ll up nearly 60,000 people around Australia attend the Franklin Graham mission. Nearly 15,000 people in Sydney last weekend attended, where 618 of them said ‘yes’ to Jesus. Three of those were Terry Benditez’s parents and sister, who came to Christ during the mission. We also thank God for the work of our own Yendi and Armen. who served so well in bringing about this mission.
Why is it that some said ‘yes’ to Jesus at the Franklin Graham mission, and as yet others have remained saying ‘no’? What is it that separates those who do come to Christ and those who don’t? Why is it that two people who look at the same evidence, see the same miracles, or hear the same Lord Jesus, when they come to the same fork in the road, each take a different path. Our passage will give us a number of reasons why this occurs, and they are a great comfort to anybody who comes to Jesus.
Let me quickly remind you of what has happened so far in the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel. A large crowd has come together. They have seen an astonishing miracle of Jesus. It is a sign that Jesus is God’s Son. They saw Jesus feed five thousand men, not to mention women and children, with five loaves and two fish. But sadly, the crowd stopped being interested in Jesus and became fascinated by the bread. As John Piper expresses it, Jesus was useful to them but not precious to them. They track down Jesus, wanting him to do what Moses did, when God fed his people bread from heaven day by day for forty years. Their response to Jesus was a ‘gut’ reaction, rather than a ‘faith’ reaction. They wanted Jesus to feed their stomachs, not feed their souls. They came to eat, not to worship. They were working for food that gave life, not eternal life. They did not understand that Jesus did not come to give the bread of life, but that he is the bread of life, John 6:35-36:
Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. (NIV)
You may read the word ‘bread’ and think, “Carbs, bad, stay away!” But Jesus’ hearers hear ‘bread’ and think “Life!” Bread is the staple diet of many people around the world. I remember Sandy feeding my parents and cousins, and my mum asked, “Where is the bread?” Sandy said, “They have rice”. Maltese have not had a meal if they have not eaten bread.
The bread that is to be feasted upon is Jesus. He is like bread because he gives life. He gives life because he is God. Now listen again to Jesus’ promises in verse 35, that the one who comes to Jesus will never go thirsty and never go hungry. Clearly ‘bread’ is a metaphor, a word picture.
I was talking to John Stubbs this week. John has been diagnosed with cancer. He was down to 45 kilos. He has not felt hungry for three years. But the day I arrived, he had got his appetite back. He also said that he only had a short time to live, but has been reading the Gospel of John and rejoicing over the assurance of salvation that Jesus brings. So I read to him John 6:35, “I am the bread of life, he who comes to be will never go hungry”. I looked up, and John was devouring his eighth fruit pack. And we both laughed. John’s stomach was empty, but his soul was full.
But seeing is not believing. Jesus had told them that they had seen him and do not believe. Why is it that they will not come to Jesus and believe in him? Why do people not believe in Jesus? This passage gives us four reasons.
(1) People prefer their sin.
The first reason is found in John chapter 3. If you come to Jesus, you will have to stop pretending about your sin, John 3:19-20:
This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. (NIV)
Why don’t people come to Jesus? People love darkness rather than the light. People prefer sin to the saviour. Jesus exposes our behaviour as evil. Jesus is the light. He tells us what God is like and he tells us what we are like. Let’s be honest, if you were to look into my heart, you would spit in my face.
There was a rich woman in a poor village in Pakistan. She was the first women who could afford electric lights. So she called her relatives in for the big moment. As all the people gathered in her house at night, the lamps were blown out and the electric light was switched on. The electric light showed up all the dirt and grime on her ceiling. She was so ashamed that she quickly switched off the light and told everyone to leave.
The more I come to Jesus, the more I see the darkness in my soul. But don’t let that stop you from coming to Jesus, for he has come to wash away our sins. As Tim Keller puts it, we are far worse than we can ever imagaine, and we are far more loved than we can ever hope for.
Are you not tired of pretending about your shame, expending so much energy covering up your failures, so much avoiding, so much defensivness. When you come into the light, and you stand with Jesus, you are free to name the ‘sin’ in your life. It is liberating, because with the light of confession comes the warmth of forgiveness.
(2) People prefer the approval of people
The second reason why people don’t believe in Jesus is they want the approval of people more than the approval of God, John 5:41, 44:
I do not accept glory from human beings, but I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts […] How can you believe since you accept glory from one another but do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? (NIV)
Again, in John 12:43, we read, “for they loved human praise more than praise from God”. What stops people from coming to the Lord Jesus? We are desperate for the applause of people. The opinion of others matters more to us than that of God. It is why I delayed coming to Christ. I remember wanting to become a Christian at 20 years of age, but I was afraid of what my friends would say: “Ray, you are only becoming a Christian because your friends did”.
A pastor friend of mine tells the story of visiting a dying man. He was sitting on the verandah of his home, gasping upon an oxygen mask on his face. He had days to live. My friend said to him, “What is stopping you from becoming a Christian?” He said, “I’m afraid of what people would think?” You never grow out of wanting the approval of people. It will never be easier than it is now to say ‘yes’ to Jesus. The thing about saying ‘no’ to Jesus is that you get good at it!
(3) People aren’t born again
The third reason we don’t want to believe is in John 3:3, 5:
Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” […] Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.”
