Evangelical Community Chapel at Liberal: a Molalla, Oregon Church

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Who Are You, Really?

September 20th, 2009 by Vic

John 8

In Chapter 6, Jesus fed 5,000 men all that they wanted, with some left over and then announced, “I am the bread of heaven, the enriched manna.”

In Chapter 7, Jesus taught the people in the Temple during the feast of Tabernacles.  This was their Thanksgiving Family Camp that focused on a water ritual in the morning and a campfire every night.  Their water ritual was not fishing, boating, and water skiing, but just as exciting to them.  At the climax of their celebration Jesus announced, “I am the living water that satisfies completely.”

Here in chapter 8, also during the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles, Jesus compares himself to the daily campfire.  Huge menorahs dominated the courtyard and were kept burning all night.  Each large lamp burned 5 gallons of oil.  There were at least 4 menorahs with 4 lamps on each.  The priests kept the fires burning to remember the pillar of fire in the wilderness and the glory of God that fell on the Temple during Solomon’s dedication ceremony.  There was no darkness in the city for one week.  Apparently on the last day, the 8th day Jesus announced, “I am the light of the world” (8:12).  If we follow Jesus as the Jews followed the pillar of fire, we will never walk in darkness.  The light Jesus offers will last more than a week and go beyond the wilderness or Jerusalem.

The Jews said The Torah was the light that God gave to the world.  The Law was also compared to a lamp or light to our path.

The narrative that John wrote is interrupted by an insert.  Some early Christian had recorded a story about Jesus reaction to a woman caught in adultery.  It was incorporated into various manuscripts at different places.  It occurs after John 7:36; 7:44; 7:52; 21:25.  It also occurs after Luke 21:38.  Christian scribes were anxious to preserve this remarkable story and it finally settled here.  So it is a little interruption of John’s account of the Feast of Tabernacles.

8:1-6  This woman was caught with a partner who was not her husband.  She is facing death.  She is in the middle of the crowd and of no concern to the Scribes and Pharisees.  She is placed in the center but no part of the discussion.  Sometimes we tell stories about our children with them listening.

They are not interested in either the fate of the woman or the injured husband who is never mentioned.  They want to find fault in Jesus.  The woman is only a tool in a legal debate.  They want Jesus to simply say, “I forgive you” so they can accuse Him of breaking the Law.  But he turns the argument around and invites them to obey their own law.

There has been a lot of speculation who the other man was.  And how did 2 witnesses see this act?

8:7-11  There has also been a lot of speculation what Jesus wrote on the floor.  Jesus does not get into a big public debate how mercy triumphs over justice.  He just does some doodling on the floor.  Jesus does not condemn the law of Moses.  Just a couple weeks before, the Day of Atonement had reminded them that God forgives sin.

Jesus refers to the law of Moses requiring the genuine witnesses to cast the first stone.  The people join the execution after the two eye witnesses cast the first stone.  Did Jesus know the witnesses?  Did He know how they set up the trap?  Did the witnesses consider what their wives would say when they found out where they were when they saw this sin?  Did the 2 witnesses not want to be identified?

The Pharisees were tense.  Jesus had just set the accusation on its head.  The Jews knew that Jesus was compassionate.  He cared for people.  If Jesus would tell them to stone this woman, then everyone would know He had some limits to His compassion.  They expected Him to show mercy so they could accuse Him of breaking the law again.  Instead Jesus flips the argument so the Jews become the law breakers.

Jesus bends to the ground and doodles in the dust a little more.  The genuine witnesses have to cast the first stones.  We do not know what He was drawing or writing.  The accusers leave without comment.  Even the crowd left.

Jesus talks to the woman with respect as an adult and a person.  She calls Him Lord.  “Go, and from this moment on do not sin again.”  Jesus unconditionally forgives a sinner.

From the beginning, the Law made a distinction between habitual sin and unintentional sin.

8:12-20  Light and Darkness

On this last day of the feast Jesus is speaking in the Treasury.  This is area near the light poles in the court of Women where the offering boxes were.  Jesus is claiming to be the pillar of fire that was to appear when the Messiah came.

Our lifestyle is described as walking in light or walking in darkness.  In the Exodus story they had the water cloud by day and the fire by night.  The pillar of fire was the evidence of God’s leading in their lives.  To walk in darkness meant that God was no longer in their presence or you had turned your back on Him.  Walking in darkness means spiritual death.  Jesus offers you himself as spiritual bread, water, and light.  You can have all the bread, water, and light you want.  Without Him you are hungry, thirsty, and walking in darkness.  Jesus offers creative abundant life.

What does it mean to walk in darkness?  The darkness Jesus talks about is not the night, but spiritual death.  In darkness there is no color.  In darkness there is little depth of field.  We don’t grow well in the dark.  You were not created to walk in the darkness.  A walk in the dark can be very dangerous.  Coffee tables jump in front of you.  Doors open just half way.  Toilet seats close.  Toys move to the steps.

