Listen: Christian Growth with Simon Manchester. (Airs 8am Sundays on Hope 103.2 & Inspire Digital.)
Simon Manchester presents a five-part series of messages exploring the bold claims of Jesus. This week, Part 5: The Claim to Divide the World.
Part 5: The Claim to Divide the World
We are following on a conversation these Sunday mornings in John Chapter 8 – and I wonder if you can explain this to me – why does the chapter begin (Verse 12) with a very wonderful invitation, I am the light of the world, says Jesus. Whomever comes to Me or follows Me will not walk in darkness but have the light of life, By the time you get to the end of the chapter (Verse 59), there is a near execution. Why does this chapter go from gracious invitation to near execution?
There are about five generous offers in this chapter from Jesus. He offers light to people and forgiveness and truth and freedom and life.
Now friends, I am just like you, a little bit brain dead, like you. I don’t register stuff that washes over me. I don’t hear what’s being said. I don’t listen well. I don’t read very well. I don’t think very well. But there comes a time where you have to say – here’s a chapter of history and a Man, the best Man who has ever lived is offering the best stuff that has ever been. And at the end of the chapter and at the end of His life, there is going to be execution. Why? And at that point, my brain begins to think.
I am not actually surprised that the best Man who ever lived was attacked from all sides. I am not really surprised that Jesus Christ was shut-out from most people’s minds and hearts. I am not really surprised that for many people, Jesus Christ is spat-out as a swear word. It doesn’t really surprise me that Christians suffer today. It grieves me that Christians suffer today. It doesn’t really surprise me when I hear that they do.
200 Million In Danger of Persecution
The religious editor for the Melbourne Age has reported that there are 200 million Christians in sixty countries who are in danger of persecution today. Two hundred million Christians in sixty countries. North Korea has sent 50,000 Christians to the concentration camps in recent years. China has sent 40,000 Christians to the concentration camps. Our own country, which is very democratic and very laid-back, has no real place for Jesus Christ, does not want Jesus Christ.
I said to the business lunch on Wednesday that in the 1990s, it was seen as pretty legitimate for me to go and visit my parish. I could go door-knocking and it might be inconvenient for people, but people saw it as pretty legitimate that I would knock on their door. Now I find that it is illegitimate. It is seen as inappropriate. There is a kind of sophisticated freezing, hostility. But I say again, I am not surprised. I am sobered but I am not surprised by this. And the reason that I am not surprised by any of this is because I actually believe what it in Verses 42-47 of John Chapter 8 and that is that there is a spiritual battle, that Jesus pulls back the curtain and that behind a great deal of what is going on is the devil himself.
All the conversation that has been taking place in John Chapter 8, which has been increasingly hostile, getting hotter and hotter and all its clever arguments and all the claims which say ‘We don’t really need Jesus and we will be fine without Jesus’… Jesus pulls back the cover and He says this is actually a façade and that behind it all, there is spiritual opposition. He believes in the devil. The main reason I believe in the devil is because Jesus believes in the devil, and He shows the tragedy of the devil – very confrontational these verses in John Chapter 8 that there is a battle behind the scenes. And because we are in danger of forgetting the devil, and we are in danger of forgetting the battle, it’s always good for us to come back to this subject.
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Opposition to Jesus’ Offer
You may remember from last week, and you know, I can, often, not remember what I preached on last week. Can you believe that? I sometimes can’t remember what I have preached on about an hour later. I’ll just confess that to you. I know that none of you would fall into that trap, that months later, you can remember exactly what I said! But for me, I occasionally forget. And I want to remind you that last week, we were looking at Jesus’ promise or claim to be able to give truth that set you free. Truth, which is ultimately Jesus Himself, not just the Book, and freedom, which is ultimately inward and eternal. It’s not just external or a system.
