Breakfast on the Beach (John 21:12-19)

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“Come and have breakfast,” Jesus said. Isn’t that a friendly, homely invitation?

Jesus’ disciples were completely bewildered, after his death, his resurrection and his appearances since then. So they went back to what they knew best – they went fishing. And then Jesus appeared to them, on the beach. He gave them a miraculously enormous catch of fish, but that was not really his point that morning. No, his real purpose was to have breakfast with his disciples, and to set them back on course.

And do you notice? Jesus didn’t need to wait for the disciples to land their fish before he could make breakfast. No, by the time they got to shore, he already had the fire going, he had provided some other fish, and bread to go with it. “Come and have breakfast,” he said.

So, they all had breakfast on the beach together. (Fish-finger sandwiches, as Tim put it on Sunday.) And I’m sure Jesus said quite a bit to them while they ate. But in his gospel, John focuses mainly on a specific conversation with Peter. Three times Jesus asked Peter, “do you love me?” And three times Peter was able to say, “I love you, Lord.” And just like Paul wrote in his post last week, there is a poetic match between the three times that Peter had denied Jesus a few days before, and the three opportunities to say he loved Jesus now.

But what Jesus really wants to do is to empower Peter and the other disciples to keep on going, to keep on following Jesus. “Feed my lambs”, “Tend my sheep,” “Feed my sheep,” Jesus said to Peter. Or in other words – don’t worry about fishing any more, that was your old life. I’ve called you to a new life, a new purpose. Jesus wanted Peter and the others to go and make disciples of all nations (as recorded in the other gospels, although not by John.)

This breakfast on the beach is a mirror of the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, when he first called Peter, James, John and the others. Back then, his call was simple: “Follow me,” he said (see John 1:43). Now it is just the same: “Follow me,” he says (John 21:19, and 21:22). At the start of his ministry, Jesus asked them to leave their fishing nets to become his disciples, and now he says the same again. Think about it – he’s just given them a miraculously large catch of fish, and now he’s saying, “Come on guys, you don’t need these fish. I’ll provide all you need and more. Follow me.”

And two thousands years later, that’s Jesus’ call to us too. “Follow me,” he says to each one of us. That is the core theme of the whole of John’s gospel, and that’s why we picked the words ‘Follow Jesus’ for this whole teaching series. So think back over the past three months – the sermons, the blog posts, discussions at Life Group, your notes, the text of the gospel itself. What has Jesus been saying to you? How does he want you to respond? Where does he want you to follow him?

As we come to the end of our series on the gospel of John, let us all pay heed to Jesus’ call to follow. This is the first and the last thing that John records Jesus saying.

Today, tomorrow and onwards, let’s follow Jesus!

Peter's Denial (John 18:15-18)

One of the good things about reading the Bible is that although there are a few paragons of virtue, most of the heroes make mistakes. For many of them, fear and self-preservation is what causes them to come a cropper. In the Old Testament Abraham pretended his wife was his sister for fear of Pharaoh and Moses fled Egypt after killing the slave driver for fear of what would happen to him.

Peter falls into this trap several times: he shows great bravado and then when things get tough, he buckles. The first example is when he tells Jesus that he will walk on the water. He climbs out of the boat, but suddenly the realisation hits him and faith turns to fear and he panics. At the ‘Last Supper,’ Peter confidently says that he is willing to die for Jesus. yet within a few hours he is denying he even knows Jesus. What made the difference? At supper Peter was in a safe environment, surrounded by friends and death seemed a long way away. But sitting in the courtyard by the fire, Peter was surrounded by strangers and death seemed a real possibility.

How often do we come to church full of faith, convinced of God’s power, goodness and faithfulness and yet later completely fail to exercise His power or trust in His faithfulness? Are there any of us who can, hand on heart, say that if we were in Peter’s situation we wouldn’t think of ourselves or our family and act like Peter did? Can any of us say that they when we speak to someone in difficulty or with an illness we always tell the person that they need Jesus, or pray with faith then and there for healing?

