power.

before i got tattoos, there was one particular tattoo that i judged hard (however ironically.) i always thought a little less of people who had “only God can judge me” on their arms, because it made me assume that they live a questionable life and that nobody but God was allowed to judge them. i mean, true enough…

it’s a good phrase, though. it’s a good phrase if we know how to use it. it’s a phrase the verity of which can secure us in the comfort and love of the Father if we let it, and i think we’d do well to let it. follow my brain, here…

 

in John 5, Jesus says a few quick words that, when you use logic to elaborate on them, sets up a really quick picture of what the Christian’s ambitions and expectations should be. He is talking to some Pharisees about who bears witness about Him, and how, if they’d read the scripture, they’d see that He was coming all along, but they look for hope in the scripture, instead of in Jesus. then He says, “So not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope.” (John 5:45.)

 

if your mind isn’t blown yet…well…stick with it, because i think Jesus wants to make that happen. Basically, Jesus is saying, “you know, if you’d read the scriptures correctly, you’d see that they were telling you about Me this whole time, but you’re focusing on all the wrong stuff. you’re putting your hope in the stuff you’ve learned, in the laws you keep, in the traditions you hold (i’m suggesting that when Jesus says “Moses,” He’s referring to the law of Moses.) but that’s okay, i’m not going to accuse you to the Father for that…i’ll let Moses accuse you.”

the initial, immediate takeaway is what we read later on in Romans – that the Law is a teacher, and it exists to show us of our need for Christ. So, we’re condemned by the Law, by our inability to keep it.

but there’s something else here that i think we simply cannot afford to miss. Jesus says, “there’s one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have placed your hope.”

Here’s the Kingdom paradigm: what you expect to save you is what you can expect to condemn you.

i can only begin to cover the vast array of things that we, as people, expect to save us. i know that i expect time to save me, money to save me, success to save me, creativity to save me, and achievements to save me. but the second that we give it power to save, we give it power to accuse, to damn, to condemn. in past posts, i’ve written about what i call the “paycheck squirm,” wherein i do mental gymnastics all week to feel good about myself until i get paid, and can feel comforted by money being in the bank. but you know what happens? i get that money, i feel good for two seconds, and then i pay my bills and then i feel like crap again.

that’s how i see this pattern played out in my life. i expect money to save me, then it comes and i have to use it (which, its job is to be used, not to save anyway) and suddenly, i’m condemned by the number in my bank account.

this is how it works. if you give something power to save you, you give it power to condemn you. we can’t afford to give conditions to God on our joy – that’s not the kind of God He is. we can’t say, “God, i will delight in You as long as i am in good health. i will delight in You so long as i have money. God, i will delight in You when You help me meet my future spouse. God, i will delight in You as long as i get to live in this place or travel to these places.”

i think God wants our no-matter-what. God wants our nevertheless. but i don’t think it’s because He’s egomaniacal, i think it’s because He knows that He is the only one who can provide steadfastness – in a volatile world in which everything changes, He’s pretty constant. He’s made Himself known through a Word (the Bible) that hasn’t changed. He’s made His intentions clear through Jesus, who came, did His thing, died in our place and for our sin, and is only coming back to establish His Kingdom. Have you noticed that God hasn’t had to do any maintenance on what He did on earth? Jesus was once-for-all. God didn’t change His mind about what He did. He’s not asking for us to do anything more than believe.

there’s joy in that. there’s life in that. there’s salvation in that.

i think Paul might have had these words of Jesus in mind when he wrote stuff like this: “if God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31.) “Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died – more than that, who was raised – who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.” (8:34.) in other words, if we put our hope in Jesus, like the Pharisees did with Moses, then we cannot possibly be let down, because the One we’re giving power to save and condemn us is interceding for us daily at the right hand of the Father.

hope is only found in Christ. and what a steady, sure hope that is.

John. [ch. 1-4.]

recently, one of my favorite preachers of late (who happens to be a co-worker of mine and preaches every other week at my church) invited our entire church (which is comprised of four different campuses in four different cities and thousands and thousands of people) to read through the book of John together as a church. the sermon he preached dealt with how we can hear from God, and the primary way we can hear God’s voice is by reading God’s word. so, we’re reading.

 

this morning i was talking with Ayla about how i often underline and write little notes, but i can’t always remember how i got to those thoughts, so they’re often undercooked and aren’t necessarily helpful later, and the margins of my bible aren’t necessarily enough to hash out whatever thought i have that day.

 

so what i’m gonna do is write a brief blurb with every chapter that i read, and it’s for my own sake so i can chronicle what i’ve thought about, but if you get something out of it, that’s great and just dandy.

