It's been said that the worst kind of prison is the one where you don't know you're in prison. The worst bondage is the bondage of a person who thinks they're free to live an entire life bound and yet not thinking there is anything holding you back. I believe that attests well to many today, and it was the mindset in the days when our Lord and Savior came to earth, it was the mindset of the religious in Jerusalem who thought as descendants of Abraham they were free, even though they were really in deep, spiritual bondage. There may be many even in this room who feel that they're free, that they have no bondage to break free from who look to their heritage, who look to their status as a sign of their being unshackled when in fact, they're bound by the gravest of chains.
I want to speak to you today. I want us to look into the Gospel of John today. I want us to look forward into what Jesus has to say as an adult, but in so doing, I want us to also draw back to that Christmas story, to the time of His birth because I want you to see that there are parallels there. There are many truths that transcend those days and even come into our day as well. I've titled this…Whose Child Is This? Because I think, the correct answer to that question is going to go a long way to deciding whether you're bound or unbound, whether you're truly free, or whether you're actually in shackles. Not just whose child is Mary's child, but really whose child are you? Who do you truly belong to?
That was the confrontation that Jesus would bring in His adult ministry with us in John, chapter 8. We want to pick up there this morning as we do compare these two. He's in the middle of a dialogue with the Jews. He has told them that the truth will make them free. They've said, "We are the children of Abraham and have never been in bondage to anyone." Jesus wants to confront that notion, that notion of heritage, that notion of physical descent and show them that yes, though they are the descendants of Abraham, that doesn't mean they are in God's good standing. They are not correct with God. Though you may be in a Christian family, though you may have a Bible on your coffee table, though your name may be on a church roll, the question is…Whose child are you this morning.
Join with me in John, chapter 8, beginning in verse 37. It says, "'I know you are Abraham's descendants.'" This is Jesus speaking to those Pharisees. "'But you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you. I speak what I have seen with My Father, and you do what you have seen with your father.'" Jesus is countering their argument that they're the descendants of Abraham and therefore there is nothing wrong. They are in God's good standing by saying, "Yes, you are His descendants, but you don't live like Abraham's descendants should live. You seek to kill Me."
Now what was the condition in the days of Christ's birth? Well I would say they were no different. When the truth came, when the truth was manifested before us in the presence of this child whom the wise men came sometime later to say, "This is the newborn King," was it not Herod who said, "Let's kill him"? What an evil character Herod is in the Christmas story, and yet as we come to the adult life of Christ, we see that desire to murder has not changed. The truth comes incarnate and there are those who want to kill the truth. So it was in His adult life. He says, "You are the descendants of Abraham, but you're not listening to Abraham. You're not living like Abraham. As a result, you want to kill Me because you don't like the things I have to say."
Verse 38, "I speak what I have seen with My Father. I speak the truth. I am telling you that which My Father has told Me to say. I'm giving you the words of God, but you are not listening to them. Instead of obeying them, you're obeying what you have seen." Literally, that word is heard, from your father. Well the Pharisees pick up on this just as you would pick up on it this morning of…whose child are you? Whose child is this, this morning?
So they respond in verse 39, "They answered and said to Him, 'Abraham is our father.' Jesus said to them, 'If you were Abraham's children, you would do the works of Abraham. But now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth which I heard from God. Abraham did not do this. You do the deeds of your father.'" He says, "You are indeed Abraham's descendants, but you're not Abraham's children. You certainly have descended physically from Abraham. He is your forefather, but you're not his child. If you were his child, then you would do the works of God. You would do the works that Abraham did. Abraham, the father of all Israel, is a man who did the works of God. If you were his children, you would do those works. But by your actions, it tells that you're from a different descent."
You know how it is. Sometimes mothers will look at their children and they'll see them act up in some way. They'll see them misbehave in some way. They'll see them act out and do something wrong, and the mom will look at that child and say, "I know you're your daddy's child." You can tell by their actions. In their actions is the DNA of that father.
Really, those with us spiritually as well. If you are a child of God, and a child of Abraham obviously means a child of the Father here, of the Heavenly Father, then your spiritual DNA takes over and you act like a child of God. You don't become a child of God in name only. See you are born again. You're not just adopting a philosophy. You're not just signing your name to something. You're not just mentally accenting to something. The Bible is very clear that we spiritually are changed. We are transformed in our spiritual DNA. The children of God do the works of God. We tend to act like our Father.
