Look—the Lamb of God!

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Each of us has various roles in life—within our family of origin and at various points in life. Some roles are temporary and some endure. John the Baptizer knew his role in life. He was the "voice in the desert" who preceded and proclaimed the coming of Israel's Messiah.

John knew and accepted that his important but limited role would end when the One whom he proclaimed arrived. But how would he know for sure who this person was?

John was given specific guidance to identify the Messiah. He would know when he saw the Holy Spirit of God come down and remain on that man.

This required discernment. It would take place as John went about his work of preaching and baptizing. This prompts John's declaration to his followers and others when he saw Jesus the next day after being questioned earlier by Jewish leaders.

Scripture

John saw Jesus coming toward him the next day and said, “Look! This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘A man who comes after me was before me because he existed before I did.’ I didn’t know who he was. However, I came to baptize with water to show him to the people of Israel.” [vss 29-31]

John said, “I saw the Spirit come down as a dove from heaven and stay on him. I didn’t know who he was. But God, who sent me to baptize with water, had told me, ‘When you see the Spirit come down and stay on someone, you’ll know that person is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’

I have seen this and have declared that this is the Son of God.” [vss 32-34]

(John 1:29-34 GW) [Context– John 1]

Key phrase—

Look! This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • When did John see Jesus and what does he say about Him?

  • What are two ways John describes Jesus and what titles does he use to do this?

  • How is John supposed to know who Jesus is and who tells him this?

  • How are the two descriptive names connected that John uses to proclaim who Jesus is?

Reflection...

John the apostle uses many figures of speech in his writings—the gospel of John, his three epistles, and the book of Revelation.

Jesus is called—the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. This speaks of Jesus' redemptive death on the cross but also reaches back to the Old Testament.

When Moses led Israel out of slavery from Egypt, he established and celebrated the first Feast of Passover (Exodus 12:1-20). This feast, connected to the sacrifices made on the Day of Atonement (Lev 23:26-31), was a prophetic illustration of the Lord's death on the cross (Heb 10:1-14).

But John also makes clear the eternal nature of Jesus as the Son of God (John 1:1, 14). Each title and metaphor used for Jesus throughout John's gospel give us a more detailed understanding of who He is.

Taking it to heart...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

  • Are you familiar with the Old Testament Feast of Passover and the Day of Atonement? If not, read about them here— Exodus 12; Leviticus 23:4-8, 26-31.

  • Do you see how and why John connects Jesus as the Lamb of God to His being the Son of God? (see John 1:27, 30)

  • Are you familiar with the story of John baptizing Jesus and seeing the Holy Spirit come and remain on Him? If not, read about it here— Matthew 3:13-17.

  • Are you able to understand how Jesus is both the Lamb of God and the Son of God? If so, in what ways has this impacted your life?

Personalize it...

Meditate On— Consider the humility and sacrifice of Jesus as the Lamb of God and HIs authority and nature as the Son of God.

Prayer Focus— As you meditate on the two truths above, ask God to help you understand these vital and important truths and why they are important for all followers of Jesus.

©2017—Word-Strong

A Voice in the Desert

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

What makes a person a prophet of God? Personality? Character? Their message? Those may be indicators but there's only one true requirement—a calling from God.

I know people who consider themselves prophets and people others claim are prophets. But my question is often—Is this God's calling or a title they've taken on for themselves or that's given them by others?

John the Baptizer had a unique personality, a godly and strong character, and a clear, specific message. But what made John a true prophet was God's calling. It was announced before his birth (Luke 1:11-17) and confirmed by the Lord after his prophetic ministry (Luke 7:24-28).

This part of John's gospel story reveals the genuineness of John's calling. He knew who he was, his message, and his ministry. John was the voice of God to the people of Israel. He was a voice in the desert wilderness preparing the way for the long-awaited Messiah.

Scripture

This was John’s answer when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” John didn’t refuse to answer. He told them clearly, “I’m not the Messiah.”

They asked him, “Well, are you Elijah?” John answered, “No, I’m not.” Then they asked, “Are you the prophet?” John replied, “No.”

So they asked him, “Who are you? Tell us so that we can take an answer back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”

John said, “I’m a voice crying out in the desert, ‘Make the way for the Lord straight,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.” [vss 19-23]

Some of those who had been sent were Pharisees. They asked John, “Why do you baptize if you’re not the Messiah or Elijah or the prophet?”

John answered them, “I baptize with water. Someone you don’t know is standing among you. He’s the one who comes after me. I am not worthy to untie his sandal strap.” This happened in Bethany on the east side of the Jordan River, where John was baptizing. [vss 24-28]

(John 1:19-28 GW) [Context– John 1]

Key phrase—

I’m a voice crying out in the desert, ‘Make the way for the Lord straight’

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • What does John say about himself when asked who he is? Who does he say he is not?

  • How does John describe who he is? How was this a prophecy in itself?

  • What do the Pharisees question John about? Why do you think they do this?

  • How does John answer their question and who do you think he refers to in his answer?

Reflection...

