Theology

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

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

A Pitiful Man

The gospel of John is different than the other three gospels. It only has 8 miraculous signs while the others recount many. Each miracle in John is a sign illustrating the Lord’s ministry—why God became human (John 20:30-31). Each one is part of a larger story and context.

As with many stories of Jesus’ interaction with people, some deeper insight is needed to understand all that takes place. The Mosaic Law and religious cultural restrictions are a major part of this story, along with Israel’s history. It revolves around a sick man laying beside the pool of Bethesda who encounters Jesus.

This man was part of a crowd gathered around the pool to receive healing. These people believed the first person to enter the pool when an angel came from heaven and stirred up the waters would be healed. Their hope was in a legend.

Jesus saw this man who’d been sick for 38 years and approached him with a simple question—Would you like to get well? But the man doesn’t answer Jesus directly. Instead, he gives Jesus an excuse for why he can’t be healed. His response is the first indicator of how pitiful this man is, which becomes more clear as you read the whole story.

Scripture

Later, Jesus went to Jerusalem for a Jewish festival. Near Sheep Gate in Jerusalem was a pool called Bethesda in Hebrew. It had five porches. Under these porches a large number of sick people—people who were blind, lame, or paralyzed—used to lie. 

One man, who had been sick for 38 years, was lying there. [vss 1-5]

Jesus saw the man lying there and knew that he had been sick for a long time. So Jesus asked the man, “Would you like to get well?”

The sick man answered Jesus, “Sir, I don’t have anyone to put me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I’m trying to get there, someone else steps into the pool ahead of me.”

Jesus told the man, “Get up, pick up your cot, and walk.” The man immediately became well, picked up his cot, and walked. That happened on a day of worship. [vss 6-9]

So the Jews told the man who had been healed, “This is a day of worship. You’re not allowed to carry your cot today.” The man replied, “The man who made me well told me to pick up my cot and walk.”

The Jews asked him, “Who is the man who told you to pick it up and walk?” But the man who had been healed didn’t know who Jesus was. (Jesus had withdrawn from the crowd.)

Later, Jesus met the man in the temple courtyard and told him, “You’re well now. Stop sinning so that something worse doesn’t happen to you.”

The man went back to the Jews and told them that Jesus was the man who had made him well. [vss 10-15]

(John 5:1-15 GW)

Key phrase—

“Would you like to get well?”

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • What stands out to you about the beginning of this story?

  • Who is gathered at this pool? Who does Jesus approach and what does he ask this man?

  • How does the man respond to Jesus’ question and why do you think he says this?

  • What does Jesus say to the man and how does He say it? What takes place immediately?

Reflection...

Over the years, Jewish rabbis reinterpreted the fourth of the ten primary commandments of the Mosaic Law, as they did many other laws. Successive interpretations added restrictions to what a person could and couldn’t do on the Sabbath. These added laws distorted God’s original purpose for the Sabbath.

When Jesus spoke healing to this pitiful man, it came in the form of a command to do three things—get up, pick up his mat, and walk. Not long after his healing, the pitiful man is rebuked for carrying his mat as Jesus directed him to do.

Imagine you’re this man—what would you do? Whose command would you follow? Here we see the pitiful state of this man and his weakness. His response and actions illustrate the weakness and futility of following religious laws.

Religion itself has no power to transform a person compared to God and His power. It comes down to where a person puts their trust. Do we trust in our own efforts to transform ourself through religion? Or…do we trust in God Himself and His transforming power?

Taking it to heart...

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

  • Do you understand all the dilemmas this man faced?

  • Can you see how and why this man is so pitiful?

  • Have you found yourself in paradoxical situations where you don’t know what to do?

  • Do you get caught up with what others expect of you? Do you struggle with trusting God with the dilemmas of your life?

Personalize it...

Meditate On This— Our confidence needs to be in God rather than our own efforts or religious regulations. The Lord calls us into a personal relationship of trust rather than following a rigid set of rules. God intended the Sabbath to be a restful blessing not a restricted religious day.

