God speaks of Himself as simply “I Am.” This is one powerful statement depicts His infinite presence and His existence through every age. What does it mean to know Him? How do you know if you do? To know of Jesus is very different than knowing Him.
John is one of those books in the New Testament that will help us to become better aquainted with the Christ. John paints us a vivid picture of who He was and is on a deeper level than even the three previous books.
He’s the Bread of life, Light of the world, the Gate, Good Shepherd, Resurrection and Life, the Truth, and the Vine. All of these titles found within the book teach us a little more about the Savior of the world. There are seven “I Am” statements in John referring to Jesus and three hundred throughout the entire Bible. They begin in Genesis and end in Revelation, and in many books in-between. You just can’t read very far without discovering something very profound about it’s Writer.
He’s eternal. God’s desired response to this is simply for us to believe, respond, and live with our minds and hearts prepared to live with Him. When Jesus describes Himself as the “I Am” it makes the religious leaders want to kill Him in John 8. To know Jesus, to really know Him, is something that many people have not fully understood. Even as Jesus walked among us mortals and witnessed His miraculous power there were still several that didn’t realize what it meant to follow Him Luke 9:57-62.
While it’s true that everyone is made in the image of God, few reflect the Father’s image. Those that know Jesus introduce others to Him. With the knowledge that we are imperfect, let’s not forget that we also have the ability to have a relationship with Him. I am flawed and I am weak, but the Great I Am is interested in who I am.
By the grace of God, I am His child. He is the bread of life that sustains us, the light that guides us, the gate we’ll walk through, and the truth that will save us. It’s not how great I am, but how great the Great I Am is. Do you know Jesus?
We’re impressed by the intricacies of craftsmanship or artistry. A well-made instrument or diorama or painting can sell for thousands or more. Watching the process of those things coming to life leaves an even more profound impression of the talent required! I’ve lost track of time while watching hyper-realistic dioramas take shape (by other artists, not me). The sheer effort involved is incredible. While those artists are very, very talented and impressive, they’re nothing compared to reality’s architect! Hours, weeks, or months are invested in breathtaking artwork, yet those pieces come from extant materials and are based on extant concepts. Humanity cannot create anything new. It took God less than a week to fabricate an unfathomably large universe. We explore and investigate our world, only to be blown away by its complexities. Even the simplest life forms require highly intelligent minds and sophisticated equipment to understand. The more we discover, the more we understand how little we know. For several years, science has been adopted by many as an explanation for reality. Besides the fact that science is merely our observations of what already exists, it still leaves plenty of questions unanswered. For example, look into how many medications say something like (paraphrased, of course), “We don’t know how this works, but we think it…” We can perform complex surgeries using robots, but we can’t cure the common cold. We can explore our galaxy, but we’re not sure how exactly some antidepressants work to alleviate symptoms. Humanity has accomplished some amazing things, but even the most “basic” issues continue to evade our understanding. Therefore, it isn’t entirely unreasonable to assume that something or someone intelligent was responsible for our incredible existence. Our greatest accomplishments pale in comparison to the magnitude of our universe. Every great piece of art has an artist behind it. Every piece of groundbreaking technology has a design team behind it. Our universe must have also had an immensely powerful, creative, compassionate designer. Far from somehow disproving the existence of God, our greatest accomplishments merely highlight how powerful God really is. He gave us a beautiful world and way more than we need to survive. The sheer beauty of this planet alone should tell us that our God is a loving God. “I look at the heavens you made with your hands. I see the moon and the stars you created and I wonder, ‘Why are people so important to you? Why do you even think about them? Why do you care so much about humans? Why do you even notice them?’ But you made them only a little lower than angels and crowned them with glory and honor. You put them in charge of everything you made. You put everything under their control…Lord our Lord, your name is the most wonderful name in all the earth” (Ps 8.3-9)!
How does Jesus feel about us? He created us, became human, and let us kill Him so He could make a new deal with us (Heb. 9.15-17). Most disregard Him, many are outright hostile. How could He love us at all? Because we know how most view God, it’s easy to lump ourselves into the same group as the hostiles.
Ephesians gives some awesome insight into how Jesus feels about his people.
1.3 – He gave us spiritual blessings through His sacrifice. 1.4 – He had us in mind before He even started creating things. 1.5 – He intended to make us part of His family. 1.6 – He gave us grace. 1.7 – He died to give us freedom. 1.7 – He gives us forgiveness. 1.9 – He told us what He wants. 1.11 – He is going to give us an inheritance. 1.11-14 – He knows His own, and He’s looking to get us back home.
