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November 7, 2017: The Choice

Today’s Bible Reading: Ezekiel 20-21, Job 7, John 8:48-59, 2 Peter 3:10-18 John 8:48-59: The attacks continue. Stunningly, the Jewish leaders who are opposing Jesus associate being a “Samaritan” with having a “demon”! Not only does Jesus have a demon, he’s also a Samaritan! Perhaps they are remembering his success among the Samaritans. At any rate, they cast at Jesus two of the worst slanders they could find in their religious vocabulary: he is demon possessed, and he is part of the half-breed, religiously compromised, racial group known as Samaritans. It is important to remember that when people do not like what we stand for, they will not oppose the issue itself, but will find some other way to cast aspersions on our character. Such ad hominem arguments are par for the course; we should recognize them when they come, not be frightened of them, painful as they can be. Jesus refutes their accusations—it is not...

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November 6, 2017: The Truth Will Set You Free

Today’s Bible Reading: Ezekiel 17-19, Job 6, John 8:31-47, 2 Peter 3:1-9 John 8:31-47: Jesus establishes a great principle. If you keep God’s Word, then you are his disciples. How seldom is the connection between obedience to what God says and believing in God understood! We want to erect a mighty chasm between faith and obedience when here it is clear they are two sides of the same coin. If you are Jesus’ disciples, you will seek to do what Jesus says—all of it, even the uncomfortable sayings. The result of such obedience is actually freedom: for you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. Here then is the principle: following Jesus means doing what Jesus says; doing what Jesus says means you will know more and more of the truth; and the truth will set you free. Could it be that your sense of not being free has nothing to...

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November 5, 2017: Many Believed in Him

Today’s Bible Reading: Ezekiel 16, Job 5, John 8:21-30, 2 Peter 2:17-22 John 8:21-30: It is a strange truth, but when we are under intense pressure—opposition comes, even persecution—there lies an opportunity otherwise not available to us. It was “as he was saying these things,” and as the Pharisees were criticizing him, opposing, seeking to trap him, that “many believed in him.” This insight has frequently been confirmed through church history. The blood of the martyrs is the seed bed of the church. It was when the Reformation heroes Latimer and Ridley were being burned at the stake, that Latimer said to Ridley, “Be of good cheer, Master Ridley, we this day shall light such a candle as I trust by God’s grace shall never be put out.” Be of good cheer, too, then suffering sister, discouraged brother: you have before you an opportunity. People notice when you are being opposed, and they watch how you...

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November 4, 2017: The Light of the World

Today’s Bible Reading: Ezekiel 13-15, Job 4, John 8:12-20, 2 Peter 2:10-16 John 8:12-20: Few more famous words were ever spoken: “I am the light of the world.” And yet spoken in a context when those who heard the words were willfully blind to that light. The great “Light of the World” painting by William Holman Hunt illustrates the point: Jesus stands holding light and being the light, and yet the door of the mind is obstinately closed to him. We must, by God’s Spirit, see the light to know that he is the light. Let us pray that God’s Spirit illumines our mind so that we are not blind but are seeing. The Pharisees did not. They ply Jesus with foolish questions and pointless cavils. If you have ever been in a situation where you are teaching a class of children, and a rather obtuse student refuses to accept what you are saying is true...

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November 3, 2017: The Unparalleled Grace of Christ

Today’s Bible Reading: Ezekiel 9-12, Job 3, John 8:1-11, 2 Peter 2:1-9 John 8:1-11: There is considerable historical discussion as to whether this section belongs in John’s Gospel at this point or somewhere else, but to my mind the discussion is less important than this is something that Jesus said in itself—whether it belongs here in the Gospel or somewhere else. It is an important story today for us to consider for several reasons. To begin with, it shows us that Jesus does take sin seriously. He does not tell the woman caught in adultery that her sin does not matter, nor that the law that speaks against her is wrong, nor that such actions of which she was convicted are permissible. Some people want to say that Jesus is such a friend of sinners that they make him a friend of sin. But no, the reason why Jesus is a friend of sinners is that...

