Topic : John
John 1.8-9Max Lucado, in his book "It's Not About Me," points out something true about the moon that should be true of all believers--it reflects the light of something greater. He says: "What does the moon do? She generates no light. Contrary to the lyrics of the song, this harvest moon cannot shine on. Apart from the sun, the moon is nothing more than a pitch-black, pockmarked rock. But properly positioned, the moon beams. Let her do what she was made to do, and a clod of dirt becomes a source of inspiration, yea, verily, romance. The moon reflects the greater light." (6) "Such a shift comes so stubbornly, however. We've been demanding our way and stamping our feet since infancy. Aren't we all born with a default drive set on selfishness? I want a spouse who makes me happy and coworkers who always ask my opinion. I want weather that suits me and traffic that helps me and a government that serves me. It is all about me." (7) Just as John the Baptist lived to testify to Christ (the light), so to should we.
Miracles of the Fourth Gospel
|2:1-11||Turning water to wine||Nature of eternal life|
|4:46-54||Healing the noblemans son||Condition of eternal lifefaith|
|5:1-9||Healing the infirm man at Bethesda||Power to live the life|
|6:1-14||The feeding of the 5,000|
(also in Mt. 14:13-21; Mk. 6:32-44; Lk. 9:10-17)
|Food for the life|
|6:15-21||Walking on the sea, |
(also in Mt. 14:22-36; Mk. 6:45-56)
|Guidance for the life|
|9:1-41||Sight restored||Light for the life|
|11:1-44||Raising of Lazarus||Victory of the life over death|
|21:1-14||The catch of fish||Full fellowship of the life|
Discourses in Johns gospel
Twelve discourses are unique to this gospel:
1. 3:1-21 On spiritual regeneration
2. 4:4-26 On eternal life
3. 5:19-47 On the Source of eternal life and its witness
4. 6:26-59 On the true Bread of Life
5. 7:14-29 On the Source of truth
6. 8:12-20 On the Light of the world
7. 8:21-30 On the true Object of faith
8. 8:31-59 On spiritual freedom
9. 10:1-21 On the Good Shepherd
10. 10:22-38 On the unity of the Godhead
11. 12:20-36 On the worlds Redeemer
12. Upper room teaching:
- 13:21-14:31 On the approaching separation
- 15:1-27 On the union with Christ
- 16:1-33 On the Holy Spirit and the future
These discourses fall into two categories:
1. Christs public instruction, ch. 1-12, presenting Himself to the world as the ultimate reality
2. Christs private teaching, ch. 13-16, disclosing Himself to His own as the eternal sufficiency
- A.T. Robertson, Greek N.T., pp. 57, 67
- Evangelical Preaching, Charles Simeon, p. 33.
- John The Baptizer, Bible Study Guide by C. Swindoll, p. 20
Full Pardon Refused
In the early 1800s, President Andrew Jackson issued a full pardon to George Wilson, a man sentenced to be hanged. Wilson refused it. But could he legally refuse the Presidents pardon? Supreme Court Justice John Marshall declared, The value of the pardon depends upon its acceptance. If it is refused, it is no pardon. George Wilson must hang.
And Wilson was hanged.
To pardon everyones sin, Christ shed His blood on the cross. The price was paid. But each individual must first receive this forgiveness.
Sharing the Gospel
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Alexander Whyte pastored a large church in Edinburgh. During that time, a salesman by the name of Rigby would travel to Edinburgh regularly just to hear him preach. He would often invite other businessmen to accompany him to the services.
One Sunday morning he asked a fellow traveler to go to church with him. Reluctantly, the man said yes. When he heard Whytes message, he was so impressed that he returned with Rigby to the evening meeting. As the preacher spoke, the man trusted Christ as his Savior.
The next morning, as Rigby walked by the home of Pastor Whyte, he felt impressed to stop and tell him how his message had affected the other mans life. When Whyte learned that his callers name was Rigby, he exclaimed, Youre the man Ive wanted to see for years! He went to his study and returned with a bundle of letters. Alexander Whyte read Rigby some excerptsall telling of changed lives. they were men Rigby had brought to hear the gospel. Like the Samaritans who had been led to Jesus by the woman at the well, these men believed in Him because of the word of Rigby.
- Issues and Answers in Jesus Day, C. Swindoll, p. 68
Regeneration Not Reformation
The message of salvation is regenerationnot reformation. Paul says, If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). The new birth is not an overhaul of the old wreck, or a new paint job. The old Adamic nature is so incorrigibly corrupt that even God will not attempt to fix it up. He insists on completely rejecting the old hulk and making a new man. Jesus said to Nicodemus, That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again (John 3:6,7).
The old nature received at birth is hopeless, and dressing it up with education and culture only makes it more dangerous than before. The more we work on the old man, the more deceptive it becomes. Do you know why the sinner must be born anew? Because he was born all wrong the first time. He doesnt have to be taught to go his own wayit comes naturally to him. But by the new birth he is turned around and headed in the right direction!
Spurgeon told of a missionary who visited a primitive hut and became nauseated by the filthy floor on which he had to sit. He suggested to his host that they scrub the dirty surface with soap and water, but the man replied, the floor is just claypacked down and dry. Add water and it turns to mud. The more you try to wash it, the worse the mess becomes! Yes, the hut needed something besides an earthen floor. So it is with the human heart: it is hard and dirty, and nothing will help it. Man needs a new heart. He must be born again from above!
- Bibliotheca Sacra, 135:539:206
- Ask Him Anything, L. J. Ogilvie, Word, 1981, pp. 105ff
- Living Dangerously, S. Briscoe, Zondervan, 1968, pp. 17ff
- Issues and Answers in Jesus Day, C. Swindoll, p. 92
An Inner Recreating
The new birth or regeneration is an inner recreating of fallen human nature by the Holy Spirit. It changes the disposition from lawless, godless self-seeking into one of trust and love, of repentance for past rebelliousness and unbelief, and loving compliance with Gods law henceforth. It enlightens the blinded mind to discern spiritual realities and liberates and energizes the enslaved will for free obedience to God.
The use of the figure of new birth to describe this change emphasizes two facts about it. The first is its decisiveness. The regenerate man has forever ceased to be the man he was; his old life is over and a new life has begun; he is a new creature in Christ, buried with him out of reach of condemnation and raised with him into a new life of righteousness.
The second fact emphasized is that regeneration is due to the free, and to us, mysterious, exercise of divine power. Infants do not induce or cooperate in their own procreation and birth; no more can those who are dead in trespasses and sins prompt the quickening operation of Gods Spirit within them.
The Rev. Billy Graham tells of a time early in his career when he arrived in a small town to preach a sermon. Wanting to mail a letter, he asked a young boy where the post office was. When the boy had told him, Dr. Graham thanked him and said, If youll come to the Baptist church this evening, you can hear me telling everyone how to get to heaven.
I dont think Ill be there, the boy said. You dont even know your way to the post office.
The Heart of the Gospel
Luther called John 3:16 the heart of the Biblethe Gospel in miniature. Its so simple a child can understand it; yet it condenses the deep and marvelous truths of redemption into these few pungent words:
- God...The greatest Lover
- So loved...The greatest degree
- The world...The greatest number
- That He gave..The greatest act
- His only begotten Son.The greatest gift
- That whosoever..The greatest invitation
- Believeth...The greatest simplicity
- In Him...The greatest Person
- Should not perish..The greatest deliverance
- But....The greatest difference
- Have....The greatest certainty
- Everlasting Life..The greatest possession
Fort Hancock is on the farthest tip of Sandy Hook, which reaches out into the Atlantic on the New Jersey coast. During World War II it was a military training center. A civilian of the area was eager to bring the good news of Christ to the thousands of young men stationed there. The military authorities would not permit him to enter in person. Not to be denied, he asked a firm that specialized in novelties to make several thousand mirrors about three inches in diameter. On the back of each mirror he had printed the words of John 3:16. Beneath these words he had this direction, If you want to see who it is that God loves, look on the other side. As each soldier looked at himself he saw the person whom God loved.
