How can we recover from rejection? Part 1

“I do not speak concerning all of you. I know whom I have chosen; but that the Scripture may be fulfilled, ‘He who eats bread with Me has lifted up his heel against Me.’ ” John 13:18

In 1858 the Illinois legislature – using an obscure statute – sent Stephen A. Douglas to the U.S. Senate instead of Abraham Lincoln, although Lincoln had won the popular vote. When a sympathetic friend asked Lincoln how he felt, he said, “Like the boy who stubbed his toe: I am too big to cry and too badly hurt to laugh.1 No doubt many political candidates can empathize with how Lincoln felt after last week’s elections.

In some way or form, all of us will experience rejection – that feeling of being unwanted. You feel that you are not liked or accepted. In fact, the majority of people may reject us rather than accept us. Although some people are special to us they may reject us as well. Jesus experienced rejection by many people, but none perhaps as difficult as the rejection by one of His own disciples. Jesus will now teach us how to recover from rejection. We must first…

LOOK TO THE BIBLE FOR GOD’S PURPOSE (John 13:18). Jesus had just finished washing the feet of His disciples to give them an example of how they were to humbly serve one another (John 13:1-16). Christ told them they would be “blessed” if they not only knew this, but did it (John 13:17). However, there would be no blessedness for one of Christ’s disciples.

Jesus said to His disciples, “I do not speak concerning all of you. I know whom I have chosen; but that the Scripture may be fulfilled, ‘He who eats bread with Me has lifted up his heel against Me.’ ” (John 13:18). Jesus “knew” the disciples He had “chosen” for service, not salvation, and that one of them would betray Him. Jesus wanted His disciples to realize that He knew the future and was in control. Christ was not fooled by Judas. Judas was chosen by Jesus as one of the disciples so “that the Scripture may be fulfilled” in Psalm 41:9, where King David endured the painful rejection of his table companion, Ahithophel, who later hanged himself (2 Samuel 16:20-17:3, 23). 2  Likewise, Judas, Jesus’ close companion, would betray Christ and then hang himself (Matthew 27:3-5). Even though Judas’ betrayal of Jesus was foreknown by God, Judas was still responsible for his actions.

To “eat” bread with someone is a picture of fellowship. In the first century, to lift up your “heel” to show someone the bottom of your foot so as to shake off the dust is an expression of rejection. It was a gross breach of hospitality to eat bread with someone and then turn against them. Yet this is what Judas did. He had been a companion of Jesus for over three years and now he was about to do the unthinkable and betray His loving Teacher.  

Jesus was not surprised by Judas’ betrayal because the Bible predicted it hundreds of years earlier. Christ shares this with His disciples so they can know that Judas’ betrayal is a part of God’s plan and purpose. Jesus also wants His disciples to know that they also will experience rejection as they carry on His mission after He is gone. They are to look to the Scriptures for God’s purpose amidst their rejection.

Likewise, we can also know that God has a purpose for us when we experience painful rejection. For example, Romans 8:17 says, “And if children, then heirs – heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.” Suffering from rejection prepares believers to be “joint heirs with Christ” as co-rulers with Him in His coming Kingdom on earth.           

In his book entitled, “Don’t Waste Your Sorrows,” Paul Billheimer writes, “If the Bride [of Christ] was to be qualified to rule with Him, she also had to suffer. This illuminates the passage in Second Timothy 2:12, ‘If we suffer, we shall also reign with him.’ Therefore, suffering is inherent in God’s universe.” 3  Billheimer also writes, “God … designed that suffering, which is a consequence of the Fall, shall produce the character and proper disposition – the compassionate spirit that will be required for rulership in a government where the law of love is supreme.” 4

The Bible explains that one of God’s purposes in allowing us to experience rejection is to prepare us for rulership with Christ in His future Kingdom on earth. Knowing this can enable us to endure rejection in preparation for our role as co-rulers with Jesus (2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 2:25-27; 3:21).

