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Fear Can Silence Your Most Important Confession

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Title:  FEAR CAN SILENCE YOUR MOST IMPORTANT CONFESSION

Text:  John 12:32-50

Introduction:

            It’s easy to profess allegiance to your football team when you are winning and you’re sitting in the stands of the team’s hometown.  Its another matter when you’re a Oakland Raider’s fan sitting in the Denver Bronco’s Mile High Stadium, it’s the last two minutes of the fourth quarter and you are down by 21 points.  When the game’s over and it’s time to walk the gauntlet out to the parking lot, the T-shirt with the logo of the one-eyed pirate that was previously proudly displayed, gets covered up by the windbreaker with your company logo instead.  Courage runs high when the odds are in your favor, but if there are any weak-kneed fans, their true colors may change when the tables are turned.

            Such was the case with a hyped-up crowd that lined the streets when Jesus entered Jerusalem at the beginning of His final week.  Shouts of praise, palm branches and coats thrown in the path were the evidence of a shallow belief on Sunday.  By Monday many no longer believed in Him.

            What makes the difference?  What makes a devoted fan wear his colors no matter what the score?  What takes place in the heart of believer that is willing to die for their faith in Jesus?  But more importantly…do you have that crucial ingredient?  Read Text.

1.      Verse 32 says that Jesus will draw all men unto Himself when He is lifted up.  Does that mean all mankind will be saved?  (No; it’s an invitation for all to look to Him to be saved…Jew, Greek [those who asked to see Him in the verses prior], and Gentile.  All are invited, but it is all those who look to Him that are saved.)

2.      John states in verse 33 that the words Jesus spoke in verse 32 refer to what kind of death He was to die.  What is there about that event that draws people to Him?  What’s so compelling about the cross?  (For those who have their spiritual eyes opened, we realize we are in desperate need of having our sins removed if we are to ever see God.  Our salvation purchased at the cross at no cost to us is what draws us to Jesus.)

3.      Is there any indication in the text that the crowd surrounding Jesus understood what He meant by being lifted up?  (Yes, v. 34 indicates that Jesus’ words reminded them of a Scripture in the Law that said the Christ was to remain forever [2 Sam. 7:13], but they understood His words to indicate a cross was waiting for Him, so they were questioning Him as to whether the Son of Man was really the Messiah.) 

4.      Jesus’ response to them was to walk in the light while they had the light.  What did He mean by that?  (It’s Jesus’ final appeal to them to recognize the Light while it is still shining in their midst, and to believe the truth which He is disclosing, so they can become children of light.)

5.      Vs. 35 “…that the darkness may not overtake you.”  How is spiritual darkness overtaking us similar to a sunset and the darkness overtaking the light?  (A little at a time; slow transformation, until all the light is gone.)

6.      How do you “walk in the light”?  Rom. 13:12-14; Eph. 5:8-13

7.      Why do you suppose Jesus hid Himself and departed from their presence when there was no apparent danger?    (He had a mission with a deadline of a certain amount of things to accomplish in this final week; He couldn’t stick around and argue His claims, so He escaped.)

8.      What becomes of these fickle believers who just previously hailed Jesus as the Messiah according to verse 37?     What does it tell you of their heart when miracles can’t even consolidate their faith?
Insight: Before John continues with the story of the passion, he pauses to state that this rejection of Jesus by the Jews is no isolated phenomenon.  It’s actually the climax of Israel’s unbelief as prophesied by Isaiah.  John 12:39-40

9.      At first glance verse 40 appears that God blinds the eyes and heart of people so they can’t believe.  But God is wishing that NONE should perish (2 Pet. 3:9), so what is meant by this verse?  (God foresees what is going to happen as though it was inevitable.  The Jews DID NOT believe, therefore the COULD NOT believe.)

10.  What is the promise to those who DO see with their eyes and perceive with their heart?  (God will heal them.)

11.  Why do you suppose they chose not to believe in Jesus?  (Fear of excommunication…desiring to stand well with the Pharisees and their peers.  12:42-43)      Is silence, when we are expected to take a stand, in itself a kind of betrayal?     What does this tell you about the importance of the Christian community shoring up one another to stand with Christ when the pressure is on to deny the claims of the Bible and our belief in Christ?

12.  In the closing verses of this chapter, Jesus clearly emphasizes once again the serious nature of unbelief.  How so?  (To reject Him is to turn your back on the Light and to die unforgiven, and the result is to bring judgment upon yourself.  Believing in Jesus can take away the fear of judgment.)

Conclusion:

            The final verses of this chapter echo with penetrating words: To reject Jesus is to reject the God and Father who sent Him as a gift of eternal life.  It is these final words that change the final destiny of every man.  By them you will be either justified (just as if I’d never sinned), or by disobedience to them we will stand condemned.

            There was no doubt in Jesus’ mind that He was going to be crucified.  He wants His followers to also have no doubts about their position with Him.  The line is being drawn.  Whose team are you on?  Will you still cheer Him on when the chips are down and the final score looks like you won’t win this one?  Is your faith strong enough to endure to the end because you know this final battle is not how the whole war will end?

            There’s a clear indication in this chapter that those who follow Jesus must stand with Him and serve Him.  It’s those who have ears to hear that will have a heart in which those words can be hidden.  Those who have the right heart will embrace Him to the very end.  They will embrace the words of Christ.

            “Thy Word have I hidden in my heart that I might not sin against Thee.”  (Ps. 119:11)

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