Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Work the Works of God

Running
"Rabbi, when did you get here?" Jesus answered them and said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal." Therefore, they said to Him, "What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?" Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him who He has sent." - John 6:26-29

To be honest with you, this verse haunts me. When I was a new believer it was hard for me to study the words of Jesus because it was so contradictory to what my mind had created Him to be. My mind created a loving, pacifist, who catered to the needs of all people. He spoke of things like loving your enemy, turning your cheek and pursuing a life a peace. I imagined Him to be a pushover that I could somehow pacify with my good deeds. You see when I began my walk with the Lord, I wanted all the benefits with none of the cost. I had the attitude of,"what have you done for me lately." I asked Him to come into my heart so I could go to heaven just in case He really was the one He claimed to be. I did this while continuing to worship the god of self. Like the people of Jesus' day, I wanted to make my salvation about something I was doing instead of just believing Him to be who He claimed to be and following Him out of my abundant gratitude for all He secured for me by becoming sin so that I could be declared righteous. What was the work they were to work? The work was to believe in the finished work of Christ that would soon take place on their behalf. Jesus wrapped Himself in humanity so that we could wear His robe of righteousness. He, who was rich in heaven, who spoke creation into being came down to do for us what we could not do for ourselves. Jesus, who was before all things and in him all things hold together and have their being did not consider equality with God something to be grasp but humbled Himself, came down, lived under the same limitations you and I live under and did for us what we could not do for ourselves, kept perfectly every letter of the law. As if this was not enough, He then became sin, his flesh torn in two on the cross where He received and absorbed the wrath of God. The cross where every sin I have ever committed or will commit was placed upon Him. He took upon Himself the the full penalty of sin and the wrath that we deserved was placed upon Him. God poured out His wrath on His perfect Son, who was fully God and fully man.
How then can I make my salvation based on what I do, instead of, what has already been done on my behalf? You see, it was easier for me to trust in my ability to perform for him than to trust in and believe in the finished work of Christ. The root of my problem was unbelief. When he proclaimed in great agony "it is finished" it really was finished because it has everything to do with Him and not me. In the book, Because He Loves Me by Elyse M. Fitpatrick, she makes this amazing declaration. "We are, each one, more sinful and flawed than we ever dared believe, but more loved and welcomed than we ever dared hope. page 57
Why do I reveal this to you? I reveal this to you because we see in the passage above that the people of Jesus' day were doing the same thing. They heard about the miracles He was performing and they pursued Him out of their selfish ambition and to have their earthly needs met, full stomachs. (John 6:26). His miracles left no doubt that He was who he claimed to be and yet they still focused their attention on themselves and their desire to perform the works of God apart from God. They wanted the accolades, the acceptance, the following. They wanted full stomachs and a delectable life. John 6:14, tells us that the people saw the signs which He had performed and believed Him to be the prophet they could make king and deliver them from the oppressive arm of Rome. The chapter goes on to tell us the people believed they could take him by force and declare him king. Because they intended to take him by force, Jesus withdrew from the crowd. The people got in their boats and followed him to Capernaum. Which leads us to the verse above, John 6: 26-29."Rabbi, when did you get here?" Jesus answered them and said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal." Therefore, they said to Him, "What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?" Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him who He has sent."
They sought him but not because they believed him to be who he claimed to be but because he was meeting their physical needs. I also believe they sought him because they wanted to be entertained by his many miracles. They wanted an earthly political messiah, one who would bring them power, comfort and earthly security. They were looking for the King of Kings in his first coming and not a suffering servant. In the book, Jesus Among Other Gods, Ravi Zacharias states, "Before his record of this conversation, John had already described several miracles that Jesus had done. The first was the conversion of water into wine, in which Jesus revealed His power over the elements. Then John narrated two episodes of healing, in which Jesus showed His power over sickness. Following that, he relates Jesus' multiplication of a young lads's lunch to feed five thousand-His power of provision. Finally, he pens the well-known story of Jesus walking on water-His power over natural law. Capturing the beauty of the conversion of the water into wine, the poet Alexander Pope said, "The conscious water saw its Master and blushed." That sublime description could be reworked to explain each one of these miracles. Was it far-fetched for the Creator of the universe, who fashion matter out of nothing, to multiply bread for the crowd. pg 80. But don't we do the same thing? Jesus was the One who created all things! He was the One who created us in our mother's womb, who spoke and it was, who even now holds everything together and yet we marvel at the miracle and not the Maker, Master and Sustainer.
Also notice, they referred to Jesus as the prophet, merely a man blessed by the power of God, but not God Himself. This reminds me of the discourse between Jesus and His disciples. Jesus asks His disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" And they said, "Some say John the Baptist and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah , or one of the prophets." He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter answered, " You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Jesus responds, "Blessed are you Simon Peter because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my Father who is in heaven." Matthew 16:13-17.
So often, we allow the culture to define for us, who God is. We look to the culture to determine what we believe to be true about God. In essence, we look to the world and not the word.
We trust in things we can see and understand rather than the things we can't see and our minds can't comprehend. We get caught up in the current of culture and swept away. I think it is fitting that Jesus asked His disciples first, who do the people say that I am, instead of, who do you say that I am? I think He did this knowing that often times the culture defines for us our beliefs. I also believe He did this to commend Simon Peter for not conforming to the ideas and beliefs of the culture and to explain that unless God reveals to us the truth, we will confirm to the ideas of this world.
Let me ask an uncomfortable question, Are you following Jesus for all of the benefits and none of the cost? Are you following him only when it's convenient or meets some emotional/physical need? Or are you following Him in full assurance that He is who He claims to be, the Son of the Living God, who was and is and is to come? Are you following Him to gain His approval or because you already have His approval? Do you believe that in Him, you are freely loved, accepted, forgiven, made NEW?
It is my hope that as I share with you my inner wrestling to make my salvation all about Him and not about me that you are encouraged to press further into Him and ponder these amazing realities that bring freedom.
As always, please overlook ALL the grammatical errors. A lot of times, I am writing with four kids coming in and out and numerous interruptions.

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