What if I don’t feel saved?

Jesus saving Peter from drowning

By S. Michael Houdmann, Supporter of Got Questions Ministries

This is an all-too-common question among Christians. Many people doubt their salvation because of feelings or the lack of them. The Bible has much to say about salvation, but nothing to say about “feeling saved.” Salvation is a process by which the sinner is delivered from “wrath,” that is, from God’s judgment against sin (Romans 5:9; 1 Thessalonians 5:9). Specifically, it was Jesus’ death on the cross and subsequent resurrection that achieved our salvation (Romans 5:10; Ephesians 1:7).

Our part in the salvation process is that we are saved by faith. First, we must hear the gospel-the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection (Ephesians 1:13). Then, we must believe-fully trust the Lord Jesus (Romans 1:16) and His sacrifice alone. We have no confidence in works of the flesh to achieve salvation. This faith-which is a gift from God, not something we produce on our own (Ephesians 2:8-9)-involves repentance, a changing of mind about sin and Christ (Acts 3:19), and calling on the name of the Lord (Romans 10:9-10, 13). Salvation results in a changed life as we begin to live as the new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).

We live in a feeling-oriented society and, sadly, that has spilled over into the church. But feelings are unreliable. Emotions are untrustworthy. They ebb and flow like the tides of the sea that bring in all kinds of seaweed and debris and deposit them on the shore, then go back out, eroding the ground we stand on and washing it out to sea. Such is the state of those whose emotions rule their lives. The simplest circumstances-a headache, a cloudy day, a word thoughtlessly spoken by a friend-can erode our confidence and send us “out to sea” in a fit of despair. Doubt and discouragement, particularly about the Christian life, are the inevitable result of trying to interpret our feelings as though they were truth. They are not.

But the Christian who is forewarned and well armed is a person not governed by feelings but by the truth he knows. He does not rely on his feelings to prove anything to him. Relying on feelings is precisely the error most people make in life. They are so introspective that they become preoccupied with themselves, constantly analyzing their own feelings. They will continually question their relationship with God. “Do I really love God?” “Does He really love me?” “Am I good enough?” What we need to do is stop thinking about ourselves and focusing on our feelings and instead redirect our focus to God and the truth we know about Him from His Word.

When we are controlled by subjective feelings centered on ourselves rather than by objective truth centered on God, we live in a constant state of defeat. Objective truth centers on the great doctrines of the faith and their relevance to life: the sovereignty of God, the high priestly intercession of Christ, the promise of the Holy Spirit, and the hope of eternal glory. Understanding these great truths, centering our thoughts on them, and rehearsing them in our minds will enable us to reason from truth in all of life’s trials, and our faith will be strong and vital. Reasoning from what we feel about ourselves-rather than what we know about God-is the sure path to spiritual defeat. The Christian life is one of death to self and rising to “walk in the newness of life” (Romans 6:4), and that new life is characterized by thoughts about Him who saved us, not thoughts about the feelings of the dead flesh that has been crucified with Christ. When we are continually thinking about ourselves and our feelings, we are essentially obsessing about a corpse, full of rottenness and death.

God promised to save us if we come to Him in faith. He never promised that we would feel saved.

See http://www.gotquestions.org/feel-saved.html

Why did God command Abraham to sacrifice Isaac?

By S Michael Houdmann, Got Questions Ministries.

Abraham had obeyed God many times in his walk with Him, but no test could have been more severe than the one in Genesis 22. God commanded, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering” (Genesis 22:2a).

This was an astounding command because Isaac was the son of promise. God had promised several times that from Abraham’s own body would come a nation as multitudinous as the stars in heaven (Genesis 12:2-3; 15:4-5). Later, Abraham was specifically told that the promise would be through Isaac (Genesis 21:12).

How did Abraham respond to God’s command to sacrifice Isaac? With immediate obedience; early the next morning, Abraham started on his journey with two servants, a donkey and his beloved son Isaac, with firewood for the offering. His unquestioning obedience to God’s confusing command gave God the glory He deserves and is an example to us of how to glorify God. When we obey as Abraham did, trusting that God’s plan is best, we exalt His attributes and praise Him. Abraham’s obedience in the face of this crushing command extolled God’s sovereign love, His trustworthiness, and His goodness, and it provided an example for us to follow. His faith in the God he had come to know and love placed Abraham in the pantheon of faithful heroes in Hebrews 11.

