Devotions In John

Father And Son Are One

...whatever the Father does the Son also does (John 5:19).

Fathers teach best by example and explanation. Children learn best by observation and imitation. When Jesus was a growing lad He watched Joseph ply his carpenter's trade, picked up the tools and techniques, and became a carpenter himself.

In a similar but superior way, as the "one and only" Son of God, He pursued His public ministry of preaching and teaching and healing by simply saying and doing what He had observed of the heavenly Father's words and works. To Him, a finished apprentice with perfect skills, the Father entrusted the work of giving life and passing judgment.

Father and Son are one. Jesus did not come to reconcile the Father to us, but to reconcile us to the Father. He did not come to save us from the Father but to save us from ourselves. We need changing, not God. Father and Son have the same attitude toward us, the same purpose for us. Jesus made visible and audible the concern and compassion of the Father for sinners who were self-destructing.

These are my thoughts as I read this portion of Your word, O Lord. In Jesus I see You--I sense Your love and receive Your life. He is not my protection or defense against You; He is the exposition of Your grace towards me. There my heart rests. There my heart sings.

The Crossover

...he has crossed over from death to life (John 5:24).

All kinds of crossovers occur in our world today. Some of them are radical. Through surgery, some men have become women, some women have become men. Others, unable or unwilling to have the surgeries done, are content to be cross-dressers, going about "in drag." Alarming numbers have crossed over in sexual lives, men with men, women with women, reaping a whirlwind of devastating consequences.

Lord, I cannot fathom the deep physical and psychological dissatisfaction and desperation that drive persons to such crossovers. I am grateful that early in life I made a positive, redeeming, transforming crossover. I crossed over from death to life when I heard and believed Your word. I shudder to think of what I might have been and done had I continued in sin and unbelief.

Many can speak the words that create a crossover from life to death. An order is given or a signal is transmitted, and lives are destroyed, sometimes by the hundreds and thousands. Just today I've been reading about the terrible bombing raids of World War II in which thousands perished. Yes, the crossover from life to death is easily provided.

But only "the voice of the Son of Man" can speak the word that brings people from death to life. The dead hear and live when You address them. True life is fellowship with You, and You alone are the initiator of that fellowship.

The Indwelling Word

...nor does his word dwell in you...(John 5:38).

The human heart should be home to Your word, Father. It should reside there permanently, not as a visitor who comes and goes. Abraham Lincoln was said to be "at home in the Bible." More important, the Bible should be at home in us. Our inner lives should be shaped and steered by what You have spoken to save and guide us.

The enemies of Jesus diligently studied the Scriptures, questing for eternal life but not finding it. One can have his head in the Bible without having the Bible in his heart. He can be a learned Bible scholar but still dead in sins.

The Scriptures testify about Christ. They function to lead us to Him. Lord Jesus, if I do not come to You through my Bible study, its purpose and power are wasted on me.

The Father's word dwells in those who believe the Son. It is by faith, not by study, that we have life. Lord, keep me reminded of this as I turn the pages of my Bible and mull over its teachings. I want You, not an accumulation of facts or speculations about You.

I can't have life without the Scriptures, but I can have the Scriptures without life. I have the written word before me, in all its fascination and challenge. But I must have the living Word within me, at the control center of my being and doing. Let me not confuse the means with the end.

A Telling Absence

I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts
(John 5:42).


Lord Jesus, You know our hearts. We can hide the truth from one another, and even from ourselves, but never from You. You know the deepest and truest things about us, and that can be our comfort or our condemnation.

If God's word does not dwell in us (v. 38), neither does His love. According to You, Jesus, the whole law, reduced to its essence, is contained in the commandments to love God supremely and our neighbors unselfishly. Where that love does not reside the word of God is absent also.

A sure sign of love's absence is a quest for men's approval that takes priority over God's approval. "How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?" Lord, You said, "I seek not to please myself but him who sent me" (v. 30). Where God's love rules, we are more eager to please Him than to please others or ourselves.

In this portion of the Gospel, Lord Jesus, You bind together love, faith, and obedience. Apart from love, faith is impossible. Apart from obedience, love is falsified. Love for You means trust in You and submission to You. If I truly love You, I will believe Your word; if I truly believe Your word I will obey its commands.

Overshadowed

Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, spoke up. "Here is a boy..." (John 6:8, 9).

