Tag Archives: salvation

Bible Overview Series: John

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John by Joseph Novak

John: Because we could not find the way to God, he used a spear to open a door in his side, and said, “Look, I am the way!”

(Ben Myers’ #CanonFodder Summary)


Jeffrey Kranz’s Overview of John

John is the story of Jesus: God who came down to save the world. This book was written by a disciple whom Jesus loved—the Church traditionally attributes it to John.

John is the fourth and last Gospel (an account of Jesus’ life and ministry) in the new Testament. John focuses on the deity of Christ more so than the other four: we see Jesus as the Word of God, the Son of God, and God Himself. Jesus is a great miracle worker, an omniscient teacher, a compassionate provider, and a faithful friend.

John may be the final Gospel, but this narrative begins far, far earlier than the other three. While Mark begins with Jesus’ adult ministry, and Matthew and Luke begin with His physical birth, John opens with the beginning of all creation: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

Jesus presents Himself as God incarnate throughout the Gospel of John, often using the phrase “I am” (the memorial name of God revealed in Exodus). John records several “I am” statements from Jesus throughout this book:

  • “I am the bread of life” (Jn 6:35, 41, 48, 51)
  • “I am from [God], and He sent Me” (Jn 7:29)
  • “I am the Light of the world” (Jn 8:12; 9:5)
  • “I am [God]” (Jn 8:58)
  • “I am the door” (Jn 10:7, 9)
  • “I am the good shepherd” (Jn 10:11, 14)
  • “I am the Son of God” (Jn 10:36)
  • “I am the resurrection and the life” (Jn 11:25)
  • “I am the way and the truth and the life” (Jn 14:6)
  • “I am the vine” (Jn 15:1, 5)

The Gospel of John makes a strong argument for Jesus as the exclusive savior, and the only way to know God (Jn 1:18; 14:6). Jesus is greater than the Jewish heroes Moses and Abraham (Jn 1:17; 8:58); Jesus Christ is God in the flesh, and John challenges us to believe in Him.

Theme verse of John

“Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” (Jn 20:30–31)

John’s role in the Bible

In addition to this Gospel, John wrote three New Testament letters and possibly the prophetic book of Revelation. He was a leader in the early church, and he probably wrote his documents after most of the other New Testament books were already written.

The miracles recorded in John’s gospel are written that the reader would believe in Jesus and find life in His name (Jn 20:30–31). Therefore, much of John’s material directly states who Jesus is, not just what He does or says.

Unlike Luke, John does not aim to chronicle the whole life of Christ—in fact, John doesn’t think the world could contain such a document (Jn 21:25). Instead, John presents a few signs and teachings that should compel us to believe in Jesus.

Quick outline of John

  1. Beginnings (Jn 1)
  2. Signs that Jesus is the Christ and Son of God (Jn 2:1–11:46)
    • Turning water to wine (Jn 2)
    • Healing the nobleman’s son (Jn 4:46–54)
    • Healing the sick man at the pool of Bethesda (Jn 5)
    • Feeding 5,000 (Jn 6:1–14)
    • Walking on water (Jn 6:15–21)
    • Healing the blind man (Jn 9)
    • Raising Lazarus from the dead (Jn 11)
  3. Jesus’ final week and teachings (Jn 11:47–17:26)
  4. Jesus’ betrayal, trial, and death (Jn 18–19)
  5. Jesus’ resurrection and encouragement to the disciples (Jn 20–21)

 

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Bible Overview Series: Exodus

Exodus2

Exodus by Joseph Novak

 

Barefoot on the hot sand, he stares into the flame and haggles with a god whose name he cannot say.

(Ben Myers’ #CanonFodder Summary)

 


Jeffrey Kranz’s Overview of Exodus

The book of Exodus is the story of God rescuing the children of Israel from Egypt and making them His people. Exodus is the second book of the Pentateuch (the five books of Moses), and it’s where we find the stories of the Ten Plagues, the first Passover, the parting of the Red Sea, and the Ten Commandments.

Exodus picks up where Genesis leaves off: the young nation of Israel is in Egypt (they were invited by Joseph, the one with the famous coat). A new Pharaoh notices the Israelites multiplying, and enslaves them. Afraid of an uprising, he orders that all Hebrew sons should be cast into the Nile at birth. But one son escapes this decree.

