Reflections From John

“Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” (John 17:3 NIV)

imageAs I look back on almost 20 years of leading Bible Study in one capacity or another, I believe the most insightful and potentially life-changing study I have ever taught was the Gospel of John. A few years after leading that study, I informed my class that I hoped to teach John’s Gospel again someday. This blog affords me that opportunity.

This series of posts, which will be interrupted occasionally as the Spirit leads me, will not attempt to be an exhaustive expository study of John. Instead, each post will focus on one or two key verses taken from John’s gospel, reflecting on how those verses should inform or impact the conduct of our lives as followers of Christ, being obedient to His commands, and drawing others to know Him better.

I see this series of posts on the Gospel of John as a good fit for Ridgetop Reflections. In fact, I debated whether to title it “Reflections on John” or “Reflections from John”. I went with the latter because while he was once pegged by Jesus himself as a “Son of Thunder”, as John aged he likely became more contemplative- more reflective. I believe that as he pondered the gospel accounts that had been widely distributed, John realized they didn’t paint a complete picture of the Jesus that he knew. If he had written his gospel in modern times, he might have titled it, “The Jesus I Knew”.

John was probably the last of the four gospels to be written. According to Christian tradition, before his exile to the Isle of Patmos, John spent his latter years at Ephesus, where he carried on a ministry of preaching and teaching and writing. He probably wrote this gospel somewhere between 80-90 AD.

He did not attempt to chronicle all the events in the life of Christ- others had already done that. In fact, he memorably observed that should all those events be recorded, “the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” (John 21:25 NIV) But he was extremely focused on going beyond the events to explore the deeper meaning of the ones he chose to include.

Another thing that makes John’s Gospel unique and a good fit for Ridgetop Reflections is his emphasis on Jesus’ relationships with individuals. After 40 years as a Christian and 20 years teaching God’s Word, I have a greater appreciation for the value of relationships in our Christian walk. We better fulfill the Great Commission to make disciples through relationships.

My favorite pastors – the ones that have had the greatest impact on me through the years – are the ones with whom I developed a personal relationship. This blog will have more meaning for and generate more interest from those with whom I have a personal relationship. And I am mindful that what others see in me will either undermine my message or create a hunger to have what I have.

In his letter to the Romans, Paul wrote,“ For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you- that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.” (Rom. 1:11-12 ESV)  Paul understood that personal interaction leads to mutual encouragement.

Lastly, John’s Gospel is a good fit for Ridgetop Reflections because John’s life is an excellent illustration of the love of God. This blog was birthed out of an overwhelming sense of God’s love- a topic I covered in “Reflections On God’s Love”. A simple understanding of God’s love is the deepest theology there is. The great theologian Karl Barth once commented that the most profound truth he ever discovered was “Jesus loves me, this I know. For the Bible tells me so.” And nowhere does the Bible reflect that more profoundly than in the Gospel of John.

John’s life is also an illustration of the grace of God. When Jesus chose him, he had no lofty status as a fisherman, nor was he an educated man, even by the standards of that day. He doesn’t appear to have been a magnetic personality or charismatic leader. But this lowly fisherman went on to be called “the apostle of love” and authored five books in our Bible. He is a testament to the power of Christ to transform lives.

For years Luke was my favorite gospel, because it was written by a Gentile for Gentiles, and it appeals to my logical mindset as a degreed engineer. But I find that the more I have grown in Christ, the more I prefer John over Luke. I’ve discovered that to know about Christ and to accept Him as Savior is one thing, but to truly know Christ and make Him Lord is life-changing!

John knew Christ more intimately than any of the disciples. His gospel has helped me know Christ more intimately myself. And my sincere hope is that through this series of posts, you might get to know Him more intimately as well. Because it is only through knowing Him, trusting Him, and walking in step with Him that we will experience the abundant life that He desires for each one of us. (John 10:10)

“That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death.” (Philippians 3:10 KJV)

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*Photo by Sallye Martin

 

 

Reflections On God’s Love

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God.” ( 1 John 3:1 NIV)

I had an interesting experience this week as I pondered the subject of this post. Since I began writing this blog in February, I have been accumulating ideas for future posts in a journal I keep for that specific purpose. Reviewing that journal Tuesday night and reaching no clear decision concerning this week’s topic, I prayed for divine guidance as I prepared for bed. Immediately upon waking Wednesday morning, I received my answer as I was overwhelmed with the thoughts of God’s love.

imageInterestingly, that was not one of the topics I had recorded in my journal. But I have found it always advisable that when God’s plans differ from my own, always yield to God’s plans. It is absolutely fitting to devote this 10th post to that subject, since the seeds of this blog were planted when my heart was flooded with an overpowering sense of God’s love one night last June while observing this beautiful sunset and reading John’s first epistle.

But just how does one adequately convey the reality of the depths of God’s love. That is a challenge for even the most skilled of writers, much less for one as inexperienced as myself. Words are simply inadequate. Like trying to describe heaven from the perspective of earthly experiences, I believe that no expression of flawed human love even comes close to matching the perfect love of our heavenly Father.

But thankfully, as the Holy Spirit reminded me Wednesday morning, I really don’t have to describe God’s love – He has already done so flawlessly in His Word. And there is little I can add to improve on that. Attempting to do so would only prove futile. And so, I will simply let the Lord speak for Himself and ask you to take the time to truly digest what God has to say about this most important topic. All the following verses are taken from the King James Version, because I believe no modern translation matches its eloquence on this topic.

“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.” (John 3:16)

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13) The cross is the ultimate expression of God’s love for us.

“Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.” (1 John 4:7-11)

“But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:8)

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” (Gal. 2:20)

“Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he might exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” (1 Pet. 5:6-7)

“But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.” (Eph. 2:4-7)

“For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 8:38-39)

How can I improve upon those clear expressions of God’s love? I could go on and on, because God’s Word is one long love letter to us, his children. If you haven’t already done so, I encourage you to locate those verses in your Bible and highlight them. When you come to them in the future, take time to pause and reflect on God’s love, its impact on your life, and its implications for your future.

In my post titled Glimpses Of Heaven, I spoke of my departed mother speaking to me in a dream one night, saying “Wait till you see Jesus! You won’t believe His eyes.” I’ve often wondered what it was about Jesus’ eyes that prompted that statement. The more that I have considered that question, the less I’m convinced that it had anything to do with His physical appearance and everything to do with the inexpressible love His eyes convey. I believe the greatest thrill of heaven will be when we gaze into the eyes of the One who loved us so much that He poured out His life that we might live eternally with Him.

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My prayer is that you may know and experience that love today and that it may overflow from within you and touch the lives of those around you.

“When our broken love is the only love we can have, we are easily thrown into despair. But when we can live our broken love as a partial reflection of God’s perfect, unconditional love, we can forgive one another our limitations and enjoy together the love we have to offer.”

Henri Nouwen, Bread For The Journey: A Daybook of Wisdom and Faith