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Biding Your Time (Part 1)

In the mid-1960s, a rock band called The Byrds recorded a hit song with lyrics straight out of the Bible. The song was called Turn, Turn, Turn.

“To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose under heaven.”

The rest of the song essentially quoted Ecclesiastes 3:2-8, which says,
2  a time to be born, and a time to die;
       a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
3    a time to kill, and a time to heal;
       a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4    a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
       a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5    a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
       a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6    a time to seek, and a time to lose;
       a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
7    a time to tear, and a time to sew;
       a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8    a time to love, and a time to hate;
       a time for war, and a time for peace.

It’s a profound message about the relentless place that time holds in our lives. The clock is always running. Deadlines are always approaching. Time doesn’t standstill. In fact, as I write this in mid-August, it seems incredible to think that summer is nearly over. It seemed to fly by.

But, there’s another aspect of time that these verses are communicating. They’re pointing us back to the one who is King over our time.

Ecclesiastes talks a lot about life “under heaven,” or “under the sun.” That phrase is meant to sum up how life looks for most people whose worldview leaves little room for a transcendent and all-powerful God. In other words, they are simply living under the sun, for the here and now. They are aware that death is looming at some point in the future, but they’ve not spent much time thinking about eternity, or what might lie above the heavens.

With that kind of outlook, time is an even more valuable commodity. We only have so much of it. All of our wealth and accomplishments cannot buy more time. We can’t postpone the inevitability of death. And, if this is all there is, then time must be seized and used.

The point of this extended poem about times and seasons in Ecclesiastes 3 is that all of these things – birth, death, suffering, joy, and so on – have appointed times. The writer of Ecclesiastes believed that God rules over time. As David wrote in Psalm 31:14-15, “…I trust you, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hand…”

David, like his father Solomon, who was likely the human writer behind Ecclesiastes, was convinced that God ruled over his life… over his time. And David responded by trusting in God’s rule.

Resting in God’s dominion over my time is one way to handle this truth that God is a sovereign ruler and is master over our time. There are other ways to respond. Some rebel against God and fight to be the captains of their own purposes and plans, determined to not submit to the rule of a sovereign God. And still others, respond to God’s rule with a sense of fatalism; sure, I believe God is in control, so what I do and think really doesn’t matter.

That sense of fatalism comes through in the verse that immediately follows the poem about time. Ecclesiastes 3:9 asks, “What gain has the worker from his toil?” In other words, if life is really only about what we see here on earth (“under heaven” to use the words of Ecclesiastes), then stuff like work feels almost pointless. I work hard to build things that are meaningful and to accomplish goals. I strive to succeed at my job, but why? One day I’ll die and leave everything behind. And then others will come along and pick up that same cycle. So, what’s the point?

Well, there’s an answer. We need to read on in Ecclesiastes 3:

10 I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. --Ecclesiastes 3:10-11a

There it is: God is the giver of work. God provides meaningful labor for us to do, and we should receive work as a gift from Him. We should also know and believe that God is the one who brings blessing through our work. He gives it meaning. When verse 11 says, “He has made everything beautiful in its time,” it means that God makes it to be excellent, or appropriate, or useful. In other words, God gives purpose and benefit to the work of our hands.It’s been estimated that the average person spends almost 1/3 of their life at a job. That’s a big chunk of our lives. And God’s design is that we not do so aimlessly, as if just biding our time, wondering why it even matters. Believers in Jesus Christ are called to be faithful stewards of our talents, our material good, and our time.

God is the great king over our lives, but He is also the one who brings beauty and purpose and meaning to bear as we strive to be faithful servants who receive work as a gift of His grace, and who serve as those who are following our loving Savior, Jesus Christ. And, with that in mind, we are called to be grateful; to give thanks to the God who appoints times and seasons and who gives work for our hands. That the eternal and perfect God of heaven would redeem the time of frail human beings is cause for great rejoicing!

Ecclesiastes has much more to teach us about how we view time. And we’ll look at it in our next blogpost.

in Life

4 Non-Negotiable Marks of a True Disciple of Jesus (Part 2)

In John 8:31-59, Jesus provides us with 4 non-negotiable marks of a true disciple of Jesus. In the last post we engaged with the first 2 and in this one we’ll look at the final 2 marks. Let me say again that these are things that should mark the life of every true believer. While our standing before God is always based on faith, not works; a true, living faith should produce certain fruit (like these marks), and when we come to passages like John 8:31-59, it is good to take the time to do some honest, self-examination to ensure we are walking worthy of the faith to which we’ve been called (Eph 4:1). With that, let’s look at the last 2 marks a true disciple of Jesus found in John 8:31-59.

