Sometimes you come across something in the Bible that you don’t like. Something that doesn’t sound right. Something that doesn’t seem to go with how you always heard it in church. Such is the case with today’s Bible reading.
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day. John 6:44 (CSB)
He said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted to him by the Father.” John 6:65 (CSB)
Many of us who grew up in church find it not just a little strange that Jesus would say — not once, but twice — that not just anyone can come to God. Does that mean that God will turn away people who sincerely want to come to Him? In other words, can someone come to Jesus on their own initiative?
I don’t have the space here to fully answering these questions. Some theologians have dedicated books to answering them. All I have is what Jesus says: only those who have been invited may come. Add to that what Paul says in Romans 3:10–12 and what Jeremiah said in Jeremiah 17:9 and I think it’s clear that no one is capable of sincerely coming to God on their own initiative. And even if they could, they wouldn’t.
Now, Jesus doesn’t say just that only those who are invited may come. But He adds that all those who are invited will come (John 6:37a) and all of those who respond to the invitation can never be turned away. (John 6:37b) And for Jesus to lose a any of those who were invited would be for Him to not do His Father’s will. (John 6:39)
Those are tremendous truths! Think about that!
If a child of God could lose his/her salvation,
it would mean that Jesus failed to do God’s will!
In other words, the security of your salvation isn’t your responsibility! It’s Jesus’ responsibility! Now, that isn’t to say that you can come to Jesus and kick back and never do anything else.
No, if you truly come to Him, you will continue to come to Him and grow closer to Him. But the responsibility for maintaining the relationship is His. And Jesus will always hold to His responsibilities!
So when you come across something in the Bible that you don’t like, something that doesn’t sound right, something that doesn’t go along with what you’ve always heard in church, it might just be that God wants to show you something about His character you’ve never seen before. And it might just be an opportunity for worship.
This devotional was originally published October 22, 2019.
In today’s Bible reading, Jesus tells the Jewish leaders their eternal life is in their Scriptures, yet aren’t humble enough to come to Him, the One the Scriptures point to. (John 5:39-40) He points out that in their search for Truth, they ignore the One Who embodies it. They bury their faces in their scrolls looking for God. He stands right in the midst of them, and they completely miss the Truth by “that much”. Their preconceived conceptions of what God is supposed to be like doesn’t fit with what they hear Jesus saying and doing.
If your Bible has a list of crossreferences, glance through the Gospels. Look at how many references there are to the Old Testament Law, the Prophets, and the Writings, especially the Psalms. Over and over again, we see pages of Scripture pouring out of Jesus’ mouth. When you turn to the letters of Paul and the other Apostles, they are constantly quoting or alluding to Old Testament passages. Why? Because these men knew their Bible (which was the Old Testament). They saw Jesus as the fulfillment of every part of their Bible. Every page of their Bible pointed to Jesus. So why didn’t the Jewish leaders see Jesus in their Bible like the Apostles did? They were blind to the spiritual realities. (2 Corinthians 3:14–15)
Like in yesterday’s devotional and elsewhere this year, there is a tremendous theological truth at play called the Sovereignty of God. God is Sovereign. In other words, He is in control. Of everything. Nothing that happens catches Him off guard. And He is never surprised.
And when it comes to seeing God and hearing His voice in Scripture, unless God moves in a miraculous way, no one will find God, regardless of how much they search and where they search. Colleges, universities — and seminaries — are filled with men and women like the Jewish leaders in Jesus’ day who know their Bible. They study the original languages, archaeology, and history searching for answers. Yet, they have more questions that they have answers. Now, that can be a good thing. But when you refuse to come to Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our Faith, you miss it — you miss everything — by that much.
The heart of the matter is the matter of the heart. God knew how fallen we are. He knew that our hearts are radically corrupt. (Jeremiah 17:9) He knew that if we could seek Him, we wouldn’t. (Psalm 14:1-3) He knew that if we were to know Him at all, He would have to make a way. And He did in Jesus Christ.
That any of us would believe is a testament to the amazing grace and mercy of a relational, self-disclosing, self-revealing God.
If you know Him, it is only because you responded to His invitation. And that you were invited is a testament to the amazing grace and mercy of a relational, self-disclosing, self-revealing God.
Spend a few minutes thanking Him for making Himself known in His Word. Read it. Cherish it. Share it with others.
And ask God to give them eyes to see, too.
This devotional was originally published October 19, 2019.
In today’s Bible reading, we read about Jesus’ encounter with a Samaritan woman at a well. It was an abnormal meeting because Jews never went through Samaria and women generally didn’t draw water from wells in the middle of the day. But here they are: a young rabbi and a woman with a troubled past. And they’re talking about God.
After telling her that He is the source of living water and that some day both the Samaritans and Jews will worship the Father together in Spirit and in Truth, she runs off to tell her friends and family about a man who knew everything about her. (John 4:29)
Next, the Disciples engage Jesus about his lunch plans. He dodges their questions and tells them to look up; the fields are ready for the harvest. John tells us that many Samaritans believed Jesus because of the woman’s testimony about Him. Still others believe, not just because of her testimony, but because they experience Him for themselves.
