Day 1 – Abundant Life
“I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” John 10:10b ESV
Why do people even consider becoming a follower of Jesus Christ? Perhaps an individual is afraid of dying and of what happens after death. This person may want assurance that he or she will go to heaven. Or perhaps someone is laden with guilt over bad choices made in her or his lifetime and wants forgiveness and cleansing. Someone else, not having found satisfaction in worldly pursuits, may be looking for meaning and purpose in life. Another may believe there is a God and wants to get to know this Person and enjoy a relationship with Him.
All of these are good reasons to consider and decide for Christ. One in particular may have been what drew you to Him, or be leading you to consider Jesus now. I believe that John 10:10b sums it up quite nicely, and, in effect, answers all the needs stated in the opening paragraph.
First, the Lord promises “life”. He uses other terms in other places: to the religious leader, Nicodemas, Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3) and added, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16). The Lord emphasized that we have to start with obtaining this kind of life – eternal and spiritual life. The physical life that we obtain at conception and have recorded on our birth certificate has an end date. The life Jesus talks about does not. This promise of Jesus Christ answers the fear of death.
Second, Jesus promises “life “abundantly”. The ESV Study Bible says, “Jesus calls His followers, not to dour, listless, miserable existence that squashes human potential, but to a rich, full, joyful life, one overflowing with meaningful activities, under the personal favor and blessing of God and a continual fellowship with His people.” (ESV Study Bible Note on John 10:10). This abundant life answers the need we sense for forgiveness, forgiveness, meaning, purpose, and relationship.
Relationship with Jesus is expanded on in the remainder of John 3. Jesus speaks about a Shepherd and His sheep, about how the Shepherd protects and leads the sheep, and about the recognition the sheep have of the Shepherd’s voice. He compares this relationship to that of God the Father with God the Son (Jesus). He also contrasts this relationship to that of thieves and robbers (also called strangers and wolves) who do not want the welfare of the sheep and who frighten away the human gatekeeprs who are merely hired hands, in contrast to the familial relationship of the Father and Son and the Shepherd and sheep. Sadly, there is taking place a spiritual battle for ownership of the sheep. On the one hand, there is the thief who violently and illegitimately takes possession of the sheep and does so for his own selfish purposes. On the other hand, there is Jesus the Good shepherd who loves the sheep and gives His very life for them. The Lord does this so that the sheep can have real life and can really live! Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father, and I lay down my life for the sheep.” (John 10:17)
Everything written on this blog grows out of John 10:10b. It will be great to explore Jesus Christ’s promise of life and life abundant.
- Read John 3:1-21
- If you are a believer, think about what compelled you to become a Christian through faith in Christ in the first place.
- If you have not yet trusted in Jesus alone for salvation, what questions or concerns about life remain inside of you?_________________________________________________________________________________Day 2 – Divine Encounter
- “Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus.” Acts 8:35
- In Acts 8:26-40, the evangelist, Philip, is relocated by God from one place of ministry to another. The incident raises certain questions in the mind of the reader. Questions like ‘Why would God move Philip from a very successful evangelistic mission in Samaria to meet one individual in the desert? Where did this Ethiopian learn about baptism as a statement of his conversion? Does the description of his baptism say anything about the mode practiced in the early church?’ A careful expositor will not ignore such questions, but neither will he or she dwell be distracted by them and miss something even more important.In verses 32-35 of the passage, Philip and the Ethiopian traveler dialog about Isaiah’s famous prophecy of the Lamb of God. This is why Philip was there: to explain to this inquirer who Jesus is and why He had come. One time, Jesus said to some curious listeners, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” (John 5:39-40) The Apostle Paul understood that the focus of the Scriptures and the driving purpose of the believer is Jesus Christ. Paul wrote, “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (I Cor. 2:2). Thus, in the Acts 8 passage I am drawn to what I expect God wants us to see most of all, verse 35: “Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus.”
In another place, some inquirers requested, “Sir, we would see Jesus.” (John 12:21) Sadly, I have heard too much preaching about lesser things, even though they may have been truths, but lesser because they did not take me to Jesus. So, I ask of preachers, “Please let me see Jesus” and I expect others to expect the same of me in whatever opportunity I may have to represent the Lord. When you and I study the Bible; when we share our testimony; when the sum of our lives is added up and told to others – will it all be about Jesus? Will it tell His story?
- Read Acts 8:26-40.
