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The Words of Eternal Life

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
April 30, 2024 12:01 am

The Words of Eternal Life

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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April 30, 2024 12:01 am

Many people were willing to follow Jesus until the truth He spoke offended them. So it is in our day. Today, Derek Thomas explains why we need the life-giving words of Christ to reshape our thinking.

Get Derek Thomas' DVD Teaching Series 'The Life of Peter' for Your Gift of Any Amount https://gift.renewingyourmind.org/3302/life-of-peter

Meet Today's Teacher:

Derek Thomas is a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow and Chancellor's Professor of Systematic and Pastoral Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary. He is featured teacher for the Ligonier teaching series The Life of Peter and author of many books, including Heaven on Earth, Strength for the Weary, and Let Us Worship God.

Meet the Host:

Nathan W. Bingham is vice president of ministry engagement for Ligonier Ministries, executive producer and host of Renewing Your Mind, host of the Ask Ligonier podcast, and a graduate of Presbyterian Theological College in Melbourne, Australia. Nathan joined Ligonier in 2012 and lives in Central Florida with his wife and four children.

Don't forget to make RenewingYourMind.org your home for daily in-depth Bible study and Christian resources.

Renewing Your Mind is a donor-supported outreach of Ligonier Ministries. Explore all of our podcasts: https://www.ligonier.org/podcasts

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There are many things in Scripture which would offend today's culture, and today's culture would want to cancel almost the entirety of the Bible. Who speaks about hell the most in the Bible? It's Jesus. Gentle Jesus, meek and mild. He is the one who talks about the unquenchable fire and the weeping and gnashing of teeth. Whether it's the topic of hell, or Jesus' teaching that no one can come to Him unless it's granted by the Father, or Jesus' claim that He is the exclusive way to God, there is much about Jesus' life and ministry and teaching that would get Him cancelled today.

The truth often offends people, and that's okay. Welcome to the Tuesday edition of Renewing Your Mind, as we spend a week considering the life of the Apostle Peter. As we said yesterday, Peter is very relatable. His faith wasn't always strong.

He sometimes put his foot in his mouth, and we've often done that. But today is an example of Peter speaking with profound clarity and God-given insight. And what you'll hear today should encourage you to stand firm, even as those around you may turn away from the truth, or those around you pressure you to compromise.

Here's Derek Thomas from his new series on the life of Peter. This time we're in John chapter 6 and beginning at verse 60. John chapter 6 and verse 60.

This is the story of Peter saying, to whom shall we go? You alone have the words of eternal life. It's one of those verses that I quote a lot when I'm preaching. I have maybe 50 or 60 verses in my head. And when I'm ad-libbing at the end of a sermon, this is certainly one of the things that I often repeat, especially in an evangelistic setting.

To whom else can we go? He alone has the words of eternal life. Well, let's pick it up at verse 60. When many of his disciples heard it, they said, this is a hard saying.

Who can listen to it? But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the Spirit who gives life.

The flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are Spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe. For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe and who it was who would betray him. And he said, this is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.

After this, many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the twelve, do you want to go away as well? Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed and have come to know that you are the Holy One of God. Jesus answered them, Did I not choose you, the twelve?

And yet one of you is a devil. He spoke of Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was going to betray him. When Julius Caesar landed on the shores of Britannia with Roman legions, he took a very decisive action to ensure the success of his enterprise. He marched his legions to the cliffs, the white cliffs of Dover, and asked them to look down, and what they saw were their ships on fire. They had been set on fire by the order of Julius Caesar. There was no going back.

There was no retreat. The only way forward now was to march in solidarity with Julius Caesar. Well, Jesus didn't do that, and he still doesn't do that. If you want to go back, he may not stop you. That's the lesson, at least it's one of the lessons of this passage, that if you really want to go back, he may not stop you. This comes after the feeding of the five thousand, the great crowds that gather similar, I think, to the provision of manna by God in the time of Moses. And life was good.

Life was very good eating fish and bread that you didn't have to catch or make. Then there was a ministry of Jesus in the synagogue at Capernaum, where he said, I am the bread of life, and many after that had gone home. They went back. Maybe they just went home because they needed to go home and work, and maybe part of that is they went home because they had no further interest in Jesus. And that theme now is picked up here at the end of John chapter 6.

At the end of this chapter, we're in a very dark place. We read of Judas, Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon Iscariot, and he is one of the twelve, and he is the one who will betray Jesus. John points this out early on in his gospel for his readers, the true nature of the heart of Judas.

Now, what are the reasons why some are going back? And one of the reasons is because of hard sayings. Verse 60, when many of his disciples heard it, they said, this is a hard saying.

Who can listen to it? It's referring to what has been said in the earlier part of John chapter 6, and Jesus had spoke about eating his flesh and drinking his blood. There is no account of the Lord's Supper, the inauguration of the Lord's Supper in the Gospel of John, very surprising since half of the gospel is made up of the last week of Jesus' life, and four or five chapters to the very evening in which the Lord's Supper was instituted.

