Devotions In John

God the Word

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (John 1:1).

From the beginning You were a communicating and creating God. You were speaking into existence all things that now exist. From You, everything. Apart from You, nothing. Nothing becomes everything when You speak.

What the Word created it also informs. Your Word is Your self-expression, Your self-revelation. You communicate the truth You are to the creatures You have endowed with a capacity to receive that revelation. You speak of yourself to them.

Your Word is light and truth because You are light and truth. Men can use words to lie, cheat, steal, and destroy. Men and their words can be separated, but You are always one with Your Word. Your Word is truth for Your Word is yourself. You speak what You are; You are what You speak. There is no difference, no deception, no delusion.

The Word, therefore, is saving. When believed, the Word delivers from the blinding and binding effects of sin. The Word conveys a power to make us the children of God--forgiven, reborn, and adopted.

"The Word became flesh" and bore the name Jesus. Form was changed, function was unchanged. Jesus, You illumine and save all who hear and trust You. I am one who does. I praise You for the deliverance You brought, the difference You made.

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The Word

" The Word was God…. The Word became flesh…(John 1:1, 14).

Lord Jesus, You were with God "in the beginning." Then You were with us "for a while." Your visit required a change of form and venue--a descent and sacrifice too profound for us to fully grasp. What we cannot understand fully we can appreciate greatly, however. What did not change was Your boundless, endless love. Because You loved, You made the change, made the sacrifice. How can we know that and not love You?

Always, both in eternity and in history, both as God and as Man, You were and are "the Word." In spirit and in flesh You are "the Word." You spoke and "all things were made." Sin unmade them, marring the materialized thought of God. What Your power created, Your power redeems. You are "the Word" by which the unmade is remade. You speak and our sins are forgiven. You speak and the dead come to life as the reborn "children of God."

You "lived for a while among us" that we might live forever with You. You came to earth that we might go to heaven. You descended from eternity into history, that we might ascend from history into eternity. You invaded darkness and death to bring us light and life. This "blows my mind" but it wins my heart. You are "the Word" I choose to hear and trust forever. God's creative, redemptive speech, I adore You, praise You, salute You.

Invincible Light

The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:5).

Lord Jesus, the darkness opposed You from Your cradle to Your grave. Forces of evil sought to derail and destroy You along every mile of track as You fulfilled Your mission. You were hated, slandered, and finally crucified. You were torn by whips and spiked with nails and tortured with thirst, and then an awful darkness hid from view Your pain-wracked, blood-smeared form. When You were hastily buried it seemed that the darkness had utterly prevailed.

But You were raised from the death. The life You had laid down You took up again (10:18). The light still shines, the darkness could not overcome it.

Because You are life, the last word for me cannot be death. Because You are light, I do not walk in darkness. You came, light shone, and darkness was dispelled forever.

You shone on me; You shine for me. In Your light I see light. You flood with invincible light the way to God, to life, to heaven. With every step forward the light increases. My goal is the perfect day!

In Your face, O Christ, I behold the light of the glory of God. I will live now and forever in that light.

The Exegete

...God the only Son, who is at the Father's side, has made him known (John 1:18).

Lord Jesus, my Greek New Testament blesses me here. It identifies You as the "exegesis" of the Father. In You the meaning of "God" is defined, declared, described as fully as possible. You are the One who makes God the Father known. You reveal to us what He is like in character and purpose.

You make Him known by the whole of Your earthly life. In Your words we hear His speech, in Your deeds we behold His actions. We watch and listen and wonder as You act, react, and interact with all sorts of persons in all kinds of situations. And in Your human life--and death--we have a true, clear, saving knowledge of the Father, a perfect transcript of His love, power, wisdom, justice, and holiness.

In You the Invisible was seen. The revelation needs no supplement from any source. Your exegesis of God is true, complete and satisfying. You reveal all we can know of the Father, all we need to know of the Father, now and forever.

What is God like? The question is as old as mankind, as crucial as breath. And the answer, Lord Jesus Christ, is You. The Father has revealed himself in the Son.

The Lamb

Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29)

The Lamb! The sacrifice for sin. The atonement provided by God, that He might reconcile the world to himself without contradicting His holiness, without destroying our freedom. He is God's solution of the problem set by our sin. Our resources of wisdom, strength, and goodness are woefully inadequate to save.

