A Prayer Prompted by John 17

Father in Heaven,

We join with Jesus in praying for your glory, knowing that this may mean our own suffering as we share in the sufferings of Christ.

We also pray that you would keep us and all of those believers we know connected to yourself.  We have seen many walk away over the years so we pray for security and stability in our faith.

We also pray for unity in the church.  Help us to work toward unity based on your word – on the teaching that the apostles gave us from you. Help us to enjoy unity found in the shared life of the Father and the Son.  And let us express that unity in mission to an unbelieving world.

Finally help us do whatever it takes to be united with our brothers and sisters in Christ here and now.

And we pray these things to you Father, along with Jesus Christ your Son.

Amen

Eternal life – John 17:3

In John 17:3, as Jesus prays, he says,

And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

What Christ is saying is that the eternal life that we receive by faith in him is more or less defined by the new relationship that we have with the Father and the Son.  We know God and his Son Jesus Christ, and that in in itself somehow is eternal life. This life needs to be understood as both a quantity and a quality of life.

First of all, eternal life can be described everlasting or never-ending or using some other such term that means it will just keep on going and will not stop.  I emphasize this point first because I sometimes hear Christians focus on eternal life as a quality of life as opposed to a quantity of life.  I understand why.  It is possible to misunderstand eternal life as being much like the life we have now, complete with its troubles and our imperfections, just without end.  That is surely not what Jesus means.  But if we say it is a quality of life rather than a quantity, then we are not doing justice to the term eternal, for which Jesus could have substituted some other term unrelated to time (most excellent or super wonderful?) Why confuse us by calling it “eternal” if he didn’t mean for time to be involved at all? 

So this seems to be a false dichotomy.  It is not an either/or situation; it is a both/and.  God is eternal; that is one of his attributes, but we are not, since we are created beings.  He can, however, give us life everlasting if he wishes, and he does if the Bible is to be believed.  This life is acquired by an intimate connection with him, facilitated by the Holy Spirit who regenerates us and gives us new life in Christ.            

Second, we must speak of this new life as qualitatively different from the mere earthly life we were born with.  We have come to know the only true God and Jesus Christ, his Son, the One sent here for our salvation.  Prior to this we did not know God at all.  We may have known of him, in a fact-knowing kind of way.  We may have believed that there was a God in a less personal way. This is often true of people who later come to know God personally.  They come to believe in God in the abstract on the way to a personal faith.  It was certainly true in my case.  But to know God personally and to know him as our Father is a very different thing indeed. 

If we really know God and his Son Jesus Christ, we can no longer live as if that does not matter. We need to bask in the warmth of their fellowship. We need to learn from their wisdom and rejoice in their love. Life can never be the same. Eternal life is ours and this life lived in the very presence and power of God will never end.

“Your father the devil” – John 8:42-45

42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. 43 Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me.

Wouldn’t it be nice to skim right past this section as if it weren’t there? Wouldn’t it be nicer still if it if fact really weren’t there at all to skim over?

Alas, it is there, confronting us in the Gospel of John like a neighbor we would like to ignore and who refuses to go back inside his house. The implications of this passage are profound. It is so filled with content, all of it coming from the mouth of Jesus, that it practically bursts out of the page. Let’s list just a few things.

  1. There is a real personal devil.as well as a real personal God.
  2. The devil is a murderer.
  3. He pretty much always lies, because his character is such that lying comes naturally to him.
  4. Jesus, on the other hand is truthful.
  5. Jesus was sent by God in accordance with God the Father’s perfect will.
  6. If we love Jesus, then that reveals that God is our Father.
  7. There are people who do not love Jesus.
  8. They cannot seem to tolerate what he actually has to say.
  9. These people are children of the devil,
  10. They desire to do their father’s, that is, the devil’s will.

That is a lot of information to take in, all pouring forth from a few short verses, and it is all life-changing if we truly let it sink in.

Dear God, help us to clearly see the difference between the truth that we receive from Jesus and the devil’s lies. Help us not to distort your word, as the devil has from the beginning, only using it in such a way as to serve his deceptive purposes. Make us genuine lovers of God, lovers of our Lord Jesus and lovers of the truth. In this way let us reveal that we are your children. And help us to do all that we can to call the devil’s children out of the realm of his deception and into the truth of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Who would be able to teach him? – John 7:14-17

14 About the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and began teaching. 15 The Jews therefore marveled, saying, “How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?” 16 So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me. 17 If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.

The religious leaders marveled at the teaching of Jesus. He never went to an elite Yeshivah. Nonetheless, his learning was evident. How did he get it? Jesus lets them know.

“My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me.” In other words, he got it straight from his Father.

For the average pastor or Bible teacher, studying under others is a good thing. There are insights we are probably not going to gain by a little extra prayer or reading of the text. In a best-case scenario, that which we learn and learn well will still take longer.

In the case of Christ, who would be able to teach him? The rabbis were not always right, as their frequent arguments with Jesus indicate. They were not always wrong either, but what good would that have done Jesus in the end?

When God the Son came to earth, one of the biggest, silliest things that kept happening is that people repeatedly wanted to argue with him on topics of religion. They got angry when he didn’t see things their way. What they should have done is listened.

Let’s not imagine that we know more than Jesus. We are never going to teach him. When he disagrees with us, we can count on the fact that we ought to change our perspective. He knows best. We don’t. We will always do well to come to him with a receptive frame of mind, ears open and a heart ready to learn.