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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at / Published Life BPC, 10:45 am service, 2008-10-02

Text: John 7:25-36

The title of our message is derived from the common saying, 'Ignorance is bliss.' This saying is based on the idea that what you don't know cannot hurt you. It may be true in some situations. For instance if you are the type of person who tends to get paranoid about everything, it may be better for you not to know that there is a risk of 1 in 80,000 that you may be struck by lightning when you are outside, or that there is a risk of 1 in 5,000 that you may die in an airplane crash when you fly. Ignorance of such insignificant risks can be blissful.

But not all ignorance is bliss. In the recent China milk scandal, thousands of parents have been feeding their babies milk laced with melamine without knowing it. Their ignorance was definitely not bliss. In some occupations ignorance about certain safety regulations can be fatal. And if one remains ignorant of certain truths regarding God and salvation from sin the results will be eternally disastrous! Now, we who are Christians should not be ignorant of these truths since we have the Bible to reveal these truths to us.

But it has been observed that many Christians today are quite ignorant about the Bible. A survey on Bible knowledge was conducted in the U.S about 12 years ago by a well-known research group. 641 adults were asked some questions about the Bible. Among the Christians who took the survey, only 61% knew that the Book of Jonah is in the Bible; 39% thought it is not. When asked whether there is a Book of Thomas in the Bible, 22% answered Yes while 13% said they did not know. On a more encouraging note 70% of these Christians knew that Jesus was born in Bethlehem while the rest thought He was born in Jerusalem or Nazareth.

The question in the survey that many found difficult to answer was this: Is there a verse in the Bible that says, 'God helps those who help themselves'? 42% of the Christians answered, Yes. 20% said they do not know. Only 38% of them correctly said that the saying, 'God helps those who help themselves' is not found anywhere in the Bible. Actually this saying comes from Benjamin Franklin (an American inventor and writer), and not from the Bible. 

When we conducted our own church survey 2 months ago we did not include questions like these. But we did ask two questions on Bible reading and the results were quite revealing. When asked, 'How often do you read the Bible?' 28% answered that they read it once a week. Only 64% read their Bible daily, and this is a drop of 4% from last year's survey figure. This shows that our programme this year of reading one chapter of the Bible a day has not made any difference.

What was even more disturbing was the answer to the other question: 'How many times have you read through the Bible completely?' 72% answered that they have not read through the Bible even once. This would be understandable if most of the 417 respondents are new believers. But 80% of them have been in Life church for more than 5 years. How can it be that such a large number of us who have been Christians attending church for more than 5 years have not even read through the whole Bible once? If we can read the latest best-sellers from cover to cover, why can't we do the same with the Bible? And if we can read the newspapers every day, why can't we do the same with the Bible?

Please don't misunderstand me. I am not saying that we should all read the Bible just to be able to tell everyone that we read it daily and that we have read it from cover to cover. I am saying that we must read it well in order to know what God wants us to know. We must read it well so that we will not be ignorant of all the precious truths God has given to us in His Book. For unlike other kinds of ignorance, this kind of ignorance is not bliss. The things of God that we do not know can and will hurt us. Now we shall study a passage of Scripture that shows this quite well. 

It was the month of October of AD 29. The people of Israel had come to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem to celebrate the annual Feast of Tabernacles. But there was a different atmosphere at the feast that year - beneath the surface of the usual worship rituals and prayers led by the priests each day there was plenty of whispering, quiet discussions and arguments going on in the crowds. And they were all talking about the same person - Jesus of Nazareth. Some were telling others excitedly about His miracles they had witnessed. Others were expressing their doubts about Jesus. Many were curious to know His whereabouts because 3 days of the feast had already passed and He was nowhere to be seen. The Jewish leaders were also anxiously looking for Jesus, but for a different reason - They wanted to get rid of Him. 

Why? Because He had spoken against them, and He had supposedly violated the Sabbath. They had judged Him unrighteously - based on their own man-made rules and on His outward appearance - and according to their unrighteous judgment Jesus was worthy of death. Now they were looking for an opportunity to have Him arrested and condemned.

But when Jesus finally made His presence known to the crowds on the 4th day of the feast these Jewish leaders seemed to have forgetten all that they had planned to do against Him. Why? It was because of the unusual power and authority with which He spoke and taught the people. It left the Jewish leaders spell-bound and wondering how He could teach the way that He did. They were so amazed at this that none of them tried to to stop Him or rebuke Him or remove Him. 

And this forms the background for what we read in vv.25-27 - The Jews of Jerusalem who knew that their leaders had planned to kill Jesus were confused by their silence. This made them say, 'Why are they doing nothing? Could it be that they think that Jesus may really be the Messiah? But how can it be? We all know who Jesus is and where He comes from - He is only a carpenter's son from Nazareth in Galilee. But when the real Messiah comes no one will know where he comes from. Therefore Jesus cannot be the Messiah - don't our leaders know that?'

