Washed on the Inside

Revivals often address some very important problems in the church. Some say that the revival that we call the Protestant Reformation did not go far enough and others say that it threw the baby out with the bath water. Jesus’ revival, on the other hand, was perfect. What can we learn from it?
Let’s understand that the church is always in need of revival, but that first we allow God to revive us on the inside.
Sermon Plan
Let’s discuss good, neutral and bad traditions. Let’s discuss Jesus’ basics for revival in the church.
Mark 7:1 One day some Pharisees and teachers of religious law arrived from Jerusalem to see Jesus. 2 They noticed that some of his disciples failed to follow the Jewish ritual of hand washing before eating. 3 (The Jews, especially the Pharisees, do not eat until they have poured water over their cupped hands, as required by their ancient traditions. 4 Similarly, they don’t eat anything from the market until they immerse their hands in water. This is but one of many traditions they have clung to—such as their ceremonial washing of cups, pitchers, and kettles.)
5 So the Pharisees and teachers of religious law asked him, “Why don’t your disciples follow our age-old tradition? They eat without first performing the hand-washing ceremony.” 6 Jesus replied, “You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote, ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. 7 Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.’ 8 For you ignore God’s law and substitute your own tradition.”
9 Then he said, “You skillfully sidestep God’s law in order to hold on to your own tradition . 10 For instance, Moses gave you this law from God: ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and ‘Anyone who speaks disrespectfully of father or mother must be put to death.’ 11 But you say it is all right for people to say to their parents, ‘Sorry, I can’t help you. For I have vowed to give to God what I would have given to you.’ 12 In this way, you let them disregard their needy parents. 13 And so you cancel the word of God in order to hand down your own tradition. And this is only one example among many others.”
14 Then Jesus called to the crowd to come and hear. “All of you listen,” he said, “and try to understand. 15 It’s not what goes into your body that defiles you; you are defiled by what comes from your heart.”
17 Then Jesus went into a house to get away from the crowd, and his disciples asked him what he meant by the parable he had just used. 18 “Don’t you understand either?” he asked. “Can’t you see that the food you put into your body cannot defile you? 19 Food doesn’t go into your heart, but only passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer.” (By saying this, he declared that every kind of food is acceptable in God’s eyes.)
20 And then he added, “It is what comes from inside that defiles you. 21 For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness . 23 All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.”
Traditions without Heart (Mark 7:1-4)
Pharisees from Jerusalem, where the school of Gamaliel was, probably included Paul. Both Paul and perhaps also Gamaliel later converted to Christianity. The Pharisees were a political-religious party in a world without separation of church and state. Out of the first century, two new Jewish religions emerged, Rabbinic Judaism and Christianity. The Pharisees formed the foundation for Rabbinic Judaism from which stems modern mainstream Judaism. The Sadducees interpreted the law literally. The Pharisees interpreted it liberally, adding many written traditions, often called the second Talmud. This is similar to what some branches of the church have done by equating scripture and tradition. Tradition ought to be second not equal to scripture. For instance, Pharisees took Old Testament ritual washings, literally meant for the priests only, and applied them to everyone. This included requiring a ritual hand washing before a meal.
Baptism of Hands
A Baptist understanding of the Greek word baptize is incomplete as many passages of Scripture show, most clearly in the baptism of Israel to Moses when they didn’t even get wet (1 Corinthians 10:2). Although washings and cleansings were religious ceremonies, the word baptize was not originally a religious word. Mark 7 also shows another use of the word baptize, to wash or cleanse. The disciples had failed to ceremonially wash their cupped hands according to tradition, before they ate. The tradition developed from the Pharisees’ application of commands such as that in Exodus 30:17-21. They had a biblical basis for their cleansing traditions. Jesus’ criticism was not that they used the Bible, but that their interpretation had made such a big deal out of the physical that they neglected the more important cause of uncleanliness, the human heart.
A Facade of Piety (Mark 7:5-8)
Some criticize tradition, calling it religion. Jesus did not criticize religion, but hypocrisy. James praised pure religion: caring for the poor and holy living. Some rituals are optional, not demanded by Jesus. This is not an excuse for dirty hands. It was a ritual baptism up to the elbows before eating, a tradition. Jesus focused on what is in our hearts. Hypocrisy is not just saying one thing and doing another as some claim, otherwise we are all hypocrites. We all have ideals but know that we fail to live up to them. A hypocrite is someone who may be faithful to tradition but ignores love. They put on a facade of piety hiding who they really are. Tradition is not sin, but substituting tradition while ignoring the basis of our religion which is love, is the sin of hypocrisy.
