(Suggested Reading: John 1:35-51)
“‘Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?’ Nathanael asked. ‘Come and see,’ said Philip.” (John 1:46, NIV)
Come. A command, a calling out, a beckoning requiring risk and commitment. An invitation to join, to commune with, to walk alongside the Lord.
See. A challenge to witness firsthand, to experience through intimate relationship.
Whatever the disciples saw when they first came and encountered Jesus must have impacted them deeply. They left everything behind to follow Him.
Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, heard John the Baptist’s testimony and immediately went after the Lamb of God.
What happened when he stepped into Jesus’ personal space? What did he hear? What did he see that made him so adamant about finding his brother and bringing him to Jesus, too? (John 1:40-42)
Andrew said, “We have found the Messiah (that is, the Christ)” (v. 41).
Without a doubt, he declared Jesus was the one they’d been waiting for.
But, like him, his brother would need to experience Jesus firsthand.
To believe with unshakable faith, one must bask in the Lord’s presence, hear the Messiah’s voice, and feel the power of His personal touch.
Still, something about Andrew’s confidence caused Peter to want to come and see Jesus, too.
Another disciple, Philip, also saw something when he came to Jesus, something that made him drop everything, commit to following the Lord, find Nathanael, and announce that Jesus was “the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote” (v. 45).
What did they see that made them believe with such conviction?
The prophet Isaiah wrote: “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” (Isaiah 53:2b)
Jesus had nothing that should have made the first disciples want to follow him. But, oh, they did follow him. And their confidence and excitement caused others to come and see the God-Man.
These disciples connected the dots between the Scriptures of old to the One toward whom the Scriptures pointed, though not all of these men believed immediately. When Nathanael approached Jesus, wariness picked at the corners of his response.
“‘How do you know me?’ Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, ‘I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.’” (v. 48)
In that moment, the sovereign goodness and merciful imminence of the Lord collided.
I can just imagine Nathanael’s expression of disbelief, amazement, maybe even fear.
But, the Lord’s calm words in verse 51 make me smile. It’s as if He’s saying, “You ain’t seen nothing yet!”
Jesus painted promise and hope as He claimed the coming fulfillment of the Scriptures.
This was news worth talking about! But who would believe them?
Mere words aren’t enough when we testify about God.
Yes, our stories are a powerful witness. But nothing can replace a life transformed inviting others to come and see Jesus for themselves.
I made this error with my children.
I told them about Jesus. I shared evidence about how He changed my life. I read the Bible out loud with them. But I failed to invite them to come and see Jesus for themselves, to experience their own relationship with Christ, to make their faith personal.
I failed at this simple task many times with people I love. But in His mercy, God’s taken my numerous failures and demonstrated His limitless power.
God knows it’s His job to save people. He hasn’t forgotten one name on our prayer lists.
He didn’t give up on us. And He won’t give up on those we’re praying for.
But, will we give up?
Will we stop praying for the salvation of our family members, friends, coworkers, neighbors? Will we stop praying for the salvation of the clerks at the grocery store, the servers at our favorite restaurants, the community servants who risk their lives for us?
Or will we pray with fervor as we confidently invite people to come and see Jesus, to experience the security of His love, the freedom of His forgiveness, the joy of the abundant life He promises, and the peace of His constant presence?
The Lord has given us the privilege to pray through the power of the Holy Spirit, proclaim truth with gentleness and confidence, and share His love through authentic relationships with others.
God wants to draw near to those who don’t yet know Him and those who want to know Him more.
He positions us to be His representatives in our little neck of the woods.
He wants to use our testimonies to glorify His name. But testifying can’t be the end of our commitment to Christ.
We all need a personal encounter with Jesus because, no matter how amazing someone else’s testimony is, God wants to work intimately in and through each and every one of our lives.
And we ain’t seen nothing yet!
Lord, thank you for inviting us to come into Your personal space, for opening our eyes to see You, and softening our hearts so that we can receive You. Thanks for strengthening our faith so we can believe You and infusing us with wisdom and courage so we can share You with others. In Jesus name, Amen
Please share the first name or initials of the people you’re praying will receive Christ as their personal Lord and Savior, or someone you’re praying will deepen their personal relationship with Jesus.
Let’s unite with intercessory prayer and ask God to give us opportunity and courage to we invite them to come and join us as we see Jesus face to face in the gospel of John.
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 “Watching for Miracles,” and ask God to meet us where we are and transform us from head to heart.
“The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29, NIV)
When I first heard, I mean really heard, the Gospel, I responded in tears.
Accustomed to feeling unworthy and unlovable, I struggled to believe that Jesus, God in the flesh, died for me. He gave His life as an atonement for my sin, a payment for the sins I once wore like badges of honor, for sins I tried to deny, hide, or escape.
When I repented, His forgiveness even took away the sins I committed after I believed and surrendered my life to Christ, after I realized how much I would always fall short of the glory of God.