John knew that the other gospels had recorded that, but he does record in John chapter 6 words that seem to be about the Lord's Supper. There's been much debate about it, much quarreling about this between Roman Catholics and Protestants. Roman Catholics seeing the language, the strong language of eating the flesh of Jesus and drinking the blood of Jesus and how that buys into a doctrine of transubstantiation in the doctrine of the mass when the bread and wine are de facto, the body and blood of the Lord Jesus, and then Protestant maybe overreaction to that interpretation and suggesting that Jesus isn't speaking here about the Lord's Supper at all.

That would be hard to conclude that there was no reference whatsoever here to the Lord's Supper, at least in symbol and in shadow. Eating the flesh of Jesus and drinking his blood, even if we regard that symbolically and spiritually rather than factually, the language is still difficult to, what does it mean to eat the flesh of Christ and to drink the blood of Christ? Thousands of books have been written about it, dividing Christians down through the centuries. Jesus didn't always dumb things down.

If you want a Christianity that's dumbed down, the Bible isn't going to give it to you. There are tough things in the Bible. There are hard things in the Bible. There are passages of Scripture that I've studied for 50 years, but I'm not sure I understand them.

I'm greatly relieved that Peter thought so, too. He thought there were some things in Paul, remember, that are hard to be understood, and wicked men, you know, wrest them to their own destruction. There are passages in Corinthians about headdress, for example, that I'm still trying to fathom.

Is it something local in Corinth, or is this something that is still necessary in the church of the 21st century? I still wrestle with the exact interpretation of the book of Ecclesiastes. Is it full of irony, for example? And there are different takes on it, and we could spend the entire lesson talking about hard sayings. If you want dumbed down Christianity, then maybe Jesus isn't for you. The Bible consists, at least in the original languages, three quarter of a million words.

It's a little larger than that in English translation. Sometimes you can't translate one Hebrew word with one English word or one Greek word with one English word, and you have to use two or three words. But it's full of mysteries, too, and hard things, and difficult things. That verse that we cited in our last study, that we need to hate our mother and father and brother and sister if we are to follow Christ, that's a hard saying. Jesus couldn't possibly have meant that we're literally meant to hate our mother and father. This is hyperbole. This is a literary device to speak in hyperbole to make a point, but it's still hard.

Let the dead bury the dead. It's said in a very specific context, but you could easily take offense at that hard saying. Unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, that's a hard saying.

Fear Him who has the power to destroy both body and soul in hell, that's a hard saying. Unless a man is born again, that's a hard saying. Nicodemus couldn't understand it. He was a Bible preacher. He had a fame. He had a notoriety for being the great Bible teacher of his time. He had studied and mastered the Old Testament scriptures, but when Jesus says to him, unless a man is born again, he cannot enter, he cannot see the kingdom of God, and he couldn't understand it.

How can I go back into my mother's womb? He said, if you're not trying to address the hard things, maybe it's because you're in retreat. Some of these people listened to Jesus, and they were enthralled by Him when He spoke smooth things, nice things, happy things. But when He spoke the hard things, they went. They went home.

They left. This is not for me. This is too difficult.

There are churches like that. They don't want the hard things. They want the cookies to be on the lower shelf. They don't want to have to reach up. They don't want to have to think. They don't want to use their minds.

They don't want to use their reasons. The Bible sometimes has hard things, and that's why, at least one of the reasons why many of them turn back. And then secondly, in verse 61, not just hard things, but offensive things. Listen to Jesus, knowing in Himself that His disciples were grumbling about this.

Said to them, do you take offense at this? Fascinating that Jesus, who knew that they were grumbling, I'm sure you'd never grumble. But these followers of Jesus were grumbling. The disciples were grumbling.

Imagine being in the very presence of the Lord Jesus and grumbling, being discontent, thinking that you know better than your master, that you know better than Jesus. We live in a culture where everyone takes offense at everything. That's our culture today. Everyone is offended, and they want you to know that they're offended, and they want you to do something about it. They want to cancel you because you're offending them.

The idea of eating the flesh of Jesus and drinking His blood, well, it offended them. What is this? Why don't you speak to us like common people? Why is this so difficult? Why is this so offensive?

You know, it starts like this. I could never believe in a God who dot, dot, dot. You see what they're doing here? You've placed your worldview. You've placed your understanding of what being a Christian should be, and you've placed that as the supreme arbiter of what you consider right and appropriate and just, and something that distorts that worldview, that preset, preconditioned worldview of yours. Well, it's offensive. It offends my intellect.

It offends my sense of who I am. Many things in Scripture would offend people today. Issues about marriage between one man and one woman. Issues of binary gender, male and female.

Issues of sexuality. Issues of the role of men and women in the church. I stand in the pulpit on a Sunday, and there will be women who are CEOs of multimillion-dollar companies. They are in charge of hundreds of people in their companies, but they cannot be an elder in the church. They can rise to the highest levels in the world, in the world of commerce, in the world of politics, but they can never be an elder in the church.

