87. Actually…like never before.

We have talked about new things before. New as in new of something that existed before like a new pencil or new shoes and new as in completely unique coming into existence for the first time. God is in the business of new things. Create is the powerful verb accompanying anything new. God is creator; He makes new, also new people. He takes the most vile and evil mess and restores it to a beautiful, new creation with a unique place in this world.

I am always overawed at the thought of a new beginning. How does this world need it! How many times do we see a life going horribly wrong, when superficial ideas of pleasure and success cause fundamentally wrong decisions. In the darkness of the consequences of transgression a cry for help echoes through the universe and the God of new beginnings steps in.

This glorious Creator-God became a person to live in the dust of this earth to heal and restore His own. John says it this way:

 1:14 So the Word of God became a person, and took up his abode in our being, full of grace and truth; and we looked with our own eyes upon his glory, glory like the glory which an only son receives from a father.

This statement is the core of this whole Fourth Gospel:

“This word which created the world, this reason which controls the order of the world, has become a person and with our own eyes we saw him.”  In other words, we saw God with actual physical sight.

This is where John parted with all thought which had gone before him. This was the entirely new thing, which John brought to the Greek world for which he was writing. Augustine afterwards said that in his pre-Christian days he had read and studied the great pagan philosophers and had read many things, but he had never read that the word became flesh.

To the Greeks this was impossible – a god could never become a man. The world and the physical were so corrupted; God could not even come close.

 John states a shockingly new thing: that God could and would become a human person; that God could enter into this life that we live; that eternity could appear in time; that somehow the Creator could appear in creation in such a way that men’s eyes could actually see him. Paul uses the word FLESH again and again to describe human nature in all its weakness and in all its liability to sin. The very thought of taking this word and applying it to God, was something astonishing.

Some said Jesus was a phantom, not really a man experiencing cold and hunger. So strong was this notion that it became a sect. John deals with them in his first epistle.

In Jesus we see God living life, as he would have lived it if he had been a man. If nothing else were said about Jesus we could still say that he shows us how God would live this life that we have to live.

John states it in classic Hebrew style: the concept is repeated slightly different for impact and emphasis.

It is said that this is the greatest single verse in the New Testament. It contains the most important words of the Gospel: Grace and Truth.

GRACE:

 

  • is defined as completely undeserved, something that we could never have earned or achieved for ourselves, an act of pure love on the part of God, helpless poverty of man and the limitless kindness of God. It is in essence the unmerited favour of God to us.
  • also means beauty. In modern Greek the same word means charm. In Jesus we see the sheer loveliness of God.

Grace explains God reaching out to man. Grace does not ask reciprocation. Grace acts willingly and one-sidedly.

Just in the following verses John expands this concept of unending grace. John 1:15 talks about grace for grace or grace upon grace to indicate one wonder leading to another. There is always greater, more and lovelier available. Great music, art and poetry have no end. God is infinitely more than everything we know and the longer we live, the more we discover about Him. He is limitless wonder.

He supplies all the grace you might need in days of adversity and days of ease. Grace is dynamic and always sufficient, able to deal with everything. God is the lover of the souls of men. Maybe it was not so clearly experienced in the Law, but now, in Jesus there is no doubt.

 

TRUTH:

Lovers of wisdom (philosophers) have searched for Truth over many centuries. How can it be certain? To what could it be compared? How is it measured?

According to Wikipedia Truth is most often used to mean being in accord with fact or reality or fidelity to an original or standard. How does one determine the fact or reality and how does one establish the original or standard?

Jesus said: “I am the truth” (John 14:6). To see truth we must look at Jesus. He is accessible to every mind. Very few people can grasp abstract ideas; most people think in pictures. It is difficult to define beauty, but we can point to a beautiful person or object and say that is beauty. We can look at Jesus Christ and say: “That is what God is like.” We can look to Him and know what is true.

Jesus did not come to talk to men about God; he came to show men what God is like, so that the simplest mind might know him as intimately as the mind of the greatest philosopher.

Jesus communicates truth, because He knows the truth (John 8:31) He witnesses to the truth (John 18:37), because He is the original, the standard. Jesus shows us the right way and enables us to choose right. His Spirit is the Spirit of truth (John 14:17; 15:26; 16:13). The Holy Spirit helps us to not just read the Bible and know it is true, but to let the truth live within us.

