Expositional commentary on Scripture using an inductive exegetical methodology intent upon confronting the lives of Christians with the dogmatic Truths of God's inspired Words opposing Calvinism and Arminianism, Biblical commentary, doctrine of grace enablement, understanding holiness and wisdom and selfishness, in-depth Bible studies, adult Bible Study books and Sunday School materials Dr. Lance T. Ketchum Line Upon Line: July 2019

Monday, July 29, 2019

“Quench Not the Holy Spirit”

Why Are We Failing the Great Commission?
Chapter Sixteen
“Quench Not the Holy Spirit”

People who have had a loved one die know what it means to grieve.  We grieve for someone according to the degree that person is loved and the degree we were involved in that person’s life.  We grieve over the death of a loved one.  We grieve over the sickness of a loved and the pain a loved one suffers.  We can even look upon someone’s suffering with empathy and compassion, feeling to some degree the pain they feel.  Yet, somehow, we cannot connect these aspects of our beings with the character and nature of God in Whose image we are created.  God sees people that He loves in pain, grief, and suffering and is moved with compassion for us.  God grieves over the predicament into which sin has brought humanity. 

We have little comprehension of God’s love for us even as sinners.  Nor can we comprehend the degree He is involved in our lives before and after our salvation.  Therefore, we cannot comprehend the depth of His grief when His “born again” children sin.  God does not view the physical death of one of His “born again” children with grief.  Death of one of God’s “born again” children is graduation day to glory and a time of rejoicing for all of Heaven, including God. Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints” (Psalm 115:16).  Death for a “born again” believer is the moment of DELIVERANCE to the glories of Heaven.  From God’s perspective, it would be sad if that person would have to return to this wicked world.  Understand all of this and you will understand the shortest verse in the Bible; “Jesus wept” (John 11:35). 

But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad {dispersed; disorganized and therefore endangered}, as sheep having no shepherd {pastor; no one to watch over them}” (Matthew 9:36).

As soon as Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she immediately went out to meet Him, but Mary still sat in the house” (John 11:20).  Mary was despondent.  She withdrew from the Lord.  Today we would say she went into the bathroom and locked the door.  I believe she was sending a message to the Lord.  She was telling Him, if you don’t care about me, I don’t care about you!  Martha took the direct (and proper) approach in communicating her feelings (John 11:21-22).

Martha was ashamed of the way Mary treated the Lord (John 11:28).

          Martha went to Mary “secretly” (privately).  However, in Mary’s state of mind, it would have done no good to rebuke her (perhaps more harm would have been done).  Instead, Martha speaks directly to Mary’s unwarranted concern that the Lord doesn’t care.  She says, “The Master is come, and calleth for thee.”  SPEAK AT THE LEVEL OF YOUR CONCERN!  Say what needs to be said. 

          Jesus wanted to see Mary.  He wanted to communicate what He was going to do.  He wanted to comfort her like He had just done with Martha (John 11:23-27).  However, until she came and communicated her concerns, He could not help her.  Therefore, Jesus sent communication to Mary from Martha.  Be the voice of God when necessary!  God is always trying to communicate with us.  He is always trying to keep the lines open.  We are the ones who close the doors of communication with God and lock ourselves away behind them and away from the power of His Word. 

          As soon as Mary heard that Jesus was concerned about her, she “quickly” ran to Him.  We do not know how people will respond to the truth, but we know they can never respond if they never hear it from you.  SPEAK THE TRUTH IN LOVE (I Timothy 2:7).  In John 11:32, Mary communicates her concern and her complaint against the Lord.  Where have we heard this statement before? (Read John 11:21 again; “Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.”)  We do not know if Martha infected Mary with this bad attitude or if Mary infected Martha (I think it the latter).  Mary may have been bowing at His feet on the outside, but on the inside, she was standing, shaking her finger in His face.

