Wise yet Harmless

John 4:1-3 WEB

Therefore when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John [2] (although Jesus himself didn’t baptize, but his disciples), [3] he left Judea, and departed into Galilee.

Jesus epitomized the scripture that says, “Behold, I send you out as sheep among wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.” (Matthew 10:16 WEB) When he learned he had attracted the attention of the Pharisees he departed Judea and went to Galilee. In chapter 3 of John, John the Baptist pronounced Jesus as the way to heaven. John as much as declared Jesus the messiah. Jesus’ response to this was to pack up and leave the area.

Jesus understood the Pharisees hated him. While professing zeal for God, they demonstrated with their behaviors that they actually despised God. What they liked was the glory of standing before the people. Jesus was threatening their glory.

Have you ever heard a minister preaching compromise? Why would they do this? The exact demonstration of hatred for God may have changed, but the root cause of the sin is the same. Namely, a desire for people to glorify themselves rather than God. Preaching the untainted gospel has with it the risk of people rejecting the messenger.

Jesus was often scorned and rejected by those to whom he ministered, On the other hand, many were saved as well. This is important to notice. Jesus experienced both rejection and acceptance. He told his disciples to shake the dust from their feet when they were rejected. Literally, to pronounce condemnation on those who rejected their message.

Can you imagine a modern-day preacher declaring condemnation for rejection of the gospel? They would be heckled and counted as a hypocrite for such preaching. People still have little tolerance for the untainted message of the gospel. That message is that Christ alone saves those whom he will and rejects the disobedient. Telling people that Jesus will save them is not too hard. On the other hand, telling people they must be obedient to the whole Bible or face eternal torment is not accepted by most people.

People want salvation to be a democratic affair. As if we can choose which passages are relevant while declaring others irrelevant. Some of this has been caused by modern-day zealots. Ministers who teach a heartless gospel of condemnation drive the lost away from God. They preach to a mouth-foaming crowd that wants confirmation that they are better than everyone else. But the word of God does not counsel this. Rather, it says to be wise as a serpent but harmless as a dove.

As Christians, we have to learn to declare the truth from a place of love for the world. The Father desires the world to be saved (John 3:16). We can declare condemnation for the lost in love. We can plead with the lost to turn their hearts fully to the Father through the grace of Jesus Christ. We can demonstrate obedience thereby duplicating it in those who are new in the Lord.

Lord, please help me walk wisely while remaining harmless to those with whom I share the gospel. Please forgive me for being immature and heartless. I’m sorry for withholding love from the lost. Please forgive me. In Jesus’ name, I pray, amen.

Suffering with Benefits

John 3:22-24 WEB

After these things, Jesus came with his disciples into the land of Judea. He stayed there with them, and baptized. [23] John also was baptizing in Enon near Salim, because there was much water there. They came, and were baptized. [24] For John was not yet thrown into prison.   

John was not yet thrown into prison and Jesus was not yet crucified. So, they baptized. They served the Father’s will with humility and truth such that they both died horrific deaths. John was beheaded at the request of the daughter of an evil queen (Matthew 14:8-12 WEB). Jesus was crucified at the hands of the Roman government, at the request of the religious leaders in Jerusalem (John 19:15-18 WEB). Do you regularly see baptisms at your church? Do you ever see baptisms at your church? If people are regularly being saved and baptized, you probably have leadership that has experienced difficulties and has chosen not to draw back from obeying the Lord. On the other hand, if you have a group of leaders that is regularly bringing a message of wealth, health, and joy without the balancing message of suffering and pain in obedience, something is wrong. This group may have salvations, but the saved will probably fall away when the Father begins to discipline the new believer. Discipline will always come (Hebrews 12:7). The Father has an interest in growing people from the new birth in Christ to mature Christian walking and living the Christian life. The Father will convict of sin and will bring challenges to provoke change. He knows how to bend a twig. However, when a church only preaches the benefits of the kingdom and neglects to preach the obligations of the kingdom you will not see lasting fruit.  Attrition will be high. Being in obedience to the Father will bring great joy, with tribulation (1 Thessalonians 1:6 WEB.)

