Monday, February 27, 2012

"Truth or Consequences!"

John 8:12-30
This week in Argentina a train entered a station going too fast and slammed into a barrier, injuring hundreds of people, killing at least 50. The engineer might have believed everything was fine until disaster struck, by then, for some, it was too late. If a member of that crew had realized they were approaching the station too fast it would have been criminal for him to not say something to avert the disaster. Who wouldn’t try to warn someone who was in such danger? Some were probably reading the newspaper, planning their day, and then their world exploded around them in shattered glass and twisted steel. If we know that every person we meet is on a train headed for disaster, and that with each second the end of the line is that much closer, what should we do?
Most people don’t want us disturbing them with our message, it might be true for us, but they want to believe something else. It’s no big surprise to say that we live in a world that that despises exclusivistic religious views and largely rejects the idea that there are absolutes of truth, absolutes of right and wrong. The world prizes tolerance, an “I’m ok, your ok” attitude, “to each his own,” etc. (That is, as long as you are not so “ignorant” as to hold to biblical Christianity!) Many people effectively say with Pilate, “What is truth? You believe your way, I’ll believe mine, and we’ll agree to disagree.” We know the truth, the world is on a train racing toward disaster, there is hope, but there is only one hope, and that is through faith in Jesus. The world would say, that’s your belief, that’s your God, my god isn’t like that. The problem is a god you make up in your own mind and create in your own image can’t do anything for you.
The Context: We looked last week in detail at Jesus’ declaration in 8:12, “I AM the Light of the World, he who follows Me shall not walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” As the scene continues we’ll see the idea: Either we believe the truth that Jesus is God incarnate and trust the provision that He has made for our salvation, or we will reap the consequences of our unbelief.

I. How will you respond to the Truth? The Testimony of the Father and the Son (13-20). Jesus only spoke the truth, but He is attacked by the Jewish leadership. Where do you get authority to speak like this?
“The Pharisees therefore said to Him, "You bear witness of Yourself; Your witness is not true." 14 Jesus answered and said to them, "Even if I bear witness of Myself, My witness is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going; but you do not know where I come from and where I am going” (John 8:13-14).
Jesus reaffirms that he speaks the truth and he knows the truth. He knows where he came from and where he is going. They, on the other hand, are still in darkness; they have no idea who He is.
"You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one” (8:15). Their judgment is by merely human standards, external, based on their limited (and prejudiced) perceptions. They don’t see the big picture. As missionaries we had to travel a lot by airplane as many of you have. Those long overnight flights, you can fall asleep (sometimes!)… when it is really smooth, except for the noise of the engines, you can almost forget you are moving… More than once I woke up after dozing off and I was completely confused, for a few seconds not knowing where I was! Has that ever happened to you? That doesn’t change the truth that you are in machine traveling 7 miles in the air at over 600 mph. You can deny it, you can choose not to believe it, but it doesn’t change the facts. Jesus is the truth, and He speaks the truth—that doesn’t change whether or not you believe it.
In v.16 Jesus appeals to his unity with the Father: “…the judgment is not mine alone, but I and the Father who sent me…” The wording here emphasizes the unity between the Father and the Son. Jesus is One with the Father. He’ll say it again in v. 19, and then explicitly in 14:7, if you have seen Him, you’ve seen the Father, if you know Jesus, you know the Father. We’re getting a hint of the unity within the Godhead. John said it in the first chapter, v. 18, “No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.”
In 8:17 He points to “their Law” that affirms the reliability of a corroborating witness. I don’t think that Jesus is minimizing the importance of the Law as the Word of God, but He is putting himself in a different category than his accusers. After all, every word of Scripture is “God breathed,” and Jesus is God! The Law they claim to believe and follow (which was “breathed out” by Jesus himself) says two witnesses confirm a matter – Jesus says, here are two: Me and my Father!
Where is your father?” They are again thinking at another level, they don’t understand who Jesus is and what He is saying: that shows something about their hearts. John 8:19 says "You know neither Me nor My Father. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also." Its rather similar to what Jesus says later to Philip, “Have I been so long with you and still you don’t know me? He who has seen me has seen the Father.” Either we believe the truth that Jesus is God incarnate and trust the provision that He has made for our salvation, or we will reap the consequences of our unbelief.

