Following Jesus

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Inspired by Job 1:20-23 and John 6:66-69

Insights from Genesis 1

GOD IS BIGGER THAN THE UNIVERSE

In the beginning, we learn that God is distinguished from Creation. He made everything, but this doesn’t mean He is everything.  

For example: God made the food we eat, but we are not eating God when we have breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

This is important because there are people in our generation who worship the Universe as god. But, the one true God is infinitely bigger. He is Creator of the Universe.

 

GOD IS GOOD — PERIOD

God is not the author or creator of evil. He made the Universe to be purely good. There might be evil in Creation, but there is no evil in Him. Evil is not meant to be balanced out with good. Instead, evil is meant to be overcome by good.

 

GOD IS RELATIONAL

God did not create humans to be animals. We were made in His Image. Therefore, God’s intention is not for us to treat each other like animals. Instead, We were made to relate to each other with human dignity.

The way we relate with each other gives us clues about how God created us to relate with Him. God speaks. He spoke us into existence. And He also speaks to us in a personal way. We were created to communicate with God. He is not an impersonal God. He wants us to enter into a personal relationship with Him.

 

THERE IS ONLY ONE GOD

God didn’t create some people; He created all people. In the final analysis, every tribe, culture, nation, and race can trace its origin back to Him.

 

SOURCE

For the Love of God (Vol. 1)  by DA Carson | http://amzn.to/2z55Rgq

Episode 1

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MUSIC

Bohkeh | https://soundcloud.com/boh-keh/forever?in=twonnyc/sets/grace-meets-truth.

Reading the Bible

The purpose of the Bible is not to fill you with all the answers. Instead, it is meant to fill you with all the fullness of God's Presence.

The Bible is where you get to sit with God as He feeds your soul with the Word that gives you life — where you get to experience intimate fellowship with your sovereign Creator. Treasure the moments you get to spend quality time in His Presence.

 

SCRIPTURE

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. (Psalm 23:5 CSB)

 ...know Christ’s love that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:19 CSB)

Grace & Truth

“...grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” | John 1:17 CSB

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GOD DESIGNED ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIPS | Song of Solomon 1:1-8

INTRODUCTION

When I first moved to NYC, I was part of the Dream Center Leadership Program that required me to go on a 1-year dating fast. Even when I was in that fast, I still bumped into a lot of women. It was actually a regular battle for me. For the most part, I think I did a good job of honoring the fast I agreed upon. When I did struggle with it, I didn't hide it from my leadership.

I would run across women who wanted to meet up with me, but I found gentle ways to let them know it wasn't the right time for me to hang out for the purpose of dating. If I did hang out with women, I was pretty open about letting them know about my dating fast. However, I bumped into one woman who seriously opened up my feelings for her. I hung out with her for a significant amount of time. I didn't hide it from the leadership program I was going through and they helped me navigate through the process. Long story short, my relationship with that woman didn't work out for differences due to our spiritual convictions. Ultimately, I believe it wasn't God's timing anyways.

After I finished the leadership program, I was free to date again. I ended up working for a great non-profit called NYSUM afterward. I was getting back on my feet financially, I was in a stable living environment, and I felt like I was finally getting settled into NYC. During this period of my life, I met another woman that I started gaining romantic interest in. She is an awesome Godly woman. She was actually the first woman who intentionally challenged me to confront unsettled things in my past. However, things didn't work out between us. If I were to try to rationalize it, I think it was because I felt called to Manhattan and she felt called to Jackson Heights. The last thing I heard her say was "I have no regrets." Ultimately, again, I think it didn't work out because it wasn't God's timing.

To confess, I got a little discouraged. I kept looking for someone special after I broke things off with the second woman I pursued, but found no long-term success. Shortly afterward, I decided to quit looking to focus on church planting and my work at NYSUM. Time passed and I completely forgot about looking for someone special. Eventually, I got a 4-month job working as a Kids Director with The Grace Place in NYC. I was pretty busy at this point. I was juggling between church planting, working full-time for NYSUM, and now being a Kids Director. Looking back, I have so many great memories of that season of my life. I was very independent and I was spending most of my waking hours doing what I love to do, which is vocational ministry.

Then one day, Priscilla, co-pastor at The Grace Place, asked me to run an errand with her. She needed me to run to the local Duane Reade in Upper West Side to help her pick up some drinks for The Grace Place. She asked me something like, "Is there anyone special in your life right now? Are you talking to anyone?"

