Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
John 7:17-18 AIf anyone wants to do His will, he will understand whether the teaching is from God or if I am speaking on My own. The one who speaks for himself seeks his own glory. But He who seeks the glory of the One who sent Him is true, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.@
Jesus called for earnest, entire obedience, bending the moral determination of the mind toward God, completely submitting affections and desires to His will, making His will our supreme, ultimate choice.
Godliness, holy living, is the best way to grasp truth. Those who most resemble God are most likely to understand Him. Anyone who walks closely with another is more likely to understand than one who follows at a distance.
The nearer we are to God, the better we shall be instructed. Doing the will of God illumines the pathway of the obedient disciple. Obeying is spiritual study.
People too often want to learn truth without doing. They want patience without being patient, forgiveness without forgiving, heaven without taking up a cross, God without prayer. Virtue must precede deep knowledge.
We learn by doing. A language is learned by speaking it. No one ever learns to swim by standing on the shore.
A doctor may know all the techniques of surgery listed in a textbook, but is not recognized as a surgeon until after scores of surgeries done under expert supervision. A person can memorize an entire repair book, but will work on many engines before being a true mechanic.
The same principle applies to our spiritual lives. Much moral and religious truth cannot be known except through experience, through living it.
ACome unto Me, and I will give you rest.@ No one can know the full depth of meaning here until it is experienced. A broken heart learns what scholarship could never comprehend. Sorrow teaches some of God=s most precious lessons.
AGod hears and answers prayer.@ There is no way we can validate this truth apart from living a life of prayer.
Christianity is not primarily learned by in-depth study. It is divine communication in the spirit, kinship. Theology is more a Divine life than a Divine knowledge.
From our text we draw four important lessons. One, sin mutilates communion. God can no more give faith and knowledge to a sinful life than He can give beauty to a flower that never sees the light, or give strength to a man who refuses food. Right living, not sharp thinking, is the main condition.
Aristotle rightly said wickedness corrupts human reasoning. Sin distorts people=s ways of thinking.
When we are physically sick, the world often doesn=t look right. Dizziness can blurs the eyes. Nausea can cause us to hate our favorite food. Everything seems out of whack, but nothing is wrong with the world. The problem is in us.
The same malady happens to us spiritually. The fever of sin gives us evil eyes. Until the fever leaves, vision and understanding are not clear.
When wicked Pilate asked Christ the meaning of truth, Christ did not answer. Pilate was not fit to hear it. We must be clean to hear heavenly orders.
Two, teachers must obey. The best qualified teacher is one who has learned to practice Godliness. The holiest person best understands the Bible. What makes a good teacher? The natural response is study. God=s response is obey and study.
Holiness matters most. It is the royal road to Scriptural knowledge. We know as much as we do. As practice progresses, doctrine develops. No person can understand God=s Word unless they put aside all affection for sin.
Sin does not make us less knowledgeable of the Bible, just unfit to teach it. Application no longer comes by inspiration. We know not what to say when, or where to put the emphasis.
The New Testament gives high standards for teachers, a position mentioned twice as many times in the New Testament as the position of Deacon. High standards are set for both. Teachers who do not practice what they teach blaspheme God=s name (Romans 2:21-24).
When we remember our favorite Sunday School teacher, we probably don=t remember words said, but rather deeds done. We recall love, kindness, attention, and Christlikeness. We teachers should learn a lesson from this.
Three, obey Scripture whether we do or don=t understand why we should. Our beliefs sometimes spring from our actions more than our actions spring from our beliefs.
People often believe a certain way because their deeds are of a certain bent. Opinions are often invented afterwards to defend a lifestyle.
Most who fall into sin do not grow beyond faith mentally, but sink below it morally. The actions are lowered, and then the creed. Only after practice is loosened is the code of ethics liberalized.
The road to sin begins over cries of conscience. The wrong deed precedes the change of mind. For instance, most people never think of changing their views about extramarital sex until after they have already violated the sanctity of marriage.
We teach our children deeds before they learn theory: stay out of the road, don=t go down basement steps, don=t touch the stove. Similarly, when we first became a believer we practiced before we understood all the reasons behind Christian ethics. The law comes first to keep us right while we=re learning deeper spiritual truths.
We should never be so busy trying to teach our children concepts and long lists of reasons why they should obey that we forget to exert control over their actions in the meantime. Teach them why. At the same time keep them obedient to God.
Four, our problem is will, not knowledge. Preachers and teachers often become concept centers, but our hearers= problem is not a problem of knowledge, but a failure of will. If a person=s heart is right, truth will be recognized and believed.
People balk at the Christian lifestyle. Skeptics say the claims of the Christian life are too high to comply with.
A lost person=s problem is in the heart, not the head. This is why witnessing is not complete until there is confrontation. We must challenge will as well as intellect. Witnessing must bring the lost to decision.