3. A true disciple of Jesus sees Jesus as eternally God

The third non-negotiable mark of a true disciple of Jesus that we get from this text is: a true disciple of Jesus sees Jesus as eternally God.

The key text for this mark is found in verse 58, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”

This isn’t true of the Pharisees mentioned in this passage.Remember, the most important question they asked, (“Who do you make yourself out to be?”) revealed that they didn’t know who Jesus really was. At one point they thought he was a demon possessed Samaritan, but in the end, they thought he was a blasphemer.

We read in verse 24,“unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.”Eternity hinges on who we believe Jesus to be. This was so important to John that his gospel starts with, “In the beginning was the Word…”. So, who do we believe Jesus is?

Is Jesus truly our Lord and Savior that we submit our whole lives to, or is He more like a genie who we expect to grant our wishes every time we rub our bibles? Maybe Jesus is just the guy we go to to make penance to but don’t really enjoy as eternally God and Redeemer. Maybe Jesus is the guy we blame when things aren’t going like we think they should, as if He owes us something and isn’t holding up His end of the deal.

John, again leaning on Jesus, says in 1 John 4:15, “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him, and he in God.”

Listen, if we see Jesus as anything other than eternally God, Jesus would confront us and ask, “are you really my disciple?” A true disciple of Jesus sees Jesus as eternally God and submits to His authority.

4. A true disciple of Jesus remains a disciple of Jesus to the end

The fourth non-negotiable mark of a true disciple of Jesus that we get from this text is: a true disciple of Jesus remains a disciple of Jesus to the end.

The key text for this mark is found in verse 35, “The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever.”

Often, this mark is categorized under the heading of, “perseverance”; that is, all true disciples of Jesus will persevere to the end in saving faith.

John speaks of this truth from Jesus in 1 John 2:19, “They [speaking of those who left the church] went out from us [speaking of those who remained], but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.”

In other words, their lack of perseverance gave evidence that they were never genuine believers to begin with. Why do I say, “they were never genuine believers to begin with”? Because the Bible speaks clearly, “that God who began salvation in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”(Philippians 1:6). Or, Jesus says in John 10:28-29, “I give [my sheep] eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand.”

But this doesn’t mark the Pharisees in this passage either. At the beginning of our passage, they’re articulated as “believers”, but by the end of the passage they don’t believe in Jesus, they want to kill Jesus.

Now, let’s be clear, this is a mark that’s ultimately seen at the end of a life. But Jesus knows what’s in their hearts, so He doesn’t need a life to be lived out, and John’s words are inspired from this very Jesus.

That said, “perseverance” is a mark of a true disciple of Jesus, so if we see ourselves, or our brothers and sisters in Christ, straying away from the faith, we should be concerned; and in love we should pursue our brothers and sisters and care for them with grace and the gospel and call them to walk in the light of repentance.

A true disciple of Jesus remains a disciple of Jesus to the end.

CLOSING

As you’ve read through the last two posts, maybe you are experiencing the Holy Spirit’s work of conviction. Listen, if there is any sin that’s been exposed, I have good news for you, in love Jesus shown light into the darkness and now, in love ,Jesus is calling you to receive and obey his word; Jesus is calling you to love him and to truly see him as Lord and Savior; and Jesus is calling you to come to him and find forgiveness for your sins. If you feel the prick of conviction as you have read through these marks, don’t be discouraged but be encouraged. Feeling God’s conviction is also a mark of a true disciple of Jesus; and so is experiencing the gift of repentance. If you see areas that you need to grow in, rest in, or trust more, do not squash that prompting of the Holy Spirit with a quick “Well, nobody’s perfect”. Spend some time in confession and ask God (persistently) to help you grow in that area. God wants to give more grace for growth.

Lastly, and this is crucial, hear me now, do not look at these marks as a checklist to earn right standing before God. In other words, these marks do not make someone a disciple, these marks give evidence that God has already made a person a disciple…his child. A true disciple of Jesus will display these marks because they have already been united to the perfect disciple of God, Jesus. Jesus perfectly reflected these marks.

