Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Mercy of Affliction - John 4:46-53

"He came therefore again to Cana of Galilee where He had made the water wine. And there was a certain royal official, whose son was sick at Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus had come to Galilee, he went to Him, and was requesting Him to come down and heal his son; for he was at the point of death.

Jesus therefore said to him, 'Unless you people see signs and wonders, you simply will not believe.' The royal official said to Him, 'Sir, come down before my child dies.' Jesus said to him, 'Go your way; your son lives.' The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him, and he started off.

And as he was now going down, his slaves met him, saying that his son owas living. So he inquired of them the hour when he began to get better. They said therefore to him, 'Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.' So the father knew that it was at the hour in which Jesus said to him, 'Your son lives;' and he himself believed, and his whole household."
(John 4:46-53)

Affliction is a fact of life. It happens - more often than we'd like. It crosses all of our paths. It breathes down all of our necks. It finds a way across the threshold of all of our homes. Sooner or later it hunts us down and hits us hard. In this life we will have trouble - some way, some how, some time.

Affliction is common to man. What is not always common to man is how we view it and how we respond to it. This passage in John 4 is a telling text on suffering. Several things pierce me this day as I meditate on this section of God's precious Word.

First - the characters in this true story teach us much about those who are the recipients of affliction. In the opening scene, we meet the father - a royal official. He is a man of power and prestige. He is no commoner and he is no pauper. This is a man of means and of influence. Yet this is a man who is facing a terrible trial - his son is at the point of death. Power, pomp, prestige nor purse can keep us from trouble. The rich and mighty face tough times as well as the poor and wretched.

Next we meet the father's son. In my reading I find myself assuming that he is a young man, though the text does not clearly spell that out. In this character we find sickness and the real possibility of death falling upon a son and here we are reminded that youth is not a guarantee of life and that being in the spring of life is no promise of having eternal summers of health. The first death in this world was the death of a son - young Abel - who was killed by his own brother. Suffering is common to man and it is no respector of persons young nor old nor in between. Be not surprised if it strikes you or your loved ones - no one is exempt from heartache and affliction.

Second - the ultimate outcome of this story teaches us much about the good purpose of affliction. At first glance, there is nothing pleasant about this scene - nothing! It's a BAD day! A son is dying! A father is desperate! But, praise God that a sovereign Savior is near!

What is amazing, beautiful, and wonderfully encouraging to me is that this horrible situation is the very thing that serves as a catalyst for the greatest blessing and grandest good that will ever happen in both this father's life and in his son's. This dastardly sickness drives them to Jesus. The father had a need - his son's failing physical condition - and that need caused him to flee to Christ. If suffering forces us to Jesus then praise God for suffering and may He bring it on as needed for our growth in grace!

The father cried out to the only One he thought might be able to help. As is His custom, Christ would show Himself compassionate to the father's cries and full of healing power for the son's dire situation. What a great God we serve! He would show Himself able to heal the body of the boy and, even more wonderfully, able to heal the souls of the boy's entire family.

Had a son not lay dying, had a father not been grieving, then perhaps the Great Physician would never have been sought out. Had He not been sought, He would have never been found. This affliction served a greater purpose than the temporary heartache. This difficult trial served as the entry way to eternal good. This suffering brought about the salvation of an entire family - and while ultimately they would all die a physical death at their appointed hour - this was the appointed hour for the sting of death to be removed - forever!! Had there been no temporary trial there would have been no eternal triumph. Know that is is true for us as well, Christian!

Ryle writes: "Affliction is one of God's medicines. By it He often teaches lessons which would be learned in no other way. By it He often draws souls away from sin and the world which would otherwise have perished everlastingly. Health is a great blessing, but sanctified disease is a greater. Prosperity is what we naturally desire, but losses and crosses are far better for us if they lead us to Christ!"

Psalm 119:71 records that "it is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes."

Some of us know the truth of these words from experience. I do. I have seen time and time again that "God causes all things to work together for the good of those who love Him, for those who are called according to His purpose" (Rom 8:28). I have seen over and over and over how, in God's economy, some of the most difficult times of my life have ultimately been the greatest times of growth and refining. I have gained MUCH more in the house of sorrow than in the house of laughter. Yet I seem apt to forget these truths in the midst of trial and am prone to wander and lick my wounds and wallow in self-pity when I am in pain. I am a stubborn and often stupid sheep. Not only that, but I seem to find myself a stubborn, stupid sheep with a bad case of amnesia!! How grateful I am for a gentle, patient, and preserving Shepherd. I am also thankful that the sanctifying outcome of all the lessons in the school of life are ultimately dependent upon the promise of God and not upon the performance of me!

That fact brings me to the third lesson I have learned from this text: this story teaches us much about the reliability of the Word of Christ and of our need to trust in it during affliction. The declarations of our God as found in His Word are an anchor that will hold fast in any storm that blows our way in this fallen world.

Look at how the scenario before us unfolds. The royal official hunts Jesus down and pours out his plight before Him. "Please have mercy on my son, He lies dying." Christ responds simply with these words: "Go, your way; your son lives." And live he did! Jesus didn't jump up and run to the boy's bed. He didn't send a potion nor even pray a prayer. He simply made a statement and it was so!

The next day, as this father is walking home, his servants meet him on the road and inform him that indeed his son is healed. He asks them when this healing occurred and discovers that it was at the seventh hour - precisely the hour when Christ spoke His word of promise. Christ's Word is sure. It is a firm foundation. It is a safe haven. What He says He will do.

Oh beloved, do we believe the word of Jesus? Do we hold dear the precious promises that He has given to us? Do we trust Him to bring about what is best for us - even if it has to hurt for a moment - even if it has to hurt for many moments? Do we doubt Romans 8:28 and the character of the One who stands behind its promise?

The scalpel of the Great Physician is not always pleasant and quite often it is very painful. But the instrument of affliction wields an eternal good for the patient who bears up under it. It is the very tool that will remove the cancer of sin from our hearts and make us more like our Master.

Do not grow weary in your affliction. Do not doubt that He will accomplish that which He has ordained for you. Do not fear, He is near though we see Him not. Do not despise the day of sorrow. As the father of this dying son did, flee to Jesus for help and mercy in your time of trial.

Christ did not have to be physically present for this miracle to occur - He spoke and it was done! The same is true this day. "Christ's word is as good as His presence and what He has said He is able to do. What He has undertaken He will never fail to make good!"

May we not be foolish regarding trials - they will come to rich and poor to young and old. They will come and they will come with providential purpose. Most importantly, if they cause us to fall more fully upon Christ then they are truly of the greatest value and we need to beg Him for mercy and strength to embrace affliction as a merciful gift rather than fear it as a destructive force.

In His glorious grace,

Monday, December 28, 2009

A New Home Missionary - John 4:28-30, 39

“So the woman left her water pot,
and went into the city and said to the men,
‘Come, see a man who told me all the things that I have done;
this is not the Christ is it?’
They went out of the city and were coming to Him…
And from that city man of the Samaritans believed in Him
because of the word of the woman who testified,
‘He told me all the things that I have done’.”
(vs 28-30, 39)

While on a mission for tongue quenching water, the Samaritan woman mercifully encountered soul quenching water and once she had drunk of it she had to tell others about it. No sooner does this woman see Christ for who He is than do we find her becoming a missionary to those she cares for most!

She left her water pot by the well and carried not even a drop of it home. Instead, she carried living water into the city and offered it to everyone she saw. Her life had been changed. Her greatest need had been met. Her purpose in life had suddenly been discovered and she couldn’t keep quiet about it!!

Her words echo Philip’s words to Nathanael – “Come, See!” Missionary messages don’t have to be difficult. We don’t have to have all the answers. We don’t have to be extremely eloquent. We don’t have to wait to become a professional. We just need to point folks to come to Christ – the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

I can relate to the Samaritan woman. Christ changed me – radically and I can vividly remember going and telling others what had happened. Like metal drawn to a magnet I had to tell my friends, my family, even complete strangers what Jesus had just done for me. Do you recall such a time? Has that passion faded? If so, I hope that Mr. Ryle’s words will light a spark in you again as they have in me. He writes:

“That which the Samaritan woman here did, all true Christians ought to do likewise. The church needs it: the state of the world demands it. Common sense points out that it is right. Everyone who has received the grace of God, and tasted that Christ is gracious, ought to find words to testify of Christ to others. Where is our faith, if we believe that souls around us are perishing, and that Christ alone can save them, and yet hold our peace? Where is our charity, if we can see others going down to hell and yet say nothing to them about Christ and salvation? We may well doubt our own love to Christ if our hearts are never moved to speak of Him. We may well doubt the safety of our own souls if we feel no concern for the souls of others.”

She laid down her water pot. She picked up the good news. She carried it with her into the city of her habitation and told its residents of the Christ who knew her fully, loved her nevertheless, and saved her completely. She told them. She called them to come and the text tells us that they came!

The words of this one woman move a city to run after Christ! Does that not excite you? You and I are not too feeble nor too frail to be used by God! Dear sisters in Christ – as women we are not worthless useless doormats in the kingdom of God. Christ went to the woman at the well and her encounter with Him was used by Him to move the heart of an entire city. While we have not been called to preach Him from the pulpit of the church we have been called to proclaim Him from the pulpit of life. Few men, if any, in Scripture had a greater impact on an entire city than did this one newly converted woman. May our Lord be pleased to use us as instruments of seeing our own communities “coming to Him.”

