Monday, March 12, 2012

Who's Your Daddy?

Who’s Your Daddy?
John 8:37-47

Introduction: Wednesday nite a father was holding his young son on his lap at prayer meeting, maybe 2 or 3 (?), and as we prayed around and came to him as the father finished praying, the young boy announced in agreement, “Amen!” It was evident that he was no stranger to seeing his father in prayer. We almost can’t help reflecting something of what we see in our parents, they are our first and most influential teachers after all. One evening a young boy was allowed to sit in his father’s place at the dinner table because he was traveling. His slightly older sister resented the arrangement and sneered, “So you’re the father tonite? All right, what’s two times seven?” Without a moment’s hesitation the boy replied calmly, “I’m busy, ask your mother!” “Like Father, Like Son.”
I’ve told you before of the shortest and most convicting sermon I ever heard. I was alone with Sarah in the church I was pastoring in NJ, he was maybe 4 or five years old. We were going down some dark steps at night. I told her follow close Sarah, her reply: “Ok Dad, I’ll follow you, and you follow God.” For better or for worse we learn from our parents and wind up repeating at least some of their habits, actions, and attitudes in our lives.
Kids don’t always “embrace” the example of their parents: remember the famous line from Mark Twain, “When I was 15 my father was so ignorant I could barely stand to have him around. When I was 22, I was amazed at how much the old man had learned in only seven years!” It’s a process! We can learn some things, sometimes good things, from our parents. We had an icebreaker on this subject once in our small group and the only lesson I could come up with from my father was a line he repeated often: “If your gonna be dumb, you gotta be tough!” Oh well! For some reason I heard that pretty often when I was a kid!
The Big Idea: Far more important that our family tree is our spiritual identity as a child of God. Our life should be marked by a growing submission to our Father’s word.

I. Far more important than our physical lineage is our spiritual identity as God’s child (37-38). If you have been born again through faith in Christ the DNA of the New Creation has been set in your heart, and, gradually, you are being transformed, the old nature is increasingly being put away, as more and more we “put on” Christ. Paul says in 2 Cor 3:18 “…we are being transformed into the same image…” It’s a process that happens as God renews our mind through the Word (Rom 12:1,2).
“I know that you are Abraham’s descendants…” Jesus concedes their physical lineage: they are indeed blood descendants of Abraham (v.37a). Our family history is important. I think a lot of families today have someone who has taken an interest in the “family tree.” In Mary Ann’s family that is her brother. Even though he speaks no Russian he took a trip last year to Belarus and met some relatives, and learned more about their father’s side of the family. Family histories are important. It is good to know where we came from and to try to understand our heritage. Sometimes you might even find someone famous (we have a pastor friend in NJ who discovered Davey Crockett was in his ancestory! While we were on a trip to Tennessee we bought him a coon skin hat!)
The Jews were a chosen people, elected by the gracious purposes of God

6 " For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth. 7 "The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; 8 "but because the LORD loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers, the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 7:6-8).
Lest they become prideful a couple of chapters later He says…
5 "It is not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart that you go in to possess their land, but because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD your God drives them out from before you, and that He may fulfill the word which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. 6 "Therefore understand that the LORD your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stiff-necked people. 7 " Remember! Do not forget how you provoked the LORD your God to wrath in the wilderness. From the day that you departed from the land of Egypt until you came to this place, you have been rebellious against the LORD” (Dt 9:5-7).
• Grace, they sovereign election of God, His unmerited favor. They were entrusted with the oracles of God, and through them the Messiah, who would be a blessing to all nations, would come (Rom 9:1-5)…
“I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, 2 that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh, 4 who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; 5 of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen.”

They were entrusted with the oracles of God, through them His revelation would be given to the world, and ultimately, through them, the Messiah would come.
Their Rejection of Christ reveals their spiritual paternity (37b-38). 1. They seek to kill Him – Jesus has repeatedly spoken in this Gospel about the murderous intentions of the Jews—He knows their hearts—and ultimately that attitude would play itself out in the crucifixion. It is fairly clear in Peter’s sermon on Pentecost that he is holding his countrymen responsible for rejecting Jesus, and ultimately crucifying him, when he says “You nailed him to the cross by the hands of godless men…” The Romans were the instrument, the hammer in the hand so to speak, but they were responsible for rejecting Him and delivering Him up to be crucified. Jesus is God incarnate, he knows their hearts.
v.37b - They hate Jesus, and seek to kill Him, “because” His Word has no part in them. His Word is truth. Faith comes through hearing the Word of Christ. If we love God, we love His Word and as we receive it, we believe and obey. The song says rightly “Trust and obey, there is no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey.”
v.38 Jesus essentially says “Like father, like son…” He speaks what He has seen with His Father, and they do what they have seen from theirs. As surely as Jesus speaks the Truth from His Father, they are speaking from theirs. Of course they don’t yet understand who it is that Jesus is pointing to as their spiritual father. It’s not principally biology but rather spirituality that Jesus is talking about, because far more important that our family tree is our spiritual identity as a child of God. Our life should be marked by a growing submission to our Father’s word.

