“There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.” (John 1:6-9, NIV)
The apostle John shares the story of John the Baptist, an ordinary person who didn’t crave attention for himself. John, Jesus’ older cousin, diligently pointed people to “that light,” a specific Light, the Christ. John embraced every facet of his role as a witness to the Light, knowing good and well that he was only a reflector for the Light.
When we think of witnesses, we often picture people who see something and share the details of what they saw with others. But the Greek word used in this verse, martyria, is a noun that means testimony and evidence. This is the same word from which martyr was derived.
So, in this New Testament context, to be a witness to the Light requires personal experience and sacrifice, not a second-hand description of an event that doesn’t impact the storyteller intimately.
The life of a witness to the Light is a testimony in itself, evidence of God’s power, mercy, grace, love, and faithfulness within an intimate relationship with God Himself.
John the Baptist, empowered by the Holy Spirit, recognized Jesus as Lord when he was in his mother’s womb (Luke 1:39-45). God purposed John’s life to point to Jesus (Luke 1:76-79). His time in the desert prepared him to be a bold witness for the Lord (Luke 1:80). He embraced his small part of God’s bigger plan (Luke 3:4-6).
The Holy Spirit led John the Baptist to “testify concerning the light, so that through him all might believe” (John 1:7). This responsibility of believing in a way that changes lives applies to all followers of Christ.
We can settle for the dictionary’s definition of believe: “to have confidence in the truth, the existence, or the reliability of something, although without absolute proof that one is right in doing so; Only if one believes in something can one act purposefully.” (Dictionary.com)
But the Greek word used in John 1:7 incites a deeper commitment.
Pisteuō means “to put one’s faith in, to trust with an implication that actions based on that trust may follow” (Strongest).
To believe isn’t a passive, impersonal verb. True belief demands action. As a Christian, that action is expressed through our obedience to God’s Word.
Each and every one of Jesus’ disciples receives the privilege of becoming a witness to the Light.
But, before we can shine, before we can live like we truly believe what God says in the Bible, we must receive and submit to the “true light that gives light to every man” (John 1:8).
Every believer is given the gift of the Holy Spirit, the moment we profess Jesus as Lord, repent and turn away from our sins, and receive Jesus as our personal Savior.
Still, many of us don’t know how to tap into God’s power in us.
We try to be good, to change our thinking, to make right choices. We attempt to align our thoughts with Scripture, to go against our natural instincts and obey God with a good old burst of will power.
We sabotage our relationship with God and others by settling into an insane cycle of self-destruction, aka self-help.
We refuse to hop off that crazy-train-to-nowhere-good, thinking we have the power to change ourselves or our circumstances if we just try harder or work smarter.
We neglect Jesus’ simple proclamation that leads to the peace and contentment of a courageous life of abundance in Him: “I am the vine, you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
But, when we admit our need for our Savior, not just for eternity but for each and every day on this side of eternity, He’ll give us the courage to surrender to the Holy Spirit who dwells in every believer.
The trials won’t disappear. But our perspective matures, our purpose is clarified, our path is lit.
We can embrace our desperate need to stop trying to change ourselves, to stop trying to control our circumstances, to stop trying to avoid pain, to stop clinging to things we need to release in order for true healing to begin.
Believing God helps us trust God’s character, thus trusting His timing and His plan. Then, and only then, will we be ready to become witnesses concerning the Light.
Faith sprouts from our testimony, evidence of God’s grace, proof that we can be confident in God’s abilities, motives, faithfulness, and boundless love for us.
As we bow down in reverence to our Heavenly Father, admitting our weaknesses and accepting our total dependence on Him, He is the One who raises us up as beacons of hope in this world shrouded with the darkness of sin.
The more we soak in the Light, the loving and constant and mighty presence of Jesus, the balm of His unchanging Word changes us and the more we’ll reflect His glorious Light.
As we experience God’s love in action and surrender our will while submitting to His will, our life becomes a witness concerning the Light.
All who hear our story will have evidence enough to believe and place their trust in our Savior, as they too choose to depend on the power of the Holy Spirit.