I replied, "No. I haven't thought about it in awhile." I then giggled and said, "I'm more concerned about my friends finding someone right now. Don't worry about me! I'll be alright!"

At this point, I was in the transition of leaving NYSUM to move to Chelsea, Manhattan. I'm not sure if it was intentional, but she planted a serious idea in my mind. I knew that once I moved to Chelsea, I would be financially stable, I would have a great place to live, and I would even have more free time for fun. I thought to myself, "I'm going to try looking for someone again. I think this time, it's God's timing." I also sent Priscilla and her husband/co-pastor, Stephen, a text message asking them to pray for me to find someone. They joyfully showed me their support through prayer!

The last couple of times I looked for someone special, I met those women personally. This time I thought, "I'm even going to try online dating! No excuses! I'm in this to win it and I'm going to use all the resources God has made available to me. If I never find a woman, at least I can tell God I tried everything."

So I started signing up for online dating platforms. I was really surprised by the responses I got. I went on a few first dates with some really great quality women. I treated all of them like Christian sisters (because they are). Now if you haven't grown up in church, you might think this is weird, but it worked for me! And I think it'll work for you also (see 1 Timothy 5:2).

Because online dating platforms match you based on compatibility, I eventually found one woman in NYC in particular that I have a lot in common with. I liked her so much that I decided she is the only person I wanted to spend and focus my energy on pursuing. We've been getting to know each other ever since.

I'm not a prophet nor am I the son of a prophet, but so far I feel God's favor on me. It feels like God has been blessing my steps so far.

I share all of this to say that there a lot of factors that go into successful dating, especially God's timing. I want to show you the factors of romantic relationships that Song of Solomon shows us, which are in the very first chapter! I hope these factors will help you discern if you're dating on God's timing or your timing. I hope when you are done learning about Song of Solomon, your faith will be strengthened to trust in God's timing! We're going to unpack Song of Solomon 1:1-8 NASB.

 

SONG OF SOLOMON 1:1-8 NASB

The Song of Songs, which is Solomon's. // Song of Solomon 1:1 NASB

The original Hebrew title of this book is called, "Song of Songs." Some translations of the Bible use the title, "Song of Solomon," to clarify that this book came from King Solomon, who was actually the wisest man of the Old Testament. He wasn't wise within himself. He was wise because he got all of his wisdom from God. Because he was a king, he is not just offering common sense or common wisdom. What you are reading and studying right now is royal wisdom. I usually teach from the CSB translation, but I'll be using the NASB right now because it was the translation I used when I first studied this book in my early twenties. I am now 30. In my current season of life, the NASB translation is the best translation available to me right now to help you understand the Song of Solomon.

 

May he kiss me with the kisses of his mouth! For your love is better than wine. // Song of Solomon 1:2 NASB

It is interesting to observe that this book opens up with the woman's interest in the man first. If you know anything about the book of Ruth, it also reveals the woman's interest first.

There are two types of attraction:

1. Physical
2. Spiritual

Physical attraction brings pleasure to your 5 senses. When you're physically attracted to someone, you like the sound of their voice, you enjoy looking at their face, you like hugging them, you definitely don't mind kissing them, and you like the way they smell. Physical attraction comes more natural than spiritual attraction.

Spiritual attraction takes work and time. You really have to connect with someone over a significant amount of time to know if you like that person's character, maturity, beliefs, and moral values. You can't just take it on the other person's word alone; you really have to spend time with them to see how that person reacts in different situations.

Lastly, she enjoyed him more than wine. Just like drinking wine is a social activity today, it was also a social activity when this book was written. In a sense, she was saying, "I'd rather be with you than anything else or anybody else in the world right now."

 

Your oils have a pleasing fragrance, Your name is like purified oil; Therefore the maidens love you. // Song of Solomon 1:3 NASB

She loves the way her man smells. He must have had worn some great "cologne" for her. But this wasn't just about physical attraction. Her physical attraction represents her spiritual attraction for her man's character.

"Your name" in this verse represents the man's reputation. Also, "purified oil" means the best oil or oil that has been pressed. She is saying, "You have a great reputation! You have been pressed by the pressures of life and it has made you into a mature person. You have allowed God to shape you into the best version of yourself."