33 When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled {because they did not understand the blessings in the death of a saint}, 34 And said {in despondency over their spiritual ignorance and resulting unbelief}, Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see. 35 Jesus wept. 36 Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him! 37 And some of them said, Could not this man, which opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died? 38 Jesus therefore again groaning in himself cometh to the grave. It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it. 39 Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days. 40 Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God? 41 Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. 42 And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me. 43 And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. 44 And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go. 45 Then many of the Jews which came to {mourn with} Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him {and now you understand why Mary anointed His feet with oil and wiped His feet with her hair in John 12:3}. 46 But some of them went their ways to the Pharisees, and told them what things Jesus had done. 47 Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles. 48 If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation” (John 11:33-48).

Jesus was grieved in His Spirit (John 11:33, 35, and 38).  “Groaned” is from a Greek word that means He was upset, even angry about the attitudes of these ladies.  According to John 11:37, these ladies had probably infected many other people with this murmuring and complaining spirit.  Their spirit communicated a lie about Jesus.  Jesus was so deeply grieved in His Spirit, He “wept” (John 11:35).

What should have been a deeply moving experience and exhibition of the faith of people who professed to love the Lord and trust Him was reduced to a burden in that He had to prove Himself even to followers (John 11:38).

          Martha still is questioning the Lord’s abilities (v 39).  Jesus must remind her again of Who He is (John 11:40).  What should have been a joyous event for Jesus instead became an agony for Him.  I think we see this reflected in the commands of Jesus in verses 39 and 44.

          There are many things that grieve the Lord besides the disobedience of open rebellion or sinful thoughts.  Other things that grieve the Lord are things like unbelief, complaining against Him, and the unwillingness to trust Him with our lives.  Jesus is grieved by our apathy and complacency.  The “stone” on the tomb of Lazarus represents much more than the seal on a dead man’s grave.  It represents our doubt, worry, anxiety, despair, fear, discouragement, and unbelief, all the attitudes that grieve the Holy Spirit.  The “stone” represents everything in our lives that says to the Lord, You are not what you claim to be.

          “Said I not . . . if thou wouldest believe . . .” (vs. 40).  Here is the one thing that grieves the Lord Jesus the most; the unwillingness of professing believers to believe Him (NOT IN Him, but truly believe what He says) and to trust Him with our everyday lives.  Winning souls is not a priority of our lives because we really don’t believe Him.  If we believed Him, nothing would be more important than communicating to the world the truth about Jesus Christ.  Unbelief comes wrapped in subtly self-deceptive packaging.  Hypocrisy is an occupation that wears many masks. 

22 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. 23 For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: 24 For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was” (James 1:22-24).

Modern Christianity has redefined the word faith to merely mean believing.  This concept of faith is totally foreign to the Hebrew (Jewish) understanding of faith.  In the Hebrew concept of faith, to believe something means to ALWAYS do what is believed.  The way a person lives is radically changed by what he believes. 

If BElieving without doing is your definition of faith,
what you have is not faith at all!

When confronted by the death of a loved one, do not be deceived into being angry with God.  Be angry with Satan!  It is Satan that brought death into God’s perfect creation.  The message of John chapter eleven is that when faith is real, death is not permanent, and your ACTIONS should CORRESPOND.

          We often miss the teaching of a portion of Scripture, not because we fail to see or understand what the text reveals to us, but because we fail to see the obvious things that are missing that should be there.  For instance, John chapter four is one of those texts.  Christ is trying to teach His disciples (and all of us) an important lesson in evangelism.  This lesson is both about a vision for evangelism and spiritual requirements for its accomplished. 

          Every local church must be dependent upon the Holy Spirit if they are ever going to be effective in evangelism.  We must learn to see through the eyes of God’s compassion.  That means each member of a local church must be filled with the Spirit of God, yielded to His directing, and following His leadership.  When Christians fail to be what they ought to be because they fail in this area of their life, they grieve the Holy Spirit.  However, this results in much broader ramifications for the local church.  When any member of a local church lives in such a manner as to grieve the Holy Spirit, he quenches the Holy Spirit in the local church.

