Christ’s clarity in a confused world – Part 1

“If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” John 7:37b-38

Christian author and evangelist, Larry Moyer, writes, “Some years ago, a commuter train stalled on the tracks moments before a freight train was due to arrive. A conductor ran to flag down the approaching train, and the passengers were assured that there was no need for worry. As they began to relax, the freight train suddenly came bearing down upon them.

“The engineer of the freight train narrowly escaped death by jumping just before the impact. He later testified in court why he had not stopped: ‘I saw a man waving a warning flag, but it was yellow. I thought he just wanted me to slow down.’ Examining the flag in question explained the confusion. The flag had once been red, but long exposure to the sun and weather had turned it a dirty yellow color. The cause of the crash can be stated in one sentence: The message was not clear.” Larry Moyer, Free And Clear: Understanding & Communicating God’s Offer of Eternal Life [Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1997], p. 13.) Confusion can destroy lives both now and in eternity.

In a remarkable book published some years ago, Canon Roger Lloyd, an archdemon instructs on an ancient and effective piece of Satanic strategy, “Insert yourself into the simple situations which call for plain and obvious duties and complicate them and complicate them again until at last no one involved in them can make sense of the confusion.” (http://www.biblia.work/sermons/ confusion-2). 

Satan’s strategy is to confuse the world about the identity of Jesus Christ to prevent Him from becoming more well known. We are going to study Christ’s clarity in a confused world in John 7:37-52. First, we will look at CHRIST’S CLARITY ABOUT ETERNAL SATISFACTION (John 7:37-39). The first thingJesus taught about eternal satisfaction is that it is free.

On each of the first seven days of the Feast of Tabernacles the priest led a joyous parade from the Temple area down to the pool of Siloam where a golden pitcher would be filled with water. The priest, leading the procession, would then return to the Temple where he poured the water into a silver basin by the altar of burnt offering. This was accompanied by the recitation of Isaiah 12:3: “Therefore you will joyously draw water from the springs of salvation.” This ceremony symbolized God’s grace in providing water for the Israelites when they were wandering in the wilderness and His provision of refreshment and cleansing in the messianic age to come. It also served as a confession of thirst and an expression of prayer for autumn rains after the long, dry season.

“On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out saying…” (John 7:37a). The “last day” was the eighth day of the Feast of Tabernacles. On the eighth day, this water ceremony did not take place which makes Christ’s offer for living water even more amazing. Jesus “stood.” Rabbis usually sat when teaching their disciples, but Jesus stood because of the importance of what He was about to say and so He could be seen and heard better when He gave this marvelous invitation. When Christ cried out this invitation, He was claiming to be the fulfillment of all that the Feast of Tabernacles anticipated. He announces that He was the One, the Messiah, Who could provide Messianic blessings. Jesus’ words compared His own Person to the rock in the wilderness that supplied the needs of the Israelites (cf. Exodus 17:1-7;  I Corinthians 10:4).

There is only one prerequisite to Jesus’ invitation. “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.” (John 7:37b). “If anyone thirsts…” Only thirsty people drink. God has created us with a built-in need for Him. We are all born with a thirst for God — a longing to know God. For some, there is a deep thirst for significance. They want to feel like they are important and belong. That they are somebody. People whom society overlooks, those who are not wealthy, or handsome, or have strong personalities, thirst to be regarded as important. Some are looking for power – the ability to accomplish things. Jesus says to such. “If that is what you want, come to Me. Enter a personal relationship with Me,” Jesus says, “And your thirst for power and significance will be satisfied forever.”

Physical thirst is the most powerful drive known to man. The sex drive can be contained, you can even deny satisfying hunger for weeks at a time, but one thing you cannot leave unsatisfied is thirst. It becomes a driving force that takes over all your life and makes you think of nothing else but satisfying it.

Like the man crawling through the Sahara Desert when he is approached by another man riding on a camel. As the rider approaches, the crawling man whispers through his parched lips, ”Water … please. Can you give … water?” “I’m sorry,” replies the man on the camel, “I don’t have any water with me. But I’d be delighted to sell you a necktie.” “Necktie?” whispers the man. “I need water!” “They’re only four dollars apiece.” “I need water.” “Okay, okay, two for seven dollars.” “Please! I need water!” the man exclaims. “I don’t have any water, all I have are ties,” replies the salesman, as he heads off into the distance.