I played tug-of-war with the concept of atonement and feared the reality of substitution.
It was hard for me to accept that Jesus hung on the cross willingly serving as my substitute. The only One who knew no sin became sin and endured the agony of separation from the Father because of His limitless love for me.
This great act of sacrificial love was planned from the beginning, declared in the Old Testament, revealed through the New Testament, and experienced every day on this side of eternity within the lives of Christ followers past and present and future.
“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21, NIV)
This verse is cradled by two astounding declarations of our privilege and responsibility as Jesus’ disciples: (1) We are created to be ambassadors, imitators, representatives of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20), and (2) God’s grace came at a high cost that should be reflected in the way we live for Him (2 Corinthians 6:1)
Still, we struggle as the Holy Spirit massages out the kinks of our imperfection.
We forget the cost of our forgiveness.
We minimize the price Jesus paid when He took our place on the cross and took away the sin of the world, the whole world.
But in spite of our shortcomings and our ongoing battles with sin, wings of freedom lie within our reach.
“In Christ’s flesh, both his life and his death, we have a thank offering that restores what we owe to God−a fragrant life well pleasing to the Lord−and a guilt offering that propitiates God’s wrath.” (Horton, 201)
Jesus was the only One qualified to pay our insurmountable debt by giving His blood to appease God’s wrath.
“Christ in the place of sinners; the guiltless for the guilty; the righteous for the unrighteous.” (Horton, 201)
The Lamb of God had to be perfect, “a male without defect” (Leviticus 1:3, NIV).
In a selfless act of love and sovereign goodness, Jesus knew we would always be blemished by our sin without Him.
He chose to lavish us with a free gift of grace.
Our response should ring with joy as we accept Jesus as Lord, repent from and turn away from our sins, and learn to live in the power of His sweet Holy Spirit.
Yet, some of us continue to spar with guilt and shame when we think of our sins past and remain chained to sin in the present.
Some of us wear cloaks of condemnation placed on our backs by ourselves and others, instead of accepting what Christ has done as final and personal.
The Lamb of God was and is and always will be enough.
When Jesus declared His work on the cross as finished (teleō), He meant completed, fulfilled, accomplished, d-o-n-e, done.
The gifts of God’s grace and forgiveness are not passes to continue in our sin (1 John 2:1-6).
The Lamb of God offers us wings of freedom, freedom from sin, guilt, condemnation, and shame.
His loving sacrifice frees us from sin and empowers us to become all He created us to be in Him and for Him.
Thank You, Lord, for knowing we could never do for ourselves what You have done for us. Please help us live in the freedom of knowing Your grace is sufficient, Your power is made perfect in our weakness, and Your sacrifice was and is and always will be enough. Reveal Yourself to us more and more each day, so that we’ll be able to see ourselves and others in light of Your truth, cradled in Your grace, and wrapped in Your perfect love. In Jesus’ name, Amen
What hinders us from receiving the wings of freedom offered by the glorious Lamb of God?
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 “Come and See,” asking God to meet us where we are and transform us from head to heart.
Horton, M. Pilgrim Theology: Core Doctrines for Christian Disciples. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2011.
Photo used with permission by photographer L. Escareno.
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. . . From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.” (John 1:14, 16-18, NIV, emphasis mine)
These verses express the incredible magnitude of God’s love for us.
Because of His love, Jesus became fully Man without giving up His status as fully God. He willingly put on our fleshly weakness, while remaining fully divine and totally sinless. He left the Father’s side in the glory of Heaven to come to us, to connect with us, to die for us, to rise for us, and to live for us.
From His fullness, His abundance, His vastness, God the One and Only offers us one blessing after another.
We can’t count the number of continual blessings from God.
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17, NIV, emphasis mine).
Every bit of sweetness in this life is a gift from our unchanging and all-knowing God. Even our trials, our tears, and our pain are gifts wrapped in grace, gifts that reveal the constant presence and trustworthy character of our loving and mighty God.
As we fall in love with Jesus, we begin to see the Law as a gift, too.
In God’s sovereignty, He established the Law to point to Christ and affirm our need for Christ.
Jesus came to fulfill, to uphold, and to carry out the Law, not to abolish it or replace it or change it (Matthew 5:17).
His teaching brought deeper understanding of the Law as it was given by the Father, understanding that challenged the ways man distorted the law to support personal agendas. A quick skim through current events affirms that not much has changed. Man is still rebelling against God.
But, our rebellious spirit doesn’t change truth, the reality of sin, or our need for saving.
“Right and wrong are not determined by the voice of society but by the voice of God. The Ten Commandments declare the broad principles of God’s moral law” (Green, p. 381).
Through God’s Law, God’s people became aware of the sin that separates man from God.