          In I Thessalonians 5:19, we are told to “quench not the Spirit.”  “Quench” is translated from the Greek word sbennumi (sben'-noo-mee).  It simply means to extinguish, suppress, stifle, or quench.  The word picture is that of pouring water on a fire to extinguish it.  In quenching the Spirit, the Spirit’s potential for both light and heat is removed.  The Spirit-filled Christian SHOULD be both light and heat!  Some Christians want to be light with no heat.  Others are just heat with no light.  There is balance between light and heat in the Spirit-filled believer’s life.

          The word “quench” is in the imperative mood.  That means it expresses a command to the hearer to perform a certain action by the order and authority of the one commanding.  It does not express an invitation to do something.  It is an absolute command requiring full obedience on the part of all hearers.  Therefore, this is an expression of singular and utmost importance.  If any local church wants to succeed in evangelism this command must be obeyed.  Do not quench the Spirit of God in your life!

Christ never lost track of His purpose on earth.  To do the will of God MUST be every believer’s priority!

5 Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: 6 In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. 7 Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God” (Hebrews 10:5-7).

Christ had a purpose in this life.  His life was consumed with that purpose.  He was sent to earth on a search and rescue mission.  His purpose was the redemption of lost souls.  That purpose was always before His face.  Every action in His life was seen through that purpose.  His life was driven by that purpose.

          Secondly, there was a moral and spiritual urgency in the life of Christ.  Every waking hour of His life was consumed with the salvation of souls.  Even though He was the Son of God, He spent much time in prayer telling His Father what He was going to do and asking for His help.  Although He was God, He was also man.  In His humanity He needed the power of God on His life to fulfill His purpose in life.  We are sent with that same purpose.

“Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you” (John 20:21).

          Thirdly, Christ had a passion for people. That is what is expressed in John 4:4, “He must needs go through Samaria.”  The shortest route to Galilee from Judea was through the country of Samaria.  However, most Jews made a detour around Samaria to avoid contact with these people.  Christ did not.  He had a passion for the lost.

15 And it came to pass, that, as Jesus sat at meat in his house, many publicans and sinners sat also together with Jesus and his disciples: for there were many, and they followed him. 16 And when the scribes and Pharisees saw him eat with publicans and sinners, they said unto his disciples, How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners? 17 When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Mark 2:15-17).

          If Christ had not lived His life yielded to the leading of the Holy Spirit and yielded to the will of God, neither His purpose nor His passion would have been accomplished.  Until we realize that truth in our lives, we will never be focused enough to fulfill the commission of God for our lives.  All Christians have a purpose.  However, it is our passion for Christ that will motivate us to fulfill our purpose.  This is the priority of evangelism; our passion for souls will flow out of our relationship with Christ.

          Most Christians recognize their purpose.  However, most do not understand the necessity for passion.  They pray for a burden for souls, but it never comes.  Passion comes from God.  God’s passion comes from a right relationship with Him.  A burden for souls flows from a heart that views people through the passion of Christ.  There is only one way that will happen, when our lives our controlled and empowered by God’s Spirit. 

Jesus and the disciples were not wandering aimlessly from one place to another.

          They were on a mission, not just a journey.  The Spirit-filled Christians sees life as a mission.  Christ had a plan for every moment of every day of His life.  In this portion of the plan of Christ, He was teaching His disciples a lesson about viewing every mission in life through the overall purpose of their calling in Christ (“as the Father hath sent me, so send I you”).  Every Christian needs to learn this lesson.

“For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).

The vision that sees through the eyes of purpose and passion sees the potential for a harvest in every soul.  In John chapter four, the Samaritan woman would become the vehicle Christ would use to bring most of the city of Sychar to salvation.  The mission of evangelism is accomplished through referrals, one satisfied person telling others how to get the new life Christ has given them.  As Spurgeon said, evangelism is just “one beggar telling another beggar where to get bread.”