Praying to have the humble boldness of this dear sister,

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Leaving the Waterpot Behind - John 4:28-29

“So the woman left her waterpot,
and went into the city, and said to the men,
‘Come and see a man who told me all the things that I have done;
this is not the Christ, is it?’”
(vs 28-29)
Christ ministered, the disciples marveled, and the Samaritan woman high tailed it for home without her water pot! She came to draw water from the well. She left the well on a different mission than she began. Forget well water (at least for the moment), there is living water to carry home!

Everything changed for her at Jacob’s well. Everything! Purpose, perspective, passion – they have all changed. The things that were once so dear to us lose their hold on us once we have truly encountered Christ!

Here’s Ryle’s take:

“Grace once introduced into the heart drives out old tastes and interests. A converted person no longer cares for what he once cared for. A new tenant is in the house; a new pilot is at the helm. The whole world looks different. All things have become new. It was so with Matthew the publican: the moment that grace came into his heart he left the receipt of custom (Mt 9:9). It was so with Peter, James, John and Andrew: as soon as they were converted they forsook their nets and fishing boats (Mk 1:19). It was so with Saul the Pharisee: as soon as he became a Christian he gave up all his brilliant prospects as a Jew, in order to preach the faith he had once despised (Ac 9:20).

“The conduct of the Samaritan woman was precisely of the same kind: for the time present the salvation she had found completely filled her mind. That she never returned for her water-pot would be more than we have a right to say. But under the first impressions of new spiritual life, she went away and left her water-pot behind.”

Can you relate to this woman? What thing that we once held so dear has been totally eclipsed by Christ? What worldly water-pot have we left behind to follow Christ? With this Samaritan woman may we not wrongly forsake our necessary duties but our inordinate devotion to them. May we be willing to leave all to follow Christ. May we, with Paul, honestly say “Whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.” (Ph 3:7-8).

In His glorious grace,

Monday, December 21, 2009

They Marvelled - John 4:27

“And at this point His disciples came,
and they marveled that He had been speaking with a woman;
yet no one said ‘What do you seek?’ or ‘Why do you speak to her?’”
(vs 27)

It’s just one verse in the middle of a grand narrative, yet it tells us a lot. The disciples return and find Christ conversing with this sinful Samaritan woman. They walk right in the middle of this evangelistic opportunity and there is truly much to marvel at. Two things strike me particularly this morning.

First, they marvel that Jesus – a Jew – is talking to a Samaritan woman – and He's talking to her about living water and worship. Jesus is no respecter of persons. He is no racist nor sexist. He is an equal opportunity Savior! How we should marvel at Christ's condescending to convert any of us. Our mouths should drop open. Our heads should shake in amazement. Our minds should marvel. Do they?

Second, they marvel that Jesus is talking to anyone at the moment. Come on, He’s worn out, He’s weary, He’s had a long hard day! Surely He has an excuse to NOT engage anyone else in conversation. Isn’t it time for Him to be off the clock? No, not Jesus. He is never too tired, never too busy, never too over extended to pursue sinners and save them! Shouldn’t that shame us a bit? How often do I find a plethora of excuses to not be bothered by the Samaritans that cross my path?

The disciples marveled at their Master’s conversation. I have marveled as well. I’ve marveled at how He has orchestrated and ordained it all. I’ve marveled at the wisdom and compassion He has displayed along the way. I’ve marveled and the miracle of mercy which has changed this wayward woman’s life. Mostly, I’ve marveled at a God who is the Author and Perfecter of her faith and of mine!


Saturday, December 19, 2009

A Lesson in Evangelism (part 6) - John 4:25-26

“The woman said to Him,
‘I know that Messiah is coming
(He who is called Christ);
when that One comes, He will declare to us all things.’
Jesus said to her,
‘I who speak to you am He!”
(vs 25-26)

Talk about a clear declaration. Here is THE black and white statement of black and white statements. There’s nothing confusing about this one. Jesus is the Messiah!! “I who speak to you am He!”

Is there anywhere else in all of the Bible where Jesus more plainly testifies to who He is? I know of none! And look who He tells it to – an immoral, adulterous, wicked woman!! Jesus is so willing to receive sinners. Here is grace portrayed in all of its amazing majesty. God the Son, Christ the Messiah, the eternal Son of David, the King of kings and Lord of lords loves this sinner enough to reveal Himself to her!!

He doesn’t say these words to the high priest. He doesn’t proclaim them to the rich man. He doesn’t announce them to the powerful potentate. He tells them to a sinner in need of living water!!

Beloved, this is our Savior! This is He to whom we are to point the lost to behold! This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Christ loves sinners and is willing to reveal Himself – in all of His glory and majesty – to them.

As we minister to the lost and dying may we be faithful in proclaiming Him to them and may we be serious and steadfast in our prayers that just as He revealed Himself to this Samaritan woman, that in the same manner He would reveal Himself to them!!

Christ’s love for sinners is beyond our ability to comprehend. He loved this lost and immoral woman. He loved her enough to seek her out, to begin the conversation, to expose her sin, to open her eyes, to reveal Himself.

He’s done the same for me. His love for me is beyond my understanding. I can’t grasp it. How can it be? How could the Holy Son of God care to meet me on a college campus (my well) and offer to me living water? Yet, through the faithful witness of believing friends that is exactly what He did. I was pointed to this Lamb who had come to take away my sin. I was offered this water of eternal satisfaction and was clearly told that NOTHING else would ever truly satisfy me. I was shown the reality of my sin. I was pointed to worship the God who had made me and who had mercifully condescended to save me. Through those things He revealed Himself to me! I was once as the Samaritan woman was and I pray to be much more like Jesus is! May He be pleased to use me as an humble means of revealing Him to others. May He be pleased to use each of us as funnels and channels through which His living water may freely flow to sin parched souls!

Longing to be used,

Friday, December 18, 2009

A Lesson in Evangelism (part 5) - John 4:20-24

“’Our father’s worshipped in this mountain,
and you people say that in Jerusalem
is the place where men ought to worship.’
Jesus said to her,
‘Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming
when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem,
shall you worship the Father.
You worship that which you do not know,
for salvation is from the Jews.
But an hour is coming, and now is,
when the true worshippers
shall worship the Father in spirit and truth;
for such people the Father seeks
to be His worshippers.
God is spirit and those who worship Him
must worship in spirit and in truth.’”
(vs 20-24)

In this ongoing encounter with Christ, the Samaritan woman has come to see her sin and now her conversation has turned God-ward rather than world-ward. Suddenly, out of the blue, they are discussing worship! What? Worship? Where did that come from? Well, it came from her. She asked and Christ is about to answer.

So, what in the world does this have to do with evangelism? Well, I think it has a lot to do with it! First of all, she is curious and asks about it. This is, to me personally, a reminder that in our encounters with the unbeliever we need to be willing to dialogue and hear out their questions, listen to their concerns, and give an answer if necessary. Secondly, worship is an important issue because, bottom line, it is THE issue. We are all worshippers. We were created to worship and in some way, we ALL do worship!

In our natural, unredeemed condition we are all idolators and our false gods and false worship of them is ultimately at the root of all our misery. By nature we all have “other God’s before Him.” By nature we worship and serve the creature rather than the Creator. As Calvin said “our hearts are idol factories.” Therefore, the topic of worship – the topic of TRUE worship - is an important issue to cover in our evangelism.

To be honest, I’d never really thought about this until meditating on the various points of this passage. In that meditation I’ve been reminded that worship is one of the ultimate purposes in our salvation. We are saved not to continue in a worship of the world’s trinity (the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the boastful pride of life) but of the divine Trinity (Father, Son and Spirit). We are saved for a purpose. We are created with a chief end in mind – to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. The convicted sinner needs to be pointed to that which his repentant soul should be all about - the worship of the true and living God. The unbeliever needs to be challenged to leave her idolatry and pursue the only One worthy of worship.

This Samaritan water gatherer has obviously heard much about Jewish worship through the years and apparently she has a bitter taste from it. Probably with much reason! The Jews didn’t care one iota for the Samaritans. They were as unclean dogs to the Israelites. Here she finds herself face to face with the great Prophet of Father Abraham’s heirs and she must pose a question that is troubling to her. “You people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.”

Christ responds to her with a brief dissertation on the problem of outward formalism in religion as compared to the inward condition of a worshipping heart. That was the problem with what she’d seen and heard. It was outward form that was devoid of inward devotion. Jesus speaks to her about worship in spirit and in truth. He has come to rend the veil that separates men from their Maker and to fulfill all of the laborious types and shadows of temple sacrifice. He has come to shatter the fetters of idolatry. He has come to enable us to worship rightly. Who better to teach her about worship and what a better time than right slap dab at the beginning of her walk with Him!

As was alluded to earlier, we were made to worship. We are saved to worship. Sadly, even once the reigning idolatry of unbelief is conquered – even as redeemed sinners, we still tend to mess worship up. White washed walls are easy and can feed our pride. Outward appearance can be pulled off in an academy award winning fashion. We tend to have a check list of duties – yet often our duties are void of devotion. You know what I’m talking about. You make it to worship but you argue with your husband and yell at your kids on the way. You walk in the church door and your mind is on everything but your God and your Savior. You sing the songs without having any meditative thought regarding the lyrics. You stare at the preacher while he preaches and maybe even nod every now and then just to fool him – but what would you say if he asked you what you learned from his message? You have your Bible on your lap, drop a dollar in the plate, shake hands with your neighbor on the pew – but where has your heart been in all of these activities? Where are your thoughts? Have you worshipped in spirit and in truth or in game face and hypocrisy? What idol have you worshipped while feigning true worship? We are all guilty from time to time!

