Judgment​ and Mercy

shutterstock_613750124The story of Karla Faye Tucker is heartbreaking. Karla Faye dropped out of school at an early age and followed her mom into a life of prostitution and drugs. When she was in her 20’s she started dating an older man named Daniel Garrett. While searching for items to steal and sell for drug money, Karla Faye and Daniel broke into a nearby apartment and killed two victims with a hammer and pickax. Karla Faye and Daniel were eventually arrested and sentenced to death. Daniel died from liver disease on death row, but Karla Faye became a Christian. She “stole” a free Bible from a visiting ministry group and gave her life to Jesus after reading it in her cell. She became a model prisoner and showed great remorse for her actions. When a date finally set for her execution, a crowd of supporters urged the state to commute her. Their efforts fell short, and Karla Faye was executed by lethal injection in 1998 with a few close friends and family members by her side.

The story of Karla Faye Tucker’s life and death serves as a heartbreaking backdrop for an equally tragic story found in John 8:1-11. In this passage, a group of scribes and Pharisee urge Jesus to pronounce a death sentence on a woman caught in adultery. In the end, the religious leaders learn something that the woman caught in adultery already knew – Jesus is the Righteous Judge. 

As the Righteous Judge, Jesus declares judgment on the self-righteous (8:1-9).

Even though these religious leaders seemed interested in justice, they were really trying to trap Jesus. Stoning wasn’t very popular in Jesus’ day for obvious reasons, but it was called for in the Mosaic Law. If Jesus rejected the punishment outright, He would lose credibility as a teacher of the Law. If Jesus enforced the punishment, He would lose popularity with the people and might even get in trouble with the Roman authorities.

Instead of answering them, Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dirt with his finger. We don’t know what He wrote, but we know what He said, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her” (v. 7). This was a direct reference to Deuteronomy 13:9 and 17:7. Jesus was not saying they had to be perfect or free from sin to condemn the woman, but they did have to be sinless in this particular case.

The scribes and Pharisee were secure in their own self- righteousness. They were so secure they were willing to sacrifice this woman’s whole life to cover up their own sin and condemn Jesus. They held this woman to a higher standard of righteousness than they held themselves too.

As Jesus bent back to down to write in the dirt again, the religious leaders filed out one by one until they were all gone. Those who came to embarrass Jesus were themselves embarrassed. They snuck out of the temple one by one until they were all gone.

As the Righteous Judge, Jesus demonstrates mercy on the unrighteous (8:10-12).

Straightening up, Jesus asked the woman where her accusers had gone. She replied that they were all gone. Jesus did not imply that the woman was innocent, simply that she was not condemned. She experienced God’s mercy because she knew something the religious leaders did not know – we are all guilty and unrighteous before God.

A genuine encounter with Christ always results in a transformed life. Her past had been forgiven and her future was now wide open. Jesus sent the woman out to live a transformed life.

As the Righteous Judge, Jesus looks past outer appearances and judges the heart.

The problem is that too often, we storm the courtroom of life and take the responsibility of judging ourselves and judging others on ourselves. But as humans, we are not in a position to judge. Like it says in James 2:4, we judge with a double standard and become “judges with evil motives.”

You can respond to this story in two ways. One way is to show compassion on another “sinner” so that you can distance yourself from self-righteousness. Sin is still sin, but we should not rush to condemn someone who God has forgiven. We often judge other people harsher than we judge ourselves and “blowing out some else’s candle so our burns brighter.” The degree to which you can show compassion on someone who has wronged you is the degree to which you have cast off your own self-righteousness.

Another way to respond to this story is to give up one of your besetting sins as you glory in God’s great mercy towards you. We all struggle with a number of sins (1 John 1:8). Sexual sins are no worse than any other sin, but they can be harder to overcome because they are self-destructive (1 Corinthians 6:18). You cannot change the past, but with God’s help, you can change the future.

God wants to help you escape from the prison of your own self-righteousness. You can fool your family & friends, but you can’t fool God, because He is the Righteous Judge.

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The Foolishness of God

cross-671379_640Some people can’t make sense of a suffering Savior. They don’t understand why Jesus allowed himself to be humiliated and disgraced the way He did. They think they know what salvation looks like and Jesus doesn’t measure up.

Have you ever struggled with the events leading up to Easter? Have you ever wondered why Jesus had to suffer and die? Wasn’t there another way?

The Apostle Paul encountered those kinds of questions at the church at Corinth. The people in the church believed in Jesus but struggled with the crucifixion and the resurrection. To them, the crucifixion was foolishness.

