A Father’s Faith
June 20th, 2021

A Father’s Faith; John 4:46-54:

Most of the crowd would not receive His witness that He was the Messiah.  Instead of believing, they just followed Jesus around for the spectacle of the signs and wonders they’d seen Him do at the Passover feast in Jerusalem, hoping that they would see Him perform more miracles in Galilee.  It was the prosperity gospel of their day—they were in it for what Jesus could do for them, and had no interest in His ability to transform their lives.  But there were a few exceptions in Galilee to this general pattern of unbelief.  We’re going to talk about the healing of the royal official’s son in John 4:46-54, and we’ll look at in in the context of the faith of this Father who chose to believe that Jesus could heal his son, despite the unbelief of those around him.  And we’ll look at the open heart of this father who gained not only healing for his son, but a new life in Christ. 

46 Therefore He came again to Cana of Galilee, where He had made the water into wine. And there was a royal official whose son was sick at Capernaum.

Jesus returns to this place of the beginning of His miracles, and we notice a certain parallel between the two miracles at Cana.  Both start with a statement of need.  In both cases, there is a censure or light rebuke from Jesus regarding a lack of understanding of God’s timing and purposes.  But then Jesus meets the need at hand.  And His meeting the need fosters belief (John 2:11)John recorded signs in his Gospel, so that we might believe the Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God (John 20:30-31).  We don’t know what kind of royal official he was, but he was likely in the service of Herod Antipas, the tetrarch in charge of Galilee.

47 When he heard that Jesus had come from Judea into Galilee, he went to Him and began asking Him to come down and heal his son; for he was at the point of death.

The father’s first step of faith: in order to seek Jesus out, he had to first go away from his sick son.  We know the kind of faith that this royal official has at this point.  It is miracle-seeking faith borne out of desperation so strong that He leaves his sick child to find Jesus. This is where a lot of people’s journey of faith begins.  No, the royal official’s faith in Him pleased Jesus.  The unbelief of the crowd did not!

48 Then Jesus said to him, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you simply will not believe.”

The royal official’s faith may have only been a miracle-seeking kind of faith, but it was faith in Jesus Himself, and that’s what counts.  The crowds around him were only looking for signs and wonders, for thrills.  People think that if they see  miracles and wonders that this will suddenly cause them to believe.  That’s not usually how it works (see Luke 16:31).  Jesus finds a way to do the Will of the Father by refusing to give in to the crowd’s demand for a sign, while nurturing the faith developing in this Father who is worried for his son.

49 The royal official *said to Him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.”

You know, some people have a kind of head-knowledge faith or an academic faith.  They believe that miracles are possible in theory, but they have a hard time believing that God will provide in this way for them.  They Pray and worship in kind of a wrote manner, without much engagement from their heart.  This also is an insufficient faith.  Jesus remains on the fringes and periphery of their life.  If the royal official had this kind of faith, we would find him praying at home in a half-hearted, doubtful way—he would have never made the journey to go find Jesus.  But, in this man we find a picture of faith, and of fatherhood.  Even when there are obstacles like distance or the need for persistence, He is steadfast.  Even when the answer to prayer isn’t evident right away, he keeps on asking (See Luke 18:1-8).  God is willing, but we so often give up quickly, or refuse to allow God to mold our petition into something more in line with His will.  He had a sincere, steadfast faith.  And God had mercy on him, and gave him faith to turn to the One who could help him with his biggest need.  He has faith in the right Person, in Jesus.  God has given him the faith to understand that Jesus is his Lord.  He asks in Jesus’ name saying basically “I just want my son who is near death to get well, and I know that you can help me”. 

50 Jesus *said to him, “Go; your son is alive.”

In the ancient world, even among the Jews, miracles and signs and wonders are linked to the physical presence of the person performing the miracle, but as in the case of Naaman the Leper, God seeks to show that distance isn’t a factor that He has to concern Himself with.  And this is important for us, because it means that our prayers are not affected by distance—we can pray for people on the other side of the world and expect that our prayers will be heard, and be effectual.  So this crowd, who was so interested in seeing a miracle did not get to see the miracle that occurred.  But the man did get exactly what he needed to build his faith.  Belief comes first, then the miracle.  Believing is seeing, not seeing is believing.

The word go is imperative, so it is a command by his Lord Jesus to Go.  But to go with a promise of life for his son. The man’s faith allows him to put aside his preconceptions about how God works in these kind of situations in order for God to do what HE knows is best.    We are not the ones in charge, God is.  He thinks that if he leaves, he would leave behind his one chance for help.  But Jesus demanded that his faith be not blindly desperate, but rooted enough in the person of Jesus Himself to trust His Word, and believe in Him.  Wonders may produce awe, but the Word produces faith. As Hebrews 1:11 reminds us, faith is being sure, even when we don’t yet see the God’s promised outcome as reality in our lives, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (11:1).  

