The Path to True Happiness: John 2
Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1999, 214 pages.
This is a collection of 12 sermons on the second chapter of John’s Gospel, originally preached by Dr. Lloyd-Jones (MLJ) in late 1995. MLJ notes that John’s theme is stated near the end of his Gospel:
…but these (i.e., the signs recounted in his gospel) are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ; and that by believing ye might have life through his name (20:30).
So there is a life that can be received through His name. And MLJ says that John’s theme is “perhaps never stated more gloriously” (page 8) than in our Lord’s own words recorded in the tenth chapter:
I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly (10:10)
Not just life, but an abundant life. A life which is characterized by its abundance, its richness, its fullness. And MLJ says that “in John’s Gospel the characteristic of the new is always abundance…This is the emphasis of this Gospel, as it is, of course, of all the New Testament” (page 9).
Of these twelve sermons, five are on the wedding at Cana (verses 1-11), two are on the cleansing of the temple (verses 13-17), one on seeking signs (verses 18-22), and three on true versus temporary believers (verses 23-25). If you noted that this does not add up to twelve, it is because the book also includes a Christmas sermon on “the temple of his body” (verse 21).
In the sermons on the wedding at Cana, there are several important lessons. How is this fullness to be received? First, there was a lack, a deficiency: “They have no wine” (verse 3), followed by wise counsel from Mary: “Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it” (verse 5), and a command from Jesus: “Fill the waterpots with water” (verse 7). If we seek the fullness of life from Jesus, we must first of all obey, do what he tells us. Here there are two opposite errors to be avoided. The first error is too much self-reliant activity; the other is to emphasize God’s part to such a degree that we become completely passive. We can also fall short by being obedient in general, but not in the details. To know the details we must be constant in our study of the Bible, and MLJ says he means “the whole book, not snippets, not digests (or) little portions…(and not by) taking somebody else’s thoughts…(but) I mean really reading it and studying it (while) praying as you read that the Holy Spirit will enlighten you” (pages 36-37).
There has never been a great saint but that he or she has been a great reader of the Bible, a keen student of it, one who revels in it, has searched it, and his concentrated upon its detailed teaching (page 37).
And then we are to realize the blessing, as we draw the wine out: “Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast” (verse 8).
Now this is a vital element in the whole matter of seeking his fullness: keep the commandments, realize the possibilities, the precious promises, and when he speaks—act! What does it mean? Well, here it is: Trust and obey! For there’s no other way! (page 43).
And then he moves to the nature of the blessing: “thou hast kept the good wine until now” (verse 10).
It is, of course, a uniquely Christian emphasis that all blessings are in our Lord Jesus Christ. We are not interested in a teaching or theory or rule of life which may be very good in and of itself, and may even say a lot about God the Father. If it does not include Christ, and make him central, we are not interested; it is not Christianity (page 48).
The fullness we are talking about comes through Jesus Christ alone. And it is a miraculous provision, just as the transforming of the water into wine was miraculous.
But MLJ emphasizes that the fullness he is talking about is not conversion.
You can be a Christian—let us be clear about this. I am not saying you are not a Christian—you can be a Christian without knowing this fullness. But I am showing the difference between existing in the Christian life and enjoying the life fully. I am drawing the distinction between the bread and butter of the Christian life and enjoying the banquet. We are dealing with the banquet (pages 71-72).
And this fullness brings in the whole aspect of assurance and security.
You can be a Christian, I say again, without having assurance of salvation, but you cannot partake of his fullness, in a real sense, without knowing that you have done so. In other words, this doctrine of assurance and certainty is vital to the whole teaching about fullness….Now that is it. You can be a believer, you can know that your sins are forgiven, yes, but the vital question is: Do you know that Jesus is dwelling in your heart? (pages 76-77).
The final sermon on the wedding at Cana is entitled “A Super-Abundance of Blessing”. MLJ says that we are not only interested in this account because it is an historical account of a miracle, but because it is also a parable, showing us how this fullness is received. He does more than merely perform a miracle of turning a little water into wine—rather there is a super-abundance. Like the twelve basketfuls that were left over after feeding the 5,000 with five loaves and two fish (Matt 14:15-21). Or like the cup which “runneth over” (Psalm 23:5). God’s grace is characterized not only by its freedom, but by its fullness and abundance.
So there are the lessons of this first miracle performed by our Lord in Cana of Galilee. It is a picture which opens our eyes to the possibilities of the Christian life, which is life indeed, life more abundant. It is life developing and increasing until we find ourselves face to face with him, knowing no longer in part, but knowing even as we are already known, and filled and glorified and made like unto him. May God by his Spirit give us the understanding to realize that this is Christianity and all this is meant for us (pages 96-97).
In the two sermons on the cleansing of the temple, MLJ emphasizes the danger of taking those things God has appointed for us and using them to serve our own ends. He finds in the first sermon an application to the church, and in the second an application to us as individuals. To the unfaithful, compromising church, Jesus comes with discipline and judgment. As individuals, we must remember the basic proposition that “our souls are temples in which our Lord comes to dwell” (page 115).
Here each one of us is called upon to examine the state of our own soul, this place in which God wills to dwell. What is the condition of our soul as our Lord examines it at this moment?…What use are we making of the gospel of our Lord and Saviour? (pages 118-119).
In the sermon on seeking signs, MLJ deals with an interesting point:
Our Lord gave signs in order to attest to his own person, and in order to encourage belief. Yet at at the same time he condemned this request for signs, and that is where the problem lies. He gave signs, and yet when people asked for them, he would not give them (page 136).
How are these reconciled? We are to seek the Lord alone, and we are to concentrate on what we are given. We are to beware of seeking new experiences, of having a restless spirit.
He may work miracles, he may do all sorts of amazing things, but he laid it down at the very beginning, in the Temple at Jerusalem, that he only does such things in his own time and in his own way, and to people who seek to know him and his glory, people who have a spiritual insight and understanding, people who…he can trust. It is to them, and them alone, that he chooses to commit himself (pages 146-147; see verse 24).
The sermons in the last group are on verses 23-25, which begin by saying that many who saw his miracles believed in his name. “But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, and needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man” (verses 24-25).
His first sermon on this passage deals with the difference between true believers on the one hand, and on the other, temporary believers or “false professors, a designation favoured by the Puritans in particular” (page 153). The second sermon is on the absolute necessity of a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ himself. Then the third, and last sermon in the book, is called “The Captain’s Inspection”.
Here we have a picture of the Lord Jesus Christ standing and looking at people, and not merely looking at them, but judging them, assessing them, and determining their fate (page 198).
A somber thought. But there is grace here too. For our Captain does not only inspect us when we enlist, but he keeps on doing so. And the knowledge that he is watching us even now should be the motivation for us to shape up.
Thank God for this review, for this inspection. He is giving us a chance. He is telling us: This is only a preliminary inspection. I have looked at you: you feel unworthy? Very well. Put yourself right. Repent. Acknowledge it all. Confess it all. Then abide in him, and go on serving him truly, so that when he comes you will not in any sense be ashamed (page 211).
This is a classic set of expositions on a marvelous portion of scripture, showing us the nature of, and means of attaining, the life that is life indeed, a life abundant and full of grace.