The escalation: Putting Faith to the test. (Part 4 of 4: Where else am I going to go?)

Last time, we left off at verse 60 of chapter 6 of John’s gospel. It marks a turning point in Jesus’ ministry. After Jesus “doubles down” on his claim to be the living bread come down from heaven – needful for eternal life – He stretches the simile to its breaking point: telling them that unless they eat of this bread (his flesh) and drink of his blood they can never have that eternal life. The reaction is: John 6:60 Many therefore of his disciples having heard [it] said, This word is hard; who can hear it?

In other words, they are saying: “This is too much. It isn’t fair to ask me to believe this…” And now listen to Jesus’ reply:

John 6:61 But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples murmur concerning this, said to them, Does this offend you?

Remember, Faith does not really exist unless it faces the possibility of being offended… and overcomes it.

If the offense makes me stumble and fall, then I never really believed… What is worse: I wouldn’t believe even if I saw Him coming down from or going back up to Heaven: This is what Jesus added immediately:

John 6:62 If then ye see the Son of man ascending up where he was before?

Isn’t this a scary thought? Several times the Pharisees challenged Jesus to prove his authority by causing a sign to appear in the heavens. This crowd just challenged him the same way, to prove that “his” bread was better than Moses’ bread (manna).

But Jesus refused. Why?

Throughout this series I have given several answers to that question. To me the primary answer is: We do not need such signs if we are honestly seeking the Truth. Because those who seek the Truth will hear the Father’s voice and that will be enough to believe on Jesus.

But there is a corollary to that answer: Not only do we not need such a sign, getting such a sign would result in the opposite, leading us away from believing on Him.

We know this to be true, because God warned us about it: Thou shalt not tempt [the] Lord thy God (Deuteronomy 6:16, Matthew 4:7). Why is this so?

First of all: He is God and we are not. I, a finite human being, created, have no right to tell the Creator of the Universe what to do or not to do. Isaiah 45:9 Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! Let a potsherd [strive] with the potsherds of the earth. Shall the clay say to him that formeth it, What makest thou? Or thy work, He hath no hands?

This is especially true regarding the plan of salvation. He is the One that created Justice, He is the Judge of all the Earth. If He knows what we need to accept His plan, and not come under judgment, then demanding anything beyond that is dangerous. Which leads to the second reason:

If indeed we already have the supernatural ability to hear the Voice of the Father, why are we asking for further “supernatural” proof? Why isn’t listening to His Voice enough? And if my reply to that challenge is: “Well, I am not sure it is His voice”, then the immediate question that I must answer is: “Whose fault is that?”

It isn’t God’s fault. Jesus told us that the Father has never stopped working since the days of Creation. The Father is speaking, even now. If I can’t hear Him or am I unsure that that is His voice, then the one with the problem is me.

Please, believe me this isn’t a flippant answer, or sophistry. This is a necessary conclusion that follows from believing that there is a God who made everything, and who loves us. If you believe that, you automatically believe that there is another Reality that transcends this materialistic universe. If you believe that, it requires no stretch of the imagination to believe that a loving Creator would want to talk to us and would give us the ability to hear His voice. And it takes no further stretch of the imagination to believe that He placed within us the ability to KNOW it is His voice.

That is exactly what He has revealed in His Word and revealed by sending us His Word (the Son). This is what Jesus taught throughout the gospels and it is what is recorded in the Scriptures:

Genesis 1:26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…

Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NASB) He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart…

It is our spirit that was made in His image, and it is that spirit that understands the eternal reality.

A second reason…

But there is also another reason why we should not be asking for a supernatural proof to believe…

We may get it.

But since God will not contradict Himself, if such a proof is presented to us, we would have to wonder, which “god” provided it?

The fact that there is a supernatural Reality that transcends our material universe, brings with it the possibility that it may be populated with other beings that exist in that Reality. In other words, there is nothing in our basic assumptions that precludes God from having created such beings. But, while we know that God is the definer of Goodness, and Mercy, and Love, we really know nothing, a priori, about these other beings. Are they Good?

We know that we humans are not all “good”.

All we can know with certainty about those other beings is what God has revealed. (Any other source of knowledge about them would have to be considered spurious: fanciful at best, dangerous at worst.) So, we ask, what does Scripture – what does Jesus – say about them? And the answer is: There are at least two kinds: angels and demons.

Angels are Good, they never contradict the Word of God because their job is to serve Him (and us on behalf of Him.) Demons, on the other hand, are uniformly Evil. From all the encounters Jesus had with them, as recorded in the gospels, we know they have one driving goal in mind: our destruction. As Jesus will tell us later in the gospel of John:

John 8:44 …He [the devil] was a murderer from the beginning,and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he tells a lie, he speaks from his own nature, because he is a liar and the father of lies.

John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came so that they would have life, and have it abundantly.

So, if we go against God’s counsel, and demand a sign from Heaven, in order to believe in God, we should not be surprised if someone else obliges…

The presence of such beings constitutes another compelling reason why the Heavenly Father gave all of us the ability to recognize His voice. If any of us gets deceived by these other voices, it is really our own fault.

