“I can do this on my own.”

This year I have babysat the same two children every week, and one thing that I have noticed is that they want to do everything on their own. Whether it is crossing the street, picking their snacks after school, or planning how they are going to spend their afternoon – they want to do everything on their own. In their minds, crossing the street without looking both ways, eating large quantities of candy, and watching hours of TV is the ideal way to spend the entire afternoon. While this may seem like the perfect scenario in their little minds, I know what is best for them. We look both ways and cross the streets together, almost always have healthy snacks after school, and try to spend lots of time outside/reading. Sometimes they get frustrated with me and say things like, “Why can’t we eat more candy? This food is boring!” ” I can do this by myself!” or “I don’t want to do my homework!” Each time I remind them that their mom knows what is best for them and they need to do what she says. When they listen and obey, they are always happier and grateful for their mother’s care.

“I can do this on my own…”

This sounds a little too familiar to me… I know that I serve a perfect, relational God who is worthy of my attention and obedience, but how often do I want to live my life on my own?

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

(John 15:4-5)

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Why do I try to leave the vine (Jesus), when I know that apart from Him I can do nothing? I depend on Him not only for my spiritual growth, but also for my very existence! A branch is unable to exist apart from the vine. The vine is the branch’s only source of life and growth! So why do I think that I can survive and grow without abiding in the vine (Jesus)?

This is where my pride comes in. After closely walking with Jesus for a while, it can become easy to “run off of old fuel.” To become complacent and think that I can survive for a while without spending time abiding in the vine. I quickly forget that any joy or love that exudes from my being, comes from Him! John 15:11 says, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”

Friends, it is easy to become busy and distracted. To become numb to sin and complacency in your life. I have experienced the pain and weariness that comes from avoiding the presence of Jesus, and I have lost my joy in the process. Do not be deceived! Get on your knees and pray for the sake of fruit-bearing. Pray that you will be rooted in the love and joy that stems solely from the vine. Ask the Lord to give you a distaste for the things of this world that weakens your desire for His presence. You will not be wasting your time! He is alive, He is listening!

“Trust in the LORD, and do good;

dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.

Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

(Psalm 37:3-4)

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What is your response to Jesus?

“Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”

John 12:1-11

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     When I read through this passage of scripture, I can’t help but think about how I want to give my attention and affections to Jesus in a manner that reflects His perfection and matchless value. I believe that is what Mary is doing in the scene depicted in this passage. It is evident by Judas’ response to the anointing of Jesus’ feet that the perfume was precious and costly. By pouring this ointment on Jesus’ feet, Mary is showing Jesus and all of the people in the house that He is her greatest treasure. This humble act of anointing Jesus’ dirty, human feet with expensive oil is her way of expressing heartfelt gratitude for Jesus and what He has already done for her. Jesus just raised her brother (Lazarus) from the dead! Mary now knows the resurrection power of Jesus!

   I believe that it is important for us as believers to focus in on Mary’s response to the goodness of her Lord. Verse 3 says, “ Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment . . .and anointed the feet of Jesus . . .” When Mary realizes who Jesus is and what He has done for her, she worships Him and serves Him! What amazes me about this passage is the stark difference between Mary and Judas’ response to Jesus. Mary is thanking Jesus for His grace towards her family by humbly pouring out her most costly possession to anoint Him. Meanwhile, Judas, who betrays Jesus for a mere 30 pieces of silver (the price of a slave!), accuses Mary of not being a good steward of her money/possessions. These two responses may serve as a big wake-up call for believers. Personally, this passage challenged me to ask myself specific questions about my relationship with Jesus.

I would challenge you to ask yourself the same questions…

“What is my response to Jesus?”

“Do I spend time at Jesus’ feet expressing my love for Him like Mary did?

“Does my life and worship reflect the worth of Jesus and my love for Him?”

Jesus said, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me . . . what she has done will be told in memory of her.”Matthew 26:10,13.

Jesus recognized Mary’s gratitude and love for Him. Does He recognize yours?

