Unbelief’s Believable Deception (part 2)
Primary Truth Taught- To know God’s Word correctly is to understand with the desire to obey
Last time we saw that even Jesus’ brothers did not believe in Him. This was eye opening because we saw the things they did believe and how that belief could have been mistaken for genuine belief or saving faith.
John 7:5 (ESV)
5 For not even his brothers believed in him.
We also a saw a few weeks ago the crowd that followed Jesus, they gave up much to follow Him and yet He said that they didn’t really believe.
By the end of the message last week we also learned that belief that is real is a result of looking past the benefits, blessings, and miracles to Jesus Himself. He is salvation and He is where we must place our trust.
The big things that stand in the way are human deadness and human pride. We saw it in the crowd and we saw it in Jesus’ brothers. We also see it, at times, in ourselves.
Here, John gives us another group of unbelievers. Now, on the surface it looks like true belief, however, once we dig deeper we’ll see it’s not. We’ll see how they marvel at Jesus’ teaching. However, they marvel because they see that Jesus has incredible knowledge and incredible oratory skills. They are not cut to the heart as with Peter’s sermon at Pentecost. To this group this was merely an intellectual exercise not words of life…
I pray we can see the difference because I fear there are many today who have knowledge of the Scriptures and marvel at some of the teaching but fail to obey what the Bible commands. To them it’s an exercise in doctrine but not an exercise in faith, humility, obedience and practice.
Human Need Met
We have the need to be able to see past surface appearances to reality. In verse 24 our Lord commands us to look past surface appearances to judge with right or true judgment. How can we look past surface appearances when that’s all we’re used to? We begin to obey God in the things we know to do. When we have a heart that seeks to do the will of God He will give us the discernment we need in other matters.
We’ll see that in our text this morning…
John 7:14–24 (ESV)
14 About the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and began teaching. 15 The Jews therefore marveled, saying, “How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?” 16 So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me. 17 If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority. 18 The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood. 19 Has not Moses given you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why do you seek to kill me?” 20 The crowd answered, “You have a demon! Who is seeking to kill you?” 21 Jesus answered them, “I did one work, and you all marvel at it. 22 Moses gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. 23 If on the Sabbath a man receives circumcision, so that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because on the Sabbath I made a man’s whole body well? 24 Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”
14 About the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and began teaching. 15 The Jews therefore marveled, saying, “How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?” 16 So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me. 17 If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority. 18 The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood.
Jesus came to Jerusalem, to the feast after all. He didn’t come the way His brothers wanted Him to come. They wanted Him to come as the great Miracle-worker who could get them fame and fortune. They didn’t understand and didn’t believe in Jesus.
When Jesus goes public at the feast, it’s not in miracle-working but in teaching the truth of God. This is because truth is way more important than miracles.
The Jews wondered how could Jesus teach with such forceful power and authority without going to rabbinical school? How could someone speak with such oratory skill without formal training? They were awestruck by His delivery, oratory skill and boldness but didn’t hear the truths He was presenting. This was not godly amazement but worldly amazement. Jesus was speaking God’s Words to them and all they were impressed with was His delivery. They had no heart to listen and obey.
Do you see how this section fits into the context? We saw the crowd following Jesus in 5-6 because they were simply looking on the surface. They saw bread and wanted more. Jesus’ brothers saw the miracles and just looked on the surface, that’s all they saw. Here these Jews were observing Jesus teach but just looked on the surface and were impressed with His sermon delivery but didn’t hear a word He was saying. In each case these people were judging with wrong judgment…
24 Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”
These Jews did not understand Jesus’ Words correctly and didn’t recognize where they came from. Of course we understand that they were unbelievers and the Word is spiritually discerned so until one is brought to life they cannot fully and rightly understand God’s Word.
Our Lord gives us a wonderful example of how to handle man’s praise. He wasn’t going to get taken in by the temptation to find significance in the approval of man. He knew that they were only seeing on the surface and not really understanding what His words meant.
