Why John REALLY wrote his Gospel

Episode 43

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I hope you enjoyed our journey through the New Testament. I know I did. Very soon, we’re going to take a similar one through the Old Testament, but I wanted to take a break from our hectic race through the Bible and zoom in just a little on some topics from John’s Gospel. Full disclosure here: on some level, John was chosen at random.  I wanted to focus on Jesus, so one of the 4 Gospels was a given.  It could have been any of them, but I have always been drawn to John’s Gospel.  My reasons are quite subjective and personal, but, hey, it’s my radio show.

Keep in mind, the entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelation is about Jesus.  He is there in Genesis 1, the first promise of His incarnation in in Genesis 3. He is there in Revelation 22, when John pleads for His return.  I like to say the Old Testament is Waiting for Jesus, The Gospels are Memories of Jesus, Acts is Following Jesus and Carrying Jesus, The letters are Living for Jesus, and Revelation is Victory in Jesus.

But for the next 4 weeks (at least), we’re going to dip our toes in the water of the Gospel of John.  We’re going to go a bit deeper than during our fly over with our survey, but we’re not going deep enough that anyone is at risk of drowning.

This week, in this first lesson, we’re going to look at WHY John wrote his Gospel.  And to do that, we have to start at the end.  Just like Luke did in Chapter 1 of his memoir of Jesus, John explains he motives, but instead of being right up front, John waits until almost the very end of his Gospel, in Chapter 20

Joh 20:30  Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book;

Joh 20:31  but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

1 This passage begins, Now Jesus – I’ve already said that Jesus is the focus, the center, and at some level, the subject of the entire Bible. You will hear me repeat that over and over again as we survey the Old Testament beginning in just a few weeks. There have been many great teachers, outstanding philosophers, mighty prophets, excellent leaders and wise counselors down through the ages, but there has never been the like of Jesus of Nazareth. The Bible is unequivocal in it’s declarations about Him.  The Apostles proclaimed, There is no other name under Heaven, given among men, by which we must be saved.  Paul

Php 2:9  Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,

Php 2:10  so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

Php 2:11  and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

I began (Re)Discovering the Bible Vol. 2 with these lines from the poem ‘One Solitary Live’, All the armies that have ever marched, all the navies that have ever set sale, All rulers that have ever ruled, and all the kings that have ever reigned on this earth, all put together, have not affected the life of man on earth, like this one, solitary live.

It’s true, there’s just something about that name.  As we’ve established over and over in our weekly time together, while it makes no logical sense, it is possible to reject Jesus. It is also possible, and I would argue, reasonable, logical, and desirable to accept and follow Him.  But it is not possible to remain intellectually and historically honest, and ignore Him.  Sooner or later, we all have to deal with Him.

John continues his thought: Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book;

What are these other signs? He may be referring to miracles recorded in the other Gospels, or perhaps miracles we know nothing about. After all, John finishes his Gospel with these words, Joh 21:25  Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.

Please remember, the Gospels are not exhaustive biographies of the Life and Ministry of Jesus, but collections of memories of Jesus words and deeds. So there were undoubtedly many remarkable things we don’t know.

In this case, however, the context of John’s statement about many other signs, appears to be in context of post resurrection appearances and interactions. It is very similar to  Luke’s beginning to Acts of the Apostles where he says, Act 1:3  He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.

 

We’ve said many times before, that the entire key to understanding Jesus specifically, and Christianity in General, is the resurrection.  Jesus spent 40 days between His resurrection and ascension into heaven interaction with people. The Gospel and Acts accounts are limited to time He spent with the Apostles and a select few others including a group of women. 1 Corinthians  15, however, adds an appearance to James, and an occasion where He appeared to more than 500 people at one time.

The evidence is overwhelming that He was raised.

And John is clear that the purpose for Jesus’ resurrection and subsequences is to establish His identity first of all the Christ, the long awaited Messiah of Israel, the Son of God.  This is borne out in the Gospel Sermons of Acts. Each sermon to a Jewish audience is built around the idea that Jesus is the Messiah. And each message to Gentiles it to demonstrate that Jesus is the Son of God and ultimate Judge of the human race.