The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went home.

The saving kind of faith is the kind that puts our lives and the lives of our loved ones into the hands of Jesus, knowing that we can trust Him.  And this is the same kind of faith that gets us through the disasters of life, the disappointments of life, the tragedies and sorrows.  It sustains us, and is the kind of faith that holds no matter what. 

51 And as he was now going down, his slaves met him, saying that his son was alive.

They could have waited for him to arrive home, but they climbed up toward Cana to be able to deliver the news to him as soon as possible.  

52 So he inquired of them the hour when he began to get better. Then they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.”

Of course this only served to strengthen his faith, because that’s the time when Jesus had performed the miracle from about 16.5 miles away. 

53 So the father knew that it was at that hour in which Jesus said to him, “Your son is alive”; and he himself believed, and his entire household.

The time confirmation meant that this father and royal official now “realized” or knew that the healing was directly attributable to Jesus.  It is one thing to believe that Jesus answers my desperate prayers or helps me in emergencies, it is a completely different level of revelation to understand that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, the author of life, worthy for me to follow and obey in every way.  It is in this moment of realization that this royal official becomes a follower of Jesus, not just a miracle seeker or desperate father. He became a believer in Jesus as Lord.  And not only that, his new found relationship to Jesus was contagious—his entire family followed in his belief.  His belief produced immediate fruit and proof of his conversion. When those who know us best are so impressed by our testimony and the transformation of our lives that they want to follow Jesus too, then something very significant has happened (see Acts 10:2, 11:14, 16:15 and 31 and 18:8).  The deeper, the more genuine, the more sincere and personal our faith, the more likely it will rub off on those around us.

Walk in Truth, Walk with God-Matt. 5:33-37
June 13th, 2021

33 “Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not make false vows, but shall fulfill your vows to the Lord.’ 34 But I say to you, take no oath at all, neither by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 nor by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 Nor shall you take an oath by your head, for you cannot make a single hair white or black. 37 But make sure your statement is, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil origin.

Jesus begins with the word again to let us know that this is another example of the way that the Pharisees who had been teaching Israel had been departing from God’s original intent in applying the Law to their lives.   

So, why is truth so emphasized?

Truth is Fundamental to Relationships

There is a reason why God gave the Ninth of the Ten Commandments is “You shall not give false witness against your neighbor.” And this commandment means not only that we are to not lie in court, or not lie when we take an oath, but not to lie, period.  God gave only 10 commandments on those tablets, so He prioritized those which are fundamental to making a relationship with him, relationship with each other, and civilization work.  Society cannot withstand a complete contempt for the truth.  If people testify falsely in a courtroom, there can be no justice.  And without even a hope of justice, there can be no civilization.  Bearing false witness to a crime by accusing an innocent person of a criminal act causes great harm to the accused.  God takes false legal testimony so seriously that He calls for those who bear false witness to receive the punishment that would fall on the innocent person if the guiltless individual is convicted (Deut. 19:18-19).   There are many important values in society, but if we do not practice truth, we will find that we cannot express God’s Goodness and Righteousness and Holiness in our relationships in any way that makes sense.  Relationships are what Jesus is concerned with in this section of the Sermon on the Mount, so truth is very important.  Evils in a society arise and spread because of a disregard for the truth.  Whether we’re talking about slavery, Nazism or Communism, all of them continually denied fundamental truth, as revealed by God.

So, Jesus is exposing the Pharisees’ dealing falsely with people and using made-up legal loopholes to justify their actions.  Probably the best example is Jesus’ words to them in Mathew 23:16-22.  He calls them blind guides and fools, Jesus equates their lack of commitment to the truth with being spiritually blind, and failing to walk in God’s Way.  They were setting up a system whereby they could swear by God’s Temple, with the full intention of breaking their oath without any consequences, according to them.  But, they failed to see that God was holding them responsible for fulfilling these oaths, and He was not bound by their deceitful interpretation of the law.  They were demonstrating their complete contempt for God, and were trying to drag God in by lying and deceiving in His name. The Pharisees were saying that the material things were what held the power for them to keep their oaths, and saying that the spiritual things—the sacred, the consecrated altar of God’s Temple, and even God Himself, lacked power to hold them to their oaths.  And this is exactly why Jesus uses the examples in Mathew 5:34-36 when He says that we should take no oath at all, neither by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 nor by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, nor by Jerusalem, for it is THE CITY OF THE GREAT KING. 36 Nor shall you take an oath by your head, for you cannot make a single hair white or black.  Notice that every Example that Jesus uses upholds that everything that we might swear on is already in God’s power.  Circumstances that may cause us to break our oaths are often beyond our complete control.  Swearing in this way betrays a certain presumptuousness and arrogance (James 4:13-15).