Peter definitely let Jesus down – as we all do.  A few weeks ago, I blogged about Judas and how he let Jesus down on the very same night. However the story of Judas and the story of Peter had very different outcomes, due at least in part to the different ways that Peter and Judas dealt with their guilt. Judas was consumed by what he had done and turned in on himself and committed suicide, no doubt believing that there was no hope of forgiveness. Peter went back to what he knew, but as soon as soon as he saw Jesus he ran to him. He did not know what response he would receive but his love for Jesus and longing for relationship with Him was greater than his guilt. Jesus’ response is wonderful, poetically: as Peter had three chances to confess his relationship to Jesus and failed to do so, Jesus gives him another three chances. Jesus also makes clear, in his responses to Peter’s confessions, that he is not just forgiving but also restoring responsibility.

Peter went on to preach to thousands at Pentecost and stand fearlessly before the Sanhedrin and eventually, we understand, to receive the martyrs death he had told Jesus he was willing to have. Peter was not perfect – we know for instance that Paul rebuked him for changing his behaviour because he was afraid of the Judaisers – but I am sure that when he did mess up again, his response was to go back to Jesus and receive once more his amazing grace and commissioning to start again.

Knowing Jesus changes how we deal with failure. This week, when you react in fear and not faith, run back to Jesus and expect not just to be forgiven but recommissioned to go again and take responsibility for your part in bringing in His kingdom. 

Sorrow into Joy (John 16:16-24)

Joy is a word that gets sprung around the Church probably more than you hear in the secular world. In the secular world you would be more likely to hear the word “happiness”. Happiness is great, and it’s something we hopefully all feel at some point in our everyday lives. Sometimes it is more difficult to find happiness than other times, and that’s because happiness is fleeting and is dependent on so many external factors. The world often seems to be a place that can so easily take our happiness away from us; sometimes it can be a simple thing such as seeing a driver wrongly cut you up, or the dinner that we took so long preparing burn in the oven.  Happiness is delicate and fragile and can come and go in an instant.
 
When Christians talk of joy they are referring to something much more deeply rooted and permanent than happiness. In Christian vocabulary “happiness” is not a synonym for “joy”, because they are just not comparable. We see joy (or rejoice) used hundreds of times in the Bible, and none shows its true meaning more than in the book of Philippians. In Philippians, the Apostle Paul is writing in imprisonment from the Roman guard. This is probably not a happy occasion for him, but he still speaks of the joy rooted in him:

“…Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice” (Phil 1:18)
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” (Phil. 4:2)

Paul knew what real joy was. He knew that his eternity with God in heaven trumped any environment or earthly matter that he was facing, whether good or bad.  This joy, born out of your contentment in God, is truly a special gift from God.
 
In John 16:16-24 we see Jesus speaking with his disciples. Jesus is telling them about how he does not have much time left on the earth, and he will be departing from them. To the disciples this brought sorrow, weeping, and lamenting, but Jesus told them that this will be “turned into joy” as they (and we) will see Jesus again.
 
Jesus explains that the joy they feel will be like a woman after going through childbirth. She will be in agony during the process of delivering her child, but once that’s over, and the child is in her arms she no longer remembers her pain because the deep-rooted joy of her child fulfills her.
 
Like the disciples we will have occasions where we are sorrowful, where we can't help but cry, feel sad, or are without happiness, but joy reigns over that. Having joy in your heart means you face these obstacles and hurdles with a perspective of faith and trust in the Lord, that his ways are the right ways. We can triumph over sadness, by rejoicing in the Lord.
 
Joy is the second fruit of the Spirit as mentioned in Galatians, and is something that is therefore available to each and every one of us. So let’s pray and ask for more abundance of joy in our Church today!

 

He will give you the Spirit

Two weeks ago, on the Equip course, Bally talked about “who is God?” And this was the first thing that God brought to my mind when I sat down to look at the passage for this week’s blog post: John 14:15-21.

Here, in v16-17 we have the Trinity in action. Jesus says, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counsellor to be with you for ever – the Spirit of truth.” Here is God in action, Father, Son and Holy Spirit acting in unity. Each of them is fully God, but each of them gives us a different perspective on God.

We’ve called this series on the Gospel of John ‘Follow Jesus’. But that’s easier said than done, right? And Jesus’ disciples discovered this for themselves the very next day, just as he said, “where I am going, you cannot come.” (John 13:33) So that’s why Jesus promised the Holy Spirit as our Counsellor or our Helper. “I will not leave you as orphans,” he said, “I will come to you.” (John 14:18) There’s the Trinity again – Jesus uses the word ‘I’ to refer to the Holy Spirit, and when we have the Holy Spirit, we are no longer orphans, because we have a loving Father.