Abraham’s faith was such that, even if he had sacrificed Isaac, he believed the Lord would keep His word and raise Isaac from the dead (Hebrews 11:17-19). God uses Abraham’s faith as an example of the type of faith required for salvation. Genesis 15:6 says, “Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.” This truth is the basis of the Christian faith, as reiterated in Romans 4:3 and James 2:23. The righteousness that was credited to Abraham is the same righteousness credited to us when we receive by faith the sacrifice God provided for our sins-Jesus Christ. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

The Old Testament story of Abraham is the basis of the New Testament teaching of the atonement, the sacrificial offering of the Lord Jesus on the cross for the sin of mankind. Jesus said, many centuries later, “Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad” (John 8:56). The following are some of the parallels between the two biblical accounts:

  • “Take your son, your only son, Isaac” (v. 2); “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son…” (John 3:16).
  • “Go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there…” (v. 2); it is believed that this area is where the city of Jerusalem was built many years later, where Jesus was crucified outside its city walls (Hebrews 13:12).
  • “Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering” (v. 2); “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3).
  • “Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac” (v. 6); Jesus, “carrying his own cross. . .” (John 19:17).
  • “But where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” (v. 7); John said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).
  • Isaac, the son, acted in obedience to his father in becoming the sacrifice (v. 9); Jesus prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39).
  • Resurrection – Isaac (figuratively) and Jesus in reality: “By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, ‘It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.’ Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death” (Hebrews 11:17-19); Jesus “was buried, and . . . was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:4).

See http://www.gotquestions.org/Abraham-Isaac.html

Sermon on John 6:32-59, the Bread of Life

This sermon was delivered by Pastor Chris Duke on 16/10/2016. This article is from notes I made so is not completely in keeping with what Pastor Chris said though I’ve tried to be as accurate as possible.

There’s only one thing better than the smell of freshly baked bread and that’s eating fresh bread. There’s a multitude of different breads that one can purchase – over 200 different types on Wikipedia. Bread has been a significant part of our lives for centuries.

In the gospels, Jesus fed the multitudes. He then makes a controversial statement in verses 32, 33 and 48 of John 6:

32 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.

48 I am that bread of life.

He uses the name of God, Yahweh, in the first of seven “I am’s” where He takes God’s name. In other passages Jesus tells us:

Jesus is saying it is I, and I alone, from who you can receive eternal life.

We shall next look at the divine provision of the bread, following this up with human appropriation of the bread. Concerning divine provision, remember how Jesus responded to Satan’s temptation in the wilderness? He said, “Man shall not live by bread alone” (Matthew 4:4, Luke 4:4). In other words, He is saying, I am your soul food.

Jesus affirms again and again the existence of a pre-incarnate person. How did John begin his gospel – the Word was co-existent and self existent with God eternally (see John 1:14 and John 3:13):

14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
(John 1:14)

13 And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.
(John 3:13)

According to verse 46 in today’s passage, the only one who has given us a message from heaven is Jesus:

46 Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father.
(John 6:46)

John 8:42 cements this fact as Jesus declares that God sent Him:

42 Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me.
(john 8:42)

He then existed in the presence of God for all eternity. Jesus isn’t a created being who came into existence like you and I. Verse 32 to 33 of today’s passage make it clear that there was a divine purpose in the bread of life:

Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.
(John 6:32-33)

Jesus tells us that His Father sends the bread of life. Verse 38 confirms this:

38 For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.

There was a divine purpose in the Father sending the Son then. In verses 37 to 40 we start to see God’s plan, of redemption.

37 All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. 38 For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. 39 And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. 40 And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.
(John 6:37-40)

There is a plan to complete the glorification of those the Father draws. We see divine election at work here, Christ keeps them and raises them up at the last day. Christ even quotes Isaiah 54:13 in John 6:45:

45 It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.
(John 6:45)

13 And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord;
and great shall be the peace of thy children.
(Isaiah 54:13)

The Father, then, is the true teacher and instructor of the heart and mind of the person being saved.

So why do we want this bread? What does this bread do for us? Verse 33 in today’s passage reads:

33 For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.

In the original Greek, the word “life” that is used means spiritual life. The following passages are instructive, showing that Jesus’ true followers receive the bread of life, for eternal life, and will live forever:

35 And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.
(John 6:35)

40 And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.
(John 6:40)

51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.
(John 6:51)

So we come to rest in real union with Christ. As it is written in Galatians 2:20, we are one in Christ:

20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

This union is not just when you die but you can be united in Christ now. No-one can break this union. Our salvation is dependent on our union in Christ. Being a Christian isn’t just following the teachings of a man, it’s having His life in you.

