Friday, August 31, 2018

The Vision (8.31.18): The Mystery of Belief

Image: Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park. Wyoming, August 2018

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on John 12:44-50.

John 12:44 Jesus cried and said, He that believeth on me, believeth not on me, but on him that sent me. 45 And he that seeth me seeth him that sent me.

Unbelief is a mystery to the believer, because it seems so irrational. Why would anyone in his right mind ever reject Christ?

Belief, however, is an equally astonishing phenomenon. How do hardened sinners come to believe in Christ? It would be easier to grow a vegetable garden on an asphalt parking lot! And yet God does it by his grace and power.

In v. 44 we read that Jesus cried out (the Greek verb is krazo). He also had done this when he taught in the temple at the Feast of Tabernacles (cf. 7:28-29, 37-38). Christ had hidden himself (v. 36), but now he makes himself known. He is like John the Baptist, a voice crying in a spiritual wilderness.

What does he cry? He who believes on me, believes not on me but the one who sent me. Here Christ speak, as the Son of God, as the second person of the Godhead, of his special relation to the Father.

He comes to make the Father known. As John the Evangelist put it in his prologue to this Gospel: “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him” (John 1:18).

To believe in Christ is to believe in the Father. One will not know the Father until and unless he knows the Son. We are Christians, not mere theists.

In a solar eclipse you need special glasses to look at the sun lest your eyes be damaged by looking at the sun’s glory. If we can draw an analogy, Christ is the means or Mediator by which we see the glory of the Father.

So, in v. 45 Jesus says, “And he that seeth me seeth him that sent me.”

Philip will later ask Jesus, “Lord, shew us the Father,” and Jesus will respond, “he that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (John 14:8-9).

When we find Christ we need look no further. We do not need Christ and something else or someone else. We need Christ alone.

Yes, there is the mystery of unbelief. But there is also the mystery of belief. Those who believe in Christ believe in the one who sent him. Those who see Christ, see the Father.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

WM 101: Interview with a South African Reformed Minister

I am in Philadelphia attending the 2018 International Congress on Calvin Research, which is being held at Westminster Seminary. Yesterday I did  a short paper at the conference on "Calvin and Canon." There have been plenty of good sessions and I've particularly enjoyed meeting many of my fellow attendees.

Last evening I did an interview with a Pastor JFK Mulder, a Reformed minister from Durban, South Africa and have posted it as Word Magazine 101: Interview with a South African Reformed Minister (listen here). The conversation is wide-ranging from the Belgic Confession, to psalm-singing, to racial tensions in contemporary South Africa.


Friday, August 24, 2018

The Vision (8.24.18): Believe in the Light

Image: Sunrise over the Badlands, outside Wall, South Dakota, August 2018

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on John 12:34-43.

John 12:35 Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth. 36a While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be children of light.

When the people ask Jesus, “Who is this Son of Man?” (v. 34), Jesus replies in v. 35: “Yet a little while is the light with you….” He is speaking here about the brief remaining duration of his earthly ministry. “Walk while ye have the light….” The term “walk” refers here to conduct of life. Live carefully, thoughtfully, while you have the light with you. “…. lest darkness come upon you.” The darkness here is spiritual darkness, spiritual blindness. The Lord Jesus is saying: Learn of me while you still have me, the light, in your midst, lest you be engulfed in the darkness of unbelief and spiritual blindness.

Christ continues this teaching in v. 36. Here we notice again a stress on urgency: “While ye have light….” Again, the context here is his teaching to those present in the final days of his ministry. But there is something here that is also applicable to readers and hearers of Christ’s words in every generation. While you have this opportunity… While Christ is being place before you…. While you stand in the presence of the light….

What does he urge? “believe in the light….” It is an interesting metaphor. He calls for faith in himself. We see light. Its presence is self-evident for those with eyes to see. So too is faith in Christ.

Christ’s words to the people in his day are now directed to us in v. 36: “While ye have light….” A special opportunity is given to those who hear these words today, as it was to those men of old. We are urged to believe in the Light, to trust in Christ.

Consider Psalm 95:7b-8a: “To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your heart….”

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Friday, August 03, 2018

The Vision (8.3.18): These things understood not his disciples at the first

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on John 12:10-19.

These things understood not his disciples at the first: but when Jesus was glorified, then remembered they that these things were written of him, and that they had done these things unto him (John 12:16).

This an important and insightful verse. It is John’s reflection on the fact that at first the disciples (John included) did not understand the significance of everything that was happening during the final days of Christ’s earthly ministry. It was only after Christ was “glorified,” after he was raised from the dead, that these things began to make sense to them.

Notice two things in particular here:

First, it was only after Christ’s resurrection that they “remembered that these things were written of him.” It was only after the resurrection that they began to understand the Scriptures and know how to interpret them.

Second, it was only after the resurrection that they began to understand the spiritual significance of their own actions and those of others: “and that they had done these things unto him.”

This represents a key spiritual theme that is stressed throughout this Gospel: spiritual truths are often only revealed to Christ’s disciples slowly, over time (cf. John 2:18-22; 14:25-26; 20:8-9). Insight only comes through the resurrection power of Christ and the help of the Holy Spirit, so that there are some things that we only begin to understand in retrospect as we look back upon them.

This means that our awareness of the circumstances of our lives, the significance of our spiritual experiences, and our knowledge of Christ, are most often not fully understood in the present moment but only with time, reflection, and prayerful meditation.

The practical message: You likely do not yet fully understand all the things that Christ is now doing in your life, but you will in due time. The encouragement: Do not despair if you are not understanding all things in the present moment.

Calvin observed: “Let us remember that it is a special favor of the Holy Spirit to instruct us in a gradual manner, that we may not be stupid in considering the work of God.”

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Note: The Vision devotional will be taking a summer break over the next couple of weeks. The Vision returns (God willing) on Friday, August 24.