As a group of college students toured the slums of a city, one of the girls, seeing a little girl playing in the dirt, asked a guide, Why doesnt her mother clean her up?
Madam, he replied, that girls mother probably loves her, but she doesnt hate dirt. You hate dirt, but you dont love her enough to go down there and clean her up. Until hate for dirt and love for that child are in the same person, that little girl is likely to remain as she is.
- Bibliotheca Sacra, 135:540:314
- John The Baptizer, Bible Study Guide by C. Swindoll, p. 20
When a friend was comforting the Rev. Richard Baxter (1615-1691) on his deathbed with the remembrance of the good which many had received by his preaching and writings, Mr. Baxter replied, I was but a pen in Gods hand, and what praise is due to a pen?
In his classic work The Masters Indwelling, Andrew Murray illustrated this problem of being distracted. He wrote, When a man is giving a lecture, he often uses a long pointer to indicate places on a map or a chart. Do people look at that pointer? No, that only helps to show them the place on the map, and they do not think of it. It might even be of fine gold, but the pointer cannot satisfy them. They want to see what the pointer points at. And the Bible is a pointer, pointing us to God.
When Alexander Duff was home on furlough from India in 1834, he often visited missionary statesman William Carey. On his last visit before Carey died, Duff spent much of his time talking about Careys work. Finally, Carey seemed to tire of it and whispered, Pray. After Duff prayed, he arose to leave the room, but Carey called him to return to his side. Mr. Duff, he said graciously, you have been speaking about Dr. Carey, Dr. Carey. When I am gone, say nothing about Dr. Carey. Speak about Dr. Careys Savior.
May we too call attention to Jesus, the One whom God has highly exalted. His is the name to remember.
Beethoven is Everything!
The kind of attitude we need is seen in the following story. After a performance of Beethovens Ninth Symphony, the audience gave conductor Arturo Toscanini and the Orchestra a prolonged ovation. Toscanini, filled with emotion, turned to his musicians and whispered, I am nothing, you are nothing. Then, in almost adoring tones, Toscanini said, But Beethoven is everything!
Likewise, we must recognize that Jesus is everything.
Every young student knows of Isaac Newtons famed encounter with a falling apple. Newton discovered and introduced the laws of gravity in the 1600s, which revolutionized astronomical studies.
But few know that if it werent for Edmund Halley, the world might never have learned from Newton. It was Halley who challenged Newton to think through his original notions. Halley corrected Newtons mathematical errors and prepared geometrical figures to support his discoveries. Halley coaxed the hesitant Newton to write his great work, Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy. Halley edited and supervised the publication, and actually financed its printing even though Newton was wealthier and easily could have afforded the printing costs.
Historians call it one of the most selfless examples in the annals of science. Newton began almost immediately to reap the rewards of prominence; Halley received little credit.
He did use the principles to predict the orbit and return of the comet that would later bear his name, but only AFTER his death did he receive any acclaim. And because the comet only returns every seventy-six years, the notice is rather infrequent. Halley remained a devoted scientist who didnt care who received the credit as long as the cause was being advanced.
Others have played Halleys role. John the Baptist said of Jesus, He must become greater; I must become less. Barnabas was content to introduce others to greatness. Many pray to uphold the work of one Christian leader. Such selflessness advances the kingdom.
According to the rabbis, if you ate with a Samaritan, it was like eating swines flesh.
- Evangelism, A Biblical Approach, M. Cocoris, Moody, 1984, pp. 153ff
1. First, He gave the revelation concerning new life. He stated that He came to give everlasting life.
2. Second, He revealed the spiritual need of the woman. He spoke of her immoral relationship with the man with whom she was living. This caused the woman to suppose Jesus was a prophet. Third, He revealed the nature of the Father declaring that God is spirit and consequently can be worshiped in any geographical place.
3. Finally, He revealed Himself to her as the Messiah.
It is worth our attention that the two occurrences of the word drinketh in our text are actually in two different forms. The construction used in Greek implies a continual, habitual drinking in the first case, but a one time action in the second.
Likewise, while the woman referred to a well (v. 12) (literally a hole in the ground), Christ referred to a flowing well or spring, using a different word.
Furthermore, when He said one who drinks from His spring shall never thirst, He said so in a very emphatic way. Not only is the word emphasized by the sentence structure, but it is compiled of two negatives preceding the verb thirst, which is further strengthened by the word forever, i.e., shall not, shall not thirst, forever.
One who drinks from the wells of the world will thirst again, for sinful pleasures never satisfy. But just a single drink from the springs of living water (4:10; 7:38) of which Christ spoke eliminates spiritual thirst forever.
- A. T. Robertson, Greek N.T., pp. 71ff
In telling his disciples to lift up their eyes and look on the fields, Jesus is saying something about spiritual priorities. He has already told them: I have food to eat of which you do not know, and My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work (vv. 32,34). Now in effect hes saying to them: What you should concentrate on at this moment is not our picnic, but those people coming across the fields of Sychar led by the woman to whom Ive been speaking.
Whenever opportunity affords, evangelism is to be our first priority. Its also, or ought to be, a joyful privilege: He who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together (v. 36). Theres nothing more worthwhile than seeking under God to be the human agent in saving men and women for all eternity.
Evangelism is also a partnership. Jesus said to his disciples, I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor (v. 37). What did he mean? He meant that he had been witnessing to the Samaritan woman, and she had been witnessing to her friends and neighbors and now they were coming to the well. It would be the disciples privilege to reap them: to teach them more about Jesus and establish them in the kingdom and family of God.
It takes great humility to say, without jealousy or resentment, I sowed, now you reap. But thats the pattern. In the winning and nurturing of souls sometimes we will be the reapers and sometimes we will also be the sowers, preparing the way for others to reap. Yet each role is essential; so we must be ready to fulfill either.
Paul Rader used to tell the story of a great wheat harvest in Australia that rotted in the fields during World War I. Because so many men had responded to the call of the colors, nobody was left to gather in the grain harvest. It was a case of reap or rot, as Rader pointed out.
This is exactly the situation we face in our churches today: a plentiful harvest, and few reapers. This is no time to panic. The vast needs of the world stand as a fresh call to prayer. Christians have been commissioned to the high task of being co-laborers with God in His harvest. In so many areas, it is ripe to be gathered. It is a harvest for which God gave heavens best. He is not about to let it rot in the fields. We must take the words of the Lord seriously.
Witnesses to Christ:
1. the Father (5:18)
2. His works (5:36)
3. John the Baptist (5:33)
4. the Scriptures (5:39)
5. Moses (5:46-7)
6. Christ himself (8:14)
- Living Dangerously, S. Briscoe, Zondervan, 1968, pp. 69ff
Bibliotheca Sacra, 136:541:25
Evidence that Demands a Verdict, p. 93
Bibliotheca Sacra, 136:542:158
"Evangelical Preaching," Charles Simeon, p. 195
Even an atheist, Franz Kafka, recognized the importance of satisfying his own spiritual hunger. In one short story, The Hunger Artist, he summed up his thoughts. He wanted his other works burned but insisted that this one story be saved.
In a typically bizarre fashion, Kafka has the hunger artist making his living by professional fasting. He is the practitioner of a once venerated profession. Seated on straw in his small barred cage, he is marveled at by throngs of people. After forty days, his fasts were terminated in triumph. His manager would make a speech, the band would play, and one of the ladies would lead him staggering in his weakened state out of the cage.