And do you remember that as Jesus talked about these things and promised them, the Jews He was speaking to wanted none of it. And they wanted none of it because they felt perfectly safe as they were. They had Abraham as their father, as the ancestor, and therefore, they didn’t need any more. And so Jesus began (we didn’t quite get to see this, but we would have if we had gone a little further) He tries to show them that they are actually nothing like Abraham. And today, He explains why they are nothing like Abraham. He says (Verse 42) that they do not want Jesus and (Verse 43) they do not want His message because (Verse 44) they belong to the devil.
So this is a very shocking passage today. I will tell you what is going to happen at the end of the sermon. You are either going to just shelve the passage and say, ‘That was just too weird’ or you will be very sobered by the passage and very strengthened by the passage. But I do trust that it will be the second.
In this little section of about six verses – Verse 42-47 – Jesus tells that there are two refusals, two strange refusals, and then He gives the reason. Verse 42 – if God were your Father, says Jesus, you would love Me. Verse 43 – you are unable to hear what I say.
Here are two excellent tests or checks or proofs for you here this morning, listening to me, if you want to work out whether God is your Father. Do you know whether God is Your Father? Well, here are the two checks, the two tests. The first is (and there are lots of others in the New Testament), this one from Jesus, Verse 42, is that you love His Son (not perfectly, but you love Him). The second – you receive His Word (not brilliantly, but it means a lot to you). His Son means a lot to you, His Word means a lot to you. This is very comforting for many people here this morning, because every now and again, you wonder if God is your Father and if you really are a believer, and the fact of the matter is that if you are drawn to His Son and you are drawn to His Word, that is God at work. It is also a very serious warning, of course, because if you have no great interest in Jesus Christ and no great interest in the Word, then of course you might start to hear alarm bells. These simple tests are a dead give-away, sadly, for thousands and thousands of people who walk into churches and they have no love for Christ and they have no love for His Word.
Calvin says in his commentary, ‘How can people pretend they are friends with God, if they disagree with Him on the significance of His Son.’ Good question.
Verse 42 is a bit of a text-book. Just have a quick look at it. You will see Jesus says in Chapter 8 Verse 42: I came from God (that’s a one-off) in the incarnation (Christmas) and then He says, I now am here. And that little phrase actually means that there is an eternal coming of Jesus. There is an eternal progression. There is an eternal procession. There is an eternal generation of Jesus on a mission to the world. And therefore, what He is saying to His Jewish listeners is – if you want to trace yourself back to Abraham, I trace Myself back to eternity. You want to trace yourself back a couple of thousand years? I trace Myself back to God. And this is the first test for God as your Father, is that you realise who Jesus is. You realise that He is unique and He is supreme and you embrace Him, you run to Him, you take hold of Him, you grab Him. You don’t just see Jesus as somewhere in the religious system. You know, He fits in a creed, He fits in a hymn somewhere. You say to yourself or you say to your friend, ‘I belong to Him.’ He belongs to me. If I might put it as boldly as this: He is the bridegroom in the wedding, where you are the bride. He is that significant in the plan of God.
Your Reaction to Jesus is Crucial to Being God’s Child
It has been absolutely wonderful this week to talk to people who are beginning to take Jesus seriously. I have had the great privilege of doing that a number of times this week. And one of the people who came to see me said to me, ‘You know, I’ve recognised God up here and I have sort of felt that Jesus was somewhere … off here. And now I have come to realise that Jesus Christ is in the centre.’ And I was able to help this person not only to hear and understand, that Jesus speaks “I will” through His life and death and resurrection and through the gospel, He says to people, ‘I will’ have you. And I was able to help this person speak back ‘I will’ to Him and to take hold of Him as a bride to a bridegroom.
We’ll give some examples in John Chapter 1 Verse 12. If you don’t think this is a regular theme, listen to this: John Chapter 1 Verse 12. We read, ‘If you receive Jesus, you become God’s child.’ Or, Chapter 5 Verse 23, ‘If you honour Jesus, you honour the Father.’ Or, Chapter 6 Verse 44, ‘If you come to Jesus, it’s because God is at work.’ So your reaction to Jesus is crucial to being God’s child. This is a real bombshell of a piece of information isn’t it, when you consider how many people will say today, around the world, ‘Our Father’ and not be His child. But of course, so many will say, ‘Our Father’ having come to Him through Jesus.