II. Actions Speak Louder than Words! If we are truly God’s child we should be being changed, more and more like Jesus (39-41a).
v.39 “Abraham is our Father!” Jesus’ hearers claimed to be Abraham’s spiritual children (Jesus conceded their physical descent in v.37). Abraham was called by God and he responded to God’s work in his life with growing faith. There were some ups and downs to be sure (like not mentioning that Sarah was his wife!), but when the moment of greatest testing came in Gen 22 he was ready to sacrifice the son whom he loved, the son of promise, Isaac, in obedience to God. So Abraham became an example of faith, absolute trust in God alone. Spoken of by the prophets and referred to in the NT, “Abraham believed God and it was reckoned to him for righteousness.” If they were “spiritual children” of Abraham, as he took God at His word so would they.
(vv.39b-40) Jesus said to them, "If you were Abraham's children, you would do the works of Abraham. 40 "But now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth which I heard from God.” Abraham did not do this. Many people will claim to be a child of God. Sometimes it seems like asking someone if they are a Republican or a Democrat—Of course I’m a “Christian”, I’m not a Muslim or something! Or, “I believe in God, I’m not a heathen!” Or even, “I don’t feel like that’s what Jesus would say…” Or, “My Jesus would do something like that!” Well it’s not our ideas or our feelings or our wishes that determine what is true about God. His Word is Truth. What does He reveal about himself in the Word? That is truth! They were not responding to the truth as Abraham did, they didn’t believe Jesus because they didn’t believe the Father.
C. (v.41a) “You do the deeds of your father!” And, according to what Jesus has been saying, he’s not Abraham! The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. That is sometimes true of human descent; it is especially true of our spiritual paternity. You will know them by their fruit! *** Far more important that our family tree is our spiritual identity as a child of God. Our life should be marked by a growing submission to our Father’s word.

III. Genuine Faith, faith that marks us as a child of God, will show itself by openness to God’s truth (41b-47).
We’re not illegitimate children [like you!]!” (41b). Now, the “like you” is not in the text, but that seems to be what they are implying. Rather than dealing with what Jesus is saying and responding to the truth, it seems like they try to personally attack him based on the “rumor” that Jesus was conceived out of wedlock. Rather than looking at themselves they were trying to change the subject and point at the question of Jesus’ birth—how dare he talk about them! People will often resort to “smoke screens” like this when they get uncomfortable with hearing the truth. Anything to divert the attention from themselves and their own need. “There are too many hypocrits in the church!” “I don’t have the right clothes to wear!” “All they do is talk about money in that place!” You know what I mean, you’ve all heard it. Some of us even said it before God changed our hearts! (At least I did!).
v.42 Jesus is very direct, if they were really God’s children they would love Jesus, since he came from the Father. He repeats again that He was “sent” by God. The dividing point between truth and a lie, is how people deal with Jesus. The many will say they accept Jesus, but they deny his deity, or don’t recognize the sufficiency of his sacrifice. They “remake” Him into what they think he should be rather than hearing and believing who he claimed to be.
v.43 “Why don’t you understand my speech? Because you are not able to listen to my word…” This is very much the theology that Paul reflects in I Cor 2:14, the natural, unregenerate man is “unable” to understand the things of the Spirit. Now there is an impediment to your attempts at witnessing! They won’t understand because they can’t understand—that is until and unless the Father draws them.
The devil is the father of lies and a murderer (v.44) and the people reject Jesus because He tells the truth (v.45)!
Which of you convicts me of sin?” Here “convict” is used to refer to the the objective exposing of sin, not the inward sense of remorse for having sinned. Jesus never sinned, so He can put himself out there and say He has never acted in disobedience to the Word of God. He is saying who can show evidence that I have sinned? If they can’t (and they cannot!) why then don’t they listen to Him? V. 47 is a summary: “He who is of God hears God’s words, therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God.”

