NOT ALL THE BOOKS IN THE WORLD!

Bible Reading: John 20:30-31; 21:24-25

Have you ever read something, and thought that I wish I had written that? I thought that recently when I was reading a book entitled “Relentless” by John Bevere. It was so powerful that I wrote, “Wow!” in the margin, and continued to read this book and have been so blessed by it. Today I want to share what John Bevere wrote:

“The apostle John made a strong statement to all of us who are part of Christ’s body: “Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Christ did [1 John 2:6 NLT].

Jesus had already asserted this when said, “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you” [John 20:21]. As Jesus ruled, so He wants us to rule. When the storm came to destroy Jesus and His staff, He spoke to the wind, and the sea, and they obeyed Him. When He needed food for the masses in the wilderness, He multiplied the little they had and fed thousands, with more food left over than when they started. When He had no boat and needed to cross the sea, He walked on the water. When the wine supply ran out at the wedding, He turned water into wine. He caused a fig tree to shrivel and die with the spoken words of His mouth. He put an ear back on an assailant who’d lost it by the edge of a sword. He cleansed those who were diseased, made the blind see, the deaf hear, and the lame walk. None of these earthly challenges were a match for the One who ruled in life.

Demon-inspired men didn’t intimidate Him; He had an answer to stop their opposing words in every confrontation. Evil rulers couldn’t catch Him. Angry crowds couldn’t push Him off the brow of a hill; He just walked right through their midst. Demon-possessed people didn’t scare Him; He just freed them. The list is almost endless, for as John summarised at the close of his account of Jesus’ life, “Truly Jesus did many signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book…. If they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written [John 20:30; 21:25].” [“Relentless”, by John Bevere, page 24. It is available from bookshops and also on line from amazon.com].

I cannot think of a more powerful way to end our series on John’s Gospel than this powerful statement. It challenges me personally, and I trust that it is a challenge to you also.

We come to the end of the blog series on John’s Gospel, and having written blogs for more than two years on a daily basis, I have decided to take a break for a few weeks, beginning again in late November with a new series. I may write an occasional blog if something has really blessed me in the meantime.

I have two requests of you. I would like to find an established Christian publisher who would put this devotional series into book form for wider circulation. If anyone knows someone who could help me with this then please do contact me.

Secondly, I would love to hear from you if these blogs have blessed you. Write a comment below this post (Or any other post you have enjoyed). Thank you.

JESUS RESTORES SIMON PETER

Bible Reading: John 21:1-23

Breakfast on the beach was the setting for one of the most wonderful stories in the New Testament – the restoration, by the risen Christ, of a man who had denied Him three times and failed so badly. Who among us hasn’t failed? One of the great leaders of the Chinese Church, Wang Ming Dao, once said, “I have often been like Peter, but never been like Judas!”

Jesus had never specifically addressed Peter in His earlier resurrection appearances. I can imagine Peter was desperate, thinking will He ever forgive me for what I have done? Will He ever trust me again? Am I cast away forever? His reaction was to go fishing [v.3]. That was his old way of life and what he knew best, and it was probably his escape mechanism. They caught nothing that night!

A stranger on the shore called to them [v.4-5], and a miracle happened. Jesus told those hardened fishermen how to catch fish!  It was a repeat of that first call by the Sea of Galilee three years earlier [Luke 5:1-11]! John immediately recognised Jesus, and hearing it was Jesus, Peter swam to the shore. Still Jesus did not speak directly to him, but waited until after breakfast [v.15-22].

Jesus then spoke to Peter’s past failure by asking him three times if he loved Him [v.15,16,17]. Each question mirrored one of Peter’s three denials. Twice Jesus asked, “Do you love [‘agapaō’ – the highest form of sacrificial love] Me.” Both times Peter replied, “You know I love [‘phileō’ – affectionate, friendship type love] You.” Jesus used the same word, ‘phileō’, that Peter had used to respond to Jesus. Peter’s brashness and self-confidence has gone – he is humbled! Now was the time to restore Peter, and to re-commission him! Having wiped out the power of Peter’s past failures Jesus then spoke to Peter’s future.