The Jewish people were expecting the Messiah to come deliver them from the Roman Empire. They expected some type of a military leader like the famous King David or one of the judges who helped govern Israel after the time of Joshua.

The Messiah was promised to come as voiced through various prophecies over many centuries. Messiah was referred to as "the prophet" (Deut 18:15, 18) and would be preceded by Elijah the prophet (Mal 4:5). Jesus told his disciples that John was the Elijah to come (Matt 17:11-13).

John knew who he was, his message, and his mission. He had a very specific purpose and role in his life—one God gave him. You may not have as specific a purpose in life but all of us have some purpose in God's Kingdom as His children.

We need to know who we are in God's kingdom regardless of our roles in life. We have one message to proclaim—the gospel of the Kingdom of God. All believers have one mission—to share this message of God's redemption with others throughout the world (Luke 24:45-49).

Taking it to heart...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

  • Why do you think the Jewish leaders challenged John after questioning him?

  • Do you think John fulfilled this prophecy given by Isaiah? If so, in what way?

  • If John refers to Jesus coming after him, why do you think he didn't think himself worthy to untie his sandals?

  • What did you learn from this story of John that relates to your life and relationship with the Lord?

Personalize it...

Meditate On— Do you understand who you are and what your purpose is in God's kingdom?

Prayer Focus— If you're not sure about your purpose in God's kingdom, ask Him to make it known to you. If you are sure, ask God's help to fulfill this purpose in your daily life.

©2017—Word-Strong

When God Became Human

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Generally, we all tend to not believe in what we can't see. Of course, this carries over to believing in God and the miraculous. Many will say it's not logical or rational to do so. And yet, we believe many things exist that are invisible to the naked eye and miraculous in nature—thoughts, atoms, and even feelings of love.

The reason it's not logical to believe in God is that it doesn't fit what we know in the natural world. This is our human dilemma. God is supernatural—He's above and beyond the natural realm. He will never fit within our limited logic. God's existence exceeds our capacity to know Him in a purely natural way.

The first eighteen verses of the gospel of John are key to understanding the entire gospel. John 1:14-18 make it clear that Jesus of Nazareth was as human as we are, yet also God in nature. He was the unique and only true Son of God—having the very nature of His Father.

God—who is eternal and invisible—made Himself known. He revealed Himself to us in human form. God became just like us so we could see, hear, and touch Him (1 John 1:1-3). Jesus had a human body, soul, and will but was still divine in nature. Jesus is the very origin of life and He shared in the very creation He spoke into existence (Gen 1:3; John 1:1-3).

Scripture

The Word became human and lived among us. We saw his glory. It was the glory that the Father shares with his only Son, a glory full of kindness [grace] and truth.

(John declared the truth about him when he said loudly, “This is the person about whom I said, ‘The one who comes after me was before me because he existed before I did.’ ”) [vss 14-15]

Each of us has received one gift after another because of all that the Word is. Laws were given through Moses, but kindness [grace] and truth came into existence through Jesus Christ.

No one has ever seen God. God’s only Son, the one who is closest to the Father’s heart, has made him known. [vss 16-18]

(John 1:14-18 GW) [Context– John 1]

Key phrase—

The Word became human and lived among us

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • What primary and important truth is declared that is directly connected to earlier verses?

  • What is the "glory" that was revealed by Jesus? How is it described?

  • How does John the Baptizer's testimony reinforce what is said about Jesus as the Word?

  • How is what Jesus makes known different than what Moses brought and why would it need to be replaced?

Reflection...

Religion and philosophy often take what is spiritual and supernatural and make them abstract, theoretical, and difficult to understand. The apostle John wanted to do the opposite with his gospel. His language is simple and often visual.

When John speaks of the Lord's glory—the outward expression of God's inner nature—he spoke of it as grace and truth. He humanized God's nature for us. He wanted us to realize the fullness of God's revelation of Himself in human form as Jesus, the Son of God.

God became human and lived among people, how amazing is that! God broke into our human existence. But have we let Him enter and fill our everyday life?

A simple way to know if we've allowed the life God promises to dwell and shine through us is how we live and relate to others and the self-talk we hear in our head. Is it based on a set of moral and religious laws that require compliance? Or does God's kindness and truth set us free and shine through us?

Taking it to heart...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

  • Do you understand how "the Word" is a figurative title for Jesus, the Son of God?

  • How is God's only Son made known? What did both John the apostle and John the baptizer see?

  • How is the relationship between God the Father and God the Son important to the revelation of who God is?

  • Have you personally experienced God's grace and truth in your life? If so, in what way?

Personalize it...

Meditate On— God revealed Himself to all humanity by becoming human like us, so we could be certain of His existence and love.

Prayer Focus— As you meditate on the truth above, ask God's help to fully receive and understand it and for God's grace and truth to shine through you to others.

©2017—Word-Strong


Here's a free introduction for the Gospel of John—

God's Children

John_header-2.png

When does life begin—at conception or birth? Before 1973, the obvious answer would be at conception but the Roe v Wade Supreme Court decision changed that in America. That decision may have changed people's opinions but it didn't change basic biology.

