for over a year with my shepherd. He struggled hard with me and did everything to help me, but I would not change; I was dead. Then at the fall Bible conference one word of God touched my heart, based on Luke 15:5-6, “When he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’” I was so moved by the shepherd’s love for lost sinners and the joy he had in finding them. From the depth of my heart I accept God’s love for me and repented at that moment. That was the beginning of my new life; at that moment I crossed over from death to life. We all have our own testimony of this - wonderful stories of how God found us and brought us back to Himself through his words. This is the miracle we want to see all the more in the lives of all our students, so we go to school, find sheep, and teach them the word of God diligently.

 

Jesus says, "26For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself. 27And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man." Here, Jesus introduces Himself as the one who has life in himself, and as the one who has authority to judge all. But in doing so, his emphasis is on God the Father and what God the Father did for him, saying, "he has granted the Son to have life in himself," and "he has given him authority to judge." God the Father loves the Son so much that He wants the Son to do everything He does without limit – the Father and Son enjoy such a complete and perfect bond that it is totally okay for Jesus to call God, "my Father."

 

An interesting expression here is verse 27 - "And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man." In verse 25, Jesus described himself as "the Son of God," showing how great he was, but in verse 27, he explains why God gave him authority to judge, saying, "because he is the Son of Man." Jesus was God in nature, but instead of considering himself equal with God the Father, he took the form of a servant, becoming a human being, denying his freedom, power and glory to obey, serve and fulfill his Father’s will. Indeed, he submitted himself to God's will and purpose completely, even denying his own nature as God. That was the expression of his love and respect toward God the Father. At this, God the Father felt so honored and happy. When Jesus, the Word who was with God in the beginning, lowered himself and submitted himself to God's authority this much, God exalted him highly with all authority in heaven and on earth, and assigned him to be the judge over all. This is God's way. This is how we must live our life, considering others better than ourselves, submitting ourselves to each other, becoming servants to all. Such people are glorious and beautiful, following the footsteps of Jesus Christ. God exalts such people highly to receive honor and respect, power and authority.

 

Look at verses 28 through 30. Let’s read this passage all together:

 

28"Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice 29and come out-- those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned. 30By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.

 

The message of a dead man crossing over from death to life by just hearing the word of Jesus sounds too amazing, and even unbelievable. But Jesus says, “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out – those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.” The miracle of dead people, who are walking and living in the world, crossing over from death to life is truly amazing. But, in Jesus’ eyes, it is a small thing compared to what is going to happen, that is, the dead people in their graves will hear the Son’s voice and come out. Most of them have no human body any more, but just dust in their graves. But when even these dust particles hear the Son’s voice, they will rise and come out of their graves. For what? Either to be judged, or to be rewarded. Jesus, the righteous Judge, the Judge of all, will reward each person according to what he has done while living here on earth. Jesus says in Revelation 22:12, “Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done.”

 

Jesus says, “Do not be amazed at this…” We should not be amazed at Jesus’ message that now is the time for the dead people to cross over from death to life by hearing the Son’s voice. Instead, we must yearn to hear his voice, because if you hear, you cross over from death to life. If you respond with faith in God, you cross over from death to life. We must teach people the word of God diligently in the hope of seeing this miracle in the lives of many.

 

I am very thankful to God for the opportunity to serve this message. Through it I came to see that securing eternal life here and now is of the utmost importance. With so many responsibilities and duties to take care of at work, at home, at church and on the mission field, it is easy for me to find myself just going through the motions, but not really living that zoe life that Jesus talks about continuously. But that all changes when I hear Jesus words and respond to them with a believing heart. At that time I can cross over from death to life, and live newly in God again. This is what I experienced when I started my Christian life – Jesus’ personal word was given to me and I crossed over from death to life. And even more recently, when I was battling with the desire for a comfortable and easygoing life, Jesus spoke his words to me saying, “You will be for me a kingdom of priests and holy nation,” and “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and future.” Through these words of God, I realized that God has really great plans for me if I would only trust and follow him, instead of pursuing my own things. At that time I was so moved by God that I really repented and decided to put my full trust in Jesus again. At that moment, I could cross over form death to life, and I could enjoy this powerful Christian life again. This is why I need to diligently study God’s words so that Jesus’ words may continually be heard in my heart and I can enjoy this eternal life always.

 

Through meditating on this passage, I was very touched and inspired by how wholeheartedly Jesus worked to bring his words to many dying people. For this he was working hard and continues to work hard even to this day. A little over a week ago I was asked if I could serve this message. At first God’s servant was a little hesitant to ask me because he knew I was very busy, and I too was a little slow to respond knowing that in this short time I would be on business travel for that preparation week. As I think about it now, I could have easily come out of it saying it was too much, or that I was just too busy. But when this was brought up to me I could see that God was encouraging me to give more of my life, time and heart to him. So I accepted. And as I was preparing this message in my hotel room, I was greatly comforted and encouraged by Jesus’ words, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.” There were so many things that I needed to do such as work related tasks, Bible studies, and conference preparation, that I was feeling pretty tired. But as I saw how hard my Master Jesus was working, how could I stand by and think about some rest? As I sat there in my hotel room, it was as if Jesus’ words were spoken to me newly that now instead of enjoying some vacation, I was motivated to work harder for God. Through this I was reminded of how blessed I am to have my entire life poured out for God this way. I will always be busy, and it seems I just keep getting busier and busier. However, in that situation, it is not the time for me to be thinking about rest or some comfort, because Jesus, my Master, is working hard to this very day, so I too am working.

 

Recently, the senior brothers at Cal State Long Beach have been meeting every week for mission meeting on the campus. This has been a wonderful time for me where I can renew and revitalize my mission life and God’s vision for the campus. There are so many dead people on the campus and Jesus wants his servants to work together with him in bringing his words of life to them. This is why I must be diligent in finding new sheep right now and teaching them the words of God so that they may have a chance to hear Jesus’ word and by responding to it with a believing heart, they may cross over from death to life. I pray that as I pour my life out more and more for God’s redemption work on the campus, I may come to see this amazing miracle of many college students crossing over from death to life.

 

One Word: Those Who Hear Will Live

Sunday, July 15, 2018

posted Jul 15, 2018, 11:36 PM by Site Administrator

DO YOU WANT TO GET WELL?

 

John 5:1-15

Key Verse 5:6

 

When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, "Do you want to get well?"

 

First, "Do you want to get well?" (1-9a).Look at verses 1-3. Sometime later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews. As we learned in scripture there were seven official feasts which the Jews kept according to Gods command. Later, a few more were added such as the Feast of Dedication and Purim. We dont know exactly which feast it was. Nonetheless, every feast is to be a time filled with great joy. Wouldnt you agree? For example, weddings, theyre filled with all types of delicious food and entertainment. They bring great joy to everyone. Even though we may mess up by, Gods Grace, everyone gets a laugh out of it. Well that is how Jerusalem was as Jesus arrived for the feast. It was a festive environment. People came from around the world just to be a part of the celebration. They were filled with excitement as they experienced all of the amazing attractions; from the vivid decorations and live music, to the Food Trucks and the highly anticipated Mexican Dance. Jesus shouldve been enjoying himself like the rest of the people, but instead, he came to a remote place with a not so pleasant aroma called Bethesda. This may seem so insignificant at first glance but actually, this reminds us of Jesus’ incarnation; how instead of Him enjoying all His Freedom, Glory, and Power as God in the Kingdom of Heaven, He came down to us in the form of a tiny baby, dwelled among us, and was crucified on the cross for our sins. Through this we see Jesus’ deep concern for the lonely and disabled people. Thanks to this Amazing Grace of Jesus, salvation has come into the world and we have all received one blessing after another.

 

Actually in Aramaic, Bethesda means, "House of Mercy". Here, there laid a great number of disabled people; some were blind, some lame, and others paralyzed. Rumor has it that from time to time an angel would come and stir up the waters. When this happened, whoever got into the water first would be healed of whatever they were suffering from. Whether this rumor was true or not, no one really knows, but because of this slim chance of being healed, these disabled people gathered here everyday. They waited all day long with a hope to be the first one in as soon as the water began to stir. Now as Jesus stood there among them, he learned of one man who had been an invalid for 38 years. He was describe as an invalid. Due to his disability, he could not live as a valid member of the society. How long? 38 years! This man mustve been super musty all the time since he couldnt bathe as easily as we can. Also, its safe to say that because of this condition he was malnourished. This man looked wretched. As we know people prefer to be around those who look so fresh and clean. This man certainly was not that. As a result, his condition caused many to be burdened. When they saw him they said, ah man, not that guy’ and quickly hid. As a result he was an outcast but, one thing we can see from this is that Jesus is different.

 

Verse 6 reads, "When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, "Do you want to get well?"" Among so many disabled people, Jesus saw him. This man looked so pitiful, so much that it caused a deep pain in Jesus’ heart. As he watched this man He deeply understood how much he had been suffering. Especially, because this mans life had been wasted all along. He had spent most of his life just lying there doing nothing. No ones life should be wasted away like this. That is why, out of His compassionate heart, Jesus would try to heal him. In this way, he would no longer suffer from living a miserable life; wasting it away. Jesus asked him, do you want to get well?

 

The truth is that this world is like Bethesda; in the sense that there are so many spiritually disabled people who cannot function properly due to their sin. For example, inmates who are locked up for life due to the merciless crimes they committed as they were under the rule of sin. Think about it. They were once someones little baby. How happy were the parents when their baby was born. What a great joy they mustve brought their families as they watched them grow. How sad is it that later, due to their sin, they couldnt function as normal human beings. Rather they became a great burden, even to the society. This is the case for so many young students as well. Their hearts and minds are polluted with hate, lust, pride, and greed, so much that they cannot live up to their true potential. Instead of them doing exceedingly well in school and life, they become sexually immoral, party animals, and drug addicts. Young men especially, should be a source of hope and joy to the world but, when they live in sin, they become disabled and a burden like this man. They become so perverted, vulgar, and violent. Its so bad that everyone avoids them due to that bad odor they send forth. God did not intend this for man. He made man in His image and likeness, to be great. He made them to be rulers over all creation. The Psalmist praises God about this saying, "I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." (Ps139:14)

 

How heartbreaking it is, especially to God, when people become disabled this way. Being ineffective and unproductive because of sin. Its painful for Him, when peoples' lives are crippled due to their sorrowful bad memories or how some due to anger have a sense of betrayal and their hearts are twisted,causing them to be dysfunctional in their families, households, and society. This invalid man is the official representative of all the physically, mentally, and spiritually disabled; of all unproductive peoples. Even in our present society, we see how people are despised, isolated, and abandoned. As a result, even they even give up on themselves and accept their miserable conditions as their terrible fate but, praise be to the Lord Jesus. He pays attention to even the most insignificant looking person. He understands how much and how long they have suffered from the sorrows and agony of life. He is not indifferent with them but, personally asks each one, Do you want to get well?’ For the invalid man, however, this was a challenging question. This man had been in that condition for 38 years. This way of being was very natural and comfortable to him. So much that even his mattress was perfectly shaped for his body. The fact that he had survived this way for 38 years proves it. In his eyes, he was ok even if he did nothing with his life but, just laid there all day because at the end of each day all his necessities had successfully been provided for.

 

He wasnt like others who struggle hard in college, competing with others, hoping to land a high salary job. In his eyes he didnt even need to work because so far his life of just chilling on his mat brought him great benefits. He solved his housing problem with Section 8, his food problem with Welfare, and his clothing problem with his older brothers hand me downs. He was successfully provided for just fine by lying on his mat. Basically, getting well meant losing all his benefits. Hed give up living such an easy and comfortable life and instead would have to struggle hard, but as we all know, the one thing all humans are allergic to is suffering. No one loves suffering. This is why we always find ourselves trying our best to find the easy way out. When Jesus asked him "do you want to get well?’ the invalid man typed it in on Google Translate and it read "Are you willing to give up the benefits of your easy-going sinful life?" This makes it clear to us that in order to get well before God, we must be willing to lose all the benefits of our sinful lifestyles. Maybe, this man had no sense of problem about his own life. He just accepted such a terrible fate and gave up hope for his life.

 

Though he might have accepted his condition, Jesus didn't. By asking him, "Do you want to get well?" Jesus desired to plant hope in him for a new, sound, valid, and effective life. With this simple question, Jesus tried to ignite a fire in his heart; for him to desire and pursue a meaningful and fulfilling life. This actually is why we must develop Holy anger towards our sin instead of enjoying such sinful pleasures. For this, Jesus asks us today, "Do you want to get well?" What is your response? Amen! "Yes, Lord. Please have mercy on me. Make me well! I want to be a powerful spiritual leader for this generation."

 

Second, "Get up! Pick up your mat and walk" (7-15).When Jesus asked this man, "Do you want to get well?" what should he have said? Amen! ("Yes Lord!")But what was his response? Lets look at verse 7. "Sir," the invalid replied, "I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me."

 

He complained that no one helped him for the past 38 years. Here we see his problem was his dependency on others and his conditional thinking. Jesus asked him, "Do you want to get well?"Because something was wrong with him and so he needed to get well but, the invalid thought ’I dont know whatsis wrong with these people..To him they were the problem because they didnt help him, but as long as he blamed others for the problems in his life, he could not get well. Nothing good could ever come out of his life. This is actually why his heart was full of complaints, bitterness, and anger towards everyoneIts why he was miserable and even the cause of his broken relationships with others.

 

If he truly wanted to get well, he couldve located himself right beside the pool so that as soon as the water was stirred, he could simply roll into the water and be healed. Or instead of lying there complaining all the time, He couldve meditated on Gods Word, lived as a Bible Teacher for all the disabled people there, and as a result the spiritual environment would be filled with great thanks and praise to God, but since he relied on others, he became filled with complaints that no one served him. He wasted 38 years of his life in misery because of this. He lost his entire life. He could not see the Preciousness of his time and life so he didnt do anything but, just laid there. This was a great sin.

 

What was Jesus’ response to this? Look at verse 8. Lets read this verse together:

 

8Then Jesus said to him, "Get up! Pick up your mat and walk."

 

Jesus did not sympathize with him but, cut through the man's fatalism, self-pity, and dependency on others bycommanding him to"Get up! Pick up your mat and walk!" The invalid man might have thought that he had many good reasons to lie down and to depend on others but, Jesus’ direction for him was utmost clear. "Get up! Pick up your mat and walk." It was time for him to stop lying there, to stop depending on others, and take responsibility for himself; making progress with his life. He must get up from his laziness, his dependency on othersand his bad habit of complaining all the time. By picking up his mat, he would now take care of himself. No longer living as a beggar and a burden to others but, becoming productive and effective with his life.

 

"Get up! Pick up your mat and walk!"This direction of Jesus shows us what God wants for us. Wtoo may come up with so many excuses for why we cannot do things right. Maybe, we have some weaknesses or terrible scars frombetrayals and mistreatment but, no matter what, it is sinful that you waste your precious life because of these. Jesus’ direction to us is very clear. "Get up! Pick up your mat and walk!" Today we must listen to Jesus direction, get up from our comfortable and compromising mat and walk away from our complaints and dependency of others. We must get up from the life of sin and start a new life in Christ Jesus as real children of God. So no more excuses or complaining. Jesus says, "Get up! Pick up your mat and walk."

 

When this man heard Jesus’ voice, he got up. Through His obedience hwas made well. Jesus healed the man of his paralysis and gave him a new life. By his own strength or will power, he couldndo itAll he could do was complain and complain but when he finally heard the voice of the Son of God, suddenly, he gained strength. He powered up like Goku from DBZ. All his muscles were fully empowered as if he had been training under 100x Earths gravity the 38 yearsThman stood up firm, picked up his mat, and began to walk. In our lives, there are so many fatalistic elements, which make us invalid, dysfunctional, and ineffective. How can we overcome that sense of failure? How can we overcome the power of sin and death? How can we overcome depression and defeatism? With our own will power and strengths, we will only continue to fail but, when we truly hear the voice of the Son of God, suddenly our mortal bodies gain strength and power. His words heal our body and soul. Even the dead, when they hear Jesus’ voice, cross over from death to life. This is the reason why we must study the Word of God diligently. The same reason why we must teach the Word of God to many suffering and dying students on our campuses because, true healing comes only through hearing Jesus' words.

