Recently I was talking with a Christian lady who asked me how she should handle a customer who was rude and intimidating. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that question and I could give her a range of answers from “love them” to “don’t tolerate that sort of abuse”, but the real issue is not the customer; the real answer lies within the heart of the Christian lady herself.
In John 6:28 the people following Jesus asked Him the question … “what can we do that we may work the works of God?”
I used to think that these people were seeking to know how to sincerely serve God, but as I reflected on the range of scenarios in the whole of chapter 6, I realised that they were asking Jesus a completely different question. They had just witnessed the miracle of feeding 5 thousand men plus women and children from the multiplication of 5 loaves and 2 fish (v.9,10). Then they heard about the incredible miracle of Jesus not only walking on the sea but also whilst the sea was rough with a great wind (v.18,19), and to top it off, they heard about the incredulous translocation of the fishing vessel from the sea to the shore in an instant (v.21).
So what were they really asking Jesus?
They were asking Jesus what they could do to do what He was doing. They were trying to work out how they could copy Him. They were really only interested in being able to do what Jesus could do, either for their own elevated self-value in the eyes of others, or so they could reproduce the free food deal. They weren’t at all interested in serving Him.
Jesus confirms this when He accuses them of looking for Him only because they could get some benefits from His power (v.26). And, they themselves confirmed it when they retorted to Jesus’ simple instruction to believe on Him when they demanded proof that He was who He said He was (v.30). Hadn’t they witnessed with their own eyes the miracle of the food multiplication? Why did they need more proof, unless they were trying to cash in on the extra give-aways just like the modern TV freebee shows.
Jesus lives only for the will of the Father (v.38)
The whole of Jesus’ purpose was to faithfully serve the Father. Jesus went on to test their real motive with a spiritual synonym … “if you want life then you must eat me and drink my blood!” To the person who lives in v.28, that statement sounds cannibalistic; but to the person who lives in v.38, that statement is life eternal.
What’s the difference between v.28 and v.38?
People who stand on v.28 are following Jesus for the benefits and rewards and to be associated with a figure of importance; whereas people who stand on v.38 have sacrificed their importance in the eyes of others. Jesus was only interested in what the Father wanted; that was His only motive and that was His only concern. When you stand with the same motive of heart as Jesus you see the solution vastly different from standing on v.28. From a v.28 perspective the solution to any problem is vitally important, but from a v.38 perspective the solution isn’t relevant; the only thing that counts to a v.38 Christian is that they are doing what the Father wants.
The v.28 Christian is into “do“. The v.38 Christian is into “death“; that is, my spirit is not interested in getting what my “I” wants. The v.28 Christian wants to show-off what they ‘do’; the v.38 Christian is only interested in what the Father wants.
People who stand on v.28 come to Jesus to escape their pain of rejection; but genuine v.38 Christians actually choose to be rejected for the Name of Christ. Jesus, the creator God, was despised and rejected of men and because of his willingness to conform to this strategy of His Father, He was elevated to the highest honour (Philippians 2). He suffered so that we can turn to a God who has experienced the pain when we experience the hurt.
Correction = Rejection to a v.28 Christian
People who stand on v.28 love the truth of God, but hate the truth if it exposes their own faults. To a v.38 Christian, correction is a blessing that hurts and addresses our pride, but to a v.28 Christian, correction is an attack against their ability and capability.
Why do you need to know the right thing to do?
If the truth be known, the real underlying reason is the fear of inferiority. People who are inferior are desperate to feel superior and be superior, and people who are superior will try and retain that status with intimidation of the inferior. To v.28 people, being wrong is an inferiority put-down; being right is superiority. A v.28 person has to be right so they don’t feel inferior. A v.28 person will try and impress people so they don’t feel inferior. A v.28 person will try and copy people that look superior to themselves, strive to improve their intelligence so they can feel above people less educated, collect friends to feel superior over others, and use family status to reinforce their position above others. A v.28 person will stop at nothing to gain superiority over other people, and if getting attached to Jesus helps achieve it, so be it.
When you live in the fear of what people think, what you’re really saying is “ME is more important than God”. In other words, my pride is my god. A v.28 Christian might act cool and look like they are free from people’s hurtful words, but in their heart they know they are just protecting themselves from feeling any pain.
It’s not the solution that counts, it’s the motive
You see, the answer to the Christian lady I initially referred to is not really what is the solution to her dilemma; it’s what verse do you stand on. In other words, it’s not the solution that counts, it’s the motive. If you stand on v.28, the application of the solution will be vastly different to a Christian who stands on v.38, even though the solution is exactly the same. A v.38 Christian doesn’t have to know; they trust God and wait for His solution.
Feet in both camps
Most Christians will believe they are committed to v.38 and simply slip back into v.28 inadvertently, but their fruit will contradict their confidence in their belief about themselves. Eventually their envy of position, their moodiness if things don’t turn out the way they want, and their transferal of blame will expose their lie. You can’t have your feet in both camps and be saved; you’re either in v.38 or you’re not. A v.28 Christian can act exactly like a v.38 Christian, but their heart will eventually expose their pretence.
How do you change camps from v.28 to v.38?
You can’t change camps by just willing it. The pathway to v.38 is via “rejection“. When Jesus says He was ‘despised and rejected by men, and he bore our griefs and carried our sorrows’ in Isaiah 53, He isn’t referring to those who come to Him because they feel sad and put-down; no, that’s the people who stand on v.28. I’m not saying He doesn’t care for the emotional hurting, but what Jesus has really died for is for those people who stand up for Christ and get rejected for doing so. Jesus suffered the incredulous pain of humiliation when He simply stood up for His Father and paid the price of being rejected by His own creation. That’s the pain He suffered so he could reassure you of the pain you suffer when family, friends, the church, and enemies reject you. But that understanding is only available to those who live in v.38, because those who live in v.28 will misconstrue the solution because of the love of themselves.
Someone committed to v.28 won’t be able to find v.38
It’s not what you “do”, it’s where your heart is. If your heart’s in v.38 you won’t get caught up in what’s right or wrong, your heart will love His Ten Commandments, and if in your human frailty you fall into wrong, you’ll repent. A v.28 Christian will hate being wrong and repent to look right again, but never find genuine repentance until they fully surrender to v.38. In fact, until you fully surrender to v.38, you’re not a Christian by heart, only by label.
May God expose the tares and bring His wheat to harvest and in the meantime preserve His remnant.
Pastor Bill Graystone