Thursday, October 13, 2016

"Whose testimony about Jesus are you believing?"

Day #288

Scripture Reading:  John 3 - 4 …

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 includes 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!!  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.

Verse 18 is crucial to 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).  

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.  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 offering salvation to “all the world,” to Jews AND to Gentiles.

As He spoke to the woman, Jesus confronted her with the reality of her sin before God.  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." 

So it is today.  At the end of his Gospel John wrote, "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).  

"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, and I pray that You will 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 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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