The Witness of their Hearts – John 5:42-44

The Witness of their Hearts

John 5:42-44

42 but I know you, that you do not have the love of God in yourselves. 43 I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, you will receive him. 44 How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?

As I was looking deeper at the context of this passage during the week, I noticed that these are very public lessons, where Jesus is schooling those who believed they were the teachers to the Jews, and it is broadly known as a section where Jesus draws upon many witnesses to condemn the men who would later condemn Jesus.  Those witnesses against the listeners in this section include the witness of John in verses 33-35, the witness of works in verse 36, the witness of the Father in verses 37-39, the witness of Scripture which we discussed last week, the witness of their hearts which we will look at this week and finally the witness of Moses which we will cover next week.

Last week, we ended on verse 42 – which reads “but I know you, that you do not have the love of God in yourselves”.  We discussed more about the negative side of the question:  Why would someone choose to hang around religious situations if they didn’t have the love of God within them.  A few points we made were: 1) they might be afraid of missing out, 2) they might be afraid of missing a blessing, or perhaps they are just 3) covering their bases.  They aren’t really interested but just in case, it is there version of a Get out of Hell free card.  But we didn’t talk about what does have the love of God look like?  I know that I am not going to cover this question to the full extent it requires, but there is among modern evangelicals an absence of assurance about their salvation.  For goodness sakes, I know that the thought runs through my mind from time to time and I know that there are others who deal with this.  So when we stop and think about the broad brush of what does it look like to be saved, I think I find a few things that can be either reassuring or and perhaps help us to accurately evaluate our spiritual condition.  Now, keep in mind, there is a lot of discussion about this topic and I’m not expecting to end the debate with my observations, but this is how I see it.  If you see if differently, I’m still not going to be surprised when I see you in heaven.  Trust me when I tell you that in order to believe you must have perfect doctrine, I can almost assure you there is something you must have missed. None of us has perfect doctrine. There remains some mystery in the Christian faith. Each one of us is a work in progress.

What does loving God look like?

  • First of all, it doesn’t look natural.  If you have a love for God, you have a different nature than those of the world who do not love God.  You will find yourself attempting and at times succeeding in going against what the natural inclination is to do.  I could find all kinds of things to illustrate that but let me attempt to help you find something.  When was the last time you were offended and you told yourself to let it go and permit God to deal with it.  That my brothers and sisters, is not natural.  The natural thing to do is to be patient and wait for the opportunity to come to you in order to get your revenge.  Or to speak out right away and one up the insulter or offender. To be cleverer than the person who used an opportunity to insult and demean you.  Another way you might do something that is not natural is when you seek God’s counsel about decisions that are coming at you.  This is an admission that you don’t have all wisdom. The non-believing world often believes that they have all they need.



  • When we deny ourselves this is also a part of living unnaturally.  Saying no to something we want and seeking to know what God desires is not normal.  When we do that, we are showing a new nature, not the old one.



  • Observing the fruit of the spirit (Gal 6) is another way we demonstrate that God has given us a new nature.  The new nature does not come to us all by itself, but by God’s work in us.  We can restrict the presences of the fruits of the spirit by our disobedience, but the fact that we have to try and ignore these promptings is another indication that there is something different about us.  A non-believer’s inclination would be to listen to whatever they want to do.  We are drawn to do them because we are God’s children.



  • Living in obedience is another unnatural thing to attempt to do.  We make an effort to try not out of fear in our hearts that God will punish us if we don’t, but because we know living like this is pleasing to our Heavenly Father.



  • It is a remarkable thing that there might be two men living side by side, following the same moral code.  How is one to tell the difference?



  • You probably can’t.  That is why we are not commanded to weed out the wheat from the tares.  That is God’s job.  But the difference is that one person might be following how they were brought up, or what culture demands of them. The other might be living to glorify (aka please) the Father.



  • In Matt 7:21 Jesus talks about practicing lawlessness- and he throws this phrase at people who appear to have been working for the kingdom.  ”I never knew you!” Why did they fail so miserably and end up fooling themselves about such a critical issue?  Because they were doing it for themselves not for God.  I can’t imagine a more stunning realization than to come to judgment and be confronted by a wasted and delusional life.