Jesus gave Peter a clear commission, to “feed His sheep.” He was to nurture and protect Christ’s followers. But Jesus also spoke a prophetic word to Peter, telling him that he would die in the same way as his Master [v.18-19]. Jesus did not hold back from telling Peter what it would cost to follow Him.

Having spoken to Peter’s past failures, and his future, Jesus then demanded a present response – “Follow Me” [v.19b]. Peter is so human! He looks at John and says, “What about this man?” Jesus said, very graciously, that’s not your business! “You follow Me” [v.20-22].

Questions:

Have you experienced in your own life God wiping the slate clean and giving you another opportunity? What did it feel like?

Why do you think Peter could so easily have been distracted by what someone else would be doing instead of doing what Jesus told him to do? How could that have hindered Peter? Why should we be careful not to be distracted in doing what God has called us to do?

THOMAS – SEEING AND BELIEVING

Bible Reading: John 20:24-29

The phrase “Doubting Thomas” came into common usage as a result of Thomas, the disciple of Jesus, not believing his friends when they told him that Jesus had risen from the dead. It seems unfair that this title has stuck with him. He went to India, and became known as the Apostle to India, founding the Mar Thoma churches. According to tradition Thomas died as a martyr, near Chennai [Madras] in AD 72. Isn’t it amazing that a man known primarily as someone who doubted became such a giant of the faith?

Thomas was also known as ‘Didymus’ which is a Greek word meaning “twin” [John 11:16; 20:24; 21:2]. We know nothing about Thomas’ twin, but Thomas must have been a man with a strong sense of commitment to break the filial tie with his twin and follow Jesus. He had an enquiring mind, and if he did not understand something, then he would ask for an explanation [John 14:5].

Thomas was also a loyal man who said, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him” [John 11:16] when Jesus decided to go back to Jerusalem.

Perhaps one of the characteristics of our present generation is that of following the crowd, and believing something by hearsay. This often results in weak Christians who have not been prepared to search and dig for truth. Thomas was not like that. He is often portrayed as a man who doubted, but actually he desired to know for himself whether or not something was true. Jesus knew Thomas and did not rebuke him, but revealed Himself to him. It takes great courage not to follow the crowd, but to find out the truth for yourself. In doing that your faith will be so much stronger. There is Biblical comparison between the believers in Berea and those in Thessalonica. The Bible says, “[The Bereans] were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so [Acts 17:11-12].

We too can search for and find the truth. God’s Word says that those who seek God with all their heart and soul will find Him [Deuteronomy 4:29]. Sometimes Jesus reveals Himself directly, as to Thomas and Saul of Tarsus. There are many stories like this in Muslim countries today. To see might make believing easier. However, for the vast majority of people it will not be seeing and believing, but believing and then seeing! “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” [Hebrews 11:1]. Whichever way the revelation of truth comes let us be like Thomas and declare, “My Lord and my God”, and then passionately follow Jesus.

Questions:

Why do you think Jesus did not rebuke Thomas for saying that unless he saw he would not believe?

Do you think that there is a place for honest doubts in our seeking after God?

Would you say that you were more like the Bereans or the Thessalonians in your response to truth?

RELEASING PEOPLE THROUGH FORGIVENESS

Bible Reading: John 20:19-23

If you forgive the sins of anyone they are forgiven [because of their faith]; if you retain the sins of anyone, they are retained [and remain unforgiven because of their unbelief]” [John 20:23 Amplified Bible]

This verse almost sounds as though the disciples to have power to forgive sins, but we know that is not what it means, because only God, and Jesus who is God, have the power to forgive sins. Jesus was commissioning His disciples, and sending them out with the message of the good news of salvation. As they proclaimed the gospel, they could honestly tell people who accepted the gospel, turned from sin and believed on Jesus, that their sins were forgiven. Equally, for those who rejected the gospel and its message, that their sins were retained and not forgiven, and that they stood condemned in God’s eyes.