As we read 1 Corinthians 1:18-25, we find out that the “foolishness” of God is far better than the “wisdom” of man. We also discover two reasons why the gospel requires a crucifixion.

1. The Gospel is the story of a suffering Savior. (v. 18-19, 23)

In verse 18, the gospel is described as “the word of the cross.” Before the cross became a symbol of forgiveness and life, it was a symbol of death and shame. People weren’t just killed on a cross, they were humiliated. Imagine if we traded out the symbol of the cross for an electric chair or a hangman’s noose on our churches? The Gospel is so closely tied to the crucifixion that Paul says there is no preaching outside of preaching a crucified Christ. (1:23)

2. There are two basic responses to the Gospel. (v. 22-24)

Unfortunately, some people reject the gospel as foolishness. Many of the Jews in the first century thought Christ’s death was scandalous and absurd. They expected Jesus to perform a sign after miraculous sign to prove his power. In their minds, there was no way the Messiah would be crucified. Many of the Greeks through Christ’s death was foolish, but for different reasons. They were always looking for something sophisticated and complex. In their minds, Jesus was too basic and humble.

Thankfully, there are also those who accept the gospel as the wisdom of God. Those who believe the Good News about Jesus know that the gospel has to power to change lives. Romans 1:6 reads, “For I am notashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”

When you come upon to an exit ramp on the highway you only have two choices: take the exit or stay on the highway. When someone calls you on the phone you also only have two choices: answer the phone, or let it ring. Those that hear the Gospel only have two ways to respond: accept it or reject.

In 1 Corinthians 1:18-25, we learn not only that Christ’s crucifixion is necessary, but that God’s “foolishness” is far better than anything we can come up with to save ourselves. As you respond to the Gospel for yourself, let me encourage you to embrace the paradox of the gospel. Through Jesus, we know that salvation comes through suffering, freedom comes through submission, and life comes through death.

The Necessities of Life

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Disney released The Jungle Book movie in 1967. One of the most memorable moments in the film is when Baloo the bear teaches Mowgli about the “bare necessities of life” while they search for food together. Bagheera the black panther looks on in disapproval as the bear and boy bebop through the jungle.

The Jewish Passover is a festival built around gratitude to God for two of the necessities of life: food and water.  When the Jews were freed from slavery in Egypt, they took their unleaved bread with them because they left in such a hurry (Exodus 12:33-34). Before God provided bread and water for them in the desert, He led them through a body of water – the Red Sea – and used that same body of water to destroy the Egyptian army (Exodus 14).

In John 6:1-25, we read about two of Jesus’ more famous miracles: the feeding of the 5,000 and walking on water. These two stories are recorded back to back in three out of the four Gospels because of their deep connection to the Jewish Passover. We have to adopt a Jewish mindset to appreciate what Jesus said and did in these passages because the control of water and the concept of eating are forever linked to the Passover in the mind of the Jews. 

JESUS FED THE HUNGRY (John 6:1-14)

Jesus traveled to the other side of the Sea of Galilee to a place called Tiberias. A large crowd of people followed Him because He was healing people. Like other rabbis in the first century, Jesus went up on a mountain to teach His disciples and all the other people who had followed Him.

When Jesus was finished teaching, He asked His disciples to organize a meal for the massive crowd of people. Philip said they didn’t have enough money to buy bread for the people. Andrew found a boy who had five barley loaves and two fish but wondered how that could ever be enough. Jesus asked his disciples for help, but already knew what He was going to do. He took the bread and the fish from the boy, blessed it, and began distributing it among the people.

John gives us two numbers to help us appreciate the magnitude of this miracle meal. John tells us that 5,000 men ate that day, plus their wives and children. When everyone was finished eating, the disciples collected twelve baskets of leftovers. This truly was a miracle meal!

JESUS RESCUED THE HELPLESS (6:15-25)

Some of the people in the crowd wanted to make Jesus king and who could blame them – he made food appear out of thin air! Jesus had other plans so He hid in the hills while His disciples traveled back to Capernaum through the Sea of Galilee.  When they were in the middle of the sea, his disciples encountered a fierce storm and became afraid for their lives. Suddenly, they saw Jesus towards them walking on water and they were even more frightened. Then Jesus got into the boat they were instantly at their destination on the other side of the water.

