Through the years I’ve met a lot of people who, at some point in our relationship, I’ve asked them, “How did you come to know Christ? When did you become a Christian?” I’ve heard all kinds of answers. Some have told me about when they prayed to ask Jesus into their heart and how that experience has shaped their life. Others have said things like, “Well, I grew up in church. I never missed a Sunday when I was a kid.” “I was baptized when I was 9 years old during Vacation Bible School.” “I’ve always tried to be a good person.” “I went to a Confirmation Class at my church when I was a teenager.” “My mom and dad were both Christians.” Or, “I pray every day.”
In my Wednesday night Bible study last year we did a study called, “Recovering Redemption.” In the study Matt Chandler said that he asked a guy in his church the same question one time and the man said, “Well, I’m from Texas.” From Texas?! Isn’t it amazing to you that in the day in which we live, where we have 24 hour-a-day access to the Gospel, that there is still so much confusion about how we become a follower of Jesus? It is my prayer that by the time we finish our study this morning that no one here will have any questions in their mind about “why” we should surrender our lives to Jesus, “how” to become a follower of Jesus, and the urgency of receiving Jesus this very morning. Let’s take a look at our Scripture found in John 8:37-47.
37 I know that you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are looking for a way to kill me, because you have no room for my word. 38 I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you are doing what you have heard from your father.” 39 “Abraham is our father,” they answered. “If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would do what Abraham did. 40 As it is, you are looking for a way to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. 41 You are doing the works of your own father.” “We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.” 42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. 43 Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! 46 Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? 47 Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” (John 8:37-47 NIV)
I mentioned to you last week that we would still be in the same section of John for this week’s study. Last week we focused on John 8:43. This week we are going to focus our time on what the Jewish leaders believed about themselves and what Jesus had to say about their beliefs. First, let’s take a look at what the Jewish leaders believed about themselves.
The Jewish leaders, back in John 8:33, said, “We are Abraham’s descendants…” The first verse of our Scripture for this morning, John 8:37, begins with Jesus acknowledging that they are Abraham’s descendants. Jesus doesn’t dispute what they claim. Scripture is very clear that the Jews were the physical descendants of Abraham, but physical descent isn’t the heart of the matter. In Romans 2:28-29, Paul, a Jew himself, said,
28 A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. 29 No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God. (Romans 2:28-29 NIV)
For the Jews, the Covenant God made with Abraham, keeping the Law of Moses, and observing the rite of circumcision were the “end all.” They became so focused on the details that they lost their delight in walking with God.
In verse 39, Jesus said, “I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you are doing what you have heard from your father.” (John 8:39 NIV) The Jews totally missed what Jesus meant when He said, “…you are doing what you have heard from your father.” In turn, the Jews made their second claim.
Abraham Our Father
The second claim the Jewish leaders made was that Abraham was their “father.” Jesus responded by saying that if Abraham was their father they would do what Abraham did. What did Abraham do? Well, Genesis 15:6 tells us,
6 Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness. (Genesis 15:6 NIV)
Abraham didn’t merely give lip service to God—He believed God by leaving his homeland and following God. His belief led to action. There’s a great lesson in this for you and me. We can make any claim that we want to make, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that what we are claiming is true. Jesus made it very clear to His disciples that our beliefs should align with how we live. Let me show you some examples. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said,
16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:16 NIV)
Isn’t that interesting? What we do in our daily lives, while we are at work, shopping, the way we care for our families, relate to our friends, what we do while we are enjoying our free time and hobbies should cause those around us to recognize the Lord at work in us. That’s powerful! That’s real life evangelism.
In another place, Jesus was warning His followers that there were those out there who were holding themselves up as prophets and doing His work, but in actuality their claims were far from true. Jesus told His followers that they would come to recognize these false prophets for what they truly are, not simply by their words, but by their deeds. Read along with me.
15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? (Matthew 7:15-16 NIV)
The last example I want to share with you is found in John 13:34-35, where Jesus told His followers how the world will recognize them for what they truly are—His followers. What Jesus told His disciples is still what He is speaking to you and me today. It’s not just our words that are convincing; it is how we live in relation to Him and one another. Read along with me.
34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35 NIV)
Just as the Jewish leaders of Jesus’ day were claiming Abraham as their father, there are many today who are claiming Jesus as their Lord. We have no idea if someone is truly a follower of Jesus by merely listening to them, but Jesus said that the commitment of His followers will yield fruit.