II. The Consequence of Unbelief is Eternal Judgment (21-29). Our choices always bring with them consequences. If you’ve been reading with us through the Bible (and its not too late to start!) we’ve been in Numbers for a number of days… this week we saw the Jews accept the majority report of the spies at Kadesh Barnea, and they reaped the consequences—forty years in the wilderness! Not only that, though God would bring the nation into the Land as promised, that whole generation, all the adults that left Egypt except for Joshua and Caleb, would die in the Desert. The people chose to believe the majority report and were ready to stone Joshua and Caleb, they chose not to trust God, and they reaped the consequences of that choice. We see here the Evidence of Unbelief in the Jews (i.e. especially the Jewish leadership).
In vv.21-22 we see that their unbelief is evidenced by their lack of understanding of his words. We’ve repeatedly seen this theme in John, the failure of the leaders especially to understand what Jesus was saying. There is a spiritual aspect of “hearing” the Word of God. It means understanding the words, discerning the meaning, and believing that it is true. Remember the word of Paul to the Corinthians: “The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned” (I Cor 2:14).
What’s more, in v.23 it’s evident that their unbelief is shown by their worldly perspective. They will die in their sins since they are focused on the world. Some people focus their lives and living exclusively on things that don’t really matter, things that are passing away… John warned his readers in his first letter,
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world -- the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life -- is not of the Father but is of the world. 17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:15-17).
Think about that. I believe that it was of this passage that Lincoln said: “How chastening in the hour of pride, how consoling in the hour of affliction!” Isn’t that true?
Vv.24-27 gets to the heart of the Matter: They don’t know Jesus. Most of them had no idea, they didn’t know who Jesus was.
- Either they believe the truth about Him, or they are lost and will one day “die in their sins.” That is as true today as it was then. That is a horrible thought—to stand one day before His Holiness, guilty, naked, condemned. Our sinfulness exposed, no hope.
-The only means of avoiding judgment is stated: “…if you do not believe that I AM…” It’s not enough to consider Jesus a great moral teacher or even a prophet from God. It won’t do to call him the first and greatest of God’s creation as some cults would. He is the great I AM. He is God incarnate (v.28 he says it again, echoing 8:12, and then in 8:58 there is no way to avoid what He is saying!).
Jesus looks ahead to the cross (and resurrection) in v.28, then finally some will have their eyes opened, understand and believe: “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I AM…” This phrase “lifted up” isn’t numerous in John, but it occurs at import moments in the story (see also 3:14,15; 12:32,34). It has the double sense of “lifting up” physically onto the cross in crucifixion, but also exaltation, as Jesus is vindicated in the fulfillment of scripture as the promised Messiah. “Son of Man” is one of his own favorite self designations which is an allusion to Daniel 7:13 and the coming in glory of the Son. Finally, as the plan unfolds according to the predetermined purpose and foreknowledge of God, the hearts of his sheep will be opened to the truth. Either we believe the truth that Jesus is God incarnate and trust the provision that He has made for our salvation, or we will reap the consequences of our unbelief.

III. Good News: Some will hear and believe (30).As He spoke these words, many believed in Him.” It’s not certain that all of these had genuine saving faith (see v.31!), but they at least professed to believe that He was who he claimed to be. Some encouragement we can take away from this is that some will hear and believe. Its still true that faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ.
-Each of us have people around us that we have opportunity to share our faith with. Family members, friends, neighbors, colleagues in the work place. Are you frustrated by a lack of response? Are you tired of humiliating put downs? Don’t give up. Remember what is at stake. Whether or not they know it, they are on a train rushing into the station and time is short. If you try to warn them and are rejected, that hurts, but for them eternity is at stake. So persist. We’ve heard testimonies from within our own church family of some who it seemed would never believe, finally, after years of hearing the testimony of someone around them, had their heart softened and believed.
In the near context (chapter 7) we heard the Jewish leadership scoff at the idea of believing in Jesus, he was only fooling some of the mindless multitude, none of the Pharisees have believed, had they? And then, at the end of Chapter 7, Nicodemus spoke up, the one who had come to Jesus by night in John 3, calls on his brothers to at least give him a hearing. And then in Chapter 19, after the crucifixion, he goes with Joseph of Arimithea, and helps him give Jesus a decent burial. Not many, but even some of the Pharisees came to believe the One who is the Truth.
What is God saying to me in this passage? Either we believe the truth that Jesus is God incarnate and trust the provision that He has made for our salvation, or we will reap the consequences of our unbelief.
What would God have me to do in response to this passage? Friend, if you are here today, you could be gone tomorrow. What then? Are you ready? Are you certain? The warning has been given. There is no excuse. Believer, what does this say about the urgency of our mission? Every person we cross paths with—every human on the face of this planet—is facing eternity. Will you be the “watchman” who shouts a warning of impending disaster, and points them to the Light of Life? Jesus came that we might have life, and that we might have it more abundantly. He came not to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved. We have been entrusted with the Word of Life. We’ve been called to be the body of Christ in the world. We need to reflect the Light of the world in our sphere of influence.

Father we thank you for your amazing Grace, that you showed us your love in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Help us Lord, to see the world through your eyes, and to always be ready to give a reason for the Hope that is in us. Amen.

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Light of the World is Jesus: Follow Him!