          When the Samaritan woman went back to Sychar, she went back referring people to Christ because she was infected with Christ’s purpose and with His passion for souls.  She viewed Christ as a Person with genuine concern for her and her soul.

Purpose without passion will always result in dead works and a fruitless Christianity.  Communicating the Gospel can be nothing more than dead ritualism when it is done in the flesh and without Christ’s passion for souls.  The disciples went to Sychar and failed to bring people to Christ because they did not see their lives through the eyes of their overall missional purpose.  The reason they failed to fulfill their purpose was because they did not have Christ’s passion for souls.

          They did not just need to see the city of Sychar through the eyes of their purpose in Christ, they needed a change of heart (passion).  Without passion, Christianity dies and evangelism dies with it (even when it is attempted).

1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing” (I Corinthians 13:1-3).

Passion is not about feeling.  Passion is about having the heart of the Lord. 

When our lives are consumed with being like Christ, living for Christ, and being faithful to Christ, our lives will be consumed with His purpose and filled with His passion for souls.

4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. 5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:4-5).

Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest” (John 4:35).

          Christians are always waiting for God to do something.  God is always doing something.  God is usually waiting for believers to do what He has commanded so He can bless them with His power.  When our lives are consumed with being like Christ, God will open our eyes to see what He is doing.  When our lives see every moment through the eyes of His purpose and with the passion of His heart, we will become involved with harvesting the souls He has already made ripe.

          When we are in the flesh to any degree, we quench the Spirit of God in our lives.  When the Spirit is quenched, our eyes are darkened.  God’s workings are no longer visible and ripe fruit soon becomes rotten fruit because it is never harvested.  How many souls have withered on the vine because our eyes were focused on the things of this world rather than the things of Christ?

          We need to believe and live the words of the hymn, “Give me a passion for souls, dear Lord, A passion to save the lost; O that thy love were by all adored, and welcomed at any cost . . . How shall this passion for souls be mine?  Lord, make Thou the answer clear; Help me to throw out the old life-line to those who are struggling near.”

          The souls are there friends, but without Christ’s passion (the fire of God’s Spirit burning within us) and the leading of the Spirit of God we will never see who they are.

37 Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; 38 Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.” (Matthew 9:37-38).

Disciples are Christ-followers.  True Christians are personally involved in His mission, preaching His message of redemption, possessing His passion for people, and are willing to die for His purposes.  These are the characteristics of true DISCIPLES called CHRISTIANS (Acts 11:19).  Dare not to take this honored title of CHRISTIAN upon yourself until these characteristics are the everyday testimony of your living.  These characteristics are antithetical and contrary to the ambiguous, shallow vagueness of the modern-day use of the word Christian that identifies Christ-professors with nothing and everything.  

Anonymous comments will not be allowed. 
Numerous studies and series are available free of charge for local churches at: http://www.disciplemakerministries.org/ 
Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist. 
He has served the Lord for over 40 years.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Grieving the Lord and Stifling His Spirit

Why Are We Failing the Great Commission?
Chapter Fifteen
Grieving the Lord and Stifling His Spirit

          John chapter eleven is a faith reality check point.  Even though we believe in God and a spiritual existence/dimension called eternity, our mortality can barely grasp our immortality intellectually.  We are so anchored to this empirical “under the Sun” existence, our understanding and grasp of the spiritual is almost non-existent.  This weakness in our faith vision of reality creates a spiritual impotence that disconnects the professing believer from seeing and understanding the hidden workings of God within our existence.  

Simply because we cannot physically sense the spiritual and eternal does not mean we are separated from that existence.  We co-exist in both the spiritual and physical dimensions at the same time.  Physical death simply separates the physical body from the spiritual aspects of who and what we are.  Faith understands these things.  Faith understands that there are spiritual powers that transcend the physical, earthly limitations that exist within this temporal creation “under the Sun.”  