God is Our Father
The last claim the Jewish leaders made is found in verse 41, where they say, “The only Father we have is God himself.” Jesus alludes to the “father” of those who are attacking him in verse 38 and in verse 41 and each time the Jewish leaders ramped up their claims. “We are Abraham’s descendants…” (vs. 33) “Abraham is our father…” (vs. 39) And finally, “The only Father we have is God himself.” (vs. 41) The final time that Jesus mentions the “father” of the Jewish leaders is found in vs 44 where He presses beyond alluding to their father and lays His cards on the table by saying, “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires.”
Just as those in Jesus’ day belonged to one of two kingdoms, so we who live today, belong to one of two kingdoms. We either belong to the Kingdom of God or we belong to the kingdom of the devil, Satan, the enemy of God and His people. That sounds pretty harsh, even archaic to many people in this modern-day in which we live. A 2009 survey by the Barna Group discovered that 40% of Christians agreed with the statement that Satan “is not a living being, but a symbol of evil.” Another 19% “somewhat agreed” to the statement. Only 26% of Christians believed that Satan is a living being. That’s really remarkable when you consider that Jesus never spoke about Satan as a symbol of evil.
In Luke 10, after the disciples returned from ministering to the people, they said, in verse 17, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.” After hearing them speak Jesus said, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” (Luke 10:18 NIV)
In Matthew 13, Jesus told His followers a parable. Now, we have to remember that a parable is a story about something in the physical realm that has spiritual, heavenly realm truths imbedded in it. Jesus told the parable of the weeds in the field or the wheat and the tares. After telling the story, after the crowd had left, Jesus’ followers asked Him to explain the story. Jesus said,
37 He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. 40 “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42 They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear. (Matthew 13:37-43 NIV)
Throughout God’s Word we find all kinds of references to the devil or Satan. Peter tells us, in 1 Peter 5:8,
8 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8 NIV)
The Apostle Paul, in 2 Corinthians 4:4, makes it very clear why people refuse to consider the gospel and come to Jesus, when he writes,
4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Corinthians 4:4 NIV)
With all that said about Satan in the Bible, it is really mind boggling that those who claim to be followers of Jesus can dismiss what He had to say about Satan. Is it really possible to hold tight to some of Jesus’ teaching and dismiss other teachings that don’t set well with us? If that is possible, how in the world can we dismiss what Jesus said about Satan when we see so much evidence of his work in our world? There are two traps that the followers of Jesus fall into when it comes to Satan and both are explained by C.S. Lewis in The Screwtape Letters when he wrote,
There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight. (C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters.)
I believe that most people refuse to believe in a literal Satan because they’ve seen too many scary movies that depict Satan as lurking in heavily mist covered cemeteries, possessing little girls who spit pea green colored vomit at priests, and wear red suits with horns and a pitchfork. Demon possession and oppression are certainly realities that are described in the Bible and are still taking place today. Jesus encountered one man who was possessed by so many demons that when Jesus asked him his name, he called himself, “Legion,” meaning “many.” (Mark 5:9)
In our Scripture for today, Jesus makes it clear that Satan has far more effective and widespread ways of doing his work, ways that are so subtle that they are easily dismissed by most people. Jesus said,
44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! 46 Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? 47 Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” (John 8:44-47 NIV)
Satan’s two most effective devices are “murder” and “lies.” Now, you might say that “murder” is not so subtle and I wouldn’t disagree with you in one sense. The videos we’ve seen of the 21 Christian martyrs who were beheaded a couple of weeks ago are evil. Taking a human life is evil, but this isn’t the only kind of murder that the enemy inflicts on our world. For every life that is taken there are 1,000,000 relationships that die because of Satan’s schemes. For every life that is taken there are 1,000,000 people who still possess a heartbeat, but despair and hopeless are killing them. I could go and on recreating the scenarios of the way Satan kills.
