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Hearing God

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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!

Application

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.

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blindfolded

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.

Application

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.

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The fields are ready for harvest

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.

Application

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)

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For God loved the world in this way ...

Today’s Bible reading includes one of the most memorized verses in the Bible. It’s a verse that so many people have loved and quoted. And it’s a verse that was only recently translated into English the way it was intended. WHAT????

Now, before I go any further, hear me out: I believe that God’s people can hear God’s voice in any translation of the Bible they can read or hear. I also believe that Believers should use translations that most closely uses words the way we do in common, everyday life. Language changes. Word usage changes. When God spoke and men wrote the Bible, they recorded it in the common, everyday language. The Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew and Aramaic. The New Testament was originally written in Koine (pronounced KOY-nay) Greek. In other words, God wanted ordinary people to be albe to hear Him in their common, everyday language. For this reason, I discourage using translations from several hundred years ago and recommend using translations from the past 50 years. The more recent, generally speaking, the better.

Most of us memorized the verse from the King James Version. The KJV was translated in 1611 so that the people of the day could understand it in their common, everyday language. The KJV translators recognized that as language changes, translations would need to be updated. As modern translators came to the famous verse, they mainly kept the wording the same, and updated “whosoever” to “whoever”, “believeth” to “believe”, and “everlasting” to “eternal”.

I have heard preachers say that the verse says, “God loved the world SO MUCH….” The implication — and many preachers have spelled it out in so many words — is that the world was worth so much, that God sent Jesus. But that isn’t what Jesus said!

I feel that the Christian Standard Bible brings out the best meaning with its translation. And it’s the first translation to translate it, “For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 (CSB) The Greek word translated in the CSB as in this way could also be translated thus/thusly or therefore. But in this way sounds better to our 21st Century ears than thus or thusly.

Jesus didn’t say that “God loved the world SO MUCH that He sent His Son.” Instead, Jesus said, “God loved the world by sending His Son.” It seems such a small difference, right? Paul said it this way, “But God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 (CSB)

No, Jesus doesn’t say that the world was worth SO MUCH that His Father sent His Son. Rather, He says that our sin was SO GREAT because it was against a GREAT GOD that it took Jesus’ death to appease the Father’s wrath. The difference between those two statements is staggering. One statement places the higher value on the world. The other statement places the higher value on God.

Application

Too often, we’ve misplaced the emphasis of the Gospel on mankind. But mankind isn’t the central focus of the Gospel. God is! And unless we see God is the center of the Gospel, we won’t see the enormity of the bad news for lost people in light of their sin against a Holy God.

And thus, we’ll miss the corresponding enormity of the Good News that the Gospel brings.

Do you have a modern Bible? Can you understand it as easily as you do a newspaper, magazine, or book? In other words, was it translated in your lifetime? If not, there are lots of resources on the Internet that will let you read the Bible in lots of different translations. Normally, I recommend the Christian Standard Bible (CSB) and the English Standard Version (ESV). Check out Bible.com for a free downloadable Bible app (iOS, Android, etc.) that includes lots of English translations.

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Judge Tammy Kemp tells Amber Guyger to start with John 3:16

John concludes his first letter in today’s Bible reading telling us that, “this is what love for God is: to keep his commands. And his commands are not a burden, because everyone who has been born of God conquers the world.” (1 John 5:3-4 CSB)

The world was able to see this play out on their TV screens yesterday evening. On the previous day, former Dallas Police Officer Amber Guyger had been convicted of murdering Botham Jean when she entered his apartment thinking it was hers. Yesterday, Guyger was sentenced to ten years in prison. During the victim impact statement, Jean’s brother Brandt told Guyger that he forgave her and that he wanted only the best for her. At the end of speaking, Brandt Jean asked Judge Tammy Kemp if he could give Guyger a hug. Over the next minute of so, they embraced several times.

As good as that was, here’s some of the “rest of the story” that happened in the courtroom today, as reported on our local ABC affiliate WFAA.

After stepping off the bench to comfort the Jean family, the judge walked over to Guyger, still at the defense table. She bent low and spoke in the young woman’s ear. “You understand?” the judge said, barely audible.

The judge appeared to be overcome in the moment, and left the courtroom. She returned a moment later, a small Bible in her hand.

“You can have mine,” the judge said to Guyger. “I have three or four at home.”

She then began to counsel Guyger. The pair were talking low, barely audible, just the two of them. “This is your job,” the judge said, opening the book.

The judge mentioned John 3:16, saying this will strengthen her. Guyger nodded her head.

“You just need a tiny mustard seed of faith,” the judge said. “You start with this.”

“You haven’t done so much that you can’t be forgiven,” the judge told her. “You did something bad in one moment in time. What you do now matters.”

The judge told Guyger that she can take the Bible with her as deputies prepared to escort her to the prisoner holding cell connected to the courtroom.

Source: WFAA (Click this link and watch the video on the page!)

Application

This is what should be happening every single day in courtrooms, boardrooms, and washrooms across America as Believers, serious about their faith do what God tells them to do! We don’t know what Amber Guyger will do with what she experienced and heard in a Dallas courtroom yesterday. We can pray that the seed planted by Judge Tammy Kemp landed on good soil. (Mark 4:8)

Now, I have a quick question…. How easily and quickly could you provide someone a copy of a Bible if they didn’t have one of their own, in a translation they can easily read and understand?

If the Bible is our authority on God and His ways, shouldn’t we be ready to help hurting people find the help they need? If you don’t have a Bible or two that you could provide to someone in need, let me know. I’ll point you in a direction where you can get a few to keep on hand!

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