Friday, August 8, 2014

"Whose testimony about Jesus will YOU believe?"

Day #224:  Daily Bible Reading - August 9th

Scripture Reading:  John 3 - 4 …

People today will believe just about anything … except the truth!  They will believe rumors or statements made by people in every walk of life about virtually any topic.  They will believe things written in newspapers and magazines or reports on television without giving it a second thought.  But when it comes to the eyewitness testimony concerning Jesus given in the Gospels, people choose to remain ignorant and foolishly reject the very word that could bring spiritual life!!  Such is the fate of those who reject the testimony of God's Word.

As Jesus began His ministry it was not long before people began to be drawn to Him.  First it was for the miracles, but where the Spirit was working it was what He said that moved them to believe He was the Messiah.  Nicodemus, a Pharisee, came to Jesus at night, undoubtedly afraid of the rest of the Pharisees and what they would think of him talking with Jesus.  He declared that Jesus was "a teacher who has come from God" (3:2), based on the miracles He had done.  But Jesus quickly turned his observation into a teaching moment.

Jesus came to reveal the kingdom of God … a spiritual kingdom that could be entered only by being born again by the very Spirit of God.  "No one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again," Jesus said (3:3).  And again, "No one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.  Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit" (3:5-6).  Jesus is speaking of spiritual things here, quite probably pointing to God's promise in Ezekiel 36:25-27: "I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean … I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you … I will put MY Spirit in you …"

Jesus was not referring to baptism but to the "living water" that would wash spiritually those who believed.  Significantly, Jesus would say to the Samaritan woman in chapter 4, verse 14, "Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst.  Indeed, the water I give him will become IN him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."  Only the Spirit can produce spiritual life in those who are spiritually dead … which is all of mankind!

Jesus said that He would be lifted up (on the cross) so that "everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life" (3:15).  Then comes that famous verse:  "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life!" (3:16).  What a wonderful promise.  God sent Jesus the first time to save the "world," those whom He had chosen from every people, tribe, nation and tongue.  But there's more in the following verses and most people miss what Jesus says next and so misunderstand what He says in verse 16.

As John wrote in Chapter 1, Jesus came into the world to be the light of the world (John 1:5,9; 8:12).  Verse 18 is crucial in understanding how God brings salvation.  "Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does NOT believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son."  We might ask, "What do people have to do to face God's judgment in hell?"  The answer is, "NOTHING!"  Men love the darkness because they don't want their evil deeds exposed.  They will go to churches that never talk about sin or judgment or hell because they just want to feel better about themselves.  They don't want their evil deeds exposed; they want to believe they deserve eternal life … but no one does!!

John the Baptist, Jesus' cousin, continued to baptize with water and to call people to repentance, and now Jesus was teaching and His disciples were baptizing, so some thought John would be upset that he was "losing disciples" to Jesus, but John testified that Jesus was from heaven … "The One who comes from heaven is above all" (3:31).  He declared the truth about Jesus and about His message:  "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him" (3:36).  In one sense, the Bible could stop right there.  That's the Gospel in a nutshell … and John, the writer of this Gospel, would repeat that very thing in his first letter to the church in I John 5:12.

The Gospel is not difficult to understand, but only to accept.  You must hear the Gospel, receive new life from the Spirit and believe in Jesus for forgiveness.  Those who do, HAVE eternal life … those who don't remain in spiritual death.  Jesus doesn't have to condemn them because they condemn themselves.  Jesus testified concerning Himself because there was no one else who knew who He was or what He came to do at this point.  Simeon and Anna and the angels had testified at His birth that this child was the Son of God, but now it was time to reveal to the world that the Messiah was here!!

God chose a Samaritan … and a Samaritan woman at that, to reveal perhaps for the first time in person, who Jesus was.  It was at Jacob's well that Jesus would reveal HIMSELF as the "living water" that people needed if they were to have eternal life.  The woman was shocked that Jesus, a Jew and a MAN, would speak to her, a Samaritan and a WOMAN.  That just didn't happen.  But God's plan was to save this woman, and through her testimony, others from the Samaritans.  In doing so, God's grace is on display already before Jesus even goes to the cross.  Jesus Himself says, "Salvation is from the Jews" (4:22), but in Jesus God was opening the door to all, as Paul would write to the Galatians:  "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28).  No one can say, "I didn't have a chance," based on their gender, race or social status.