Misuse of Tradition (Mark 7:9-13)
Any tradition becomes an idol when it is placed ahead of God. There is nothing innately sinful or evil about any tradition except when it is used to sidestep God’s law and cancel the word of God. One example of many is that Jesus was angry with them for using tradition as an excuse for dishonoring parents. Do we do anything similar? According to Pew Research 92% of the 114th Congress identifies as Christian, higher than last congress and more than the general population. Many of them have voted against feeding the hungry, welcoming foreigners, clothing the naked, health care for the sick and other ways of loving our neighbor? Why? Is it because in politics, religion gets votes but does not change hearts? Have we allowed our political traditions to sidestep God’s law and cancel the word of God?
Pure Religion
When we read the Song of Solomon it may sound mushy to modern ears, but we have to remember this is a picture of pure love, not some raunchy Hollywood scene. When we look at a young couple in love, imagine the pure love between Christ and his Church. Pure, young love is a beautiful thing. When we read Psalm 45 we imagine the pure monarchy of Jesus Christ, not the greedy and selfish monarchies of this world. Christians need no king but Jesus. As a pure, loving king, he died for his people; he wants the best for his people and deserves our unfailing love and devotion. When we read James 1:17-27 we learn about God’s pure religion, not just outward trappings, but the religion of caring for the poor and keeping our hearts uncorrupted by the world.
Tradition without heart (Mark 7:17-23)
In Acts 10 Peter was commanded by God to eat unclean foods. He realized that particular law was no longer relevant, dividing between clean from unclean meats and Jew from Gentile. Jesus declared that uncleanness comes not from food but our hearts. Many traditions are not necessary for salvation nor is criticism of those who do not follow them. Perhaps that is why our basic Christian rituals are so few, baptism and communion. Real religion is caring for the poor and holy living, according to James. Matters of the heart are most important. Jesus listed vices such as evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness in a similar that Paul did in Galatians 5. Rituals alone do not cleanse what really defiles us, the wrong thoughts from inside our hearts.
Reformation basics
There is no doubt that every denomination needs some kind of ongoing revival. How do we enjoy this without creating division? Jesus challenged not only religious traditions but the interpretation of the Bible behind them. Similar to, but more perfect than the Protestant Reformation, Jesus’ revival was not based in the highest offices of his day, but in the grass roots of that society. Although our outward form of religion can easily change, Jesus' priority in revival was the religion of the inner person. This is the reformation that is often missed. We seek to change outward forms of worship but in so doing become just like the Pharisees. The true basis for revival is not in overemphasizing outward things but in the heart. Allow the Holy Spirit to revive the inside and the outside will take care of itself.
The real problem with church
Church has always had problems, but it also has the Gospel, the solution to all human problems. What is the real problem with church? Jesus discussed a few of our problems and concluded with the real answer. If church did not contain people, it would not have problems. The real problem with church is not that it occasionally gets things terribly wrong, we all do. What is the real source of problems in any church? The real problem with church is that it contains people and our problems come from deep within all of us, from the human heart. Is the solution staying away from church and people? We go to church to be part of God’s kingdom on earth. The solution is not the rituals in the church, but the power of Jesus Christ to change our human hearts.
A revival may address some obvious outward problems in the church. But, for a revival to be lasting, it must first we must begin with our own hearts.

Dealing with Offense

Jesus spoke words that are still spirit and life today, but they also offend people now as they did then.
How can mere words be spirit and life? What does that mean?
