Personal Faith

No One Turned Away

When we are convinced of something—some point of view—we tend to be unwilling to consider any other point of view, even if what we believe might not be true. Why? Simple. We’re invested in whatever position we hold.

When it comes to spiritual things and spiritual truth, we become convinced of certain doctrinal and theological beliefs most familiar to us. What we become convinced of is what we’ve heard over and over again. When we argue or defend a certain position, it’s typically what we’ve heard within a closed circle of thought. So, we become confident in it.

The appearance of Jesus in HIs public ministry was a great disruption for the nation of Israel and its religious leaders. These rabbis and teachers were well-established and convinced in their own thinking. And the people generally followed what they thought and taught because they were the experts in religious matters.

When Jesus declares, I am the bread of life, it’s disruptive for everyone including His followers. It challenges what people think they know but pushes them to consider a truth never before considered. This is what Jesus does in our lives when we really hear Him. He disrupts what we think we believe and calls us to a radically different way of life.

Scripture

Jesus told them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never become hungry, and whoever believes in me will never become thirsty.

I’ve told you that you have seen me. However, you don’t believe in me. Everyone whom the Father gives me will come to me. I will never turn away anyone who comes to me.

I haven’t come from heaven to do what I want to do. I’ve come to do what the one who sent me wants me to do. The one who sent me doesn’t want me to lose any of those he gave me. He wants me to bring them back to life on the last day.

My Father wants all those who see the Son and believe in him to have eternal life. He wants me to bring them back to life on the last day.”

(John 6:35-40 GW)

Key phrase—

I will never turn away anyone who comes to me

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • How does Jesus describe Himself here? What does He say about Himself?

  • What does Jesus say is the benefit of a person who comes to Him and believes in Him?

  • Do you think what He says is intended to be figurative and spiritual in nature, or not?

  • What great promise does Jesus make about those who come to Him?

Reflection...

In this short group of verses, Jesus declares several powerful truths. Let’s consider each of them in a brief way. First, He says of Himself, “I am the bread of life.” This is the first of several metaphoric statements Jesus makes using the phrase—I am.

We’ll look at that phrase more closely in John 8. Here, is statement is related to what He said earlier about the manna sent from heaven.

Jesus goes on to declare we will never be hungry or thirsty when we come to Him personally and believe in Him. Jesus speaks of the hunger of our soul and spirit not our belly. We tend to be fixated on what is immediate and temporal but Jesus wants to refocus our attention on our eternal needs and the essence of our being.

Jesus says He will never turn away those who come to Him. God is the great Includer. The Father wants all people to see His Son for who He is and to believe—trust—in Him to receive eternal life.

Jesus speaks of resurrection twice in these few verses. His resurrection from the dead is the guarantee of the promise of eternal life for those who trust in Him. The Lord’s resurrection is the gateway for our resurrection.

Many people have the point of view God restricts who receives eternal life based on HIs arbitrary choice. Later, we’ll see many who begin to follow Jesus not continue because they don’t understand what He says or it’s too difficult to accept. They choose this of their own free will and so it is with all of us.

The Father draws us to Himself and Jesus says He won’t turn anyone away. The choice is ours—to believe or not—to follow or not.

Taking it to heart...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

  • Do you understand what Jesus means by coming to Him as the bread of life?

  • What do you find yourself focused on most—things to do with your body or things related to your soul?

  • Do you see how the resurrection is directly connected to the promise of eternal life?

  • How has Jesus disrupted your life for the good?

Personalize it...

Meditate On This— Jesus says He will never turn away those who come to Him. The Father—the great Includer—wants all people to see His Son for who He is and to trust in Him for eternal life.

Prayer Focus— When you find yourself more concerned about your physical needs than the state of your soul, ask the Lord to help you understand how He can be your Bread of Life.

©2019—Word-Strong

What Does God Want Us to Do?

A question about God asked over and over in one form or another boils down to—What does God want us to do? It may get asked in different ways and with other words but it’s the same question.