“The Light of the World is Jesus: Follow Him!”
John 8:12
I still recall an experience growing up when we stopped at a cave near Cumberland Gap, where Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee come together. A guide led us with a small group of tourists down into a cavern that ran deep inside the mountain. Then he told us we were going to now experience absolute darkness. He then hit a switch and the lights went out. There was nothing, it was so black you literally could not see your hand in front of your face. I tried it. Nothing but black. Then he struck a match. And the light from that match might as well have been a flare it seemed so bright. The light flickered off the walls of the cavern all around us! Have you ever been in absolute darkness? There was another vacation about 25 years ago that presented an opportunity to experience light and darkness when we decided to take a vacation up to the Canadian Maritimes, the first leg was to drive from New Jersey where we lived, to New Brunswick. It was longer than we expected, I am not sure what route we took but we drove for hours, in darkness, only the headlights of our car illuminating the way. If there were any humans along that path they must have had the blinds closed or the lights out, because it was dark. Finally we began to see a slight glow on the horizon ahead. Too early for dawn. Aurora Borealis? No, that wasn’t it. As it gradually began to get brighter we realized that we were seeing the lights of the city we were heading to, like a beacon shining in the darkness of northern Maine or Canada or wherever we were! That is a metaphor for the condition of the world, and the light shining into darkness in the incarnation of the Son.
We’ve been spending some weeks with Jesus at the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem (John 7:2). It was a time to celebrate God’s provision in the harvest and to remember his preservation through the Wilderness wandering. From our perspective Jesus fulfills every aspect – he is our Passover, he has saved us from bondage, he is our protector and provider in the wilderness, and he is Lord of the coming harvest… He is the light that dispels the darkness… So he declares in John 8:12, “I AM the LIGHT of the world…” (cf. John 1:3-5). *When a woman gives birth in Brazil, we use the expression, “dar à luz,” which, literally translated means “to give to the light.” That is an interesting contrast to what we see in John: When Mary gave birth to Jesus the One who is the Light came into the darkness of this sinned cursed world.
The historical background: For centuries the Old Testament prophets used the metaphor of “Light” to describe the Coming One: For example, Isaiah 9:2 says “The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; Those who live in a dark land, The light will shine on them.” Also in Isaiah 42:6-7 we read,
"I am the LORD, I have called you in righteousness, I will also hold you by the hand and watch over you, And I will appoint you as a covenant to the people, As a light to the nations, 7 To open blind eyes, To bring out prisoners from the dungeon And those who dwell in darkness from the prison.”
In John 8:12 Jesus reveals that He is that Light… “I AM the Light of the world…”
The literary context: John uses “light” 23 times. The contrast between “darkness” and “light” is a major theme. In the broader context of the Gospel, we’ve already seen John 1:4,5,8,9; 3:19-21. In the coming chapters we’ll see 9:5; 12:35,36,46. The Light dispels darkness and exposes sin. It reveals truth and leads the way (see Psalm 119:105).
Immediate Context: Chapter 7 begins by telling us it was the feast of tabernacles… At the end of the chapter, Nicodemus (who had come to him by night) seems to be coming out of the darkness into the light [compare 19:39]. In chapter 9, Jesus heals the man born blind, and announces again that while He is in the world, He is the “Light of the world”, in the process exposing the blindness of the Pharisees. Not all “see” the Light, they don’t come to the Light and believe in Him. God revealed himself in His Son to show the world the only way to forgiveness and life with meaning. So we follow Him, and urge others to come out of the darkness and to join us in the journey.

I. “I AM the Light of the World”: God became a man. John affirmed in his prologue that “the Word became flesh and dwelled among us...”
“...I am...” In John, there is no question that “I am...” on the lips of Jesus is a claim to deity. He is God!
We’ve looked at the Old Testament background in the call of Moses in Exodus 3:2-14. Moses meets God and when he asks Him His name, God replies, “I AM THAT I AM… tell them I AM has you…” As you know, the Old Testament was written in the Hebrew language, but as Jews were scattered more and more away from Palestine, they gradually lost competency in Hebrew. Soon in the majority of synagogues outside of Judea, a Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures known as the Septuagint came into use. Now this is important: after Exodus 3 and God’s revelation to Moses as the “I AM”, the Greek phrase “I AM,” [Ego eimi] is only used by God, Yahweh, in referring to himself. John picks up on this, and emphasizes Jesus as the “I AM” 23 times! We’ve seen John 4:26; 6:20, 6:35ff… He is God Incarnate. Martin Luther said: “The mystery of the humanity of Christ, that He sunk Himself into our flesh, is beyond all human understanding.” Paul refers to this in Philippians 2 then he says:
“…who, existing in the form of God, counted not the being on an equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men; 8 and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the cross.”

I have a famous quote from the Sermons on Liturgical Seasons of Augustine written in my Bible:
“The Word of the Father, by whom all time was created, was made flesh and was born in time for us. He, without whose divine permission no day completes its course, wished to have one day for his human birth. In the bosom of the Father He exisited before all cycles of the ages; born of an earthly mother, he entered upon the course of the years on this day.
Maker of man became man that He, the Ruler of the stars, might be nourished at the breast; that He, the Light, might sleep, that He, the fountain. Might thirst; that He, Way, might be wearied by the journey; that He, the Truth, might be accused by false witnesses; that He, the Judge of the living and the dead might be brought to trial by a mortal judge; that He, Justice, might be condemned by the unjust, that He Discipline, might be scourged by whips; that He, the Foundation, might be suspended on a cross; that Courage might be weakened; that Security might be wounded; that Life might die.
To endure these and similar indignities for us, to free us, unworthy creatures, He who existed as the Son of God before all ages, without a beginning, deigned to become the Son of Man in these recent years. He did this although He who submitted to such great evils for our sake had done no evil and although we, who were recipients of so much good at His hands had done nothing to merit these benefits.”

God revealed himself in His Son to show the world the only way to forgiveness and life with meaning. So we follow Him, and urge others to come out of the darkness and to join us in the journey.

II. “I am the LIGHT of the world.” The only one who can forgive us and give us life with meaning, became a man. “...the Light...” In John’s Gospel we see that Light dispels darkness, it exposes sin, it leads the way...
Darkness was a symbol of sin (Isa 9:2; Mt 4:16; 27:45; John 3:19). Light exposes sin, illuminates truth, and shows us the way. Isaiah had prophesied that “The people who walk in darkness shall see a great light…” (9:2). In the fullness of time that light shined into human history. Even so John observed in 3:19, “And this is the condemnation: that the Light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light because there deeds were evil.”
NB. Jesus was not simply “light” or a light, one option among many, he is the Light. ***The context of this discourse of Jesus is important: it was the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot). A time when the Jews looked back and remembered God’s provision for his people in the Wilderness. He brought them out of Egypt, gave them water and food in the desert, and guided them toward the promised Land in a Pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. In the last book of Moses we have The Shema, Dt 6:4… I like the NIV marginal translation as fitting the context best: “Hear O Israel, Yahweh is our God, Yahweh alone!”
Today it is popular to imagine that there are many paths to God. Our GPS is an illustration of how we like to have choices… We can choose the fastest route, the shortest, one that avoids tolls, etc.
There are many different ways to get there from here. People are often offended by the Christian message exactly at this point: there is only one true Light – there is only one way to have our sins forgiven, there is only one true God and only one way that we can know him. Jesus does not only say that he came to be “light”, or “a light”, he boldly asserts “I am THE Light of the World” (c.f. Acts 4:12) Later in this Gospel He will make a very exclusive statement when He says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no man comes to the Father but by me” (John 14:6). Here Jesus said: “I AM the Light…” NOT “a” light! God revealed himself in His Son to show the world the only way to forgiveness and life with meaning. So we follow Him, and urge others to come out of the darkness and to join us in the journey.