The liberation! Jesus "takes away the sin of the world." He does not ignore it, He does not excuse it. He must either bring to it mercy or judgment. He chose, in love, to bear it away in atoning death. The burden of sin, guilt, and condemnation is lifted from our lives and hurled into oblivion by hands that were pierced with nails. He frees us "to become the children of God."

The look! "Look, the Lamb of God." That's all we can do. We cannot analyze, measure, or describe His love and power to save. We can only behold it, "lost in wonder, love, and praise." We cannot earn that deliverance. We cannot purchase that freedom. We can only look in faith to the Lamb of God.

How simple the condition! It brings the blood-bought liberation within reach of young and old, learned and ignorant, rich and poor. All can look. Lord, even I can look! And I have, and I still do, and I always will.

Finding, Following

Finding Philip, he said to him, "Follow me" (John 1:43).

Two things speak to me in this brief statement, Lord Jesus--the finding and the following.

The context speaks of Andrew finding Peter and of Philip finding Nathanael. Each of these "finders" exclaim, "We have found the Messiah." But Philip is the first to be found by You. That doesn't make him special but it makes You special. You are the Shepherd who seeks for Your lost sheep. The genius of Christianity is its seeking God. In pagan religions men find the gods if they can. In the Christian faith God finds men.

This "finding" quickens a hallowed memory. I recall the night You found me and, as a consequence of Your initiative, I found You. That turning point led to a long life of fellowship with You, as satisfying as it has been surprising.

Which brings me to the "following." Philip was the first to whom You said, "Follow me." You had "decided to leave for Galilee" when You spoke these words. Philip made the trip with You because he had nothing better to do. No one ever has anything better to do than follow You. Those who think so miss the choicest opportunity and forfeit the happiest life.

Finding evokes memories of the past. Following challenges devotion in the present. Life is an ongoing journey into the unknown. But with You! That's all that really matters, Lord.

Best Advice

His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you"
(John 2:5).


Jesus had cut the apron strings. He refused to act upon the wishes of His earthly mother; He awaited a signal from His eternal Father, saying to Mary, "My time has not yet come."

That teaches me, Lord, to make the Father's will, and not another's whims or wishes, my rule for life. That the two may often coincide, I happily admit. Where they don't, however, the divine will has priority over the human desires. I cannot allow even the closest and dearest ties to usurp Your lordship over me.

Disappointed, perhaps, but undaunted, Mary turned to the servants and said, "Do whatever he tells you." That is more than good advice, it is the best advice. What You tell us to do, Lord, is always the right thing, the wise thing, the good thing to do. It may not be easy, popular, or immediately rewarding, but any other course of action will prove ruinous.

Those who will may get their directives from the "dear Abbys" of this world. I'll take Mary's advice, for it binds me to Your words--the only safe and saving way to go.

What love, faith, and humility Mary displays in this incident! Her acquiescence to Your words modeled the advice she gave the servants. Lord, I take her as my model and You as my Master.

The Temple-Raiser

Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days
(John 2:19).


Those who heard these words misunderstood them. Even Your disciples understood only in the light of the crucifixion and the resurrection. Most of what You say, Lord Jesus, can only be grasped in that light--and most of what happens to us.

You came to raise up what sin has pulled down. You are "the resurrection and the life" for our ruined temples. You are the one and only Savior from sin.

Man is a wrecker. In his blind slavery to sin he destroys all that is sacred and precious. He lays rebellious hands upon the work of God and seeks to impose his will upon it. This false sovereignty always proves destructive. He ruins what he most needs. Everything sin does ends in a cross.

So great is Your love that You came to us, lived among us, and allowed us to fashion a cross for You. But sin was outmatched. "Death could not keep its prey." You rose again with "all authority in heaven and on earth." You rose again, the re-builder of ruined temples.

In John's vision, the city of God contained no temple (Rev. 21:22). At last there will be no ruined temples to require rebuilding. All whom You save will live forever in Your likeness. Sin and death will be no more!

Lord, You restored the life that I destroyed. Praise Your name!

The Heart knower

...he knew what was in a man (John 2:25).

Lord Jesus, You knew what was in me. Others only guessed, and were often wrong. I was even hidden from myself until You showed me my heart.