Lord Jesus, I want to follow your example. Please help me to be bold and willing to suffer when necessary for the gospel. Let my life bring lasting fruit. Help me to be bold unto suffering while I rejoice in all the goodness that comes from walking with you. Please make me a holy vessel. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Astonishing Belief

John 2:11-12 WEB

This beginning of his signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him. [12] After this, he went down to Capernaum, he, and his mother, his brothers, and his disciples; and they stayed there a few days.

Jesus was approximately 30 years old when He publicly revealed His glory. That implies that He carried His anointing without telling anyone for a period. When He did finally reveal His glory the text scripture says it caused His disciples to believe. However, because His disciples were at the wedding, it appears they already believed. They had reason to believe based on the testimony of John the Baptist. Considering two of John’s disciples, Andrew, and Philip, went to follow Jesus, there is a clear argument that they believed before this miracle. So why does the text scripture say the first miracle caused them to believe? The disciples already believed based on the things they heard Jesus say and the testimony of John the Baptist. However, the miraculous sign gave them greater assurance of that belief. In other words, they believed more. It is unlikely the disciples saw great miracles every day. In modern times there are men and women of God that pray for miracles and see them come to pass. Still, they do not see miracles every time they pray. They persist in their faith and obedience and some of those times God intervenes in astonishing ways. Signs happen for everyone. The key is making a mental note, allowing your belief to deepen, and then during periods when things are normal, choosing to remain in that new level of belief.

Lord Jesus, please help me remain in belief. Answer my prayers Lord for that deepens my belief and delivers me from doubt. In Jesus’ name, amen.

The First Soul Winner

John 1:39-42 WEB

He said to them, “Come, and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day. It was about the tenth hour. [40] One of the two who heard John, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. [41] He first found his own brother, Simon, and said to him, “We have found the Messiah!” (which is, being interpreted, Christ). [42] He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him, and said, “You are Simon the son of Jonah. You shall be called Cephas” (which is by interpretation, Peter).


I appreciate the story of Andrew. He was a Galilean which means that most rabbis would not be interested in having him as a disciple. This is because Galilee was the wrong area to be from if you wanted to pursue serving a rabbi. It was practically mandatory to be from Judea if you had aspirations to become a Pharisee. So, this passage starts by revealing John the Baptist had gone to Galilee to find some of his disciples.

More, though Jesus lived in Judea he went to John in Galilee to be baptized. Jesus went to the wrong place, to be baptized by the wrong person, to find the wrong disciples. And what did Andrew do when his teacher, John the Baptist, told him that Jesus was the Christ? He followed him. After Andrew saw where Jesus lived, he went straight out and brought his first soul to Christ. That means Peter was the first soul brought into the Kingdom by a believer. It also means Andrew was the first soul winner.


Lord Jesus, please bless me and help me bring others to you. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Sign of the Times

John 1:29-34 WEB

The next day, he saw Jesus coming to him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! [30] This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who is preferred before me, for he was before me.’ [31] I didn’t know him, but for this reason I came baptizing in water: that he would be revealed to Israel.” [32] John testified, saying, “I have seen the Spirit descending like a dove out of heaven, and it remained on him. [33] I didn’t recognize him, but he who sent me to baptize in water, he said to me, ‘On whomever you will see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.’ [34] I have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God.”


How odd is it that the herald of the Lord did not recognize Jesus as the Messiah? John the Baptist grew up knowing Jesus. They probably played “Rabbi” together when they were children. Can you just see 7-year-old Jesus having everyone sit down to listen to Him teach them about God? It’s only speculation, but Jesus was a real person who lived and had to grow through developmental stages.

John the Baptist was a witness to this. Yet he did not recognize Jesus. He finally realized who He was because the Father told him to look for the one that the Spirit descended upon. John recognized Jesus as the Messiah after receiving a sign. It is important that you and I do not wait for a sign to believe. John the Baptist was referred to as the least in the Kingdom by Jesus. I suspect that had to do with John’s inability to see Jesus through faith eyes. Instead, he had to have a sign.

