by Mike Ratliff
So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” (John 6:53-58 ESV)
About 23 years ago God intervened in my life with eternal results. He called me to Himself. He regenerated me. He justified me. He sanctified me. He adopted me. He changed me forever. However, I was a baby Christian. I had only a vague concept of what God had done on my behalf. I really did not have a clear understanding of this thing we call Christianity. All I knew was that before that wonderful day I did not care too much for church. My concept of the proper Christian life was one of being religious, but that religion had to meet certain criteria. However, after God saved me, my concept changed radically. I suddenly found that I loved God and His people. I loved hearing Bible centered sermons and being in Bible study classes. I had a deep desire to know God’s will that I may obey Him in all things. However, that earlier concept of the proper Christian life was still with me. That meant that one’s religiosity was what determined one’s right standing before God.
Here I sit 23 years or so later and I am no longer a baby Christian. God took me through many furnaces for purification. He has burned away those religious concepts in me that stood in the way of me knowing my Saviour as He is. While I no longer believe that one’s religiosity is what determines one’s right standing before God, I do know for certain that there is a right way and wrong way for Christians to walk before the face of God, their coram Deo. This right way is found in God’s Word. The wrong way is that which makes people comfortable in their religiosity. Our God is not after pew sitters, those who believe that all God wants from them is an hour or so on Sunday mornings. No, those whom God saves are called to a much higher level of service than that. Carefully read the passage I placed at the top of this post (John 6:53-58).
While this language seems quite bizarre to most people, it was a vital part of our Lord’s teaching ministry to His true disciples. However, many did not want to hear it.
When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. (John 6:60-66 ESV)
The exclusivity of the Gospel message is quite offensive to the unregenerate. However, many over the ages have created a form of Christianity that covers over and softens these words of our Lord so that many profess Christ, but they are not genuine believers because their whole profession is of the flesh, which is no help at all. Without the Spirit giving life to those to whom the Father grants accesses to the Son and eternal life there is none. No matter how religious they are. No matter what “right” church they belong to, it does not matter. The reference here to those who “do not believe” is referring to religious Christians who do not have saving faith. Those who are really saved are the ones who eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood (v53). This has nothing to do with fleshly religiosity. Our Lord is describing the intimate, personal union between Himself and His people. Without this, there is no salvation. There is no “try Jesus for x number of days.” No, this is a total commitment to our Lord while dying to self in faith by the grace of God. True salvation is a total rebirth unto eternal life.
So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.” He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the Twelve, was going to betray him. (John 6:67-71 ESV)
Our Lord’s question to the Twelve is a major test. However, Peter’s answer revealed that his heart had indeed been reborn and that while most of those temporary disciples had departed, those whom the Lord had chosen believed and knew that He was their all-in-all. He was their Saviour. Eternal life was available to them from no one and nowhere else and these men knew it, except for Judas Iscariot. This confession by Peter and our Lord’s teaching from John 6:22-71 is a crucial turning point in His ministry. We see the crowds rejecting Christ because He is not a seeker-sensitive preacher. He drove off with hard preaching those who were after having their felt-needs met. These reject Him in unbelief. However, the Twelve, except for Judas Iscariot, deepen their faith in Him. This is how God works in the lives of His people. He causes pressure to come to bear in various ways. Some of this is very hard to bear and it may even seem as if God has forsaken the believer during this. However, He preserves those who are His while many of those who were non-genuine fall away. On the other hand, many false believers like Judas Iscariot, remain, but are still outside of God’s saving grace.
When I look back on my own walk from 1986 through 2004 I am amazed that I remained. I was in one fire after another at many different levels during that time. I was fleshly. I was immature. I was self-focused. I was bitter. I was depressed. However, I was also very religious during this time. I served as a Deacon in two churches and taught Bible study classes. I was miserable most of the time in my fleshly behavior, yet I knew that God was using me in ministry. It all changed in the last few months of 2003 through August 2004. God drew me from self-focused, religiosity into an obedient, spirit-filled walk that changed me forever. Gone was the bitterness and depression. Gone were all those fleshly addictions. Gone was the concept that God was after my religiosity. I was now one who daily ate the flesh of my Lord and drank His blood by devoting my life to serving Him everyday all day in all things. It was then that I finally understood that genuine believers have eternal life from the moment of rebirth and it is not just that which awaits in eternity. No, each genuine believer is born from above. They are new creations and their calling is to daily die to self, take up their crosses, and follow Christ as His disciple. Those who do this are not “pew sitters,” but are those who persevere to the end as disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Soli Deo Gloria!