He is not one of many, or one of a select few, He is the One.

John is quite specific in stating his purpose was to incite faith. He wants readers to Believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God.

Many contrast faith as something in the heart, rather than merely intellectual acknowledgment.  But that’s only part of the story.  If we had the time to dig really deep into the scripture we’d see that faith implies much more than a belief that is both heartfelt and intellectually satisfying, it leads to change in behavior and allegiance.  The Bible most frequently calls that repentance.

Interestingly, in Acts chapter 3, Peter commands the people to repent and believe, which is the inverse of how we usually talk. We normally ask people to believe and repent, but the conversion experience, at least our role in it, is so intimately interconnected, that we silly to talk about things like sequence.  Again, in Acts, Faith, Repentance, Baptism and receiving the Holy Spirit are seen in every conceivable order. I perceive that’s not an accident.  God would never want us to see conversion reduced to a formula. Salvation is His doing and His alone. Conversion, is our response to what He has done.

There are many places in the New Testament, Romans, Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, I Peter, where the entire human response to Jesus is summarized by just one of those words, sometimes it is faith, sometimes, baptism, sometimes repentance, and once, confession.  In each case, our complete response is assumed. The Bible knows nothing of unbaptized Believers. That’s a modern invention. At the same time, it knows nothing of unrepentant ones, or of unbelieving baptisms or faith that doesn’t produce repentance. Instinctively, we know that’s true, but we want to categorize our response or prioritize or create and order of response.  But in our hearts, we know the ultimate truth of the old song, ‘Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey. ‘

John finishes his thought with, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

This is another passage that liberal and fundamental tribes of Christians have each claimed half rather than the whole.

For most of my life, liberals have emphasized how the life and teaching of Jesus will help us improve our lives here on this green ball we call earth. Those with a conservative bent, have emphasized eternal life and forgiveness of sin.

I am utterly convinced when we do that, we parse a word that was never intended to be parsed. He meant both.  Watch as we look at John’s Gospel, we are going to discover a Jesus who comes to give eternal life, and life to the full, here. Jesus, the Christ, the son of God, is Lord over all, both time AND eternity.

The Bible tells me so.

Next week, we’re going to go back to Chapter 1, where John blows up the arguments of those who claim Jesus was never Human as well as those who claim He is ONLY human. Please, don’t miss it. Do send your thoughts and question to me by email or via the comments feature on the website with the show notes.

Until then, be blessed and be a blessing.

 

 

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Easter: At this Point, What Difference Does It Make?

Episode 22

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We interrupt our regularly scheduled Route 66 journey to bring you an Easter Supplemental episode of the Radio Show.

I’m recording on Monday, March 28, 2016, the day after Easter and some things I read over the weekend disturbed me enough that I felt compelled to address them before moving on in our New Testament Survey.

Over the weekend, I read two articles that came out of Scotland, downplaying the historic value of the actual, physical, literal resurrection of Jesus to the Christian message. The essence of both stories, was that the Resurrection message was about hope overcoming adversity and emotional desolation. It is resurrection power.  We used to call that ‘Neo Orthodoxy’.

I remember way back in the 70s hearing a guy on the radio respond to a caller by saying that what really  happened was Jesus disciples realized on Sunday morning that although Jesus had been murdered, the love he showed and his core teachings of loving one another did not die with him. His teachings lived on through His followers so, in a sense, Jesus was still alive within them.

It’s a sappy, touchy feely sort of message that sounds good in some sort of milquetoast sort of way, but falls way short of mattering in the real world of disease, terrorism and discord.  It’s no wonder that a 20 pound weakling kind of message has been rejected by rough and tumble, pragmatic Scottish population.  It also explains part of why Christianity is slowly fading here in the USA.

Interestingly, the Bible itself has a completely different take on the Resurrection of Jesus. In the Bible, Jesus death and resurrection are the principal message of all four Gospels AND the Book of Acts.  Each of them recount the Death, burial and resurrection of Jesus as space, time event, that are verifiable. They are not purely spiritual in their meaning, but historic events that change the future of humanity.

