Thursday, November 26, 2015

JEWELS From The GOSPEL Of JOHN - RECOGNITION By The RELIGIOUS: JOHN 3:1-2

The following is a series of short exhortations, brief commentary and writings to convey thoughtful meditation on God's Word. I have chosen the Gospel of John as the subject. These articles will not run contiguously on this blog but peppered throughout and in the midst of other articles (though some might be posted consecutively). I pray that these will be a blessing and an edification for the saints.

JOHN 3:1-2
1 There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews:

2 The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.

The Pharisee: today we think of such a term as a derogatory remark towards any one who is hypocritical, legalistic, unmerciful, and more concerned about splitting theological hairs than loving and serving the LORD and His people.
Nearly everywhere in Scripture we see the Pharisee as adversaries of the LORD Jesus Christ; hence the perspective that the Pharisees were 'the bad guys' - and that they were in Jesus day, but they didn't start out that way. From the Bible History website we have the following:

"The sect of Pharisees is thought to have originated in the 3rd century B.C., in days preceding the Maccabean wars, when under Greek domination and the Greek effort to Hellenize the Jews, there was a strong tendency among the Jews to accept Greek culture with its pagan religious customs. The rise of the Pharisees was a reaction and protest against this tendency among their fellow kinsmen. Their aim was to preserve their national integrity and strict conformity to Mosaic law. They later developed into self-righteous and hypocritical formalists. Later they were among those who had condemned Jesus to death. 

"How fearfully the prophecy of destruction that Jesus had foretold was fulfilled! In a few brief years the Roman legions of the Emperor Titus utterly destroyed the city and its glorious Temple. Over a million Jews perished in the siege in a few days, and a hundred thousand more were taken away in captivity. 

"Without its marvelous Temple, the Jewish religion was forced to take on a new character, and after the final Jewish rebellion (132 A.D.) all hope of rebuilding the Temple was lost, and the work of these rabbis took a different direction. 


"The Mishnah, compiled by the Patriarch Judah (200 A.D.), which is the final work of these rabbis, began a final work in the history of Jewish scholarship. It is a monument of Pharisaic scholarship and a testimony to the final triumph of Pharisaism, which now is compiled into the Talmud which has become synonymous with Judaism."

For more about Pharisees and their history, go to the web site quoted above here.

The Pharisees and Sadducees (the conservatives and liberals respectively of Judaism in the days of Jesus) were often at odds with each other, but when Jesus came along, they had a focal point that united them. It was the religious versus the Righteous One. That's how it always was, and is, and will be even in the Last Days when under anti-Christ and his world religion will actually go on the offensive against the returning LORD Jesus (Read PSALM 2; ridiculous!!)!

Yet this was not always the case; in the book of Acts we read about how there were some of the Pharisees that believed in Christ (though, according to this reference (ACTS 15:5) they still had trouble letting go of 'the Law' instead of wholly embracing Christ by faith alone. 
Another that seemed at the least, cautious about opposing Jesus was Gamaliel (ACTS 5:34) who was also a teacher of Saul of Tarsus, who became Paul the apostle (ACTS 22:3). While it doesn't specifically state it, Joseph of Arimathaea, was at the least a highly respected leader, one who did not consent to the counsel of the Sanhedrin, and may well could have been a Pharisee - certainly a very religious and pious man to say the least (See JOHN 19:38-42).

In today's text we read about another Pharisee who was seeking truth beyond any that could be possibly found in mere religion:

Why did Nicodemus, a Pharisee and a leader of the Jews, come to Jesus by night? Some suggest it was an act of cowardice or feeling intimidated by his colleagues repudiation of the Righteous Branch (See JER 23:533:15and so he wanted to see Him secretly, so that no one would know. Others think it was a courtesy that Nicodemus was paying to Jesus - knowing that He would be very busy in the day time, he came to Him by night, when He would retire from His labors and be more readily available for inquirers.

Why did Nicodemus come to Jesus at all? Could it be perhaps that he saw in Jesus things that his own Jewish religion couldn't provide?

