Heavenly Well(John 4)

In John 4 we have the well known account of when Jesus met the Samaritan woman at the well.  I wonder how many times we’ve gone over this story.  I wonder how many times we’ve thought of ourselves as the woman…

I never picked up completely on her misunderstanding before.  Jesus told her He would offer a water that would never leave a thirst.  Water from a continual spring.

She responds in verse 13 with “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty…”  I always skimmed over her answer and assumed that she was catching on.  I thought it was obvious to her that Jesus was speaking of a spiritual water.  But then I consider the rest of her reply, “… and have to keep coming here to draw water.” 

Her focus is still on a physical fulfillment.

Too many times I have done likewise.  Jesus has promised me eternal things, and I mistake them for temporal gifts… things that will burn away.  It’s hard, because we live in a culture where physical reward is king.  Even much of the broadcasted preaching, from those who claim to have God’s message, is filled with this fallen focus.  God doesn’t need to make us rich, powerful, popular or beautiful.  There are plenty of those people in the world. 

What God calls us to is something beyond this far country.  Something that carries the scent of our true home.  We must long for the spring of water that wells up to eternal life.

And we must be careful when we tell other people about the promises of God.  The average person will be looking for physical gifts, things that can help them in their present circumstance (from an earthly point of view).  We must shine in the darkness so people can see that their needs are beyond what is seen.  So they can find the well that longs to eternally burst forth within them.

Can we see taste clearly enough to tell when the water is not from the physical well, but rather from the eternal well?

Old vs. New (John 3)

It interesting to note a few things here in the second half of John 3.  We see John baptising, and Jesus doing the same just across the river.  Now consider the following texts…

Acts 18:29- Apollos knew only the baptism of John

Beginning of Acts 19- Disciples in Ephesus only received the baptism of John

The baptism John did was not enough, there was another baptism necessary.  Baptism in the name of Jesus was the entrance into the New Covenant.  But we bring that back to our text here in John’s gospel, and we have a curious situation.  Why, if John’s baptism was to become void and Jesus’ baptism was necessary, was John still baptising?

Also consider what John says to a fellow Jew in this passage.  The man was speaking to the fact that many were going to Jesus instead of John.  John replies by telling him it’s the way it ought to be.  He’s not upset at all, in fact John says his own joy is now complete.

So why continue baptising at all then?  Why not send them to Jesus?

We must also consider a couple other things at this point.  One, the New Covenant was still years away.  The people were not meeting the blood of Christ at this point.  They were proclaiming a belief that Jesus was the Christ.  But even with that, the understanding of His blood being the only way for them to be forgiven their sins was an understanding that they didn’t yet have.  It was a belief they did not yet have, and therefore could not profess (let alone live out).  No baptism before the death, burial & resurrection of Christ gave access to His blood.

The second thing to examine at this point is John’s purpose.  We can see clearly John’s heart in this passage.  If Jesus was indeed baptising people into salvation, John would have surely sent everyone to Jesus.  John would have stopped baptising… he would, as he himself said, “decrease that He (Jesus) might increase.”  So we can therefore conclude that John was not keeping anyone from Christ.  His purpose was to direct all men to Jesus.

The evidence points to a conclusion that the baptism Jesus was giving at this point was not the baptism He would later give after his death.  And therefore, John’s baptism at that time was on par with the baptism Jesus was doing just across the river.  When John said Jesus would baptise with the Holy Spirit and with fire, he was referring obviously to a later time. 

And we see the that fulfilled on two separate occasions.  Once for the Jews on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2), and once for the Gentiles at Cornelius’ house (Acts 10).  These two examples also would have obviously imparted the salvation that all New Testament baptism grants, that being the access to the blood of Christ. 

For there is one baptism.  Thank God that He has told us how we can be covered by the blood of Christ!!!

Gennao Anothen (John 3)

What does it mean to be born again?  Nicodemus, a teacher and leader amongst the Jews, couldn’t understand it.  Many today seem not to understand it.

