Let’s bow our heads together in just a moment of prayer as we look together to the Word of God. Father, we thank You tonight for the reminder of Your unique design in every one of our lives. We thank You for the testimony that has been brought to us of the grace of Christ to every one of us no matter what may be our physical situation. We thank You for the reminder again that what is in the soul is the real issue. We’re reminded of the words of our Lord, who said, “Fear not those that destroy the body, but fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”
And Father, we thank You that You in Your wonderful love have given the Lord Jesus Christ to love every one of us no matter who we are, no matter what our abilities or disabilities might be. We thank You for the grace of salvation that reaches down to even the chief of sinners to offer redemption. We thank You for the hope of heaven in our hearts, that someday we will, in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ, be as perfect as He is. And Lord, we thank You, too, for Your great truth, the precious Word of God. And as we look to it, if even briefly tonight, open our hearts. Open our minds. Give us understanding, and we’ll give You the praise and the thanks for the privilege of communing with You in Your Word for the Savior’s sake. Amen.
Let me ask you, if you will, to open your Bible tonight to John chapter 6. I’m only going to introduce our look at this chapter. I intend really only to kind of do an overview of the chapter, and we’ll just get that started a bit tonight and trust that the Spirit of God will bring us back again next Lord’s day evening with great expectation as to what He has for us. If I were to give a sort of general theme to the sixth chapter of John, I might call it ‘Divine Sorrow Over Spiritual Defection’ – divine sorrow over spiritual defection. The heart of God is greatly grieved when people make a superficial commitment to Christ, a superficial commitment to the Lord, and then bail out. It’s a common thing, not only today but ever since the Lord began His ministry.
Just saying the word defection leaves kind of a bad taste in my mouth. I don’t know how the word defection sits with you, but it’s a very ugly word. The dictionary defines defection as desertion from allegiance or loyalty. I’m a strong believer in allegiance. I’m a strong believer in loyalty. I believe if a person commits himself to something, that there ought to be some teeth in that commitment that make him stick with that. I believe in loyalty. I believe in commitment. I believe in allegiance.
And when I think of the word defection, all I can think of is a traitor or someone who ran in the midst of a struggle. Frankly, I’m sure all of us to one extent or another have experienced that. There have been maybe times in our own lives when we have defected from a duty that was given to us. We ran the other direction. There have been times in all of our lives when we have experienced the painful hurting experience of someone who deals treacherously against us, someone we loved, someone we invested in, someone we poured our life into, someone we thought was our own familiar friend, but there was a betrayal. Frankly, nothing is as painful as that in human relationships. No pain is as deep as the wound of one who defects from an intimate relationship of any kind.
In thinking about that kind of defection, only thinking about it in Biblical terms, I was reminded this week that the apostle Paul had such lonely experiences. And I would confess to you that I don’t think in my life I have ever experienced the loneliness that comes to the heart any more greatly than when someone I believe to be a friend has defected from that friendship, someone I trusted has demonstrated that the trust was not put in the right place, someone in whom I had invested much love and much of my own heart has proven to be a traitor to that investment. That, as far as I’m concerned, in my own personal life, is the deepest pain I have ever experienced. And I think the apostle Paul understood that even more deeply than I understand it. I think he knew what it was to have someone into whom he’d poured his life abandon him. In Philippians, for example, you can just listen to a few verses. In Philippians chapter 2 listen to what he says, verse 20. He refers to Timothy, and then after mentioning Timothy, he says, “I have no man likeminded who will naturally care for your state. For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s. But you know the proof of him” – that is Timothy – “that, as a son with a father, he hath served with me in the gospel. Him therefore I hope to send presently.”
Here is the apostle Paul at a crisis point in his own life and ministry in relation to the church at Philippi. And he says, I’m sending you Timothy, because I have no one else who cares like he cares. Everybody else seeks their own things. Now I don’t know how that verse hits you, but it hits me with a deep sense of pain, because I think I can feel what he was feeling to some extent in his heart. But imagine the tremendous, tremendous depth of investment that the apostle Paul had made in the lives of so many people. And to come to this point in his life when he says, “I have no one but Timothy whom I can send, because everyone else seeks his own.” Even worse, in 2 Timothy, the last epistle that Paul ever wrote at the end of his life, he says in chapter 1 verse 15, “This thou knowest, that all they who are in Asia turned away from me.” Really an unbelievable statement. Everybody in Asia Minor turned away from me. People like Phygellus and Hermogenes. They all abandoned me. In chapter 4 of the same epistle, the last chapter Paul ever penned, he says, “Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world.” And then down in verse 16, “At my first defense no man stood with me, but all men forsook me. But I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge.” There were a lot of people who identified with Paul until he got into difficulty, and then they were gone. They left.
