God’s “Dear John” Love Letter Conclusion, John 21:24-25

God’s “Dear John” Love Letter

The Gospel of John

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Title: God’s “Dear John” Love Letter Conclusion, John 21:24-25

 
This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down.

We know that his testimony is true. And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which, if they were written one by one, I suppose not even the world itself could contain the books that would be written.

Truth: Even considering the Gospel account from the perspectives of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, and we still have many more questions than answers about the life and teachings of Christ! But, maybe that is what God intended so we would seek to know Him better every day. However, we can conclude this, Christ left us with a “Dear John Love Letter” to each of us and it offers enough encouragement and inspiration to make a difference in our lives so we can change the world we live in.

Application: When we are testifying before others about our own life, do we tell the whole story – all the events and share all the facts, or do we just relate to the relevant, most important events and facts? Can you imagine what the volumes it would require if Christ had kept a daily journal of His life and it was published? However, would such an undertaking draw more people to believe in Him?

Just as you reveal portions of your life, your personal, relevant experiences to introduce or speak about your life, what value would a tell-all unabridged multi-volume saga of your life do to present yourself to your friends? You only need to offer a summary of the high points, as in a resume’ to gain the favor or interest of your friends. In fact, most of us certainly do not want to tell the whole story because it may not align with the image you hope others will think about you.

In the case of Christ Jesus, His daily journal would only have done two things: (1) reveal how much He was like us in what He experienced; (2) reveal how different He was from us by how He responded to the experiences in His life, dealing with people just like us.

Aren’t you glad to know that our God shares with a bright future and forgets our past? How could you explain your relationship with Him if you carried with you your complete daily journal for Him to read?

As I personally close this devotional journey through the Gospel of John, I can truly admit the investment of time in reading, reflecting, and writing what God has placed upon my heart has been richly rewarding to me, and I pray has opened your heart to God’s “Dear John” Love Letter to you in a fresh and relevant manner to touch your daily life as well.

Coach Brown

Focus Our Faith on Christ, not Others, John 21:20-23

God’s “Dear John” Love Letter

The Gospel of John

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Title: Focus Our Faith on Christ, not Others, John 21:20-23

 
So Peter turned around and saw the disciple Jesus loved following them. That disciple was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and asked, “Lord, who is the one that’s going to betray You?”

When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord—what about him?”

“If I want him to remain until I come,” Jesus answered, “what is that to you? As for you, follow Me.”

So this report spread to the brothers that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus did not tell him that he would not die, but, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you?

Truth: Our faith should allow us to rejoice in whatever position or condition the Lord directs for us, and there should be an attitude of “no regret, no reserve, and no retreat” and “no comparison or no competition” with others!

Application: Sadly, for some of us, we want to compare ourselves to others, for good or for bad. Idols and role models are good to inspire us, but we are not who they are and God uses us all knowing full well who we are and what we are best suited and talented to accomplish for HIs greater purposes.

There will be others in our life who will experience different positions and situations, but the Lord is using them for His purposes, just as He is using you for His Kingdom purposes. On what grounds should we seek to question God about how He is using and directing the lives of others? On what grounds should we be jealous about what others will or will not experience versus what we will or will not get to do? Is anyone’s life any more or less valuable to the Lord than our own?

Some of us will suffer and be called sacrifice much in this life for God’s glory so that others may accomplish His purpose and plans. Yet is their reward any different than ours? Does God’s love offer conditions and degrees?

Why don’t we recall as Peter himself heard from Jesus, but also forgot as he questioned Jesus that morning? “No one has greater love than this, that someone should lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13-14)

Jesus suffered and sacrificed to set the example for all of us. How quickly we forget when we are asked to do the same for the glory of the Father. What is the measure of your love? Do you feel He loves you less than others? If so, is it because He actually loves you less, or that it is you who has the love issue?

Faith & Love Empower our Call to Follow, John 21:15-19

God’s “Dear John” Love Letter

The Gospel of John

 

 

 

 

 

 

Title: Faith & Love Empower our Call to Follow, John 21:15-19

 
(At the conclusion of the fellowship meal that morning another key moment occurs that teaches us some key points about facing our faults and trusting our Heavenly Father…)

When they had eaten breakfast, Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord,” he said to Him, “You know that I love You.”

“Feed My lambs,” He told him.

A second time He asked him, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?”

“Yes, Lord,” he said to Him, “You know that I love You.”

“Shepherd My sheep,” He told him.

He asked him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?”

Peter was grieved that He asked him the third time, “Do you love Me?” He said, “Lord, You know everything! You know that I love You.”

“Feed My sheep,” Jesus said. “I assure you: When you were young, you would tie your belt and walk wherever you wanted. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will tie you and carry you where you don’t want to go.”

He said this to signify by what kind of death he would glorify God.

After saying this, He told him, “Follow Me!”

Truth: Followship is the call to discipleship that initiates and inspires each of us to grow daily as disciples of Christ. Followship is what leads us to share genuine Fellowship with our Lord and Savior. He will not give up on you, if you do not give up on Him as the One worthy to follow even when we stumble along the way.

Application: Just as the Gospel of John opens, Peter and the other disciples are called to “Follow Him!” And, as they would learn that means to learn from Him and then go out into the world and serve Him as He showed them. Jesus certainly demonstrated the true traits of being a faithful Shepherd, and from that example His disciples then and since then are those who have chosen to to follow in His steps, shepherding the lambs of His Kingdom – His church – to make them into disciples, as well.

Where are you in this picture? Does your love for Jesus also flow over and out upon others that Jesus may place before you to shepherd? We all are in some stage of disciple-making maturity, and also we are in some role as a shepherd to others who are less mature. And, as Jesus shared with Peter , the more mature, the more faithful ways we exhibit His love before others, the greater the trials we may face, but we will be prepared to walk by faith not by fear.

Are you demonstrating your true love for Jesus by your dealing with others? Do you truly love as Jesus loves those who can be unlovable in your life? As Jesus said it is easy to love those who love you, but what about those who are your sworn enemies?

Final Fellowship Feast, John 21:1-14

God’s “Dear John” Love Letter

The Gospel of John

 

 

 

 

 

Title: Final Fellowship Feast, John 21:1-14

 
After this, Jesus revealed Himself again to His disciples by the Sea of Tiberias. He revealed Himself in this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (called “Twin”), Nathanael from Cana of Galilee, Zebedee’s sons, and two others of His disciples were together.

“I’m going fishing,” Simon Peter said to them.

“We’re coming with you,” they told him.

They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. When daybreak came, Jesus stood on the shore. However, the disciples did not know it was Jesus.

“Men,” Jesus called to them, “you don’t have any fish, do you?”

“No,” they answered.

“Cast the net on the right side of the boat,” He told them, “and you’ll find some.”

So they did, and they were unable to haul it in because of the large number of fish.

Therefore the disciple, the one Jesus loved, said to Peter, “It is the Lord!”

When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he tied his outer garment around him (for he was stripped) and plunged into the sea. But since they were not far from land (about 100 yards away), the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish. When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish lying on it, and bread.

“Bring some of the fish you’ve just caught,” Jesus told them.

So Simon Peter got up and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish—153 of them. Even though there were so many, the net was not torn.

“Come and have breakfast,” Jesus told them.

None of the disciples dared ask Him, “Who are You?” because they knew it was the Lord.

Jesus came, took the bread, and gave it to them. He did the same with the fish.

This was now the third time Jesus appeared to the disciples after He was raised from the dead.

Truth: When we seek to live as disciples and go about our lives on our own initiative we struggle, but when the Lord is present, our efforts are fruitful and we are rewarded for our obedience.

Application: This passage is an interesting addition to the Gospel account by John. Is it possible that this story is written with parable symbolism to retell of Jesus’ third appearance to the disciples after he arose from the dead? Was it written to send an encouraging message to the young church that transcended the retelling of Jesus’ fellowship feast on the seashore with the disciples?

Could it intend to inspire the growing disciples who have been building the church by the time John wrote his gospel? Could the inspiration be: When even with good intentions, we attempt to go about the Lord’s business on our own effort we will not be fruitful, but when He is present and guiding the effort blessings will overflow beyond all expectations?

There certainly is much symbolism in this account of Jesus reappearing to encourage the disciples who were struggling as to what to do now that Jesus was no longer physically present with them – leading them. Consider the symbols of the “empty net vs. full net; untorn net being dragged by Peter to shore; fish and bread feast they shared.” Even the number of fish, 153, is specific for a reason. John also refers to the Sea of Tiberias, rather than the Sea of Galilee for a reason. John also did so in the Chapter 6 as well, but it is important to note that Tiberias as a city did not get its name until about 20 A.D., and was done so for the Emperor Tiberius who reigned from about 16 A.D. until 37 A.D. It was originally built by King Herod Antipas on the Sea of Galilee in the later years of Jesus’ life, and originally named Sephorris.  In about 60 A.D. Nero gave the city to Herod Agrippa and it became the largest Jewish city in Galilee. Was John writing to church specific about that time to encourage and inspire them in their ongoing mission to honor the Lord as He had commanded? By the time of John’s account, in Tiberias there co-existed a large Gentile, Jewish and growing Christian population.