          The differences in personalities between siblings has never ceased to amaze me.  Children, raised in the same home by the same parents all under similar circumstances, can still be as different as strangers from different countries.  This dynamic of individuality is an aspect of the spiritual that transcends into the physical world.  In other words, the individuality of spiritual characteristics is as diverse as the individuality of human fingerprints and DNA sequencing.  This is certainly true of the siblings recorded in John chapter eleven; Lazarus, Mary, and Martha.  

In John chapter eleven, we are given the account of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.  We also have a detailed accounting of Lazarus and his two sisters, Mary and Martha.  Jesus used the death of Lazarus to teach Mary and Martha (as well as all Bible believers) about His power over death.  Jesus purposefully waited two days after hearing about Lazarus’s death before He began the journey to Bethany.  Jesus wanted everyone to know the difference between His ability to raise the dead and heal the sick.  Jesus wanted everyone to know FOR SURE that Lazarus was DEAD!

1 Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 (It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.) 3 Therefore his sisters sent unto him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick. 4 When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby. 5 Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. 6 When he had heard therefore that he was sick, he abode two days still in the same place where he was” (John 11:1-6).

33 When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled, 34 And said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see. 35 Jesus wept” (John 11:33-35).

          The reason Jesus “groaned in the spirit, and was troubled” was because the weeping of these people revealed the ignorance and lack of faith in His Creator abilities.  Their faith just did not grasp the Being with which they were communing.  What are the limitations you put upon God’s abilities?  Do you think the limitations of your faith about God’s capabilities grieve Him?  Weak faith is often due to ignorance, but it is more often due to the unwillingness to accept and believe in God’s unfathomable abilities that transcend all physical and human limitations.  Weak faith creates a false and weak god.  Weak faith is victory by degrees for the forces of evil because weak faith seldom attempts what God commands.  Failure should never be an excuse to stop trying. The “mystery of inequity” is powerful opposition to good.  Our new life in Christ is engulfed by the darkness of the curse. Poke a hole in the darkness and let your light shine through!

          In Ephesians chapters four, five and six, God instructs believers about the intricacies of a life of faith in what it means to “walk in the Spirit.”  Paul builds to the point of making a statement about the lack of a faith-life that fails to consistently “walk in the Spirit” by his statement in Ephesians 4:30; “And grieve not the holy Spirit of God.”  He begins this instruction about the faith-life of the “just” living the faith-life by walking in the Spirit with an all-encompassing statement Ephesians 4:1-3.  A believer’s failure here is the same as what grieved the Lord in John 11:35 causing Him to weep over the weak faith of even the best of his disciples. 

1 I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, 2 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; 3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit {a faith vision reality} in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1-3).

          From this point through the end of this epistle, Paul gives specific instructions with tangible details of what it means to walk in the Spirit.  Just before He instructs about the responsibilities of our Christian walk in various roles and relationships, He interjects a dramatic statement about our responsibility in our personal relationship with the Holy Spirit.  It is the springboard for His instruction regarding all other relationships.

30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: 32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:30-32).

          Most Christians seldom consider that the way we live and the things we fail to grasp by faith can grieve the Spirit of God.  When we fail to do what John 11:21 and 32 say (as well as chapter five and chapter six of Ephesians), we touch the heart of God in a way that brings Him great grief.  Failure to believe is as great a failure as blatant unbelief; perhaps even more so because failure to believe never really moves us or anyone else in the direction God intends for us to move.  Failure to believe ALWAYS results in spiritual stagnation. 

7 Then after that saith he to his disciples, Let us go into Judaea again. 8 His disciples say unto him, Master, the Jews of late sought to stone thee; and goest thou thither again? 9 Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world. 10 But if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him. 11 These things said he: and after that he {Jesus} saith unto them {the strongest disciples}, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep {God’s view of dead ‘born again’ people is merely a separation of the body from the spirit/soul.  The spirit/soul have eternal life the moment the believer is ‘born again.’  The believer’s body is viewed as merely in the sleep of death until it is resurrected, recreated, and glorified.}. 12 Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. 13 Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep. 14 Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead. 15 And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe; nevertheless let us go unto him” (John 11:7-15).

