Monday, May 25, 2015

A Conversation With The Father

The seventh personal conversation that John records of Jesus is found in John 17; the Lord’s prayer. This is the longest prayer recorded in the New Testament and was prayed on the eve of the greatest challenge Jesus faced, His suffering and death for the sins of the world. It reveals what a life of prayer looks like. It teaches how to pray. It is the Mount Everest of the mountain range of prayer that runs through the whole Bible.

The main theme of this prayer is the theme of the life of Jesus; the glory of God. The first request gives meaning to the whole prayer, “…glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you…” This is a prayer request with purpose, with a particular outcome, the glory of the Father. Much of our praying is to get a little help or for the relief of difficulty or pain, with the purpose of our comfort and ease. For Jesus, the glory of the Father was greater than anything else in His life. Jesus came to reveal the glory of the Father. As you read and study this prayer, notice the number of times Jesus refers to God’s glory. It is the foundation of His prayer. Everything He says and asks for rests upon His desire for God’s glory to be known.

Another thing you will notice is that for the length of this prayer, there are only a few requests. So many have learned to pray by listening to others pray who have not been taught to pray from the Bible. They shoot a barrage of requests at God as if He were an answering machine or some kind of eternal search engine. But the prayer of Jesus, like the prayers of the Bible, do not major on requests, but rather on relationship. This prayer is truly a conversation between the Father and His Son, which is what the Bible teaches prayer is to be. In a conversation, there are statements of revelation, of feelings, of joy, and of questions. Prayer is a conversation with the Father.

Jesus conveys the will of the Father in His prayer, “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you.” 17:6 – 7. There are no requests in that statement. It is simply a statement of the Father’s promise and will. Pray the promises and the will of the Father as revealed in His word.

One of the requests of this prayer is for unity; unity in relationship with the Father from His word, and unity in relationship for the followers of Jesus with Him and with each other. This is not something you hear much in prayers today, but it saturated Jesus’ prayer. “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And I sanctify myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.”  The word “sanctified” is the Greek word hagiadzo, which means to make holy, like God. It is understood exclusively in light of the Old Testament and the Hebrew word, que-dosh, which describes God and those who are in right relationship with Him. This is a major request of Jesus in His prayer. Is it a major request of yours? It can be if you will learn to pray with Jesus.

Jesus ends His prayer with a vow, a promise. We are slow to make promises to God based upon our track record of breaking them. But when you make a promise to God based upon His promise revealed to you, relying on His presence in you, and the power of His word for you, it is always proper and highly recommended. A relationship with promises requires faith and faithfulness grows it. God has given you very powerful promises, and so can you, if they are based upon His. “I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

Today, allow the prayer of Jesus to shape yours.  Ask for God’s Son to be glorified in your life, so that the Father’s glory may be known. Ask for unity with the Father in His word, and unity within the fellowship of believers in Christ. Surround these requests with the promises that God has made and the truth from His word. Promise the Father that you will…because this is His will. And remember, “He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.” 1 Thessalonians 5:24.

A Breakfast Conversation on the Beach

After the resurrection, John records an event that took place on the Sea of Galilee, John 21:1 – 25. Peter told the disciples that he was going fishing, and a group the disciples went with him. They fished all night and caught nothing. Early that morning, they heard a familiar voice from the shore, “Children, have you caught anything?” The word “children” is the Greek word pie-dion. This was a term of endearment that a parent would call their own children. This was not how you would refer to a boatful of men who had been fishing all night, and had caught nothing! Jesus had other nicknames for His disciples, like little-faiths, and sons of thunder, rocky, and twin. The personal and intimate humor of the Scripture is sometimes overlooked. Calling this tired and unsuccessful group of rough fishermen, pie-dion, was one of those times.

The next thing Jesus said revealed His identity to one of them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” When they did, it was full of fish! This had happened before (Luke 5:1 – 11), and was the occasion for an experience for Peter with the Lord that changed the direction of his life. Jesus was reminding Peter of that earlier decision with this second miraculous catch of fish. John simply says, “It’s the Lord!” With that, Peter jumps in the water and swims to shore. When he arrived, he found Jesus sitting by a fire with grilled fish and warm bread waiting for him. Jesus said, “Come and have breakfast.” As they ate, the conversation began.

“Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” Jesus did not use the name He had given Peter, but rather his old name he had before he met Jesus. It was as if Jesus was starting over with Peter. And you wonder what Jesus was referring to when He said these. Was He pointing to the fish? Or to the boats? Or to the beautiful hills and Sea of Galilee? Maybe all the above.

Peter answered, “Yes, Lord. You know that I love you.” The word that Jesus used for “love” was the Greek word agape, which is the highest expression of love in the Greek language. It was reserved for describing divine love, a perfect love. Peter answered with a different word for “love,” the Greek word phileo, which is the highest expression of human love, family love. Peter had learned the hard way that he had some spiritual growing ahead of him and that he was just not there yet. He was humbled by this breakfast conversation.

With each exchange, Jesus gives Peter his new direction and calling, “Feed my lambs…tend my sheep…feed my sheep….” The growth of lambs to sheep requires feeding, tending, and more feeding. The spiritual growth of a follower of Christ also requires feeding upon the milk of God’s word, the nurture of a fellowship of believers, with a continual hunger and feeding upon the meat of God’s word. It was a new beginning for Peter. His past failures and denial of Christ was forgiven. The Lord was pointing Peter forward with a new vision for his life in God’s Kingdom. Jesus ended the conversation with “Follow me.”

Today, meditate, not upon the past, but upon the next step God has before you. Everything about God’s Kingdom is forward-looking by following Christ. Through blessings, failures, victories, tragedies, disappointments, and miracles, follow Jesus Christ. He has promised to keep you and see you through it all, with Him. God is for you. Love Him more than these.

Friday, May 22, 2015

A Conversation With the King

The fifth personal conversation that John records of Jesus, is found in chapter eighteen and nineteen; Jesus and Pilate; 18:28 – 19:22. What a scene. The chief priest and the religious leaders turned Jesus over to Pilate for Rome to carry out their plans to kill Him. Pilate knew that it was out of envy that they wanted to get rid of Jesus (Mark 15:10), because He was popular with the crowds and they were not. The relationship between Pilate and the chief priest was tenuous. The chief priest was the religious leader of the nation, while Pilate was the political leader, representing Caesar. Both the chief priest and Pilate barely tolerated each other.

As Jesus stands bound before Pilate, the conversation begins with a question from the governor, “Are you the King of the Jews?” The religious leaders knew that Pilate would not execute Jesus on the grounds of their charge of blasphemy, so they veiled their fears with the charge that Jesus was trying to become the leader of the people, rather than them, by His popularity. So Pilate jumped to the bottom line not knowing that he was having a conversation with the King.

Jesus answered Pilate with a question, a teaching technique that Pilate was raised on, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me? Jesus also jumped to the bottom line of insecurity in Pilate, the fear of not being in line with popular opinion, with rocking the boat, the fear of declaring a personal confession with conviction. Rather than face it, Pilate tried to avoid it by putting the focus back on Jesus with more questions, “Am I a Jew?” Along with this, a statement and question in an attempt to find insecurity in Jesus, “Your own nation and chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?”

Jesus informs Pilate that His Kingdom is not of this world. Pilate responds with a question, “So you are a king?” Jesus takes his question and turns it into a confession, “You say that I am a king…” and then describes His purpose, which is the purpose of everyone under authority, to bear witness to the truth. And for those who desire to know the truth, the truth will be heard and received. Pilate responds with a question that still rings with emptiness for those who refuse to know the truth, “What is truth?” As you read the rest of the conversation, you discover that Pilate can only ask questions because he refuses the truth, Who was standing before him.

This scene is all too familiar as Pilate represents multitudes, who have asked questions but refused the answer, the truth from God. When you are not getting an answer to your questions, consider that you are asking the wrong questions. When God reveals the truth, but you are asking the wrong question, He appears to be silent. God is never silent, but He is often ignored and not heard.

