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Faithlife

God The Demo Version

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" After the two days he left for Galilee. (Now Jesus himself had pointed out that a prophet has no honor in his own country.) When he arrived in Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him. They had seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, for they also had been there. Once more he visited Cana in Galilee, where he had turned the water into wine. And there was a certain royal official whose son lay sick at Capernaum. When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death. “Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.” The royal official said, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” Jesus replied, “You may go. Your son will live.” The man took Jesus at his word and departed. While he was still on the way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living. When he inquired as to the time when his son got better, they said to him, “The fever left him yesterday at the seventh hour.” Then the father realized that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” So he and all his household believed. This was the second miraculous sign that Jesus performed, having come from Judea to Galilee." (John 4:43-54, NIV)

[1]

“I expect a miracle today because I believe God not so that I will believe in God.”

Ill. – plaque on pulpit – “Expect a Miracle!”

Any computer/internet novice knows that there are wonderful computer programs that are available for download.  If you are wanting the opportunity to “try it out” without any commitment to buy it, then it’s great.  Many times however the downloaded version is not a full-featured version or it is good for only a limited amount of time.  Unfortunately many people take a similar approach to their relationship with God.  They “download” some experience that is partially functional and find that it fails to meet their expectations.  They want the “demo” version only.  It’s free, . . . no commitment, . . . toss it when you are done, . . . no one has to be the wiser in the world of cyber privacy.

And there are so many concluding that faith is inadequate based on their experience with a “demo-version” of God.  It’s features are limited.  It will take you tot church but not to heaven.  It will make you feel great about tipping God but never allow you to consider a tithe.  It will give you a warm feeling of sensitivity to God but fail to give birth and growth to your spiritual nature. 

It is not a registered version, merely something to try.

I suspect, human nature being what it is that people were little different in Jesus day.  They interpreted the worth of things based on the value to the individual.

The scripture this morning finds Christ returning to Galilee.  He makes the observation to his disciples in some manner worthy of remembering and so John cites his observation relative to the worth of a prophet in his own country.  It could have been simply an observation but perhaps it might have been as much related to his ability to minister effectively in his home area based on the fact that people there knew him so well as the son of Joseph, the Carpenter that they could never conceive him as the promised Messiah , the son of God.

1.  The Prospects For Ministry (v.44)

(Now Jesus himself had pointed out that a prophet has no honor in his own country.)

I wonder if God looks forward to coming to church on Sunday AM? 

When I go fishing, I want to go where the fish are biting.  I wonder if God delights in being with us as a people?  Do you suppose that God looks forward to the openness of our people as we gather together on Sunday AM because together we are expecting that we would never have another normal Sunday morning in our lives?

There are times when our faith is defined by what we have not seen as much as it is defined by what we have seen.  Familiarity can have a detrimental effect on our ability to “imagine” what God can do. 

These Galilean folks were somehow handicapped in their understanding of Christ by their familiarity with Jesus.  There was nothing more that they could know of Him that they did not already know.  They had known of his family and perhaps some of them had been personally acquainted with him as a boy.

Too many times we miss so much because we live on the low level of the natural, the ordinary, the explainable.  We leave no room for God to do the exceeding abundant thing above all that we can ask or think.

-- Vance Havner in the Vance Havner Quote Book. Christianity Today, Vol. 36, no. 14.

Today there are those who are likewise disadvantaged.  They have been blessed to know of Christ over a long period of time.  They have grown up through Sunday School classes and Christian homes and sat through more sermons than they could ever remember and while they have knowledge of God, they have an experience deficit.  Their knowledge does not stir their heart.  They pray with little passion infrequently.  Rarely do they find themselves before God in desperation and personal abandon to serve Him.  They are unable to measure any discernible impact that they are having on those that they work with and rarely do they think of Christ apart from a Sunday service which seems to run consistently longer than their liking.  What is worse is that they have defined their experience as normal and have long ago ceased to look for something more vital.  Their relationship with God has been defined by their lack of experience.

They really don’t believe that God speaks to people because He has never spoken to them.

They are skeptical that God would ever heal a person because they have never seen such a thing take place.

They don’t think that they have any responsibility to witness for God because they have excused themselves from trying for a sufficient period of time to see their timidity as personality related rather than related to the depth of their passion.