However, the day arrived when fasting was no longer understood or appreciated by the people. He lost his manager and had to join a circus. His cage was placed next to the animals. He became depressed by the smell, the restlessness of the animals at night, the raw flesh carried past him, and the roaring at feeding time. The people barely glanced at him in their hurry to see the animals. Even the circus attendants failed to limit his fast by counting the days. Finally, he was discovered lying in the straw, and in his dying breaths he told his secret: I have to fast, he whispered. I cant help it. I couldnt find the food I liked. If I had found it, believe me, I should have made no fuss and stuffed myself like you or anyone else.
Kafka was a writer of parables. The parable of the hunger artist is not about physical hunger but about spiritual hunger. Kafka was the hunger artist, and he realized he was starving to death spiritually, but he couldnt find any food he liked.
Swindoll, Three Steps Forward, p. 63
Swindoll, You and Your Problems
What Good Am I'
Sir Michael Costa was conducting a rehearsal in which the orchestra was joined by a great chorus. About halfway through the session, with trumpets blaring, drums rolling and violins singing their rich melody, the piccolo player muttered to himself, What good am I doing? I might just as well not be playing. Nobody can hear me anyway. So he kept the instrument to his mouth, but he made no sound. Within moments, the conductor cried, Stop! Stop! Wheres the piccolo? It was missed by the ear of the most important person of all.
Its much the same way with the Christian and his use of his talents for the Lord. If in the great Orchestra of life the cry ever goes out, Stop! Stop! Wheres the piccolo? lets make sure the Divine Conductor isnt missing you or me! Whether our talent is great or small, the performance isnt complete until we do our best with what we have.
You may remember Rao, the Hindu holy man who flirted with fame in 1966. The old mystic believed he could walk on water. He was so confident in his own spiritual power that he announced he would perform the feat before a live audience. He sold tickets at $100 apiece. Bombays elite turned out en masse to behold the spectacle. The event was held in a large garden with a deep pool. A crowd of more than 600 had assembled. The white-bearded yogi appeared in flowing robes and stepped confidently to the edge of the pool. He paused to pray silently. A reverent hush fell on the crowd. Rao opened his eyes, looked heavenward, and boldly stepped forward. With an awkward splash he disappeared beneath the water. Sputtering and red-faced, the holy man struggled to pull himself out of the water. Trembling with rage, he shook his finger at the silent, embarrassed crowd. One of you, Rao bellowed indignantly, is an unbeliever!
The Other Jesus, L. J. Ogilvie, Word, 1986, pp. 18ff
A. T. Robertson, Greek N.T., p. 73
Cup or Bucket'
Lord, I crawled across the barrenness to You with my empty cup,
uncertain but asking any small drop of refreshment.
If only I had known You better Id have come running with a bucket.
A. T. Robertson, Greek N.T., p. 74
The boomerang of condemnation often injures the one throwing. The Pharisees condemned the woman in order to condemn Christ. But they ended up the only ones condemned, not by Christ but my their own hearts.
No One Is Hopeless
When I first began to work for God in Chicago a Boston businessman was converted there and stayed three months, and when leaving he said to me that there was a man living on such a street in whom he was very much interested, and whose boy was in the high school, and he had said that he had two brothers and a little sister who didnt go anywhere to Sabbath School, because their parents would not let them. This gentleman said, I wish you would go round and see them.
I went, and I found that the parents lived in a drinking saloon, and that the father kept the bar. I stepped up to him and told him what I wanted, and he said he would rather have his sons become drunkards and his daughter a harlot than have them go to our schools. It looked pretty dark, and he was very bitter to me, but I went a second time, thinking that I might catch him in a better humor. He ordered me out again. I went a third time and found him in better humor. He said, You are talking too much about the Bible. I will tell you what I will do; if you teach them something reasonable, like Paines Age of Reason, they may go.
Then I talked further to him, and finally he said, If you will read Paines book, I will read the New Testament.
Well, to get hold of him I promised and he got the best of the bargain. We exchanged books, and that gave me a chance to call again and talk with that family.
One day he said, Young man, you have talked so much about church, now you can have a church down here.
What do you mean?
Why, I will invite some friends, and you can come down here and preach to them; not that I believe a word you say, but I do it to see if it will do us chaps any good.
Very well, I said, now let us have it distinctly understood that we are to have a certain definite time.
He told me to come at 11 oclock, saying, I want you to understand that you are not to do all the preaching.
I shall want to talk some, and also my friends.
I said, Supposing we have it understood that you are to have 45 minutes and I fifteen; is that fair?
He thought that was fair. He was to have the first 45 and I the last 15 minutes.
I went down, and the saloonkeeper wasnt there. I thought perhaps he had backed out, but I found the reason was that he had found that his saloon was not large enough to hold all his friends, and he had gone to a neighbors, whither I went and found two rooms filled. There were atheists, infidels, and scoffers there. I had taken a little boy with me, thinking he might aid me. The moment I got in they plied me with all sorts of questions, but I said I hadnt come to hold any discussion; that they had been discussing for years and had reached no conclusion. They took up the 45 minutes of time talking and the result was there were no two who could agree.
Then came my turn. I said, We always open our meetings with prayer; let us pray, I prayed, and thought perhaps someone else would pray before I got through. After I finished the little boy prayed. I wish you could have heard him. He prayed to God to have mercy upon those men who were talking so against His beloved Son. His voice sounded more like an angels than a human voice. After we got up, I was going to speak, but there was not a dry eye in the assembly. One after another went out, and the old man I had been after for monthsand sometimes it looked pretty darkcame and, putting his hands on my shoulder with tears streaming down his face, said, Mr. Moody, you can have my children go to your Sunday School.
The next Sunday they came, and after a few months the oldest boy, a promising young man then in the high school, came upon the platform, and with his chin quivering and the tears in his eyes, said, I wish to ask these people to pray for me; I want to become a Christian.
God heard and answered our prayers for him. In all my acquaintances I dont know of a man whom it seemed more hopeless to reach. I believe if we lay ourselves out for the work there is not a man but can be reached and saved. I dont care who he is, if we go in the name of our Master, and persevere until we succeed, it will not be long before Christ will bless us, no matter how hard their heart is. We shall reap if we faint not.
The great attorney, orator, and statesman Daniel Webster was such an imposing figure in court that he once stared a witness out of the courtroom. Apparently Webster knew the man was there to deliver false testimony, so he fixed his dark, beetle-browed eyes on the man and searched him . According to the story, later in the trial Webster looked around again to see if [the witness] was ready for the inquisition. The witness felt for his hat and edged toward the door. A third time Webster looked on him, and the witness could sit no longer. He seized his chance and fled from the court and was nowhere to be found.
The First Stone
One day I noticed on my pastor friends desk a smooth, polished rock inscribed, The First Stone. When I expressed surprise, he explained that it was a continual reminder from John 8:7 to himself, as well as to visitors, of the need of self judgment first.
I now have a similar stone on my desk. How about a stone for your desk'
Luther on John 8:25
They desire to know who he is and not what he says. He desires them first to listen and then they will know who he is. The rule is: listen and allow the word to make the beginning, then the knowing will nicely follow. If, however, you do not listen, you will never know anything. For it is decreed, God will not be seen, known, or comprehended except through his word alone. Whatever therefore one undertakes for salvation apart from the word is in vain. God will not respond to that. He will not have it. He will not tolerate any other way. Therefore, let his book in which he speaks to you be commended to you. For he did not cause it to be written to no purpose. He did not want us to let it lie there in neglect, as if he were speaking with mice under the bench or with flies on the pulpit. We are to read it, to think and speak about it, and to study it, certain that He Himself, not an angel or a creature, is speaking with us in it.
Evidence that Demands a Verdict, p. 93
Wycliff Bible translators Bob and Jan Smutherman were assigned to the Macuna people of southeast Colombia, South America. Progress was going well in putting the Bible into the Macuna language. The chiefs son was engaged as the language helper. Each portion of the Scripture had to be checked and double-checked for meaning and clarity.