Through God’s grace, we’re invited to enter a right relationship with God by believing and receiving Jesus, the Truth (John 14:6), as our personal Lord and Savior.
Let’s consider the meaning of what Jesus accomplished on the cross.
When Jesus was crucified, He cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34)
For that moment, when Jesus took our sin upon Himself, the Father in His holiness could not look upon His Son.
Imagine the pain of the Father, the anguish of the Holy Spirit, and the heartbreak of the Son as their perfect communion was broken because of God’s love for you, for me, and even for those who reject Him.
Do we hear Jesus’ anguish, acknowledge the extent of His suffering, or feel the ache of His sobs as He experiences complete separation from the Father?
Do we grasp the great personal cost of the Law requiring payment for sin and the gift of God’s love for us requiring Him to pay our debt?
Jesus took on our sin, hung in our place, and endured God’s wrath for us. For me. For you.
He doesn’t ask us to feel guilty or ashamed. He doesn’t demand repayment or ask us to try to work off our debt.
He invites us to accept His love and love Him back.
Grace, charis, is a love gift, “a benefit, a credit, and a blessing” (Strongest).
God’s grace, which can never be bought, earned, or matched, creates a credit in our account, an overpayment, an abundance that will never run out.
The Law in Jesus’ hands provides proof of our need for God’s gift of grace and evidence of His love in the fulfillment of His promises.
Our response to this truth should be joy, relief, gratitude, praise unto God, and irrevocable love for our Savior.
Sadly, so many of us give in to the temptation to cower under a veil of guilt, a shroud of shame, or a cloak of indifference.
Still, God calls us by name and gently woos us until our hearts open up to loving Him back.
“This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is that that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” (1 John 5:3-5, NIV)
Lord, we are so thankful that the Law is in Your hands. Thank You for Your blessed assurance that we’re covered by Your immeasurable grace. Help us see You, know You, feel You. Help us believe You, trust You, obey You. Thank You for insuring that our faith and Your life-transforming love does not depend on our frail will and weak flesh. You truly do understand us. Yet, still, You don’t give up on us. Thank You, Lord. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Why do the words submission, authority, and obedience seem to have such negative connotations in the world when the Bible clearly teaches those words are positive, freeing, and life-giving?
How does knowing the purpose of God’s Law and the result of the Law in Jesus’ hands make you feel about the words obey and law?
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 “The Lamb of God,” asking God to meet us where we are and transform us from head to heart.
Goodrick, E. W. & Kohlenberger III, J. R. The Strongest NIV Exhaustive Concordance. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1999.
Green, K. Zondervan All-In-One Bible Reference Guide. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2008.
“Keep me safe, O God, for in you I take refuge. I said to the LORD, ‘You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.’” (Psalm 16:1-2, NIV)
Thank You, Lord, for drawing us near to You and allowing us to experience Your love in action.
Thank You for blessing us with an open line of communication, full access to Your truth and the indwelling of Your Holy Spirit Who gives us understanding and empowers us to submit to You.
Please keep us steadfast in the wake of Your never-ending grace.
Give us the courage to take refuge in You, to count on Who You are and what You’ve already accomplished.
Give us wisdom to receive affirmation in Your love as we witness You working in and through Your people.
Our hope is in You alone, Lord, the only One who does not change like shifting shadows. You, the Giver of all good things.
Your faithfulness is our peace, our refuge, and our promise.
There is security in Your constant and mighty presence, safety in the center of Your perfect will.
Yes, Lord, it truly is all about You.
We have no good thing apart from You. We can do nothing apart from You (John 15:5).
“How great is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you, which you bestow in the sight of all, on those who take refuge in you.” (Psalm 31:19, NIV)
May reverence and love motivate us to invite You into our lives, to obey You, to love You, to stay close to You.
May we praise You for every detail and every moment that make up the wondrous testimony of grace that flows from the goodness in You.
In Jesus’ name, Amen
“He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” (John 1:10-13, NIV)
After struggling with discouragement and frustration from another medical setback, I’m resting in God’s promises and grateful that today’s Scripture reading took hold of my heart with a deeper, more personal meaning.
My current struggles reminded me that there’s a significant gap between believing and receiving information, which can cause many to unintentionally settle for lives stunted by the habit of walking by half-faith.
The Old Testament Jews believed in the Messiah and fully expected God’s prophecies to be filled. The religious leaders lived as examples of piety. Strict in tradition and ceremony, they diligently memorized and espoused God’s holy words. One would think their knowledge of God would have increased their ability to recognize the promised Messiah.
By His grace, God enabled some of the Pharisees to acknowledge how Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies. But even believing Jesus was the Messiah wasn’t enough.
There are many in the pews today who truly believe in God, who recognize Jesus is God in the flesh and Savior of the world, but who haven’t received Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior.
Yes, it’s dangerously possible to believe in God and not know Him, to serve God faithfully while remaining dependent and centered on self not Christ.