 

As we look at Verses 9b-15 we see what happened to this man after Jesus healed him. The day in which this all took place was a Sabbath, and so the Jews threatened the man who had been healed. They tried charging him with breaking the Sabbath Law as he carried his mat. The healed man was scared by the Jews’ intimidation and just dumped all the blame on Jesus, saying, "The man who made me well said to me, Pick up your mat and walk."It was the time for him to testify, "I was an invalid man for 38 years, but Jesus of Nazareth healed me!"Instead the man forgot all about Jesus’ Grace poured out onhim. But why did he blame Jesus? He did it to secure his newly found dreams and desires in the world.

 

When he was laying there helplessly, he could not have any dream or desire for his own life. This, being the reason he was hopeless but, when Jesus made him well, he came to develop a dream for his future - maybe, he thought about getting a career job, marrying, and having his own family. Such dreams were so precious to him now and he didn't want to lose them at any cost. Thats why when the authorities charged him with violation of the Sabbath Law, he was scared at the thought of losing his newly found dreams. So in order to secure them, he betrayed Jesus' Grace by dumping all the blame on HimThrough this we see that though the man was healed physically, he was still spiritually a paralyzed man. Yet, the Jews did not catch Jesus, because the man had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there (13).

 

Look at verse 14. Let's read this verse together:

 

Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, "See, you are well again. Stop sinning, or something worse may happen to you."

 

Now that he was healed by Jesus’ Grace, he was no longer wearing filthy rags, but fancy designer clothes and shoes by Tommy Hilfiger, hfinally took a shower, and got a fresh haircut with ashaveat Leos BarbershopHe was now even attending the Temple worship service - singing hymn 96 and praying2 by 2 with other worshipers. Outwardly, it seemed that he was doing well but Jesus told him, "See, you are well again. Stop sinning, or something worse may happen to you." Surely, in Jesus’ eyes, this man was not okay. Rather, he was sinning, even though he was attending the Temple worship service. But why? Its simple. Betraying one's grace that way is something wicked in God's eyes - it was sin. As a result, God does not accept this kind of person as one of his worshipers even though they may attend the Temple worship service. This man was now pursuing his own desires in the society, expecting that everything would go well with him. But Jesus warned him, "Stop sinning, or something worse may happen to you."

 

By Jesus' Grace, we too have been made well nowbecoming sound in mind, heart, and spirit. We are actually all beautiful - those with purified hearts, struggling to love Jesus more and more. No longer living as those terrible and smelly sinners, but as precious children of God and it is all because of Jesus' Grace upon our life. Jesus found us, healed us, and established us as beautiful children of God. We must neverforget this but hold on toall that Jesus has done for us; by living our life in a manner worthy of His Grace. Remembering that it is not good in God's eyes if anyone, after experiencing Jesus' Grace, just selfishly pursues his or her newly found dreams for an easgoing or a happy family life, forgetting about God's will. As children of God, we must not sin this way. Rather, we must thank God and serve God all the more. Living our life according to His will because that is the true purpose of God's Grace upon our life. As weve learned, those who love God obey his command, but those who love something else cannot.

 

Finally, Look at verse 15. At Jesus' rebuke and warning, he should have repented but instead, he went away and told the religious police that it was Jesus who had made him well (15). As long as this man held on to his own desires in the world, he was lost. He should have repented, turning to and pursuing God wholeheartedly, remembering Jesus' grace upon his life but, unfortunately this man is never heard of again.

 

As I thought about Jesus' deep concern for someone whom all his life felt so lonely and disabled. I was able to see once again how much He loves me and all of His Sheep. I thank and praise God from the depth of my heart for His Amazing Grace poured out on me because if He didnt come as the Atoning Sacrifice for our sin I wouldve remained living in misery all the days of my life. Instead, now, only because of Him, do I undeservingly live my life receiving one blessing after another.

 

My whole life I felt so lonely and disabled. It began when my father left when I was a kid. Not just that but, I was the last born child of 6. I knew my Mama loved me but she was always working so I sought friendships and relationships to not be alone, but no matter how hard I tried I could never find satisfaction. Eventually because of this I grew up not caring about my future and I threw off all responsibilities. Entering high school I began to smoke weed, drink, party, and wassexually immoral. I didnt know it but, I had become a slave to sins of lust, anger, and pride to name a few. Though outwardly I seemed ok, I was miserable inside. I became like the invalid man. I was vulgar and cursed at everyone even at my Mama. As a result, I was insupportable. As I look back even the place where I got high revealed the true condition of my life. Interestingly enough it was at a dead end. This was like Bethesda, my friends and I gathered almost everyday only to waste our lives away smoking weed in hopes that it would help us forget our meaningless lives and bring us peace. What made matters worse was when I lost my job, car, and girlfriend whom I had been with for a couple years. I felt like dying. Now I really lost all hope and accepted this miserable fate for my life so I just smoke weed all day, played video games all night, and slept in late. I was really depressed. I didnt even care about getting a job but, simply collected unemployment and EBT. With it I bought drugs make profit. I had become a great burden to my Mama, my family, and the society.

Then Jesus noticed me and learned that I had been in this condition for a long time. I wasnt even a College student yet. He could have chose someone else, anybody! Someone who was educated, moral, and reliable but, He sent His servant to me all the way to the ghetto streets of South Central to deliver His Word. I didnt understand why. I just wasted my life away doing nothing but, as I studied the Book of John I began to see who Jesus was. The light shinned in my darkness filled heart. As I studied each week I saw how He had great hope for even someone like me. Even His Will and Purpose for my life were revealed to me. It was great until I realized that it was becoming a challenge. Jesus asked me Do you want to get well. I wanted to yell yes Lord! So I can get up from my mat and walk. 

 

Still, I struggled to hold to my life Key Verse. Jesus’ words of promise given to me in John 5:24 "I tell you the truth, whoever hears my Word and believes Him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned, he has crossed over from death to life. My eyes were open to see my spiritual condition that the whole time I was actually dead, but Jesus was the only hope I had. I held on to this because I had hope that only he could give me Zoe. That in was Jesus I truly could be alive. The whole time my life was being wasted but, Jesus’ desire was to heal me. He understood my suffering and it caused deep pain to His heart. Actually, I should have been dead or in jail from the time I got shot at or for the time I got caught selling drugs.

 

I deserved to pay for my sins but, because of His Grace, instead, He drew me nearer to himself. I finally understood what it meant that He was always with me. It wasnt just a religious concept anymore but, it was real to me. He led and protected me all my life so that in His perfect time I could come to Him and have life to the full. My life of misery, of meaninglessness, would have true meaning, purpose, and fulfillment.

 

The problem was that Id become so comfortable with my sinful life so much that It had become natural to me to not do anything with my life. I was content with just getting by because at the end of the day I did what I wanted and all my necessities were provided for. This is why it was challenging for me to accept Jesus. I knew it meant that I give up my comfortable life, to instead work hard on the mission and suffer, even for the sake of others.

 

I thought I dont want to do all that. I just wanted to get well and live a blessed life telling others, Jesus, hooked it up. My response to Jesus Grace was not good. I shouldve been willing to be healed and to testify what Jesus did but, my heart was full of complaints because it seemed too hard. Plus no one ever wanted to help me so why should I do this for them? I had become so dependent on others. I thought what is wrong with people? Why dont they help me? I only wanted to do what benefited me. Gods servant would encourage me to return to school and serve God but, I just blamed others by using the excuse that I was not smart enough because of the corruption in the government, that it was their fault I didnt get better education because of their greed for money and power.

 

Honestly, I just wanted to do even less than the bare minimum. But Jesus had other plans for my life. He commanded me Get Up! Pick up your mat and walk.’ Jesus didnt sympathize with me but, continued to work on my heart through each Bible Study until I finally heard Jesus’ voice. Jesus led me to see my sinful nature and that I must not depend on others, but Him alone. I had to repent and get up from my life of casualness, complaints, and fatalism. I must make the decision to give it all up so that I may be healed. So I struggled sincerely to turn away from my sinful lifestyleNo longer would I live as a beggar and a burden. Always making excuses as to why I couldnt do something due to my fatalism. Instead, I would start a new life in Christ, as a man of God. As I did, the Holy Spirit enabled me to pick up strength and zeal for the Lord. I could now stand up, pick up my mat, and walk. I couldnt have done it without Jesus. His’ Grace surely was sufficient for me.

 

Gods work went on powerfully. I was being transformed from living as a selfish sinful man to a selfless shepherd for Gods flock. I not only began to attend El Camino but, soon went out fishing with Gods servants at El Camino. I wouldve never done this because I disliked meeting new people, but I had crossed over from death to life. As I struggled to live by faith I was still being cleansed from smoking weed, drinking, and living sexually immoral. Meanwhile Jesus’ was blessing with understanding and was able to bear fruit inwardly.God even blessed me with a good job and so I was busy all day working and serving God. So much that I was persecuted by friends and family. They couldnt understand what God was doing in my life. To them I was too religious now because I didnt want to do what I used to do with them.

 

It hurt a lot because they were my loved ones but, I did not want Jesus’ Grace for me to be in vain so I continued holding on to Him. Everything in my life was good. I was forgiven of my sins and so nothing else mattered for I had Jesus. Fast forward seven years later and I was blessed by God to marry by faith. God knew the desires of my heart and gave me something even greater than what I desired. I thank God for His blessing in giving me an amazing suitable helper whom sincerely struggles to serve me even when its difficult due to the reality of life. How she rebukes, encourages, and inspires me through her struggles before God in taking care of Jesus’ flock. Also, for our firstborn son whom, as I prayed for, surely has the Spirit of the General Joshua.

 

My life surely had been delightful as Ive struggled to remain in God. Everything had been going well, but then I was fired from my job at FedEx where I had worked for almost 5 years. I was let go due to my casualness of being lateAgain, I was unemployed for a while. Causing me to lose Jesus’ hope and vision for my life. Even my identity as His servant. I reverted back to my invalid way of thinking. I was depressed and fatalistic. I went to sleep late and slept in until noon. It got so bad that I just found any excuse to stay home rather than going to serve God. I even gained weight. Outwardly it seemed I was ok, still going to church and all, but I knew I was taking Jesus’ Grace in vain. I didnt know what to do. All I knew was that I could not rely on myself or anyone else but, Jesus. I did not want to become a burden to my wife, to cause her to doubt Gods will for her life, for our marriage, because of my sin. So I tried looking for a job and to my surprise I was called in for an interview for an Electrical Services Company. It went well but unfortunately they wanted someone experienced. They assured me they would keep me in mind. I didnt want to get worse from my condition so this time instead of losing all hope, I began to pray to God about it. Until, after a month' struggle I finally got the call. I would start right away. Since then I have been taken under the wings of a few foreman whom have been teaching me the ropes. 

 

This experience rebuked me for not trusting in His sovereignty over my life. I was reminded to not let these circumstances cause me to lose faith in Jesus. This is His way of saying to me, "stop sinning, or something worse may happen". Now I am back on the mission field; struggling to find and feed Jesus’ sheep. I am no longer wasting my life doing nothing, but living as a Shepherd. Even this job opportunity has been a blessing, because it reveals Jesus’ abundant Grace for me. Actually, I will even begin attending school for it in August the week after the conference in order to learn more about the trade. Ive never been one to enjoy studying but, I know that I can do it because I have Jesus. Surely Im a blessed man. 

 

I praise the Jesus for revealing Himself to me, an unworthy sinner. I pray that I no longer live as a selfish man as I did most of my life but, that I continue to walk in the Son of God. In a manner worthy of all that Jesus has done for me. Growing sound in heart, mind and spirit. That I may love Jesus more than my own life, even His blessings. May we all grow continuously as those who truly love God, living according to His will and purpose by obeying His commands. Indeed, this is the true purpose of God's Grace for our lives.

 

One Word: Do You Want To Get Well?

Sunday, July 8, 2018

posted Jul 8, 2018, 11:31 PM by Site Administrator

THE MAN TOOK JESUS AT HIS WORD

 

John 4:43-54

Key Verse 4:50

 

50 Jesus replied, “You may go. Your son will live.” The man took Jesus at his word and departed.

 

       First, “A prophet has no honor in his own country” (43-46). Look at verses 43 and 44. Jesus’ mission journey to Samaria was very successful. As Jesus told his disciples, the fields were indeed ripe for harvest. And after serving a great evangelical movement, for two days, Jesus left for Galilee. On the way, Jesus told his disciples that a prophet has no honor in his own country. What does it mean that a prophet has no honor in his own country? In Jerusalem Jesus was honored. In the eyes of the people, suddenly, a devout young Rabbi appeared on the scene, preached powerful messages, and even performed many miracles. In the eyes of the people, Jesus was incredible and great and they believed he was the Promised Messiah. In Samaria, He was honored. And after studying the word of God with Jesus, they confessed, “This man really is the Savior of the world.” But in the eyes of those in his hometown, those who had watched him grow up, he was still Joseph’s son, the carpenter’s boy. Because of their personal knowledge of Jesus, people would not accept him as the Savior of the world. When we accept God’s calling and become Bible teachers, people honor us. But when we go home and tell our family members the divine meaning of the word of God, or we try to get them to repent, they say, “That’s nice, but can you take out trash?” This is because, in their eyes, we are still their sons and daughters or brothers and sisters, not servants of God; they have known us personally and are not interested in being taught something, divine truth or not. The disciples already experienced an unexpected warm welcome in Samaria. They thought, “Even Samaritans welcome us, then, how much more will our own people?” Maybe a parade will be waiting where people will shout, “Jesus! Jesus!” and Peter and the disciples would wave to the crowds. But when things did not go as they had expected, when they were not welcomed, they would be greatly disappointed. Jesus did not want his disciples to be discouraged too much. So he told them that a prophet has no honor in his own country.

 

But what was the townspeople’s response? Verse 45 shows that surprisingly, the Galileans welcomed them. As Jesus and the disciples entered the city, the crowd cheered and shouted. “Praise Jesus, for all that has been done and said!” and many ran up to him to shake hands, and even some of them bowed to the ground before him. It was a great moment. The disciples must have felt so good, for they were Jesus’ people. But the Apostle John, the author, says something interesting in verse 45b, describing the reason for Jesus’ welcome as due to the fact that they had seen him performing miraculous signs in Jerusalem during the Passover Feast, indicating that, despite their welcome, something was still wrong. Their faith was not based in Jesus, but in the one who performed the miracles. They welcomed the one performing miraculous signs and wonders, and they would, no matter who that person was - David Copperfield, Judas Iscariot - they didn’t care, it was just exciting. In this book, the Apostle John keeps talking about this, over and over, because faith based on miraculous signs is not considered faith at all. Many people say, “I will believe if God shows me some kind of sign.” Or they say, “I will believe if God reveals himself to me.” But Jesus does not recognize faith based on signs. In today’s passage, Jesus shows us what true faith is, and how we can get it. True faith is faith that believes in God’s promise. Even though there is no tangible or visible evidences or signs, yet in our eyes, we still believe in God’s promise, which is trust in God, we trust in who He is, we trust in what kind of Person He is, this is faith based on the word of God, and this is genuine faith.

 

       Second, “The man took Jesus at his word” (46-54). Look at verses 46 and 47. 46 Once more Jesus visited Cana in Galilee, where he had turned water into wine. And there was a certain royal official whose son lay sick in Capernaum. 47 When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death.

 

The title ‘royal official’ shows that this man was a man of prestige. His life was really good until he was faced with a serious problem – his son was sick. Imagine how hard this royal official must have struggled to get his son healed, using every possible means at his disposal; he hired royal physicians from all over Capernaum and even alternative medicine practitioners, only to find that nothing and no one could heal his son. The only thing he could do was to watch his son suffer and wait for him to die. How sad and frustrating this was! But when he remembered the man who changed the foot washing water into wine, who opened the eyes of the blind, and who healed the paralytic; he was suddenly excited, saying, “I know what to do, Jesus can heal him!” It was about a 19 mile journey from Capernaum to Cana, around the sea of Galilee. When the royal official heard that Jesus had arrived from Judea, he made his journey directly to Cana. Then, when he met Jesus, despite his social position, he went to Him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death. In order to save his son’s life, he forsook his pride, and humbled himself to the point of begging, even though he was most likely an older man than Jesus, and Jesus was much lower on the social latter. Then, surprisingly, Jesus said to him, “Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders, you will never believe.”