It is the Truth that sets us free (John 8:32). To tell a child what he is really like, is to liberate him and to give him confidence. The enemy lies to us about ourselves and robs us of thinking right, in order to let fear establish our thoughts and determine our lives.

Truth can be resented. Jesus was killed for it (John 8:40).

 No man ever destroyed the truth by refusing to listen.

The truth can be disbelieved (John 8:45). Many people do not believe in Jesus because it seems too good to be true; or because they are so chained to their half-truths that they will not let them go. In many instances a half-truth is the worst enemy of the truth.

Truth is not something abstract; it must be done (John 3:21). It must be known with the mind, accepted with the heart, and acted out in the life.

To live the Jesus life by His grace is true living.

It is our new beginning, even after the brokenness of this world brought us tragedy and disaster.

 

 

 

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86. Homecoming discord.

The movies do it so well. It amazes me how film can express the awkward, emotional moments that portray the stress of discord in a relationship so vividly that I sit there with a knot in my stomach. A long lost brother coming home for a special occasion, either a funeral or a wedding, puts one on the edge of the seat, feeling the pain of uncertainty and wasted years.

We are children of God. Jesus is God’s son. He is our eldest brother through whom our world came into being. John writes of the grief of being made unwelcome in His great homecoming mission.

1:10-11 He was in the world, and, although the world came into being through him, the world did not recognize him. It was into his own home that he came, and his own people did not welcome him.

If men had only had the sense to see him, the Logos was always recognizable in the universe.

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse…   (Romans 1:20)

The world has been made to lead men to God. Creation and circumstances are so orchestrated to make men feel the void in their souls for the love that is calling out to them.

Theology has always made a distinction between natural theology and revealed theology. Revealed theology deals with the truth that comes directly from God through the prophets, the Bible, and through Jesus Christ. Natural theology deals with the truth that man could discover by the exercise of his own mind and intellect on the world in which he lives. How can we see God’s word, God’s reason, God’s mind (logos) in the world in which we live?

Revelation knowledge is the wonder of hearing our Saviour speaks through the written Word. It is the voice of conviction in our mind that directs our decisions and establishes our thoughts on the right path for our lives.

Commit your works to the Lord, and your thoughts will be established. (Proverbs 16:3)

For this, the greatest blessing on our earthly living, we study and pray.

We pray for insight into our world. We can only truly see when we see with Holy Spirit eyes. We look at the universe outwards. Basic Greek thought dictated that where there is order there must be a mind. The world has amazing order. The planets keep to their appointed courses. The tides observe their appointed times. Seed times and harvest, summer and winter, day and night come according to their appointed times (Genesis 11:22). Clearly there is order in nature, and, therefore, equally clearly there must be a mind behind it all. It is a superior mind, far beyond the mind of man.

We look at the universe upwards: Astronomers tell us that there are as many stars as there are grains of sand upon the seashore. Man can calculate precisely when and where an eclipse of the sun will happen hundreds of years from now, and to the second how long it will last. It has been said, “no astronomer can be an atheist.” When we look upwards we see God.

We look at our world inwards: Where did we get the power to think, to reason and to know? Where did we get our knowledge of right and of wrong? Where do remorse and regret and the sense of guilt come from? Why can we never do what we like and be at peace? No man can explain himself apart from God.

We look at our universe backwards: our whole of history is a demonstration of the moral law in action. Empires rise and collapse according to the pattern of moral degeneration.

Israel was specially God’s land and the Jews were specially God’s people. The Jewish nation is called God’s peculiar treasure (Exodus 19:5; Psalms 135:4). The door should have been wide open for Jesus, but he was rejected. The people were being prepared for a task over centuries and then they refused the task.

Today, so many people refuse the task God has for them. It is one of the reasons for discord in our lives.

What is God’s task for you now? Are you unhappy with your circumstances? Think carefully. God has a task for you. Are you refusing it?

The fact remains that God is preparing us by all the experiences of life for something; and many refuse the task when it comes and never even realize that they are refusing it.