Today, allow God’s word to shape your questions and listen to the Truth from God’s word. Hear Him and your questions will become confessions of the Truth. This pleases the Father, which is what it means to worship Him in spirit and truth.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

A Cemetery Conversation

The shortest of the seven personal conversations of Jesus in John’s gospel was with Martha, at the tomb of her brother, Lazarus, found in John 11. Jesus loved Lazarus and his two sisters, Mary and Martha. He and His disciples had visited their home in Bethany many times. The eleventh chapter begins by saying that Lazarus was ill and that Mary and Martha had sent word to Jesus to come and help them. But Jesus waited two days. The delays of God are mysterious to us, but you can know that God knows what He is doing, and His timing, like everything about Him, is perfect.

Four days after Lazarus died, Jesus finally made it to Bethany. Funerals lasted for at least eight days or longer in the Bible lands. Many of the mourners were actually hired by the family to participate in the funeral and honor the deceased by going back and forth from the tomb to the home with loud wailing and mournful cries. Jesus had not yet arrived in Bethany when Martha heard that He was near, and she went out to meet Him, 11:17 – 27.

Martha began the conversation with Jesus by saying, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” Martha’s faith is all too familiar to us, a conditional faith, conditioned upon her understanding. The condition in this scene was based upon Jesus and His ability to heal, if only He had gotten there in time. But He didn’t, and so now all she could hope for was to ask for prayer. The expression, “But even now,” is a desperate plea for help from God, now that their brother was gone. Martha was the practical sister, and no doubt, had already seen the difficulty that lay ahead for herself and Mary. They needed prayer and would need God’s help in the days to come.

Jesus said to Martha, “Your brother will rise again.” And again, Martha’s faith rested upon her understanding and what she had learned at the synagogue concerning the resurrection of the dead on judgment day. She recited from her catechism, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”

What Jesus said next was one of the most powerful statements from His lips when He said, “I AM the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” This went way beyond Martha’s understanding. Jesus was redirecting her faith from her understanding onto Himself. She took His lead and said, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.” She did not know what was about to happen, and it didn’t matter. Her faith was in Christ, and whatever was about to happen, would be right because it would be God’s will done by God’s Son.

When they got to the tomb, Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha objected, being the practical one, once again relying on personal knowledge and experience rather than on what Jesus wanted to do. His next statement is sometimes overlooked, but once again, is one of the most powerful and instructive statements to refocus faith in Him. He said, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” The Lord Jesus wants you to keep your faith on Him so that you will see the glory of God. This is the outcome of faith. This is the destination. This is the reward. There is nothing greater and anything less would be to miss the whole purpose of Christ’s coming.

You know what happened next. Jesus called Lazarus’ name and he was raised from the dead, and came out of the tomb still wrapped in grave clothes. Jesus told the mourners to unbind him and to let him go! And the mourners became evangelists as they ran into Jerusalem with the good news.

Today, ask the Lord to show you where your faith has shifted from Him to your understanding about Him. Keep your spiritual eyes and your ears riveted on Jesus by keeping your physical eyes and ears in God’s word in order to know Him more and more. This is what it means to worship the Father in spirit and truth.

Living Water

The third personal conversation John records Jesus having is found in the fourth chapter of John. It was with the Samaritan woman by Jacob’s well. At noon, by the well, Jesus was waiting for this woman to arrive. Noon is not the time for drawing water.  But for this woman it was so that she could avoid the insults from the other women who would draw water early and late in the day. This woman had been married five times and was living with the sixth man. Sychar was a small town. Some would probably call this woman a home-breaker; an adulterer for sure. No one had personal conversations with her.

But Jesus was waiting for her and asked her for a drink. The woman was surprised that Jesus spoke to her, first because men did not speak directly to women in public, but most of all because He was a Jew, and she was a Samaritan. These two did not associate with each other, although they shared a common heritage with Jacob. They were related, but had no relationship with each other. But Jesus continued His conversation, which focused upon the thirst in her life, no personal relationship.