The ‘Word of God’ Test
The second test here in John Chapter 8 is the reaction to Jesus’ message (Verse 43). He says, ‘You are unable to hear what I say.’ You don’t hear. You don’t understand. It doesn’t go in. It doesn’t affect you. It doesn’t change you. You are deaf. Wasn’t it great this morning to have prayers for the politicians. And we do give thanks to God that there are believers in our political arena who really do believe in the Lord Jesus. But friends, I want to ask you, we really also have to ask which Jesus do they believe in? Because there are so many Jesus’s out there – many of them just invented – but the question that we want to quickly ask is: do they believe in the Jesus of the New Testament.
Test 1 – Jesus Christ. Test 2 – the Word of God. These two are always coming together. Jesus is the light of the world. His Word is the light, the lamp for our darkness. And here, says Jesus, the second test, that God is your Father, is that you really do value His message. It says in Verse 43: you are pretty helpless I get the impression. You are unable to hear what I say. You are not that powerful. You are walking past the treasure.
I was in a seminar recently and I was with a man who has written a 600-page textbook on a certain subject and there were eight of us sitting around the table and of course, none of us was doing much talking because all of us recognised that we had a very great authority at the table. And so we didn’t find that the seminar was marked by a whole lot of people – yak, yak, yak, this is what I think, I know nothing… please listen to me. The seminar was marked by a great deal of silence and a great deal of scribbling, because this guy spoke hour after hour and he wrote down everything he said, because he was a very great expert and authority.
Jesus is the Great Authority
And the mark of the Christian, when you come to Jesus Christ, is that you begin to recognise that He is the great authority. When you come into God’s family, you are born again, you have a new life, you have eternal life, you want to know what Jesus says. You don’t get out your marketing textbooks to explain Christianity. You don’t rave on and on and on about what you think, although that’s extremely interesting no doubt to you. But you find that you are a man or a woman who gets down and you kneel at Jesus’ feet and you start reading through the Scriptures because you recognise He is the authority.
Now these, as I say, are wonderfully comforting tests for the many here this morning who have been woken up to Jesus Christ and to the Scriptures. That is an absolute sign that God is at work. He has actually changed you. He has transformed you. He has transferred you. We really should rejoice. What a miraculous thing, that I would be interested in Jesus, when I never was. And what a miraculous thing that I would be interested in the Scriptures when I never was. And then He turned me around and turned so many of you around.
We rejoice at St Thomas’s, don’t we, to see all the little versions of you walking around this church. So many of you have produced little versions of yourself. And it is always extremely cute for me to see little cute versions of you walking around. And very comforting for me, when I see you holding the hand of somebody who looks exactly like you. It just solves so many problems in my brain – yes, that’s the real father, yes that’s the real mother of this child. And then eventually, of course, they want to disown you, but they still look like you and they start crying out, ‘I am like my mother!’ or ‘I am like my father!’ But they still look like you. And the mark of being God’s children is that you love His Son and you love His Word. Not perfectly… of course, we will always despair, but we have some comfort that we have been drawn to His Son and been drawn to His Word.
‘Your Father is the Devil’
Now there is a mysterious side of course to paternity as well: the legal battles to prove paternity, the DNA test to get custody of children and Jesus has a deadly thing to say to the people around Him in John Chapter 8. They are very religious, but they fail both tests. They claim that God is their Father but they do not love Christ, they do not love His Word. The shocking reason, in Verse 44: your father, says Jesus, is the devil. It has to be just about the most shocking verse in the New Testament, hasn’t it. For Jesus to look at these people who are religious, believe in God, keep laws, go to church and for Him to look at them and say: the reason that you refuse Me and the reason that you have no interest in the Word is because you have a father, and the father is the devil. And He might have gone on to say and I am not exaggerating, I am not speaking over the top… He might have gone on to say – you are like him, you are like the devil – because the devil is opposed to Me and the devil is opposed to the truth.