1:12-13: To all those who did receive him, to those who believe in his   name, he gave the right to become the children of God. These were born not of blood, nor of any human impulse, nor of any man’s will, but their birth was of God.

A man is not naturally a child of God. He has to become a child of God. You could be in the classroom, even attending lectures, but it doesn’t make you a student. As one preacher said: sitting in a garage doesn’t make you a car, sitting in a church doesn’t make you a Christian.

Man can only enter into friendship with God when God himself opens the way. We accept the life God offers through believing in the name of Jesus Christ.

Life is tough and we often do not feel full of faith, victoriously conquering evil and pushing back the power of darkness. We need to constantly surrender our feeling of weakness and defeat. In Jesus we can never be defeated. We will triumph over the most destructive circumstances imaginable, when we fully rely on the promised strength of Jesus.

We are promised so much in the powerful name of Jesus. Jewish thought named a person to portray his nature.

And those who know Your name will put their trust in You;
For You, Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You. (Psalm 9:10).

We will put our trust in God because we know what he is like. We see in Jesus what God is like. We become children of God by what Jesus is and that opens up the possibility of becoming children of God. Maybe it is good that you feel weak and not able to do anything by yourself…go ahead – ask.

 

85. Word, Light, World, Darkness.

We have said it already. It is written in the volumes of history. His words stand firm and unchallenged.

Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying,

“I am the light of the world.

He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

Many people have come and gone, claiming to be God, to be the Messiah, to bring salvation, healing, meaning to life and other benefits. Just Google the list of Messiah-claimants in Judaism, Christianity and Islam – it is long and tiresome. None of those names have endured even a fraction of the time that the name of Jesus has.

No-one in the history of all mankind has ever said: I am the light of the world.

The word light occurs in the Fourth Gospel no fewer than twenty-one times. Jesus is the light of men. The calling of John the Baptist was to point men to that light which was in Christ. Twice Jesus calls himself the light of the world (John 8:12, John 9:5).

This light can be in men (John 11:10), so that they can become children of the light (John 12:36), “I have come,” said Jesus, “as light into the world” (John 12:46).

  • Jesus brings the light, which puts chaos to flight. He is the one person who can save life from becoming chaos.
  • Jesus brings light, which shows things as they are. It strips away the disguises and concealments. It shows people and circumstances in their true character and values. It is light that reveals truth.
  • Jesus brings guiding light – a light that brings certainty and confidence. Doubt and confusion flee when He is crowned the King of your life.

Darkness in the world is as real as the light (John 1:5).

The unconquerable light will in the end defeat the hostile dark. John is saying: “Choose your side in the eternal conflict and choose right.”

It is men whose deeds are evil who fear the light (John 3:19-20). The man who has something to hide loves darkness. Darkness is used symbolically. It also indicates blindness. Jesus says: “I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness” (John 8:12).

Without Jesus Christ a man cannot find or see direction for his life.

“Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came, while it was still dark, John writes in John 20:1. He describes the atmosphere before the news of the resurrection as dark to contrast the magnificence of life.

He tells how Judas dipped his hand in the bowl with Jesus and then went out to do his dark work.  Having received the piece of bread, he then went out immediately. And it was night. (John 13:30).

Although men through all the ages did all they could to obscure and extinguish the light of God in Christ, they could not quench it. In every generation the light of Christ still shines in spite of the efforts of men to extinguish the flame.

Darkness will never win. Darkness might be symbolical, but you cannot hide from God. God is also in the darkness. Wherever you may find yourself and may feel it is too dark, too evil, too far away from light – God is there to hear you cry.

 So the people stood afar off, but Moses drew near the thick darkness where God was. (Exodus 20:21)

Within the first five verses of this Gospel we see a culmination of every philosophy, every concept of deity, every confusion of thought as well as logical thought plus all the Roman, Greek, Persian and Egyptian models of gods and their functioning. John states the boldest statement in all of history – Jesus is the One everything points to and the answer to every possible question and argument ever.

John the Baptist was witness to the Light, just as we are witnesses, not the light itself. (John 1:6-8)

For 400 years the prophetic voice was silent until John the Baptist. It seems that certain people were so fascinated by John that they gave him a higher place than he ought to have had.