Rivers of Living Water

“On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” John 7:37-38

As I was reading through John 7, one specific phrase continued to replay in my mind…

“Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”

     These words were a promise of the Holy Spirit that was to come. A promise of the Holy Spirit that would come and transform, convict, guide, and sanctify the hearts and minds of every believer. I began to ask myself, “Is there evidence of the Spirit in my own life? Is the outpouring of ‘living water’ visible to the people that I come into contact with?” Then I began to compare my life to Galatians 5:22-23, which says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

After reading and praying through the fruit of the Spirit, I came to a significant realization. Apart from the gift of the Holy Spirit, it would be absolutely impossible for me to reflect the character of God. This realization resulted in awe and gratitude. Because of His matchless goodness and mercy, He provided a way for me to know Him intimately. But His grace did not cease there. He granted me with the ability to pursue holiness through the guidance of His Spirit. This compelled me to worship the Lord, asking Him to give me the strength to deny my flesh and passionately pursue holiness. This realization has shaped my prayers. “Lord, let the outpouring of my heart flow rivers of living water.”

“You will be like a well- watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” Isaiah 58:1

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What does this mean for us as believers? 

     We have the miraculous ability to become more like Christ, revealing His glory to the nations. Through the work of the Holy Spirit, we can act as vessels for Kingdom advancement and God’s greater glorification…

I stand in awe because I serve a God who sacrificed His one and only Son to grant abundant life.

I stand in awe because I serve a God who blesses His children with the gift of salvation.

I stand in awe because I serve a God who grants His children with the ability to reflect Him more perfectly each day.

I stand in awe because I serve a God who is willing to come and fill His people with living water that will flow out in abundance.

 

Come and Be Filled

 

“Come, come to the water

All who are thirsty

Come and be filled

Come, come to the river

Brothers and sisters

Come and be healed”

 

I remember standing in a worship service listening to the congregation sing these words.

ALL who are thirsty. Come and be filled.

     The lyric, “all who are thirsty,” brought my mind to the story of the Samaritan woman found in John 4. I remembered the surprise displayed by the disciples when they saw Jesus interacting with a woman of Samaria. John writes in verse nine, “Jews do not associate with Samaritans”(4:9). This interaction that the disciples witnessed was unheard of. Jesus was breaking cultural boundaries that were never broken. However, there was something even more significant than the crossing of cultural barriers in this passage.

Jesus knew the Samaritan woman. He was not simply aware of her ethnicity or social standing. He knew her heart, He knew her sin, and He understood that she needed forgiveness. Throughout their conversation, Jesus uses water symbolism to teach the woman about eternal life and worship.

“Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (4:13)

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By telling the Samaritan woman about His ability to grant living water (eternal life), Jesus is revealing His true identity and exposing her need for salvation (living water). Jesus identifies himself as the Provider – the only one who can fully satisfy her thirst.

I relate with the Samaritan woman because I too have been thirsty, longing for living water, and I have been satisfied. And because of this satisfaction I have recieved, I am able to rejoice like the psalmist who sings of the fulfillment that comes from the presence of the Lord.

“They feast on the abundance of Your house; You give them drink from Your river of delights. For with You is the fountain of life; in Your light we see light” (Ps 36:8-9). 

As I reflect on this conversation between Jesus and the Samaritan woman, I am encouraged.

Encouraged because . . .

Jesus came to offer relationship to all people.

He knows us intimately.

He has given us the ability to, “come and be filled.”

Are you convinced?

What would cause men from all different walks of life to leave everything they cherish and work for?

Family. Occupation. Reputation. Success. Wealth.

     The only thing that could have enticed these men to give up everything was a deep conviction. They had a profound belief in the Person who was beckoning, “Come and follow Me.”