Every time this Gospel mentions Andrew he is identified as "Simon Peter's brother." He was destined to live in the shadow of his well-known, highly regarded brother. He was crowded from center stage by the star.

That wasn't easy, but Andrew handled it graciously. His was the immense joy of knowing that he had introduced Simon Peter to You, thus launching his brother's influential apostolic career.

Indeed, every time Andrew appears, he is bringing someone to You. First it was Peter, then it was this boy whose lunch would be multiplied to feed a multitude. Later it would be some Greeks who were eager to see You. What higher service could a person render to Your kingdom?

I like to read that "Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, spoke up..." Being overshadowed by his brother did not rob him of his own mind and mouth. He spoke up without Peter's push or nod. He was his own man; more important, he was Your man.

I've never felt like praying, "Make me like Simon Peter." But I've often prayed, "Make me like Andrew." Lord, that is still my prayer. In the shadow of others, help me to be a faithful, fruitful, and forthright disciple. Help me to know the joy of bringing others to You. "Second fiddle" is music enough for me.

Stretching Assets

...but how far will they go among so many? (John 6:9).

Andrew's plaintive question is best answered, not by counting loaves, fishes or people, but by sizing up Jesus. Placed in Your hands, Lord, our meager resources gain an inexplicable elasticity. They stretch beyond our counts and calculations.

This I have learned--my income goes farther as I tithe than it would if I didn't. Now, in old age, when my income is reduced, I am double tithing and You keep my chin above the water in surprising ways. I marvel at what You do with what I place in Your hands and with what is left in mine.

This too I have learned--what is shared goes farther than what is hoarded. You multiplied what the lad consented to divide. In Your kingdom number one is the unlucky number. Those who please only themselves are left with only themselves. It is the liberal soul whom You make fat.

This too I have learned--what is received with gratitude can be distributed with joy. Before the distribution You "gave thanks," reminding those present of the true source of all good things. Grateful hearts make for generous hands.

What a story that lad had to blurt out when he got home and his mother asked, "Where have you been?" Did he ever forget the lessons of the shared lunch? Lord, don't let me forget them!

Waste Not, Want Not

Let nothing be wasted (John 6:12).

The prodigal giver became the careful saver. You are opposed to hunger, Lord Jesus. On its face, this is the message of this miracle of multiplied loaves and fishes. In the face of appalling hunger in the world, we must bring all we can, share all we can, to relieve the needs of hurting people, trusting You to stretch our resources.

But You are equally opposed to waste. Wasting, like hoarding, is a sin. In my country, conspicuous consumption exists hand in hand with conspicuous waste. If government waste could be eliminated, welfare programs could be extended. Multiplied thousands could benefit from what is callously dumped.

The goose that lays the golden egg can only be squeezed for so long. There is no limit to Your love and power, Lord, but there is a limit to our probation. A reckoning is inevitable. Our selfish wastefulness will prove our ruin. The skin-and-bones cattle will devour the fat ones. Pharaoh's dream is an economic reality.

Teach me, Lord, to give all I can and to save all I can--to save in order to give more, not in order to have more.

What is "left over" should not be left behind. Someone needs the 12 baskets full. Sink this truth into my heart, Lord. "Waste not, want not" is good advice, whatever its origin.

A Christ for Life's Storms

...they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were terrified (John 6:19).

You terrified Your own disciples, Lord Jesus, but only because they didn't recognize You in the eerie circumstances. Darkness, rough water, a ghostly figure walking on water--that would quicken the pulse and shorten the breath of any person.

"It is I," You said, "don't be afraid." Immediately they were calmed, as were the waters, and came swiftly and safely to shore. When we know You are aboard we can face the storms with faith and courage.

The world can terrify us, Lord. So many bad things happen to good people that we can feel terribly defenseless and helpless at times. We whistle past the graveyards but we aren't fooling ourselves. The graveyard is real. The face of death is seen everywhere. Our bravado doesn't relieve our fear. Gale force winds and rough seas can arise suddenly, leaving us with a "penciled in" feeling of insecurity and despair. When You make Your presence known we are delivered.

The answer to our storms is not harder rowing but You, with us and for us. Unrecognized, You terrify. Recognized, You assure. Your "it is I" remedies my "Woe is me." To see You as You really are is know that You will not abandon me to the might of the storm or to my limited efforts. Your love is unfailing, Your power invincible. Welcome to my boat!

God-Approved

On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval (John 6:27).