Jesus, in His initial conversation with this woman, in His first moments of spiritually enlightening her directs her gaze at true heart worship! We’d do well to listen! “The principle contained in these sentences can never be too strongly impressed on professing Christians. We are all naturally inclined to make religion a mere matter of outward forms and ceremonies. The heart is the principle thing in all our approaches to God. ‘The LORD looketh on the heart.’ (1 Sam 16:7).

How’s your heart regarding worship? How’s mine? As we point others to Christ let us make sure we point them to the importance of true worship. May we direct them from idolatrous worship to heart-felt, God-centered worship. Worship that is in spirit and in truth and as we do, may He be pleased to add to His church true heart worshippers!

In His glorious grace,

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Lesson in Evangelism (part 4) - John 4:15-19

“The woman said to Him,
‘Sir, give me this water, so I will not be thirsty,
nor come all the way here to draw.’
He said to her, ‘Go, call your husband, and come here.’
The woman answered and said,
‘I have no husband.’
Jesus said to her, ‘You have well said, ‘I have no husband’;
for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have
is not your husband; this you have said truly.’
The woman said to Him,
‘Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet.’”
(vs 15-19)

The Samaritan woman has paused to chat with Christ. She wasn't looking for a dialogue with deity but Jesus was seeking a Samaritan sinner this day and the pursuing Savior has constructed an incredibly tactful conversation starter. His topic has intrigued her. His demeanor has won her ear. His offer has peaked her curiosity. His statement of the eternal excellencies of His water has made her drool and she wants it. “Sir, give me this water, so I will not be thristy, nor come all the way here to draw.”

No doubt this sounds like a good deal and she is all about taking advantage of it. But Christ is not through with this lost and wayward one. He has an important truth to teach her - repentance. The gifts of the gospel are free but they are not cheap. In a few years, the Lord Jesus will be paying a great price to set this woman (and us) free. While belief is the key upon which the door of salvation will open – repentance is the hinge that will show that it has.

Jesus is about to deal with the sinner’s sin and in that we learn fourthly that sin MUST be dealt with before any soul is truly converted. If we must be “saved” then certainly there is something amiss – something we must be saved from. That something is sin.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism defines sin as “any want of conformity unto or transgression of, the law of God.” For this woman, one of the ways she has failed to conform and has transgressed God’s law is in regards to her relationships – marriage, divorce, adultery. We all suffer from “want of conformity unto and transgression of , the law of God.” We all have NOT done that which we ought and have done that which we shouldn't. “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” There are no exceptions and that is why the Lamb of God had to come. He came to take away the sin of the world. If we never deal with and confront sin then we have never truly talked about the gospel.

Notice again the great tact of Jesus. When she asks for this living water He doesn’t look at her and say “What? Are you kidding me! You wicked woman! You adulterous wretch! You better turn or burn. Get right or get left. I know what you’ve done and who you are – repent you abominable sinner!!” Our Lord doesn’t enter into the bully pulpit nor does he begin to bash her on the head with all she’s done wrong. Instead He asks her another question – a question that draws out an acknowledgment of her sin. “Go call your husband.” The question graciously exposes her sin.

Ryle points out that from this point on she is different. The conversation, from her end changes. Perhaps because for the first time she is seeing herself for who she is. Suddenly there is a spiritual dimension to her talk. Here are Ryle’s words:

“Those heart-searching words, ‘Go, call thy husband,’ appear to have pierced her conscience like an arrow. From that moment, however ignorant, she speaks like an earnest, sincere inquirer after truth. And the reason is evident. She felt like her spiritual disease was discovered.

“To bring thoughtless people to this state of mind should be the principal aim of all teachers and ministers of the Gospel. They should carefully copy their Master’s example in this place. Till men and women are brought to feel their sinfulness and need, no real good is ever done to their souls. Till a sinner sees himself as God sees him, he will continue careless, trifling, and unmoved.

“By all means we must labor to convince the unconverted man of sin, to prick his conscience, to open his eyes, to show him himself. To this end we must expound the length and breadth of God’s holy law. To this end we must denounce every practice contrary to that law, however fashionable and customary. This is the only way to do good. Never does a man see any beauty in Christ as Savior, until he discovers that he is himself a lost and ruined sinner. Ignorance of sin is invariably attended by neglect of Christ.”

Wise words! May God grant us the grace to be full of tact in our approach, faithful in pointing our hearers to the mercy and the incomparableness of Christ and of His gifts, and unafraid of humbly driving them to see themselves as sinners in need of this glorious Savior.

In His glorious grace,

Friday, December 11, 2009

A Lesson in Evangelism (Part 3) - John 4:11-14

“She said to Him, ‘Sir, you have nothing to draw with
and the well is deep; where then do You get that living water?
You are not greater than our father Jacob, are You,
who gave us the well, and drank of it himself,
and his sons and his cattle?’
Jesus answered and said to her,
‘Everyone who drinks of this water shall thirst again;
but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him
shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him
shall become in him a well of water
springing up to eternal life.’”
(vs 11-14)
The encounter continues. Christ has started a conversation with this Samaritan sinner and He has turned it to the subject of living water. He’s made it clear that He would delight to give her of this water. Her response – “What are you talking about Sir?” Jesus has no bucket, no scoop, no nothing. How in the world could He possibly give her well water much less living water?! Christ quickly makes it clear that He is not talking about ordinary water. There is nothing worldly about the gift He is referring to.

The third evangelistic lesson that we find here is to note the excellency and the superiority of Christ’s gifts compared to anything this world could ever offer. When the door of evangelistic opportunity has sprung open we need to make a clear distinction between that which the world offers and that which the Creator of the world offers. There is a BIG difference!

“Riches and rank, place and power, learning and amusements are utterly unable to fill the soul. He that only drinks of these waters is sure to thirst again. Every Ahab finds a Naboth’s vineyard hard by his palace, and every Haman sees a Mordecai at the gate. There is no heart-satisfaction in this world, until we believe on Christ. Jesus alone can fill up the empty places of our inward man. Jesus alone can give solid, lasting, enduring happiness. The peace which He imparts is a fountain, which, once set flowing within the soul, flows on to all eternity. Its waters may have their ebbing seasons; but they are living waters, and they shall never be completely dried up.” (Ryle)

People are thirsty. That fact is obvious by the enormity of things that we try to fill ourselves up with. Money, relationships, work, drink, fashion, attention, fame, family, on and on and on it goes. Things, in the proper place, are not all bad – but they are not that in which we will find our chief end. We were made by God, for God and until we are in God through being in Christ we will always be dissatisfied.

The natural dissatisfaction that all men face is a point of contact for us with the gospel. Even the things that we consider good could always be better in this life. We have a lot of money – we could have more. We have great friends – we could have greater. We have a nice home – it could be bigger or cleaner, on a better lot, in a better neighborhood. The most wonderful spouse has some flaws. The cutest kids still have their blemishes. This world and all that it contains will always leave us reaching for something more, something better, something truly filling. The living water that Christ offers to this woman is the one thing that will fully fill!

Have we drunk of that water? Then let us pause to meditate upon its grandeur and point others to the eternal, free, and full satisfaction that is found in it alone. Everyone who is filling themselves on the world’s water WILL thirst again. Jesus informs this Samaritan sinner and He informs us that “ whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”

Drink of Christ – drink often – think as you drink – meditate on the wonder of this living water that He has provided for you and as you do, tactfully tell the world of His willingness to give to them this same source of everlasting satisfaction!

In His glorious grace,

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Lesson in Evangelism (Part 2) - John 4:7-10

“There came a woman of Samaria to draw water,
Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink.’
For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.
The Samaritan woman therefore said to Him,
‘How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me for a drink
since I am a Samaritan woman?’
(For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)
Jesus answered and said to her,
‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you,
‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked Him
and He would have given you living water.”
(vs 7-10)

Christ, the greatest evangelist, is making us privy to one of His evangelistic encounters. He is at Jacob’s well. He is weary and thirsty and up comes a Samaritan woman. He asks her for a drink – not so much to slake His physical thirst as to slake her spiritual thirst. In the previous post He had begun the conversation with great tact and providential prudence. In so doing He has caused this woman to enter into the conversation of a lifetime – the conversation of an eternal lifetime!!

The second thing we see in this conversation is just how willing Jesus is to give His good gift to the sinful, undeserving, and even to the uninterested. This lady doesn’t have a clue who she is talking to!! She’s not looking for the Messiah. She’s not looking for an epiphany. She’s gone to get some water. This is business as usual for her. This is an ordinary day. Well, it started as an ordinary day, then she met Jesus at the well.

“Give me a drink,” He asks. “What? YOU want ME to give YOU a drink. But you are a Jew and I am a Samaritan – you folks don’t do things like that!” Jesus answered and said, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”

Christ has turned the conversation. They are no longer talking about wet, worldly water but about the living water that flows from heaven! She didn’t ask Him for a thing but He directs her thoughts towards the Thing of things! Oh friends, just as Christ initiated this conversation with this lost soul – so He still does with each of us. If you are in Christ it is by His doing – by His starting – by His interest in your soul. Both the apostle Paul and the psalmist David tell us that “there is no one who seeks after God.” Praise His merciful name that He is a sheep seeking Savior – He is a Samaritan seeking Savior – He is a sinner seeking Savior!! She wasn’t looking, neither were we – but Christ came to SEEK and to save that which was lost. Christian – He has sought you and has apprehended you!

