Devotions In John

No Carte Blanche

And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it (John 14:13-14).

"Whatever." "Anything." That sounds to many, Lord Jesus, like You have signed blank checks and we fill in the amounts.

Not so. You have not turned over Your resources to us. You haven't given us carte blanche. The promise is wisely and carefully conditioned.

"In my name" is the first condition. Your name stands for Your whole being and doing, for Your authority which is consonant with Your character and conduct. To ask in Your name is to ask for that which reflects the holiness of Your nature, example, and teaching. God has given You a name above all names, that of "Lord." I can't really ask anything in Your name that would contradict or usurp Your lordship over my life.

"That the Son may glorify the Father" is another condition. You spent Your earthly life in perfect obedience to the Father. You said, "I always do what pleases him." To ask for anything contrary to His will is a misuse of Your name.

No the promise isn't unrestricted, but its latitude does challenge my faith. Teach me to pray in Your name. Teach me to pray for "whatever" and "anything" by which the Father will be honored. After all these years I'm still a student in Your school of prayer, not an alumnus. I learn slowly, but eagerly. Keep teaching me, Lord Jesus.

The Spirit of Truth

If you love me you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever--the Spirit of truth (John 14:15-17).

Love is expressed as obedience. Love is the fruit of the Spirit, and the Spirit is the power for obedience. Where He abides and controls human life will be marked by loving obedience to You.

The Spirit is the Father's gift, bestowed in answer to Your prayer. We do not receive any gift, much less this highest gift, unmediated. Only in You are our lives open to the Father. Only through You do we receive from Him. You said, "You may ask...I will do." Now You say, "I will ask...he will give." In His giving lies our power for asking. In Your doing lies the purpose of His giving.

The Spirit is "another Counselor," another of the same kind. He is to us all that You were to those first disciples "during the days of [Your] life on earth." He is not compensation for Your absence; He is Your way of being present at all times, in all places, with all disciples.

He is "the Spirit of truth." Some people sacrifice truth to love, making doctrine unimportant. You join love and truth. The Spirit pours the love of God into our hearts. He also plants the truth of God in our minds.

We "know" Him; we experience Him. He is a person, not a concept; a Friend, not just a force. He is indispensable to our lives and work. "Come, Holy Spirit!"

God's Homecoming

I will come....we will come...(John 14:18, 23).

Father and Son come us in the gift of the Spirit. God is one, but one in three. Because the three are one, where one is all are. The triune God, whom "the heavens...cannot contain," condescends to dwell in us, refuses to orphan us in a hostile world.

He dwells in us but remains God and we remain human. He does not become what we are, we do not become what He is. Rather, He dwells in us as the power by which we become truly human. To be fully human is to be a man or woman filled with the Spirit. Unless He dwells within we are defective persons--self-centered, self-indulgent, self-directed, and self-destructive.

Deprived of Him we are depraved. We become capable of all sins, incapable of all righteousness. We cannot be whole, we cannot be righteous, we cannot be Christlike when He does not dwell in us as a cleansing, comforting, counseling, controlling presence.

When He comes to abide the heart is healed, the center holds, and life is holy. When He comes we can do the works of God, delight in the will of God, and persevere in the way of God. Nothing is more important or rewarding than His coming to dwell in us.

Come to my heart. Bring to my heart the Father's life and love. Live in me that I may live for You!

Jesus Lives! I Live!

Because I live, you also will live (John 14:19).

Your resurrection, Lord Jesus, is the guarantee of my life. The eternal life which You give to those who believe in You is the very life You possessed when You arose from the dead.

I participate in that life now. It has begun and will be consummated in the resurrection of Your people at Your coming again. Having begun, it is the power by which I overcome temptation. It is the power by which I stand and speak and serve as Your witness. It is the power by which I love others whatever their attitude toward me. It is the power by which I will descend, unafraid, into "the valley of the shadow of death." It is the power by which I will live forever in Your fellowship in the Father's house (v. 2).

You are speaking of Your life in connection with the gift of "the Spirit of truth" who lives in Your disciples and empowers their mission and comforts their hearts in a hostile world. The Spirit and life are one and the same. Apart from Him we are not in You. Apart from You we have no life. In You, with Him in us, we have life abundantly - life stronger than sin and death.