What is God saying to me in this passage? Far more important that our family tree is our spiritual identity as a child of God. Our life should be marked by a growing submission to our Father’s word.
What would God have me to do in response to this passage? It may be that you have a very interesting family tree. But can I ask, “Who’s your daddy?” Who’s DNA is so imprinted on your heart, that it is progressively changing you? Are you visiting today and feel intrigued by the idea that Jesus is the Son of God, that He came to die for your sins? That may be evidence that the Father is drawing you, enabling you to hear His voice and to believe. It’s as simple as A.B.C… First, admit that you are a sinner, because all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, there is none righteous, not even one. Believe that Jesus died for your sins on the cross and that he was raised again the third day, and finally, confess Him as the savior and Lord of your life. In the language of John, as many as received Him, to them gave He the power to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.
Believer, I hope this word from Jesus encourages you as you seek to be a witness for Him. It reminds us that we are not going to save anyone, only God can draw the person supernaturally to himself, as he opens their heart to the truth and leads them to repentance and faith. Amazingly, he has chosen to use us in that process, and calls us to share the Good News with passion and urgency. Resurrection Sunday is just a few weeks away. This reminds us that we’ll have opportunities to invite friends and neighbors into our homes, and to our church, to hear the Good News of the cross and the empty tomb. Can you identify two or three people near you, and begin to pray for them, and then look for an opportunity to invite them?

Sunday, March 4, 2012

"Liberation Theology"

OF SLAVES AND SONS (or, “A Theology of True Liberation”)
John 8:31-36

Introduction: Today’s text resonates with the reality we often face when we seek to share the truth with unbelievers. "A slave? I’m free, I do what I want, I make my own choices. It’s you Christians that are slaves to all the manmade rules of the church.” People prize the fact that they are free, free to make their own choices, free to do as they please. We’ve spoken quite a bit in this context of John about the popular tendency today to deny absolute truth and to argue that morality is relative so we are free to make our own choices. The truth is, it’s an illusion, a lie that Satan has used on humans since Eden and the Fall. “Taste the fruit if you want to be free, God wants you to be his slave, he wants to stifle your will and enslave you.” The truth is, apart from Christ, we are slaves. Wait a minute, don’t we have free will? Well, we are free to choose, but since apart from Christ “our hearts are deceitful above all things and desperately wicked…”; since there is “none that does good, not even one…”; since without him we are “dead in our trespasses and sins…”; left to ourselves we will always choose amiss, motivated by the flesh and deceived by the devil. Everyone wants to be free, that’s a given. However the issue is that people apart from the liberating work of Christ are slaves and they don’t realize it. They are slaves to sin.
The Big Idea: Continuing in the Word of Christ confirms that we are His disciples as we grow in our knowledge of truth and experience true freedom.

I. Faith, Followers, Truth, and Freedom (8:31-32). “Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 "And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."
“If you continue in my word then are you my disciples indeed…” “Indeed” refers back to the previous verse and implies not all who in some sense “believe” are necessarily true disciples of Jesus. Last week we mentioned the caution of James, “You believe that God is one, you do well, the demons also believe and tremble.” See also John 2:23-25 where we read,
“Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did. 24 But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men, 25 and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man.”
They “believed” in some sense, but Jesus knew their hearts, so he didn’t “entrust himself” to them (this is the same verb that is translated “believe” in the first part of the verse, they said that they believed in Jesus, but he knew their hearts, so he didn’t believe them! John is interested in faith, it is one of his major themes, and he calls his readers to saving faith. As we’ve looked at “faith” in John we’ve seen at least three essential elements of the faith that saves: 1) knowledge, 2) assent, and 3) trust, and he is calling his readers to understand the truth about who Jesus is, agree that he is our only hope of salvation, and finally to trust Him as Savior and Lord.

First, we have to know the truth, we need the right information about who Jesus is, and what He has done for us. Faith requires knowledge of the truth. We have to be in the Word to know what God says about us, about our need, and about Jesus. God has given us the truth but we need to read it!

It also requires assent, we have to agree with the facts that Scripture reveals. What does the Bible say about humans, about our need, what does it tell us about God? What are the facts about Jesus and what he has does for us? OK, that’s step one, but do we acknowledge and agree with the revealed truth of the Word? We can’t pick and choose, we need to be in the word on a regular and systematic basis, seeking out the whole council of God.