After five years of labor, the Gospel of John was being finalized for publication. Gathered together to hear the Word of God, the tribe sat patiently.
Beginning at John 9:1, the son read about Jesus encounter with the man born blind. When he got to the verse where Jesus says that this man was born blind in order that the works of God might be put on display, the old chief stood to his feet. Requiring silence by his uplifted right hand, he said, We must stop killing our babies.
To a people steeped in animism, the normal process was to take their deformed babies to a desolate place. There the babies were deserted and exposed until dead.
The implications of the gospel became shockingly clear upon hearing of a better way.
Light and Mind
In his brilliant new book, Catching the Light, quantum physicist Arthur Zojanc writes of what he describes as the entwined history of light and mind (correctly described by one admirer as the two ultimate metaphors of the human spirit). For our purposes, his initial chapter is most helpful.
From both the animal and human studies, we know there are critical developmental windows in the first years of life. Sensory and motor shills are formed, and if this early opportunity is lost, trying to play catch up is hugely frustrating and mostly unsuccessful.
Prof. Zajoc writes of studies which investigated recovery from congenital blindness. Thanks to cornea transplants, people who had been blind from birth would suddenly have functional use of their eyes. Nevertheless, success was rare. Referring to one young boy, the world does not appear to the patient as filled with the gifts of intelligible light, color, and shape upon awakening from surgery, Zajoc observes. Light and eyes were not enough to grant the patient sight. The light of day beckoned, but no light of mind replied within the boys anxious, open eyes.
Zajoc quotes from a study by a Dr. Moreau who observed that while surgery gave the patient the power to see, the employment of this power, which as a whole constitutes the act of seeing, still has to be acquired from the beginning. Dr. Moreau concludes, To give back sight to a congenitally blind person is more the work of an educator than of a surgeon. To which Zajoc adds, The sober truth remains that vision requires far more than a functioning physical organ. Without an inner light, without a formative visual imagination, we are blind, he explains. That inner lightthe light of the mindmust flow into and marry with the light of nature to bring forth a world.
The Upside of Down, Joe Stowell, Moody, 1991, p.165
Joseph Stowell, Through The Fire, Victor Books, 1988, pp. 112ff
Someone Who Beckons, p. 84
Called By Name
A friend, who was traveling in the East, heard that there was a shepherd who still kept up the custom of calling his sheep by name. He went to the man, and said: Let me put on your clothes, and take your crook, and I will call them, and see if they will come to me.
And so he did, and he called one sheep, Mina, Mina, but the whole flock ran away from him. Then he said to the shepherd: Will none of them follow me when I call them?
The shepherd replied: Yes, sir, some of them will; the sick sheep will follow anybody.
Im not going to make the application, I leave that to you.
Reality of Christs Presence
A man who wanted to teach his nephews and nieces about the reality of the living presence of Christ in our lives asked them, Wheres your mother?
Upstairs, answered one girl.
How do you know?
I saw her go, she replied.
You mean you saw her start to go upstairs, corrected the uncle. Maybe she didnt get there, or perhaps shes not there now.
Oh, I know shes there, because I just called her, and she answered me, said the youngest child.
The uncle continued his questioning, Did you see her?
No, but she spoke to me and called me by my name. I know her voice, and I know it was Mother!
You are right, said the uncle. And in much the same way that you know your mother is upstairs we can know that the Lord is alive and in our lives. He speaks to us and we just know it is His voice.
The Door of the Sheepfold
Eva Watts says that as she traveled with a friend though the land where Jesus lived, We reached a high ridge overlooking the village of Bethlehem. There we found a sheepfold, and went right in to inspect. It was not long before the owner appeareda veteran, like Moses, with a long beard. This is your sheepfold? my friend asked.
And is this where the sheep sleep, pointing to a rough shelter thrown up against the rock in a corner.
But youve no gate to the fold; how do you close them up at night?
The old man looked at us as if we ought to have known better. I am the door, he said with emphasis; and, gathering his loose robe tight about his ankles, he was down in a moment, squatting in the doorway, back against one post, feet against the other, his knees drawn up and clasped by his weather-beaten old hands. Gently he bowed his head and closed his eyes, as many a time he had closed them to catch a few hours sleep under the starlight. I am the door, he repeated. I keep watch here at night. If thieves or wild beasts attempt to enter, they have to tackle me first. I have never lost a lamb from the fold yet.
My Sheep Know My Voice
A man in Australia was arrested and charged with stealing a sheep. But he claimed emphatically that it was one of his own that had been missing for many days. When the case went to court, the judge was puzzled, not knowing how to decide the matter. At last he asked that the sheep be brought into the courtroom. Then he ordered the plaintiff to step outside and call the animal. The sheep made no response except to raise its head and look frightened. The judge then instructed the defendant to go to the courtyard and call the sheep. When the accused man began to make his distinctive call, the sheep bounded toward the door. It was obvious that he recognized the familiar voice of his master.
All he ever really wanted in life was more. He wanted more money, so he parlayed inherited wealth into a billion-dollar pile of assets. He wanted more fame, so he broke into the Hollywood scene and soon became a filmmaker and star. He wanted more sensual pleasures, so he paid handsome sums to indulge his every sexual urge. He wanted more thrills, so he designed, built, and piloted the fastest aircraft in the world. He wanted more power, so he secretly dealt political favors so skillfully that two U.S. presidents became his pawns. All he ever wanted was more. He was absolutely convinced that more would bring him true satisfaction. Unfortunately, history shows otherwise. This man concluded his life emaciated and colorless; with a sunken chest; fingernails in grotesque, inches-long corkscrews; rotting, black teeth; tumors; and innumerable needle marks from his drug addiction.
Howard Hughes died believing the myth of more. He died a billionaire junkie, insane by all reasonable standards.
- Evidence That Demands a Verdict, p. 92
- The Other Jesus, L. J. Ogilvie, Word, 1986, pp. 84ff
- A. T. Robertson, Greek N.T., p. 92
- A. T. Robertson, Greek N.T., p. 95
- Christ At The Crossroads, C. Swindoll, 1991, p. 47
- God Came Near, Max Lucado, Multnomah Press, 1987, p. 67
- Living Dangerously, S. Briscoe, Zondervan, 1968, pp. 7ff
- Living Dangerously, S. Briscoe, Zondervan, 1968, pp. 47ff
- Living Dangerously, S. Briscoe, Zondervan, 1968, pp. 90ff
Miracle or Obedience
Jesus performed a mighty miracle in raising Lazarus from the dead. But He did not take away the stone from the door of the sepulcher, nor did He remove the grave clothes when His resurrected friend came out of the tomb, bound hand and foot (John 11:44). Commenting on this fact, J. Boyd Nicholson wrote, Standing before the grave of Lazarus, whose body was corrupting, the Lord demanded something of those who longed for a miracle. They might have questioned, Lord, You are going to raise the dead; why not move this heavy stone with but a worda thought? Herein lies a great principle: The Lord will not do by a miracle what we are to do by obedience. Is there a stone He wants you to roll away? Is there some hard, unyielding attitude; someone you will not forgive; some unconfessed sin; some step of obedience He awaits? It is ours to obey, it is His to do the miracles.
- A. T. Robertson, Greek N.T., p. 96
- A. T. Robertson, Greek N.T., p. 39
One for All
In Makkoth 1:10 it is stated that it was rare for the Sanhedrin to issue the death penalty. The Sanhedrin that puts to death one person in seven years is termed tyrannical. R. Elazar ben Azariah says, One person in seventy years. So the condemnation of our Lord by the Sanhedrin was evidently very unusual and supports the testimony of Scripture to the antipathy for Him, as well as evidences a sense of urgency in Caiaphass plot that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation should not perish.
