Shining in the Darkness

John 1:5-9

Verse 5 begins the next little section of John’s text, a section that continues through verse 13. The theme is that of the manifestation of the Word in this dark world, and in this it is interesting to note the transition from the Word, to God and then of Word-God into “light’. We can easily see through this device that the three terms, Word, God and light are being used interchangeably to describe attributes of God, thus they are One in their reference to Christ, who is as yet unnamed in the text.

The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

John 1:5

Once again, John has put into one simple statement a fact that theologians have struggled with for centuries; the world around us just doesn’t “get it”. OK, those poor souls who live in the darkness of this world don’t understand the light; why does this surprise us? At the same time as we are surprised that this world struggles with the message of Christ, some of us are surprised that we should be called to reach out to the world around us to deliver the message of light to them and help them to see it for what it is; grace and truth. Why should we be surprised to be called to help others understand it? Why should we resist this calling?

There was a guy who did not resist the calling, and his name was John. This John is not the same guy who wrote the gospel, yet both of them were only too happy to share the light with a dark world. Verses 5-9 set up what follows by pointing out that this John (the Baptist) was sent to prepare the way for the Messiah who was about to burst upon the scene in the person of Jesus. John was not the light, just as you and I are not the light, yet he was sent to prepare the people to hear the message that would come in Christ.

In our time, the light has already come, and we have received it and received grace as a result. We are sent to share that light, and to help those around us to comprehend it that some should receive it also and share in its blessing. When you think about, this is an awesome calling!

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In the Beginning

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.

John 1:1-4

John begins his account with the words, “in the beginning” with a very different beginning in mind than we find in Genesis 1:1, for while Genesis begins with the creation, John begins with God alone.  The “God” that John refers to here is first called the Word (logos) God, the uncreated Creator, before the creation of anything… The Word. That “Word” was there first of all… with God; in fact the Word was and is God.

We throw those terms around in our day, don’t we? “The Word” referring to the Scriptures, and we seem to like to use it to prove our various points in arguments with each other as though the  “Word” is our own very precious tool for debating. Yet John, the Apostle of Jesus Christ uses it as a name for Almighty God!

Notice how the Word becomes God, and then in the next verse, God becomes “he.” He was with God in the beginning. The Word was with God in the beginning: “The Word” “God” and “He” were all together in the beginning, before anything had been created.

They are One.

Jesus is God’s messenger to mankind, as well as being the embodiment of God’s message (Heb. 1:1-4)  It was by His Word that the universe came into being, and it is by His blood that we may enter into relationship with Him, as told in His Word.  Thus, we may say that the Word is not only God’s person, essence and power, but that it is one and inseparable from the person of Jesus Christ, who is entirely one with God. Verse 2 is set up as transition in the sense that it begins the move from “what” to “whom”; from “the Word” to “he”: Jesus was there.

Now it becomes clear and unambiguous that this “he” is the one through who all things have been made.  This is stated positively “all things” and negatively “without him nothing…”  Within him was life reminds of God breathing life into Adam. (Gen. 2:7)  “He” contained life, was its very source, and this essence will be the light of the world.  Life and light are two themes that carry throughout the entire gospel of John, and will become more and more clear as we go on.  For now, suffice it to say that His very essence is “Truth” and that will illuminate a dark world that carries on without either Truth or God’s presence, since fellowship with God had ceased after the entry of rebellion into the world.

I hope that you have noticed how much theological truth that John has expressed in four simple, clear and easy to understand little verses; scholars write volumes and can’t say so much! This is precisely why I always tell my students that John’s gospel is very much a “Big Boy” book!

Back to Work!

I have been away from my writing desk for nearly a week now, and following after a summer in which I have slacked off quite a bit in my writing, I am looking forward to getting back into the swing of things here at The Life Project! I would like to begin by thanking those of you who sent well wishes this past week; I doubt I can adequately express my appreciation.

I have some catching up to do today, that’s for sure, but I do want to get started with an introduction to a new set of posts that will begin in earnest tomorrow morning on the Gospel of John…

Of all of the Gospels, John’s is without a doubt my favorite, just as John is my favorite New Testament author. John just has a certain way with words. His language isn’t the best grammar, and sometimes he has a way of writing in circles, yet as he does so, he leads to major revelations in which he takes the complex and makes it so very simple that it’s not easy to miss the point. Of course, much of the theology written in the centuries that have passed has succeeded in doing so, but it usually takes an awful lot of education and training to miss John’s points!

