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Sunday, October 14, 2018

posted Oct 15, 2018, 5:36 AM by Site Administrator

IF ANYONE KEEPS MY WORD, HE WILL NEVER SEE DEATH

 

John 8:33-59

Key Verse 8:51

 

I tell you the truth, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.

 

       First, “He who belongs to God hears what God says” (33-47). In the previous passage, we learned of Jesus' instruction for those who had believed in him. When many people finally put their faith in him, he didn't just welcome and bless them; instead, he gave them a clear direction of what they should do, saying, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” Becoming real disciples of Jesus, knowing the truth and enjoying freedom - all these are so amazing. When these promises are fulfilled in your life, you will really like how you live. You will be truly satisfied and happy. And Jesus says that only if we hold to his teaching, we will enjoy all these blessings. It was Jesus' invitation to such a beautiful and glorious life. This is what Christian life is about.

 

       But at this, the Jews answered him, “We are Abraham's descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” They had pride as Abraham's descendants, God's chosen people. Of course, this pride helped them overcome unbearable sufferings and survive. But it also made them slaves to racial pride. In Jesus' time, they were under the bondage of the Roman Empire. They also had been under the rule of Egypt, Babylon, Persian Empire and the Greek Empire. In spite of the historical facts, they never admitted they had been under the rule of anyone.  

 

       Look at verses 34 through 36. Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” Slaves stayed in their master's house, but when they became old or sick, when their usage was gone, they were kicked out into the streets. Slaves had no permanent place in the family. In the same way, slaves have no permanent place in the kingdom of God, and everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Maybe, some people have great spiritual heritage such as their father is a great man of God like Abraham; they may have read the Bible a lot; they may attend the church regularly. Yet, despite all these things, once they sin, they are salves to sin. This is the reason why everyone should be set free from their sins so that they can have a permanent place in the kingdom of God. This was what Jesus talked about when he said, “If you hold to my teaching,... the truth will set you free.” Despite their spiritual heritage, they were slaves to sin; they were slaves to the national pride; in that way, they would have no permanent place in the kingdom of God. They really needed to be free from their sin and from their national pride. How? In the previous passage, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching,… the truth will set you free.” Now in this passage, he says, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” Eventually, freedom comes from Jesus. In Christ, as people come to Jesus by faith, they experience this freedom. This is what we experienced also. Some of us were slaves to bitterness and anger, maybe, due to some terrible experience; we could not forgive; we could not love; instead, we hated; some of us were slaves to lust that even if we knew that our sinful life was leading us to destruction, simply we could not stop, even if we wanted to stop; some of us were addicted to drugs or alcohol; we were indeed slaves to sin. Then, as we studied the word of God, as God’s words came to our hearts, as we respond to Jesus’ love, we were set free from all the things that had bothered us; at Jesus’ grace, we could turn away from such things and start a new life in Jesus as free children of God. Jesus set us free. He says, “So if the Son sets free, you will be free indeed.” This is his grace that occurred in our life. And this is the very reason we must hold onto his teaching all the more. Freedom from sins is found in Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

       In verse 33, they said, “We are Abraham’s descendants.” Jesus challenged them about it. Then, in verse 39, they said, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus challenged them about it again. Then, they said in verse 41, “We are not illegitimate children. The only Father we have is God himself.” We can see how wholeheartedly they held onto their righteous standing. They had great ancestors such as Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. They had the Bible, the Jerusalem temple, and worship service. While all other people in the world worshiped worthless idols, they had worshiped the only true God. They had such great pride to be God's chosen people that they would rather choose to die than denying God. So, based on these things - their spiritual heritage, knowledge of the Bible, their worship of God, and their passion for God that they would rather choose to die than denying God - they thought that they were already children of God. When they said, “We are not illegitimate children. The only Father we have is God himself,” they meant that they were the only rightful children of God. Actually, they were the only ones who had worship of the God of Abraham in the whole world; they were the only ones who kept the authority of the Bible. Surely, if they were not, then, who would? They were not willing to give up their own righteous status that they were already children of God. But the problem was that, as long as they held onto this righteous status, giving real importance to it, they had no room for the word of the Son of God - even God was speaking to them, but they had no room for God’s word to dwell in them. They had Bible study with Jesus, but they had rejected everything he taught them; thus, despite having Bible study with the Son of God, there was no change in their life; they were not blessed.

