Devotions In John

The Light of Life

I am the light of the world (John 8:12).

In that light, Lord Jesus, I found life. You shone on me and I saw that I was lost, that I was dead, that I was empty, and that I was utterly helpless to save myself. In Your light I saw the ugliness of my sin, the hypocrisy of my pretensions to be good. But I saw, too, that You were the Son of God and Savior of believers. I came to the Light and was forgiven, was freed.

Walking with You, the darkness has not reclaimed me. Darkness threatens but cannot possess. Through the complexities and perplexities of life, You have guided and guarded. You have illuminated the path of righteousness in my temptations. You have shown me the way out of my confusions, doubts, and fears.

No other can light and lead my way as You do. The wisest of men cannot provide the surest of counsel. Look at those who resented and opposed You when You said, "I am the light of the world." They were religious men, experts in law and tradition, who occupied places of honor and power in society. Yet their minds and hearts were darkened, and in that darkness they plotted Your death. The world is still full of such leaders. If I followed them, the darkness would swallow me.

You are the light. Your words illumine. Where You shine the contours of evil are exposed, the will of God is revealed, and the pathway home is secured. Shine on me today, O Light!

He Speaks! Do I Hear?

" ...what I have heard from him I tell the world (John 8:26).

Lord Jesus, You gave the world the words of the Father. Few of those who heard believed. They were so eagerly listening to others, they easily tuned You out. They heard what they wanted to hear; Your message was what they needed to hear. They were ready to accept those who flattered their egos, excused their sins, and promised them pleasure and prosperity. You exposed sin, demanded repentance, and called to service. You offered life, but they found the conditions unacceptable. So they listened to each other and crucified You.

The mission of the church is to speak Your words--to tell the world what they have heard from You. The results are the same. The few hear, believe, obey; the many scorn the gospel and turn to those who prophesy smooth things, who promise to make them successful and powerful as they continue in sin.

When You spoke the Father's words "many put their faith" in You (v. 30). The many were few, however, compared to the number who refused to believe.

Life is not a numbers game. Truth is not validated by popularity. The issue for me is not how many follow You, but do I follow You? The issue for me is not how many receive my message, but do I tell the world what You have said? You pleased the Father always, at the cost of displeasing men. Help me, Lord, to please You at any cost. Let Your words be my life. All else is false and destructive.

The Truth That Frees

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free
(John 8:32).

Lord, You do not speak of an abstract principle but of a personal relationship. "The truth" of which You speak is not an intellectual fact cogently argued. "The truth" that frees is yourself, for You say, "I am...the truth" (14:6). Therefore You also say, "If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed" (v. 36). Freedom is found in a personal, continuing relationship to You.

What You free us from is sin. You said, "I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin" (v. 34). Those who contended with You wanted a different kind of Savior, a different kind of liberation. They wanted freedom from Rome's domination. Some wanted freedom from the struggle for bread (6:36). You did not come to guarantee political or economic freedom. You came to deliver us from the worst bondage of all , our enslavement to sin.

To believers, You said, "If you hold to my teachings, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." To hold to Your teachings is to hold to You, not to a creed or a code, an idea or a lifestyle. You cannot be separated from Your teaching, for You taught about yourself. In this very context Your teaching responds to the question, "Who are you?" (v. 25).

Freedom results from holding to You, and being held by You. Your love and my faith form a handclasp. Lord, keep me free!

Like Father, Like Children

You belong to your father, the devil (John 8:44).

These are the harshest words You spoke, Lord Jesus--or so it seems to me. They were addressed to a religious elite, not to notorious lawbreakers. These were men who said their prayers, paid their tithes, read their Bibles, attended their synagogues, and scrupulously observed the feasts and fasts, the taboos and traditions of their religion. They were fundamentalists, conservatives, zealots--yet You called them children of the devil. How that must have shocked them and all who heard Your blistering indictment.

You said to them, "You are doing the things your own father does." Again," "you want to carry out your father's desire." Children learn by imitation. Children want to please their parents. They were liars filled with hate and unbelief, and bent on killing You. Because their desires and deeds were those of the devil, You justly named them his children.

They retaliated with charges of demon-possession and attempted to stone You to death. You "hid" yourself (v. 59), but they could not hide themselves. Their continued behavior confirmed Your words. They did the devil's business in the name of God.

Our world, our churches, are rife with such men today. By their fruits they are known. They can wave religious pedigrees, but if they hate and kill and call that good which You call evil, they are children of the devil.