Prayer Focus— As you consider present or previous dilemmas you’ve faced, ask God to give you insight and direction for how to move beyond these struggles by trusting in Him. Be honest and specific in your prayer and spend time listening and waiting for His guidance.

©2019—Word-Strong

In Spirit and Truth

Confusion has prevailed since the beginning of civilization about who God is and what He desires of those who would trust in Him. The reason is simple. We all tend to have our own ideas based on our own reasoning, rituals, superstitions, traditions, and the influence and opinions of others. This includes people raised in churches and who read the Bible.

This confusion is illustrated in the story of a Samaritan woman who encountered Jesus at an ancient well. When Jesus—the Son of God—engages her in conversation, her confusion about spiritual things is evident.

When Jesus reveals what He knows about her, she responds with a challenge about religion. Jesus doesn’t mince any words. He tells her plainly, “You don’t know what you’re worshipping.” Sadly, this is just as true for many today as it was for this woman.

The woman dismisses what Jesus says by changing the subject. This is a common tactic when a conversation about spiritual truth goes beyond our understanding. But Jesus keeps the conversation centered on what is spiritually true, as seen in how the story unfolds.

Scripture

The woman told Jesus, “Sir, give me this water! Then I won’t get thirsty or have to come here to get water.” Jesus told her, “Go to your husband, and bring him here.”

The woman replied, “I don’t have a husband.” Jesus told her, “You’re right when you say that you don’t have a husband. You’ve had five husbands, and the man you have now isn’t your husband. You’ve told the truth.” [vss 15-18]

The woman said to Jesus, “I see that you’re a prophet! Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain. But you Jews say that people must worship in Jerusalem.”

Jesus told her, “Believe me. A time is coming when you Samaritans won’t be worshiping the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem. You don’t know what you’re worshiping. We ⌊Jews⌋ know what we’re worshiping, because salvation comes from the Jews.  [vss 19-22]

Indeed, the time is coming, and it is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth. The Father is looking for people like that to worship him. God is a spirit. Those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

The woman said to him, “I know that the Messiah is coming. When he comes, he will tell us everything.” (Messiah is the one called Christ.)

Jesus told her, “I am he, and I am speaking to you now.” [vss 23-26]

(John 4:15-26 GW)

Key phrase—

God is a spirit. Those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • What water does the Samaritan woman ask for and why does she want it?

  • What does Jesus tell the woman to do and how does this result in a religious discussion?

  • What does Jesus say about “true worshipers”? How are they to worship God and what do you think this means?

  • How does Jesus respond to the woman’s comment about the Messiah?

Reflection...

Discussions about religion are difficult for many reasons, especially when emotions are driven by opinions and ignorance that interfere with clear thinking. Terminology and traditions also contribute to confusion and fruitless debates that are more emotional than spiritual.

As Jesus speaks of spiritual things—living water—the woman is focused on what’s immediate and physical. This illustrates what Jesus says about God and worship. Worship is neither mystical nor religious, but spiritual. True worship is based in a personal relationship with God not a specific action.

When the woman dismisses what Jesus says to her about worship by speaking of the Messiah to come, Jesus reveals who He is to the woman. As the story continues, she appears to believe Him and what He says about God and true worshipers.

God is spirit—spiritual in nature, not human in origin. He’s eternal—self-existent and above and beyond the natural world. True worshipers—those whom God is seeking—worship Him in a spiritual way rather than with rituals and traditions. True worshipers also worship Him in truth—according to what is revealed by God in His written word, the Bible.

Taking it to heart...

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

  • How does Jesus’ discernment about the woman’s marital status relate to what Jesus says about worshiping God?

  • What is Jesus referring to when He says, “…salvation comes from the Jews”?

  • Are you a “true worshiper” of God? If so, in what way have you learned to worship God “in spirit and truth?”

  • When Jesus tells this woman He is the Messiah, how does this reveal who is included as the true worshipers God seeks?

Personalize it...

Meditate On This— God is spirit and we need to worship Him in spirit and truth in ways that are genuinely spiritual, that reflect His true nature, and are in agreement with the truth He’s revealed about Himself in the Scriptures.

