John 1:37-38 – “What Are You Seeking?”

John 1:37-38 – “37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38 Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, ‘What are you seeking?’ And they said to him, ‘Rabbi’ (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?”

“What do you want out of this relationship?”  Isn’t that one of the most important questions to ask when a two people are developing a relationship?  The relationship could be between a boy and girl who are falling in love, between two random people who are to become best friends, or between two people who are about to make a new business partnership.  If we decide to put in the effort to answer that question in all our earthly relationships, then why would we not put in the same effort to answer this question in our spiritual relationship with Christ?

In our passage today, Christ asked this exact question to two disciples who were going to follow Him.  These two disciples were first disciples of John the Baptist, but when John declared, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” they left him to follow Christ.  As they were following Him, Christ asked them this critical question, “What are you seeking?”  He was basically asking them why they were following Him, or simply, “What do you want?”  These two disciples then answered that they wanted to see where He was staying.  Now, these disciples were not looking for this answer to bring a bunch of paparazzi to that location; they were asking so that they could know the location where they can visit Christ.  Matthew Henry’s commentary stated that they likely did this so that they could come back at a more appropriate time to learn from Him.  They wanted to know Christ in a more intimate way.[1]  They didn’t just want to hear that He was the Lamb of God from John the Baptist, but they wanted to see and know if it was true themselves.  Christ then said, “Come and see,” which was His way of inviting them to see first-hand who He was and what He was going to do.  This one day that they spent with Jesus Christ moved them so much that one of these disciples, Andrew, even, brought his brother Peter to follow Christ as well.  Andrew and this other disciple sought Christ to know Him more and to learn of Him and that is what they got.  Eventually, Andrew, Peter, and the rest of Christ’s apostles would follow Him not merely for what they could learn or what they could get but simply because He was the Son of God.

The question every Christian should ask himself today is “What am I seeking when I follow Christ?”  Are you looking for security?  Are you looking for guidance or direction?  Are you looking for comfort?  Are you looking for salvation from hell?  What is it that you want?  If you answered, “Yes” to any of these questions, then the truth is that you are seeking Christ for what He can give you instead of for who He is.  Simply, you are pursuing Christ for selfish reasons.  He can and will certainly provide all these things but should this be the reason why a disciple follows Christ – for what he can get?  Of course not!  Many Christians, including myself, began pursuing Christ for what we could get out of Him.  But as we mature spiritually that reason should shift so that we stop following Christ for what we can get but for who He is.  Andrew and this other disciple followed Christ because the wanted to learn His teachings, but after three years of following Him, their reason changed – they followed Him because He was the Son of God. 

What are you seeking when you turn to Christ?  He will be your Savior if you seek salvation.  He will be your Comforter if you seek comfort.  He will be your Rock if you seek security.  But most importantly, let Him be your Lord, maturing your faith to the point where even if all these blessings were taken, you would still follow Him for the express reason that He is LORD. 

 

[1] Henry, M. (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: Complete and unabridged in one volume (1922). Peabody: Hendrickson.

Quick Note – Acts 13:38-39 – Freedom in Christ

Acts 13:38-39 – “Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.”

This weekend, as Americans, we celebrated the 4th of July, the day we declared our independence from England in 1776. It is a time of joy and celebration, where most families throw a barbecue or picnic, watch fireworks, and give thanks for the freedoms that we enjoy as Americans. It is truly a very patriotic day. My family doesn’t tend to do anything big on the 4th, but we do get the day off to reflect on the wonderful freedoms we have like freedom of religion and freedom of speech. But even though many of us get to enjoy these freedoms (whether you are an American or not), many of us are still enslaved. Enslaved to what you may ask? The simple answer is to sin and to our desires to sin and to the results of sin. Jesus stated it best in John 8:34, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.” Sin is a horrible curse that has fallen upon all of humanity. We all have practiced sin and are/were slaves to it; without Christ changing the sin nature in our hearts, we cannot help but sin. Even the Law, which God had set for us in the Old Testament, could not do anything to free us from sin. All it could do was temporarily pay for the punishment of our sins. It could never fully deal with the sin problem of the heart. It dealt with the surface issue of a sinful act but never with the deep issue of a sinful nature. Paul addressed this in our passage today, when he was speaking to the Jews in Antioch of Pisidia, when he said, “…Through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by Him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.” Paul was speaking of the one Person who could set us truly free from sin – Jesus Christ.