Relational Hearing

He who belongs to God hears what God says (John 8:47).

There are many, Lord, who insist that all truth is relative. They deny absolute truths absolutely, saying, "There are no absolutes." I cannot agree with their self-contradiction. Heaven and earth may pass away, but Your words are eternal. Your eternal words are addressed to historical situations. The context may change, therefore, but Your truth abides forever.

While truth is not relative, hearing is relational. "He who belongs to God hears what God says." The person who lives as Your obedient servant will find Your language clear (v. 43) and respond with alacrity. Your sheep know Your voice and keep Your word (v. 51).

This makes it clear to me that one may belong to the church who does not belong to You. Many church members do not hear Your words. They go from preaching services to blatantly contradict the scriptures that were expounded and applied. There is "no room for [Your] word" (v. 37) in their sin-crowded, self-centered lives.

To belong to You is to hear, to obey, Your word. That's as plain as the nose on my face, and I've got a prominent honker!

Truth is absolute but hearing is relational. Our response to Your word identifies our relationship to You. With Samuel of old I want to say, "Speak, for your servant is listening."

The Eternal Son

I tell you the truth...before Abraham was born, I am (John 8:58).

Lord, I am no master of language, not of Hebrew, Greek or Latin, not even of English. Even I, however, can grasp the meaning of this astounding utterance.

You did not say, "before Abraham was, I was"--as though You had a previous life, died, and returned to live as another. Many ancients held such "reincarnations" possible, as do many moderns.

No, You said, "before Abraham was I am." You were affirming eternal existence--the existence of God himself. To cite a commentator with whom I often disagree, "Before Abraham came into being, I eternally was, as now I am, and ever continue to be."

To the religious leaders who opposed You this was sheer blasphemy. Outraged, "they picked up stones" to slay You with. You slipped away, but Your astounding claims, so calmly uttered, do not allow us to slip away. Unless You are one with the Father in being, You were blaspheming. Should any man stand up in church and speak thus of himself, we would at once brand him a deliberate liar or a deluded lunatic. The only alternative to the implied charge of Your hearers that day is to acknowledge You, as did Thomas, "My Lord and my God" (20:28).

Jesus, I make that ancient confession my own. You are the eternal Son of the eternal Father.

What Jesus Sees

As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth (John 9:1).

Lord Jesus, whatever others saw, whoever others saw, You "saw a man." You would, for You looked for men. Buildings didn't awe You. Crowds didn't impress You. Your concern was for persons, in the particularity of each one's life.

You "saw a man blind from birth." You looked for those whom the world overlooked. You looked for those who didn't count in the world's estimate. You championed the ill, the hurt, the poor, the women and the children in a macho-male dominated society. Those deep in sin and despised by others--You saw them, loved them, reached out to them with the offer of new life.

You saw a man who couldn't see. You came to impart what You possessed that others needed. You are "the light of the world"--and became the light of a single person who was dwelling in darkness.

Your disciples were blind--blind to misery and despair that gnawed at this man's heart. To them he was a puzzle to be explained; to You he was a person to be helped. They were blind to the opportunity he represented, and to the limited nature of that opportunity. You saw that night was coming when no one could work. You saw the urgency of ministry to human need.

Lord, open my eyes to see as You see! Unless I do, I don't really see others, myself or You.

The Sovereign Healer

How then were your eyes opened? ...The man they call Jesus...(John 9:10-11).

You were the answer, Lord Jesus. The rest of the statement, all the references to "mud" and "Siloam," was incidental. You chose that means and method, but You could have restored sight by any means or method, as You proved in other cases. The miracle was not in the mud or in the water but in You. Your love, Your power, Your wisdom gave sight to this blind man. "The man they call Jesus" is explanation enough.

There were no television healers and hucksters in that day, Lord, but I wonder--did anybody start peddling "holy" mud-and- water treatments for eye trouble after this miracle was wrought? Mud packs and eye-washes, genuine Siloam water, as used by Jesus himself; just send a donation of 20 dollars or more and the miracle is free! Hucksters can market the means, but they cannot control the miracle-doer.

You are sovereign. Sovereign in Your choices of means and methods employed. Sovereign in the times and places and occasions of revealing yourself as Lord. This once-blind man moved through stages of light in his spiritual recovery, calling You first "a man," then "a prophet," and finally "Lord." You cannot be exploited. You cannot be coerced. You are Lord.

Means are not ends, but can become idols. Deliver us from such folly.

Where Jesus Is

Where is this man? (John 9:12).

