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Let us step back for a minute and look at Jesus Christ Himself. The key verse is John 6:57: "As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me." The key is to understand what Jesus means when He says that He lives because of the Father. At first sight it seems to be a contradiction. We know the doctrine of the Trinitythat Christ is the equal with the Father, and is in no way less God than the Father. Here Jesus says that He lives because of the Father. Does He not live anyway because He is God? Surely He is not dependent on the Father for His life?
We find part of the answer in John 4:32 and 34 where Jesus has been witnessing to the woman at the well. When I first made the connection between these verses I was very excited because it all fitted together so well. In verse 32, the disciples came to Him and urged Him to eat: "But He said to them, I have food to eat of which you do not know." Then verse 34, "Jesus said to them, My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work."
There is a pattern in these verses. Jesus describes our relationship with Him in the same terms as His relationship with the Father. We must feed on Him as He feeds on the Father. He does this by utter submission and dependence, just as we should submit to Christ and depend on Him. In chapter 4, Jesus had been so busy serving His Father that He had not eaten. Doing the Fathers will, was His food, because His obedience was so complete that it amounted to a moment by moment dependence.
|Jesus placed himself into a relationship with the Father which is a pattern for our relationship with Him.|
When Jesus was on earth, He was still God as well as man, but He voluntarily laid aside His own divine power and relied entirely on the power that came from the Father. In Philippians 2:5-8 we read that He didnt consider this divine power something to be grasped, but laid it aside and came in the form of a man.
For example, when Jesus was being tempted in the wilderness and had been fasting for forty days, He was hungry. Satan came to Him and tempted Him to turn the stones into bread. Could He turn the stones into bread? Did He have the power to? Of course He did! He was God. But He had voluntarily chosen to put Himself in a position on earth where He was not using that power but was relying on the Father for everything. At any moment He could easily have reached for His divine power and used it, but that would have spoiled His ministry.
Jesus' answer to Satan was that "man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God." He was saying, "I am not going to step out of dependence on the Father by providing for Myself. God is providing for Me and God is able to provide for Me directly or through bread or whatever other way He chooses. Bread is just one of the means He uses to sustain life. It is the Father who supplies My needs, not Me Myself."
|Let me give you an example that
might help to explain this. Every week our Seminary cook
does the shopping. Now supposing one week he asked me to
do the shopping instead. He said, "I want you to go
to the store. Here is $100 and here is the list of things
I want you to buy." Supposing I went to the store
and I thought, "I dont actually like that
brand very much. I prefer to buy this brand. Ive
got my own wallet in here. I can afford to spend the
money." So instead of buying the things he wanted, I
bought a few extra things that I thought should be bought
and I used my own money.
What Jesus was to do was not to reach into His own power which was available to Him, but just use the power that God provided; not do anything that was on His own agenda, but just to follow the agenda that God gave Him. At any moment He could have used the power that He had Himself, but He chose not to. He chose to live a life that was completely dependent on the Father, that every breath was breathed through the power the Father gave and He chose only to do the things that the Father had given Him.
I am convinced that if we want to understand the Christian life and how to please God, we must study Jesus Christ and how He related to the Father. This is such a critical idea that I want to take a few moments to go through a few verses so that it might be Jesus' words that convince you, not mine.
|Jesus chose to do all His miracles only by the power of the Father:||John 5:19 "Most assuredly,
I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what
He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also
does in like manner."
John 5:30 "I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me."
John 14:10 "the Father who dwells in Me does the works."
|The Father responded to Christ's prayer, for example, raising Lazarus from the dead:||John 11:41 Then they took away
the stone from the place where the dead man was lying.
And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, "Father, I
thank You that You have heard Me."
Mat 26:53 "Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels?"
|Jesus spoke and did only what the Father commanded Him:||John 12:49-50 "For I have
not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent
Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should
speak. And I know that His command is everlasting life.
Therefore, whatever I speak, just as the Father has told
Me, so I speak."
John 14:10 "The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority"
John 8:29 "And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him."
|Jesus could at any time have reached into the infinite knowledge that belonged to Him as God, but He voluntarily restricted Himself to knowledge the Father gave Him:||Mark 13:32 "But of that
day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven,
nor the Son, but only the Father."
John 15:15 "all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you."
|Although not in any way inferior to the Father, Jesus placed Himself in a position of dependent submission:||John 5:26 "For as the
Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to
have life in Himself."