The immediate reaction of "the crowd" was "How do we get this seal of approval"? What "work" will bring us the "food that endures to eternal life"?

Your reply, Lord Jesus, was "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent" (v. 29). In saying yes to You the Father has said no to all others. The only way I can be approved of God is to be in You. Faith in You is the "work" required of me. I rest in the work You have done. All my striving for merit and acceptance is vain.

Trusting in You, I am accepted, forgiven, and approved. You are "the bread of life"--I cannot bake my own.

This I learn from Your life, to be approved by God is to be disapproved by the world. Your devotion to the Father's will and work placed You on a collision course with the political and religious leaders of Your day. The world has not changed. I can have God's approval or the world's approval, but not both. The choice is eternal life or eternal death.

I have chosen life. I have chosen to follow You. My identity and security are in You, not in the world or "the things of the world." God's seal of approval is all that will matter in the last day. It must be all that finally matters every day. I am in You and You are with me--let the world do what it may.

The Sure Welcome

...whoever comes to me I will never drive away (John 6:37).

Father and Son are perfectly one. Whom the Father gives to Him the Son receives without question or hesitation. Their wills are congruent, their love is unmeasured. All who come to the Savior are accepted; He rejects no one. "Infinite, marvelous, matchless grace"! I came and the welcome mat was out.

Whom You receive You keep. You give to them eternal life, and You raise them up "at the last day." In You, sin and death are robbed of their power to destroy us. You are "the bread of life," the answer to mankind's hunger for God. Whom You nourish will "never go hungry," will never perish.

One thing only will keep a person from being saved. You cannot save those who will not come. The Father draws but He does not drive. The Son is the bread of life, but no one is force-fed this bread. In "coming" and in "believing" we are saved. Refusal to come, refusal to believe, is self-destruction. The man who starves when a banquet is freely offered has only himself to blame.

The Father wills eternal life to "everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him." Those who look elsewhere and trust in others only deepen their sin and doom their souls. There is no other Savior. Not Moses, not Buddha, not Confucius, not Mohammed--only Jesus.

Everyone may come; no one must come. All who come are welcomed, pardoned, and kept.

Living From and For Christ

Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me (John 6:57).

The Son lives because of the Father. He does not exist apart from that relationship. He has always existed, He is the eternally begotten Son, for God is eternally the Father.

The Son lives for as well as from the Father. He lives to do the Father's will, to do the Father's work (4:34). He lives as the One whom the Father sent. He "came down from heaven" as the "living bread" to give life to all who believe in Him.

The "living Father" gave the "living bread" that we might "live forever." We have no immediate relationship to the Father. We are connected to Him only through the Son, and we are connected with the Son only through faith. To believe in Him is to feed on Him, to have life from Him.

We live from the Son and for the Son. Our relationship to Him is like His to the Father. To do His will and work is our "meat and bread." We are His sent ones. We exist in mission or not at all. To have life is to give life for the sake of others. We are sent ones and spent ones or we are nothing. We feed on Him and bleed for Him. Discipleship is not added to life, it is life. O Christ, help me to believe, to serve, to live as Your disciple.

The Life-Speaker

You have the words of eternal life (John 6:68).

"In the beginning was the Word." "The Word became flesh and lived for a while among us." And the enfleshed Word spoke "the words of eternal life." God's speech is our salvation, if we hear and believe.

No other has "the words of eternal life." Others may advise but they cannot save. They can echo His words, but they cannot save. Lord Jesus, You alone can truly say, "The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life" (v. 63). "Salvation is found in no one else," said Peter, and he was right. Any man's claim to be the Savior is false--lying words, destroying words.

When God said, "Let there be light...there was light." His words effect His will. Jesus, when You say, "Your sins are forgiven," they are forgiven. When You say, "Your son will live," disease and death lose their grip. When You say, "Get up and walk," paralyzed limbs are empowered for locomotion. Your words are never idle sounds. They effect Your will for us.

Those who listen to the Father come to the Son. Those who listen to Jesus come to life. The dead "hear the voice of the Son of God" and live (5:28). The sheep hear the voice of the Shepherd and follow Him (10:27) who gives to them eternal life.

The choice is ours--to hear and live or to close our ears and hearts and perish. Lord, I hear and believe and live!

God-approved Calendar

The right time for me has not yet come (John 7:6).