You saw my sin, even the sin I tried to make a virtue of. You saw the pride I labeled self-esteem, the jealousy I called a competitive spirit, the lust I termed a natural curiosity, the hatred I named a sense of justice.

But You saw, too, a deep and often repressed hunger for God, for inner peace, for meaningful existence, for someone or something that would make life worth living. Those flames, burning low but never extinguished, were there by Your grace. You fanned them into leaping, consuming fires, until I wanted You more than anyone or anything. You came to me when I could not come to You. You cared for me when I did not care for myself. You rescued me when I could not save myself. Your love was as pure, as complete, as Your knowledge.

You still know my heart. Sometimes others don't; often I can't. I have learned to pray, Search me, O God, and know my heart.... See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting (Ps. 139:23-24).

Heart knower, Heart changer, my trust is in You.

He Came--That's What Matters

He came to Jesus at night (John 3:2).

Critics have chewed him up and spit him out for centuries because he came at night. They have branded him a coward, critics whose own religion has never cost them friends or status or blood.

How can we know his motives when the Gospel is silent on the subject? How busy and crowded by "many people" (2:23) were your days, Lord Jesus. If Nicodemus wanted a quiet, extended conversation with You, when could that happen except at night? What if, driven by intense inner hunger, he couldn't wait until morning?

Whatever His reason, whatever the time, "he came to Jesus." That's what matters--he came. Thousands who have heard of You never came to You. Nicodemus did, and You welcomed him, conversed with him, showed him his need, and offered him eternal life.

Lord, I remember when I came to You one night, came in my youth, came in my sins, came in my fears, came with my doubt, confusion and hesitation, came with my gnawing hunger and choking emptiness. You made me welcome. You spoke to me. You offered new life and heart-peace, and highest goals.

Necessity

You must be born again.... the Son of Man must be lifted up
(John 3:7, 14).


Lord Jesus, You first said "a man" must be born again to "see the kingdom of God." Then You got personal, emphatically personal, saying to Nicodemus, "You must be born again." There comes a time when truth generally stated must be heard as personal address. Because You are faithful each person, sooner or later, hears the individualizing "you."

The "must" of the new birth is made possible by the "must" of Your crucifixion. You were lifted up on the cross and lifted up from the grave. The first atoned for sin; the second released new life. The "must" of Calvary was the only way to provide salvation for sinners. Our sin created the necessity of the cross. Your love created the necessity of the cross. You were not willing to let us perish. You came to make possible our eternal life.

The new life is not our old lives reformed. It is Your life given to us by the Spirit, a new quality of life that owes nothing to our efforts or merits. It is sheer gift.

Your Spirit enables us to believe and to live. But "born of the Spirit" awaited Your death on the cross. The "must" of human need was utterly dependent upon the "must" of divine provision. Nicodemus was intelligent, religious, earnest, and gifted--but none of his attributes, abilities, or activities could save him. "Must" answers to "must"--the "must" of our guilt and the "must" of Your grace.

I came with mixed emotions and mixed motives, but I came--and I have never been the same since.

The Peerless One

The one who comes from heaven is above all (John 3:31).

Lord Jesus, You are the one who came from heaven. You entered history from eternity. You are above all; You are without peers.

You were a man, but above all other men; a rabbi, but above all other rabbis; a prophet, but above all other prophets; a priest, but above all other priests; a king, but above all other kings. None was Your equal. None surpassed You.

And what You were, You still are. And You are still above all. In love, power, wisdom, justice, and holiness You are above all. Beside You the richest are paupers, the bravest are cowards, the wisest are fools, the truest are sinners. You are incomparable.

"Above all"--that's why You were hated, vilified, opposed and crucified. Sin-blinded and sin-bound, we prefer the worst to the best. We can intimidate the worst; we are threatened by the best. We want to look down on others, not up to others. Looking down makes us feel bigger; looking up makes us feel smaller. We like to feel better than others--it anesthetizes our consciences. You awaken a sense of shame and guilt in us when we compare ourselves to You. We want Barabbas, not Jesus.

Heal our blindness. Forgive our sins. Cleanse our hearts. Then, like John the Baptist, we will take joy in becoming less while You become greater.

Sending, Speaking, Spirit-filled

For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God; to him God gives the Spirit without limit (John 3:34).