 

       I had students who enjoyed Bible study with me. Through each Bible study, God’s divine words, God’s divine will and purpose, God’s great vision for them were revealed – they saw them and were glad. But instead of accepting God’s vision for their life, they insisted, saying, “I am already saved.” They said, “I have been a Christian lifelong.” When they held onto it, all the words of God were bounced off. As a result, despite having Bible study every week for months, or even for 2 years, there was no change in their life. One person wrote even a testimony every week – it was not like real testimony, but rather it was like Bible exposition – he was not responding to God’s words with heart, but just talked about this and that. One day, after about one year’s Bible study, I asked him, “We have studied the Bible for one year, and you wrote a testimony every week. You have learned so much. But, do you have any verse you really accepted?” Then, he thought about it for a minute and said, “No.” He had not accepted even one verse during all these Bible studies for a whole year. No wonder that there was no change in his life. Eventually, he quit Bible study. People hold onto their own righteous standing – how they have lived as Christian for 10 or 20 years, or their father is a pastor, or they want to love God (they don’t love God, but they wish that later, they will love God – even this wish becomes their righteous standing); I even had one student who thought that he was good, because he wanted to go to heaven, not hell. When they hold onto their righteous standing this way, there is no room for God’s word to dwell in their hearts; they ever study, but they reject all the words of God. As a result, no real change ever occurs in their life.

 

       While they insisted their own righteous standing, saying, “We are Abraham’s children,” “The only Father we have is God himself,” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do what Abraham did.” He said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God… You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire.” Jesus did not give them any credit despite all those good looking things; instead, he just focused on what they were doing and how they were really living, and based on these two aspects, he told them plainly that they were not children of God, but children of the devil, for they were doing exactly what the devil would do - lying and developing murderous desires. In what sense were they lying? When Jesus made everything clear of who he was and what God wanted them to do, they should have accepted him as God’s servant and responded to his messages. But they didn’t do that. Instead, even after understanding everything, they said, “We are already saved. We are already God’s children.” That was lying.

 

Here, we see that what is really important is how we live and what we do, or what kind of people we are - people of truth, people who love God and pursue Him - not our words of mouth, our knowledge of the Bible, or how religious we are. Jesus does not give any credit to those things. Abraham’s descendants are those who do what Abraham did. If you think that Abraham is your Father, then, instead of saying, “I am already saved,” or “I have been in the church for 10 years,” do what Abraham did. What did Abraham do? He didn’t do that much, but one thing – that, when God revealed his great vision for his life, he accepted it and obeyed God’s command by leaving his country, his people and his father’s household; in this way, he was pursuing God’s great vision in his life. He lived as God’s covenant person, pursuing God’s covenant vision upon his life. How was it? It was not easy. He had financial difficulty that he went down to Egypt for survival; he had the sense of insecurity that he lied, saying that his wife was his sister; the fruit of his life of faith did not come up so quickly; instead, despite his hard struggle to live according to God’s will, he was fruitless for years. Then, when he thought about his future, it looked really hopeless; he was really depressed; he complained to God about it. Yet, despite such great ordeals and difficulties, whenever God encouraged him with his words of promise, Abraham believed and thereby, continued on his life as God’s covenant person. Because Abraham believed, because Abraham pursued God’s covenant vision upon his life continually, God could lead him continually and finally God could fulfill his purpose for him, establishing him as a source of blessing for all peoples on earth. Abraham was God’s business partner for God’s world salvation plan, all because of Abraham’s belief in God. If you think Abraham is your father, do what Abraham did so that God can fulfill His great purpose in your life.

 

In the same way, if God were your Father, do what your Father would do. What does God the Father do? God is loving and compassionate. Moreover, He is in his soul saving business. Jesus says, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too, am working.” Since the transgression of the first man Adam, God has been working to save souls and restore God's kingdom on earth for the past 6,000 years without taking any vacation; this is what God is doing today, and this is what He will do continually until His redemption plan is completed. Who are children of God? Those who do what God would do! Those who work together with the Father and the Son to save souls and advance God's kingdom with compassionate heart for those who are dying are children of God. When these children of God whose hearts and lives are fully dedicated to God’s world salvation see anyone who does the work of God, they rejoice and love that person. Jesus says, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God.” We must not rely on our religious life such as reading the Bible or attending worship service for years or praying, or even fasting; we must not rely on Bible knowledge either; we must not rely on the desire we have for God. You may say, “I will never deny God even if I have to die.” But this does not make you a child of God. Instead, we must strive to do what God would do by dedicating ourselves to God's soul saving business - that's how children of God live their life here on earth. If God is your Father, do what God would do.

