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(John 8:39-47)
A. I know it sounds so simple, and who could
disagree? If the two great commandment are “love
God and neighbor,” if the first-fruit the Spirit
produces is love, then clearly we must be about love.
A. Have you heard the saying, “The apple
And this is affirmed by our Lord. “42 Jesus said to
doesn’t fall far from the tree”? This is not an
them, “If God were your Father, you would love me,
agricultural observation. Rather, it’s referring to the
for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my
similarity between children and their parents—like
own accord, but he sent me.”
father, like son. And most commonly it points not to
So the chief evidence of the new birth, of our
a physical similarity, but a moral similarity, and that
having God as our Father, is that we love his Son.
usually in the negative sense. The statement implies
And that is not merely to feel affection for his Son,
that the moral or character defects in children can
but also to believe in him, which includes submitting
often be traced back to their parents.
to him and obeying him.
And this highlights a distinction made in our
B. I find this to be one of the particular
text. The people insist that they are the descendants
pleasures of being a Christian. Though we experience
of Abraham, and so therefore Abraham is their father,
the full range of affections, yet we are called to love
and, by extension, God is their Father. In verse 38,
supremely. Yes, we are to hate evil and injustice.
Jesus has implied that God is his Father for whom he
Yes, we often grieve and mourn the brokenness in the
speaks, but that they have another “father,” whom
world, and especially the way it hurts and affects
they follow to a different end.
others negatively. Yes, we are to be upset when those
B. Here we have the explanation of something
who profess to know Christ live in ways that deny it.
we found at the beginning of our study in the
But the bottom line is love: love for Christ because
prologue in John 1: “11 He came to his own, and his
we know his Father and his Father’s love for him,
own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who
and love for neighbor, because we know of God’s
did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave
mercy for sinners in distress. We must hate the sin,
the right to become children of God, 13 who were
but we must even more love the sinner.
born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of
C. Even in times when we must engage in the
the will of man, but of God.” One’s natural descent is
“tough love” of discipline, that discipline is an
not what matters; rather, one’s moral or spiritual
exercise of love. We need to be clear in the
distinction between disciplining or chastening and
Now since Jesus is addressing those who are
punishment. Punishment is interested in exacting
not morally or spiritually descendants of Abraham or
justice. A rule has been violated, a law has been
of God, the entire discourse is in the negative. They
broken, and the situation must be rectified, made
reflect the character of their father, the devil. But
right. A judge need not love an offender—the
since the opposite is true, we can turn this around and
offender’s best interest is not the chief concern when
point out the characteristics of the true sons and
it comes to punishment. The judge cares only about
daughters of God. And these will be common themes
justice: punishment is penal, it inflicts an appropriate
from John, common to us, but worth exploring.
penalty, and once the fine is paid or the sentence is
C. It may not be the case naturally speaking
served or restitution is made, then justice is restored.
that the apple falls not far from the tree, and we have
all known examples of that. But it certainly is the
That’s why I would always urge parents to
case morally and spiritually speaking. If we know
dispense with the language of punishment when it
God, if we are born of him, if we are sons and
comes to their children. The parent’s chief concern is
daughters of our heavenly Father, we will do the
not that justice be served, but that the wellbeing of
works of our true Father.
the child be ensured. When a child breaks a rule or
hurts a sibling, it is out of love for the child (and the
sibling) that the parent inflicts a corrective, painful
discipline. It is to train the child to know what is right
and to walk in righteousness. But what happens all
too often is that the parent becomes angry and acts
out of that anger, to make the child pay, and can do
so because the parent is bigger and stronger.
And, unfortunately, the church often behaves
the same way. We become angry because of some
wrongdoing in the church, and rather than acting out
of love, we re-act out of that anger, and nothing good
comes of it. In fact, James warns that anything that is
accomplished out of anger is not from God and will
not truly last: “the anger of man does not produce the
righteousness that God requires.” (1:20)
Or Christians may become concerned about
the breakdown of society or the loss of a so-called
“Christian nation.” And out of anger, we may protest
or boycott or condemn instead of lovingly, patiently
winning peoples’ hearts through the gospel, and we
have accomplished nothing. For a long time I
followed the work of the Focus on the Family
institution. I recall at one point the head apologizing
for talking about politics so much, but he said that
survey after survey (and contribution after
contribution) revealed that that’s what the audience
cared about most. And several years later, around the
time of his retirement, I recall James Dobson
lamenting that all of their efforts to try to restore a
“Christian” nation or go back to biblical morality, for
all of the millions spent, seemingly had no effect.
