Tag Archives: Gospel of John

God’s People, part 157: The Word

Read John 1:1-14

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Jesus answered, ‘I tell you the truth, before Abraham was even born, I AM!’”  (John 8:58, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

lamb-of-godPart 157: The Word. When you think of the Word of God, what do you think of? My guess is that most of you think about the Holy Bible, made up of 66 books (39 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament). When we read Scripture in our churches, many of us end with the following, “The word of God for the people of God. Thanks be to God for this word.” The Bible is most often called the Word of God because in it are the words that teach us about the nature of God, human nature, and the way we receive God’s salvation through Jesus Christ. As John Wesley once put it in his Popery Calmly Considered, “The Scripture, therefore, being delivered by men divinely inspired, is a rule sufficient to itself: So it neither needs, nor is capable of, any farther addition.”

But according to Scripture, in the Gospel of John to be exact, the Word of God is NOT the Holy Bible. Sure, it is Scripture and is God-breathed (or divinely inspired); however, it was written by people. The ancients understood that and never said otherwise. For early Christians, the Word of God was not the written words etched on papyrus scrolls; rather, it was Jesus Christ, which was God’s Word made flesh. That Word existed long before people wrote words down onto paper, and it is through that Word that all that exists was created.

The Greek word used in John is actually logos, which was the divine creative force of the cosmos. John tied this Greek philosophical and metaphysical concept to the Genesis narrative where God spoke creation into existance:

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.”  (Genesis 1:1-3, NLT)

John, playing off of Genesis 1, opens his Gospel with a poetic prologue, which echoes the first creation account in Genesis:

“In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him.”  (John 1:1-3, NLT)

The Greek concept of logos was used by John to show different groups who opposed the Jesus movement the true revelation of Christ. To the Rabbis who claimed that the Torah was pre-existent, John shows them that it is rather the logos (the Word), not the Torah (the Law), that was preexistent to creation. To the Gnostics who denied Jesus came in the flesh, John shows in the prologue that, indeed, the logos became flesh and made his dwelling place among us. To the followers who stopped with John the Baptist, John shows that the logos was the light of the world. The Baptist merely proclaimed and paved the way for the logos.

The logos, according to John, “was God” but was also distinguishable from God the Father, for “the logos” was also “with God.” Thus, in Jesus we have the living incarnation of the logos who is both God and human, and is also a distinuishable person from God the Father. The logos is God the Son and came to be Immanuel, God’s presence with us. In John, we learn that Jesus (the logos) is not just the Word, but is also the Light of the World, the Bread of Life, the Good Shepherd, The Door of the Sheep, the Resurrection and the Life, the Way, the Truth, and the life, The Vine, the One who preexisted Abraham and all of Creation.

That’s a lot to process right? The challenge for us is not not only process this with our heads. Much heady commentary has been written about Jesus’ I AM statements in John and that certainly has its place in theological discourse; however, the challenge for us is to process this with our hearts. Have you come into the presence of the Great I AM?

Have you experienced the Word made flesh, the Light of the World, the Bread of Life, the Good Shepherd, The Door of the Sheep, the Resurrection and the Life , the Way, the Truth and the Life, and the Vine? Have you met the One who preexisted all there is and has ever been? Have you met the Word who came, lived, died, and resurrected for your sake? If not, my prayer is that you will open your heart to the One who is seeking you out this very minute. My prayer is that you will let him in so that he may become your Lord and Savior.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Jesus told him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.’” – Jesus Christ (John 14:6, NLT)

PRAYER
Lord, reveal yourself to me. You are my Lord and Savior and I wish to serve only you. Amen.

Simply Believe

Read John 3:1-18

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“If any of you wants to be My follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow Me.” (Mark 8:34 NLT)

LOVEMany who have grown up in the church have had to learn Bible verses/passages in Sunday School, or VBS, or for confirmation, etc. Many grew up learning the 23rd Psalm, many grew up learning Isaiah 40:28-31, and many others. probably the most learned Bible verse ever, if I had place my bets on it is John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Thank God for the poetic King James Version which only aids in the memorization process because it rings so clearly. With that said, it’s not always the most understandable translation, so I thank God for the more contemporary translations too.

John 3:16 has often been considered the verse of love, in a Gospel that has become known as the Gospel of love. We often hear that verse and are comforted by God’s graciousness in sending his Son to save us from our sins through Jesus’ death on the cross. We see this as God’s great love for all of humankind. The other thing that usually happens in the interpretation of this passage is that it becomes exclusive of anyone that doesn’t “believe” in Jesus, and with that the exclusion goes even deeper as there aren’t two groups of people on this planet that “believe in Jesus” the exact same way. So, this usually amounts to a “my group is saved because we believe, but yours shall perish because you don’t believe or because you believe falsely.”