Sermon Plan
We will discuss why Jesus’ words which are spirit and life also cause offense using John 6:56-69.1
John 6:56 Anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. 57 I live because of the living Father who sent me; in the same way, anyone who feeds on me will live because of me. 58 I am the true bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will not die as your ancestors did (even though they ate the manna) but will live forever.” 59 He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum. 60 Many of his disciples said, “This is very hard to understand. How can anyone accept it?” 61 Jesus was aware that his disciples were complaining, so he said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 Then what will you think if you see the Son of Man ascend to heaven again? 63 The Spirit alone gives eternal life. Human effort accomplishes nothing. And the very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But some of you do not believe me.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning which ones didn’t believe, and he knew who would betray him.) 65 Then he said, “That is why I said that people can’t come to me unless the Father gives them to me.” 66 At this point many of his disciples turned away and deserted him. 67 Then Jesus turned to the Twelve and asked, “Are you also going to leave?” 68 Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life. 69 We believe, and we know you are the Holy One of God.”
Background Scriptures on Offense
We offend God (Leviticus 5:19). He forgives (Isaiah 44:22). Love God’s instructions; don’t be easily offended (Psalm 119:165). God hates discord (Proverbs 6:16-19) and revenge (Leviticus 19:18). Haters quarrel. Lovers pardon (Proverbs 10:12; 18:19). Offended friends are hard to regain (Proverbs 18:19). Friendly wounds are better than backbiters kisses (Proverbs 27:5-6). Do not judge a speck in someone’s eye with a log in your own (Matthew 7:1-5). Discuss offenses privately then with witnesses, before involving the church (Matthew 18:15-17). Rebuke and forgive (Luke 17:3-4). Preaching Christ offends and is ridiculed (1 Corinthians 1:23). If I quit preaching, nobody would be offended (Galatians 5:11). Tolerate faults. Be united in peace. God forgives, so forgive (Ephesians 4:2-3; Colossians 3:13). Be slow to anger (James 1:19).
Remain in Jesus
In John 6:56-57 the word for eating Jesus can also be translated as munching, crunching or gnawing on Jesus. Perhaps now we understand why it was so offensive to many of the early disciples and they left. Yet Jesus said that those who do gnaw on him remain in him, and twelve disciples did. Do we stubbornly cling to the ideas of people and when they prove wrong we lose faith? A local church building is not the church. It will someday die or be sold. Would our faithfulness to God die too? Do we remain stuck in a particular style of church liturgy and if it changes then we decide to quit the church? Theories, camaraderie and music are not the whole meal. They taste good for a while, but the real food is in munching on Jesus.
Murmuring and grumbling are common to our human experience. We have all done it and are all just as guilty as the disciples who left Jesus in John 6:61. We murmur about positions in the church, the kitchen, the music, the preacher, the upkeep, local organization, the conference and the bishop. Yet, despite our continual complaining, some few are remarkably silent. Could it be that they have a secret? What could be the secret to not grumbling? How can we be a part of those who do not murmur and seem to be absent when gossip is on the menu? Perhaps these verses give a clue. Perhaps we should learn the lesson my grandmother and mother taught me, we can’t talk with our mouths full. Perhaps those who continually feast on Jesus are satisfied and have no desire to complain.
What does it mean words that are spirit?
In John 6:63 Jesus said, “the words that I speak to you, they are spirit”. What does it mean that words are spirit? It means that his words were spiritual. His words were not just to be received in heavenly terms, as opposed to worldly, but they were spirit. The natural mind cannot understand the things of God, so words that are spirit can only be received in spirit. We who did not live at that time and never met him in the flesh can nevertheless receive his words today, because they are still spirit and therefore not limited to time and place. Without the words of Jesus, baptism, communion, Bible study and prayer become empty rituals. It is not the physical trappings of our tradition that bless us today, but the words of Jesus Christ which are spirit.
Will You Desert?
Does Jesus offend us? The same words that are spirit and are life (John 6:66) offended many of his own disciples 2,000 years ago. Do they offend us today? Those followers of Jesus were offended because he downplayed their own religious traditions regarding manna. What offense would cause us to leave the church? When people leave they often point a finger at other people, but that also points at Jesus. We are really saying, “How could Jesus show grace to those people in that church?” Jesus’ mercy offends us because he allows fools to preach and sinners to lead. Church life is a constant winnowing process. The chaff is driven away and the wheat stays. What about us? Will we leave because the words of life offend, which demand grace and mercy towards others, or will we stay?
To Whom Would We Go?