III. God, the only one who can forgive sin and give life with meaning became a man, so that he could die for people from every nation. He is the Light of the world.
“...of the World...” If I was a theologian I might say this is “missional Christology.” Jesus is affirming who he is and what he came to do. He is saying what the entire Bible really teaches: the whole world is God’s world, and world evangelization is God’s work. Isaiah had predicted as much, he was to be a “Light to the Gentiles...” We see this unfolding in the book of Acts, look at 1:1, “...all that Jesus began both to do and to teach...” Jesus is not physically present in Acts, but he is building his church. He tells them a few verses later, in 1:8. “You will be my witnesses, in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, even to the ends of the Earth.” He is the Light of the World.
Jesus came not only as the Messiah of Israel, but also as the Lamb, the one who would be the savior of all who would come to him in faith, from every race and nation. The whole world is God’s world, and world evangelization is God’s work. We see it unfolding in Acts: Jews and proselytes from every nation in Acts 2, Samaritans in Acts 8, and an Ethiopian eunuch, in Chapter 10 Cornelius and his household are included in the new people of God. The missionary journeys start in chapter 13 and the Gospel goes out to Asia minor and later to Europe. At the end of Acts 28 Paul is a prisoner in Rome, preaching without impediment the Gospel. Jesus is building his worldwide church, composed of people from every race and nation. God revealed himself in His Son to show the world the only way to forgiveness and life with meaning. So we follow Him, and urge others to come out of the darkness and to join us in the journey.

IV. And so we are Christ followers, and urge others to join us in the journey (8:12b). “He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”
“He who follows Me…” This is the language of discipleship. We’ve seen it in John with the men that Jesus called, they traveled with him, watched Him, listened to Him, learned from Him. It implies a commitment. IF Jesus is the way, the only way, the light, the only light, where else would we look? We have to say with Peter at the end of John 6:68, “Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life…” So, as the Jews in the desert followed the Pillar of fire and cloud, we follow the Light of the World, the Light that gives life.
“Will by no means, will absolutely not (an emphatic double negative) walk in darkness…” There is no room for question, no doubt, simply an emphatic statement of what will not happen: IF we follow Jesus, the Light of the World, the darkness that had us lost and blind and fearful before will no longer hinder us. We are in the Light!
BUT, a strong adversative, on the other hand, this will be our experience: we WILL HAVE THE LIGHT OF LIFE.
What is God saying to me in this text? God revealed himself in His Son to show the world the only way to forgiveness and life with meaning. So we follow Him, and urge others to come out of the darkness and to join us in the journey.
What would God have me to do in response to this passage? Jesus said a bit later, in Jn 9:5, “While I am in the World, I am the light of the world…” That statement seems to anticipate his departure, and our responsibility to point people to the LIGHT.
If you have not yet come to the Light, what are you waiting for? All have sinned. You know the truth about yourself. So does God. Even so, he sent the greatest gift imaginable, his Son, to die for you.
One more implication for you who have come to the Light and received life. We are his body in the world. Elsewhere he said to his followers “You are the Light of the Word!” Christ’s mission is our commission. Later in John Jesus says to his disciples, “ the Father has sent me, so send I you.” …Our task as we walk with him is to point others to the Light of Life. Who is in your sphere of influence that is walking in darkness? Will you consider how you might point that one to the Light of Life? How can you invite him/her to join you on the journey?
1. Invite someone to church? Maybe to a special event (like tonite’s concert at the Fellowship?
2. Bring them to a small group meeting?
3. Invite them into your home and seek to share the reason for the hope that is in you?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

This Sunday, "The Light of the World"

As we continue our study in the Gospel of John we come to yet another verse in which Jesus uses the phrase "I AM" to describe himself (see the background to this Exodus chapter 3). We've already seen the imagery of "Light" coming into the world in John 1:1-5f. and also John 3:19ff. You may want to read those ahead of coming to worship on Sunday to have a little more background and reflect on a couple of questions. What does John 8:12 tell me about Jesus and His mission? What does this verse say about me, and my part in His mission? God bless you this week, I hope to see you on the Lord's Day!
your brother in Christ,
Pastor Steve

