John 1:22-23

We want people to like us, to respect us, to be impressed. At least most of us do. Sometimes, this leads us to exaggerate our positions, our responsibilities, and our accomplishments. We aren’t happy with how folks may see us. If we are following God’s direction, we must move away from worrying about what people think. 

So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.” – John 1:22-23, ESV

The people who came to ask John who he was pressed him for an answer. John could have proclaimed that he was the first prophet after centuries of silence. He could have talked about how he was the cousin of the Christ. While both of those statements would have been true, they would have been about John. John would be first, not God, and he would have been saying those things because he was concerned with what those folks thought of him. 

Note how John responded. He described himself as a voice. Remove John the man. He’s just a vocalization. Haunting words on the wind, perhaps. John had a role. He was to prepare the people for Messiah, for Jesus. If these folks needed to know who he was, John would put their focus on God. John was not going to have them look at him, a sinful man trying to be obedient to a merciful God. No, he wanted them to see Jesus. 

Yesterday I wrote not to be who people are pushing you to be if that’s not God’s direction. We can only embrace that position if we get to a point where we move beyond worrying about what others think. We must become like John, glorifying Christ and pointing all we interact with towards Jesus. If others understand who are we are supposed to be in God’s eyes and they are pushing us in that direction, that’s good. We need support. We need admonition and correction. Brothers and sisters in Christ should be providing that for us. We as brothers and sisters in Christ should be doing the same, helping each one in the Kingdom obey the Living God. 

My prayer for you today is that God speaks to you about who you should be and what you should do if you don’t know already. It is also that you are able to focus on that, glorifying God, and in doing so enjoying Him all the more. May God be our first love to whom we return again and again. 

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John 1:19-21

Do you have someone pushing you (other than God) to be someone you’re not? Do you know for a fact that you’re not supposed to be that person? Don’t be that person unless it’s God who is doing the pushing. He’s not wrong. Everyone else can be. 

And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.”  – John 1:19-21, ESV

The Israelites, and especially the priests and Levites, were looking for the Messiah. John came with conviction and passion. His message was stirring up people’s hearts and they were getting right with God. Various people saw that and wanted him to be something other than who he was. Some wanted him to be the Messiah. Others were hoping he was Elijah or even Moses returned. But he wasn’t. He was John, the one who prepared the way for Jesus by calling people to repentance. 

These others who asked if he was the Christ wanted him to be their vision of Messiah: a conquering hero in the mold of David who would defeat Israel’s enemies and re-establish the kingdom again. Or they wanted him to be a returned Elijah or Moses, unleashing God’s power against those who opposed the people of God. See a trend? 

Interestingly, Jesus would later remark that John was Elijah. So was John wrong? No, he wasn’t. When the leaders came and asked if he was Elijah, they meant the guy who wielded God’s supernatural power: stopping the rain from falling, raising people from the dead, and calling down fire from heaven. He wasn’t that guy. He was the Elijah who was a messenger, who revealed and opposed iniquity, and drew God’s people back to Himself. So John answered correctly based on their expectation and Jesus answered based on Elijah’s true role: as a spokesperson for God. 

John wasn’t afraid to be who he was called to be. He wasn’t going to try and pretend or become someone he wasn’t. The Bible tells us he had the Holy Spirit. Surely this is part of what kept John on the correct path.  If you’re a believer in Jesus Christ, saved by His blood and redeemed by His grace, you do, too. 

Don’t be anything or anyone other than what God has called you to be. Peer pressure in our world is tough. So is parental pressure and church pressure and other kinds of family pressure. But if you succumb to that pressure, and move in a direction other than what God wants you to go, each step you take away takes you that much further from where you ought to be. The Holy Spirit will give you strength and conviction, if you rely on Him. Be like John: focused on who you ought to be and refusing to be something else. 