Jesus isn’t surprised by anything in these two Passover stories. In fact, he deliberately put his disciples in a situation where they were forced to find their sustenance and security in Him. These two miracles reverberate through history as God continues to put people in situations where they must find their spiritual sustenance and security in Him.

Sustenance is what it takes to sustaining life – it’s necessary nourishment. Bread sustains our physical life in the same way that obedience to Christ sustains our spiritual life. True spiritual sustenance only comes through a connection to Christ.

Security is freedom from danger, care, or anxiety. In the Exodus story and John 6, water isn’t a necessity of life, but a danger to life – the disciples were helpless and afraid. You and I can plan for the future, but true peace and security only come from God.

Jesus is more than a Rabbi, Prophet, or King, He is the Passover Lamb that takes away the sin of the world. (John 1:29).  When you find yourself spiritually hungry and helpless you can turn to Jesus. When you find yourself overcome and overwhelmed by the circumstances of life you can turn to Jesus. When you find yourself without a plan and without path you can turn to Jesus for your sustenance and security.

When you do, you will be able to pray two parallel prayers:

“You are enough for me Jesus.”

“I rest easy in you Jesus.”

If you can honestly pray these two prayers to God than you are well on your way to finding your sustenance and security in Jesus. If you cannot, then you need to reevaluate the true necessities of life.

Photo by Bruno Thethe on Unsplash

Uncommon Faith

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A man fell off a cliff but managed to grab a tree limb on the way down. The following conversation ensued. “Is anyone up there?” he called out. “I am here,” the Lord replied, “Do you believe me?” “Yes, Lord, I believe. I really believe, but I can’t hang on much longer,” the man exclaimed. “That’s all right” the Lord explained, “if you really believe you have nothing to worry about. I will save you. Just let go of the branch.” After a long pause, the man called out again, “Is anyone else up there?

The story about a man hanging from a cliff highlights the importance of faith even though it might be extreme. John 4:46-54 contains another story about the importance of faith. A royal official came to Jesus and gave us an example of uncommon faith.

The response of the royal official to Jesus stands out in comparison to his fellow Galileans. The Galileans welcomed Jesus, but Jesus knew their response was superficial and fickle. In comparison, the royal official response to Jesus with thoughtfulness and obedience. The royal official and the Galileean approaches to faith can be summed up in two very different statements.

“I’LL BELIEVE IT WHEN I SEE IT” (4:43-48).

The Jews in Galilee had heard all about Jesus signs and wonders. They had heard how he turned water into wine (John 2:1-12). They saw the signs he did in Jerusalem during the Passover feast (John 4:45).

The royal official had also heard about Jesus and he was desperate. He probably served at the pleasure of Herod Antipas, the son of Herod the Great who married his half-brother’s wife, Herodias. As a representative of the state, he had a certain level of power and authority, but he was powerless to save his own son from death.

Jesus confronted the royal official and condemned this approach to faith. Jesus performed plenty of signs during his ministry, but for a specific purpose – that people would believe in him and experience eternal life (John 20:30-31). The Galileans saw Jesus as a wonder-worker, a cure-all magician who had to prove himself.

God doesn’t have to prove himself to any of us. He has chosen, in his grace, to reveal himself to us. When we demand a sign from God before we will believe, we place ourselves in authority over God.

“I’LL BELIEVE IT BECAUSE HE SAID IT” (4:49-54).

Jesus responded to the royal official with a command. Jesus ordered the official to go back home because his son had already been healed. The official believed Jesus and demonstrated his belief by leaving Jesus without any visible evidence of a miracle.

The royal official received confirmation before he ever saw his son. He came across some of his servants who were on their way to update him on his son’s condition. He knew that Jesus had healed his son because it happened just as Jesus gave the command.

The authenticity of the royal official’s faith in Christ can be seen in two ways. First, he cared enough to share with his family.  It was common in the first century for the family to take on the faith of the father, that doesn’t mean his family was just faking it. They experienced a miraculous healing in their home and they believed. Second, he continued to believe in Jesus even after his crisis was over.

The two approaches to faith on display in this story teach us one main truth: faith that demands a sign is not really faith at all. Faith is how we access eternal life. If we don’t have faith in Jesus Christ as the sinless Son of God, we cannot share in the eternal life that he has to offer. The royal official is not lifted up as an exception, but the rule. His “uncommon faith is the kind of faith” we must all have to be saved from our sins.