        

       Look at verse 47. “He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” Jesus proved his identity as a man sent by God through his words and deeds; it was clear to even a man born blind that Jesus was the Son of David, the Promised Messiah. But these Jews were not willing to accept him as God's servant; instead, they hated him and tried to kill him. Even though Jesus taught them the word of God continually, even if they could see that Jesus' message carried such profound meaning, revealing the secrets of the kingdom of God, they were not willing to acknowledge him as a man sent by God. Their case was a real mystery; logically, it didn't make sense. Even Jesus himself asked them, “If I am telling you the truth, why don't you believe me?” (46)? Now Jesus drew a conclusion, saying that it was because they didn't belong to God, but belonged to the devil. Even if they had great titles and degrees religiously, even in the name of worship of God, Jesus did not give them any credit when they did not hear God's message; simply, he understood them as those who belonged to the devil.

 

       He who belongs to God hears what God says. Jesus does not give any credit to us based on our religious life or knowledge of the Bible. The most important thing is whether we hear what God says or not; the most important thing is how we respond to God's message. God speaks to us through his words; he speaks to us through his servants. And we must hear what God says. Maybe, what God says is challenging; maybe, we have to deny our own desires and plans to accept his message. But despite all challenges and difficulties, those who belong to God eventually hear what God says and do what God wants them to do, while those who do not belong to God eventually excuse themselves and do not hear what God says. Do you belong to God? Open your hearts and accept God's will upon your life. Let's live for God as children of God.

 

       Second, “If anyone keeps my word, he will never see death” (48-59). Look at verse 48. The Jews answered him, “Aren't we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?” Calling a Jew ‘a Samaritan’ in those days was great insult. It was a really bad foul language. When Jesus pointed out their problem, exposing how they were living, and conclusively saying that they belonged to the devil, not God the Father in heaven, they were angry.

 

Look at verses 49 through 51. Let's read these verses together:

 

V49 “I am not possessed by a demon,” said Jesus, “but I honor my Father and you dishonor me. V50 I am not seeking glory for myself; but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge. V51 I tell you the truth, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.”

 

       Now Jesus talks about himself. On the contrary to the Jews who lived a self-seeking life, Jesus lived the life of honoring his Father. How? He says in verse 55, “I keep his word.” Instead of living for himself or however way he desired, he held onto God's word and lived by it, even if it meant for him to be poor and die on the cross for others. When Jesus lived this kind of life, he was misunderstood and despised, but he continued to live in that way, because his purpose was to honor God. What a happy man he is when he can say, “I honor my Father.” People should have honored Jesus for his noble desire and struggles.

 

       Jesus also says, “I am not seeking glory for myself.” Jesus was the Son of God, a glorious Being; he could have sought his glory. But even if he did mighty works of God, preaching the word of God day and night, saving souls and establishing disciples powerfully, he did not seek his glory; he didn't try to reveal himself to the world; he didn't ask others to honor him and respect his words either. Instead, he simply served God's work, taking a form of God's servant, submitting himself to God's authority and living according to his command. In the Lord's prayer, Jesus taught his disciples what they should pray for, which means, what they should pursue and live for. Actually, it was his prayer topics, which he pursued - that's why it is called, “The Lord's prayer.” The first prayer topic was, “Hallowed be your name,” the second prayer topic was, “Your kingdom come,” and the third prayer topic was, “Your will be done.” So, Jesus pursued “God's name, God's kingdom and God's will.” What about then, his own life? He prayed, “Give us our daily bread.” He was simply satisfied with just daily bread; if he had one day's food, he was happy and satisfied. He lived this way. Relying on God's provision for his daily needs, he pursued God's name, God's kingdom and God's will. Indeed, he didn't seek glory for himself, but for God alone.

 

       At that time, how did he look in the eyes of God? He looked so beautiful, honorable and precious. When Jesus lived for God this way, there was one Person who sought glory for him; it was the Father. The Father was with him all the time and answered whatever he asked for - multiplying five loaves of bread and two fish for five thousand people? No problem! Walking on the stormy water? No problem! God answered whatever he prayed for so that Jesus might be exalted highly and receive honor and respect. When Jesus died on the cross in obedience to his command, God did not leave him among the dead. He raised him from the dead on the third day and exalted him highly to sit right next to him and gave him all authority in heaven and on earth; He made him the judge of all so that all people might honor him. In this way, when Jesus sought glory for God, God sought glory for Jesus. This was what God did, and his decision is final because he is the judge. Those who accept what God has done and honor Jesus submitting themselves to his authority will be accepted, but those who do not accept what God has done for him and does not submit themselves to Jesus' authority will be punished. Those who kiss the Son will be blessed, but those who rebel against him will be dashed to pieces like pottery.