In the Bible, especially the Gospel accounts, there are inserts such as this to send a specific message to the church of encouragement and hope. We enjoy the imagery of the story with the exchange between the disciples, especially Peter’s blind enthusiasm, and Jesus. However, if we draw back and examine the depiction and retelling is there an intentional message that it intended to speak to those who would read John’s account in the early first century church? And, for us today?

What do you think? What do you believe? What evidence of Jesus can you produce in your life? Or, are you still brooding and hanging out because you fell He is not present in your life? Do you wish you see Him standing on the shore waiting for a fellowship meal to share with you?

Purpose of the Gospel, John 20:30-31

God’s “Dear John” Love Letter

The Gospel of John

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Title: Purpose of the Gospel, John 20:30-31
Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of His disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may believe Jesus is the Messiah (Christ), the Son of God, and by believing you may have life in His name.

Truth: The Gospel accounts are not intended to be an historical expose’ about the life of Jesus, but an account of His core message that He brought to mankind from the heart of God. It reveals the pathway of truth that by faith introduces each of us to the life God desires for us. The Gospel is truth, but is not all truth. It shows the way to go, but cannot tell you everything about the journey. The story is written by each of us as we respond to the Gospel and God works out salvation in each of our hearts.

Application: Does the Gospel offer every word and deed of our Lord and Savior? Of course not! Is it a complete biographical or autobiographical study of the life of Jesus? No! Then what is its purpose, and why was what is recorded chosen to be in the gospel account? The answer according to John: “that you may believe Jesus is the Messiah – the Christ, God’s anointed  – the Son of God, and by believing you may have life in His name.”

When John was inspired to write his gospel account, the world was much different than today’s world we live in, and the Christian community faced some interesting and different attacks. But were the attacks the Christian community faced really that much different? John wrote to defend the gospel message against the intellectual minded “gnostics” – the skeptics of his time attacking the church. They were a group of philosophical, higher thinking intellectuals who presented their theories that challenged man’s relationship in the world. There may be new names for similar groups of thinking in today’s world, but their assaults upon the Christian community have not ceased.

Thus begs the question: Is John’s Gospel, or the rest of the Bible any less relevant today? Is it less valuable today than 2000 years ago? Has it lost its influence and power to change lives? Absolutely not! But, we must be careful to read it in the light of our changing world and find its relevance and application of truth to our lives today.

Has the TRUTH changed? No! Truth is Truth, or it is not absolute Truth. Has God changed? No! He is the author of Truth and Life, thus He is the standard of Truth and Life – He is the original that all Truth and Life is created from. Nothing has changed. Time has no power or influence on Truth or Life. Is Jesus still the Son of God? Absolutely! No one can deny that relationship anymore than than we deny the right we have to become children of God by faith. Thus, the core truths of the Bible, God’s Word, are they any less real and relevant today as they were two millennium ago? Do they still impact and influence lives today so that people can still discover Christ as their Lord and Savior through faith?

What about you? Are you looking for errors, cracks, faults and problems in the Bible, or are you looking for TRUTH and its application for you own life? Have you read it with not only an open mind but an open heart? Are you willing to realize the power of the Gospel message that has touched billions of lives for centuries? Could a lie endure all this time of scrutiny and challenge? Only TRUTH withstands the test of time. It is much easier to cling to truth by faith than a lie.

Why did John write his Gospel account: so that you can believe and receive Jesus as your personal Savior and Lord and find the peace and truth of God’s love for you, and receive the gift of eternal life from God.

An Exception in or Exceptional Faith? John 20:24-29

God’s “Dear John” Love Letter

The Gospel of John

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Title: An Exception in or Exceptional Faith? John 20:24-29

 
But one of the Twelve, Thomas (called “Twin”), was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples kept telling him, “We have seen the Lord!”

But he said to them, “If I don’t see the mark of the nails in His hands, put my finger into the mark of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will never believe!”

After eight days His disciples were indoors again, and Thomas was with them. Even though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them.

He said, “Peace to you!”

Then He said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and observe My hands. Reach out your hand and put it into My side. Don’t be an unbeliever, but a believer.”

Thomas responded to Him, “My Lord and my God!”

Jesus said, “Because you have seen Me, you have believed. Those who believe without seeing are blessed.”

Truth: Exceptions in our faith are opportunities for God to reinforce our faith in Him for greater purposes. We may doubt the word of others, but our faith will never will falter when we hear the Master’s voice.

What does it take for each of us to believe in Christ as our personal Lord and Risen Savior? As well as, what He has done for each of us personally? Our faith is a gift of God and empowered by His Spirit of truth and life. The “Message of God’s love” – His logos (Word) to us – can be received by others but faith comes from a personal encounter with God through Christ our Risen Savior.

Application:In this setting, Thomas was absent when Jesus came to the disciples the first time after He arose from the grave, and as a result Thomas would not accept their word about Jesus being alive, raised from the dead. Thomas clearly knew Jesus had been crucified and died on the Cross – Thus, any claim even from his closest friends seemed totally irrational to him without proof. He clearly wanted to believe but needed to share the same evidence they claimed before he would believe.

Now, the question arises: Why did it take 8 days before Jesus returned? What was going on between Thomas and his fellow disciples during those 8 days? Obviously, when Jesus returned Thomas was clearly ready to believe and did so immediately upon seeing and hearing His Lord and Savior, and did so with a powerful statement of faith! Thomas immediately praised Jesus as “My Lord and My God!”

Read the passage carefully, did Thomas have to touch the wounds on Jesus to believe? Was the presence and words of Jesus enough? For us, are the words and presence of Christ enough for us to believe?

God is a patient Lord and Savior, and to Him, belief is belief; and He works in our individual lives to reward our faith with the evidence we need to believe. He works in our lives daily to gird up our faith with His Spirit touching and impacting our lives daily, if only we will listen and open our eyes to see His hand upon our lives.

What is the status of your faith this day? Still waiting or growing daily? Which would you prefer?

Living in Fear or by Faith, John 20:19-23

God’s “Dear John” Love Letter

The Gospel of John

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Title: Living in Fear or by Faith, John 20:19-23

 
In the evening of that first day of the week, the disciples were gathered together with the doors locked because of their fear of the Jews.

Then Jesus came, stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” Having said this, He showed them His hands and His side. So the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.

Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”

After saying this, He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

Truth: Fear can easily grip our senses and fog our vision, so that we forget to walk by faith, and we begin to believe that we are alone without God’s help.

Application: Peter and John had just raced back from the empty tomb. They were clearly confused and afraid by what they had seen with their own eyes. They were allowing their senses to stir up fear within and their faith began to waiver.

Rather than tarry like Mary, Peter and John took the physical evidence as plain indisputable truth and fear was the verdict they found in their hearts. Their findings of the facts they witnessed spread like an epidemic among the other disciples as well. They all were now hiding behind locked doors from the imminent threat of the religious authorities who had convicted and crucified Jesus, their Savior.

Fear certainly can cause a fog into one’s head and we can quickly forget to walk by the faith which once gripped our hearts. Fear is the enemy’s weapon, and faith is God’s strength in us…the decision is which one dominates our hearts, souls, and minds that determines our future. It is fear that caused the early Israelites to place a huge curtain or veil between them and the Holy of Holies in their tabernacle, but when Christ died He torn down that veil that divided man from God. Faith in Christ removes all fear from standing before God, because He promised to prepare the way to the Father (John 14:6).

So in the setting of the disciples huddled in fear, how does Jesus respond? He shows up among them. He comes to remind them of the value of faith and its power to overcome all fears. He elevates their faith and reminds them of the power of the Spirit of God that is in them, and of the promise He made that the Spirit will now become their Counselor and Comforter in the days ahead to direct their steps.

No doubt, Jesus had been convicted and crucified…those events were facts and truth, but now it was also a fact and truth that He clearly had been raised from the dead as He had promised He would be by God the Father. Physical death could have no hold on Him, and from now on for all who would walk by faith and claim the promises He shared, they too would no longer need to fear physical death, because Christ had shown the way for all believers to follow Him to eternal life in the presence of God the Father. Faith would be victorious over the fears that held all of mankind prisoner. It would not be our religious affiliation that would be victorious, but our relationship with Christ that would secure us beyond the grave.

The disciples went from fearful to fearless by the power and presence of Christ and the gift He gave them of the Holy Spirit – the same gift we have available today to each of us.