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John 1:16-18

I looked at the sheet of music, remembering it was from All-County tryouts years before. I also remembered how I interpreted the piece, but I was never satisfied with how it turned out. Now, though, I was reading the music while listening to a professional orchestra perform it, with a world-class flute player taking on the solo that I had so poorly attempted years before. 

For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known. – John 1:16-18, ESV

I was revisiting this piece of music because of something I had read from Wynton Marsalis. Known primarily for his jazz, Marsalis constantly has challenged himself with classical pieces as well. But before he undertakes a piece, he finds out how others have performed it. He studies the experts in classical trumpet. I hadn’t done that. Not those many years ago. I had played the piece and never investigated how a professional handled it. As a result, I never understood why I was so dissatisfied. Now, listening to an expert, I realized how far from the composer’s intent I was all those years ago. 

When I look at Jesus, I think the same thing. John writes about His fullness. In it we have received grace upon grace. The Law gave us an inkling of how we should be. However, with just the Law we are like I was with that piece of sheet music: we know basically what’s expected but we can’t imagine the fullness. That’s another reason Jesus came to us. 

In His life we see the perfect example of how to live, how to love, how to care, and how to worship. We see the perfect professional demonstrate for us what God expects of us. Without Him we cannot know God like we ought. We cannot perceive His full expectations for us. But through Jesus’ example we have the proper interpretation, the benchmark, the standard. God didn’t leave us in the dark. He sent His Son, Jesus, so that we might know how to truly live. 

Looking at that sheet music, I will likely never play it as well as a professional. Even if I could desire to put in the practice professional musicians put in, I don’t have enough free time. That doesn’t stop me from trying, however. And just like that, I can never live life as perfectly as Jesus did. That should not stop me from trying in that regard, either. 

Jesus has given us the example life. Let us attempt to play our parts as beautifully as He did His. Let us seek to emulate Him as best as we can, to the glory of the Father. Let us live and love like Jesus did. Let us attempt lives of purity and holiness just as He did. We have the model. Let us reach for it. 

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John 1:14-15

One of the key points that separates Christianity from most other religions is that according to our Scriptures, God reached out to man. Not only did He reach out to us, but He became one of us. 

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’” – John 1:14-15, ESV

God chose to walk among men again, but this time in our frail form. By doing so, He was exposed to the same fears, temptations, emotions, and challenges we are. We don’t just have an all-powerful God. We have an all-powerful God who has walked in our shoes. 

If you’ve ever been through something traumatic you understand that folks who haven’t been through something similar can’t understand. They can sympathize with you, but they can’t know what you know. The good news is that Jesus can. 

He was rejected by His family. They thought Him insane. He watched many desert Him when He explained the price of following Him. Then everyone did desert Him the night of His capture. Furthermore, His capture was due to the betrayal of one of His own, a man He had taken under His care and teaching and poured His life into for several years. He knew what it was like to have the people revere Him as a hero one moment, then condemn Him as a traitor the next. 

Jesus has experienced our pains. He has faced our sufferings. So when John writes about the Word made flesh, we can rejoice. We don’t just worship and serve an almighty God. We worship and serve an almighty God who understands what we’ve been through. He knows what it’s like to lose a best friend, knowing that if he was there, he could have prevented so much suffering. He also knows what it’s like to have to choose against being there in order to accomplish something greater. 

When I look at the suffering Jesus went through, I realize it was from the beginning, from the moment He first took breath. Yet He chose this path so that we might be saved. He made a way when we messed everything up. He preserved His creation that was so bent on destroying itself. And He suffered mightily for it. So not only do we adore and love an almighty God who has walked the paths we walk, we adore and love a God who willingly chose a life of suffering to redeem His people. He is worthy of all honor and glory and praise!

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John 1:9-13

One of the most beautiful things about the Gospel is its impartiality. You don’t gain special privilege because of your gender or race. It doesn’t have to be read in a particular language. It’s not something you can only accept if you’re young and have a lifetime to try and achieve its tenets. It is open to all who would believe, so long as they do so during their mortal lives. 