Earlier, Lord, You refused to act at Your mother's suggestion. Now You refuse to act at Your brothers' suggestion. Your life would be ordered, not by other people, not even by yourself, but only by Your heavenly Father. Because You and the Father are one, You did not miss His signals.

Lord Jesus, I do miss signals. My communion with God is not perfect. Perhaps I'll never know how many I've missed or with what consequences. Therefore, I can only live by Your forgiveness, so graciously granted. I know Your transmitter is flawless, but this side of the resurrection my receiver is defective.

Even my hindsight is not 20/20. I cannot interpret all my troubles as missed signals. After all, You "copied" the Father's will perfectly, and that led to the cross because the world hated You (v. 7). The Father is committed to my holiness but not to my comfort. Hurtful experiences do not mean that I have missed His signals.

Your example teaches me that I cannot evade responsibility by letting others tell me what to do and when to do it. I must subject all plans, agendas, and calendars to Your approval, not willfully opposing You, though obedience to You may incur others' displeasure or even their wrath.

Well, it's easier to think and write about this than to do it. But help me to keep my priorities rightside up--Your will above all others' wishes. And when I fail, forgive.

Such Learning

How did this man get such learning without having studied?
(John 7:15).


They meant, without having studied in our schools and under our teachers. Academic snobbery isn't new.

But You had studied, Lord Jesus. The Scriptures were Your textbook, the Father was Your tutor. You could say, "My teaching is not my own. It comes from him who sent me" (v. 16). Your understanding of God, people, nature, history and the future was not a pre-installed software package. As a child You "grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men" (Luke 2:52). The channels of knowledge were open, the flow of information was constant, and Your ability to understand was unimpaired by sin.

Normal processes of education perpetuate learning, but also mistakes. Rigidified opinion is given the status of truth and law, and parroted as such by generation after generation. You not only avoided the rabbinical schools, You openly disagreed with some of their teachings. For this You were hated, slandered, and finally crucified.

The "right" schools, curricula, pedagogy, and conclusions can be wrong. You dared to demonstrate that and the hornets' nest was stirred.

You were not a rebel on an ego trip. You were an obedient Son putting into practice the Father's teaching. Religious leaders, taught of men but not of God, could not forgive that. They still cannot.

Not on My Own

I am not here on my own...(John 7:28).

Lord Jesus, no one was "from the Father" in the full sense that You were. The example of John the Baptist, however, and of the disciples, teach me that ordinary men can be sent from God to speak His word and do His work. It is written of John, "There came a man who was sent from God" (1:6). You told the disciples, "As the Father has sent me, I am sending you" (20:21).

I dare to believe that I am sent by You to do my work. When I preach the gospel, when I teach the Bible, when I witness to others, when I oppose evil forces, I am not on my own. I act as Your agent. I represent You. You determine my assignments, You invest me for each task.

This brings to me a sense of authority and security I could not have otherwise. In turn, this gives me a measure of courage I would not otherwise possess. I can love when it would be easy to hate, stand when it would be easy to flee, and forgive when it would be easy to avenge--all because I am conscious of acting as Your agent empowered by Your Spirit.

Sent by You doesn't mean immunity from harm. John was beheaded, and some of the disciples were jailed and executed. But even in prison, when facing axes and crosses, they were not on their own. You go with whom You send. How privileged to be sent! How comforting to know "I am not here on my own."

Cannot Results from Will Not

...and where I am, you cannot come (John 7:34).

Jesus, You first said to all, "Come." Your invitation was as broad as human need. But You later faced inveterate enemies and said, "You refuse to come." Now You say, "I go to the one who sent me...and where I am, you cannot come." In rejecting You they forfeited eternal life."Will not come" leads to "cannot come." As the author of Hebrews puts it, "Today" becomes "never" when hearts are hardened by disobedience to God (Hebrews 3:7-15).

The hardening process is self-imposed. "Character tends to permanence." Repeated rejection of Christ can bring one to the place where repentance is impossible--not because the love of God fails but because persistent refusal deadens the heart of the one refusing.

Lord Jesus, these are among the saddest words You ever spoke. They came from a broken heart but fell upon stony hearts. The death to which You alluded would atone for all sins, but these very men for whom You would die, insulated against Your appeals by their self-righteousness, would waste their precious opportunity for life by final refusals to come to You. How awfully, unutterably sad.

"Will not" is a deliberate and foolish human choice. "Cannot" is the inevitable, reluctant divine judgment. I'm glad I came, Lord!