“The infinite willingness of Christ to receive sinners is a golden truth, which ought to be treasured up in our hearts and diligently impressed on others. The Lord Jesus is far more ready to hear than we are to pray and far more ready to give favors than we are to ask them. All day long He stretches out His hands to the disobedient and the gainsaying. He has thoughts of pity and compassion towards the vilest of sinners, even when they have no thoughts of Him.” (J. C. Ryle)

And as we see in this text, when she had no thought of Him, He turned her thoughts to Him! “Jesus what a friend for sinners! Jesus lover of my soul!” Has the Lord Jesus Christ met you at some well and turned your thoughtlessness into thirst for living water? Has He so directed your heart and mind and will and affections that you now drink fully and freely of that water? Then His mercy has been great towards you! His purposed pursuit has born fruit in you. May He continue to reap a harvest in and through us as we meet others at that same well and point them to the great Giver of grace, mercy, peace and eternal pardon.

Go and tell others with tact of the beneficent God who has saved you!

In His glorious grace,

Monday, December 7, 2009

A Lesson in Evangelism (Part 1) - John 4:7-10

“There came a woman of Samaria to draw water,
Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink.’
For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.
The Samaritan woman therefore said to Him,
‘How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me for a drink
since I am a Samaritan woman?’
(For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)
Jesus answered and said to her,
‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you,
‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked Him
and He would have given you living water.”
(vs 7-10)

Walter Chantry has a wonderful book entitled “Today’s Gospel: Authentic or Synthetic.” In this short work he takes an in depth look at Christ’s encounter with the rich young ruler. That encounter gives us a glimpse at how our Lord did evangelism and gives us a picture of how we should as well. If you have a burden for evangelism, or if you long to develop one, I highly recommend Chantry's work - it's practical and purposeful.

Here in John 4 we have another tangible example of how the Jesus reached out to the immoral and spiritually ignorant. Quite a number of things jumped out and grabbed me from Christ’s conversation and I hope to take several days to unpack them. The first thing is the way in which Jesus began the conversation.

Weary Jesus is sitting by Jacob’s well. Along comes a Samaritan woman. Obviously water is on her mind – she’s coming to the well! Christ, who must be thirsty after such a long day asks her for a drink. However, His own thirst is not the primary reason for the request. No, our all-wise Lord is taking a common thing of life and is about to turn it into a great spiritual lesson which will have eternal consequences on this woman. Look, listen and learn!

The community in which I live is one that often prides itself on its “Christian” heritage. There are churches on every corner – sometimes multiple churches on every corner. Quite a few of those churches are active in their attempts at evangelism. However, some of their attempts are more like a bull in a china shop than like our Lord’s example. I have personally been the “victim” of “drive by” evangelism (a man in a truck once threw a tract out the window to my husband and me as we walked down Main Street). I have been bludgeoned by street preaching evangelism (On several occasions groups have literally yelled the gospel at me on the same street as the random “truck tracker”. However, I’ve been unable to get the “preacher” to talk to me one on one afterwards.) I have friends in my town who have been accosted outside their work place (because they were smoking a cigarette) and told that they would burn in hell just like that cigarette if they didn’t repent. The examples are endless, but I think you get the picture.

Christ is about to meet one on one with a sinner – a chief of sinners – and He well knows it. The omniscient Lamb of God who came to take away the sin of the world knows who He’s dealing with. Knowing full well just how wicked she is, He deals with her in a tactful, gracious, and providentially wise fashion. He asks her for a drink of water.

Ryle writes: “He does not wait for her to speak to Him. He does not begin by reproving her sins, though He doubtless knew them. He opens communication by asking a favor. He approaches the woman’s mind by the subject of “water” which was naturally uppermost in her thoughts. Simple as this request may seem, it opened a door to spiritual conversation. It threw a bridge across the gulf which lay between her and Him. It led to the conversion of her soul.

“Our Lord’s conduct in this place should be carefully remembered by all who want to do good to the thoughtless and spiritually ignorant. It is vain to expect that such persons will voluntarily come to us, and begin to seek knowledge. We must begin with them, and go down to them in the spirit of courteous and friendly aggression. It is vain to expect that such persons will be prepared for our instruction, and will at once see and acknowledge the wisdom of all we are doing. We must go to work wisely. We must study the best avenues to their hearts, and the most likely ways of arresting their attention. There is a handle to every mind, and our chief aim must be to get hold of it.

“Above all, we must be kind in manner, and beware of showing that we feel conscious of our own superiority. If we let spiritually ignorant people fancy that we think we are doing them a great favor in talking to them about religion, there is little hope of doing good to their souls.”

Make the most of the moment, seize the circumstance, pursue that which Providence has ordained. Unbelievers are in our paths repeatedly. As a mom I run into them in the grocery store, at the library, at the park. Am I about the business of engaging them in conversation regarding the “water” of the moment? Am I seeking to be a conversation starter with others? Am I looking for ways to be kind, courteous, and compassionate to those who walk up to the “well”? Do I honestly care at all? Do I have a haughty spirit and an arrogant attitude where they are concerned or am I like John the Baptist recognizing that I have received nothing that hasn’t come from God? Am I humbly bold? Do I see myself as simply one sinner saved by grace longing for the salvation of another sinner by that same amazing grace?

The soul searching questions are endless! Lord, Jesus – You who are the Master Evangelist give me a heart like Yours and tact like Yours. Here I am, send me, use me, be glorified through my feeble efforts to point others to behold, You – the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

Praying for tactful opportunities this day,

Thursday, December 3, 2009

A Real Savior - John 4:6

“And Jacob’s well was there.
Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey,
was sitting thus by the well.”
(vs 6)
There is just something special about talking with a friend who really understands what you are going through. Perhaps they’ve faced a similar situation to yours. Perhaps they’ve faced the exact same thing at the exact same moment that you have. There is a kindredness when one has walked in your shoes. Well, Christ - the Friend of friends has walked in our shoes!

In the book of Hebrews we are told that “we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” (He 4:15). Here in John 4 we have a tangible example of just how much like us Jesus - our wondrous Emmanuel - was.

Christ was weary from His journey. He’d has a long walk and a long day and He was tired, so He sat. Have you ever been weary and worn out? Christ understands! He’s been there and even now is there with you. Throughout the pages of Scripture we see times when our Lord was hungry, thirsty, lonely, tearful, sleepy, righteously indignant, in physical pain, and in spiritual anguish. Oh how greatly He humbled Himself to come to this fallen world and walk with us, among us, as one of us!! This is God incarnate! This is amazing love – sent by the Father – for the sole purpose of saving sinners from the wrath to come!

“The truth before us is full of comfort for all who are true Christians. He to whom sinners are bid to come for pardon and peace, is One who is man as well as God. He had a real human nature when He was upon earth. He took a real human nature with Him, when He ascended up into heaven. We have at the right hand of God a High Priest who can be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, because He has suffered Himself being tempted.

“ When we cry to Him in the hour of bodily pain and weakness, He knows well what we mean. When our prayers and praises are feeble through bodily weariness, He can understand our condition. He knows our frame. He has learned by experience what it is to be a man. The poor, the sick, and the suffering, have in heaven One who is not only an Almighty Savior, but a most feeling friend.” (Ryle)

Oh hear these words. Let them soak in. The Lord Jesus Christ is that friend who understands – better than any other friend ever will. He is the Friend of sinners. He is the sympathizing High Priest. No wonder the writer of Hebrews goes on in verse 16 of chapter 4 to encourage us to flee to this understanding One. “Let us therefore [because He sympathizes] draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need.”

Are you weary? Christ understands and He is a Friend who can not only supply you with an understanding ear but with all the strength you so desperately need. “Hallelujah, what a Savior. Hallelujah, what a Friend. Saving, helping, keeping, loving – He is with me to the end!”

Thankful for an understanding and enabling Friend,

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Present Privilege & Abiding Wrath of God - John 3:36

“He who believes in the Son has eternal life;
but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life,
but the wrath of God abides on him.”
(vs 36)
John the Baptist was a humble man. However, his humility didn’t negate boldness. John was brave enough to speak the truth – whether the truth would be palatable to his hearer’s ears or not. Verse 36 is a great example of that humble boldness.

Here we see John echoing the words of Jesus regarding the way to eternal life. Believing in Christ is the key which alone will open the gate to heaven. There is no other One by whom we may be saved than through Christ and there is no other means by which He will save us than through faith. The cries of the reformation still ring true - we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, that to God alone may all the glory fall!

Two main points have stuck with me while dwelling on this one verse this morning. First of all, there is a precious promise. “He who believes in the Son HAS eternal life…” The gift of faith is not one that we must wait to receive when we get to heaven’s gates. No, it is a gift that belongs to us here and now. He who believes HAS!

As I have so many times in these first three chapters of John, I turn once again to Mr. Ryle’s comments.

“He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life. He is not intended to look forward with a sick heart to a far distant privilege. He ‘hath’ everlasting life as soon as he believes. Pardon, peace, and a complete title to heaven, are an immediate possession. They become a believer’s own from the very moment he puts faith in Christ. They will not be more completely his own if he lives to the age of Methuselah.

“The truth before us is one of the most glorious privileges of the Gospel. There are no works to be done, no conditions to be fulfilled, no price to be paid, no wearing years of probation to be passed, before a sinner can be accepted with God. Let him only believe on Christ, and he is at once forgiven. Salvation is close to the chief of sinners. Let him only repent and believe, and this day it is his own.”