 

Usually, when people begged him to come and help them, Jesus went. When Jairus asked him to come and heal his daughter, Jesus went with him right away. When a Roman centurion asked him to heal one of his servants, Jesus said, “I will go and heal him (Mar 8:7).” But this time, his response sounded cold; this man just walked 19 miles to see Jesus and even begged him, but Jesus said, “Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders, you will never believe.” We can see that Jesus refused to go with him, and was not happy with the kind of faith the people had, even if they welcomed him. The truth was that if someone else did the same miracles, they would accept that person also. Jesus was not happy with this. So, even though this man begged him, Jesus was not pleased with him at all.

 

“Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders, you will never believe.” How much Jesus wants to be trusted as good and loving! But people keep saying, “Why don’t you give me this and that?” Unless Jesus blesses them with what they desire, they never truly believe. How much Jesus wants to be trusted, because he knows the good plans he has for them! But people keep saying, “If I do not live for myself, then, who will?” How much Jesus wants us to have faith in him! In His goodness! In His faithfulness, reliability and trustworthiness! He is so loving and caring! You are always on his heart and the apple of his eye. He has a good plan for you. So, put your trust in him and you will not be put to shame. Jesus says in John 20:29, “…blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.

 

The man did not give up though; he begged Jesus again, saying, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” But Jesus told him, “You may go. Your son will live.” Jesus did not go with him, but instead, gave him his words, words of promise, and challenged him to go home with only his words. Jesus challenged him to believe in his words of promise and live by them. Here we learn the kind of faith Jesus wants us to have. Jesus wants us to believe in his words of promise and go on. Having faith in Jesus means to go with his words and live by them, not by signs. We have all heard that the Bible is the book of God’s promises. It consists of the Old Testament and the New Testament. The word, ‘Testament’ means “covenant,” or “contract,” where God offers his promises to people, saying, “If you do this, I will do that for you.” Those who believe God’s promises, they enter into a binding contract with G, obeying what He says and living that way. When Abraham was still an idol worshiper, God offered him this contract, saying, “If you leave and go to the land I will show you, I will bless you and you will be a blessing and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” Because Abraham believed that God would keep his promises, he did what God asked him to do - he left his country, his people, and his father’s household and went to the land God would show him – as a result, he went through many ups and downs. But whenever he had faith that God would keep his promises, he was happy and thankful, and built an altar. But whenever he looked at the reality and saw that God’s promises were not yet fulfilled, he let his heart be consumed with doubt and he was troubled and depressed; then, God saw that he lacked faith, so God visited him and encouraged him to believe that he would really keep his promises, making him into a great nation, then, Abraham’s faith was restored and he was thankful again - he went through these ups and downs for years. Then, at one point, God commanded him not to look down at the reality, not to count the losses any longer, but look up at the heavens and count the stars, saying, “So shall your offspring be.” Indeed, Abraham’s life in God was the life of holding on to God’s promises. Through this struggle, he came to know God personally and finally, he came to have absolute trust in God that whatever God said to him, he believed, and whatever God commanded him to do, he obeyed - logical or illogical, understandable or not, he didn’t care; he trusted in God. When Abraham’s son Isaac faced a serious financial crisis he planned to leave the Promised Land, he would go down to Egypt to get a job to support his family. But God appeared to him and offered him a contract, saying, “If you stay in this land, I will bless you.” Isaac accepted God’s word and stayed in the Promised Land - even though there was no tangible guarantee, like a job or future security, but he stayed there, because he believed that, as God had promised, God would bless him; because he believed in God’s promise, he stayed there, enduring the financial difficulties. And so he didn’t go through many ups and downs, because he had learned from his father’s struggle; he remained faithful to God’s command; then, at the right time, God poured out blessings upon Isaac, so that he became exceedingly wealthy. Jesus offered this contract to Simon and Andrew, saying, “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” They believed in Jesus’ promise, accepted his offer, and left everything behind – their own dreams and future plans, and followed Jesus. Then, their struggle of living according to Jesus’ words changed them completely - they became history makers, bringing real blessing to the whole world. Of course, they went through many ups and downs, as Jesus’ disciples – there were pains and sorrows, but they indeed enjoyed a blessed life – one blessing after another. This is the meaning of having faith in God – you believe what he says because you trust him, the one who gave you his promise. We leave, go, stay, and do whatever God asks us to do, because we believe in Him: His goodness, faithfulness, and his almighty power; he is in control. Having faith in God means to believe in what he says and thus, live by it, no matter how things look, because we believe that He will do what He says and that everything will go according to His will. Now the world is so competitive, and survival seems the most important issue for all college students. But amazingly, Jesus says, “The pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well (Mt 6:32,33).” Jesus wants us to believe in him; he wants us to put our absolute trust in him, which means we accept his words of promise and live by them, practically pursuing and serving His kingdom work. That’s the kind of faith he wants us to have – very practical and real, not something vague, or conceptual as many people treat them.

 

When Jesus said, “You may go. Your son will live,” what change could the official see? Nothing! There was nothing tangible yet. If, at that very moment, dark clouds covered the sky, and thunder and lightning occurred around Jesus, probably, he would consider it a sign from heaven and could go to his son. But when Jesus said so, nothing happened; the sky was still blue and beautiful birds were chirping as normal. If Jesus offered a sincere prayer to God for his son, lifting his hands and proclaiming to the sky, he would be comforted; but Jesus did not pray for him out loud - no performance. Jesus only gave him his words of promise, calmly saying – your son will live. With this, Jesus sent him home. Now, the official had to decide whether he would really trust in Jesus or not. And at the risk of his own son’s life, he was challenged to trust. Would he decide to put his trust in Jesus at the risk of his son’s life? Or would he refuse and cling to Jesus’ feet, begging and crying for him to come to his house? How did he respond to Jesus’ challenge? Look at verse 50. Let’s read this verse together:

 

50 Jesus replied, “You may go. Your son will live.” The man took Jesus at his word and departed.

 

It says, “The man took Jesus at his word and departed.” Wow! He boldly accepted Jesus’ challenge and decided to put his trust in him. Usually, in this kind of situation, a father would never take such a chance; all fathers want a guarantee of 100%, with regard to their children. They say, “I understand, but I really need you to come with me, right now.” It was obvious that Jesus’ voice was not loud enough for his son to hear from 19 miles away. It was obvious that no human, no great miracle performer, could do what Jesus was suggesting. But still, he decided to put his trust in Jesus; so he took Jesus at his word and departed. He decided to believe that what Jesus said would come true. When Jesus said, “You may go. Your son will live,” he believed it, even though his son never heard what Jesus said. He believed that things would be done according to what Jesus said - your son will live. He took Jesus at his word and departed. What does it mean to believe in Jesus? It means to take Jesus at his word and depart.

 

But, even though he took Jesus’ words, his journey was not easy. He started his journey by believing in Jesus’ promise, but his journey was not a five minute walk. It was a 19 mile long journey, on foot, which took, in those days, more than a whole day. For the first 5 or 10 minutes, he believed and so he was thankful. But 30 minutes later, his heart was consumed with doubt. “What if?” “What if?” When he thought about what he was doing, logically, he was so scared. He asked himself, “What am I doing? This is crazy.” He was confused. Probably, he thought about going back to Jesus and begging him again, but this time offering him money; in order to secure his son’s life. When he tried to put his trust in Jesus’ words, his heart became a real battle ground – no sign, no evidence, and no tangible fruit. For five minutes, he believed and was thankful; but in the next five minutes, he doubted and was confused; then, the next five minutes, he was scared and almost cried out for fear that his son would die. One moment he was confident, and in another he was in deep agony; later he was scared again. But amazingly, somehow, no matter what was going on in his heart, he kept making progress, on his journey. Despite all the terrible things that were going on in his heart and mind, which were like torture, he kept on his journey. That was the expression of his faith. Even though he was so scared, so confused, still he did not go back, but somehow continued on in his journey, because he still held onto Jesus’ promise.

 

This man’s inner struggle reveals very well our life of faith. Having faith in Jesus means to take Jesus at his word and depart – we live by his word because we believe that what he says will come true. We have faith in Jesus, and with this faith, we journey through this world, living according to God’s word. Sometimes, our faith is so strong that we utter bold words confidently, saying, “God really loves me. I will give my life to God to do with whatever he wants.” But sometimes, our faith is so weakened by life in this world, experiencing so many different kinds of challenges, such as loss of a job, painful failures, suffering from physical ailments or even broken families. Our faith, sometimes, seems so small and we feel like we are going through the valley of the shadow of death. But despite all these terrible things that are going on inwardly and outwardly, somehow, we keep on our journey to the kingdom of God; we continue to obey God, still holding onto Jesus’ words of promise, sometimes, being happy, sometimes with many tears. This is the expression of our faith in Jesus Christ. Even though we are so terrified by life’s challenges, in this world, still we confess that nothing, whether blessing or hardship, persecution or great fruitfulness, even poverty and danger, nothing can separate us from Christ Jesus our Lord. Maybe, you may feel so weak in spirit, maybe, you are discouraged by many difficulties and challenges, which you are experiencing in your life, maybe you are afraid because it seems you have no tangible fruit after years, but still you are making progress in your journey to your Father’s house, and as long as you hold onto your faith in Jesus Christ, this will always be the case. As long as you believe in Jesus, you are on your way, and you are winning, no matter how things appear. This time, we are determined to hold on to his words of promise. “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household, and I will bless you.” “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” “Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.” God’s promises are great and wonderful. Like this official, we will take Jesus at his word and live by it, believing that what he says will really come true. Even though there is no visible evidence or sign, still we go on, living by faith in Jesus alone. God says in Hebrews, “But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him (10:38).” We must not be the ones who shrink back, despite challenges and difficulties; instead, we must be the ones who go on, continually so as to be saved by absolute faith in God. By this faith, so many people of God have overcome the world and served God’s will powerfully in their generation. And by this faith we will be victorious as Jesus wants us to be. Do you trust Him? Will you take Jesus, only at his word? Amen!

 

What was the result of this man’s struggle of faith? Look at verses 51 through 53. While he was still on his way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living. What great news it must have been; like music to his ears! His son was alive! Praise God! But at that time, instead of indulging in the joy and happiness that this news brought, the royal official asked his servants about the time when his son got better. Why?! He really wanted to see if it was a natural healing or if it was the result of Jesus’ words. At this point, if we rewind back to his 19 mile journey, while he was traveling back home to Capernaum, Jesus’ words, “Your son will live” were circulating in his heart and mind, and the question came, “If this works, who is this Jesus of Nazareth?” This constantly knocked at the door of his heart. The servants said to him, “The fever left him yesterday at the seventh hour.” Then the father realized that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” Then, his faith in Jesus became concrete, and he and all those in his household believed. Originally, he did not know Jesus at all, but only regarded him as a physician with miraculous healing powers. What he wanted was for Jesus to help him, to come to his house, in person, and heal his son miraculously. Then, if Jesus did come and save his son, he would say to Jesus, “Thank you,” and present him with a large gift of money. But when he took Jesus at his word, even at so much risk, like his son’s life, he experienced Jesus and His divine power, and his eyes were opened to see who Jesus is, the Son of God. Now, no matter what anybody said about Jesus, to him Jesus was the Son of God, the Savior of the world. Through this, salvation came, not only to himself, but to his son, and to his whole household. This was the fruit of genuine faith in Jesus’ words. This was now the second miraculous sign that Jesus performed, having come from Judea to Galilee.

 

This struggle of holding onto Jesus’ words, and putting them into practice is not easy; sometimes, it is scary, and sometimes, we experience terrible losses or sorrows on the way; sometimes, we are tired and feel like giving up, but at the end of this struggle, we will see the fulfillment of the word of God, and we will truly be satisfied and happy. Then, no matter what, we will have no regret about how we have lived our life, or how we have used our time and resources. With the promise of God, with God’s vision, we started our mission life, which is a journey like we saw in this passage. If we keep our faith and live by God’s word, surely we will see God’s promises coming true in our life, we will come to know Jesus, and we will be satisfied, like a spring of water welling up to eternal life. Remember, the ultimate end of our struggle of faith is to receive a rich welcome into the kingdom of God, where we will see the great reward God has stored up for us from the beginning of our life of faith.

 

       About four and a half weeks ago we sat down for Bible study with Msn John and he said that Seniors would be giving Sunday messages on John’s Gospel. The first thing I thought was, oh my, I am so busy and I have school coming up on top of everything. I did not say anything, because I wanted to see what passage I would receive, and I was trying not to be discouraging. I came to find that Msn John had wanted me to give the passage on John 4a, but during the discussions, before his desire was made known, someone else enthusiastically volunteered for that passage (inside I wished that I could have the same enthusiasm, but I only calculated). So, this was good news, to me, because of full time work; and due to my apprenticeship I have 40 hours of classes every eight weeks, with a lot of homework due each time. But amazingly, this passage would place my time way outside of that concern. God is good! However, then Msn John asked each of us to prepare the message and testimony that weekend, the one following this discussion, right before my classes were due. However, I got injured at work, that week, so I had Friday off, which no one else knew, and I could spend time working on this message, time that I would not normally have had.

 

       I say all this because today’s passage says that the man took Jesus at his word, not at his sign, help, or by any beforehand knowledge. In the message I was reminded of Abraham who took God at his word, but had many ups and downs. I know how his story goes, because it is history. But, as I look back through his life, God had everything already planned out; it is easy for me to see this, now. There was no danger for Abraham, but to Abraham, at the time, life looked to him as if it was dangerous, just as looks to me, many times. Likewise, to me, especially because of this life, a life of faith, it often looks like, or it feels like I am in danger, even because of God. At that time I want to complain, I want signs, I want to refuse and protect myself; and often I find that I have a very bad attitude toward the things God wants me to do. Some times I am so physically and emotionally bombarded that I want to sleep, I feel depressed, because God’s things cause me, like Abraham, to want to be in my tent saying, “Woe is me, nobody knows my sorrow.” This is how I have felt many times, but then as I was preparing this message, I could see Jesus’ disapproval of those who wanted miraculous signs. They wanted something tangible, now, and so they did not want to trust in Jesus. I see that I often do not want to trust in Jesus, but just complain and I desire others to have pity on me. But then I see that Jesus wanted the people to trust in him; he wants me to trust in him so his good plan can be realized in my life. But I often do not want to trust in him. I want the difficulty to stop on its own or I want God to intervene instead of going the distance myself, through working out trust in him to its conclusion, where I can receive training and at the end, as Abraham did on the mountain with Isaac, I can meet him more personally, more personally than before. Again, I want something now, because I don’t want to make the struggle to remember what I know about him and actively put my trust in him.

 

       Through this passage, I see that when I do this I put more trust in myself and my ability to protect and take care of my life, and I don’t make the journey as Jesus wants, therefore I end up forgoing the benefits He has in mind. Then, I am not free to do what God asks, to obey him (living out this covenant), which causes me to be locked into doing just religious things. But I now see that this also keeps me from his blessings, and even deeper fellowship with him, as I struggle to obey and act without knowing all the details, even while having a good attitude; it forces me to trust in him more. I know God’s plan for me is good (that’s what the Bible says, and I am a Bible teacher). I have seen many aspects of this work its way out, already. I have a beautiful marriage, because I married by faith, when I did not see anything tangible. I have two beautiful daughters, even though one of them almost suffocated after birth and the other was born with severe physical problems. I have a good job, even though when I got married I did not and had no prospects of a good career. I see that when I have trusted in God first, without signs or tangible evidences, and when I have done this with only his words and knowing the person behind them, my life has turned out better than I could have hoped, and I have come to see him more in the process. However, I see how, even after all this, I still want to turn back toward my natural inclinations, controlling or trying to control my life, so that I will not have too many problems; I try to protect myself instead of taking Jesus at his word. But I see in this passage that Jesus says, “Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders, you will never believe.” Jesus is frustrated when people do not struggle to trust in him, because he knows that only when I trust in him, will my life go the way he has planned, from the beginning to the end. Only then, his will be done in my life. Only then can he change me, as he did Peter, from a lowly fisherman to a fisher of men for the benefit of all human history. Or like the Apostle John, from an angry young man, Jesus nick-named a son of thunder, to the Apostle of Love. Surely Jesus’ plan for me is so glorious, but I naturally only want signs. Instead, Jesus wants me to trust in him more so that I will understand the life that results when I really believe and have faith in him.

 

One Word: The Man Took Jesus At His Word And Departed

 

Sunday, July 1, 2018

posted Jul 1, 2018, 9:37 PM by Site Administrator

 OPEN YOUR EYES AND LOOK AT THE FIELDS!

 

John 4:27-42

Key Verse 4:35

 

35 “Do you not say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.”

