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John 8

John 8 starts out with the Pharisees bringing a woman who has committed adultery to Jesus. They promptly tell Him that the punishment for such a sin is to stone her to death, but Jesus kneels down in the sand and begins to write. Eventually, He tells the people around Him, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first. He then kneels down and writes again, and the people around Him leave.

This story was best described to me by one of my old pastors. He explained that the Pharisees were essentially trying to trick Jesus into making a decision that was against God. Either He would condemn her and send her to her death, or He would not judge her sin and not show His power as God’s son. But Jesus handles it well (like Jesus always does), and writes in the sand.

The question becomes, what did He write in the sand? It seems that maybe He started writing the names of the people that were standing there in the crows, and next to those names he began to list off each of their sins. This seems most likely considering He then tells the crowd that the person without sin may throw the first stone. It’s a crude awakening to the people around Him, but it caused them to realize that they were just as guilty as the woman laying in the street before them (probably naked since she was just caught in the act of adultery).

So how does this apply to my life? Jesus was the only person in that crowd that had committed no sins, and he easily could have casted the first stone, but He didn’t. The truly amazing love and grace of Jesus is shown in this instance when Jesus shows that He forgives all people and that even if everyone else in the world condemns us for what we have done, Jesus never will.

Pray this week about any situations that you have been part of where you were the girl in the street facing the condemnation of the world around you. Jesus forgives you, and in those tough times, remember that you can always rely on God.

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John 7

John 7 deals a lot with the idea of a person’s faith being tested. Throughout the entire chapter, Jesus is questioned in several different forms. The people question his authority, they question his knowledge from his education, they question his faith and they question where he is coming from.

I remember a few summers ago (actually my first summer being a Christian), where I felt that my faith was being tested. I was living with some people who definitely were not Christian and didn’t quite hold up to the same ideals that I had about things. It was difficult sometimes to talk with them because issues of ‘how my faith was wrong’ would always seem to come up. I ended up meeting with a friend of mine for coffee one evening and he told me, “The Bible doesn’t say you faith might be tested, or it could be tested….the Bible says that your faith will be tested.”

…it really put things into perspective…

People always speak about those ‘God moment’s’ where they feel really high on life and can feel God’s passion and will within their lives. That is great, beautiful and awesome, but I think that some people can often forget about God during their troubles in life. While some of us have trouble praising God when it is necessary and only look to him for a ‘way out,’ others of us have no problem giving him praise…but when life hits, deadlines get closer and closer and life gets stressful, we can forget about God.

We forget about asking God for wisdom sometimes…and sometimes we just need to remember James 1:5-8.

I think that one interpretation on John 7 is that Jesus is giving us an example that our faith may not only be tested by other people and those that are trying to condemn, but also…our faith can be tested by the weighing down of life itself.

So the challenge is: when you are feeling stressed, lost, overwhelmed…ask yourself if you have looked towards God and had a conversation…perhaps you need one.

John 6

John 6 deals a lot with the concept of accepting the idea of Jesus being everlasting life. It is hard for the audience in this context to understand that Jesus is offering them the chance to never ‘thirsty’ or ‘hungry’ again, but this doesn’t refer to physical need, but emotional and spiritual need as well. John 6:27 says, “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life” reminds me of a verse we discussed in my men’s minsitry last night, Romans 6:23. It states,”For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The reason that I see these two verses as similar is because of how I interpret the Romans verse. I have heard that verse spoken aloud many times by many people, but no one fully explained it to me. Basically, the explanation I got out of it was, “if you sin, there is death…don’t sin because God gives you eternal life.” Granted, even though that is true, I felt that there was more behind it than simply that.

Here is what I think when I hear the word ‘wages’: I think of working a job and receiving a paycheck. The more hours you work at a specific job, the more money or ‘wages’ you will receive in return for working that job. Well, ‘the wages of sin is death’ works in a similar fashion. If you decided to be a slave and work for sin, the wages or payment you will receive is death (whether that is spiritual or emotional or death in relationships, whatever). The more you work, the more death you receive. However, the less work you do for sin, the less death you receive…we’ll come back to this in a minute.