So what did Jesus mean by “the fields are ready for harvest”?
Jesus had “primed the pump” so to speak with the woman and the Samaritan people came, interested to find out more. Meanwhile, God was priming the pump of the people’s hearts, making them ready to hear what Jesus would say to them.
We think the people came, seeking Jesus, when in reality, God was already seeking them! (John 4:23) Now, after heartily endorsing the Christian Standard Bible’s treatment of John 3:16 in yesterday’s devotional, I need to point out that the CSB’s weakness on John 4:23 (CSB). It isn’t that the Father wants (CSB) people to worship Him. It’s that the Father seeks (ESV) people to worship Him. We’ll read in 6:44 that unless the Father draws someone, they won’t seek on their own. Paul confirms this in Romans 3:11 as he quotes Psalm 14:1-3.
Our efforts to tell people about Jesus will be completely ineffective if we haven’t bathed those efforts in prayer. If God hasn’t prepared their hearts, they simply won’t hear the Gospel message. And I think that partially explains why there are so many false conversions: people are pressed to make a decision for Jesus when their hearts aren’t in it. They politely pray a prayer and are told that they are forever saved and eternally secure. In many cases, nothing could be further from the truth.
The best witnesses are those who simply tell their experience with Jesus and invite others to know Him, too.
That was true two thousand years ago. And it’s true now. You don’t have to burden yourself learning lots of apologetics arguments. They may help, but unless God has prepared their hearts, no argument under heaven will save them.
Talking about God with people must be preceded by prayer, bathed in prayer, and supported by prayer. There simply is no substitute for prayer in evangelism. And that’s something that any Believer can do!
Pray that God would give you boldness. Pray that God would give you the right words to say. Pray that God would prepare their hearts to receive the Gospel message. And pray that the Gospel message lands on “good soil” (Matthew 13:23)
This devotional was originally published October 18, 2019.
Next, John talks about the importance of hospitality toward other Believers. (3 John 1:5-8) People don’t talk much about hospitality these days. But it’s a very important character trait. Back in the First Century, especially as Roman religious persecution grew, it was crucial that Believers support each other as John says above. He concludes his thoughts, urging that Believers should financially support itenerant missionaries. By supporting these people, they actually become a coworker with them in God’s work.
I haven’t read it yet, but Rosaria Butterfield wrote an award-winning book, The Gospel Comes with a House Key: Practicing Radically Ordinary Hospitality in Our Post-Christian World. In it, she talks about how she became a Christian in a large part because some Christian neighbors extended “radically ordinary” hospitality to her.
Think about that. By simply being hospitable, you can have an eternal impact on the lives of lost people. Maybe it’s gladly giving a neighbor a cup of sugar. Maybe it’s loaning a fan to a new neighbor who’s painting some rooms before they move. Definitely, it’s praying for your neighbors. Definitely, it’s being ready to share a “fresh word” of encouragement with them. Definitely, it’s giving a Bible to the coworker who doesn’t have one and is beginning their spiritual walk.
The saying, “Always share your faith and use words when necessary” forgets the fact that unless you use words, people will not know the Gospel. Sure, they may think, “Wow, what a nice gesture.” but they won’t know why you did what you did when you were hospitable. Peter urged his readers to always be ready to gently and respectfully explain your hope. (1 Peter 3:15)
And that requires that we use words.
This devotional was originally published October 5, 2019.
Back in 1982, Faberge Organics Shampoo rolled out a commercial that forever stuck in my mind. The same year, as I wrapped up my Freshman year at UNC-Chapel Hill, one of the staff members for Campus Crusade for Christ “challenged” me to be a part of their discipleship movement on campus. It was a fancy way of saying that I was asked to lead a discipleship group the next year. The commercial and the Discipleship Process are very simple, straightfoward, and very similar. Every time I think of discipleship, I think of the commercial. And every time I think of the commercial, I think of discipleship.
Paul summarizes the Discipleship Process in one verse as part of today’s Bible reading. Have you ever wondered what “discipleship” is? “What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, commit to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” ( 2 Timothy 2:2 CSB)
It isn’t complicated. It isn’t expensive. It isn’t un-do-able. All it takes is a pair of ears and a commitment to reproduce. It’s as easy as trying a new shampoo!
In the commercial, actress Heather Locklear says she liked the shampoo so much that she told two friends. And they told two friends and so on….
Paul tells Timothy to reproduce in others what he has heard from Paul. But it isn’t just that Timothy should teach someone. He tells Timothy to teach someone who can teach others. In other words, the Discipleship Process doesn’t stop with one generation of disciples. Obviously, Timothy followed Paul’s teaching. The Process continues to this day and will continue until Jesus takes all of His disciples to live with Him in eternity.
Are you involved in discipling other Believers?
Discipleship doesn’t require a lot of training. It doesn’t require a lot of materials. Training helps. A lot. And good materials help. A lot.
All it takes is a pair of ears and a commitment to reproduce what you’ve heard. And that commitment to reproduce is the key to extending it to future generations of disciples.
Ask your pastor to take you deeper in your walk with Jesus. And ask him to help you reproduce what you’ve heard.
This devotional was originally published on September 19, 2019.