Sending, speaking, and Spirit are linked in the purpose of God.

Jesus, You were sent into the world. You did not come at Your own initiative or for Your own interests. You came in response to the Father's will and mankind's need. You were on a mission to reveal and redeem.

As the Sent One, You spoke God's words. You heralded a given message. You proclaimed on earth what You had heard in heaven. Yours were "the words of eternal life." God speaks to give life through You.

Sending and speaking were the results of the Spirit given "without limit" to You. Your obedience was perfect, Your teaching was truthful, because Your communication with the Father was unbroken, Your capacity for the Spirit unlimited.

In a lesser way this is all true of the church and of its preachers. They are sent of God. They have a given message to declare--the gospel. To effect that witness, to accomplish that mission, they are filled with the Spirit. They receive the Spirit within limits but abundantly. The Spirit is not given to elate them but to energize them for service.

Lord Jesus, grant the truth of all this to be my personal experience. Send me and speak through me by the Spirit!

The Service Road

He had to go through Samaria (John 4:4).

Most Jewish travelers avoided that route. They wanted no contact with the hated and hating Samaritans. They took a longer route to preserve their purity and prejudice.

Not You, Lord Jesus! You took the direct route, not to save time and miles but to save people. Your love includes all. Our barriers of color, class, and creed cannot prevent You from offering the water of life to all. You take the shortcut to every person's heart.

You were a Jew, and did not hesitate to affirm, "Salvation is from the Jews." From them, yes, but for all races, nations, and persons who will believe in You. You join no exclusive clubs, reject no earnest seeker for truth.

I remember when You had to come down my street, knock at my door, answer my questions, and transform my life. Love compelled Your direction, not time, distance, or factors of efficiency and convenience. It did not matter to You that I was unknown, unpromising, and undeserving. You loved and came and saved! You came, not because I wanted You, but because I needed You. You came seeking nothing from me but offering everything to me. Your itinerary was not an ego trip but a service road.

You claimed and changed me. I will share Your attitude. When You put a Samaria in my path I will not seek a detour.

Ignorance Is Not Bliss

Jesus answered her, "If you knew..." (John 4:10).

The Samaritan woman spoke and argued from ignorance, ignorance of the most destructive kind.

She didn't know You, Lord Jesus. She saw You only as a Jewish man and concluded that You were typical in Your attitudes and biases. What a futile exercise is jumping to conclusions! She expected You to dislike her, to condemn her. To her credit, however, she listened to You and her insight deepened from "a Jew" to "a prophet" to "the Christ."

She didn't know You and she didn't know herself. You saw possibilities of new life where she saw the scars of old sins. Five failed marriages and an adulterous relationship had blinded her to the latent worth and untapped good that was hers by the grace of God. She had religion enough to argue about but not enough to keep her from repeated moral failure. Those who had used and abused her had shaped her self-estimate.

She would get acquainted with her true self, her best self, only when she got acquainted with You. Until we know You as Savior we cannot see straight, think straight, or walk straight.

To know You is eternal life. That gift of life is available to the unknowing, but not to the unwilling. You illuminate us gradually but not coercively. Lord, keep my heart open to Your light and life!

Look! Labor!

I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields. They are ripe for harvest (John 4:35-36)

In Your kingdom, Lord, harvest time is not determined by calendar dates but by preparatory events. As "Lord of the harvest" You know when and where to send Your workers to sow, to till, to reap.

You saw the curious Samaritans approaching and knew it was reaping time. They would enter into life under Your tutelage as a reaper (vv. 40-42). Your disciples had to learn to see people as You did, work with them as You did.

You issued a challenging directive: "look at the fields!" Open your eyes! See people as harvests, see them in need of salvation, see them as coming to Christ and life.

You issued a second challenge: "I sent you to reap..." Looking must be followed by laboring. Cooperative work is required--"One sows and another reaps." All can do something, must do something, to make the vital harvesting a reality.

Lord, the church needs to hear this anew. I need to hear this anew. I need to see people as a harvest endangered by passing time and gathering storms. I need to devote myself to kingdom service. Lord, show me my place, my task, and keep me faithfully at work for You.

Fathers and Sons

Your son will live (John 4:50).