Sunday, February 12, 2012


“Mercy Me!”
John 7:53-8:11

This text might seem an unusual one for the week before Valentine’s Day! It does however remind us of God’s love demonstrated in sending his Son to be our Savior: “God demonstrates His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” If you have an NIV Bible you’ll see a note that this passage does not occur in the earliest and best manuscripts of John. This is in fact one of the most contested paragraphs in the New Testament. The problem? None of the manuscripts of John before the 5th century AD include it, and it’s not cited or commented on by the earliest church fathers! They simply go from 7:52 right to 8:12. The story of “The Adulterous standing before the Light of the World” actually appears in a couple of different places in this Gospel, and also in a couple of manuscripts of Luke’s gospel! Most scholars have concluded, and I agree, that it probably wasn’t originally a part of John’s Gospel. Almost everyone agrees however that it does seem to be an actual event in the life of Jesus that was remembered and preserved by the early church and that simply didn’t make it into the Gospels originally (remember John 21:25, “And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.”). I am not going to take time to look at the question of the authenticity of this passage or talk about the science of textual criticism. This isn’t a seminary class. I did, however, put a link on my new blog to John Piper’s thorough discussion of the history and evidence [see previous post]. As for us, we’re going to look at this ancient story for what it is: as a beautiful and touching illustration of the important biblical doctrine of the mercy and grace of God. I think this is a favorite story of many of us since we all know the truth about ourselves, and we know that God knows the truth as well. There is none righteous, no not one.
The Big Idea: We are all sinners, deserving judgment, and are only saved because of the mercy and grace of God. We should respond with a deep sense of gratitude toward him, and by being merciful and gracious toward others.

I. The Law reveals sin and requires justice (7:53-8:5). This is the predicament which defines fallen humanity: we are lost sinners, in rebellion against God, deserving judgment. Paul said in Eph 2:1-3, “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.” The language is clear and its humbling: we were dead in sin, in bondage to the devil, without hope. That is the human condition without Jesus, and God knows not only our actions but also our hearts, Paul told the Corinthians that they should “…judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one's praise will come from God” (I Cor 4:5).
Here, the text begins by saying (7:53) that each went to his own home, but Jesus went to The Mount of Olives—this reminds me that this world really isn’t our home, that one day Jesus will return in power and judgment. Where did that come from? Nothing is merely “incidental,” including this detail. First of all, Jesus was not at home in this world: he said elsewhere that “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head” (Matt 8:20). Secondly, “Mount of Olives” is mentioned occasionally in the Bible, always in a key context…
• According to Luke, Jesus passed near the Mount of Olives as he entered the city in the Triumphal Entry (Luke 19:37). As he was being hailed as “King of Israel” by the people, he passed in the shadow of this hill.
• After the Last Supper, he went out to the Mount of Olives with his disciples, and they sang a hymn (Mark 14:26; Matt 26:30). That night in which the Lord’s table was instituted, for the disciples looking ahead to what would happen in a matter of hours as he would be betrayed, denied by them, and delivered up to be crucified.
• Finally, it was on the Mount of Olives, that Jesus sat and taught his disciples about the signs of the times and the promise of his return (Mk 13: Mt 24). Its here that the prophet Zechariah had said the returning Messiah would stand, and the mountain would split in two under his feet (Zech 14:4). Coincidental? Maybe, but it is interesting in our story in John that the people return home, however Jesus, who has no “home” in this world, goes to a place associated with his kingship and glory, his passion, and the promise of his return. He is Lord, and yes, the day will come when every knee will bow and every tongue confess that truth, yet the leaders dare to come to test Him!
Early in the morning, the NIV says “at dawn,” Jesus was back in the temple courts teaching any who would hear him. Jesus knew the timetable that the Father had established; he was diligently carrying out his mission, giving the people an opportunity to believe Him. We saw in Chapters 6 and 7 that Jesus was well aware of the intentions of the leaders, that they were already plotting to kill him, even so, he will not back down: nothing is going to keep him from calling people to repentance, revealing God’s grace, and, at the right time, providing redemption, as he lays down his own life for our sins.
“Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst…” (John 8:3) This public “presentation” of the woman before the people to Jesus seems odd—the motives of the leaders will become clear in the next verse, but already we have to wonder, why ask Jesus, apparently a Galilean, certainly not one of the Sanhedrin, His opinion on what should be done? And why this embarrassing situation of standing her before the assembled crowd? Even without v.6, it seems suspicious to say the least.
In John 8:4,5 we read, "...they said to Him, "Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. 5 "Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned...” They point out the sin and the judgment that was called for, and they were right! Exodus 20:14, “You shall not commit adultery.” Leviticus 20:10 spells out the penalty:
"The man who commits adultery with another man's wife, he who commits adultery with his neighbor's wife, the adulterer and the adulteress, shall surely be put to death.”

This brings us to an obvious question: Adultery by definition requires two people. Where was the man? This is another indication that something else is going on here. Every indication is that the woman was guilty. There are no denials on her part. But why, early in the morning, do they bring her to Jesus? Their motives are hypocritical, they are not interested in justly carrying out the Law of Moses, they are trying to trap Jesus and have a basis for condemning him. If he said “show mercy” he would be speaking contrary to the Law and could be denounced as someone speaking against Moses. If he said “stone her” perhaps he would be viewed as harsh and unsympathetic and would lose the support of the people. Jesus knew the truth; he knew the woman’s heart, and also the hearts of her accusers. The truth is we have all sinned and come short of the glory of God. We are all sinners, deserving judgment, and are only saved because of the mercy and grace of God. We should respond with a deep sense of gratitude toward him, and by being merciful and gracious toward others.

II. The rulers were not interested in justice, they were seeking to trap Jesus and have a cause to accuse Him (8:6a). Their duplicity reveals their hard hearts.
As happened frequently in the Gospels, the leaders sought to trap Jesus by giving him a “no win” situation to judge. This is another evidence that they had no clue as to who they were dealing with! They set the scene up “…in order to have a basis for accusing Him…” Their minds were made up, and now, if necessary, they would manufacture a basis for judging Jesus. All their actions revealed was they too were sinners, deserving judgment.