We know from Romans 6 that it happens at baptism.  It’s clear that it is the beginning of a new way of life.  Completely new.  Jesus tells us in this passage that it is a thing of the spirit.  He goes on to talk about the necessity of believing in Him, even though men love the darkness.  He says that when we live in the truth we come into the light so that it may be plain to see that what we’ve done is only by God.

I find that I must pause and really consider if this describes me.  In so many ways people can point to my life and say “Look, it’s still the same old Cris.  He does as he pleases.”  In so many ways I fail to live anew.  Sometimes I fool myself by taking pride in the good works I’ve done.  Sometimes by emphasizing to myself that I have been baptised just like He told me to be.  But I must remember that it is His blood that makes those things of any worth.  And the application of that blood always begins with the truth of my sin.  Without Christ they are empty and in vain.

But I must believe that God will continue the good work He has started in me, and that He’ll see me through all the way.  I must believe that because the Bible says it.  And when I do take time to pause and look at my life, I find it is plain that God has done some amazing things in me.  It’s even plainer that it was only through God that I was able to do those things.  One doesn’t need to know too much about me, or anybody else for that matter, to see the need for God.  And when one accepts God, truly accepts Him and is born again, it will be plain that what they’ve done is through God.

So look at your own life, I ask you, and see if it is plain that God has worked through you.  Remember not to get proud, because if it is indeed plain that God has worked through you then you have nothing to boast about… Only God does. 

Is it plain that through God, and not through yourself, that you are Gennao Anothen?

Here’s a couple of videos from Andrew Peterson.  Watch them as you consider whether you are truly a new creation…

 

 

Taken too lightly (John 3)

Reading over John 3, where Nicodemus speaks with Jesus, it’s almost comical to see the lack of understanding that Nicodemus had.  Jesus said a man must be born again and Nicodemus, a teacher, responds with “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born again!”  And then after Jesus explains it, he again asks “How?”

This idea, as well as many many others in Scripture, seem so easy to interpret.  But we also have a couple thousand years of study to work with.  Nicodemus was hearing this concept for the first time.  He had nothing to work with.

But I wonder, are we as impacted by this as Nicodemus was?  We understand the basic principle, but have we taken it to heart?  I fear we haven’t.  I fear we’ve instead written it off as just another thing we understand, without giving it much thought.

Being born again.

It’s not some cheap cliche.  Jesus didn’t use those.  And it’s not some empty philosophy, Jesus didn’t use that either.  No, what we have here is something of great significance.  Something more significant than whatever you’re likely going to do when you finish reading this post.  More significant by far than this post could hope to be.  This was Jesus saying that a man must no longer be who he is.  And not only that, the man must now be someone new.  And at the same time, he will still be himself.  Now it doesn’t sound so cliche, does it?  Wording it that way makes us think, at least a bit more.

A man by the name of Rich Mullins once cried out to God from the depths of his heart…

“Save me from trendy religion that makes
Cheap cliches out of timeless truths!
Lord save me!  Please, save me!”

May we be saved from trendy religion.  May we read the Holy Writ with a childlike wonder.  May we gaze upon the face of God clearly, without the vail of self-righteous piety that keeps us from recognizing just how small we are, and just how much we need every word that comes from the mouth of God.

Have you been born again?

The rulers knew (John 3)

I’m finding that doing these blogs is bringing out things in the Scriptures that I never gave much thought to.  This post is about a thing that I’ve given thought to, but not in relation to this passage.

John 3 begins with the story of Nicodemus coming to Jesus at night.  There is much discussion even today over the things which Jesus taught the man.  But I’ve never heard discussion on, nor thought about a word in verse 2… “we”

It has always been apparent to me that Nicodemus had some faith in Christ.  And other passages of Scripture have made it clear that the religious leaders of the Jews also knew the truth of Christ, though I wouldn’t use the word faith when describing their attitude towards Christ. 

