eternal life

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

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 Self Diet

Dieting and weight loss have become a stand-alone industry. I'm amazed by the onslaught of ads and commercials everywhere I look—TV, social media, billboards. Physical fitness programs are often linked with specialized diets.

I don't know why I'm amazed by all the focus on diet and fitness. It all lines up with our cultural obsession with self and appearance. Of course, even selling "healthy" junk food and trendy cars appeal to this obsessive focus.

It's a paradox of sorts. Culturally, we honor self-sacrifice and service to others by first responders and military personnel, while we elevate the value of whatever promotes ourselves for our highest satisfaction. We're values-conflicted. Self-sacrifice and self-exaltation are two opposite values.

I use to hear people say, "America is a Christian nation" or that we have a Christian heritage. Not so much anymore. Perhaps one reason is our values conflict. As a Christian—a follower of Jesus—exalting our self isn't just a paradox, it's the exact opposite of Jesus' call to follow Him (Matt 16:24). Concerned about your diet? How about a self-diet? It's the diet John the Baptizer was on, along with Jesus.

Scripture

Later, Jesus and his disciples went to the Judean countryside, where he spent some time with them and baptized people. John was baptizing in Aenon, near Salim. Water was plentiful there. (People came to John to be baptized, since John had not yet been put in prison.)

Some of John’s disciples had an argument with a Jew about purification ceremonies. So they went to John and asked him, “Rabbi, do you remember the man you spoke so favorably about when he was with you on the other side of the Jordan River? Well, he’s baptizing, and everyone is going to him!”  [vss 22-26]

John answered, “People can’t receive anything unless it has been given to them from heaven. You are witnesses that I said, ‘I’m not the Messiah, but I’ve been sent ahead of him.’

“The groom is the person to whom the bride belongs. The best man, who stands and listens to him, is overjoyed when the groom speaks. This is the joy that I feel. He must increase in importance, while I must decrease in importance. [vss 21-30]

“The person who comes from above is superior to everyone. I, a person from the earth, know nothing but what is on earth, and that’s all I can talk about. The person who comes from heaven is superior to everyone and tells what he has seen and heard. Yet, no one accepts what he says. I have accepted what that person said, and I have affirmed that God is truthful.  [vss 31-33]

The man whom God has sent speaks God’s message. After all, God gives him the Spirit without limit. The Father loves his Son and has put everything in his power. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life. Instead, he will see God’s constant [continuing] anger.” [vss 34-36]

(John 3:22-36 GW)

Key phrase—

He must increase in importance, while I must decrease in importance

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • What prompts John the Baptizer's disciples to question him about Jesus?

  • What seems to be bothering John's disciples about Jesus?

  • How does John answer the concerns of his disciples? What does he tell them?

  • In what way does John say he needs to decrease while Jesus increases?

Reflection...

John the Baptizer's final testimony about Jesus is consistent with what he said at the beginning of his ministry. He knew his role as the "the best man" to the groom—that is, Jesus (verses 27-28). John's own disciples were jealous of Jesus but John set the record straight for them— He must increase... I must decrease

John's testimony is what every follower of Jesus ought to hold true in their heart. A true encounter with Jesus and His grace is a humbling experience. We realize who He is and our place as a believer. As John said, "(He) is from above... I (am) from the earth (verse 31).

John's testimony at the end of this chapter (3) ties into the conversation of Jesus and Nicodemus at the beginning. Jesus told Nicodemus of his (and our) need to be born from above. It's an invitation to enter into a personal trust relationship with the Lord.

But there's a caveat. Whoever rejects trusting in Jesus will not receive eternal life. Rejecting a relationship with the Lord means continuing in a self-focused life. There is no upside to this choice. It brings exclusion from God's kingdom—His domain of gracious love and eternal life. This is a choice we all make at some point in life. If we're unwilling to go on a "self-diet," this choice is made by default.

Taking it to heart...

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

  • How is John's statement about decreasing in importance just as relevant for us now as it was for him then?

  • How is it possible for us to decrease in importance so Jesus can increase in importance?

  • In what way can this take place in your own life? How can John's example guide you?

  • Since this idea of decreasing our self importance is so opposite of what's common in our culture, what are specific steps that anyone can begin to take to do this?

