Encouragement

John: A Book of Conversations

Posted on Sep 24, 2015 in Encouragement | 3 comments

The Gospel of John is a book of conversations. When we think of Jesus’s earthly ministry, we may immediately think of the signs that He performed. But John’s record is focused more on what Jesus said than on what He did. After all, John begins his Gospel by telling us that the Lord is the Word (1:1). The eternal God, the creator of the universe, was incarnated to be a man in the flesh (1:14). What would He do as a man? He talked to people! Some people initiated conversations with Him (4:46-47); others Jesus sought out (5:6; 9:35). He spoke to people one on one (3:1-2; 4:7); He spoke to crowds (6:24-25). Sometimes He conversed privately (3:1-2); other times He taught or cried out in the temple (7:37; 8:2). And if you take a look at His miraculous deeds, you’ll see that nearly all of them were accomplished simply by…speaking (4:50; 5:8; 11:43)! Why is this important? These days, we hang on the words of the famous. People follow breathlessly when their favorite singer or athlete tweets their thoughts on the news of the day. Such trivialities pale in comparison to the record John left—a record of the words spoken by God Himself! Not only so, the Gospel of John shows us that it matters how we respond to God’s word. Some heard Jesus’ words and believed (4:42; 4:50; 6:69; 9:38); others heard His words and sought to kill Him (5:16-18; 8:37; 10:31). Some responded by speaking good news to others (4:28-29), and some shrank from speaking for fear of persecution (12:42-43). How can we  respond to God’s word? Let’s look at a few ways we can respond to the Lord’s speaking, as seen in the Gospel of John. When you come to the Bible, have an attitude of coming to the Lord. Jesus told the leaders among the Jews—devout men, ones familiar with the Scriptures—that there was a problem with their Bible reading. “You search the scriptures,” He told them, “because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness to me; yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life” (5:39-40). Our coming to the Word should be our coming to the Lord. He is the Word! Believe the Lord’s word. We should mix the Lord’s word with our faith; then it will benefit us (4:41-42; 4:50; Heb. 4:2). Interact with the Lord Himself, even if what you are reading is hard to receive. Many who heard the Jesus’s speaking in John 6 were stumbled, saying “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” (v. 60). Many stopped following Him that day (v. 66). When Jesus asked the twelve disciples if they also wanted to go away, Peter replied, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (v. 68). It is doubtful that Peter understood the Lord’s speaking at that time, but he knew he needed to stick with Jesus! Pass on the good news! When she realized that Jesus was the Christ, the Samaritan woman in John chapter 4 left her water jar at the well and went into the city to spread the news. Her testimony was, “Come, see a man who told me all that I have done. Is this not the Christ?” (4:29). Initially the townspeople came to Jesus because of the woman’s testimony; after two more days, they told her: “It is no longer because of your speaking that we believe, for we ourselves have heard and know that this One is truly the...