Lord Jesus, when I read these thrilling words I recall those in 3:16: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."

This stricken father certainly represented "the world"--society based upon lust, greed, and force--for he was an official of Herod's court. You spoke the love of God to him, saying, "Your son will live."

Did he know that God's Son must die to make the world's salvation possible? Probably not. But he would learn, as we have learned, that You made Your gift of life available only by dying for our sins. Paul would later write that God "did not spare his own Son," but "gave him up for us all," that He might "graciously give us all things" (Rom. 8:32). Every spared son, from Cain to my own lads, lived as the beneficiary of God's unspared Son.

More than a miracle of power is found in Your words, "Your son will live." It was a miracle of love, love that chose death in order to give life. Two fathers are in this story, one pleading for his son, One speaking through His Son; one asking that his son might live, One consenting to His Son's death.

Lord, Your love awakens mine, sustains mine, increases mine, purifies mine. For the unspared Son who spares sons, I give You praise today.

Wanting Is Step One

Do you want to get well? (John 5:6).

Lord Jesus, You knew what I slowly learned--that some people don't want to get well. Some want to remain the center of attention, the focus of constant service, excused from hard decisions and sometimes harder work. To be well means taking responsibility, increasing productivity, sharing the burdens of others. Some illness has been a headlong flight from these demands.

Getting well begins with being willing to be well, to function as a worker in an often tough society. No physician, however skilled, no medicine, however potent, no therapy, however effective avails for the person who lacks the will to live. Health and strength and their useful deployment cannot be coerced. Many who are ill today would be well if they had not fearfully retreated from life. The road back begins with wanting to be well.

I think of my mother-in-law. Crippled and distorted by arthritis, she could have quit, worsened, and died as a young woman. Instead, she fought, worked and served through decades of constant pain, praying always to be healed but never turning sour or weak when healing wasn't granted. She taught me what a strong will and a persistent faith can achieve.

Lord, face me with life's tough, demanding responsibilities, and help me to want to be well regardless.

Everyone Has Someone

"Sir," the invalid replied, "I have no one to help me..."(John 5:7).

Wrong! Lord Jesus, when You are present everyone has someone. You are Lover of the unloved. You are Friend of the friendless. You are Help of the helpless. Your light can pierce any darkness. Your power can lift any burden. Your love reaches to the hopeless, the forsaken, and the depressed who think they are hopeless and forsaken when, in truth, others do care and want to help but cannot.

You can put us on our feet, Lord, physically, materially, and--best of all--spiritually. And we don't have to be important to receive Your help. You look for the overlooked. Crowds can't hide us from You. Circumstances won't keep You from us. Always You are here for us.

The length of our problems cannot render impotent Your solutions. "Thirty-eight years" or thirty-eight hours, it's all the same to You. There are no age limits, no time limits, to Your miracles.

Years ago in a Florida city I overheard a badly depressed and defeated man say, "I ain't nothing to nobody." And the fellow listening to him said, "Everybody is somebody to Jesus." Lord Jesus, that is true. Your enemies sneered and said, "This man welcomes sinners." What they spoke in contempt Your church repeats in praise. You are the sinner's Friend. You are my Friend. My hope and help are in You. I have Someone to help me!

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Legalism Blinds

It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat (John 5:10).

They were wrong, Lord Jesus! They should have said, "Our interpretation of the law forbids you to carry your mat." Like many today, they were so sure that they had accurately understood the law, in all of its applications, that they made no distinction between Your revelation and their interpretation. They elevated their opinions to the level of Your commands.

Their legalism blinded them to who You were and what You were doing. They persecuted You for healing on the Sabbath and for telling a healed man to carry his mat on that day. You responded by saying, "My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working." That should have triggered alarm bells, should have induced self-searching on their part. Instead, in the age-long pattern of the insecure and defensive, they reacted by thinking and saying the worst they could about You.

Lord, when we add our rules to Your commands, and then treat them as one, we lose the possibility of rethinking and reforming them in the light of fuller understanding of Your word. We make Your word a prisoner of our interpretations and opinions. We reverse roles and seek to master Your word, not to serve it.

Teach us to ask, "What is the Savior doing? In the light of His words and works, do we need to discard some, and revise others, of our interpretations and applications?" Especially help me at this point, Lord!

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