Jesus was returning to his own people and had full realization that their faith antennae’s were not raised – the receivers were not even turned on.  God’s willingness to work among his people is related somehow to their own receptivity and their willingness to believe God and to cease their restrictive beliefs. 

Do you know that your own responsiveness today in the midst of the familiarity that surrounds this event is either invitational to God or prohibitional to His desire and ability to work in your life.

The faith limiting perspectives that you have adopted over the years define for God what He is allowed to do in you.  If you have concluded that He never answers the childlike and sometimes self absorbed prayers of His children then you have given up the practice of taking your heart to Him and your prayers have become sterile and meaningless and devoid of supernatural impact.

Don’t limit him today by your lack of experience.

2.  The Prevalent Mind-set (v.45)

"When he arrived in Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him. They had seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, for they also had been there." (John 4:45, NIV)

[2]

It is not awareness of God that draws people to him.  This royal official was as much aware of Jesus ministry as the others had been but only by reputation.  There was a period of time where he felt no need to seek Christ out.

The public was well aware of the miracles that Christ was performing.  Was he drawing the curious in his crowds?  The word about Jesus was a matter of public record.  People might not have been willing to acknowledge his identity but they could not deny the power and legitimacy of his presence and influence.  People flocked to him because they were seeing something happen.  There was a demonstration of power that accompanied him that gave him an inimitable authority.  There were no others like him.

You know, I am convinced that there are few irreligious people who have problems with Jesus.  There are many who struggle with the representation that they see of the person of Christ in his followers.

3.  A Personal Misfortune (vs.46,47)

46 Once more he visited Cana in Galilee, where he had turned the water into wine. And there was a certain royal official whose son lay sick at Capernaum. 47 When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death. [3]

While there were many who knew of Jesus ministry, Jesus was not pursued most closely by those who were curious.  He was sought after most diligently by those who were desperate.

Most people are not drawn to faith based on the testimony of the miraculous.  It’s not that we are disinterested in miracles but if life is going well and we are not conscious of any particular need then we have mild interest at best.

How many times does a crisis point us to God.  I’m not sure how much we realize our need of him apart from some tragedy or misfortune.

A change of circumstance in our life is all that it takes to make us all desperate.  Nothing like adversity to put us in a place of spiritual receptivity. 

It had that effect on a royal official who lived there in Capernaum.  His knowledge of Christ’s miracle working ability had never before turned him into a pilgrim who went after Jesus to witness what he was doing.  Now however, the sickness of his beloved son drove him to find Christ

They will never come in all likelihood because they hear about the miraculous taking place at First Wesleyan Church.  But they will come for a personal miracle – when they run to the end of their options and they stand on the brink of irreplaceable loss or total devastation, then they will become interested in the miraculous and they will come.  But we have to remember that it will be their personal need and their lack of options that will bring them to Christ.

What does it take to bring you to Jesus?  What does it take to make you turn to Him to seek him out?

The Atheist And The Loch Ness Monster

An atheist was spending a quiet day fishing when suddenly his boat was attacked by the Loch Ness monster. In one easy flip, the beast tossed him and his boat high into the air. Then it opened its mouth to swallow both. As the man sailed head over heels, he cried out, "Oh, my God! Help me!"

At once, the ferocious attack scene froze in place, and as the atheist hung in mid-air, a booming voice came down from the clouds, "I thought you didn't believe in Me!"

"Come on God, give me a break!!," the man pleaded. "Two minutes ago I didn't believe in the Loch Ness monster either!"

4.  A Problematic Mode (v.48)

"“Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.”" (John 4:48, NIV)

[4]

A person could turn this scripture around.  Unless you believe you will never see.

It is Divine insight into the hearts of people that is able to identify the motivation that brings people to Jesus.  He saw immediately that the healing of this man’s son was key to his willingness to move beyond knowledge to personal belief.  And while he might have refused to try to prove himself to the proud religious man or the sinful skeptic, he could not refuse the heart of this desperate father.  His request would be answered.

This approach to God is a problematic one when it persists or when it become the pattern in our spiritual lives.  Asking God to prove himself to us by giving us what we ask for or by performing some miraculous deed will lead us to believe in miracles but never lead us to believe in God.  The notion of faith “without which it is impossible to please God” is to believe before we receive rather than after we receive.  Substantial faith always presents a request to God with firm belief in his person prior to the answer being received.