Have you accepted the fact of what Jesus did for you on the Cross, and more importantly what He did for us after the Cross? Has He filled you with His Spirit and all fear is gone by the reality of the faith that now empowers you? It is faith that gives us the assurance you can have to know you are a “child of Christ”, living a “Christ-like life”, being called by His name, a Christian. The power of forgiveness you received is now revealed through you to others around you, and sin (choices contrary to God’s will) is evident and clear in and around your life. This is evidence of your new life status and the influence of Christ and His Spirit at work within you.

Would you declare that you are a Christian, or does fear and doubt still grip you and keep you from experiencing the joy of faith that lifts the fog that separates you from God’s love and grace? It is a gift from God, and all you need to do is accept it and believe it just as the disciples did long ago.

Mourn our Loss, Find our Lord, John 20:11-18

God’s “Dear John” Love Letter

The Gospel of John

 

 

 

 

 

 

Title: Mourn our Loss, Find our Lord, John 20:11-18

 
(As we ended the last scene at the tomb, we find that the disciples, Peter and John went home again puzzled by their discovery…(ref. v10))

But Mary stood outside facing the tomb, crying. As she was crying, she stooped to look into the tomb. She saw two angels in white sitting there, one at the head and one at the feet, where Jesus’ body had been lying.

They said to her, “Woman, why are you crying?”

“Because they’ve taken away my Lord,” she told them, “and I don’t know where they’ve put Him.”

Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, though she did not know it was Jesus.

“Woman,” Jesus said to her, “why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”

Supposing He was the gardener, she replied, “Sir, if you’ve removed Him, tell me where you’ve put Him, and I will take Him away.”

Jesus said, “Mary.”Turning around, she said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!”—which means “Teacher.”

“Don’t cling to Me,” Jesus told her, “for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to My brothers and tell them that I am ascending to My Father and your Father—to My God and your God.”

Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them what He had said to her.

Truth: Peter and John leave bewildered, but Mary lingers to mourn her loss. Who had the greater faith and who received the greater reward for their faith? As Scriptures reveals repeatedly, when our hearts are troubled and faith rattled, just stop and reflect upon the Lord and He will bring the peace and truth needed to restore our faith!

Application: In this setting, it is clear to Peter, John and Mary that they believe someone has stolen the body of Jesus. They are at a loss for comprehending the reality that Jesus shared about the events He foretold to them. They were trying to come to grips with the facts as they perceived them to be. Peter and John return the way they came back to where they came from, and yet Mary lingers. Why?

Does Mary try to linger in her grief to find clues to what happened? Is she praying in her time of mourning and is rewarded? Whatever the case, the Lord rewarded her with two angels (messengers from God) to soothe her grief. If that was not enough, even the risen Jesus appears to her in the garden.

Where Peter and John had left to sort things out for themselves, Mary is blessed by the Lord’s reminder of the events He had foretold about His death, resurrection and then ascension to the Father. Her faith though shaken was not broken, and her faith was restored beyond all comprehension. And, then Jesus gave her the task of sharing the message of His resurrection and pending ascension to the disciples, who were clearly shaken by the facts. She would be bringing a message that would require them to respond by faith against the facts.

Can you imagine the challenge of bringing the message to the disciples who were fearful and struggling in their faith, because the facts seemed to say they had lost their Lord forever! Even Peter and John were bringing a message that the body of Jesus had been removed, possibly stolen. Now, Mary was given the task to bring the message that would say, “Not only has Jesus been raised by God from the dead, left His tomb, but was alive and about to go to the Father,” as He had promised (John 14).

How would you respond to the task that Mary had? How would you respond if you were one of the disciples, hearing the message in the face of the facts? Have there been times in your life when your faith has been shaken: the facts challenged your faith? Did you walk away or linger mourning the loss of faith? Which action and attitude was rewarded by the Lord?

Who do you relate to in this passage, Mary or Peter and John?

Curiosity, Courage, or Courtesy, John 20:1-10

God’s “Dear John” Love Letter

The Gospel of John

 

 

 

 

 

Title: Curiosity, Courage, or Courtesy, John 20:1-10

 
On the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark. She saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran to Simon Peter and to the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put Him!”

At that, Peter and the other disciple went out, heading for the tomb.

The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and got to the tomb first. Stooping down, he saw the linen cloths lying there, yet he did not go in.

Then, following him, Simon Peter came also. He entered the tomb and saw the linen cloths lying there. The wrapping that had been on His head was not lying with the linen cloths but was folded up in a separate place by itself.

The other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, then entered the tomb, saw, and believed. For they still did not understand the Scripture that He must rise from the dead.

Then the disciples went home again.

Truth: Since it is clear the three characters in this passage, Mary, Peter, and John, did not understand the Scriptural perspective of Jesus’ death and burial, what inspired them that memorialized morning? Was it curiosity, courage or merely courtesy? Each had a motive that inspired that participation, but in the end they all benefited from the revelation they discovered. God does use different motives to accomplish His purposes. The key is this: no matter the motive, will we follow through by faith to discover what God wants us to see and understand?

Application: Clearly, the final sentences of the thought in this passage indicate that Mary nor the disciples, especially John and Peter, understood nor believed the Scriptures about Jesus as the Messiah being raised from the dead. Peter and John heard Jesus speak about being raised from the dead by the Father several times, but it was not on their minds in the literal sense as they were now responding to the news that Mary brought to them, and what their own eyes were witnessing as they raced to the tomb.

Therefore, what motivated Mary, Peter and John to come to the tomb?

For Mary it appears to have been courtesy, not courage or curiosity? Did she expect to be able to enter the tomb that was sealed by the Roman soldiers with the great stone over the opening? Was she coming to honor Him at His tomb and mourn His loss. When she saw that the tomb was empty what led her to race to the disciples and share with Peter and John the news? Was it fear that his body had been removed or faith that affirmed the message of His resurrection?

And, what inspired Peter and John to race each other as they did? Was it curiosity or courage to confirm and confront the truth about what was reported by Mary? Were they confused, confounded or truly concerned over what they found? According to the passage, neither recognized that this was the fulfillment of prophecy as Scripture had foretold, and Jesus had declared to them more than once. Their Jesus had been arrested and crucified just a couple of days earlier, and as disciples they were in hiding for fear of their own safety and well-being. As they ran what likely went through their minds? Was it curiosity, courage or courtesy? What motivated them to race to the previously sealed and guarded tomb? Were they afraid the religious leaders would blame them for stealing the body of Jesus? Were they blinded to the risk they were taking running to the tomb site? Was it courage or curiosity that overcame their reason and fear? Or, were they that concerned that they were genuinely seeking to honor Jesus by seeking out the truth of why the body was missing?

How about you? Why have you sought Jesus in your life? Were you being drawn by curiosity, courage or courtesy to the offer that someone else had shared about the risen Lord and the new life He is offering us?

Whatever your motivation, it is the response our Lord and Savior is looking for rather than the cause that stirred your decision to place your life in His care. God takes us as we are, where we are, who we are in life and takes us forward, forgetting our past.

So what motivates you to seek Him?

Fear or Faith Motivates, John 19:38-42

God’s “Dear John” Love Letter

The Gospel of John

 

 

 

 

 

 

Title: Fear or Faith Motivates, John 19:38-42

 
After this, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus—but secretly because of his fear of the Jews—asked Pilate that he might remove Jesus’ body. Pilate gave him permission, so he came and took His body away. Nicodemus (who had previously come to Him at night) also came, bringing a mixture of about 75 pounds of myrrh and aloes. Then they took Jesus’ body and wrapped it in linen cloths with the aromatic spices, according to the burial custom of the Jews.

There was a garden in the place where He was crucified. A new tomb was in the garden; no one had yet been placed in it. They placed Jesus there because of the Jewish preparation and since the tomb was nearby.

Truth: Our response to God is inspired by either fear or faith of God, as the Lord of life, and of men, as lords of our life. God will be glorified whichever motivates us to action.

Application: The Gospel is quite clear, Joseph of Arimathea was a prominent leader of the Sanhedrin – the group that as a whole were the “Jews” (religious leaders) that John mentions repeatedly as the group with the High Priests who arrested, tried, and sought the execution of Jesus. His friend was Nicodemus, who was like him, a believer in Jesus – a disciple or follower of Christ. However, because of their position and power they feared they would be revealed and lose what they had. However, at the death of Jesus on the Cross they boldly stepped out of the shadows and though inspired by fear and faith, they claimed the body of Christ so that He could be buried properly.

It is interesting that neither the Gospels nor Book of Acts reveal they ever played a further role on the Sanhedrin or as disciples, but certainly the Cross served as a watershed moment in their lives, and they walked no longer by fear with one leg stuck in the fear of the past and one in their present life of faith in Christ. From this point forward their faith was revealed and they no longer could hide in the shadows caught between two lives. Their identification as disciples of Christ certainly changed their lives into the future. It could no longer be hidden that they were the ones who took the body down from the Cross by the courageous and bold act of approaching Pilate, and they placed the body of Jesus into the empty tomb that they arranged.