Personalize it...

Meditate On This—  A personal relationship with the Lord Jesus only comes through a personal encounter with God's grace. When we truly experience God's grace, it will bring a humility and desire for the Lord's nature to increase in us and our selfish nature to decrease.

Prayer Focus—  Does your heart desire and cry out for the Lord's nature to increase within you at the cost of your own selfish nature? If not, ask the Lord to work in your heart in a fresh way by His grace.

©2018—Word-Strong

Drawn to the Light

Light attracts insects at night. Living in the tropical climate of the Philippines for many years, it seemed like zillions of insects came out at night. They would gather at porch lights and our security lights around the property. So would the geckos and other creatures who fed on them.

Light is powerful. Daily activity dramatically increases with the dawn of a new day. Many people are drawn to seashores as the sun breaks through the night and floods the sky and sea with its powerful beams of light.

When encouraging people in the midst of their personal darkness, we speak of light at the end of the tunnel as an expression of hope to come. But when a person's soul is crushed with anguish and hopelessness, they tend to draw back into the darkness and shadows around them. And too often, many dark deeds seem more likely to occur at night than during the day.

The first act of creation is God speaking light into existence (Gen 1:3) and God is—by nature—Light (1 John 1:5). John declares at the beginning of his gospel that, Jesus is the light of life for all humanity and His light is never conquered or extinguished.

Scripture

No one has gone to heaven except the Son of Man, who came from heaven. “As Moses lifted up the snake ⌊on a pole⌋ in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up. Then everyone who believes in him will have eternal life.” [vss 13-15]

God loved the world this way: He gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him will not die but will have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but to save the world. Those who believe in him won’t be condemned. But those who don’t believe are already condemned because they don’t believe in God’s only Son. [vss 16-19]

This is why people are condemned: The light came into the world. Yet, people loved the dark rather than the light because their actions were evil. People who do what is wrong hate the light and don’t come to the light. They don’t want their actions to be exposed. But people who do what is true come to the light so that the things they do for God may be clearly seen. [vss 19-21]

(John 13-21 GW)

Key phrase—

God loved the world this way: He gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him will not die but will have eternal life.

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • Who alone has gone to heaven and come from there? What illustration is given that is connected to this?

  • How does this statement about the Son of Man and this illustration relate to the famous Bible verse—John 3:16?

  • What great assurances and promises are given in this familiar Scripture?

  • What are the contrasting statements given in this text and how are they not in opposition or contradiction to each other?

Reflection...

Probably the most quoted Bible verse is found in this chapter—John 3:16. But to understand the greatness of God's love and His promise of eternal life, we need to understand its context.

John speaks of the Lord's death on the cross as a point of restoration and likens it to when Moses erected a bronze snake in the sand as a visual connection to God's healing power for those bitten by poisonous snakes in the wilderness (Numbers 21:5-9).

John then points out the purpose of Jesus coming to earth—when God became human—to bring redemption for all humanity—to heal and restore humanity. God personally intervened in human history to provide a cure for the poisonous effect of sin.

But, receiving this promise of restoration and eternal life is a choice. Sadly, many people can't or won't let go of the darkness in their lives to embrace the light and receive this promise of abundant and eternal life Jesus offers. But those who are drawn to His Light and receive this promise are healed and restored by the great love of God.

Taking it to heart...

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

  • What condemns a person—their sin or their unbelief? How is this known from this text?

  • What is the important choice a person needs to make between light and darkness and why do you think it's difficult to make?  

  • Why do you think many non-believers see Christians as judgmental when Jesus did not come into the world to judge it?

  • How would you tell others these truths in your own words (IYOW) so they understood them?

Personalize it...

Meditate On This— God so loved the world but the world did not love Him back. God proved His love by giving His Son as a Mediator and Savior for all those who choose to trust in Him—turning their backs on the darkness of sin to embrace the powerful light of His love.

Prayer Focus— If you haven't experienced God's healing restoration by believing and trusting in Him, don't wait any longer—simply ask Him to be Lord of your life in your own words. If you've trusted in God's Son, ask the Lord for opportunities and simple, clear words to share this great promise.

©2018—Word-Strong