The Miracle of Effectual Grace

Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.” - John 6:53-56

The invitation that Jesus gives to the crowd of disciples, as well as to all people, to repent and abide in Him, is utterly genuine and totally free. But the very serious problem of sin, and its deceptive beauty, is that it has so pervasively enslaved the heart, mind, and will of every person, that turning away from it and turning toward a true, abiding belief in Jesus, requires nothing short of the Father’s miraculous, effectual grace. 

The Call to Believe

"Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.”

Jesus is basically saying, "Attention, everyone! I’m inviting each and every one of you to full, abundant, everlasting life. And the way to receive this genuine, free invitation is simple: Lay aside everything in your life that you’re clinging to for satisfaction and fulfillment, and come to me. Repent of the worldly things you love so much - the things you were not designed to love. Get up from your places at the table of the world; the table of the dead, and come feast on real sustenance...Me.
Sit with me at the table of life. Consume my words and my ways and digest them.
It is true, you are what you eat, and you become what you consume. So, ingest me and become like me. And here is my promise: Those who do this will abide in me. Those who truly taste and see will know that I am good and they will follow. They will continue. They will remain. They will endure with me and I with them until the end of this life and then forevermore!"

This is the genuine, real, able-to-be-received invitation that Jesus gives to everyone. Belief comes through the genuine invitation: to repentance and receiving new life. This is the same invitation that brought us, as unbelievers, to become believers. And this is the same invitation that we are charged to bring to our neighborhoods, workplaces, book clubs, and baseball teams. 

Romans 10:14 says, "How else are they supposed to call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?"

Belief comes through the invitation to repent and receive. Church, you and I believed because someone brought the gospel to us and invited us in. You and I are recipients of full, abundant, everlasting life because someone else invited us. Which is why it’s unthinkable that we would neglect to bring the gospel to the people around us.

Jesus’ invitation throughout John 6 solicits a response, it demands a response. But there is a serious problem. 

The Problem of Sin

"When many of his disciples heard it (Jesus’ invitation to come and eat his flesh and drink his blood and abide), they said, ‘This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?’ But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, ‘Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?’" - John 6:60-62

The crowd isn’t offended because of what Jesus literally says. They are offended because of what Jesus figuratively means. They are not offended by the illustration, but by what the illustration implies. Which is that they are spiritually dead where they stand, with no life in them at all.

The things they indulge in and love the most will never satisfy, because they were never made to satisfy. In fact, the only way to find true life is through a Jesus plusnothing metric. Jesus isn’t offering them a quick, cheap appetizer that they can snack on in between meals at the table of the world. He’s offering them a seat at a whole new table. But there’s a catch. There’s no seat-saving at the table of the world. You either get up and turn away from it, or you stay. Because Jesus isn’t a drive-thru that we use to get what we want, when we want it. He is the Creator of all things, the King of all kings. At His table, though the menu is free to us, it cost Him His life.

This is why the genuine invitation to repentance is so offensive! It strikes at the heart of our fallen ethos: “Me, and my way.” The gospel invitation, to true life, is offensive because it reveals that we are dead apart from Jesus. The gospel invitation amplifies the groaning inside of us that we know is there. But the sin that runs through our bones is deeper, darker, and more disguised than any of us could ever imagine. It’s in our DNA. 

King David says in Psalm 51:5, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.”

We are deceived in our thinking that the fall of man has merely left us with a flesh wound or that sin has simply rendered us spiritually injured. We think because we are capable of having a nice thought or performing a good deed or even leading a reasonably moral life, that sin is more of a theory than a fact; more of a myth than a reality. 

But the truth is, sin is a very real and totally invasive sickness of the whole self. Beginning in the very heart, and mind, and affections, and motives, and will, there isn’t a part of our being that has not been marred by sin.

Romans 3:9-12 says, "What shall we conclude then? Do we have any advantage? Not at all! For we have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin. As it is written: 'There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God.All have turned away...'"

Theologians refer to this as Total Depravity, not Utter Depravity. The core of our natural affections, desires, and motives is inescapably bent toward sin. Jesus, Himself, says we’re slaves to it. Sin can be anywhere between us saying to God, “My way, not Yours”, to, “Your way, but for my glory.” 