Jesus is offering Himself to you as life.  If you do not have the Light in your heart, life will be dark when you go through the tunnels.

In chapter 9, Jesus heals a blind man and then discusses spiritual blindness and the nature of light.  We’ll look at that next week.

This chapter takes a little detour from discussing the light.  It is a chapter of criticism and questions.  Jesus announced that he was the light of the world and the critics asked, what makes you a light?  Who do you think you are?  Why should we believe your testimony?  Who are you really?  Jesus turns the question around to ask us, “Who are you, really?”  What criteria do you use to evaluate yourself?  So the title for today’s message is a question, “Who are you, really?”  Are you a learner or a critic?  The critic is one who is not hungering and thirsting for God.  The critic is self-satisfied and judging everyone by his own standards.

This chapter is not the easiest to understand.  Do you remember some teachers that were hard to understand?  Was it their problem or your problem?  When is it hard for us to understand Jesus?  When our perspective is different.  If you went to the United Nations, how many speakers would you understand?  They are humans like us.  They talk with their mouth and hands like we do.  Why don’t we understand?

If you could communicate with someone who has been living in some isolated village, what would you talk about?  Would you want to understand his culture or would you want him to understand your culture?  He’s been living a sustainable lifestyle with very low impact on our environment.  Do you want him to become like you?

8:13  The critics accused Jesus of being a liar.

Have you ever been accused of being a liar?  After some discourse, Jesus says that a liar is one who rejects the truth that God puts in front of his face.  Your relationship to God determines the meaning of your words.  Before I can accuse you of being a liar, I need to know the meaning you have in the words you use.  The fact is, The Devil is a liar and the father of lies (8:44).  If you belong to him, it will go against your nature to tell the truth.  If someone tells you a lie and you repeat it, are you a liar?

Jesus came from heaven, speaking from a spiritual perspective and the Jews could not understand.  What makes us think we can understand God when He speaks to us?  If we cannot understand another human how can we understand God?  He sent Jesus and the Spirit of Jesus.

Jesus does not judge like man judges.  In His presence, right and wrong are revealed.

8:19 The critics challenge Jesus to produce a witness.  They may be accusing Jesus of being illegitimate.  Jesus reminds them that He is the witness testifying of the Father.  He is not trying to justify Himself.

8:21-30 Heaven and Earth

There are 2 births: spirit and flesh, from above and from this world.  There are 2 ways to die: in sin and in the Lord.  Faith in Christ makes the difference

They cannot identify His origins or destiny.  Jesus warns them they will die in their sins, but they did not have to (24).  The division between heaven and earth is made final by unbelief.  They did not understand that Jesus spoke to them of the Father.  Only acceptance of God as the Father of Jesus will solve they mystery of His origins and destiny.

8:31-40 Freedom and Slavery

Some believed in Jesus and Jesus exhorted them to keep abiding in His word to a genuine discipleship.  Sons abide in the house.  Slaves come and go.  Your future loyalty to Jesus’ teaching will prove the reality of your present profession.  Without abiding in Jesus we are slaves in sin.

“Abraham is our father (39).  God is our father (41).  Who is your father?”  Jesus replies, “If God were your father, you would behave like Abraham.  Abraham never tried to kill God’s messengers.  Abraham was open to God’s interruptions.

When critics lose an argument, they question your heritage and put a label on you.  How do you respond to criticism?  Can you point to your lifestyle and say I am a child of God?  Does your life demonstrate who you are?

Nicodemus had told them not to judge Jesus until they listened to His words and looked at His life style.

8:41-47 Children of God and Children of the Devil

The Jews cannot hear the words of Jesus because they don’t know the Father of Jesus.  As children of the Devil, it is against their nature to accept the word of truth.

8:48-59 Honor and Dishonor

The critics told Jesus, “You are a child of the devil from Samaria.”  (8:48)

Jesus replies, you only know who I am by observing whom I honor (49-50).  Do I honor myself or the one who sent me (8:18)?  Who you are is seen in your motives for doing things.  Are you critical?  Do you gossip?  What is your reason for doing that?  Is it because you are a child of God and because you love people just like your Father?  Who you are can be observed by whom you honor.  Do you show proper respect to everyone (1P 2:17) as God commands or do you find it more natural to criticize and gossip.  Wal-Mart is not a business that respects it’s employees.

The Samaritans worshiped at Mt Gerizim, the “naval of the earth” because of a tradition that Adam had sacrificed there.  Their Scriptures were limited to the Pentateuch.  Moses was regarded as the only prophet and intercessor in the final judgment.  They also believed that 6,000 years after creation, a restorer would arise and live on earth for 110 years.  On the Judgment Day, the righteous would be resurrected in paradise and the wicked roasted in eternal fire.

Who are you really?

The critics were trying to define Jesus by externals.  Jesus was defining them by internal character and lifestyle.  If Jesus was misunderstood and falsely accused, do you expect better?  Are you a better communicator?

