Will You Stay Or Will You Go?
We are all probably familiar with a couple of Christian leaders who have renounced their faith recently.
Joshua Harris, author of I Kissed Dating Goodbye, announced on July 26th that he and his wife were separating. In a follow-up post on Instagram he made this statement, “The information that was left out of our announcement is that I have undergone a massive shift in regard to my faith in Jesus. The popular phrase for this is ‘deconstruction,’ the biblical phrase is ‘falling away.’ By all the measurements that I have for defining a Christian, I am not a Christian. Many people tell me that there is a different way to practice faith and I want to remain open to this, but I’m not there now.”
Right on the heels of Joshua Harris’ announcement was Marty Sampson’s announcement on Instagram. He said, “Time for some real talk. I’m genuinely losing my faith, and it doesn’t bother me. Like, what bothers me now is nothing. I am so happy now, so at peace with the world. It’s crazy. . . This is a soapbox moment so here I go . . . How many preachers fall? Many, no one talks about it. How many miracles happen. Not many. No one talks about it. Why is the Bible full of contradictions? No one talks about it. How can God be love yet send four billion people to a place, all ‘coz they don’t believe? No one talks about it. Christians can be the most judgmental people on the planet – they can also be some of the most beautiful and loving people. But it’s not for me.” He later clarified that he wouldn’t say he has “renounced” his faith but would say “it’s on incredibly shaky ground.”
This is important when we read what John said in 1 John 2:18-19, Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.
Judy and I have always believed that marriage is “until death do us part.”
We were both Christians long before we knew each other, which formed that belief in us
Divorce has never been a word that is used or talked about in our marriage – it’s not an option for us
That doesn’t mean we haven’t argued with each other, been angry with other, or taken some time apart to cool down
We feel the same way about our relationship with Jesus
When we made the commitment to follow Jesus and be His disciple, it was a lifetime commitment we were making
Renouncing our faith is not a word that is used or talked about in our relationship with Jesus – it’s not an option for us
Perhaps every one of us is fully committed to something or someone
Are we fully committed to our spouses?
Are we fully committed to our job?
Are we fully committed to Idaville Church?
Are we fully committed to Jesus Christ?
Everyone take a moment to consider what you are fully committed to
Jesus has been sharing what most refer to as, His “Bread of Life” discourse. It started after the feeding of the 5,000. He was making some statements that were difficult for the Jews and His disciples to believe and accept. He had told them that He had come down from heaven and that in order to receive eternal life and live forever, they had to eat His flesh and drink His blood, which simply meant they had to come to Him and believe in Him – they had to believe in His perfect sacrifice for them on the cross. This was definitely not the kind of “king” they were looking for, and as we’ll see today, not someone they wanted to continue to follow. That did not come as a surprise to Jesus. What John wants us to understand is that . . .
BIG IDEA – Jesus knows who His true disciples are.
GOD (John 6:60-71)
Going (vv. 60-66)
On hearing it
This is probably referring to three things that Jesus had just taught them
He had come down from heaven as the bread of life (we know that offended the Jews, but perhaps it offended His disciples as well)
Jesus’ death was the only way for them to receive eternal life (that wasn’t their idea of a Messiah/King)
The use of the metaphor for believing in Jesus – eating His flesh and drinking His blood
At least one of those teachings, but probably all three, are what is being referred to here as what they heard
Most of the time when we see the word “disciple” used we think of the Twelve Disciples that followed Jesus wherever He went, but there is a distinction here
In verse 67 we’ll see Jesus speak directly to the Twelve (that’s the first time this word is used)
Earlier in John we see that many people believed in Jesus name, but were not truly disciples
John 2:23-25, Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many people saw the miraculous signs he was doing and believed in his name. But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men. He did not need man’s testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man.