You can read about it in Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, John 20 and Acts 1. Acts 1, in fact, has Luke saying Jesus demonstrated the reality of his physical resurrection by ‘many infallible’ proofs. Luke is throwing down, and says, check it out. Paul repeats that dare later on in Acts 26, when Governor Festus questions Paul’s sanity over his declaration of the Resurrection, the Apostle appeals to his reason by saying, “I’m sure Agrippa knows all about this, as none of these things were done in a corner.’

Paul goes even further in 1 Corinthians when he stakes everything about the Gospel and Christianity’s right to exist, on the verifiable, literal event of the Passion and Resurrection of the Christ.

The in your face, hair on your chest, nature of the Biblical doctrine of the resurrection stands in stark contrast to the weak kneed, Mealy mouthed, psychobabble that is pedaled in much of mainstream preaching and doctrine.

Let me share an incident from my own past that illustrates the superiority of a muscular Easter message to the squishy, pastel message as delivered in the two articles I read.

26 years ago, while I was at the peak of my career as a Christian Evangelist, serving in Scotland, my entire world collapsed. My life unraveled like a ball of yarn in a room full of felines.  I lost everything.  I ended up being and outcast in many Christian circles, rejected and literally scorned in many places. And all for things for which I was not guilty. As a result, like Peter, I denied Jesus.  Not verbally, But everything about my life, the people I hung out with, the places I went, the things I did, were all in stark contrast to who I’d been and what I did. Sure, I rarely missed Church on Sunday, but that was the extent of my relationship to my old life.

I wanted so badly to, as Job’s wife said, ‘Curse God, and die.’  One thing kept me from doing just that. I could not escape the fact of the empty tomb.  No matter how far I ran, or how I tried to ignore it, the empty grave followed and haunted me. In time, I turned to confront the story, and because I could not disprove it, I was faced with the awareness that the Easter message contradicted my deep feelings that my hurt and rejection had come from God and that the Gospel message was a hoax, without value in a real world.

Step by step, day by day I came to understand that the victory of Jesus of Nazareth over the grave, demonstrated that the real lie was the one being whispered in my ear by one who would use whatever deception possible to keep my heart away from the God who loved me without measure.

I knew instinctively that if Jesus was dead and gone, the whole Christian thing was a fraud, but because He really did rise, His message had to be considered. It was the empty grave that started me on the road back to Faith.  I couldn’t face my real life problems with some saccharine sweetened Pablum of a religious message, but a muscle bound Victor who wrestled death into submission, now that was a Savior I could trust to take me beyond my pain and help me become, as Paul said, more than a conqueror.

Someday, I’ll tell you the whole story, but for now, I want to encourage you not to reject Jesus because a lot of people are spouting crap in his name, I KNOW, both from my own experience and from the facts of the case, that there is a new life, a live of joy and victory available and accessible, because the grave is empty.  Check it out for yourself. Think on these things while you chew on left over chocolate bunnies and creepy marshmallow peeps. Cause it changes everything.

 

A Seriously Dysfunctional Church – Podcast Episode 21

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First Corinthians

To Christians in Corinth – Paul founded the Church in Corinth during his second missionary journey. See Acts 18. He stayed 18 months. He is very familiar with this congregation. The only place we know for sure he stayed longer was Ephesus. Interestingly, we can see from both Acts and his letters, that these are the two congregations Paul seems most familiar with and appears to be closest to.

Corinth was not just an important trade city in the first century, it’s also a religious center, a tourist attraction, and a naval port. In modern terms, it’s a combination of New Orleans, Las Vegas and Amsterdam.  It is a busy, prosperous and totally decadent place.

The Gospel was welcomed and embraced in Corinth, but from this letter, we can see, that the values of the city also made its way into the culture of the Church, creating some real challenges. Central doctrines were diluted and Godly morality was compromised. As we’re going to see, the Church in Corinth was as dysfunctional and organism as we will ever meet.

This first letter to the Corinthian congregations is pretty in your face.  Where the letter to the Romans was somewhat general and ‘high level’ in its subject matter, 1 Corinthians is quite familiar and in your face. Paul is very candid and direct in dealing with the sin and rebellion in the Corinthian Church.