In fact, people should be able to look at you, see your actions, see your reactions to the things of life, see your choices, see your walk and say, "He acts just like his Father. That's what his Father would do." But you see Jesus looks at these Pharisees and says, "Well, you're doing the works of your father, but not your father Abraham. Oh no. No, that's not your father. You're not the child of God based on your reactions and your actions."
Notice what He says, continuing in verse 41. They responded to Him by, "Then they said to Him, 'We were not born of fornication; we have one Father—God.'" Now they're kind of picking up on this. They realize that Abraham and God are equivalent in Jesus' discussion here, so they substitute Abraham with God the Father. They're saying, "Listen, we're not the result of adultery. No, no, no. We have one Father…God. You're accusing us of not being legitimate children. We're not illegitimate. We have one Father…God." How many times…how many times do people respond to the conviction of God by saying, "I'm not illegitimate"? "No, there is nothing wrong with me. I'm okay. I have everything in order." Just like these Pharisees, whose child are they? They're saying, "Well, we're God's child."
Then Jesus lays out a litmus test. It is this litmus test we all need to look at this morning to see whether or not we are the child of God, whether or not we belong to Him. In 42, Jesus said to them, "If God were your Father, you would love Me." See the first test, the first test of whether or not you are truly a child of God, is whether or not you love Christ.
Here we are at Christmas time, and you just analyze this in your own heart because this is so crucial for you to figure this out. What do you love? Is Christmas a love story to you? When you think of the Nativity, when you think of the story of Mary and Joseph, when you think of the shepherds, you think of the angels, you think of the birth of Christ at this time of year, is it a love story to you? Is it something that draws you so close and so worshipful, so intimate with God that you so love Him?
You love that Christ-child. You see in Him a King. You see in Him your King. You see in Him your rescue, your salvation from your own sins. You see in Him the greatest gift that has ever been given. Or, is it family. Is it presents? Is it depression? Is it the hectic nature that the commercialization of this season tends to want to do to all of us? Is there a love for Christ that permeates everything that happens at this time of year?
You know it's amazing. I was commenting to my wife last week, or this past week…I had watched several sitcoms on TV trying to get sermon ideas and almost every one of them had their Christmas show. Every one of them…every one of them that I watched, there was a stereotypical Christian and then some of other faiths, and in every case, the Christian was the intolerant fool, bad person in the story. It was the other ones who would come to the rescue.
I mean we live in a society in which being Christian is something to be ashamed as far as television is concerned, as far as the world is concerned. You should be ashamed of yourself. You know…tolerant of everything but being a Christian. At this time of year, they want you to say happy holidays, not merry Christmas. It's as though the story itself is an intolerant story. They're right. It is an intolerant story to those who have a different father.
But oh, it's a love story to those who know Christ and who love Him, who know exactly why He came. Not only to redeem us, but to offer redemption to those who are intolerant of Him as well. He said, "If God were your Father, you would love Me." Isn't it interesting on that Christmas night when Christ was born that the shepherds came, and that's a story of love? The angels come and that's a story of love. We always point out how it's the lowest, the shepherds, who are the ones who God announces the birth to, but yet when we look at the story of Christ, we see that He is reserving a special time, I believe, to those who love Him…to those who love Him.
Oh when a child is born today, you know it's that family, that closest of family that are normally the ones who are first told, who first come. I believe that's really the story of the shepherds. Those who love… He was born in a world that was intolerant of Him…intolerant of truth, that claimed to be of God, but did the works of Satan. So too today. So while I get frustrated that the sitcoms portray Christians the way they do, I understand it. I realize that even for them, there is a glorious answer, a glorious love story that awaits any who will choose Christ as their Savior.
He says, "If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me." That's the story of the manger. That is the story of Christmas. That's the story of the birth…God sent Jesus. He left the comforts and the glory and the majesty of the throne of heaven. "God sent Me," He said. "He sent me to this earth to be manifested and to walk among men." For those of us who understand that and accept that and obey that…oh, what a love story that is! But He says to you, "You don't love God because you don't love Me."
Verse 43, He gives another reason why we need to analyze our hearts to see whether or not we are of God. That is He says not only that you don't love Me, you don't love Christ, but secondly, (verse 43) "Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word." You see it's not enough that they don't have a love attraction to Christ; they also don't obey the words He says. The idea here when He says, "You don't listen to My word." Well, of course they hear what He's saying. That's why they're getting so upset, but what it means is you're not heeding My Word. You're not obeying My Word. You're not accepting My Word. Why do you not understand? Why do you not obey? Because you don't heed. Why do you not believe I am from God? Because you're not obeying, heeding, listening to, and accepting the words I am telling you.