It’s easy to visualize a caricature when we think about a slave to sin. A man with a pack of cigarettes in his hand, sitting at the bar in a strip club with a tattoo on his arm! We rarely think about the girl who just graduated from an ivy league school and is headed to work with the Peace Corps, who simply finds her satisfaction in being a good person and making better life choices than the pregnant Ethiopian teenagers she’s going to help. Who looks at Jesus and says, “Surely I have eternal life, look at all the good decisions I’ve made.” 

Both of these people are desperate sinners, whether by licentiousness or legalism. Whether doing the “wrong” things instead of the “right” things. Or doing the “right” things for our own glory and satisfaction, it’s still sin. 

Finally, Romans 14:23 tells us that anything, not done in faith, is sin. Because anything done, that is not done in faith, is ultimately done by human effort for human glory. Which is the essence of flagrant rebellion to the Holy Creator God. 

But it’s not like we’re being held captive by an un-welcomed intruder. The reason why sin has so much power is because we love it. Paul explains in Romans 8:5 that sin is what our fleshly minds want most. The reason why we’re slaves to it is because we willingly give ourselves over to it. 

As Jesus says in John 3:19: “Here’s the verdict: God’s light has come into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light.”

And yet, day-after-day, year-after-year, generation-after-generation, God continues to graciously invite each one of us to repent and believe and come into His marvelous light to receive new life. Even though He doesn’t have to! Nothing is twisting God’s arm to extend us grace and forgiveness. Nothing is obligating Him to even give us another beautiful sunrise, or a delicious meal.

He would be perfectly just if He decided to send us all away packing - which is the very definition of hell - separation from God. 

God is committed to saving a people for Himself, despite the people! Just as God said to Isaiah, “I was found by those who did not seek me; I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me.” But how does God save a sinner who loves their sin more than anything else, including Him? A sinner who’s not seeking Him or desiring Him? 

The Miracle of Effectual Grace

"It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe. (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father." - John 6:63-65

How does God save a sinner, born into sin and born of the flesh, who loves their sin more than anything else, and who by nature, hates the light of God that has been sent into the world?

He causes them to be born again!

1 Peter 1:3: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead...” 

This is critical. Because remember Jesus’ words to Nicodemus in John chapter 3?

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” and “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” - John 3:3-6

This shines some light on why Jesus is so adamantly emphasizing that, v. 63 “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all." The theological term used to describe this miraculous process is called “regeneration,” which means to be re-generated, renewed, reborn. 

Titus 3:3-6 explains, “For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and lovingkindness of our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.” 

What does this mean? It means that there’s a world of people out there who love their sin more than they love God. And even though, according to Romans 1, they know deep down that God exists, they even see glimpses of God throughout creation, and even though the genuine invitation of Jesus Christ has gone out into the world, inviting everyone to repent and receive new life, they continually choose to suppress the truth of the gospel, because they love the darkness more than the light. Sin tastes too good to pass up. And we know this pull to sin all to well. Because each one of us Christians was a slave to sin, just like the world. 

Ephesians 2 says,  “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved... this is not of your own doing; it is the gift of God.” 

I don’t believe Jesus is being two-faced when He says this. I don’t believe that He has half-heartedly invited all people to belief, while the Father is secretly keeping some out. Because I believe Scripture is clear about what we’ve just explored...It’s not so much that slaves to sin can’t come to Jesus, it’s that they won’t. The invitation is real and able-to-be-received because Jesus says so. But generation-after-generation, those who are born of the flesh, continue to love the darkness more than the light. Until the Father’s Miraculous Effectual Grace overwhelms their hearts and they are born again. 

Though the serious problem of sin has rendered humans resolutely unwilling to come to Jesus on our own. No one is too far gone for Amazing Grace to break through and overwhelm their heart. If God broke in and saved you and I, He can certainly do it again. 

True Believers should be confident and should rest assured that they are saved forever. We will abide because He will abide with us. Even on the days when we are faithless, He remains faithful. Jesus is not going to lose you

John 6:39 “This is the will of Him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that He has given me.”

Believers should be filled with gratitude and worship because of what God has done in them.