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You so much for this message today which reminds me that You do know the future and You are in control. I can trust You to accomplish Your plan and purpose even when I experience rejection from those who are close to me. My normal response to rejection is to want to be in control and retaliate. But this is not Your way. Please help me to respond to the pain of rejection by looking to Your promises to find comfort and hope. I want to be more like You so I can reign with You in Your coming Kingdom on earth. Instead of responding to rejection with contempt, please help me to respond with compassion, realizing that You are in control and You are using this event to fulfill Your plan and purpose for my life. In Your name I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Max Lucado, God Came Near (Multnomah Press, 1987), pg. 57.

2. Edwin A. Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, New Testament Edition, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1983), pp. 320-321.

3. Paul Billheimer, Don’t Waste Your Sorrows (CLC Publications, 1977), location 316.

4. Ibid., location 95-102.

Why do some disciples or followers of Jesus abandon Him? Part 3

“‘But there are some of you who do not believe.’ For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him.” John 6:64

The third reason why some disciples or followers of Jesus abandon Him is because THEY DISBELIEVE JESUS (John 6:64-66) and have no capacity to understand and follow Him. “‘But there are some of you who do not believe.’ For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him.” (John 6:64). Some of the people who had been following Jesus and listening to His instruction had not believed in Him for His gift of everlasting life. They were disciples, that is, they placed themselves under Jesus’s instruction, but they were unsaved.

“Many of His disciples” found His words difficult (John 6:60, 66) and “some” of them did not believe in Christ for salvation (John 6:64a). Both saved and unsaved disciples found Jesus’s words to be disturbing. If Jesus knew that some were unsaved, why did He let them start out on the pathway of discipleship? Because He loved them, even Judas.  Luke 19:10 says, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” If they wanted to sit under Jesus’s teaching day after day, why not? That way He could seek them day after day. God’s love is unlimited and is directed toward every person. It gets me excited to think we may have people who don’t know Christ coming to our Facebook page and website. God’s grace is available to everyone.

Then Jesus said, “Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.” (John 6:65).  Is Jesus teaching that only a small percent of people, the elect, are able to believe and be born again? Not at all, and here is why.

God never commands something to be done that the listener is unable to do. And God commands all people to believe in His Son for everlasting life (I John 3:23; cf. John 3:16; Acts 16:31). Since God is drawing all people (John 12:32; 16:8-11), including those who never believe, He has certainly given everyone the capacity to believe.

The unbelieving disciples He is talking to in this large group are being drawn to believe in Jesus. They should seek to understand Christ’s words because they give life (John 6:63). If they turn away from Christ’s teaching now because it is difficult for them to believe, then God may stop drawing them. Nowhere are we told how long God draws an unbeliever to Himself. God may draw someone for eighty years or eight days. But this drawing is resistible.

For example, Judas resisted God’s intense drawing for over three years. All who die without Christ have rejected God’s drawing in their life. It is possible that God may stop drawing an unbeliever who hardens his heart. But Jesus’ point in verse 65 is that it is impossible for lost people to come to Christ without the help of God. God must work in their hearts. God may be drawing some of you. Maybe you have started reading the Bible or going to church. Perhaps you are visiting Christian websites online. This is an indication that God is working in your heart to draw you to His Son.

“From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.” (John 6:66). This is perhaps the most “unsuccessful” sermon Jesus ever preached. When John chapter 6 opens, Jesus had 12,000-20,000 people following Him and listening to Him speak (John 6:10; cf. Matthew 14:21). When this chapter closes, He only has twelve men with Him and one of them is not even saved (John 6:67). Unlike some preachers today, Jesus did not sugar coat His message. He was not trying to win a popularity contest by preaching what people wanted to hear. This is a significant turning point in Christ’s ministry. He is shifting from a public ministry of up to twenty thousand to a more private training of the Twelve. As a result of this sermon, many of Jesus’s followers withdrew and went back to the things they had left behind (i.e. families, work, old habits and ways of thinking).

When you compare verse 66 with verse 64, you can see that “some” of those who abandoned Christ were Christians. Some did “not believe,” but “many” withdrew from Jesus. It was more demanding than even some of the believers expected.