16 So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me.
Do you see how Jesus deflects the applause and praise to God? In essence Jesus tells the Jews that day that the teaching they were listening to and marveling over wasn’t His to begin with but God’s. His task was to teach them the Father’s Words after all it was the Father that sent Him to earth for the purpose of teaching and saving His people. We too should deflect praise to God.
While this crowd only looked on the surface they were missing the message Jesus had that day. Rather than asking things like where did this man get this learning? They should have been considering if what He told them was true. But that didn’t even register on the radar for them.
The entire Bible’s teaching is NOT to be viewed as some sort of intellectual exercise. It must be a life changing, moral, obedience exercise. If all we do is acquire head knowledge from God’s Word then we are just like these Jews who just wanted to know more stuff or like the stoics on Mars Hill who sought the next new thing. Jesus’ words are for life and for change.
You see one question we should ask ourselves after each time we’ve been looking at God’s Word is, Ok God now how is it that You want me to change? Theology is for change, change in thinking, in character, and in behavior. Knowing a bunch of stuff about God without conforming more and more to the image of Christ will send a person to hell as quickly as any pagan.
17 If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.
This verse is very specific and shows us that knowing God’s Word rightly comes from the will or desire to obey God’s will. Jesus tells us we will know that His teaching is God’s teaching when we have the desire to actually do what He says. This, again, is true for the entire Bible.
If we stopped here at verse 17, we would have a general truth before us without specifics. The general truth would be: You will discern that Jesus is a reliable spokesman for God when your will is so transformed that you will what God wills. When your desires are God’s desires. When your passion is God’s passion. When your preferences are God’s preferences. Then your reason will be able to see Jesus for who he really is. When your willing is in sync with God’s, your knowing will be in sync with truth.
John wants us to see another form of unbelief. Unbelief is to marvel at God’s Word without obeying it.
Let’s think about this for a minute…these Jews heard Jesus and marveled at His teaching. I can see them walking home after speaking with one another about how impressive the words of Jesus were and how amazing His delivery was. They no doubt left the building shaking His hand and telling Him how good the sermon was. They left as they came in unbelief. Could it be that someone can appreciate God’s Word and marvel at it and still be lost?
17 and 18 go together. They show how it is that we can know that Jesus’ message is God’s message…
Now how do you put verses 17 and 18 together? Verse 17: Willing God’s will enables us to know who Jesus really is when he reveals himself to us. Verse 18: You can know who Jesus really is because he lives totally for the glory of God. The way I put those two together is like this: Verse 18 describes specifically the deepest change that has to happen in my will so that I can see Jesus as true.
The mark of his truth is a passion for God-exaltation, not self-exaltation. “The one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true.” For me to see that as a mark of his truth, my will has to join him in that. I have to will God-exaltation over self-exaltation. And this is not what I will by nature. I am like the brothers of Jesus and like the Jewish crowds. I want him to do his miracles in a way that endorses my own love for self-exaltation. I want him to endorse my Sabbath-keeping, my law-keeping, in a way that confirms my self-exaltation.
We could even understand it this way, Jesus’ mission, first and foremost, was to bring glory to God. When our desire is to bring glory to God then we’ll run parallel with Jesus and be able to understand Him in a greater way.
So it is that biblical knowledge is not head knowledge but heart knowledge. This knowledge must be changing you and your will must be in line with God’s will then you can truly understand the Bible.
2. Judging By Appearance, Marveling At Jesus’ Miracles With No Worship
19 Has not Moses given you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why do you seek to kill me?” 20 The crowd answered, “You have a demon! Who is seeking to kill you?” 21 Jesus answered them, “I did one work, and you all marvel at it.
22 Moses gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. 23 If on the Sabbath a man receives circumcision, so that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because on the Sabbath I made a man’s whole body well?