So what’s our responsibility in this divine transaction? We are commanded to appropriate the bread of life. In verse 34 of today’s passage, the Jews said, “Lord, evermore give us this bread.” They wanted bread that would satisfy their physical hunger, yet in verse 35 Jesus plainly declares that He is their spiritual sustenance.

Our responsibilities are as follows:

  1. Come to Jesus. Verse 37 clarifies this for us.
  2. None of us knows who is chosen so the message of the gospel is to be preached far and wide.
  3. Look at me, gaze at me carefully and thoughtfully and see who I am. Receive His words.
  4. We are held accountable to come, to see, to believe.

Verse 53 of today’s passage reminds us that we have no life unless we appropriate the Word of God for ourselves:

53 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.
(John 6:53)

The word “blood” is used, reminding us of His death. You can never be saved unless you believe in His sacrificial death. Jesus is the lamb of God, who came as an atoning sacrifice, who satisfied the wrath of God. Eating is a response to hunger from a heart that’s empty (this is the work of the Holy Spirit as He starts to draw us to faith in Christ). If you eat the bread of life you will live forever. What bread are you going to eat from now on? Jesus is the bread of life. Amen.

Sermon on Mark 8:1-13 – Seeing is Believing

This sermon was delivered by Pastor Chris Duke on 02/10/2016. This article is from notes I made so is not completely in keeping with what Pastor Chris said though I’ve tried to be as accurate as possible.

Today’s passage is Mark 8:1-13, which reads as follows:

8 In those days the multitude being very great, and having nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples unto him, and saith unto them, 2 I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now been with me three days, and have nothing to eat: 3 and if I send them away fasting to their own houses, they will faint by the way: for divers of them came from far. 4 And his disciples answered him, From whence can a man satisfy these men with bread here in the wilderness? 5 And he asked them, How many loaves have ye? And they said, Seven. 6 And he commanded the people to sit down on the ground: and he took the seven loaves, and gave thanks, and brake, and gave to his disciples to set before them; and they did set them before the people. 7 And they had a few small fishes: and he blessed, and commanded to set them also before them. 8 So they did eat, and were filled: and they took up of the broken meat that was left seven baskets. 9 And they that had eaten were about four thousand: and he sent them away.

10 And straightway he entered into a ship with his disciples, and came into the parts of Dalmanutha. 11 And the Pharisees came forth, and began to question with him, seeking of him a sign from heaven, tempting him. 12 And he sighed deeply in his spirit, and saith, Why doth this generation seek after a sign? verily I say unto you, There shall no sign be given unto this generation. 13 And he left them, and entering into the ship again departed to the other side.

Jesus and His disciples came to Capernaum. As well as being a fishing village, this was an area where the Romans collected taxes from those travelling through that region. And immediately we see the Pharisees come to question Jesus, to test Him.

With the phrase “seeing is believing”, the title of today’s sermon, a high degree of skepticism is implied. Many people who say this and yet see a genuine miracle would still doubt it and find reasons to continue in their unbelief. All the miracles that Jesus had performed, including the feeding of the four thousand that we saw in today’s passage, should have highlighted that Jesus was divine, the Son of God. Yet man’s condition is such that he is often in spiritual blindness, living with no light at all upon the things of God. This is certainly true of all religions apart from Christianity, none can give you spiritual light. Jesus promised in John 8:12:

…I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.

Jesus performed many miracles yet the Pharisees still gave Him a hard time, choosing to walk on in darkness. Matthew 16 parallels today’s scripture reading, stating that the Sadducees were present too, this being the Lord’s final conflict with them. Up until this point, Jesus had always given invitations to both groups to believe in Him. He was to do this no more in the gospels, becoming instead Israel’s rejected leader. In fact we see that the Pharisees were foolish enough to want to kill Him.

What of Jesus’ disciples? Those who were following Him knew that they were making a break with their religion, and with their religious leaders. They were following Jesus because He is the Christ, the Messiah. He had dispelled their darkness and was continuing to do so day by day and even beyond the Cross when He rose again.