His Gospel is unique in that it is not synoptic, which is to say that it is the only one of the four that is not always in chronological order. It is a biography of sorts, but it is not merely the story of the life of Jesus, it is a revelation of deeper significance than one would gain from a recitation of narratives as Mark’s contains, for instance. John relates Jesus’ life from a heavenly point of view, while Matthew relates it from a Jewish point of view, Luke from a Greek point of view, and Mark from a Roman viewpoint. As a consequence, John is the only Gospel author who wrote to a universal audience. Why did he write the book? Here is John’s answer to that question:

“These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

John 20:31

Simple enough.

He wrote the book sometime between 85 and 95 AD, with a clear New Covenant orientation, and begins in a way that only John writes about; a deeper view of the birth of Christ. He introduces Jesus Christ to us in a way that is similar to Hebrews 1:1-4 and 1John 1:1-4 which provides us with a Heavenly overview of His nature, position, identity and purpose, beginning with the words, “In the beginning….”  The “Christmas story” is usually told from Luke chapter 2, but in John chapter one you see the theology of that story.  Thus we can easily say that Luke, the historian gave us the facts, but John the Apostle of love gave us the behind the scenes background that gives Luke’s account a significance that is the reason this birth is celebrated 2,000 years later.

I hope you will plan on joining with us in a new adventure here at The Life Project, as we dive into John’s first chapter, right here posting at 6 am (Eastern) tomorrow morning!

Rejoice

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This is the day the LORD has made; 
   let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Psalm 118:24

How much joy do we take in life?

How much joy do we have in worship?

OK, I agree that not every situation in life can be joyful, for there are also many sorrows and hardships; I also realize that many of us are undergoing severe trials these days.

Yet even in sorrow, hardship and trial we are the redeemed of the Lord if we have entered relationship with Jesus Christ.  Is there any hardship or trial that can compare with all that He has done for us?

I would never want to make light of suffering, nor would I ever want to let someone forget how great our God is!

Here… let’s try an experiment:  Let’s decide that we are going to celebrate our great and awesome God no matter what trial we are dealing with.  Let’s even go another step and commit ourselves to praising God in every situation; even the ones we don’t really like that much…

This is the day the LORD has made; 
   let us rejoice and be glad in it.

We’ll know you tried this experiment when we see the big smile on your face!

One of “those” times

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There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:
    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
   a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

We’ve had another death in the family this week; it’s once again one of “those” times. So sad…

Everyone has these times, everyone gets their chance to be sad, to grieve and to weep; this is the nature of this life as we pass though this vale of tears. These are contemplative times, times to reflect and take stock, times to ask questions and take inventory; to make assessments.

What are the things that are really important; what are the things that are not so important? What should I think about or do more of, and what can I let go of?

Am I on the right track, or have I drifted? Am I secure in my eternal future, or is there something lacking? Am I OK with God?

I don’t really go out of my way to seek these reflective places, but they seem to find me anyway. Maybe I’m glad that they do, because in the end I know that my hope and faith in the One who can provide eternal life is safe and secure.

Even so, I hope you will pardon me if I’m a little scarce in these precincts for a day or two.

Have I Done Enough?

There are so many people who seem to be tireless in their service of others; so many who labor for years in service to our Lord.  Other people do a few things and feel that they have done their share, and then they go home…

When have we done enough to serve God?

Jesus spoke about this several times, but the one that really got my attention is found in Luke 17:7-10 where Jesus asks a question about servants.  To paraphrase, He says ‘Suppose you had a servant who worked all day long in the fields and then comes in after his work; would you tell him to sit down and take a load off?’  (remember, this is a paraphrase)  ‘No’ Jesus goes on, ‘you’d tell him to get your dinner ready, get ready to wait on you and then he can have his dinner.’ Here’s the question:

“Would he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do?” (v. 9)

Jesus was taking a pretty tough line here to demonstrate the answer to the question I lead the post with… how much is enough?

We are called as God’s servants to serve others, and there may not be a point in time when we can just say we’ve done enough.  That servant who worked in the fields all day long was probably tired, hungry and thirsty, but his job was to serve, and so he had to make the Master’s dinner and wait on him before the day was finished.

The last verse in this parable is the application:

“So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’”

Luke 17:10

Here we are, the Lord’s servants, and we have a job to do.  Take the Gospel to those who need to hear it, bring them into relationship with Jesus Christ, teach them to be disciples, and lead them to live their lives as Jesus lived: as a servant.  When we look around us, it is quite evident that there are still millions who need to hear about Jesus, who need to learn to be His disciples, and who need to be serving.

The good news is that there is still work to do, so let’s get moving!

The great news is that when we are finished and the Lord calls us home, we will have done our duty, and we will hear the only praise that we will ever need to hear: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”