Sunday, October 17, 2010

In Accordance to God's Timing (Jn. 7:1-9)

This is my personal summary of the preaching of Rev Dr Stephen Tong on 10 October 2010 in True Way Presbyterian Church. It was preached in Chinese with English translation.

Passage: John 7:1-9

In Chapter 5, the Jews wanted to kill Jesus as He had offended them. Firstly He disobeyed the Sabbath Law. Secondly He equated Himself as God. Thirdly, He called God His Father, something the Jews would never do. In Chapter 6, Jesus disregarded whatever the Jews was plotting and He continued His ministry and fed the multitude.

In Chapter 7, Jesus wanted to filter the people who came to Him. He did not want to have too many people. The Church is the Body of Christ, holy and bought by Christ’s precious blood. Jesus’ teaching became difficult at the end of Chapter 6. He spoke about how eternal life came from eating His flesh and drinking His blood. Those looking for miracles and food left Him. Jesus wanted them to leave and even asked His 12 disciples to leave as well. But Peter said, “You have the word of eternal life, to whom shall we go?”

The church is full of selfish people who only want the loaves and fishes. Many preachers preach not the word of God, but preach with haphazard attitude. They do not correct unbiblical content only want quantitative increase. If the lifestyle of Christians is not superior to the world, how can we be light and salt? Therefore filtering is necessary. However, today if the church tries to implement church discipline, people will leave, as though only the Lord can discipline His people.

Thus was the situation with the Israelites. Who would correct the religious leaders of the day? When God sent the prophets, they killed them. God then allowed foreigners like King Herod and Pontius Pilate to rule over the Israelites. Through the prophet Isaiah God said He was sick of their sacrifices. They praised with their lips but their hearts were far away. In the same way, Jesus wanted to test His disciples. Jesus told them to go. In the Twelve, there was a betrayer.

In Chapter 7, Jesus purposely stayed away from Galilee because the Jews wanted to kill Him. It is not because He was afraid of death. If He was, He would not have come in the flesh. He came precisely to die on the cross. Jesus told His brothers that they could go at any time but His time had not yet come. There was another occasion Jesus spoke about time in this manner. When the perfume of myrrh was poured upon Him and people complained of the waste, Jesus said they could do good to the poor any time, but they did not always Him. “For you any time is right, but not for Me. You need to treasure the time when I am still with you.”

He told His brothers His time has not come. He stayed in Galilee after saying that. Yet His time came not a few days or hours later, it was only a few minutes later. Once His brothers left, He also went to Jerusalem. Jesus saw time precisely to the last moment. When the time has not come, He did not move. Once His time arrived, He proceeded. He did not hide but entered to temple court to preach. Jesus was obedient to God the Father in the midst of all difficulties and was very sensitive to God’s timing.

If God’s guidance came and we do not move, we will miss the opportunities. Do not fall behind the plan and timetable of God. We may fall behind other things but should not fall behind God’s timetable. We need to learn to walk in accordance to the Holy Spirit’s guidance. True revival is when we walk in sync with the Holy Spirit. Let us move steadily in line with the Spirit.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Jesus the Bread of Life Part 5 (John 6:66-71)

John 6 can be divided into 2 parts:

The 1st part-Jesus provides men's physical food. Man does not live by bread alone. Man's mouth needs to eat food.

The 2nd part (completely turned around)-Jesus does not provide men's physical food anymore but spiritual food. Man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of God. Man's ears need to listen to God's word.

Which one do we need more? Many times what we need are not what we think we need. Many times, we don't think that we need the things that we really need. Who among men would think that they need God's word? Confucius, the most famous Chinese thinker taught the Chinese 'real man seek the truth.' But ironically, most Chinese sought physical food everywhere instead of the truth.

Towards the end of John 6 we see that Jesus' teaching becomes more and more difficult to understand. To make it worse, he talked about things that were not practical. Many people, judged Christ's words by the surface and therefore started leaving him. In John 6:6 there were as many as 12000 people. By the time we reach John 6:67, there were only 12 left-the Twelve. This stands in contrast with today's church growth theology. This is church decline, to be accurate.

What was Jesus' reaction?

Far from being afraid that nobody will follow him anymore, he actually asked the Twelve (v67), 'Why don't you leave me and go with them too?' (this is a more accurate translation from the original text in Greek, which could be found in the Indonesian translation of the Bible). Jesus was not afraid that men will leave him but he was asking why they were still with him there.

Jesus' purpose in asking this question is to make them ask themselves, 'Why am I still here?' Everybody may change, even though he may not realise that. Therefore it is meaningful to ask this question. Peter's answer was very magnificent:

'Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God (John 6:68).'

In the Bible, there are only 2 times when a person is told to go away. One is in this story, part of the New Testament. Another one is in the Old Testament, in the book of Ruth. In the story, Naomi told her daughter-in-laws Orpah and Ruth (both were Moabites) to go back to their own land, Moab, instead of following Naomi to return to Israel (since his husband and his 2 sons all died). After much persuasion Orpah relented and went back to Moab, but the next moment we read the greatest answer from the greatest daughter-in-law in history:

'Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the LORD do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me.' (Ruth 1:16-17)

In other words, Ruth took Naomi's God as her God, Naomi's religion as her religion, Naomi's nation as her nation, and Naomi's faith as her faith. Ruth declared that she would never leave Naomi. Ruth took this decision despite the likely rejection from the Israelites of her and difficulty in adjusting into the Israelites' culture. Naomi must have felt very touched.

In this New Testament text of John 6:68, Peter answered on behalf of all generations in the Church. Peter's answer was the true answer that Jesus wanted to hear. And this is also the answer that Christ wants to hear from us today. Why are you here today? Why do you listen to the sermon? To copy sermons and preach them elsewhere? To look for a girlfriend? To find out business opportunities? Can you answer like the Apostle Peter, 'You have words of eternal life ?'

What was the motive of the people following Jesus? Some came for seeing miracles, some for food, some to follow Jesus, some to listen to good sermons [but not to do anything about what they hear], some for the benefits, and some to satisfy their curiosity. When everybody else has left and the Twelve were asked this question, Peter is effectively asking back, 'Why are you chasing us away? You have words of eternal life. Who else can we go to?' I believe when Jesus heard this, he heard it in the same way Naomi heard the words of Ruth.

Not only that, Peter added, 'We have believed' and '(We) have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.' The phrase 'Holy One of God' is always used in a specialised way. Isa 40-66 often used this phrase to indicate that this 'Holy One of God' is the only One who would be sent by God, i.e. there is only one who is sent by God. So it is important to understand Christology in Isaiah. However, in NT there was one angel who said this i.e. Gabriel, who declared to Maria that the baby she was going to bear will be called the Son of God(singular)/the Holy One of God. The angel Gabriel is speaking of the fulfillment of Isaiah here. There is one and the only one, the Holy One, who will be sent by God.

In hearing Peter's great reply, Jesus did not feel comforted. He declared that he had chosen the 12, yet 1 of them is a devil. It was as if Jesus was saying, 'Just because you are part of the Twelve, you feel very great? Let me tell you, one of you is a devil.' Among the chosen people, in the best church, there are bound to have some spies from the devil and in the worst church, there are bound to have true followers of Jesus Christ. Jesus was not overjoyed, and he said this to mean that Judas Iscariot would be the one to betray him.