Lord, thank You for assuring us that we can’t possibly do Your job. Please give us the courage to give in and give up, so that You can come in and lift us up. Help others see our lives as evidence of Your greatness and unending faithfulness. Help us notice the ways You’re working in and through the ordinary and extraordinary moments that make up our testimony and magnify the power of Your Holy Name. Help us stop trying to save ourselves and start allowing You to be our Savior. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Please describe a time when you felt trapped on the self-help-crazy-train-to-nowhere-good.
How did it feel when God helped you admit Your need for Him?
How has God used someone else’s testimony to help you believe Him?
Thanks for joining me for this week’s installment of “Meeting Jesus Face-to-Face in the Gospel of John.” If you don’t know Jesus, yet, or if you want to know Him and trust Him more, I encourage you to join me next week for “Believing then Receiving,” asking God to meet us where we are and transform us from head to heart.
Photo by Lauren Pfahlert, used with permission July 2015.
Goodrick, E. W. & Kohlenberger III, J. R. The Strongest NIV Exhaustive Concordance. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1999.
“I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.” (Psalm 4:8, NIV)
Thank You, Lord, for remaining true to Your Word and faithful to Your character.
Your mercy guards us. Your grace shields us. Your hope revitalizes us. Your Spirit strengthens us.
We lie down, put down our guard, rest secure in the peace of Your constant presence.
We sleep in peace, in trust, in confidence, and in the waves of Your unchanging and irrevocable love.
Your promises anchor us in the still waters of Your truth.
Under Your wing, worries are banished, anxiety is squelched, and fears are brushed under the cover of Your grace.
Thank You for answering us when we call You and giving us relief from our distress (Psalm 4:1).
There’s no need to toss or turn when our prayers reach Your ears.
Thank You for providing according to Your perfect will, for always meeting our deepest needs as You go before us and hem us in on all sides.
Lord, You reign.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
What has been keeping you from sleeping in peace?
What promises of God or aspects of God’s character can help you feel safe in His presence today?
Photo used with permission by photographer Xochi Luna, July 2015.
“In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it” (John 1:4-5).
What a glorious, empowering truth. In Jesus was zōē, both physical and spiritual life.
“In him . . .”
Not apart from Him, beside Him, or around Him.
When reading these words, my mind zips to Jesus’ proclamation: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
These words invite intimate connection.
Jesus is the Life, not an example of the way Christians should live. Disciples live in Him, not just like Him.
Jesus is the Truth, not a form of the truth that helps us experience a good life. Disciples believe Him, which results in obeying Him not just believing in Him.
Jesus was and is and always will be the source of life, the creator of life, the sustainer of life, the controller of life.
Not just life as in breathing and going through the motions in our day to day living, but abundant life now and eternal life forever.
Why should eternal life matter to us today?
Because eternal life is our reason for shouting, “Hallelujah.”
Whether our life on this side of eternity is seamlessly joyful or seemingly riddled with trials, eternal life secures our hope in Christ.
According to Scripture, eternal life is knowing God (John 17:3), which begins when we accept Jesus as our personal Savior, our Master and Redeemer, our King and our Lord.
The Greek word for know in this verse, ginōskō, is a verb that means to recognize and understand intimately. To know in this manner requires ongoing action, diligence and commitment.
A deep and personal relationship with God requires constant and interactive communion.
We can’t pray effectively without listening to the Lord speak through all sixty-six books of the Bible.
We can’t hear God without being still and silent.
The communication begins and ends with God and cannot flourish if we maintain a surface or static acquaintance with Him.
Intimacy with God is fully available to every person who has accepted Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior and received the gift of the Holy Spirit.
King David affirmed that those who know God’s name will trust in Him, for God has never forsaken those who seek Him (Psalm 9:10).
True knowing begins with Jesus, the Truth being revealed in the Light, who Himself is the Life.
“. . . and that life was the light of men.”
In another acknowledgement of Jesus’ divinity, John affirms that “God is light” (1 John 1:5).