Now our Lord goes to case and point. He shows them where their deficiencies lie.
They’ve been given God’s Law but do not keep it. We know that one function of the Law of God is to show us our sin because we cannot keep it perfectly. Jesus tells them that they are so far removed from God that they’re not keeping any of it.
Thou shalt not kill is probably one of the most understood and clear parts of the Law of God. You see how Jesus goes right to their hearts. What Jesus is basically telling them is that God gave you His law and do not kill is part of it and yet you are seeking to kill Me. John has already told us that it was common knowledge among those in the city of the plan to kill Jesus. However, rather than repent and turn to Christ they deny the truth by telling Jesus He’s crazy.
Our Lord points out another problem they had. The fact that they were seeking to kill Him was well known by many. Their hatred for Jesus began when He healed the man who was paralyzed on the Sabbath. So He explains to them that occasionally it is proper to break the Sabbath for a greater good. He explains that when a baby boy turns 8 days old on the Sabbath they work by performing circumcision which technically could wait one more day. However, He says isn’t it more fitting to relieve someone’s suffering on the Sabbath?
Rather than learning from Christ they condemn Him and seek to kill Him. Rather than seeing past the miracle to the glory of God they just look on the surface.
Not only did they not keep the Law of God but they show that their will is opposed to God’s will. The Law is intended to bring glory to God but in their twisted sinful thinking, they have in a very odd way used it to bring glory to themselves.
They added to it and twisted it to the point where obeying the man-made parts of the Law gave them the authority that only God should have. They were seeking surface things not God.
3. Judging by Appearance Not Content
24 Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”
Rather than praising Jesus for His great teaching, they should have been seeking to obey His words. Rather than trying to kill Him because they thought He broke the Sabbath, they should have been rejoicing and praising God for the man’s restored body. Rather than seeking to kill Jesus their response should have been praise to God. They were stuck on surface stuff and were not judging with right judgment.
For us to exercise right judgment is to learn God’s Word and then do what it says. As Christians we have the power to obey if we have the Holy Spirit living within us. God has given us the power to obey and the power to understand His Word in the proper manner. The right judgment is to read the Words of Jesus and see them in terms of bringing us in to conformity to His character.
So many times I hear people who just want to talk theology but not live theology. To discuss the points of doctrine is ok as long as a part of your discussion you encourage each other to live those truths out in your life. When you are pursuing obedience you will be given a greater understanding of God’s Word.
-Obedience and understanding go together.
Why would God grant you the ability to understand something and not live it out when the end of His Word is to be like Jesus?
-Before you seek to know difficult truths begin to obey the truths you already know.
God has given you some particular revelation already, obey that before you ask Him to show you other things.
-Realize the greatest hindrance to understanding God’s Word is not reason but willingness to obey.
One writer put it like this,
Realize that the deepest obstruction to knowing the truth of Jesus is a heart-obstruction, not a head-obstruction.
It is a problem with our will, not first a problem with our reason. Our natural love for human glory makes it impossible to know and follow a person whose whole life is bent on emptying himself in order to glorify his Father and save sinners. To know him for who he is, we must be changed, not just in our ideas, but in our wills. This is why the Gospel of John puts such a clear emphasis on the need to be born again. We need to will God-exaltation more than we will self-exaltation. We need to love making much of God more than we love people making much of us. Being opposed to this is the greatest obstacle to knowing Jesus.
-Pray and ask God to give you a greater desire for His glory, fame, praise and less desire for your own. When our desire is for His glory we will get to know Him in a much greater way.
Declaration of Grace
In the mercy and grace of Almighty God, Jesus Christ was given to die for us, and for His sake God forgives us all our sins. To those who believe in Jesus Christ He gives the power to become the children of God and gives to them the Holy Spirit. May the Lord, who has begun this good work in us, bring it to completion in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen
 John 7:14-24 by John Piper
 John 7:14-24 by John Piper
 John 7:14-24 by John Piper