In our passage today, Paul said that Christ could set us free from everything by which we could not be freed from by the Law of Moses. What were those things? The first thing is the penalty for our sin. The Law of Moses provided sacrifices that could pay the penalty for the individual sins we do like lying, cheating, stealing. Each of one these actions had a specific offering that could be brought before the Temple and used to cover for the sin, but it could not pay for the actual problem – missing the mark that God had set for us – perfection. That penalty is clearly stated for us in Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death…” That penalty was paid for us by Christ’s death on the cross. The perfect, sinless Lamb of God died in our place so that we would not have to pay that penalty. All we need to do is trust Christ as our Savior. The second thing is our sin nature, in other words, our natural inclination to sin and to be in the wrong. Ever since the fall of man that fateful day when Adam and Eve ate of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, we have all fallen prey to sin. Once again, sin simply means that we have missed the mark that God has set for us, which is perfection. We can never be perfect; therefore, we will always miss the mark and will always be considered sinful. But when Christ came and died for our sins, He not only paid the penalty for them, He completely wiped out that nature and replaced it with a new one for those who choose to give their lives to Him. That is why 2 Corinthians 5:17 states that we are all new creatures in Christ. Our sin nature which could not be changed by the Law of Moses can be changed in Christ. All we need to do is trust Him as our Lord. The third thing is the guilt from our sins. Before we became Christians, sin did not really matter to us. We may have felt a little sorrow for doing what was wrong, but that sorrow always went away with time. But when we gave our lives to Christ, whenever we sin, guilt overcomes our hearts. It is a good thing, for it is a reminder that we have sinned. But the thing is that we need not dwell on that guilt any longer and allow it to bring us to depression, for Christ has forgiven us of our sins both now and forever. 1 John 1:9 says that “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” The Law of Moses allowed for us to wipe away the guilt of a particular sin, knowing that it was covered until we sinned again, but it could never place us in the right standing before God all the time. We could only be presented before God as fully forgiven for everything from all our sins to our sin nature if we accept Christ’s gift of salvation from sin. All we need to do is trust Him as our Forgiver.

 

What the Law of Moses could not do, Christ did for us. He is our Savior, Lord, and Forgiver. Find your freedom from sin in Him. You no longer are a slave to sin but free in Christ (and in actuality a slave to Christ – 1 Corinthians 7:22). Let Him set you truly free, so that the next 4th of July, you won’t just be thanking God for the freedoms you enjoy here on earth but the freedom in Christ as well.

Quick Note – Job 9 – The Finished Work of Christ

Job 9:1-2, 20, 32-33 – “Then Job answered and said:  ‘Truly I know that it is so:  But how can a man be in the right before God?…20Though I am in the right, my own mouth would condemn me; though I am blameless, he would prove me perverse…32For he is not a man, as I am, that I might answer him, that we should come to trial together.  There is no arbiter between us, who might lay his hand on us both.’”

I told you I would share with you some of the experiences I had on my last vacation to Greece and the Holy Land, but from the time I told you that until now, I have only shared two main things – my observation of how many people seem to worship “holy” things and places instead of God and my new friendship based on God’s timing.  So I figured that now would be a good time to use an experience that occurred during my trip as an illustration of the point that will be made today – “None of us are righteous in the sight of God without Jesus Christ.”

One of the places we stopped at during our trip was the Grecian island of Patmos.  Patmos is extremely beautiful and is known for being the island upon which John the Beloved was exiled and spent his last days.  Here he received the visions that are written in the book of Revelation.  To commemorate his time there, a giant monastery was built under his name that is now run by Greek Orthodox priests.  The monastery is located on top of a mountain near the shore and can be reached either by hiking up the mountain using an old path or taking a taxi.  For us, we decided to take the strenuous hike up the mountain.  After climbing up for over an hour, stopping for multiple breaks, we reached the top and entered the monastery.  The architecture was beautiful both inside and outside as if you were entering a medieval castle and church combined into one.  We wandered through the balcony and patio and even got to see a copy of a manuscript of the Gospel of Mark that pre-dated 1000AD.  One of the highlights of the monastery was the chapel, which was ornately decorated with Greek Orthodox art that depicted everything from Biblical stories to their core beliefs.  Without a guide or previous knowledge of these stories, these pictures would easily be overlooked as ordinary paintings, but fortunately for us, a priest named Paconius was willing to take us on a private tour.  He explained everything to us, letting us know which stories were being represented in which paintings, but one interesting painting that he showed us depicted a scale, which I was extremely confused about, because I knew no story in the Bible talking about scales.  He then told us that the scale depicted the Greek Orthodox belief that in order to get to heaven, all the good you do must outweigh the bad, or you would fall into hell.  It was then that I realized that the Greek Orthodox Church taught a works-based salvation.  It was true that they believed that Jesus Christ died for our sins, but you still needed to do more good than bad in order to get to heaven, according to them.  To them, Christ’s death on the cross was not enough; they had to be righteous by their works as well.  We went back onto the ship later that afternoon, a little disappointed, knowing that this religious man was missing the truth – that Jesus Christ is the only Person that can make us righteous before God.