Men walk with world leaders and spend huge wealth and say, "This is living." I walk with the King of kings! They don't know what true life is all about. I am trying to tell others about it, but the joy and peace and freedom can only be really known by experience. You live! I live. Amen.

Love, Obedience, Teaching

If anyone love me, he will obey my teaching...the Holy Spirit...will teach you all things (John 14:23, 26).

From You, Lord Jesus, I learn that love is expressed by obedience. To affirm love for you in our hymns and prayers and testimonies is easy. To evidence love for You by persistent obedience is quite another thing.

Years ago I saw a five-year-old repeatedly disobeying his mother in a grocery store. He finally pulled down a display of stacked cans in defiant rebellion. Her patience exhausted, she spanked him. He danced and wailed, exclaiming over and over, "I love you, Mommy." No, real love obeys.

Your teachings were to be continued and reinforced by the Holy Spirit. He is Your way of being present as teacher of Your disciples. The first great result of His reminding and teaching ministry was the New Testament. Now He teaches by opening our minds to understand the Bible (Luke 24:45).

From this I learn that obedience is informed by Scripture. What You desire to teach me, that my love may be intelligent service and not blind emotion, is contained in Scripture. This is not the only way You teach me, but it is the primary way. Loving You commits me to study and obey Scripture.

For my Teacher and my lessons I am grateful. Keep me teachable in spirit, Lord!

 The Gift of Peace

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you (John 14:27).

"With you..." With who? The context answers. Your peace is a legacy for those who love and obey You; to those who are filled with and taught by the Holy Spirit. The unloving and rebellious do not possess Your peace. Indeed, their lives are conflict-ridden, disrupted and disruptive. Those who receive Your Spirit and believe Your teachings have this precious peace.

Your peace is shalom, a wholeness springing from a right relationship with God. It is not dependent upon pleasant circumstances, as is the world's peace. It is not a vague hope for better times in the remote future; it is a realized inner serenity that raging storms cannot destroy. The world's peace is sedation, well illustrated by a vacant-eyed drug user holding up fingers spread to form a vee and intoning, "Peace, brother." Your peace is not sedation but strength, the strength of adequate inner resources to triumph over outer turbulence.

Your peace is promised in the context of the promised Holy Spirit. "The fruit of the Spirit is...peace..." To be filled with the Spirit is to have Your peace. When no one stronger, better, or wiser than myself is at the center of my life, the center will collapse under the enemy's siege. But when the Spirit holds the center all hell cannot defeat me.

Come, Holy Spirit! Come, heavenly peace!

Vine and Branches

I am the true vine...(John 15:1).

Israel was a vine of God's own planting. Its fruit became wild and bitter because of idolatry and immorality. Always within the nation, however, a "remnant"--at times quite small--remained faithful to God.

Lord Jesus, the remnant reduced to You. You were the true Israel, the true Son of God. Through You the covenant with Abraham would be fulfilled, and all nations of earth be blessed. Through You the covenant with David would be fulfilled; a king would reign in righteousness forever.

As the "true vine" You are the source of life to Your people. We are branches, able to live, grow, and bear fruit only in vital union with You. Separated from You we can do nothing. Joined to You we can bear fruit, the fruit of love that emulates Your love.

To abide in You requires purging. The Father cleanses all that opposes love, all that contradicts Your being. He is at work to conform us to Your image. None but He has the patience and power to achieve this.

The goal is reachable if we are teachable. We remain in You as Your words remain us. What You learned from the Father is made known to us. What we learn from You shapes character and behavior that identifies us as Your disciples.

Lord Jesus, I choose to abide in You. Keep me, Lord.

I Choose to Remain

...remain...bear (John 15:1-17).

If statistics mean anything, Lord Jesus, these are significant concepts. In three brief paragraphs they occur eleven, nine, and nine times respectively.

Five times You say, "remain in me;" once You say, "remain in the vine;" twice You say, "remain in my love" as You remain in the Father's love.

Remaining in You as branches in the vine, we will "bear fruit," "bear more fruit," "bear much fruit," and "bear fruit that will last."

Having said so much about fruit, You identify it as "love." The Father has loved You, You have loved Him, You have loved us, and we are to love each other. To remain in Your love enables us to love each other as You have loved us all. Bearing this fruit of love shows that we are Your disciples, and thus glorifies the Father. You chose us to bear this fruit.