This passage, it turns out, supports the fact that the leaders knew, and from early on.  Nicodemus told Jesus “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God.”  Nicodemus wasn’t alone, at least not in his knowledge.  It’s funny to me to speak of Nicodemus’ knowledge, because the passage goes right into the lack of his knowledge.  But that’s addressing a different matter, one I hope to speak on tomorrow.  For now, we are concerned with the rebellious leaders.

It sickens me to think that the leaders knew who Jesus was, yet they acted against Him anyway.  What a vile and disgusting thing.  What a treacherous thing.  But then as I consider it more, my thoughts drift closer to home.  I remember that I too have done this to Christ in my own life.  I made myself into a wretch.

But thank God that nothing is beyond His reach.  Psalm 139 so perfectly speaks to this, to God’s reach in our lives.  Read it if you get a chance.

Today’s leaders are not much different in their ways, and I’m not only speaking of those in politics.  I’m speaking in general terms… leaders in sciences, media, culture, business, literature… and the list goes on.  Some of these leaders know who Christ is.  They know, though they may be too afraid to honestly consider Him in the still, quiet moments of their lives.  Instead they delude their own minds, thinking that they can somehow steal from God and get away from it.  They think nobody knows.

But by their own actions their hearts are revealed. 

And they will give an account for what they do with the knowledge of Christ.  Let us all pray that before their day comes they all accept His salvation, that they will follow the trail that Nicodemus left for them… the quiet one that leads to Christ when all that surrounds them is darkness. 

And Let us continue to speak the truth to them in love.  Let us continually make sure that we ourselves are not guilty of the same treason… knowing who Christ is, yet trying to take what is His for our own pleasures.

Hebrews 1:2 “in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.”

No stones? (John 2)

When you read the stories in the New Testament you don’t often get the picture that the Jews of Jesus’ time were people who sat by and took whatever was dealt to them.  Often times we see them trying to stone people to death, and once we saw them try to push Jesus off of a cliff!

I’m not posting this to say that the Jews were a violent people in general.  But when reading the second half of John 2, one should consider the tendencies that many of the people had when it came to deeds and services related to God.  In religious matters, one could not go about doing as he pleased if it was in opposition to the religious leaders.

One certainly couldn’t go around overturning the merchant tables at the temple, and threatening people with a whip.  But we see a unique event recorded in John 2.  Jesus turned the tables over, threatening violence.  And guess what…

They had nothing to say for themselves, and they did not threaten Christ.

There was something about Jesus, a presence, it seems, that people could not deny.  Here in this passage nobody attacks Jesus.  In fact, nobody even accuses Him of wrong doing.  Sure, they ask Him by what authority He did what He did.  But that’s all they did.  They never even defended their market.

We see Jesus’ presence come into play in other places too.  The main one that comes to my mind is when the soldiers first came to take Christ away to be crucified.  When they ask for Jesus He replies with “I am He”, and they all fall to the ground!  I don’t know what exactly happened, but it cannot be denied that Jesus had a special presence.

And I think that it may be good for us to remember that Christ has the right to be that way in the hearts of other Christians.  Sometimes we see a brother or sister struggling in sin, and we neglect our duty to tell them what Christ says.  Sure, we’re to do so in gentleness, but we are to approach them just the same.

So if you have let Christ be the Lord of your life, listen to Him and let others hear what He says.  Trust that Jesus is the only one who can truly help people.  And trust that if He be lifted up, He will draw all men unto Himself.

We destroyed His body, and He rose it up in three days.  We are God’s temple, and he can raise us up as well.  Nobody has grounds to deny His zeal. 

None have stones to throw when Jesus clears the temple.

Miracle of Marriage (John 2)

Often when we read of Jesus turning the water to wine we discuss the issues of alcohol.  Unfortunately, too many people ignore the rest of the Bible, or twist it to the point that those defending the truth are set on guard whenever the word wine is read.  To be clear, I believe to get drunk or even buzzed is a sin, and that belief comes from Scripture.  No excuses.  But that is not what this post is about.  For those people who try to force this text into being proof that they can get drunk, into a sacrifice for their religion of self, I hope you someday learn the truth of what Jesus did at the wedding in Cana.