The Greek word he uses for light, phōs, is a noun also meaning fire or firelight.
The Light John refers to is alive. The Life John refers to is worth living for.
When we approach Jesus as anyone less than God, or ignore the Holy Spirit who dwells within every believer, our faith is like a pile of crackling embers waiting to be snuffed out by worldly troubles or desires.
When we truly receive Jesus as the Light, Truth Himself fans our faith into a consuming fire.
Those flames demolish darkness, destroying the enemy’s lies as if they were dried out leaves.
Those flames rise when they taste the breath of life, the God-breathed words of Scripture that reveal the Lord intimately and strengthen our faith innately.
“The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.”
If we’re not careful, our eyes can adjust to darkness and avoid the light. We can begin to shrink away from the light, slinking into comfortable patches of darkness instead of stepping into the glorious promise of life in the light.
We often give darkness too much attention, too much credit, too much power.
But darkness can’t abolish or overpower light. Darkness can’t comprehend, overcome or conquer light. Darkness requires light to exist, so it’s controlled and commanded by light.
All things were made through Jesus and by Jesus and for Jesus (John 1:3), so we can trust all things have been purposed for God’s glory, including our times of darkness.
Jesus, the Second Person in the Trinity, shines in the darkest corners of the fallen world and the stubborn hearts of those who rebel against God. The darkness has not understood Him, because the darkness cannot know or coexist with the Light.
When our feelings fail us, when circumstances beat down our resolve, when falling apart or giving in seems to be our only option, the Light is the Life in which freedom and hope reign, through which Truth is revealed.
That Light dwells in those who believe Jesus is Lord, those who repent and turn away from their sin.
Life thrives in those who receive Christ as Savior, surrender to the Holy Spirit, and trust the Father with authentic praise.
But when we submit to Jesus, His Light shines through us.
We begin to overflow with love for Him and others. We shrug off the fears and insecurities imprisoning us in darkness and experience the glory of abundant life in The Word.
Lord, thank You for giving us the opportunity to live in You, with You and for You. Direct our steps and fuel our faith with the light of Your truth. Help us know You more as we obey You more and worship You more. In Jesus’ name, Amen
How can focusing on darkness distort our view of God or extinguish our hope in Christ?
What are some creative ways you spend more time with Jesus?
How can spending more time in prayer and the study of God’s Word help us when circumstances make us feel like giving in or straying into the darkness?
If you don’t know Jesus, yet, or if you want to know Him and trust Him more, I encourage you to join me next week for “A Witness to the Light,” asking God to meet us face to face and transform us from head to heart.
“O LORD, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me! Many are saying of me, ‘God will not deliver him.’ But you are a shield around me, O LORD; you bestow glory on me and lift up my head. To the LORD I cry aloud, and he answers me from his holy hill. I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the LORD sustains me.” (Psalm 3:1-5, NIV)
Thank You for fighting on our behalf, Lord.
Please help us recognize Your voice, which is always consistent with Your Holy Word.
Help us focus on Your truth amidst the cacophony of negative whispers that tempt us into discouragement and disobedience.
Ready our hearts to receive wise counsel and accountability wrapped in good motives, authentic love, and the desire for restoration and encouragement.
Guard our minds with wisdom and discernment, Lord.
Help us live like we believe our worth comes from You, our purpose is in Your hands, and Your promises stand firm as You faithfully guide our steps.
Protect us from the naysayers who are quick to criticize or offer opinions that shove us into fear, insecurity, and doubting You instead of following You courageously.
Please bless us with an abundance of loving grace as we speak truth and hope into the lives of others.
Help us to be careful with our tones, our attitudes, our responses, our words, and even our silence, Lord.
And when someone is careless with their words toward us, help us extend grace and forgiveness while setting healthy and holy boundaries. Thank You for sustaining us, holding us up in mercy as we cry out to You with bold faith and rest secure in the peace of Your constant and powerful presence.
In Jesus’ name,
How can negative voices interfere with our relationship with God?