John 14:26 "My Father is greater than I."
Understanding these things is a help when we are confronted with people like Jehovahs Witnesses who point to texts like these and say, "Look, Jesus admits being inferior to the Father." We understand that Jesus voluntarily put Himself in a position of dependence, that any moment He could have taken the power for Himself and moved from that position. This does not in any way deny Christs deity.
To sum up the relationship between Christ and the Father while on this earth: Christ lived every moment and breathed every breath to obey the will of the Father. To do the Fathers will was His drink, His meat. It was everything to Him. He did not do anything in His own strength but did everything by the power that flowed from the Father.
We have had a digression to learn something about Christ, and now have to come back to John 6:57 and ask what it tells us about ourselves. "As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me."
What Jesus is teaching us here is that our relationship with Him is very similar to His relationship to the Father. We have the same kind of relationship. Jesus utter dependence on the Father is a pattern for us. He is the pioneer that has gone before us. "So Jesus said to them again, 'Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.'" John 20:21.
|In Southern Ontario, along the shores of Lake Erie, there is a highway called the Talbot Trail. At the beginning of the last century, it was all just wilderness and Mr. Talbot was commissioned by the government to sell tracts of land. Sales were very poor until it dawned on him that people would not buy land that they could hardly even get tothere were no roads in this wilderness. He decided that he would cut a trail through the forest to open up the interior. Many people followed him and sales prospered. The road is still there and has now grown into a highway which is still called the Talbot Trail.|
Jesus has done the same thing. He is the pioneer. He has cut a trail through this impossible forest so that we can follow Him and we can obey. He is the suffering Servant. He is the Servant who has lived a life of submission, of dependence, and of following the Father.
His life was not merely a good example to us. By means of our mystical union with Him in the Spirit, His victory becomes ours and we fight a battle that He has already won.
You remember those four ideas that went together that we explored in part 1? The idea of eating and drinking is linked to coming, following, believing, and obeying. This is what we are called to do in following after Christ because Christ followed the will of His Father. He had utter faith in His Father and He obeyed the words of His Father. Our call is not to seek our own at all, but to surrender ourselves utterly to the Father in the same way that Jesus did.
Christ even gave up His personal desires. Here is a picture of every breath breathed being breathed for God. It is a picture of us looking at Christ and loving Him and copying Him. A teenage boy might have a hero whose pictures he has up on his wallshe tries to find out everything he can about the hero and copies him as closely as he can. We are following hard after Christ when we try to copy everything He does and try to imitate Him in every way. We try to breathe every breath for His sake. We are not motivated by law, but motivated by love and surrender to His will.
|This is a point where obedience and faith meet together. It is very difficult sometimes to distinguish between obedience and faith. Many years ago my daughter used to play a game with me. We would be walking along the street and she would say, "I want you to pretend that you are blind. Close your eyes and I'll hold your hand and lead you. You must just trust me." That is very hard to do because you keep imagining you are about to walk into a lamppost. It is quite a struggle to keep your eyes closed and you really have to have confidence in the person leading you.|
This is what it is like if you are really going to follow Christ because sometimes the way seems wrong. Sometimes it does not seem like the natural thing to do. Obedience and faith are intertwined because to believe Him is to obey Him. We can only obey Him if we believe Him. It is the walk of faith and obedience is the expression of faith.
When Christ came to earth His self-will was put aside. His own agenda was put aside. That is something we are called to do. We have dreams, ambitions, desires, good things that we want to do, but Christ calls us to put those aside, to have only one ambition and that is to please Him, only one dream and that is to serve Him. Can you imagine Jesus waking up one day and thinking, "I am going to have a day for myself today... what shall I do?" Jesus did do things that were pleasurable, things that relaxed Him, but not on His own agenda. Everyday He woke up and His mind was concentrated on how to serve the Father that day. (I am not saying we should not have relaxation because in order to be efficient with our bodies, to serve Him better, we need relaxation. But the whole focus of His life was not in any way to please Himself, but in every moment, every breath, to please the Father.)