In Matthew’s account, the Jewish leadership feared Jesus’ body would be removed, so they ordered the tomb sealed by the next day – thus they knew where and likely who was responsible for placing Him there.

How would you evaluate your walk with Christ in your public versus private life? Are you still influenced by your position and power or prestige to reveal your claim of faith? What will it take for you to step up and walk out from the shadows and see the Cross of Christ as your watershed moment of faith? Will it be fear or faith?

Death Reveals Eternal Life, John 19:31-37

God’s “Dear John” Love Letter

The Gospel of John

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Title: Death Reveals Eternal Life, John 19:31-37

 
(In the last passage Jesus had taken care of family matters as He breathed His last breath. What follows is important to understand and the foundation of Christian faith.)

Since it was the preparation day, the Jews did not want the bodies to remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a special day). They requested that Pilate have the men’s legs broken and that their bodies be taken away. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first man and of the other one who had been crucified with Him. When they came to Jesus, they did not break His legs since they saw that He was already dead. But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out.

He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows he is telling the truth. For these things happened so that the Scripture would be fulfilled: Not one of His bones will be broken. Also, another Scripture says: They will look at the One they pierced.

Truth: In John 12:24, Jesus had declared in preparing the disciples for His eventual death: “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies it remains by itself. But if it dies, it produces a large crop.” By Jesus death we have a Savior to follow so that we can receive the gift of faith, which leads to the Heavenly Father.

Application: His death is intended to help us believe that the events and circumstances of His death were for a purpose and were predetermined by God for His glory. To remove all doubt about His death, Jesus had to be completely and absolutely proven as dead upon the cross, then buried just like the seed of wheat, so that like the parable of the wheat seed His death would produce the results God had intended. The body of Christ today certainly reveals the productivity of the seed He planted that day 2000 years ago.

Had Jesus not died on the Cross that day the Christian movement would have been limited to the reach and abilities of Jesus, the man who was seen as a prophet and performer of miracles. His movement would have remained localized and focused solely upon the man Jesus, not God!

By His death, burial, and then Resurrection, and Ascension, according to God’s inspired plan, foretold by God’s Word planted upon the hearts of men, believers blossomed and bloomed upon the scene in the days, weeks, months, and years that would follow. Jesus’ death was confirmed by those who were there to witness His crucifixion, including the conspirators themselves who naively had set in motion what God had intended all along. They were used by God to launch His Gospel Message – His Logos Message that John emphasized from the beginning of his account in chapter one – through the hearts of hundreds, thousands, and ultimately millions who make up His church today!

Are you one of those believers? Are you absolutely convinced of who Jesus is to you and this world, or are you merely curious and hope He is what you think He says He is? Do you believe that as we will share in the final passages that upon His physical death, He was buried and then arose from being dead to stir the hearts of His disciples to live out their faith before others and share the wonderful fullness of God’s message of eternal life for all who believe that Jesus was sent by God the Father as His Son to reveal His love for all of us? Do you believe that no matter what challenges and conflict there may come in this life for us, God has a glorious purpose for each of us, if only we will believe and follow in the steps of Jesus?

Final Words, a Family Matter, John 19:25-30

God’s “Dear John” Love Letter

The Gospel of John

 

 

 

 

 

 

Title: Final Words, a Family Matter, John 19:25-30

 
Standing by the cross of Jesus were His mother, His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.

When Jesus saw His mother and the disciple He loved standing there, He said to His mother, “Woman, here is your son.”

Then He said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.

After this, when Jesus knew that everything was now accomplished that the Scripture might be fulfilled, He said, “I’m thirsty!”

A jar full of sour wine was sitting there; so they fixed a sponge full of sour wine on hyssop and held it up to His mouth.

When Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!”

Then bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.

Truth: Jesus had gone through His arrest, prosecution, and crucifixion for the good of all, and sacrificed Himself out of love for us. Yet, in the final moments on the cross He focused on matters of His family.

Application: In caring for His family, He made sure Mary, His mother who shared much of His ministry travels with Him, was taken care of since Joseph had long passed away. John, the author of the Gospel and one of the original disciples and a cousin of Jesus, would spend the rest of his life caring for and protecting Mary.

What an honor and yet a heavy responsibility it must have been to care for the mother of Jesus, and to live under her daily inspiration and reminder of Jesus in his life. No wonder John would have such an impact upon the development of the early church and be inspired to write under God’s inspiration not only this Gospel but also other letters to the church, including possibly the final book adopted into the New Testament years later by the church.

Beyond caring for His mother and passing on the instructions to John for her care, His final words of “I am thirsty” – were those words for His own physical condition, or were they intended to say to Father God, “I am thirsty or longing for my spirit to be reunited with You again!” (In Luke it is recorded that his last words were: “Father, into your hands I entrust My spirit.” Matthew and Mark only record he shouted out and then died.) Jesus knew His work was done as He was directed by the Father, and it was time to return to the Father’s side. Jesus trusted His Father.

How you look upon the Cross determines so much about your trust in Jesus and His Father. Do you feel sorry for Him and all the suffering He endured; or sorry for humanity because of what they did or did not do to Him?

Take time to reflect upon your feelings about Jesus and the Cross. Do you believe the Cross had a purpose for you, so you may share in the thirst that Jesus had to be with His Father? What questions many have at the Cross were answered in the days that followed with the resurrection and ascension of Jesus…

Crucified by a few, Dies for all! John 19:16-24

God’s “Dear John” Love Letter

The Gospel of John

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Title: Crucified by a few, Dies for all! John 19:16-24

 
So then, because of them, he handed Him over to be crucified.

Therefore they took Jesus away. Carrying His own cross, He went out to what is called Skull Place, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. There they crucified Him and two others with Him, one on either side, with Jesus in the middle. Pilate also had a sign lettered and put on the cross. The inscription was: JESUS THE NAZARENE THE KING OF THE JEWS.

Many of the Jews read this sign, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek. So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Don’t write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that He said, ‘I am the King of the Jews.’”

Pilate replied, “What I have written, I have written.”

When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took His clothes and divided them into four parts, a part for each soldier. They also took the tunic, which was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. So they said to one another, “Let’s not tear it, but cast lots for it, to see who gets it.” They did this to fulfill the Scripture that says: They divided My clothes among themselves, and they cast lots for My clothing. And this is what the soldiers did.

Truth: The Arrest, Trial, Conviction, and Crucifixion of Christ was conducted by but a handful of religious and government officials, but “they” (see verse 16b, Therefore they took Jesus away.) were but those threatened by Christ and His Message from God. It is always the minority who stir up the majority of the chaos, confusion, and conflict the people must make sense of in their daily lives.

Application: Consider the setting of Jesus’ trial and execution: the city of Jerusalem was jam-packed with pilgrims from all corners of the world, who were there to celebrate the Passover Festival. However, how many really knew about the works and words of Jesus?

In the age of no television, radio, or even a daily newspaper, how many people knew of the plot to arrest and ultimately convict Jesus to die upon the Cross. Even the previous passage declares that it was the small mob of priests and police who were before Pilate when they cried out, “Crucify Him!”

How many of the masses in the city that morning really took notice of the three crosses freshly mounted on Golgotha, one of the mounts outside the walls of Jerusalem, at a time in history when Roman’s used crucifixion almost daily to deter criminal and rebellious behavior in the province?

Jesus was arrested and crucified by the plotting and scheming of but a few, but He died for all of mankind. His literal death was witnessed and noticed by but a few, but launched a movement that has reached the entire world.

What do you believe about Jesus’ death is important to you! How you respond is still paramount to Jesus! God’s Word is clear: He died for ALL, including you, and not just the handful who witnessed His physical death that morning 2000 years ago. However, many of us today remain like the masses in Jerusalem that morning when He was raised up upon the cross next to those two criminals – ambivalent, apathetic, oblivious, caught up in their own agendas of daily living.

And, yet there are some who are like the soldiers at the foot of the cross. They were the ones who had just nailed Jesus to the Cross and hoisted His body from the ground for all to see. Yet, they were ignoring the significance, totally ignorant, even uncaring about the person of Jesus. Their focus was upon dividing up His clothes, which was not to different from the priests who plotted against Jesus because they were looking now to reclaim their authority upon the people, just as Pilate now was hoping this affair would pass quickly unnoticed by Rome so he could remain in power as the governor. However, history would reveal what they did not realize that morning – “life would never be the same!”

Where would you have been that fateful morning? How would your heart been touched? Even those who benefited from the miracles and message of Jesus, most were in hiding or trying to move on with everyday life. Which reflects your life?