In his book Yes, But How? Getting Serious About Your Faith, Vernon Grounds tells about a young woman named Mildred Cable. She grew up in Great Britain and fell in love with a man who felt that the Lord had called him to be a pastor in that country. Mildred was convinced that the Lord wanted her to serve as a missionary in China. When the man asked her to marry him, she faced an agonizing decision. One night after much praying, talking, and weeping, she told him she could not accept his proposal. With heavy hearts they said goodby and went their separate ways.
Vernon Grounds writes, That night she died to her own desires, her own hopes, her own humanly legitimate dreams. She died to her own will (and chose) to carry out the will of God. She went to China where God gave her . an extraordinarily fruitful ministry.
A total of 36,000 Sadhus (Hindu holy men) were part of the estimated crowd of 40 million attending the two month Kumbh Mela festival in India last spring. More than 200 American Sadhus of the Hari Krishna groups brought millions of dollars worth of Hindu literature to the festival. One of our partners in South India explains the purpose of the ritual bathing in the river, They come for forgiveness of sins and salvation. Some thousands come stark nakedsome of them rolling on the rough roads for miles, believing the festering sores on their bodies would earn them salvation. Hundreds have kept one arm lifted up for years until the arm gets shriveled with dry gangrene others have stood on one leg for years, hanging on to a suspended sling while sleeping. All these are done to appease angry gods.
During the festival, which takes place in the heat of summer, our Indian Christian partners set up free medical clinics. About 150 Christian students passed out literature and talked with pilgrims about the love of Christ. Some received us with friendliness, some merely tolerated us, and others ferociously objected to the spread of Christianity, wrote our partner. A number of pilgrims accepted Christ, though circumstances prevented them from taking an open stand at the Kumbh Mela. But five Hindus, including two Sadhus, were baptizedthe ultimate step of courage for a Hindu.
- Swindoll, Improving Your Serve
- Issues and Answers in Jesus Day, C. Swindoll, p. 114
During the American Revolution a man in civilian clothes rode past a group of soldiers repairing a small defensive barrier. Their leader was shouting instructions, but making no attempt to help them. Asked why by the rider, he retorted with great dignity, Sir, I am a corporal!
The stranger apologized, dismounted, and proceeded to help the exhausted soldiers. The job done, he turned to the corporal and said, Mr. Corporal, next time you have a job like this and not enough men to do it, go to your commander-in-chief, and I will come and help you again.
It was none other than George Washington.
In 1878, when William Booths Salvation Army was beginning to make its mark, men and women from all over the world began to enlist. One man, who had once dreamed of becoming a bishop, crossed the Atlantic from America to England to enlist. Samuel Brengle left a fine pastorate to join Booths Army. But at first General Booth accepted his services reluctantly and grudgingly. Booth said to Brengle, Youve been your own boss too long. And in order to instill humility in Brengle, he set him to work cleaning the boots of other trainees.
Discouraged, Brengle said to himself, Have I followed my own fancy across the Atlantic in order to black boots? And then, as in a vision, he saw Jesus bending over the feet of rough, unlettered fishermen. Lord, he whispered, you washed their feet; I will black their shoes.
- Christs Call To Discipleship, J. M. Boice, Moody, 1986, pp. 59ff
Vernon Grounds, then president of Denver Conservative Baptist Theological Seminary, challenged the graduating class of 1973 with the truth of todays text. Dr. Grounds told the graduates that he was going to present to them a tangible symbol that could help them in their future ministries. As the classmates filed quietly to the front, they wondered what it would bea special Scripture verse, a little book, and inscribed medallion? To their surprise, it was a small square of white terry cloth. One graduate, who has served as an overseas missionary, says, We were commissioned to go into the world as servants. That small piece of towel, frayed and grubby from years in my wallet, is a constant reminder of that moving moment and of our basic call to serve.
Do you and I have a servants attitude? The example Christ gave in the upper room was for us. We too need to serve our fellowman. Perhaps its time for us to realize that the towel in our hand is a servants towel.
Love Your Neighbor
In his book Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis wrote, Do not waste your time bothering whether you love your neighbor act as if you did. As soon as we do this, we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him. If you injure someone you dislike, you will find yourself disliking him more. If you do him a good turn, you will find yourself disliking him less.
Spirit of Unity
During World War II, Hitler commanded all religious groups to unite so that he could control them. Among the Brethren assemblies, half complied and half refused. Those who went along with the order had a much easier time. Those who did not, faced harsh persecution. In almost every family of those who resisted, someone died in a concentration camp.
When the war was over, feelings of bitterness ran deep between the groups and there was much tension. Finally they decided that the situation had to be healed. Leaders from each group met at a quiet retreat. For several days, each person spent time in prayer, examining his own heart in the light of Christs commands. Then they came together.
Francis Schaeffer, who told of the incident, asked a friend who was there, What did you do then? We were just one, he replied. As they confessed their hostility and bitterness to God and yielded to His control, the Holy Spirit created a spirit of unity among them. Love filled their hearts and dissolved their hatred.
When love prevails among believers, especially in times of strong disagreement, it presents to the world an indisputable mark of a true follower of Jesus Christ.
- Loving Across Our Differences, by Gerald L. Sittser, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1994), pp. 9ff
- Fairest of All, Herbert Lockyer, Eerdmans, 1936, pp. 59ff
Prodomos, used to describe Jesus, is usually translated forerunner and would have had a picturesque meaning for the people of Jesus day. The harbor of Alexandria was very difficult to approach. When the great corn ships came into it, a little pilot boat was sent out to guide them in. It went before them, and they followed it as it led them along the channel to safe waters. That pilot boat was called the prodomos. In the Roman army the prodomoi were the reconnaissance troops. They went ahead of the main body of the army to blaze the trail and ensure that it was safe for the rest of the troops to follow.
These two things illustrate what Jesus is saying about himself in this passage. He goes first, to make it safe for those who follow. He blazed the way to heaven and to God that we might follow in his steps.
The Lord Jesus is now in heaven, the Fathers house. He has gone there to prepare a place for all who have put their trust in Him. There is a sense, however, in which believers may have a part in preparing that place. That thought was brought to my attention as I read these observations by an unknown writer:
I once had friends who were traveling abroad. Intending to build a new house upon their return, in all their journeying the dream of that new home was constantly in their minds. When they therefore could secure a beautiful picture, statue, or vase, they purchased in and sent it on ahead to await their arrival. The same thing was done with rare and curious treasures, which afterward, when placed in their new home, could be linked with happy memories and in this way contribute to their future enjoyment.
The writer then made this application: I love to think that we, in these pilgrimage days on earth, are doing the same for our heavenly home. The kindly deed that made a rare picture in somebodys life, the little sacrifice that blossomed into joy, the helpful friendshipall these we shall find again. Whatever of beauty, tenderness, faith, or love we can put into others lives will be among our treasures in heaven.
Need for Godly Leaders
The need for godly leaders has been a popular topic in the Christian community. And rightly so. Leadership has often been sadly lacking within the church. But fellowship also needs attention. When believers arent prepared to follow, they cast doubt on their status as believers.
The following account comes to us from E. Stanley Jones. He told of a missionary who lost his way in an African jungle. He could find no landmarks and the trail vanished. Eventually, stumbling on a small hut, he asked the native living there if he could lead him out.
The native nodded. Rising to his feet, he walked directly into the bush. The missionary followed on his heels. For more than an hour they hacked their way through a dense wall of vines and grasses. The missionary became worried: Are you sure this is the way? I dont see any path.
The African chuckled and said over his shoulder, Bwana, in this place there is no path. I am the path.
Even those who claim to be Born Again are not necessarily firmly grounded in the truths of the Bible. In his book which provides a statistical analysis of religious beliefs in America, George Barna cites several fascinating statistics which are based on a national survey.