 

First, “My food is to do the will of him” (27-34). Look at verse 27. Shortly after Jesus revealed Himself to the Samaritan woman, His disciples returned and found Him talking with her. They were shocked. In those days, it was not customary for a man and a woman to speak in public to each other even between husband and wife. So, it was more than shocking to the disciples that Jesus was talking with a Samaritan woman in public. But verse 27 states that no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?” They trusted in whatever Jesus was doing even though Jesus broke the customary practice at that time. They did not raise any question against him. Instead, they believed that Jesus was doing something very important, which they could not understand yet. Because of this respect and honor to their Teacher, they could learn from Him, and grow up in spirit continuously. While they were still in shock, an even more amazing thing happened. The woman suddenly left her water jar by the well and began to run as fast as she could back to the town as if she were competing in the hundred-meter dash. “Wow! What’s going on here? Why doesn’t she take her water jar?” the disciples thought.

 

Through meeting Jesus as the one who had explained everything to her, she found Jesus as the Messiah. Jesus was the very “He” she had been looking and waiting for. “Jesus is He!” She was pumped. Then, amazingly, from the depth of her heart, deep satisfaction and happiness welled up and filled her heart. She could not keep this joy to herself. She got up and ran back to the town forgetting about her water jar. Then, she told the townspeople, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” Before, she was a guilt-ridden, self-conscious, and isolated sinner. But when she met Jesus as her Messiah, all of her guilt and self-consciousness were gone. She was no longer afraid of what others might think of her, because she had met her Messiah who had already solved her problem. She powerfully testified what Jesus had done for her and who Jesus was, saying, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” She was a powerful evangelist to the townspeople. Her message was so convicting that people came out of the town and made their way toward Jesus.

 

Meanwhile Jesus’ disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something,” and they handed him food– maybe, orange chicken. It smelled really good. But how did Jesus respond? Jesus said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.” Jesus had no desire for food. When we see verse 6, Jesus was tired, thirsty and hungry from a long journey. But now in verse 32, Jesus was refreshed. He was no longer interested in physical food. Rather, Jesus looked at them with a joyful countenance and said, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.” It seemed that he had already eaten lunch. The disciples wondered and said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?” What was the secret of Jesus’ refreshment? Look at verse 34. Let’s read this verse together:

 

 34 “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.”

 

When Jesus says, “My food,” he is talking about the source of refreshment he had. By eating food, we are refreshed to continue to work. There are some people who find such joy and refreshment in making money, so they work hard, 60 or even 80 hours a week, but strangely, they are not tired, but full of spirit. Some people’s refreshment is video games. They stay up all night with red eyes playing video games. They don’t think about eating. But the source of Jesus’ refreshment was doing the work of God and finishing it. By doing the work of God and finishing it, Jesus was so satisfied and happy; he was refreshed. This shows us how wholeheartedly Jesus served the work of God. He didn’t consider doing the work of God as an obligation; he didn’t do the work of God reluctantly; instead, he did it with all his heart and strength; he wanted to do God’s work, and his heart was on it; then, when God’s work went on very well, he was overjoyed and happy that he forgot about his hunger, thirst and tiredness.

 

We all understand what Jesus is talking about. How happy we are when we see our students enjoying the word of God; even after doing Bible studies all day long, as we come home around 10 pm, we are not tired at all; instead, we are full of joy and happiness that from the parking lot, we sing songs of joy and praise so loudly that our neighbors recognize who is coming home, “This is the day, this is the day that the Lord has made.” Sometimes, our songs are totally out of tune, but we don’t care. Some shepherds go to school after long day’s work, and they struggle to serve students through one to one Bible studies; of course, often, they have no time to eat. But after serving Bible studies until 10 pm, they are overjoyed and completely refreshed that songs of joy and thanks burst forth from their lips. Who can understand this joy? Who can understand this secret? We can say to the world proudly, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.” Indeed, we can say, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me.” Only those who serve God’s work wholeheartedly, only those who pursue God’s kingdom can have this secret food. Jesus also says, “to finish his work.” Finishing God’s work means to complete God’s salvation work on people. Jesus completed God’s salvation work on the Samaritan woman. When Jesus saw her solving her thirst problem in him, he was overjoyed; when one lost sheep was found, he was overjoyed, and all of heaven rejoiced together. When he saw the woman turning to God, all his hard work thus far was paid off; he forgot about how he struggled to have one to one Bible study with her; he forgot about how she scratched his pride, saying to him, “Are you greater than our father Jacob?” His hard labor was well paid off, and he forgot about all his pains and sense of humiliation, for the joy of finding one lost sheep. During the semester, we struggle hard to fish students to teach them the word of God. Some of them are proud; some of them are unfaithful – they do not show up at the Bible study; some of them scratch our pride, saying, “Are you greater than the commentaries?” We endure so much pain and sorrows to serve the students through one to one Bible study. Sometimes, even if there is tremendous financial burden, and deep sorrows, we continue to teach God’s flock with the word of God, even with a big smile. Who can understand the shepherds’ pains and sorrows? Who can understand our agonies? But when we see just one sheep accepting God’s grace and turning to God decisively, we are so overjoyed; we simply forget about all those sorrows, pains and sense of humiliation completely for the joy of finding one lost sheep; we are filled with thanks and praise to God. Who can understand this joy and happiness we have? The world cannot understand it. We say, “It’s fun to serve God and to save souls.”

 

When we think about this expression “to finish his work” carefully, we understand that Jesus had a clear goal – he had a clear purpose in serving many people, that was, to finish God’s work of salvation in their lives. He wanted to save them. He wanted to finish God’s work; so he challenged them to repent and turn to God decisively; that’s why he, even though he knew that it was a very sensitive matter to her, challenged the woman to bring her husband and come back to him. What we do as shepherds and shepherdesses is not a volunteer service. We have a clear goal in teaching students the word of God – we want to save them; we want to help them repent and turn to God sincerely; our purpose is not just to share our profound understanding of the Bible with them, but to help them repent by turning from their worldly pursuits, from their sinful life, from their self-seeking life to the life of serving God—to the life of seeking God’s kingdom. For this purpose, we pray for them day and night; for this, we sometimes, challenge them to repent; sometimes, we severely rebuke them of their sinful and compromising lifestyle; sometimes, we patiently wait for them to repent in silence.  We are so sad when our sheep do not repent; that’s why we are so happy when one sheep grows up as a disciple of Jesus. Jesus did not send us into the world to just hand out Bible tracks; instead, he gave us a clear goal, saying, “Go, and make disciples of all nations.” That’s why we struggle hard to make all these college students disciples of Jesus. “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” Those who can say such words are truly blessed. They are the ones who live for God alone and follow the footsteps of Jesus Christ, their Lord.

 

Second, “Open your eyes and look at the fields” (35-42). Look at verse 35. Let’s read this verse together:

 

35Do you not say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.”

 

Maybe, when Jesus said this, it was still summer, and harvest time came in the fall. So at that time, people said, “Four months more and then the harvest.” From the disciples’ perspective, Samaria was a corrupt city full of nothing but a bunch of gang bangers and drug addicts—a bunch of knuckleheads. The disciples wondered if harvest time would ever come to this city. So they never saw Samaria as a place to save many souls. In their eyes, the city needed more time and then, maybe, the people would be ready to accept the gospel message and repent of their sins. But Jesus had a different point of view. By saving one lost Samaritan woman through just one Bible study, He had a great vision to save all Samaritans with the word of God. If this woman could accept God’s grace through having Bible study with him just one time, then, everyone in Samaria could be blessed. If this most wild looking woman had been waiting for the Messiah, then, there must be so many more people in Samaria who were waiting for the Messiah. Thrilled with vision of saving all Samaritans, Jesus was filled with the desire to find them all; a great salvation work would occur and a great church would be established in Samaria! In His eyes, the city of Samaria was a golden harvest field, where so many people were ready and waiting for God’s salvation.

 

Jesus said to his disciples, “Open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.” Jesus wanted his disciples to see the same vision for Samaria and for the whole world. If they saw the same vision he had, then they would be so excited about saving them all and about establishing the kingdom of God powerfully in Samaria. Even if some Samaritans have many scary tattoos, they would be able to bear with them and continue to serve them; if they saw the same vision, then, even if they might have their own urgent struggles whether financially, academically or nationally, still they would keep serving them and build God’s kingdom powerfully. But, the disciples did not share the same vision Jesus had; in their eyes, Samaria was really a terrible city, where ignorant and despicable people lived. The disciples did not want to have anything to do with them. When these Samaritans showed any negative attitude towards them, they were angry at them, saying, “How dare you...? If you don’t accept us as God’s servants, you will go to hell!” One time, they asked Jesus, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven and burn them?” When the disciples did not open their eyes and see them as the people ready for harvest, they could not serve Samaritans with genuine concern; even if they lived as Jesus’ disciples and tried to teach others the word of God, they were proud Jewish young men. The disciples thought they were better than others because they were Jesus’ disciples, and they were in the most powerful ministry at that time. Jesus earnestly said to them, “Open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.”

 

Many say that America is too corrupt morally and spiritually and thus, her environment is not good for a spiritual harvest. They say millennials are terrible because they are very self-centered. Just look at their Facebook page! Some Christians say that they cannot bear fruit now, because the season of Christ has not yet come. What all these people say is: “Four months more, and then, the harvest.” But Jesus declares, “I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.” In Jesus’ eyes, it is the golden harvest time, when so many people are fully ready to accept God’s grace. In America, now is the time for a great spiritual revival! American people are waiting for God’s salvation. Open your eyes and look at the fields.  

 

Some say that college students are focused on building their career that they are not interested in spiritual things; they also say that college students are party animals and like playing video games and are always on Twitter.  We assume that we have to wait until they are sick and tired of sinful life. Indeed, there are always people who say, “Four months more, and then the harvest.” But Jesus says, “Open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.” They have already hit the rock bottom; they are already sick and tired of their sinful life; they already know that life is so meaningless and empty; they are already looking for true meaning and purpose of their life. They are ripe for harvest. So many are dying and waiting for God’s salvation. Seeing all these students on our campuses, Jesus says to us, “Open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.” Jesus wants us to go and save them all.  

 

Look at verses 36 through 38. Let’s read these verses together:

 

36Even now the reaper draws his wages, even now he harvests the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. 37Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. 38I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.”

 

By saying, “Even now the reaper draws his wages, even now he harvests the crop for eternal life,” Jesus showed his disciples what era they were living in--the era of harvesting the crop for eternal life. He already drew his wages--the great joy he had in serving and saving one soul. Indeed, it was the time of harvest. And Jesus encouraged his disciples to live as the reapers, harvesting the crop for eternal life. The sowers, from Abraham to John the Baptist did the hard work to lay the foundation of the gospel. Most of them had lonely struggles when all others were worshiping idols. And many of them were killed because of their mission. One time God asked the prophet Isaiah to take off all his clothes and walk around naked for three years, and he obeyed God’s command. (Isaiah 20:2-4) Then, later, he was killed by his own people. The prophet Jeremiah was also killed in Egypt. Indeed, all these servants of God worked hard to do God’s work, obeying God absolutely, doing whatever God asked them to do, sacrificing everything for God’s purpose, and denying themselves completely.

 

But their hard labor cannot be paid off unless the harvest workers go out and reap the harvest. Jesus says, “Even now the reaper draws his wages, even now he harvests the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together.” After having done the hard work, the sowers in heaven watch how the reapers are doing. They wait anxiously for the reapers to go out and harvest the crops for eternal life, and when they see souls saved, they are happy and joyful together with the reapers. Only when the disciples go out and reap the harvest, will these servants who have done the hard work, be glad together with the reapers. Jesus wants his disciples to be the reapers. Even though their job of harvesting is like reaping the benefits of others’ hard labor compared to the job of sowing, the disciples are very important in God’s salvation work. Only with them, God’s salvation work can be completed. They are real VIPs of VIPs and even now they receive their wages. We are the reapers, sent to reap the souls for eternal life, sent to reap the benefits of the hard labor of the sowers. We must go to the harvest fields and reap them for eternal life. This is what God wants us to do. Jesus sends us today to all the campuses in California, in America and in the world. Go out, and reap the harvest for eternal life.

 

Look at verses 39 through 42. This passage is the conclusion of Jesus’ Samaritan ministry. Because of the woman’s testimony, many people in the town believed in Jesus. It is amazing that though the Samaritans once despised the woman, now when she talked about Jesus, the Samaritans believed in Him through her testimony. When the Samaritans came to Jesus, they urged Him to stay with them. So Jesus stayed two days and taught them the word of God, and because of His words, many more became believers. Then, they said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.” Today, we heard Jesus’ command, “I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.” El Camino College is ripe for harvest. CSUDH is ripe for harvest. USC is ripe for harvest. CSULB is ripe for Harvest. California is ripe for Harvest. All college campuses are ripe for harvest.  America is ripe for harvest. Amen. Now is the time for us to go and harvest the crop for eternal life. Now is the time for us to save many souls and bring them to the kingdom of God. Even now the reaper draws his wages; even now he harvests the crop for eternal life. Let’s open our eyes and accept this vision of God into our hearts. Let’s live as harvest workers for God and for dying souls on our campuses.

 

       I am very thankful for the passage. This passage has caused me to recognize the beauty of my mission field. Twice a week I go to the campus from a long day of working on dirty cars. The desire to rest at home is more appealing than going to campus to evangelize students. I even wanted to make studying for my ASE certification a priority over campus mission. I had developed a “been there, done that, got a t-shirt” mentality about campus mission. But then I thought I always am going to have an excuse not to evangelize. Today my excuse is about building myself in my career. Then after that, there will be some other excuse. So, I resolved to use at least two days to go to campus anyway. When I decided to go to campus to fish God had opened my eyes to understand that I am frustrating the work of Satan. Now that I was on the campus, I am stopping busy college students to consider God, to take the time out of their day to talk with me about God. God taught me that I am fighting evil when I simply fished on the campus, and convinced student to have bible study with me. Amazingly, I did not feel tired from a long day of working on cars. I felt like I had new legs or new energy to fish on the campus. Sometimes the desire to fish more than one student at a time came to me like a sudden rush of wind. I felt like I turned into a giant, the rejections of students became like bullets that bounced off me. Although I did not find new students on the campus, I was certain that there were students who wanted to know the truth. There have been repeated times while fishing that I did not get tired or think about food. In fact, I was having a good time looking for students to teach the Bible. It seems that I have an inconvenient time to fish in the evenings, where very few students are on campus and wanting to go home. Actually, I have the best time to fish because students are leaving the campus with my bible study invitation resonating in their minds and my discussion with them about God. I go home with satisfaction that I spent time doing what is worthwhile. El Camino College is ripe for harvest. I am living in a time where I am working to gather the harvest. This is my time to reap the harvest.

 

       God has made me a reaper to harvest the crops and be co-workers with the sower. God has made me an important figure to serve the mission work that I am on. I am a reaper to harvest the crops. My eyes are opened to the spiritual reality of what needs to be done in my generation. I have the best job there is—a Bible teacher and a shepherd for college students. Living for the completion of saving lost souls is my food that the world cannot know and cannot take away. I pray that all God’s servants want more of this real food, and I pray that many harvest workers would rise from among college students.

 

One Word: They Are Ripe For Harvest!

Sunday, June 24, 2018

posted Jun 24, 2018, 8:03 PM by Site Administrator

SPRING OF WATER WELLING UP TO ETERNAL LIFE

 

John 4:1-26

Key Verses 4:13,14 

 

Jesus answered her, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."

 

First, "Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst" (1-14). In the previous passage we learned that Jesus’ ministry was growing powerfully. Everyone was going to Jesus to be baptized. When the Pharisees heard this, they were jealous about his popularity. So Jesus left Judea and went back once more to Galilee because he did not want to have unnecessary conflict with them. Between Judea and Galilee is the land of Samaria.

 

Look at verses 6 through 8. After walking through the desert, Jesus was tired, thirsty and hungry. There was Jacob’s well, and Jesus sat down by the well. It was the sixth hour, which is equivalent to 12 noon modern time, so the sun must have been blazing bright over the Middle East Desert. Jesus’ disciples had gone into the town to buy food. Then, a suspicious looking Samaritan woman came to draw water. This was very unusual because it was not the time for women to draw water. They would usually come early morning or in the cool of the evening when the sun wasn’t strong. They would use this time to "socialize." But why was she there all by herself in the hottest part of the day? Something was definitely wrong.

