A Sermon by Rev Frederick M ChapinSeptember 4, 1994
Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgement, but has passed from death into life. (Jn 5:24)
The Lord, while He was on the earth, quite often was asked to give a convincing demonstration that He was the Christ. This was especially requested by His enemies. They figured that if the Lord was truly the Messiah, He could perform some act that would remove all doubt as to Who He was.
The Writings teach numerous times that external miracles, by themselves, do not produce a genuine belief in the Lord. At best, they may produce a temporary obedience that fades away in time. Eventually, the person will find some explanation for the act. The desire to indulge in sensual loves is so strong that the person will have to find some justification to continue in them. External signs do not form a true faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. This is why the Lord never honored their requests that He give convincing proof that He was the Messiah.
However, the Lord did speak of where they could find the evidence that He was the Son of God. On one occasion, He said that no sign would be given except for the sign of Jonah. The Writings explain that this refers to the Lord’s resurrection from death. The Lord’s resurrection could be a convincing sign of His Divinity. Today, we can have demonstrations of the Lord’s infinite power when we call to mind our deliverance from seemingly hopeless situations. Perhaps some habit or addiction that we have more control over can serve as evidence that the Lord does exist and He is active within our personal lives. The sign of the Prophet Jonah is still applicable today.
The Lord spoke of other confirmations that can validate His statement that He is the Son of God. We read, in our first lesson, that the Lord was asked to produce a sign that would completely convince the skeptical that He was the Messiah. The Lord responded with four various proofs that could also give persuasion that He has Divine authority and power. The four proofs are John the Baptist, the works the Lord did, the Father Himself, and the Law of Moses.
We today need evidence that we are making the right decisions that will make our lives truly productive and meaningful. We need to know where to look to make sure that we are performing uses that can help bring heavenly loves to the earth. The response that the Lord gave to the Pharisees can be our criteria to analyze our spiritual choices to insure they are consistent with heavenly principles. We need the assurance that we are allowing the Lord to form His Church upon the earth.
The first reference was to John the Baptist, when the Lord said, “You have sent to John, and he has bore witness to the truth.” (Jn 5:33) John the Baptist was regarded as a man of strong character. He even had a significant amount of respect among many of the people. While John was alive, he was admired for his character and for a time, people accepted and responded to his message. The Lord referred to his character as “a burning and shinning light”, and He referred to John’s temporary popularity as people “rejoicing in his light for a season”.
John the Baptist illustrates the letter of the Word. The Word can direct us, by revealing truths, whereby the Lord can be seen as being active in our lives. However, the Word must not only be known, it must be loved. Before we can see the presence of the Lord through the Word, we must have an affection for what the Word teaches us. This affection must sincerely love truth, regardless of the changes it requires. We learn wisdom from the Word in an external way, but a conviction in applying the knowledges of truth must come from within. Only from a reception of the Lord can we affirmatively respond to the teachings of truth. John specifically represents those who build up a knowledge of what the Word teaches and who loves what the Word teaches. This love is absolutely essential, if the instruction we receive from the Word is to permanently remain in our lives.
Also, there must be the confession that the Word has absolute authority to reveal the truths of life to us. We can not pick out what we like and disregard the teachings that we may find uncomfortable. There must be the fundamental acknowledgment that the Word is from the Lord, that it is holy, and that we must comply completely with its teachings. This honest affirmation is what the Lord referred to when He said that He does not receive testimony from any man. It is not from our own intelligence that enables us to recognize what is true. It is the Lord’s activity within us that makes it possible to know truths and to affirmatively respond to them.
The Writings would probably be more widely accepted and received if people could pick out what they wanted to accept. However, if we regard them as a Divine revelation, we must dedicate ourselves to accept them in their entirety. We must be willing to be instructed from the Old Testament, New Testament, and the Writings so our lives can change for the better.
The Lord then made reference to His works as giving evidence of being the Son of God. He made this reference when He said, “But I have a greater witness than John’s; for the works which the Father has given Me to finish-the very works that I do-bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me.” (Jn 5:36) The miracles that the Lord performed did give credence that He was sent from God. The miracles compelled the people to hear His message.
The works that we do can also give evidence of the power of the Lord. They can be a testimony that the Lord is active in our lives. A life of use can give us the wonderful opportunity to experience and sense the Lord’s power in subduing what is evil and making what is good alive and prosperous. When we notice the wonderful things that we can do, they can provide the assurance that the Lord can make our lives worthwhile and meaningful.
The Lord then referred to the Father giving evidence of Who He is. The Lord said, “And the Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form.” (Jn 37) This is the Divine love that comes from the Lord and inspires us to worship Him and to live a life of charity. The Lord told His enemies that had they known the Father, they would have known that He was sent from Him. In other words, they would have known that His ministry was a revelation of Divine truth. Likewise, when we are motivated by the Divine love that comes from the Lord, we will have the tangible proof of His existence. When we receive the Lord’s love, we are aware of the Lord’s operation within us.
When we notice that we love others who have hurt us, this can be a strong indication that the Lord is present within us. If we are able to love our enemies, that can be a sign the Lord is instilling new loves into us.
Finally, the Lord said that Moses would judge them. He said, “Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; there is one who accuses you-Moses, in whom you trust.” (Jn 5:45) The Lord referred in this statement that they would be judged according to what they knew to be true. Everyone there believed that what Moses wrote was true. The Lord stated that if they had a true belief in what Moses wrote, that belief would lead them to a recognition of the truth of the Lord’s ministry. If they would have had a humble love towards Jehovah, they would have embraced the Lord’s revelation of a more interior truth.
We also are judged according to what we know to be true. If we simply strive to comply with what we believe is right, that effort will make the Lord visible before us. Whatever we may believe to be true, if we live according to it, the Lord will inflow into it, enliven it, whereby we can have an awareness of His operation in our lives.
When we seek evidence or assurance that we are making the right decisions, that does not necessarily mean that there is a lack of faith or trust in the Lord. We need to know what to examine to be able to come to an awareness of the Lord’s presence and operation. In this section from the Gospel of John, the Lord gives four areas that we are to examine, if we are to have the ability to see the Lord’s effect upon His creation. First, we must have a knowledge of what the Word teaches, and within this knowledge, there must be an affection for what is true so we are willing to make the necessary changes in our lives. We must examine our works, to insure that they are intended to promote good to the world around us. We must take note of our loves, attitudes, and motivations. We must strive to have our acts of charity come from a sincere heart that the Lord’s will be done. And finally, we must simply live according to what we do know as being true. If these four principles are active within us, we will have a tangible awareness of the Lord’s presence in our lives and the assurance that He is the one God of heaven and earth. And we can have a fuller understanding in these wonderful words of the Lord, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live.” (Jn 5:25)