III. Jesus knew their hearts, and He knows our hearts (8:6b-8). One theme that we have seen in John’s Gospel is well reflected in this story: the omniscience of Jesus, and his sovereignty over the situation. He knows the truth, He knows the crime the woman committed, but He also knows everything about her accusers, their motivation, their plan, and their own sinful hearts. “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, who can know it?” (Jer 17:9). It goes on… 17:10 “I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings.”
It’s interesting, that in that same context in Jeremiah, we read in 17:13, “Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust because they have forsaken the Lord, the spring of living water”(NIV). Jesus was just teaching in John 7 about the water of life welling up to overflowing in those who believe in Him. These leaders don’t believe, and their actions reveal their attitudes. They were guilty, needing mercy, as much as the woman was. The truth is, we are all sinners, deserving judgment, and are only saved because of the mercy and grace of God. We should respond with a deep sense of gratitude toward him, and by being merciful and gracious toward others.

IV. When we are honest about it, we all know we are sinners (8:9). The question comes up, and its hard not to speculate: what did Jesus write on the ground? Some suggestions have been made:
Did he begin to list the 10 commandments? The Law exposes sin, and the truth is all fall short, so we could easily imagine a scene with Jesus writing one by one the ten commandments, and one by one the accusers wincing as they are reminded of their own sin, “convicted by their own conscience,” dropping their stone, and slipping away.
Did he write their names in the dust, according Jeremiah 17:13, reminding them of their hypocrisy? That would be convicting in and of itself. Looks at the context in Jeremiah and see how it reflects the issues of this context in John:
“This is what the LORD says: "Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the LORD. 6 He will be like a bush in the wastelands; he will not see prosperity when it comes. He will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives. 7 "But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. 8 He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit." 9 The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? 10 "I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve." 11 Like a partridge that hatches eggs it did not lay is the man who gains riches by unjust means. When his life is half gone, they will desert him, and in the end he will prove to be a fool. 12 A glorious throne, exalted from the beginning, is the place of our sanctuary. 13 O LORD, the hope of Israel, all who forsake you will be put to shame. Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust because they have forsaken the LORD, the spring of living water. 14 Heal me, O LORD, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise. 15 They keep saying to me, "Where is the word of the LORD? Let it now be fulfilled!" (Jeremiah 17:5-15).

It is at least possible that Jesus was evoking this passage from Jeremiah, perhaps inviting them to remember the Scripture and to consider their own heart of unbelief.
Its only speculation but we see one by one, the accusers are themselves apparently “convicted,” they become aware of their hypocrisy and see their own sinfulness, and drop their stones, and walk away. From the oldest, to the last. Could it be that the older ones were around long enough to be all too aware of their own sin? Even the Law is gracious, because it reveals the depth of our need, and so can be a schoolmaster to lead us to Christ (See Galatians 3-4). Thank God for his Grace since we are all sinners, deserving judgment, and are only saved because of the mercy and grace of God. We should respond with a deep sense of gratitude toward him, and by being merciful and gracious toward others.

V. Only by the Grace and Mercy of God can we be saved (8:10-11).
Notice that Jesus doesn’t ask the woman if she is guilty. He knows her heart. Like the woman at the well in chapter 4, Jesus extends grace. After all, it is He who will bear her sins in His own body on the Cross.
“Go now, and leave your life of sin…” Like the healed man in the temple, Jesus calls for repentence, and change of mind and a turning from sin to God. "For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

What is God saying to me in this passage? We are all sinners, deserving judgment, and are only saved because of the mercy and grace of God. We should respond with a deep sense of gratitude toward him, and by being merciful and gracious toward others.

What would God have me to do in response to this passage? Our response to God: Have you thought that the sins of your past, or your present, were too much to hope for forgiveness? Have you thought, “God might forgive others, but how could he possibly forgive me, you don’t know what I’m like, you don’t know the things I have done.” You are no different than any of us, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. None of us deserves heaven. It’s like the illustration of a giant chasm between humanity and God on his throne in heaven. If it’s a hundred feet across, it doesn’t matter who you are, you won’t be able to leap the distance. Some might get out a little further, but inside of thirty feet, all of us would be crashing on the rocks, dead. The only way is to walk across on the cross of Christ, which is the sufficient and only hope for sinful humans. You get on that path and cross over to life by admitting you are a sinner (Rom 3:23), by believing in Jesus, trusting that he died for your sins, and that he was raised again the third day. And finally confessing him as the savior and Lord of your life (Rom 10:9,10).
Have you been hurt by some who would judge you, or look down upon you because of your past and even you present struggles with sin? Jesus would say to them, “Let he who has no sin first cast a stone…” He would say to you , “believe in Me, and turn from your sin to a new life in me.”

What then should be our attitude toward others? Show mercy, be gracious, forgive! Because we have received such grace, we should be gracious. Because we have needed such mercy, we should be merciful. Judge not that you be not judged. We are simply one sinner, showing another sinner, where to find bread. Thank God for His amazing grace!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Coming this Sunday, a story of grace!