Good news!! The first part of John’s final sermon is a joy to preach and to proclaim. Who wouldn’t want to her these things? However, John is a faithful crier of the truth and he will not stop short and speak only half truths. John will hold forth the whole counsel of God.

So, part two - the hard truth. Secondly in this verse we see the serious warning to those who refuse to believe. “…but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” Christ has commanded men to believe on Him. John has done the same. Those who choose to disobey this gracious command of the God who created them and who alone can save them rebel to their own peril. Ryle’s words are piercing to me personally. He writes:

“Let us leave this passage with one grave and heart-searching thought. If faith in Christ brings with it present and immediate privileges, to remain unbelieving is to be in a state of tremendous peril. If heaven is very near to the believer, hell must be very near to the unbeliever.”

John understood the eternal danger that was lurking around the souls of his hearers. If they heeded not his warning it was to their eternal doom. This is a big deal – the biggest of deals! So often in our current culture the church, her ministers, and her people shy away from ever speaking of anything but the love of God. We paint a Picasso type portrait of our God. It is an abstract and unrealistic rendering. Rarely in our day and time do we see Rembrandtish realism – a full orbed view of a God who is holy, just, and righteous as well as loving, merciful, and full of compassion. John was not about painting with abstract strokes. The God he held forth was FULL of love and was also holy in just wrath.

“Here we find that the last words of one of Christ’s best servants, consist of a solemn declaration of the danger of unbelief. The wrath of God is John’s last thought. To warn men of God’s wrath and of their danger of hell is not harshness but true charity.”

The promise of having eternal life – God’s gracious gift, sent in love to unworthy sinners - is held out to all. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.” The warning of eternal death – God’s just and holy punishment to unrepentant sinners – is held out as well. May the gracious Spirit who is the divine Initiator of the new birth renew our hearts that we might make the only choice which is wise – believing and therefore receiving!

In His glorious grace,

Monday, November 30, 2009

Increasing and Decreasing - John 3:27-30

“John answered and said,
‘A man can do nothing unless it has been given him from heaven.
You yourselves bear me witness, that I said,
‘I am not the Christ’, but ‘I have been sent before Him.’
‘He who has the bride is the bridegroom;
but the friend of the bridegroom,
who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly
because of the bridegroom’s voice.
And so this joy of mine has been made full.
He must increase, but I must decrease.’”
(vs 27-30)

Not too many entries ago I learned a lesson in humility from my dear brother John the Baptist. In John 1 folks had taken notice of his giftedness of tongue and holiness of life and they wanted to know about him. “Hey, who are you?” It was red carpet rolling time and he could have milked their question for all it was worth. “Well, I am the only person besides Christ who is specifically prophecied of in the entire Old Testament. I suppose you could say I’m ‘the man.’” But John is not about the business of promoting himself – He is about the work of promoting Christ. “I am just a voice, a simple voice sent to plead and implore you to behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He’s the important one, I’m just a noisy gong sent to set your attention on Him. Behold the Lamb, not me!”

Well, John the Baptist is giving lesson number two in humility to us here in his final recorded sermon. A dispute has arisen among his disciples. They’ve become a bit jealous of Christ’s disciples. “Wait a minute, why are folks going to them instead of to us? Hey John, what’s up with that?!” John doesn’t bite as we would. He has no pity party that the Jesus group is growing more than the John group. He’s not about clubs, He’s about Christ! And if people are coming to Christ – that’s what really and truly matters! Well we would do to heed his words and follow his example.

His response? “A man can receive nothing, unless it has been given him from heaven.” John has consistently reminded folks that One greater than himself was coming. “Look to the Lamb, not to me!” John also has come to the point of realizing that we have NOTHING to be presumptuous or proud about. EVERYTHING we have is a gift from God – EVERYTHING! We have created and accomplished NOTHING on our own – every good and perfect gift comes from the Father of lights in whom there is no shadow! Therefore, everything we have should be used for the furthering of the Kingdom of God not for the furthering of the kingdom of us! What John has and is, what his disciples have and are, what you and I have and who we are is all from and all for Jesus Christ – the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. We would have nothing without Him. We would be nothing were it not for Him. Therefore, let us use what we have been given – all that we have been given – as a means of seeing more men, women, and children glorifying Him, not glorifying us. John understood that and wants his disciples to as well!

He understands it to the point of telling them plainly, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” It doesn’t matter one iota if John the Baptist drifts off of the scene as long as Jesus the Savior moves to center stage. John is disposable – so am I – so are you. The sooner we realize that fact the more boldly, humbly and fervently we will serve. May everyone I encounter see more of Jesus and less of Lori. Don’t behold me, behold Him. I can give you nothing of eternal significance. Christ can give you everything of eternal worth. As one who has heard John’s call from the mouth of another who heard it from another who heard it from another, etc.; as one who by grace has responded to that call I now join with John begging others to look not to me but to Christ. It is He alone who takes away the sin of the world. It is He alone that is worthy of our attention and devotion. Look to Him dear one. Let Him increase and let everything else in this fallen and feeble world decrease.

May we all learn from John the Baptist. “Let us endeavor in life and death, to hold the same views of our Lord Jesus to which John here gives expression. We can never make too much of Christ. Our thoughts about the church, the ministry, the sacraments [and ourselves], may easily become too high and extravagant. We can never have too high thoughts about Christ! We can never love Him too much. We can never trust Him too implicitly, lay too much weight upon Him, and speak too highly in His praise. He is worthy of all the honor that we can give Him. He will be all in heaven. Let us see to it, that He is all in our hearts on earth.” (J. C. Ryle)

Increase dear Savior. Increase in my heart. Increase in my mind. Increase in my living and in my loving. Swallow me up Lord Jesus and move me out of the way that You might shine. Make me a mirror that reflects your glory not a sponge that seeks my own.

Decreasing, by grace,

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Making Shipwreck of Our Souls - John 3:14-21 (Part 3)

“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness,
even so must the Son of Man be lifted up;
that whoever believes may in Him have eternal life.
For God so loved the world
that He gave His only begotten Son,
that whoever believes in Him
should not perish, but have eternal life.
God did not send the Son into the world
to condemn the world, but that the world
should be saved through Him.
He who believes in Him is not judged,
he who does not believe has been judged already,
because he has not believed in the name
of the only begotten Son of God.
And this is the judgment,
that the light has come into the world,
and men loved the darkness rather than the light;
for their deeds were evil.
For everyone who does evil hates the light,
and does not come to the light,
lest his deeds should be exposed.
But he who practices the truth comes to the light,
that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.”
(vs 14-21)

With such a grand display of such amazing love one might ask, “Why wouldn’t everyone jump on the band wagon?” This is the deal of deals. This is the free gift of a life time – of an eternal life time. Yet, while myriads accept the gift by faith, many mock it, scoff it, ignore it, disdain it, and refuse it. Why?

The last 3 verses of this text give a plain answer. “Light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than the light; for their deeds were evil.” We sinners love our sin. We love the darkness in which we believe we can hide out with our sin. Loving our sin and the shadows which cover it, we want nothing to do with a light that will expose it. “Everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.”

We won’t be able to blame God for our lost condition if that is where we find ourselves on the last day. The fault is our own – all our own. We have worshipped our lusts as lord of our life. And that lustful love of darkness will be our ruin!

God has loved us. He has loved us to such a degree that He has sent Christ to die for our sins if only we will believe on Him. Clearly God is willing to save. Certainly He has sent light into the darkness. Sadly, many have loved the darkness and have therefore hated their only hope. “His blood will be on his own head, if he makes shipwreck of his soul. The blame will be at his own door, if he misses heaven. His eternal misery will be the result of his own choice. His destruction will be the work of his own hand. He loved darkness, and therefore darkness must be his everlasting portion. He would not come to Christ, and therefore he could not have life.” (Ryle)

Dear reader, what do we love? Darkness or light? Are we fearful of the exposing light of the gospel or do we long for it to search us and chase out our darkness? “He who practices truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.”

Here are the final words of Christ’s sermon preached to Nicodemus. Here we have most clearly heard Christ Himself expound the gospel. He has held forth the necessity of a new birth – “you must be born again.” He has foretold the ordained death of Himself as the only atoning sacrifice for sinners – “so must the Son of Man be lifted up.” He has trumpeted the need for justifying faith as the only way to heaven – “whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” “He who believes in Him is not judged, he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” Christ has kicked out from under us the crutch of any excuse for our unbelief – “Light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their deeds were evil.”

Do we believe? Do we love the light? Are we resting in Christ alone and living as those who are resting in Him? Let us look upon Him, believe on Him, live for Him, and die in Him knowing that we will go to Him! O Lord, increase our faith and search our hearts, test our ways, chase out the shadows that we still long to lurk in. Let us love Your light for in it there is life. In it and in no place else there is life. Life eternal!

Believing, by grace,

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Amazing Love - John 3:14-21 (Part 2)

“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness,
even so must the Son of Man be lifted up;
that whoever believes may in Him have eternal life.
For God so loved the world
that He gave His only begotten Son,
that whoever believes in Him
should not perish, but have eternal life.
God did not send the Son into the world
to condemn the world, but that the world
should be saved through Him.
He who believes in Him is not judged,
he who does not believe has been judged already,
because he has not believed in the name
of the only begotten Son of God.
And this is the judgment,
that the light has come into the world,
and men loved the darkness rather than the light;
for their deeds were evil.
For everyone who does evil hates the light,
and does not come to the light,
lest his deeds should be exposed.
But he who practices the truth comes to the light,
that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.”
(vs 14-21)
Are there any better known words in all of Scripture than John 3:16? “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” Here is, as Luther put it, “the gospel in miniature.” Here is the crux of it all in capsule form. Here is the finest cliff note version of the gospel that you’ll ever see.