The man to whom You gave sight knew You only as "the man they call Jesus." Later he would confess You as a prophet, and finally he would worship You as Lord. At this point he did not know Your whereabouts. When they asked, he replied honestly, "I do not know?"

Where are You, Jesus?

You are where You are needed. Always You are responsive to the hurts and hopes of troubled humanity. On this occasion "As [You] went along [You] saw a man blind from birth." Wherever You are going along You see the plight and hear the cries of suffering people. When this now-sighted man was evicted from the synagogue, You "found him" and assured him of salvation. You defended him against those who accused and abused him. You never forsake those whom You have helped.

In connection with this man's healing You declared, "While I am in the world, I am the light of the world." Now You are at "the right hand of the Father" in heaven, but still present on earth in Your disciples, to whom You said, "You are the light of the world" (Matt. 5:14).

In Your disciples You are still going along, still looking for the overlooked, still befriending the friendless, still helping the helpless.

Lord Jesus, help me to be such a disciple!

The Witness

What have you to say about him? (John 9:17).

He said as much as he knew--"He is a prophet." The prophets were men who spoke and acted for God in the face of opposition from national leaders. From their communion with God they found the courage and faith to declare His words and do His work whatever the cost. God acted through them, often in miraculous ways. From a brief encounter with dramatic consequences, this once-blind man discerned in Jesus just such prophetic qualities.

Later he would be "found" by Jesus and become convinced that Jesus was more than a prophet. Indeed, He was the Son of Man, heaven's ruler and earth's savior. "Lord, I believe," the man cried, "and worshipped Him" (v. 38). From that point on he had a fuller answer to the question. He said as much as he knew.

He said it with courage. The enraged Jewish leaders "threw him out" (v. 34). They excluded him from synagogue worship--a shattering blow to any "practicing" Jew. He received the blow rather than recant his testimony. He would not spare himself by joining them in branding his Benefactor a sinner and Sabbath-breaker. Stubbornly he clung to the truest fact of his experience: "One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see" (v. 25).

Lord, from Your word and from my experience, I have learned much about You. There is more to be learned, I'm sure. Help me to say what I know, and to say it with simplicity and courage, whatever may result.

Sources of Learning dare you lecture us! (John 9:34).

There is a pride of learning that turns some academics into snobs. As Paul wrote, "Knowledge puffs up."

There is also a pride that prevents learning. The Pharisees who "threw him out" should have listened to this man. They could have learned from him needed lessons about Your love and power, Jesus. They could have learned from You saving lessons about Your identity and mission. In their foolish pride they refused to hear anyone whose bona fides were unorthodox or unimpressive. "Pride goes before a fall." Pride often prevents a climb.

If Mrs Naaman had been too proud to listen to her maid, General Naaman would have died a leper. Balaam could have saved his life by listening to his donkey. The eloquent and erudite Apollos learned "the way of God more adequately" when he submitted to the teaching of a lay couple.

God sends His truth from unexpected sources. If we are humble and wise, we can learn from many whom a proud world would never admit could teach.

Lord, as I review my years I realize that I have learned much from acknowledged scholars with recognized expertise. I thank You for them. But I have also learned from the unlearned, from common workmen, from little children, from those who never presumed to be teachers but certainly were. Indeed, I've never met or conversed with anyone I could not learn from. Thank You for them all.

The Gate

I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved
(John 10:9).

"They threw him out" (9:34). The Pharisees excluded the once-blind man from the synagogue, and thought they had excluded him from God and salvation. They threw him out but You took him in. You "found him," revealed yourself as "the Son of Man," and accepted his worship (9:35-38).

To those Pharisees, You affirmed, "I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved." You alone are the gate--not Israel, not the church. Not the Pharisees, not the clergy. Not the Law, not the Creed. Not circumcision, not baptism. You, You only, You always, are the gate through which God and life are reached. If You take us in we are in, no matter what religious leaders think, say, or do.

Others have claimed to be the gate. They were "thieves and robbers" bent on exploiting the flock for personal advantage. Past and present are full of such impostors. They are gates to something, but not to God, to life, to freedom, peace, and joy. They are gates to destruction, to death and hell.

Lord Jesus, You have made the way of salvation possible and plain, that all may enter into life. The dumbest, weakest, poorest sheep can go through a gate. Even I entered the gate, and found Your promises true, Your salvation real. I am in and no one can put me out!

Life to the Full

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full
(John 10:10).

