Sunday, August 21, 2011


Today we arrive together at REASON 6 for studying John's Gospel, and especially to take advantage of the opportunity to hear preaching on this gospel at Immanuel Chapel in Upton, MA beginning on Sunday September 4, 2011 (11:00AM).  As you will have noticed from previous posts, we are taking 1 reason for each chapter of John's Gospel.

Reason 6 – John 6:  Doubters are Welcome
You'll have to read to the end to figure the picture out

Reason #6:  Doubters are welcome.  What?  Are you saying I can read the Bible and come to church even if I’m not entirely sure any of this is true yet?  Yes, yes I am.  And the great proof of this fact is found in the Gospel of John chapter 6.  Not sure about Jesus?  Allow me to let you in on a little secret:  neither were His disciples.  And much of Jesus’ ministry was directed to teach them who He was.  John chapter 6 might be entitled:  Who Am I?  That is what Jesus is trying to teach them, and teach us.  That is what much of John’s Gospel is all about.  Do you know who He is?  Philip (a disciple) still wasn’t sure.  So Jesus tested him about how they would feed 5,000 people. Jesus asked Philip a question: “Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat? (John 6:5)” Philip answered:  Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little (6:7).”  Philip, you see, thought Jesus was asking an economic question. He reasoned:  We can’t afford to feed this crowd!  But Jesus was asking a theological question.  Jesus was saying, as it were, “Philip – Who am I?”  Jesus was addressing Philip’s doubts. 

We see this again later in the same chapter.  Our Savior, knowing their doubts, meets them right where they are at.  This time it was in the middle of the sea.  The disciples had been rowing hard and the wind was blowing against them.  Things were looking bleak.  And it was already dark, and Jesus had not come to them (John 6:17).”  Do you feel in the dark about spiritual things?  As I said before – doubters are welcome.  But Jesus didn’t leave them in the dark forever.  Jesus came to them, walking on the water, and we are told “they were afraid.”  And notice what Jesus says to them:  It is I, do not be afraid (John 6:20).”  It is I!  Jesus is saying – “Do you see?  Do you understand who I am?  Are you beginning to figure out who your Teacher really is?” 

This chapter has good news for doubters.  By the end it appears the disciples are starting to get it.  When Jesus asks them if they too want to leave Him, they respond “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God (John 6:68-69).”  Amazing grace had overcome their doubting hearts. 

A personal story and application:  Yesterday I was out in a kayak on an unfamiliar lake.  About 45 minutes into my paddling around the perimeter I could no longer see my starting point.  The lake shore had many twists and turns (I’m told it actually used to be called “crooked lake” for that reason).  I honestly wasn’t sure how long it would take to get back.  But I knew if I kept paddling the shore line I would eventually get to where I started.  And I did.  Do you have doubts about religion, about Christ?  Paddle the shore line of John’s Gospel with me.  Let’s follow it together and see if it doesn’t bring us some answers we’ve been looking for.  Don’t be like some in John 6 that gave up too quickly:  From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more (John 6:66).”  They stopped paddling the shore line.  Friend, don’t give up just because of your doubts.  Maybe as you round the final turn of this journey you too will say you have “come to believe and know that you are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 

Saturday, August 20, 2011


"Do you want to be made well?"
John 5:6

I continue today with the 5th reason to study John's Gospel, and in particular, to come and hear a series of sermons preached on this book of the Bible beginning on Sunday September 4, 2011 at Immanuel Chapel.

Reason #5:      Spiritual Priorities.  Some time ago a little book was written entitled “Don’t sweat the small stuff.”  The title was catchy – and picks up on our tragic preoccupation with relatively unimportant issues or problems.  I suppose the flip side of that is equally true.  While sweating over minor matters we often fail to deal with bigger problems or more serious concerns.  We easily get our priorities out of balance. 
The 5th reason to study the Gospel of John is to focus our spiritual priorities.  John 5 displays a contrast that we can all relate to.  It is the contrast between “my rules” and “God’s rules.”  It is the contrast between a life determined to do it “my way” and a life humbly prepared to do things “God’s way.”   Let me try to explain this.