Now, too much of the church in Britain today is in danger of belittling the Holy Spirit. He may be called ‘Helper’ or ‘Counsellor,’ but he is so much more than that word implies on its own. Let’s look at what Jesus says about the Holy Spirit in this passage in John:

  • The Holy Spirit lives in you (14:17)
  • The Holy Spirit will teach you all things (14:26)
  • The Holy Spirit will testify (bear witness) about Jesus (15:26)
  • The Holy Sprit will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and justice (16:8)
  • The Holy Spirit will guide you into all truth (16:13)
  • The Holy Spirit will bring glory to Jesus (16:14)

That is so much more than just a ‘helper,’ isn’t it?  The Holy Spirit is the full power of God, living in us, teaching and empowering us to be a witness for Jesus, to convict the world of guilt and to bring glory to God. And in 1 Corinthians 12, Paul adds some more specifics. There is one Holy Spirit, he says, but many different kinds of gifts given by the same Spirit. The one Holy Spirit gives each of us gifts for the good of the whole body of the church.

Look at all these gifts that the Holy Spirit gives us for serving other people (1 Cor 12:8-10):

  • a word of wisdom
  • a word of knowledge
  • faith
  • a gift of healing
  • miraculous power
  • prophecy
  • distinguishing between spirits
  • speaking in different tongues
  • interpreting tongues

All of these are the work of one and the same Spirit (1 Cor 12:11). He gives them to each of us, just as he determines. And whatever gifts He has already given us, we should eagerly desire more. (1 Cor 12:31). 

So we can see that when Jesus promised the Holy Spirit in John 14, he was promising us a lot! So ask yourself: are you allowing and expecting the Spirit to empower your life? Are you open to Him to teach you and guide you into the truth? Are you letting him witness to Jesus through you? Are you actively practising the gifts that the Spirit has given you? Are you eagerly desiring more of the gifts?

As a practical application for this week, why not ask the Holy Spirit to empower you today? First, be bold - ask him for a word of wisdom or knowledge or prophecy, or a gift of healing or miraculous power. Then, be brave – use the gift He gives you to serve and bless someone else in church on Sunday, in your Life Group, at home, at work, or just someone He brings to your attention during the day. Don’t hold back for fear it will go wrong – God will surely bless you and them, if you step out in faith.

Eagerly desire the Holy Spirit, and let him bring glory to Jesus!

Betrayal (John 13:21-30)

Have you ever been betrayed? Have you ever had someone who you should have been able to trust do something that really hurt you? Has someone who should have protected you actually attacked you? Or has someone who you thought you could confide in betrayed a deep confidence? Have you yourself ever behaved in such a way?

One of the biggest regrets I have in my life is how I behaved towards a friend at secondary school. I went to a small primary school on the far edge of town and almost from day one I had been friends with Matthew. I remember in reception that someone had been scribbling on my work and the teacher had ignored it because my work was scruffy but Matthew was a star pupil so we swapped books and when Matthew’s work got scribbled on the teacher was furious. We stayed best friends all through primary school but by the time we went off to secondary school we had started to grow apart.

Because there were very few people from our primary school at the secondary school and Matthew and I were in the same class we stuck together. After a while however we found that we were often getting picked on and teased. Sadly rather than doing what I should have done and stuck up for Matthew I chose to turn on him and even told people secrets about him so that they would pick on him and not on me. Even now I feel a deep sense of shame about how I behaved. I have seen Matthew a few times since and there do not seem to be any hard feelings and he was seems happy with his lot in life.

We do not know for sure what Judas’ motivation was, although the gospels all emphasise Judas’ greed. I wonder what Judas was spending the money he stole on, as surely everyone would have noticed if he had better food or clothes than the others. Perhaps he was just building up a nest egg in case it didn’t work out with Jesus. Later commentators have suggested that Judas may have thought that Jesus was to bring in a worldly kingdom and he betrayed Jesus out of disillusionment or to try and provoke Jesus into taking action. Whatever his motivation Judas was one of Jesus closest friends and turned on Him. Judas clearly put his own needs or his own agenda ahead of Jesus’ and didn’t trust Jesus to meet his needs.