Moses is hidden in a basket and set afloat in the Nile—where Pharaoh’s daughter discovers him. Moses is grows up as her son. When an adult Moses sees an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, he kills the Egyptian and leaves the country to escape capital punishment.

Forty years later, God appears to Moses as a burning bush and sends him to deliver Israel from the hand of Pharaoh. Moses, with the help of his brother Aaron, confronts Pharaoh on God’s behalf: “Let My people go” (Ex 5:1). Pharaoh refuses, and so God sends 10 plagues upon the Egyptians:

  1. Water turns to blood.
  2. Swarms of frogs cover the land.
  3. Gnats infest the land.
  4. Swarms of flies fill the air.
  5. Egyptian cattle die.
  6. Boils break out on Egyptians.
  7. Hail and fire rain down.
  8. Locusts consume Egyptian crops.
  9. Darkness covers the land.
  10. Every firstborn dies.

When the last plague kills Pharaoh’s son, he finally allows Israel to leave.

The sons of Israel leave Egypt and make their way to Mount Sinai, where God gives His laws to Moses. God makes a covenant with the nation of Israel and the generations to come: because He rescued them from Egypt, Israel is to observe His rules. God speaks the Ten Commandments directly to the whole nation of Israel, and He relays specific ordinances to Moses on the mountain.

God does not stop with a list of rules, however. He gives Moses instructions for a tabernacle, a special tent of worship.

The book of Exodus ends with the glory of the LORD filling the tabernacle: God is now dwelling among His chosen people, Israel. The book of Leviticus goes on to document the laws God gives His people at Mount Sinai.

Theme verse of Exodus

“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” (Ex 20:2)

Exodus’s role in the Bible

Exodus is a starburst of Old and New Testament theology. God is faithful, and keeps His promise to Abraham (Gn 15:13–21) by judging the Egyptians and liberating Israel. The Lord also gives Israel the first iteration of the Law, and begins to dwell among His people in the tabernacle. God’s liberation of Israel from slavery foreshadows His work to redeem the nations (Ro 6:17–18), just as His judgment on His people serves as an example for Christians now (1 Co 10:6–13). Exodus is also where God reveals His memorial name: YHWH, or LORD (Ex 3:146:3).

Quick outline of Exodus

 

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Supremacy

Colossians 1:15–20
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

“[Jesus] is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.” 

As a Christian, loving Jesus heart, soul, mind and strength is your highest priority.  In every dimension of your life, he is to have supremacy.  That means he is to be the Lord and Master over your life.  You are not your own, you were bought with a price (1 Cor. 6:19-20).  You now live for Jesus.

This command to give Jesus supreme authority in one’s life sounds incredibly threatening at first.  However, one soon discovers subjugation to Jesus’ kingship is neither confining nor oppressive. Our lives cohere and gain clarity of purpose only when obedience to Jesus’ graceful, loving authority become one’s highest value, desire, and pursuit.

“All things were created by him and for him…and in him all things hold together. ”

When supremacy is given to ourselves and our empires, confinement and oppression inevitably set in, because we are living against the grain of reality as contructed by Jesus himself.  However, when Christ and his kingdom are given supremacy in our lives, we experience a counter-intuitive liberation; a propulsion into a rich and empowered life with God that is experienced as exciting, enlivening, and spacious.

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Third Week of Advent: Saturday, December 21st

Luke 3:1–6

1 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene— 2 during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the desert. 3 He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 4 As is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet: “A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. 5 Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. 6 And all mankind will see God’s salvation.’ ”

I’m continually surprised by Christians I meet who live their lives as if sincere and genuine repentance doesn’t need to be a trademark of their lifestyles.  It seems a lot of us are under the assumption that we should “try” to do our best to follow Jesus, but in the end, we’ve got our lives to live.  I guess we assume that God will do what God will do, and that since we’re saved, we can ease off on the gas pedal of discipleship.

And then we wonder why our experience of God and the Christian faith is so shallow and uninspired.