Yet now we see Jesus face to face with those who hated Him, those whose major sin was hypocrisy. If you remember Mark 7, Jesus left Galilee and went to Tyre and Sidon, which were Gentile cities. He then went to Decapolis (so named because it consisted of ten cities), which was a Gentile area also. By this Jesus showed His disciples that the gospel was for all mankind, not just the Jewish people.

In Decapolis Jesus fed 4,000 men plus women and children. Then in the tenth verse of today’s passage we see Him enter Jewish territory again. And then in verse 11, the Pharisees were on the attack against Him. They hated the Light, with His message of repentance, faith and grace. What they loved instead was religious ceremony and trying (unsuccessfully) to redeem themselves. In Mark 3:22 they even accused Jesus of being demon possessed:

22 And the scribes which came down from Jerusalem said, He hath Beelzebub, and by the prince of the devils casteth he out devils.

They gave no credit at all to Jesus for the miracles they saw Him performing.

Verses 11 to 13 of today’s passage highlight three characteristics of people who are spiritually blind:

  1. They are comfortable with others who are also blind, even if those are enemies to them. They hate the truth, and thereby hate Christianity. All false religions are like this.
  2. They are consigned to deeper blindness.
  3. They are condemned to terminal blindness.

In today’s passage the Pharisees asked Jesus for a sign. It’s important to realise that in doing so they were not asking for a miracle but a sign from heaven that would give Godly authority to His message. They believed demons could perform earthly miracles but only God could do heavenly ones (remember the magicians with Pharaoh in Exodus 7-9?). They wanted Jesus to perform acts such as stopping the sun, eclipsing the moon, or starting and stopping a storm. They did this to tempt Him. And yet we know they had seen enough already to believe in Him, as per Nicodemus’s testimony in John 3:2:

2 the same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.

These people were no different from Pharaoh back in Exodus. He saw miracles too yet hardened his heart, until eventually the Lord passed judgement and hardened it for him:

But when Pharaoh saw that there was respite, he hardened his heart, and hearkened not unto them; as the Lord had said.
(Exodus 8:15)

And Pharaoh hardened his heart at this time also, neither would he let the people go.
(Exodus 8:32)

And when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunders were ceased, he sinned yet more, and hardened his heart, he and his servants.
(Exodus 9:34)

And the Lord said unto Moses, Go in unto Pharaoh: for I have hardened his heart, and the heart of his servants, that I might shew these my signs before him:
(Exodus 10:1)

And Moses and Aaron did all these wonders before Pharaoh: and the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, so that he would not let the children of Israel go out of his land.
(Exodus 11:10)

The more light was shone on Pharaoh, the deeper his spiritual darkness became. Unbelief always finds a way to reject the truth and in verse 12 of today’s passage we see Jesus recognising this with anguish:

And he sighed deeply in his spirit, and saith, Why doth this generation seek after a sign? verily I say unto you, There shall no sign be given unto this generation.

Jesus’ sighing is described as deep and compounded. His heart was breaking over their spiritual blindness. This isn’t the only time we see the Lord grieving. In Luke 19 and John 11 He wept over the fate of Jerusalem, who had rejected Him as Messiah, and over the grave of Lazarus, when He saw the power of sin leading to physical death. He laments those who reject Him due to wilful ignorance, as is highlighted so aptly in Deuteronomy:

And he said, I will hide my face from them, I will see what their end shall be: for they are a very froward generation, children in whom is no faith.
(Deuteronomy 32:20)

In today’s passage, Jesus is strongly resolute: no more signs are to be given. He essentially says, “May I die if I do.” His judgement on the Pharisees is pronounced in other passages such as Matthew 15:14 and Matthew 16:4:

Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.

A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. And he left them, and departed.

So one more sign would be given, the sign of Jonah. We know the story of Jonah. He was three days in the belly of a large fish, a whale, then was released from it.

What happens when Jesus is raised again? Matthew 28:11-15 shows the religious leaders’ reaction:

11 Now when they were going, behold, some of the watch came into the city, and shewed unto the chief priests all the things that were done. 12 And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers, 13 saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept. 14 And if this come to the governor’s ears, we will persuade him, and secure you. 15 So they took the money, and did as they were taught: and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day.