It has been rightly said, “Born once, die twice, but born twice, die once”. What cracks open our hard heart is the gentle Spirit, who enters our souls and opens our eyes to Jesus. What was once boring is then exciting. What was once confusing is now clear. The gift of a new heart frees us to want to please God. The Spirit creates faith and repentance.
(4) People haven’t been drawn by the Father … yet
Jesus in our passage will give us a fourth reason that people don’t believe in him. Why did the Jewish leaders not accept Jesus? To answer that question, Jesus takes us behind the scenes: a person can only come to Christ if the Father brings them to the Son. They can only believe if the Father has given them to his Son. The positive way of putting it is in verse 37:
All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me, I will never drive away. (NIV)
Each Christian is a gift from the Father to the Son. The Father has given judgment to the Son, has given resurrection life to the Son, and has given you to the Son. Before you decided to come to Jesus, the Father decided that you would believe in his Son, and you did. The negative side is put in verses 43- 44:
“Stop grumbling among yourselves,” Jesus answered. “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day. (NIV)
You can’t come to Jesus if you have not been drawn by the Father. You can’t come to Jesus unless the Fathers draws you and woos you to his Son. It is as if the Father makes you fall in love with Jesus. Remember the genie in ‘Aladdin’—Robin Williams at his best? The genie can grant any wish, but he cannot make a person fall in love. But God can. God woos a person to his Son, making us fall in love with Jesus by the gentle work of his Spirit. We know that the Father’s choice of us had nothing to do with who we are, what we have done, or how we might turn out. It is very humbling, and necessary.
When God the Father’s sovereign role in salvation is taught in the Bible, there are usually two contexts. The first context is to highlight how gracious God is, and how underserved the gift of salvation is. God’s sovereign work in drawing people to his Son then results in praise, such as in Ephesians 1:3-4:
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world […] (NIV)
Once you realize that if the Father did not draw you to his Son, it would not happen for you, and you would still be dead in your sin, then it makes you want to say thank you, thank you, thank you. You will want to praise God for drawing you to his Son.
The second context is that it is given to explain that God has not failed if people reject him. Here in John 6, Jesus is dealing with disbelief and grumbling. When we see people walk away from Jesus, we must remember that the Father has not drawn them to him.
My mentor John Chapman used to tell the story about when he was doing follow-up on the Billy Graham mission team in 1959. He met up with people who had made a decision to follow Jesus. At some point, he would get them to read John 6 verse 44, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him”. He then said to them, “How was it possible for you to believe in Jesus?” The person would then say, “Because the Father has drawn me to Jesus”. “That is right”, he would say, “What if you fell away in three months?” The person would say, “Then I was not drawn by the Father”. “Yes, that’s right!”
Let’s think about some implications.
Firstly, what this means is that there is no place left for pride. This truth should pour acid on whatever pride remains in our hearts. What separates you from the person who does not accept Christ is the underserved decision of the Father. I was talking to a dear brother in South West Sydney MBM. He said that he doesn’t believe that God brings people to his Son: it is all up to us. I said, “Brother, that is why you get so angry with your non-Christian family. You think that you are better than them.”
Secondly we don’t have to manipulate people to become Christians. You don’t have to change the gospel, soften the message, or play games. We will speak to the emotions but not manipulate the emotions to get a decision, because all whom the Father gives to the Son will come to him.
Thirdly, this truth is a relief when you realise how many times the church botches it up. Cardinal Pell’s conviction is the latest in a long and tragic list of evil acts committed by church leaders. You wonder how any person can believe. I will tell you how: all those the Father gives to Jesus will come to him, and whoever comes to him, Jesus will never drive away. All whom the Father gives to the Son will come to him, and even the sins of his people will stop a person from falling in love with Jesus.
Fourthly, it frees you to stay optimistic, take risks, and make mistakes when sharing your faith.
Fifthly, it inspires prayer. We pray to God because he makes people Christians. In our prayers, we ask the Father to make our loved ones fall in love with Jesus. If you are here and are not a believer in Jesus, ask the Father to bring you to his Son. Ask and you will receive. If you seek you will find.
Sixthly and lastly, it offers us so much assurance. Our salvation rests in the palm of God’s hand. Jesus is no renegade. The Son will never drive anyone away, John 6:36-37:
But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. (NIV)
That is extraordinary. Jesus is saying to the very ones who reject him, that no matter what they do to him, no matter how many times they have cursed him, if the Father wants them, then Jesus wants them too. That includes those who will crucify him. There will be no fall out, John 6:38-39:
For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. (NIV)
Jesus is on the Father’s mission. This mission will succeed. There is no one lost. All those whom the Father gives to the Son are those who the Son will raise on the last day and grant eternal life. Our salvation from beginning to end rests in the hands of God the Father and God the Son. Remember that the most important persons in your life are working together for you and your salvation.
When I was six years old, my father dropped off my mum and I at the shops at Blacktown. The plan was that we were to be at the taxi ramp in 2 hours. My mum was so late that my Father got upset and he decided to drive home and leave us there without telling us. We were forced to catch a taxi, and what made it worse was that the taxi driver made a racist slur at my mum. All I remember was that my parents didn’t talk for three days. I thought they were going to divorce. I remember sitting on my bed feeling very scared. My world depended on them working together. I have come to realize that it didn’t. My world ultimately depends on the Father, Son, and Spirit working together. Our salvation is secure because it rests in the safe hands of our great God.