Given for the Saints at Medicalodge, Neosho, MO, 12/15/02
"Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty" (John 6:35).
The bible speaks in metaphors or word pictures to help us see and understand spiritual truths. Because it was written by eastern thinkers, we westerners often have a difficult time understanding the meaning, and in fact, cannot do it at all without the Holy Spirit's help (I Cor. 2:13-14). As our example, Jesus showed us that He did nothing without the Father's help, guidance, and will. "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 that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day" (John 6:38-40, NIV). It is so wonderfully comforting to me that NOTHING depends upon my will, but EVERYTHING depends on the Father's will (Eph. 1:11). These were hard words for the Jews and some Christians today to hear. "At this the Jews began to grumble about him because he said, "I am the bread that came down from heaven. They said, "Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, 'I came down from heaven'?" (John 6:41-42). I know some of you have had this same experience I have, going back home to tell the folks what God has shown you, and being scoffed at, if not tossed out on your ear. Some of you have written to us about your difficulties with the brethren in your home church.
The Jews knew Jesus from the time He was a kid. Who knows, perhaps they still held it against Mary that she conceived a child out of wedlock. Most of them thought Joseph was the father; so who was this upstart that said he came down from heaven? A motivational speaker I once heard, commented, "An expert is someone who lives twenty miles from home," meaning that we're far more likely to believe someone who comes from the outside than we are someone we've known all our lives, if he or she has brought us something new. Matthew gives us the account of what happened when Jesus went to His home town of Nazareth and began to teach there:
"Coming to his hometown, he began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed. "Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?" they asked. "Isn't this the carpenter's son? Isn't his mother's name Mary, and aren't his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? Aren't all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?" And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, "Only in his hometown and in his own house is a prophet without honor." And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith" (Matt. 13:54-58, NIV). Mark's gospel relates the account of what His family thought of Him: "Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, "He is out of his mind" (Mark 3:20-21). I can relate to that.
It is difficult to accept the scorn of our birth family and friends, and yet if it happened to Jesus, who learned obedience by the things He suffered, why should we be different? (Heb. 5:8). Many of us are a great deal like Andrew, about whom we read, "The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, "We have found the Messiah" (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus" (John 1:41-42). Likewise, Philip, whom Jesus had called, "found Nathaniel and told him, "We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph" (John 1:45). We want to share what we have found with our loved ones. The only remedy for the pain of rejection is to know that God calls whom He wills in this hour, and the rest will come in later. The Lord willing, we will have a lesson soon on discipleship, but I'll give you this much now. Whom God has ordained to believe (Acts 13:48), He calls, as Jesus did the twelve, who are the prototype for the rest of us.
In fact, to the Jews who were fussing because He said He had come down from heaven, He said, "Stop grumbling among yourselves," Jesus answered. "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the Prophets: 'They will ALL be taught by God.' Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me" (John 6:43-45, NIV). No one can come to Jesus unless the Father who sent Him to us draws Him. That is so plain, as is the next verse, "They will all be taught by God." If you are fretting about your inadequate Christian service, or worrying about what God wants for you in your life, take heart. God is the one who called you and it is God who "is at work IN you, both to will and to work for HIS good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13, RSV). This is such Good News that many can scarcely believe it. Though it seems too good to be true, it is true! His yoke really is easy and His burden light, because He calls us, He teaches us, and He lives His life through us.
I know some of you are struggling to live the Christian life because of bad information you received from well meaning Christians. I have a friend in Canada who frequently tells me that I will surely be stoned to death or run out of town on a rail for what I write, but Christ is my hero; He "called a spade a spade," and I can do no less. The Pharisees were the "religious right," the "good Christians" of Jesus' day. I think we tend to dismiss their devotion because Jesus was so hard on them. He was hard on them, however, not because they lacked zeal, but because they were more interested in pleasing men than in pleasing God. And like a lot of religious groups today, the Pharisees were extremely hard on those who disagreed with them, threatening them with being cast out of the synagogue, and even stoning, in some cases. (The "Pharisees" today threaten hell fire and eternal damnation, which is even worse.) Fear of what your fellow Christians will think, some of whom may be in your own family, is a powerful deterrent against rocking the doctrinal boat. We have received e-mail from people who have been ostracized by both family and church members because they left their church to follow Jesus.
I have been dialoguing with a young man via e-mail over the subject of universal reconciliation. He was so traumatized by what the church told him, i.e., that sinners would burn in hell forever and ever, that he became an atheist for about two and a half years! Now, he's back to God, but he has decided that it couldn't be true that God would be so cruel as to punish people eternally, and he now believes that instead of that, God will simply snuff them out, destroy them, never to see the light of day again. How he thinks that could be an improvement on a horrible plan is beyond me, but he is very riled at me for saying that God will eventually, ultimately save everyone. I told him that I have been walking with the Lord for decades, listening to His voice, for Jesus said, "My sheep know my voice" (John 10: 4,16,27), and also that the Lord's voice is as familiar to me as my own mother's voice is.