She mentions the maidens because he doesn't just have a great reputation with her, but also with women in general, even her lady-friends.

 

Draw me after you and let us run together! The king has brought me into his chambers. We will rejoice in you and be glad; We will extol your love more than wine. Rightly do they love you. // Song of Solomon 1:4 NASB

She basically wants to have a DTR with him, which is an acronym that stands for "Define The Relationship." She is ready to become more serious with him. She wants to keep him around.

If you have ever listened to the "Spice Girls", you would recognize the lyrics, "If you wanna be my lover, you gotta get with my friends." Not only does the woman approve of her man, but her friends also approve of him.

 

I am black but lovely, O daughters of Jerusalem, Like the tents of Kedar, Like the curtains of Solomon. // Song of Solomon 1:5 NASB

Because she wants to go deeper with her man, she decides to initiate the vulnerability between the two of them, which can be a scary thing for a lot of people. She begins to open up about herself.

The Bible celebrates black skin. She describes her skin to be black as the curtains of Solomon, which were a deep dark purple. You could say that she is very "comfortable in her skin," which is evident when she refers to herself as "lovely." It sounds like she has already learned how to deal with her insecurities. However, she says, "but," because she is about to explain why her skin is black.

 

Do not stare at me because I am swarthy, For the sun has burned me. My mother's sons were angry with me; They made me caretaker of the vineyards, But I have not taken care of my own vineyard. // Song of Solomon 1:6 NASB

From this verse, we can see that she had a mess, but God turned her mess into a message. She had a test, but God turned her test into a testimony. She had a bad past, but she didn't let it define her but refine her. She was a victim but takes on the attitude of a victor. She could have let her hurtful past make her ugly, but instead, she allowed it to make her more beautiful. Talk about vulnerability.

 

Tell me, O you whom my soul loves, Where do you pasture your flock, Where do you make it lie down at noon? For why should I be like one who veils herself Beside the flocks of your companions?" // Song of Solomon 1:7 NASB

In her time in history, women who veiled themselves for men were women who were looking to prostitute themselves (see Genesis 38:14-15).

She is saying, "I don't want to be like a prostitute and sleep around. I want to save myself for you on our wedding day." She was probably a virgin.

She is also saying, "Don't let the other guys, especially the nasty guys, hit on me. I only want you. Let the other guys know that I'm yours. Will you belong to me? I want to belong to you.

Lastly, she is saying, "My friends now know you. Now it's your turn. Now I want your friends to get to know me. I want to visit your church. I want to get to know your family. I want to check out your workplace. I want what matters to you to matter to me. I became vulnerable with you and let you into my personal life. Will you become vulnerable with me and let me into your personal life?"

 

If you yourself do not know, Most beautiful among women, Go forth on the trail of the flock And pasture your young goats By the tents of the shepherds. // Song of Solomon 1:8 NASB

He gives her words of affirmation. He expresses that he shares the same feelings for her when he states, "Most beautiful among women." He also likes her more than anything else, especially anyone else.

He agrees to also be vulnerable with her and welcomes her into his personal life. He is saying, "I am an open book. Get to know me as much as you like."

This ends our exposition of this epic DTR of Song of Solomon. So what do we do with all of this information now?

 

GOD DESIGNED ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIPS

God designed romantic relationships to be cultivated by maturity. This is one of the major factors that will help you discern if it's the right time for you to date. I would ask yourself, "Have I been purified and pressed like oil? Have I gone through enough trials that have tested my character and proven that I'm ready for a romantic relationship? Do I know myself well enough? Am I secure in my identity in Jesus?" This is a good place to start.

I would also ask if the person you are interested has also been purified and pressed like oil. Some people go through trials and become more distant toward God while others go through trials and it has helped them become even closer to God. Some people go through the fires of life and it has made them more negative while other go through the same fires and it has made them more positive. Dating is the first step toward marriage. In the first step, if they are already showing you that they are negative all the time, do you want to spend the rest of your life going through hell with them? If they seem like a positive person, you can take the next step with them with more confidence your potential marriage will feel like heaven. And don't forget that a marriage is full of trials in itself. The way the person you are attracted to has handled trials as a single person will tell you a lot about how they will handle trials in a marriage.