Well known words, yet not known well enough. Familiar words, yet perhaps so familiar that we miss their grandeur. This day, my heart and mind have been stirred anew at the awesomeness of their message and I pray that yours will be as well.

Note, first of all, that it is from God that all of these blessings flow. “For GOD so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son...” The salvation of sinners was all His idea. He is the grand initiator. He is the first cause. He is the spring from which this grand fountain flows. He is the great and divine mover who gets salvation’s ball rolling. We owe all to Him and to His love.

Secondly, note how great this love that begins with God is. “For God SO loved the world…” Have two tiny letters ever communicated as much as the word “so” does in this verse. Bishop Sanderson is quoted as saying, “How much that ‘so’ containeth no tongue or wit of man can reach.” God SO loved the world. We see the enormous depth of that “so” when we see the end that it accomplished. “God SO loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” God loved sinful, fallen, rebellious man SO much that He gave Christ to die for us!! Can it truly be? Could God have loved the world so much that He gave Jesus to die in our place that we might live in His? “Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all!”

Ryle writes in his commentary notes the following regarding verse 16:

“A more startling declaration is impossible to conceive. A more wonderful verse is not to be found in the Bible! That God should love such a wicked world as this, and not hate it – that He should love it so as to provide salvation – that in order to provide salvation He should give, not an angel, or any created being, but such a priceless gift as His only begotten Son that this great salvation should be freely offered to everyone that believeth – all, all this is wonderful indeed!”

Were it not “impossible for God to lie” I’m not sure that I could believe it. It is beyond amazing. It is beyond miraculous. It is beyond comprehension. Yet its truth is that which has changed my life and scores of others! “God so loved the world – and me as one who lives and breathes His air in this fallen world – that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”

This is indeed amazing love. Christ came not to judge us but to save us (vs 17). The channel through which this salvation is applied to us is by the means of belief. “…that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” It is not of works, lest any man should boast. It is not of blood line or wealth or education or any THING. It is of faith – “and this is not of yourselves it is the gift of God” (Eph 2:8-9).

I turn again to Ryle and his comments on these verses for they ring forth as a clarion call to those in need of saving mercy.

“Faith in the Lord Jesus is the very key of salvation. He that has it has life, and he that has it not has not life. Nothing whatever beside this faith is necessary to our complete justification; but nothing whatever, except this faith, will give us an interest in Christ. We may fast and mourn for sin, and do many things that are right, and use religious ordinances, and give all our goods to feed the poor, and yet remain unpardoned, and lose our souls. But if we will only come to Christ as guilty sinners, and believe on Him, our sins shall at once be forgiven, and our iniquities shall be entirely put away. Without faith there is no salvation; but through faith in Jesus the vilest sinner may be saved.”

Dear ones, – God loved. God SO loved that He gave. God SO loved that He gave His only begotten Son. God So loved that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. God loved and God gave. The crucial question for each of us is have we believed? That is the question of questions. At the end of this life it is the only question that will matter of all the questions ever asked of us. Our answer to that question is the hinge pin upon which the gates of heaven and hell swing. There is no other question of such inestimable value. There is no answer which will bring about such eternal consequences. Oh sinner, do you believe?

Believing, and praying that you will as well,

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Lifted Up - John 3:14-21 (Part 1)

“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness,
even so must the Son of Man be lifted up;
that whoever believes may in Him have eternal life.
For God so loved the world
that He gave His only begotten Son,
that whoever believes in Him
should not perish, but have eternal life.
God did not send the Son into the world
to condemn the world, but that the world
should be saved through Him.
He who believes in Him is not judged,
he who does not believe has been judged already,
because he has not believed in the name
of the only begotten Son of God.
And this is the judgment,
that the light has come into the world,
and men loved the darkness rather than the light;
for their deeds were evil.
For everyone who does evil hates the light,
and does not come to the light,
lest his deeds should be exposed.
But he who practices the truth comes to the light,
that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.”
(vs 14-21)

How wise we would be to take these eight verses and hide them in our hearts. They contain the richest meat of the gospel and the most satisfying wine of God’s love. As I meditate on the truths contained here I am overwhelmed at the fact that these verses have served as the bridge upon which multitudes and myriads have crossed over from death to life. Here the love of the Father, the gift of the Son, the dark and blinding nature of sin, and the necessity of believing on Christ are plainly proclaimed. And it is through this very proclamation - “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes on Him should not perish but have everlasting life”- that millions throughout the ages, as many as the sands on the seashore and as many as the stars in the heavens, have embraced Christ as their Lord and Savior.

There is much to dwell upon here and I will probably spend several days feasting upon this grand banquet. May we pace ourselves, savoring every morsel rather than gorging ourselves and missing out on the pleasure and purpose of this grand meal!

In verse 14 we are pointed to the necessity of Christ being “lifted up” on the cross as a propitiation for our sins. “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so MUST the Son of Man be lifted up.” Christ references the time when the bronze serpent was lifted up in the camp of the Israelites in order to save them from the plague of serpents (Num 29). Their sin had brought about a great trial and the only hope for a cure and for salvation was for them to look in faith upon the serpent fashioned of bronze as it was lifted up in the camp. Here is a picture of Christ and in John 3, Christ makes it perfectly clear that the bronze serpent is a shadow and type which He will fulfill.

Ryle writes: “The brazen serpent, lifted up in the camp of Israel, brought health and cure within reach of all who were bitten by the serpents. Christ crucified, in like manner, brought eternal life within reach of lost mankind. Christ has been lifted up on the cross, and man looking to Him by faith may be saved.”

He goes on to challenge us with these words: “The truth before us is the very foundation-stone of the Christian religion. Christ’s death is the Christian’s life. Christ’s cross is the Christian’s title to heaven. Christ “lifted up” and put to shame on Calvary is the ladder by which Christians “enter into the holiest,” and are at length landed in glory.

“It is true that we are sinners – but Christ has suffered for us! It is true that we deserve death – but Christ has died for us! It is true that we are guilty debtors – but Christ has paid our debts with His own blood! This is the real Gospel! This is the good news! On this let us lean while we live. To this let us cling when we die. Christ has been “lifted up” on the cross, and has thrown open the gates of heaven to all believers.”

Friends – Christ was lifted up for us! Look to Him. Look only to Him. Look always to Him. For whoever looks to Him, whoever believes on Him will in Him find eternal life.


Monday, November 23, 2009

A Teacher Without Understanding - John 3:9-10

“Nicodemus answered and said to Him,
‘How can these things be?
Jesus answered him and said,
‘Are you the teacher of Israel,
and do not understand these things?’”
(vs 9-10)

The conversation continues. Christ and Nicodemus have been talking about the necessity of the new birth and Nicodemus is astonished, astounded, and stumped! “How can these things be?” Here is the teacher of the law – a Pharisee of Pharisees – the man – the big man – and he doesn’t have a clue about the true meaning of the Word that he is supposed to be holding forth to the nation of Israel. He is a blind guide. “How blind must the sheep be if the shepherd is in such a state?” (Ryle)

The brightest and best, the most learned and lauded may in reality be dumb as dirt to true truth! Men are men and men are fallible – no matter how good they may look to other men – no matter how great they may sound - no matter how much they may be loved. Men miss the mark at times and Nicodemus had missed it majorly!

Book smarts don’t cut it without the Spirit and that’s what Nicodemus needed. He needed the new birth even to understand that there could be a new birth. So do we. “Who has put wisdom in the innermost being, or has given understanding to the mind?” (Job 38:36). It is the Lord Jesus Christ who grants wisdom and gives understanding. May He renew our minds as He rebirths our hearts.

In His glorious grace,

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Necessity of New Birth - John 3:3-8

“Jesus answered and said to him,
‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again,
he cannot see the kingdom of God.’
Nicodemus said to Him,
‘How can a man be born when he is old?
He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb
and be born, can he?’
Jesus answered,
‘Truly, truly, I say to you,
unless one is born of water and the Spirit,
he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
That which is born of the flesh is flesh
and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
Do not marvel that I said to you,
‘You must be born again.’
The wind blows where it wishes
and you hear the sound of it,
but you do not know where it comes from and where it is going,
so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
(vs 3-8)

Nicodemus has come under the cloak of darkness to talk to Jesus. He is confident that Christ has come from God. That confidence is seen in his words to our Lord - “no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” Jesus responds to this statement by abruptly pointing Nicodemus to the necessity of being born again. He doesn’t reply at all to Nic’s declaration. There is no "Hey, thanks for noticing my works and their message. You're right God is with me and as a matter of fact I am God." There's no chit chat that ensues from Nicodemus' statement, instead Jesus begins to preach to the fearful Pharisee regarding the urgency of regeneration. And this sermon that Christ preaches is one of the most powerful messages ever proclaimed. How many multitudes have come to saving faith because of the words spoken to Nicodemus as they are recorded in John chapter 3?!

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Hear Christ clearly – you CAN NOT see, know, understand, or behold the kingdom of God apart from being born again. A mighty, magnificent, and miraculous change is needful for salvation. A supernatural work of God must occur!