The “my ways” and “my rules” focus:  In John 5 we find Jesus healing a man who had been paralyzed for 38 years.  But when the Jews saw it, rather than rejoicing, they said “It is the Sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your bed.  It is not lawful?  Really?  Whose law?  The Lord had instituted the Sabbath Day (this was Saturday for the Jews) as a blessing and rest from 6 days of work.  They were forbidden from conducting business on this day, including the importing and exporting of merchandise.  But the carrying of a bed, particularly one from which you had just been delivered, was no sin.  But many of the Jews of Jesus day, particularly the spiritual leaders, decided to create their own laws and doctrines, rather than the Lord’s.  This whole approach ruined their reading of the Bible (the Old Testament at this point).  Jesus said “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me.”  They were so caught up in “their rules” and “their ways” they couldn’t see God standing before their very eyes.

God’s rules” and “God’s Way:” Jesus presents a different priority.  Listen to what He says in John 5:24Most assuredly I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.    There is a lot in this little verse.  But for now I just want to draw your attention to one statement:  not come into judgment.”  In John 5 Jesus makes it clear that there is something far more important than our silly man-made rules about religion, namely, judgment.  He spoke of this to the paralyzed man He healed when He said “Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you (John 5:14).”  What could be worse than 38 years in bed?  The answer is clear:  judgment.  A few verses later John records Jesus saying that the Father has “committed all judgment to the Son (John 5:22).”  A few more verses and He says it again, that Jesus has “authority to execute judgment (John 5:27).”  And yet a few more verses and Jesus says in most sobering language that “the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth” and that some of these will be rising to the “resurrection of condemnation (John 5:28-29).”  If our spiritual priorities do not take into account the reality and consequences of this judgment, then we are guilty of still doing religion with “our rules” and “our way.” 
My friends, do you see the contrast presented in John 5?  Do you want to go on living by “your rules” and “your way?”  As we study John’s Gospel we are given a far better set of spiritual priorities than the ones we have been living by so far.  As we read this Gospel, and especially as we listen to it preached (yep…I’m still trying to get you to come!) let us be willing to put our priorities before the Lord and evaluate them in the light of His Word.  What is the most important thing in your life right now:  money, success, friends, relationships, pleasures, parties, respect, healing, relief from trouble or trials?  What will these things do for us on the Day of Judgment?  These things will not help us in that Day if we do not have Jesus Christ.  Many in Jesus’ day were not willing to believe in Him.  He said “you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life (John 5:40).”  What about you?  Are you willing to come?  Jesus Christ is a willing Savior, and ready to receive you today.  Let me close by asking you the question Jesus asked of the paralyzed man, in a sense the most important question in the world:  Do you want to be made well?” 

Thursday, August 18, 2011


Come, see a Man who told me all that I ever did.  Could this be the Christ?”

Reason #4:     In John chapter 4 we find a 4th reason to study John.  This series of encouragements have particularly been aimed at inviting you to sit under a series of sermons on John’s gospel to begin shortly at Immanuel Chapel on September 4, 2011.  But they might equally be understood as a general encouragement to study this gospel.  Solid, Biblical preaching is one of the best aids to the sincere study of any book in the Bible. 

The fourth reason to study John is actually taken from the very mouth of a woman in John 4, the Samaritan Jesus met at the well. 

Here it is:   Come, see a Man who told me all that I ever did.  Could this be the Christ?” (John 4:29)

1)         This encouragement is to “come” and “see.”  See for yourself.  Friend, it is very likely you have heard a lot about Christianity.  Your parents have, by word or example, given you their opinion.  Your teachers have given you their perspectives.  Your friends and the circle of people that surround you have some ideas about religion.  No doubt the music you listen to, the books you read and the TV, movies and videos you have seen have all conveyed some impression of Christianity and of Jesus Christ.  No doubt you have read of religious scandals and hypocrisies all carried out under the cloak of “Christianity.”  You have, on the basis of all this various testimony, come to some conclusions.  My word to you today is this:  Come and see.  See for yourself.  Don’t rest solely upon the opinions you have formed so far.  Inquire into the true nature of this “Man” called Jesus of Nazareth.  Do not rely solely on those impressions which have been given to you by others.  What have you got to lose? 

2)         This encouragement is not conditioned upon your worthiness or goodness.  Notice what the woman at the well says to the people of her city “Come, see a Man who told me all that I ever did.”  This woman was not a “likely” convert to Christianity (if we can put it that way).  She is not someone who had her life “just right” before believing in Jesus Christ.  She had 5 husbands before, and was currently living with a man who was not her husband.  Her relationships were a mess.  But more than that, this woman rightly perceived that Christ knew everything about her:  all that I ever did.”  Jesus Christ is the only one who truly knows “all that I ever did.”  He knows about the sins of your youth.  He knows about the sinful patterns in your life and mine.  He knows about those sins that are simply to shameful to mention.   He knows.  Yet He is the one who says to this woman, and to us, “if you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, Give Me a drink, you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”  Jesus used the idea of a never-ending supply of water to convey the fact that He was offering to her “everlasting life (John 4:14).”  Friend, you don’t need to hide any longer.  Jesus is a Savior who invites us to repent and believe in Him…BECAUSE He knows “all that I ever did.” 

