John 6: 1, 2, 14, 15, 60, 66 - 69
We all come to specific points of choice in our lives. The choices or decisions we make at these points will make a difference in our futures. It is as if we have come to a fork in the road and must go to the right or the left. Does it matter which way? Some may say no. But it does matter, and the lives of countless people testify to that fact. Robert Frost - The Road Not Taken:
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Whether you are choosing an investment, a college, a mate, or a career, the choice can be life-changing — for good or for bad. In any event, the choice is important enough to warrant serious, thoughtful consideration. Choosing a god is like that. You see, the choice you make regarding whether you believe in God or follow a god of your own making is potentially more life-altering than any other choice you may make. You should choose carefully.
Have you made that choice? Did you choose to be a Christian? Do you know what that choice requires of you? Do you know what being a Christian really means? C. S. Lewis observed that we are in danger of trivializing the word "Christian" to the point where it is a useless word. Many people use the word "Christian" simply to mean someone who is good, much as the word "gentleman" is used. "Gentleman" originally meant "one who had a coat of arms and some landed property." It was an objective term. To call someone a "gentleman" was not to compliment him, but simply to state a fact. That person could be a rude and offensive person and still be a gentleman. There were some who came along and said that a gentleman ought to act in a certain manner befitting his title. So "gentleman" came to mean "a nice person, someone with courteous behaviour, a polite person." Instead of an objective statement of fact, it became a subjective statement of opinion. So the term "Christian" has come to mean, in the view of many, "a person who is good, who tries to do right, who tries to follow a Christian ethic." But "Christian" does not mean that at all. A Christian is one who follows Christ, one who accepts Christ and His teachings and attempts to live by His Word. The term "Christian" was first applied to the followers of Jesus- Acts 11:26. So the term "Christians" was applied to the disciples. To be a Christian is to be a disciple of Christ.
A disciple is more than someone who accepts, intellectually, the teachings of Christ. A disciple is one who follows Christ, practically, in the everyday affairs of life. In John 6, we find an interesting account of various people who wanted to follow Jesus. Stuart Briscoe - "The Curious, the Convinced, the Committed." I would like to use his labels to help us evaluate whether we have really made the vital choice to actually follow Jesus.
1. The Curious v. 1, 2
Company of the curious. Our text said that a great crowd was following Him. But it is important for us to notice why they were following Him - because they saw the signs and miracles he performed. "Have you heard, Jesus is coming to town? He is a great healer. He performs miracles. Let’s go out to see Him. Maybe He’ll perform a miracle for us." The company of the curious come to Jesus because of what He may do for them. Perhaps they would benefit from a miracle or two. Perhaps they could be healed or blessed somehow.
We have these same people today: those who want the blessing without true commitment. These were the people who followed Jesus only because it pays. As long as it’s convenient, as long as the blessings keep coming, as long as they are on the mountain top, as long as no hard work is required, as long as no deep commitment is required, these people are with you. You can get a crowd when you pass out blessings. But this crowd later left Him when He started talking about commitment. As long as the free food was flowing, they were there - but they didn’t stay for the real stuff. You can get a crowd when you promise everybody a good time, everything for free. But you really can’t get commitment from the curious.
2. The Convinced v. 14, 15
Here are those who go beyond the curious. They dig deeper -company of the convinced. Their curiosity causes them to dig for deeper truths. They’re more open, but not much more. They become intellectually convinced. “This is the Prophet.” Their curiosity led them to believe in Him, to become convinced in Him, that He was the Messiah. Well and good, but there is one fundamental flaw in their thinking. They want Him to be the Messiah, but they want Him to be their Messiah. They want a Messiah to do their bidding.
v. 15a - Jesus perceived this, and so He withdrew Himself from them. Their intention was to set up the earthly kingdom of God, with Jesus as the earthly king - that is what they wanted. That is not what Jesus wanted. They wanted the Crown without the Cross. They wanted victory without sacrifice. But the Cross was in God’s plan. Jesus knew at this time He was going to the Cross, but they had other plans for him.
Notice that they didn’t consult Jesus about their plans. The very fact that they were going to take Him by force indicates that they knew this wasn’t His plan. It’s incredible to think that they could truly believe that He was the Messiah, and yet, be so callous to His will. Yet, there are those today who are equally as callous. Professing that they believe in the Lordship of Christ, they turn a deaf ear to His commands. They want the kingdom as they perceive it. They want the victory, but on their terms. This is a picture of the convinced, yet uncommitted. Is it a picture of you?
How do we know that they wanted the Crown without the Cross? - their reaction later in the chapter. Jesus began to talk about being the Bread of Life, the Bread which comes down out of heaven. Then He gives them a hard saying. He says that they must eat His flesh and drink His blood to have eternal life. Of course, He was talking about going to the Cross, and their commitment to Him. But this was too much for them to bear - v. 60.
