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Summary: Jesus sets out for us here the first steps in someone becoming a Christian - if these steps are not apparent, then a person is not saved!

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John 17: 8

First Steps

A Church Educational Officer was once sent into a particular community in America where he was to carry out a census of the people’s spiritual state there. In one home he got into asking the usual questions, "Do you attend church?" "Do you read the Bible?" and of course, "Are you a Christian?" The woman to whom he was speaking immediately responded, "No, I guess I am not." Her grown-up daughter was concerned at her mother’s reply, "Mother, you are a Christian," she replied. "Don’t you remember you were baptised by that minister, when he held the tent revival a few years ago?" The Mother then replied, "Yeah, You’re right. I forgot, Put me down as a Christian." Many today call themselves Christians for many reasons. Some think of it in terms of a particular attitude towards war; others think of it as general friendliness, and still others believe it is some vague emotion that has taken place in their lives. It is therefore essential for us all to understand what a Christian really is. Here we find Christ setting out for us the first steps in someone becoming a Christian. Where do you stand today? Are you a Christian, or perhaps as you make that claim you are fooling yourself and others - but not God. "According to these verses, the only way to tell whether one is a Christian or not is to see whether he or she believes and continues in the words of the Lord Jesus Christ." Montgomery Boice. Jesus describes these first steps as:

1. Giving

v8 - "For I have given to them the words ..." - Here we find a verse very similar to v6, but whilst v6 sees salvation from God’s perspective, this verse very much reflects on the disciples response. From God’s point of view we see this order - 1. Believers were the Father’s initially; 2. Father gave believers to Jesus by an act of sovereign grace; 3. Jesus exercised His responsibility by revealing God to them; 4. They in turn kept Christ’s words. In v8 we find Christ concentrating more on the last two parts of v6 as He looks at salvation from the disciple’s point of view where 1. He gave the disciples the Father’s words; 2. They received the words; 3. They know Jesus came from God; 4. They believed in Him, as the One whom God sent. Let’s consider the start of this sequence:

Today a lot of emphasis is placed upon the Lord Jesus Christ, and rightly so, but sadly this also means that many today take no time to consider the Father. Yet Christ was always about the Father’s business. He wanted to glorify Him; wanted to do His will, and now Christ says He gave the Father’s words - not His own. The words of man count for nothing, but the words of God are powerful and effective. Luther at one time said, "We must make a great difference between God’s word and the word of man. A man’s word is a little sound, that flies into the air, and soon vanishes; but the word of God is greater than heaven and earth, yea, greater than death and hell, for it forms part of the power of God, and endures everlastingly." We must distinguish between the written Word of God, which can be read and yet not penetrate the soul, and the Word of God, as the Holy Spirit applies the truths of the written word to our hearts in a saving way. Has He done this in your life? Is He speaking to you today?

The conversion of an individual is much more than persuasion. Our words are not sufficient. Good arguments have their place and God uses them, but when it comes to Salvation it must be God’s Word spoken to a heart in order for that person to be saved. Perhaps God is speaking to your heart today?

2. Receiving

In v6 Jesus used the word "obey", but here He uses the lesser term, to "receive" it. In order that we can "obey" the Father’s Word, we must first of all hear it and receive it. The reason surely Jesus mentions this step is because of how easy it is for a word to be given and yet to pass right over the head of the hearer. With a child we often say a word goes in one ear and out the other. A husband is a different kettle of fish, because with us, it doesn’t even go in the one ear in order for it to be able to go out the other.

Jesus, by mentioning this, reveals one of the most frustrating parts of the ministry today - preaching/ witnessing, and the message not being received. People think of all sorts of things rather than listen to what God has to say to them. Are you hardening you heart to Him and His Word today?

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