I. The Cause of Ignorance - Misplaced Confidence

What the Jews of Jerusalem said in these verses reveals something very seriously wrong with them. They had placed their confidence in the wrong source for some vital information - information concerning the promised Messiah of Israel. The Messiah was the One that God would send to bring complete deliverance and prosperity to Israel and to turn them into a mighty nation. His coming had already been foretold in the OT. The Jews had been waiting expectantly for the Messiah for a long time, and all their greatest hopes and expectations were focused on His coming. 

In the English language the word 'Messiah' is translated as 'Christ'. And so the word 'Christ' in vv.26 and 27 does not refer specifically to Jesus, but to the Messiah whom the Jews were expecting. They should of course have recognized Jesus to be that Messiah, as we do whenever we refer to Him as Jesus Christ. Christ is not the surname or family name of Jesus as some would think. It is a title for Him. So Jesus Christ really means 'Jesus the Messiah'.

Coming back to our passage, we see that there was something terribly wrong about the source the Jews placed their confidence in for information about the Messiah. That source was not the Bible but some strange Jewish traditions regarding Him. There is no verse or passage of Scripture that teaches that when the Messiah comes into the world no one would know where He is from or that He would appear mysteriously 'out of nowhere' as it were. But this unbiblical view was apparently quite widespread among the Jews. More than a hundred years later, when a Jewish rabbi named Trypho debated with Justin Martyr (Christian apologist), he used this very same teaching to argue against Jesus being the Messiah. Trypho said that when the Messiah comes, he would be unknown even to himself, and would have no power until the prophet Elijah returned and anointed Him to begin the messianic era.

But God had already revealed in the Bible that the Messiah would arise from the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10), that He would be a descendant of King David, that He would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), and that He would be called a Nazarene (Matthew 2:23). With such clear information in the Scriptures on the origins of the Messiah, why did the Jews believe that when He comes His origins will be unknown? The reason is simply this: They had not placed their confidence in the Scriptures. They had instead allowed their ideas of the Messiah to be determined by some fanciful imaginations of men. Their misplaced confidence was therefore the cause of their ignorance which in turn caused them to wrongfully reject Jesus as their Messiah.

Dearly beloved, there is a useful lesson here - a lesson on where you ought to place your confidence. With regard to all knowledge that matters in life, you must place your confidence firmly on the Scriptures alone. The Bible must always be your primary source of learning. It must be your final authority on every area of your life, whether it is your family life, your choice of a career or a life partner, your relationships, and even in the management of your finances. 

Don't put any confidence in worldly wisdom that urges you to seek for personal fame and glory. Don't put any confidence in so-called experts who tell you that if you really want to become a success you must forget your Christian values and do things in a selfish and deceitful way. And don't put your confidence in methods and strategies that the world uses to solve its problems, as they are often based on wrong assumptions. 

We all know that the world is now experiencing a crisis of confidence. Many have lost confidence in banks and financial institutions because of the global financial crisis. Because of inflation many have lost confidence in the buying power of their money. Many have also lost confidence in food that has milk products in it because the milk may come from China. Closer to home, the escape of a terrorist from a maximum security prison 7 months ago, and the failure to find him until now may have caused some to lose confidence in our nation's security system.

In times like these where should we place our confidence? For help and security we must place our confidence in God. He will never fail us or forsake us. And for all truth and knowledge that really matter in life, we must place our confidence in God's Word. Make the Bible your source of learning and your final authority for every area of life. You will not go wrong by doing this. Please settle it firmly in your hearts today that you will live your life by this Book. And when you are committed to doing that, you cannot afford to remain ignorant any longer of what is written in it. Read it daily, read it thoroughly and resolve to follow it! And as you do this you will not only know how to live, but more importantly, you will know God Himself.

From what Jesus said at the end of v.28 of our text we see that the Jews He spoke to in Jerusalem did not know God ('but he that sent me is true, whom ye know not.') These Jews thought that they knew God, but how could they have known Him when they had not placed their confidence in the Scriptures He had given them so that they may know Him? Whatever real knowledge they had of God was merely superficial. It was no different from their superficial knowledge of Jesus and of His origins which had led them to judge Him so unrighteously. 

For if they had truly known Jesus and where He comes from, they would not have failed to recognize Him as their Messiah and to believe wholeheartedly in Him. And v.31 tells us that there were many people in the crowd who believed in Jesus, because of all the great miracles He had done. In contrast to them the Jews of Jerusalem openly displayed their ignorance of Jesus by reacting badly against what He had said against them in v.28 'He that sent me is true, whom ye know not.'