I also wouldn't ignore physical attraction. God calls us to love our neighbors as ourselves (see Mark 12:31). The way you take care of yourself will give clues to how you will take care of another person. Find out about their diet. Find out how often they exercise. Ask how well they manage the amount of money God has allotted to them. Ask how much they are learning or self-developing on a daily basis. Find out how much they are cultivating their faith in God. Do they believe in healing? Don't get me wrong: God is Healer, which is one of His names. But do they believe in healing to justify their irresponsibility toward their bodies? Or do they believe in healing because they genuinely love God and trust His Word?

Lastly, don't expect them to be perfect. Jesus is perfect for us. But, find out if they are maturing on a regular basis and if they are mature enough to responsibly be in a relationship with you. Again, they don't have to be perfect, and they definitely can't be perfect, but ask yourself if you'll be okay with how their personal habits and lifestyle decisions will affect you and your loved ones.

God designed romantic relationships to be cultivated by community. If you think that person is marriage material, don't just think about how they will affect you. Think about how they will affect your kids and grandkids. Remember, the man and woman of Song of Solomon pursued each other in the context of community. Think about how your potential mate will affect your friends. Will that person divide your community or bring more unity to your community? How will the people you invite to your wedding feel about the two of you together?

Don't forget to consult your family, especially your parents. Ephesians 6:2 CSB states, "Honor your father and mother, which is the first commandment with a promise, so that it may go well with you and that you may have a long life in the land." God will honor your decisions by the way you show honor to your parents. In short, you're not just inviting someone into your personal life for the rest of your life; you are also inviting them into your community for the rest of your life. Your potential mate should not isolate you from your loved ones but should help bring you closer to them.

God designed romantic relationships to be cultivated by vulnerability. Maturity helps. This is why the woman of this song was able to confess her past so freely.

A team isn't really a collective of people who work with each other as much as it is a collective of people who trust each other. You are building a team with someone. You are trying to find a partner in crime. Some people say that trust is the foundation of relationships. I would say that honesty is the foundation for trust. The more honest you are with someone, the more that person can trust you. And the more the other person is honest with you, the more you can trust them. The more you can cultivate trust through honesty, the more you can become a better team together.

You might have bad secrets that have isolated you. I want to challenge you to confess them. 1 Corinthians 10:13 CSB states, "No temptation has come upon you except what is common to humanity..." If you can't muster up the courage to start with your potential mate, I challenge you to start with someone you trust at your local church. Use all the resources available to you. Also consider finding your closest AA meeting, SLAA meeting, or something similar to attend. As you muster up more courage, you have to eventually pick a date and time open up to your potential mate if you want to build trust with him or her. The last thing you want to do is to build a relationship on a lie. Let the truth be your foundation.

Lastly, being vulnerable will bring healing. James 5:16 CSB states, "confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed..." You are only sick as your bad secrets that haven't been confessed. If you have been experiencing sickness of any kind, find out if it's because you've blocked out something or have suppressed something you need to finally let out and let go. Being vulnerable will hurt on the front end, but will give you long-lasting healing on the other end.

If your potential mate accepts you after being vulnerable, he or she is definitely a keeper. If they don't accept you, know that God has someone else better in store for you. Rejection is part of the process of becoming a mature human being. Perfect love casts out all fear, especially the fear of rejection. Ultimately, you have to remember that you are unconditionally loved and accepted in Jesus.

 

CONCLUSION

I can't brag about my love for God, but I can brag about His love for me. I've gone through a lot of messes and tests that have purified and pressed me to become the man I am today. However, I failed most of those messes and tests. But through my failures, I learned that God's love never fails. His love remains faithful and steadfast. Through those trials, I learned that I am unconditionally accepted by God. Because God has built my faith in His faithfulness, I'm no longer afraid to be vulnerable with women.

Recently, God's faithful love gave me the courage to the vulnerable with someone. All it did was give God more glory. All it did was put her in the wonder of God's faithfulness. I, for sure, can't take any credit for it. My prayer is that you'd have the same courage, that you'd realize that God is your ultimate lover. And you'd become a reflection of Him.