This is reflected in the way many people describe what they think God expects of us what asked about their religious beliefs, God, or Christianity in general—be good and do good to others.

When I was a young believer in an introductory theology class, we looked into the meaning of the word religion. It’s generally used to describe the nature of engagement or relationship between people and God.

Different meanings can be found but the origin of the word religion is based on two words—relegere and relegare. The first means—go through again, as in reading or in thought. Relegare means, to bind fast, with the idea of an obligation on or a bond between humans and gods.

I came to realize religion could mean many things to different people but it spoke of humanity’s efforts to engage with God in some way. The emphasis being on humanity’s view of how to relate to God. And this is reflected by how many different religions exist in the world.

Scripture

When the people saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into these boats and went to the city of Capernaum to look for Jesus. When they found him on the other side of the sea, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”

Jesus replied to them, “I can guarantee this truth: You’re not looking for me because you saw miracles. You are looking for me because you ate as much of those loaves as you wanted. Don’t work for food that spoils. Instead, work for the food that lasts into eternal life. This is the food the Son of Man will give you. After all, the Father has placed his seal of approval on him.”

The people asked Jesus, “What does God want us to do?” Jesus replied to them, “God wants to do something for you so that you believe in the one whom he has sent.” [vss 24-29]

The people asked him, “What miracle are you going to perform so that we can see it and believe in you? What are you going to do? Our ancestors ate the manna in the desert. Scripture says, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’ ”

Jesus said to them, “I can guarantee this truth: Moses didn’t give you bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. God’s bread is the man who comes from heaven and gives life to the world.”

They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread all the time.”

Jesus told them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never become hungry, and whoever believes in me will never become thirsty. [vss 30-35]

(John 6:24-35 GW)

Key phrase—

God wants…you (to) believe in the one whom he has sent

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • Who goes to find Jesus and His disciples? Where do they go and how do they get there?

  • What do these people ask Jesus and what is His response to them?

  • What does Jesus say they should and should not work for? What do you think He means by this?

  • What kind of bread are the people asking for and how does Jesus answer them?

Reflection...

Stories are observations of a slice of time in life. Something can be learned from any and every incident but it requires good observation skills and an discerning understanding of what’s observed.

The dialog between the people who searched for Jesus and His responses to them reveal a lot about humanity in general. In general, we are more concerned with the immediate than what’s eternal. And, we’re more focused on the physical than the spiritual.

Perhaps this seems obvious in this story but I’ve found it to be true for myself as well—even though most of my life has been centered around ministry and spiritual things. It’s easier to see spiritual dullness and ignorance in others than ourselves.

I’ve met thousands of Christian believers in many places and cultures. I’ve realized the majority of them—even those with much Bible knowledge—still tend to wonder—What does God expect of or want of me?

The answer isn’t difficult nor deeply spiritual. This is what God wants—

Jesus told them, “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent.” (John 6:29 NLT)

Taking it to heart...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

  • Does it seem like the people and Jesus are talking about two different things? If so, why do you think this is?

  • How does Jesus try to explain the difference between the bread people are seeking and what they should seek?

  • How does Jesus describe Himself? In what way does He answer the people’s questions?

  • Do you understand what Jesus means about coming to Him and never hungering again? How is this true in a spiritual sense?

Personalize it...

Meditate On This— If you still wonder what God wants from you, try seeing it from His point of view. Consider what Jesus says in response to questions people ask Him. The Lord desires for us to have a personal relationship with Him not gain anything from us.

Prayer Focus— When you find yourself desiring or hungering more of what this world has to offer, ask the Lord to help you see things from His perspective. Ask Him to give you His gracious and merciful vision to see you as He sees you and to see others with His eyes.

©2019—Word-Strong

Don't Be Afraid!

We’re told there are two responses to fear—fight or flight. But Jesus tells His followers a third response—Don’t be afraid! He tells them this more than once—even the night He was betrayed and arrested (John 14:1, 27).

Jesus says this to His disciples in the midst of a storm. Many of these men were experienced fisherman who spent long hours on their boats and this sea. They knew the dangers of sudden squalls on the Sea of Galilee.