"Get a life" is a common expression today. Those who use it usually mean a life of action in pursuit of pleasure. They pity all who are not zealous hedonists. Such dimwits equate motion with progress, but motion without direction is futile, a plunge to destruction.

You came to give life, that authentic and satisfying life which is intimate fellowship with God (17:3). This is life "to the full"--as today's younger set would say, "to the max." Many think their self-indulgences and sensual experiences are "really living." They resemble the demon-ridden hogs who rushed down a hillside to drown in Lake Galilee.

I recall some who sang about living fast, dying young, and leaving a beautiful memory. They died young, boozed and drugged and disease-ridden, causing deep pain to caring people, and leaving ugly memories of wasted time, energy, and ability.

Lord, apart from You there is no life, only death. The furor of sin is but the jerking of a corpse as rigor mortis sets in. Life with You and for You is wisely, usefully, and joyously spent. Such life will never end. Death cannot defeat it.

The life You give is the only satisfaction the human spirit can know now and forever. The devil has no happy old people, and sin has no future. Thank You for life eternal!

The Sacrifice

The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep (John 10:11).

You came to give life, Lord Jesus, but to give life You had to die. The Shepherd became the Lamb, an atoning sacrifice. In love that exceeds measure, analysis, and description You "died for our sins." The iniquity of us all was laid upon You. You died, "the just for the unjust," that God might be just and the justifier of the ungodly.

The false shepherd, the hireling, sacrifices the flock to his own interests. He saves himself by deserting them. Such false shepherds were frequent in Israel and have often appeared in the church. You sacrificed yourself for the flock, dying that we might live. You rose again, taking up the life You laid down. The good Shepherd is the Great Shepherd, with power equal to Your love.

Your enemies called You demon-possessed and raving mad. False shepherds don't like to have their ugly portraits drawn. Their logic was as defective as their love. No demoniac, no lunatic, could do the good You daily did. They take lives, they don't give life. They scatter sheep; they don't gather them.

Jesus, You set a standard for love and sanity that far exceeds us at our best. Compared to You, we are unworthy to bear Your name and be Your people. But the unworthy need not be the ungrateful. I thank You for Your atoning death. I praise You for Your gift of life.

Other Sheep

I have other sheep... I must bring them also (John 10:16).

Your Jewish followers needed to hear this, Lord, for the "other sheep" were gentiles. But Christian denominations need to hear it too. Too many would restrict Your sheep to their own church, scarcely accepting other believers.

How pathetic and absurd when any denomination claims to be "the only true church." How sad that our doctrinal differences become barriers to fellowship.

Some of Your flock are still hidden in the world, unaware of being Your sheep. Some day they will hear Your voice and follow You. Meanwhile Your people must continue to proclaim the gospel, that those who are "sheep unaware" may trust in You and thus discover their true identity and destiny.

You said, "I must bring..." You are still seeking and finding them through the Spirit-filled church. It is Your mission extended through Your people, not our mission as a replacement for Yours. The other sheep hear Your voice in the preaching and witnessing of believers.

What confidence and courage this supplies when Your disciples confront the world with Your word. We have authority, resources, and influence greater than our own little lives. You are loving, speaking, reaching out, working in and with and through us. The sheep and the bringing are Yours.

Keep my heart filled with love for all Your sheep, whatever "brand" they wear. And keep me at the task of helping to bring the other sheep.

Plain Truth

If you are the Christ, tell us plainly (John 10:24).

You replied, "I did tell you," and referred them to Your miracles. If they had believed, they would have known that You were in the Father and the Father in You--indeed, You and the Father are one (vv. 25, 38, 30).

Your miracles fulfilled prophecy which Jewish scholars associated with the days of the Messiah: the blind saw, the deaf heard, the lame walked, the dead were raised, the diseased were cured, the hungry were fed, the poor received the gospel. Everything You said and did declared You the Messiah.

Why, then, did these leaders not believe? Why, having seen and heard so much, were they demanding to see and hear more? They were not Your sheep, they did not follow You. Your miracles did not accord with the kind of messiah they wanted. Not one Roman was dead as a result of Your miracles. Not one army was routed as a result of Your ministry. They wanted a political messiah, not a spiritual one. They wanted deliverance from occupation forces, not from their sins.

And so they named You blasphemer and "tried to seize" You, but You "escaped their grasp" (v. 35). Later, when Your "hour" came, You would make no effort to escape. You would allow arrest, trial, and execution. But You would be in charge, although bound and beaten. And the resurrection would gloriously affirm, "I did tell you."

