Monday, January 17, 2022

JOHN 4:16-26 (NIV) WITNESSING, SEXUAL SIN, TRUTH


16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” 17 “I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”

This part of the encounter shows that the divine nature of Jesus revealed the woman’s situation to his human nature. Just as we saw his human nature revealed in his physical tiredness, now his divine nature is revealed through his knowledge of the woman’s sin.

Witnessing Lesson Six. We don’t have the ability to know a person’s sinfulness, however, if you know that someone is deep in a sinful activity or relationship, bring it up. How you bring it up should be sensitive. Remember that questions convict and accusations condemn resulting in defensiveness. Give them the chance to own the sin.

In this instance, Jesus knew what her big problem was, promiscuity. Not in the sense we see it today but having multiple husbands and now living with a man. She was unable to commit to a relationship or she was so hard to get along with that her husbands divorced her. I would speculate on the side that she was seeking satisfaction in a perfect relationship and was always looking for greener pastures.

It is clear from Jesus’ comment that she had actually been married five time. This is not necessarily the actions of a prostitute, though it could be why she was divorced by them.

People often claim that once a couple lives together then then they are married in the eyes of the Lord. This most likely comes from 1 Corinthians 6:15-16.

Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! 16 Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh” (NIV).

These verses condemn sexual promiscuity and do not claim that people are married who live together. It is speaking of the destruction of the relationship with Christ that occurs when a person gives his or her body over to another outside the bonds of marriage.

Marriage requires a commitment. The commitment comes before sexual consummation. In fact, sex is not a requirement for making the commitment. A betrothed man and woman were just as much married in the OT as they would be after consummation. The penalties for adultery applied to them as well.

What about a person who has been married many times or has never been married and has been sexually active? How does God look upon them when they come to Christ?

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Cor 5:17 NIV).

We start over. We are a new creation. I’ve heard people describe this as being virtual virgins. The new life starts, and the past sins are gone. However, there is still the memories and the accusation by Satan. How do you deal with that? You can quote 2 Corinthians 5:17 or other verses that verify that our past sins are forgiven. Even a Christian who has lapsed into sexual sin can confess and be cleansed from all unrighteousness.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9 NIV)

Note that this promise is to purify us from all unrighteousness. Of course, if a person then persists in this behavior, the confession and repentance is false and that is a big problem including the possibility the person is not really a Christian.

19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”

The woman didn’t deny what Jesus said. However, she still wasn’t ready to openly admit her sin. In fact, she tried to divert him away from the issue by bringing up a theological issue.

Witnessing Lesson Seven. Always be ready for excuses or deflection from the gospel. These are almost always a smokescreen covering up sinful behavior that they don’t want to give up. Be attentive to the excuse and see how it is phrased. The woman addressed Jesus respectfully and admitted his ability as a prophet. This was an opening that showed her distraction was something that could legitimately stand in the way of her ability to recognize Jesus as her Savior.

The issue of where to worship was a bone of contention between the Jews and Samaritans. The issue of being able to worship on any hill or mountain had been one of the things that was a snare to Israel. Even in the times of David and Solomon, people were still worshipping at the high places. God had been gracious to overlook it, but it didn’t please him. The reason was that the high places were also where the pagans had worshiped. It didn’t take much for the people who worshiped the Lord to look around and contaminate their worship with pagan practices. A good answer to this question would help the woman see clearly Jesus as Messiah.

If someone persists in bringing up smokescreens then you have to ask such as, “If I answer this question, are you willing to examine the truthfulness of the gospel or are you evading your accountability to God?” Call them out for their evasiveness without any true desire to learn.

21 Jesus declared, “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”

Witnessing lesson Eight. Don’t water down the truth in trying to answer an objection or distraction. Always bring the distraction back to the gospel. Don’t shy away from the truth in any way. Jesus affirmed that the correct form of worship at that time was in Jerusalem. He clarified the Samaritan’s error and spoke the truth about where salvation comes from, and it is tied to worship. You can’t be saved when you are trusting in anything but Jesus for your salvation. You can’t mix works and Jesus or idolatry and Jesus. It must be Jesus alone.

Jesus then pushed right past the issue to the future, worshiping God in spirit and in truth. See how he directs her to the truth of God being spirit. Because He is spirit, his worship must come from our spirit (which we can’t do it until we are born again). We must know the truth of who he is because worshiping a false notion of Jesus or the Father will not do any good. Worshiping a Jesus who is the brother of Satan is not going be a worship that brings about salvation.

25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

It is remarkable that the woman is ready to now talk about the Messiah. She may not have understood what Jesus was saying in his comment, so she defers to him when he set everything straight. She may have had a much better understanding of the Messiah than some of the Jews who were only looking for a king to save them from Rome. She was at least looking to him for spiritual leadership.

26 Then Jesus declared, “I who speak to you am he.”

Witnessing lesson Nine. Always point them to Jesus. I can’t imagine the shock she must have had at his revelation. He hadn’t even told his disciples who he was in such clear language.