Christian believers today have the very same mission that those early disciples were given. We are obligated to share the message that Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven, and that the only way to forgiveness is through faith in Him. This is the heart of the message that Jesus has given to us to proclaim, and when a person believes, then we can tell them, on Christ’s behalf, that their sins are forgiven.

There is also another way in which we can declare forgiveness to someone. Many years ago my mother came to stay with us. We often clashed and it was nearly always over small and insignificant things. She came to us for Christmas, and for the first couple of days everything was fine, but then it exploded. It was over a 3% extra payment on a credit card for an air ticket that I had bought on her behalf. There was an ugly display of bad temper on both our parts, and in frustration I walked out of the room, slammed the door behind me, and went upstairs to our bedroom. I lay on the bed, wondering why, after all these years of following Jesus, that I could not get on with my own mother. Suddenly I had a vision of my mother’s heart. She was so broken and I felt ashamed of the way I had spoken to her.

After a while I went downstairs, told her what I had seen, and apologised to her, asking for her forgiveness. Mum broke down and began to weep. Her words are just as clear to me today as they were all those years ago. She said, “Michael, if only you knew how much I loved you, and how often I wanted to pick you up and run away with you. You could not give me security, but your stepfather could. Will you forgive me?” For five years after that time, whenever Mum and I met, she would ask me, “Am I really forgiven?” Each time she asked I told her that she was truly forgiven. Gradually she began to believe it, until one day she knew that it was true. That gave her great assurance and healed our relationship.

Questions:

Why do you think that telling someone they are forgiven is such a powerful thing to do?

Why do some people find it so difficult to accept the fact that their sins are forgiven?

RECEIVING THE HOLY SPIRIT

Bible Reading: John 20:19-23

And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, Receive  the Holy Spirit” [John 20:22]

A few moments before Jesus said this He had commissioned the disciples to go, live and minister, in the same way that the Father had sent Him. How on earth could they fulfil such a commission? The simple answer is that it would impossible, except the same Holy Spirit who ministered through Jesus were also in them, and so He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

The Greek word ‘emphusao’ is used just once in the New Testament where it is translated as ‘breathed’ in John 20:22. The same word is used in the Septuagint Greek version of the Old Testament in Genesis 2:7 which reads,  “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” The word ‘emphusao’ means ‘breathe’ or ‘blow with force’ and denotes immediacy in the sense of ‘receiving right now’. The Old Covenant began with the breath of God, and now the new creation begins with the breath of God. Just as man was without life until God breathed into him, so the disciples were without true spiritual life until God in Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit into them.

Earlier in John’s Gospel Jesus had promised that the Holy Spirit would be given, but not until Jesus was glorified [John 7:39]. Jesus was now glorified, in His resurrection body, and breathes the Holy Spirit into them. They became spiritually alive. This also foreshadowed the Spirit’s empowering at Pentecost.

The key to power in the Christian life is the presence of the Holy Spirit. “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you” [Acts 1:8]. The word “power” is the Greek word ‘dunamis’ from which we also get our English words, dynamo, dynamic and dynamite. It is His power working through us that will do the things that Jesus did if we will believe!

I am often asked if there is a receiving of the Holy Spirit at conversion, and then a later filling with the Holy Spirit, when we are baptised with the Spirit, often referred to as the second blessing. The fact that the disciples received the Holy Spirit [John 20:22], and were then filled with the Holy Spirit a short time later, on the Day of Pentecost is cited in support of this theory. I do believe that God wants to fill us with the Holy Spirit on the day that we are converted, and that receiving the Holy Spirit and being filled with the Holy Spirit should be the normal Christian experience.

Questions:

Why is it important that we are filled with the Holy Spirit?

Why do you think it is that for many Christians there is a time lapse between receiving the Holy Spirit at conversion and being filled with the Holy Spirit?

In order to serve God in the same way that Jesus did we need the power of the Holy Spirit – Have you received the power of the Holy Spirit? What difference does He make in your life?

JESUS COMMISSIONS HIS DISCIPLES – 6

Bible Reading: John 20:19-23; Ephesians 6:10-20

When Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden they lost three particular things – their innocence, their authority and their fellowship with God. Fear replaced authority! They gave the authority that God had given them over to Satan, and instead of having and living under God’s authority they now were under Satan’s authority.