Finally, true saving faith requires trust, it means that we must put our faith in Jesus alone and in His finished work on our behalf as our only hope of salvation. We exercise faith over smaller issues all the time. When you get in a car with another driver, you trust them to keep the car under control (I usually drive, don’t take it personally!). You’re trusting the guy behind you to follow the rules! You get on an airplane you trust the pilot, and the mechanics, and the air traffic controllers. You have surgery you trust the medical team to keep you alive, and do their job well. It’s one thing to say you trust someone, it’s another to get in the car or the airplane or to let them put that IV in your arm and put you to sleep! The faith that saves means we have put our trust in Jesus alone for our salvation. In the Evangelism Explosion ministry we would use a question to help people focus in on that idea: If you were to die tonight and stand before God and He were to ask you “Why should I let you into my heaven?”, what would you say? It’s not a trick question but a lot of people answer that they are good people, or they live by the ten commandments or do their best to keep the “golden rule.” Paul wrote in I Corinthians 15 the truth, the “Good News” that is our only hope is that “Christ died for our sins… was buried… and was raised again the third day…” The hymn writers said it well, “Nothing in my hands I bring, simply to His cross I cling.” “Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe.” He is talking about the faith that saves…
Jesus said, “…if you continue in my Word…” Continuing in God’s word is not a condition of being a genuine disciple; it is an evidence of it. I received an email from JS this week about a “40 days in the Word” program at a large church. I like the three-fold emphasis: “Love the Word, Learn the Word, Live the Word…” If we really view this book as the Word of God, we need to avail ourselves of every opportunity to feed on it and to be nourished by it.

1. If we love the Word we should “long for the pure milk of the Word….” (I Peter 2:2). Do you truly cherish time in the Word? I thought of the scene in the movie the “Chariots of God” where Eric Liddel said that when he ran, he felt the “pleasure of God.” I think each of us can be assured of God’s pleasure if we love the Word, delighting to read it, to hear God’s voice teaching us and revealing Himself to us, showing us how we can live. Love is a choice, and the more time we spend with something we love that love grows and deepens. I have a personal quite time in the morning and I love it, I look forward to it. Reading and praying and hearing God through His word.

2. Learn the Word: If we continue in the Word we should also be seeking more and more to “learn the word” since it is God’s revelation to us, and as such a lamp to our feet and a light to our paths. We have opportunities to learn, to continue in the word, throughout the week.
- Sunday morning is a time for teaching the Word, in fact in some respects it is the primary “teaching time” that we have as a church. We put an outline in the bulletin to allow you to take notes (or write down questions), by doing so you give your brain one more avenue to assimilate the truth. We’ve recently started putting the text of the weekly sermons online in case you missed something on Sunday AM [As we stated in the first entry of this blog this isn’t an exact transcript of the Sunday AM message, but is fleshed out from my outline. So it is what I planned to say, or, in some cases, what I wish I had said! (Someone said this sounds a bit like the congressional record!)]. You can read, and even post questions and observations. Some groups will discuss the text further in homes during the week and I hope that more groups will use the study questions as a starting point for your small group study. The idea is that our “learning” can be enhanced and continue throughout the week.
- We also hope to maintain two, and sometimes three electives for adult Sunday School, as well as SS classes and mid-week “Word of Life” meetings for teens & children.
- We have a short Bible Study as part of our Wednesday night meeting. Our goal is to have 30 minutes of time in the Word followed by 30 minutes of prayer. We’ve been flexible with this, but at least it’s our goal! Some of our small groups have different biblical topics they are studying.
- Of course we encourage you to adopt a regular, systematic, program of Bible reading. We have one possibility available for you that will give an Old Testament and a New Testament passage each day as you read through the Bible in a year. There are a lot of different reading programs but this has the advantage of guiding us through the Bible together, thus allowing for questions, discussions, and interaction based on things God is teaching us.
- Our book table in the back of the church as well as the church lending library which will be moved to the old church office, offer reading material that can help us learn from others. Christian radio of course gives us the spoken Word and some of the best Bible teachers in the country.
- My point is that “Learning” is not something that is restricted to Bible college or seminary classes (obviously I believe they have value in supplementing the teaching of the church, or I wouldn’t have been a missionary seminary professor all of those years! But…). It wasn’t long after I came to Christ that I went off to Bible College. Suddenly the people at church assumed I was an expert in Theology! There is no way that three or four years in a Bible College or seminary should trump a lifetime of study of the Bible in the local church and in our daily Christian life. But we do need to be students, “learning the Word” by every means possible. If we love the Word and learn the Word, then we will be prepared and equipped to…

3. Live the Word: James made this clear when he talked about faith: faith without works is dead being by itself. We are to be “doers of the Word, and not hearers only who delude themselves.” Jesus says here, “If you continue in my Word…” If you love the Word, learn the Word, and live the Word, you continue in it, and Jesus says “then you are my disciples indeed.”
Jesus goes on to say, “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free…” Know the truth starts with knowing the Gospel, the revelation of who Jesus is and what he came to do on our behalf. Paul said, “I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” It’s only through the truth that we are set free. The Gospel sets us free, free to obey, free to live in the light of His truth. Continuing in the Word of Christ confirms that we are His disciples as we grow in our knowledge of truth and experience true freedom.

II. False Freedom and Slavery (8:33-34). “They answered Him, ‘We are Abraham's descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can you say, “You will be made free"? 34 Jesus answered them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.’”
Why did the people balk here at the teaching of Jesus? If he is talking about being set free through his Word; that implies that People are enslaved. In the context it clearly means that everyone, apart from the saving grace of Jesus, is a slave of sin. People think they are free, they are autonomous, they make their own rules and are the masters of their own fate. For the Jews of Jesus’ day they were descendants of emancipated slaves: their forefathers had been enslaved in Egypt for 400 years – but they had been freed through the Exodus. That was their identity they felt, the Romans might be a thorn in the side but they would admit to being no man’s slaves.

Jesus explains that their slavery is spiritual: They are slaves of sin. He is not saying, I don’t believe, that every human that commits a sin (or sins) is a slave of sin. The verbal form here indicates a continual, habitual, practicing of sin. Those who continue in sin are slaves to it. Its similar to Paul’s contrast between the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit in Gal 5. Of the works of the flesh Paul says, “…those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal 5:21). We also read in 1 John 3:6-8 that
6 Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him. 7 Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. 8 He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.

If we continue in sin, without change, without evidence of repentance, we are slaves whether or not we admit it.
One symptom of slavery to sin is avoiding the Word. It’s too boring to read. Its too hard to understand and too tiring to listen to. I’d rather watch TV or play a video game, or go hunting, or sleep in. We love things, but we don’t love the Word, we not interested in learning the Word, so there is no way that we are going to live the Word. Someone said, “This book will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from this book.”
Calvin said that “the greater the mass of vices anyone is buried under, the more fiercely and bombastically does he extoll free will.” Augustine spoke about how slavery to sin is the worse form of slavery when he said, “…at times a man’s slave, worn out by the commands of an unfeeling master, finds rest in flight. Whither can the servant of sin flee? Himself he carries with him wherever he flees… The pleasure passes away; the sin remains. What delighted is gone; the sting remains behind. Evil bondage!” (cited by Leon Morris, John, 406-407). Apart from saving faith in Jesus all humans are slaves to sin… Continuing in the Word of Christ confirms that we are His disciples as we grow in our knowledge of truth and experience true freedom.

III. The Promise of Sonship and genuine freedom (8:35-36). "And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. 36 "Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.”
The point in 8:35a is that their confidence in their physical decent from Abraham is an illusion. Remember Jesus words in Matthew 3:9, “…and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham for our father'; for I say to you, that God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham.” God isn’t interested primarily in our physical lineage, but rather in the object of our faith. Since they are slaves they have no basis for confidence that they have an eternal place in God’s house. On the contrary, “…a slave does not abide in the house forever…” That kind of residence in God’s house requires being part of God’s family, it requires being a child of the King.

John uses two different words in his Gospel: he reserves huios, son, for Jesus. Believers are tekna, children, of God. Jesus has a unique relationship with the Father. As the Son, Jesus has the authority to free from slavery all who turn to Him in faith. “If the Son therefore shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.” Because of who Jesus is, God the Son, He has unique and absolute authority to free us from bondage to sin, to make us children of the King, free to obey. Free to be sure of our eternal home, our residence and inheritance in our Father’s house. Free to experience the abundant life He want us to have.

What is God saying to me in this passage? Continuing in the Word of Christ confirms that we are His disciples as we grow in our knowledge of truth and experience true freedom.
What would God have me to do in response to this passage? I don’t believe in accidents with God. If you are here, it’s not by chance. God planned this moment in your life and He wanted you to hear this message, and consider His Word to you. Have you been fooled by the enemy into thinking that staying away from the Word, keeping space between you and God, is the way to freedom? God makes the rules. And His Word is absolutely true. Through the Word we can experience “life” and genuinely been free, freed by the Truth to know the truth, free to obey God, free to experience the abundant life of blessing Christ wants us to have. “If the Son therefore shall make you free, you will be free indeed.” Is it your desire to continue in His word, to Love the Word, to Learn the Word, and to Live the Word? His Word is truth.