 

       In doing God's work, we must not seek glory for ourselves, but for God alone. Jesus says in verse 54, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing.” He was the Son of God, but if he glorified himself, his glory would mean nothing. Then, what about us, miserable sinners, if we try to glorify ourselves only because we do some work of God? Let's say, someone really works hard and serves 20 Bible studies and establishes many great disciples. What he has done is great. But if he says, “I serve 20 Bible studies and have established many disciples, so you must honor me,” then, you will be embarrassed without knowing what to say and how to respond. At that time, what he has done, all the hard work for God and all great achievements become nothing, and he becomes a miserable person, so pathetic - if anyone glorifies himself or herself, that glory means nothing, and that person becomes miserable and pathetic. Even this was true with Jesus. So, we must not seek glory for ourselves; instead, after doing all these, we must say, “I have only done my duties.” We must keep an unworthy servant's attitude that after working hard and even achieving great things for God, we still work harder, humbly taking the form of a servant, ready to serve more.

        

       Jesus proclaims, “I tell you the truth, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” This is his proclamation of who he is, the Giver of life, eternal life, zoe, and at the same time, this is his promise of eternal life for those who keep his word. We want to have eternal life, zoe, that truly fulfilling, meaningful and powerful life, that will give us true satisfaction and happiness. In Jesus is zoe. Then, how can we have it? By keeping his word! By holding onto it! By living according to his word. As you struggle to keep it, challenges may come, difficulties may rise, and temptation may come, but you still, keep it; you do not let it go away, but keep it. Sometimes, some other suggestions may come; temptations may come, but you give absolute value and priority to Jesus' word that you keep it absolutely - consistency, absoluteness and perseverance; as you struggle to keep the word of Jesus this way, your life will change and you will see yourselves living a truly glorious and powerful life as children of God. When you keep Jesus' word, you will never see death. This is the answer to the question so many Christians have. They want to live a powerful life and keep their spiritual fervor and passion for God continually. They want to be wholehearted to God's mission all the days of their life. In other words, they never want to see death in their Christian life. Then, how? Jesus says, “If anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” By keeping Jesus' word! This is how we can enjoy real Christian life continually.

 

       John 3:16 says that by believing in Jesus, we shall not perish, but have eternal life. We must believe in Jesus so that we can have eternal life. Jesus says, “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” We want this living water, flowing from within us, that complete satisfaction and happiness as Christians - this is eternal life, zoe. Whoever believes in him will have this living water. By the way, what does it mean to believe? It means to keep Jesus' word, holding onto it and living by it continually. This is the real meaning of believing in Jesus. When you keep his word, you will never see death and your Christian life will be powerful and glorious.

 

       But what will happen to you, when you do not keep it, for whatever reason you may have - financial difficulty, conflict with family members, pains or sorrows, or temptations? You lose zoe, eternal life, and you die. When zoe is gone, what is left is only psuche - you just exist by eating food and inhaling oxygen just like pigs or ants, no meaning, no fulfillment, no real vitality in your life. Spiritually, you are dead. This is why we must hold onto Jesus' teaching no matter what, because it is the matter of life and death. If we fail to keep his word because of temptation, or because of persecution, we lose zoe. Maybe, we try to cover our deadness by attending church, but there is no real life in us. We must keep Jesus' word so that we may never see death, but have eternal life in us continually.

 

       The Jews, of course, did not understand what Jesus was talking about. So, they rejected him, saying, “Who do you think you are?” In verses 54 through 56, Jesus showed them who he was. He was an honorable person whom God wanted to glorify. So, they should have honored him. He was the one who knew God personally, so they should have honored him. He was the one who kept God's word, living according to God's will and purpose. Such a person must be honored. Jesus said to them, “Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.” They took great pride to be the descendants of Abraham, but now Jesus showed them that all Abraham's hopes and joy were deposited in him. Jesus wanted them to repent of their false pride in being Abraham's physical descendants, and have the hope and joy that Abraham had had. 

 

       Look at verses 57 and 58. “You are not yet fifty years old,” the Jews said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!” “I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” It was his public proclamation that he was the Word who was with God in the beginning. When we think about how hostile they had been to Jesus thus far, we can see that they were not the right audience for this kind of message. At this, their response would not be so good. They picked up stones to stone him. Yet, Jesus was willing to go this far for their sake, hoping that there might be one or even two people who would accept his words. Indeed, for their sake, he went to the end. This reminds us of God’s grace upon us. How many times we rejected God; how many times we chose other things over God despite his efforts for us. Yet God did not give up on us; instead, he continued to wrestle with us, showing us his love for us over and over again. Only thanks to his unfailing love for us, finally, even we, such sinners, came to have a chance to recognize him and respond to his love. Indeed, by God’s grace, we are here today. Let’s remember how God has dealt with us. Let’s seek God’s glory, because He is worthy.

 

One Word:      If Anyone Keeps My Word, He Will Never See Death.

 

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