Do you look for signs as you endeavor to follow and serve the Lord? This is dangerous. In our society, we are inundated with as many as 25000 signs and symbols a day through various media. 25000. Do you think you can find 4 or 5 things that function as a sign to you in that many messages? Absolutely. You can find all the signs you want. Follow them at your own peril!

The best way to recognize Jesus in our modern age is to know His Word, the Holy Bible. It is the sign of the times.


Lord Jesus, forgive me for looking for signs. I accept that you give the Holy Spirit on deposit occasionally, I thank you for those occasional, genuine, signs. For all the rest of the time please help me to know your Word. I want to recognize what is you Jesus and what is not. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Law vs. Spirit

John 1:22-25 WEB

They said therefore to him, “Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” [23] He said, “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as Isaiah the prophet said.” [24] The ones who had been sent were from the Pharisees. [25] They asked him, “Why then do you baptize, if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?”


Pharisees are concerned with the rules. They are legalists. Pharisees went to John the Baptist and asked him who he was. They could recognize that he was anointed, but they could not discern his purpose. The Pharisees were more focused on being in control of John’s authority to act than they were interested in knowing what God was doing.

Pharisees had religious control of the region. John must have seemed like a threat to them. You can see in the passage how rude the Pharisees were to him. They demand he answer for himself. But, they had asked John a question only God could answer. Since Pharisees only got revelation from scriptures they walked away from John. They did not value that he was bringing people to repentance.  


Lord Jesus, please help me know the Bible and practice its teaching while I keep my inner ear tuned towards your voice. In Jesus’ name, I pray, Amen

Silently

John 1:19-21 WEB

This is John’s testimony, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” [20] He declared, and didn’t deny, but he declared, “I am not the Christ.” [21] They asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” He answered, “No.”


Neither Jesus nor John the Baptist was in the habit of telling people what their spiritual inheritance and names were. It seems from the gospels that John the Baptist was Elijah who was to come before Christ. Also, John the Baptist seemed to know what his purpose was and what he was doing. He knew he was there to announce Christ. Still, if John the Baptist was Elijah, why didn’t he say so? Because he was not Elijah.

He was John. And John did not feel the need to justify himself. More, he had the wisdom not to expose himself. Jesus behaved in a similar manner. When asked if he was the Messiah Jesus would remain silent. At some point in his life, Jesus realized who he was and began to grow in the grace to carry his destiny. And that Grace gave him the humility to know who he was without having to tell anyone.


Lord Jesus, please give me the understanding I need to be as wise as a serpent but as gentle as a dove, just like you. In Jesus’ name, I pray, amen.

Before Christ

John 1:6-9 WEB

There came a man, sent from God, whose name was John. [7] The same came as a witness, that he might testify about the light, that all might believe through him. [8] He was not the light, but was sent that he might testify about the light. [9] The true light that enlightens everyone was coming into the world.


John the prophet was commissioned by God to announce the coming of Christ (Mark 1:2). This is not the same John who wrote the Book of John. This is John the Baptist who is also called the Forerunner of Christ, or Elijah who is to come (Luke 1:17). John was called baptist because he preached repentance followed by baptism (Mark 1:4).

It’s interesting, the testimony of Christ was a message of repentance (Acts 19:4). John spoke to the general public but often he aimed his comments at religious and political leaders. And, not just any religious leaders, but the Pharisees (Mt 3:7). That is significant because the Pharisees were the godliest people in the land.

If the godliest people of the day could not discern Christ (John 12:42), how can we be sure we do not miss Christ? It’s important we understand the first announcement of the coming of Christ (Gen 3:15, Luke 1:31). We’re at a time when we all expect the millennial reign to come at any moment, so it seems pertinent we can recognize when somebody is announcing Christ.


Lord Jesus, please help me recognize the signs of your second coming. In Jesus’ name, I pray, amen.