This matches the definition of faith found in Hebrews 11:1: “Faith is assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (NASB). It also helps to explain Thomas’ encounter with Jesus after the resurrection (John 20:24-29). Most people refer to him as “Doubting Thomas” because he refused to believe in the resurrection until he saw Jesus for himself. When Jesus finally appeared to Thomas he invited the skeptical disciple to touch his scars. Then, Jesus rebuked Thomas and blessed those who believe in him without seeing him: “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believe.” (v. 29).

Augustine once said, “Understanding is the reward of faith. Therefore, seek not to understand that thou mayest believe, but believe that thou mayest understand.”

Click here if you want to listen to a message on this passage: https://www.podomatic.com/podcasts/unitybaptistashland/episodes/2019-03-11T10_17_13-07_00

 

“Beyond Salvation”

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The twelve disciples must have been excited. In John 4: 1, we read that the word about Jesus was spreading throughout Judea and Jesus was baptizing (with their help) more people than John the Baptist. The disciples had chosen to follow Jesus and now they were on the fast track to success.

Instead of working the crowds and chasing popularity in Judea, the epic-center of Judaism, Jesus surprised his disciples by traveling back to Galilee  – through Samaria. The Jews avoided the Samaritans because they saw them as racial and religious “half-breeds.” In 722 B.C. the Assyrians conquered the northern Kingdom of Israel (the region that became Samaria) as a consequence for their repeated rebellion against God. The Assyrians deported most of the Israelites and then repopulated the area with conquered peoples from other parts of their empire as a way to solidify control. In time, these people intermarried and embraced an unholy mixture of pagan and Jewish practices.

Jesus stopped to rest near a well outside of the city of Sychar. While his disciples went into the city to find food, Jesus engaged a Samaritan women in conversation. Jesus’s trip through Samaria teaches us a lesson that His disciples did not understand. Jesus is not just the Savior of the world, He is the Savior of the whole world.

In John 4:1-30, we learn that the whole world includes…

PEOPLE WHO ARE “BEYOND SAVING” (4:6-9)

Jesus surprised the Samaritan woman by asking her for a drink from the well. Not only was she a Samaritan, but she was also a woman. Jewish men never talked to women in public, even their wives. She was a woman of “questionable character” which is probably why she was drawing water from the well during the heat of the day when few people were around.

We must push back on the idea that some people are “beyond saving.” No one is too far gone, too sinful, or unimportant in God’s eyes. We can’t let age, annual income, language, skin color, marital status, or even sexual orientation limit our view of salvation. In John 3:16, we read that God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in Him, shall not perish, but have eternal life.

PEOPLE WHO DON’T THINK THEY NEED TO BE SAVED (4:10-14)

Jesus probed deeper by suggesting that women should be asking him for a drink.  The woman was quick to point out her religious connection to Jacob the Patriarch. As far as she was concerned, she was “ok” because she was a Samaritan. But Jesus exposed her spiritual need by explaining her need for living water and eternal life.

PEOPLE WHO ARE BROKEN BY SIN (4:15-18)

This is the turning point in the conversation as Jesus revealed the Samaritan woman’s brokenness. She had been involved in five broken marriages and was living with a sixth man who is not her husband. She had searched for love and significance and come up short.

The Samaritan woman’s experience reminds us that “religion” can’t be compartmentalized – it touches every area of our lives. We are broken without a personal relationship and that brokenness shows up in all kinds of ways. Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (NASB).

PEOPLE WHO ARE SPIRITUALLY BLIND (4:19-26)

The Samaritan woman was blind to the truth about Jesus. She diverted attention away from herself to an age-old argument between the Samaritans & the Jews about the proper place to worship God. The Jews worship God in Jerusalem while the Samaritans worshipped on Mt. Gerizim. Jesus explained that worship was about to change because the Savior had come – and he was it!

Jesus is the Savior of the whole world because the whole world needs to be saved. Romans tells us “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Jesus came into the world to save the whole world, not just for the people we know, we like, or that look like us. We shouldn’t limit the scope of God’s salvation by assuming anyone, is beyond salvation.”

 

Sent to Save

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 “A single conversation across the table with a wise man is better than ten years of studying books.” – Henry Longfellow

A wise man approached Jesus at night for a conversation. The man was Nicodemus, a well-respected and influential religious leader in Jerusalem. The longer that Nicodemus and Jesus talked, the more obvious it was that he didn’t understand who Jesus was or what he was saying to him. Jesus proved to be the real wise man in the conversation.