Monday, January 10, 2022

John 4:1-15 Baptism, Nondiscrimination, Evangelism

 

1 The Pharisees heard that Jesus was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John, 2 although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. 3 When the Lord learned of this, he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee. (ESV)

     How did the Pharisees hear about people being baptized by Jesus? I’m not sure, but it could have been hearsay, or it could be that they had spies keeping track of him.  He had gotten their attention by cleansing the temple so it makes sense that they would be concerned about what he was doing. Unfortunately, their reconnaissance wasn’t totally accurate.  They were also mistaken about who was doing the baptizing as John clarified that Jesus’ disciples were the ones who were baptizing people. The point of this is that Jesus was also aware that they were keeping tabs on him. Their fear of him becoming too popular would interfere with his broader ministry and so he withdrew.

    Do you ever wonder why Jesus never baptized anyone? I can only speculate but Paul had a problem with people saying they were following him or Cephas or Apollos because they were possibly baptized by them (1 Cor 1:12-17). Perhaps Jesus didn’t want to baptize anyone because they could then claim some kind of authority. “I was baptized by Jesus, so you must follow me.” This kind of thinking would only draw people away from Christ. It shows how vulnerable we are to temptations and vulnerable we are to follow people instead of Christ.

    This also shows that we should assess our ministry or work in the same way. We have to keep an eye on the long-term goals so that we don’t get distracted by short-term circumstances. Unlike Jesus, we would most likely have looked at the success and believed God was calling us to increase the ministry at the Jordan. Jesus wasn’t called to a ministry of popularity. He knew his ministry was to become the Savior and it had to be done at the right time, so he left.

4 Now he had to go through Samaria. 5 So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob's well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about the sixth hour.

    It's interesting that this information about Jacob giving Joseph a plot of ground isn’t recorded in the OT. Chasing down this rabbit hole could be a distraction. What is important is the location. It depicts a real place. It gives us some immediate information showing that Jesus didn’t have the snobbery of the Pharisees who wouldn’t even go through Samaria and become defiled by its people. It gives credibility to the reality of what is about to happen as well as the nature of Jesus to seek and save the lost. About noon – it was a pretty hot time of day. And Jesus was tired, it shows his human nature.

7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, "Will you give me a drink?"  8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

    This is lesson one in evangelism. Look for a common interest in striking up a conversation. Even showing vulnerability. Don’t look at the person’s outward appearance, man, woman, ethnicity, education, social position, or anything else. You probably are aware that a Pharisee wouldn’t be caught dead speaking to a woman in public much less a Samaritan woman. Had any Pharisees been there they would have been totally shocked that Jesus intended to drink from her hands. He broke all the cultural taboos just talking to her.

    One way of witnessing for the fainthearted is to pass out tracts. I do it at the gas station. I only have a few seconds to get a person interested. I often make a comment about their car or whatever the Holy Spirit brings to mind. As they finish filling their tank or I have to turn back to mine, I give them an attractive gospel tract. My favorite is a “Smile.” You can find it at https://on-tract.com. With the author’s permission, I’ve modified it slightly and is in color with our church’s information so they can have a good place to attend should they come to Christ.

9 The Samaritan woman said to him, "You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?" (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)

    John gives us this is information because we need to understand how radical Jesus’ request was. Not everyone who reads the Gospel of John knows this and it is vital to see that the gospel is for everyone, and we must penetrate all barriers to bring the good news.

10 Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water."

    Lesson two in evangelism is to introduce spiritual content into the conversation. Even though Jesus asked for a drink and the woman came back with an evasive response, he still persisted and talked of God and something she didn’t have a clue about – living water. Ask a question like where they go to church. Don’t ask if they go to church. Even if they say they don’t, it may be an opening. If they ignore it completely, or answer with a negative attitude, that may be the end of the conversation. It isn’t time to talk further with them about the Lord.

11 "Sir," the woman said, "you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?"

    Lesson three, pay attention to the answer. Though she might have been curious about the gift of God, she ignored it. The water was the lead into spiritual things. She didn’t have the foggiest idea what Jesus was talking about. But her curiosity hit on it. Note that she was still defensive and challenged Jesus. She was claiming Jacob as her ancestor. She imagined her spiritual future was based on her ancestors just as the Jews did. In today’s world this would have been the same as answering about going to church that or that her great grandpappy was a deacon or a preacher.

    We do the same when we depend on our denomination to define our relationship with God. Other ways of defining ourselves is by claiming to be Calvinist or Arminian, reformed, evangelical, dispensationalist or covenantalist. Identifying ourselves in these ways locks us into theology that will eventually come into conflict with Scripture. Though each has its good sides, they also have errors. It is best to identify with Christ and let the Bible determine your theology and have no other label.

13 Jesus answered, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but 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."

