Let Us Stay the Course with Jesus!
O Lord God, as I enter into Your presence and sit at Your feet, may Your truths find room in my heart and take root in my mind. Cause me to repent of my sins and to rejoice in Your forgiving love. Lead me into greater understanding of Your will, so that I might always walk in Your ways. Help me to be faithful, O Lord, as I seek to honor Your name each day. Amen.
Our Savior God is not a distant, uninvolved spiritual being, but rather a personal God interested in our welfare. Consequently, He wants His truths proclaimed faithfully and opposes any false prophet who may arise promoting his own dreams and lies. Let us be careful to distinguish between God’s truths and man’s errors!
John warns us that many false prophets will arise in this sin-filled world. He urges us to “test the spirits” who claim to bring us truth to see whether they are indeed from God or whether they are simply proclaiming error. Do so by comparing what people say with what God has revealed in His Bible!
Text: John 7:14-24
Now about the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and taught. And the Jews marveled, saying, “How does this Man know letters, having never studied?” Jesusanswered them and said, “My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me. If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority. He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who seeks the glory of the One who sent Him is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him. Did not Moses give you the law, yet none of you keeps the law? Why do you seek to kill Me?” The people answered and said, “You have a demon. Who is seeking to kill You?” Jesus answered and said to them, “I did one work, and you all marvel. Moses therefore gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath, so that the law of Moses should not be broken, are you angry with Me because I made a man completely well on the Sabbath? Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.”
In Christ Jesus, our example of faithfulness in the midst of opposition, dear fellow redeemed:
It was October in the year 29 A.D.—just six months before Jesus’ death. Jesus went up to Jerusalem during the Feast of the Tabernacles and entered the temple to teach. It was different this time, however, because Jesus now faced considerable opposition. Much of the popular support He had once enjoyed was gone. After miraculously feeding 5,000 people with just five barley loaves and two small fish, Jesus had refused to become the people’s bread-king. He had rather admonished them to eat “the true bread from heaven,” that is, to receive Him as the Promised Savior and their one source of everlasting life. They walked away offended when Jesus said that all their efforts at being good could not bring them such life, but profited them nothing. They claimed these statements were “hard sayings” thatthey simply could not accept (cf. Jn. 6:9, 15, 32, 53-54, 60-66). The Jewish religious leaders by this time were plotting to kill Jesus. He had, after all, healed a man sick for 38 years on the Sabbath and stated He was doing His Father’s work. They claimed Jesus “not only broke the Sabbath, but also (blasphemed saying) …that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God” (Jn. 5:18). They judged Jesus to be ignorant, untrained, self-willed, vain glorious, and worthy of death.
This Bible history is all well and good, but what does it have to do with your life and mine? Our topic today is dealing with spiritual opposition. Even as Jesus experienced increased opposition as His ministry progressed, so we Christians are experiencing increased opposition to our faith. It was reported in a recent issue of World magazine that an Army Reserve training brief on hate groups last fall declared that evangelical Christians and Roman Catholics are extremists just as dangerous to America as al-Qaeda (cf. World Magazine, July 13, 2013, p. 37). It was reported as well in a recent article on the Answers in Genesis website that Richard Dawkins, a professor at Oxford University and perhaps the most well-known evolutionist of our day, maintains that teaching children Biblical truths is child abuse (http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/2013/05/04/news-to-note-05042013). In a private conversation not long ago Dr. David Menton, a retired professor of anatomy at Washington University in St. Louis and a fellow CLC member, commented that it is highly unlikely that he could experience today the success he enjoyed at the university level, because no Christian today would be given that opportunity. How ought we face the growing opposition of the world to our Christian faith? On the basis of our text I would suggest: LET US STAY THE COURSE WITH JESUS! Let us follow His example and proclaim His doctrine, fulfill His will, seek His glory, and judge with righteous judgment!
When Jesus went into the temple to teach during that Feast of the Tabernacles, we are told, “The Jews marveled, saying, 'How does this Man know letters, having never studied?'” Jesusanswered them and said, 'My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me.'” When the Jewish religious leaders could not successfully oppose Jesus’ teachings, they did what is quite common for opponents of Biblical truth—they attacked Him personally. They claimed that Jesus did not have the proper training. They questioned His lack of academic credentials and so suggested that He had no legitimate authority. Consequently, they sought to dismiss His irrefutable arguments by discrediting His person. Jesus’ response was not to get defensive, nor to become angry. Rather, He emphasized that the doctrine He was presenting to them was not His own, but the that of His heavenly Father! Jesus said what the writer to the Hebrews later testified: “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds” (Hebrews 1:1-2). Jesus was able to speak and continues to speak through the Bible today with authority, for He is God’s only-begotten Son and reveals exactly what God wants us to know!