- When you are listening to someone preach or testify about his or her faith, keep asking yourself, “Is this message/testimony causing me to think of Jesus and His mission?”
- When you talk about your own faith, are your hearers being drawn to consider Jesus, the Lamb of God?
Day 3 – One Another
“So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another…” I Corinthians 11:33
“Communion” (the “Eucharist” or the “Lord’s Supper”) is to be about remembering Jesus’ death (I Cor. 11:26). We use the term to proclaim our connection to Him, our fellowship and oneness with Him. But we also think of the fellowship of believers of which we are a part – both across the world today and across history. No doubt it was the importance of this union with other believers which compelled the apostle Paul to give the instructions in I Corinthians 11 about how to observe the Lord’s Supper. Those instructions begin and end with admonitions to end discrimination at this supper. Many in Corinth were proclaiming not Christ but rather division and lack of consideration for one another, so Paul reminds them that this event is about Christ’s giving His body and blood to save us and then concludes (v. 33) by saying, “Wait for each other.”
This emphasis on being considerate of a brother or sister is found all over the New Testament. There are at least 22 positive injunctions with the term “one another” in them. Fifteen times we are told to “love one another” and the practical ways to do that are many: live in peace with, serve, comfort, edify, be hospitable to, have compassion toward, bear with, minister one’s gifts to, and admonish one another – among other things. Surely there is a message God wants us to get! And, as I think of it, I have experienced a host of these “one anothers” from fellow Christians and that realization is something I can use as a source of praise and thanksgiving to God for His provisions to me through others.
- Read I Corinthians 11:17-34.
- Next time you observe the Lord’s Supper, besides thanking God for His incalculable gift of His Son, think of the oneness you have in Christ with other believers and thank God for that as well.
- Is there a “one another” admonition that you struggle with more than others? Check the nine practical ways mentioned in the second paragraph above and meditate on how these are found in your life.
Day 4 – Something New
“But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” II Peter 3:13
There is a considerable difference between how God thinks and how we think, and what God is capable of and what we are capable of. We think we’ll make a change for the better in the new year – some regular exercise, better eating habits, more consistent prayer life – something new for the new year – a little improvement. This, of course, is a good thing and is not to be frowned upon or downplayed. But, consider how God thinks about new things.
He has enacted a new covenant (Luke 22:20; Heb. 8:13). He has given us new life and a new way of knowing Christ (II Cor. 5:17). Even now, He has enabled us to lay aside the old ways and, instead, to put on the new self which is characterized by righteousness and truth (Eph. 4:24). And even more is to come. He will make all things new, not just one thing but all. He will create a new heaven and a new earth (II Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:1) – the whole thing! He will give us a new body suited for heaven and free from the frailties of this life (II Cor. 5:1; Rev. 21:4), as well as a new freedom from sin’s pull (Rom. 7:24-25). The evidences of ongoing sin and strife in this world may lead us to the false conclusion that there is nothing new under the sun (Eccl. 1:9), but just remember that God has already done much and will renew what is left.
God’s concept of newness is infinitely bigger than ours. Thankfully, His definition of new will prevail.
- Read II Peter 3:8-14
- Reflect upon the need for “newness” as seen in how the things of our present world weas out and need to be replaced. Think also of the Bible’s teaching on the need to be born anew and to live the new life by God’s power.
- How can you show diligence in living without spot or blemish? (II Peter 3:14)
Day 5 – Your Epitaph
“A man in whom was nothing false.” John 1:47
That, in effect, is the epitaph Jesus wrote for Nathaniel’s tombstone (John 1:47). Other Bible characters have epitaphs such as these: the meekest man on the earth (Moses); a woman of faith (Sarah); a man after God’s own heart (David); the greatest prophet ever born (John the Baptist). How do you want to be remembered?
In 2003 officiated at the funeral service for my friend Bill. At age 53 Bill died unexpectedly of a heart attack. Bill will not be remembered for his career – he was unemployed most of his life; nor for his community service – he even spent time in prison; nor for his academic attainments – he was a school drop-out; nor for his exemplary family life – he was separated from his common-law wife. But Bill was my friend and I remember him differently. I was his pastor for several years and one day he came to me when he was in trouble and made a commitment to Jesus Christ. What I remember about him is that once that choice was made, Bill never went back. He had plenty of reasons to do so – underemployment, some personal failures, the disappointment of seeing his family trapped by drugs and alcohol, and more. But he would not give up. Many times he came to see me, questioning God. But in the end he submitted again and again to Him.