Frankly, 21st century Church leaders would do well to take a page out of Paul’s book and be less circumspect when dealing with our own congregational problems. Let’s take a look and some of the things he addresses.

Chapters 1-3 Paul focuses on divisions that were cropping up in the Church. In this case the divisions were centered around Christian Celebrities (Paul, Apollos, Peter, and Jesus). Paul declares they are all wrong and reminds them that there are no celebrities in Christianity, only servants.

Unfortunately, Church splits have not decreased over the centuries. I wish I could count the number of Churches I’ve known that have divided angrily and have weakened their witness in their local community. I know a place in Texas where each corner of a particular intersection has a congregation that are all splits of a single Church. My second student ministry was with a split of a split. Wow, was that ever fun.

In Chapter 4, Paul defends his own ministry and his authority. You can hear his sarcasm when he says, I don’t care whether I’m judged by you or any other person.

Chapter 5 is one of the weirdest chapters in the whole Bible. Paul confronts the Church about a man in Corinth who is having an affair with his stepmother. Creepy.

Chapter 6 finds Paul addressing the fact that Church members are taking each other to court and that it’s a terrible testimony to the community.

After that he transitions to address sexual behavior outside of and inside of marriage.  He defines marriage and appropriate sexual behavior very clearly.  I know it’s unpopular to stand by a traditional view of sexuality and marriage, but who would know better than the creator of both, as to how it should work. (Story of Tim White and plane to Alpirod)

In Chapter 10, Paul switches gears and confronts some improprieties in worship. This discussion runs through chapter 14. During this time, he focuses on improprieties in worship like abuse of the Lord’s Table, and abuses of spiritual gifts. Chapter 13, the famous ‘Love Chapter’ is right in the middle of all this. The lesson is, if we love God and our neighbor, abuses will fall to the wayside.

In Chapter 15, the letter reaches a crescendo when Paul goes straight to the point that the resurrection of Jesus is the central point of Christian Doctrine. Apparently some people were falling in with the sadducees who say there is no resurrection. On the other side, some people were practicing ‘Baptism for the dead’.  Paul uses the confusion and division in Corinth to drive home the point that Jesus resurrection is central in our beliefs, our preaching, and our hope.

Finally, despite all their problems, Paul never says the Corinthians have been abandoned by God or that they had fallen away from grace. No, he tells them he loves and misses them and hopes to come for a visit in the near future.

God’s grace is far bigger than our tendency to screw up. We should all rest in that hope. What a relief.

 

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Podcast Episode 11

empty tomb

 

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Sermons in Acts

There is one theme that runs through every sermon in the Book of Acts: The Resurrection of Jesus.

For Jewish Audience the Resurrection establishes Jesus as Messiah

For Gentile Audiences the Resurrection of Jesus, establishes the fact of life after death and that Jesus will be Judge of eternal destiny

Sermons

Acts 2 – Peter on Pentecost, Resurrection establishes Jesus as Messiah

3- Sermon following Lame man at gate – Resurrection establishes authority of Jesus as Messiah

5 – Before Sanhedrin, Jesus as messiah (Not a sermon actually, but a defense FOR preaching)

7 – Stephen on Trial – Jesus is Messiah, resurrection is more implicit than explicit.

10 – Peter before Cornelius, Jesus raised and is Judge of all, life after death.

13 – Paul in Antioch of Pisidia – Resurrection establishes Jesus as Messiah

17 – First 5 verses summary of Paul’s sermons Thessalonica, Jesus as Messiah. Later in Chapter, Paul’s sermon in Athens, Resurrection, Jesus as Judge of all, life after death.

23 – Not a sermon, but Paul uses Resurrection as a defense to create dissention  between Pharisees and Sadducees

24 – Defense before Felix – Resurrection is key to Gospel

26- Paul’s Sermon of Defense before Festus and Agrippa – Jesus is Messiah.

Conclusion: The importance of the doctrine of Jesus’ Resurrection cannot be overstated. Take that event out and there is no Christianity at all. See I Corinthians 15. IMO, Evangelism works best by beginning with the Resurrection and working backwards. Once Jesus is in place, all other teaching and doctrine falls into place.

Please leave you thoughts in the comments section. See you next week.