“At the most elementary level, a disciple is someone who is at that point following Jesus, either literally by joining the group that pursued him from place to place, or metaphorically in regarding him as the authoritative teacher. Such a ‘disciple’ is not necessarily a ‘Christian’, someone who has savingly trusted Jesus and sworn allegiance to him, given by the Father to the Son, drawn by the Father and born again by the Spirit.” [Carson, The Pillar New Testament Commentary, The Gospel According To John, 300]
John 8:31-32, To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
As we’ll see in just a moment, these “disciples” will not hold to Jesus’ teaching any more
Jesus’ teaching was not hard to understand
These “disciples” knew exactly what Jesus was teaching them
It was hard in the sense of being offensive, harsh, and intolerable
They didn’t like what He was teaching them, because it offended them (Jesus was going to die for them, and following Him meant they had to die also – dying to self and/or martyrdom)
Who can accept it?
Other translations have, “who can hear, listen, or understand it?”
The original Greek means “accept” with the idea of obeying Jesus’ teachings
So, being a disciple of Jesus is more than just hearing His words, but accepting them and being obedient to them
That’s the intent of John 8:31, holding to the teachings of Jesus – it’s continuing to be present, to persevere, to cleave to or hold fast to His Words
Have you accepted Jesus’ teachings?
Are you being obedient to His teachings?
Are you holding to, cleaving to, and persevering in His teachings?
My Next Step Today Is To: Make sure that I’m not just hearing Jesus’ teachings, but accepting them and being obedient to them.
Being obedient to and holding on to Jesus’ teachings is evidence that we are really His disciples.
Jesus knows who His true disciples are.
He also knows what they are talking about, so He responds to their grumbling
Jesus knows what they are saying
PRINCIPLE #1 – Jesus is omniscient (all-knowing)
This principle continues to come up each week for the past several weeks, which means that it’s an important principle that God wants us to grasp, accept, and understand
In fact, this principle will be seen in vv. 64 and 70
The knowledge of what His disciples were grumbling about was supernatural in nature – He knows their hearts
So, He addresses their concern
Does this offend you?
Jesus’ response lets us know that they were offended by His teachings, and not that they didn’t understand His teachings
Jesus’ next statement challenges them
If they’re offended simply by His teachings about how eternal life is obtained, through His death, burial, and resurrection, how will they react when it actually happens
Jesus has been telling them that He is going to give His life for the world (John 6:51)
He is now telling them that His ascension, back to heaven, will only come after His death, burial, and resurrection
Then He explains that the Spirit gives life and that flesh counts for nothing
Spirit gives life
Wait a minute, in verses 41-59 Jesus talked all about how the bread, which represented His flesh, will be given for the life of the world, so that human beings could experience eternal life and live forever
Now He’s saying that flesh doesn’t count for anything, and that the Spirit gives life
We have to understand that Jesus is not talking about His flesh here
He is talking about trying to understand His word in our humanness
Read 1 Corinthians 1:18-31
He is also talking about trying to obtain eternal life in our own strength
How many of us have done that in the past?
We think that being religious will get us to heaven
We think that following the correct philosophical ideas will bridge the gap between us and God
We think that being moral will someone please God to the point of Him allowing us into His kingdom
We think that good works will punch our ticket for eternity
None of things bridge the gap between sinful people and a Holy God
Isaiah 59:2, But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.
Proverbs 14:12, There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.
“I cannot make someone fall in love with Jesus.
It really came home for me, literally, with my own teenage daughter, who, 18 months ago, was not in love with Jesus. I spent nights crying, bawling, praying to the Lord. Here, I am known for my ability to communicate, but there was nothing I could do for my own daughter that would make her fall in love with Jesus. Of course I could still guide and lead her, but I was powerless to convict her.
I prayed, ‘God, either your Spirit comes into her or your Spirit doesn't. It doesn't matter how great a dad I am. I cannot bring her to life.’
One day she came into my room and said, ‘You were right, Dad. The Holy Spirit was not in me. But now he is.’ She talked about how near she was to God and how everything had changed. My wife and I were skeptical. We wanted to see evidence of change. But 18 months later, I can say she really is a new creation. I didn't do that. It was the Holy Spirit.