But fear came upon them for a different reason—they saw Jesus walking on the surface of the sea. In other gospel accounts we’re told they thought Jesus was a spirit—a ghost. This wasn’t the first time Jesus told them not to be afraid while out on the sea in a storm.

Previously, He was with the disciples when a strong storm sent waves breaking over and filling their boat. But Jesus slept through it all until they woke Him because they feared for their lives (Mark 4:35-41). He calmed the storm and they were amazed. But this miracle was different. It was intended to prepare them for the future.

Scripture

When evening came, his disciples went to the sea. They got into a boat and started to cross the sea to the city of Capernaum. By this time it was dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. A strong wind started to blow and stir up the sea.

After they had rowed three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea. He was coming near the boat, and they became terrified. Jesus told them, “It’s me. Don’t be afraid!” So they were willing to help Jesus into the boat. Immediately, the boat reached the shore where they were going. [vss 16-21]

On the next day the people were still on the other side of the sea. They noticed that only one boat was there and that Jesus had not stepped into that boat with his disciples. The disciples had gone away without him. 

Other boats from Tiberias arrived near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord gave thanks. When the people saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into these boats and went to the city of Capernaum to look for Jesus. [vss 22-24]

(John 6:16-24 GW)

Key phrase—

It’s me. Don’t be afraid!

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • What do Jesus’ disciples do when evening comes?

  • Where were the disciples headed in the boat and what happens while they’re on the sea?

  • Who do the disciples see walking on the water and what is their reaction to this?

  • Who else looks for Jesus and the disciples and when do they arrive where the Lord and the disciples are?

Reflection...

When Jesus calmed the storm that threatened to sink their boat, Jesus was with them and they were amazed at Him and His power over the storm. But in this situation, the disciples are on their own in the boat until they see Jesus walking on the water.

This is the fifth miraculous sign of Jesus in John’s gospel. It directly follows the fourth great miracle where 5,000 people were fed and illustrates two important assurances and truths. The power Jesus had over nature—His omnipotence—and His faithful presence in the disciples’ lives—His omnipresence.

Jesus reassures them—”It’s me. Don’t be afraid!“ He’s preparing them for the time after His resurrection from the dead when they need to walk by faith rather than sight. That is, is spiritual presence instead of His physical presence.

His power over the storm and their immediate arrival at their destination (Capernaum), reinforces the Lord’s power over the physical world—creation— because He is the Creator. These are assurances for the present and the future—while He leads them as their rabbi and after His resurrection from the dead as their Lord.

While the disciples are learning to trust Jesus in preparation for walking by faith, the crowd of seekers are focused on themselves. This becomes more clear as the story continues to unfold in Chapter 6.

Taking it to heart...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

  • What does Jesus say to the disciples in the boat and how do His words seem surprising to them in these circumstances?

  • What do the crowd of people seem to be focused on and how does it seem to be in contrast to the disciples and Jesus?

  • Imagine yourself in the boat when the disciples see Jesus walking on the water—Do you understand their reaction?

  • When life circumstances seem threatening or challenging—Do you have the assurance of the Lord’s presence and power with you?

Personalize it...

Meditate On This— It may seem trite, but in the midst of the fears and storms of life Jesus assures us of His presence and power to help us through or overcome them. We need to be confident He is all-powerful and ever-present regardless of our emotions or circumstances.

Prayer Focus— Daily prayer, praise, and worship, along with reading and meditating on God’s Word, are important for preparing us to move forward in faith when facing overwhelming and threatening situations in life. These disciplines are valuable for developing assurance of the Lord’s presence and power in our life.

©2019—Word-Strong

5 True Testimonies of Jesus

In a day and age where knowledge is plentiful—even overwhelming—the existence and prevalence of ignorance is amazing. Why does ignorance prevail in the midst of a rising tide of knowledge? For a myriad of reasons.