Jesus had recently been “announced” to the world by John the baptist.  Then He gained a few disciples and took them to Cana.  And what is the first event Jesus takes these men to? 

A wedding. 

I don’t know what things were like back then, but I know that nowadays guys don’t usually go and hang out at weddings together.  But even if that was normal back then, I still can’t help but wonder if this is a clue about our walk with Christ.  The New Testament talks a lot about marriage.  We’re even shown how marriage is a picture of Christ’s relationship with the Church.  And Jesus chooses a marriage as the first public event to take His disciples to.  At least it’s the first one that God chooses to inform us about.

Can we really go very far in our relationship with Christ without learning the truths of marriage, and how they relate to God?  I don’t know.  But I know that we have an opportunity for a deep relationship with Christ if we can understand how important marriage is to God. 

The Creator of all things has placed much value on relationships.  And through that truth we can see how God has placed much value upon people.  Upon us.  Mankind was a single man until God instituted marriage.  God decided that it was the relationship that would bring about life, both through childbearing and through undivided love for another person.

And this may also be why Jesus decided to do His first miracle at a wedding.  He wanted His disciples to know.  He wanted the servants at the wedding to know.  He wants all of us to know.  Marriage is a beginning of life.  God stepped into the world in a miraculous fashion to honor a wedding.  And Jesus wasn’t going to start His ministry of discipling without a marriage.  Marriage reveals much about the heart of God.

Jesus’ mother Mary was also at the wedding.  This opened up a great opportunity for Jesus’ new disciples.  From the beginning of their time with Christ, they were given an intimate glimpse into His humanity, seeing Him interact with the woman who birthed Him into this world.  The woman who helped nuture Him, and raise Him up as a little boy.  The woman who treasured up in her mother’s heart the deep truths about her Son, the Christ.  Christ introduced His disciples to His mother at a wedding.

The disciples in Cana that day experienced all at once the humanity of Christ, the divine glory of Christ, and the heart of Christ.  And they put their faith in Him.

It happened at a wedding.

Get personal(John 1)

I’m noticing already a pattern here in John 1.  Jesus seems to directly work towards revealing what’s on the heart of the one He’s talking to.  While that may not be some earth shattering discovery, it does validate a practice which our culture seems to frown upon.

We’re often told that one must develop a close friendship with someone before dealing with them on personal issues.  That we must bow to impersonal religion that, coincidentally, is mocked by the same people who try to force us into it.  But in many of the examples we see in the Bible, the messenger of Christ was direct and so very personal… even with strangers.

If you study and meditate on the Bible, you will more likely have love and the Word of God on your heart when you deal with people.  And if you have His word on your heart then you have the Words of Life, and you can trust that those Words will work their way into the hearts of men.  You don’t need to always focus on working up some great oration on current events or politics or whatever, you just need to point their heart to Jesus.  And when you give a person directions on how to get to Him, remember that they must start that journey from where they are at.

God’s Word will not return unto Him without serving its purpose.  And He does not place you into people’s lives at a particular time and a particular place without expectation that you will use that exact time and exact place to glorify Him. 

Use His words directly with people. 

Reach into their hearts exactly where you encounter them.

Show them that even in the fleeting moments they are important to you and to God. 

And show them they are important by being personal. 

Don’t dance around the hearts of men, be like Christ and dance with them…

What would you ask? (John 1)

So here He is, the Messiah!  Jesus Christ in the flesh, the Lamb of God, is standing right in front of you!  And He looks at you and asks “What do you want?”

What would you ask?  I mean, this is God here!  As a religious person, you’re likely to have a whole lot of questions in mind and heart.  So many things have happened in your life, and you want to know why.  What they all mean.  And you want to know what all these passages in Scripture are talking about.

Well, this was the situation with the first two disciples of Christ.  They finally meet the Lamb of God, face to face, and He has asked them what they want.  Their deep desire is the answer to the question… “Where are you staying?”

What?  Are you kidding me?  They could have asked so many things, but they want to know where He’ll be sleeping tonight?!