So they bribed the soldiers to lie about the resurrection. The Pharisees and Sadducees were at this stage in fixed darkness spiritually, they were still denying the Lord’s rising even after it had happened. Mark 8:13 gives the Lord’s preceding judgement, where He simply left them to their hardheartedness and error:

13 And he left them, and entering into the ship again departed to the other side.

The latter part of Romans 1 speaks of God’s wrath in giving people up to sinful desires:

28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: 32 who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.
(Romans 1:28-32)

This is a warning for us. When the gospel is preached, we should give our full attention to it. We should feel privileged to hear God’s good news and respond to it. There are the blind who never see the truth: our prayer is for our loved ones, neighbours and friends to be lead out of darkness into His glorious light:

http://www.chick.com/reading/tracts/0001/0001_01.asp

God bless you all.

Sermon on Mark 6:30-44

This sermon was delivered by Pastor Chris Duke on 25/09/2016. This article is from notes I made so is not completely in keeping with what Pastor Chris said though I’ve tried to be as accurate as possible.

I’m sure you’ve prepared a large dinner for people. In Jesus’ ministry, people are becoming used to seeing divine power coming from Him. The area we’re dealing with today concerns a miracle Jesus performed near a small village in Galilee. Galilee itself was a very tiny province, covered by water. It had around 200 small villages and towns, being an agricultural area, and was therefore densely populated.

Jesus had earlier multiplied Himself by His disciples in Mark 3:14-15, sending them forth to preach and have power to heal sicknesses and cast out devils. He thus multiplied Himself twelve times. Significantly, eleven of the twelve were from Galilee (Judas Iscariot being the exception to this).

Yet feeding five thousand was way beyond any miracle Jesus did. Matthew says that could have been up to 10,000 people in total, including women and children (see Matthew 14:21). So this was a huge crowd. It was near Passover, in the springtime, as Mark notes the company of people sat down on “green grass” (Mark 6:39). This was Jesus’ final miracle in Galilee. After this, His focus narrowed to smaller crowds as He became concerned with training the twelve more than on public ministry. Jesus is here putting Himself on display in all His glory and magnificence. We are reminded that as you read the Old Testament, it points to Christ. As you read the New Testament, it reveals Christ. And that salvation is being drawn to Christ.

John 6:14-15 describes the aftermath of Jesus’ miracle: people tried to make Him a King. They wanted the ultimate welfare state with free food provided along with demons being cast out, etc. They also wanted freedom of rule from the Roman army. With this miracle we see Jesus as Jehovah-jireh, the Lord who provides, as He did with faithful Abraham:

13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son. 14 And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovah-jireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the Lord it shall be seen.
(Genesis 22:13-14)

Jesus is the incarnation of Jehovah-jireh.

In Mark 6:7-11 we see that Jesus sent the disciples out into the countryside. They were told to preach the Kingdom of God and repentance towards God. In verse 31 Jesus’ first task as Jehovah-jireh, the provider, is revealed, as He says effectively, “Get some rest.” This was the first provision that He made for them. Luke 9:10 mentions that He took them to Bethsaida:

10 And the apostles, when they were returned, told him all that they had done. And he took them, and went aside privately into a desert place belonging to the city called Bethsaida.

This was a fishing village on the sea of Galilee. They went near the village but not into it as the crowd was too heavily populated and wouldn’t have fitted. The village, incidentally, was where Peter and Andrew both grew up:

44 Now Philip was of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.
(John 1:44)

Christ later had something damning to say about this village after the miracle of the fishes and loaves was performed:

Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.
(Matthew 11:21)

Sadly, the people of Bethsaida didn’t worship the Lord even after His miracles. We would do well at this stage to remember the old saying, “To whom much is given, much is required”:

48 But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.
(Luke 12:48)

The only rest the disciples got was on the boat with Jesus as the people followed them across the northern part of the lake, on foot. And they arrived earlier than the disciples having completed a walk of approximately ten kilometers. Rest is important but the truth is more important. Why were they following Him? John 6:2 provides the answer: they saw the signs He performed in healing the sick, and they were fascinated by His power:

2 And a great multitude followed him, because they saw his miracles which he did on them that were diseased.

Yet Jesus wasn’t irritated by the people’s neediness but “moved with compassion toward them.” Luke 9:11 records that He spoke to them of the Kingdom of God and healed them:

11 And the people, when they knew it, followed him: and he received them, and spake unto them of the kingdom of God, and healed them that had need of healing.