Listening with the spirit

The assured way to avoid being misled is to listen with our spirit for the Voice of the Spirit. (Again, remember, it will never contradict His Word.) Which means that if we reject that Voice, refuse to give it authority in our lives, then when the possibility of offense comes, and our reaction is: “This is too much. It isn’t fair to ask me to believe this…” then we will hear another voice agreeing with us, telling us we are right: it is too much; it is not fair.

This is why I said that, if the offense makes me stumble and fall, then I never really believed…

But if you believe, if you are one of the ones that passes the test, one of the ones who refuse to be offended, then you will reap the reward:

For you, the Truth is not incomprehensible.

Because it only makes sense in the Kingdom of Heaven.

And the risk of facing the offense was well worth it if it reminded us of the power and Reality of the Kingdom of God. That is the only way to survive the offense. So, Jesus tells His listeners, the problem is you are not listening with your spirit:

John 6:63-65 It is the Spirit which quickens, the flesh profits nothing: the words which I have spoken unto you are spirit and are life. But there are some of you who do not believe. (For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would deliver him up.) And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no one can come to me unless it be given to him from the Father.

There is almost a tautology here: The way of salvation is open, freely accessible, only to those that believe in salvation; who believe in the Kingdom of God. Because those who believe only in the material universe, can only see that one reality: the kingdom of the world.

Those stuck in the kingdom of the world, only see, feel, and hear that kingdom. And even though God the Father is speaking all the time, working towards their salvation, to them that voice is just part of the background noise. To them, it has to be. How could it be otherwise? After all, if I believe that God does not exist, then, How could He possibly be speaking to me?

But those who believe in the Kingdom of God, will see the Kingdom of God.

It is not really a tautology.

It is simply an example of the logical formula: “If and only if.”

It is like Jesus’ statement in the beatitudes, in the Sermon on the Mount: The pure in heart shall see God. If and only if: The only way you can see God is if you are pure in heart.  But the only way to be pure in heart is to see God; because apart from God there is no godliness, no purity of heart.

Said this way, it should be clear that these two kingdoms are mutually exclusive. There is no overlap.

So, how can we step out of the vicious circle of the kingdom of the world into the eternal circle (for lack of a better word) of the Kingdom of God? There is only one way: Repent, refuse to be offended, choose to believe, and cry out to God the Father. He will do the heavy lifting.

Is it worth the risk? All of us, sooner or later, are going to come to that point of decision anyway. Sooner is better than later…

Where else am I going to go?

I wonder, if I had been there in that crowd of John, chapter 6, would I have believed? How about you? We should never minimize the challenge that the possibility of offense presents us. Choosing to follow Jesus is not a trivial thing because it requires rejecting the kingdom of this world and all the benefits we grew up thinking we deserved from it.

John, in his first letter says it this way:

1 John 2:15-17 Love not the world, nor the things in the world. If any one love the world, the love of the Father is not in him; because all that [is] in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world is passing, and its lust, but he that does the will of God abides for eternity.

It is an either-or choice that Jesus described in the gospels as picking up your cross to follow Him. Picking up your cross, the cross on which criminals are crucified: That can’t be easy.

It won’t be.

Luke 13:23-24 (NASB) And someone said to Him, “Lord, are there just a few who are being saved?” And He said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able…”

Matthew 22:14 (NASB) For many are called, but few are chosen.”

This is truth in advertising: Jesus has been telling us this from the very beginning, even in the Sermon on the Mount:

Matthew 7:13-14 (NASB) “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is narrow and the way is constricted that leads to life, and there are few who find it…

It is no wonder then that the next verse in John’s chapter 6 tells us:

John 6:66 From that [time] many of his disciples went away back and walked no more with him.

And so, Jesus turns to his closest disciples…

John 6:67 Jesus therefore said to the twelve, Will ye also go away?

Can you imagine Jesus asking that question? These are His closest friends; chosen personally, one by one, by Him… Chosen, knowing that for them He was willing to go to the cross. I wonder what expression crossed His face, as He, knowing their hearts, knew full well that they all could, of their own free will, choose to turn their backs on Him. I wonder if Peter saw that pain on His face and hurried to answer:

John 6:68-69 Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast words of life eternal; and we have believed and known that thou art the holy one of God.

Do you hear the echo of sadness in that reply? Jesus, to whom am I going to go? I have no one else… No one else is faithful like You; no one else has loved me, like You; even though You knew through and through what my heart is like, You still chose me, You still called me, You still loved me.

Where am I going to go?

I know what this world is like… You have opened my eyes and I see me how faithless, how fickle, how mean spirited this world is. I know… I know where I would be today if it were not for You. I don’t ever want to go back there.

So, no matter how hard it sounds, no matter how much my flesh trembles when your Truth wounds me to the core… I have nowhere else in this world to go. But I know this one thing: that You are the way to eternal life.

And that is how Peter overcame the offense at the crossroads. Not all the disciples did… And Jesus, probably with the same echo of sadness, revealed it:

John 6:70-71 Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you the twelve? and of you one is a devil. Now he spoke of Judas [the son] of Simon, Iscariote, for he [it was who] should deliver him up, being one of the twelve.

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