Artesian Life

...streams of living water will flow from within him (John 7:38).

Life in the Spirit is artesian, constantly flowing from a hidden source. The believer has life eternal and abundant when filled with the Spirit. The Spirit, and the life that He gives, is the greatest of Christ's gifts, purchased for us at the cost of Christ's atoning death.

The Spirit who indwells us is the Spirit of Jesus. He is our Lord's way of being present with us at all times, in all places, for all service. Through Him we have life that death cannot destroy, light that darkness cannot extinguish, love that nothing can defeat. Filled with the Spirit, the believer is invincible. He can be knocked down but not knocked out.

The Spirit could not be given until Jesus was "glorified." In John's Gospel "glorified" links the crucifixion with the resurrection. The Christ who died and rose again is the bearer and giver of the Spirit.

After telling His enemies, "You cannot come" (v. 34), Jesus cries out, "If a man is thirsty, let him come to me and drink" (v. 37). Those who thirst for power, for money, for recognition are excluded from this priceless gift. Their thirst cannot be quenched. Those who thirst for God, for life, for peace, for likeness to Christ, they will be satisfied. The Spirit is for those who look to the glorified Christ as their Savior and Lord. Lord Jesus, I am looking to You and drinking from You today!

The Divider

Thus the people were divided because of Jesus (John 7:43).

Some thought You were "the Christ." Others viewed You as an impostor and a threat. Every time You spoke, Lord, these divided opinions and reactions occurred.

You are a great joiner of people. You formed Jew and Gentile into one new humanity, the church (Eph. 2:14, 17). You welded Jew and Greek, slave and free, men and women into one body (Gal. 3:28). The deepest racial and social cleavages have been overcome by our mutual participation in Your atoning death. You reconcile us to God and to one another.

But You are also a great divider of people. You came to bring a sword, to cause division. That division has occurred within families, as some have followed You, some have rejected You. I know how deep and wide that chasm becomes, how much pain that sword inflicts!

You will be the ultimate divider of mankind. Before Your throne nations will be gathered for judgment. On Your right hand will be those who followed You and lived for others; on Your left hand those who rejected You and lived for themselves. At Your word they will depart in opposite directions to opposite destinies. You compel choices that produce divisions in history and for eternity. What joy and pain are in those truths!

Speaker without Peer

No one ever spoke the way this man does (John 7:46).

How true, Lord Jesus!

They are wrong who deny You originality. Some of Your words can, indeed, be paralleled by prophets and rabbis. You entered the world "full of grace and truth," but God had raised up truth-seekers and truth-speakers from the dawn of history. But You are "the truth"--the One of whom the prophets spoke, the One who disclosed God without distortion in Your own person and mission. The real issue is authority, not originality.

No prophet claimed to be savior and judge of mankind. No prophet claimed that the power to confer eternal life resided in his words. No prophet affirmed that his death would atone for the world's sins. No prophet affirmed himself the union of heaven and earth, of God and mankind. No prophet attested his claims with such "signs" as You wrought. The "I am" sayings, the sayings prefaced by "Amen, amen, I say to you," would have been, on the lips of any other person, the ravings of one demented.

The "temple guard" returned without a prisoner, awed by the authority with which You spoke and acted. You are the "one and only Son" of God; the one and only Savior of mankind; the one and only touchstone of eternal destiny; the one and only divider of people into the categories that finally and forever matter.

You spoke and took me prisoner! I rejoice in Your saving words today.

Trappers Trapped

If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her (John 8:7).

Nobody reached for a stone. Lashed by conscience and memory the accusers slunk away like beaten curs. They pretended many things, these hypocrites, but they were not brazen enough to pretend they had no sin. The woman was obviously guilty, "caught in the act." They were less obviously guilty, but no less guilty.

Jesus, You knew their hearts. You knew they were not concerned about justice. If so, they would have detained and exhibited the man who shared this "act of adultery." Their only concern was to embarrass and entrap You as one who opposed the law of Moses. The trap was never sprung. The prey scattered the trappers!

What the passage tells me about myself is plain--I am not qualified to judge another.

What it tells me about You is also lucid. You came not to condemn but to save. God's law, her conscience, and many people had already condemned her. You released her from her accusers, from her "just deserts," and from her past sins. And this is precisely what You did for me, Lord. Your forgiving love became my entrance into new life with its freedom and peace and joy.