“The change which our Lord here declares needful to salvation is evidently no slight or superficial one. It is not merely reformation, or amendment, or moral change, or outward alteration of life. It is a thorough change of heart, will, and character. It is a resurrection. It is a new creation. It is a passing from death to life. It is the implanting in our dead hearts of a new principle from above. It is the calling into existence of a new creature, with a new nature, new habits of life, new tastes, new desires, new appetites, new judgments, new opinions, new hopes, and new fears. All this, and nothing less is implied, when our Lord declares that we all need a ‘new birth.’” (J.C. Ryle)

Why is new birth necessary? Verse 6 answers the question clearly. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” We are born of the flesh and of the flesh of Adam at that! We have to be born again because we are naturally born dead in sin (Eph 2:1-5, Col 2:13.) We come into this world as children of wrath (Eph 2:3) and as hostile enemies of God (Rom 5:10, 8:7-8). There is NOTHING in us that seeks after God, longs for God, wants to get to God, or takes pleasure in living for God (Rom 3:9-18). We naturally won’t seek Him out anymore than a bank robber goes looking for the nearest police station after his latest heist. We are born guilty rebels and left to ourselves will never turn to God. Hence the need for a new birth. We must be born again. We must have a new nature given which will replace the old one. We must have new life breathed into us to replace the spiritual death and decay that totally encompasses us. We must have it done to us for we will not and cannot do it for ourselves!

“The very name which our Lord gives to it is a convincing proof of this. He calls it “a birth.” No man is the author of his own existence, and no man can quicken his own soul. We might as well expect a dead man to give himself life, as expect a natural man to make himself spiritual. A power from above must be put in exercise, even that same power which created the world (2 Cor 4:6). Man can do many things, but he cannot give life either to himself or to others. To give life is the peculiar prerogative of God” (Ryle).

Well may we remember that God is sovereign in giving us this new birth just as He was sovereign in giving us our first birth: “For Thou didst form my inward parts, Thou didst knit me together in my mother’s womb” (Ps 139:13). “Know that the LORD Himself is God; it is He who made us and not we ourselves” (Ps 100:3).

Make no mistake, Christ minces no words but plainly declares to Nicodemus and to us “You must be born again.” There are many things that will NOT keep us out of heaven. We DON'T have to be rich or educated or beautiful but we MUST be born again. Without the new birth heaven will never be our home and God will never be our Father.

Oh, it is a grand mystery as mysterious as the wind. I can’t see the wind. I know not where it comes from. I can’t explain it with perfect knowledge. But I am well aware of its effects. I see them each time a leaf blows by. I feel them with each gentle breeze and with each stormy gale. So it is with the new birth. It is a mystery but the life changing effects of this mysterious Spirit can be clearly seen in a life that has been regenerated.

That man, woman, or child becomes one who loves Christ, hates sin, pursues righteousness, loves his fellow believers, loves the Word. Just look through the book of 1st John to see some of these life changing marks of new birth.

So the pressing question is have I, have you been born again? Has this mighty change been wrought in our lives? Are the marks of the new birth seen in us? Ryle closes his comments on this section with this piercing thought:

“Happy is the man who can give satisfactory answers to these questions! A day will come when those who are not born again will wish that they had never been born at all.” Oh beloved, flee to Christ the Author and Perfector of the new birth!

Born of water and of Spirit,

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Changed Man - John 3:1-2

"Now there was a man of the Pharisees,
named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews;
this man came to Jesus by night,
and said to Him,
'Rabbi, we know that You have come from God
as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that
You do unless God is with him.'"
(vs 1-2)

As I began studying John 3 this morning, I was stunned at the thought of how many people have entered the kingdom of heaven through the words of this chapter - multitudes and myriads, as many as the sands of the seashore and as the stars of heaven!! John 3 has clearly been a picture of the power of God unto salvation.

Before us is Christ's encounter with an honest Pharisee. Here Christ preaches the necessity of the new birth and of justification to one who should have known it well but sadly knew it not at all. Here Christ holds forth the love of God for a sinful world and the beauty of grace as the hingepin to the door of heaven. Oh, these words are wonderful words of life. They have given life to thousands if not millions and clearly they are words that gave life to Nicodemus.

This morning I want to simply pause and consider the change wrought in this fearful Pharisee. Notice how he comes: "this man came to Him by night."

Nicodemus was scared! He was afraid of what his friends might think, of what his family might think, of what the "church" might think. So, he came under cloak of darkness that none of them would know! "He came by night because he didn't have the courage to come by day." (Ryle)

What struck me as I read was how different Nicodemus is by the end of John's gospel. He is truly made a new creature - a bold creature. Here he hides and sneaks about. At the end of this book he is as bold as a lion. In John 7 we see him taking on the entire Jewish counsel on behalf of Christ - he's not timid there. In John 19 we see him, along with Joseph of Arimethea, caring for Christ's crucified body. He is tending to the needs of his Lord even when all of the disciples have scattered to save their own skin. Nicodemus is a new creation, the old has gone and the new has come.

Nicodemus is no longer coming by night. He has tossed off the shadows for the sun - or perhaps it is more proper to say for the SON! He cares not who knows or who sees him loving Christ. He is changed and he is transformed. That's what Christ does. That's the fruit of being born again. Is it the fruit of our lives? Which Nicodemus am I- the man of John 3 or the man of John 7 and 19?

Praying for the boldness of the latter that comes from the grace of Christ,

Monday, November 16, 2009

He Knows All Men and Me! - John 2:24-25

"But Jesus, on His part,
was not entrusting Himself to them,
for He knew all men,
and because He did not need anyone
to bear witness concerning man
for He Himself knew what was in man."
(vs 24-25)

The Children's Catechism asks "Can you see God?" The answer given is "No, I cannot see God but He always sees me."

God always sees. He always hears. He always knows. Nothing can be hidden from God. All is open and laid bare before Him with whom we have to do. He knows our actions. He knows our thoughts. He knows everything!

Clearly, this text shows us that Christ - the 2nd person of the Trinity - is omniscient. He knows our names and our natures. He knows not only our actions but our attitudes. We are an open book to Him. He knows what is IN us - fully, completely, perfectly. That is a fact of Scripture. The question we must ask ourselves is what does the knowledge of that fact stir up in me?

J.C. Ryle's comments are soul searching. "The truth now before us, is one which ought to make hypocrites and false professors tremble. They may deceive men, but they cannot deceive Christ. They may wear a cloak of religion, and appear like white sepulchres, beautiful in the eyes of men. But the eyes of Christ see their inward rottenness, and the judgment of Christ will surely overtake them, except they repent. Christ is already reading their hearts, and as He reads, He is displeased. They are known in heaven, if they are not known on earth, and they will be known at length to their shame, before assembled worlds, if they die unchanged.

"But the truth before us has two sides, like the pillar of cloud and fire at the Red Sea. If it looks darkly on hypocrites, it looks brightly on true believers. If it threatens wrath to false professors, it speaks peace to all who love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. A real Christian may be weak, but he is true! One thing, at any rate, the servant of Christ can say, when cast down by a sense of his own sin and infirmity, or pained by the slander of a lying world. He can say, 'Lord, I am a poor sinner, but I am in earnest, I am true. Thou knowest all things, and Thou knowest that I love Thee. thou knowest all hearts, and Thou knowest that, weak as my heart is, it is a heart that cleaves to Thee.'

"The false Christian shrinks from the eye of an all-seeing Savior. The true Christian desires his Lord's eye to be on him morning, noon, and night. He has nothing to hide."

How do you view the ever searching, all knowing eye of Christ? I, for one, despite my great weaknesses and my continual sins, am thankful that He knows me - even better than I know myself. Look on Lord Jesus, search me, test me, try me and by grace help pluck the black threads that ever run through my life. You know my guilt, You know my desire to be without guile, You know that my heart longs for you as the deer pants for the water! How thankful I am that you know all things and love me nonetheless!!

Seen by Him,

Friday, November 13, 2009

Zeal for God's House - John 2:13-17

"And the Passover of the Jews was at hand,
and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
And He found in the temple those who were
selling oxen and sheep and doves,
and the moneychangers seated.
And He made a scourge of cords,
and drove them all out of the temple,
with the sheep and the oxen;
and He poured out the coins of the moneychangers,
and overturned their tables;
and to those who were selling the doves He said,
'Take these things away,
stop making my Father's house a house of merchandise.'
His disciples remembered that it was written,
'Zeal for Thy house will consume Me.'"
(vs 13-17)

The last we saw of Christ, He was celebrating with a bride and groom. The occasion was a joyous one where laughter, joy, feasting and gaiety abounded. The tone is much different in this second public appearance of Christ.

He comes to the temple - His Father's house here on earth - and He finds idolatry, greed, and selfish gain rather than true worship of the God who made heaven and earth. Christ's wedding joy is replaced with holy anger and He of whom everything in the temple is a shadow is about to cast out darkness in order that the true light might once again shine forth in that place!

What strong emotion we see come from our Lord where His church is concerned. This fervent zeal is exhibited when He sees His house being desecrated and profaned. Interestingly, it happens twice in His ministry - once at the beginning (of which this is an account of) and again at the end (see Mt 21:12).

Christ is angry - seriously angry - at these events. Recognizing that He is the sinless Christ we must acknowledge that obviously his anger is righteous and with an equitable purpose. Let it be noted from these things that Christ does not take any pleasure in irreverent behavior in His house! He is serious about His church and her worship. We would be wise to find ourselves serious as well!

