30. Pleasing the Father

(For the next few weeks we will pick up again the series of short meditations in John 5 we started some time back)

Short Meditations in John 5:  30. Pleasing the Father

Jn 5:30  By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.

To the questions of how the Father and Son relate to each other, are they equal or are there apparent inequalities, this verse provides answers.

It starts off by Jesus’ declaration of need: “By myself I can do nothing.” Now of course, later in chapter fifteen when he is speaking of the vine, Jesus says the same thing about us and him: “Without me you can do nothing.” Now that is not very surprising because he is God and we are not, but when it comes to his relationship with the Father we may find that a little more surprising; the Son is reliant upon the Father. The Early Church Fathers and those church leaders who followed them struggled to understand the relationship and concluded that Jesus was not created but was begotten – ‘came out of’ the Father and was thus God in nature and being and yet when it comes to working out the relationship it seems that God the original, who we now call Father,  is always seen as the initiator, the one who decides and the Son submits to His leadership.

Thus it is now that Jesus clearly places himself under the ‘headship’ of the Father, for the Father is the One who leads the way and the Son follows (see back to v.17-19). It may be that there is more to this that takes into account that when the Son inhabited a human body he clearly put off the glory he had in heaven previously and indeed relied upon the Holy Spirit to expand his human knowledge and experience to more nearly match his heavenly capabilities, thus when Jesus says, “I judge only as I hear,” we may suppose that he is referring to hearing what the Spirit communicates is the Father’s will and the Father knows all those they saw from before the foundation of the world (Eph 1) would be those who would respond to them, i.e. who became ‘chosen’. Thus now, as the Spirit communicates the Father’s will, that includes the revelation of who Jesus encountered that they knew are part of that ‘foreseen’ (and thus ‘chosen’) people. So, again, those Jesus accepts are those ‘chosen’ and he brings life to them, while those he rejects are those that the Godhead saw would be those who would reject them throughout their time here on earth.

Jesus therefore executes the will of the Father by declaring in heaven who are righteous and who are not (as they respond to him) and as he exercises this ministry or divine activity, so he pleases the Father. Indeed at the heart of their relationship is this love where the Father desires to bless the Son and the Son desires to please the Father, and thus provide a picture for us to follow.

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43. What you say

Meditations in James: 43 : Beware what you say about others

Jas 4:11,12     Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you–who are you to judge your neighbor?

A passage like today’s two verses is simple and straight forward, but we might wonder, why is James going off on another tangent?  Well he isn’t, but again we have to look at what has gone before in this chapter to catch the flow. Remember at the beginning of the chapter James was facing us with the inner turmoil that goes on within us because of not having surrendered everything to God (v.1-3). Then he implied that all these desires that had not been submitted to God were the same sort of thing that the rest of the world wrestled with in their unregenerate state, and he called us to side with God against the ungodliness and unrighteous attitudes of the world (v.4).  He then pointed out that God is jealous for a relationship with us (v.5) and longs to give us the grace we need for living, but can only give it to those who humbly seek him (v.6). Out of that came a call to come to God in submission, resisting the tactics of the enemy who would seek to draw us away (v.7), come with a right perspective (v.8-10) and God will lift us up. This has all been a natural progressive flow in his appeal and it is important that we see how one thing flows on from another.

So he has come to a point of appealing that we submit to God, and so what follows? It is important to see this! When our relationship with the Lord is established or re-established, it always has practical outworkings in respect of how we relate to other people. The vertical relationship with God ALWAYS results in changes to the horizontal relationships with people. You cannot have a real relationship with the Lord and it not have impact on the way you relate to people.  In passing we might consider how we relate to other people because, as the other side of the same coin so to speak, it is an indicator of the level of relationship we have with the Lord!

James, as a good pastor, knows this, that the Lord wants the expression of our relationship with Him to have an impact on the way we relate to people, and James has it in the back of his mind that he has already written to us about the use of the tongue as being the first outward indicator of how we are on the inside. Right, he says now, if you have submitted yourself to God, check now what is coming out of your mouth in respect of people, because your words now need to reflect your newly re-established relationship with the Lord.

This is a terribly important issue in Christian circles. See what he says: Brothers, do not slander one another. Brothers indicates that he is speaking to Christians, and his simple injunction is don’t say wrong things about other Christians. Now I’ve just suggested that this is a terribly important issue in Christian circles.  Listen to the chatter that goes on in church. Listen to the chatter that goes on between little groups of Christians. Here is the challenge from James. If you refer to your minister or leaders, or to anyone else in the church for that matter, are you careful not to offend on this point? ‘Gossip’ in the church is wrong chattering that pulls down people. Gossip does not look for the well-being and uplifting of people. Gossip is so often slanderous; it does not wholly speak the truth. Slander is speaking wrongly about others. If we give an opinion about our leaders or about others with whom we perhaps disagree, is it an opinion that puts down or does it uplift? What you speak is a reflection of what goes on inside you, and if you speak untruth, it is an indication of a weak relationship with the Lord, and you need to go back over the previous verses in this chapter because they obviously apply to you. But see what else James says about this.

He says, Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. What does he mean? Well today, as Christians, we are under one Law, the Law of love: Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: `Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Mt 22:37-40). If we slander other people, we are rejecting that Law, and putting ourselves above it. It’s like we make a judgment, “I don’t need to be bound by that,” and we put ourselves on the level of the Lawmaker, God! You’re not keeping the royal law of love, says James, if you speak badly of other people, you are judging it. God is the only one who can put aside the Law. An expression of our real relationship with the Lord is that we keep this law and love others, and if we love them we will not speak badly of them. It is that simple!

After all that we have said about the previous verses and how James calls us into relationship with the Lord, the way we speak about others will be the measuring stick for how real our responses to all of that have been. If we find ourselves speaking wrongly of others, we need to pull ourselves up, go back to God, submit ourselves humbly to Him and ask for His forgiveness. A relationship with God is a very practical thing in the Bible. Ensure it is also in your life.