 

When Jesus saw her, he said to her, "Will you give me a drink?" She responded, "You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?" This is a really weird response to a man who simply asked for a cup of water in the desert! At this response it seems that Jesus should have left her alone. But instead he said, "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water." Instead of just stopping the conversation and giving up on her, Jesus stirred curiosity and interest within her by using exciting expressions such as, "the Gift of God" and "living water." "Sir," the woman said, "you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?"

 

How did Jesus respond? Let’s read verses 13 and 14 together. 

 

13Jesus answered, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."

 

So far, it seemed that Jesus was thirsty and that he needed her help. But as we see in these verses, Jesus’ concern was not about quenching his thirst with a cup of water, but her thirst with living water so that she might solve her thirst problem. Here, Jesus points to the thirst problem of mankind. People are thirsty. This thirst is what our hearts long for. Some people long for beautiful romance. They shed tears when they watch a beautiful romance story such as "Cinderalla" or "Beauty and the Beast."They dream of how their life will be if they have that kind of beautiful romance. So they come to the well of human love, hoping to find their prince charming or beautiful princess. Others long for money. Maybe, it is because they have suffered financially, and experienced what it means to live without money. They expect that they will not have any problems whatsoever if they have enough money. So they come to the well of money, by studying hard, pursuing a promising career, and working hard, even 80 hours a week, to make more money. Some people are thirsty for fame; they work really hard to become well known scientists or Nobel Prize recipients. Still others live for political power. Fundamentally, all people are thirsty, looking for something or someone that would make their life truly meaningful and fulfilling. In hope to quench their thirst for true fulfillment, meaning and purpose of their lives, people gather around Jacob’s wells and drink—some people in noble way, and others in ignoble way. But fundamentally, they are the same – they are thirsty, and struggle hard to quench their thirst in various ways. In Genesis, we see Cain’s descendants developing technology, music and becoming huge entrepreneurs. It was their struggle to find the meaning, purpose, and fulfillment of their lives in such things. Simply, they were thirsty for a truly meaningful and fulfilling life. Did they find what they had been looking for in those things? No! They were empty; they became wicked, angry, and violent, and their lives became miserable. 

 

Jesus describes all these people’s struggle to find the meaning, purpose and fulfillment of their lives as drinking water from Jacob’s well, and he says, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again,..." The expression, "thirsty again," shows that in these things, no one can find a truly meaningful and fulfilling life – no lasting meaning, or fulfillment of their lives, but temporary, and after a short period of happiness, comes deep sense of meaninglessness, worthlessness, and disappointment. When you are thirsty in the hot scorching summer day, you come to the water fountain, and drink from it; or you go to a convenient store and buy a bottle of Gatorade. It looks like a practical way. But soon you become thirsty again and then you repeat. 

 

The Samaritan woman in the passage had five husbands. How happy she must have been when she first married a handsome husband. But that happiness probably lasted only few days. Soon she divorced him, and remarried a rich husband. She experienced this cycle five times so far, and now she was working on the sixth one but she was very careful this time around, so that she might not make another mistake. Jesus said to her, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again,..."

 

When Jesus says, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again,..." he implies that we must not try to quench our thirst with the water from Jacob’s well because it never works. Coming to Jacob’s well to quench our thirst is nothing but waste of our time, energy, and life. See how many people pour out their strength, time, and even entire life, to purchase the water from Jacob’s well; this woman in the passage already spent most of her life, talent and energy, and now after spending so much of her own assets, she was broke – she became literally like a prostitute in the town. God says in the book of Isaiah, "Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?" (Isa 51:2) God says in Jeremiah 2:13, "My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water." Trying to find meaning, happiness and satisfaction of our life by pursuing that significant other, by making tons of money, by becoming men or women of renown, or even by becoming the President of the USA, is like trying to fill broken cisterns with water. The satisfaction and happiness which comes from fulfilling what we have desired lasts only a few days at best, or only a few minutes in most cases. After this short moment of happiness comes tons of disappointment, argument, burden, headache, responsibilities, and a sense of meaninglessness. That’s why all the romance stories fromDisney, such as Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and the Little Mermaid, all end in a wedding ceremony scene with the line, "they lived happily ever after" without talking about the true reality of life after the wedding. That’s why so many men of success who made tons of money became almost mental patients even going crazy. That’s why so many men of fame and honor have committed suicide after achieving remarkable things in the world. God says in Jeremiah 2:13 that such a life of pursuing meaning, purpose, and fulfillment of life in these things is a sinful life. Jesus says, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again."

 

So what should we do with our thirst? Jesus says, "But whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." So we must drink the water Jesus gives. This means that when you are thirsty for human love or money, don’t pursue it, otherwise, you will be thirsty again. Instead, come to Jesus, pursue the water he gives, and your thirst will be quenched and your soul will find satisfaction. 

 

After bringing out the Israelites from Egypt, God brought them into the desert, and had them wander in the desert for forty years. One day, they could not find water. At that time, in the desert where there was no water, when all people were thirsty, God gushed out water from the rock and quenched their thirst. To these thirsty people in the desert, the water that gushed out from the rock was God’s blessing, and it was the gift of God for them. Actually, our life in this world is like the Israelites’ journey through the desert. We are thirsty for many things. For these thirsty people in the world, God gave us his gift, the gift of God – the living water that can quench our thirst, that can give us true meaning, purpose and fulfillment to our lives, that makes us truly satisfied and glad. We must pursue Jesus, and we will be truly satisfied. 

 

About seven centuries before Jesus’ coming, God invited all thirsty people to Himself, saying, "Come, all you who are thirsty,...Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me,...and your soul will delight in the richest of fare." (Isa 55:1-2) God does not want us to spend our labor, our strength, our zeal, our passion, and our time on what does not satisfy such as money, or romance, or recognition. Instead, we must eat what is good, which Jesus gives, and only at that time our souls will delight in the richest of fare. We will be satisfied. When we come to Jesus, we will have a beautiful testimony, saying, "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul."We will express our satisfied hearts, by saying, "My cup overflows." Instead of looking for more things, we will say, "I have all I need."

 

How can we quench our thirst? Not through drinking the water from Jacob’s well, not through securing and grabbing what we have desired, but through coming to Jesus and drinking the water he gives. Let’s accept God’s invitation and come to Jesus asking him for living water, and he will satisfy us; our souls will find rest. 

 

Second, "Go, call your husband and come back" (15-26). Look at verse 15. At Jesus' invitation to true satisfaction, the woman said, "Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water." Jesus already promised that if she asked him for the gift of God, he would give it to  her. Now, she asked saying, "Sir, give me this water!" So, Jesus had to give her living water as he had promised. 

How was he going to give her this living water, welling up to eternal life? Look at verse 16. "Jesus said, "Go, call your husband and come back.’" This means that she has to bring her husband to Jesus so that Jesus can give her living water. Jesus had a burning desire to give her the living water, which would give her true satisfaction and joy. That’s why he did not mind having a long Bible study standing under the hot scorching sun in the desert area. Now in order to give her living water, Jesus commanded her, "Go, call your husband and come back."

 

To this Samaritan woman, her husband was the object through whom she tried to find the meaning, purpose and fulfillment of her life – the object of her satisfaction. As we see in this passage, she had five husbands, and now she was living with man who was not her husband.  In the conservative society of those days, certainly it was not usual or easy for a woman to marry five times and divorce five times. This shows how hard she struggled to find happiness through having an ideal husband. Jesus’ instruction shows that as long as she pursued happiness and fulfillment of her life in her husband, as long as she struggled to drink the water from Jacob’s well, she had no chance to drink the water Jesus gives. She must repent of her life of pursuing happiness and satisfaction in a husband and bring this problem to Jesus. What does it mean to bring this matter to Jesus? It means to bring this thirst matter to Jesus, confessing and admitting her wrong way of life and asking him for the water he gives. It means to turn away from the life of pursuing happiness and fulfillment in a husband to the life of pursuing happiness and fulfillment in Jesus. Jesus commands all thirsty people to bring their false objects of happiness and fulfillment to him. For her, it was her husband. For a young rich man in Mark's gospel, it was his money. So, Jesus told him to give all his money to the poor and then, come and follow him. For Levi, who pursued money, Jesus told him to follow him, instead of following money. For some proud and brilliant students, it is their dream of success in the world. In the Old Testament, God invites all these people, saying, "Come, all you who are thirsty... Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?...Listen, listen to me,... and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. Come to me that your soul may live." (Isa 51:1-3) Now in the New Testament, Jesus invites all of us to come to him for a truly satisfying life, saying, "Go, call your husband and come back!" We must bring this husband matter, this false object of happiness, meaning and fulfillment of our life to Jesus, and he will give us the water that will become in us a spring of water welling up to eternal life. 

 

Look at verses 17 and 18. When Jesus commanded her to bring out her husband problem, she was startled and said, "I have no husband." She was embarrassed; she had never imagined that this Jewish man would ever mention about her husband problem – this was the last topic she wanted to talk about. Her words, "I have no husband," shows us how self-conscious she had felt about her life thus far. When she married and divorced continually, it seemed that she didn't care about how others would think of her; it seemed that she was wild and totally out of control. But actually, she was not! She felt so shameful about her sinful life; she too, like all others, wanted to be honored and recognized as a good person, but her sinful desire had carried her away thus far. No one knew or understood her agony that now she was labeled as a sinful woman.

 

Jesus understood her deeply. So he said, "You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true." Jesus, here, emphasized the truthfulness of her words two times, saying, "You are right,..." and "What you have just said is quite true." Jesus did not judge her based on her outward appearance. Instead, he understood her agony deeply and accepted her just as she was - a lost, thirsty and struggling child. But at the same time, Jesus still brought out her husband problem to the light even publicly because it had to be doneso that real healing could start. And because he really wanted to give her living water. 

 

At this, she said to him, "Sir, I can see that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshipped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem." So far, she was sarcastic, arrogant and insincere about this Bible study. But now she acknowledged Jesus as a man of God, showing respect and honor to him. She became very sincere and responsive. Then, she brought to his attention the question of worship that had been hidden in the depth of her heart. How did Jesus answer her? Look at verse 21. Let's read this verse together: 

 

21Jesus declared, "Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 

 

Her question was about where to worship God, whether in Jerusalem or in Samaria. Which is the right place to worship God? Will God accept me if I attend this church or that church? Jesus said, "Neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem." This is really shocking - God does not give you any credit even if you attend worship service in the Jerusalem temple, which was the most authentic and awesome looking worship service in the whole world - officiated by the high priest who came from Aaron's line, wearing beautiful priestly robes, using Hebrew language and Hebrew Bible, with beautiful hymns based on Psalms, in such a big and beautiful and authentic building. But Jesus says that attending this temple worship service does not mean to worship God really. Some people insist to use KJV in worship service, saying that, then, the worship service will be right. Even some people say that we must use the Hebrew Bible - all these people are just proud and self-righteous, denying all the marvelous works God has done throughout the world based on other Bible translations. 

 

But Jesus says, "Neither!" Worshiping God is not the matter of this place or that place; it is not the matter of using this translation or that translation. If you were to ask God, "Lord, should I use KJV or NIV in our church?" What would God say to you? "Neither KJV nor NIV!" Also, some people say that reciting the apostles' creed must be in the worship program. Some others say that worship service must end with the Lord's prayer. Some people talk about baptism or communion. Some people proudly say, "I attend Billy Graham's worship service." "I talked with Chuck Smith." Jesus' answer about all this kind of questions and suggestions is: "Neither!" Adding one program or skipping another program does not make any worship service real. Worshiping God is not the matter of adding this program or that program. 

 

Then, Jesus pointed out the problem of the Samaritans, saying, "22You Samaritan worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews." The Samaritans thought that they were worshiping God when they were worshiping cast idols in Samaria. This woman so far had worshiped her husbands, and became miserable. So we can see that such devotion and loyalty must be given to God not to human beings or worthless things of the world. Why did they become idol worshipers despite their desire to worship God? Jesus says, "for salvation is from the Jews." This is God's principle - He chose the Jews to be his partners in fulfilling his world salvation plan and revealed Himself to them by giving them the Bible. Only through them, only through the Bible given to the Jews can people come to know God. Only when people follow this principle set by God can they come to know what God wants them to do and how to worship God. But the Samaritans did not follow this principle of God; instead, they did what they saw fit in regard to their life direction and how and where to worship God. At that time, when they did not base their life and worship of God on the Bible, they ended up getting lost, becoming idol worshipers instead of God-worshipers. The Samaritan woman became lost because her life direction was not based on the Bible, but on her cursed desire for a husband. We must study the Bible and see what God wants us to do and how we must live our life. Only when our life is rooted and built up in the word of God, it will go on in the way God desires and we will live this one life very successfully without any regret. 

 

Now then how should we worship God? Let's read verses 23 and 24 together: 

 

23Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth."

 

Jesus teaches us that we must worship God in spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. What does it mean to worship God in spirit? It means to worship God wholeheartedly. God says in Numbers 14:24, "But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it." While other Israelites followed God casually or half-heartedly, Caleb's attitude toward God was different; he followed God wholeheartedly. So, in God's eyes, Caleb stood out among 603,550 people; he showed God a different spirit and God accepted him and blessed him. Worshiping God in spirit is the opposite of worshiping God in motion, or in habit, or in ceremony. When we worship God in spirit, then, we are the kind of worshipers God seeks. 2Chronicles 16:9 shows us what kind of people God seeks, saying, "For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him." We must worship God wholeheartedly, offering ourselves to God completely and pouring all our time and energy, and even life for Him - this is how we must worship God and this is what the Bible teaches. 

 

Worshiping God in truth means to worship and serve God according to the truth, the word of God - it is the opposite of worshiping God in our convenience or in our own style. Even if it may cost a lot, even if we may have to shed a lot of tears, we do what God wants us to do, instead of doing whatever we like to do. There we learn what it means to deny ourselves; there we learn what it means submit ourselves to God's will; there we learn what it means to surrender ourselves to God. God seeks such people. 

 

After hearing this, the woman said that when the Messiah came, he would explain everything to her. Amazingly, she was the one who had been waiting for the Messiah. Then Jesus declared, "I who speak to you am he." As the Messiah Jesus explained everything to her about man’s life and purpose. Jesus was the very one she had been waiting for, who explained everything to her. Life became clear to her – what to do, where to go and how to worship God. She was a daughter of God, who must worship the Father in spirit and in truth.

 

In my childhood, due to my mother's busy schedule, I was lonely. I started to look for human love. I did many shameful thingsI dove deep into videogames, food and pornography. And I also became sexually active at a extremely young age. Such terrible and shameful life led me to be filled with many demons that haunted me and caused me to anger and bitterness towards all those that I felt never loved me. 

 

I came to the US when I was around 13 years old, but nothing changed. All I did was to stay home, eat, watch porn and play video games. I really had no desire for anything in this world, all I wanted was to find love but nothing I did was enough. I used to drink so much that I would blank out and not remember how I would get home or sometimes after drinking heavily I would get black spots on my chest from all the alcohol poison. My family tried to reach out to me but since I was so far gone in my sin I did not care anymore. I just wanted to do what I wanted to do in order to fill my void. This lifestyle led me to gain weight and even reach over 400 pounds. By my late twenties I was so unhappy and filled with so much bitterness and anger from the life that I had lived that I hated my family especially my Mom. I blamed her for my life and how she was never there, I blamed her for all the abuse and neglect I experienced growing up. I became so dead inside that I was numb when she passed away in 2004. God had mercy on me. In 2008 right before my dad passed away I started enjoying Bible studies. Thanks to these Bible studies, I was able to ask my dad to accept Jesus into his heart, and he did. Right after that, he passed away, but I was at peace - God had answered my prayer for my dad. 