The other half of that verse says, “but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” When I think of a gift, I think of a Christmas present from a friend. Despite whatever my friend decided to give to me, there was nothing that I had to do in order to ‘earn’ that present (theoretically). The true meaning of a gift is receiving something from someone else without having to give them something in order to get it (for instance, I wouldn’t have to wash their car in order to receive a ‘free gift’). This means that the gift of everlasting life (aka, not death) is completly free from God. There is no work that I have to endure in order to receive that salvation from Christ.

So this is what I understand, overall, from the Romans verse….why would I ever want to be a slave and work for sin when all I receive is death when I could be set free from the bondage of sin and accept the free gift of everlasting life from God? When we accept Christ, God lifts us out of the bondage from sin, where it no longer has power over us…so why would we ever want to continue to work for it when we don’t have to?

I related this back to the John 6:27 verse, for it states, “do not work for the food that spoils, but for the food that endures eternal life.” It is the same concept. Why would I continue to do something that ends up being completely futile in the end, when I could do something completely different and get exactly what I was looking for? The entire point of John is to show the new Christian about how Christ can change your life, which includes no longer having to life in sin. I would much rather follow Christ and ‘never be hungry again’ over always searching for fulfillment.

Update Post

This week, I am not specfically focusing on a particular chapter of John within the Bible. Instead, I am thinking more about what I have learned within the past few weeks and how it has pertained into my life, as well as how I have been facing the ‘struggles’ that plague everyone. John talks to new believers a lot about why they should come to Jesus or how to begin their faith, but I am not a new believer. Granted, I was not born into Christianity, so I am relatively ‘new’ but I don’t think that it is quite the same thing. Lately, because of this, I have been thinking more about what the ‘not-so-new’ believers are to do when they feel that their faith is beginning to slow down. Everyone gets those fires and passions to do God’s will, but we don’t always feel those and I think, sometimes, that church and the entire Christian thing becomes more of a chore (for the lack of a better word) than a way of life.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that I am losing my faith or anything like that. Instead I am simply saying this. Lately, I have felt at certain times, where my faith feels minimal and I am doing the ‘bare minimum’ to be faithful and to seek relationship with God. So, I have decided to make more of an effort. I guess, some people have told me that they think I am doing plenty for my faith (with this blog, and my small group, and men’s ministry and worship ministry), but…is it weird that I want more? Is it weird that I want to strive for a more full relationship with Jesus?

I think that we all face the challenges of keeping our faith fresh and focused upon God instead of our churches, or our music, or whatever it may be, and I have heard it said by a lot of people that you can’t have those ‘God moments’ 100% of the time. Though that is most defintely true, I don’t think it is necessarily wrong to try and strive towards that or even want to feel it. It becomes a problem when people fall into the ‘blah’ moments and blame God for not showing Himself enough to them. If God showed Himself to you all the time, what would ever cause us to be excited after awhile? Wouldn’t it get boring and monotonous in our eyes…maybe even take it for granted?

That’s just been on my mind lately. I also realize that this is one of the few blogs in my class that hasn’t received any comments yet, and perhaps that is because people may not be able to relate to it. Perhaps not…I’m not really sure. But anyways, I guess my challenge for this week is to, well, figure out what your passion is. It is probably where you feels those ‘God moments’ the most…

 

Chris

John 5

In the book that I have been using as a study aid for John 5, the author gives an explanation to how he used to watch lawyer shows on television when he was younger. The lawyer always found the ‘missing piece of evidence to rescue the innocent and convict the guilty.’ However, he also states that judges and juries often get things wrong and understanding that concept can help us to understand how Jesus was treated in John 5.

Granted, Jesus is simply facing questioning from the Pharisees, but he puts forth the idea of the difference between law and faith. Before Jesus died on the cross, humans faced the consequence of their sins. However, when Jesus died, He accepted the sins of the world upon himself and, essentially, changed how humans were to view the law. As Romans 5:13 states, “(For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law)” (NKJV).

