Sunday, March 13, 2016
"You Are Like Your Father" Sermon: John 8:39-47
“You Are Like Your Father”
March 6, 2016 Second Reformed Church
Who is your spiritual father?
Not, who is your biological father? Not, what minister do you like the best? Not, what theologian do you most agree with? Not, what person do you most try to be like?
Rather, which of the two spiritual fathers of all of humanity is your spiritual father? Which one of these beings are you most like?
Does your life and words and actions reflect that you are the child of the devil? Or do they reflect that you are the child of God?
And let’s dismiss an Americanism right away: it is often said that we believe in the brotherhood of man and the fatherhood of God. We do not – Christians do not. We believe that god is the Creator of every single human being, but God is not the Father of every human being. No, God is only the Father of those who have been reconciled with Him through the Word of His Son, Jesus, and the work of the Holy Spirit in transforming those who believe in Jesus salvifically.
As Paul explained: “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Romans 8:14-15, ESV).
God is the Father of all those who believe savingly in Jesus and His Gospel; God is not the Father of all of humanity.
Last week, we saw Jesus explain that there is a difference between being a slave and being a son. Jesus was speaking to a group of people who had believed in Him – a mixed group – some who believed savingly, and some who believed something about Him, but did not believe with their hearts.
Slaves to sin are spiritually dead people who pursue sin and deny the Truth of Jesus to the point to wanting to kill it – if not Him – and then anyone and anything that stands for Him and His Truth. Yet, they do not realize they are spiritually dead.
Sons are all those who have been freed from spiritual slavery by Jesus. They believe in Jesus savingly – with their hearts as well as their minds, and seek to obey Him. They have been adopted into the family of God by God.
Slaves cannot call God, “Father,” the devil is their father. Sons (and daughters) call God, “Father,” because God has adopted them as His children.
The Jews who did not believe savingly understood enough to argue back that they were not slaves:
“They answered him, ‘Abraham is our father.’”
They may have thought back to the heritage that God promised to the descendants of Abraham:
“Now the LORD said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’
“So Abram went, as the LORD had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran” (Genesis 12:1-4, ESV).
The text says that the descendants of Abraham would be blessed and would bless every family and people of the earth. But, are the descendants of Abraham simply the biological descendants of Abraham?
Abraham would be the biological father of Isaac, and Isaac of Jacob, who was called Israel, and Paul explained that this is not simply a matter of biology:
“But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but ‘Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.’ This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring” (Romans 9:6-8, ESV).
In other words, your biology does not guarantee that you are a son of Abraham or a son of God.
At this point, Jesus explained the difference between the sons of the devil and the sons of Abraham.
First, Jesus explained that the spiritual children of Abraham do the works of Abraham.
“Jesus said to them, ‘If you were Abraham's children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. You are doing the works your father did’”
Abraham’s spiritual children would do the works Abraham did. What were they?
As we just heard a moment ago, God came to Abraham, promised to bless his descendants and curse his enemies, and God told Abraham all the families of the world would be blessed through him, and he was to go to another land.
What did Abraham do?
Abraham recognized the Word of God. He was a believer in the Word of God and versed in the Word of God, so when God spoke to him, he could recognize it and know that it was really God speaking to him.
Do we recognize the Word of God? God is not in the habit of speaking audibly any more, but He has given us His Word. If we were to hear a selection of quotes from the Word of God and from the debates of both parties, would we be able to recognize which is the Word of God?
The only way we will recognize the Word of God is if we regularly spend time in the Word of God. In order to know what is from God and what is from someone else – even the devil – we need to know the Word of God – we need to be reading the Word of God.
Abraham also obeyed the Word of God. Abraham recognized that God had spoken to him – he received and believed it – and he obeyed. The fruit of his belief was that he obeyed. He went forth with the mission to be the blessing to the peoples of the world, and he left everything he knew and went where God sent him.
Are we so quick to obey the Word of God? If God tells us that we are to do this or to not do that, is our response, “yes, Lord,” or do we seek a way out of obeying? Surely, one outgrowth of the blessing of all peoples is to be found in the command to love our neighbor as ourselves. Do we really the seek the best – always – for our neighbors? Do we always do everything we can to make their lives better – especially with regards to their hearing the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
Jesus told these Jews that they were not the sons of Abraham – they had not received the Word of God – they had not done what God had told them to do. In fact, Jesus came preaching the Word of God – the Truth of God – the Truth that God told Him to speak – and their response was not Abraham’s response to such things – no, they sought to kill Him. The true spiritual descendants of Abraham would not seek to kill the One Who brought the Truth of the Word of God to them, but the children of the devil would.
The children of the devil deny the Word of God and twist the Word of God and dilute the Word of God – they do everything but acknowledge that it is the divine Word of God – infallible, inerrant, and everything we need to know about how to live and how to be right with God.
They say it’s wrong, it’s cultural, it one of many ways, it’s part of the truth, but they will not say, “Amen, I am your humble servant, and I will obey.”
These Jews respond in a way similar to some of the presidential candidates have spoken recently:
“They said to him, ‘We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father—even God.’”
What were they saying?
“Yeah, well, we know who our biological father and mother are. We are not illegitimate. But You – everyone knows that Joseph is not Your real father. Who knows who Your real father is, You ‘illegitimate one’ [insert the “b-word” here].”
They result to the lowest and childish accusations: “Yeah, well, You were born out of wed-lock. Joseph is not Your biological father. You know what that makes You.”