In chapter four he states, The Devil, or Satan, is not a living being but is a symbol of evil. Then asking that segment of his survey respondents who have identified themselves at being Born Again, he states, Do you agree strongly, agree somewhat, disagree somewhat, or disagree strongly with that statement?
The Born Again population reply with 32 percent agreeing strongly, 11 percent agreeing somewhat and 5 percent did not know. Thus, of the total number responding, 48 percent either agreed that Satan is only symbolic or did not know!
Should it then be surprising that a few pages later Barna would receive some very startling responses? His next question, Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and others all pray to the same God, even though they use different names for that God. Again, the respondents were asked to agree strongly, agree somewhat, disagree somewhat or disagree strongly.
Of that population surveyed who identified themselves as Born Again, 30 percent agreed strongly, 18 percent agreed somewhat and 12 percent did not know. That is a total of 60 percent! (What Americans Believe, pp. 206-212).
Hundreds of Religions
H. A. Ironside was occasionally interrupted during his sermons with the objection that there were hundreds of religions, and that no one could determine which was the right way. Ironside would answer by indicating that he knew of only two religions. One, he would say, covers all who expect salvation by doing; the other, all who have been saved by something done. The whole question is very simple. Can you save yourself, or must you be saved by another?
- Biblical Preaching, H. Robinson, p. 86
- Divine Healing Today, Richard Mayhue, Moody Press, p. 63
I Love You, Mother
When I was a little boy, my mother often recited to me Joy Allisons simple yet profound poem. Although a bit old-fashioned, it captures the heart of todays text about the true test of love:
I love you, Mother, said little John;
Then, forgetting his work, his cap went on,
And he was off to the garden swing,
Leaving his mother the wood to bring.
I love you, Mother, said little Nell;
I love you better than tongue can tell!
Then she teased and pouted half the day,
Till Mother rejoiced when she went to play.
I love you, Mother, said little Fran;
Today Ill help you all I can.
To the cradle then she did softly creep,
And rocked the baby till it fell asleep.
Then stepping softly, she took the broom
And swept the floor and dusted the room;
Busy and happy all day was she,
Helpful and cheerful as she could be.
I love you, Mother, again they said,
Three little children going to bed.
How do you think that Mother guessed
Which of them really loved her best'
Love Makes Obedience Easy
If you love me, you will keep my commandments, not the other way around. Love makes obedience easy. It is the delight of love to do what the loved one desires when the heart grows dull and obedience is difficult, the proper response of the Christian is not to grit his teeth and tough it out, but to remember who it is that asks this of him and the for his sake, to do it.
Jackie Robinson was the first black to play major league baseball. Breaking baseballs color barrier, he faced jeering crowds in every stadium. While playing one day in his home stadium in Brooklyn, he committed an error. The fans began to ridicule him. He stood at second base, humiliated, while the fans jeered. Then, shortstop Pee Wee Reese came over and stood next to him. He put his arm around Jackie Robinson and faced the crowd. The fans grew quiet. Robinson later said that arm around his shoulder saved his career.
- Charles C. Ryrie, So Great Salvation, (USA: Victor Books, a Division of Scripture Press, 1989), pp. 51ff
No Sprinkler System
Dr. Howard Hendricks tells of a small town in Texas where one year the school burned to the ground with the loss of more than 200 lives, because they didnt have a sprinkler system. They began to rebuild after the initial shock had passed and called in the foremost company in fire prevention equipment to install a sprinkler system. When the new school was opened for public inspection, guides pointed out the new sprinklers in each room, to alleviate fears of another disaster. The school operated without incident for a number of years, then they needed to add on to the existing structure. As work progressed, they made a startling discovery. The new fire extinguishing equipment had never been connected to the water supply! They had the latest in technology and equipment, yet it was entirely useless!
New Rules created quite a stir in the early 80s. In the book, professor Daniel Yankelovich of New York University documented a shift in social values in the 70s, a shift more massive and more rapid than any of the recent past.
The book was subtitled, Searching for Self-Fulfillment in a World Turned Upside Down. The old rules, Yankelovich said, stressed duty to others, particularly to ones family. If someone were selfish and got caught, it was embarrassing and looked ugly. But no longer. In what Yankelovich calls the duty to self ethic, our primary responsibility is for our own needs and interests. All other relationships and values must fit into that order of priority.
Yankelovich feels that the movement may be liberating, but he is an honest scientist. After tracking 3,000 people in personal, in-depth interviews, and analyzing hundreds of thousands of questionnaires, he admits that so far the search for self-fulfillment has been futile. It has resulted in insecurity and confusion. What is self-fulfillment? he asks. And When you find yourself, what will you do with yourself.?
The frightening thing is that 83 percent of Americans buy into the new rules, either in whole or in part. But those foolish people are not evangelical Christians, right? Wrong! James Davison Hunter, in his examination of students and faculty in 16 leading evangelical colleges and seminaries, used Yankelovichs earlier questionnaire and concluded that evangelicals are more committed to self-fulfillment than their secular counterparts.
The percentage of evangelical students agreeing with these statements far exceeded the corresponding percentage of the general population, Hunter wrote. Self-fulfillment is no longer a natural by-product of a life committed to higher ideals, but rather is a goal, pursued rationally and with calculation as an end in itself. The quest for emotional psychological and social maturity, therefore, becomes normative. Self-expression and self-realization compete for self-sacrifice as a guiding life ethic.
1-11 Our relationship to God
1-3 Two prerequisites for abiding
1. We bear fruit if we are in Christ (2), i.e. are saved.
2. We bear fruit if we are being pruned; cleansed by the Word.
4-5 The nature of abiding in Christ
The nature of the relationship between the branch and the vine is one of dependence.
The branch relies on the vine, the believer continually must rely, trust in Christ.
6-11 Results of abiding
Answers to prayer
God is glorified
Gods love is displayed (8)
Fullness of joy (11)
Interpretive options for cast into the fire:
1. An unbeliever, but context argues against this
2. Armenian position: lose your salvation
3. 1 Cor 3; works are burned. But here the branch is burned
Failure to abide in Christ may result in Gods taking a Christian home.
12-17 Our relationship to one another
18ff Our relationship to the lost
In Ernest Gordons true account of life in a World War II Japanese prison camp, Through the Valley of the Kwai, there is a story that never fails to move me. It is about a man who through giving it all away literally transformed a whole camp of soldiers. The mans name was Angus McGillivray.
Angus was a Scottish prisoner in one of the camps filled with Americans, Australians, and Britons who had helped build the infamous Bridge over the River Kwai. The camp had become an ugly situation. A dog-eat-dog mentality had set in. Allies would literally steal from each other and cheat each other; men would sleep on their packs and yet have them stolen from under their heads. Survival was everything. The law of the jungle prevailed until the news of Angus McGillivrays death spread throughout the camp. Rumors spread in the wake of his death. No one could believe big Angus had succumbed. He was strong, one of those whom they had expected to be the last to die. Actually, it wasnt the fact of his death that shocked the men, but the reason he died. Finally they pieced together the true story.
The Argylls (Scottish soldiers) took their buddy system very seriously. Their buddy was called their mucker, and these Argylls believed that is was literally up to each of them to make sure their mucker survived. Anguss mucker, though, was dying, and everyone had given up on him, everyone, of course, but Angus. He had made up his mind that his friend would not die. Someone had stolen his muckers blanket. So Angus gave him his own, telling his mucker that he had just come across an extra one.
Likewise, every mealtime, Angus would get his rations and take them to his friend, stand over him and force him to eat them, again stating that he was able to get extra food. Angus was going to do anything and everything to see that his buddy got what he needed to recover.
But as Anguss mucker began to recover, Angus collapsed, slumped over, and died. The doctors discovered that he had died of starvation complicated by exhaustion. He had been giving of his own food and shelter. He had given everything he hadeven his very life. The ramifications of his acts of love and unselfishness had a startling impact on the compound. Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends (John 15:12).