 Walking in Truth is Walking with God-So, why do Jesus and James give this such a priority in their teaching?  Well, apart from it’s importance to our relationships with each other, a complete commitment to the truth and to honesty is necessary in our relationship with God.  Isaiah calls the Lord “the God of truth” in Isaiah 65:16.  Jesus says He is the truth in John 14:6.  And Jesus calls the Holy Spirit the Spirit of truth in John 16:13.  So, we see that the triune God that we worship calls Himself the God of truth, and the source of all truth (1st John 1:5).  If everyone can choose what ethics or beliefs he or she prefers to follow, then we are following the example of Israel in the book of Judges: 25 In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.  And this was one of the darkest times in Israel’s history in their relationship with God.  We cannot serve a Savior who says  “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6) and seek to cling to the moral relativism that we find in our culture. 

Doctrinal truth–Truth is clearly laid out in the Bible, and any departure from this truth will ultimately lead to destruction, which is why God gave us this truth to begin with.  God’s Word is truth (John 17:17). It is reliable and never changes. It is crucial to not believe everything we hear, but to test whether a doctrine or teaching is in line with Scripture (1 John 4:1-3). We should not be “tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Ephesians 4:14), but stand firm in the truth (2 Timothy 3:14-15; 2 Thessalonians 2:15; 2 Peter 1:12).

Moral truth-Truth is about applying God’s truth to our lives (James 1:22) us: 22 But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not just hearers who deceive themselves. Allow God into those places in your heart where you feel justified in sinning, and let Him change your heart.  Since God is utterly trustworthy, we also should be as His children: All the words of my mouth are in righteousness; There is nothing crooked or perverted in them. (Proverbs 8:8).  We must not bend the truth to our own advantage, or bear false witness against others (Proverbs 6:16-19. In the New Testament, in Colossians 3:9-10, Paul is urges us as born-again believers to walk in the New Life that we have been given and put away that old practice of lying saying:  9 Do not lie to one another, since you stripped off the old self with its evil practices, 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created it—.  In other words, the Holy Spirit continually renews our mind to understand truth, so we must speak the truth, and practice the truth, so that we become more like Jesus, who is Faithful and True. 

In the sermon on the mount, Jesus is teaching us to live as Citizens of Heaven, as His disciples.  And when David describes a Citizen of Heaven in Psalm 15, we read in verses 1-4 Lord, who may reside in Your tent?  Who may settle on Your holy hill?  2 One who walks with integrity, practices righteousness, And speaks truth in his heart. 3 He does not slander with his tongue, Nor do evil to his neighbor, Nor bring shame on his friend; 4 A despicable person is despised in his eyes, But he honors those who fear the Lord; He takes an oath to his own detriment, and does not change;

Speaking the truth is sometimes hard.  It may cause us to suffer loss as David says, or suffer pain, or harm our reputation or career or relationships, but it should still be spoken.  There are occasions on which we should lovingly speak the truth even when others don’t appreciate it or don’t want to hear it.  In 2 Corinthians 7:8-9 about His words in 1st Corinthians.  8 For though I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it—for I see that that letter caused you sorrow, though only for a while— 9 I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us.  Paul, like Jesus was correcting people so that they would repent and get closer to God.  We must live our lives in conformity with God’s revealed truth. We must stand firm in the truth of God’s Word, teach the truth plainly, and receive it into our lives in such a way that it transforms us.

Marriage Ordained from the Beginning and Fulfilled in Christ
June 6th, 2021

31 “Now it was said, ‘Whoever sends his wife away is to give her a certificate of divorce’; 32 but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

Jesus _________________ the destructive nature of sin, and what failure to cut it off can mean in terms of damage to our ___________________ by talking about divorce.  It helps us to understand first what the Law _______________ said, then to understand what the Pharisees were _____________ so we can put Jesus’ words in context. 

Deuteronomy 24:1-5–The first thing that we have to notice is that God looks at _______________ as between one husband and one wife.  It’s purpose is for them to go and build a life ________________ and raise a _____________; _______________ together in relationship & honoring God and each other. 

Malachi 2:13-14-God looks at the breaking of the covenant with a wife by dealing falsely with her as a break in the _______________ with Him, summarizing His feelings in v.16 saying I hate divorce. 

God’s Law in Deuteronomy were directed at a people who already had about 550 years of cultural development as a tribally-based society.  They were already _______________, and the way that they’d set it up was that men could divorce their wives, but not visa versa.  They looked at marriage largely as a _______________ arrangement.  God could have included the commandment “thou shall not divorce”, but He didn’t.  Why?  Probably because the Hebrews wouldn’t have ________________ it, and in a fallen world there are some _________________ when God would permit divorce.  But, look at God’s attitude throughout the Bible.  It is always to _____________ divorce and to urge people to ___________ in their marriage.  in Deuteronomy 24:1 there is no commandment from God to divorce, and no condoning, there is only the ________________ to a very special set of circumstances.