I think about Jesus who, with His disciples, was in the Garden on the Mount of Olives when the soldiers came, and the Bible says in fulfillment of Zachariah’s prophecy, that when they took Jesus, the disciples all forsook him and fled. How lonely the heart feels when it’s been forsaken. And the deeper the spiritual investment in the person who leaves, the greater the pain. And I want you to understand that the heartbreak that can be experienced by any Christian over someone’s spiritual defection, the heartbreak that was experienced by Paul, the heartbreak of our Lord in His earthly ministry about those who defected from Him, has even reached to heaven. And I believe that the heart of God is very often broken by spiritual defectors. People who follow for a little while, but are very shallow. Their commitment is superficial and self-seeking. And when it turns out that they’re not going to get everything they think they ought to get, they want out.
In the Old Testament we find many people who were, on the surface, identified with the children of Israel. Outwardly they belonged to the nation. But inwardly they had defected from worshipping the true God. In Exodus 32, the tragic story of the golden calf is told, how that while Moses was up in Mount Sinai getting the Law of God, Aaron led the people in idolatry. And in verse 7 of that thirty-second chapter of Exodus, it says, “The Lord said to Moses, ‘Get thee down, for people whom thou broughtest out of the land of Egypt have corrupted themselves. They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them. They have made a melted calf and have worshipped it, and have sacrificed thereunto and said, “These are thy gods, O Israel, which have brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.”’ And the Lord said unto Moses, ‘I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. Now therefore let Me alone, that My wrath may burn against them, and that I may consume them; and I will make of thee a great nation.’”
There is a most amazing statement. On the one hand, God is saying, “I will burn them up,” and on the other hand, He says, “I’ll make them a great nation.” And that is the ambivalence of wounded hearts that first wants to cry out in judgment against the one that has wounded, but because of the love relationship, wants also to reach out in pity. And so the heart of God on the one hand will consume and on the other hand will be merciful to that people that defected. There we get a glimpse of the sorrow of God. He says, “Go away, so I can be alone.” Sorrow needs its lonely moments, and even God feels that sorrow.
In Psalm 18 verse 21, we read this. The Psalmist writes, “For I have kept the ways of the LORD, and have not wickedly departed from my God.” And what he is really saying in the writing of this Psalm is that I’m not like so many other people. I have not departed from my God. Now if you were to read the story of Israel in the Old Testament, you would find that it is a story of defection. It is a story of spiritual desertion. It is a story of temporary shallow commitment. It is a story of heartbreak. It is a story that brings sadness to the heart of God and sadness to the one who feels the heart of God.
In Isaiah chapter 16 and verse 9, God said to Moab – Moab was an adjacent nation that had an understanding of the true God. God says to Moab, in speaking about the judgment He will bring, these interesting words. Verse 11 of – verse 9 through 11, that whole section there in Isaiah 16, he says, “I will water thee with my tears.” How interesting. I will water thee with my tears. “My heart,” he says, “will sound like a harp.” In other words, it’ll play a melancholy tune. I want you to understand that God is a person, and God as a person, like you’re a person, feels the pain of desertion. The sadness of God over a wayward nation caused Him to weep and to play, as it were, a melancholy song.
In Isaiah chapter 5, as the prophet takes the Word of God again, God says to him, I have a song for you. It is a funeral song. It is a song about a vineyard in a very fruitful hill. And He goes on to describe all that He’d done for Israel, and how Israel had defected. And it was a funeral song expressing the sadness of the heart of God. In Isaiah 22, a very pensive portion of prophetic literature, Isaiah 22. Let me just read you three verses there, beginning in verse 12. “In that day did the LORD of hosts call for weeping and mourning and baldness and sackcloth. And, behold, joy and gladness, slaying oxen, killing sheep, eating flesh, drinking wine, ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we shall die!’ And it was revealed in mine ears by the LORD of hosts, ‘Surely this iniquity shall not be purged from you till you die,’ said the Lord God of hosts.” God said, I called for weeping and you had a party. You ignored identifying with the heart of God. God calls for weeping over a defecting nation. In the fifty-ninth chapter of Isaiah in verse 13, we find the people there are guilty of departing from – it says, “Departing from our God, speaking oppression and revolt.” And again, the implication is the sadness of the heart of God.
But if Isaiah speaks of the sadness of God, then Jeremiah speaks even more of the sadness of God. He is known to us as the weeping prophet. God is a Spirit. God does not have a body. God, as a Spirit without a body, cannot weep. And so in a very real sense, the tears of Jeremiah were the tears of God over defecting Israel. Turn to Jeremiah for a moment in chapter 2 and verse 13. And this is what God says to the prophet Jeremiah, “For my people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me the fountain of living waters, and then they have hewed out cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” Very graphic language. Here am I, the source of water, and they have rejected the source of water for water pots that can’t produce water and can’t even hold water. The note that you want to see there is, “They have forsaken Me.” Again, the sadness of spiritual defection.