John denies that he is first and declares that he must decrease while Jesus increased (John 3:25-30). Jesus was more successful in his appeal to men than John was (John 4:1). The people said that John was not able to do the things that Jesus did (John 10:41).

This Gospel warns greatly against the following of a mere man, instead of following the risen Christ. The true prophet will always point to Jesus. He emphasizes that John the Baptist was only a witness.

We know Jesus is the Christ by various witnesses. There is the:

  • witness of Jesus himself. “I bear witness,” he said, “to myself” (John 8:18). “My testimony is true” (John 8:14).What Jesus was in himself was the best witness that his claims were true.

 

  • witness of his works. He said: “The works which the Father has granted me to accomplish … bear me witness” (John 5:36).

“Believe me for the sake of the works themselves” (John 14:11). One of the condemnations of men is that they have seen his works, and have not believed (John 15:24). No man could have done the mighty works that Jesus did unless he was closer to God than any other man ever was.

 

  • witness which the Scriptures bear to him. Jesus said: “Search the scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness to me” (John 5:39). “If you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me” (John 5:46). It is Philip’s conviction that he has found him of whom Moses and the law and the prophets wrote (John 1:45).

 

  • witness of the last of the prophets, John the Baptist. “He came for testimony to bear witness to the light” (John 1:7-8).

 

  • witness of those with whom Jesus came into contact. The woman of Samaria bore witness to the insight and to the power of Jesus (John 4:39). The man born blind bore witness to his healing power (John 9:25;John 9:38). The people who witnessed his miracles told of their awe at the things he did (John 12:17).

 

  • witness of the disciples and especially of the writer of the gospel himself it was Jesus’ commission to his disciples: “You also are witnesses, because you have been with me from the beginning” (John 15:27). And the Spirit is the witness, because the Spirit is the truth” (1 John 5:7). Spirit brought God’s truth to men, and the Spirit enabled men to recognize that truth when they saw it.

For us: God will always give us confirmation with a witness. Be aware of unconfirmed prophecy. God will show you. His path is not darkness and uncertainty.

“One witness shall not rise against a man concerning any iniquity or any sin that he commits; by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established. (Deuteronomy 19:15)

1:9 That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.

There are two Greek words for true: alethes and alethinos. The first one means true as opposed to false and the second one means real as opposed to unreal. He uses the second as it is explained: answering to the perfect ideal, and as opposed to all more or less imperfect representations. [Ellicott].

John states his case like a lawyer so that there is no doubt who Jesus is.

There are partial lights and there are false lights; and men follow them. Jesus is the only genuine light, the real light to guide men on their way. Jesus is the dawn in a dark world.

Knowledge of Him could drive away the shadows of doubt. By His coming the people could know God; a mystery no more. When Jesus came men saw what God is like. The guessing was over. The light had come.

A new power came into life. It was the answer to despair. Jesus showed the right way and how to walk in it. The way was made clear. He made the impossible possible.

The darkness and terror of death was engulfed in His promise of life eternal. The ancient world feared death; it was torture by whatever gods there were. Jesus showed that death was only the way to a larger life.

The ancient world was exclusive. The Jew hated the Gentile and held that Gentiles were created for no other purpose than to be fuel for the fires of hell. The ancient prophet, Isaiah, saw that Israel’s destiny was to be a light to the Gentiles (Isaiah 42:6; Isaiah 49:6). The Romans feared Christianity because it robbed them of their exclusiveness.

Our world in confusion and strife has only one solution – to believe in Jesus and be united in love. Any other unity and peace are impossible.

Jesus as a man and His doctrine were unique and a welcome relief from the terrifying uncertainty of ancient gods and the search for knowledge of the mysteries of life.

Where is He today? He is the guiding light, the only source of peace and truth. He is real life. He is victory over the darkness.

By grace and the cross – He is mine! Have you made the step into life – true Life?

 

 

 

84. There is a man.

St Augustine said in everything he ever knew about the world, everything he read and regarded as worth studying, he had never heard of a word becoming a man. It is exactly what John conveys in the first chapter of his Gospel. The mind of God is spoken into life with a body.