No Miracles

Though John never performed a miraculous sign, all that John said about this man was true (John 10:41).

John did no miracles. He ministered in the spirit and power of Elijah, and Elijah did miracles. John had a precedent for miracles, but he did none.

John did no miracles. He was filled with the Spirit from his mother's womb. He had the power for miracles, but he did none.

Would John have felt defeated and intimidated by the reports of other ministers who related miracle stories to their district assemblies?

I don't think so, Lord. He did what he came for, what he was "sent" to do. He bore courageous and truthful witness to You. He persisted in telling the truth about You until his prophetic voice was stilled by the executioner's ax.

I don't think he would have envied another's miracles. On the other hand, he would not have written himself off as a failure because miracles were no part of his ministry. He was content to do Your will and preach Your word, even unto death. He was himself, at Your service.

Sometimes the church values a preacher for the number of miracles he can relate. Miracles are sometimes faked and reports are exaggerated by men desperate for recognition. Help us, Lord, to realize that essential ministry is faithfully telling the truth about You. All else is incidental.

Love Allows Tragedy

Lord, the one you love is sick (John 11:3).

You loved Lazarus and called him "friend" (vv. 5, 11). This tells me, Lord, that being Your friend does not exempt one from trouble. Those loved by You can get sick and die. For reasons hidden in Your own wisdom, You do not prevent illness and death from coming.

You brought Lazarus back to life, but this was an exceptional act. Two other such exceptions are noted in the Gospels--the daughter of Jairus and a widow's only son. Some day "all who are in their graves" will hear Your voice and "come out." For now, however, Your friends die and their loved ones mourn.

That bad things happen to Your good friends does not contradict Your love and power. You comfort the bereaved and give them strength and peace to confront life's new challenges. Your friendship assures Your help in all circumstances.

This I know, the death of Your friends is not a leap in the dark. Your friends walk in the light, and their sun doesn't set. Those who spurn Your friendship walk "by night" and "stumble" (vv. 9-10).

I have chosen Your friendship. I have responded positively to Your love. That doesn't bring me any guarantees of painless life or easy death. It does supply peace, hope and joy in all circumstances. No other love so enriches, no other friendship so reinforces. With You I have the best of both worlds.

The Challenge to Faith

Do you believe this? (John 11:26).

You said, "I am the resurrection and the life." You did not say, "I will be the resurrection and the life." Your power to conquer sin and death does not await the future. The time for that power to be released and expressed is up to the Father, but the power is already Yours.

To Your question Martha answered, "Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world." Her words struck me as too formal, too creed-like, for the time, place, and occasion. But why? Because they were so "theological"? Because she was a woman and a homemaker? Shame on me for such foolish notions. You reveal the Father to whom You will (Matt. 11:27). There are no logical or cogent reasons for denying these words as genuine sentiments of Martha's heart and lips.

All Your claims are challenges to faith. They can only be believed or disbelieved. Like Martha, Lord, I choose to believe. You knew who You were. You spoke the truth, and only the truth, about yourself. I believe. I stake my destiny upon Your words.

Confessing her faith, Martha went to Mary with word of Your arrival and interest (v. 28). This, it seems to me, is the test of genuine faith--that the one who believes wants to link You with others. Grant me such faith; not a faith that is coldly intellectual but a faith that is lovingly involved.

At Jesus' Feet

...she fell at his feet (John 11:32)

Mary's chosen place was at Your feet, Lord Jesus. Blessed place, indeed. May I be found there often!

She was at Your feet as a worshiper. At a dinner given in Your honor, she anointed Your feet with costly perfume (12:3). It was, to You, an anointing that looked forward to Your imminent death. To her it was an act of spontaneous and expensive devotion. She was at Your feet in humble adoration.

She was at Your feet as a learner. Luke reports Your visit to her home on another occasion, when she sat at Your feet "listening" to what You said. She had chosen a better part than usual household activity, and You refused to let the opportunity for learning to be taken from her (Luke 10:38-42). At Your feet she would learn what she could not discover in any other place, from any other person.

Here, in the story of Lazarus' death, she is at Your feet as a mourner. Your own tears would be added to hers, for You cared so deeply. She didn't know You would raise her brother from death. She did know that You could afford greater comfort in sorrow than could any other friend. She fell at Your feet for she knew Your heart.

Make a place at Your feet for me, O Lord. There I would worship, there I would learn, there I would mourn. Those feet now bear the scars of the cross. How greatly You have loved! At Your feet I would pour out my love.