D. The bottom line is that we must be about
love. Yes, love must be tough. Yes, love must tell the
truth and confront. But love must be motivated in the
best interest of our target. Again, I find it liberating to
know that whenever I must get tough or confront, I
am required to do so only out of love, with a clear
conscience, and if I am prompted by mere anger or
annoyance, I must step back until those evil motives
have been overcome first.
father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s
desires. He was a murderer from the beginning….”
B. Who is the greatest killer in history?
People jokingly point to Cain: by slaying his brother,
Abel, he killed a quarter of the world’s population.
But who comes to mind? Hitler? No, he gassed only
six million Jews. Pol Pot in the killing fields of
Cambodia? No, he only killed two million (only!).
Stalin starved 20 million of his own excess
population. But the worst of all was Chairman Mau
in China—about 70 million. Notice that Marxism, the
philosophy that is supposed to be the champion of the
common person is responsible for murdering more
people than any other worldview. (Although we must
remember that America has ended the lives of some
50 million inconvenient, unborn children through
But biblically speaking, the first man, through
his disobedience, Adam, brought death into the
world, effectively killing all of his descendants. And
the devil is the one who deceived him into doing it.
This most likely what Jesus was referring to when he
noted that the devil was “a murderer from the
beginning.” And so, in their desire to kill Jesus, they
are proving themselves to be, not the offspring of
Abraham, nor of the Lord God, but of their “father,”
the devil.
C. And we must be about life. You can see
the close connection between love and life. The angry
impulse so quickly degenerates into hatred, and
hatred is the root of the death desire. Our Lord Jesus
noted in the Sermon on the Mount: “21 You have
heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not
murder; and whoever murders will be liable to
judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is
angry with his brother will be liable to judgment;
whoever insults his brother will be liable to the
council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable
to the hell of fire.”And the next thing Jesus talks
about in that context is going to be reconciled with
your brother. If you allow that unjust anger and
A. Satan’s way is the way of death. God’s
hatred to fester, you are operating in the realm of the
way is the way of life. Listen to how our Lord Jesus
one whose way is murder, who was a murderer from
describes their father, and the effect their father has
the beginning.
on them. “39 They answered him, “Abraham is our
C. That’s why we take the call of Christ to be
father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s
peacemakers with utmost sincerity. Jesus said,
children, you would be doing what Abraham did, 40
“Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called
but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you
the children of God.” You see the connection. The
the truth that I heard from God. This is not what
children of the devil love to foment bitterness and
Abraham did.” And verse 44: “44 You are of your
anger, conflict and hatred. The children of God love
to bring peace and reconciliation to others. We must
be about life.
rational reasons. He notes Karl Marx’s famous
indictment that “religion is the opium of the people.”
People turn to religion for the same reason that
addicts turn to drugs, to escape a painful reality. He
quotes a French Atheist Michael Onfray, “God is a
fiction invented by men so as not to confront the
reality of their condition.” (266)
But if atheists can allege inferior motives for
Christian belief, what about the atheists themselves?
Is there any hidden benefit to unbelief? Are there
ulterior motives for rejecting God’s existence and
claims over us? You’d better believe there are!
D’Sousa writes:
A. The devil’s way is the way of lying and
deception, darkness, ignorance, and error. “43 Why
do you not understand what I say? It is because you
cannot bear to hear my word. 44 You are of your
father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s
desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and
has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no
truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own
character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45
But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. 46
Some atheists even acknowledge that they
Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the
would prefer a universe in which there were no
truth, why do you not believe me? 47 Whoever is of
God, no immortal soul, and no afterlife….On
God hears the words of God. The reason why you do
the possibility of life after death, [atheist] H.L.
not hear them is that you are not of God.”