What’s sad about this is that it takes what is a verse of hope, a verse of complete sacrificial love, and turns it into a verse of judgment and condemnation. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am NOT saying that anything goes and that Jesus’ death on the cross saves everyone unconditionally. Typically, when people try and have a discussion around salvation theology, accusations of “universalism” fly around like bullets out of a machine gun. I am not saying that anything goes because I believe that saying that cheapens what Jesus did for us; however, I am not so quick to turn this verse into a verse of judgement because I believe that ends up discounting and/or nullifying what Christ did for us, at least in the minds and hearts of those we affect.

Instead, I choose to let this verse speak for itself. Jesus Christ sacrificed his life, not just through his death but through his very life. In fact, John 3:16 mentions nothing about God sending Jesus to die…just that God sent God’s only begotten Son. Obviously, his death and resurrection play a vital part, but so did his life. Jesus sacrificed living a normal life, being a husband, being a father, and living out his days relatively peacefully in order to follow God and teach others how to do so as well. In his life, he showed us the truth and the life through his healings, his teachings and his example. Through his death, he showed us the way to the Kingdom of God. In his resurrection, Christ showed us that even death won’t conquer those who follow his way. Anyone who believes in Christ not only believes in his life and death and his resurrection, but also believes they are called to follow in his footsteps.

Jesus didn’t die because he was forced to, or because he HAD to, or even because God willed him to; rather, he died because humanity’s sinful nature rebuked and reviled him. He accepted that reality and took on death because he LOVES US THAT MUCH. He accepted death on a cross because to him, and to God, we MATTER THAT MUCH! Jesus saw in us the what we often fail to see in ourselves…the presence of the Living God. So, why take what is an ENORMOUSLY POSITIVE verse and turn it into something negative? I am not God, nor are you, nor is any other created being in God’s creation. Only God is God, and through Christ, God has showed us the way of love through self-sacrifice. We are to believe, but we are not to judge others who we THINK might not believe. Rather we are to SIMPLY BELIEVE to the point of being moved and transformed from who we are to who GOD is calling us to be. Those who do shall find everlasting peace and life.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.” – Jesus Christ
PRAYER
Lord, help me to believe in you…to truly believe…and not to be in a place of judgment of others. Amen.

Breath of God

Read Genesis 1

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1, 14)

15542680The Bible tells us that in the beginning, the earth was a formless void. All that existed was darkness which covered the face of the deep. Then something miraculous happened. God’s breath (Hebrew: rûach, pronounced roo-akh’; Greek: pneuma, pronounced pnyoo’-mah) wisped like a wind over the waters, which in the ancient world were seen as chaos, and God spoke: “Let there be light.” From that moment on nothing remained the same. From the chaos came order, from the darkness came light, from the void came wholeness, and from the formless came form. All of this from series of simple, yet powerful WORDS.

The creation story was written by priestly Jewish scribes during the Babylonian exile (ca 587 – 538 BCE) in a time when the people of Judah had nearly lost their entire identity. There land and titles were stripped from them, they were yanked from their homeland and forced to live in Babylon as subjects of King Nebuchadnezzar II, their temple was utterly destroyed and their identity as a people chosen by God nearly crushed! Yet, these scribes sat down and penned the creation story in order to impart this message of hope: “The same God who created order out of chaos, the same God that formed the formless, the same God that breathed life into the lifeless can certainly bring order to the chaos of our captivity.”

In the Gospel of John, written about 638 years after the end of the Babylonian exile, we see God’s Word bringing new hope and new creativity into the world. John tells us that this same Word of God that created the  universe and all that is in it, this same Word of God that brought order to the chaos, this same Word of God became flesh and walked among us in a man called Jesus of Nazareth. The living breath of God had come alive in another person and this particular person would bring the hope of God’s presence, as well as order, into a world plagued with chaos.

As can be seen in the Bible, Words are extremely powerful. Just like water which is shown to be a force of chaos and destruction as much as it is shown to be a force of life, Words can be both destructive as well as creative. How often, we as human beings use words in careless ways and with reckless abandon. How often we take our words for granted without giving them even a second thought. How often we have been hurt by words as well as uplifted by them. How often we have hurt others with our words as well as brought healing with them.

In creation, God chose those creative words carefully. God poured all of Godself into those words and as a result, we are filled with the living breath or spirit of God. In life, Jesus of Nazareth also chose his words carefully, using them to bring hope, healing and wholeness to those who need. He used words that destructively worked against systems of oppression, corruption, greed, and injustice.

As children of God, as followers of Jesus, we are being challenged to use our words wisely. We are being challenged to be a people who treat our words, and the breath that forms them, exactly as they are: SACRED. Our breath and our words (spoken, written or even thought) are gifts from God, not to be taken lightly or to be used thoughtlessly and/or with reckless abandon. We should be using our words to breathe life into people. We should be using our words, like Jesus, to bring God’s hope, healing and wholeness in the world. When need be we should use our words as a way to counteract systems of oppression and injustice. In the name of God, by the power of Christ, speak your words to those who need to hear them!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

Every time we breathe we are breathing in God’s breath of life.

PRAYER

Lord, put on my lips your words so that I may speak hope, healing and wholeness to all in need. Amen.