During the course of their conversation, Jesus shared God’s plan to save the world. He told Nicodemus that God sent His Son into the world to save the world. Jesus led Nicodemus through the course of the discussion Jesus explained who needs to be saved, how to get saved, why getting saved is so important. We read about their interaction in John 3:1-21

1. EVERYONE WHO WALKS IN DARKNESS NEEDS TO BE SAVED (John 3:1-3)

Nicodemus came to Jesus at night which is an indication of his spiritual state, not just the time of day. Darkness is the domain of misunderstanding and unbelief. The only other person that did something at night in John’s Gospel was Judas, who betrayed Jesus at night (John 13:30). Even though Nicodemus was respectful and smart, he was in the dark about God’s plan to save the world.

Nicodemus came to Jesus from an elevated place in society, that was not enough to escape his spiritual darkness. Nicodemus had a privileged birth as a Jewish man in Jerusalem. Nicodemus also had great influence. He was a Pharisee and a member of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish supreme court.

In comparison to Christ, the Light of the world, everyone walks in darkness and needs to be saved.  John 8:12 says, “Jesus is the Light of the world and those who follow Him will not walk in darkness.” Like Nicodemus, we are unable to save ourselves through our own good works and self-made righteousness.

2. YOU MUST BE BORN AGAIN TO BE SAVED (John 3:4-8)

Jesus informed Nicodemus that he could not participate in God’s kingdom without being “born again.” Nicodemus misunderstood Jesus, who was talking about spiritual birth, not physical birth. Being “born again” means to be born from above by the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus explained that the process of spiritual birth may seem mysterious, like the blowing of the wind, but the outcome and effects of spiritual birth are obvious.

3. YOU ARE UNDER GOD’S JUDGMENT, SO YOU NEED TO BE SAVED (John 3:9-21)

Jesus described the Heavenly Father like as a loving Judge, a subject that Nicodemus was familiar with as a judge in Israel. God balanced his hatred toward sin with his love for humanity by make a way for everyone to be saved at great cost to himself. Jesus is God’s one and only son. God sent him into the world to save the world.

Jesus balanced this good news with a warning that God’s judgment is looming for who refuse to believe. He told Nicodemus that who don’t believe in him are already judged by God. Those who continue in their unbelief will experience death and separation from God, instead of the eternal life that God offers. Hebrews 9:27 punctuates this truth with these words: “It is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment.”

Nicodemus and Jesus’ conversation reveals God’s plan to save the world. Each and every person who reads this account must decide what to do with Jesus. The decision is to put your faith in Jesus as God’s Savior and experience eternal life, or reject Jesus and experience the consequences. Those who come to Jesus as the Light of the world must take the light they’ve been given and share it with those around them who are still walking in darkness.

Image by simonwijers on Pixabay

Save the Best for Last

daniel-christie-1137189-unsplash.jpgIn the first half of his Gospel, the Apostle John describes a series of signs that Jesus performed in order to show his true identity. These were more than just miracles, they were powerful acts done for a specific purpose: to show that the God of the Old Testament had come in all his glory. John is careful to only include signs that Jesus performed at or near Jewish festivals or institutions like the temple, a well, the Sabbath, and the Passover.

The first sign appears in John 2:1-12, where Jesus attended a Jewish wedding. Jesus showed the unsuspecting wedding guests and his disciples that God had saved the best for last. The first-century Jews believed in God and honored the Scriptures. They took time out for God at least once a week and observed the Sabbath. But God had something better for them.

Jesus attended a wedding on “the third day,” which is a clue that something special was about to happen. At some point in the celebration, the wine ran out. Jesus’ mother, Mary, had some sort of responsibility for the refreshments at the wedding feast so she asked Jesus for help. At first, Jesus seemed hesitant to help, stating that his “hour has not come yet.” Then Mary instructed the servants to do whatever Jesus asked them to do.

There were six stone water pots at the wedding, each with the capacity to hold 20 to 30 gallons of water. Clay pots were more common and affordable, but they could become “unclean,” so the Jews used stone pots for ceremonial washings. The Jews had a complex set of rituals and traditions when it came eating and preparing food (Mark 7:1-4).  They would not eat without washing their hands in a special way. This wasn’t about hygiene, but about proving their standing before God.

Jesus told the servants to fill the pots with water and take it to the head waiter. Somewhere between the water pot and the headwaiters’ lips, the water became wine. The head waiter was so impressed that he spoke to the bridegroom saying, “Most people serve the good wine first when people are most thirsty and can appreciate the high quality. But you’ve surprised us, you’ve saved the best for last.”

