Thursday, August 13, 2015

“No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the Last Day.  It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall be taught by God’.  Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me.”  John 6:44-45 NKJV

As difficult as yesterday’s passage about Jesus’ flesh and blood as “real food and drink” was for Jesus’ contemporaries, it is probably at least as difficult for us today to read in Jesus’ own words that in order to believe in Him, one must be summoned first by the Father.  For generations we’ve been taught that we must come to Jesus in order to have eternal life, that the decision is ours alone.  So why the twist?

For those of Jesus’ day, there were things to see with one’s own eyes.  Jesus healing, Jesus feeding, Jesus teaching with the kind of authority lacking of the religious teachers.  Not to say Jesus didn’t have His own detractors, of course, because He was often accused of doing such things in the name of Satan.  Yet there were some things physically seen that would have been impossible to explain and equally impossible to deny.

We do not have Jesus standing in front of us today.  We do not witness a basket of a few loaves of bread and some fish to feed multitudes.  And because we cannot see it with our eyes, it is much more difficult to believe.  For some it is impossible.  Funny, though, that we eagerly believe bad gossip about people we don’t like even though we do not actually see things with our own eyes, isn’t it?  Yet to believe in the Gospel of The Lord, there apparently must be an Invitation first – and not just from a preacher on Sunday.  The Invitation must come from Above.

First we must not confuse “belief” with “faith”.  We can “believe” almost anything (like gossip) even if we have no first-hand experience, but that belief does not become a part of who we are.  There is no real “trust” in what we choose to believe – and the gossip has nothing to do with The Lord or the Gospel.  That is destructive behavior we choose to become a part of, destructive behavior that will ultimately destroy us.

But when “faith” becomes a part of who we are, there begins a transformation.  We not only “believe” something to be real, we learn to fully “trust” in all that comes with it.  We are willing to take the Word seriously, believe it, and obey it without question whether we understand it or not.  We begin to take The Lord at His Word.  All this requires something more than even a credible eyewitness, for though we may hope it to be so, the reality is the Gospel is too incredible to believe without some help.  Note the difference between the disciples who followed, and abandoned, Jesus - and the apostles who stood courageously after Pentecost when the Holy Spirit filled them.  There were no doubts after that.  They obeyed to build up the “ekklesia”, the Church, and they obeyed to the point of their own deaths.

There must first be credible witnesses who attest to the Truth, not to a vague concept of a possibility.  Then must come full repentance, not just a willingness to “believe” just enough to get by.  There must be a full-on investment of hope.  When we show The Lord that this remarkable Gift of faith will not be wasted, it will be granted. 

Does this mean the antiquated doctrine of “predestination” has some validity?  A doctrine that says some are born “saved” and others are born “condemned”?  Surely this cannot be true since it is written in the Scripture that it is the desire of the Holy God that “all” will be saved on the Last Day. 

First things first.  It is the mantra and mission of the United Methodist Church and the expression of Messiah’s Great Commission to the Holy Church: “Go and make disciples”.  Share the Good News.  Some will want it, others will not.  A twist on a battle cry is for witnesses of the Gospel: “Love ‘em all; let God sort them out.”



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