He didn’t just do nice things for us, though. Here’s how He feels about it:
1.5 – Love motivated Him. 1.5 – He wanted to do it. 1.7 – He’s generous with His grace. 1.8 – He’s generous with His grace. 1.9 – He wanted to do it.
We don’t deserve Him, but He loves us to death. We let Him down, but He gives us grace. He’d have every right to be exasperated with His imperfect family, but He’s not. People get on our nerves and societies fall apart, but we have the best family on the planet. Remember whose you are when you’re discouraged. No one wants you more than He does!
God is light. What does that mean? Before we get into that, it’s important to remember that we can’t understand everything about God. We know what he’s told us, but a lot of it is difficult to understand and/or accommodative language. It’s only appropriate that God can’t be adequately described with simplistic concepts. That said, spending a lot of time trying to understand who he is will only strengthen our relationship with him.
God is light:
I Jn. 1.5 – This passage contrasts light with darkness. In this case, darkness is moral failure. Light is moral perfection. What makes this interesting is the use of a state-of-being verb (estin – is, exists, closely related to). He is light. God is morally perfect and totally immune to darkness.
I Tim. 6.16 – God lives in unapproachable light, no has seen him and no one can see him. If we were to see God in His true form, we would die (Ex. 33.20; cf. Jn. 1.8, 5.37, 6.46; Col. 1.15; I Jn. 4.12). We don’t fully understand what light is. Visible light is a tiny sliver of the massive electromagnetic spectrum, yet light interacts in some way with everything in creation. It can be harmless and it can be deadly. It can be mild and it can be powerful, depending on how it interacts with matter. Light (physical light) seems to be a glimpse into the nature of God (see Rom. 1.20; Jn. 1.9).
There are many more passages (Ps. 76, 104; Jn. 1.9, 8.12; Acts 26; I Thess. 5). God is real. He thinks about us (Heb. 2). He’s personally invested in us (Rom. 8). We interact with reality the way we do because He designed it that way (Jn. 1.3-5). He is perfect love (I Jn. 4.8). He is terrifyingly powerful (Job 38). He wants humans to live with Him after time is dissolved (Jn. 14; I Tim. 2.4; II Pet. 3.9). All aspects of functional creation are extensions of His nature (love, patience, happiness, compassion, light, breathtaking beauty, empathy, companionship). God is amazing.
Perhaps it is inevitable that someone as well-known as Jesus Christ would be subject to so much misinformation. Think about how things are said about Jesus that are not true. John’s gospel begins in a different way. His audience was wider than just Jews, just Romans, or just Greeks. His was truly a universal gospel, so he was writing to the whole world. In just the first several verses of his gospel, he affirms several things people subsequently denied about Him.
He is eternal (1-2)–“In the beginning was the Word” (see also 1:15,30).
He is deity (1)–“The Word was God”
He created everything (3,10)
He became flesh (14)
He came to show us God, the Father (18)
His coming was to take away the sins of the world (29)
He is the Son of God (34)
There are those even in religion that say Jesus was a created being rather than being co-eternal as God. There are those who would reject the idea of the worship of Jesus being acceptable, though He is expressly called God. There are those who say that everything came into being by the process of evolution rather than Moses’ record (Gen. 1-2) being carried out by the Word (Col. 1:16-17). There are those who say God could not become flesh, since flesh is evil. There are those who deny the inspiration of Scripture, and thus would deny the New Testament actually records Jesus showing us the Father or otherwise communicating His will.
It is incorrect to say that we can accept the biblical record of Jesus without faith. He existed eternally before becoming flesh. He was born of a virgin. He lived a totally sinless life. He died a death that satisfied God’s justice as a substitute for our sins. He was buried in a tomb, but was raised from the dead to live forevermore. He appeared to many of His disciples over forty days before ascending to heaven from which He will some day come again to judge the entire world. How can we say it takes no faith to follow Jesus? Instead, we should say that it takes more faith to embrace any competing explanation. The leading candidate to rival the biblical account is godless evolution. Try examining that with any level of care without discovering the infinitely greater amount of faith to explain how random chance and mindless, amoral matter produces the meticulously orderly, complex universe filled with intelligent life.
Sometimes we are benefited by going back to basics. John one is written so simply and straightforwardly, yet it contains some of the biggest, broadest truths which so many reject. May we reflect carefully on the power of those truths so that it causes us to live better and differently!
