“That is why I said you will die in your sins, for unless you believe that I AM who I claim to be, you will die in your sins”. – John 8:24
“Why can’t you understand what I am saying? It’s because you can’t even hear me! For you are the children of your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does.” – John 8:43-44
Some of the hardest (and most harsh) teachings in the Gospel come in these few chapters in John. When it says, ‘many of his disciples left him’ I wonder whether I might have been one of them had I been there. What does it all mean?
Over the past few weeks, while walking the streets of our Sydney village, we have come across many atheists, and a lot of people who seem completely uninterested in the Gospel. As a group, we have not come across a period like this before, when so many people reject any offer of prayer or discussion. Is it a sign of the times? It’s a difficult thing. Many sitting in churches today would lament what they see as a casting off of our ‘Christian’ heritage, as society embraces almost every ideology and ‘ism’ that comes to hand. Certainly there is some truth in that but there is more to it. Much more I feel.
Firstly, the church is to blame for much of that anyway, for we have often been the early adopters of worldviews, and failed to do what Jesus has asked us to do. We have followed our traditions more than the leadings of His Spirit and it has led us, and those of the world, nowhere.
But it is still much more. These passages are about God’s answer to the problems of the world, and they are clear and uncluttered. Let us not forget them. At the centre of it all, God has pronounced judgement on the world, and told all of us that we sin. Further, he tells us that sin is a double edged sword – we sin and it makes us guilty before him, and we sin and it makes us sick. Our sickness makes us blind. This is not about labels of whether we are ‘Christian’ or not for some of the worst sins are committed behind the closed closets of the church, this is about how we live before God. I don’t recall Jesus ever talking about ‘decent people.’
In our own experience, time and time again in fact, we meet people who have toyed and played with sin, until eventually it masters them completely (sound familiar? – read Genesis 4:7). The atheists we meet are those who have begun to allow sin to master their lives, often at a very early age. It is tragic mostly because they are blind to what is really happening.
In our gathering this week, somebody gave an incredible testimony about this very fact. How a lifestyle of adopting one sin in their lives, very quickly led to a spiraling down into death and destruction, with a contemplation of suicide because of the total entrapment of sin. All this in their early 20’s. Those around the table who listened were silent as that person gave testimony to how deadly sin really is.
Do you understand that, do I understand that? This is what Jesus tells us here, but we don’t want to hear.
However, there is a second part to God’s pronouncement and it is the most important part. This is the part that says the Son, the glorious Son came to reverse all of the dominion of sin and to set us free. I hear much talk in modern evangelism on ‘our faith, our repentance’ and I think the emphasis is incorrect. We are dead in our sin, helpless and hopeless and only the Son can set us free. We are like bricks or rocks, so how can we make ourselves anything, no, we need outside help.
Never was that more illustrated than in our person’s testimony, and the testimony we see out on the streets. It is the testimony of how God breaks into our lives, and begins to make us alive. Through the Spirit of his Son, he alone causes us to turn and see him, such that we are alive enough to offer him a response.
Our repentance, our faith is all entirely dependent on the Son and we need to allow this truth to go down to the depths of our being. Let us all stop talking of our response, for though it is important there would be no response without God’s first response to our devastating problem. He will never allow his Son to be overshadowed by your response or my response, delighted though he is when we do respond. It is firstly about the Son. Each of us is called.
Lastly, think on this; as devastating as sin is, it’s devastation is powerless against the waves of Grace found in our Lord Jesus Christ. He is so much more. In his death, God took all that we deserved and put it on him, which you would think, would be the end of the matter. But that is not the end, just the beginning. Not only did the Son get what we deserved, but the Father then allows us to share in the inheritance of the Son. We get all that he has a total reversal of fortunes.
Let us take him into the world and proclaim him from the very rooftops. Not how we have responded, but what he has done that has caused us to respond. Just give me this Jesus.