The problem was that men were _______________ after other women and coveting all the stuff that a new marriage to a richer or more beautiful or more socially upwardly mobile woman could bring them.  So they were finding _________________ and trumped up charges against them so that they could divorce their wives and do what they wanted.  It was extremely unfair to the wives, and was causing much _________________ for them and their children, as indeed divorce still causes today. 

Notice the two conditions that God has put on divorce in Deuteronomy.  First, the wife must have done something _______________.  It’s clear from Jesus’ words later that God was saying “sexual immorality” here.  Marriage was a ___________ relationship.  That means that in order to prove indecency in the wife, it had to be witnessed by at least _________people.  Without an admission of guilt, in front of two witnesses, or a pregnancy that could not have been by the husband, it was going to be nearly __________________ for a husband to prove.  And the husband has to be willing to put her at risk of ____________by bringing in witnesses and establishing it legally, since the legal penalty for adultery was death. Second, the woman not only had to be guilty of indecency, but it had to be such that “she no longer found favor in his sight”.  He has to make the _____________ of whether he’s able to forgive, or whether it is worth murder of the marriage, and potentially _________________ his wife’s life.  It’s no wonder that Jesus ties these two __________________ of anger leading to murder and lust leading to divorce together.  It’s as if God is saying, if the person is able to forgive, let them forgive, but if the person is ________________ to kill the other person over it, it’s better that they divorce.  Divorce was ____________________ to be difficult, to encourage couples to stay together.  And, of course, in Christian households, it should never come to something like this in the first place.  If we’re supposed to be seeking God ________________ within our marriage.  1 Peter 3 gives us a picture of what this looks like 8 To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, loving, compassionate, and humble; 9 not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you would inherit a blessing. 

Both Jesus and Moses mention a certificate of divorce, or a bill of divorcement.  The common term for divorce was shilluach ‘ishah “the sending away of a wife”.  And the less scrupulous among the Hebrews were using this to treat women _____________, and ignore their obligation to their children. 

Mathew 19:3-9- 3 Some Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?”  Of course, the more _____________ view was that divorce could be granted for the flimsiest of reasons.  But Jesus does what He always does, and brings this back to God’s _________________ intent.  He says in Mathew 19:4 4 And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female,  Eve was made for Adam as a companion like him, fit for him, and this is the marriage _______________ ordained by God; marriage between one man and one woman, in a _____________ and ________________ relationship for life.   Notice, here also the key aspects of marriage.  _____________their family, ______________ to their relationship with each other and to God only, and the two becoming one flesh. 

God tells us as believers only to marry another _______________.  2 Cor 6:14 says Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? In other words, this is the __________________ criterion for who you should marry, as a believer.  And the second problem with the Pharisees doctrine is that they were teaching that God ____________________ divorce in the circumstances in which they said He allowed it.  But nowhere do we read this.  Mathew 19:7 7 They *said to Him, “Why, then, did Moses command to give her a certificate of divorce and send her away?” They were looking at this as a commandment, when Moses had allowed it as a ____________________ to the fact that they wouldn’t follow the command “thou shalt not divorce”.  And so, Jesus clarifies this for them saying in verse 8: 8 He *said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way.

And then, in verse 9, He clarifies God’s point of view in terms of even what He allows  9 And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”  and in Mathew 5:32 32 but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.  So, putting these verses together we find that a marriage may be legally dissolved by the courts, but the biblical relationship is still regarded as more ____________________.  And so, divorce is a bad situation all-around.  Much of the time one, or both of the divorced couple are going to end up committing adultery, from a biblical perspective.  And the _____________________ of divorce are born by the man, woman and children.  God requires that we ________________, and turn from our ways and obey Him.  He requires that we __________________, and make things as right as they can be.  And He requires that we ____________ from our mistakes, and not _____________ them.  If you’re married, _____________ your mate that God has given you.

Regard, uphold and defend marriage as the basic God-ordained institution of our society, and the basis of our __________________ in families.  Marriage and family relationships are fundamental to our ______________________ of our relationship with God, and our relationships with each other. Marriage matters to God.  The marriage relationship that was initiated in Genesis 1, is concluded with the marriage supper of the lamb in Revelation 19:7. 7 Let’s rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, because the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His bride has prepared herself.” 8 It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.  We are the church, the Bride of Christ, and He has loved us enough to give Himself for us. So we have to honor the marriage relationship, and point to _______________ to biblical marriage as a picture of fidelity to God.  Making sure that we honor, uphold and defend the biblical concept of marriage, until the type is fulfilled, and He gathers His ______________together for the Marriage supper of the lamb, and we can rejoice and be glad with Him together will all of the saints over the last 2,000 years.