Since then, my life changed completely. In 2009, I began teaching the Bible to students at ECC; one time, I served even 20 Bible studies a week. And disciples began to grow. When I saw one of the disciples I served married last year, I felt like a proud father that day. In 2015, I was given a direction to lose weight; at that time, I was 400 pounds. I was actually given this direction before but because of the way I used to see things, I did not listen. But after experiencing God much more personally, I was determined that I would obey. It was hard at times, I wanted to complain about everything that was going on, I just wanted to shout. But I didn’t, instead I struggled to listen, and God's power worked on my mortal body powerfully. I came to lose weight so rapidly that in about a year, I lost 200 lbs. The change was so dramatic that I still have a hard time graspingwhat he has done. Also during that time, I got married to a strong woman of God who has loved me unconditionally. I am now half the man I used to be and I feel like I am getting younger and younger every year. Even at my job, on Thursday I have a two hour lunch break, and during that time I go to campus and teach. After work instead of going home I go to bible studies and teach. My whole life has become about teaching others about Jesus, this was really the total opposite of how I was living in the world. In the world I was lonely, abandoned and was dying of thirst. But now I have a church filled with brothers and sisters who love me, I have a mission that God has prepared for me, I have a new life that I am no longer thirsty. God has saved me from death. I praise God for this new life that I am now living, and I pray that I will  struggle to do what is right all the days of my life so that I can make him happy

 

One word: Living Water Welling Up To Eternal Life

Sunday, June 17, 2018

posted Jun 17, 2018, 9:49 PM by Site Administrator

7

 

THAT JOY IS MINE!

 

John 3:22-36

Key Verse 3:29

 

The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom's voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete.

 

First, "A man can receive only what is given him from heaven" (22-28). Look at verses 22 through 24. At this time, there were two baptisms going on in Israel. One was in the Judean countryside by Jesus and his disciples. The other was at Aenon near Salim by John the Baptist. John's disciples testified that everyone was going to Jesus. It was a transitional time when God's ministry was transferring from John the Baptist to Jesus. Now John's ministry was near an end, but John was still faithful to his mission. Look at verse 25. An argument developed between some of John's disciples and a certain Jew over the matter of ceremonial washing. We don't know what kind of argument it was about, but anyway, because of this argument, John's disciples felt bad. Before, when all people flocked to John and received the baptism, they too were very honored. At that time, no one dared challenge them. But since Jesus started baptizing and everybody was going to him, John's ministry began to lose its fame. And now, even a man challenged them about certain doctrinal matter, and it seemed that he gave John's disciples a hard time; maybe, he prevailed. So John's disciples came to John and said, "Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan - the one you testified about - well, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him." They knew what their teacher John the Baptist had testified about Jesus. They saw John shouting, "Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." They saw John saying, "I baptize with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.""He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me." "I have seen and testify that this is the Son of God." But they did not accept his teaching. They did not look at Jesus; nor did they follow him. They were bad students. They did not know why their teacher struggled hard to deliver the message of repentance and gave baptism to many. They did not know John's earnest desire to bring all men to Jesus Christ. Instead, they regarded Jesus as their competitor. What they suggested was: "We've got to do something to attract people back to us." What was John's reply? Let's read verses 27 and 28. 

 

27To this John replied, "A man can receive only what is given him from heaven. 28you yourselves can testify that I said, 'I am not the Christ but am sent ahead of him.' 

 

John refused his disciples' suggestion, saying, "A man can receive only what is given him from heaven." That was John's understanding and perspectives. So, John had no reason to compete with Jesus the Christ. John knew his position before God - a voice in the desert as the forerunner of the Christ. John never forgot this. When all people wondered if he were the Messiah, he did not go beyond his position. Now, his disciples tried to stir him up to compete with Jesus. But he told his disciples clearly, saying, "You yourselves can testify that I said, 'I am not the Christ but am sent ahead of him." He kept his position as a voice in the desert to the end. When we serve God's ministry, we should keep this word in our mind. "A man can receive only what is given him from heaven." In the world, people struggle hard to climb up the ladder of success to occupy higher positions. But this expression shows that in the spiritual realm, no one acquires a certain position by his own struggles; instead, God assigns each person in his or her position according to his plan and purpose - to some people, as apostles, to some others as missionaries, to still others, as pastors or as shepherds or shepherdesses. Our struggle is not that we would occupy higher positions in God's ministry, but that we may be loyal and faithful to the task God called us to serve. Some people, enticed by the titles such as pastor, think that they can get it, if they have a greater title such as seminary degree, or even PhDs in theology. But that's a worldly way, not God's way. In Jesus Christ, there is no higher position or greater title we can acquire through our own struggles; instead, we can receive only what is given us from heaven. And as we give all our hearts and strength to serving God's purpose, God will surely make us very fruitful and exalt us highly. To anyone who serves God wholeheartedly comes honor and respect. When we remain faithful to the task God assigned to, on that day, Jesus will say to us, "Well done, my good and faithful servant!" That will be our true reward.    

 

Second, "He must become greater; I must become less" (29-30). In verse 29, John explains his position as a friend of the bridegroom using the parable of a wedding. Let's read this verse together: 

 

29The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom's voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. 

 

According to the Jewish marriage custom, the bridegroom and the bride, once pledged to marry, were regarded as husband and wife, but they did not live together for one year. Instead, they stayed at their parents' house studying the Bible to learn what it meant to be husband or wife, and to learn all practical customs such as how to prepare the Sabbath. A strange thing is that there was no specific appointed time for the wedding ceremony. Instead, near the end of one year, the bridegroom sent his most trustworthyfriend to the bride's house to take care of the bride until he came for the wedding. The mission of this friend was to keep andprotect the bride sound and safe from all harms and evils until his friend, the bridegroom came. So, even though the friend was with the bride, the bride belonged to the bridegroom. Then, when the bridegroom came for the wedding ceremony, someone shouted, loudly, "The bridegroom is coming. Come and welcome him!" Then people came out, welcomed him and performed the wedding ceremony. And the bridegroom took the bride. At the same time, the mission of the friend of the bridegroom was over. So when he heard the voice of the bridegroom, he was happy and joyful, because he had finished his mission successfully for his friend, the bridegroom. His mission was over. John the Baptist regarded himself as the friend of the bridegroom, who took care of and protected the bride until the bridegroom came. Even though so many people came to him, received the baptism and even followed him, he knew that they did not belong to him, but belonged to Jesus Christ, the bridegroom. When the bridegroom, Jesus Christ came and took the brides, John was very joyful because he had finished his mission successfully. He said, "That joy is mine, and it is now complete." John found amazing joy to be trusted as the bridegroom's best friend. John found complete joy in taking care of the brides of Jesus. He found great joy when people accepted Jesus as their Savior. He was so happy because he saw the beautiful, smiling, and happy face of his friend with his brides. He was a truly happy person because of Jesus. But John's disciples were not joyful when everyone was going to Jesus because they were not Jesus' friends. The Pharisees were jealous when people went to Jesus because they were not Jesus' friends, but competitors. 

 

John's understanding of his position as a friend of the bridegroom shows us what we are doing as shepherds for God's flock. We are preparing people for Jesus to come and take them as his brides. We are taking care of the brides until the bridegroom comes to take them. Sometimes, we feel very difficult, because not all the brides are good and mature. Instead, many of them are worldly; instead of giving their hearts to their bridegroom and waiting for him to come, their hearts go after many attractive looking things of the world. So we struggle hard to turn their eyes and hearts from such things to Jesus, their bridegroom. Some of them are very rebellious that they are not like brides, but like goats with two horns. We suffer a lot to bear with them. Some of them even go after other seductive people instead of waiting for their true husband. So we too have to go after them all the way until our feet blister. We want to prepare them as pure virgin brides who love Jesus alone. The apostle Paul gives his own job description, saying, "I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him." (2Co 11:2) For this purpose, he zealously wrestled with them, sometimes challenging them to repent, sometimes, encouraging them, sometimes, watching them quietly. Then, when they repented, when they really loved Jesus, he was overjoyed, happy and thankful.

 

It is our great privilege that we are chosen to be Jesus' friends to take care of his brides until he comes. What great joy we experience when we see, once wayward and worldly sheep become lovely brides for Jesus, saying, "I love Jesus. Oh Lord, whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you." (Ps 73:25) How happy we become when once rebellious sheep become so obedient, even beyond human understanding. When an ordinary person grows up to be a great man of God through our care, our joy is complete. At the Friday meeting, after hearing young disciples' sincere testimony, and seeing how they struggle to love Jesus and serve him, we are overjoyed. When the testimony meeting is over, we are so happy and thankful for their love for Jesus that we all pray so loudly and passionately. We indeed have the joy of the friend of the bridegroom. "That joy is mine and it is now complete." 

 

Jesus regarded Simon Peter as his best man. So after his resurrection, he visited Simon Peter, and asked, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?" "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you," Simon answered. Then, Jesus entrusted to Peter his most precious treasure, his brides, his sheep, saying, "Feed my lambs." Jesus gave us this important task to take care of his brides because he regarded us as his best men, reliable and trustworthy. This is our thanks topic. Paul says, "I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service." (1Ti 1:12) Who are we that Jesus King of kings considered us most trustworthy that he sent us to take care of his most precious brides? Now it's our turn to prove ourselves worthy of his trust and of this privilege by taking care of Jesus' brides faithfully praying for them, and teaching them the word of God, until they are ready for the wedding ceremony with their bridegroom. Let Jesus be proved right that he chose us to be his friends to take care of his brides.The apostle Paul says, "As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received." (Eph 4:1) When he comes and takes his brides, we will see his smiling face and our joy will be complete because we love him.

 

Look at verse 30. John says, "He must become greater; I must become less." At the wedding, the most gorgeous looking person should be the bridegroom. So the bridegroom wears the most beautiful and expensive tuxedo, and is adorned with many beautiful and glorious items like diamonds or sometimes, a beautiful sword. Or sometimes, in order to praise his glory, the bridegroom's friends prepare special ceremony with military band and many soldiers in their uniforms saluting to the bridegroom. At the wedding, the bridegroom must become greater; he must be the hero and star of the day. All his friends wear nice suits only to magnify the glory of their friend, the bridegroom. If any friend of the bridegroom wears more beautifully and luxuriously than the bridegroom, people will be confused, and this friend will bring great dishonor to the bridegroom at his wedding. John the Baptist says, "He must become greater; I must become less." So far, as John had worked hard to prepare the hearts of people for Jesus Christ, he had received the spot light, and he became great. Now, it was the time the bridegroom was coming. John knew his role, and he knew that Jesus must become greater, and for this, he must become less. He was happy when everyone was going to Jesus because Jesus was the bridegroom, and he was his friend. In our life, Jesus must become great because, figuratively speaking, he is the bridegroom at the wedding, and he is the hero and star in our lives. Our heart's desire is to fulfill God's purpose upon our life so that the glory of God may be revealed in and through our lives. But, practically, how can we reveal his glory and fulfill his purpose upon our life? Many people fail to make Jesus great in their lives because their life philosophy is: "He must become greater; I must become greater too." They never do anything great. It is only possible to make Jesus greater when we have one single desire to reveal his glory by any means, even at the cost of our own life. We must remember that Jesus is the bridegroom at the wedding, and he is the Hero and Star in our lives. "He must become greater; I must become less." 

 

Third, "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life" (31-36). Look at verses 31 and 32. "The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all. 32He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony." Here, John testifies about Jesus, saying, "Jesus is from above." It means that Jesus is fundamentally different from all because He is the Creator God, whereas all other things are the created beings. We are from the earth, and belong to the earth. But Jesus is from above because He is the Creator God. Also, the expression, "above all" shows Jesus' supremacy. Jesus is above all - above our understanding, logic, and consensus. So, what he says and testifies must be amazing and great - the words of the one who is from heaven, and who is above all. Yet, amazingly, John says, "but no one accepts his testimony." It seemed that thousands' people were following him all the time. But John testifies against them that none of them accepted his testimony, even though they enjoyed his grace. Here, we see that attending Jesus' Bible study or even receiving his healing touch, or doing many religious things is different from accepting his testimony. We can do all these things mindlessly, just going through the motion - these are not so personal; we can do them without thinking too much - going to Bible study, attending worship service, handing out some gospel tracks,... But accepting his testimony is very personal - testimony is already personal, and when you accept his testimony, it means that you agree to whatever he says, and because that's how you see, you live in the way he shows - thus, your life changes according to his words. Such people who accept his testimony cross over from death to life - they are the ones who hears the voice of the Son of God and accept his words. We do a lot of Bible studies; we hear God's message every week. But all these should not be just something we do mindlessly or as a routine of our Christian life; instead, through all these, we must accept God's testimony very personally. As we study God's words, we must respond to them very personally. 

 

No one accepts his testimony. But there are some people who accept it, and when they accept it, something great happens to them. Look at verse 33. Let's read this verse together:

 

The man who has accepted it has certified that God is truthful."

 

When some people accept Jesus' testimony, agreeing to what he says, their view and perspectives change, and say that God is truthful. The expression, here, the expression "has certified," indicates their complete confidence in God's truthfulness - there is no doubt, it is absolutely clear. That's what happens to everyone who has accepted Jesus' words personally - their views and perspectives change; their eyes are open to God's truthfulness and thereby, they talk about it - God is truthful. When people don't accept Jesus' testimony, everything is vague and conceptual - God's will, God's goodness, God's love, eternal salvation and eternal condemnation,... everything is conceptual, not real. At that time, these people talk about God's grace all the time. They mindlessly say, "Once saved, forever saved." "I am saved when I was four years old." "If this is not God's will, he will make it known to me." They think that no matter what they do, either good or bad, God loves them and blesses them. So, they ignore whatever God says in the Bible; instead, they do whatever they see fit, as a result, there is no true repentance, or no true submission or commitment to God; everyone talks about God, so everyone looks like a Christian, but at the same time, no one looks like a Christian. But when people accept Jesus' testimony, Jesus' words, when they accept God's word really, their attitude toward God changes and thereby, their life changes completely. They do not insist their own way, or their own desires; instead, they submit themselves to God's will and purpose and live for God. They are real children of God. When you accept Jesus' testimony, when you accept one word of God really, this change occurs in your life and you become the one who certifies to the world that God is truthful.

 

As a conclusion, John says in verse 36, "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him." In English translation, the meaning of this verse is not clear, because it uses two different terms - "eternal life" and "life." But actually, in the original Greek text, both "eternal life" and "life" in verse 36 are the same word, "zoe," that truly fulfilling, meaningful and happy life the author the apostle John talks about in John's gospel continually. Whoever believes in the Son has zoe. "Belief in Jesus" brings you "zoe" eternal life, that truly happy and fulfilling life. Here, we must think about the meaning of believing in him. It does not mean to say, "I believe in Jesus." But rather, it means that we put our trust in who he is - "believe in him." For example, he is the good shepherd who knows his sheep, who knows his sheep's strong points and weak points, who knows what his sheep are going throughWhen we really believe that he is our good shepherd who knows our struggles, pains, sorrows and agonies, there we find deep peace, joy and strength that we will not be defeated by such challenges; instead, by faith in him, we can become strong and courageous and even aim to do something great. When life's challenges come, when difficulties rise, we must believe in who he is - he is our good God who has a good and great plan for each of us; we must believe in who he is - he is the Almighty, and everything is in his control. When we believe in who he is, we enjoy zoe, eternal life, that truly fulfilling, meaningful and happy life, and we rise above all challenges. When you believe, you live.

 

But whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him. We must not reject the Son no matter what. We remember how Judas Iscariot rejected Jesus. Even though he was one of the twelve apostles, even if he had served God's work together with Jesus for 3 years, when a money matter came up, he chose money over Jesus; he opened his heart to money and closed his heart toward Jesus; that's how he rejected Jesus. Don't reject Jesus only because of some money matter, some career matter, because on such people, God's wrath remains. Also, we remember how Judas rejected Jesus by giving into his ill-emotion; when Jesus exposed his betrayal publicly, he was upset and angry with him; he gave into his sense of bitterness and hatred, and thereby, was determined to do something harmful to Jesus. Don't give into your ill-emotion such as bitterness, anger, or jealousy; when you do so, only Satan enters you. When they reject Jesus, the Son of God, they will not see zoe at all; instead, God's wrath remains on them. 

 

As we live as Jesus' disciples, there may be many challenging moments; sometimes, we are discouraged; sometimes, we are upset; sometimes, we are scared. Yet, no matter what, one thing we must remember is this: Whoever believes in the Son has zoe, but whoever rejects the Son will not see zoe. Eventually, the conclusion we must have is to believe in the Son. There is no other option. That's why the Bible declares, "The righteous will live by faith from first to last." You may be pressured on every side; you may be persecuted; you may lose a lot. Yet, when you believe in the Son, even in the midst of such challenges, you have "zoe," that powerful life working in you. Who can understand this secret of faith in the Son? Paul says, "But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.  8  We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;  9  persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed." (2Co 4:7-9) So, in all circumstances, keep you faith in the Son, saying, "And I still believe..."