In John 6:68 when Jesus asked the disciples if they would leave him, they replied, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Yet, so often we want people to come to our church, rather than Jesus Christ. I believe with all my heart that the more we promote ourselves, our denominational "distinctives" and our man-made system, the less blessed we will become. The more we promote Jesus Christ as the answer, the more he will bless us and our denomination. Did not Jesus say, "I will build my church"? Why do we try everything but Jesus? I would love to be able to say that our denominational distinctive is that we promote Jesus Christ more than anyone else does. Then, I believe that the blessings from heaven would be poured out in abundance.
What does it mean words that Give Eternal Life?
In John 6:68 Jesus’ disciples said, “You have the words that give eternal life.” How can words be life? We may remember a childhood myth: sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me. The truth is that words can hurt or heal. Words can kill or give life. Words are powerful. The words that Jesus spoke to his disciples then, he speaks to us today. If we listen to the words of Jesus, they give us life eternal. The words of the Old Testament are profitable, but that was a ministry of death (2 Corinthians 3:6-8), preparing for the ministry of the spirit. The spirit gives life. A preacher’s words do not give life either, unless they incorporate the words that do give life, the words of Jesus.
Words of eternal life
What is a real good reason to keep attending church? Do we find there the words of eternal life (John 6:68)? It doesn’t matter what denomination we attend, if we see past all the customs, failures and other human activities, many churches have preachers who teach the words of Jesus, the words of eternal life. Are we proud to be the stewards of the words of life? The word pride in today’s English can be either the good trait of pleasure and joy, such as a parent who is proud of a child. It can also be the wrong kind of pride, arrogance and vainglory. Denominational pride can be good or evil too. The most important thing that we possess, of which we can be rightly proud, is that in Jesus Christ we have the words of eternal life.
Jesus’ words are the lifeblood of Christianity. They still offend some people and others still call them nonsense, but the words of Jesus are also spirit and life.

1 Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Wisdom too Deep

Is there a food that we can eat which will let us live forever? There is. It is bread from heaven.
Let’s discern the body of Christ.
Let’s discuss what John 6:51-581 has to say.
51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; and this bread, which I will offer so the world may live, is my flesh.” 52 Then the people began arguing with each other about what he meant. “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” they asked. 53 So Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you cannot have eternal life within you. 54 But anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise that person at the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. 57 I live because of the living Father who sent me; in the same way, anyone who feeds on me will live because of me. 58 I am the true bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will not die as your ancestors did (even though they ate the manna) but will live forever.”
That’s the Gospel of our Lord.
There are two popular views of Holy Communion: symbolic and sacramental. Many people view these ideas as mutually exclusive when they really are not. Yet, even those who see it as entirely symbolic, admit there is a divine grace associated with taking of communion, the very essence of a sacrament. And those who see it as sacramental, do not deny the rich symbolism associated with the bread and wine. As is so often the case when there are two opinions, the two views are not mutually exclusive, but are compatible parts of a complete picture. Some have claimed that John 6 is entirely symbolic and has nothing to do with communion, because it was mentioned before Jesus instituted communion. This contradicts Jesus’ own method of instruction where he often taught things that would only be fully understood after the cross.
Communion and More
A principle of biblical interpretation is that the plain meaning is the main meaning. The disciples only fully understood the bread of heaven once communion was instituted and after the cross. Are we patient with what Jesus is teaching us? It too may not be evident to us until later in our lives. Do we see the connection between eating the Passover Lamb and eating the bread of communion? John 6 means that the teachings of Jesus satisfy our spiritual hunger and it also prepared the disciples for the institution of communion. In Jesus, God again provides for spiritual Israel in a spiritual wilderness. Holy Communion, the Eucharist, or the Lord’s Supper is also a sacrament and an ordinance? Sacrament simply means that in the symbols are a spiritual blessing. Ordinance simply means it was commanded by Jesus to do this in remembrance of him.
The Lord’s Body
In 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 Paul chides the people for not discerning the Lord’s body. The bread is Jesus’ body and so are we. After the walk to Emmaus only in the breaking of bread did the disciples recognize Jesus (Luke 24:13-35). The early church celebrated “the apostles’ teaching and fellowship…the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42). This set the basic outline for Christian worship of Word and Table, preaching and the breaking of bread with thanksgiving at the Lord’s table. As we take, bless, break and give communion we remember the mighty acts of God throughout history. The prayer of thanksgiving in the service of Word and Table is called the Great Thanksgiving. It has always been a prayer that included thanks by all to the Father, remembering the Son and inviting the Holy Spirit.