Condensed from our sister publication Leadership Journal, © 2010 Christianity Today International. For more articles like this, visit Leadershipjournal.net.
Francis Chan, "Catching Waves,” LeadershipJournal.net (posted 5-17-10)
The words He has spoken are Spirit and they are life
Jesus’ teaching about His ultimate sacrifice for the sins of the world is the only way to bridge the gap that sin has created between us and God
1 Timothy 2:5, For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus.
1 Peter 3:18, For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God.
Romans 5:8, But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (ESV)
John 3:16, 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.
My Next Step Today Is To: Believe in Jesus and His words, so I can have eternal life.
Perhaps there are people here today who have not believed in Jesus
Jesus knew that some of His “disciples” did not believe His words
Jesus knew who the true believers were
PRINCIPLE #1 – Jesus is omniscient (all-knowing)
None of this came as a surprise to Jesus, because He already knew, from the beginning, which of them did not believe
He knew their hearts and why they claimed to be His disciple
He knew their motives for following Him and that it wasn’t because they believed His words
Jesus knows who His true disciples are.
He also knew who was going to betray Him, but we’ll look at that in verses 70-71
Jesus reminded them of what He had already said, about God drawing people to Him – God’s sovereignty (John 6:37-40)
What we see next is the action of these “disciples”
It seems that as soon as Jesus finished sharing with them, that these “disciples” turned back and no longer followed Jesus
This wasn’t just a temporary turning away from Jesus and not following Him any more
The verb for “turned back/withdrew” is aorist, meaning that it was decisive and not temporary – they had made up their minds about Jesus and His teachings
The verb for “followed” is imperfect, which shows how permanent their decision was
“These former followers, literally, ‘went away to the things they had left behind’ and no longer ‘kept moving about’ with Jesus. In other words, they renounced their discipleship and fell away. Jesus was not the Messiah they expected.” [Köstenberger, Bake Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, John, 220]
PRINCIPLE #2 – Not everyone who claims to be a disciple of Jesus is a Christian.
This has been proven true in our own day with Joshua Harris, Marty Sampson, and others
Perhaps we all know of someone who claimed to be a Christian, but later turned away from the Lord
Maybe every one of us has heard another person say, “I tried Christianity, but it didn’t work for me.”
Jesus taught about true and false disciples through a parable found in Matthew 13:1-23
He used the imagery of a field and different kinds of soil to help us understand how the Gospel of Jesus Christ is received by human beings
Path/Hard soil (seed never penetrates the soil, birds came and ate it) – someone hears the message and does not understand it, Satan comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart
Rocky soil (not much soil, sprang up quickly, scorched by the sun, withered because of no root) – someone who hears the word and receives it readily with joy, but it only lasts a short time, because when trouble and persecution come, they fall away
Thorny soil (the thorns grew up with the seed and choked it) – someone who hears the word, but the worries of life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful
Good soil (the seed grew and produced a crop) – someone who hears the word and understands it
What kind of soil are we?
If we are hard, rocky, or thorny soil, then we are only claiming to be a “disciple” of Jesus Christ and not a Christian
Jesus knows who His true disciples are.
Peter taught about making our calling and election sure
Read 2 Peter 1:3-11
If our relationship with Jesus Christ is genuine, and we are true disciples, then that faith will motivate us to pursue the qualities of goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love
Are you pursuing those qualities?
My Next Step Today Is To: Make my calling and election sure, by pursuing the qualities listed in 2 Peter 1:5-7 in increasing measure.
“It is impossible to be a genuine disciple merely for a time. You either turn from your sin, place your faith in Jesus Christ, and follow him until you get to heaven, or you don’t. There is no middle ground!” [Carter & Wredberg, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in John, 165]
Jesus now turns His attention away from the unbelievers (former disciples) and talks to the Twelve Disciples He has chosen and called
Staying (vv. 67-71)
Jesus asks if they want to leave too, but the way the question is structured in the Greek, Jesus was expecting a negative response – the structure demands the answer, NO!