 

In today's passage, we learn the deep love and loyalty of John the Baptist for Jesus Christ. John said, "That joy is mine, and now it is complete." He also said, "He must become greater; I must become less." Because of his burning love and passion for Jesus, John the Baptist was happy. Seeing Jesus' smiling and happy face made him so happy and joyful. He was a truly happy man because of Jesus. That's the joy and happiness only those whose hearts and lives are completely dedicated to Jesus can have. Let's pray that we all may have the same testimony - that joy is mine and it is now complete. Let's pray that we all may live as pure virgin bridesfor Jesus Christ our bridegroom. We are waiting for his coming for our wedding ceremony. Let's pray that we may find the brides of Jesus Christ on our campuses and take care of them faithfully so that they too may be prepared as pure virgin brides for him. When Jesus comes, our joy will be complete. 

 

One Word: That Joy Is Mine And It Is Now Complete!

Sunday, June 10, 2018

posted Jun 10, 2018, 5:44 PM by Site Administrator

 

FOR GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD…

 

John 3:14-21

Key Verse 3:16

 

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 

 

First, "Just as Moses lifted up the snake…" (14-15). In the previous passage, we learned about how Jesus tried to help a ruler, named "Nicodemus." Jesus gave him his divine counsel, saying, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again." Nicodemus could not see the kingdom of God because he was not born again. He was empty despite his great success morally, socially, politically and intellectually. He must be born again through water and the Spirit; he must really turn to God in repentance. But Nicodemus kept talking back instead of accepting Jesus’ words because of his pride and unwillingness to repent. It seemed there was no way to help him out. But Jesus did not give up on him. Instead, he rebuked him, and now, in today’s passage, he showed Nicodemus God’s amazing love for lost sinners like him. Look at verses 14 and 15.Let’s read these verses together:

 

14Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life."

 

This event, in which Moses lifted up the snake, is recorded in Numbers 21:4-9. It was 40 years after the Israel people came out of Egypt. During this long period of time, the Israelites had wandered in the desert, and all men who were over 20 years old when they came out of Egypt had died in the desert because of their unbelief and rebellion. Now, the new generation had grown up and was serving in the community. They saw how God had guided their way with the pillar of fire by night and of cloud by day, and how God had provided them with bread from heaven every day in the desert, and also how God had destroyed the former generation because of their rebellion. 603,550 soldiers died in 40 years. It means, each and every day, about 40 people who were able to handle weapons for battle died; if we add the women of the same generation, then, everyday, 80 people died.Yesterday 80 people died, today 80 die, and tomorrow again, 80 will die. Every day, there were 80 funeral services. It was really horrible. This new generation of the Israelite soldiers saw all this, and they knew why such a horrible thing had happened – it was because of their fathers’ unbelief and rebellion against God.So they should have learned a lesson. But when they grew impatient on the way to the promised land, they too spoke against God and against Moses and said, "Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!"(Num 21:4,5) They blamed God for bringing them out of Egypt; they blamed God for saving them only because of some difficulty they had on the way to the promised land. What difficulty did they have? They said, "There is no bread! There is no water!" "Bread" and "water" is about the security. Actually, God gave them the security by raining down bread from heaven. Also, in the desert, for the past 40 years, God always provided them with water, sometimes, leading them to oasis, sometimes, when there was no water, he just let water gushed out from even rocks. So, God took care of them. But now what they wanted was more than just the basic security. They wanted a little more tasty bread than eating the same bread all the time - they wanted a little more variety of bread. Out of this desire, they despised God's provision of bread, saying, "We detest this miserable food." Let's say you gave people some food, and they say, "We detest this miserable food." How do you feel? You never want to give them anything. What about you have provided with food and water for the past 40 years faithfully, and now, instead of appreciating your provision, faithfulness and love, they say, "We detest this miserable food"? How do you feel? Their sin was really great. Like their fathers, they, too, had no gratitude to God for His salvation grace and generous provision of bread from heaven for the past 40 years in the desert. Ingratitude is the root of all kinds of sins. In our Christian life, God takes care of our needs. Maybe, we are bombarded financially; maybe, we don't drive a Mercedes Benz or we don't live in a Beverly Hills mansion. But at least, we live in a studio apartment; at least we drive a Honda Civic. As we live for God, it is God who takes care of our needs. Yet, some people, out of desire for more luxurious and pleasant life in the world, do not appreciate God's provision; instead, comparing themselves to others, they complain - this is the beginning of all kinds of sins. Give thanks to God for his guidance and provision.

 

When God heard their grumbling, He was angry with them. So He sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. (Num 21:6) Then, only after having been punished, the Israelites came to their own senses. They came to Moses and said, "We have sinned when we spoke against the Lord and against you. Pray that the Lord will take the snakes away from us." So Moses prayed for the people. (Num 21:7)

 

How did God answer Moses’ prayer? God said to him, "Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live." (Num 21:8) It was a strange direction.Surely, as they had prayed for, God could have taken away the snakes from the Israel community, or he could have killed all of them in one secondBut, He didn't do that. Instead, He asked Moses to make a bronze snake and put it up on a pole so that people who were bitten by snakes might look at it and live.That's the way of salvation God offered them. This instruction sounds superstitious; making a snake shape of bronze is pagan-style; also, a snake is a symbol of evil, hardly nowhere else in the Bible, we see God using a snake or anything in the shape of snake for his purpose; simply, God's instruction does not sound biblical. Yet, this instruction shows God's principle of his salvation very well. Looking up at a bronze snake on a pole is not difficult; it does not require any labor; just use your neck muscles little bit, or roll your eyeball up little bit, then, you can see it. Anyone and everyone can do it. But when many venomous snakes were on the ground, it was a different story. Let's say, here in the sanctuary, 50 cobras are on loose. At that time, God asks you to focus on the worship service, or God asks you to close your eyes and kneel down and pray. What will you do? While 20 cobras are attacking you, you close your eyes, kneel down and pray! Your action, your obedience shows your absolute trust in God, and at the same time, it is the expression of your absolute submission to God, entrusting everything in his hands; it is the expression of your decisive turning to God for help, protection and healing. What God asked for their salvation was not their hard labor, but their absolute trust in God, even entrusting their life in God's hands. This is the principle of God's salvation - what God asks for our salvation is not some activities we do for him, but our absolute and complete trust in Him. Romans 10:9-10 reads: "That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  10  For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved." If we apply this principle to the people in Rome 2000 years ago, we can understand it better. In those days in Rome, those who openly confessed that Jesus was Lord, or those who received the baptism in the name of the Lord might be arrested, tortured and killed. In that kind of situation, those who did so showed their decisive turning to God in Jesus Christ; they showed that they would entrust their entire life both in this age and in the age to come, in God's hands in Jesus Christ. God proclaims his healing and salvation for those people. If we apply this principle to those in Muslim countries, China and North Korea, we can see that salvation is found for those who believe in Jesus Christ. We remember how alcoholism, anger, and demons were destroying Pedro; nothing could save him from such things. But when he decisively responded to God's calling based on Isaiah 6, saying, "Here am I. Send me." he was set free from drinking, anger and demons, and now he is a shepherd for God's flock. Actually, that's how we experienced God's salvation. When we responded to God's words decisively, we were healed of all our wounds and scars, and set free from demons and fears and sorrows - we experienced God's healing that way - that's God's salvation. People are not saved by their hard struggles of hoping and hoping, or by memorizing Bible verses or by saying some biblical words such as, "I believe in Jesus," but by their real faith in GodDo you have that kind of decisive turning to God for help, healing and salvation? Or, you still struggle to save yourself, hoping and hoping and trying to avoid snakes? 

 

Now let's go back to John 3 - Jesus was talking with Nicodemus. Here, Jesus describes Nicodemus, a prestigious and successful man, as one of the Israelites bitten by venomous snakes, dying moment by moment, and thereby needed God’s salvation. In Jesus’ eyes, Nicodemus was bitten by snakes and was suffering from the ill-effects of venom: emptiness, sense of meaninglessness, insomnia, depression and nightmares. In this way, Nicodemus was dying moment by moment. So far, he tried to heal himself, save himself in many ways – religiously, morally and politically, but nothing worked. To him, Jesus said, "Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life." Through this, Jesus showed him what God had done for him, God’s way of salvation for him. For him, soon Jesus would be lifted up on the cross, so that he may be healed and have eternal life. Nicodemus did so many good looking things, but nothing could save him from his life of emptiness and meaninglessness. Now Jesus helped him to turn his eyes to what God had done for him, what God suggested him for hissalvation from such a meaningless and empty way of life. It was the time that Nicodemus, instead of focusing on what he had done or how good he had lived, or what he had achieved, should see what God had done for him, and put his trust in God's promise of salvation. 

 

Jesus said to Nicodemus, "So the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life." Jesus was going to do this much for Nicodemus so that he would enjoy eternal life, called zoe, a truly fulfilling life. Nicodemus should stop making excuses. Instead, he should open his heart to Jesus and accept his love for him! He must secure this gift of Jesus - eternal life. How? By repenting and turning to God! By being born again through water and the Spirit! Now in verse 15, Jesus says, "that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life." Believing in Jesus is like the Israel people looking up at the bronze snake decisively turning to God for healing. Nicodemus needed to turn to God decisively in Jesus. How much Jesus hoped that Nicodemus might enjoy his gift, that truly fulfilling and happy life! Many people see this through their Bible studies. But at that time, instead of turning to God decisively in Jesus Christ, they say, "But what about this?" "What about that?" They are just like Nicodemus. No one should make an excuse of not repenting and turning to God - no one should rely on their own righteousness of attending church worship service for 10 years or 20 years. No one should reject Jesus' love for them. "So the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life." Turn to God decisively, entrusting your life in God's hands, by faith in Jesus Christ, and you will have eternal life, zoe. 

 

Second, "For God so loved the world…" (16-18). Look at verse 16. Let's read this verse together:

 

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 

 

This is Jesus' proclamation of God's love for the world. God loves the world so much. How can we say that? Because there is an evidence. He sacrificed his one and only Son for the world! The expression, "his one and only Son" means "his most precious treasure," or simply, "the highest price." Also, the way of sacrificing him was to crucify him to the cross - the most painful way of death. It was not like killing him on an electric chair - just a few minutes, or with poisonous gas, but the most painful way of death. God did this much for the world, willing to sacrifice his most precious treasure for it, willing to pay the highest price for it, willing to endure the greatest pain for itHe valued the people of the world so much that he was willing to do anything for them. Nothing could stop him from pursuing them. He would go to the end! That was the expression of his love for them! 

 

It seemed that the world was really precious, beautiful and lovely to him that he pursued it this much. But actually, the world was not lovely at all, but in constant rebellion against himjust like the Israel people in the desert. The first man Adam sinned by disobeying God’s command even in paradise. Even though God gave him everything even his wife, he teamed up with his wife and betrayed God; God was really hurt. And his son, Cain, was rebellious. When God gave him his divine counseling service not to sin, in rebellion, he did a more terrible sin than he had done before – he murdered his younger brother who was more righteous than he was. During Noah's time, people became nothing but flesh just like animals, losing their dignity as human beings that God had to punish them with the flood. Then, after Noah’s flood, people gathered together and built a city and a tower. Through this, they tried to get rid of the memory of God from human society and enjoy a beautiful life all by themselves. And today still people try to deny the fact that God exists. God’s eternal wisdom and power are well manifested in nature so that all people can acknowledge the work of God. But people suppress the truth deliberately and say that there is no God. Instead, they say that in the beginning was amoeba, and amoeba created all things. Using all their intellect and knowledge, people struggle hard to twist the truth and say, "In the beginning was a big bang." These days people struggle hard to establish laws and regulations that are against God.These people somehow try to get rid of God’s name from human society. What human beings do is so disgusting. Once Martin Luther said that he would have destroyed the world ten times a day, had he been God.

 

God so loved the world! For this world, so disgusting, He gave up his one and only Son to the cross. God wants to bring back the world to Himself this much; today, still God seeks the world, for He loves it. This undying and unfailing love of God has reached to even us, terrible sinners.

 

The next expression, "Whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life," shows us God’s purpose in sending Jesus to die on the cross. God loves the world - that's undeniable truth. So, what did he do? He gave his one and only Son to the world. For what? So that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. Here, two words are in great contrast - "perish" and "eternal life." If you don't have eternal life, you are perishing. If you have eternal life, you are not perishing. With the word, "perish," Jesus describes the real condition of all peoples in the world. Like the Israelites bitten by venomous snakes, people are perishing. Some people are perishing because of sorrow; some people are perishing because of anger and hatred; some people are perishing because of their lust and immoral life; some people are perishing because of the fear of future security; some people are perishing because of their greed for more money. No wonder Nicodemus could not see the kingdom of God despite his moralistic and religious life - he was perishingmoment by moment. Jesus loved Nicodemus, so he wanted him to have eternal life in him instead of perishing. 

 

God’s purpose in sending Jesus to be lifted up on the cross is to save the people of the world from this terrible status, and, instead, to give them the life that does not perish, but is eternal - no more gloom, or emptiness, but hope and vision, no more void, but a meaningful and fulfilling life. God sent Jesus so that we may stop living the life that is perishing, but live the life that is everlasting. No more life that is perishing, but life that is everlasting! For this, Jesus Christ our Lord died on the cross. He was lifted up on the cross for this.

 

God's ultimate desire for us in Jesus Christ is that we may enjoy eternal life, called zoeThis is what John's gospel is talking about from the beginning to the end. John 1:4 talks about this life, zoe, saying, "In him was zoe, and that zoe was the light of men." Jesus says in John 4, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." (Jn 4:13,14) In John 5, he says, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty." (Jn 5:35) He says in John 7, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." (Jn 7:37,38) He also says, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (Jn 8:12) Then, on the cross, Jesus finally said, "It is finished!" and he breathed his last. (Jn 19:30) With his death on the cross, all the preparations that must be done for people to have eternal life had been completed. The author John concludes his book in John 20:31, "But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life, zoe, in his name." This was what the apostle John had grasped. God's ultimate desire for us is not that we offer endless sacrifices like in the Old Testament; it is not that we offer endless ceremonies like in the New Testament either, but that we may have a wonderful life, a truly fulfilling life. Here, we see John's maturity. God wants you to enjoy eternal life, the very life you have dreamed about and pursued. For this, he did so much, even sacrificing his only son to the cross. This is the expression of God's love for us. Today, how are you doing? How is your life? Do you enjoy eternal life? Do you have zoe, that truly fulfilling life? If not, then, get rid of any and all sins that entangle you so easily, and believe. Remember what Jesus says, "Whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." "Whoever believes is not condemned." When you believe, you have eternal life in Jesus; when you don't believe, you stand condemned already. The way to secure eternal life in Jesus is by believing. What do you mean, "believe"? Just in the case of the Israel people in the desert, while all kinds of venomous snakes are attacking you - sorrows, or fears, or demons, or depression,... you turn your eyes to Jesus, instead of trying to save yourself, you simply entrust everything, even your life in this world and in the age to come, in God's hands - while so many things are going on in your life, you decisively turn to God in Jesus Christ, entrusting everything in God's hands. Then, you will not perish, but will have eternal life in Jesus Christ.  

 

Third, "This is the verdict" (19-21). Let’s read verses 19 through 21 together:

 

19This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God."

 

It seemed that Nicodemus did not accept Jesus’ message of being born again because he could not understand it. But Jesus declared to him, "The verdict is this: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil." Nicodemus’ real problem was not lack of understanding, but his love of darkness. He wanted to have eternal life full of peace, joy and happiness, but he did not want to exchange his wealth, his fame, and his pride for eternal life, because he loved such things more than eternal life. That's why he kept saying, "I don't get it. How can this be?" When people do not want to repent of their love of the things of the world, they turn to theological arguments, saying, "By faith in Jesus, we are saved" or "I’ll go to another church." They must repent of their love of darkness and turn to God so that they might enjoy a truly beautiful life as children of God. There are many people who want to have salvation and eternal life in Jesus, but many of them fail because they do not want to lose their dreams and desires in the world. These people, even when they become completely religious in Christian religion, they cannot see the kingdom of God. Instead, they perish. 

 

Why do people have so much difficulty to renounce such desires and love for the world even though they know that they are going to hell? Jesus says in verse 19, "men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil." This means that, when they did what was evil, they began to develop love for darkness. As they keep doing what is evil, their love for darkness grows stronger and stronger until it becomes so great that, even at the risk of being thrown into hell, they cannot reject it. Those who sin a lot go so far away from God that they cannot return. These people hate the light because the light exposes their shameful deeds. Instead of admitting their sinfulness, they hide themselves in darkness, saying, "I don't get it. How can this be?"