Or you can imagine a white man saying to you over coffee this morning that he hates exercise and he looks like he hates exercise too. But then he says to you, ‘You know, it’s very ironic, because I happen to be the son of two very brilliant black athletes.’ It’s a very odd conversation, isn’t it. The person who says to you, over coffee, ‘I am one of God’s children, yes I am. But privately, I have no real interest in Jesus and privately, I have no real interest in the Scriptures.’ It’s a very odd conversation, isn’t it.
Now Jesus doesn’t spit the words, ‘Your father is the devil’. He doesn’t curse the words of the people. He just explains to them – you are like your father, the devil. And He reveals something which is incredibly significant, and that is that although the world may be one big human family, the world is not one big divine family. There are two spiritual families in the world. There are those who have received Christ and belong to the Father, and there are those who have refused Christ and belong to the devil. That’s what Jesus says. I wouldn’t dare to put it like this. I am shocked to say this to you from the pulpit. I am shocked to quote Jesus. I am only saying this because He says it.
I was reading a book this week by Ray Galea, which has only just come out called ‘Nothing in My Hand I Bring’ which is the story of him coming to Jesus out of a very religious background. And he quotes a song of Bob Dylan in the song. Now I could never quote Bob Dylan to you, but he does, and so I am going to quote to you from Bob Dylan’s song called ‘Saved’. And Bob Dylan says this: ‘I was blinded by the devil, I was born already ruined. I was stone-cold dead as I stepped out of the womb. By His grace I have been touched, by His Word I have been healed, by His hand I have been delivered, by His Spirit I have been sealed. I have been saved by the blood of the lamb.’
I don’t know where Bob Dylan stands in terms of the Kingdom, but he has put things extremely clearly, hasn’t he. He is saying in those few words: I have moved from the dominion of darkness into the Kingdom of light. I have moved from the grip of the devil, into the arms of God Himself. It’s a very clear shift. And this is what Jesus is saying in these first verses – Verses 42-44 – there are two strange refusals: behind them is the devil.
Wanting to Get Rid of Jesus
And now, secondly, we come to two strange reactions. And behind them, of course, is another reason. Verses 45-47. The people Jesus is speaking to have a very strange reaction to a good Man, and a very strange reaction to a good message. Look at Verse 44 – you belong to your father the devil and you want to carry out your father’s desire. 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.
What is the devil like, according to Jesus? There are many descriptions in the New Testament here. Jesus says that he is a murderer and a liar. He is a murderer, because at the very beginning of time, he robbed Adam and Eve of their life, of their eternal life. Do you remember, he tempted them, and they turned away from God, and they lost their eternal life. And then of course, the devil began to tempt Jesus, repeatedly, not to go through with the cross, and therefore the rescue which would bring people back to life. And now, in John Chapter 8, the devil is working through these opponents of Jesus because they want Jesus removed.
Now of course, the irony and the very great news of this is that in wanting to get rid of Jesus, they are going to kill Him and in killing Him, God is going to bring about salvation for sinners and a solution to the spiritual death which we have inherited from Adam. But the point in these verses is that Jesus is warning His listeners that they have a very strange opposition to Him. They don’t want to have anything to do with Him. They would actually like to totally get rid of Him.
Do you remember the story that I have told many times of a friend of mine who was preaching on Good Friday in a foreign country. And the translator said to him, ‘Do you want to give me a run down of your talk?’ And the translator was pretty bored with the whole subject, not very interested in the subject, he didn’t seem to be a believer. And the translator said to the preacher, ‘Can you tell me what your message is going to be at Good Friday? I can guess what it is going to be: God loves us, God loves us, God loves us… yak, yak, yak.’ And the preacher said to the translator, ‘My message is that given half a chance, mankind will do away with His Maker.’ And he said the translator suddenly sat up and looked extremely interested and thought for the first time, this could actually be interesting.
