Today’s Reading: John 12
A paradox is a statement that contradicts itself. It goes something like this:
“Deep down, I know you are shallow.”
“One thing I know—that I know nothing.”
“I am nobody.”
“He’s a wise fool.”
It’s putting opposite words in a sentence together that don’t seem to work.
These are silly paradoxes that have no bearing on anything of eternal importance. But in today’s reading, we run right into a very strange paradox that has great eternal consequences. Consider this statement with its contradiction:
Many even of the rulers believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God. (John 12:42-43)
This is a serious paradox: “Many even of the rulers believed in Him, but . . . they were not confessing Him.”
Is that even possible? Believing without confessing. Can you be a paradoxical saint? When I was reading John 12, I was excited to see that the rulers believed in Him. People of influence realizing that this was the Messiah. But my excitement was short lived when I hit the paradox, separated by a comma.
Confessing is a big part of belief, or should I say, it’s a big partner with belief. Listen to how Paul put it:
If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. (Romans 10:9-10)
Believe and confess are a big part of salvation. Think of these important words from Jesus, recorded in Matthew 10:32-33: “Everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny Him before My Father who is in heaven.”
These rulers decided to rewrite the script. This paradox seems serious. And verse 43 gives us the eye-opening “why” behind the paradox: they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God.
Has wanting to please people silenced you from going public about your belief in God? When you know that people in your circle are Jesus antagonistic or church haters, do you keep quiet to please them? Do you shut your mouth on truth so as not to rock the boat? Does their open mouth contradict my belief and keep my mouth shut?
If these are true of us, we are paradoxical believers. And we know the source of it. It is a love issue—and it exposes what we love most. Do we love the approval of people or the approval of God? The answer to this question will determine if we will be paradoxical, or in other words, a believer but not a confessor.
It’s dangerous to believe without confessing, because it exposes something about us. Can that really happen? It did happen and the result was catastrophic. Ready for this? James 2:19 tells us that “you can believe all you want that there is one true God, that’s wonderful! But even the demons know this and tremble with fear before him, yet they’re unchanged—they remain demons” (TPT).
We can have the right belief in God and still be unchanged. Our belief should not lead us to church only, but on a journey to love God with all our hearts, minds, and souls. I think the lack of confessing is from loving the wrong thing. They loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God.
When I recognize that I have a problem going public about my relationship with God, it’s at that point that I don’t pray for boldness but for God to help me to love Him more.
Love goes public. Love shouts it out. When I fell in love with my now-wife, Cindy, I wanted everyone to know who I discovered. Way before smart phones with thousands of pictures, we used to carry an actual photo of the one we loved. I wanted people to see her, but how would I get a photo? One day I saw a photo of her in a newspaper from a deal she made for a bank and I cut it out. I carried that black-and-white newspaper clipping folded up in my wallet everywhere. And when people asked me if I had a picture, I would tell them, “Do I have a picture? Look at this.” And I would proceed to unfold it. I was confessing because I was in love.
When there is no telling, we may have a love issue. Or it may be that we love the wrong thing.
When we believe in Jesus, we start a journey of love not a journey of knowledge.
C.S. Lewis tells of an old author who asked, “Is it easy to love God?”
“It is easy,” the other man replied, “to those who do it.”
Christianity is not easy for those who love church, love being moral, love the atmosphere. When you fall deeply in love, you want to please the one you are in love with. Love makes confession easy.