This is where St. John's Monastery is located

This is where St. John’s Monastery is located

 

This is a picture of our hike up.

This is a picture of our hike up.

 

View of Patmos from the Top of the Monastery.

View of Patmos from the Top of the Monastery.

 

Paconius and the Family

 

Sorry for it being too bright! An example of the beautiful wall paintings.

 

Job understood this truth in our passage today.  Although Job was a blameless and righteous man, he recognized that before God, we are all sinners.  We could try all we want to convince ourselves that we are right and good.  We could do everything in our power to show that we are righteous through our actions.  We can do more good than bad.  But none of that would change a thing.  We would still be considered sinners in need of judgment.  Romans 3:10 states it clearest, “…None is righteous, no, not one…”  We have all sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), so much so that even if we spent our whole lives doing good and helping others and being “righteous,” it would not make up for our missing the mark that God set for us, which is perfection.  However, we are not hopeless, for God sent His Son, Jesus Christ to be our Righteousness.  Job in vs. 32-33 was looking for an arbiter to argue his case before God.  At the time, Christ had not yet come to earth, but for us today, we have an arbiter in Jesus Christ.  He stands as our Mediator between God and man, arguing our case before Him.  He does not do so by claiming us as righteous.  He does not do so by stating all the good we have done.  He does not even do so by begging for mercy.  He does so simply by letting the Father know that He Himself already paid for the penalty of our sins on the cross and that if we accept His free gift, we are considered righteous in the sight of God for we are covered by the blood of Christ.  He proclaims His righteousness for us.

If you still think that you what will make you right before God is doing more right than wrong, then think again.  Only accepting Jesus Christ’s free gift of salvation can make you righteous before God.  Give your heart and life to Him, fully entrusting Him and His finished work on the cross (for He said, “It is finished.”).  If you have already given your life to Christ, then please pray for those who are still lost, who are seeking to do things their own way.  Pray that they may recognize the finished work of Christ and give their lives over to Him.  And specifically, please pray for Paconius that God will open His eyes to the truth of the Gospel.  If He did that with Martin Luther and sparked the Protestant Reformation, then He can definitely do it with Paconius and possibly spark a second Protestant Reformation.  Thank Christ for His finished work and know that before Him you are now considered righteous.

Quick Note – John 20:3-8 – An Action of Encouragement

John 20:3-8 – “So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb.  Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.  And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in.  Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb.  He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself.  Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed…”

Sometimes all it takes to get somebody moving on something is a little encouragement.  There are times, when a person is just stunned and stunted in his growth until somebody around him pushes him to go further than he’s ever gone before.  This push can come in the shape of an encouraging word, a loving reprimand, or even a convicting example of action.  With just that little shove, that person accomplishes great things that could have never been achieved otherwise.  All it took was a little encouragement in one way or another.  I myself am one of those people who need encouragement to move forward.  Often, I find myself settling in a comfortable place until someone I know (or at times a stranger) wakes me up from my stagnant state and gets me moving again.  This actually happened recently on my trip.  If you didn’t read the last post, then I advise you to go do so, because it describes what happened in more detail.  But in short, I met a new friend, who encouraged me to be bold in what I do, to take courage, and have confidence in myself.  Her words revealed to me that I needed to start taking more control in my life and to stop just sitting in one place and allowing things to happen.  It was all because of a few words of encouragement.  But in addition to just simply calling me out, she pushed me to be bolder through her other stories about people she knew who took the initiative to start a business or go to seminary; their examples called me out.  And even more than that, her example alone convicted me, for she lived out the boldness that she called me to.  She took initiative and courage to fulfill her dreams of traveling the world and inspiring others through her song and dance.  She took boldness to speak to people she barely knew about deeper topics in life.  She lived out her advice and that definitely convicted/encouraged me to do the same.  She may not have known that she did all that, but our conversation definitely got me to be more responsible and take more initiative in what I do.  