Jesus called them to repent and believe in Him as the Son of God and their Messiah, so that they could receive the Kingdom of God. He recognized that they were sheep and it is a known fact that sheep without a shepherd will die. They cannot get onto their feet again if they fall on their backs, they must be cleaned up, cared for, provided for. Numbers 27:17b simply states that “the congregation of the Lord be not as sheep which have no shepherd.” Jesus’ teachings, then, would lead them to eternal safety in the fold. Matthew 14:14 shows Jesus healing the sick, being moved because human suffering made Him suffer too:

14 And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick.

Yet the Lord was concerned that they had spiritual rest as well as physical rest and healing. Verses 35-44 of today’s passage show the Lord’s provision of food for the disciples and people. This is an example of God’s common grace, where the goodness of God is given without discrimination. Jesus is good to His enemies, even to people who hate and reject Him:

But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.
(Luke 6:35)

The following day is reported in John 6. Here, Jesus tells the people that He Himself is the bread of life, that they are to “Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed” (John 6:27).

In verse 37 of today’s passage, Christ says effectively, “You give them something to eat.” Jesus had delegated His power to the disciples earlier but they didn’t yet have the faith to perform this miracle. They had forgotten about the widow and her jar of oil in 1 Kings 17:16:

And the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord, which he spake by Elijah.

Another gospel says that a boy had five loaves and two fishes on his person. Why was this the case? It was clearly his lunch, being the Middle Eastern equivalent of five crackers and a little bit of protein.

In verse 39, Jesus orders the crowd. Verse 41 shows Him distributing the food after giving thanks to the Father. The disciples became the waiters and just kept giving out food. This would have been the only uncursed banquet these people had ever gone to, it was like eating in the garden of Eden. You’d have liked these fish too regardless of whether or not you liked fish.

Verse 43 is significant because it shows that Jesus ordered the meal with perfect precision. Twelve baskets of broken pieces of meat and bread were taken up, one for each of the disciples. This was divinely controlled with no waste. Was there a real spiritual awakening after the miraculous feeding of the five thousand? No, not really. The crowds were waiting the next day for food again but Jesus said simply, “No, you need spiritual meat.” John 6:66 then records that at this point even some of His disciples left Him:

From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.

But the twelve stayed faithful, Peter simply stating, “Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).

Today’s health, wealth and prosperity gospel echoes the attitudes of the faithless disciples and the people of Bethsaida. Sadly, those who have known the way of righteousness yet have turned from it will come under severer judgement:

For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.
(2 Peter 2:21)

If you don’t yet know the Lord Jesus as your personal Saviour, may I encourage you to read the following article:

http://www.chick.com/reading/tracts/0001/0001_01.asp

May the Lord Jesus bless you always.

What can we learn from the life of Mary of Bethany?

By S. Michael Houdmann, Supporter of Got Questions Ministries

Mary of Bethany is one of the most beautiful characters in all of Scripture, and we can learn valuable lessons from studying her life. Mary was the sister of Martha, and her brother was Lazarus whom Jesus raised from the dead. We see Mary three different times in the Bible, beginning with the incident in the home of her sister, Martha (Luke 10:38-42), where Jesus, and presumably the disciples who travelled with Him, were being entertained. Martha was so distressed and “distracted with much serving” and frustrated that her sister wasn’t helping that she actually rebuked Jesus, accusing Him of not caring that Mary sat at His feet while she did all the work. Jesus’ response gives us our first insight into Mary of Bethany. Jesus commended her for “choosing the better,” meaning that Mary’s desire to be near her Lord and hang onto His every word was far more beneficial than running herself ragged with preparations for a meal. Jesus further said that choosing the better thing, learning of the Lord, would not be taken away from Mary.

By “choosing the better,” Jesus meant that those whose priority in life is Christ, the knowledge of Him, and nearness to Him have chosen what will last through eternity, such as the “gold, silver and costly stones” referred to in 1 Corinthians 3:11-12. From this incident, we learn that those who are distracted with the mundane and earthly are building upon the foundation which is Christ with “wood, hay and straw,” materials which will not stand the fires that come to us in times of testing, nor will they be remembered in eternity. Martha’s rebuke of Jesus gives us insight into her heart and mind as she tried to make everything perfect and was so distracted that she lost sight of whom she was speaking to. Mary’s silence, which we will see again in another incident, indicates a lack of concern for herself, especially for defending herself. When we focus on Christ, He becomes our greatest passion and our tendency to self-absorption dims and fades.