He wore a name we know well but accomplished the will of a Name we know better. Samson the judge was the man who dropped a thousand Philistines with a jawbone while dropping the jaws of those who would read these accounts years later. In Judges 13 through 16 we find the awesome, yet tragic life of the strongest man who ever walked the earth. From the moment of his miraculous conception to those dramatic moments between the pillars, he captivates our imagination. Some tend to idolize his prowess as a warrior and rebel, but the real lessons we can learn from Samson can be appreciated by everyone. What if a mortal human could act in place of God? While impossible, let’s just humor this thought. In a way we get a glimpse of how miserable life would be if we didn’t serve a righteous Lord. When Samson lost his temper, became annoyed, bored, or defiant he would always choose to act in his own self interest. He was empowered by a God he didn’t serve and that is seen time and again in these three chapters. His final act of killing over three thousand Philistines who mocked him in their pagan temple were slain out of revenge (Judges 16:28) and hatred. His eyes had been gauged out and he is led by a servant through a crowd of people who were not even supposed to be living in the same land as the Israelites (Numbers 31:17). In other words, the Philistines were a hole dug by God’s children in the first place. Samson was a tool in God’s hand to relieve His people from the oppression of these ruthless “fish people.”
I’m sure you know many of the accounts from the life of Samson so here are a few things that God intended for us to learn from him.
1. God is infinitely more powerful than His creation (including Samson) and is infinitely more loving and patient than His creation. If Samson had the power of God, his own humanity would provoke him to destroy anyone who irritated or upset him. How many times has God forgiven us and then placed those sins out of His sight? Too many times to count, I’d imagine. 2. God can use the self-seeking people in the world to accomplish His own will. He never lost control of Samson and God hasn’t lost control in the world today. 3. Nothing could make us serve God, even if He paid us a supernatural visit (see Jesus). Samson’s abilities were given to him by the Lord, and yet that wasn’t enough to convince him to dedicate his life to Him. Consider Solomon that was given wisdom in a miraculous way— yet still fell. In the end it comes down to the individual heart, the desire, and the determination to commit ourselves to His service. 4. God’s desire to protect His people is great and His methods are creative. The Israelites could have never dreamed that their savior would be a man like Samson. They were plagued by a race of wicked warriors, but God used one man to turn the tables. When we look at our country today we may think there’s no way that things could be different but let’s not forget how powerful and how creative God is. It doesn’t matter whether or not WE can see a path forward when God has proven that He is more than capable and willing to see us through.
You could ponder over the life of Samson and come up with more great lessons to build your faith. Why not read through Judges 13-16 to remind yourself of God’s control in this world? As a bonus, you’d be treating yourself to one of the most fascinating sections in the Old Testament.
I believe that God exists. I believe that He communicated with His creation by direct contact, messengers, and a series of ancient texts. I believe that He wants His human creation to be with Him after they die. I believe that He expects those who claim to be His to act within the guidelines He set in those ancient texts. I believe that there is life after death and that where we go depends on whether or not we follow this God.
Why do I believe this, though? What reason do I have to believe in something I cannot experience with my senses? I was not there thousands of years ago when the prophets and Hebrews talked to God. I was not there when God came among men and taught. I was not there when the Spirit-inspired authors of the original texts delivered their writings to the early church. The ancient texts translated into English sometimes do not effectively communicate the emotion of the words and concepts in the original language. So why do I believe these things? Why do you believe these things?
Think about this carefully. From Genesis to Revelation the message is clear; God wants His people to exist with Him after time is destroyed. This message was communicated to an impossible variety of people, sometimes separated by hundreds of years, thousands of miles, culture, kingdom, race, and language. There are tens of thousands of manuscripts of these ancient texts in many, many different languages. There are some 25,000 New Testament manuscripts or fragments that are separated by about a thousand years, at least 8 different languages, hundreds (if not thousands) of miles of geography, and many different cultures. Yet, they are at least 95% accurate to each other. The remaining 5% do not contain a single contradiction; rather, they are spelling errors, slips of the pen, writing on the wrong line, or minor variances (“God said” vs. “He said” or “and” vs. “but”).
Of the rich libraries we have of ancient literature, none can hold even the dimmest candle to the profound accuracy and unity of the scriptures. They could not have been produced by man alone. There had to be Someone not confined by time supervising each person as they wrote. Keep in mind, these ancient cultures did not have the advantage of modern communication. They were almost totally isolated from each other and would have known little of the others’ existence, much less what they experienced or wrote from God. Our Bible has supernatural origins and its contents reveal the nature of our Creator. What I believe comes from this book because I know it is God’s message to mankind. I encourage those who have not already done so to do an in-depth study of the origin of scripture. It is one of the most faith-building studies anyone could undertake. When you know with certainty that what you are reading contains the actual thoughts and desires of God, it bolsters your faith in ways I could not begin to adequately describe.