Benefits of Communion
Does communion have benefits? There are two benefits of communion: forgiveness and power. Rather than over-interpret the word “is” or under-interpret it, when Jesus said this “is” my body, perhaps the best explanation from Christian history is to simply call it a divine mystery too unfathomable for mere mortals. In the bread and wine, we taste of God’s love, his forgiveness, the Christian community, and power from the Holy Spirit to serve the world. Why do some churches have closed and others open communion? Closed Communion invites only those who are baptized, and in some churches only those baptized in that denomination or that local church. Open Communion invites all who desire to live a Christian life to partake, even those who are not yet baptized. Open communion pictures Jesus sharing a meal with sinners as well as the righteous.
Are We Worthy?
Sometimes people feel like they are not worthy to take communion and refuse it. 1 Corinthians 11:27-29 reminds us that though we are never worthy, we are to take communion in a worthy manner. We do so by taking time to recognize our unworthiness. We examine ourselves, look at our unworthiness, discern the one who died for our unworthiness, then as we see our need for God’s grace we will be partaking in a worthy manner. It was the practice of the early church to celebrate communion every time they came together. Not only are the bread and wine the body and blood of Christ, but he is also present in the community of believers. So, communion is best taken in a community of believers as a response to the proclamation of the word, an invitation, confession and pardon.
The Lord’s Supper and Eternity
In verse 51 Jesus says this bread I will give is my flesh. He used similar words at the Passover, this is my body which is given for you (Luke 22:19) and Paul wrote of the bread broken for you (1 Corinthians 11:24). What of the two statements from Jesus in verse 47 and 54, that anyone who believes has eternal life, and that anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life? How do we contrast that with the rest of verse 54 that Jesus will raise that person at the last day? Do we have eternal life or will we only have it in the future? There need not be a contradiction, but an understanding that a fact today is culminated in the resurrection.
Is there Wisdom too Deep for Outsiders?
What is the living bread? This is wisdom too deep for outsiders. As the Holy Spirit is life-giving living water, so living bread gives eternal life. There is wisdom only available to insiders in professions as diverse as the investment world, computer programming, medicine and automobile repair. The same is true of Christianity. Elementary concepts of Christianity are understood by those who just nibble on church teachings. But, deeper wisdom comes to those who chew on Christ as the original Greek says, implying a total involvement in the faith. Those who do not chew on Christ but merely nibble around the edges of his teachings cannot have this wisdom. Eternal life is within us as we remain in Jesus and him in us. We chew his flesh and drink his blood in communion and how we live what he taught.
Eating and Drinking and Believing
How can we take communion and study Jesus and have life forever more? Jesus said in verse 29 “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent.” And in verse 35 Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” And then in verse 40 “For it is my Father’s will that all who see his Son and believe in him should have eternal life. I will raise them up at the last day.” Just as today, Jesus said then in verse 64 “But some of you do not believe me.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning which ones didn’t believe, and he knew who would betray him.) Eating and drinking Jesus’ body and blood involve faith.
Because we eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, we have eternal life within us, and Jesus will raise us at the last day. We remain in him, and he in us. Let us feed on Jesus and live forever.

1 Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Come, Believe, Live!

What is eaten but never totally consumed? How does eternal life transmit to us as we eat the bread of heaven? How does God want us to understand the bread from heaven?
Let’s examine what eating bread means and how Jesus is the bread of life.
We will read John 6:35, 41-51 and examine Jesus’ dialogue on bread.
John 6:35 Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.