Jesus once asked the Twelve, ”You do not want to leave too, do you?” To which Peter replied, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:67-69). That’s what I would put on Bill’s marker: “Only one place to go”. If a phrase or verse were chosen to represent your life, what would it be? How will you be remembered?
- Read John 6:60-71
- When you are struggling with whether or not it is worth following Jesus, do you have a friend or counsellor to whom you can confidently go – someone who will be a listening ear? who knows God and His Word? who has repeatedly turned to God in his or her own similar struggles?
- Can you think of someone whose testimony as a follower of Christ you admire? What epitaph would you give this person?
- As asked in the last sentence of the third paragraph above asks, if a phrase or verse were chosen to represent your life, what would it be? How will you be remembered?
Day 6 – Seeking
“The Father seeks people to worship Him in spirit and in truth.” John 4:23
It is not unusual that God should expect to be worshiped. After all, He is supreme in every way that is good and true. What is peculiar is that a created being should seek to be worshiped. Lucifer wanted worship. Some people (perhaps a dictator or a celebrity) expect adulation or are offered it by impressionable followers who idolize them.
What I find surprising is that “the Father seeks people to worship Him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23). We are often told to seek God – e.g., in such places as II Chron. 7:14 (seek His face), Matt. 6:33 (seek His kingdom and righteousness), and Heb. 11:6 (earnestly seek Him). But in John 4 it is the Father who seeks true worshipers. This is not the only place where God is pictured as the seeker. In Luke 19:10 it is said that Jesus Christ came into the world to “seek and save the lost”. Just as God went seeking Adam and Eve in the Garden (Genesis 3:9), or sought out Elijah when he was broken and feeling alone (I Kings 19), or sought out Zacchaeus (Luke 19:5), or Saul (Acts 9) or Cornelius (Acts 10), and so on, so He now seeks sinners to give them the good news about Jesus so they can be saved forever. It is said that God must seek us, when we should be seeking Him!
He seeks sinners who will become worshipers. He makes us alive spiritually and He enables us to know the truth He reveals in His word. We become concerned about truth being established consistently in the way we live, and that, along with our words of adoration, brings Him honor.
Praise God that He seeks us for we would otherwise tragically settle for so much less.
- Read John 4:1-30.
- The woman at the well was one person whom Jesus was “seeking” to worship Him. How did he go about seeking her? IF you are a follower of Jesus who wants to see others come to Him for salvation and worship, what can you learn about the way Jesus confronts this woman?
- In the instances referred to above, notice how God seeks people in a variety of ways and for different reasons. How might He be seeking you today – to challenge you, to comfort you, to show His loving concern for you in some other way?
Day 7 – Do You Want to be Well?
“Do you want to get well?” John 5:6
This seems to be a silly question to ask a man who had suffered a disability for 38 years! But, not really.
There are many people in our society who (a) don’t realize they are sick with sin, or (b) appear to have no interest in getting healthy spiritually, or (c) have given up hope of getting well. In another place, Jesus stated, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor but the sick.” (Matt. 9:12) Some people fail to see their need (category a) and others think they are too sinful for God’s love (category c). And some are in category b . I recall once talking to a very pleasant man who agreed that he was a sinner in need of God’s salvation, but who wasn’t ready yet – perhaps he did not feel “sick enough”. In our witnessing we will encounter all three attitudes. Thankfully, there is also a category d – those who recognize their need and want to do something about it. All need to be challenged with Jesus’ question of verse 6.
So, in this passage we are introduced to a man who wanted to get well. He was at the place of healing; he was ready to obey Jesus; he just needed some help. But the passage also shows some folk who didn’t want Jesus’ healing touch. They thought they were well enough because they kept the Sabbath regulations. They were OK in their own eyes and didn’t sense a need for Jesus to give them forgiveness and life. But rules cannot make us well. Only Jesus can. As verse 15 emphasizes, it was Jesus who had made him well.
- Read John 5:1-17.
- Jesus Christ often asked questions we would not have expected. In this and other cases, the question made the recipient contemplate her or his real need. Are you taking the need God is pressing now on your heart as seriously as He does? Do you see yourself as “sick enough” to submit to Jesus?
- Praise God for whatever is really alive and healthy in your life!
Don Wicks is a follower of Jesus Christ and a retired former pastor and professor living in Ontario, Canada.