Romantic relationships reflect Jesus love for us, His Church. Compared to Jesus, we can't brag on our maturity for Him, but we can brag on His maturity for us. Jesus is perfect. He showed us what it means to be truly human. He is faithful to the end. He was faithful even to the point of death on the Cross. This is how much He wanted to have us. Just like the lady of this song, we all have been marred by the heat of sin. We all have been victims of people who have scarred our past. But Jesus came to turn our mess into a beautiful message and our test into a beautiful testimony. We all were made ugly by sin, but Jesus came to make us beautiful by His grace. Jesus completely delivers, redeems, and restores us. He rescued us from being under the power of our enemies and perpetrators and adopted us into His family. He gave us the Church. We are the Church. And we are called to love each other, especially help each other get through our messes, like Jesus loves us. He came to redeem our past and give us a new future. Jesus loved us at our worst. Jesus died for us while we were at our worst. He knows us intimately, especially the darkest parts about us, yet He doesn't abandon or turn away from us. Instead, He continues to pursue us even more. Because Jesus pursued us, we are now free to pursue Him. He makes Himself vulnerable to us and invites us to get to know Him intimately. The more we get to know Him, the more we become reflections of His love toward others, especially by the way we cultivate our romantic relationships.

Because of Jesus, people will know that we belong to Him by our love. Many of these people will want to know Jesus for themselves because of it. And they'll get to experience the same joy we get to experience!

DAY 15 | John 1:32-34

And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and he rested on him. I didn’t know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The one you see the Spirit descending and resting on — he is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.” | John 1:32-34 CSB

 

John does not formally identify Jesus as the Messiah until He witnesses the Spirit descend on Jesus from heaven like a dove. Since the end of the Old Testament, the Jews have been waiting about 400 years for the promised Messiah. In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit only anointed people temporarily. Jesus is the promised one who is anointed with the Spirit forever. He doesn’t just have the Spirit; He is the source of the Spirit. Through Jesus, we get to experience the Holy Spirit now and forever.

Baptism in the Holy Spirit happens at the moment of salvation. 1 Corinthians 12:13 CSB states, “For we were *all* baptized by one Spirit into one body  — whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free  — and we were all given one Spirit to drink.” [emphasis added] There are not 2 classes of Christians, meaning there is not a second class Christian who hasn’t been baptized by the Holy Spirit and a first class Christian who has been baptized by the Holy Spirit. All Christians are equally baptized into one body. Even though there are many types of Christians who express their experiences with the Spirit differently, the heart of God is to cultivate unity between us all.

Many people who self-proclaim to have the supernatural gifts of the Spirit can deceive you if you're not careful. Many people who do miraculous things in Jesus’ Name are fake Christians (see Matthew 7:22). However, identifying the fruit of the Spirit in someone's life will help you authenticate a true Christian (see 1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13; Galatians 5:22-24).

 

REFLECTION

Who was the person that first introduced you to Jesus?

How would you describe your experiences with God’s Presence, meaning the Holy Spirit?

How is the Holy Spirit changing your hopes, dreams, and desires?

DAY 14 | John 1:30-31

This is the one I told you about: ‘After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me, because he existed before me.’ I didn’t know him, but I came baptizing with water so he might be revealed to Israel.” | John 1:30-31 CSB

 

Even though John the Baptist is highly important, compared to Jesus, John is secondary and Jesus is primary. It’s the same with us: the world tells you to live a self-centered life, but you were actually meant to live a God-centered life.

When John says, “he existed before me,” he doesn’t mean that Jesus is older than him. In context of John 1:2, John the Baptist is recognizing that Jesus existed before time and space began.

The Jews thought baptism was only relevant to Gentiles, but John comes to show baptism is also relevant to Jews. Today, Jesus isn’t just for the self-indulgent; He’s also for the self-righteous. He isn’t just for the unchurched; He’s also for people who have grown up in church all their lives.

 

REFLECTION

How would you compare and contrast a self-centered life from a God-centered life?

In what ways can you thank God for your existence today?

What’s the difference between knowing about God opposed to knowing God personally?

DAY 13 | John 1:29

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Here is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! | John 1:29 CSB

 

In this chapter, Jesus is given many titles:

The Word
Son of God
Christ
Lord
Rabbi
Teacher
Messiah
King of Israel
Son of Man

Here, John the Baptist announces Jesus as the "Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" The emphasis on the world isn't on its bigness but its evil darkness.

As our lamb, Jesus didn't just take away the sin of the world; He took the punishment of our sin on Himself when He hung on the cross. He is our substitutionary sacrifice.

He took our place so we could receive His grace. He was treated the way we deserve so we could be treated the way He deserves. God isn't just our mighty lion; He is our lamb full of sacrificial love.