41 Then the people began to murmur in disagreement because he had said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Isn’t this Jesus, the son of Joseph? We know his father and mother. How can he say, ‘I came down from heaven’?” 43 But Jesus replied, “Stop complaining about what I said. 44 For no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them to me, and at the last day I will raise them up. 45 As it is written in the Scriptures, ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me. 46 (Not that anyone has ever seen the Father; only I, who was sent from God, have seen him.) 47 “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes has eternal life. 48 Yes, I am the bread of life! 49 Your ancestors ate manna in the wilderness, but they all died. 50 Anyone who eats the bread from heaven, however, will never die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; and this bread, which I will offer so the world may live, is my flesh.” 1
What is Bread
Bread has been a staple, a main food in most societies. It is an everyday part of family meals. Though wheat is the most common bread in many parts of the world, it also comes in many other wonderful varieties. There are acorn, almond, amaranth, bean, barley, buckwheat, cassava, chestnut, chickpea, coconut, corn, emmer, fonio, hemp, kamut, mesquite, millet, oats, pea, potato, rice, rye, sorghum, soy, spelt, tapioca, teff, triticale and quinoa flours for bread. Why did Jesus use such a common daily substance to describe eating himself for eternal life? Could it be that we are to be reminded of Jesus in ordinary everyday events? Did Jesus say this is my body as a mere metaphor or is there a real mysterious presence of his body in the eucharist? One thing's for sure: we need the bread from heaven.
Why Come, Believe
Jesus invites us to come to him and believe in him. What does that mean? English is less precise than Greek so it difficult to translate some things. We do not commonly use phrases like “whoever is coming to me” or “whoever is believing in me” but that would be a more accurate translation. It means a present continuous action, not just a one-time event. That means that we “keep on coming” and “keep on believing” our whole lives long, not just when we were initiated into the Christian community. The promise that we would not hunger or thirst is future and not necessarily immediately fulfilled. Like Elizabethan English dialects, Koiné Greek used double negatives as a strong negation. It literally says they “never not shall hunger” and “never not shall thirst.” This is a strong emphasis of future guarantees.
Why Stop Complaining
They were murmuring, literally speaking in a low voice secretly as people do when they are discontented. Such complaining can easily blow up into an argument among themselves as it does after our current text. This reminds us of their ancestors who complained during the first Passover season and the Exodus. God provided them food in the wilderness too and the people complained about that bread from heaven. God barred the complainers from entry into the Promised Land. Some today will not listen to Jesus’ words and enter the eternal land of promise. What do we believe about Jesus? Was he just a man? Some today do not want to believe that Jesus came from heaven. Jesus was very clear, that the Father sent him (44), that he alone has seen God (46) and he came down from heaven (51).
How are We Drawn to Jesus by the Father
What does Jesus’ statement that no one can come to him unless the Father draws them mean? Jesus will draw everyone (John 12:32) to himself like fish caught in a net (John 21:6, 11). It is not an act of free will. The fish do nothing. We are incapable of coming to Jesus on our own. How does God net us? We are drawn miraculously by the Father’s teaching (45), using our minds. Why do some believe in Jesus and faithfully attend church and others not? Rather than ask such questions should we recognize that it is a miracle that some do believe and are faithful? Why are you a Christian? Do we recognize the miracle? Do we recognize God as having drawn us to Jesus? God has the wheel and the roadmap. Let’s sit back and relax.
Do we Eat Jesus in Personal Bible Study
In our spiritual studies do we partake of the bread of life, Jesus (John 6:35, 41-51)? The entire Bible is important to the Christian faith. The teachings of great leaders like Chrysostom, Thomas Aquinas, Augustine, Luther, Calvin and Wesley are important. However, we can study these things at home, in seminary or Bible college and neglect the bread of life. In my Methodist tradition it is sometimes said that we need to get off Wesley’s horse and back onto the rock of Christ. Jesus explained clearly what the central teachings of the church ought to be in Matthew 28:20, “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” As institutions and individual Christians study the holy scriptures, full study ought to include the whole Bible in historical context, but the bread of life is still Jesus.
Listen, Learn, Come, Believe, Live
Being drawn is not an act of free will, but responding is. Jesus encourages us to listen and learn from the Father. Then we are invited to believe and mysteriously eat the bread of heaven. Then we will live a life that never ends. Somehow the believer already has eternal life. The death of the body does not negate our life continuing in another spiritual manner or dimension. The manna in the wilderness did not prevent death, but eating the true bread from heaven guarantees that we will live forever. We can't look to the faith of our ancestors but the bread which we still eat today. What is that? Is it the bread of communion? Those who eat of that bread will live forever. God drew us to Jesus and he gives us eternal life now in Jesus’ flesh.
Come, believe, stop complaining, be taught by God, listen to the Father, come to Jesus, eat the true bread from heaven, and live forever.
1 Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Bread that Lasts

Do we want OUR religion, or even that old time religion of our parents, or perhaps a modern version of Christianity? What about the religion of Jesus?