In Asia, age is generally determined by conception and the lunar calendar. For centuries and centuries in the rest of the world and biologically, conception is seen as the beginning of life.

Life on earth has a beginning and end date—our physical birth and death. Yet, billions of people in the world believe in some form of life beyond physical birth and death.

In the Christian faith, we believe eternal life is a gift of God that begins when a person is born again, or as this text says—"born from God." This begins when a person believes—trusts—in Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

Scripture

God sent a man named John to be his messenger. John came to declare the truth about the light so that everyone would become believers through his message. John was not the light, but he came to declare the truth about the light. [vss 6-8]

The real light, which shines on everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into existence through him. Yet, the world didn’t recognize him. He went to his own people, and his own people didn’t accept him. [vss 9-11]

However, he gave the right to become God’s children to everyone who believed in him. These people didn’t become God’s children in a physical way—from a human impulse or from a husband’s desire ⌊to have a child⌋. They were born from God. [vss 12-13]

(John 1:6-13 GW) [Context– John 1]

Key phrase—

He gave the right to become God’s children to everyone who believed in him

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • Who are we told about first? What was the purpose of his coming?

  • Who is the “real light”? How is this connected to the first 5 verses of John's gospel?

  • Who was not accepted and how is this known? Who did not accept the "real light" and why not?

  • Who has the right to become a child of God and how does this take place?

Reflection...

When God came to the earth in human form—the Word, that is Jesus the Son of God—it wasn't a surprise visit. It was announced through the Old Testament prophets and finally through a man named John called the Baptizer.

John's role was to announce and prepare God's people for the arrival and ministry of the long-awaited Messiah of Israel. But the Messiah wasn't a savior for Israel only but for all humanity—a savior and Lord for those who trust in Him as such.

God knows what rejection is like and yet He accepts those who trust in Him. He forgives, He restores, He gives new life—new birth—to those who trust in His Son Jesus.

New birth isn't based on what we believe but who we believe, that is, who we trust in. A person becomes born from God when God gives them acceptance and assurance by His Spirit—the Holy Spirit—through a personal and implicit trust in Jesus.

Taking it to heart...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

  • Why do you think God's people didn't receive Jesus as the "real light"?

  • Why do you think many people have a hard time to accept Jesus as their Lord?

  • What kinds of birth are spoken of and described? How can a person be "born from God"?

  • Have you experienced new birth from God? If so, how and when did this take place?

Personalize it...

Meditate On— The Lord promises that when we believe in Him—an implicit personal trust—we become part of His family forever.

Prayer Focus— Give thanks and praise and worship God for His kindness and goodness for including you as His child in His family!

©2017—Word-Strong

The Word of God

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

The opening verses of the Gospel of John are important and significant to me. Though I believed in the existence of God from my youth, I had a nebulous, vague sense of God.

Throughout my teen and college years, I wandered in the darkness of my ignorance and whatever the world around me had to offer. I write about this in more detail in my book, but the short of it is—I was lost in my own darkness.

God seemed distant yet ever-present to me in the natural world. I believed God was real but at the same time, my understanding of Him was abstract and impersonal.

As God began to make Himself known to me, I discovered how God made Himself known in a very personal way to all humanity. The opening verses of John Chapter 1 were key to my gaining this insight and continue to be a powerful statement of how God made Himself known.

Scripture

In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was already with God in the beginning. [vss 1-2]

Everything came into existence through him. Not one thing that exists was made without him.

He was the source of life, and that life was the light for humanity. The light shines in the dark, and the dark has never extinguished it. [vss 3-5]

(John 1:1-5 GW) [Context– John 1]

Key phrase—

In the beginning the Word already existed...was with God, and the Word was God.

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • What are four specific things we are told about the Word at first?

  • How is the Word described? What are other specific things expressed about the Word?

  • Which statements make it clear that the Word is God the Creator?

  • What is the connection between the Word and light and life?

Reflection...

The Word is Jesus, the only Son of God—the Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer of humanity. He is eternal and the origin and source of life and light for all humanity. The apostle John intentionally started his gospel account with the same words as the beginning of the Bible (Gen 1:1).

In the original language—koine Greek—the word logos is translated as, the Word. The way it is expressed grammatically makes it clear that it speaks of a person, not just an impersonal word.

The meaning of Logos on its own is the embodiment of a thought. All thoughts are unknown until they are expressed with intelligible words. And so, God became known when He took on human form in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ (John 1:14).

When we entrust our life to Him, as I did many years ago, Jesus brings light into our darkness. Just as the darkness cannot overcome or extinguish Him as the Light of the world (John 8:12), we are not overcome by darkness because of our personal trust in Him.

Taking it to heart...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

  • Have you had your own personal encounter with God? Has He made Himself known to you?

  • Do you understand how these few verses make clear that Jesus—the Word—is God?

  • How is this an encouragement or help to you today?

  • In what way is it relatable to everyday life and your relationship with others?

Personalize it...

Has God made Himself known to you? If so, how has He done this?

Reflect on this in prayer and let it move you to worship the Lord throughout the day.

©2017—Word-Strong