As word circulated of the reason for Angus McGillivrays death, the feel of the camp began to change. Suddenly, men began to focus on their mates, their friends, and humanity of living beyond survival, of giving oneself away. They began to pool their talentsone was a violin maker, another an orchestra leader, another a cabinet maker, another a professor. Soon the camp had an orchestra full of homemade instruments and a church called the Church Without Walls that was so powerful, so compelling, that even the Japanese guards attended. The men began a university, a hospital, and a library system. The place was transformed; an all but smothered love revived, all because one man named Angus gave all he had for his friend. For many of those men this turnaround meant survival. What happened is an awesome illustration of the potential unleashed when one person actually gives it all away.
Who Cares About the Bear!
Two hikers were walking through the woods when they suddenly confronted a giant bear. Immediately, one of the men took off his boots, pulled out a pair of track shoes and began putting them on. What are you doing? cried his companion. We cant outrun that bear, even with jogging shoes.
Who cares about the bear? the first hiker replied. All I have to worry about is outrunning you.
There was an orphanage near an American Marine Base in Viet Nam. One day the Viet Cong fired mortar shells into the orphanage, killing dozens of children and wounding many more. A boy named Kai had a seriously wounded friend who needed a blood transfusion. Kais friend had a rare blood type and only Kais blood matched it. Little Kai had never heard of a blood transfusion but when the American doctors explained it would save his friends life, little Kai volunteered.
As the blood began to flow from Kai to his friend, Kai began to whimper. When the doctors asked if it hurt, he said no. A little later he whimpered again. Again he told the doctors it did not hurt. The doctors asked, Whats wrong, Kai? With tears coursing down his light brown, dusty cheeks, Kai asked, When am I to die, sir, when am I to die? You see, little Kai didnt know that you only give a little blood. He thought you gave it all, and he was willing to do so for his little friend.
A Young Hero
Jean, Nev. - A 13-year-old boy endured flames licking up his back as he passed his two little brothers out a window of their burning home, then managed to escape himself.
He stood there and handed me them babies out while he was cooking, Jimmy Holsclaw said Saturday of his son, Jimmy. He never looked up or hesitated a minute, he did just what he was supposed to do.
Jimmy was in critical condition Saturday in a hospital burn unit in nearby Las Vegas, suffering from second and third degree burns over almost half his body and severe smoke inhalation.
His efforts early Friday saved the lives of his 3-year-old and 4-year-old brothers after the boys were trapped in a bedroom of their burning mobile home.
A True Friend
A story is told by a train engineer. He was approaching a trestle and saw two young girls walking over it. They heard the train approaching and tried to run to safety, but one girls foot caught between the ties. They tried and tried to free it, but it was no use. Finally the one commanded her friend, Run to safety and save yourself. She did, but immediately turned and ran back to try to release her friend. It seemed hopeless. She again ran to safety, but again returned to her friend. This happened three times, as the train came closer and closer. Finally the train struck the two girls who were locked in an embrace, and together they fell into the river below.
William Dixon was a widower who had also lost his only son. One day he saw a neighbors house on fire; although the aged owner was rescued, her grandson was trapped upstairs in the blaze. Dixon didnt hesitate. Climbing an iron pipe on the side of the house, Dixon lowered the boy to safety, badly burning his own hands on the overheated pipe. Shortly after the fire, the boys grandmother died, leaving him alone. As the town council considered what to do, two men appeared requesting custody of the boy. One was a father who had lost his son and wanted to adopt the orphan as his own. The other was Dixon. The first man gave his reasons for wanting to adopt the boy, then Dixon stood before the council and simply held up his badly scarred hands. When the vote was taken, the boy went to him.
He Couldnt Swim
One summer morning as Ray Blankenship was preparing his breakfast, he gazed out the window, and saw a small girl being swept along in the rain-flooded drainage ditch beside his Andover, Ohio, home. Blankenship knew that farther downstream, the ditch disappeared with a roar underneath a road and then emptied into the main culvert. Ray dashed out the door and raced along the ditch, trying to get ahead of the foundering child. Then he hurled himself into the deep, churning water.
Blankenship surfaced and was able to grab the childs arm. They tumbled end over end. Within about three feet of the yawning culvert, Rays free hand felt somethingpossibly a rockprotruding from one bank. He clung desperately, but the tremendous force of the water tried to tear him and the child away. If I can just hang on until help comes, he thought. He did better than that. By the time fire-department rescuers arrived, Blankenship had pulled the girl to safety. Both were treated for shock.
On April 12, 1989, Ray Blankenship was awarded the Coast Guards Silver Lifesaving Medal. The award is fitting, for this selfless person was at even greater risk to himself than most people knew. Ray Blankenship cant swim.
First Century Believers
Those first believers turned to Christ with the full understanding that they were espousing an unpopular cause that could cost them everything. Shortly after Pentecost some were jailed, many lost all their earthly goods, a few were slain, hundreds were scattered abroad. They could have escaped all this by the simple expedient of denying their faith and turning back to the world. This they steadfastly refused to do.
To make converts, we are tempted to play down the difficulties and play up the peace of mind and worldly success enjoyed by those who accept Christ. We will never be completely honest with our hearers until we tell them the blunt truth that, as members of a race of moral rebels, they are in a serious jam, and one they will not get out of easily. If they refuse to repent and believe on Christ, they will most surely perish. If they do turn to Him, the same enemies that crucified Him will try to crucify them.
Evangelist Paul Rader had many a talk with a banker in New York. The banker would reply that he was too busy for religion. Time passed and the banker, seriously overworked, was sent to a sanatorium for complete rest. One day God spoke to Paul Rader; the message was clear: Go and speak to . Rader obeyed, catching a train and going with all speed to the sumptuous sanatorium.
Arriving at the facility, Rader saw the banker standing in the doorway. Oh, Rader, said the banker, I am so glad to see you. I received your telegram, said Rader. Thats impossible, said the banker. I wrote a telegram begging you to come, but I tore it up. I didnt sent it. That may be, said Rader, but your message come by way of Heaven.
Paul Rader found his friend under deep conviction of sin and he pointed him to Christ as a perfect Saviour. That man accepted Christ and his heart was filled with joy. Rader, he said, did you ever see the sky so blue or the grass so green? Rader replied, Sometimes we sing Heaven above is softer blue, Earth around is sweeter green; Something lives in every hue Christless eyes have never seen. Suddenly the banker leaned against Paul Rader and fell into his arms, dead.
The Holy Spirits distinctive role is to fulfill what we may call a floodlight ministry in relation to the Lord Jesus Christ. So far as this role was concerned, the Spirit was not yet (John 7:29, literal Greek) while Jesus was on earth; only when the Father had glorified him (John 17:1, 5) could the Spirits work of making men aware of Jesus glory begin.
I remember walking to church one winter evening to preach on the words, He will glorify me (John 16:14), seeing the building floodlit as I turned a corner, and realizing that this was exactly the illustration my message needed. When floodlighting is well done, the floodlights are placed so that you do not see them; in fact, you are not supposed to see where the light is coming from; what you are meant to see is just the building on which the floodlights are trained. The intended effect is to make it visible when otherwise it would not be seen for the darkness, and to maximize its dignity by throwing all its details into relief so that you can see it properly. This perfectly illustrated the Spirits new covenant role. He is, so to speak, the hidden floodlight shining on the Savior.
Or think of it this way. It is as if the Spirit stands behind us, throwing light over our shoulder on to Jesus who stands facing us. The Spirits message to us is never, Look at me; listen to me; come to me; get to know me, but always, Look at him, and see his glory; listen to him and hear his word; go to him and have life; get to know him and taste his gift of joy and peace. The Spirit, we might say, is the matchmaker, the celestial marriage broker, whose role it is to bring us and Christ together and ensure that we stay together.
