“In Him Was Life; And that Life was the Light of Men” But, Was It Really?

Of the baby born in Bethlehem, John said, “In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.” (John 1:4-5, NIV) Men have been misunderstanding Jesus since the time he was an infant. Apparently it is really easy to not understand Jesus… and one of the easiest ways to do that is to assume you already know, and to avoid really looking at him.

I mean, all of us know something about Jesus. Perhaps because you’ve heard a parable or two, you’ve never taken the time to look at his entire life. (But wait, there’s more!”) People often look at small snapshots of Jesus without ever watching the whole movie. (Or, without reading the whole book.)

See the Whole Picture

Some folks assume that Jesus must be like people who say they know him, and that can be like looking at a diamond through a broken microscope. The spectrum of behavior from folks who say they follow Jesus can be both incredibly varied and incredibly misleading. Jesus Followers (or those who merely claim to follow him) range from misguided religious nuts to sincere believers who make mistakes, still live in the flesh, and yes, still commit sins… It’s very easy, if you are skeptical, to look at the Church—the imperfect, stumbling, bumbling followers of Christ– and decide Jesus is not for you.

Or it’s easy to avoid looking at him closely because you think he is like “nominal” Christians, who may not actually be connected to him at all. So many people say, “Yeah, I know about Jesus, I know about his teachings”, when all they have done is given a cursory glance at what he said, or listened to a secondhand account (yeah, like this one) of what he said.

Factual and Actual

But I would say to you and to anyone who encounters the actual Jesus of the Bible, the rabbi who gave the Sermon on the Mount, the teacher who confounded the Pharisees, or the healer who healed, the same man whose birthday we celebrate every year at Christmas,  that John’s description of the Word is accurate and applicable. Use the “It’s a Wonderful Life” template, and let’s pretend Jesus had never been born… How different would the world be today? How much has his teaching and his sacrifice influenced the affairs of men?

life

It certainly influenced John. After 3 years of walking daily with Jesus, of watching him heal and listening to him teach, and after having meals and walking along the road and going to parties with him, he understood who Jesus was, and he captured it perfectly here in his introduction: “In him was life.” To Jairus’ daughter in Luke 8, Jesus was life. When Mary questioned him just after Lazarus died, he said, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.” To Lazarus in John 11, Jesus was life; and to the thief on the cross beside him in Luke 23, Jesus was life. To Stephen in Acts 7, even as he fell beneath the stones, Jesus was life. Saul of Tarsus, better known as the Apostle Paul, said, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Phil 1:21)

Ripples on the Pond

To me, in the 20th century as an insecure teenager, Jesus was life. As an adult who could be living in Pottersville instead of Bedford Falls, Jesus is life. The life of a Jewish Rabbi from over 2,000 years ago has reached out to me. His influence is undeniable, not because I’m so good but because without him my life would have been a train wreck. Here’s the Question you should be asking yourself: have you REALLY investigated Jesus of Nazareth? Do you know what he taught, have you truly looked at what he was about? John says that “in him was life, and that life was the light of men.”

I would suggest that there is indeed darkness in this world, and that the darkness not only doesn’t understand Jesus, it doesn’t want anyone else to understand him either. To those who understand Jesus and discover life in the Word, John promises illumination in the darkness. He promises the ability to see new things, to grow, to stretch outward and upward to life-giving rays of hope! I hope you investigate. I hope you understand. You know who said, “I am come that they might have life, and have it more abundantly”? Yep. But don’t take MY word for it. You can read it all yourself. And you should.

Would You Say This About Your BFF?

He walked with Jesus every day. John talked with him along the way;
He heard what Jesus had to say. He ate with him. John watched him pray.
He saw the things that no one sees, saw him confound the Pharisees!
He heard him preach and saw him heal, and decided Jesus was for real.
Then, finally, he wrote a book. It’s short. Go read it, take a look–
A book I heartily commend, John’s own account of his best friend:
He wrote this down, and it’s worth saying again:
“In Him was life. He was the Light of Men.”

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Victory Isn’t the Only Thing That Makes You Victorious

This amazing story in Daniel illustrates vividly that temporal outcomes are not everything. It’s one of those made-for-VBS stories that resonates with courage and faith. Three of Daniel’s friends were condemned to death, and as they surveyed the situation, they declared that you can be Victorious, Whether in Victory or Defeat…

victorious

“Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (Daniel 3:16-18, NIV).

The Ultimate Test

Daniel’s three friends were put to the test. Since they refused to bow down to a golden idol, the king decreed that they were going to be thrown into a fiery furnace. This was their response, and it is the essence of true faith: “We believe God will deliver us, and we’ll stake our lives on Him, but even if he doesn’t deliver us from the fire, it’s ok. We still won’t bow down to any idol or give our worship to anyone less than God.”

I think their response is fascinating because it provides the key to living a victorious life. We often want our faith validated by the results we desire. If I ask for protection, but something bad still happens, then God failed to be victorious! He didn’t do what I asked Him to do!