Jesus knew that Judas would betray Him before he chose him as one of his disciples and allowed him into his inner circle. Jesus spent years living and sharing His life with Judas, even putting him in a position of trust knowing that he would ultimately let Him down.  Jesus knew that Judas’ betrayal was inevitable and necessary, but this does not mean that it was any less painful for Him.

What is more, Jesus knew that people would continue to betray him down through history. Sometimes it is major church leaders who succumb to greed or lust or begin to believe that their God-given gifts are due to their own brilliance. Sometimes however we all have times when we run out of patience with God and decide that we or our wants and needs are more important than God. This week when you are tempted, take a second to remember Judas and how what he thought would make him happy would ultimately destroy him.

Truth or Lies? (John 8)

John 8 is a challenging chapter. It consists of a series of challenges from the Jews to Jesus, and his replies to them. They were asking ‘who are you?’, ‘where are you from?’, ‘why should we believe you?’ But these weren’t questions seeking understanding – no, they were questions to challenge him.

And Jesus’ answers are challenging too. He challenged the world-view of the Jews at the time, and he challenges our world-view today.

For me, the whole chapter revolves around Jesus’ statement in v31-32:

“If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Now the Jews objected to the idea that they weren’t free in the first place. “We’re not slaves,” they said. But Jesus says that “everyone who sins is a slave to sin.” (v34). And of course, ‘everyone who sins’ is in fact... everyone! But “if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (v36) And that’s the good news for us all.

But Jesus didn’t stop there. He wanted to challenge them (and us) some more. So he goes on to call them ‘children of the devil.’ Look at verse 44:

“You are of your father the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

Strong words indeed! Do they sound harsh to you? Does this fit with your image of Jesus? ‘Gentle Jesus, meek and mild’? Not in this case!

In this passage Jesus is challenging all of us about truth and lies. At least four times in John 8 alone, Jesus says ‘I tell you the truth.’ This is an important message for us today, because we live in an age of moral relativism. Moral relativism means the belief that there is no absolute truth, no absolute right or wrong, but instead truth is seen to be relative to the person or their circumstances. In other words, ‘what’s true for you may not be true for me.’ And if you start to believe that truth is relative, then there’s no such thing as a lie any more, is there?

This is the prevailing value of our culture today. Our government preaches ‘tolerance.’ But the word ‘tolerance’ has taken on a new meaning. It used to mean showing respect toward others whose opinions differ from yours; nowadays it means that you are not supposed to have any firm opinions of your own. If you believe in absolute truth, absolute right or wrong, society today labels you ‘intolerant.’ 

And this attitude affects the church too. According to studies by George Barna, only 22% of professing adult Christians today believe in moral absolutes, and in the next generation it’s even fewer - among Christian teenagers, only 6% believe in absolute truth.

So... what about you? Do believe the Bible offers absolute truth for today? Do you believe there are always clear distinctions between right and wrong? Or are there some circumstances where ‘it depends’?

This is the challenge from Jesus to us in John 8. Have we compromised with the relativism of our age? Take some time this week to examine your own attitudes and values. Are you willing to believe absolutely in the truth that Jesus stands for? Is there some area of your life where you need to stop compromising? Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. 

A Time for Everything (John 7:1-24)

There’s a good chance that a number of you reading this blog post now are reading it on an Apple iPad. Since its release in 2010 the iPad has made its way in to many people's homes, becoming a staple part of how people keep in contact, do business, read books, or play games. For those of you who don’t know what an iPad is, here’s a quote from Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple:

“What we want to do is we want to put an incredibly great computer in a book that you can carry around with you.”

Effectively that’s what an iPad is - a slate tablet computer that is incredibly mobile and functional. However, this quote from Steve was actually from 1983, nearly 30 years prior to the release of the iPad. And it wasn’t the iPad that Steve had in mind when giving this quote. Ten years later, in 1993, Apple released what Steve had dreamt about – The Newton MessagePad 100!!!

Now, I doubt any of you (except maybe the more geeky of you) will remember what the Newton MessagePad was, or what it looked like, and that’s because production of the machine was stopped just a few years later. At the event of the big unveiling for the Newton the Newton was shown to be a versatile piece of kit, as it was used to order a pizza by moving some topping icons on to a pie on the digital screen, which then sent out a fax to the pizza company. This was all show-stopping stuff, Pizza ordering from the palm of your hand was no laughing matter in the early 1990s, but the infrastructure just wasn’t there to support the machine. The Internet was very slow in that time – I’m sure we all remember the days of dial-up and having to wait 20 minutes to load a picture. Sadly, this meant that the MessagePad’s life was spent coughing and spluttering, as it couldn’t really get started – unlike the iPad, the world was not ready for the MessagePad; it was too ahead of it’s time.