This week we will be continuing in John with the story of the adulterous woman in John 8:1-11. This passage also presents a unique challenge: it is one of the two most contested passages in the New Testament in terms of its authenticity (the other being the long ending to the book of Mark, 16:9ff.). If you have an NIV bible for example, the section witll be marked off with a note saying that "the oldest and most reliable manuscripts of John don't include 7:53-8:11). I am not going to go into the details, if you are interested, John Piper got into this question when he dealt with this passage in his church:
As for us, we are going to look at the story as a historical event in the life of JEsus, and as a beautiful illustration of our need for the mercy and grace of the Master. God willing, I'll see you on Sunday!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Wednesday nite devotional: Jacob is called Israel

If you are able to join us tonight for prayer meeting we'll be taking a brief look at Genesis 32:22-32. Its an intriguing story as we see Jacob, alone on one side of the river, meeting a man in the night and wrestling until dawn. God had met with Jacob at Bethel as he left the land, and He promised to be with the patriarch (Gen 28). God called him to leave Laban and to return to the promised land (Gen 31), and He sent angels to meet him and encourage him on the way (32:1). What was the purpose of this "wrestling match" in the night? Was God trying to teach Jacob something? Did he learn the lesson? Join us tonight if you are able at 6:30 PM in the classroom adjacent to the office! If you can't make it, your comments on the passage are still appreciated!

Monday, February 6, 2012

"No One Spoke like this Man!" John 7:40-52

No one ever spoke like this Man!
John 7:40-52
Introduction: The super bowl has become possibly the single most watched sports event in the world. Its been so bad this week that the media has been giving news reports on what the half time show and the commercials are going to be like! Since it’s a rematch of the teams that faced off just a few years back interest is heightened even more. Most viewers have a favorite; most will be cheering for one team (or at least against the Giants!). Not many will have their minds changed as they watch the game. Very few are “neutral” when they consider New York versus New England, but not one is neutral when we speak of Jesus! The call in this context is to believe in Jesus, to recognize who he is, and to take Him at His word. Speaking of the sending of the Holy Spirit he said in v.38, “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, 'From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.'" That teaching about the promise of the Spirit is so intriguing it captivates the attention of the people, and evokes a response, one way or the other.
The Big Idea: Though the leaders did not believe Him as Jesus revealed himself by his words and actions, some people did turn to Him in faith. Jesus spoke with authority and acted with compassion, always motivated by love. How can we more effectively reflect Jesus as we carry out his mission in the world?
I. A Divisive Question (7:40-44): Who is the man Jesus? John is telling us the story of Jesus, but he is doing so very intentionally. He is writing in order to lead us into a correct, and hopefully deepened under-standing of who He is. Throughout the Gospel there are always some who profess truth about Jesus, though often times, at least until we get to the end of the story, they don’t go far enough or sometimes not understanding the full meaning of the titles they attribute to Him.
A. “…He is the Prophet…” (v.40). After hearing Jesus’ bold, authoritative teaching, some think he is “the Prophet.” This a reference to Dt 18:15-22 which spoke of a prophet like Moses:
15 " The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear, 16 "according to all you desired of the LORD your God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, 'Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, nor let me see this great fire anymore, lest I die.' 17 "And the LORD said to me: 'What they have spoken is good. 18 'I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him. 19 'And it shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which He speaks in My name, I will require it of him. 20 'But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.' 21 "And if you say in your heart, 'How shall we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?' -- 22 "when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.
- All prophets were judged by the criteria in the passage: did their words come true? If they didn’t, then they weren’t speaking for God. This is another evidence of the grace of God.
-He didn’t simply give the Law so that there would be no doubt as to right and wrong. He also sent prophets to remind people of the requirements of the covenant, to assure them that God’s promises would not fail, that if the nation was being chastened it was not because of God’s impotence but rather because of their sin, called them to repentance.
-God also promised through the prophets that one day a Savior would come. In fact the Jews came to read this promise of a future prophet, also as a reference to an eschatological figure. In some rabbis it was identified with the Messiah but not usually.
B. “…the Christ [Messiah]…” (41a). Others said He’s Messiah! Well this is a correct statement, but the problem is what did they mean by this title? There were a lot of ideas about the “Anointed One,” but for the most part the understanding fell far short of attributing deity to him.
-Its John who draws special attention to the title “Messiah” as the fulfillment of the OT Jewish hope. The word appears in its Semitic form only twice in the New Testament, both in John (see 1:41; 4:25,26).
-This is what John means by “Christ” and “Son of God.” (READ 20:28-31). After the resurrection Thomas confesses “My Lord and My God!” At that moment he finally understood and correctly believed in Jesus. Following that confession, John, the writer, says, “Many other signs Jesus did… but these were written that you might believe…” This is what John is explaining in his Gospel. He is showing the Jesus is God incarnate, and so Son of God and Messiah. Because Jesus came in the flesh, it’s easy for us too to have a truncated (or limited, incomplete) idea of who he is.
C. “…[an imposter] from Galilee…” (41b-42). Others countered, “How could he be the Messiah, He is from Galilee, not Bethlehem! It interesting that Jesus never answers this charge in John, and John, the Gospel writer, never explains that Jesus was in fact born in Bethlehem. Why not? Two reasons come to mind:
1. He is able assume that his readers have heard the general lines of the history of Jesus from the synoptic gospels, which were probably circulating for twenty or more years. He is writing a unique gospel, supplementing the other three, from his eyewitness perspective.
2. John is emphasizing not the earthly place or circumstances of Jesus’ birth, but in fact his pre-existence as the eternal Son. Several times in John 6 and 7 we are reminded that he was sent from the Father, he came down from heaven.
D. Division (43-44)! “Thus the people were divided because of Him…” Literally, “There came to be a ‘schism’ in in the crowd on account of Him…” The word indicates a sharp, deep division, like a garment being violently torn in two pieces. Jesus did not come tell people what they wanted hear necessarily, He is truth, and came to reveal the truth, and to show both our need and God’s grace.
*** Though the leaders did not believe Him as Jesus revealed himself by his words and actions, some people did turn to Him in faith. Jesus spoke with authority and acted with compassion, always motivated by love. How can we more effectively reflect Jesus as we carry out his mission in the world?
II. A Dubious Argument (7:45-52): Who has believed in Him? The leaders were essentially saying, “WE know better than you do, if we haven’t believed Him, you shouldn’t either!”
A. He spoke like no other (45-46)! This is a great part of the story. The temple police that were sent by the leaders to arrest Jesus, v.44 said, “some wanted to take him, but no one laid a hand on him”—they come back empty handed! He did not do any sign that astounded them. There would be no demonstration of his sovereign power as when the guards come to arrest him in the garden. His speech alone came with such power, such authority that they were awestruck: NO ONE ever spoke like this man! They came to arrest Jesus and they were arrested by the power of His words. This wasn’t just another preacher or rabbi - this man spoke like no other.
B. The response of the leaders as evidence (wouldn’t they know?) [47-49] Ironically, their response is evidence, their failure to believe and their violent rejection of Him reveals that He is the Promised One.
• V.47 Has he even deceived you too? We sent you with a simple job to do and it looks like you’ve been taken in!
• V.48 Have any of the leaders or the Pharisees believed in Him? The question anticipates an enthusiastic No! Of course not! The implication is, look, we’re the experts, we know the Scriptures and the traditions of the Fathers, don’t you think that we would know if this man came from God?
• V.49 Only this ignorant multitude has been fooled—they don’t know anything, they’re obviously cursed! How can you allow yourself to be misled by them?
• NB. This reminds us, by the way, of the importance of the protestant doctrine of the priesthood of believers. Its not only the “experts” and “doctors of theology” that can understand the Scriptures. Any believer can read and understand what God says in His Word. God has given us pastors and teachers, that is part of His design for the church. But we have his Spirit to lead us into truth. We need to be like the Berean believers on Paul’s 2nd missionary journey: Acts 17:11 “These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.”
C. Nicodemus calls for reason and a fair hearing, he does so by asking a question, “Does our law condemn someone without first hearing him out?” This may give us a hint that their argument had a wrong premise: “Has any of the Pharisees believed in Him?” Well, maybe one (Remember 3:1ff., cf. 19:38-40).
Their answer to him is intended as an insult, “Are you from Galilee too?” Their answer is that this one factor in itself is enough for us to close the matter and declare this man is not from God. Their language here reveals the depth of their spiritual arrogance, as well as the prejudice they felt against Galileans. “Are you from Galilee too” had nothing to do with Jesus, it was meant to put down Nicodemus for siding with him, however meekly.
What is God saying to me in this passage? Though the leaders did not believe Him as Jesus revealed himself by his words and actions, some people did turn to Him in faith. Jesus spoke with authority and acted with compassion, always motivated by love. How can we more effectively reflect Jesus as we carry out his mission in the world?
What would God have me to do in response to this passage? 5 “Rs” to consider:
Remember what obedience cost Jesus: leaving Heaven to enter this world of woe, facing ridicule and rejection, ultimately the cross. He said if any man would be my disciple let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me… Remember also what motivated Him: “God commended his love toward us in that while we were yet sinners…” (Rom 5:8; I Jn 4:9).
Recognize that because our sin nature is defeated, but not dead, we make the decision daily: Is Jesus the Lord and Master of my life? Will I follow him, even when it is difficult? Will I obey, when the cost seems too much? Nate Saint’s words seem easy, they cost him his life: Obedience is not a momentary option: it is a die cast decision made beforehand.
Repent of those moments of self will and arrogance when we have tried to tell God how its going to be,
Receive the forgiveness he offers us in Christ (I John 1:9).
Repeat the Good News to others, we are to be His witnesses starting right where we are (Acts 1:8).