The second incident in which Mary and Martha appear occurs in John 11 with the raising of their brother, Lazarus, from the dead. When Mary hears that Jesus has come and is calling for her, she immediately leaves the assembly of mourners in her home and rushes to meet Jesus. So great is her love for Him and her desire to please and obey Him that she leaves those who had come to comfort her to place herself in the arms of the greatest Comforter mankind has ever known. Jesus sees her great sorrow and weeps along with her, even though He knows her sadness is going to be short-lived and that her brother will be restored to her momentarily. In the same way, when we sorrow and grieve, our greatest comfort is found in Jesus, whose compassion is boundless. When we place our hand in the nail-scarred hand, we find comfort, peace and security, and we learn the truth of Psalm 30:5b: “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”

The third and final time we see Mary of Bethany is just days before Christ’s crucifixion (Matthew 26:1-6; Mark 14:3-9; John 12:1-8). A meal had been prepared at the home of Simon the leper, probably a leper who had been healed by Jesus and had become one of His followers. Martha was again serving while the resurrected Lazarus reclined at the table with Jesus and the disciples. At some point, Mary broke open an alabaster jar, poured a pint of very expensive perfume on Jesus’ head and feet, and wiped them with her hair. In spite of criticism from some of the disciples about the waste of the costly substance, Mary said nothing. Just as in the first incident, Mary allowed Jesus to defend her, which He does, saying that she has kept this perfume for His burial and has done a beautiful act of service to Him which would be memorialized down through the ages.

We see two amazing things about Mary here from which we can take our example. First, she seems to know that the time of Jesus’ death on the cross was at hand, a fact that had escaped the disciples in spite of Jesus’ clear declaration of this truth. No doubt Mary contented herself with listening to her Lord and meditating on His words, while the disciples bickered about who would be greatest among them in the kingdom. By doing so, they missed the important truths Jesus was teaching them about His upcoming death and resurrection (Mark 9:30-35). How often do we miss spiritual truths because we are self-focused and overly concerned for our rewards, our status and our reputation among men?

Second, we see in Mary a settled conviction and confidence in her Lord, so much so that she is not compelled to defend herself in the face of criticism. How often do we jump at the chance to justify ourselves in the eyes of others who criticize and mock us, particularly where our faith is concerned? But if we, like Mary, make sitting at the feet of Jesus and listening to Him our priority, we will have her depth of understanding, her passion for Christ, and her complete faith in His plan for our lives. We may not have Jesus sitting in our living rooms in person, but we have His Word, the Bible, and from it we have all the knowledge and understanding we need to live a life of secure and confident faith like Mary of Bethany.

See http://www.gotquestions.org/life-Mary-Bethany.html

Bound but unchained – don’t confuse biblical slavery with the American version

by Peter Barnes, p7, “Australian Presbyterian”, Summer 2014/15

It is not uncommon to say that the Bible is a vicious book because God ordains slavery in the Old Testament, and the slavery of the American South, at least until the tragic Civil War of 1861-1865, showed how brutal and unjust slavery can be. Hence Sam Harris, a rabid atheist, declares that the books of the Bible are bursting with “obscene celebrations of violence” and they condone the practice of slavery whereas “the entire civilized world now agrees that slavery is an abomination.”

However, there is considerable difference between the God-ordained and regulated slavery of the Old Testament and that which prevailed in the Confederate States of North America in rather more recent times.

Chris Wright maintains that the Hebrew slave was more a bonded worker than a slave. In the first place, a Hebrew slave could normally obtain his freedom after six years: “If thou buy an Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve: and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing” (Exodus 21:2; see Deut. 15:1-18). There were no life-long slaves unless the slave wished it in which case he went through a ceremony which bored his ear with an awl to signify his lifelong attachment to his master (Ex. 21:5-6). Otherwise, six years was the maximum. And if the Year of Jubilee rolled around, as it did every 50 years, it was further reduced (Lev. 25:39-41). Much later, Jeremiah was to denounce King Zedekiah of Judah for not releasing slaves when he had promised to do so (Jer. 34).