The same principle applies spiritually, as we can see in our passage today.  Both Peter and John (“the other disciple”) ran to the tomb after Mary Magdalene told them that the body of Christ was missing to see the truth for themselves, but as they were headed there, John outran Peter.  Arriving earlier, John peeked into the tomb and saw the grave clothes lying there but could not get himself to go in.  Whether it was out of fear or doubt or some other reason, we do not know, but what is clear is that John did not enter the tomb first.  Instead it was Peter, who although he had arrived later, immediately went into the tomb, saw the grave clothes without the body, and knew that something was astir.  Although he did not know what had just happened he must have had some thought that he might be witnessing the start of something miraculous happening first-hand.  His boldness to enter the tomb and chase the facts himself caused John to then go into the tomb as well.  Inadvertently, Peter’s choice to step up and enter the tomb had called John out to do the same, encouraging him to be bold and witness the Resurrection with his own eyes.  Now, they both believed that the body was missing and would later understand the relevance of what they saw (or actually did not see) in the story of the Resurrection – they were the first to see the evidence of a missing tomb as proof of the Resurrection.  Peter had encouraged John to step up through his actions.

In our world today, it is easy to get discouraged with many of our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who do not seem to step up into their roles as Christians.  We look at their lives and wonder why they aren’t growing spiritually or being as bold in their workplaces or using their talents in some ministry.  Instead of encouraging them, we talk behind their backs about how they are wasting what God has given them.  But sometimes, all they need is a little push from a fellow Christian.  They need to see another Christian being bold and living out the Christian life daily.  They need another Christian who will call them up into boldness and action without even saying a word.  They need another Christian to be like Peter who through his own example encouraged John to seek more of Christ.  Sometimes, the greatest word of encouragement is not a word at all but a living example.  Let us take the first steps in serving Christ and allow our actions to call out others to do the same.  Don’t sit around complaining why others aren’t serving God, just do it first and let your example speak encouragement into their hearts to serve the Lord as well.  

Habakkuk 2:3 – God’s Perfect Timing

Habakkuk 2:3 – “For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end – it will not lie.  If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.”

I must admit that one of the hardest things for me to do personally is to wait on God’s timing.  I almost always feel like it moves at a much slower pace than I would like.  It is as if His promises take so much longer to come to fruition, than it takes the minute hand to hit 5:00PM on a Friday to start the weekend (Don’t be afraid to admit it.  We’ve all been in that boat!).  Because God’s timing tends to be slower than we would like, often enough we try to put matters into our own hands and fulfill His promises for us right away.  But the thing is when we move ahead of God’s timing, we tend to muddle everything up, ending up with a larger mess in our hands than we would have had if we had just waited.  Just look at the story of Abraham, an old man with no children.  God had promised to give him a son from whom Abraham would become the father of many nations.  But as Abraham was in his eighties and Sarah her senior years, they began to worry if God’s promise would ever be fulfilled.  So instead of waiting for His timing, Sarah gave Abraham her servant Hagar as a wife to have children through her.  This choice to ignore God’s timing and follow their own led to the birth of Ishmael and actually a lot of trouble for the Israelites (the descendants of Isaac) later on.  If they had just waited for God’s timing, things would have worked out without a hitch; even though the promise may have been fulfilled “later” than expected (Isaac was born when Abraham was almost 100 and Sarah in her 90s, so it definitely took some time.).