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Changing Death into Life

Posted on Sep 10, 2015 in Encouragement | 1 comment

At the beginning of John chapter 2, Jesus attends a wedding with His mother and His disciples. During the celebration, the wine runs out, and Mary calls on Jesus to do something about it. He instructs the servants to fill six stone jars with water, and when they draw some of the water out, it has miraculously changed into wine. Perhaps you’re familiar with this story. But have you ever noticed that the only witnesses of this miracle were the servants and the twelve disciples? Neither the master of the feast nor the bridegroom had any idea where the new and better wine had come from. Another curious thing is that none of the other gospels records this incident. Why does John include it in his gospel? It’s not just a miracle, it’s a sign. If you read John 2:11 in the King James Version, you’ll see, “This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee….” In the Greek, however, as you’ll find in many other translations, the word is not miracles, but signs. That’s not to say that changing water into wine isn’t a miracle; it most certainly is. The point is that a sign has further meaning; it has significance beyond what appears on the surface. As an illustration, consider an April evening in 1775, when two lanterns appeared in a window of the Old North Church in Boston. They were not merely lights; they were a sign (“One if by land, two if by sea…”) warning colonial militiamen that British troops were heading toward them in boats. Having spent more than three years with Jesus, John had no shortage of anecdotes to relate. John wrote, “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name” (20:30-31; emphasis added). According to these verses, not only was John selective in what he wrote, he deliberately chose signs that served his purpose in writing—that we would believe that Jesus is the Christ and consequently receive Him as the eternal life. It doesn’t matter that only a few people knew about it or that it isn’t recorded in the other gospels. John selected it because it’s a sign that illustrates an important principle. If it’s a sign, what does it mean? The changing of the water into wine signifies the changing of death into life. Since this is “the first of his signs” (John 2:11), it sets the principle for everything that follows. Jesus (who as we saw in the previous post, is life) is the One who changes death into life! Let’s reconsider John 2:1-11 as a sign, an allegory (with thanks to the footnotes in the New Testament Recovery Version): The wedding was on “the third day” (v. 1). The third day is the day of resurrection! (See Matthew 16:21; Acts 10:40; and 1 Corinthians 15:4.) A wedding feast “signifies the pleasure and enjoyment of human life”; wine is a symbol for life. That the wine “gave out” (v. 3) shows that human life runs out. The six stone jars (v. 6) represent man, who was created on the sixth day. The water that filled the jars (v. 7) signifies death (as it also does in Genesis 1:2, Exodus 14:21, and other places). Thus, when John recorded the sign of turning water (death) into wine (life) as the first of the signs performed by Jesus, he was setting the principle by...

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John: The Gospel of Life

Posted on Sep 2, 2015 in Encouragement | 0 comments

Most Christians and even many unbelievers are aware that the four Gospels at the beginning of the New Testament are biographical sketches of the life of Jesus Christ. These four books—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—have a fundamental similarity; they are all concerned with the life story of the same man. But why tell the same story four times? Each of the Gospels presents Jesus Christ in a particular way: Matthew, which repeatedly mentions “the kingdom of the heavens” (thirty-two times, to be exact), reveals that Jesus is the King, the One anointed by God to bring the kingdom of the heavens to the earth. Accordingly, Matthew opens with a detailed genealogical record (Matt. 1:1-17) that traces Christ’s lineage from the kingly line of David. Mark’s record shows us that Jesus came as a slave to serve fallen man (Mark 10:45); hence, Mark’s gospel has no genealogy, since the heritage of a slave is unimportant. Luke, seeking to show us that Jesus is a genuine and perfect man, highlights His human virtues and presents His ancestry all the way back to Adam, the first man (Luke 3:23-38). John demonstrates that Jesus is the Son of God, even God Himself, becoming a man in the flesh so that man may receive the life of God (John 1:1, 12-14). Since we are beginning the semester by reading the Gospel of John, let’s consider John’s emphasis in more detail. The Word, who is God, became flesh in the person of Jesus Christ. John 1:1 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:14 says, “And the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us.” Jesus embodied the life of God. John 1:4 says, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” The Greek word for life in this verse is zoe, which indicates not the physical human life (in Greek, bios) or the life of the soul (in Greek, psuche), but the eternal, divine life. Jesus Himself is life. Not only was there life in Jesus as the incarnated God; He Himself is life. In John 11:25 Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life,” and in John 14:6 He said, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” Jesus came that we may have the life of God. Jesus is the divine life, but even more, He was incarnated that we might have this life as well. In John 10:10 He said, “I have come that they may have life [zoe] and may have it abundantly.” The Gospel of John reveals Christ’s death as a life-releasing death. Christ shed His blood for us on the cross that we might be redeemed by God and forgiven of our sins. However, the Gospel of John is unique in showing us not only the redemptive aspect of Christ’s death, but also its life-imparting aspect. In John 12:24 Jesus spoke of His death in a way that makes no reference to sin; rather, it is an analogy that concerns the imparting of the divine life into man. Jesus said, “Unless the grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it abides alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” Here He compared Himself to a seed; if a seed is never planted (that is, never “falls into the ground and dies”) it remains a single seed. However, if it is planted in death, it will bring forth many grains in resurrection (“if it dies, it bears much fruit”). In the account of Christ’s death on the cross,...