Jesus said to this woman, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 4:10. Like Nicodemus, she was not getting it. Jesus continued, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never thirst again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

At this point in the conversation, the woman asked for this living water and Jesus told her to call her husband. She said that she did not have a husband, which Jesus affirmed. He said that she had been married five times and was not married to the sixth. She quickly changed the subject to something less personal, which was at the heart of her thirst, personal relationship. She had been viewed and treated as an object for so long, she had come to believe it about herself. But Jesus was changing the picture by His personal conversation with her.

This conversation is the occasion for the theme of this book, learning to worship the Father in spirit and truth. This is the most personal, the most intimate, the most important relationship of all, knowing God and His great love for each person He has created through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. As Jesus reveals to her the desire of the Father to find true worshipers, she discovers that He has found her and she ran into town to share the good news of her personal relationship with Christ. What she was looking for, thirsting for, found her. The seventh Man in her life, the one she had been waiting for, was waiting for her!

Conversation and relationship are inseparable. Without conversation there is no relationship. God desires for you to hear the conversation He wants to have with you, each day in His word. Like the woman, if you only knew the gift of God and the One who speaks to you from the God’s word, you would ask Him for that gift. Learning to worship the Father in spirit and truth is to ask for that gift and to stay with Christ as He moves you closer and closer to it.

Today, ask Him for the gift of knowing Him more and more from His word. Desire to learn of Him more than about Him. In doing so, you will find that you have been found, and will never thirst again! The One you have been waiting for, is waiting for you. Hallelujah!!!


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Born From Above

One of the most well known conversations Jesus had with an individual is found in the third chapter of John. In this chapter, a Pharisee named Nicodemus came to Jesus at night to learn more about Him. He did not ask any questions at first, he simply began the conversation with Jesus by recognizing Him as a teacher from God and with the miracle-working power of God, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do the signs that you do unless God is with him.” 3:2.

Jesus answered Nicodemus by getting right to the point of what they needed to talk about. He said, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a person is born from above he cannot see the kingdom of God.” The Greek word, amen, comes from the Hebrew word, amen, and means, “it is true, it is so.” In John’s gospel it is sometimes translated as “verily, verily” or “truly, truly.”

You say “amen” after you have heard something that you would identify as the truth. Jesus would say it before He would say something (notice as you read John the places that Jesus used this word). Some have wondered why. Jesus said that He only spoke what He heard the Father say. Jesus would hear the Father something, would say amen amen, then, would speak what He just heard! Amen!

The word “above,” sometimes translated “again,” is the Greek word anothen, and is called an adverb of place. It is used in Matthew 27:51 to describe how, upon the death of Jesus, the curtain in the Temple was torn from top (used there) to bottom, identifying the place it was torn from.

Nicodemus had trouble with this and Jesus continued leading him to see that the birth He was speaking of was from above by the Holy Spirit. The first birth was a natural birth, by water, but the second birth would be from above by the Holy Spirit, a spiritual birth. Then Jesus told him as straight as it gets, “…You must be born from above.” 3:7. The word “must” is the Greek word, day, and communicates the element of necessity, of no other choice.

For example, Jesus used this word when His parents found Him in the Temple as a twelve-year-old boy when He said, “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Also in Matthew 16:21 as Jesus began to tell His disciples “…that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things…” And again in John 3:14 in His conversation with Nicodemus, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up…” And again in 3:30 when John the Baptist said, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”

It was during this personal conversation with Nicodemus that Jesus said the words that are learned by every believer, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16. The Greek phrase “believes in” is, pestuo ice, and literally means to “believe into.” It is not an agreement of fact, but rather a direction, a destination, a location, which means that when you believe in Jesus, you follow after Him, you rest in Him, you are found with Him.

Nicodemus learned that night with Jesus that there was only one way into God’s Kingdom; to be born from above by the Holy Spirit by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and through faith in Him. There is no other choice but this one. It is an invitation from God and an individual choice that each person must make. The invitation is also a promise from God of life with Him, eternal life.

When you respond to His invitation by receiving His promise, you are born from above and have faith in Christ. God the Father offers His Son to you because of His eternal love for you, in order to live His Life through you, as you, before Him, and the watching world around you. The Holy Spirit makes it happen and the Son is glorified by this, which brings the Father great pleasure. And this is what it means to worship the Father in spirit and truth