Thankfully, there is more to the story that God had written into our history that would reinforce and empower the life and death of Jesus: His Resurrection and Ascension are the exclamation point of the Message from the author: God! The death alone if that was the end would have been lost in history – what follows cannot.

Our Choice: Who is the King in our life? John 19:1-16

God’s “Dear John” Love Letter

The Gospel of John

 

 

 

 

 

 

Title: Our Choice: Who is the King in our life? John 19:1-16

(The fateful early morning hours continue as Jesus faces Pilate and the religious rulers’ accusations and call for his crucifixion.)

 

Then Pilate took Jesus and had Him flogged.

The soldiers also twisted together a crown of thorns, put it on His head, and threw a purple robe around Him. And they repeatedly came up to Him and said, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and were slapping His face.

Pilate went outside again and said to them, “Look, I’m bringing Him outside to you to let you know I find no grounds for charging Him.”

Then Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!”

When the chief priests and the temple police saw Him, they shouted, “Crucify! Crucify!”

Pilate responded, “Take Him and crucify Him yourselves, for I find no grounds for charging Him.”

“We have a law,” the Jews replied to him, “and according to that law He must die, because He made Himself the Son of God.”

When Pilate heard this statement, he was more afraid than ever. He went back into the headquarters and asked Jesus, “Where are You from?”

But Jesus did not give him an answer. So Pilate said to Him, “You’re not talking to me? Don’t You know that I have the authority to release You and the authority to crucify You?”

“You would have no authority over Me at all,” Jesus answered him, “if it hadn’t been given you from above. This is why the one who handed Me over to you has the greater sin.”

From that moment Pilate made every effort to release Him. But the Jews shouted, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend. Anyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar!”

When Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus outside. He sat down on the judge’s bench in a place called the Stone Pavement (but in Hebrew Gabbatha). It was the preparation day for the Passover, and it was about six in the morning. Then he told the Jews, “Here is your king!”

But they shouted, “Take Him away! Take Him away! Crucify Him!”

Pilate said to them, “Should I crucify your king?”

“We have no king but Caesar!” the chief priests answered.

So then, because of them, he handed Him over to be crucified.

Truth: Are we captive to our religion and theology? Who is the ruler of our life defines our relationship with God and others. That choice shapes our life. What we are willing to crucify defines our relationship with God.

Application: Why was Jesus crucified? According to John’s account, it was strictly the work and scheming of the religious leadership. They felt their positions of power and influence over the people was threatened. Sadly, those who should have recognized Christ and developed a close relationship with Him were the most distant and threatened by His life. For this reason – to protect their positions of authority and perspectives about what religion was to them – they chose to recognize Caesar and his oppression rather than the message of freedom from Christ. Their allegiance was to their self-determined religion, their King.

Pilate, the Roman governor, never saw Jesus as a threat. What threat could Jesus mean to the great Roman Empire and its legions? Jesus was just an interesting curiosity figure, but never a threat. Pilate never found guilt in Him. So why did he choose to ultimately comply with what he felt were the absurd charges brought against Jesus by the religious rulers? Pilate was charged by Caesar to keep the peace in the region of Judea, and politically he was under fire about his performance as governor. For Pilate, the region was finally experiencing no threats of rebellion or insurrection, and he was content to not stir up any problems that would be reported back to Rome. His allegiance was to Caesar, his King.

Thus the conflict of wills resulted with Christ being accused of being the rival King for both the religious leaders and for Pilate. The religious leaders wanted Christ crucified because Christ was being identified as the Messiah, God’s anointed Son and King of the Jews. However, as long as there was no King, then the religious leaders, the priests maintained control politically – they as a group were their own King. On the other hand, Pilate never saw Jesus as a King that he feared or felt threatened by. However, when the religious leaders threatened to report their accusations to Pilate’s King – Caesar, Pilate had no choice but to submit to the requests of the religious leadership. He did what was politically expedient to keep his King pleased.

Yet, Jesus said it plainly when questioned by Pilate at the last moment of decision: “You (Pilate and the Roman Empire) have no authority over Me at all, if it had not been given to you from above. This is why the one who handed Me over to you (speaking of the religious leadership) has the greater sin.” The religious leaders claimed to honor God as their King, but really they were hypocrites only seeking to protect their own authority. What greater sin could we have in this life than to claim allegiance to God as our sovereign Lord but then dictate our circumstances for our personal benefit?

Who is the “King” of your life? Do you recognize Christ as the Son of God but are afraid to rock the boat in your life? Are you willing to stand up against those who are trying to remove Him from His throne for their own purposes? Or are you the hypocrite who claims to honor the King of kings outwardly but you are fighting against Him in your life because in fact you want to be your own King?

How different would this world had been if Pilate had stood his ground 2000 years ago, when he recognized the authority of Jesus was from God? How different is our life when we choose to recognize Christ as our King and choose to rather to crucify any other king on our life, including our “Self”?

Wrong Goals, Wrong Choices, John 18:18b-40

God’s “Dear John” Love Letter

The Gospel of John

 

 

 

 

 

Title: Wrong Goals, Wrong Choices, John 18:18b-40
After he had said this, he went out to the Jews again and told them, “I find no grounds for charging Him.

You have a custom that I release one prisoner to you at the Passover. So, do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?”

They shouted back, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a revolutionary.

Truth: When our goals are not right and good, then our choices are not right and good. The people wanted an immediate change in their circumstances and they felt the revolutionary Barabbas would get quicker results than Jesus would give them.

Application: Clearly, the people saw Barabbas as a highly visible, zealous revolutionary who was willing to whatever it took to overthrow the Roman rule over them. Barabbas in their eyes was more of a viable savior than Jesus. The people were looking for immediate relief from the earthly rule and bondage they felt due to Caesar and his legions of soldiers. The Jews had been under someone’s rule since the days of the Assyrians occupation nearly 800 years before the days of Jesus. They were willing to see Barabbas as a expedient, preferred choice to solve their present need for a savior. Jesus revealed their bondage to sin as their problem, and salvation was offered by changing their attitudes and actions to please God as their solution. Therefore, they did not view Jesus as their immediate choice to accomplish their goals of freedom.

What about you? Do you seek physical or practical solutions to your life, or God’s will for your life? Do you trust God and His perfect, pleasing and good will? Which is easier to realize and understand?

How would you have responded 2000 years ago? Would you have been swayed by the lofty words of your religious leadership or trusted in the message of God’s better way from a lone preacher? Would some miracles been enough to convince you of His authority from God? Would you have become a disciple then as you claim today?

Jesus still talks today about living a victorious life? However, is your life built around choices to “win” the race or game you face today? When we seek to be the winner, there must be a loser! However, when we seek to achieve the victory God’s way, the focus is not for our name’s sake, but His name’s sake! According to God’s Word a victorious life there are no losers, except those who choose to lose by their own choices.

Seeking Truth v Recognizing Truth, John 18:28-38

God’s “Dear John” Love Letter

The Gospel of John

 

 

 

 

 

Title: Seeking Truth v Recognizing Truth, John 18:28-38

 
(After Jesus was questioned in a mock trial before Annas and Caiaphas, then Jesus was sent Pontius Pilate to be executed. At that time, Jews could not execute anyone; only the Roman governor could order a death sentence and have it enforced. This worked well for the Jewish leaders, they wanted Jesus rid of, but without His blood on their hands.)

Then they took Jesus from Caiaphas to the governor’s headquarters. It was early morning. They did not enter the headquarters themselves; otherwise they would be defiled and unable to eat the Passover.

Then Pilate came out to them and said, “What charge do you bring against this man?”

They answered him, “If this man weren’t a criminal, we wouldn’t have handed Him over to you.”

So Pilate told them, “Take Him yourselves and judge Him according to your law.”

“It’s not legal for us to put anyone to death,” the Jews declared. They said this so that Jesus’ words might be fulfilled signifying what kind of death He was going to die.

Then Pilate went back into the headquarters, summoned Jesus, and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?”

Jesus answered, “Are you asking this on your own, or have others told you about Me?”

“I’m not a Jew, am I?” Pilate replied. “Your own nation and the chief priests handed You over to me. What have You done?”

“My kingdom is not of this world,” said Jesus. “If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I wouldn’t be handed over to the Jews. As it is, My kingdom does not have its origin here.”

“You are a king then?” Pilate asked.

“You say that I’m a king,” Jesus replied. “I was born for this, and I have come into the world for this: to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to My voice.”

“What is truth?” said Pilate.

Truth: How do we recognize the truth? Truth and justice are ideally inseparable, but in truth, justice often is nothing more than expedience to protect us from a perceived threat to what we believe is truth. Is truth subjective, or is it founded upon an objective fact basis? In a court of law is not truth to be substantiated by valid witnesses?

Application: Who knew the truth; who refused to recognize the truth; and, who sought the truth but was unable to accept or stand up to the truth? It is curious that the religious leaders were about to have blood on their hands by handing over Jesus to be condemned to death for going against their religious laws, but they refused to be defiled by walking up to Pilate’s doorstep! Is there some hypocrisy in that picture?