God’s word says, “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil” [1 John 3:8]. The whole life of Jesus was a spiritual battle – Herod tried to kill Him when He was a young child [Matthew 2:13,16]; The devil tried to destroy Him in the wilderness [Matthew 4:1-11]; Jesus set people free from demonic power as He ministered to them [Matthew 8:32-34; 12:22ff]; Jesus recognized Satan attacking through Peter [Matthew 16:23]; The cross was the ultimate spiritual battle [see John 12:27-32].

Jesus was sent by the Father to wage spiritual warfare against Satan and to take back the authority that man had given him. When we are in Christ our authority is restored, and because Jesus defeated Satan we too enter into that victory.

Just as the Father sent Jesus to wage warfare against Satan, so Jesus sends us to wage warfare against Satan and see him defeated. This is known as “spiritual warfare”. It is pushing back the darkness and enforcing the victory that Jesus won on the cross over Satan. As we drive back Satan’s kingdom, God’s kingdom advances. We are called to enforce the victory of Jesus!

Perhaps at some future date I might write a series on this subject of spiritual warfare. My wife and I have spent much time praying with people who have been in spiritual battles, and taught about spiritual for many years to young people going overseas as missionaries. In the meantime, could I recommend a book of 365 daily devotions on this subject? It is entitled, “Each New Day With Neil T. Anderson” [Founder of Freedom in Christ].

In the same letter in which Paul prayed about our victory in Jesus [Ephesians 1:15-23] he also wrote about the spiritual battle that we are involved in [Ephesians 6:10-20]. Our battle is not against people [v.12] but against spiritual forces of darkness. We need to recognise this, be who we are in Christ, and take for ourselves the victory that Jesus won on the cross. He has given back to us the authority that Adam gave away! God has promised us that, “No weapon formed against us will prosper” [Isaiah 54:17]

Questions:

What do the words, “Jesus has given us Kingdom authority” mean?

Read 2 Timothy 2:2-3. What does Paul particularly say to us as Christian soldiers in these verses?

We pray “Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven,” but in what way are we to answer that prayer in our daily living?

JESUS COMMISSIONS HIS DISCIPLES – 5

Bible Reading: John 20:19-23

We have seen three ways in which the Father sent Jesus. He sent Him to lay down His life for those He came to save, to live a life of obedience to His Father, and to identify with those He came to save.

Fourthly, Jesus was sent to minister under the anointing of the Holy Spirit. In Acts 10:38 we read, “How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with great power; and He went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, because God was with Him.”

To be “anointed” means to be enabled to do something. The Holy Spirit enabled Jesus to minister. Several prophecies in Isaiah speak about Jesus being anointed with the Holy Spirit [Isaiah 11:1-5; 42:1-4; 61:1-3]. The anointing came at His baptism – before then He performed no miraculous works of power. Jesus Himself said that the Holy Spirit had anointed Him to minister and quoted Isaiah 61:1-3 [see Luke 4:18-19]. As a result He went about doing good, healing all who were oppressed by the devil, and God was with Him. The gifts of the Holy Spirit operated through Jesus. Of the nine gifts of the Holy Spirit only two are not mentioned in the record of Jesus’ earthly ministry. The Bible specifically says that Jesus cast out demons by the Spirit of God [Matthew 12:28] and taught through the Holy Spirit [Acts 1:2].

Jesus chose to minister on earth not as God [although He was God], but as a man with the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Because Jesus ministered as a man full of the Holy Spirit we also can be filled with the Holy Spirit and do the things that He did [John 14:12]. We need that same anointing of the Holy Spirit if we are going to minister in the same way that Jesus ministered. Before returning to heaven Jesus said three specific things. Firstly, don’t be side tracked by unimportant issues [Acts 1:6-7]. Secondly, don’t depend upon your own ability – “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” [Acts 1:8a]. Thirdly, don’t be blinkered in your vision – not just Jerusalem, but also Judea, Samaria and the end of the earth [Acts 1:8b].