I am often asked, when seen in public reading my Bible, if I am religious; my answer is invariably "no - I'm just a Christian". This often provokes a confused response because most people can't differentiate between religion and biblical Christianity.

Like Judaism before it, Christianity started out with a foundation solidly established by the LORD God; but over the course of time, what was once God-ordained and biblical, became religious: with all sorts of 'add-ons' that incorporates traditions and rules, and extra-biblical, even unbiblical beliefs. 
Judaism, like Christianity experienced an apostasy (falling away from the faith; 1 TIM 4:1); you can read about it throughout the Old Testament prophets who warned of Israel's wayward and hard hearts, as well as in the New Testament by the LORD Jesus Himself (Read MATT 23 chapter as an example). 

Today, Judaism is a morphed version of what God intended - not Mosaic Judaism* but Talmudic - which includes traditional rituals and customs and beliefs that are not only unbiblical in most respects, but sometimes even occultic (as seen in the Kabala).
Christianity today is also not at all for the most part, as the LORD intended. Everywhere the Emergent Church, the New Apostolic Reformation Movement, the Word-Faith Movement and the general ecumenism of denominational Christendom expresses the truth that the church has strayed from her biblical foundation.

* [WIthout a Temple in Jerusalem, Mosaic Judaism is impossible because without a Temple, there can be no priesthood or sacrifices offered by such. In point of fact, even with a rebuilt Temple, the time of Mosaic Judaism has truly passed because the Temple, its priests, sacrifices, feasts and rituals were all foreshadowings of the coming Messiah, and now that He has come as The Highpriest, The Sacrifice, and The Temple - the former foreshadowings are passed away - for a comprehensive understanding of this, a careful study of the book of Hebrews is suggested or a shorter version, the book of Galatians.]

There were those Jews who truly desired God and to please Him; these were lovers of the truth of His Word and so when Jesus came preaching, they heard Him, understood His teachings and became followers. These were those who were "Jews inwardly" (ROM 2:29) and had "ears to hear" as opposed to those other Jews who were spiritually speaking blind and deaf (MATT. 13:15-17). The twelve disciples (excluding Judas Iscariot) were such as these.

The religious will almost always oppose the righteous. The sanctimonious will nearly invariably be at odds with the saints. Ever since the day that Cain slew Abel - because of Cain's jealousy that Abel's sacrifice was acceptable to God and his own was not (this was because Abel was obedient to the LORD by offering an animal sacrifice as He prescribed, not a meal offering (grain) which Cain offered according to his own religious conviction).

There are a few select exceptions however - those who were raised in religion and yet eventually came to understand that religion cannot fill an empty soul (MATT. 11:28-30), it cannot transform the heart (JOHN 3:3,5; 2 COR 5:17), it cannot offer salvation (HEB 2:3,10): these things can ONLY be accomplished by the Spirit of the Living God: Who does not dwell in temples of stone made by humans (ACTS 17:24), much less in religion itself.

I was such a one, being a rather religious Roman Catholic in my youth - but the spiritual hunger and questions I had went unanswered by religion. It wasn't until I began to read the Bible for myself (about a one year journey through the Scriptures) that I came to a saving knowledge of the LORD Jesus Christ, and salvation by grace through His redemption which He purchased for us. If you would like to read my testimony, you may do so here.

I have often said, that "religion" is an artificial (man-made) form of (self) righteousness that can only mimic true spirituality found in Christ; that the righteousness that religion offers is wholly unacceptable, even offensive to God!

ISAIAH 64:6-7
6 But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.

7 And there is none that calleth upon thy name, that stirreth up himself to take hold of thee: for thou hast hid thy face from us, and hast consumed us, because of our iniquities.

Rather than struggle in the realm of religion, why not rather - like Nicodemus, seek JESUS in the night of your soul, and find Him as you seek wholeheartedly (JER 29:13) and discover new life and spiritual regeneration and transformation! 

TITUS 3:4-6
4 But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared,
5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;

6 Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour;

EPH 2:8-9
8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.


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