What about Pilate? Was he seeking truth or was he impacted by the political situation that would influence him from responding to what he believed to be the truth? Pilate realized the truth, but would not, or could not stand up to the truth, because of the risk of further turmoil and rebellion by the Jewish population under his responsibility. (Rome was concerned about the threat of further uprisings by Jewish zealots. Pilate was under pressure to avoid any further agitation that might cause more problems in the region of Judea.)

Which of these types of people could you recognize with? Do you know holy, religious people who are self-righteous and quick to condemn others, but quickly claim to be clean of any wrong doing? What about those who hear and know of Jesus’ message of truth, but find they cannot adapt it to meet their life situation and circumstances? These people might believe in Jesus, but they are not able to pull free from their other allegiances in life to rightfully respond as they know they should. They feel their loss is greater in value than the value of the truth.

How would you define your life and the truth that God passed to us through Jesus and His message? What value do you place upon the truth? Are their allegiances or relationships that you would not give up because their value is greater than the value of the truth? Yet, do you hold others to the standards of the truth when it is convenient to you?

What does Jesus say about this? “If we know the truth, the truth will set us free!” (John 8:32) What would you give to be truly free in your life?

Self-Righteous Arrogance, John 18:19-24

God’s “Dear John” Love Letter

The Gospel of John

 

 

 

 

 

 

Title: Self-Righteous Arrogance, John 18:19-24

 
(After being arrested Jesus was presented to Annas and then Caiaphas, the high priests, or head of the religious leadership. They had been waiting a long time to find a way to rid themselves of this challenger to their authority over the people.)

The high priest questioned Jesus about His disciples and about His teaching.

“I have spoken openly to the world,” Jesus answered him. “I have always taught in the synagogue and in the temple complex, where all the Jews congregate, and I haven’t spoken anything in secret. Why do you question Me? Question those who heard what I told them. Look, they know what I said.”

When He had said these things, one of the temple police standing by slapped Jesus, saying, “Is this the way you answer the high priest?”

“If I have spoken wrongly,” Jesus answered him, “give evidence about the wrong; but if rightly, why do you hit Me?”

Then Annas sent Him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.

Truth: Like the religious authorities of Jesus’ time, many religious minded, self-righteous men and women still today seek to control and define what Jesus said to defend their standing and authority in the church. Always weigh carefully the motive behind an interpretation of God’s Word. Consider if it is divinely inspired or personally contrived for personal purposes.

Application:  Why do so many misuse and often abuse the teachings of Jesus to suit their positions of power or self-righteous life choices?

We must be careful to look carefully and clearly at the full context of God’s Word to present the teaching of Christ to the world. We must set aside our biases and desires to teach Christ alone, not fit His words to suit our arrogant and selfish thoughts and opinions. If we look back on the history of the Church and denominational divides that have taken place since early in the development of the Church that the disciples started (ref. book of Acts)., we will find such misapplication of the word to suit the needs of arrogant, self-serving aims of the church leadership, even if it caused and justified further divides in the church.

What is the source of your desire to search and respond to God’s Word? Do you come with an open heart and mind, or are you trying to justify or verify your own preconceived understanding or position? Be careful to not be like Annas to make an accusation and then pass Jesus off to others when Jesus does not respond as we seek Him to respond. Be careful to take a position that says I am an religious authority and dispute Jesus’ authority.

Just because God’s Word reveals that our actions and attitudes may be wrongly founded does not make it wrong. The wrong rests within us. We should never forget like the religious leaders of the past, all authority we make have is a gift of responsibility from God and we will be held accountable to that responsibility by God. God’s Word offers plenty of examples of what happens when men or women try to misuse God’s Word and their position to suit their needs. At the top of the list lies the name of Satan, the author of lies and deception.

Faltering Faith Reveals Our Need, John 18:15-18, 25-27

God’s “Dear John” Love Letter

The Gospel of John

 

 

 

 

 

 

Title: Faltering Faith Reveals Our Need, John 18:15-18, 25-27

 
(Jesus has been arrested, the disciples scattered, but two followed as the soldiers and police took Jesus away to be exposed to a mock trial.)

Meanwhile, Simon Peter was following Jesus, as was another disciple. That disciple was an acquaintance of the high priest; so he went with Jesus into the high priest’s courtyard. But Peter remained standing outside by the door. So the other disciple, the one known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the girl who was the doorkeeper and brought Peter in.

Then the slave girl who was the doorkeeper said to Peter, “You aren’t one of this man’s disciples too, are you?”

“I am not!” he said.

Now the slaves and the temple police had made a charcoal fire, because it was cold. They were standing there warming themselves, and Peter was standing with them, warming himself.

Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. They said to him, “You aren’t one of His disciples too, are you?”

He denied it and said, “I am not!”

One of the high priest’s slaves, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, said, “Didn’t I see you with Him in the garden?”

Peter then denied it again. Immediately a rooster crowed.

Truth: Is it possible we can run ahead of our faith and then Christ places us in a situation that reveals our fear is still greater than our proclaimed faith?

Application: What does the scene reveal about us? How can it be relevant to us? Most of us like to be identified with Peter, but we dare not identify with Peter in this setting. Do you realize that Peter wanted to be bold for Jesus’ sake, byt when surrounded by the same people who had Jesus arrested, he stumbled in fear.

Just a couple of hours earlier Peter was bold enough to use his sword to attack one of those trying to take Jesus away. What was the difference? When the company of soldiers came for Jesus, Peter stood beside His Savior feeling confident in Jesus and His authority and power, but now he is witnessing the same Jesus he trusted and followed arrested, bound and being beaten and humiliated. Peter felt alone and isolated. Would that feeling change the strength of your faith? Would that possibly lead to fear overriding your faith?

There are times when if we are not careful our curiosity can outruns our courage, because we forget the source of our courage, which results in our faith surrendering to fear. Our Lord says clearly in His Word that we are to have courage because I am with you! But what happens when He is not by our side, when we walk ahead of Him, even when we feel our efforts, our curiosity has good intentions? How is our courage affected when we find ourselves alone amidst accusations and threats?

What is also an interesting point of this passage, often overlooked is how the “other disciple” was received? If the other disciple was John (as I believe most believe) why was he not questioned. Why didn’t the girl who was at the door to the courtyard not recognize him as a disciple as she had Peter? Or did she she know who he was but considered him no threat unlike Peter?

Finally, why did Peter deny his relationship with Jesus since he was admitted with the other disciple? Wasn’t it enough that he was in the company with the other disciple (John) that he should have felt confident?

Sometimes Christ leads us into a situation to test our faith – to reveal the truth about our level of faith, and our need to grow closer to Him. Had Peter had the faith to realize that even in the bonds that his accusers had placed upon him – even with a company of soldiers standing guard and seeking to beat and humiliate Him, Christ was still the Lord. He still had all the power and authority Peter and the other disciples had witnessed over the last three years. Jesus allowed them to arrest Him for a greater purpose, but Peter did not understand and his faith suffered. Maybe the other disciple, likely John, trusted His Lord had a purpose and plan. Peter’s faith would be restored, but it would end up being John who was at the foot of the Cross later that afternoon to be instructed to watch after Mary, Jesus’ own mother.

Both disciples had a need, and Jesus used this time to reveal their faith for the greater challenges that lied ahead. John and Peter would share tough times together under similar circumstances (read Acts 4-5).

Have you been exposed to situations where fear gripped your faith? Have you felt alone and isolated and your faith in the Lord was a threat to your situation? Or, has your faith declared that the Lord is the God of the universe, the King of Kings, Lord of lords, no matter the circumstances you may find yourself? Remember both Peter and John were key leaders in the development of the early church – Jesus used both for His glory! He can and will use you too, if you let Him.

The Great “I Am” can be found by all, John 18:1-14

God’s “Dear John” Love Letter

The Gospel of John

 

 

 

 

 

 

Title: The Great “I Am” can be found by all, John 18:1-14

 
After Jesus had said these things, He went out with His disciples across the Kidron Valley, where there was a garden, and He and His disciples went into it. Judas, who betrayed Him, also knew the place, because Jesus often met there with His disciples. So Judas took a company of soldiers and some temple police from the chief priests and the Pharisees and came there with lanterns, torches, and weapons.

Then Jesus, knowing everything that was about to happen to Him, went out and said to them, “Who is it you’re looking for?”

“Jesus the Nazarene,” they answered.

I am He,” Jesus told them.

Judas, who betrayed Him, was also standing with them.

When He told them, “I am He,” they stepped back and fell to the ground.

Then He asked them again, “Who is it you’re looking for?”

“Jesus the Nazarene,” they said.