Prayer Focus— Practice times of quiet reflection before and after bringing your concerns, petitions, and intercessions to God in prayer. Ask God to help you understand how to worship in ways that please Him.

©2018—Word-Strong

A Story About Water

It's important to read a story from the author's point of view—including their time and culture. If we don't see it from their point of view, we'll miss both essential and more subtle details.

Here, Jesus and His followers are traveling from Jerusalem in Judea in the south to Galilee in the north. This causes them to go through the region of Samaria. The Samaritans were considered a mixed breed of people with a false religion by the Jews.

The Jews were prejudiced against the Samaritans who responded with antagonism towards the Jews. Prejudice and mistrust between people groups have existed since ancient times.

Jesus and the disciples stop in Sychar near Shechem at Jacob's Well. Jesus stays there while His followers go to town to buy food. When a Samaritan woman comes to draw water in the heat of the day, Jesus asks the woman for a drink of water. This in itself would be unusual, as revealed in the story (below), but their conversation takes an even more unexpected turn.

Scripture

Jesus knew that the Pharisees had heard that he was making and baptizing more disciples than John. (Actually, Jesus was not baptizing people. His disciples were.) So he left the Judean countryside and went back to Galilee.

Jesus had to go through Samaria. He arrived at a city in Samaria called Sychar. Sychar was near the piece of land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s Well was there. Jesus sat down by the well because he was tired from traveling. The time was about six o’clock in the evening. [vss 1-6]

A Samaritan woman went to get some water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink of water.” (His disciples had gone into the city to buy some food.) The Samaritan woman asked him, “How can a Jewish man like you ask a Samaritan woman like me for a drink of water?” (Jews, of course, don’t associate with Samaritans.)

Jesus replied to her, “If you only knew what God’s gift is and who is asking you for a drink, you would have asked him for a drink. He would have given you living water.” [vss 7-10]

The woman said to him, “Sir, you don’t have anything to use to get water, and the well is deep. So where are you going to get this living water? You’re not more important than our ancestor Jacob, are you? He gave us this well. He and his sons and his animals drank water from it.”

Jesus answered her, “Everyone who drinks this water will become thirsty again. But those who drink the water that I will give them will never become thirsty again. In fact, the water I will give them will become in them a spring that gushes up to eternal life.” [vss 11-14]

(John 4:1-14 GW)

Key phrase—

The water I will give them will become in them a spring that gushes up to eternal life

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • What are the specific details we're told about the situation in this story?

  • What seems to be the turning point in the conversation between Jesus and the woman?

  • How does the woman respond to the statements Jesus makes?

  • What kind of water does Jesus offer and what do you think He means by this?

Reflection...

Jacob's Well was hundreds of years old even in the time of Jesus and was quite deep. The region of Samaria was disputed land then as it is now. This is evident in the story by the woman's contentious responses to Jesus.

But Jesus immediately flips the conversation by telling her she should be asking Him for a drink of living water.

The woman doesn't back down. As Jesus so often did, He turns what seems like a typical conversation into an opportunity to reveal spiritual truth.

He offers her living water—water that continues to flow like an artesian spring—giving eternal life. This conversation and the story continue, but we'll stop here to consider how Jesus turns a contentious situation into an opportunity to share spiritual truth.

Taking it to heart...

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

  • How do you typically handle or respond to contentious people and situations?

  • We are not Jesus, but what can we learn from how He responded to the woman?

  • How does Jesus describe what He has to offer her, and us, by shifting the conversation from a focus on the physical to the spiritual?

  • Have you personally experienced what Jesus says about the living water He offers?

Personalize it...

Meditate On This— When we focus on the true need of a person, we can choose to see them through the lens of God's love. We can trust God's Spirit to lead us in how to turn mundane conversations into opportunities to consider eternal concerns.

Prayer Focus— Ask the Lord each day to help you see the people you encounter as He sees them—who they are, their needs and life situations. Pray for wisdom and grace to turn everyday conversations into opportunities to share your faith.

©2018—Word-Strong