We see that Peter’s confession of faith supports that answer
Peter’s confession of faith
It’s not just Peter’s confession of faith, because he uses the plural, “we”
The Twelve don’t know of anyone else they should follow, because no one else is Jesus
Jesus is the only One who has the words of eternal life
Peter implies that all Twelve of them are not offended by Jesus’ words
They believe that He is the bread of life that came down from heaven
They believe that the only way to have eternal life is to believe in Jesus’ perfect sacrifice by giving His life for the world
They understand the metaphor of eating Jesus’ flesh and drinking His blood, as meaning to accept His death for all humanity
In Peter’s statement, “We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God”, the “we” and “you are” are both emphatic, meaning that it is a firm conviction
The Twelve have arrived at this firm conviction through a thorough process of watching and listening to Jesus
There is no doubt in their minds that Jesus is the Holy One of God
PRINCIPLE #3 – True disciples of Jesus believe and know that He is God!
Do you believe and know that Jesus is God?
Do you have a firm conviction that there is no one else to go to and no other way to have eternal life, except through believing in Jesus Christ and His death, burial, and resurrection?
Jesus replies to Peter’s confession of faith
Jesus begins his reply by clarifying with the Twelve that He has chosen them
Jesus then brings a corrective to Peter’s confession, that represented the whole group of Twelve
While Peter was not yet aware of Judas’ betrayal, Jesus was, which leads us back to PRINCIPLE #1 – Jesus is omniscient (all-knowing)
Jesus tells the Twelve that one of them is the devil
Most English translations have “is a devil.”
The Greek literally has it as “is the devil.”
Jesus knows who His true disciples are.
We see John’s note in parenthesis
John is able to give us this note, because he is writing after Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection and Judas’ betrayal
Jesus was talking about Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot
Most of the time Judas is referred to as Judas Iscariot
We know Judas’ father’s name, but we also know his place of origin (what town he was from)
Most scholars agree that Iscariot is a transliteration of the Hebrew word meaning, “man of Kerioth” [Carson, 304]
That would have been the town where he and his family were from
He was one of the Twelve, but later betrayed Jesus
I’m sure that Peter and the other disciples assumed that because Jesus chose them that everyone believed in Him the same way
This shows the ability of human beings to be able to fake true discipleship, at least for a little while
Eventually the truth will be revealed, because they cannot hide who they really are
There should be evidence of the fruit of the Spirit in addition to the qualities Peter listed in his second letter (2 Peter 1:5-7)
It can be very easy to simply hear Jesus’ teaching, but not accept them or be obedient to them
Being a true disciple of Jesus means accepting His words and being obedient to them
It also means making our calling and election sure by adding to our faith the qualities of goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love
Before you can add those qualities to your faith, you have to have genuine faith in Jesus
Genuine faith comes through believing that Jesus is God
Believing that He willingly died on the cross to take your punishment for sin – He saved you from eternal separation from God
I encourage you to make that decision today
We can’t naively believe that everyone who claims to be a disciple of Jesus is a Christian
We need to be praying that each of us will pursue goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love
That is evidence of a transformed life
Unbelievers will recognize a difference in us
It will move us toward unity as a body of believers
“If you have any knowledge at all of human nature, you know that those who only admire the truth will, when danger appears, become traitors. The admirer is infatuated with the false security of greatness; but if there is any inconvenience or trouble, he pulls back. Admiring the truth, instead of following it, is just as dubious a fire as the fire of erotic love, which at the turn of the hand can be changed into exactly the opposite—to hate, jealousy, and revenge. Christ, however, never asked for admirers, worshipers, or adherents. He consistently spoke of ‘followers’ and ‘disciples.’”
—Søren Kierkegaard, Danish philosopher and theologian (1813–1855)
Søren Kierkegaard, unknown; submitted by Bill White, Paramount, California