“I told you I am He,” Jesus replied. “So if you’re looking for Me, let these men go.” This was to fulfill the words He had said: “I have not lost one of those You have given Me.”

Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it, struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear. (The slave’s name was Malchus.) At that, Jesus said to Peter, “Sheathe your sword! Am I not to drink the cup the Father has given Me?”

Then the company of soldiers, the commander, and the Jewish temple police arrested Jesus and tied Him up. First they led Him to Annas, for he was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year.

Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it was advantageous that one man should die for the people. (ref John 11:50)

Truth: Everyone who seeks the Great “I AM” – Lord God, Creator and Savior of this world – can find Him, but the question remains: Why do you seek Him? We all will fall to our knees when we find Him. But, what will bring us to our knees before Him will be the key. That is the difference of worship by faith or by fear.

Application: Why is it that the temple police and the soldiers with them did not know who was Jesus that night? Why did they need Judas to point Him out to them? In fact, has much changed in all these centuries since? Many cannot seem to find nor identify Jesus when He is right there before their very eyes, because they never truly tried to get to know Him. Many had heard about His words; knew the stories about Him; even felt sympathy for His suffering on the Cross, but they never understood who He was and remains today, and that He is residing available to each of us.

Only disciples, or followers by faith, know Him and He shares His Word intimately with them daily.

Are you able to recognize Jesus and share with Him daily by searching within your heart? Do you know Him and His Word intimately as He reveals and introduces the Father’s love to you? Sometimes it takes times of suffering and conflict to really to see Him for who He is, but He has always been with us all along.

If you are still searching for Him, possibly it is because you are not looking in the right places. He is not found in the church, but He is spoken about there and prayed to there, and even praised there by His witnesses, His disciples. Nature also testifies of Him, but He is not there to be seen. So where is Jesus to be found? Look within the emptiness of your heart and you will find Him there waiting to be asked within your heart to fill that void, and change your life.

Everyone who seeks Jesus, our Lord and Savior, the very Son of God sent by the Father to bring us to Him, will find Him, the Great “I AM” – but it is how we respond when we recognize Him that will establish our relationship with Him. All of us will fall to our knees when we find ourselves before Him, but it is what causes us to fall down: fear or faith? Worry or worship? That will reveal our relationship with Him. How will you respond?

Oneness Reveals Rightness, John 17:20-26

God’s “Dear John” Love Letter

The Gospel of John

 

 

 

 

 

Title: Oneness Reveals Rightness, John 17:20-26

 
(Jesus continues His prayer requests to the Father that night before His arrest with a prayer for not only His current disciples, but also all those new disciples that will follow through the ministry and mission of His current disciples. It is our calling still today and His continual prayer for each of us.)

“I pray not only for these, but also for those who believe in Me through their message (the disciples of Jesus reaching out and making new disciples).

“May they all be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You.

“May they also be one in Us, so the world may believe You sent Me.

“I have given them the glory You have given Me.

“May they be one as We are one. I am in them and You are in Me.

“May they be made completely one, so the world may know You have sent Me and have loved them as You have loved Me.

“Father, I desire those You have given Me to be with Me where I am. Then they will see My glory, which You have given Me because You loved Me before the world’s foundation.

“Righteous Father! The world has not known You. However, I have known You, and these have known that You sent Me. I made Your name known to them and will make it known, so the love You have loved Me with may be in them and I may be in them.”

Truth: The key to growing internally and externally as disciples is seeking the “oneness” with Christ and thus with God the Father, by the way we walk and talk before others in this life by faith.

Application: Disciples who strive to be one with Christ live as though they have Christ living through them and others see Christ as a result of their actions, attitudes, and the message they share. That oneness establishes the “rightness” that draws others to them. Living “right” is at the core of every life that God has created, and God uses that desire to draw future disciples to seek other disciples who help them to become right before God.

How would you describe your life? Is there oneness with Christ and is the Father revealed by your life? Is that “oneness with Christ” readily recognizable by others? Do others acknowledge the rightness of your life that seems to draw others with a desire to be like you, because of who you represent? These are traits of maturing disciples who are one in Christ, living rightly through Him in this world to the glory of the Father.

Secure in His Word and by His Name, John 17:6-19

God’s “Dear John” Love Letter

The Gospel of John

 

 

 

 

 

Title: Secure in His Word and by His Name, John 17:6-19

 
(Jesus continues His prayer to the Father, now on the behalf of His disciples, seeking that they be set apart and protected while they remain behind to continue to reach others in a hostile world, just as Jesus had done.)

“I have revealed Your name to the men You gave Me from the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. Now they know that all things You have given to Me are from You, because the words that You gave Me, I have given them. They have received them and have known for certain that I came from You. They have believed that You sent Me.

“I pray for them. I am not praying for the world but for those You have given Me, because they are Yours. Everything I have is Yours, and everything You have is Mine, and I have been glorified in them. I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to You. Holy Father, protect them by Your name that You have given Me, so that they may be one as We are one.

“While I was with them, I was protecting them by Your name that You have given Me. I guarded them and not one of them is lost, except the son of destruction, so that the Scripture may be fulfilled. Now I am coming to You, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have My joy completed in them. I have given them Your word.

“The world hated them because they are not of the world, as I am not of the world. I am not praying that You take them out of the world but that You protect them from the evil one.

“They are not of the world, as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. I sanctify Myself for them, so they also may be sanctified by the truth.”

Truth: A disciple or follower of Christ not only knows God’s Word, they also have been identified and sent by God, and are sealed with the Spirit and identified by His name. Christ is glorified by every faithful disciple that God has drawn to Him, and thus God Himself is glorified by the securing and sealing of every disciple who is faithful to growing personally and going out to help others to become disciples like them. (Matt 28:18-20)

Application: How do you know you are a disciple? Are you one with other disciples who are one with Christ as He is one with the Father? What does being one mean? When others see you do they see Christ through you and know God is pleased by giving you His name to represent before others? What name secures and seals you in this world?

Jesus continues to pray for His disciples as He shared how He presented His disciples to God the Father to receive His protection. Jesus taught and trained the disciples according to the truth of God’s Word (revealing the logos, Gospel message), and now Jesus was praying for the provision, protection and preservation of the disciples since He was about to leave their sides. From now on they would be facing the challenges, threats, persecutions, and confrontations of the world without His present protection leading the way. However, that was God’s plan from the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and mission. Sooner or later, all disciples must be mature enough to walk by faith according to the truth of God’s Word without fear!

How do you rate your walk? Are you fearful of revealing who you are? Are you walking faithfully with no reserve, no retreat, or no regret as a disciple of Christ, ergo a Christian, beyond the safety of the church and into the community each day? Are we recognized as a Christian because of how we live before others? Remember, who has prayed for you to the Father to protect and encourage you to fulfill His mission in this world!

What stops you from being the disciple – the follower of Christ that you know you have been called and enabled to be? A disciple is secure in His Word and by His name.

Know God, Know Life, John 17:1-5

God’s “Dear John” Love Letter

The Gospel of John

 

 

 

 

 

 

Title: Know God, Know Life, John 17:1-5

 
(After the extended passages directed to His disciples, here is Jesus offering a prayer between He and His Father…but for all of us regarding the gift of genuine “Eternal Life” and what that means to us.)
Jesus spoke these things, looked up to heaven, and said: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son so that the Son may glorify You, for You gave Him authority over all flesh; so He may give eternal life to all You have given Him.

“This is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God, and the One You have sent—Jesus Christ.

“I have glorified You on the earth by completing the work You gave Me to do.

“Now, Father, glorify Me in Your presence with that glory I had with You before the world existed.”

Truth: Eternal life is plainly this: Living before God the Father, knowing Him and His Son, Jesus Christ, intimately. It is through His glory that we are glorified and made His sons and daughters forever. This was Jesus’ mission, and here He was praying that His mission would be perfected by what would be unfolding in the coming hours.

Application: We all desire eternal life. We all want to defeat death, but do we know the price it cost for that victory over death we can share? Do we know the source of the glory that we ask to be glorified as a child of God?

If you know God, you know life! But in contrast it is plain also that if you say “no” to God, you say “no” to life also.

The Son of God was God the Father’s gift of His glory to us to reveal His message of grace – His Logos – and the Good News that His love desires more than a relationship in this life, but to provide for us to embrace the eternal relationship He has intended since creation.

Do you know God intimately enough to claim that you truly know and believe the life He has intended for you? Do you believe that this life is but a beginning for what God has intended for us?

No matter the circumstances or obstacles we face in this life, God is with us to show us a way to defeat death, our ultimate fear that holds us prisoner to this world. Through our faith in Christ His Son, God offers us the glory and grace that He intended for us from the beginning of time: eternal fellowship with Him. Just as Jesus prepared Himself, we too can prepare ourselves to realize that if we know that God is with us, no pain or suffering from this world can keep us from realizing the peace that is promised in what has been described by Jesus Himself as “paradise.” (Luke 23:43)

If you truly know God, you will truly know eternal life.