The critics were hearing only what they wanted to hear and seeing only what they wanted to see.  They were trying to put round facts in square boxes.  They were putting their meaning in Jesus’ words, not trying to understand His meaning.  Jesus understood their motives and the reason they were distorting the facts.  The first story in this chapter illustrates the narrow mindedness of critics.  Their judgment revealed their character.  You can tell a lot about others character, by the words they use to describe people.

In this story of the adulterous woman, the critics revealed themselves as schemers, plotters, deceivers, and murderers.  They looked at the woman through eyes of disgust, treachery, and deceit.  Jesus looked at the woman with eyes of love.  Jesus was more interested in who the woman could be than what she had been.  To a woman whose lifestyle was characterized by loose morals, Jesus does not offer easy forgiveness, but a staggering challenge.

She was living in darkness.  The light of the world was offering to live in her and give her the ability to bloom, to be beautiful, and enjoy abundant life.

Am I different from the critics in this chapter?  Do I criticize or label people by externals:  career, dress, car, house, education, children, busyness, toys?

Do you criticize people before you understand them?

There have been times in my life when I have gotten in the habit of being sarcastic and critical.  I began labeling people by externals.  I began to feel that I was justified in being critical.  I had good reasons.  I was telling it like it was.  But my critical spirit took me farther and farther away from the presence of the Lord and I began to realize I did not like myself very much either.  It is not easy to break a habit.  I had to modify some friendships and routines.  Jesus had to remind me who I really was in him.  I was his child.  I had no authority to criticize.  I had no reason to criticize.  I had no reason to feel threatened or to fear.  I did not have to tear others down to promote myself.  I am God’s child.  My Father will take care of it.

If you have gotten into a critical habit, ask the Lord to change you and help you to start thinking about whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, excellent or praiseworthy. There is no joy in being critical.  Make a choice right now to quit being negative.  Jesus says change your focus.  Stop sinning.  That is not easy forgiveness, but a staggering challenge to change your lifestyle.  Leave the labeling to God.

Do you criticize yourself?  Do you use the world’s standards to determine your worth?  Who are you?  Do you base your self worth on your job?  Do you measure yourself by your performance, the pile of your possessions, or your relationship with God?

Does your life reflect the heritage you profess?  Are you a child of God or a critic of God’s children?  What are you by nature?  Have you been born again with an imperishable seed?  Do you live like you have?

What in your life are absolutes?  Money or God?  What in your life cannot be bought?  How much would it take for you to quit worshipping God?  If I gave you $1,000,000 would you quit attending church for the rest of your life?  If I gave you $100?  How much would it take to sell your soul,  to never read your Bible again,  to commit one act of adultery,  to have pre-marital sex?  What would it take to buy you off?

Who are you really?  What do you stand for?  Do you have any absolutes?  Are you a slave to pleasure or are you free in Christ?  Are you motivated by your pleasures or things above?  Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.” (8:34)  But if you choose to follow Jesus, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (8:32)  Are you committed to yourself or to righteousness?  8:34, 32

I have made a commitment to God and to my wife that I will never stop loving them.  I would rather die than go back on that commitment.  I made a commitment to my dad that I would never smoke or drink any alcoholic beverages.  I would rather die than go back on that commitment to my dad.  I made a commitment to my kids that we would never sell our farm.  I would rather die than go back on that commitment.

I have made some commitments.  I will stand by my commitments until death.  In the world’s opinion, that is not too smart.  Think of all the money that I could make if I just compromised a little … and go to hell.  What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and lose his soul.

Are you a child of God?  Have you made a commitment to follow Jesus?  Then act like it.  Good people keep their promises.  Make some commitments to obey God and live by them.  Do you want to be a child of God?  Confess your sin to God.  Believe what Jesus says and keep walking in His light.  It is a radical change in lifestyle.

Like the woman you feel condemned in the middle of many critics.  Jesus says, “You’re my child.  Go and sin no more.”

The critics asked Jesus, “Who do you think you are?” (8:53).  In 8:54-55 Jesus says, “I am what I am in God’s eyes.”   You are what you are in God’s eyes.  Don’t allow the world to tell you who you are.  You are not “redundant” when you turn 65.  You do not deserve a break today.  You do not have any independent rights.  You are not a religious fanatic.  You are not a consumer.  You are what you are in God’s eyes.  Nothing more; nothing less.  God sees you with eyes of love.  He sees you as you ought to be and yet loves you as you are.

When you spend time in the presence of the Light, is there something there you want God to change or forgive?  Ask Him.  Is there something you need to confess to God?  Tell Him.  Is there an apology you need to make to your friend?  Do it as soon as you can.  Is there a commitment you need to make to your spouse, your children, or God?  Then take some time and do it.

We all are standing before the Lord right now.  Some may not have spiritual eyes to see.  Jesus is saying, “Neither do I condemn you.  Go and sin no more.”  (John 8:11)

In a letter, John wrote, “If we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” (1J 1:7)

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1J 1:9)

Let the light of the world shine in your heart so you can be a light to others.  Come to the light.

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