Alexander the Great
Among those who served in the court of Alexander the Great was a famous philosopher who had outstanding ability but little money. He asked Alexander for financial help and was told he could draw whatever cash he needed from the imperial treasury. When he submitted to the treasurer a request for an amount equal to $50,000, he was promptly refused. The treasurer had to verify that such a large sum was indeed authorized. But when he asked Alexander, the ruler replied, Pay the money at once. The philosopher has done me a singular honor. By the largeness of his request he shows that he has understood both my wealth and generosity.
Pastor Tom Starr told of a conference he attended where John R. Rice gave one of his last messages. He had suffered a heart attack and spoke from a wheelchair. His text was from John 10, Other sheep have I who are not of this fold. and he mentioned other believers who might not be precisely aligned theologically, but nonetheless were believers. Dr. Rice had opposed Billy Grahams ministry because of Dr. Grahams willingness to work with unbelieving religious leaders. But when Billy learned that Dr. Rice was advertising some of his materials in a non-Christian publication, he mailed him a check for $500 to help. When Dr. Rice went into the hospital with the heart attack, Billy was one of the first to call him.
Miriam Booth, daughter of the founder of the Salvation Army, was a brilliant and cultured woman who began her Christian work with great promise and unusual success. Very soon, however, disease brought her to the point of death. A friend told her it seemed a pity that a woman of her capabilities should be hindered by sickness from doing the Lords work. With deep insight and gently grace, Miriam replied, Its wonderful to do the Lords work, but its greater still to do the Lords will!
Commenting on John 17:4, blind minister and hymn writer George Matheson said, Was the work of the Master indeed done? Was not His heaviest task yet to come? He had not yet met the dread hour of death. Why did He say, then, that His work was done? It was because He knew that when the will is given, the battle is ended! . The cup which our Father gives us to drink is a cup of the will. It is easy for the lips to drain it when once the heart has accepted it . The act is easy after the choice.
In the year 1403, one of the wealthiest men in Paris died, leaving his entire estate to his teenage daughter Agnes. She was a beautiful and virtuous young woman, and many men wanted to marry her. But Agnes decided to give up her fortune and become a recluse. To isolate herself from society, she asked to be sealed into a cell within the wall of a church. The entrance was plastered shut except for one small hole through which food could be passed. She was confined in that small area at 18 years of age and remained there until she died at age 98.
The water spider is an amazing little creature. Called the frogman of the spider world, it lives in rivers and streams. How does this fascinating species survive in its watery environment? It spins a tough basket-like web of silk, a kind of diving bell, and anchors it under water to plants or other objects. Then it captures a surface air bubble, which it pulls down and ejects into its underwater house, filling it with air. This combination of web building and bubble trapping allows the water spider to live in an environment that normally would destroy it.
As Christians, we too live in an environment that could destroy us. The worlds values, attitudes, and practices threaten to drown us unless we are able to protect ourselves from them. How are we to survive spiritually in this hostile worldly environment? We must build a bubble of protection around ourselves by studying the Scriptures, praying, fellowshipping with believers, communing with the Holy Spirit, trusting God, and obeying His Word. These activities will insulate our minds and help to keep us safe and secure.
As the water spider lives in the water but is not of the water, so we must live in but not be of the world.
- "Evangelical Preaching," Charles Simeon, p. 267
- Bibliotheca Sacra, 135:540:323
- Issues and Answers in Jesus Day, C. Swindoll, p. 100
- A. T. Robertson, Greek N.T., p. 75
- Christlike, Barry Applewhite, p. 109
The Number of Lashes
The number (of lashes) thirty-nine fits with that given in Makkoth 3:11, forty (less one). And the severity of the affliction is evident from the description of, or prescription for it in Makkoth 3:12. The body was to be laid bare and the victim flogged by a man with a leather scourge standing on a stone. According to Blackman the reason for standing was so that the blows came down with great force (n. 8). In 3:13 it is stated, And he who smites must smite with his one hand with all his might. In 3:14 it is indicated that the punishment was sometimes so severe that men died under it.
Lifes Two Magnitudes
A great mathematician once said that he was not concerned about spiritual matters until he vividly saw lifes two magnitudes - the shortness of time and the vastness of eternity. When this truth came home to him, he became a devoted disciple of Jesus Christ.
If Pilate had considered these two realities, he would not have condemned Jesus to die on the cross. He knew that the Savior was innocent of the charged against Him. He even had an uneasy feeling that Jesus was not just an ordinary man. but his desire to keep his high government post was greater than his determination to do right. Actually, he obtained little earthly benefit from his decision. The church father Eusebius, quoting from Greek historians, said that Pilate fell out of favor with his superiors and committed suicide before A.D. 40 - less than 10 years after his fateful decree. Since we have no indication that he ever repented of his sin and trusted Christ as his personal Savior, we must assume he died in a lost and hopeless condition. He had not reckoned with the shortness of time and the vastness of eternity.
Do or Done
There is a great difference between your religion and mine, said a Christian to his neighbor.
Indeed! was the reply. What is that?
It is this: Yours has only two letters in it, while mine has four.
What do you mean? said he.
Well, yours has DO. Mine has DONE.
Kumbh Mela Festival
A total of 36,000 Sadhus (Hindu holy men) were part of the estimated crowd of 40 million attending the two month Kumbh Mela festival in India last spring. More than 200 American Sadhus of the Hari Krishna groups brought millions of dollars worth of Hindu literature to the festival. One of our partners in South India explains the purpose of the ritual bathing in the river, They come for forgiveness of sins and salvation. Some thousands come stark nakedsome of them rolling on the rough roads for miles, believing the festering sores on their bodies would earn them salvation. Hundreds have kept one arm lifted up for years until the arm gets shriveled with dry gangrene. Others have stood on one leg for years, hanging on to a suspended sling while sleeping. All these are done to appease angry gods.
During the festival, which takes place in the heat of summer, our Indian Christian partners set up free medical clinics. About 150 Christian students passed out literature and talked with pilgrims about the love of Christ. Some received us with friendliness, some merely tolerated us, and others ferociously objected to the spread of Christianity, wrote our partner.
A number of pilgrims accepted Christ, though circumstances prevented them from taking an open stand at the Kumbh Mela. But five Hindus, including two Sadhus, were baptizedthe ultimate step of courage for a Hindu. Partners, published by Partners International, August, 1992, p. 7
A True Disciple
She was a 120 pound woman who had been drawn in her soul for 3 days and who had already made the trip between Jerusalem and the tomb 3 times. She was offering to carry the inert body of a man who weighed perhaps 160 pounds. She couldnt have done it, but she would have split her heart trying.
- Evangelism, A Biblical Approach, M. Cocoris, Moody, 1984, p. 37
- Christ At The Crossroads, C. Swindoll, 1991, p. 55
- Ask Him Anything, L. J. Ogilvie, Word, 1981, p. 222
- Issues and Answers in Jesus Day, C. Swindoll, p. 84
Lovest Thou Me'
Hark, my soul! it is the Lord;
Tis thy Saviour, hear His word;
Jesus speaks, and speaks to thee,
Say, poor sinner, lovest thou me'
I deliverd thee when bound,
And when bleeding, heald thy wound;
Sought thee wandering, set thee right,
Turnd thy darkness into light.
Can a womans tender care
Cease towards the child she bare'
Yes, she may forgetful be,
Yet will I remember thee.
Mine is an unchanging love,
Higher than the heights above.
Deeper than the depths beneath,
Free and faithful, strong as death.
Thou shalt see my glory soon,
When the work of grace is done;
Partner of my throne shalt be;
Say, poor sinner, lovest thou me?
Lord, it is my chief complaint,
That my love is weak and faint;
Yet I love Thee and adore,
Oh! for grace to love Thee more!