This same Apostle who wrote the Love Letter Gospel, also wrote a love letter to the church years later, and he reminded us in 1 John 2:24-26: “What you have heard from the beginning must remain in you. If what you have heard from the beginning remains in you, then you will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that He Himself made to us: eternal life. I have written these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you.”

Faith Conquers Fear, John 16:25-33

God’s “Dear John” Love Letter

The Gospel of John

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Title: Faith Conquers Fear, John 16:25-33

 
I have spoken these things to you in figures of speech. A time is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures, but I will tell you plainly about the Father. In that day you will ask in My name. I am not telling you that I will make requests to the Father on your behalf. For the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me and have believed that I came from God. I came from the Father and have come into the world. Again, I am leaving the world and going to the Father.”

“Ah!” His disciples said. “Now You’re speaking plainly and not using any figurative language. Now we know that You know everything and don’t need anyone to question You. By this we believe that You came from God.”

Jesus responded to them, “Do you now believe? Look: An hour is coming, and has come, when each of you will be scattered to his own home, and you will leave Me alone. Yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me.

“I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.”

Truth: Life in this world will involve challenges, conflict and confusion that will stir fear within us. Times of suffering that we would rather avoid will come, but we can realize the same courage Jesus received from the Father, as well. By faith, we can conquer our fears because the Father wants us to discover faith anchored peace in all our circumstances.

Application: The question is simply this, and is from Jesus to each of us: Do you now believe? This is the question that establishes whether you have the faith in the Father that conquers all fear in this world.

Jesus was preparing His disciples then, and still seeks each of us to be prepared for the challenges of this world. Jesus shared with them and now to us that there may be times when attacks against Him may affect all believers, but we are to regroup by faith and remember by faith that Christ conquered the world for us!

There is a peace available to each of us if we will believe in what Jesus has done for us. And, that belief will lead us to walk confidently to conquer our fears because we know the same God also reigns sovereign over the world we live in and are challenged by each day.

The Cross was not a victory for the world, as some may claim, but a victory sign that God is in control and Christ was and still reigns victorious over the world we face – even death, its greatest threat to us!

What kind of faith do you have? If you cannot grasp the fact that God the Father’s love is the power source to victory and genuine peace in your life, then you have failed to know what it means to claim Jesus’ name.

Think about this: If you live like Christ, you will know God loves you and all your prayers are responded to directly by God the Father, and He does not seek nor need Christ to intercede for us. In fact, I believe what Christ was telling us when He was speaking about asking in His name was that we should surrender our lives to not only live like Christ, but by faith live in Christ (be so intimately related with Christ) so that the love of our heavenly Father will indwell and influence our life. That is the victory that Christ wants us to realize, and such a faith in His love will overcome all our fears!

When Jesus said He and the Father were one, that meant plainly that Jesus knew the Father’s will, His ways, and His wisdom, and Jesus’ life reflected that closeness in all He said and did. We too can claim it if we and Christ are one as well. In fact, God has gone as far as giving us the gift of His Holy Spirit to seal the relationship with us as His chosen children, so we may likewise learn to live as one with Him as well.

Finally, does this mean we will never have fears in this life? Absolutely not! However, with God as our Father and Christ on our side, our faith will always have the power to live at peace with our fears. AMEN!

The Power and Authority of His Name, John 16:16-24

God’s “Dear John” Love Letter

The Gospel of John

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Title: The Power and Authority of His Name, John 16:16-24
“A little while and you will no longer see Me; again a little while and you will see Me.”

Therefore some of His disciples said to one another, “What is this He tells us: ‘A little while and you will not see Me; again a little while and you will see Me’; and, ‘because I am going to the Father’?”

They said, “What is this He is saying, ‘A little while’? We don’t know what He’s talking about!”

Jesus knew they wanted to question Him, so He said to them, “Are you asking one another about what I said, ‘A little while and you will not see Me; again a little while and you will see Me’?

“I assure you: You will weep and wail, but the world will rejoice. You will become sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn to joy. When a woman is in labor she has pain because her time has come. But when she has given birth to a child, she no longer remembers the suffering because of the joy that a person has been born into the world. So you also have sorrow now. But I will see you again. Your hearts will rejoice, and no one will rob you of your joy.

“In that day you will not ask Me anything.

“I assure you: Anything you ask the Father in My name, He will give you. Until now you have asked for nothing in My name. Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.”

Truth: It is through the times when sin in this world reveals sorrow and suffering in our lives that we grieve the absence of Christ in our lives. It is through those difficult times our prayers seek the power and authority of His name.

Application: Just as the disciples then could not understand what Jesus meant until the events unfolded in the following days, we too must go through the experience of getting to know Jesus and then feel the sorrow and suffering the disciples felt. Why?

It is through the sorrow and times of suffering we seek Him all the more and then we discover He is with us, in fact never really left us, and our sorrow is turned to joy, just as Jesus promised.

What we learn from the feeling of loss is the value of what we believe we no longer have in our life! Yet, in the case of Christ, we do not grieve long because He sends into our hearts the reassurance of His eternal presence through His Spirit of truth. It is only then do we fully believe and understand the power and authority of His name in our relationship with God the Father.

Do you know why you pray in Jesus’ name? Is it some magical or secret incantation to you, or because His name means much more.

Are you a Christian because everyone else you know claims to be one too, or because your parents identify themselves as Christians and they told you that you are a Christian as well. Have you been told by well-meaning church members that you are a Christian? Or, are you a Christian because you know the true sorrow and joy associated of being a Christian? Do you know Christ personally enough to realize that claiming His name also means you understand the power and authority behind the name, and the sorrow and suffering He went through was so that you could experience the joy He promised. Do you believe He will fulfill His promises for you?

The Cross of Christ can bring either a sense of sorrow or joy to your heart. It is all about your present relationship with Christ; whether we struggle in our sorrow and suffering or realize the joy He has promised because of what He has done for you, and in you. Those who know that joy also know the power and authority of His name in their life, and their prayer life understands the relationship they have in Christ.

Counselor, Comforter, and Convictor, John 16:5-15

God’s “Dear John” Love Letter

The Gospel of John

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Title: Counselor, Comforter, and Convictor, John 16:5-15

 
“But now I am going away to Him who sent Me, and not one of you asks Me, ‘Where are You going?’ Yet, because I have spoken these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless, I am telling you the truth.

“It is for your benefit that I go away, because if I don’t go away the Counselor will not come to you. If I go, I will send Him to you. When He comes, He will convict the world about sin, righteousness, and judgment:

  • About sin, because they do not believe in Me;
  • About righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will no longer see Me;
  • and, About judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.

“I still have many things to tell you, but you can’t bear them now.

“When the Spirit of truth comes,

  • He will guide you into all the truth. For He will not speak on His own, but He will speak whatever He hears.
  • He will also declare to you what is to come.
  • He will glorify Me, because He will take from what is Mine and declare it to you.

“Everything the Father has is Mine. This is why I told you that He takes from what is Mine and will declare it to you.”

Truth: The gift of the Holy Spirit – the Spirit of Truth – is the key to unlocking the power of faith in our lives. He is the gift of God Himself within to counsel, comfort and convict us of sin, righteousness and judgment.

Application: How can I know I am saved? How can I know I have placed my faith in Christ and truly believe He is within me? Great questions of faith, yet there is an answer for these questions to give reassurance about our life in Christ.

The gift of the Holy Spirit is the key. We read about, hear about, and even have personal knowledge of Jesus as our Lord and Savior, but until He has sent His Spirit of Truth upon us, we have not truly believed upon Christ as the absolute Lord and Savior of our lives. We have not surrendered to walking in His ways, His will for our lives. We have not hidden His Word in our heart. The love of God is not within us until we truly have confessed Jesus as Lord and Savior of our lives, and invited Him into our hearts through the gift of the Holy Spirit.

How do I know I have the Spirit of Truth within me? Jesus made it plain: He is our Comforter, Counselor, and Convictor, changing our lives forever because of His presence in our lives. He eases the fears of our heart; He guides and directs us in the right and good ways we are to live our lives; and He points out and reveals sin, righteousness, and judgment in our life choices. Without Him active in our lives, we will know fear, not the comfort of faith; we will experience uncertainty about the way to go in our future, and there will not be aware of sin’s influence upon our lives,  thus unable to choose what is right versus wrong in God’s eyes. Without the Spirit we have no concern about pending judgment from God on our life choices.

If you are walking in this life free from fear, uncertainty, and your heart knows the truth about your relationship with God, you have Christ in you through the gift of the Spirit of Truth. If not, all you have is knowledge of Christ but not a relationship.

How would you declare your life’s situation? Are you saved by faith or are you still walking in fear each day? I hope you know you have been offered a choice by Christ…