Meditating on the Commands of Christ (21): Marvel Not At This

What was “this”? Well, Jesus gave the Pharisees a lot to marvel about, although he told them that they shouldn’t be surprised by what he taught. For instance, in contrast to the rest of us, God doesn’t care if we’re rich or poor, young or old, male or female, brown or white. When it comes to asking for rescue, God doesn’t even give preferential treatment to those who are religious over those who have been previously irreligious. However, He does care if we’re proud or humble!

Jesus said, “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32). Why? Because he knows those who are self-righteous will be oblivious of their need. It would be like a doctor trying to interest a patient into coming into the hospital for treatment. If the patient thought he was perfectly well (even if he had an undetected terminal illness), he’d be insulted by the suggestion that he needed help.

Similarly, if you think you’re perfectly moral and don’t need any help getting to heaven (or if you think all dogs and everybody else are going to heaven), then you won’t ask God to save you. But, if you humbly recognize that you’re not “good enough” on your own and ask Christ to rescue you, he will! He may not do what you want (make you perfect instantly), but he’ll give you what you need (spiritual rebirth and eternal life). Would you like eternal life? In our passage for today, John 5:15-29 (see below), Jesus got into a debate with the Jewish leaders, who were persecuting him for healing a lame man by the Pool of Bethesda on the Sabbath Day. Compassionate help (healing) was completely consistent with the teachings of the Old Testament, but the Jews were jealous of Jesus’s popularity and power, so they were trying to squelch him. Furthermore, Jesus could argue circles around the Jewish leaders, which frustrated them to death. This unlearned man from Galilee—the “backward” northern part of their country—who had never been officially tutored by any of the rabbis, was constantly surprising people with what he said and did.

Although he was faultless in his conduct and character, Jesus was completely unconventional in his interpretation of the scriptures according to the current “party line.” Talk about political incorrectness! Jesus spoke with authority, declared himself to be the Son of Man and the Son of God, which in effect made him equal with God. The Jewish religious leaders believed this could not be true and therefore had to be a lie.

Interestingly enough, nothing that Jesus said or did was contrary to anything in the Old Testament law, and this is what infuriated them. They couldn’t pin any sin on him, but they also didn’t believe what he was saying was true. He seemed like a wily fox to them, a deceiver . . . a magician who was leading the people astray.

Was he? Not at all! Jesus was teaching the truth (which had gotten muddled through hundreds of years of teachers trying to “add” to the law). Furthermore, Jesus was validating his claims to be the Son of God by his supernatural healing ministry. What could the leaders do? He was outsmarting them and out-powering them!

They had two choices: They could oppose him and try to kill him, or they could turn to God for help. They chose the former. As a group, there is no mention of the leaders seeking God’s wisdom at any time. They didn’t pray and ask God to help them figure out the truth. They powered on with every ounce of their infuriated energy, trying to stamp out this interloping revolutionary (as they thought of him).

Jesus explained the truth to the religious leaders, then ended with a stunning statement: “24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life” (John 5:24). This boulder of  spiritual truth is still valid for every one of us today, by the way!

For those who would not believe in Jesus and receive everlasting life through him, Jesus explained that judgment is coming: “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice,29 And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation” (John 5:28-29).

So, what is the “this” about which Jesus didn’t want anyone to marvel? It’s the fact that judgment is coming after we die, and we will either be a part of the resurrection of life or the resurrection of damnation.

Where are you in your spiritual journey? Are you trying to be “good enough” on your own? Do you think (like the Jewish leaders) that you can get to heaven by your own good works? The scripture is very clear that “by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). No number of good works is going to be good enough, because we are not saved by our good works, we are saved by our faith!

On the other hand, faith isn’t a virtue, it’s a gift. You can’t just conjure up faith. Jesus is the provider of our faith and the object of our faith. If you want faith, go straight to Jesus and ask him to give you faith! He will! There are also two keys in the scripture for anyone who doesn’t believe but would like to:

So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). Do you want to believe? Read the Bible!

And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief” (Mark 9:24). Ask God to increase your faith!

The man departed, and told the Jews that it was Jesus, which had made him whole. And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay him, because he had done these things on the sabbath day.17 But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.18 Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.19 Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.20 For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth him all things that himself doeth: and he will shew him greater works than these, that ye may marvel.21 For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will.22 For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son:23 That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him.24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.25 Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.26 For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself;27 And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man.28 Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice,29 And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation” (John 5:15-29).

 

Leaving Mormonism but Growing in Grace

Although I virtually never read books that counter other religious viewpoints, I have begun reviewing books for Kregel Publications. I think they produce some outstanding Christian resources, and their recent release, Leaving Mormonism: Why Four Scholars Changed Their Minds, intrigued me. The few Mormons I know are clean living and service-minded. In fact, there are many Mormons who serve in our military, and my military kids have become good friends with several because of their moral standards and family values. Therefore, I wondered why four Mormon scholars would take such a strong stand against the teachings of their church.

When Mitt Romney was campaigning for the Republican presidential ticket, I remember sharing the gospel with a Mormon gentleman on a flight home from the West Coast. He expressed such warm agreement that I assumed the Mormon church must have changed a lot in the past forty years. Perhaps it wasn’t a “cult” after all. Perhaps it’s just another branch of true Christianity. Or, so I thought!   The book is deep and wide. I was blown away by how much I didn’t know. Each of the four scholars trace their own life experience of loving the Mormon Church  (some whose lineage can be traced back to the times of Joseph Smith) but growing into such an appreciation for the Bible as the true Word of God (which they go to great lengths to support) that they could no longer believe Mormon doctrines. Why? Because at their heart, many Mormon teachings run contrary to what the Bible says. Consider just a few essential doctrinal contradictions:

“The Lord created you and me for the purpose of becoming Gods like Himself” (Brigham Young).

Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created” (The Bible, Revelation 4:11).

“The Spirit of God fell upon me to a marked extent and the Lord revealed to me, just as plainly and the sun at noon-day, this principle, which I put in a couplet: ‘As man now is God once was; As God now is, man may be'” (Lorenzo Snow, Latter Day Saint (LDS) apostle and prophet for three decades).

…we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one. For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) but to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him. Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge” (The Bible, 1 Corinthians 8:4-7).

A “plurality of gods exist…There is an infinite number of holy personages, drawn from worlds without number, who have passed on to exaltation and are thus gods” (LDS Apostle Bruce McConkie).

And the scribe said unto him, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but he” (The Bible, Mark 12:32).

“One of the most fallacious doctrines originated by Satan and propounded by man is that man is saved alone by the grace of God; that belief in Jesus Christ alone is all that is needed for salvation” (LDS apostle and prophet for four decades, Spencer W. Kimball).

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

As Cory Miller points in the book, “One can be wrong on every other nonessential Christian doctrine and still go to heaven. But no matter how sincere one is, if one is wrong on the doctrines of God and salvation, one could be sufficiently wrong to lose one’s soul. In this Mormonism does not provide a path to the reality of the good life, eternal happiness in the knowledge of God.”

Leaving Mormonism not only lights the way for understanding the clear teachings of the Bible about the person of God and the way of salvation, it’s also one of the most scholarly books I’ve read in recent years on apologetics,  defending of the authenticity of Scripture and the reasonableness of faith in God no matter who you are. So, if you are a Mormon, love a Mormon, or are interested in sharpening your own spiritual sensibilities, please consider reading Leaving Mormonism!

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (1 Timothy 2:15).

But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen” (2 Peter 3:18).