Jack Hayford writes, “For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God does not give the Spirit by measure” [John 3:34].” Jesus received the Spirit in fullness, with nothing held back, and He alone has universal authority. However, since this enduement of the Holy Spirit is given to Him whom God has sent, John 20:21 would suggest a similar unlimited resource of Holy Spirit fullness is available to obedient disciples of Jesus” [Spirit-Filled Life Bible].

Questions:

If Jesus was God why did He need to be filled with the Holy Spirit in order to minister?

Why is it important for us to be filled with the Holy Spirit?

Read Acts 10:38. What were the effects in the ministry of Jesus of the anointing of the Holy Spirit? What do you expect the Holy Spirit to do through you?

JESUS COMMISSIONS HIS DISCIPLES – 4

Bible Reading: John 20:19-23

Over the past two days we have considered the way in which the Father sent Jesus, recognising that Jesus sends out His disciples in the same way. Jesus was sent to die for those He came to save and to live a life of obedience, and that is how He sends us out.

Thirdly, the Father sent Jesus to identify with those He came to save. He became one of us. There was no elitism or sense of superiority in Jesus. Paul writes, “He was made in the likeness of men,” [Philippians 2:7] and “…being found in fashion as a man.” [Philippians 2:8]. Jesus is a high priest touched with the feelings of our infirmities, and tempted in all points like us [Hebrews 4:15]. He was known as a friend of sinners, and they loved Him for it. The common [ordinary] people heard Him gladly.

John Stott has said, “Some people reject the gospel, not because they perceived it to be false, but because they perceive it to be foreign.”

Identification is more than wearing the right clothes, eating the right food, knowing a people’s history or speaking their language. These things are important but they do not automatically open the door to a person’s heart.

Real identification is a matter of the heart! When I went to Indonesia as an overseas missionary I was a proud Englishman. I thought that West was blest and white was right, but I was wrong, and God had to deal with me very deeply in and change my heart attitudes.

One of the greatest difficulties for a person going overseas as a missionary, is to enter into the world-view, belief systems, values and spiritual concepts of another people. It is really wonderful that we are living in a day when more and more national Christians are reaching out to their own people. It is much more powerful than a foreigner doing it. There is an increasing emphasis in the West on sending out short-term teams or individuals to minister overseas.  This is important and valuable, but will never replace the long-term worker, who learns the language of the people, imbibes their culture, and understands what for them is the meaning of spirituality.

After years of living in Indonesia, preaching in Indonesian, and living like an Indonesian, I was once surprisingly compared to a well known [and successful] Indonesian evangelist who loved to travel to the West, was funded from the West and wore expensive western suits. The person said, “He has brown skin and white heart, but you have white skin and an Indonesian heart.” I have never been paid a greater compliment in my service for Jesus!

The great need is to model what the Christian life is really like – in a day when church has almost become an irrelevance for the majority of people. It requires identification with people and Christ-likeness in us, and for the Christian it is part of that work of God in the heart and dying to the self-life.

One Question and a Prayer:

When people see me do they come in contact with Jesus Christ? If not, what is the hindrance? Lord, let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me today!

JESUS COMMISSIONS HIS DISCIPLES – 3

Bible Reading: John 20:19-23; 14:19-24; Proverbs 14:34

Yesterday we saw that the Father sent Jesus to lay down His life for those He came to save. Secondly, the Father sent Jesus to live a life of obedience to His Father.

It is quite remarkable to think that Jesus learned obedience through the things that He suffered [Hebrews 5:8]. He was totally committed to seek, not His own will, but the will of His Father. He came to do His Father’s will [Hebrews 10:5-10]. That was His delight. Jesus did what He saw His Father doing and spoke what He heard His Father speaking [John 5:19,30]. Even as Jesus faced the cross His prayer was all about doing the Father’s will – “nevertheless, not My will, but yours be done” [Matthew 27:39].