Contrary to popular opinion, this story is not about alcohol. The use of the stone washing pots and the words of the head waiter in verse 10 tell us the reason for Jesus’ first sign and the point of this story: Jesus as better than the religious rituals or traditions of the Jews. The coming of the Messiah was more important for God’s people than following a set of restrictive practices.

Like the ancient Jews, we have our own set of religious rituals and traditions that have a limited basis in Scripture and little bearing on our relationship with God. Unfortunately, like the Jews, we sometimes enjoy looking down on others because they do not follow our rituals or traditions. When we do we need to personalize this story – Jesus is better than our religious rituals or traditions. A personal relationship with Jesus Christ is more important than what we wear to church, how many times we go to church, or how many times we “walk the aisle.” That doesn’t mean our rituals or traditions are worthless, it means they are a means to a greater end – faith in Jesus Christ.

Maybe you need to reevaluate your spiritual life in light of Gospel? Maybe you need to trust in Jesus, instead of some experience or practice? Maybe you need to follow Jesus and his leadership in your life. When you do, will know that God saved the best for last.

Photo by Daniel Christie on Unsplash

Is Your Religion Good Enough?

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Weddings were an important part of Jewish life in the first century. In John 2:1-12, we read a story about Jesus attending a wedding with his disciples. Jesus didn’t preach a sermon, but he did show the surprised guests and his disciples that their religious rituals and traditions were not good enough to gain God’s attention.

Have you ever wondered if your religion is good enough?

Have you ever wondered if you are doing enough or doing the right things to gain God’s attention or get into heaven?

If so, how did you find an answer?

Feel free to leave your comments below.

If you are in the Tri-State area, join us at Unity Baptist in Ashland this Sunday as we consider this question and others every Sunday morning.

Lost in Translation

sharon-mccutcheon-532782-unsplashHave you ever played the game called “telephone”? One person whispers a message to the person next to them and it travels down the line until the last person announces what they heard. I’ve played “telephone” dozens of times in my life, maybe more, and the message original message always gets lost somewhere in the translation.

When God speaks, he speaks clearly. God created the universe through the power of his spoken word. God revealed his plan to redeem mankind through his inspired and authoritative written word, the Bible. But God went even further to communicate and connect with mankind so his magnificent character and intentions were not “lost in translation.” God sent His Son, Jesus Christ – the Living Word – into the world to reveal Himself to us.

As we read John 1:1-18, we find four truths about Jesus Christ. The Apostle John gives us these four truths so that we might know God, not just know about Him. Notice what these verses tell us about Jesus.

First, He is a divine person (1:1-2). John introduces “the Word” as a person, not an idea or an impersonal force. Jesus is the second person of the Trinity. He is distinct but equal with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. This is absolutely foundational to the rest of the things we read about Jesus Christ in John’s Gospel.

Second, He was present at creation (1:3-5). John connects his Gospel to the creation story in Genesis by starting it out the same way: “in the beginning.” In Genesis 1:26, we read about God’s conversation with himself about creating mankind in his image (“Let us create man in our image.”) The Apostel Paul declares that Jesus has always existed and “all things were created through Him and for Him.” (Colossians 1:16).

Third, He is the power of redemption (1:6-13). Although Jesus Christ created humans and became a human, he was dismissed and rejected. But by God’s grace, some have responded faith and believe. Those who do are redeemed and adopted as children of God. This spiritual “rebirth” is brought about by the power of God.

Fourth, He is a picture of God (1:14-18). The Second Commandment prohibited God’s people from making an “idol” or likeness” of God as a part of their worship (Exodus 20:4-6). This commandment was to keep the Hebrews from settling for a disappointing substitute for God. Jesus was is so much more than a disappointing substitute – he is God is the flesh.

John’s testimony is designed to introduce others to Jesus Christ, not just tell them about him.  Theologian J. I. Packer once said, There’s a difference between knowing God and knowing about God. When you truly know God, you have the energy to serve Him, boldness to share, and contentment in Him.” Knowing about someone is not the same as having a personal relationship with that person.

Every relationship starts with a decision. You can start a personal relationship with Jesus Christ by deciding two things. First, that you personally believe that Jesus Christ is God’s Son and that he died for you and your sins. Second, that you personally accept his offer of a new life. The new life that God offers comes forgiveness and a home in heaven.

Some things get lost in translation, but Jesus Christ did not. He reveals such a clear and compelling picture of God and his love for us that we must respond. Have you responded to his message for you?