3)         This encouragement may bring you to a surprising conclusion:  “Could this be the Christ?”  That is the real question that every soul born into this world must deal with.  It is, in a sense, the whole reason that John wrote this gospel.  Could this be the Christ?  Could Jesus be the One?  Look at His life, consider what He said, weigh in your heart of hearts what this Man did.  Could Jesus Christ be the very Savior you have been looking for?  Maybe you have been looking for help.  Maybe you have given up all hope.  Maybe you have begun to think life itself is not worth living any longer.  This Samaritan woman got a new start on life through Christ.  So did many in her city:  “And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him.”  Maybe you will too.  Friend, let me encourage you again, “come and see.” 

Previous posts in this series:

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


You Must Be Born Again



Today I give to you my 3'rd encouragement to plan on attending this series of sermons on John's Gospel at Immanuel Chapel beginning Sunday September 4, 2011.

Reason #3:      Our eternal destiny depends upon a new birth.  This is a foreign concept to many of us.  In this world virtually anything can be obtained by talent, time or money.  Heaven, however, is not for sale.  Admission cannot be bought by you or me.  Naturally, we are all a bit like Nicodemus in John 3, and expect to gain entrance to heaven by good works, kind deeds and religious ceremonies.  Or worse, we suppose that ultimately everyone gets to heaven, given enough time, in this life or the next.  But Jesus says “you must be born again (John 3:7).” 

            Let me briefly remind you of Nicodemus’ advantages.  We read of them in John 3:1There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews.” 

Nicodemus was in a privileged position:

·         He had a good name: “Nicodemus!”  His name means “Conqueror of the people.”  Wow.  Impressive. 
·         He had the right parents:  He was a “Jew!”  He was born, therefore, with a great spiritual heritage.
·         He had excellent training:  He was a “Pharisee.”  He was trained in the Scriptures and respected.
·         He had significant power:  He was a “ruler of the Jews.” 

But neither a good name, nor good parents, nor religious training nor power were enough to save Nicodemus according to Jesus Christ.  You must be born again.” 

Have you been born again?  The Gospel of John does not allow us to place our hope for heaven anywhere but in Jesus Christ Himself.  John 3 contains what may be the most famous verse in the Bible:  For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).”  There are 2 things in this verse that are shocking.  First – the extent of God’s love.  He gave His Son for sinners!  Being a father myself, I cannot fathom this.  Second – the fact that many will miss it.  Jesus said “the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than the light, because their deeds were evil (John 3:19).” 

I entreat you not to miss this series.  But even more than that, I entreat you not to miss the love of God.  In the end, it appears Nicodemus was conquered by the loving grace of God.  At Jesus’ burial we find him there attending to the body of his Savior: “And Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds.”  Dear reader – maybe now is the time for you to stop depending on your religion, your name or any process you have gone through – and turn in faith to Jesus Christ. 

Monday, August 15, 2011


As I mentioned yesterday, our church in Upton, MA (Immanuel Chapel OPC) will begin a series of sermons on the Gospel of John on Sunday September 4, 2011.  Our worship service begins at 11:00AM. 

Can you come?  To help persuade you, I am writing a short series of...well...let's call them "encouragements."  Reasons to come. 

Yesterday I gave you my first reason, drawing on John chapter 1.