At the beginning of John 7 we find Jesus’ brothers, James and John, propositioning Jesus to go to Judea where a feast was happening, to do some more miracles. The brothers asked Jesus to do this, not only for Jesus to make Himself known in Judea (a much greater place than the villages and hills he’d spent most of his time in so far), but also because they were still in a state of unbelief about who Jesus truly was. You see, they had known Jesus for 30 years, and he had kept His Godliness and deity under wraps until this point. Suddenly, after 30 years Jesus begins His ministry and unveils who he is by miracles amongst other things – his brothers are probably quite confused and bewildered! Jesus responds to their proposition, in verse 6, with a simple answer:

“My time has not fully come, but your time is always here. […] You go up to the feast. I am not going up to this feast, for my time has not fully come.”

The brothers were urging Jesus to go to Judea to “show off” his miraculous skills in front of as many people as possible. They were short sighted and therefore saw the present time as the opportune time for Jesus’ big unveiling to the world.  However, Jesus knew that the plan of the Father was for Him to be truly shown to be Jesus Christ the Son of God at the cross.

Much like the MessagePad, Jesus knew that the infrastructure needed to be in place before His message could really take hold and God could be glorified the most. That through 3 years of His ministry He was laying the groundwork for His death to have the true impact it needed to have. Jesus knew there was a time for everything, and at this point in John 7, it wasn’t God’s timing for His fame to become so wide.

Ecclesiastes 3 states that there is a time for every season, and a time for every matter under heaven. We too need to be honoring of God’s will, and trust that he Has the most opportune timing for the things we may be rushing Him to accomplish.

Follow Jesus or Follow Rules? (John 5:18)

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The Pharisees were obsessed with following rules. Jesus talks about them placing burdens on men’s backs. Many of the rules were not even in the Bible but were made up rules. Jesus came to set people free. When Jesus saw a crippled man unable to help himself Jesus healed him. Rather than marvelling at Jesus authority and power the Pharisees were upset because he told the man to carry his mat on the Sabbath. The Pharisees could not see that anyone who had authority to heal someone crippled for life would also have authority to permit someone to carry a mat. Jesus had to explain to them where his authority came from.

The Jews were so upset by what Jesus said that they wanted to kill him. What upset them so much was Jesus’ claim to be God. Claiming to be God was offensive to their religious principles but also it offended them because if it was true then they needed to listen to him and not to what they were used to. Jesus’ miracles were proof that He was God but the Jews chose to ignore these rather than face the implications.

These days we are not in a position to stone Jesus but the world and even Christians try to silence Jesus when he speaks. For most people in our country, Jesus is in their opinion an irrelevance and might as well have stayed in the grave. Scientists and intellectuals pour scorn on the idea of miracles because they do not fit their world view and if they were true then they would have to accept that Jesus had authority, and that would mean they had to listen to Him.

Do we also though sometimes bury Jesus? Is it easier sometimes just to be like the Jews and stick to a set of rules, routines and set behaviours rather than try and live day to day in a walk with Jesus where we have no control? We read our Bibles for a few minutes a day, maybe offer up a couple of quick prayers for things that are on our minds and then get on with living our lives the way we want except for giving up a couple of precious hours on a Sunday when we feel good because we have got up early and arrived (almost) on time. We think we know the kind of people God wants us to be (who we are at the moment, but just a little bit better so we always have to try a bit harder but not actually change much) and we feel that God couldn’t really be interested in people who are too different from us. How would it be if instead of just reading God’s word we meditated on it and asked the Holy Spirit to interpret it to us for today and then everyday did what it said? Or what if we spent more time listening to God than talking at Him? Or what if we were so secure in who we are in God that we knew that we could do anything He told us, and however badly we failed or however unpopular it made us, nothing would change how loved we were?

Jesus Goes

The whole purpose of Christianity hangs on two words ‘LOVE’ (The greatest commandment – Mt 22:36-40) and ‘GO’ (The great commission – Mt 28:19-20). Both of these were given by Jesus himself.  Jesus was like no other teacher of his day, He practiced what he preached and it is clearly seen in Jn 4:1-45.