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Five Reasons to Read the Bible

Posted on Aug 23, 2015 in Encouragement | 1 comment

These aren’t the only reasons to read the Bible—there are many more. And the order is not particularly important, because the reason that stands out most to you may depend on your personal background and circumstances. But, here they are. We hope you’ll be encouraged to start reading! 1. For education: College is all about getting an education, right? The Bible is unquestionably the most influential book in the history of mankind (or, for the sake of avoiding argument—one of the most influential books…). For this reason alone, it follows that an educated person ought to have read the Bible. Certainly a Christian entering into adulthood would do well to read his faith’s foundational book. If for nothing else, read the King James Version for the monumental literary achievement that it is. 2. For guidance: As we struggle to make our way in the world, considering this or that major, internship, career path, relationship…at some point we all could use some good advice. Psalm 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet / And a light to my path.” Verse 130 says, “The entrance of Your words gives light; / It gives understanding to the simple.” If the way before you seems dark and you’re groping to find your way, follow the lead of generations of believers and turn to the Word of God to direct you. 3. For preservation: Does anyone running a race want to fall? College life is free from direct parental observation and replete with temptations. According to Jude 24, God is “able to guard you from stumbling.” One of the ways He guards us is through His Word. When we absorb God’s speaking in the Bible, it becomes a safeguard to us. Psalm 119:105 says, “Your word I have hidden in my heart, / That I might not sin against You.” 4. For faith: If you haven’t yet heard a professor or classmate challenge the existence of God or question whether Christianity should have a place in 21st century society…get ready. You will be challenged. How will you respond? Will your faith be shaken or, worse yet, lost? Romans 10:17 tells us that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” When we are under “the hearing of faith” (Gal. 3:2, 5) by reading the Bible, our faith is strengthened, enabling us to stand. 5. For spiritual food: What kind of Christian testimony do you want to leave behind when you graduate? That of a sickly, beleaguered believer who barely made it, or the healthy, shining testimony of one who is a light to the world (Phil. 2:15)? If you tried to pass through college without eating physically, your death would be the inevitable result. While we have no problem receiving our growling stomach’s message that we need to eat on a daily basis, we may not recognize the hunger pangs in our spiritual life. A Christian’s food, the Bible makes clear, is the Word of God. The prophet Jeremiah wrote, “Your words were found, and I ate them, / And Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart” (Jer. 15:16). And the apostle Peter wrote to those who are young in the Lord, “As newborn babes, long for the guileless milk of the word in order that by it you may grow unto salvation, if you have tasted that the Lord is good” (1 Pet. 2:2-3). So, don’t be a starving Christian; read the...

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What a deal!

Posted on Dec 3, 2013 in Encouragement | 0 comments

How’s this for a Cyber Monday Deal? –  Justification: FREE! (Romans 3:24) – Righteousness: FREE! (Romans 5:17) – Grace: FREE! (Ephesians 2:8) – Water of Life: FREE! (Revelation 21:6) Something that I have been enjoying is that God wants to be everything to us. The Bible reveals our God as the great “I Am” meaning that everything we need, He is.  If we are hungry, He is our food. If we are weak, He is our power. If we are distressed, He is our peace. In the past couple of weeks in our home gatherings we have been enjoying the verse “Come, for all things are now ready” (Luke 14:17). God puts no requirement upon us that we need to struggle or strive through our own efforts to receive Him. The Lord has already prepared everything for us. All we have to do is come to...

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Choosing God

Posted on Sep 16, 2013 in Encouragement | 0 comments

Just wanted to share a song that I enjoyed at our Friday night home gathering: “Dearest Lord, I come; This is now my prayer, Keep me open to You, May I always love You. Lord, I love You more today, So much more than yesterday; Lord, I need You, Lord, I love You. Now that the choice is mine, Lord, I still choose You; Though the paths be not marked, I’m still trusting in You.” There’s more to the song but I really appreciated what a brother at the gathering shared about verse number 2. “Now that the choice is mine, Lord, I still choose You.” As college students we now have so much freedom and we can make a lot of our own choices. But this verse touched me because I have a choice to make: is God going to be the God of my parents or is God going to be my God? We are free to do anything we want, we are free to make our own choices, and for me, my choice is to choose God. During my college years as I am getting an education, my choice is not for myself but for God. Source:...

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