  • Jesus perfectly received and obeyed God’s word (I keep His word; John 8:55)
  • Jesus perfectly loved the Father (I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father; John 14:31)
  • Jesus perfectly saw God for who He is (I speak of what I have seen with my Father; John 8:38)
  • Jesus perfectly remained faithful to God to the end (I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do; John 17:4; “It is finished” Jesus cried on the cross)

Ultimately, a true disciple of Jesus is one who by faith is united to Jesus, the perfect disciple of God. But listen, Jesus has been telling us that “talk is cheap”. These marks we have talked about are absolutely non-negotiable marks that give evidence that a person is a true disciple of Jesus…a child of God.

in Life

4 Non-Negotiable Marks of a True Disciple of Jesus (Part 1)

In John 8:31-59, Jesus provides us with 4 non-negotiable marks of a true disciple of Jesus. These are things that should mark the life of every true believer. While our standing before God is always based on faith, not works; a true, living faith should produce certain fruit (like these marks). What's more, when we come to passages like John 8:31-59, it is good to take the time to do some honest, self-examination to ensure we are walking worthy of the faith to which we’ve been called (Eph 4:1). Let’s look at the first two marks in this post and then in the next post we’ll look at the last two.

1.     A true disciple of Jesus receives and obeys His word

The first non-negotiable mark that we get from this text is, a true disciple of Jesus receives and obeys His word. This mark can be summed up with verse 31, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples”. The theme of receiving and obeying Jesus’ word runs throughout this passage.

Throughout the gospels the Pharisees exemplify the very opposite of this. The very first thing that comes out of their mouths isn’t, “Jesus, give us more of your word. We want to know the truth and be set free by it.” Nope. They are offended by Jesus’ word! In fact, they fight against Jesus, “How dare you say we’re not free!” Jesus’ word is abrasive to them. They are not receiving it, and they are not submitting to it.

D.A. Carson well said, “A genuine believer remains in Jesus’ word, his teaching; in other words, such a person obeys it, seeks to understand it better, and finds it more precious, more controlling, precisely when other forces flatly oppose it.” Additionally, a true disciple of Jesus remains faithful to Jesus’ word even when it contradicts our feelings or those things that feel very important to us personally. You and I are called to submit everything, including our feelings and things we hold most dear, to Jesus’ emancipating word. If we believe Jesus is the Sovereign Lord over all, then His word will shape, change, and rule over everything else.

Another way to think about this mark is that a disciple of Jesus is, literally, a student of Jesus. And, a student of Jesus, learns who He is, what He has done for them, and what He is calling them to do by reading and obeying His word (and by the power of the Holy Spirit). As verse 32 says, as His disciples receive and obey His word, they will know truth, that is, they will come to know Him who is the truth (John 14:6) as they remain in His word. What’s more, as they come to know Him who is the truth, they will be transformed by that truth (2 Cor 3:18).

While some have bristled under the authority and transformation necessitated by God’s Word, Pastor Kent Hughes has helpfully said, “Some of us may feel that Jesus’ word is restrictive and a burden and feel like freedom is found in diverging from His word. However, the truth is, when we depart from Jesus’ word, in any way, we’re actually entering into the greatest bondage we could ever know. When we depart from Jesus’ word, we resent and are abrasive to suggestions from family and friends that something might be wrong in our lives. When we’re in bondage, we excel at minimizing our enslavement.” When confronted with a sin, have you ever found yourself saying, “It’s not as bad as you’re making it out to be. I just have a few minor adjustments to make.” or “You’re too much about the rules, Jesus was about grace.” or “Is that really what Jesus meant in that text?” All of those responses attempt to throw off the authority of God’s Word and try to replace it with our own desires that we can “dress-up” to make them sound spiritual. When we downplay obedience to God’s Word, we need to be reminded of Samuel’s rebuke of Saul that “to obey is better than sacrifice” (1 Sam. 15:22).

Many of us profess that we are disciples of Jesus, but we do not receive Jesus’ word and/or we do not obey it (at least the parts we find most difficult). Friends, Jesus says we cannot profess to be a child of God if we are not coming to the table of His word to be fed, and if we are not allowing His word to rule over us.

So, what about you? Are you regularly opening up His word? Do you act like hearing from His word is as necessary as eating or drinking? Jesus’ disciples must have an appetite for His word. Just like when you miss a meal or two and get hunger pains, a true disciple of Jesus gets spiritual hunger pains when they miss a meal of feeding on His word. Is that you?

Similarly, many of us profess we are disciples of Jesus, but flippantly disobey His commands. Friends, Jesus says we cannot claim to be His disciples and make a practice of—a habit of—sinning. We cannot pick and choose which commands we want to obey or have some private sin that we unrepentantly play with.