Today when we as God’s children proclaim the doctrines of the Bible—from creation to salvation to human sexuality—we will be challenged. “Who do you think you are?” the world asks. “The Bible is just another old book written by men,” scoffers will challenge. But that is not the case. The Bible is a very special book, written indeed by men, but written under the direct inspiration of God and, therefore, profitable in everything it says and with this result, that “the man of God is complete, thorough equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17). How can we be certain that this is true? The answer is simple—the Bible is self-authenticating. There are over 300 Old Testament prophecies that find their fulfillment in the New Testament. No other book ever written possesses the validity of the Bible. Consequently, when we are opposed for our Biblical confessions of faith, LET US STAY THE COURSE WITH JESUS! Let us follow His example and calmly explain that when we uphold the doctrines of the Bible we proclaim His—our heavenly Father’s—doctrine!
Let us also fulfill His will! When Jesus was further challenged regarding His teaching, He stated, “If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority.” Jesus was opposed by the Jewish religious leaders, because He rejected their work-righteous system of theology. They claimed that if people fulfilled the 613 Mosaic laws they identified in the Old Testament, and if people complied with the over 1,400 rabbinical traditions governing the Sabbath, then God would be pleased and accept them. Jesus rejected their law-based, humanly-contrived teachings. Jesus actually fulfilled God’s law. He did so on our behalf and He did so by loving God above all things and by loving His neighbor as Himself. That is why He had healed the man sick for 38 years even though it was the Sabbath, and even though He knew His enemies would seek to kill Him for it. In spite of such opposition, Jesus was determined to fulfill God’s will, even though it would lead to the cross of Calvary!
Our goal when faced with opposition must always be to fulfill the will of our heavenly Father! That means that we must know our Father’s will, which of course means that we need to be students of the Bible. We cannot know God’s will, if we are not immersed in a study of and meditation upon God’s Word which reveals that will. In a recent adult instruction class, I reviewed information about the confessional statements of our Lutheran Church. We spoke about the older confessions—the three ecumenical creeds, the confessional statements like the Small and Large Catechisms of the Reformation period, and also the newer confessions adopted by our CLC. But we also talked about the ongoing need to write confessions today to express God’s will regarding topics such as marriage and human sexuality. They are flash points today, with great opposition arising over against Biblical truth. Let us not refrain from expressing those truths, nor be afraid to do so. Rather, LET US STAY THE COURSE WITH JESUS! Let us fulfill His will!
Let us seek His glory! Jesus said: “He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who seeks the glory of the One who sent Him is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him.” Jesus performed many miracles—not to become famous and acclaimed by men, but rather to confirm the truth of what He was proclaiming. His opponents, in view of their jealousy and frustration, accused Him falsely of seeking personal glory and advantage. Everything in Jesus’ life, however, cried out against such accusations. Although Jesus was Lord of all, the Scriptures tell us that He did not even have a place “to lay His head” (cf. Lk. 9:58). Jesus gave of Himself selflessly—always seeking to honor His Father and to further His kingdom, thereby adding to His glory.
We live in a world obsessed with personal success—achieving power, riches, honor, and ever greater personal glory. Those who oppose God’s children often project their own desires upon godly men and women seeking only to serve their Savior and fellowmen. Recently, two of our members participated in our CLC Mission Helper Trip to India. My daughter and I were privileged to participate in a similar trip eight years ago. I remember being so impressed with Pastor V.S. Benjamin. He was a man who inherited great wealth, but who dedicated that wealth entirely to the glory of God. He used that wealth quietly to proclaim the kingdom of Christ. He became a witness for Christ among the Hindus and Muslims of India preaching repentance and the remission of sins to the glory of God and as a tremendous example for us! God has blessed those efforts greatly and our mission helpers were able to share in that advancement again this year. LET US STAY THE COURSE WITH JESUS! Let us seek our Father’s glory!
Let us, finally, judge with righteous judgment! Jesus’ opponents judged Him worthy of death for violating the rabbinical Sabbath restrictions by healing a sick man on the Sabbath. The rule violated was not a law of God, but a tradition established by man. It stated in that a physician could not help anyone on the Sabbath unless it were a matter of life or death. Seeing that the man Jesus healed had been lame for 38 years, Jesus’ opponents reasoned that He could have easily waited one more day to heal him, but Jesus recognized that God’s law which calls only for love demanded immediate action. To fulfill the actual law of God Jesus had to heal the man and not delay the help He was able to offer. Jesus’ opponents judged Him to be a sinner on the external violation of a man-made tradition. Jesus knew that His heavenly Father would judge Him righteously as the One who had loved His fellow man as the law required.
God would have us be careful when we judge others. Let us not jump to conclusions based on external factors, but let us patiently listen to what others have to say, let us carefully inquire so that we know all of the facts, and let us apply the law of love in all our dealings, so that with Jesus we judge with righteous judgment!
My dear friends, we are living in a time of increasing opposition to our Christian faith. This is not a new phenomenon. Jesus experienced it as have many generations of Christians. Let us not fear what lies ahead. Let us not falter in our callings. Rather LET US STAY THE COURSE WITH JESUS, for then we will experience the glories and blessings of His kingdom as it comes to us here on earth and when it comes in all its glory when Jesus returns! Amen.
--Pastor Paul D. Nolting
To God alone be glory!