The Pharisees were people who followed the law so intently that everyone else couldn’t even come close. Granted, initially their intentions for following the law were righteous, but after they began adding law upon law, they lost sight of what they were initially trying to do (which was to live with God). Jesus comes and begins to ‘break the laws of the Sabbath’ that were (in the Pharisees’ eyes) put forth by God, but Jesus tells us that He is not breaking the laws of His father and the laws of man are completely different. The Pharisees had become a slave to following laws that were created by man, instead of living their lives for the glory of God and following the laws that God put forth.

Free life can be brought through accepting Jesus, for when that happens, people are no longer slaves to their sins, but set free. But it takes a choice in order to live following God, versus living how people tell you how you should live.

So, here’s the challenge: Think about what laws you may be following and are keeping you from doing God’s will. They may not be physical laws placed by humans, but they may be laws (or lies) that you have been telling yourself about God’s will…can you identify that?

The Lady at the Well

The verses within John 4 explain a major story in the Bible, the story of the lady at the well. For those of you that know this story, you also know that it is in other books of the Bible (such as Matthew), but since this is a chapter study of John, we shall remain engrossed within the chapter in order to better understand the meanings within this context.

Even though John 4 is a hefty chapter, and a bit long, I feel one of the most important stories within the new testament is the story of the lady at the well. Essentially, Jesus stops at a well in which a woman (who is an outcast of some sort, because she is getting water by herself and not with the other women in the town), begins to draw water. After starting a conversation with her, Jesus offers her ‘living water’ that will make no one thirst again. The woman, who doesn’t not see the metaphor for salvation and eternal life attempts to go about her business and get home…but Jesus continues to offer her water that will never make her thirsty again…

She has a moment of disbelief until Jesus ‘tells her all the things that she ever did’ (John 4:29) and her faith changes.

It is always a question as to why Jesus talked to this woman (who, in this culture, was not a person he should be talking with due to her race, culture, gender and class), but I think that it shows that no one is outside the walls for God’s kingdom. Jesus offers water to all those that are thirsty, and for those of us that are searching for a better way to live our lives, Jesus offers us salvation…but salvation doesn’t stop at a certain race, creed or culture…for anyone that accepts Jesus as their Lord and Savior, and believe that He died on a cross for their sins, that is when their thirst begins to become quenched.

So my question for this week is as follows (and I get this from the Connelly resource I am using for study):  What does this concept of ‘living water’ mean to you and if Jesus offered it to you…would you take it? Or would you be skeptical?

John 3

Starting over…that is the title of the section of “John: The Way to True Life” resource book I am using within my study of the book of John. Last week, I decided to only focus upon John 3:16, so this week, I felt that it would be important to expand upon what the rest of the chapter is saying.

Starting over often is referred to, in Bible lingo, as being ‘born again’ or experiencing a spiritual rebirth aftering coming to Jesus. But, beyond simply being born again as a Christian, I think the idea of ‘starting over’ goes much deeper than that. It is not just starting over spiritually in a walk with God, but it is also about starting over mentally and emotionally, where coming to Jesus can provide you with life, when before, the only guarantee anyone had in this life…was death.

A bit dreary I know, but in Romans 5:17, the Bible tells us, essentially, that in one life we die while in the other (the life that has Jesus) we live. John 3:36 speaks of the same thing, however it puts it a different way. Instead, it shows us the alternative to not pursuing a relationship with Jesus. It tells us that whoever belives in Jesus receives life, while those who do not will not will receive life but wrath.

I believe this is the entire purpose of John 3…simply to help people realize that God is there, willing to give them everlasting life. The things in this world that we always turn to, whether it be money or the things we own or our house or job…they are all material and everything breaks down at some point. God doesn’t break down. He doesn’t crumble. His foundation doesn’t split. He isn’t taken away or stolen from us. God lasts forever. He gives us, if we accept it, to start our lives over. We can cast away sin so that it no longer has power over us and live a fulfilling and rich life through the power of Jesus.

For those of you that are not believers in Christianity, I would ask you to think about what it would mean to you if you accepted God and had the chance to start over…what would that look like.

For those of you that are already believers, what are the ways that Jesus has power over your life and how has He shown that sin has lost its power?

Have a great and awesome week!