Throughout my time as a pastor and evangelist, I have witnessed “disciples” withdrawing from Jesus and walking with Him no more. Much like the people in this crowd with Jesus, they stopped placing themselves under the teaching of God’s Word. Why? The teaching may have been too difficult or too disturbing to them. They may have been offended by the message of salvation which says eternal life is a free gift that one receives by believing in Christ alone apart from any works or merit of our own (John 4:10-14; Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:8-9). So they abandon Christ to follow a preacher who says what they want to hear (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

Others may drop off because they have not yet believed in Jesus so they don’t have God the Holy Spirit living inside them to give them the  capacity to understand and follow Christ’s teaching (cf. John 7:38-39; I Corinthians 2:10-16). Some believers may drop off because God is calling them to a deeper level of commitment and they still want to be in charge of their own lives so they pull away. Only the Lord knows for sure.

Where are you in relation to Jesus Christ? Are you following Him from a distance? Are you intrigued by His claims to be God? Have you noticed how loving and gracious He is with those who seek Him? Do you feel Jesus pulling you closer to Him as you listen to what He has to say? As you listen to Christ, do you find yourself having a difficult time understanding what He means? Do His words offend you? Is He demanding more of you and you do not want to place yourself under His control?

Wherever you find yourself in relation to Jesus Christ, please know that He loves you and He wants to spend time with you. Will you give Jesus a chance? Will you open your heart to what He has to say to you? Jesus loved Judas to the end of his life (John 13:1) even though Judas never believed in Christ for His gift of eternal life (John 6:64, 70-71; cf. 12:4; 13:2, 10-11, 21-30; 17:12; 18:2, 5). Please do not be like Judas and never believe or trust in Christ alone to save you from your sins and give you everlasting life.

We are also reminded by Judas Iscariot’s relationship with Jesus that what determines a person’s eternal destiny is not their works. Judas did many works for Jesus Christ as His disciple (Matthew 10:1ff; Mark 6:7-13; Luke 9:1-6), but his unbelief toward Jesus condemned him to an eternity in the Lake of Fire (John 3:18; 6:64, 70-71; 13:10-11; 16:7-11; 17:12). The Bible tells us that it is not our works that determine whether we go to heaven or hell (Romans 4:5; Ephesians 2:8-9), but our response to Jesus Christ. “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” (John 3:36).

On Judgment Day there will be many false prophets (Matthew 7:15) who stand before Jesus and appeal to their words (“Lord, Lord”)  and to their good works (“prophesied…cast out demons…done many wonders”) that they have done “in His name” for His glory as the basis of their entrance into the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 7:21-22). And Jesus will say to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.” (Matthew 7:23). Why does He say this? Because they had failed to do “the will of the Father in heaven” as it relates to entering the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 7:21b). Jesus said, “And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:40; cf. 3:5, 15-16). Until a person is rightly related to Jesus by believing in Him for everlasting life, all their good works, words, and thoughts are “lawlessness” before a holy God (Matthew 7:23; cf. Isaiah 64:6).

Do you “believe in the Son,” Jesus Christ, for “everlasting life”? If so, then God promises that you now have “everlasting life” and your name is written in the Book of Life so that you will enjoy a home in heaven (John 3:36a; Revelation 21:27). But if you reject Jesus Christ or “do not believe the Son,” you “shall not see life” in heaven, “but the wrath of God abides” on you both now and forever in the Lake of Fire (John 3:36b; Revelation 20:15). It does not matter how many good works you have done for Jesus, if you do not believe in Him alone for His gift of everlasting life, you will still suffer torment forever in the Lake of Fire (Romans 4:5; Ephesians 2:8-9; Revelation 20:10, 15).