By now the man has lost all track of time, crawling through the desert seemingly for days. Finally, nearly dead, with clothes tattered and skin peeling under the relentless sun, he comes to an oasis with a restaurant. Summoning his last bit of strength, he staggers to the door and confronts the headwaiter. “Water … can I get … water,” the dying man pleads. “I’m sorry, sir. Neckties required.” I know – bad joke.

But have you ever really been thirsty? When you are thirsty, there is not much else you can think about, like appropriate clothing attire for fine dining. When you are thirsty, you cannot get it out of your mind. It is all you think about. That is what Jesus means. If you feel yourself driven, wanting something, restless and thirsty and longing for satisfaction, then His invitation is, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.” (John 7:37b). Jesus says, “If anyone…”Regardless of your background, education, ethnicity, intelligence, or social status, Jesus says to come to Him for eternal satisfaction and it is free. You don’t have to pay a cent. You don’t have to work for it. You simply come to Christ as you are.

The second thing Jesus tells us about eternal satisfaction is that it is by faith. “He who believes in Me…” (John 7:38a). The way to come to Christ is by faith alone apart from any good works. The word “believe” (pisteuō) means to  be convinced that something is true and then trust or depend on that something.

For example, years ago, three men were fishing on the Broadback River in northern Quebec. A violent storm arose and gale force winds overturned their canoe. The men knew they couldn’t save themselves. They noticed the large ice chest that had been in the canoe now floating on the water. They were convinced the ice chest could hold them up, so they pulled the ice chest underneath them, rested their weight upon it and trusted it to save them. And it did.

What Jesus is saying is we are to come to Him just as we are – as sinners, understanding that He died in our place to take our punishment and rose again, so that all we must do is believe or trust in Him alone for the free gift of salvation. The moment we trust in Christ alone for salvation, “As the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:38b).

What “Scripture” is Jesus thinking of? I agree with Zane Hodges who argues that it refers to Ezekiel’s vision of the future Millennial Temple in Ezekiel 47 (Zane C. Hodges, “Rivers of Living Water – John 7:37-39,” Bibliotheca Sacra 136:543 (July-September 1979):239-48). “Then he brought me back to the door of the temple; and there was water, flowing from under the threshold of the temple toward the east…south of the altar… it was a river that I could not cross; for the water was too deep… And it shall be that every living thing that moves, wherever the rivers go, will live.” (Ezekiel 47:1, 5, 9).  Ezekiel is talking about the Temple of God in the future 1,000-year reign of Christ on the earth.

There is a link between the altar and the water ceremony which reminds us of Ezekiel 47. The waters issue forth at the right side of the altar of the Millennial Temple and the priest would pour water on the right of the altar during the Feast of Tabernacles.

Also, the waters of Ezekiel’s prophecy have similar properties as the rivers Jesus speaks of, “And it shall be that every living thing that moves, wherever the rivers go, will live.” (Ezekiel 47:9).  Those waters are properly described as living waters. This will be a life-giving river that flows from the Temple in the future kingdom that will bring blessings to all it reaches.

If the Millennial Temple was to become the source of living, healing waters, could the destiny of those who believe in Christ be any different? Jesus tells us that when we come to Him as we are and believe in Him as our only hope of heaven, out of our innermost being will flow rivers (not just a river, but “rivers”) of living water. The great thing about what Jesus offers is that it will never run dry. We will always have more than we need. When we are filled with the water Jesus offers, it does not stop with us. It gushes out of us! It keeps coming and touches those that we touch. We become, pipes, so to speak – pipes for Jesus – that in effect, allow Christ’s living water to flow through us to others.  We are former thirsty people who now show thirsty people how to get a drink. God wants these rivers of living water to flow out of our lives to bless others.

So the third thing that we see about the eternal satisfaction that Jesus freely offers, is that it focuses on others. When we come to Jesus and He more than satisfies our spiritual thirst, we start to show concern for others. The satisfaction that we found in Christ leads us to reach out to needy people around us and to minister to them. Why not be a pipe for Jesus and let His blessing flow through you as you step out in faith to share the gospel with those who don’t have Christ in their lives? Be the channel through which the unsaved can discover how much God loves them and wants to bless them with eternal life. God saved you so that you can become a blessing to others as His rivers of living water flow through you to satisfy the need of other people.

John identifies what the living water is. “But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” (John 7:39). The living water is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit would not be given until after Jesus was glorified, that is, after His death, resurrection and return to the Father in heaven. This giving of the Holy Spirit took place on the day of Pentecost (cf. John 15:26; 16:7; Acts 1:4-5, 8; 2:1-13; I Corinthians 12:13). Jesus is announcing that the Holy Spirit would come on believers in a new way, namely, to regenerate (John 3:3-8; cf. Titus 3:4-7), baptize (John 1:33; Acts 1:4-5; I Corinthians 12:13), indwell (John 14:16-17; I Corinthians 6:19), seal (Ephesians 1:13-14; 4:30), and empower them (cf. Acts 1:8).