We do not like it when life does not fit into our little plan.  Often our little plan for life must be completely toppled before we ever become aware of the God-factor in our existence.  What must God do to get us to look at what only faith can see?  “Lazarus is dead. 15 And I am glad for your sakes” (John 11;14-15).  Again, this is a faith reality check! 

In most cases, every believer suffers from the lack of real faith.  We require great miracles performed before our eyes by God before we truly believe in God’s abilities.  Our prayer life often reflects the real weakness of our faith and our vision of hope for what we expect of God each day.  It is critically important for believers to confront the weaknesses of our faith in God if we ever really hope to see our lives blessed in fulfilling the Great Commission.  We are very much like the father of the demon possessed child in Mark 9:14-29, where the father in utter destitution and desperation cries out hopelessly, “And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.”  We all live somewhere between belief and unbelief.  This is what I call Inbetweenism. 

One aspect of the fall of mankind in sin is that we have lost touch with the heart of God.  We are amazed at all His wonderful attributes.  We wonder at the holiness of God.  We are overwhelmed at His capacity to love such wretched creatures like ourselves.  We stand in awe of His power.  We fall at His feet amazed at His grace.  Yet there is one attribute of God we seldom consider.  God grieves when His children live selfishly and sinfully.  However, God grieves also when His children live in ignorance of what He has so fully revealed through His inspired Scriptures.  Ignorance always generates some degree of unbelief.  I wonder how many times my life and ignorance has brought tears to God’s eyes.  I wonder how many times my life and ignorance has broken His heart and grieved Him in His Spirit.  However, it is NEVER enough to simply be remorseful about past failures.  We MUST repent and begin to correct those failures. 
          Seldom do children realize the pain they cause their parents when they choose to live selfishly.  This new life “in Christ,” that God has given us, is not about us.  Selfish people cannot see the grief they cause in the lives of others.  Doing and getting what they want is so important, they are blinded to the pain it causes others.  Even when they are aware of the grief they cause, they do not consider it important.  Another person’s pain is inconsequential compared to their own enjoyment.  The reason: THEY DO NOT FEEL THE PAIN THEY CAUSE!  Selfish people cannot see that spiritual failures pass under the bridge and into the past with no consideration of the damage and scars they leave on the present and the future.  Inconsistencies of faith are like whirlwinds that blow in, destroy and make a mess, then pass on to somewhere else with no consideration of the damage they have done BECAUSE WHIRLWINDS ARE HEARTLESS AND FAITHLESS.

          Although God’s emotions are never out of control, none the less they exist.  God has feelings too.  Our lives can bring Him joy or grief.  When we walk in the Spirit in obedience to our heavenly Father’s will, we bring Him joy.  When we do not, we bring Him grief.  Can we imagine God’s love for fallen sinful creatures, professing to believe in Him, but give little or no consideration to the constant pain His relationship with us and our constant inconsistencies brings to His heart?  We profess to love the Lord while seldom considering His heart for us.  

          When Christians live in careless selfishness, we grieve the Lord.  Such lifestyles are a contradiction against a faith-life before the eyes of God.  In John chapter eleven, we have the record of two ladies whose attitudes towards the Lord grieved Him in His Spirit to such a degree it brought Him to tears.  However, each of the disciples had similar problems with their faith vision of possibilities!  Mary and Martha are simply physical examples of everyone of us and our lack of genuine faith in Christ’s abilities.  To Jeremiah’s fatalistic and hopeless view of the future of the pending Babylonian captivity, like Thomas’s view in John 11:16, God responds “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me (Jeremiah 32-27)?

          Fatalism, cynicism, and pessimism are all equal forms of unbelief.  Real faith is the ability to see passed life’s circumstance and see the spiritual good God is purposing (Romans 8:28) through those difficulties. 