Maybe they were overwhelmed.  Maybe they didn’t understand the opportunity before them. 

Or maybe they did understand.  I don’t think there’s enough information here for us to conclude what was going through their minds.  But there is enough information to tell us something about their character.

Jesus answered their question in a way that He often answered questions.  With opportunity to learn in ways that a simple answer could not afford.  He said “Come, and you will see.”

What did they do?  They didn’t press Him to tell them, they followed. 

How many times has God said to us “Come, and you will see,” only to have us reply “No, I’d rather an answer now thank you.”  I’m not looking to make some deep metaphor out of “Come and see” here.  I’m simply trying to consider our response to God.  When He calls us beyond the limits of our understanding, calls us to step off of the cliff and out of our lives, how do we respond?  Do we continue to push for our selfish desires, for our comfortable Christianity?  Or do we walk with Him, following Him whether it’s a leap off of the cliff or to simply see where He’s laying His head that night?

Knowing where Jesus was going to go to sleep was probably not the most exciting thing to learn when faced with God Himself.  But they listened to the answer and followed.  Not only that, but they took advantage of the opportunity it provided them to bring others to Christ.  The first thing Andrew did was run off and tell Peter “It’s Him, it’s the Messiah!”  And then he brought Peter to Christ.

What is your question for God?  And how are you going to use that answer for the Peters in your life?  I hope that we use what He has given us to bring others into the presence of the Messiah.

Follow Him (John 1)

So today as I was reading on in John 1 I was thinking still about what it must have been like for John the Baptist to know he was spoken of exclusively in a prophecy from Isaiah.  I can’t fully imagine what life would be like if I was in his spot.

It must have been at least a little bit of a struggle not to become proud.  I mean, that’s no small honor John was given.  When I look at the text here in John 1 it looks like he was gaining quite a following.  So many people were coming to him to be baptised.  He even had his own disciples!  Add to that having the hypocritical religious leaders of the Jews snooping around, and it would be hard for me not to think more highly of myself then I ought to.

Well it seems like John did a pretty good job of keeping his ego in check.  When people wondered if he was the Messiah, he quickly responded with humility. 

And we see something special from John in 1:35-36.  These disciples of his, these followers, were obviously supporting John in his work.  And with all the Jews around there, John certainly had his work cut out for him.  Two of them were down by the water with him as he was baptising the people.  John had already declared that Jesus was the Messiah.  He fulfilled a major part of his task, though much work was left to be done.  And Jesus, he didn’t make any indication to John that He needed any help.  So I imagine if I was John I’d still be wanting all the help I could get.

But I’m not John.  And instead of seeing John as a man scared to lose his disciples, we see John as a man eager to give God the glory.  When Jesus comes walking by the water again, he tells his disciples “Hey look, that’s Him!  That’s the Lamb of God!”  And with the way these two disciples so quickly turn and follow Jesus, it’s clear that John had lifted Christ up properly.  We see no questions from John’s disciples, and we don’t see John dishing out advice to them like it’s his kids leaving home for good.  They just go.  And John just watches…

Christ has called all Christians to do likewise.  If you are a Christian, and not all who claim to be are, you must remember that you have given your life to Him.  You have committed putting yourself on a cross, and going out into the world with the purpose of bringing the world to Him. 

Looking back at my life, I’m saddened to see how often I’ve failed to follow the example John set.  Instead of pointing to God, I have often pointed to myself.  I sometimes even start with the intentions of pointing to Christ, but instead I get to focused on how good of a person I am and how good of a Christian I am.  If I saw the truth of it, I would know that I’m not as good as I think.

Is this true for you?  Do you get so worried about what people think of you that you forget your mission?  Your mission, not to simply look good, but to declare with your actions that God is good?  If so, read over the accounts of John the baptist and ask God for understanding.  Look at how John always seemed to take the focus off of himself and shift it towards Christ.  You will find encouragement and insight on how to do the same.  If God has called you to a work, believe He will provide what is needed for that work!

And your work is to point to Him.