The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. – John 1:9-13, ESV

Jesus’ light, his gift of eternal life, is offered to all. While God originally revealed His vision and covenant through Israel, right from the start we see that even during this period it was applicable to any who would believe. Rahab and Ruth are in the line of David. They were both foreigners who came to trust in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They were accepted by God and we remember them specifically because Scripture calls out their witness for the Almighty. 

Not everyone who is exposed to the Gospel will accept it. Unfortunately, many will not. However, because the Gospel can apply to anyone, we are compelled to share it. For those who accept, God will recognize them as His children. Again, He won’t do this because of the way we typically divide people, but simply because they believed. 

Rejoice that the way of salvation is open to you. Exult in the fact that you can share it with anyone and if they choose to believe, salvation is theirs, too. This precious gift from God is offered without reservation, without previous qualification, and without any preparation on our parts. We believe, we are forgiven and adopted, and we live for Him. God is amazing. 

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John 1:6-8

We must not confuse a man or woman of God with God Himself. We must not worship a person called by God to serve as His mouthpiece. We must not exalt men to the position reserved exclusively for God. Not should we desire such exaltation. 

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. – John 1:6-8, ESV

John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was referring to John the Baptist. During the height of the Baptizer’s ministry, no one quite knew what to think of John (either one, actually). Some called John the Baptist by the title of Messiah, Christ, but John made sure to deny any such claim. 

In fact, John went a step further and proclaimed his true place in perspective to the true Messiah, Jesus. John described himself as unfit to handle Jesus’ shoes, a task often given to the lowest of slaves. So while others might have wanted to exalt John, John himself rejected it. 

For us in the Church, John’s example is an object lesson. We can exalt men when we should only exalt God. Also, we might seek the praise of men when we should instead desire the praise of our God. Those are both wrong. We are nothing compared to the light of the World, the Lord Jesus. Only He deserves to be exalted and glorified. 

Whom do you exalt? And whom do you want to exalt you? Scripture tells us that those who chose to humble themselves and be servants of all will be the ones exalted by God. Let us not exalt men and let us not seek the praises of men. Instead, let us become bondslaves of Christ, and seek His face, His presence, and His praise. Let us serve in such humility that we experience the pleasure of Jesus. 

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John 1:3-5

Evil men were created by God. Evil empires exist within the will of God. Evil persists currently because God allows it. 

All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. – John 1:3-5, ESV

If we accept the Bible to be true, we cannot deny the fact that all exists today came about through the Son. This includes evil and men and groups and nations which do evil. We cannot deny these uncomfortable truths because they are stated in Scripture. However, despite this evil, in opposition to this ominous darkness, the light of Jesus Christ shines through. 

Though we are told the Enemy opposes God at every turn and we even see him directly confront the Son of God through the temptations of Jesus, evil and the Enemy will not prevail. “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” The light of God will never be overcome. Even when things are bleakest, God is sovereign. He is still in charge and in control. 

So why does God allow such evil? Why does He allow suffering? Is it because He is, as some would claim, a malicious and evil God Himself? No. Such a God would not sacrifice Himself for our salvation. Such a God would not call up His people to overcome and resist evil and to do so by doing good. 

Evil, at this present time, has a purpose. It contrasts with God and reveals His goodness and His perfection and His holiness. Evil, when we stand against it, helps us grow in faith, compassion, empathy, and courage. We need evil as our adversary to become the people we ought to be. We don’t grow and develop as much when life is good and easy. 

We must acknowledge that all exists because of God, and this includes evil. However, we cannot lose hope because in spite of that evil, His light will always shine. We can look to it for guidance, for our path, for life itself. We can depend on it better than our own reckoning and competence. Yes, there is evil. Yes, we can find evil everywhere, including within the Church. But God is ever present. He is. That’s it.  He is. And in Him we find our hope for He will never be overcome. 

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