Maybe, you are obedient to some things Jesus says like, “do not murder” or “do not commit adultery”, but not with other things like lust (which Jesus says is adultery of the heart) or with anger towards others (which Jesus says is murder of the heart). How are you doing with loving your neighbor - like your coworker that you do not care for? How you doing with loving your actual neighbors that might look different than you?

John picks up this charge from Jesus when he says in 1 John 2:6, “Whoever says he abides in Jesus ought to walk in the same way in which He walked.” And then again in 1 John 3:6 when He writes, “No one who abides in Jesus keeps on sinning” and again in 1 John 3:24, “Whoever keeps His commandments abides in God, and God in him.” If we are not receiving and obeying Jesus’ word, Jesus would rightly challenge us and ask, “are you really my disciple?”

Friends, if you’ve felt the prick of conviction here (and let’s be honest, we all should have), there is grace for change, grace to repent, and grace to pursue Christ-likeness. Jesus didn’t save us because we were perfect; He saved us because He loved us and because we couldn’t obey on our own. So we need to be praying for God to graciously give us what we can’t give ourselves - a desire for God’s Word and faithful obedience and to hear and obey His word. God is eager to pour out His abundant grace.

2.     A true disciple of Jesus loves Jesus

The second non-negotiable mark that we get from this text is, a true disciple of Jesus loves Jesus. The key text for this mark is found in verse 42, “If God were your Father, you would love me.”

Once again, this mark does not exemplify the Pharisees in this passage. The very opposite is what marks them. They want to kill Jesus, and in the end, they attempt to do just that. But let’s be clear, the text says, “you seek to kill me, because my word finds no place in you.” Jesus’ word finds no place in them, because, verse 38, “they do what they heard from their father (the Devil)”. Indeed, they do not love Jesus – and even if they said they did – their words and actions that demonstrate their hatred for Jesus and love for the Devil.

As we hear in Mark 12:30, we are to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” A true disciple of Jesus will have a whole-hearted devoted love for Jesus and Jesus alone.

So, what does it look like to love Jesus? John 14:23, Jesus says, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word” Similar to the first mark, ff we love Jesus, we will receive and obey His word! This is not complicated stuff. A disciple of Jesus loves Jesus, and a disciple who loves Jesus, receives and obeys His word.

Here is another way to think about it. Fundamentally, to love Jesus means that, in comparison to Jesus, we love everything else less. Jesus says, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”

So what are some of your loves and joys? What are some of the things that bring you satisfaction? I don’t want you to give me a Sunday School answer. I want you to do an honest assessment of how you live your life. What do you do when you’re stressed out? What’s the first thing you do when you find a moment to yourself? What occupies your dreams and thoughts? Where did Jesus fall on your list?

Loving Jesus means that He is the one we turn to for satisfaction. He is the one we turn to find joy, more than any wordly pleasure. It looks like finding enjoyment and peace binging on Jesus’ word, rather than binging on Netflix. It looks like wanting the approval of Jesus more than wanting the approval of man.

Listen, if Jesus is not our first love, our primary satisfaction in life, Jesus would confront us and ask, “are you really my disciple?”

The world is excellent at distracting us and enticing us to pursue other loves. But once again, there is grace for change here. Through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, God wants to empower us to put to death these lesser loves and turn to and worship Jesus.

True Disciples Are United to Jesus

A few closing thoughts. First, although these marks won’t always look perfect, they will ultimately mark all true disciples of Jesus. And if you’ve become discouraged by seeing how far short you fall, be encouraged. Conviction is a sign (and gift) that you belong to your Heavenly Father. And He is calling you to change and offers the only path to true change. The first step is realizing that you can’t do this on your own. You need God’s help. And when you’re at that place, you can cry out to Him in prayer, you can hungrily read His Word, you can step out in faithful obedience – not because of how good you are – but because of how good Jesus is and because of what Jesus has already done for you.

A true disciple of Jesus will display these marks, in an ever-growing way, because they’ve already been united to the perfect disciple of God, Jesus. Jesus perfectly reflected these marks.

  • Jesus perfectly received and obeyed God’s word (I keep His word; John 8:55)
  • Jesus perfectly loved the Father (I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father; John 14:31)

Ultimately, a true disciple of Jesus is one who by faith is united to Jesus, the perfect disciple of God. And if you believe in Him, God is slowly transforming you into closer and closer likeness to Jesus. We’ll check out the last two non-negotiable marks of a true disciple of Jesus in our next post.

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