He wrote back and asked, "How do you know it's Him you've been walking with for decades? How do you know you are one of His sheep? You are at odds with millions of others who think they are His sheep. I personally know many people who claim to be just as filled with the Spirit as you and who don't believe a word of what you've told me..... The Bible doesn't agree with you and the vast majority of Christians do not agree with you. All you have is a spiritual revelation from something you believe is God. Has this spirit ever done anything confirming? Any prophecies that later came true? Any confirming miracles of one sort or another?"
In actual fact, our Internet ministry is a direct confirmation and fulfillment of what the Lord spoke to me in the spring of 1997. I got up in the middle of the night, and heard, "You will write, write, write, and your words will flow out over the rivers, the mountains, the seas." I thought He meant Internet, but we knew we would have to wait to see how it played out. That summer, in July, we met Gary Sigler at a meeting in North Hills, CA, where Elwin Roach was speaking. I felt led of the Spirit to snail mail my journals to Gary. In February, of 1998, he sent me an e-mail saying, "I like your journal. May I build you a website? Call me." When I called him and asked which one he liked, he replied, "All of them." He built the first Glory Road website, which we knew was the manifestation of the words God had spoken to me nearly a year earlier. Eventually, I learned how to build web pages, and The Glory Road is the result of that call on my life. I am here at Medicalodge today because God told me to come and tell you Saints that He loves you unconditionally, that you need not fear dying because of hell. You are heaven bound, praise God! I am here every Sunday because He gives me the words to say.
The young man I mentioned is a product of religious indoctrination, whereby God sits "up there" somewhere, having sent us a set of rules known as the bible which we're supposed to figure out and obey to His specifications. According to them, Jesus came to atone for sin, but not for the sins of the whole world, as I John 2:2 affirms, but only the sins of those who obey the rules exactly. Since each of the 30,000 Christian denominations has a different slant on just what the rules are, it is highly unlikely that anyone can ever find the peace that passes understanding, or the joy unspeakable and full of glory. Then there is the problem of loving God. The young man admits that he only thinks he loves God, but isn't exactly sure. I pointed out to him that it is impossible to love someone who will toss you into hell fire and/or eternal destruction for infringement of His rules. You will fear such a god, certainly, but never fall on your face before him in love and adoration. As parents, we want our children to truly love us, not just give lip service to it because they fear us. "Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God" (I John 4:7, RSV). God is love. He does what He is in our lives, and the love we have from Him and one another is the "proof," if you will, of our having been born again, born of God, born from above.
Christ is our life, the very essence of our New Creation being. Paul said, "For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life" (Rom. 5:10, RSV). We are saved by His life, meaning that we draw sustenance from His being. To the unbelieving and malcontent Jews, Jesus said, "I am the bread of life. Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world" (John 6:48-51, NIV). (Notice He died for the world, sinners as well as saints!)
They were astounded at this teaching, but He didn't stop there. He bore in on them: "I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me" (John 6:53-57, NIV). He taught this in the synagogue in Capernaum (Vs. 59), and it really rocked their theological boat. Remember that under law, they were forbidden to eat blood, "For the life of every creature is the blood of it; therefore I have said to the people of Israel, You shall not eat the blood of any creature, for the life of every creature is its blood; whoever eats it shall be cut off" (Lev. 17:14). Even under the New Covenant, the Apostles told the gentiles that they did not have to be circumcised, but they were to refrain from blood and sexual immorality (Acts 21:25). So, for Jesus to tell them they must eat His flesh and drink His blood was blasphemous to them.
I'm always in hot water with orthodoxy, but I must say here that the Christian ritual known as communion, or the Lord's Supper is not what He was talking about in this passage. Think about it this way. If you only eat a scrap of bread and drink an ounce of juice once a week, your physical body will be malnourished and sickly. Likewise, partaking in what has become a dry, almost meaningless ritual, even once a week, leaves your soul and spirit sickly. Paul said, if you do not discern the body of Christ, you are eating and drinking damnation unto yourself. He concludes, "That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died" (I Cor. 11:30). So if Jesus was not speaking of communion, what did He mean?
Listen to His words: "The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe." For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. He went on to say, "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him" (John 6:63-65, NIV). Only those who have been born from above can see what He means and hear what He is saying. Our flesh, our carnal nature means nothing. Man's best efforts are but "filthy rags" to God. It is the Spirit of Christ which brings us life, and makes us come alive for the first time. "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3, RSV). I said to someone recently that being baptized does NOT make you a Christian! It may be enough to admit you to membership into a church, but only the born again experience can translate you into the kingdom, and transform you into a son of the Most High. Jesus' words were so offensive to the Jews that many turned back and no longer followed him (Vs. 66). He asked the Twelve if they would leave Him as well. We answer with them, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God" (Vs. 68). Father open our blind eyes and deaf ears to hear You, to see You, and most of all, to feel Your unconditional love, so that when our hearts are filled to overflowing, we will then flow out to the rest of the hurting world. Amen. Jan Antonsson
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
"Bread of Heaven, Part 1"
The Glory Road
We always enjoy hearing from you!
This page was uploaded to the web on 12/13/02,
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister,
and last edited on 10/29/08.