And this is what Jesus is saying here – the mark of the opposition to Jesus is that they would like to get rid of him. And of course ultimately, they will get rid of Him and by killing Him, they will actually do the work of God in bringing about salvation.
But do you see the strange reaction to Jesus in Verse 46? He says to them: can any of you prove Me guilty of sin? Why are you so against Me? He doesn’t ask them: can you say I am guilty of sin. That would be easy to do. But can you prove Me guilty of sin? And of course, they can’t and therefore they ought to be asking themselves the question – what is it about Jesus that we don’t like? Why do we want to get rid of Him? Why are we so against Him? Why are we strangely opposed to Jesus, the best Person who has ever lived. There is something odd about this. Yes, there is something devilish about this.
You Hate The Truth
And the second strange reaction, in Verse 45 – because I tell the truth, you don’t believe. The devil is a liar, you see. It is his native language to lie. He doesn’t like the truth. He is the liar, he is the father of lies, and therefore, when Jesus speaks the truth, they hate it. Jesus doesn’t say to them: even though I tell you the truth, you don’t believe. He says, ‘Because I tell you the truth, you don’t believe. You hate the truth. You don’t want it.’ It’s a very strange reaction, isn’t it, except I completely understand. When I was an unbeliever, I didn’t want anyone to tell the truth to me. I didn’t want to read any of the books people gave me. I didn’t want to go to any of the sermons people invited me to. I didn’t want to go to any of the conferences. I didn’t want to listen to any of the tapes. I didn’t want to take in any truth. I was not wanting to believe it. It was unwanted truth.
I was reading an obituary this week in the papers of a man who founded humanistic Judaism. Apparently, a brilliant man, with an encyclopaedic brain. And he was an atheist Rabbi. He set up synagogues – apparently 30 around the world – which rejected God. He removed all prayers and all references to God and he ran prayers for people who wanted liturgy and sort of prayers, in Hebrew and English. I was reading this brilliant man of doing this lifetime work of setting up synagogues where there was no reference to God. I was scratching my head and I was thinking to myself – why would you do this? Why give yourself to this if you are so clever and you only have one life in this world? And then I read on in the article and I came to the point which said he lived, committed to an immoral gay lifestyle. And I thought, well that has just got to be a big part of the reason, hasn’t it. What is driving his unbelief is that he doesn’t want the truth, because the truth will muck-up his lifestyle. And of course, what is driving his unwanted truth is actually the very sinister world of the devil.
So see how Jesus puts this, in this very climactic section of the conversation. He finishes, Verse 47 by saying, actually, you don’t belong to God. I have already said (Verse 44) you belong to the devil and now I have to say to you (Verse 47) you don’t belong to God. So there are two refusals, two very strange refusals. A refusal about Jesus and a refusal about the Word and the reason of course is that the devil is at work. And then there are two very strange reactions: there is hostility to the goodness of Jesus and there is a hostility to the Word of Jesus and the reason is they do not belong to God. Very confrontational. But it’s an incredibly important passage because it pulls back the curtain on the battle.
Christianity Is Not Neutral
I want to finish by just giving you a few closing thoughts. I want you to notice from this passage this morning that Christianity is not some little convenient neutral issue in life. Christianity is not one shop in the street. You know, you can call in if you want, you can ignore it if you want. It’s not one stall in the markets. Jesus stands up, you see and He says, ‘I run the world. I own the street. I own the markets. I own the universe. And everything, absolutely everything, hinges on how you deal with Me. And the really wonderful but alarming thing to say is that He is not in the slightest bit of danger. I know the world thinks that He is in danger, that He is about to completely lose, and the world is going to give up on Him and He will have nothing to do, and He will be neglected and He will be thrown out. But He is not in the slightest bit of danger. He is absolutely secure on the throne of the universe. But people are in danger, and people are in danger of being left out. He is not in any danger of being left out. He is actually the King of the battle.