    Lesson four, look for any opening that will let you talk more about the gospel. Jesus immediately turned her focus away from the physical water to eternal life.  Specifically, Jesus was speaking of the Holy Spirit. We don’t want to miss this in comparing this to our lessons in witnessing. He points her to the fact that there is eternal life. We would probably ask the person the two questions:

“If you were to die tonight, do you know where you would go?”

“If you did die and you stood before God and he ask you why he should let you into heaven, how would you answer him?”

    These two questions reveal what they believe about eternity and what they are trusting to save them.

15 The woman said to him, "Sir, give me this water so that I won't get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water."

    Lesson five, don’t be put off by a response that still doesn’t look like it will go any further. She is still thinking of physical things. Our subjects may be still thinking about salvation by works or may even say they don’t believe in heaven or hell. But they are responding. They haven’t told you to get out their face. So, press on. Tell them that the Bible tells us that heaven is a free gift and can’t be earned. Ask them if he would like to hear more.


Monday, January 3, 2022

JOHN 3:22-36 DISCIPLES, MINISTRY, TRUTH


JOHN 3:22-36 (NIV) 22 After this, Jesus and his disciples went out into the Judean countryside, where he spent some time with them, and baptized. 23 Now John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of water, and people were constantly coming to be baptized. 24 (This was before John was put in prison.) 25 An argument developed between some of John's disciples and a certain Jew over the matter of ceremonial washing. 26 They came to John and said to him, "Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan — the one you testified about — well, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him."

At this point we only have four disciples named, Andrew, Peter, Philip, and Nathaniel. We don’t know if there were others, but the implication that they were baptizing people indicates that there were many more. In fact, there had to be so many that John’s disciples began to notice that fewer people were coming to him than to Jesus.

Here are some key things to remember. If you want to be a disciple of Jesus, you must spend time with him. You can’t just say “Here I am” and then continue with your daily life as if nothing has changed. They went on a retreat and that indicates that it was a special time set aside for fellowship and being taught. We can have that time with Jesus on a daily basis but there should be times when we take a longer time-out from the things of the world to have intense time. I don’t do so good with that.

The Jew and John’s disciples were arguing but it didn’t get specific, only that it was about ceremonial washing. The Jews, as we understand from what Jesus said about them washing the outside of dish but not the inside, made it clear that their ceremonies for cleansing didn’t do anything for the person’s sanctification. Their hearts were still corrupt as opposed to John’s baptism for repentance which was an appeal to God for forgiveness. The Jews had so many ceremonial requirements that it was nearly impossible to live a day without having to do some kind of ceremonial washing to cleanse themselves from the outward defilement that came every day. This is quite a contrast to John’s simple requirement.

But the question for his disciples quickly degenerated into jealousy for their master. They blame John for Jesus’ success in a manner that is accusatory. “If you hadn’t said this about him, we would still be getting people baptized.”

27 To this John replied, "A man can receive only what is given him from heaven. 28 You yourselves can testify that I said, 'I am not the Christ but am sent ahead of him.' 29 The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom's voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. 30 He must become greater; I must become less.

John’s disciples may have been jealous but John wasn’t. He knew his role in life and that was to point people to Jesus. He had his head on correctly about where his ministry came from and where it was to go. This is a remarkable admonition to each of us. We can get caught up in how good of a job we are doing for Jesus that we forget that we can do it only because God gives us the ministry. Ministry is not just about preaching and baptizing. It is about whatever vocation God has called us to do. 1 Corinthians 10:31 says, “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (NIV).

We should find our joy in knowing we are serving our Lord and not in the people who are giving us accolades. We should be listening for Jesus to tell us that we are doing a good job.

31 "The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all. 32 He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony. 33 The man who has accepted it has certified that God is truthful. 34 For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit. 35 The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him."  NIV

John gets to the nitty gritty of who Jesus is. He is sovereign (he is above all stated twice), he is not speaking from earthly wisdom but with God’s wisdom. It is firsthand wisdom and not something he learned from someone else.

John speaks paradoxically when he says no one accepts what Jesus says but when a man does accept it, his acceptance certifies God is truthful. Who is this man that has accepted it? Is he talking about himself, or others? This is the same kind of distinction that is made when Jesus says that whoever believes has eternal life then speaks about those who are condemned and those who aren’t. The man who accepts can only refer to the elect.

Now he is talking about Jesus as the one whom God has sent. What John says about Jesus here is almost the same as what Jesus says about himself later. It is almost a summary of what we will see about Jesus as we continue through the Gospel of John. He speaks for God, He gives the Spirit. There is a love relationship between the Father and the Son, The Father has given everything into Jesus’ hands.

Our salvation or condemnation is made evident when we either believe in Jesus or reject him. Belief, certifying the God is truthful brings eternal life. Not accepting what we hear about Jesus confirms that God’s eternal wrath remains on the unbeliever. This too certifies that God is truthful. Pretty scary!