They were convinced, and yet they were not ready to make a commitment to Him. They were not ready to bear up under difficult circumstances. They were not ready to make any sacrifices whatsoever. And when the going got rough, what did they do? - v. 66. When the going got rough, they got going. They left Him. They would have nothing to do with difficulty.
Many react to the Cross the same way today. The Cross was and is still a stumbling block to many. Christ’s Cross is an offense to some, in regard to salvation, because they are unwilling to renounce their own good works as insufficient for salvation. The Cross is an offense because of pride. The Cross stands as a reminder that all of our efforts, however notable, however good, are simply insufficient for salvation. You cannot save yourself by good works, nor can you earn salvation. Our merits are not adequate and we must admit that we are sinners. The Cross stands to remind us of our sin and inadequacy.
The Cross reveals God’s hatred of sin and His judgement upon it. For us to come to Christ, we must come to the foot of the Cross. We must renounce our sin and trust completely in Christ’s finished work on that Cross to purchase our salvation. We must trust Christ’s work instead of ours. For many, their pride will not let them do that. But we can’t come in pride. We must come in humility. We must come as a little child, recognizing we have nothing to give, but all to receive.
But then the Cross is also a principle of life for believers. You see, the Cross is not only an event in history, the Cross is a principle for living our daily lives. Jesus said that we must take up our cross daily and follow Him. What he was referring to was a daily dying to self, a daily renunciation of the self life and a daily dependence upon His life. This too becomes an obstacle. It means I must submit daily to His will, not mine. It means I must follow Him. It means that when I confess Him as Lord, I must be willing to do what He says. I must be willing to order my life around His priorities and not my own agenda. It means I must die daily. But sadly, many are convinced but are not committed. And so the Cross becomes an offense and a stumbling block to them. Is the Cross a stumbling block to you?
3. The Committed v. 66 - 69
We have seen the company of the curious, willing only to follow because of what they could get in return. We have seen the company of the convinced, wanting to believe in Jesus, but wanting Him on their own terms. Now we come to the company of the committed. These have taken another step, an all-important step into commitment. They have not only seen the truth and intellectually apprehended it, they have staked their lives on it and burned their bridges behind them. You see, it’s one thing to know the truth. It’s quite another to act on it. But we must not only be willing to act on it, we must in fact act on it.
They acted on their faith. Their action was a result of their faith. They had faith in Jesus. They didn’t simply have faith in what Jesus could do for them. Nor did they have faith in their idea of Jesus - they had faith in Him as the only Saviour and only Lord.
Simon Peter said that there was nowhere else to go because He was the one who had the words of eternal life. Here is their faith in Him as Saviour. Eternal life could only come through Him, and they had come to realize that - I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No man comes to the Father but by Me. This was a truth they had come to realize. Eternal life was only to be found in Jesus’ words. He was their Saviour and they were sticking with Him - still true today. There is no other name under heaven, given among men, whereby we must be saved. If we would be saved, it must be through Christ.
Peter says that they not only believe, but have come to know that Jesus is the Holy one of God. This is another way of saying that Jesus is Lord. To be the Holy One of God is to be the Lord of all. We must not only believe that Jesus is Saviour, we must believe that He is Lord as well. This was not a superficial commitment, but was a commitment which affected their lives. When a person is truly committed to Christ, his or her behaviour will reflect that commitment. One of the early Martyrs of the Church said, "If a man’s religion won’t take him to church, it is doubtful if it will take him to heaven." What was meant was that for faith to be real, for commitment to be genuine, it will change the way you act.
It troubles me when I meet those who profess to be Christians and yet do not seem to care about the things of God. When I meet supposed believers who take their responsibilities so lightly that they are just as willing to neglect them as they are to fulfil them. I have great difficulty understanding it. When we understand that the martyrs of the early church were willing to give even their lives for the faith, it makes you wonder what’s going on.
It seems to me that what’s going on is that we have many professing Christians who are simply among the curious. Many others are among the convinced, but neither of these two groups are among the committed. But the reality is that only the committed are truly Christians. You see, a Christian is not someone who is nice. A Christian is someone who is committed to Christ in practice.
The company of the curious, the company of the convinced, and the company of the committed. Where do you find yourself? Jesus is Lord and Saviour - there are two truths by which we are to judge ourselves. His Invitation - The first is found in that phrase of Christ’s, Come unto me. Have we come to Him in faith, trusting in His work for us, trusting in His love for us, trusting in His care for us? Have we come to Him to be in unbroken fellowship with Him on a daily basis? The second truth is found in Christ’s words, Follow me. Not only must we come to Him, we must obey Him. We must follow Him. Two tests — our relationship with Him, and our obedience to Him. They determine whether we have really made the right choice.