Francis Schaeffer used to say in his books that he wanted Christians to speak often of the powerful angels of God. I don’t know whether you were ever brave enough to talk about God’s powerful angels, but Francis Schaeffer, who was a great thinker, said it would be good if Christians spoke more about God’s powerful angels, because then, the people we are speaking to know that we are not talking about morality. We are not talking about ‘be good’. And Jesus here speaks of the devil and I suppose if we spoke of the devil a bit more often, people would really know that we are in a spiritual battle, that we are not talking about some morality system. The message from today, you see, is not please go home and be good and love Jesus and read your Bible. The message this morning is, do you belong to the Person who is able to deliver you from the one who has all the darkness and all the death and all the lies and all the murder? Are you able to be delivered from him, because there is only one Person who will get you out of His clutches, and that is Jesus Christ.
And then do you see how Jesus will do this, or did do this? It is all written in John Chapter 12, where Jesus says – the prince of this world (that’s the devil) will be driven out and I, when I am lifted up on the cross, will draw people to Myself. When I am lifted up, said Jesus, and I draw people to Myself… that is the moment when the devil Himself will be driven out. That’s the moment when he will be disarmed, when he will be mortally wounded. Or Paul says, in Colossians 2, that when Jesus triumphed at the cross, He disarmed the spiritual powers. He took away their swords. He took away their guns. The wonderful thing about the cross, you see, is that at the cross, Jesus exhausted everything which God’s justice could throw at Him. And therefore, He is able to free us from every danger, including the devil. ‘In my place’ says the hymn, ‘condemned He stood. Sealed my pardon with His blood. Halleluiah, what a Saviour’.
Jesus, Or The Devil
The last thing I want to say to you this morning is that as we go away with a little bit of John 8 in our memory, hopefully for the next few minutes, at least, I think you will find that these verses are very tempting. There are just one or two this morning who will be tempted to treat these verses as if you are a bit of a redneck. You will take these verses and you will say, ‘Yep, it’s Jesus… or the devil. It’s Jesus… or the devil.’ And you get sort of excited saying that, don’t you. Strangely excited. And there will be some other people who go away from this passage this morning and you will say, ‘That’s just too hard. Jesus, or the devil. That’s too difficult. I’d like to avoid this passage. I’d like to just stick my head in the sand and just forget this passage.’ Because we may be just a bit embarrassed by the verses. We really would like just to invent some middle-ground. We would like to say, ‘Well, there is us, and then there are dreadful people, and then there are just most people.’ But you see, Jesus says in Chapter 8 Verse 12 that He is the light of the world and it’s only by following Him that you will have the light of life.
And so Jesus sets the scene for this very chapter and He sets the scene for the world and we would never dare to set the scene for the world, but Jesus does set the scene for the world. And He puts it in two camps. He says it’s light or darkness, it’s life or death, it’s Lord or devil. And therefore friends, if we are going to walk in the steps of the Lord Jesus, if we are going to be His people in the world, if we are going to be loving like Him, if we are going to be truthful like Him, we will have to hold on to these verses and we will even have to repeat them.
And we will also go from this building, so many of us here this morning, eternally grateful for Jesus, that He, through the cross, has actually delivered us from darkness to light, from death to life, from the devil to the Lord. And time will prove what an absolutely incredible transfer that is, because they come from the greatest Person the world has ever seen.
Let’s pray. Our gracious God, we pray that You would save us this morning from being over-excited about these verses and loveless. And we pray that You would also save us from being embarrassed by these verses and truthless. But we pray that You would help us to be faithful to this teaching and to be marked by the truth and the love which is seen in the Lord Jesus and which has come to us at great cost and brought us new life. And we pray that You would help us to be Your representatives of truth and love in Your Word. And we ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen.
- See the whole series, ‘ Five Bold Claims of Jesus— A Christian Growth Series
- See more of Simon Manchester’s Christian Growth messages
- See more on the topic of Jesus