While it’s true that God’s love for us isn’t dependent on our faithfulness to Him, it is true that the depth and quality of our lives is significantly connected to how seriously we take living out the way of Jesus.

That’s why John is sent ahead of Jesus.  John’s message is that repentance is the door into the life God is opening up to us.  We are not saved by “good deeds,” (Ephesians 2:8-9) but we cannot be saved if we don’t repent (“turn away”) from lives where our values and happiness are central.

Martin Luther wrote that, “All of life is repentance.”  To grow as a Christian means an almost continual practice of redirecting one’s energy away from habits that glorify ourselves and prioritize our agendas, to habits that glorify God and make His Kingdom the central priority.

This Advent, where do you sense God’s call to repent and change direction in your life?

 

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Third Week of Advent: Wednesday, December 18th

John 3:16–21

16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”

Jesus came not to condemn us, but to offer us rescue.  Rescue from the power of sin (a life of hell here and now).  Rescue from the penalty of sin (i.e. an eternity of hell there and later).  At the moment we genuinely surrender our lives to him, Jesus saves us out of our own spiritual dead-ends.  Jesus saves us into a new family, a new hope, a new future, a new covenant.

But only if we yield to him.  Completely.

Many people simply won’t give over authority in their lives to a new king.  They love darkness instead of light.  Or more precisely, they love their darkness rather than Jesus’ light.   “Better to rule in hell than serve in heaven” John Milton’s Satan declared in Paradise Lost.

What a tragedy that so many people, including many Christians, resist a radical discipleship to Jesus because there are elements of this world they aren’t willing to give up.

“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” CS Lewis, The Weight of Glory

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Third Week of Advent: Sunday, December 15th

Isaiah 60:1–3

60 “Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.
2 See, darkness covers the earth
and thick darkness is over the peoples,
but the Lord rises upon you
and his glory appears over you.
3 Nations will come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your dawn.

The hope of Israel before the coming of Jesus the Messiah was rooted in the conviction that God’s faithfulness to His covenants made with Abraham and his descendants (i.e. Israel–the people of God) could not be shaken or placed in jeopardy.  Despite periods of “thick darkness,” the Lord would rise and His glory would set things right: not just for Israel, but for the entire fallen world.

That was a longing that every Israelite felt deep in their bones.  Their love and obedience to God was connected to this shared longing for restoration.  The forces of darkness, evil, and death were realities that consistently confronted Israel throughout its history.  And yet Israel clung to the prophets’ voice that dared to proclaim that darkness, evil, and death would not be the end of their story.

Who in your life needs to hear that good news?  How could you be a gentle, humble witness to fact that Jesus’ glory has appeared, and He has come to invite those living in thick darkness into an entirely new life of hope, peace, and joy?

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First Week of Advent: Friday, December 6th

14 “ ‘The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will fulfill the gracious promise I made to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah. 15 “ ‘In those days and at that time I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line; he will do what is just and right in the land. 16 In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. This is the name by which it will be called: The Lord Our Righteousness.’  Jeremiah 33:14-16

Written to a people in the midst of exile and heartbreak, Jeremiah’s words speak powerfully into Israel’s deepest fears (alienation from God and the land He gave them) and into Israel’s deepest longing (restoration with God a return to the land).  James E. Smith, in his commentary on the book of Jeremiah, writes:

The glorious future which God promised to his people was wrapped up in the appearance of a scion from the house of David. God repeated the promise of 23:5 that he would “cause a righteous branch of David to spring up.” The term “righteous” points to the character of the coming Ruler; the term “branch” (lit., sprout) to his humble origins. This one would “execute justice and righteousness on the earth,” i.e., he would be the ideal Ruler. He would be a savior to his people. The city, saved by his power and grace, would wear a name which would bear testimony to her trust in God: “Yahweh is Our Righteousness.” That which would make possible the salvation and protection of the people was not their own righteousness but that of God himself (33:15f.).

Advent is a time to remember that God’s is eager to address our deepest fears and hopes head-on.  He has a track-record of bringing salvation and shalom to those who turn to Him.  And the good news is that God’s salvation, peace, and protection is not offered to us because of how moral or religious we are, because because of His love and goodness.

“8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9

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