What do you know about God? — John 5:39-47
by Pastor Lee Hemen
January 11, 2015
I have known a lot of folks who were penny-wise but pound foolish. They knew a lot about a lot of stuff but did not have wisdom. Wisdom and knowledge are two different things. Kind of like those who say they know God, but what they think they know and what they actually know are two very different things. And what many actually think they know about God is what they actually feel about God rather than the real truth of who God is. So, let me ask you, what do you know about God?
The Jewish people thought they knew a lot about God, but what they thought they knew was not true! They forgot what God had actually said and promised them and how he works within his creation and with his people. Jesus had just gotten through accusing his detractors that they had “never heard his voice nor seen his form, nor [did] his word dwell in [them], and the reason for this was simply that they did “not believe the one he sent.” They refused to believe Jesus, God’s one and only Son! What they thought they knew about God therefore was incorrect. This is why today we need to discover for ourselves what we know about God. Let’s find out what John writes…
Jesus reminds us in the gospel of John that…
I. The Scriptures help us to know God! (Vv. 39-42)
You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life. I do not accept praise from men, but I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts.
1. The Hebrews held the Word of God in high regard. So much so that they thought that by constant study of them they could deduce some secret or hidden meaning that would impart some kind of eternal blessing. There are those today who view the Bible in almost a cultic way in it becomes something they worship instead of the subject it is written for! The Bible contains the words of God and it points us to a greater understanding of who God is and how he communicates and works within his creation and with his people and why. Jesus retorted to his listeners, “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life.” However, simply studying the Bible or memorizing a multitude of passages does not give anyone eternal life. In fact in may not even make the learner any more close to God than if they had studied a encyclopedia or dictionary! If we memorize the Bile or study the Bible but it does not lead us to a knowledge of Jesus something is wrong with our due diligence. The reason was obvious for Jesus because ” These are the Scriptures that testify about me.” Every passage, every verse, and every word testifies to the Messiah, to Jesus Christ! “Yet” they refused to come to Jesus to have eternal life! Their myopic view of the Scriptures kept them from looking closer at Jesus and to come to him for eternal life! They loved to hear the praise of men who would tell them, “Wow, you sure know a lot about the word of God!” Or that “You sure can quote verbatim a whole lot of the Bible!” Jesus did not need or accept such praise and by their own example of how they worshipped Scripture instead of God, Jesus knew that they did “not have the love of God in [their] hearts”! How overwhelmingly sad. Yet there are folks today who want you to think they know a lot of Bible by their memorization, their adherence to ungodly teaching, or their misinterpretation to Scripture, but if they truly knew Scripture they would know Jesus! The Scriptures help us to know God!
EXAMPLE: We can be so intellectually-minded or theologically-blinded that we are no heavenly good! Years ago when I was attending seminary I had a professor who was trying to complete his second doctorate in New Testament Studies and had written a book that focused on the philosophy of the New Testament. While this sounded interesting at the time he proved to be so intent on his book that he forgot what the Bible and the New Testament taught us. He had us reading so much material and discussing things that did not pertain to the New Testament, that I had to lead a group of student to protest his methods. He had been so intellectually-minded he lost all perspective of what he was supposed to be teaching! The Scriptures help us to know God!
There is more than just having fuzzy feelings about God, in fact we learn that…
II. Knowing God comes from following him! (Vv. 43-44)
I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him. How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?
1. How is it that folks are more than willing to listen to or accept the words of some “expert” talk about something they truly know nothing about? It is like listening to the late Carl Sagan talk about God when in fact he knew nothing about God! And in fact many of the things he believed about the universe are being proven wrong as well! Yet there are those who give way too much credence to someone simply because they have a PhD or some other initial in front of their name. Now I am not saying education is not a good thing, because I truly believe it is, but those educated in one area would do well to listen to others who know more about an area they know little about. This was the case in Jesus’ day. He told his listeners, who thought they knew everything there was to know about God, that he “had come in [his] Father’s name, and you do not accept me.” The one who knew more about God, because he was God, than they did they were unwilling to listen to him! However, “if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him.” We do the very same thing when we allow people into our homes, through the front door, TV, books or movies who say they know about God but their knowledge is suspect, ungodly or wrong! The Jewish leaders loved to give one another praise because of their position in life, their knowledge, or even because of their age. Yet, they did not desire what truly mattered. Jesus bluntly asked them, “How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?” Those who say they love God should seek the love of God. Remember Jesus told Nicodemus, “I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? (John 3:11-12 NIV)” They should not be so concerned with the accolades of people but rather the praise of the one who created them in the first place! Knowing God comes from following him!
EXAMPLE: It has always baffled me that people are willing to say they know God but they do not know the first thing about what the Bible teaches us about God. Far too many today want an easy believism or a quickie spirituality without any personal investment. Jesus would say that when we come to know him we must be willing to give up our life in order to follow him, “anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. (Matthew 10:38 NIV)” In fact he told a man who declared he had kept all the commandments since his youth, ” One thing you lack, go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me. (Matthew 10:17-21 NIV)” Knowing God comes from following him!
Reading the Scriptures, the Bible, or walking with God help us to know him better, but we are to understand that…
III. Knowing God comes from listening to Jesus’ words! (Vv. 45-47)
But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set. If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?
1. Listening is more than just acknowledgement or nodding our heads in agreement. Listening comes when we actually act upon what we hear and apply it to our lives. One of the major problems the Hebrews had was the fact they refused to listen and acknowledge Jesus’ words. So, John relates that Jesus tells them, “But do not think I will accuse you before the Father.” He had already told Nicodemus that he had not come “into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world” instead (John 3:17). It was needless for Jesus to accuse the Jews. Moses, whom they claimed to follow and honor, would condemn them because they had broken the covenant of God he had established. In fact, Jesus tells them, “Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set.” The Jewish leaders would say that their father was Abraham, meaning that was where their people came from, and that Moses was their spiritual leader where they had gotten the commands of God. Yet they had set their hopes on a false premise that if they diligently and methodically studied the commandments Moses received from God they would be blessed. Salvation for them came from their strict adherence to the Law of Moses, yet nothing could be further from the truth. Because of their spiritual blindness for thousands of years their people lived and died under a false premise. Jesus tells them, “If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me.” Jesus did not come to do away with the law or the prophets, he came to fulfill, finish, and complete them (Matthew 5:17). Paul would teach that “it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. (Romans 2:13 NIV)” In fact he would later write, ” “We who are Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’ know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified. (Galatians 2:15-16 NIV)” This is why Jesus would ask, “But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?” Knowing God comes from listening to Jesus’ words!
EXAMPLE: When I was young I had a hard time focusing on listening to what people were saying to me. I cannot tell you the number of times my mother would ask me, “Are you even listening to what I am telling you?” or she would declare, “You haven’t heard a single word I have said to you!” For years I thought I was the only child who had this problem of focusing in this way, but then one evening we watched a Peanuts special and depicted there was exactly what I had experienced all of my youth! In the Peanuts cartoons when the adults would speak all one heard was, “Wah, wah, wah, wah, wah!” Perhaps this is what the Jewish leaders heard when Jesus spoke! If they did it was because their lives were not focused on who he was nor did they know God! Knowing God comes from listening to Jesus’ words!
The Scriptures help us to know God, knowing God comes from following him, and knowing God comes from listening to Jesus’ words!
This article is copyrighted © 2015 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.