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I thank You for Your clarity in the midst of a very confused world. You alone are the Messiah-God!!! You created me with a spiritual thirst that only You can quench. I once tried to quench my thirst through the things of this world, including religion. But they only left me more dissatisfied. Thank You for freely giving me eternal satisfaction the moment I believed in You. I now have rivers of living water flowing through my inner being which can never run dry. As I continue to abide in You and Your Word, Your rivers of living water can flow through me to others who are searching for Your eternal satisfaction. Please grant me the boldness and clarity to proclaim Your eternal satisfaction to those who would otherwise die forever in confusion. Thank You for hearing my prayer my Lord and my God. In Your holy and powerful name. Amen.

Why do some followers of Jesus abandon Him? Part 1

“Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, ‘This is a hard saying; who can understand it?’ ” John 6:60

A young man from the city was visiting a dude ranch and wanted to appear as if he was used to the surroundings. So he went out walking with one of the hired hands. Walking through the barnyard, the visitor tried starting a conversation, “Say, look at that big bunch of buffaloes.” The hired hand replied, “Not ‘bunch’ but ‘herd’.” Visitor: “Heard what?” Hired Hand: “Herd of buffaloes.” Visitor: “Sure, I’ve heard of buffaloes. There’s a big bunch of ‘em right over there.” Have you ever had trouble getting your point across like that hired hand?

Jesus Christ did when He was speaking to a multitude of people in John 6. Christ had just concluded His great message on the bread of life in the synagogue at Capernaum on a very offensive note, talking about “eating His flesh” and “drinking His blood” (John 6:46-59). Many were disturbed by His words, and John records their reaction.

We now come to that point in John’s gospel where many of Jesus’s disciples drew back and no longer followed Him. This is a turning point in our Lord’s ministry where He confronts the twelve with the question, Do you also want to go away?” (John 6:67). We are going to discover why some followers of Christ abandon the Lord whereas others remain devoted to Him. In John 6:60-66, we see that the majority of disciples in this multitude stop following Christ. Why does this happen? Why do some disciples desert or abandon Jesus? That is, why do some followers of Jesus drop out of sight never to be seen again? Let’s see.

BECAUSE JESUS’S TEACHING IS DIFFICULT TO UNDERSTAND (John 6:60). The apostle John writes, “Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, ‘This is a hard saying; who can understand it?’ ” (John 6:60). “His disciples” refers to the whole multitude, not just the Twelve.  The word “disciple”(mathētḗs)means a learner, a pupil, a student, that is, someone who is under the instruction of Jesus. This crowd contained saved and unsaved disciples.

These were people who had been miraculously fed by the Lord the day before and had followed Jesus over to Capernaum (John 6:1-14, 22-25). Jesus had just spoken to them about being the Bread of life who had come down from heaven to give eternal life to those who will believe in Him (John 6:26-59). In John 6:38, 51, 54, 58, Jesus claimed to be God when He said He had come down from heaven (Christmas) to offer eternal life to those who believe in Him. Hence, Christ is the Bread of Life and we are the beggars. Because of our sin, we are starving for eternal life (relationship with God). Christ compared saving faith to eating His flesh and drinking His blood to demonstrate that it is voluntary.

For example, just as you must choose to eat a slice of bread or drink a cup of water, so you must choose to believe in Christ. And as food goes into your body and is digested and becomes a part of the body, so we must appropriate Christ, that is, we must personally trust in Him alone for the free gift of eternal life in order to receive His life. When the Bible says, “this is a hard saying”(John 6:60), the hardness was in their hearts, not in Jesus’ words.

This crowd was not going to pay any attention to what Jesus taught; they did not want to be troubled with difficult teaching. They wanted a leader who would do things for them like Jesus had just done when He multiplied the bread and fish. Instead He required them to believe that He had come down from heaven and to come to Him in faith. He even had the audacity to claim to be greater than Moses! Those who drop out of discipleship are often bothered when difficult teachings are taught. They want touchy feely experiences, not truth! They want entertainment, not expectations.