That's offensive, and people take offense. Take the issue of hell, whatever happened to hell. There's a book, I think by that title. I think it's by Al Mohler, and it's a great title, Whatever Happened to Hell? Who speaks about hell the most in the Bible? It's Jesus, gentle Jesus, meek and mild.

He is the one who talks about the unquenchable fire and the weeping and gnashing of teeth and so on. There are many things in Scripture which would offend today's culture, and today's culture would want to cancel almost the entirety of the Bible. Some people are wired to take offense. Have you also taken offense, Jesus says, knowing that they were grumbling? Do you take offense? There are people who are wired to take offense.

They're, well, they're called Karens in our society. They're sensitive to this or that. They're argumentative.

They're opinionated. They want everything to be as they see it, as they desire it. The disciples evidently were not happy about the direction that Jesus was going, but Jesus will not compromise. It's all or nothing. When you have Jesus, you must take Him all.

You must take everything about Him. You must take every word, even the hard words, even the words that at first appear offensive, that change and reshape my cultural thinking. He says in verse 62, What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before? Who do you think I am?

He's saying to them. I'm not just some ordinary Joe from Nazareth. I'm the Son of Man. It's a figure that comes from Daniel chapter 7, and it's a figure of someone who is divine. There was an old interpretation that made the Son of God to be divine and the Son of Man to be the human nature of Jesus, but that's incorrect. Both Son of God and Son of Man are divine titles taken from Daniel chapter 7.

Let me tell you who I really am. They were offended, and some of them had gone back because of hard sayings, and some of them had gone back because of offensive statements. But some of them had gone back because of humbling sayings, humbling sayings. Look at what he says in verse 63. He says, It is the Spirit who gives life.

The flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are Spirit and life. And then drop down to verse 65. And he said, This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.

Well, that mustn't have gone down all too well. What is he saying? That you cannot be saved. You cannot have eternal life.

You cannot be in a right relationship with God just by your own efforts, by your own contributions. You make a decision. You will it to happen.

No. You cannot even will it to happen unless God does something in you, changes you. Unless by the Holy Spirit, He gives you a new heart. Unless by the Holy Spirit, He renews your will. Because in the natural state, your will is bound. It's bound to your nature, and your nature is fallen. And so your will can only incline towards that which is fallen.

And it needs to be liberated from that. And only the Holy Spirit can do that. That's why he had said to Nicodemus, that unless a man is born again, or perhaps born from above, a sovereign, a sovereign work of God, a work of God that takes place before we do anything, before we even respond. God must do something. That God is responsible for our salvation.

We can take no credit whatsoever for our salvation. No one can come to me unless it is granted him. Granted him by the Father.

And it's the language, well it's the language of election. There is a sense here in which Jesus is saying that this granting, when did this granting take place? It took place in eternity. It took place in the councils of redemption between the Father and the Son. And the Father gave to the Son an elect that he was to redeem. We didn't read it, but back in verse 37 of this chapter, all that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and those who come to me I will never cast out. You know, we want to sing, well, we don't want to sing, Nothing in my hands I bring, Simply to thy cross I cling. We want to sing, Something in my hand I bring, Also in addition to your cross I cling. But Jesus says, no.

This is a very hard saying. It's the language of divine sovereignty, that without the initiation of divine sovereignty, we cannot be saved. We cannot know the joys of eternal life. So, why follow Jesus? If there are hard sayings and offensive sayings and humbling sayings that bring us down to the very dust, why should we follow Jesus at all? And this is where Peter comes in, and he says to him, Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.

There's nowhere else to go. Where else are you going to find salvation? Oh, you may find it hard, and you may be humbled by it.

You may even be offended by it. And the natural man's ego is offended by the gospel, because it brings us down as it were to the dust to cry for mercy, that nothing that we do, nothing that we contribute can add to what Jesus has done. But there's salvation in no one else. There is no other savior. There is no other name under heaven given amongst men whereby we must be saved. Jesus himself would say, I am the way, the truth, and the life, and no man comes to the Father but by me.

Well, to whom else can we go? You alone have the words of eternal life. Thinking on Peter's answer to Jesus motivates me to stand firm and to press forward in faith, and I hope it does for you too. This is the Tuesday edition of Renewing Your Mind, and that was Derek Thomas in John chapter 6. What you heard today was just one message from Dr. Thomas' new 19-message series on the life of Peter. I love this series' subtitle, Molded in the Master's Hands. And you can own this series when you call us at 800-435-4343, or when you visit renewingyourmind.org and give a donation of any amount.

We'll send you the series on DVD, and you'll be able to watch all the messages in the free Ligonier app, along with access to the digital study guide as well. So give your gift today at renewingyourmind.org. A question of eternal importance is this. Who is Jesus? How did the people in Jesus' day answer that question? How did Peter? Derek Thomas will explore the answer to that question tomorrow here on Renewing Your Mind. .
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-04-30 02:27:26 / 2024-04-30 02:36:09 / 9

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