If we miss the crucial step from believing to receiving, we can miss out on a lifetime adventure and the freedom of discipleship.
To be a disciple, a follower of Christ, requires a daily commitment of allowing Jesus to be our personal Lord, the only One allowed to rule, and personal Savior, the only One capable of saving us, which includes changing us from the inside out.
Total dependence on and surrender to God does not mean we won’t struggle.
The Lord knows our flesh is prone to wandering onto the path of self-indulgence, to insisting relief from pain or hardship, to returning to the shackles of sin.
Our weaknesses only confirm our need for our perfect Savior.
Our natural bend toward sin is why we require constant communication with God through prayer and Bible study, why Jesus had to sacrifice Himself as the only sufficient atonement for our sin, why He sent the Holy Spirit to transform us and guide us and lead us every moment of every day.
The power of our sin nature is why believing in God isn’t enough.
To understand the difference between believing and receiving, it’s important to get to the root of what God is saying through John 1:11-12.
The Greek word used for receive in verse 11, paralambanō, is a verb that means “to take with; take charge of; to receive, accept” (Strongest).
The Greek word for received in verse 12, lambanō, is a verb that means “to take, to receive, to accept, collect, or gather . . . to show partiality to” (Strongest). This word seems to be a passive action compared to the word used in verse 11, until it’s combined within the context of the whole phrase used in verse 12.
The Greek word used for believed in verse 12, pisteuō, is a verb that means “to believe, put one’s faith in, trust, with an implication that actions based on that trust may follow” (Strongest).
Considering these deeper applications, it seems that there’s a stronger sense of commitment involved when one believes then receives according to God’s definitions.
The Holy Spirit worked in and through God’s people throughout the Old and New Testaments. But things changed after Christ’s work on the cross was finished, after He rose, and after He sent the Holy Spirit to dwell in the hearts of His disciples.
Things got real personal, real fast. That’s good news for us today.
When we believe, we’re given the gift of the Holy Spirit, Who has to be received in order for Him to empower our commitment to know and love God through full dependence on God, surrender in God, and obedience to God.
For example, I can believe medicine works. But if I refuse to take the medicine into my body and follow the instructions the physician orders, how can the medicine do what it was designed to do? How would I receive all the benefits the medicine promises if I stop at believing in its capabilities?
I can believe God exists and even believe His plan is perfect and His power is limitless. But how can I trust and obey Him if I don’t receive His Spirit, who helps me live like I believe that His story, His words, His love, His grace, His power and His promises are meant for me personally?
Receiving Jesus takes belief in God to a personal level, and is not an automatic part of the salvation or sanctification process.
Receiving Jesus is a commitment to ongoing action, a mutual love dance with the Holy Spirit, which consists of listening and obeying, lovingly accepting and trusting, sacrificing and honoring God no matter how costly the stakes.
Believing begins with the knowledge of the facts transformed to faith through receiving the power of the Holy Spirit, who uses God’s truth to transform believers into God’s likeness, always for God’s glory and according to God’s will.
“Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God” (v. 12-13, emphasis mine).
To those who receive Him, those who take charge of their belief by accepting faith is authored and perfected and reflected through Christ’s power, not our will or desire or works.
To those who release self to embrace Christ by the sweetness of surrender in loving, Spirit-empowered obedience.
To those, the Father gave the right to become His children, an inherited gift requiring dedication to His transforming process through personal communication and intimate relationship with Christ through the Holy Spirit.
God understands we’ll struggle with weariness, fear, doubt, stubbornness, self-reliance, and even good old laziness.
Still, He offers His endless love, boundless power, immeasurable grace, and limitless mercy with compassion that exceeds our understanding.
And God remains true to His faithfulness, even when our humanity proves us faulty.
All we have to do is ask and we shall receive according to His will and His Word, which He always keeps.
Lord, please close that gap that keeps us teetering between believing in You and receiving You completely. Reveal areas of our lives in which we are stuck at believing in Your power instead of receiving Your power, attempting to control things instead of surrendering and trusting You through the process. Convict us when we place our feelings and opinions on the throne of our hearts, instead of allowing Your unchanging truth to lead us. Please protect us from the temptation of allowing pain, busyness, fear, popular demand, or an abundance of good things to blur our need for You or distract us from honoring You by living with You and for you. In Jesus’ name, amen
As God closes the gap between your believing in Him and receiving Him as personal Lord and Savior, what areas of your life or what circumstances are you hesitant to surrender to Him? Why?
In what ways have you been blessed when you allowed the Holy Spirit to transform you, empower you, and deepen your faith in God during difficult times?
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 “The Law in Jesus’ Hands,” asking God to meet us where we are and transform us from head to heart.
Goodrick, E. W. & Kohlenberger III, J. R. The Strongest NIV Exhaustive Concordance. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1999.