And then to cap the irony, they say that God was their Father – God was their spiritual Father. They said that they were legitimate heirs and obedient followers of God, their Father
Second, Jesus told them only those who love Him – in a saving way – have God as their Father.
“Jesus said to them, ‘If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. ‘”
If God was their Father, they would love the Word of God, they would love the Truth of god, they would love Jesus, the Son of God, because He came from God and was now in their presence. Jesus was with God, and is God, and was sent by God to do the will of God the Father as the Incarnate Son. How could they say that God was their Father, when they hated God Who was there in the flesh, speaking the Word of God to them?
That’s similar to saying that you like pizza, but you hate bread, tomato sauce, and cheese. (Of course, the Trinity is a singular Being, and we can’t perfectly compare Them with anything else, but, the Father is God and the Son is God, so, if you hate the Son, you hate God! If you say you like pizza, but hate what makes a pizza a pizza, you hate pizza!)
The god that they believed was their father was not God, the Father of Jesus, the Son of God. They hated Jesus, so the god they considered their father was someone else – in fact, he is the devil.
If God was their Father, they would have believed the Word of God that was brought by Jesus and Who is Jesus – they would have understood that Jesus is the Way of Salvation that God promised to provide. But they didn’t understand – and the reason they couldn’t understand is that they couldn’t bear His Word.
It was as though whenever Jesus spoke the Word of God, they covered their ears and cried out, “Stop saying such things!” The Truth of God the Father was not what they believed. It was not what they wanted to be true. So they refused to receive it.
What this exposed was their father was the devil. And we only have two options: we are either slaves of the devil – his children, or we are children of God the Father. Now, remember, we have said before, we don’t know anyone’s heart or what God might do in a person, so we do not have the right to condemn someone as a child of the devil – someone may come to faith up until the last moment of life.
But Jesus, being God, could judge them to be children of the devil, and He explained why it was obvious that their father was the devil and not God:
They followed the devil in two major desires:
They wanted to kill Jesus, and their father, the devil, is a murderer from the beginning.
We see this as the devil came to Cain to incite him to kill his brother, Abel, because God accepted Abel’s sacrifice and did not accept Cain’s. We read:
“The LORD said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it’” (Genesis 4:6-7, ESV).
God told Cain he had no excuse for being upset that God rejected his offering, and if Cain continued down the path he was going, sin and its consequences – even the rejection of God to be a son of the devil – was set before him. And we know what happened: Cain killed Abel, God cursed Cain and sent him away, and Cain followed after the devil.
People who persist in denying the Truth of God will seek to kill anyone who proclaims the Truth – look at the persecutions in the New Testament. Look at the history of the Church. We live in an unusual place in the United States. The Church is enduring tribulation unlike any that has ever been known before Jesus which will not end until He returns.
Jesus told His disciples, “I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away. They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me. But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you” (John 16:1-4a, ESV).
Jesus said not to be surprised if someone kills you for believing in Him. If no one wants to kill you for believing in Jesus, why not? Are we truly believers? We are not called to be annoying for Christ, but we are called to tell others the Gospel as part of our love of neighbor. Do we tell other people about the Gospel? In whatever way God has gifted us, let us tell others – before we’re murdered.
Also, we see that they lived a life of lies – they said the word of the devil was the Word of God. But, that was only natural for the children of the devil, because the devil is a liar from the beginning. Do we remember?
“Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made.
“He said to the woman, ‘Did God actually say, “You shall not eat of any tree in the garden”?’ And the woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, “You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.”’ But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths” (Genesis 3:1-7, ESV).
Satan twisted God’s Word before Adam and Eve, and then when they took the bait, he told them that God was a liar and reeled them in. The devil is the father of lies.
“God wouldn’t want you to be uncomfortable. God wouldn’t want you to suffer. God wouldn’t want you to be poor.”
The devil is a liar – and it is the devil as the father of lies that we in American have found more enticing that going out with the Gospel to suffer. We eat up these TV – and other – preachers that tell us that God wants us to have our best life now. No! God sent His Son so we would have our best life with Him in His Kingdom. In this world, we are walking through a veil of tears, struggling against the temptation to sin, struggling to turn against our sin nature and follow after the new desire that God has put in our hearts to take the way of escape and follow our God and Father.
Jesus told them that the reason they don’t believe Him – the reason that they are children of the devil – is that Jesus is speaking the truth, and they hate the truth, and, therefore, they hate God.
Jesus ends this section with these words: “Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”
Jesus drew a line in the sand and asked them what sin He committed. What in everything He had said and done contradicted the Law of God? If they hated Him with reason, what was the reason? How had He sinned against God in what He has said and done?
So, we see that Jesus draws a distinction among all people in this morning’s text:
Anyone who hates God’s Word and the Gospel of Jesus Christ – anyone who says it is not true – such in a child of the devil.
Those who confess Jesus as Lord and Savior, who believe the Gospel and the Word of God and strive to do all that God has commanded – such is a child of God.
Which are you?
Let us pray:
God of all truth, our Father, all we who believe in Jesus for salvation, thank You for bringing us to faith and for making the Way for us to be reconciled to You, Stir up the Spirit within us. Cause the fire of the Spirit to burn hot in us that we have to tell us the Gospel that You sent into the world through Your Son, our Savior. Keep us from being able to let an opportunity to tell someone the Gospel to pass. Grow us in You, transform us into the Image of Your Son, and be pleased to show Yourself God in this church and throughout Creation. For it is in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.