Allegheny Valley Church Of God
"Have It Your Way"
Have you ever wondered what the apostles would think if, in a burst of Star-Trek time-travel, they could bridge the thousands of years between the first century Mediterranean arena and contemporary America? What would they say if they could see some of our great cathedrals and churches? Would they be impressed at the style of worship? Would they envy the freedom we have to practice our religion openly in any place we choose? (Except, of course, in our public schools.)
One might think that they would be overwhelmed with praise to God for the spread of Christianity in our nation. And, indeed, we are a blessed nation. America has been the fountainhead of missionary enterprise for over one hundred years. We were founded by men and women who, for the most part, had a saving faith in Jesus Christ and, at the least, acknowledged the importance of the Judeo-Christian scriptures for the founding and maintaining of our government. But, after over 200 years of existence as a nation, does our country really have one of the largest Christian populations in the world? Or have we allowed another kind of Christianity to replace the one so dear to our founding fathers.
I believe we can get the answer by careful study of the scriptures. The particular passage I have in mind is found in the Gospel of John, chapter 6. And the focus will be verse 63:
"The Spirit gives life, the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life."
It is there that Jesus gives us a distinct contrast between life in the flesh, and life in the Spirit.
Marching to Zion!
Everything seemed to be going as planned. Jesus had been ministering throughout the region, healing the sick and casting out demons. The people were following him in droves, and some had already put forth the proposition that this one might indeed be the Messiah, the promised prophet, the Savior of Israel. It was nearing the time for the Passover, and the religious zeal of the people was more charged than ever. Some perhaps thought that this Passover would indeed be the first one of Messiah's Kingdom.
And then, something so remarkable happened to have left no doubt, not even in the mind of the hardest skeptic. In the midst of a crowd of thousands of people, Jesus took a few loaves and a few small fishes and turned them into a feast for all with pieces left over. Taking this as a token of the Kingdom to come, in which they believed they would have eternal prosperity and abundance, they were ready to proclaim him King. There was one small problem, however. Jesus did not let them. It says in verse 15 that Jesus, seeing that they wanted to make him king by force, left them and went up on a mountain to be alone.
When they finally caught up with him the next day, they were puzzled at his appearance. They didn't understand how he could be where he was, because they didn't see him walking on the water, (That's another message.) so they asked him how he got there. But there was an underlying reason for their concern, one which we can understand by the context of the passage. Jesus didn't try to explain to them how he got where he was without a boat. What he did was challenge them as to why they wanted to follow him.
I. The fleshly seek satisfaction in temporal things, the spiritual are satisfied with spiritual things.
Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill."(v26)
Jesus realized that the only thing that attracted the people to him was the fact that he met their felt needs. They were hungry and he fed them. They wanted freedom from the gentile oppressor, and he would provide that for them. But his refusal to be their king, at least to their standards, caused them to begin to doubt once again.
"Do not work for the food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval." (v27)
Jesus admonishes his hearers to be careful not to equate faith with food. As Isaiah the prophet questioned his generation: "Why do you spend money on things that don't satisfy?" (Isa. 55) so Jesus challenged those who claimed to be his disciples to forget about the temporary, temporal, sensual fulfillment of bodily and emotional needs. Instead, he emphasized the spiritual, eternal things, particularly the forgiveness of sins and the new birth. (John 3) In other words, acceptance by God. After all, that is what religion is all about, isn't it? How can we make ourselves acceptable to God? The Jews believed that, by being circumcised and by adhering as closely as possible to the ordinances of the Mosaic law, they could somehow earn their way into heaven. This attitude is evidenced in their next question.
II. The fleshly seek to satisfy God in their own power, the spiritual realize they cannot, and simply believe.
Then they asked him, "What must we do to do the works God requires?"(v28)
This question represents the basis for all of mankind's fascination with religion. From the darkest jungle in the deepest part of Africa, to the most el