As He spoke to the woman, Jesus confronted her with the reality of her sin before God.  She had been married five times and was living with another man.  When the woman tried to change the subject (as people often do when confronted with their sin), Jesus told her that God must be worshiped "in spirit and in truth" (4:24).  Only when the Spirit opens the mind and heart of one who was dead in sin can the new nature commune with God and offer Him true worship.  Much of what is called "worship"  today is sadly like that which God condemned in Isaiah 29:13, "These people draw near Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me."

Is YOUR heart engaged in your everyday worship of God and in your corporate worship with the body of Christ?  Or are you just going through the motions?  Do you see how dangerous it is to pretend with God.  You must come to the Light and you must be cleansed by the blood of Christ and empowered by the Spirit to confess your sin and to turn from it.  Where there is no confession of sin or desire to turn from sin there is no spiritual life.  Jesus said, "the water I give will become a spring of water welling up to eternal life" (4:14).  It cannot and will not be otherwise.  Those who receive God's testimony concerning Jesus will then bear testimony of Jesus!

That's precisely what this Samaritan woman now did.  She said, "I know that Messiah is coming.  When He comes, He will explain everything to us" (4:25).  Jesus said to her, "I who speak to you am HE!" (4:26).  There it is:  the testimony of Jesus concerning Himself … a testimony the disciples had not yet grasped themselves.  But now this woman went and told everyone she knew about Jesus and what He had said.  When the disciples returned and wanted Jesus to eat He told them, "I have food to eat that you know nothing about" (4:32).  They didn't understand, so Jesus said, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish His work. … The fields … are ripe for harvest!" (4:34-35).

And the evidence was in the reaction of many other Samaritans who now believed that this Jewish man was, indeed, the long-awaited Messiah, the One who would be Savior!  Jesus stayed with them for two days and many more became believers, not because they saw miracles, but "because of His words" (4:41).  Every person who becomes a true believer, who is born again by the Spirit, is born again by the message Jesus came to bring.  Paul writes in Romans 10:17 that "faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the Word of Christ."  Jesus continued to do miracles to confirm who He was, to reveal the clash that was occurring between the kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of light … but it was His WORDS that had the power to transform dead spirits into those who are alive!!

So it is today.  Many want to see a miracle and they will travel thousands of miles at the report of someone who is a supposed "anointed miracle-worker."  God has determined that the new birth will happen only by hearing the testimony of His Word and believing in Jesus Christ.  The Word of God is the "sword of the Spirit" that cuts to the very heart of our problem … OUR hearts!  Unless God gives life by His Word and Spirit, no one would be saved.  But we can hold in our hands today the very Word of God and read the testimonies of Jesus and those who came to believe in Him.  By faith we receive what God offers and know that we will not be condemned because we have believed in the name of God's one and only Son.

Have you put your faith in Him?  Nicodemus did, for we read of him again in John 19:39-42, as he helped Joseph of Arimathea take the body of Jesus from the cross and to the tomb.  To risk such a thing Nicodemus must have believed that Jesus was the Messiah … and when He rose from the dead, surely God moved Nicodemus to testify of Christ.  This we know, the testimony GOD gives is true.  There is no other book like the Bible.  What we know of Jesus we know because the Spirit of God inspired the writers of the Gospels and the New Testament to write down the testimony for all generations who would come after them.

At the end of his Gospel John would write, "Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not recorded in this book.  But these are written that you may believe that Jesus IS the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name" (20:31).  To that I can only say, "AMEN!"

"Heavenly Father, it is in Your Word that I find the testimony that has changed my heart and my life.  I thank You for the work of Your Spirit within me, for I confess my sin and know that without Your work of grace I would remain in the condition in which I was born:  spiritually dead.  I pray that You would continue Your work in me, empowering me daily to testify to the truth that Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed One, and that He is Lord … that He is MY Savior and MY Lord.  May my life be a testimony of thanksgiving and praise to You for the gift of Your Son, in Jesus' name, Amen"

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