It is John’s great thought that Jesus is none other than God’s creative, life-giving and light-giving word. Jesus is the power of God, which created the world and the reason of God, which sustains the world. It is God Himself coming to earth in human and bodily form. John was thinking of what is known as the pre-existence of Christ. (John 1:1-2)

If the word was with God before time began, if God’s word is part of the eternal scheme of things, it means that God was always like Jesus. We think differently of the God of the Old Testament than of Jesus and His loving ministry on earth. We might even think Jesus changed God’s anger into love and altered his attitude to men. The New Testament knows nothing of that idea. The whole New Testament tells us, that God has always been like Jesus.

What Jesus did was to open a window in time that we might see the eternal and unchanging love of God.

What then of the cruel and violent passages of the Old Testament?  It is not God who has changed; it is men’s knowledge of Him that has changed. The prophets wrote of an avenging, angry God when they saw the cruel consequences of sin and the devastating effect of godlessness, because they did not know any better. Their knowledge of God was imperfect. Jesus came to perfect our knowledge of God.

It is told that a little girl was once confronted with some of the more bloodthirsty and savage parts of the Old Testament. Her comment was: “But that happened before God became a Christian!”

Jesus shows that God was always a Christian!

In the time of John there was a kind of heresy called Gnosticism. They held that in the beginning two things existed – God and matter. Matter was the raw material out of which the world was made, flawed and imperfect.

God is pure spirit, and pure spirit can never touch matter; therefore Jesus could not have been God for God cannot be man, which is created out of matter and therefore imperfect.

In the time of John this kind of belief was widespread. Men believed that the world was evil and that an evil God had created it.

It is to expose this teaching that John here lays down two basic Christian truths. The connection of Jesus with creation is repeatedly laid down in the New Testament. In Colossians 1:16 Paul writes: “For in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth … all things were created through him and for him.” In 1 Corinthians 8:6 he writes of the Lord Jesus Christ “through whom are all things.” The writer to the Hebrews speaks of the one who was the Son, “through whom also God created the world” (Hebrews 1:2).

This is a confirmation of the foundation of Christianity.

  • Christianity believes God perfectly and lovingly created the world. What is wrong with the world is due to man’s sin.
  • Christianity believes this is God’s world. Far from being so detached from the world that He could have nothing to do with it, God is intimately involved in it. Even though sin has made the world evil and tries to thwart God’s original plan of love, we can never despise the world, because it belongs to God.

He sent Jesus as His light and life (John 1:4). The theme of the whole Gospel is light, life and love – in Latin: lux, vitas, caritas, words we often see in churches and on crests.

The Fourth Gospel begins and ends with life. At the very beginning we read that in Jesus was life and at the very end we read that John’s aim in writing the gospel was that men might “believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31).

It is Jesus’ regret that men will not come to Him that they might have life (John 5:40). In Jesus is life – abundantly (John 10:10). He gives life and therefore no one will perish because no one will snatch them out of his hand (John 10:28). Jesus is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6).

In the gospel the word “life” (zoe) occurs more than thirty-five times and the verb “to live” or “to have life” more than fifteen times.

Life is the opposite of destruction, condemnation and death.

Jesus is the bringer of this life; God is the giver of life.

The word to describe this life that God give is aionios – eternal life.

It is not simply life, which lasts forever – eternal life is that life which God lives. What Jesus offers is God’s own life. Eternal life is life, which reflects the power of the life of God himself. When Jesus came offering men eternal life, he was inviting them to enter into the very life of God.

 We enter into it by believing in Jesus Christ. The word to believe (pisteuein) occurs in the Fourth Gospel no fewer than seventy times. “He who believes in the Son has eternal life” (John 3:36). “He who believes”, says Jesus, “has eternal life” (John 6:47). It is God’s will that men should see the Son, and believe in Him, and have eternal life (John 5:24)

Believe means we must be convinced that Jesus is truly the Son of God and take Him at his word, to accept his commandments as absolutely binding and true.

This is true life. Outside God and Jesus, it is impossible to live and know the true meaning of the life intended at creation.

Submit and ask Jesus to bring life, just as if He is there with you in His body. He is Spirit and He will communicate with your spirit in the perfect love, the heart of God, that He came to earth to show us.