The astute reader of the book of Mark finds the word 40 times in 39 verses (the Greek word most often translated “immediately” in Mark is actually found 44 times). It is a key word found consistently throughout the gospel but especially in the first six chapters. Usually, the word is used to quantify the time between Jesus performing a miracle and it taking effect. The point seems to be to show the power and Divine nature of Jesus. It is also a thread that runs throughout the book to highlight key thoughts and main ideas in this second book of the New Testament. The word is used to highlight the Father’s affirmation of Christ following His baptism (1:10), Jesus’ journey into the wilderness to triumph over the Devil’s temptations (1:12), the disciples’ decision to leave their occupation to follow Jesus (1:18,20), Jesus’ entering the synagogue to show unparalleled authority and power (1:21), the news and fame that followed Christ’s teaching and healing (1:28), and the immediate response of the one healed by Jesus–the first of many uses of the word “immediately” to highlight such (1:29-30). The proof for Jesus’ identity was immediate. The effect of Jesus’ miracles was immediate. The impact of Jesus’ miracles and teachings on friend and foe was immediate. Mark’s use of this word seems to indicate how overwhelming and unmistakable the proof of Jesus was.
This is not to say that one should rashly decide about the Lord. The book of Mark is part of God’s way to convince man about who Jesus is. Take the time to read it and learn of Him. Like the other three gospels, Mark contains the miracles, teaching, claims, and events in Christ’s life at the end of which one must ultimately make a decision concerning who He is. Remember, though, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16). Weigh the evidence, and then decide. Follow the example of so many in the book of Mark and let the power and person of Jesus have an immediate impact on your life and your soul.
In Romans 8:26, speaking of the work of the Holy Spirit, Paul writes, “ In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” The Holy Spirit “helps,” lending “a hand together with, at the same time with one” (AT Robertson) and coming to the aid of one (Bauer). This is said in connection with the Christian’s prayer life. It is an acknowledgement that sometimes we need the help of God’s Spirit in particularly agonizing times, times where words like “weakness” and “groanings” describe the struggles in prayer.
In the same passage, Paul says the Spirit “intercedes,” a picturesque word of rescue by one who ‘happens’ on one who is in trouble and ‘in his behalf’ pleads with ‘unuttered groanings’ or with ‘sighs that baffle words’” (Reinecker 367). What graphic imagery! When I am in real trouble, no one can help me like God can. Sometimes, only God can help me when I am in trouble. Paul teaches that there is no depth of struggle or trial in prayer too complex or incomprehensible for the omniscient God. As the Psalmist once wrote, “Out of the depths I have cried to You, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice! Let Your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications” (Ps. 130:1). Paul is saying, “The Lord does hear and is attentive not only to my voice, but even to the unspoken, unutterable fears, desires, and longings in my heart that cannot be formed into words on my lips when I pray.
Our God is a God of rescue (Ps. 18:19; 116:8; 136:24). He has rescued man in dramatic ways, from the Red Sea crossing to Jericho to Gideon’s tiny army to Calvary’s cross. He has demonstrated that He wants to help us and will freely extend Himself to do so. But, He wants us to reach out to Him and appeal for help. Even when the words will not exactly come to us, He knows the intent and desire and He looks with an eye toward aiding His children (1 Pet. 3:12). Do not only come to Him when in trouble, but do come to Him when in trouble. You do not have trouble too big for Him to come along and rescue you from it.
It answers the biggest mysteries of this life that so baffle humanity.
It reveals the plan of the Creator of everything.
We are accountable to it.
It tells us where we are going.
It will give us a guide we can have confidence in as we head to the future.
We cannot refuse to follow it.
We should share it with as many people as we possibly can.
It is not on a par with other books; it is superior to all of them.
He disapproves of religious division.
There is a right way to worship Him.
We can know the truth.
We discover some great, precious and exciting truths and promises.
The New Testament church is eternally important.
We should read and study it faithfully.
Investigate the Bible and explore its origin and the book as it is today. God’s Word is not afraid of investigation. It has been more scrutinized than any other book ever written, and it still stands. It is a foundation we can confidently build our lives upon. It is a guide that can safely lead us now and forever. Have you been in the book of books today?