I am again pierced to the quick by J.C. Ryle's words and application of this text to my heart. He writes:

"The passage is one that ought to raise deep searchings of heart in many quarters. Are there none who profess and call themselves Christians, behaving every Sunday just as badly as these Jews? Are there none who secretly bring into the house of God their money, their lands, their houses, their cattle, and a whole train of worldly affairs? Are there none who bring their bodies only into the place of worship, and allow their hearts to wander into the ends of the earth? Are there none who are 'almost in all evil, in the midst of the congregation'? (Pr 5:14). These are serious questions! Multitudes, it may be feared, could not give them a satisfactory answer."

How true, Mr. Ryle, they are serious questions and I am smitten by them. Where is my God-centeredness in worship? How often is it about me rather than about Him?

We would all do well to heed Solomon's counsel from Ecclesiastes 5 - "Guard your steps as you go to the house of God, and draw near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools; for they do not know they are doing evil."

May God grant me the grace to be reverent in my worship. May He enable me to guard my steps as I enter His courts that I might enter them with sincere thanksgiving, awe, and praise. As He twice cleared the earthly temple may He clear my heart that I might be, by grace, considered to be one without guile in the area of worship.

In His glorious grace,

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Wedding Feast and A Cleansed Temple, A Picture of What Lies Ahead - John 1

"And on the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee...
and Jesus also was invited to the wedding." (vs 1)
"And the passover of the Jews was at hand,
and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
And He found in the temple those who were selling oxen
and sheep and doves, and the moneychangers seated.
And He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all
out of the temple...." (vs 13-14)

There is some interesting foreshadowing here in John 1. I had never paused to dwell on it until today, but having now done so it thrills my heart.

Has it ever crossed your mind that Christ's first public works were attending a wedding feast and cleansing a polluted temple? It struck my mind this morning that those will also be among His first works when He returns. He will purify His church and set up the great Wedding Feast for His washed up bride!

Lord, haste the day!!

In His glorious grace,

Monday, November 9, 2009

Water to Wine: A Miracle of the Will - John 2:1-11

"And on the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; and Jesus also was invited, and His disciples. And when the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to Him, 'They have no wine.'
And Jesus said to her,'Woman, what do I have to do with you? My hour has not yet come.'
His mother said to the servants,'Whatever He says to you, do it.'
Now there were six stone waterpots set there for the Jewish custom of purification,
containing twenty or thirty gallons each. Jesus said to them,'Fill the waterpots with water.'
And they filled them up to the brim. And He said to them, 'Draw some out now, and take it to the headwaiter.' And they took it to him.
And when the headwaiter tasted the wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter called the bridegroom, and said to him, 'Every man serves the good wine first, and when men have drunk freely, then that which is poorer; you have kept the good wine until now.'
This beginning of His signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him."
(vs 1-11)

In these eleven verses I could spend alot of time dwelling on Christ's presence at a wedding which shows His blessing upon the institution of marriage. I could write about His gentle reproof of His mother - which shows that she is not the sinless saint that Rome would like us to believe - and which does convict me that familiarity with Christ should not breed presumption upon Christ. (Just because we're "tight" doesn't mean He is there to do our bidding. We would do well to get that in our heads - Christ owes us nothing and is not obliged to act according to our whims but according to His sovereign will.) I digress.... I could dwell on the wine controversy - was it wine? was it Welch's? Come on - the text is clear.

This morning what has struck me the most is the way in which Christ performed this miracle. There is no record of His ever looking at the water pots. He doesn't touch them, or command them, or even pray over them. He simply willed it and it was!! This is power and in this act He "manifested His glory."

Ryle brings this home to us in a greatly encouraging fashion. He writes in His commentary on John:

"It is a comfortable thought that the same almighty power of will which our Lord here displayed is still exercised on behalf of His believing people. They have no need of His bodily presence to maintain their cause. They have no reason to be cast down because they cannot see Him with their eyes interceding for them, or touch him with their hands, that they may cling to Him for safety. If He 'wills' their salvation and the daily supply of all their spiritual need, they are as safe and well provided for as if they saw Him standing by them. Christ's will is as mighty and effectual as Christ's deed. The will of Him who could say to the Father, 'I will that they whom Thou hast give Me be with Me where I am,' is a will that has all power in heaven and earth, and must prevail."

This Christ of such divine, determinative and dynamic will is the Lamb of God who has come to take away our sin. His will has accomplished that for all who believe. His will has caused us to believe. This omnipotent Christ is the One who is ever living to make intercession for us. It is He who stands as our Advocate at the right hand of the God the Father Almighty. It is this Powerful Shepherd of the sheep who stands watch over our souls and keeps us from the treacherous schemes of the wolf. It is the Sovereign King who subdues us and all of our enemies.

The same will that changed water to wine changes us! Oh, friends - how safe and secure we are - no matter what things look like. The same Christ who attended this wonderful wedding feast has an even greater feast prepared for us and NOTHING shall stand in the way of our reaching that event. He has willed that He shall lose none of us - and He shall not. Rejoice, you fainthearted. The will of Christ will keep you!

Humbled that I am kept and longing for the wedding,

Friday, November 6, 2009

No Guile - John 1: 47-51

"Jesus saw Nathanael coming to Him,
and said of him, 'Behold, an Israelite indeed,
in whom there is no guile!'
Nathanael said to Him, 'How do you know me?'
Jesus answered and said to him,
'Before Philip called you,
when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.'
Nathanael answered Him,
'Rabbi, You are the Son of God;
You are the King of Israel!'
Jesus answered and said to him,
'Because I said to you that I saw you under the fig tree,
do you believe? You shall see greater things than these.'
And He said to him,
'Truly, truly, I say to you,
you shall see the heavens opened,
and the angels of God ascending and descending
on the Son of Man.'"
(vs 47-51)

It's happened again. A passage I've read dozens and dozens of times has struck me in an entirely new and brighter light. Here is Nathanael - the friend of Philip - the questioner of Christ - being spoken of in a complimentary light by the Lord of the universe.

Jesus sees him coming and states: "Behold, an Israelite in whom there is no guile!" Wow!! The weight of that statement zapped me this morning and I've been drinking it in ever since and praying about its sanctifying application to me!

Guile is not a word we use regularly in our conversations today. It means to be skillful in craftiness and full of deceit. That was NOT Nathanael. He was an honest man. He really was who he appeared to be. He was true to his profession and his character and confession matched up with it. Nathanael was real. Oh, that more of us were like Nathanael!

"Nathanael, there can be no doubt, was a true child of God, and a child of God in difficult times. He was of a very little flock. Like Simeon and Anna, and other pious Jews, he was living by faith, and waiting prayerfully for the promised Redeemer, when our Lord's ministry began. He had that which grace alone can give, - an honest heart, a heart without guile.

"His knowledge was probably small. His spiritual eyesight was most likely dim. But he was one who had lived carefully up to his light. He had diligently used such knowledge as he possessed. His eye had been single, though his vision had not been strong. His spiritual judgment had been honest, though it had not been powerful. What he saw in Scripture he had held firmly, in spite of the Pharisees and Saducees, and all the fashionable religion of the day. He was an honest Old Testament believer, who had stood alone. And here was the secret of our Lord's peculiar commendation! He declared Nathanael to be a true son of Abraham - a Jew inwardly, possessing circumcision in the spirit, as well as in the letter, - an Israelite in heart, as well as a son of Jacob in the flesh.

"Let us pray that we may be of the same spirit as Nathanael. An honest, unpredjudiced mind, - a child-like willingness to follow the truth, wherever the truth may lead us, -a simple, hearty desire to be guided, taught and led by the Spirit, -a thorough determination to use every spark of light which we have, these are possessions of priceless value." (J.C. Ryle)

"An Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile!" Matthew Henry wisely points out that Christ refers to Nathanael as one without guile not as one without guilt! That's an important distinction. Try as I may, be as guileless as grace allows me to be, this side of heaven I will always be a sinner - a redeemed sinner - but a sinner nonetheless. I need not confuse the two. I need to be honest and real, even about the fact that I wrestle and struggle and battle with the flesh - even as Paul was in Romans 7 (see verses 14-25).

Natathanael was declared by Christ to be a guileless man - boy, I want that to be a truth that can be said about me. "Lori is a Christian in whom there is no guile! - She's real and honest and genuine- even in her struggles." Only Christ can make me so - and only His declaration of it as being so really matters.

Nathanael, the guile free Israelite, is about to become the guile free follower of our Lord. Christ sees him coming at a distance and commends him. Nathanael wants to know how Christ even knew his name. "'How do You know me?' Jesus answered and said to him, 'Before Phillip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.'" Does not verse 48 show us that Christ knows us long before we ever know Him?!?! Take comfort Christian, take warning unbeliever. We cannot hide from Him - everything is open and laid bare before Him - He sees, He knows, He takes notice of ALL that we say, think and do!

"Nathanael answered Him, "Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel." Nathanael, who only a few moments ago questioned Christ, now declares Him to be the Messiah. Here his guileless character bears the most beautiful of guileless fruit. This true Israelite in whom there is no guile meets the Messiah he has so faithfully waited upon! And that's not all...

Christ promises him much more in verses 50-51. Those who, with guileless faith believe the gospel can trust that much more awaits them. "Because I said to you that I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You shall see greater things than these.... Truly, truly, I say to you, you shall see the heavens opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man."

Nathanael did see much more. As we walk with the Messiah, so shall we. Oh, Son of God - make me a woman in whom there is no guile and grant me that I may see you with the eyes of faith in this life and face to face in the next.

In His glorious grace,