How do we remain in You and in Your love? As Your words remain in us we have access, through prayer, to all Your resources. We can ask whatever we desire, and it will be given us.

Abiding in You and bearing much fruit never happens automatically and unconditionally. Five times You say "if." "If you remain," "if you obey," "if you do..." Obviously, we are commanded but not coerced. We can choose not to do, not to obey, not to remain. If so, we become severed branches to be rejected, withered, and burned. I choose to love and obey!

Remembered Words

Remember the words I spoke to you...(John 15:20).

How often, Lord Jesus, our situations are clarified by remembering Your words. Your first disciples were not surprised by persecution, for You had forewarned them of the world's hatred and abuse. It became a mark of their election. It resulted from the fact that You had chosen them "out of the world."

Here, remembering Your words would explain and fortify against persecution. Other words would be remembered on other occasions. At Your empty tomb heavenly messengers said, "He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you...'The Son of Man must be...crucified and...raised again.' Then they remembered his words" (Luke 24:6-8). When the Holy Spirit fell upon the household of Cornelius, Peter "remembered what the Lord had said," and concluded that Gentiles could become Christians without first becoming Jews (Acts 11:16). Paul worked with his own hands to supply his own and others' needs, remembering Your words, "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35).

Lord Jesus, prompt my memory by Your Spirit. When I would falter in my duty, may I remember Your words of command. When I need encouragement in tough times, may I remember Your words of promise. When my heart is sorrow-laden, may I remember Your words of solace. You speak to every situation. May I not forget what You have said.

For Others' Good

It is for your good that I am going away (John 16:7).

You have been rightly called "the Man for others," Lord Jesus. Everything You did was for the good of others. Your life was totally unselfish. You came from the Father for our good. You returned to the Father for our good. Always You acted for our good.

In this You are our Exemplar. Paul wrote, "Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For even Christ did not please himself" (Rom. 15:1-3). You have shown us how to live--for others.

Your going was for our good because it meant the Spirit's coming. Through Him, what You were for those favored few who lived with You, You can now be for all who live for You. Your presence is "universalized" by the Holy Spirit. And the power by which You lived for others becomes our inner moral force by the Holy Spirit.

"When he comes," the Christ before us as Example becomes the Christ within us as Enabler. How could anything be better than that? I can admire and approve Your example, but I can't follow it unless You empower my decisions and actions. This You do by the Holy Spirit.

Lord Jesus, You "went about doing good." I want to live like that. Fill me with Your Spirit. Keep me from the "me first" attitude of this generation.

The Spirit's Ministry

When he comes, he will convict the world.... he will guide you.... He will bring glory to me...(John 16:8, 13, 14).

The Holy Spirit has a special ministry to the world. Only He can convict the world of the sin of unbelief. Only He can convince the awakened that Jesus' death alone atones for sin. Only He can persuade them that Satan was condemned and defeated by the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. Preachers may affirm these truths, bringing all their powers of thought and speech to the task, but only the heavenly Prosecutor brings the conviction that leads to repentance and faith.

The Holy Spirit has a special ministry to the church. He brings us into the truth about You, Lord Jesus. He makes known the meaning for our lives of Your being and doing. He interprets You to us.

We cannot "bear" Your words apart from Him. He is the power by which Your commands become our actions. What You have taught becomes "doable" through His enablement.

In this way He glorifies You. He reveals Your meaning for us. He illumines Your words to us. He empowers our obedience to Your truth. Always who You are and what You have done is the focus of His guidance.

When I was in the world He convicted me of sin and attracted me to You. Since I have been in the church He has applied Your words to my life as a disciple. I am grateful for His ministry.

Trouble and Triumph

In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world (John 16:33).

This world is ruled by "the prince of this world." It is not his world; he has usurped authority. Most of those over whom he reigns are not even aware of his existence. The blinding and binding power of sin is his means of ruling in cognito.

Into this world came the Lord from glory. You came to open the eyes of the blind to their real situation. You came to liberate the slaves of sin, freeing them to serve the true and living God. You came to bring judgment upon "the god of this world" in the name of the God of all worlds.

Your strategy was to give evil its best shot, to allow Your enemies to do their utmost to destroy You. You submitted to slander, torture and death. Darkness fired its heaviest weaponry and thought You were defeated.