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November 2, 2017: No One Ever Spoke Like Jesus

Today’s Bible Reading: Ezekiel 4-8, Job 2, John 7:45-53, 2 Peter 1:12-21 John 7:45-53: A study in obfuscation and self-deceit is before us—combined with edifying insights as to the true nature of Jesus and what draws us to him. The chief priests and the Pharisees want to know why the officers did not arrest Jesus. They had him in their grasp. They could have brought him to the Pharisees for further investigation, trial or punishment. Instead, they did nothing. Why? Their answer is astonishing: “No one ever spoke like this man!” Part of the revelation of who Jesus is resides in the extraordinary facet of his teaching. Truly, no one ever spoke thus. Jesus’ teaching, the sheer brilliance of his communication and content, the combination of earthy illustrations and doctrinal depth, clarity and compelling insight all rolled into one, this has never been surpassed, and had never been heard before. Chrysostom was great; Spurgeon was amazing; Whitefield...

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October 25, 2017: Clear Teaching and Confused Listening

Today’s Bible Reading: Lamentations 4-5, Song of Solomon 8:8-14, John 7:25-36, 1 Peter 5:8-14 John 7:25-36: Jesus’ teaching is not being accepted during this great feast, and indeed seems to be confusing those who listen to him. They are asking lots of questions, wondering if this is the man that the authorities are looking to kill, why it is they have not killed him—and if that means that Jesus really and truly is the Messiah. And yet, they are reasoning, if he is really and truly the Messiah, why is it that they do not know where he has come from, for they will know where the Messiah has come from. Strangely, this is an encouraging thought for all teachers of God’s Word, at home, in small groups, and Sunday School: if people did not grasp what Jesus was saying (the King of preachers), then assuredly they will not always grasp what we are saying. But...

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October 24, 2017: Hearing, Knowing, Doing, Discerning God’s Will

Today’s Bible Reading: Lamentations 3, Song of Solomon 8:1-7, John 7:14-24, 1 Peter 5:1-7 John 7:14-24: Jesus now begins to teach at the great feast. He does so in the temple, in a public place, ensuring that what he is teaching can be heard. There is nothing wrong, and everything right, with ensuring that God’s Word is proclaimed as clearly, as widely, as publicly, and as powerfully as God wills, in the power of his Spirit. The act of preaching is to put God’s Word center stage—not our own personalities, but the Word of God. The Jewish leaders marvel that Jesus is preaching with such great learning, though he had never formally studied in their religious schools. Part of the witness to Jesus’ divinity is the sheer brilliance of his teaching: no man ever taught thus. He is not only clear, he is deep; he is not only arresting, he is substantial; he is not only...

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October 23, 2017: The Time Has Not Yet Come

Today’s Bible Reading: Lamentations 2, Song of Solomon 7, John 7:1-13, 1 Peter 4:12-19 John 7:1-13: Jesus is in Galilee, not Judea, because he knew the Jewish leaders were seeking to kill him. Sometimes it is the wise course to flee danger, to avoid persecution, and not to rush in where angels fear to tread. Zeal is good, as long as it is combined with knowledge, and sometimes circumspection and prudence is no less zealous and much wiser than fool-hearted enthusiasm. His brothers urge Jesus to go up to Jerusalem for the feast. They argue that if he wants to be a public figure, then he cannot hide away but must show himself in public. But their argument shows that even his brothers do not believe in him. If Jesus' being deserted by some of his disciples must have been hard, surely it was at least equally hard to find that his brothers had little, if...

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October 22, 2017: You Have the Words of Eternal Life

Today’s Bible Reading: Lamentations 1, Song of Solomon 6, John 6:60-71, 1 Peter 4:1-11 John 6:60-71: Some of Jesus’ teaching is harder for people to swallow than other parts. Who could deny that it is good teaching to say “love your neighbor”? But how many are there who find it difficult to chew on that strong meat which says “but also love your enemy”? It is one thing to affirm the Christmas carol that Christ came to bring peace on earth; it is another thing to affirm the Easter truth that no one comes to the Father except through the Son. We should not expect that all truth is widely accepted, or judge whether something is true by the false token of its popularity. Truth is not a democracy, and the road to life is narrow and few find it. This teaching here of Jesus was difficult even for the disciples to understand, mainly, it...

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