“In a commendable concern to do justice to the reality of the satanic order, and the seriousness of the Christian calling, we need to be alert to appearing to undermine Christ’s universal creative sovereignty and Easter victory. ‘Never forget’, as Luther said, ‘the devil is God’s devil.’ All authority in heaven and earth now belongs to the crucified and risen one (Mt. 28: 18), in vindication of his primeval creative mastery. The full demonstration of his rule awaits his appearing, but its reality is already proclaimed in both creation and redemption.”
– Bruce Milne, from The Message of John
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” – John 10:10 (ESV)
As I go further down the road as a Christian, I find that I cling more & more to the Gospel of John. I think it gives the clearest picture in the Bible of who Jesus was and why He came. I’m about halfway through John in my Bible reading plan and read through John 10 yesterday. Verse 10 of course is very familiar to all Christians. Sometimes a verse gets you and sometimes it’s just a word. Here it’s ‘abundantly’.
I just finished reading a little book by Matt Redmond called The God of the Mundane. I wouldn’t characterize it simply as an answer to the ‘radical’ type books that have come out in recent years. However, it does offer a counter-perspective for those of us who find themselves in everyday America with normal jobs, daily childcare responsibilities, unending household chores, and the like. Redmond asks, “In the economy of God, do only the times when we are doing something life-changing have any spiritual cache with Him?” I wonder that myself sometimes. I see tweets and blog posts about saints who are doing work in “hard soil” as one of my pastors once called it and often feel small by comparison. Some days the agenda is just reading my Bible, getting out the door, working a full day, coming home to spend time with my wife and son, and then it’s bedtime. Those days kind of run together. I wonder in light of reading Redmond’s book, and spending some time on John 10:10, if Jesus had this in mind when he talked about abundance. God calls us to be faithful right where we are, I really believe that. And just as sure, sometimes He calls us out of where we are and to other areas where He feels we can best serve. Sometimes though I wonder if Jesus sees an ‘abundance’ in my life. Are others living on a higher plane as Christians? Is there such a thing?
There is a bit of rambling here, as there is in most of my posts. If you have read this far, what do you think? When Jesus says, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly,” what does He mean? What does this look like in your own life?
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“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.” – John 14:1 (ESV)
Next time you’re flipping through the newspaper or a magazine, take a look at how many “claims” you find in them. We see all kinds of claims each day from all sorts of products, devices, and even people – “reduces the risk of …by 50 percent”, “will increase your earning power by 75%”, and on and on. Many of these claims are worth investigating, as they may help us make sound health decisions or lead us in investing wisely for ourselves and our families. Even so, we spend an awful lot of time focusing on these claims and the impact they will have on our lives.
This week I was listening to a sermon from Tim Keller that was titled “Who Is This Jesus ?”. Dr. Keller took these examples a step further and asked his audience what they would do if they received a letter stating that they were entitled to a large inheritance ? Or on the other hand, what would they do if they received a stern letter from the I.R.S. claiming they now owed $400,000 in back taxes ? Regardless of how improbable you feel each of these letters might be, wouldn’t you at least investigate them ? Wouldn’t you at least make a phone call to find out instead of outright ignoring them ?
In the Gospel of John, Jesus makes some tremendous and monumental claims to those around Him:
- “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” – John 8:12
- “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” – John 8:58
- “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” – John 10:11
- “I and the Father are one.” – John 10:30
And of course, many others…
I think what Dr. Keller was getting at is that people will investigate all sorts of claims that may affect their lives – some worthwhile, some not – but Jesus makes claims that bear the greatest possible impact of all. And yet many spend no time at all looking into them. Many feel no need to, many simply don’t feel they have the time. But when you consider “the magnitude of the claim”, as Dr. Keller says, that Jesus brings, you really need to put everything else on hold and find out if He is really who He claims to be !
In the short time I’ve been a Christian, I’ve had the opportunity to speak with family members about Jesus and have tried to answer questions they have had. But after a while, I realize that the best thing to do is just keep pointing them to Jesus Himself. “Don’t take my word for it,” I tell them. “Read the Gospels for yourself and see.” I feel that anyone who comes to God and is a true seeker can count on God revealing Himself, if they are sincere about it. I also feel a bit of sadness and frustration about it, knowing that family and friends will investigate and pursue other claims that they are bombarded with each day, and not devote the same time to studying the claims of Jesus Himself.
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
The magnitude of the claim of Jesus – is there really anything else that compares ?
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Tagged Bible, Christianity, esv, faith, God, gospel, gospel of john, Holy Bible, Jesus, religion, scripture
“When many of his disciples heard it, they said, ‘This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?'” – John 6:60 (ESV)
John chapter 6 gives us one of the great “I am” statements of Jesus in this gospel – “I am the bread of life” (v. 35). It is during this section that the disciples are listening to Jesus describe what that all means. Many are troubled by what He is saying here and realize that being a disciple of Jesus demands a lot more from them then they perhaps had bargained for. Jesus gave His disciples another discourse on this in Luke’s gospel – “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?” (14:28). We start to see some disciples drift away at this point in John’s gospel – in verse 66, John tells us, “After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.” I think there is a tendency (on my part anyway) to look at these wayward disciples as cowardly at this point. I feel myself judging them and wondering how they could wander away and do such a thing.
But doesn’t this happen in more subtle ways in our own lives ? In Luke 6, Jesus gives us a string of commands that we don’t often find easy to swallow. What if we don’t get the proper thanks for a job well done or feel slighted by a friend’s lack of generosity ? Jesus tells us in Luke 6:35 to “lend, expecting nothing in return”. And as hard as it can be for us to believe at times, not everyone likes us 🙂 Isn’t easier just to write those folks off and focus more on our own personal fan clubs ? “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” (Luke 6:27-28). At some point, the whole counsel of God becomes something less than what it should be. The easier commands ? Sure, we can follow those, no problem. But these statements in Luke 6 ? After letting these sink in for a while, we can hear the voice inside our head saying the very same words we heard from the disciples – “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it ?”
The wayward disciples in John 6 probably would have sympathized with Thomas Jefferson – the President once created a Bible of his own that was a cut-and-paste from the Gospels, to one that was more suitable to his liking. We need to be careful we don’t do the same. The hard sayings, the “easy” sayings – all of these are commands from our Lord.
We’d do well to listen closely.
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Tagged Bible, Christianity, faith, God, gospel, gospel of john, Holy Bible, Jesus, religion, scripture