I would just like to share with you two experiences that have recently happened in my life that have taught me to trust in God’s timing.  The first experience happened about four weeks ago on my vacation.  Usually when I go on a cruise with my family, I don’t make any friends.  I just spend my time walking the decks of the ship alone (when my parents have gone to sleep), wishing, hoping, and praying that I would be able to make a friend – a friend that would hopefully stick around for life.  And the truth is it has never happened; but this time was different.  Once again, I spent the first half of the cruise, constantly looking for a person to befriend.  I had my sights on someone, but the opportunity just never came up where I could really have a good conversation with that person, so I had started to give up, thinking that this may just amount to another cruise where I come home without a new friend.  But surprisingly, God opened up another opportunity to befriend someone else that I would have never expected to be friends with instead – a person on the crew.  My new friend’s name is Collean, and she is actually one of the singers/dancers on the ship.  I had seen her multiple times previous our first conversation, but never had the courage or the right opportunity to talk to her (I’m an unusually shy person.).  But the evening before my last two days on the ship, I wandered the decks alone again, just thinking that I would make one last round around the ship before I headed off to bed for an early morning tour.  Unbeknownst to me, God was actually ordaining a moment for me to make a new friend, as well as, be a blessing to a fellow Christian.  As I passed by the theatre doors, who else do I meet greeting the guests with a smile and hello?  None other than Collean.  Our conversation began from her simple hello and went on till midnight, talking about everything from my love of comic books to her relationship with her boyfriend (and how they met.  I’m a sucker for love stories.) to our relationships with Christ.  But like all good conversations, it had to come to an end; we both needed to get some rest since we were touring Israel the next day.  Fortunately, I got to talk to her on the ship twice more and continue to keep up with Collean today.  Later, I found out that she was actually feeling homesick and in need of a friend, and God allowed me to fill the role that evening.  How wonderful and great our God’s timing is, don’t you think?  When I thought I had lost all hope of making a friend, and she needed one, God ordained a meeting.  What perfect timing!  In His time, I met a person, who I must honestly say is a good friend for me, for she not only shares similar interests with me (like standard music, Disney movies, and the sheer calmness of standing out on the deck listening to the waves and feeling the sea wind as one meditates in the evening (Literally, my favorite thing to do on a cruise ship)), she even encourages me to be courageous, to come out of my shell, and to try new things.  God has definitely blessed me with a new but dear friend and all in His timing.

The second experience I would like to share with you is my medical school decision.  Last year I applied to medical school, not knowing whether I wanted to become a doctor or not.  I just figured that if the door was open, I would take it.  The door did open except now, I had realized that I loved performing research and would rather be in research than in medicine.  That left me with a difficult choice a few nights ago on whether I would accept the offer I had been given to go to medical school or not.  I prayed and prayed for God to give me direction, but it seemed like He wasn’t speaking even though He promised in His Word that those who commit their works to the Lord will have their plans established (Proverbs 16:3).  The night that I had to make the decision, I went with the most practical common-sense option and decided to withdraw my application and try again next year in hopes of more clarity and possibly more options.  But right after I made the decision, I felt like I made a big mistake.  That evening and the next morning I felt low, like very low, so low that I started to doubt God’s love and care for our daily lives.  I started to wonder if He even bothers to help us in our decision-making.  Right when I thought He would give me a clear direction, it didn’t seem like He did, and now, I was struggling with the possibility that I had made a life-long regrettable mistake.  It was as if His timing for giving me an answer was too late!  Later that day though, I sought some more advice and decided that I would try to get the position again if it was still available, leaving the results to God; if He wanted me to go, then it would be open, and if not, then I would live with the consequences of my choice.  I found out that my decision was final and could not be changed, so that was my answer.  Now, I don’t know if this answer is due to my not listening to His voice clearly or rushing a decision.  I don’t know if this struggle was all part of His plan in the first place to make me learn to wait for an answer in His time.  I don’t know if another opportunity will open up again.  But what I do know is that God can take my situation and make it good in His time.  Even if I made a mistake, He could turn the whole thing around and make a better future than I could have imagined.  This experience has taught me that I can trust in God’s timing, even if it already seems too late.  It may be too late to change my decision, but I know His timing will come through in the end.  He will make all things good in His time, and I only learned this lesson by going through this struggle of faith.

Although the experiences were completely different (one with a happy ending and one with an unsure one), they illustrate one important truth – we can trust God’s timing.  The background for our passage today has Habakkuk conversing with God and, in a way, arguing with Him about how the wicked continue to prosper instead of receive their rightful judgment.  God had promised to be faithful and punish the unrighteous, but all Habakkuk could see was the constant success of the wicked, which surely frustrated him.  But God answered Habakkuk simply in our verse, “For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end – it will not lie.  If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.”  Simply put, God told Habakkuk to wait on His timing.  Even if it felt slow, even if it felt like it would never come, His judgment would come at the perfect time; Habakkuk just had to wait.  Although Habakkuk then spent a few more verses in conversation with God, the book ends with Habakkuk making a great statement of faith stating that he would continue to trust and take joy in the Lord even if the fig tree would not blossom, no fruits be on the vine, and all other things fail.  Habakkuk after a deep struggle realized that in the end that he could trust in God’s timing, and we can too.  Leave everything to Him, knowing that in His time, all things work together for good for them that love Him.  Wait on the Lord!

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