Hell's celebration was short-lived, interrupted by Your resurrection. You were victim become Victor. You triumphed over sin and death. You overcame the world. Your disciples are on a collision course with this world. They will incur its enmity and arouse its wrath and suffer its attacks. While they may get knocked down, they can't be knocked out. They can "take heart" is the worst situations. They are invincible. Prison, torture and death cannot silence or stop them. You overcame the world and they share in Your triumph. Trouble is their lot, triumph is their destiny.

Knowing God Is Life

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

To know God is not simply to know about Him. God is not a correct answer in a catechism. God is not a theological proposition. He is a person, and persons are known by personal acquaintance, by living and working together, by walking and talking together, by shared experience.

God can be known because He reveals himself. He is not the discovery of human investigation. He is known to those who are in fellowship with You, Lord Jesus, for You came to make Him known. In this prayer You say, "I have made you known to them." Walking with You, those disciples experienced God.

Knowledge is by acquaintance and that relationship is eternal life. Eternal life is not a philosophical abstraction, it is personal fellowship with God in You. Lord Jesus, in walking with You I find God. In listening to You I learn of Him. In the mutual openness of our relationship, He gives himself to me as I give myself to Him. He penetrates and changes my being with His life in its awesome power to save.

My little knowledge is growing, changing me more and more into Your likeness. You are patient with my pace. You measure Your teaching to my capacity for learning. I am learning for life.

The Given Task

I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do (John 17:4).

The Father gave You work. You were sent on a mission that became Your "magnificent obsession." You said, "My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work" (4:34). Your ambition was not to promote self but to honor God: "he who works for the honor of the one who sent him is a man of truth" (7:18).

Your work was done with a sense of urgency. Before healing the man born blind You said, "we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming when no one can work" (9:4). Now that work was drawing to its close, and soon You would cry from the cross, "It is finished" (19:30). Mission accomplished!

How zealously You pursued that mission. To complete the work given You was Your top priority. You poured Your life into it; You poured out Your life for it. It was a sacred trust from which You would not be sidetracked.

Lord, my assignments pale to insignificance compared with the work You were given. Yet they are important, for they have the same origin, the same goal, as Yours. Your work has been my salvation. Let my work help others find You as Savior. In my work for the kingdom of God, let Your commitment, Your sacrifice, Your urgency be my inspiration. Like Paul, I want to meet death saying, "I have finished the race."

The Given Persons

I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world (John 17:6).

You were given work, Lord Jesus, and You were given workmen to share that task. They belonged to the Father and were committed to You for training, supervision, and assignment. They were called from the world to obey Your word (v. 6). They would be sent into the world to deliver Your word (vv. 18, 20). You said, "I pray for them."

Your prayed for their protection: "Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name" (v. 11). "In the world," but "not of the world," they would be assaulted by the world. The Father would keep them as a shepherd keeps his flock.

You prayed for their holiness: "Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth" (v. 17). Their separation from the world was to be internalized. The world must be taken out of them. The holy mission demanded holy missioners.

You prayed for their unity: "My prayer is...that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you" (v. 20). Dwelling in You, indwelt by You, they do not lose their personal identity but gain their essential unity. The unity would make mission and message convincing to the world.

You prayed for all believers (v. 20), including today's. As Your prayers are answered the church becomes invincible.

The Given Words

I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them
(John 17:5).

You were given persons, Lord Jesus, and You were given words to shape their character, behavior, and destiny.

"I have given them your word and the world has hated them" (v. 14). The word of God distinguishes believers from the world. The world lives by the words of its movers and shakers who oppose God. The "wisdom of the world" brings no knowledge of God. Only His word triumphs over darkness. Those who prefer darkness react in angry opposition.

"Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth" (v. 17). The words given to You for us are instrumental to our holiness. Your words, believed and practiced, produce cleansing from sin and power for service. Our insulation against the world, our mission to the world, emerges from Your words given and obeyed.

Through these shared words You make the Father known (v. 6); You give "joy within" when the world assails (vv. 13-14); You effect the holiness of our lives and the success of our mission (vv. 16-17).

Lord Jesus, I find in Your words my identity, my security, my purpose. In their light sin is exposed and removed; my mission is clarified and empowered. Let me live in them and for them as a willing captive to them!