 

John 1 – for this chapter, i’m going to cheat just a little…last year, i went through a study of John with some friends, and the more we read, the more we realized that the first chapter is a bit of a thesis statement – at least the first 18 verses. almost everything you read in the rest of John will fulfill something he says here. for the rest of John, you’ll read about how life is in Jesus, how Jesus shines like a light, how darkness didn’t/doesn’t/can’t overcome Him, how the world that He made didn’t receive or recognize Him, how He made disciples (children of God,) how He became flesh and dwelt with people, how He’s full of grace and full of truth, how people receive grace upon grace from Him. Overall, there is this unknownness and unrecognizability about Jesus that bears itself out in the gospel – and you’ll see it time and time again.

i’ve studied this chapter a little before, and my favorite verse is verse 16 – because the phrase “grace upon grace” can be translated to “grace in place of grace.” so, we receive grace from Jesus, and any time we squander or sully or try to stain that grace (ie. times we repent and receive forgiveness for something we just end up doing again) we just get grace in place of it. it’s as though God’s grace is like a hydra (to borrow a mythological reference) – anytime you try to cut it off, it just comes back stronger and with more than there was before.

John 2 – i’ve never understood – and still may not – why exactly the miracle of turning water to wine was included. i have this pious thought that it doesn’t help anyone and didn’t really do anything for anyone, so why did it get tucked into the gospel, aside from the fact that it’s Jesus’ first recorded miracle? on one hand, i think that’s the only reason, but this time around i’m stretching myself to believe there’s a little spiritual significance to it…the master of the house says to the bridegroom, “people normally use the good stuff first and then bring out the bad wine once everyone’s already drunk! but you kept the good wine!” i wonder if it’s a metaphor for the arrival of Jesus. i wonder if someone reading this might think that, before Jesus, God served wine – that is, God intervened, He acted, and He spoke – but Jesus is the actual manifestation of God on earth. God saved, He forgave – but He kept His best – Jesus Christ – for last. Jesus is the ultimate intervention. He is God’s hand ultimately at work. He is God’s voice ultimately made known. He is God’s face ultimately seen. He is God’s mind and will ultimately revealed.

John 3 – of course, everyone knows John 3:16, but i couldn’t help but think about how the first half of John 3 sits with the thesis statement when it says, “He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him.” this is an example of Jesus showing God’s other-ness…putting out a statement so absurd and inconceivable that grown men, teachers of the law, can’t understand it. now, i don’t want to pretend that i fault Nicodemus – i wouldn’t know what Jesus was talking about if i were in his shoes. of course, now, because we have Jesus’ teachings, the idea of being born again and being born in the Spirit make sense, but that probably sounded looney at the time. Jesus is saying that a man can’t see the kingdom of God if he isn’t born again – and his dig at Nicodemus seems to be implying that the law should make man’s need for change obvious. (again, we know this because of Paul’s discourse on the law and repentance, but this would have been a new concept at the time.) Nicodemus might have seen the law as a set of rules to follow, as something done by willpower – as many of us even do today. Nicodemus might not have understood that the power to do the will of God might come from God Himself – but that’s what Jesus is saying in essence when He says that anyone who believes in Him can have eternal life. the broad takeaway is that mankind needs a change of mind (i believe, through reading scripture, that we also need a change of heart, but Jesus’ big point here seems to be about the mind – what you know.)

John 4 – as i read this chapter, i notice two themes: satisfaction, and what the real thing is. first off, Jesus touches on how whoever drinks the water He gives will never be thirsty again. this reminds me of the Psalm that says, “taste and see that the Lord is good.” the idea being that when we taste of God’s goodness – when we drink the Living Water, there’ll never be anything like that again. we have an insatiable (other than by His own presence) desire for His presence and His goodness. then He also says, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me.” Jesus was (and the hope is that we will also be) unsatisfied by anything else – but to do the will of the Father. i hope i find satisfaction and nutrition in that, too. finally, as He’s talking to the Samaritan woman, He says that a time is coming when the worshippers will worship in spirit and in truth. i wondered what that meant for so long and i’ still not sure i know exactly, but i suspect it has something to do with seeing the real thing and worshipping the real thing – how until that point, people had to extrapolate God from scripture and from the various acts they saw Him perform (and assume it was indeed Him) – but now they see Him with their very eyes in the form of Jesus. as Jesus would later say, “if you have seen Me, you have seen the Father.” we worship sincerely when we have seen and tasted and experienced God.

i will continue to update this as i continue reading, and link thoughts that seem to overlap from various chapters.