  • Quickly – the last few – A desire to please God.  Not natural but is a part of the believer’s life.



  • A Desire to understand the Bible – not to earn our way into heaven but more because we know it directs us to the Christ.



  • A Desire to glorify Christ by our lives.



Just a few comments about things that don’t impact our eternity – 1) the rules we follow might determine our rewards but not our eternal zip code.  In case you don’t know this yet, there is no obedience to rules that can gain a square inch of heaven’s ground.   2) The frequency of our church attendance will help us grow, but unless we have submitted to the God of our Salvation, church attendance is really just a time thief. It steals away that extra time to relax over the weekend.  Don’t misunderstand me about this point – church attendance is biblical and important but it is not redemptive in the basic understanding of getting saved. We never read, accept Jesus as your Savior and go to church and you will be saved.  3) The church we attend won’t impact the fact that every person must accept Christ.  No church will be saved as a whole, but rather the individuals there who have put their faith in Christ will be saved.  By the way, there are not families that are redeemed as a unit.  When the Bible says that he and his family about the jailer, the indication from all of scripture is that the rest of his family followed him in his prayer to join the family of God.

Jesus came in His Father’s name – verse 43 – I have come in My Father’s name.  What does that imply about how Jesus came?  It means that He came representing the Father.  It also means that Jesus came to bring God’s message, which was a message of Grace and Truth.  That is a remarkable combination of two things that don’t always go together easily.  Look at these two elements of the message of Jesus:
1) Grace = God’s free gift of Salvation, free in that we have to accept it.
2) Truth = we are hopeless without God’s help, also know as sinner and separated from God without hope of ever bridging that gap without God’s help.

And yet – Jesus declares that “and you do not receive Me;” How odd does that seem to you?  That someone would not want to receive a message of Grace and Truth.  Why would someone reject such a message?  I believe it was mainly because to accept such a message flies in the face of their belief that they were earning their own way into heaven, which was (and continues to be) a matter of pride.

And don’t be misled about this mixture of Grace and Truth.  You can’t pick and choose from this list.  What happens if you have Grace without Truth?  What does that look like?  This is a very favorable combination in today’s culture.  You hear things like – How could a loving God condemn anyone to hell?  These are the people who want to deny that all our righteous deeds, every good thing we have done are like filthy rags.  If they were to edit our Bibles, the word sin would be removed and the idea of a Holy and Righteous God would be replaced with Santa Clause, who keeps track of naughty and nice but still gives you some pretty nice goodies none the less.

And what if you want to have Truth without Grace?  What does that look like?  This describes just about every cult that exists in the world, including legalism.  These followers of truth agree that they are sinners but they are under the delusion that they can be good enough or do enough for show their devotion to counter any evil they might have done previously. Quite often they have redefined heaven but they always redefine the path to heaven.  It’s still narrow, but they control the rules and there is no room for Grace because in their opinion too much grace will lead to a license to commit any number of liberties.  If someone worships at the alter of “salvation by obedience”, there is no room for stumbling and no room for wavering.

At the core of both these ideas (Grace without Truth and Truth without Grace) is the principle that Jesus addresses in the next part of this verse.  If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. These are the ones who have several traits that are common among these false Messiahs.  And that is exactly what they are.  They share some very damnable traits:

  • They usually have a new ‘truth’ or a new ‘revelation’.  This is one of the reasons modern evangelicals are so diligent about Scripture.  It is our source of truth.  We don’t want anyone messing with this.



  • Usually, someone who comes in their own name is the center of their focus; they are the unchallenged source of authority.  Never forget Matt 28 – All authority has been given to Jesus, not anyone else.  Anyone who comes along and says they have that authority is a false Christ, or trying to be.



  • Often people who come in like this attempt to redefine our spiritual vocabulary.  Heaven doesn’t mean what it used to.  Faith is replaced by faith plus something.  Sure, you have to have faith but if you don’t have something in addition to your faith, they would tell you that you aren’t getting into heaven.  They would say righteousness comes by faith but.  There are not exceptions to righteousness coming by faith.