Jesus deliberately chooses to travel through Samaria though that is not the preferred way for the Jews to travel between Judea and Galilee due to the rivalry and strife between the Jews and Samaritans. The gift of salvation is for all people and that includes those who are opposed to God’s chosen people too. John seems to suggest that it was God’s plan for Jesus to go through Samaria by saying ‘now he had  to go through Samaria’ (4:4). The call of every disciple of Christ is to be a witness for him starting from our home then to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). A true disciple must be willing to go wherever or to whomever the love reaches out to and that is exactly what Jesus did.

Jesus engages in a conversation with the woman on what she was there to do which was to draw water from the well. Jesus was the master of taking something that is natural and simple and using it to explain the supernatural and this isn’t the only time he has done this! There many other occasions in the gospels where he used something ordinary to explain the supernatural. Sinners didn’t find it difficult to talk to Jesus or engage in a conversation with Jesus! This is something that we all need to learn from the Master. 

Jesus uses this conversation to address two issues that this woman was facing: First a moral issue. This woman had moral issue, she had had 5 husbands and the man that she was living with now was not her husband (4:18). Jewish teaching disapproved a woman having had more than 3 husbands and the fact that she has come to draw water in the mid-afternoon shows that she was socially isolated because historically the water-drawing took place either in the morning or at dusk in order to avoid the heat in the Mediterranean. The second is a spiritual issue. The woman diverts the conversation to a spiritual subject by referring to worship (4:19-14). Jesus explains that God is not limited to a geographical location or to a holy site and he is actually looking for true worshipers. He is interested in a relationship with people not in some religious duty.

Jesus was breaking the tradition here. First he not only goes to a place which all other Jews would normally avoid but staying there for 2 more days (4:40)! Secondly He was talking to a woman that even other women in her neighbour avoided. Rabbis would not normally speak to women in the public; it’s not the norm in Jewish culture! Even his own disciples were surprised that he was talking to a woman (4:27)! Jesus was not only willing to ‘Go’ but he was willing to ‘connect’ with the socially unacceptable. If we are not willing to connect but only go our obedience to the great commission will be purely a duty and not an act of love.  Let Love ‘Go’ wherever it needs to go and break every barrier it needs to break so the heart of God can be revealed and ‘connected’ even to the socially unacceptable.

God so Loved...

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

John 3:16 is one of the most famous verses, not just in the Gospel of John, but in the whole Bible. And with good reason. ‘God so loved’ is the central theme of John, and of the Bible itself. This one verse sums up the whole of history. From the beginning of Genesis to the end of Revelation, history revolves around that one eternal act of love:  ‘God gave his Son.’ 

And no doubt you’re already familiar with this verse. But do you know what the next verse says? John 3:17-18: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”

The contrast only emphasises God’s love even more. God is a righteous judge. We have all sinned. We have all fallen short of his perfect standard. We all deserve to be condemned to eternal punishment. But God so loved us, that he sent his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering, and so he condemned sin in sinful man, that whoever believes in him shall have eternal life. (combining John 3:16 and Romans 8:4). 

And that is God’s grace in action. He has executed righteous judgement, once and for all, against his own Son, because he loves us so much. And all that he requires of us is that we accept this gift of grace. For by grace you have been saved through faith – and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God. (Ephesians 2:8).

This is fantastic news for the whole of mankind. If you have not already accepted God’s gift and believed in his Son, now is the perfect time to do so. Choose to follow Jesus! He is ready to welcome you into eternal life.

But I assume that most people reading this post have already chosen to follow Jesus. How should we apply these verses to our lives today? Just as God chose to love rather than condemn, so we must be careful to do likewise. Do you ever find yourself condemning people who are selfish or greedy, people who are criminal or violent, people who get intro trouble through their own carelessness? What about the poor, the alcoholics, the addicts? Or people who are of a different faith, or different values? Do you ever react in judgement – even just in your thoughts? I know I do.

Whoever does not believe stands condemned already, says John 3:18. They don’t need our condemnation. They need to know that God so loved them, that he sent Jesus... And we need to reflect God’s love to those around us.

So my challenge to you this week is this: as you go through the week, ask God to point out to you specific people to whom he would like you to show love where you might naturally choose to condemn. Then choose to demonstrate God’s love and grace to these people.