What can we do to help us focus on what God says, instead of what the cacophony of negative whispers that tempt us into discouragement and disobedience?
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1, NIV)
Deeper study reveals John refers to Jesus as the Word. So, replacing “the Word” with “Jesus,” helps us better understand what the apostle proclaims in this power-packed verse.
In the beginning was Jesus, and Jesus was with God, and Jesus was God.
“Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” (John 1:3)
Jesus is not created. He is unchanging and divinely eternal (Hebrews 13:8). He can’t be bound or manipulated by time constraints.
He’s the maker of time and His timing is perfect, so we can trust Him during waiting seasons when we feel like giving up or questioning His all-knowing power and unchanging goodness. We can follow Him with confidence when our circumstances feel out of control or purposeless.
But the apostle John doesn’t stop there. He clearly states that not only was Jesus with God in the beginning, Jesus was God, the Second Person in the Godhead.
Jesus wasn’t just a good man, simply a smart teacher, or only a wise prophet.
Through this blog series, we’ll prayerfully ask God to help us know Him more as we discover what He says about Himself.
Jesus is the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15-20). He announced His equality with the Father (John 10:30). He proclaimed His unity with the Holy Spirit (John 14:16-20). Yet, Jesus never denied His separateness and neither did His disciples, which is evident in a close reading of John 1:1. (See the note about the Doctrine of the Trinity below this post.)
In the beginning was Jesus, and Jesus was with God, and Jesus was God.
Jesus was and is in real-time, a part of our history and of our future. This is only possible because Jesus was and is fully God. He put on flesh to become fully Man. Only God Himself could provide the perfect, sinless sacrificial Lamb (John 1:29; 1 Peter 1:18-25).
Jesus is the Word.
Surrendering to this mind-blowing fact, even though our finite minds can’t fully grasp the complete meaning, we can begin to see the magnitude of Jesus’ sacrifice for us.
God experienced life on this earth for us. God willingly suffered and died for us. God rose in the flesh to demonstrate He is living and active for us.
God invites us to approach His throne of grace and welcomes us into personal relationship with Him.
We can’t know the Father apart from the Son. We can’t know the Son apart from the Holy Spirit. And we can’t know God if we think He is three separate Persons who are not equal, or if we reject the Father, the Son or the Holy Spirit as united and divine.
When we’re anchored by the truth that Jesus was and is God, we can trust Him to be the only constant variable in life.
We can count on Him to manage all the days He’s ordained for us. We can rely on Him, depend on Him, and feel safe when we surrender in obedience to Him and submit to the authority of His Word.
As we begin our journey through the Gospel of John with open hearts and minds, I pray we see Jesus more clearly and accept God’s Word by faith as He reveals Himself through the work of the Holy Spirit.
“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge−that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:16-19)
Lord, thanks for knowing us, loving us, inviting us into relationship with You, and helping us trust You while accepting that we can’t possibly know or understand everything about You. Please give us the passion and diligence we need to commune with You through prayer and the study of Your Word. Help us recognize Your voice and live like we believe You as we accept the authority of Scripture and submit to the power of the Holy Spirit who transforms us through Your truth. In Jesus’ name, Amen
How can accepting that Jesus is God, the Second Person in the Godhead, change our view of His sacrifice on Calvary, our commitment to accepting the Old and New Testament as scriptural authority, and our ability to trust and obey what the Bible says when our feelings, popular opinion, or our agendas make us doubt or want to avoid His truth?
If you don’t know Jesus, yet, or if you want to know Him and trust Him more, I encourage you to join me next week for “Life in the Word,” asking God to meet us face to face and transform us from head to heart.
A Deeper Look: Scripture affirms the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, are each fully God, equally divine, equally eternal and equally powerful and working within the unity of the Godhead. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are not separate, in opposition, or independent of one another. This demonstrates the amazing and mysterious complexity of the doctrine of the Trinity, which is foundational to the Christian faith and can’t possibly be taught in the content of one blog post or series. (To read more about the Doctrine of the Trinity click here)