What about us? When we experience difficulty understanding God’s Word, do we quickly give up and do something else? Or do we turn to the Holy Spirit and ask for His help to understand what is meant in God’s Word? God has given us the Holy Spirit to enable us to understand and apply what is written in the Scriptures (cf. John 14:26;  15:26-27; 16:13-14; I John 2:20, 27). The Bible does not make sense to an unbeliever because he or she does not have the Holy Spirit to help him or her understand it (cf. I Corinthians 2:9-14). But a Christian has the Holy Spirit indwelling him or her to understand and apply God’s Word to their lives (cf. John 14:26; 15:26-27; 16:13-14; I Corinthians 2:12-16; 6:19-20; I John 2:20, 26).

Take time to get to know God the Holy Spirit. He is not some impersonal force or power. He is just as much a Person as God the Father and God the Son. The Holy Spirit can speak (cf. Acts 8:29; 11:12; 13:2). He does not speak audibly, but He speaks to us through God’s Word giving us insight and promptings.

A real person has the attributes of personality, which include mind, will, and emotions. The Holy Spirit has a mindsince He “searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God.” (I Corinthians 2:10-11).

The Holy Spirit also has a will. First Corinthians 12:11 says, But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.” We also see that the Holy Spirit has emotions. “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” (Ephesians 4:30). Christians can grieve the Holy Spirit when we communicate with one another in hurtful ways. Because the Holy Spirit has a mind, will, and emotions, we know that He is a Person. 

A real Person also has the capacity to have relationships with others. That’s the primary reason we have mind, will, and emotions. According to Philippians 2:1, the Spirit is able to have fellowship with us. According to 2 Corinthians 13:14, the Holy Spirit can have communion with us. Someone who is able to commune and to have fellowship is capable of personal relationships. Therefore, the Holy Spirit is a Person.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, before I believed in You for everlasting life, the Bible did not make much sense to me. But the moment I received Your gift of everlasting life, You took up residence in my body through Your Spirit. Then the Bible came alive to me as Your Holy Spirit helped me understand and apply the Scriptures to my life. But I must be honest and admit that sometimes I am tempted to stop reading the Bible because it is not always easy to understand. It requires diligent study and reliance on the Holy Spirit to understand and apply Your intended meaning. Thank You that following You is not dependent on my resources and abilities, but on Your enabling grace through the Holy Spirit. It is my responsibility to look to You for guidance, insight, power, and understanding. It is Your responsibility to provide them. Thank You my Lord and my God. In Your name. Amen.

Can a Christian commit Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit?

31 Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. 32 Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.” Matthew 12:31-32

Many Christians fear that they have committed blasphemy against the Holy Spirit and will not go to heaven when they die. Is it possible for a Christian to commit this sin? Let us look at the context of this passage in Matthew 12:22-37 to determine first, what is blasphemy of the Holy Spirt, and second, who can commit this sin. 

After Jesus healed a “blind and mute” demon-possessed man “the multitudes” asked if Jesus could be “the Son of David,” the descendant of king David who would be their Messianic King (12:22-23). The Pharisees could not deny that Jesus performed a miracle, so they attributed the power by which He cast out this demon to “Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons” (12:24). The Pharisees knew Jesus performed this miracle by the power of the Holy Spirit (cf. John 3:2), yet they offered a different explanation so that the multitudes would not conclude that Jesus was their Messianic King.  

Jesus responds to this charge of the Pharisees by giving three reasons why it is false:

  1. Satan would not empower Jesus to cast out a demon because that would divide his kingdom and bring it to destruction (12:25-26).
  2. Since the Pharisees believe that Jewish exorcists cast out demons by God’s power, it is inconsistent for them to charge Jesus of casting out demons by Satan’s power (12:27). The Pharisees knew that “If” Jesus casts out demons “by the Spirit of God” (and He does), then it means “the kingdom of God has come upon them” (12:28). 
  3. Before a robber can enter a strong man’s house, he must have more power to subdue the strong man, meaning if Christ can cast out a demon He must be stronger than Satan (12:29). But Satan would not give Jesus more power than his own. So Jesus refutes this false charge of the Pharisees on three counts.

Jesus invites the crowd to decide to either be “with” Him or “against” Him (12:30). Then He acknowledges that a God-Man (“Son of Man”) living among people may not be fully understood so He says, “Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him” (12:32a). It is possible for a non-Christian to blaspheme (“slander, defame, speak against”) Christ and later seek His forgiveness as in the case of Saul (Acts 9:3-5; 26:9-11; Philippians 3:6, 9; cf. Luke 23:34). However, “whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit…will not be forgiven” (12:32b). 