 

REFLECTION

Where do you currently notice evil, death, and suffering in the world?

How can you apply the hope of Jesus to the evil, death, and suffering you've noticed?

How can you accept the forgiveness of Jesus and experience more freedom in your life today?

DAY 12 | John 1:24-28

Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. So they asked him, “Why then do you baptize if you aren’t the Messiah, or Elijah, or the Prophet? ”

“I baptize with water,” John answered them. “Someone stands among you, but you don’t know him. He is the one coming after me, whose sandal strap I’m not worthy to untie.” All this happened in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

| John 1:24-28 CSB

 

The Pharisees were some of the more prominent authorities of John’s time. The reason why John’s interrogators are perplexed is because they think baptism is only relevant to Gentiles, which refer to people who are not Jews. They think baptism is only useful to convert Gentiles into the Jews.

However, John says, “Someone stands among you, but *you don’t know him*.” [emphasis added] John is showing the Jews that baptism isn’t just for Gentiles; it’s also for unbelieving Jews. There are many Jews who reject Jesus. John comes so that the Jews may be ready to accept Jesus.

Although John has so much influence (that even secular historians document it), he recognizes that Jesus’ influence is infinitely greater than his own. Only slaves were designated to untie someone else’s sandal strap. When John says, “whose sandal strap I’m not worthy to untie,” John means that he isn’t even worthy to be Jesus’ slave. This is how great Jesus is compared to John.

John, the writer of this book points out “Bethany across the Jordan,” because he wants his current-day readers to interrogate this story for themselves. He wants his audience to go to Bethany to find the eyewitnesses of this account in history.

In the book of Joshua, the Israelites cross the Jordan. There is similarity here. Baptism represents our spiritual crossover from death into a resurrected life with Jesus.


REFLECTION

Have you ever had a spiritual death to life experience with Jesus?

Have you ever been baptized?

How do you think God wants to use your life to point people to the greatness of Jesus?

DAY 11 | John 1:22-23

“Who are you, then? ” they asked. “We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What can you tell us about yourself? ”

He said, “I am a voice of one crying out in the wilderness: Make straight the way of the Lord — ust as Isaiah the prophet said.”

| John 1:22-23 CSB

 

After John is able to clarify who he is not, he now has the opportunity to clarify his actual identity.

He doesn't define his identity by  culture, tradition, or even his own ideals. Instead, he defines himself by the Word of God. Scripture is his authority.

John is a "voice," meaning he isn't the "Word" mentioned in John 1:1. He doesn't want his interrogators to confuse the two. He is the messenger but he is not the message. We can't make people fall in love with Jesus, but we can set up the date — this is what John is doing here. He is preparing people to meet Jesus.

 

REFLECTION

How does your culture try to define you?

According to the book of John, how does Jesus define you?

What kind of voice do you think God wants you to be for Jesus?

DAY 10 | John 1:19-21

This was John’s testimony when the Jews from Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him, “Who are you? ”

He didn’t deny it but confessed: “I am not the Messiah.”

“What then? ” they asked him. “Are you Elijah? ”

“I am not,” he said.

“Are you the Prophet? ”

“No,” he answered.

John 1:19-21 CSB

 

According to RC Sproul, there is more secular documentation on John the Baptist than there is in the Bible. He made a significant difference in history. He had such an immense following and influence that even secular historians started to take notice. This story is not a fairytale. All the stories of the Bible take place in non-fiction history.

The priests and Levites were the spiritual authorities of Jesus’ time. They came to John to keep his ministry accountable. They might have initiated the interrogation, but John was the one who initiated the topic of conversation. This is why the passage says, “He didn’t deny it but confessed…” John is straight to the point. He does not want to be vague or mistaken about his identity.

John initiates the topic of conversation by declaring, “I am not the Messiah.” He didn’t come to make a name for himself, but for the name of Jesus. In the Bible, at the very end of the Old Testament, the book of Malachi prophesies about Elijah coming back to the Jews. John also denies being the promised Elijah. In the Bible, the book of Deuteronomy prophesies about a Prophet that would come for the Jews. John even denies to be the promised Prophet. Since the book of Malachi, the Jews have been waiting about 400 years for the promised Messiah, Elijah, or Prophet, yet John denies to be any of them.

 

REFLECTION

What kind of legacy or testimony for Jesus would you like to leave behind with people?

What are some ways you can prepare your attitude to answer your interrogators graciously?