In the first chapter of John’s Gospel, we see the testimony of John the Baptist and the call of Jesus’ disciples. When reading John 1:35-51, we meet several men who are convinced that Jesus is worth following. John the Baptist proclaimed that Jesus was worth following because He is the Messiah, the Chosen One, and the Lamb of God, who was foretold in the Law and the Prophets. Andrew, Peter, Phillip, and Nathanael personally encountered Jesus, and they too realized that He is the Messiah. After these men had this encounter with the Son of God, their lives were never the same.

They were convinced.

     When people truly encounter the person of Jesus Christ, the trajectory of their life radically changes. A true disciple of Jesus Christ is one who has sincerely been encompassed by the reality of who God is.

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

Galatians 2:20

     These are the words of another man, the apostle Paul, whose life was forever changed after experiencing the transformative power of the Messiah. Paul was convinced of the perfection and glory of God, and this radically altered his perspective on life. Not only was Paul aware of God’s all encompassing glory, but His gracious gift. The Son of God was willing to humble Himself, walk upon the earth, and offer restored relationship through His redemptive work on the cross. This sacrifice made a way for men and women to follow Him in the light of His glory.

Being convinced of who Jesus Christ is results in action. When the disciples were convinced Jesus was truly the Messiah, they left everything and followed Him. In the same way, we are to die to our flesh, pursue holiness, and seek the goodness of God and His call upon our lives.

When Jesus spoke of the cost of becoming His follower, He said, “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” For some of us this may mean giving up material possessions, enduring persecution, or giving up comfort for discipleship. But conviction about Christ is often more simple and personal. Following Christ may simply mean dying to the desires of the flesh and allowing the person of Jesus Christ and the truth of God’s Word to radically change who you are from the inside out.

Are you convinced?

“If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there will My servant be also.”

John 12:26

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The Prologue – Reflections on John 1:1-18

As we embark on a journey through John’s gospel, it is easy to overlook the unique balance of complexity and simplicity within the book. My prayer is that through these reflections our belief in Jesus Christ as the Son of God will be deepened, and we will walk in the victorious life found in His name alone.

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   “John’s gospel is deep enough for an elephant to swim and shallow enough for a child not to drown.”    – Attributed to Augustine

Why does the Gospel of John open in such a unique way?

We must begin by considering the profound implications of the opening prologue. The poetical words bring illumination to the author’s purpose for the entire gospel. John opens with a proclamation regarding “the Word.” John uses the Greek word logos many times in the prologue, for example, in the beginning was the Word (or logos).” This situates John’s gospel within the framework of the entire Bible. Through the use of logos John references the creation account in Genesis 1 and the words of Isaiah 55:9-11. John establishes a foundation for a new Christology, “and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us . . . glory as of the only Son from the Father.” (1:14)

What is the implication of the prologue? || Theologically ||

John opens his gospel with a bold statement concerning the main character, Jesus Christ. He declares that the identity of Christ is shocking: “the Word was God,” (1:1) “the Word was with God,” (1:2) “in Him was life,” (1:4) and then “Word became flesh.” (1:14) The same man who walked on water, healed the sick, and was nailed to a tree, is the eternally existent God. John’s theology is clear: the Word who was present at creation humbled Himself to “dwell among us” as the man Jesus Christ, in order to make the Father known and to offer, “grace upon grace.” (1:16) The gospel writer loudly proclaims that Jesus Christ is the Word, the proclamation of God to a world of darkness.

What is the implication of the prologue? || Practically ||

“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”(1:12) Because Jesus is fully God and fully man, we have the glorious privilege of being called, “children of God.” John carefully emphasizes in the beginning of his gospel that Jesus is the light of the world and that, “the world was made though Him, yet the world did not know Him.”(1:10) By saying this, John is highlighting the truth of Christ’s nature, and the humbling beauty that the Creator of mankind came into the world to dwell among his people. This truth about Jesus changes everything. As a result of His perfection and deity, we can rest in the knowledge that His “light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”(1:4) In our day to day lives, we must be awed by the majesty of our Savior and allow Him to be our everything.

 

Köstenberger, Andreas J. Encountering John: The Gospel in Historical, Literary, and Theological Persepctive. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2013.