eternal

Criticism Leads to Spiritual Blindness

The apostle John wrote his gospel much later than the other three gospels—about two to three decades later. John was concerned with the influence of Greek philosophy and legalistic Judaism confusing believers outside of Israel. His gospel emphasized the diving nature of Jesus, the Son of God.

The dual nature of Jesus—being human and divine—was hard to accept and understand in John’s time, just as it is now. Was Jesus really a physical man with a human soul? Yes! But the Jews in Galilee only knew Jesus as the son of Joseph the carpenter and Mary of Nazareth.

The early disciples and apostles had a limited understanding of Jesus being God’s Son. It was not fully clear to them as seen much later in the gospel (John 14:8-9). It’s the Father who reveals His Son’s divine nature. He is the One who sent the Son. This is what Jesus says to Peter after his declaration—”You are the Messiah, the Son of God!” (Matt 16:16-17).

When we only consider Jesus as the Son of Man, whose parents were Joseph and Mary, it’s hard to reason out how Jesus is also the Son of God—sent by the Father and divine in nature. This is the problem with only holding to a historical view of Jesus. This is why the Jews criticized Jesus when He said, “I am the Bread of Life that came from heaven.” They couldn’t get past their own human reasoning.

This segment of the story is better understood within the context of the previous verses, which are covered in the previous study.

Scripture

The Jews began to criticize Jesus for saying, “I am the bread that came from heaven.” They asked, “Isn’t this man Jesus, Joseph’s son? Don’t we know his father and mother? How can he say now, ‘I came from heaven’?”

Jesus responded, “Stop criticizing me! People cannot come to me unless the Father who sent me brings them to me. I will bring these people back to life on the last day. [vss 41-43]

The prophets wrote, ‘God will teach everyone.’ Those who do what they have learned from the Father come to me. I’m saying that no one has seen the Father. Only the one who is from God has seen the Father. I can guarantee this truth: Every believer has eternal life. [vss 44-47]

(John 6:41-47 GW)

Key phrase—

People cannot come to me unless the Father who sent me brings them to me. I will bring these people back to life on the last day.

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • What do the Jews say about Jesus? What are they questioning?

  • How does Jesus respond to their criticism? What are the first 2 things He says to them in verse 43?

  • What does Jesus say the prophets wrote? How is this related to what Jesus says about the Father?

  • Who has seen the Father and what does Jesus guarantee?

Reflection...

This long discourse of Jesus, where He spoke of Himself as the Bread of Life, followed the feeding of the 5,000 on the other side of the Sea of Galilee. He uses the physical event of this miracle to illustrate His teaching on being the Bread of Life.

He uses this metaphor to describe Himself and His mission. The physical event is a reference point to explain spiritual truth. This is the value of figurative language—to use what is known to help explain what is unknown.

Jesus declares His divine nature in this third segment of His teaching. In the first segment (vss 26-34), Jesus says how eternal or spiritual food is more important than physical food. Jesus declares, in the second segment (vss 35-40), how the Father promises eternal life for those who believe in the Son.

Here, Jesus speaks of His relationship with God as His Father. Just as physical food nourishes the body, feeding on Jesus will nourish our soul. We are to have a relationship similar to the one He has with the Father. This relationship is eternal and spiritual in nature and is received by faith in Jesus as the Son of God.

In the rest of the discourse, Jesus will speak more on the importance of feeding on Him.

Taking it to heart...

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

  • Do you have difficulty accepting or understanding how Jesus is both human and divine in nature?

  • If so, what is the most difficult for you to accept or understand—His humanness or His divine nature as the Son of God?

  • Do you understand how a personal relationship with Jesus by faith is how you have relationship with God the Father?

  • How and when have you entered into a personal relationship with the Lord?

Personalize it...

Meditate On This— Theologians have struggled for centuries to understand and explain the dual nature of the Lord Jesus—both human and divine. Yet, Jesus and the New Testament Scriptures declare this many times. It is only understood when the Lord reveals it to us.

Prayer Focus— When you find it hard to relate to Jesus as either human or divine as the Son of God, ask the Lord to reveal the truth of His dual nature to you in the Scriptures and by His Spirit to your mind and spirit (heart).

©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

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

When God Became Human

Generally, we all tend to not believe in what we can't see. Of course, this carries over to believing in God and the miraculous. Many will say it's not logical or rational to do so. And yet, we believe many things exist that are invisible to the naked eye and miraculous in nature—thoughts, atoms, and even feelings of love.

The reason it's not logical to believe in God is that it doesn't fit what we know in the natural world. This is our human dilemma. God is supernatural—He's above and beyond the natural realm. He will never fit within our limited logic. God's existence exceeds our capacity to know Him in a purely natural way.