In the same way that Jesus obeyed His Father, so He sends us to live a life of obedience to God. There are two kinds of obedience. The first is to obey God’s Word. We are to obey God’s written Word, the Bible. God’s Word is full of wonderful promises that we can claim for ourselves, but it is also full of commandments that we must obey. The second kind of obedience is to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit and do what He tells us. The Holy Spirit will clearly lead us, and it will never be in contradiction to God’s written Word. Paul, writing to the Church in Rome said, “As many as are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God” [Romans 8:14].

There are three main reasons why we should obey God. Firstly, we obey because obedience is the language of love. Obedience is not simply submitting to authority, but when we love God we cannot help but obey Him.

John more than any other Gospel writer emphasized love, and yet more than any other spoke about obedience! The two go together [John 14:15,21,23-24; 15:10]. Everything must be rooted in love – our relationship to the Lord, our service for him, our obedience to Him.  Secondly, obedience is the twin of faith. Faith and obedience always go together. God speaks and by faith, we obey Him! By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, but Joshua had to obey! By faith Abraham offered up Isaac, but it was also an act of obedience. Obedience is faith in action. Our faith increases as we obey God and see Him work. Thirdly, obedience is the key to enjoying God’s blessing. In the Old Testament we see the blessings that come through obedience [Deuteronomy 28:1-14], and the curses that come through disobedience [Deut. 28:15-68].

Much pain and many social problems in a nation are caused in a nation when its people do not honour God and obey Him. Jesus said, that the disobedient would not enter heaven [Matthew 7:21-23]. Just as the Father sent Jesus to live a life of obedience to Him, so Jesus also sends us.

Questions:

Why is obedience so important if we are to be both blessed and to be a blessing?

What does obedience to God look like to you personally in your own life?

What are the things that sometimes make obedience to God difficult?

JESUS COMMISSIONS HIS DISCIPLES – 2

Bible Reading: John 20:19-23; Luke 14:25-33

Today I want to begin to answer the question, “How did the Father send Jesus?” This is important because the way that the Father sent Jesus is the way that He commissions and sends us.

Firstly, the Father sent Jesus to lay down His life for those He came to save.

Jesus came to seek and to save the lost and He knew that it would mean death on a cross. Jesus chose to lay down His life because it was the Father’s will. His delight was to do the will of His Father. He had no other will. He laid aside His reputation [what a word in a generation that speaks so much of entitlement], and His rights as God [Philippians 2:5-11].

Just as the Father sent Jesus to lay down His life for those He came to save, so He sends us to lay down our lives for His sake and for the gospel. For many that meant martyrdom because they were faithful to Jesus. There is, however, another aspect to this matter of dying. Watchman Nee wrote in The Normal Christian Life, that to be a Christian means, “I no longer live! Now it is Christ who lives His life in me.” Ben Davies from Bracknell said in a recent sermon, “We either die to ourselves, or we die within ourselves.” The heart of real Christianity is a process of death to the self-life. A young man recently wrote to me and said that he had been reading a book on the subject of being, “crucified with Christ.” He asked me why he had not heard any messages in church about this!

Consider what the cost of mission and following God’s call meant to the Apostle Paul. He speaks of beatings, prison, facing death, shipwrecks, peril, weariness, cold, and weakness [2 Corinthians 11:23-28].

When Jesus became popular He challenged those following Him to take up the cross. In our reading today from Luke’s Gospel Jesus uses the phrase, “Cannot be My disciple” three times [Luke 14:25,26,33]. To follow Jesus means to take up the cross. He must be Lord of all our relationships [v.25]. He must be Lord of our ambitions [v.26]. To take up the cross meant death. There was no turning back. He must be Lord of our Possessions [v.33]. God gives us, “all things richly to enjoy” [1 Timothy 6:17], but they still belong to Him.

The Father sent Jesus to lay down His life. Jesus sends us in the same way. For Him it meant a cross, but for us it will at least mean a death to the self-life.

Questions:

What does it mean to take up the cross and follow Christ?

Read Galatians 2:20. In what way does Christ now live in us?

Although Jesus demands everything, what does He give us in exchange?

Does the Holy Spirit challenge you in any particular area of your life that is not surrendered fully to Jesus? If so, what will you do about it?