Prayer: Almighty God and Savior, You know my heart better than anyone. You know every thought, feeling, and motive I have ever had. I can hide nothing from You. Although You know everything about me – the good, the bad, and the ugly – You love me and long to be in a personal relationship with me. Thank You for drawing me to Yourself through Your Word and the testimony of other Christians. Lord, please remove anything in my life that would hinder me from following You more closely. I do not want to be like those who abandoned You and walked with You no more because they found Your teaching to be difficult or disturbing. Knowing how much You love me and value me, motivates me to stay close to You. Precious Lord Jesus, please continue to draw those who do not believe in You yet to Yourself. Please send others to model Your grace and truth to them. Thank You my Lord and my God for hearing my prayer. In Jesus’s name. Amen.   

How can I experience eternal satisfaction? Part 2

“It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me.” John 6:45

In his book, Desiring God, John Piper states that “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” God gets the most glory when we receive the most satisfaction from our relationship with Him. But God is dishonored and hurt when we seek ultimate satisfaction outside of our relationship with Him. When we seek ultimate satisfaction in our jobs, relationships, possessions, and positions, it dishonors the Lord and it leaves us empty and unfulfilled.

Like never before, I believe there is a growing dissatisfaction among people in America. People are dissatisfied with a church, so they transfer to another one. They are dissatisfied with a marriage, so they go find another one. They are dissatisfied with a job, so they search for another. They are dissatisfied with the home they have, so they go deeper into debt and buy a bigger one. They are dissatisfied with their lives, so they try to make others miserable through rioting and intimidation.

Last time we discovered that the first way I can experience eternal satisfaction is to COMPREHEND THAT JESUS IS THE SON OF GOD (John 6:41-42). Only God can meet our deepest needs and satisfy us eternally. But how do people come to see that Jesus is the Son of God?

This is the second way I can experience eternal satisfaction… COME TO JESUS THROUGH THE WORD (John 6:43-46). 43 Jesus therefore answered and said to them, ‘Do not murmur among yourselves. 44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.’ ” (John 6:43-44). No one can come to faith in Christ unless God the Father first draws him. The word “draws” (helkō) means to draw or persuade by inward power and attraction. It conveys the image of a lover wooing his beloved.  

The length of drawing can vary. God may draw a person for eighty years or eight days. But this drawing is resistible. For instance, Judas resisted intense drawing for over three years with Jesus. All who die without Christ have rejected God’s drawing in their life. It is possible that God may stop drawing an unbeliever who hardens his heart. But Jesus’s point in verse 44 is that it is impossible for lost people to come to Christ without the help of God. God must work in their hearts.

God may be drawing some of you. Maybe you have started reading the Bible or going to church. The fact that you are reading this article shows that God is moving in your life. This is an indication that God is working in your heart to draw you to His Son. How does God draw a person to Jesus?

Jesus then says, “It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me.” (John 6:45). God draws people to Himself through the Scriptures. This verse from the Old Testament (cf. Isaiah 54:13 or possibly Jeremiah 31:34) teaches universal drawing. Everyone who listens and learns from God will come to Christ in faith. But you must being willing to receive instruction from the Lord. If you close your heart off to what God is saying, His drawing in your life may stop.

God’s drawing does not eliminate human responsibility. It is still your choice to believe in Christ. This is why we want to keep God’s Word at the center of everything we do at our church or in our Christian lives. We want to keep inviting people to believe or trust in Christ alone for His gift of salvation because it is their choice to believe in Him. So not only can I experience eternal satisfaction by comprehending that Jesus is the Son of God, but I can also experience eternal satisfaction by coming to Jesus through the Bible, God’s Word.

Prayer: Father God, I praise You for pursuing me when I was lost and perishing without Jesus Christ in my life. Even though I lived a life of rebellion when I was a non-Christian, You still loved me and pursued a personal relationship with me. Thank You for wooing me into a love relationship with You through the Bible. I am so grateful for the people who shared Your Word with me when I was an unbeliever. Each verse prepared my heart and mind to come to faith in Jesus, the Messiah-God, for His gift of everlasting life. Please use Your Word in my life and ministry to draw millions to Your Son, Jesus Christ, Who alone can give them everlasting life. In Jesus’s name. Amen.