The other device that Satan uses, which Jesus mentioned in our Scripture for this morning, is lies. Jesus calls Satan, “The father of lies.” We see example after example of this in God’s Word. God told Adam and Eve that they must never eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the middle of the Garden of Eden or they would die. In Genesis 3, we find the first lie told when the serpent said to Eve, “You will not surely die.” In Matthew 4, Jesus was in the wilderness fasting and praying for forty days and forty nights when Satan came to temp Him. Each of the three times Satan spoke to Jesus it was a lie. In Acts 5, Ananias and his wife sold a piece of property and donated the proceeds to the work of the Lord. The problem was that Ananias misrepresented himself. Then we read,
3 Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? (Acts 5:3 NIV)
Satan’s lies are at the heart of his schemes, which Paul wrote about in Ephesians 6:11. Satan’s lies are so woven into the everyday fabric of life that we can so easily be deceived. I was reading a story this past week reported by a professor about one his students. The student was raised in an abusive home in which her mother and father fought constantly. When she was 15, she came home to a fight and her father attacked her mother with a knife. The daughter, Juliana, jumped on her dad’s back to try and stop him, but he killed her mother right before her eyes.
After the death of her mother, she left home. Sometime later, she took a road trip to California with her boyfriend. While on the trip her boyfriend died of a heart attack. She had to get away, make a clean start, so she loaded her car and left home to go to New York so she could try to make it as a singer. She had about $25,000 worth of music equipment with her. While in New York someone stole her car and all of her music equipment.
Time rocked along and she eventually got a job working for a consulting firm. She was an impressive young lady who worked hard so promotions came on a regular basis. Eventually they asked her to move to Chicago for a new position and more money than she ever dreamed she would make in her life. Just before leaving for Chicago, in the Fall of 1995, she was going roller blading in Central Park and fell and broke her leg. She became depressed. While she was recuperating from her broken leg, a friend named Rob Williams asked her, “If you could do anything what would you do?” She said, “I’d work in the church and serve God.” She ended up moving to Atlanta so that she could attend Columbia Theological Seminary in Atlanta, Georgia.
Juliana said there had been a constant conversation taking place in her mind. “If God wants good for you why did He permit your mom to stay with your dad? Why did He permit your dad to kill your mom before your eyes? Why did God let those thieves take your equipment? And, what about your job? Why did God let you break your leg? Is God really there? Does God really love you?” She said,
In the power of Christ, this child of God said, ‘No. I don’t believe you. I trust my life to God.’ What an amazing power is released in our lives when we let go and let God. And, then I found inside me a courage, a courage to stand up and say, ‘This is not the voice of the Lord God. This is the liar, the chief liar to the souls of men and women. Here I am, Lord. Take my life. I trust you, no matter what!’
The key to the young woman recognizing what was taking place in her head was what she said in the opening of her statement, “In the power of Christ…” This takes us back to the beginning of our study. Outside of knowing Jesus as our Lord and Savior we have absolutely no defense against Satan’s plans to lead us down a path of destruction. It is only “in Christ” that we can be made aware of Satan’s schemes, but unless we surrender our lives to Jesus we will not be found “in Christ.” Having been raised in a church doesn’t equate to being a follower of Jesus. Going through a Confirmation Class does mean that we are a follower of Jesus. Having a mom or dad who are strong believers doesn’t mean that we are followers of Jesus. God has no grandchildren, only sons and daughters.
If I were to ask you this morning, “How did you come to know Jesus as your Savior?” What would you say? I don’t want anyone leaving here this morning without knowing how to come to know Jesus as Lord and Savior of your life.
First, you must admit that you are a sinner, you’ve sinned against God. Romans 3:23 says, “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Second, you must know that the wages of sin is death and all people die because all people are sinners. That’s the bad news. The good news is found in Romans 6:23 where Paul writes, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23 NIV) The gift of God to all who confess their sin and receive Jesus as their Lord is eternal life. When that happens we are removed from the kingdom of Satan and we are adopted into the Kingdom of God, the Father of all who believe. Turn to Romans 8:14-15 and read along with me.
14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” (Romans 8:14-15 NIV)
Now, I know lots of folks who are not followers of Jesus, some who are atheists and don’t even believe in God, and they would admit that they don’t believe in Satan either. Truth is we’re serving someone—either the enemy or God. If someone says they are living for themselves then that is perfectly within the scheme of Satan isn’t it? Anything to keep us from God. Don’t make that mistake this morning. Hear the Lord calling you to Himself. Step out from the pew. Make your way down to me and say, “I know I’m a sinner and that Jesus is my only hope.” Won’t you come?
Britton Christian Church
March 1, 2015