You say, "It is impossible to do this. How can I possibly live a life like this?" You are right. It is not possible! It is not possible for a human being to live this kind of life because of what the Apostle Paul calls the flesh. But if we are Christians, Jesus Christ is living in us through the Spirit, and His power is able to give us the victory. Paul says in Gal 2:20 "it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God." We are called to surrender our life to Him, not in a passive but in an active way.
|Let me give an example of this surrendering in an active kind of way. I am not somebody who finds it easy to get up after a church service and to greet a visitor whom I have never met before. One Sunday a few weeks ago I was sitting in church, and as the service closed I prayed that God would work His will out in my life. I opened my eyes and on the other side of the church I saw a man whom I had never seen before. I thought, "Andrew, this is God's will: that you go over there and greet him." I said to myself, "No, I cant do that!", "Yes, you can, with Christs power in you. Christs power can do that." I prayed to be surrendered to Christ's will and immediately found myself getting up and going over and greeting the visitor. Christs power worked in me so that I did something that naturally I would not have done. It was not my agenda, it was not my will to do that, but with Christs power in me I could do it and I was surprised at how easy it was.|
Now we have been a full circle and come back to the picture we began with. That is what eating His flesh and drinking His blood is all about: we are feeding on Jesus and being sustained by Him moment by moment. When we understand that, we can live a life that follows Him.
As with the branch and the vine, only as we are plugged into the vine can the branch bear forth fruit. Only as we depend on Him moment by moment, looking to Him, can we live this kind of life. We cannot do it in our own strengthwe have to hand our lives to Christ and say, "Jesus, You do this in me."
If you are an unbeliever, then the message is exactly the same. We cannot serve Him, we cannot live a Christian life, we cannot even believe in Him without His power. Most of those listening to Jesus in John 6 were unbelievers.
Before I was a Christian, I used to try to work up in myself enough strength to believe in Him. It didn't work! We have to cast ourselves on Him in utter surrender and say, "Lord, I am nothing. I cannot do anything. I surrender my life to you and my only hope is that you will be gracious to me and save me."
Before you pray for Christ to come and live in you, you have to understand the implications. If Christ lives in us then we are going to live a life like He lived. It was a life of sacrifice, poured out moment by moment for the Father. Do we want to live that kind of life? This is the challenge, and it applies both to believers and to unbelievers. Jesus says, "Feed on Me. Follow Me. Believe on Me. Abide in Me. I will come and live in you so that you are able to do this. He who feeds in Me will live because of Me."
This life is one of death to self, but the irony is that eventually it leads to eternal life. When we try to live a life that seeks our own satisfaction, it will result in death. It will result in a hunger that is never satisfied. The woman of Samaria in John 4 was thirsting after satisfaction. She had had four husbands and the man she was living with was not her husband. Attempting to satisfy this thirst outside of Christ will result in eternal pain, eternal hunger, and eternal suffering.
"He who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me" (Matt 10:38). It can seem foolish to turn away from what will apparently bring us happiness and satisfaction, to what will bring us suffering and difficulty, but the reality is that bearing the cross of Christ is the road to life.
Jesus said, "He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life" (John 12:25). I heard of a man who was in the process of sacrificing sparkling career prospects in order to have more time to devote to God. A fellow worker came to him and told him in no uncertain terms that he thought he was a fool. Could you be accused of being a fool for God? What have you sacrificed for Him? "Whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple" (Luke 14:33), and "For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it" (Luke 9:24).
To summarize, these things all go together: coming to Him, feeding on Him, trusting Him, following and obeying Him. We have to rest on Him in obedience. We have to abandon ourselves in an active way to Him, just as when I played that game with my daughter. When we walk this life, it sometimes feels as if obeying Christ is the way to pain, not to happiness. We walk it only because we believe Christ's words. Everything else in our nature is telling us it is the wrong way. The flesh is screaming to us and saying, "No! That is not the way you should live." We live that way only because we are following Christ and trusting in Him.
But at the same time it is not a hard life. His burden is easy if we cast ourselves on Him and we will find life in Him. "Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen diligently to Me, and eat what is good, and let your soul delight itself in abundance. Incline your ear, and come to Me. Hear, and your soul shall live" (Isaiah 55:2-3).
Christ is calling out to us and saying, "Come to Me. Come and eat. Come and drink. Come and have the choicest things in abundance. Come and surrender your life, abandon your life, and have real life in Me." It seems like the pathway of death, but in the end it is eternal life.
What kind of Christian life are you living? Where are you looking for satisfaction? You have two choices: feed on the things that your human nature tells you will satisfy, or feed on Christ by surrendering utterly to Him and depending entirely on Him, in the same way as He did with His Father.