A slave whom the master injured in some way was to go free (Ex. 21:26-27). An escaped slave was to be well-treated:

“Thou shalt not deliver unto his master the servant which is escaped from his master unto thee: 16 he shall dwell with thee, even among you, in that place which he shall choose in one of thy gates, where it liketh him best: thou shalt not oppress him.”
(Deut. 23:15-16)

This probably only referred to a slave who had escaped from another country rather than a Hebrew who had jumped the fence. In the Code of Hammurabi, anyone who harboured a slave or helped him to escape was to be put to death. Israel, on the other hand, was to be a place of refuge for a slave on the run.

Another significant difference is that Old Testament slavery was normally linked to punishment for stealing. The law was that “If a man shall steal an ox, or a sheep, and kill it, or sell it; he shall restore five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep. If a thief be found breaking up, and be smitten that he die, there shall no blood be shed for him. If the sun be risen upon him, there shall be blood shed for him; for he should make full restitution; if he have nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft.” (Ex. 22:1-3).

Under the law of Moses there were no jails. Instead, a system of restitution plus compensation was to operate in dealing with robberies. Most of the Hebrews who were slaves in the Old Testament period were debt slaves – they owed money and were paying it off, or they had stolen something and could not pay it back with the added compensation, so they worked it off. This is neither cruel nor an abomination, but eminently sensible.

Old Testament slavery did not consist of one nationality oppressing another nationality as in American slavery in the 19th century. Nor was it part of some arbitrary caste system. It was part of a very fair and effective system of justice when it was applied rightly.

One of the more startling differences between slavery in the Old Testament and that in the southern United States is that the Bible condemns kidnapping as a capital crime (Ex. 21:16; Deut. 24:7). Before the law of Moses was given, Joseph’s brothers trampled all over this principle, which was written on their hearts (see Gen. 37:25-28). It is instructive that the law against kidnapping is repeated in the New Testament (1 Tim. 1:8-11). The NIV has “slave traders”, the ESV has “enslavers”, and the NKJV has “kidnappers”, the King James has “menstealers”. Whichever translation is used, it would condemn the African slave trade and the existence of slavery in the southern states of the USA in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

Perhaps something like 14.5 million Africans were brought to the New World in chains, but many others died on the way. Almost all of them were kidnapped from their homes in Africa. In 1787 John Newton condemned this as “a commerce so iniquitous, so cruel, so oppressive, so destructive”. It was a special horror to him: “I hope it will always be a subject of humiliating reflection to me, that I was once an active instrument in a business at which my heart now shudders.”

Olaudah Equiano was a former slave who obtained his freedom, became an evangelical Christian, married a well-to-do Englishwoman who bore him two children, and published his life story in 1789. He claimed that “Tortures, murder, and every other imaginable barbarity and iniquity, are practiced upon the poor slaves with impunity”.

(1 Timothy 1:8-11) would condemn the African slave trade and the existence of slavery in the southern states of the USA.

Far from seeing slavery as something that is natural, the God of the Old Testament commands the death penalty for kidnappers.

Finally, the Old Testament declares that all peoples, being in the image of God, are to be treated with fairness and compassion. In defending himself, Job declared:

“If I did despise the cause of my manservant or of my maidservant, when they contended with me; what then shall I do when God riseth up? and when he visiteth, what shall I answer him? Did not he that made me in the womb make him? and did not one fashion us in the womb?” (Job 31:13-15)

How do we understand all human beings on this earth, and our relationship with them? We are created in the womb by God. We share that commonality; we are all united in that sense. When John Newton wrote against the slave trade that he had once participated in, he cited the Golden Rule of Matthew 7:12.

The church can easily descend into a kind of Pelagian racism. During the 19th century, one American Presbyterian preacher apparently proclaimed: “You slaves will go to heaven if you are good, but don’t ever think that you will be close to your mistress and master. No! There will be a wall between you; but there will be holes in it that will permit you to look out and see your mistress when she passes by.”

Against that kind of theology and practice, Calvin cited Isaiah 58:7 about not looking down upon our own flesh. He explained: “By that he means we cannot look upon another human being without having before us a living representation of our own selves, and if we deny him our help, it is as if we were refusing it to ourselves”. Indeed, he added that even the pagans have recognised “what is so difficult for us to get into our heads”, namely that there is “a universal kinship within the human race”.

The Old Testament has a temporary provision for slavery, usually for stealing; kidnapping was a capital crime; and Hebrews, because of their understanding of God as the creator of all mankind, were enjoined to treat all human beings with fairness and compassion. That is why Confederate slavery was so wrong.