Down in verse 19, “‘Thine own wickedness shall correct thee, and thy backslidings shall reprove thee. Know therefore and see that it is an evil thing and bitter that thou has forsaken the LORD thy God, and that My fear if not in thee,’ said the Lord God of hosts. ‘For of old, I have broken thy yoke and burst thy bands; and thou saidst, ‘I will not transgress.’” He’s referring to letting them out of the land of Egypt. He freed them from slavery. “When upon every high hill and under every green tree thou wanderest, playing the harlot. Yet I had planted thee a noble vine, wholly a right seed. How then art thou turned into the degenerate plant of a strange vine unto Me?” How did it all go wrong, God says. How did you become so polluted? In chapter 3 verse 20, “‘Surely,’ He says, ‘as a wife treacherously departs from her husband, so have you dealt treacherously with Me, O house of Israel,’ saith the LORD. And a voice was heard on the high places, weeping and supplications of the children of Israel; for they have perverted their way, and they have forgotten the LORD their God. ‘Return, you backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings.’”
In chapter 15 of Jeremiah and verse 6, again He says similarly to them, “‘Thou hast forsaken Me,’ saith the LORD, ‘thou art gone backward. Therefore will I stretch out My hand against thee and destroy thee. I am weary with repenting.’” How many times do you think you can backslide, forsake Me, say you’re sorry, and do it again? I’m weary of your repentings. Chapter 17 verse 13, “O LORD, the hope of Israel, all who forsake Thee shall be ashamed. And they who depart from Me shall be written in the earth, because they have forsaken the LORD, the fountain of living waters.” Again, you see Jeremiah’s whole theme was the matter of spiritual defection, forsaking God. Then in chapter 32 and verse 38, here is the hope that God has for them in the future. “And they shall be My people” – God is saying, the day will come in the new covenant, the day will come in the future after the work of Christ, “That they will be My people, and I will be their God, and I’ll give them one heart and one way that may fear Me forever, for the good of them and of their children after them. And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from doing them good. But I will put My fear in their hearts, and they shall not depart from Me, and I will rejoice over them.” God says there’s going to come an end to all this sadness when the new covenant comes and true and eternal redemption takes place in the hearts of My people. But until that time, there was defection.
We find if we go back in Jeremiah now and just touch a couple of very, very poignant passages, we’ll see the response of God to this defection. Listen to chapter 9 verses 1 and 2. “Oh,” says the prophet, “that my head were waters and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people.” The sadness of it, ”Oh, that I had in the wilderness a lodging place of wayfaring men, that I might leave my people, and go from them.” The prophet is saying, I want to go away alone, and I want to weep in my loneliness. Chapter 14 and verse 7, the people cry out, “O LORD , though our iniquities testify against us, do it for Thy name’s sake; for our backslidings are many. We have sinned against Thee. O the Hope of Israel, its Savior in time of trouble, why shouldest Thou be like a sojourner” – or stranger – “in the land, and like a wayfaring man who turns aside to stay only for a night?” God, why do we treat You as if You’re a stranger? Then in verse 17, in response to that, “Therefore thou shalt say this word to them: ‘Let mine eyes run down with tears night and day, and let them not cease. For the virgin daughter of my people is broken with a great breach, with a very grievous blow.’” And again, the weeping and the sadness of the heart of the prophet represents the weeping and the sadness in the heart of God.
In Lamentations chapter 2, I would call your to look at verses 11 and 12. “Mine eyes do fail with tears, my heart is troubled, my liver is poured on the earth, for the destruction of the daughter of my people, because the children and sucklings swoon in the streets of the city. They say to their mothers, ‘Where is grain and wine?’ when they swooned like the wounded in the streets of the city, when their soul was poured out into their mothers’ bosom.’” All through the prophecies of Jeremiah, we see the tears of God because of the defection of the people Israel. And what I want you to understand is that this kind of spiritual defection reaches the very heart of God.
To take it at even a stronger perspective, turn in your Bible to Luke chapter 19 – Luke chapter 19 and verse 41. And this is Jesus, God in human flesh. “And when He was come near” – near to the city of Jerusalem – “He beheld the city and He wept over it.” It’s a strong word. It’s a word that implies not just a gentle tear flowing down the cheek, but a great heaving of his heart and soul. He wept. And he said, “If you had known, even you, at least in this your day, the things that belong to your peace.” In other words, if you only knew what you had, if you only knew what I came to do, but it’s hidden from your eyes. And then He thinks about the judgment. “The day will come when your enemies will cast a trench about you and compass you around, and keep you on every side and lay you even with the ground and your children with you; and they shall not leave in you one stone on another, because you knew not the time of your visitation.” You didn’t know when God came and the judgment is going to be greatly severe.