We will look at the religion from heaven and contrast it with that of our own making.
We will discuss John 6:24-35 and an event that occurred after Jesus had fed the 5000.
John 6:24 So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went across to Capernaum to look for him. 25 They found him on the other side of the lake and asked, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” 26 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, you want to be with me because I fed you, not because you understood the miraculous signs. 27 But don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you. For God the Father has given me the seal of his approval.” 28 They replied, “We want to perform God’s works, too. What should we do?” 29 Jesus told them, “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent.” 30 They answered, “Show us a miraculous sign if you want us to believe in you. What can you do? 31 After all, our ancestors ate manna while they journeyed through the wilderness! The Scriptures say, ‘Moses gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” 32 Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, Moses didn’t give you bread from heaven. My Father did. And now he offers you the true bread from heaven. 33 The true bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 “Sir,” they said, “give us that bread every day.” 35 Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.
Whose bread are we eating? (John 6:24-31)
A crowd of people were looking for Jesus in Capernaum, but why? Why do we look for Jesus? The crowd had wanted to make him king, but Jesus eluded them. They wanted a leader who would fulfill all their expectation, but Jesus was not going to operate according to their will. The crowd politely called Jesus “rabbi” because they did not understand any more about him than that. They seem to be a little demanding of him, asking when he got there, obviously unaware that he walked on water to get there. Like so many reporters seeking to control an interview, they may have expected an answer to the question. Jesus often did not answer a question, but addressed the deeper issues. He chided them for seeking only physical bread and not the more important spiritual food that he brought.
Is our focus on perishable things?
Do we make idols of the perishable things, ignoring the important spiritual food that Jesus brings? Are we control freaks demanding our own way or letting Christ lead? The crowd asks how they too could have the power to do God’s works. But power in the wrong hands is dangerous, causing more harm than good. Instead, Jesus urged them to believe in him instead of their own ideas. Instead of simply listening they argued back, asking what sign he was going to give them. Even though they had already seen many signs such as healing the sick and feeding a large crowd and some had even admitted that he was the prophet who was to come (6:14), they were a demanding and argumentative crowd. Jesus challenges their motives as seeking perishable things when they should be seeking eternal life.
Are we just consumer Christians?
Should we be a consumer church? Should the church’s agenda be set by what the crowd wants, to attract new members? Self-centeredness is the agenda of the day. We want a church that satisfies our selfish desires for power or prestige or excitement or music or miracles or friendship, but not a church that teaches us to sacrifice like Jesus did. Since when should the church allow the unchurched to set the agenda? Ought not Jesus be in charge? Are we in the church more like the world than true Christians? Are we just consumers out for what we can get out of church instead of what we can give in service to others? Are we interested in the bread from heaven or the bread from here below? Did Jesus teach us to take up our cross and deny ourselves?
Whose work are we doing?
What is God’s work? Is it to preach the Gospel into all the world, feed the hungry and keep ourselves unspoiled by the corruption of the world? It certainly is, but is there another way of speaking about God’s work that puts perspective on it? Jesus says that the work of God is to believe in the One that God has sent. He said this along with working for food that does not perish and seeking eternal life. They asked what should we do, but Jesus’ bread is not something that we do anything for. Why turn the gift of God into something that we work for? Why not just receive it? Why do we keep trying to control God’s work? What does Jesus mean by believe in the one sent? In this context it refers to trusting in Jesus.
Are we stuck in the past? (John 6:30-35)
The crowd asked for manna like in the days of Moses. They were living in the past, fixed in past events not the living God who lives to bless us today. Do we live in the past? Are we still focused on old time religion or long past miracles? Did our Christian experience stop with an event long ago? What is God doing in our lives now? Are we blinded to how God wants to operate today or stuck on past ways? Do we look to heroes of the faith such as Moses or a favorite preacher instead of Jesus to provide bread from heaven? Is any minister or tradition or building more important than God and what he is God doing now? Every communion the bread from heaven is again freely given to us? Will we accept God’s gift?
Let’s not be control freaks, wanting our religion, the religion of our memories, or our own creation, but the religion of Jesus. Let us allow him to feed us not with bread that perishes, the bread of this world, but with the true manna from heaven.