Today I give you reason #2, from John 2:

CASTIGLIONE, Giovanni Benedetto
Reason #2:     Come hear preaching on John’s Gospel and be confronted with a Man who thought worship was important.  Warning:  this Jesus may shock you.  In John 2 Jesus confronts the religious merchandisers of the day.  He made a “whip of cords” and using this on the animals[1] being offered for sale He “drove them all out of the temple (John 2:15).”  Returning, He then “poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables.”  Really?  Jesus?  Gentle and mild Jesus?  Why would He do such a thing?  I think John Calvin was right, “to restore the worship of God to its integrity.”  Worship matters.  The way we worship says something about the God we worship.  Our views of worship probably say something about our view of God.  We cannot have a high view of God and a low view of worship.
And this is a relevant issue today.  We are, I believe, a religiously-saturated but worship-starved generation.  We are all, to some degree, like those hypocrites in John 2 who enter God’s house merely “doing business (2:14).”    For some, the “business” is entertainment.  For others the “business” is their icons or tradition.  For many the “business” is simply satisfying our pride that "we do worship right.”  But God isn’t really interested in our business when it comes to His worship.  And like the temple-tradesmen we are shocked when Jesus Christ “overturns the tables” of our ideas about worshipping God.  Much of our worship, and I include myself in this critique, could be summed up by Proverbs 30:12There is a generation that is pure in its own eyes, yet is not washed from its filthiness.  No, we don’t go to a “temple” to worship today.  Rather, we bring our “temples” with us.  You are the temple of God, and the Spirit of God dwells in you (I Cor. 3:16).”  But these temples need cleansing too.
True worship is, fundamentally, heart-worship.  John 2 ends with these words about Christ: “He knew what was in man.”  God knows what is in your heart and mine…right now.  He knows the excuses in our hearts that keep us from really worshipping Him.  He knows why we are trying to hold Him at a distance and avoid dealing closely with Christ.  He knew what was in man.”  Reader, what is in your heart?  As we prayerfully listen to these sermons from the gospel of John, let us ask God together to deal with our hearts.  And if we are going to worship God aright we must begin by receiving Christ Himself.  Let Him do the purifying work that we need.  Don’t try to cleanse the temple of your heart yourself.  Let Jesus come in with His whip and drive out our sin and guilt and shame.  That is why, ultimately, He came.  That is the purpose of the cross.  Christ died for sinners.  Receive Him.  Only then will we truly be able to begin to worship God.

[1] Some question exists as to whether Jesus used the whip on the animals only, or also on the people involved.  Although I have no doubt these merchandisers fully deserved a good whipping (dont' we all?)…I am presently persuaded that He used the whip on the animals.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

21 Days...21 Reasons

21 Days

 21 Reasons to Come

21 Chapters


On Sunday September 4 2011 at 11:00AM at Immanuel Chapel in Upton, MA Pastor Mark Marquis will begin a series of sermons on the Gospel of John. 

That’s 21 days from today.

I therefore want to encourage all my nearby friends and acquaintances that are not otherwise committed to a local church, to consider coming to hear this series of messages.  Listening to solid, Biblical preaching through a book of the Bible is one of the best ways to begin to understand the Bible and its contents.  It is free.  It is only an hour.  It may change your life. 

But if those aren’t enough reasons, allow me to add a few more.  Taking a verse or thought from each of the 21 chapters of John, I would like to give you 21 more reasons to plan on attending this series of sermons. 

Reason #1:  Your life is not God-centered enough.  Neither is mine.  Seriously.  Take an honest assessment of your life right now.  Are you as close to God as you ought to be?  Does something of the Divine Presence attend your every action?  Are you so filled with God’s Spirit that the aroma of Christ sweetens the very atmosphere around you?  I, for one, am not there yet.  What we need is to draw near to the Lord.  And that is precisely what John calls us to. 
The Gospel of John teaches us to draw near to God, because it presents a God who draws near to us.  In John’s Gospel…God draws near.  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:1, 2, 14).”  John’s Gospel simply does not allow us to hold God at a comfortable distance.  The true God is a God who comes close to us, sometimes painfully close.  John is saying to us “You, yes you, can know God…and here He is…allow me to introduce you…here is Jesus Christ. 
            In a sense, all of my problems stem from 1 fundamental problem: I really don’t know God.  Others have apparently come to a similar conclusion.  A famous 19th century preacher in London, Dr. Martyn-Lloyd Jones, once said this near the beginning of his series of sermons on the gospel of John:
 "Do you know what is the matter with us?  I will tell you.  We, none of us, really believe in the Lord Jesus Christ!  The trouble with all of us is that we do not know enough about him.  So John says: "The thing you need above everything is to be brought to this knowledge of him - who he is, what he has done, and what he has made possible for us."
             My life is not God-centered enough.  It is not Christ-centered enough.  Far too often it is “self” centered, “sin” centered or just “stuff” centered.  But a Christian is “Savior” centered.  That’s what I want to be.  And that then is my first reason why you should plan to come and hear this series.  Tune in tomorrow for reason #2.