Reading God's hand into circumstances can be an evasion of genuine commitment to being His person in them. It can be an insidious alternative to giving Him your heart--because it keeps your attention directed outward rather than inward, where His chisel bites. ...  We have elevated coincidence to the status of miracle, and the interpretation of coincidence to gospel. We can routinely ask God to intervene in our circumstances while hoping He'll keep His nose out of inner things like our spiritual indifference and pride.

 -- John Boykin in The Gospel of Coincidence.  Christianity Today, Vol. 39, no. 3.

When we insist that God continually prove himself to us in exchange for our love or our willingness to trust Him we are short-circuiting our spiritual relationship with God and the level of intimacy that we experience with Him.

" Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, “Teacher, we want to see a miraculous sign from you.” He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now one greater than Jonah is here. The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and now one greater than Solomon is here." (Matthew 12:38-42, NIV)

[5]

One thing that we can learn early from God is that he is faithful and relentlessly consumed with your salvation and committed to your deliverance.

There are some churches where God has to continually prove himself to his people before they will act.  A terrible context for what is supposed to be a community of faith.

Many people are asking God for a sign as if they plan to believe, to change their mind and their direction if God would choose to convince them that he exists.  It is not lack of belief that keeps people from God.  It could be a lack of willingness to believe because believing in Jesus is the most dangerous belief in the world.  Acknowledging his existence is without value.  “The devils also believe and tremble.”  Acknowledging His Lordship is the essence of true biblical belief.  It is not simply the idea that God exists but that He is who the scriptures tell us that He is and that we can no longer remain the same if we truly believe.  A person who professes belief and does not begin to change perhaps subtly at first and then dynamically, is a person who may believe that God exists but practically denies it because they have chosen to be their own god.

[     As a basis for belief, asking God to prove himself to you

[     As a basis for direction or guidance

5.  A Proven Miracle (vs. 49-54)

The royal official said, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” Jesus replied, “You may go. Your son will live.” The man took Jesus at his word and departed. While he was still on the way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living. When he inquired as to the time when his son got better, they said to him, “The fever left him yesterday at the seventh hour.” Then the father realized that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” So he and all his household believed

[6]

The official had to come to this place – he took God at his word and I believe that it was at this point that he positioned himself for the miracle that Christ gave him. 

He left without the desired result – he asked Jesus to come and Jesus told him to go.  He found his miracle when he was willing to receive Christ’s answer.  And it was not what he asked for.  He wanted to prescribe the method of his son’s healing.  In his mind it required the physical presence of Chris before his son to touch him physically.

It was not until he met his servants on his way home that he discovered his miracle.  There are people today who find their miracle on the way home.

Is God’s response to us based on our abilities to get the formula or the recipe right or does he come through in a demonstration of his goodness alone?

   The electric telegraph, though it be but an invention of man, would have been as hard to believe in a thousand years ago as the resurrection of the dead is now.  Who in the days of packhorses would have believed in flashing a message from England to America? Everything is full of wonder till we are used to it, and resurrection owes the incredible portion of its marvel to our never having come across it in our observation--that is all.  After the resurrection we shall regard it as a divine display of power as familiar to us as creation and providence now are.

   -- Charles H. Spurgeon in the Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit (Vol.18).  Christianity Today, Vol. 33, no. 6.

Jesus the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End, the Alpha and the Omega (Harold – bottom bag in the pile is the most difficult to pick up – we need to take the bottom bag away)

E-MAIL FROM GOD

Date: August 10, 1999

Good Morning:

I am the Lord your God. Today I will be handling all of your problems.  Please remember that I do not need your help. If the devil happens to deliver a situation to you that you cannot handle, DO NOT attempt to resolve it. Kindly put it in the SFJTD (something for Jesus to do) box. It will be addressed in MY time, not yours.

Once the matter is placed into the box, do not hold on to it or attempt to remove it. Holding on or removal will delay the resolution of your problem.  If it is asituation that you think you are capable of handling, please consult me in prayer to be sure that it is the proper resolution.

Because I do not sleep nor do I slumber, there is no need for you to lose any sleep. Rest my child. If you need to contact me, I am only a prayer away.

Love Eternally,

The Lord your God

P.S.  Please pass this on to all my other kids.


----

[1] The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

[2] The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

[3]The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) (Jn 4:46-47). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

[4] The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

[5] The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

[6] The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

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