And if you have a story to share this week, add a comment to this blog post to encourage the rest of us.

Whipped out of the temple

Whipped out of the Temple. 

Often today our picture of Jesus is always smiling, happy and looking at the best side of life and in many ways this is correct. However, John paints a quite different picture in John 2:13-22. He quickly moves to show us a Jesus who shows righteous anger, who is outraged and not afraid to make a scene when necessary. For him this was very much a necessary moment - a place set apart for the gathering of the people and reading of scripture was now turned into a market place. He was in Jerusalem for passover whilst in the temple there where some people selling goods - sheep, pigeons and oxen. He overturns the tables and states: “Do not make my fathers house a house of trade” (John 2:16).  During the time of the Herodion Temple the buying and selling of animals for the sacrifices had become big business. The Temple court had become a market place rather than a place to gather for worshiping God. 

 

This is such an important story that all of the four gospel have this story in it. 

One of the questions we should always ask when reading the bible is: What does that mean for me today? How can I apply this in my life?

 

Firstly, I think we can literally apply this story. When we should be gathering as the church thats should not be an opportunity or an environment for the selling and buying of goods to earn money for individuals or the church. The people in Jesus’ time had got distracted from meeting together to sell and buy for their own advantage. We should never do likewise fail to meet together because we are seeking for our own selfish ambition. 

Secondly, i think this can be taken step further as well. While we are most likely not involved in commerce at church we too may not be honouring the Father’s house. Are you texting during worship? Maybe you take a few moments during the sermon to check emails. Maybe you and your spouse are deciding where to eat after church. Maybe you are just going over your “to-do” list for the coming week. We can find many ways to disrupt or ignore our worship of God. No one is going to show up with a whip to drive us out, but maybe someone should.

Jesus Ranks Before

       

 

INTRO

Welcome to our first ever blog post. From now till the 6th April we are going be releasing a weekly blog post, every Wednesday. Each blog post will be from the Gospel of John in parallel with our Sunday morning preaching series. We hope theses post will be both encouraging and challenging. The blog posts will be from different parts of the gospel of John from different contributors in the church. 

JESUS RANKS BEFORE

John 1:29-34 follows on from John the baptist testimony of Jesus. He now shares an account of when John first saw Jesus. Picture this, Jesus is walking towards John and Johns firsts words after seeing Jesus is “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29) This is a strong and powerful claim to make about someone walking towards you. But John was sure and certain of Jesus credentials. John speaks of Jesus’ deity - his divine nature. Something inside of John made him realise that this man is different and his is not just some ordinary man. John refers to Jesus as the Lamb of God -  In Jewish practice a lamb was often used as a sacrifice and this is one of the first suggestion we get for the primary reason for Jesus coming to this earth which was to sacrifice himself on the cross and pay the price for our sin so that we can have eternal life.

 

John describes Jesus as the one who ranks before me. John accredits Jesus with a higher rank than himself. A rank that is so high in authority and power that He can take away sin. In the army you get different ranks -lieutenant, captain and colonel and even business you can get different ranks. Ranks often mark ones permission to be able execute something, the responsibility and authority you have and for one to have higher rank they must have followers who are following them. For when John described Jesus as a rank before him he was saying that Jesus has the authority to take away sin and he is the one that is before me and the one I will be following. I wonder does Jesus rank before you in your life or does something else or someone else has that ranking? Do you follow Jesus with all that you are?

 

John then describe the scene before him of the Spirit that came upon Jesus like a dove and remained on Him. The appearance of the spirit was common in the Old Testament, but appeared mainly among designated leaders (such as a King, judge or prophet) and remind only for the duration of their God-appointed work. When John the baptist describes this scene of Jesus being anointed by the Holy spirit and remaining on Him It is scene that would of never been seen by the jewish people before for this is messianic anointing and unlike John who baptise with water Jesus will baptise with the Spirit.  This is also shined the spotlight on this man named Jesus showing He really was the Son of God. 

 

What Jesus had to do to take away the sin of the world required that he be more than a man. He was the Lord God of Isaiah 40. He was so great that the great John the Baptist was not worthy to untie his sandals. And he was absolutely before John in time and rank.

 

Don't’ forget to bring your Gospel of John booklets this week. If you didn't get one please pick one up this Sunday.