Why is important to know what does *not define your identity as much as knowing what actually does define it?

DAY 9 | John 1:18

No one has ever seen God. The one and only Son, who is himself God and is at the Father’s side —he has revealed him. | John 1:18 CSB

 

Adam and Eve were the first humans. If no one has ever seen God, how was Adam and Eve able to interact with God in the garden? According to Genesis 3:8-10, we know they had an audible conversation with Him. We also know there was an evening breeze; God’s Spirit is often compared to a breeze. Finally, we know that God walked in the garden.

Just like Jesus was present with John the Baptist in Matthew 3:16-17, it is very possible that Jesus was present with Adam and Eve in a very similar way. Scholars call humanlike appearances of God in the Old Testament, “theophanies,” which means appearances of Jesus before He came to the world as a physical human being.

The book of John starts off by explaining that Jesus is inclusive, but here we see He is also exclusive. Jesus is the one and only Son who reconciles us to the Father. Eternal life is not possible through any other person.

Jesus being at the Father’s side implies He is equal with the Father. Jesus came to be the revelation of God. Jesus is the invisible God made visible.

 

REFLECTION

What are the dangers of separating God’s inclusivity and exclusivity from each other?

If Jesus is both fully God and fully human, how does that make Him the perfect mediator between heaven and earth?

If Jesus is the revelation of God, what are the implications of ignoring His teachings?

DAY 8 | John 1:17

for the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. | John 1:17 CSB

 

The Law is an impersonal set of rules that reminds us of why we deserve death. However, grace and truth gives us the hope of eternal life. AW Pink does a great job of helping us understand the meaning of this verse. He explains that:

Law addresses members of the old creation; grace and truth makes us members of the new creation.

Law manifests what is in us, which is sin; grace and truth manifests what is in God, which is love.

Law demanded righteousness from us; grace and truth brings righteousness to us.

Law sentences us to death; grace and truth brings us to life.

Law speaks of what we must do for God; grace and truth tells of what Jesus has done for us.

Law gives a knowledge of sin; grace and truth puts away sin.

Law brought God out to us; grace and truth brings us into God.

 

REFLECTION

How can idolizing morality influence you to be self-righteous?

How can demonizing morality influence you to be self-indulgent?

How can centering your faith on grace and truth instead of the Law help you avoid the errors of self-righteousness and/or self-indulgence?

DAY 7 | John 1:16

Indeed, we have all received grace upon grace from his fullness... | John 1:16 CSB

 

God's grace is like a flame on a candle that is able to light up other multiple candles without losing any of its own fire. Romans 5:30 CSB says, “where sin multiplied, grace multiplied even more”. The grace of God is an infinite flame that multiplies itself over every single one of your sins.

And He never gets tired of forgiving you. He never gets tired of loving you. The grace of God will never run out on you.

Your flame might have died out on God, but His eternal flame will never die out on you. God loves to pursue you. When you surrender to the relentless grace of God, your spirit will be reignited like a fire.

 

REFLECTION

What areas in your life do you feel guilt, shame, or condemnation?

How can the forgiveness of God give you a fresh start today?

Who is someone you can forgive so you can start the process of being healed from bitterness or trust issues (fear)?

DAY 6 | John 1:15

(John testified concerning him and exclaimed, “This was the one of whom I said, ‘The one coming after me ranks ahead of me, because he existed before me.’ ”) | John 1:15 CSB

 

We were not created to live for ourselves, but to live for something bigger than ourselves. More than principles, philosophies, practices, or pleasures, we were meant to live for a Person. We were meant to be reconciled to the eternal uncreated Creator.

You can testify about Jesus by pointing people to His grace. Paul, who wrote the letter of 1 Corinthians says, “But by the grace of God I am what I am...” Because you are unconditionally accepted by God, you don't have to minimize your failures or exaggerate your successes. Have the courage to be vulnerable. In your failures, point people to God's grace. In your successes, point people to God's grace. Either way, give God all the glory.

The rest of the world already offers good advice, but what sets Jesus apart is that He brings good news. Let your life bring people good news more than good advice. Let your life be a place where people see hope for their own lives.

 

REFLECTION

1. Where can you be tempted to minimize your failures?

2. Where can you be tempted to exaggerate your successes?

3. How can the unconditional love of God give you the courage to become more transparent about your failures and successes?