II. The Characteristic of Ignorance - Misdirected Efforts

This led them to make an attempt to arrest Jesus. 

But they could not succeed because they cannot win against God. Verse 30 tells us that 'they sought to take him: but no man laid hands on him, because his hour was not yet come.' Our Lord Jesus still had another six months to go before the hour when He would have to die on the cross. Until then, no one could stop to Him. Shortly after the failed attempt of the Jews of Jerusalem, the Pharisees and Chief priests made another attempt to arrest Jesus: This time, according to v.32, they sent armed officers to take Him. But v.45 tells us that these officers returned to their masters empty-handed. 

Why did they keep on doing something that was so futile? It was because of their ignorance of who Jesus really is. Ignorance is often characterized by misdirected efforts. Because of ignorance people spend much time and effort on things that go completely against God's plans and purposes for them. But their misdirected efforts will eventually yield nothing to them.

The same thing happened to Paul the apostle before he was saved. Listen to what he wrote in 1 Timothy 1:12-13 'And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry; Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.' During the time of his ignorance Paul was fighting a losing battle against the Lord Jesus. He went from house to house looking for Christians, and when he found them he cast them into prison (Acts 8:3). But as he was going to Damascus to do the same thing there, Jesus appeared to Paul and said, 'Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me? It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.' (Acts 9:4,5).

How shocked Paul must have been to realize that his misdirected efforts had caused him to persecute God, and to fight a losing battle which would only hurt himself. Let us be careful not to do the same thing. Dearly beloved, are your efforts misdirected? Are you doing certain things that are actually against God's will? Perhaps the Lord has been patiently speaking to your heart on some matter. But instead of listening to Him and yielding to Him, you have been ignoring His calls to you and insisting on doing things your own way. You are fighting a losing battle against God. What should you do? Do the same thing that Paul did when Christ stopped him in his tracks - he said, 'Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?' (Acts 9:6). (All this while Paul had thought that he knew what the Lord would have him to do.)

Admit your ignorance and also your need of instruction from God. Ask Him what He would have you to do. And then resolve to do everything that God shows to you in His Word. Then your efforts will no longer be misdirected, but will be gainfully directed to fulfill God's will. Earlier on we had seen that we need the Bible to ensure that our confidence is placed in the right knowledge. Now we learn that we need the Bible to ensure that our efforts are directed to do the right things. And once again I must urge you to read your Bible daily and devotionally to allow God to direct you and guide your daily life.

We have already seen how ignorance is caused by misplaced confidence and how it is characterized by misdirected efforts. The last part of our passage (vv.34-36) shows us one more thing about ignorance:

III. The Consequence of Ignorance - Missed Bliss

This is what Jesus said to the Jews in verse 34: 'Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, thither ye cannot come.' Because of their own wilful ignorance the Jews of Jerusalem will have a woeful end - they will be kept out of heaven, the place that Jesus would return to about 6 months later, after His death on the cross and resurrection from the dead. In v.34 Jesus was telling them that one day far in the distant future, they will seek Him desperately, not to arrest or kill Him any more, but to beg Him for mercy and salvation. And they will not find Him but be left to languish forever in the outer darkness. What an awful price to pay for ignorance! But the Jews did not understand what Jesus had said here. Because of their persistent ignorance, they wrongly inferred in the next verse that He was talking about going to some place outside Israel where they would never be able to find Him.

If only they had known God and believed in Jesus as their Messiah they would surely have understood what He meant - that He was going back to heaven to be with the Father. And then they would not miss the wonderful bliss of being with Jesus for all eternity. Was there any hope left that any of these Jews who had tried to arrest Jesus would not miss this bliss? Yes there was. The hope is found in the gracious words of Jesus in v.33, 'Yet a little while am I with you.' This means that the door had not been completely shut yet. The day of grace was not yet over for them. Jesus was lovingly extending His grace to them to come out of their ignorance and to come into the saving knowledge of their Messiah. 

Perhaps there may be someone here this morning to whom Jesus is also saying, 'Yet a little while am I with you.' You have been living your life in ignorance of Jesus Christ and who He really is. As a result of this, your confidence has been misplaced, and all your efforts have been misdirected. And if you persist in your present ignorance of Jesus, you will miss forever the opportunity to live in eternal bliss. 

But Jesus says to you now 'Yet a little while, am I with you - won't you come to Me now while there is still time for you to do so? Won't you come out of your darkness of ignorance while the door is still open for you?' Come! Come to the Lord Jesus without any more delay. Now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation.

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

December 3 & 10 - Holy Living

Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, 2 Peter 3:11