I'll tell you what, you can love all the trappings of Christmas, but if you miss the story of Christmas, if you miss the truth that God came to earth in human flesh…and He did…that He came as the only sinless being to die for our sins, to rescue us from sin, if you don't understand that, you're not going to heed the words of God. You're not going follow the teachings of God, and you're not going to see Christ as He is, and you're not His child. You're not the child of God. If you don't love Christ, if you don't heed His words, well those are sure signs you're not His child. Those aren't optional things. You don't get the free ticket to heaven, and well, if you have time we'd like you to study the Bible. If you aren't too busy, we'd like you to obey what God would like you to do. No, there are no options in that.
With the Pharisees, they were people who were claiming to know all about the Scriptures, but they weren't listening to it. He said, "If you were really Abraham's children you would know the story well enough to follow it." Well how many people… I can't number the people who know the Bible so well, and yet never know it well enough to follow it. They know the stories. They memorize the Scriptures. They have all the facts down, but they don't let it penetrate their heart. That's where it was with the Pharisees. They're challenging Jesus on theological points here and there, but none of those points have ever penetrated their heart or else they would see Jesus as the Messiah He was.
"Why do you not understand My speech? Because you're not able to listen to My word." Why is this? Verse 44 tells us, "You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do." The word desire there is the word for lust, the word for craving, for longing. It's not just that you, out of ignorance, do the devil's bidding. I want you to understand that. He's saying that you are of your father the devil and you crave what he wants. You crave it. You desire it greatly.
Now hopefully, everybody in here would say, "Well, I'd never want to crave what the devil wants." But now let's think back to Christmas again. What is this time of year for you? Is it a time of giving? It is a time of loving, or is it a time of craving? Is it a time of selfishness? Is it a time of jealousy? Is it a time of depression because your life doesn't seem to be as happy as this other person's life? You see craving, and longing, and lusting can come in many forms and in many shapes.
This time of year, this time, which is the most joyous time of the year and also the greatest time of depression of the year is a time when we can really analyze our hearts and see deep down what motivates us. Are we willing to love Christ and enjoy Christmas whether there is a tree or any presents under it? Or is this a time where we're trying to prove ourselves both by the things we get and by outspending somebody else and being known as the greatest giver all selfishly pointing to us?
You see, Jesus is saying, "You are of your father the devil, and you have all of these incredible, selfish desires. You long to do what he wants to do." It motivates and it drives you and boy, it did. It drove King Herod. He was a crazy man to begin with. He was so motivated that he was so jealous of his own position that he would routinely kill people that he even thought were a threat to his throne including his own family. When the wise men came and said, "Hey, where is the new king?" Then his heart was filled with rage to want to seek out and kill Him. He was so lusting for that, he was so lusting for his own throne that he just made the blanket decision to kill every child of that age who was in the little village of Bethlehem. That's exactly what He says is in the Pharisees' heart.
He says of your father the devil, "He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him." He was a murderer from the beginning. You look back to the story of the world and you see the story of Satan's murderous rage. You see it in Cain and his selfishness in killing Abel. You see it brought forward in Herod and his selfishness of wanting to destroy one who threatens him, and it carries forward to us today.
Jesus said that murder is committed in the heart well before it is ever committed physically. So we have to ask ourselves, "Do we love Christ enough to sacrifice for Him or is our love for ourselves so great that we're willing to do whatever it takes to get us ahead?" Are we willing to cheat, to steal? Do we wish certain people would just go away so that our lives would be better...our lives would more noble?
Before we condemn the Pharisee, let's look to our own heart to see whether we're a child of God, or whether our DNA is still that old fleshly nature driven by the devil. He said also that he is a liar. That he has lied from the beginning. He lied to Eve, and he has continued to lie. Has God said…? That's the question that's asked today, isn't it? That's the question that the world challenges Christians with constantly. Is there really a God? Did God really say this? Is this all that God had to say? Is this the only way I can worship God? Is this the only way I can do things?
The devil fills this world with lies, and Christmas is no exception. The story of redemption is the story of Christmas, not just the story of an innocent child and a struggling set of young parents. Not a story of being benevolent. Not a story of end-of-year Christmas bonuses and parties and all of the things that have just so covered up the truth of Christmas that in that manger is your salvation. Outside of that is no salvation.
It doesn't matter how benevolent you are as a boss at Christmas time, how large your bonus checks are. It doesn't matter how much you do in the soup kitchen this week, none of those things will grant you salvation. It's only in seeing in the manger the Christ.
Transcribed by Digital Sermon Transcription