Some ignorance is born out of laziness. We can be too lazy to verify whether or not something is true. Or too lazy to think deeply about something. How many times have you heard people repeat an opinion as factual, as if it’s beyond question? Have you done this yourself?

Bias and prejudice contribute to a developed ignorance. An ignorance numb to the truth. This could range from racism to politics to religion, even in the sciences which is self-contradictory in itself. A developed ignorance is born out of self-interest and resistance to the truth.

One of the ignorant things I’ve heard people say about Jesus is—He never claimed to be God. This is untrue. He did. This is a major reason He was condemned to die by the Jewish leaders. The primary focus of John’s gospel is to declare the divine nature of Jesus as the Son of God. In the following verses, Jesus gives five truthful testimonies to verify who He is.

Scripture

“If I testify on my own behalf, what I say isn’t true. Someone else testifies on my behalf, and I know that what he says about me is true. You sent people to John ⌊the Baptizer⌋, and he testified to the truth. [vss 31-33]

But I have something that testifies more favorably on my behalf than John’s testimony. The tasks that the Father gave me to carry out, these tasks which I perform, testify on my behalf. They prove that the Father has sent me. The Father who sent me testifies on my behalf. You have never heard his voice, and you have never seen his form. So you don’t have the Father’s message within you, because you don’t believe in the person he has sent. 

You study the Scriptures in detail because you think you have the source of eternal life in them. These Scriptures testify on my behalf. Yet, you don’t want to come to me to get ⌊eternal⌋ life. [vss 36-40]

“Don’t think that I will accuse you in the presence of the Father. Moses, the one you trust, is already accusing you. If you really believed Moses, you would believe me. Moses wrote about me. If you don’t believe what Moses wrote, how will you ever believe what I say?” [vss 45-47]

(John 5:31-47 GW) [full text]

Key phrase—

You study the Scriptures…These Scriptures testify on my behalf

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • What does Jesus say about testifying on His own behalf?

  • Who does Jesus say gave a true testimony about who He is?

  • What else and who else testifies on behalf of Jesus?

  • What are the last two sources of testimony of Jesus and why should the Jews know this?

Reflection...

The five testimonies Jesus gives are an indictment against the Jewish leaders. They understood John the Baptizer’s testimony. This was made clear earlier in John’s gospel. Though the Jews knew John was a prophet sent from God, their leaders rejected what John said.

They rejected John’s testimony for the same reason they didn’t accept the Father’s testimony of Jesus and the signs and miracles Jesus did. Why? Because it wasn’t what they wanted to hear or believe. Their minds and hearts were numb to the truth of the Scriptures because they clung to their own interpretations of the Scriptures.

This is the real issue—in spite of all their religious fervor, their hearts were hardened towards God. This is the problem for many people regardless of their religion or rejection of religion. When our mind is set on what we want to believe, it makes it hard to hear or accept the truth.

In reading through all the gospels, especially John’s, it may puzzle you how resistant the Jewish leaders were to Jesus, His teaching, and how His authority was confirmed by the signs and miracles. And yet, it’s the same for all of us. It’s a matter of control. Our natural default is to want to be in control—to determine our own destiny—to be our own god.

Taking it to heart...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

  • Why do you think the Jewish leaders either ignored or did not accept John’s testimony?

  • What does Jesus point to as the reason why these leaders don’t hear the Father’s voice or accept Jesus as the Messiah?

  • What does Jesus say they could receive if they would come to Him personally and believe in Jesus?

  • Do you believe Jesus was sent by God the Father? If not, are you willing to consider this is true?

Personalize it...

Meditate On This— When confronted with the truth, we all have a choice to consider and weigh what we hear or read. If we have a genuine desire to know the truth, we need to be willing to understand it with an open heart and mind—free from bias or self-interest.

Prayer Focus— When you have difficulty accepting what the Bible says, especially when it comes to who Jesus is, be honest about it with God. If you’re willing to approach God with an honest heart, He will help you understand it by His Spirit. Just be open and honest with Him!

©2019—Word-Strong

Like Father, Like Son

One of the difficulties people have with the Christian faith is Jesus being in God in nature. It was something I struggled with in my journey of faith. How could Jesus be both God and human? How could He have two natures at the same time?

The gospel of John begins with this truth. The purpose of the apostle John’s account of the gospel is to reveal who Jesus is through what He said and did (John 20:30-31). The Pharisees—the religious elite—struggled the most with Jesus’ declarations as the Son of God.

One simple reason the Pharisees didn’t accept Jesus as the Son of God was their religion. Not Judaism as established by Moses but the complicated and restrictive system of religion they developed over the years. I believe the reason most people struggle to believe and trust in Jesus is because of opposing religious beliefs and traditions.

Humanity tends to turn the relationship God calls us into by faith and make it a religion—a set of rules and expectations. We try to deconstruct what is eternal and infinite, then reconstruct it in a way that fits our finite and limited understanding. And so, we struggle to accept what God makes simple by creating barriers and restrictions Jesus removed through His life and death on earth, and His resurrection from the dead.

Scripture

The Jews began to persecute Jesus because he kept healing people on the day of worship. Jesus replied to them, “My Father is working right now, and so am I.”

His reply made the Jews more intent on killing him. Not only did he break the laws about the day of worship, but also he made himself equal to God when he said repeatedly that God was his Father. [vss 16-18]

Jesus said to the Jews, “I can guarantee this truth: The Son cannot do anything on his own. He can do only what he sees the Father doing. Indeed, the Son does exactly what the Father does. The Father loves the Son and shows him everything he is doing. The Father will show him even greater things to do than these things so that you will be amazed. In the same way that the Father brings back the dead and gives them life, the Son gives life to anyone he chooses. [vss 19-21]

“The Father doesn’t judge anyone. He has entrusted judgment entirely to the Son so that everyone will honor the Son as they honor the Father. Whoever doesn’t honor the Son doesn’t honor the Father who sent him. I can guarantee this truth: Those who listen to what I say and believe in the one who sent me will have eternal life. They won’t be judged because they have already passed from death to life. [vss 22-24]

(John 5:16-24 GW)

Key phrase—

The Son does exactly what the Father does

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • What are we told the Jews begin to do?

  • What are two reasons the Jews treated Jesus as they did?

  • How does Jesus describe His relationship with His Father?

  • What does Jesus say about judgment? How is this relevant and important for those who do trust in Him?

Reflection...

Many people—even those who don’t claim to be Christians— see the life Jesus led as exemplary—a model life. Indeed, Jesus lived His life on earth as an example. One of His primary goals was to disciple those who trusted in Him to live by faith.

The core element of Jesus’ life of faith was His relationship with His Father. Is this something every believer can do? Yes, absolutely! How Jesus prayed, spoke, and acted are all the ways believers—those who trust in and follow Him—are to live.

But following the example of Jesus isn’t about holding to a set of beliefs and practices in a religious sense. True disciples are to live by faith as Jesus did—relying on the Holy Spirit to guide us each step of the the way.

The followers of Jesus are not called to set up a religious way of life and judge others who don’t hold to their same ways. This would make us more like followers of the Pharisees. We’d become modern-day religious elites. Jesus calls His disciples to follow Him by faith so we may be free of judgment and pass from death into life—eternal life.

Taking it to heart...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

  • What great blessings does the Lord give those who honor Him as the Son of God?

  • What type of life is guaranteed those who listen to and believe (trust) in Jesus?

  • How can a person who believes in Jesus as the Son of God pass from death to life while on earth? What do you think this means?

  • Are you living by faith with assurance of eternal life? Is this life Jesus promises already present in your heart?

Personalize it...

Meditate On This— Following the example of Jesus isn’t about holding to a set of beliefs and practices in a religious sense. It’s a life of faith—relying on the Holy Spirit to guide us each step of the the way.

Prayer Focus— If you don’t have assurance in your heart of the promise of eternal life Jesus extends to all who trust in Him, ask God to give it to you. Ask in faith—accept His promise by trusting in Him by faith.

©2019—Word-Strong