16 Then said Thomas {Aramaic for ‘twin’}, which is called Didymus {Greek for ‘twin’}, unto his fellowdisciples, Let us also go, that we may die with him. 17 Then when Jesus came, he found that he had lain in the grave four days already. 18 Now Bethany was nigh unto Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs off: 19 And many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother {Jesus waiting long enough for a crowd of mourners to gather and the body of Lazerus to seriously begin to decompose}. 20 Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him: but Mary sat still in the house. 21 Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. 22 But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee. 23 Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again. 24 Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day. 25 Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: 26 And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? 27 She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world” (John 11:16-27).

The subject of this story is as much about Martha and Mary as it is Lazarus being raised from the dead (John 11:2). Transpondency is the capacity to listen beyond what is said to hear and understand what is not said.  This is not allegorizing what is said, but merely seeing the invisible spiritual aspect of the communication hidden from those deaf to the spiritual.

          John 11:2 tells us of a different Mary than the one we see in John chapter twelve, where Mary anoints the feet of Jesus with expensive oil and wipes His feet with her hair.  In John 11:2, God wants to remind us of the Mary of John 12:1-3 before He shows us the Mary of John eleven.  In John eleven, Mary was upset with the Lord.  She was angry, hurting, disappointed, and full of resentment.  This is what happens when we can only see life’s disappointments through our “under the Sun” perspective of life.  Such a perspective will ALWAYS produce short comings in our view of God’s love and such a perspective will ALWAYS bring grief to God. 

          Mary’s brother was dead.  From her “under the Sun” perspective of life, if Jesus would just have come when He was asked to come, He could have healed Lazarus and prevented his death.  Why did He delay?  Hopelessness, resentment, and bitterness were consuming her.  I can imagine the thoughts going through her mind: Jesus doesn’t care about us.  He is too busy for us.  He said He loves us, but if He loves us, He would have come right away.

Jesus had a faith building plan that transcended Lazarus, Martha, or Mary (John 11:4 and 11-15).

“O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out” (Romans 11:33)!

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9).

          Jesus was training twelve men to be the foundation stones of His Church.  Raising Lazarus from the dead was part of their training program.  They needed to see that physical death was not an end to their lives.  Before He created heaven, earth and all that are in it, He had planned this day in the history of the world to increase the faith of these disciples.  Often, such lessons require considerable inconveniences for the people needing these life lessons of faith.  Real faith changes life perspectives and doing that is not an easy task.  

          Don’t ever forget that God’s plan transcends the human predicament.  One thing we learn from this text is that God’s plans do not transcend the human predicament in the sense they are above or beyond pain or suffering, because God is involved in our pain and suffering.  He chose to join Himself to the human predicament.  Man deserves his predicament, God does not.  The fallen nature views the human predicament with man at its center.  Man’s needs and wants then become the focal point of history.  In this mindset, God exists only to alleviate pain and eliminate suffering.  Instead, the proper faith perspective of life sees God entering the human predicament due to the curse and sharing the pain caused by the fall.  God is grieved by sin and the suffering sin causes.  God is separate from the sin but is not separate from the people suffering from its consequences. 

          The plan of God in this chapter of history was for mankind to understand His powers transcending even death itself.  God exists OUTSIDE of the human predicament, but not FROM the human predicament.  The plan of redemption draws mankind to God in faith whereby He removes them from the existence of the human predicament and into His existence.

Jesus loved Martha, Mary and Lazarus (John 11:5).

          Do not miss the “therefore” in John 11:6; because Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, He purposely waited two days until Lazarus was dead before He began the four-day journey to Bethany.  These people (and many others) NEEDED to see this miracle.  These three people were chosen to be an intricate part of God’s plan in bringing many people to saving faith (John 11:45).  Facing death and seeing loved one’s die for their faith was going to be a regular part of their Christian experience. 

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Numerous studies and series are available free of charge for local churches at: http://www.disciplemakerministries.org/ 
Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist. 
He has served the Lord for over 40 years.