The Given Glory

I have given them the glory you gave me (John 17:22).

You were given glory, Lord Jesus. You had glory on earth, a glory associated throughout this Gospel with Your atoning death on the cross. Where the world saw pain, shame and defeat, You were glorifying the Father and being glorified by Him.

Your glory is found in Your essential oneness with the Father, a relationship of love. On earth that glory was demonstrated in a fullness of grace and truth that took You to the voluntary and vicarious suffering endured at Calvary.

That glory You gave to the church. They share Your poverty of spirit, Your riches of grace. Glory lies in humility and in suffering for the sake of others. Peter taught us that when we suffer as Christians, "the Spirit of glory and of God" rests upon us. There is glory in spending and being spent for others. There is glory in disgrace, insult, and abuse borne for the sake of Your ongoing mission.

You have a glory in heaven, Yours before the creation of the world, restored to You in Your resurrection and ascension. Those who receive Your glory on earth will behold Your glory in heaven. This is glory in another dimension and expression. Peter calls it "the crown of glory." To be with You, to behold Your glory, is the ultimate glory of believers.

To this eternal glory the church is called--the cross on earth, the crown in heaven. How privileged we are!

God the Father

Father.... Holy Father.... Righteous Father...(John 17:1, 11, 25).

Lord Jesus, You were praying in the shadow of the cross. There You would endure anguish beyond our powers of analysis and description. Yet You went to that terrible death believing that the deepest truths about "the one true God" are summed up in the word "Father."

"Father" speaks of love, and You did not make Your awful suffering an argument against God's love. Four times in this prayer You call God "Father." You said, "I know have sent me." You were sent to suffer because "God is love" and because "God so loved the world."

God's love is that of a "holy" and "righteous" Father. Holiness could not be affirmed of pagan deities. Their morals were as loose as those of their devotees. Righteousness characterized the being and doing of God. He brooked no compromise with sin. His love forms no excuse for our sin. This is why the unjust could be reconciled to Him only by the death of the Just.

You knew yourself in relationship to the Father. You were His Son, His Sent-one, the sharer of His glory. We are His adopted children, called to share Your mission and destined to share Your glory. The honor You have by nature is ours by grace. How grateful I am that I, too, may call Him "Father."

Continuing Disclosure

I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known...(John 17:26).

Lord Jesus, You came as a Redeemer. You came to give Your life a ransom for our souls. But You came, also, as a Revealer, to make the Father known to His children. Redemption was complete, provided once-for-all when from the cross You cried, "It is finished." The revelation continues. Through You we come to know the Father more and more.

We have, then, continuous disclosure. What You began, when You gathered Your first disciples around You and taught them by words and deed, You now continue through the Holy Spirit. He testifies to You; He guides into all truth, making known "all that belongs to the Father" (16:12-15). Your continuing revelation results in our growing knowledge of God.

Continuing revelation creates continuing devotion. You teach and we learn in order that the Father's love for You may be in us. The love that inspired Your life and death for others is to permeate and possess our lives too. That love is to be "in" us, the wellspring of purified affections and selfless actions.

Known Place, Unknown Person

Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place (John 18:2).

Judas knew the place, but he didn't know the Person. He formed an idea of the Messiah to which You did not conform. Instead of changing his mind he changed his allegiance. He led the arresting mob to its target. Unwilling to believe, he betrayed.

His tragedy has been endlessly repeated. Many know the place where You meet with Your disciples--the place of fellowship, instruction, and prayer--who don't know You. They come to church, hear the gospel, share the hymns, observe the rituals, but do not yield their hearts and lives to You. They have formed a concept of Savior that You do not fit. You are the Savior whom God sent, but not the Savior they want. Unable to change You, they refuse to let You change them.

Because he knew the place but not the Person, the place lost its meaning. It could have been the scene of his salvation; it became the scene of his self-destruction. He refused the life You had offered, then took the life he had wasted. He never found what he wanted; he lost what he needed.

The author of Ecclesiastes "saw the wicked buried--those who used to come and go from the holy place" (8:10). They knew the holy place, but not the Holy One, and died in their sins. This I too have seen, Lord. I love the holy place; what matters most, I know and love the saving Person.

You really had things popping that day, Lord! What will it be like on the day You return! You are King. You are Savior. I worship You with joy.