 

Jesus says in verse 21, "But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God." When the truth was revealed, when Nicodemus saw what he should do through his one to one Bible study with Jesus, he did not go by the truth; instead, he pretended that he did not understand his teaching - he did not admit his wrongdoing and rejected Jesus' message - thus, he was revealed as the one who loved darkness instead of light. But there are some people who admit their wrongdoings and repent, when the truth is revealed to them. They are the ones who live by the truth - when the light comes to them, they come into the light, by admitting and confessing their sins. They turn to God in Jesus Christ and have a new life in him. That's what happened to us - that's how we could start this new life in Jesus as his disciples. How could we do so? Verse 21 shows that it is only by God’s grace that we could accept the light and repent of our sins. We too were sinful. How could these sinful people accept the light instead of loving darkness? By ourselves, it was impossible. If we have done anything good such as accepting the light or repenting of our sins, it has been done only through God’s help; it was the work of God. 

 

In today’s passage, we learned of God’s love—that He sent His one and only Son to be lifted up on the cross so that people in the world can have eternal life. Jesus is the way of salvation God offered for all sinners in the world. How much Jesus wanted Nicodemus to open his heart and accept God’s love for him! How much he wanted Nicodemus to have eternal life instead of suffering from a sense of void, depression, insomnia and nightmares! Let’s accept this love of God so that we may not wander in the worthless things of the world any longer, but have zoe, eternal life. 

 

One Word: Shall Not Perish But Have Eternal Life

 

 

Sunday, June 3, 2018

posted Jun 3, 2018, 10:07 PM by Site Administrator

YOU MUST BE BORN AGAIN

 

John 3:1-13

Key Verse 3:5

 

Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit."

 

First, "You must be born again" (1-5). Today’s passage is the conversation between Jesus and a man named Nicodemus. Who was Nicodemus? Verse 1 is Nicodemus’ profile. It reads: "1Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council." He was a Pharisee. Usually, Christians have a kind of an allergic reaction to the term, "Pharisees." Whenever they hear this title, they are reminded of bad guys - enemies. But objectively speaking, they were really not bad. Instead, they were the ones who had exceptional zeal for the worship of God. The word, "Pharisee" means "separated" or "elite." The Pharisees separated themselves from ordinary people and pursued the highest form of dedication to God by keeping the Laws of Moses strictly. They started memorizing the five books of Moses at the age of six, and practiced tough rituals such as fasting two days a week, and bathing three times a day. While other kids were messing up their lives with all kinds of mischief such as stealing candies or getting into fights, they kept themselves pure. Even dating a girl or watching PG-13 movies was totally out of the question. Nicodemus lived that kind of life. He denied all his youthful passion and put his fleshly desires under his full control. He was very religious, completely moralistic and self-disciplined. He was clean in every aspect of his life; simply, he was elite.

 

He was also a member of the Jewish ruling council. This ruling council, called the Sanhedrin, was like the US congress, Supreme Court, and Executive branch all in one. The Council’s 70 members were the most revered men of all Israel. To be admitted to the council was the dream of every prominent man, but it was not easy. Any hopeful candidate had to qualify in three ways. 1) One must come from a distinguished family. So, if your last name was Smith or Plumber, you had no hope! 2) One must master the seven subjects of mathematics, politics, oratory, philosophy, history, medicine, and astronomy. The Jewish ruling council represented the most influential intellectual circle of the time. 3) One must be rich. Nicodemus met all these criteria. He was rich. He was brilliant. And his family background was outstanding. In modern terms, he was like a man, coming from the Kennedys, graduating Harvard university at the age 20 with triple majors, then, getting PhDs in three areas - Law, medicine, and theology, at the age of 25; then, becoming a billionaire at the age of 30, through his internet business, and then, becoming a Congress man at the age of 33, but still living so clean and moralistic life, being so faithful to church every week. What would his next step be except being the President of the USA? Nicodemus acquired everything a man could want—power, money, respect, and intellect; on top of this, he lived a clean, moralistic life. There was nothing left that he could want. His name Nicodemus means, "Victorious among his people" or simply, "Conqueror" and indeed he had conquered life. It seemed that he must be the happiest person in the world!

 

But this man visited Jesus at night. Here, ‘night’ refers to the last segment of the day, which was about 11 PM to dawn. It was really an odd and shocking time for a man like Nicodemus to visit someone like Jesus. For what reason would anyone come to your house and knock on the door at midnight unless it was an absolute emergency? Nicodemus had something that had really bothered him. When he came to Jesus, Nicodemus did not talk about his problem at all, but just flattered Jesus saying, "Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him." How did Jesus respond? Let’s read verse 3:

 

3In reply Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again."

 

Jesus was not fooled by him; instead, he pointed out his problem directly. "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again." Many people think of seeing the kingdom of God as something that is available only after death. But that’s not what Jesus is talking about. Jesus was not discussing with Nicodemus about some theological matter, but he was talking about Nicodemus' problem. His problem was that, despite all his achievements, Nicodemus could not see the kingdom of God.

 

What does it mean to see the kingdom of God? Let's say that today, by God's marvelous grace, you are invited to the kingdom of God, maybe, in your dream. How will it be? "Marvelous! Wonderful!" It will be beautiful and glorious that you will be so amazed and happy, and say, "Wow! This is the kingdom of God! I have heard about it, but now I see it!" You will be so overjoyed and satisfied; you will never want to leave, but stay there forever. That joy, happiness, fulfillment - that's what Nicodemus wanted to see; that kind of a truly happy and glorious life was what Nicodemus wanted to have. By struggling hard to keep the laws and become a Pharisee, that's what he had expected to have - such joy, happiness and fulfillment. But acquiring the title, "Pharisee" did not give him such joy and happiness; his morally clean life did not make his life truly fulfilling; even his completely religious life, or his great Bible knowledge could not make him see the kingdom of God. Then, he expected that if he became a member of the Jewish ruling council, he would be really happy. But no achievement he had acquired thus far could make him see the kingdom of God. Maybe, he married Miss Israel and had 5 sons and 3 daughters, and lived in a Beverly Hill's mansion, driving a BMW. But despite all these achievements, still he could not see the kingdom of God - he could not say that he was really happy. Now he was lost on top of the world, without knowing what to do and how to solve the problem. Outwardly, as a well seasoned politician, he had an attractive smile on his face and waved his hand to those who cheered at him. But inwardly, he was agonized.

 

Jesus says, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again." Jesus is proclaiming one absolute truth that no one can be truly happy unless he is born again. If you want to be happy in your life, you must be born again. No one can be happy however way they try - maybe, religiously, intellectually, morally; no matter what success they may have in the world - money, family, fame or power, people cannot be happy unless they are born again. It is all peoples' struggle to live a truly happy, fulfilling and meaningful life - some people in noble-looking ways like Nicodemus, and some others in ignoble ways like the Samaritan woman who had married five times or like the woman who was caught in the act of adultery in John chapter 8. Since mankind was disconnected from God, the source of life, people struggle hard to find the meaning and purpose of their life in things of this world or in achieving something remarkable in the world - that's the lifestyle of Cain's descendants. But with this proclamation, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again," Jesus shows that no matter how hard they try, all of them fail to find it; all these people fail to find that truly meaningful, fulfilling and happy life, because they are not born again. Nicodemus is the representative of all these people - he is the best case, and this best scenario did not work at all. Hollywood stars testify to this truth very clearly with their endless scandals. People must be born again.

 

The solution Jesus suggested was being born again. "You must be born again." This expression implies a total, fundamental and essential change must be there if anyone wants to see the kingdom of God. Just some improvement such as being a little more moralistic than before, or living a little more cleaner life than before, or having a little more Bible knowledge does not help them at all; fundamentally, the way they live their life, or what they live for, is wrong; there must be a fundamental change in their life. You must be born again. This means that you must start your life newly from its scratch.

 

How did Nicodemus respond? Look at verse 4: "How can a man be born when he is old?" Nicodemus asked. "Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!" When Jesus diagnosed that he was there because he could not see the kingdom of God, Nicodemus did not raise any question about it; he admitted it. But the solution Jesus suggested was not what he could accept. He said that being born again after getting old was technically impossible. So Jesus explained how people could be born twice. Look at verse 5. Let’s read this verse together:

 

5Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit."

 

"…Unless he is born of water and the Spirit." Here we see that we need two components to be born again – water and the Spirit. If you want to be born again, you need both water and the Spirit. The Spirit, of course, refers to the Holy Spirit, showing that there is a role the Holy Spirit plays for people to be born again. We cannot control the Holy Spirit, but when we do what we ought to do, the Holy Spirit does his part and we come to experience being born again. So, the only thing we are to do to be born again is water. Here, water refers to the water baptism of John the Baptist, which means, "repentance." John the Baptist says in Matthew 3:11, "I baptize you with water for repentance." The apostle Paul says, "John's baptism was a baptism of repentance." (Acts 19:4) There is only one thing that is required for people to be born again, that is, repentance. Being born again is not so complicated; coming to God really is not so complicated. When you repent and God sees that your repentance is real, the Holy Spirit gives birth to your spirit. This is really an amazing secret that, through repentance, people come to be born again; through repentance, people come to see the kingdom of God; through repentance people can enter the kingdom of God where they will enjoy all beautiful things of God's kingdom.

 

This is the secret. We all want to experience the kingdom of God - that beautiful life, so fulfilling, meaningful and happy - nothing in the world could help us see the kingdom of God - money could not, fame could not, and even faithful religious life or Bible knowledge could not make us see the kingdom of God; but when you really repent, when you really turn to God in repentance in Jesus, you will be born again and you can see the kingdom of God. That's why all people must repent! All people must be born again through water and the Spirit, through repentance and the Holy Spirit. John the Baptist's first message was, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near!" (Mt 3:2) Jesus' first message was this: "The time has come; the kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news." (Mk 1:15) Jesus sent out his 12 apostles two by two on their mission journey. At that time, their message was that people should repent. (Mk 6:12) It means that if you think you are a human, you must repent.

 

It is very interesting to notice that Jesus used this kind of spiritual or theological expression to Nicodemus - seeing the kingdom of God and being born again - because Nicodemus was a Bible scholar familiar with those terms. To the Samaritan woman, he didn't use this kind of expression; instead, he used the term, "thirst," which the Samaritan woman could understand very well. "Whoever drinks this water will be thirsty again, but he who drinks the water I give him, will never thirst." (Jn 4) When people were looking for bread as the means of their security, Jesus used the term, "hunger." After saving a condemned woman who had lived in a secret sin Jesus used the terms, "darkness" and "light," saying, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." In this way, Jesus used various terms to various people to show their spiritual condition, and invited them to himself for a truly fulfilling life - "see the kingdom of God," "will never thirst," "will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." Jesus invited them to have a real life, beautiful and fulfilling, which they had all been looking for, "zoe." Then, how? By repentance, by really turning to him and pursuing him. To Nicodemus he said, "You must be born again of water and the Spirit." To Samaritan woman, he said, "Go, call your husband and come back!" To the condemned woman, he said, "Go now, and leave your life of sin." He said to the rich young man, "Sell everything you have, give to the poor, and then, come, follow me." Nicodemus lived a clean life, believing in the God of Abraham, believing in the Bible, attending worship service all the time, but ultimately, he had been pursuing his own life for his own happiness; he did it in a moralistic way; he did it in a religious way; he did it by pursuing great success in the world; it was a self-seeking life, not life for God. Now he had to repent of his self-seeking life, turn to God in repentance and live for God alone - that would be the expression of his repentance. Fundamentally, people must turn from their own way of life, from their own self-seeking life to the life of living for God. God should be the goal of their life, the source of their happiness and joy, not some achievement in the world or their family. People must repent!

 

       Second, "So it is with everyone born of the Spirit" (6-13). Look at verse 6. Jesus says, "6Flesh give birth to flesh but the Spirit gives birth to spirit." Here, Jesus explains what it means to be born again. To be born again means to be born of body and spirit. We were born of our mothers; for me, it was about 45 years ago. That was the birth of our flesh, and this flesh has been growing for forty five years, now a little worn out. Then, when we repent and accept Jesus as our Savior, the Holy Spirit gives birth to our spirit, so we experience the second birth. That is called ‘born again.’ "Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit." Natural man has only one birth, the birth of their flesh from his mother, and this natural man cannot see the kingdom of God no matter what because his spirit is not born yet, and thereby, there cannot be any relationship with God who is Spirit. Simply, a natural person is disconnected from God, the source of life; they are like branches cut off from the original tree; no matter what they do and have achieved, they are simply withering moment by moment; it is impossible for this natural man to see the kingdom of God; it is impossible for him to find true fulfillment of life while he is withering and perishing. Like Cain and his descendants, all these people live as endless wanderers on earth, looking for something or someone to fill their void.

 

       But when we are born again of water and the Spirit, when the Holy Spirit gives birth to our spirit, we can have spiritual relationship with God who is the source of life; there, we come to enjoy true fulfillment and happiness, and we can see that the void that has been there in our heart so long has been finally filled. The Bible says that God set eternity in humans, and only God can fill it. When you are born again, now you have an access to God for beautiful fellowship with Him. So, pursue Him and enjoy Him all the way, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.

 

Jesus says, "You should not be surprised at my saying, "You must be born again." Being born again or being born of the Holy Spirit is really a great mystery. But Jesus tells us not to be bewildered about it. He illustrates the mystery of being born again through the example of the wind. We cannot see the wind, but as we see the leaves of trees trembling, by hearing the sound of the wind, we can tell that the wind is blowing. In the same way, we don’t know precisely how or when people are born again; however, there are evidences of people being born again such as their changed life – a selfish man becomes sacrificial; a persecutor suddenly begins to preach that Jesus is the Lord; a sinful man struggles to be holy. "The wind blows,… you hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit."

 

Look at verses 9 through 13. Let’s read these verses responsively:

 

9"How can this be?" Nicodemus asked. 10"You are Israel’s teacher," said Jesus, "and do you not understand these things? 11I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?" 13No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man.

 

Nicodemus rejected Jesus’ message of being born again continuously by saying, "How come?" or "How can this be?" It seemed like he was not accepting Jesus’ message because he could not understand it. But actually, it was because of his pride and unwilling heart to repent. Whenever Jesus said something, Nicodemus talked back, saying, "How come? I don’t get it." This proud attitude made Jesus angry. So Jesus rebuked him, saying, "You are Israel’s teacher. And do you not understand these things?" Jesus also pointed out his problem saying, "You do not accept our testimony." In verse 12, "earthly things" refer to the beginning stage of God's redemption work that occurs here on earth such as being born again, and "heavenly things" refer to the completion of God’s redemption work such as complete sanctification or glorification, which will be done in heaven. So far, Jesus taught Nicodemus the beginning stage of God’s redemption work, which happens here on earth, but Nicodemus refused to believe; then, how could he believe if Jesus talked about more mysterious and glorious things, like the completion of God’s salvation work, which will happen in heaven? Jesus really wanted him to bend his pride and accept his message so that he might be born again and live a truly happy and beautiful life. Jesus must have felt a great burden and pain in his heart for Nicodemus! Jesus said to him in verse 13, "No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven – the Son of Man." Jesus is the only person who knows about the things of heaven because he came from heaven. Things about heaven are mysterious. No one knows what the people in heaven do during each day of their life. No one knows what kind of language you are supposed to use in heaven, nor do they know what it is like to shake hands with holy angels; or how happy they feel when they see God’s face and have dinner together with our Lord Jesus. But Jesus knew about all these things because he was the only person who had ever come from heaven. Only he can tell people the things of heaven for he came from heaven. How badly he wanted Nicodemus to bend his pride and accept his words so that he would see the kingdom of God and be truly happy!

 

In this passage, we learn the universal truth that man must be born again. Being born again is not something vague or metaphysical, but it is the matter of the true joy and happiness of our life. If you are not born again, you cannot experience true happiness. If you are not born again, your life cannot have any meaning despite your success or worldwide fame. But if you are born again, now you can see the kingdom of God; so pursue it wholeheartedly, secure it and you will be overjoyed in the fellowship with God; if you are born again, now rejoice because you are children of God and you will inherit his kingdom. God is your Father. Let's humble ourselves and remove all undesirable things from our hearts and life so that we can live for God and pursue Him alone. That's how we can enjoy true happiness in this life, and enter the kingdom of God in the age to come.

 

One Word: You Must Be Born Again

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