  • They have redefined the way such that now the way is no longer narrow, but it is as broad as can be and becomes more attractive to the masses – They really don’t care much for Matt 7:13. They want you to know you have keep your pride and still get into heaven.



    1. Usually they alone have a deeper understanding than any living past or present has ever had – and I would reference II Tim 3:7, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.  They believe that they are the only one who can properly discover and discern the real truth.  Let me remind you that God is there for all who seek Him.  Hebrew 11:6


Jesus now asks a very piercing question.  This is probably a question that should bother any good person who is attempting to earn their salvation. How can you believe?  This is of course a rhetorical question.  Jesus doesn’t expect an answer because He is going to give them a reason why they can’t believe.  There are things that get in the way of believing.  Everyone who lives eternally in heaven will have believed God.  But here is an indication why these listeners can not believe. Jesus is saying, you aren’t getting to heaven.  Jesus looked at the crowd and diagnosed their illness as a group.  This group, says Jesus, all have the same hindrance to accepting Him as the One, as being sent by the Father.  What is stopping them from believing?

When you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?  The one thing pointed out to this group is that they were so interested in getting glory from each other that they would refuse to see the glory that is from the one and only God.  It’s like a bunch of people all holding hands, all heading for cliff.  If you tell them in order to save themselves, they must let go of the hands of the ones next to them, but they refuse to let go because holding hands is more important than being saved.   The item changes from person to person, but there are still many who refuse to believe because of something that they refuse to let go.  These listeners have too much invested in the direction they are heading to ever consider changing direction.  It’s like the guy who is running through the woods.  When asked where he’s heading, he says “I don’t know – but I’m making good time.” Or he might answer, “I have no idea, but I sure love running”

Once again we return to the principle of not doing the natural thing.  The natural thing is to want all that this world has to offer.  All the praise of your fellow human beings.  All the adulation of the crowd.  And sometimes we pursue that praise by who we are, or what we buy, or what we do.  Things we own don’t define us unless we attempt to find our glory from one another.  When we pursue man’s approval, we are running with the wrong crowd, trying to please people who in all honestly, probably don’t really care a whole hill of beans.  But this is the natural tendency.  It is unnatural to seek the glory that is from God, and the fact that it is unnatural is an indication that the source of a desire to live like this is from God.  We aren’t born with the desire to want what God offers, but we are born again with this desire.  This is yet another indication that the life in us is something different than what lives in the unregenerate man and woman hearts.

God’s glory comes on His terms and these people did not like God’s terms.  They had a lot invested in the building up their heavenly resume and they didn’t want someone telling them all their works were like filthy rags.

As I come to the end of the time available, I want to underline a few points.  There are two different points to be made about the lesson today.

  • Is the living like has been explained above something that doesn’t ever happen in your life? Maybe you never see any indication from within that God is working in your life? If that is the case, talk to someone you know that lives this way and ask them how they do it.



  • Is living as was explained above something you see very often in your life? Stop beating yourself with questions if you are really saved. People who are saved are not yet perfected. There are still a few rough edges to be removed yet. I am sure of that.



Am I striving to live against my natural inclinations – or do I not understand what the heck this guy is trying to explain?  If you can’t comprehend this message, turn to others who teach the truth probably clearer than I do.  Before seeking the truth, ask for God’s guidance.  Remember the verse above I quoted?  Heb. 11:6 – he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.

If you did understand much of what I taught today, we all need to strive more to live unnaturally, go against our normal grain and live spiritually as per so many instructions in the New Testament.  Not to earn a salvation that has been provided for free, but rather because this is our new nature and our new creature.  Live like the eternal life that you have within you indicates you should live.  Remember even the Christian life is a life of faith, trusting Christ every day to lead and guide us.  Seeking to glorify the One and only Son of the Most High.  It’s all about Jesus folks.  Now and forever.  Jesus has taught these listeners that it was the testimony of their own hearts that restricted them from believing.