Mencken wrote, ‘My private inclination is to
Their error about Jesus is culpable, not
hope that it is not so.’ In God: The Failed
excusable. They do “know better.” It is not simply a
Hypothesis, physicist Victor Stenger confesses
mistake. They have a vested interest in the outcome.
that not only does he disbelieve in God, he
They sense how costly it would be to them to side
doesn’t like the Christian God: ‘If he does
with Jesus and surrender to him, and so we see as we
exist, I personally want nothing to do with
have often in John’s Gospel, this convenient kind of
him.’ And philosopher Thomas Nagel recently
ignorance. “43 Why do you not understand what I
confessed to a ‘fear of religion itself.’ As he put
say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word.”
it, ‘I want atheism to be true….It isn’t just that
They have chosen not to understand him.
I don’t believe in God….I don’t want there to
B. Listen to the pure logic of our Lord’s
be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like
reasoning with them: “45 But because I tell the truth,
that.’ (267)
you do not believe me.” His truth is so inconvenient,
and they are so devoted to deception, that they will
But why? The atheist’s universe is a terribly
not believe. So he challenges them: “46 Which one of
dull and dismal place. We exist for no purpose, we
you convicts me of sin?” “Prove me wrong!” But
have no future, and there is no justice—none of the
they cannot. And if they cannot refute him, then the
wrongs of this life will ever be righted in the next
implication is that he is telling the truth. “If I tell the
life, because there is no next life. Why would anyone
truth, why do you not believe me?” Theirs is not a
hope that something so abysmal is true?
mental problem but a moral problem.
The fact is that many atheists find all of this
When someone is highly resistant to the faith,
to be quite liberating. In what way? D’Souza quotes
we need to remember that it is often because they do
the noted atheist, Aldous Huxley:
not really want to believe. They may know the truth
full well, but they also sense the price that embracing
I had motives for not wanting the world to have
that truth will entail, giving up self: and they are
meaning; consequently I assumed that it had
unwilling to pay it.
none, and was able without any difficulty to
In his book, What’s So Great About
find satisfying reasons for this
Christianity (Tyndale House, 2008), Dinesh D’Souza
assumption….For myself, as no doubt for most
takes up the question of why atheism, the belief that
of my contemporaries, the philosophy of
there is no God, is so attractive. He notes that many
meaninglessness was essentially an instrument
modern atheists attack Christianity by alleging that
of liberation. The liberation we desired
Christians believe for purely psychological and not
was…liberation from a certain system of
morality. We objected to the morality because
it interfered with our sexual freedom. (270)
After citing several other examples, D’Souza
“It is chiefly because of sex that most
contemporary atheists have chosen to break
with Christianity. ‘The worst feature of the
Christian religion,’ Bertrand Russell wrote in
Why I Am Not a Christian, ‘is its attitude
toward sex.’ [Atheist Christopher] Hitchens
writes that ‘the divorce between the sexual life
and fear…can now at last be attempted on the
sole condition that we banish all religions from
the discourse.’ When an atheist gives elaborate
justification for why God does not exist and
why traditional morality is an illusion, he is
very likely thinking of his sex organs. It may
well be that if it weren’t for that single
commandment against adultery, Western man
would still be Christian!” (273)
In other words, “We wanted sexual freedom.
We thought that would make us happy. But God and
his law stood in the way. So we reasoned God out of
existence.” Or, as the Apostle Paul declared long ago:
“For although they knew God, they did not honor him
as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile
in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were
darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools,
and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for
images resembling mortal man and birds and
animals and reptiles.” (Romans 1:21-22)
39 They answered him, “Abraham is our
father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s
children, you would be doing what Abraham did, 40
but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you
the truth that I heard from God. This is not what
Abraham did. 41 You are doing what your father
did.” They said to him, “We were not born of sexual
immorality. We have one Father—even God.” 42
Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you
would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I
came not of my own accord, but he sent me. 43 Why
do you not understand what I say? It is because you
cannot bear to hear my word. 44 You are of your
father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s
desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and
has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no
truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own
character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45
But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. 46
Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the
truth, why do you not believe me? 47 Whoever is of
God hears the words of God. The reason why you do
not hear them is that you are not of God.”
Beloved, I urge you to know that the truth is
on our side. We have nothing to hide. There are no
secrets we must withhold, and there are no skeletons
in our closets, no dirty laundry. The devil’s way is
the way of deception, ours is the way of light. We
have nothing to fear from the truth.
Ours is the way of love, and life, and of light.
That’s probably not news to you, but it is good news
to all of us! What a wonderful hope and life we have
received in Christ!