Now, the point that I want you to understand is that the heart of God is grieved over those who defect. And the prophet of God feels that grief, and the apostle feels that grief, and of course, supremely, our Lord Jesus feels that grief. And we who’ve experienced that feel that grief. I confess to you that there is in my heart, and I mentioned a few weeks ago something of this, a little list of people who are sort of my spiritual defector list. And they have a very big place in my heart in the fact that every time I think of them, I feel a sick feeling in my stomach. When I think about the investment in their life, when I think about the relationship, when I think about the fact that they claimed to know Christ and love Christ and walk with Christ and to love His church and to love His people and to love me and to be loved by me, and then they just walked away. That’s the saddest, most tragic thing of all. I can only imagine that it could be worse than it is if it were someone in my own family. I have worked with husbands who have had wives who just denied the faith and walked out. Mystery of mysteries. Inexplicable, perhaps, from a human viewpoint. I have talked to wives whose husbands have turned their back on everything they claimed about Christ and walked out. I have talked to heartsick parents whose children have turned their back on Jesus Christ and walked away. And all of us in the ministry have had to deal with those kinds of things.
I don’t personally feel that there is any portion of Scripture that more deeply penetrates the heart of Christ in this matter than John chapter 6. And I want you to turn to it, and I just want to introduce it to you briefly. I believe in John 6 we see the pain of Jesus over spiritual defection. Let’s go to the end of the chapter so that we understand where the chapter is leading. Verse 66 is the key verse. It says this, “From that time many of His disciples went back and walked no more with Him.” What did He do to deserve that? Absolutely nothing. Many of His disciples? You say, I thought a disciple was a lifer. I thought a disciple made a long-term commitment. Some people are teaching today that a disciple is a second-level Christian who has reached the point of full commitment, total surrender, complete yieldedness. I thought a disciple was someone who really loved Christ. From that time, many of His disciples left and walked no more with Him.
And what was Jesus’ response? Look at the pathos of this, verse 67. “Then Jesus said to the twelve, ‘Will you also go away?’” The twelve, you see, had made the strongest commitment of all outwardly. They were the closest. The most intimate. And He says to them, will you do that, too? Will you leave Me? Will you go away? “Simon Peter answered, and said, ‘Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life.’” That’s wonderful, isn’t it? Don’t you think that blessed the heart of our Lord to hear that testimony from Peter? I’m not going anywhere. You couldn’t get rid of me if You tried. I may stumble and bumble, but I’m staying. And we believe, and we’re sure that You are that Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus says, in effect, don’t overstate your case, Peter. I know you mean well, and I know you think all the disciples mean well, but I want to remind you of something. I have chosen twelve of you, and one of you is – what? – a devil, a defector. “And He spoke of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, for he it was that would betray Him, being one of the twelve.”
His own familiar friend, the prophet said, who lifted up his heel against Him. His own familiar friend who planted a kiss on His cheek. His own familiar friend who sat with Him at the table and dipped the sop and said, ‘Is it I? Is it I?’ His own familiar friend, so trusted that he carried the money for that little band of nomads. His own familiar friend. I believe the pain of the defection of Jesus, though it fit into the sovereign plan of God, was so deep that it wounded continually the heart of Christ.
Now I say all of that just to give you the broad picture of what spiritual defection does to the heart of God. And that’s only the introduction. But let it be an encouragement tonight, that none of us wants to grieve the heart of the One who loved us and gave Himself for us. Right? Let it be the commitment of our hearts that our discipleship will be genuine, our affirmation of faith in Christ will be real. Our faith will be saving faith, not dead faith. And we will fully and truly enter into a life of obedience with God and not be that shallow, transient, sham disciple who, when things don’t go the way he thinks they should go, defects and grieves the heart of God.
Now next time we’re going to look at this chapter in detail, as much detail as we can in the hour that will be allotted to us. But before we do that, between now and next time, I want you to read the chapter. In fact, I’d like to ask you to read it every day, so that it’s well set in your mind, and as we get into it on Sunday evening, it will unfold to you some of the most profound insights in to the heart of Christ that I think you’ll ever have. Let’s bow in prayer.
We love You, Lord, and we thank You and praise You for this wonderful day; for the many ways in which we have expressed our worship and our praise; for the joy of this evening, the exhilaration, the happiness, and the fun that the children drew into our lives; for the seriousness of Your Word, as well. And Lord God, we pray that because You have promised us such joy and such fulfillment, we will be obedient to place ourselves in the circle of blessing to fully enjoy what You have for us. May there be no one in this place who turns and walks away from Christ, but may all of us be those true disciples who with Peter can say, “To whom shall we go? You alone have the words of eternal life.” And we are sure that You are that Christ, the Son of God. May we be so sure and may we live that surety every moment of every day. Thank You that You abide with us and we belong to You. Until we meet again, we ask for the unction of the Spirit of God. We pray in the name of the Savior and everyone said, Amen. God bless you.
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