Letters to the Prison - Week 52

Hello!
We’re praying for you.  We hope also that you are praying for us.  Prayer is such a powerful thing.  God is in complete control, and he does what he wills.  Yet he allows us to participate in what he is doing through prayer.  This is why it means so much to know that others are praying for us and also why it’s so important for us to “pray without ceasing,” as Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 5:17.  The best way to pray is by praising God and giving thanks to him.  We praise God for you, and we thank him for your fellowship!
We’re considering something amazing that Jesus says about himself –and us:
•And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, 38 and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent.     -John 5:37-38
We’re lingering long over these verses because they say so much.  We left off last week with some questions.  This week, we’ll consider them.  As we do, keep in mind Jesus’ audience when he says these things:  He’s speaking to the unbelieving Jews who were accusing him of blasphemy (John 5:18).
1) What do these verses say about Jesus?
a)Jesus was sent by God.  He’s “the one” whom God “has sent.”
b)God clearly and audibly confirmed that Jesus is his Son.
c)We read that Jesus is “the Word” (John 1:1).  Given that, when Jesus says “you do not have his word abiding in you” to unbelievers, what Jesus is saying is that he does not abide in them.  This means that for those who believe, Jesus –the very Word of God—dwells within them.  Which brings up the next question:

2)What do these verses say about the trinity? (God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit)
a)Jesus has a voice that is distinct from the Father’s.  This is how Jesus can claim to be God and be standing before the unbelieving Jews speaking clearly, yet also claim that they have never heard the voice of the Father.  They’re hearing the voice of God the Son quite clearly… but they’re not listening.
b)Jesus has a form that is distinct from the Father’s.  This is how Jesus can claim to be God and be standing before the unbelieving Jews in broad daylight, yet also claim that they have never seen the Father.  They’re seeing God the Son quite clearly… but they don’t believe him because Jesus –the Word-- does not abide in them.
c)Jesus abides (dwells) within those who believe in him.  But how?  He does this in Spirit --The Holy Spirit.
d)So, here in these two verses, we have a view of the trinity.  The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are distinct yet one and the same God.  This is a mind-blowing thing.  Our puny little finite brains can’t fully comprehend it.  But there it is.  We spend our whole lives trying to wrap our heads around it.

Yet, later in our study, we will see Jesus say this:
•If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”            -John 14:7
How can Jesus say this?  How can he stand before one audience, plain as day, claiming to be God, yet telling them that they’ve never seen or heard God the Father (John 5:37-38) while later on telling another audience on another bright clear day that they do know and have seen the Father (John 14:7)?  What’s the difference?  This brings us to our last question:
3)What do these verses say about us?  About our condition of belief or unbelief?
a)The difference is the audience…  and, more specifically, the state of their belief.
Let us be plain.  If one doesn’t believe that Jesus is who he says he is, they cannot see the Father.  If they believe that Jesus is who he says he is, then they can see the Father.  
This is why Jesus says,
•“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.                                                                                                    
-John 14:6
And note what follows.  We just discussed it:
•If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”            -John 14:7
Ever hear the phrase “I’ll believe it when I see it”?  Ever use that phrase?
From what Jesus has just said, we learn that when it comes to God, it’s the other way around.  Clearly, according to Jesus, unless one “believes it” first they will never “see it.”
This is how belief is so important.  For those who don’t believe, there isn’t enough evidence in the universe.  And there never will be.  For those who do believe, the evidence is everywhere, but most especially in God’s word.  Which is Why…  We…  Love it!
If we have trouble seeing God through Jesus, it’s not because he isn’t there.  The problem is on our end.  The problem is with our beliefs.  This would certainly be the place to say, “I believe!  Help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)
Beloved friends, if you’re having trouble believing, you are certainly not alone.  Every human being –ever-- struggles with unbelief.  It’s the human condition –our “default position,” if you will, to not believe that Jesus is who he says he is.  We need help to change that and only God can do it.  So, ask him!  There are no special words to say… no magic formulas to speak.  Have a real conversation with God.  Bring him everything and let him sort it out.  You’ll be surprised how that goes!  Remember God’s love for you.  We love you, too!  Until next week!

Dean A.

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