Welcome to the Pastor's Corner: The Maine Idea*!

*The title of this blog was modified in mid 2016 to include the subtitle: The Maine Idea.  For years I have tried to follow the approach of Haddon Robinson in uncovering and exposing the "Big Idea" of the biblical passage I was teaching.  I decided a while back to contextualize that concept by referring to the "Maine" idea of the text. The idea of course is that we start with what the text meant "then and there" and then seek to uncover its relevance applicability to us "here and now." Since I am serving this church in midcoast Maine it seemed like a relevant play on words. I want to remind myself that the timeless truth of the Bible does apply to us, right where we are at.
SN 6/9/2016

This blog has evolved since I started it a couple of years ago. I found value in writing out the complete text of the study before I preached it on Sunday morning and have continued to do that. It seems to help me seal the message in my heart and mind so that I can go ahead and preach without relying on my notes, which I find distracting. The preached message always varies, and occasionally varies quite a bit form the posted text, but I hope that is my learning to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit as I seek to bring God's word to His people.  Please leave your comments and observations below, and let us learn together to the glory of God.
your co-worker in Christ,
Pastor Steve Nash

The original post and intro follows...
OK the title for this blog isn’t very original, but what’s in a name? I wanted to start this blog to give one more context in which we can reflect on the Word of God, and learn and grow together. The starting point for our discussion will be the Sunday Sermon series currently being preached at Boothbay Baptist Church. I plan to try to put the “text” of my Sunday Sermon online here each Monday morning. Since we are not recording the sermons and it would be tedious to make an exact transcript even if we did, I plan to go through my outline and flesh out what I planned to say, or in some cases, what I wish I had said! Let’s give it a try, I welcome your comments, questions, and feedback.
PS. Please identify yourself at the outset of your message. Anonymous entries aren’t very helpful, and, after all, we are a family!