“Blasphemy” (12:31) has the idea of uttering false charges which defame or damage another person’s reputation. In this historical context, blasphemy of the Holy Spirt involved attributing to Satan the works which were knowingly performed by the power of the Holy Spirit through Jesus Christ. The religious leaders of Israel, the Pharisees, knew that what Jesus did was the work of the Holy Spirit. They knew Jesus was from God because no one could perform the miracles that He performed unless “God was with Him” (John 3:2). Yet they knowingly attributed the work of the Holy Spirit through Jesus to Satan. 

Notice what Jesus does not say. He does not say that blasphemy of the Holy Spirit cannot be forgiven by God or is impossible for God to forgive. No, He says blasphemy of the Holy Spirit “will not be forgiven men…will not be forgiven him” (12:31b, 32b). God is willing and able to forgive any all sins (cf. Psalm 103:2a, 3a; Isaiah 38:17; Micah 7:19b). He is also willing and able to forgive those who seek His forgiveness (Psalm 86:5; Acts 10:43). The form of the Greek statement in Matthew 12:32 is not saying that blasphemy of the Holy Spirit cannot be forgiven. It is saying that there is no case or example of forgiveness for this sin “in this age or in the age to come” (Matt. 12:32). So instead of referring to blasphemy of the Holy Spirit as “the unpardonable sin,” it is more accurate to refer to it as “the unpardoned sin.” 

Can a Christian commit blasphemy of the Holy Spirit? Absolutely not, because the Word of God clearly teaches that anyone who believes in Christ receives at that moment a positional forgiveness for all of his sins – past, present, and future (Acts 10:43; Ephes. 1:7; Col. 2:13-14). This forgiveness is perfect, complete, and permanent (Heb. 10:10-18). Therefore, a non-Christian who later believes in Christ for eternal life is not capable of blaspheming the Holy Spirit because he seeks and obtains God’s unlimited forgiveness when he believes in Jesus for His gift of salvation (Acts 10:43; Ephes. 2:8-9). It is also impossible for a Christian to commit this sin because he not only has permanent positional forgiveness of sins the moment he believed in Jesus (Acts 10:43), but he also has available to him when he confesses his sin, God’s daily fellowship forgiveness (I John 1:9; cf. Matthew 6:12, 14-15). 

What causes the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit? In Matthew 12:33-37, Jesus teaches that a person’s words reflect the condition of his heart. The words of the Pharisees were a manifestation of their hardened hearts (cf. Matt. 15:19 which says “blasphemies” arise out of an evil “heart”). It takes a hardened heart to recognize the power of the Holy Spirit and then knowingly attribute that power to Satan. The Pharisees knew Jesus was from God (John 3:2), yet they attribute the power of the Holy Spirit working through Him to the devil. Although the Pharisees had been given an enormous amount of light from Jesus who is “the Light” (John 1:4-9; 8:12), they deceitfully attribute it to the kingdom of Satan. The Pharisees knew Jesus healed the demon-possessed man by the power of the Holy Spirit, yet they offered a different explanation to deceive the crowds from moving toward faith in Jesus as their Messianic King. So instead of Jesus being recognized as God in human flesh (John 1:1, 14), He was regarded as the incarnation of Satan!

Any individual or religious system that attributes the power of God in and through Jesus Christ to Satan will not be forgiven because his heart (or their hearts are) is too hardened to seek God’s forgiveness through faith in Jesus Christ. In fact, any individual or religious system that denies that “Jesus is the Christ,” the Messiah-God in human flesh who is equal with God the Father, is “antichrist” (I John 2:22-23). 

In summary, what is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit? It is knowingly attributing the work of the Holy Spirit through Jesus Christ to Satan. Who can commit blasphemy of the Holy Spirit? Non-Christians whose hearts are too hardened to seek God’s forgiveness through faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 10:43). 

If you are afraid of having blasphemed the Holy Spirit, ask yourself, “Am I willing to seek God’s forgiveness for this? Do I believe in Jesus Christ alone to give me eternal life and complete forgiveness of all sins (John 3:16; Acts 10:43)? If so, according to Jesus Christ, you will go to heaven. Sometimes Christians are overly introspective and miss out on the joy of being forever secure in Christ. Doesn’t that sound like the work of the devil who has “come…to steal…kill, and to destroy” (John 10:10a) the joy of believers being secure in Jesus Christ? Dismiss the devil’s lies and embrace the truth that you are forever secure the moment you believe in Jesus for His gift of everlasting life (John 3:16; 6:35-40; 10:28-29).H