Perhaps then, I might reason, God is not worthy of my faith. If I ask for healing, and don’t get it, then I could say He failed to provide a miracle. I could see it as God’s failure to take care of me, and be angry because I assume that I know more about appropriate outcomes than He does. If I had cancer, and went into remission, is that a miracle? If it comes back, is that God’s fault?

Just what is it that makes me victorious? Perhaps the miracle is God’s abiding presence, or peace within the valley of the shadow itself… Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego staked their lives on God; either He would deliver them from the fire, or He would deliver them by letting them be consumed in the fire. It certainly looks easy on paper, removed from the consequences, but to these men in that moment it was all or nothing, wasn’t it?

Victory Through Defeat?

Either outcome was the Lord’s, and their faith was justified regardless of circumstances. They were willing to stake their lives on their faith, and were confident that they would proceed in victory however things turned out. If they lived, they lived BY faith. If they died, they would die IN faith. The Apostle Paul said, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21) He also said, “I have learned, in whatever state I am, to be content.” (Philippians 4:11)

victorious contentment

Next time we pray for a selfish outcome, perhaps instead we should ask God for the courage to believe him regardless of what the outcome might be. Find that place in your heart and you will be victorious in every circumstance. I think you’ll find true worship as well.

Victory in Defeat

Does victory only happen when we triumph, or are glorious?
Or should we redefine just what it means to be victorious?
The God we serve can save us from the devil’s fiery furnace,
But even if He doesn’t, and our circumstances burn us,
We can find His peace, and still be comforted by this:
We are victorious not by winning, but because we’re HIS.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Danger Held No Fear For Him: But Should We Really Follow Paul’s Example?

The apostle Paul went to great lengths to spread Christ’s message, and he willingly faced all kinds of danger. He apparently took Jesus quite literally when the Master called Paul to follow Him. Maybe he was so zealous because he had tried to wipe out this new movement about following Jesus; maybe he was just a passionate guy. But he served Christ with all of his heart, regardless of personal discomfort or danger.

Foolishness Observed

In spite of that, he was criticized by others, picked at by wanna-be church leaders, and stabbed in the back by jealous contemporaries. In his second letter to the Corinthians, he addressed some of the folks who boasted about all they had done, casting aspersions that Paul was not as committed as people said he was. Since they had called him a fool, he said in 2 Corinthians 11:16: “Let no one take me for a fool. But if you do, then tolerate me just as you would a fool, so that I may do a little boasting…”

He went on to remind them of his qualifications:
“Are they servants of Christ? (You must think I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more; I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move.

danger

Paul Understood Danger

I have been in danger from rivers, from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; and I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked…” (2 Corinthians 11:23-27, NIV)

This was Paul’s response to critics who tried to disparage his ministry. As you look at it, just make a note of each of the dangers, risks, hardships, and life-threatening situations he endured to share the Gospel. It’s quite a resume. Five beatings of thirty-nine lashes. Three beatings with rods. One very personal encounter with angry stones. Three shipwrecks. And those are just the highlights! He doesn’t even get to his imprisonments and martyrdom…

Total Commitment

To Paul, following Christ was an “all in” proposition. (After all, he was the one who said, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain!”) You really should read that list again to let it sink in. Now say Philippians 1:21 again and personalize it: “for ME, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Most of us see commitment far too casually. We are like the chicken who suggests to the pig that we should give the farmer a ham and egg breakfast. The pig puts things in perspective: “Look, that’s a great idea, but it has some consequences. For you, it’s INVOLVEMENT. But for me, its TOTAL COMMITMENT.” Paul was totally committed.

In today’s world, we get bent out of shape if the sermon goes 20 minutes over, and people (on average) spend about NINE minutes a day being involved in their spiritual lives (including church!). Yep, about an hour a week. When I look at Paul’s list, I am struck by both the hardship he was willing to endure and the passion he brought to sharing the message of the gospel. To Paul, things like hunger and thirst were just minor inconveniences compared to the glory of telling the good news. Kinda makes you feel a little bad about saying you don’t have time to be a greeter, doesn’t it?

I, Paul

I have lived a joyful life! I’ve learned to be content.
Just think of all I saw, and all the places that I went!
I went to Macedonia, and traveled far from home;
We sailed upon the open sea! I got to go to Rome!
Yes there have been some hardships that occurred along the way,
Like when our ship went down, and I went swimming for a day.
And yes I was arrested, and got whipped a time or five–
And that time I was stoned, I’m still amazed I stayed alive!

But even though I’ve had some inconvenience and some pain:
I know for me to Live is Christ, for me to die is gain!
But looking back now, I can say I’ve served Him from the start:
And I would challenge you, my friend, to serve with all your heart.
When you are looking back on life, with all the good and bad,
I hope that you can say with me, “I gave it all I had!”

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread