Among the New Testament books, John's Gospel is uniquely rich with Jesus' words and deeds-and it has for centuries drawn seekers and the faithful alike to an intimate understanding of his life and the power of his resurrection. Here is a personal resource specially crafted to help readers not only explore this beloved Bible book as never before, but to actually experience it. Filled with marvelous word studies, poignant historical backgrounds, insightful commentary and guided intimate prayers, Praying the Gospel of John invites readers inside its mysteries and promises, motivating them to really know Jesus in a way that will unleash the power of their faith.
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About the Author
Dr. Brett Burleson has been in full-time pastoral ministry for nearly 20 years in Florida, New York and now back home in Mobile, Alabama, as lead pastor of Dayspring Baptist Church. Burleson holds degrees from Southwestern and Southern Seminaries, and has served as an adjunct professor of hermeneutics and biblical studies.
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Praying the Gospel of John
An Illuminating Experience In The Word
By David Foster, Brett Burleson
WORTHY PUBLISHINGCopyright © 2012 Worthy Media, Inc.
All rights reserved.
THE LIGHT ALWAYS WINS!
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."
* * *
John was the youngest of the disciples and outlived them all. Some details of his life can be assembled by looking at Scripture: His father was named Zebedee. John was successful enough in his fishing enterprise with his brother James in Capernaum to employ hired servants (Mark 1:19–20). He knew the high priest (John 18:15–16). He was convinced by John the Baptist's testimony (John 1:35–40) and became a disciple of Jesus, eventually leaving his fishing business and following Him.
Though he was the youngest apostle, John's writings were completed last. He had stored up a lifetime of proven conviction that Jesus is the Light of the World who can be, and must be, believed and trusted. From his home in Ephesus, some fifty years removed from Jesus' ascension, John speaks in his gospel as a trusted voice giving a clarion call to embrace the full, unmitigated deity of Jesus.
After waiting so long to speak, John's first words in his gospel are of supreme importance. If you're the apostle John, where do you begin to pen words that do justice to your Savior and Lord, Jesus?
John's first words could have been borrowed from the first words of Genesis. The first words of the Bible declare, "In the beginning God created" (Genesis 1:1). Here John takes us further by telling us that "the Word," Jesus, was with God in the beginning. In Genesis, God says, "Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness" (Genesis 1:26). This is called the divine plural, where God is revealed as one in essence but three in persons. God is one in community with unity and diversity.
Jesus is not an afterthought or an "updated version." He's not a subdeity with lesser authority. Jesus is not an impostor, for He was in the beginning with God and He was God. In order to emphasize the unity and diversity of the Godhead, John bursts out of the blocks with a bold shout: Our God is a forever God! He created the logic and light that keeps our globe spinning! Jesus was there, too, holding it all together! As the old hymn says, "This is my Father's world. O let me ne'er forget that though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet." Yes, we can trust the God who cannot be deterred or defeated.
But into God's marvelous creation, darkness seeks to overtake the light. The aged John, moved by the Holy Spirit, speaks as one with good news to tell. Jesus is not only the God of creation, but He is also the logic and reason that holds it all together. God has come, in Jesus, to redeem His creation from its plunge into darkness. Jesus is our prophet, priest, and king who has the right and power to vanquish the foe.
Jesus is the bright flame of God's love for His fallen creation. Since He made all things (John 1:3), He has the right to remake them as our Redeemer. Jesus has the power to bring something out of nothing. He is and was from eternity past. There has never been a day when Jesus didn't exist. And His creative light is the light that is remaking all things today and restoring all things to God's original design in the future.
Jesus, the Light of the World, is stronger than the darkness. His light prevails over it. The darkness knows no strategy that can sneak up on the light or confuse, confound, or extinguish the light. Light always wins. Since Jesus cannot be overcome or His light be extinguished from the world, those who are hidden by faith in Him are counted as overcomers as well!
John focuses on the truth of the deity of Jesus. He recounts and emphasizes this bedrock foundation through the things Jesus said, even more than the things He did. His gospel beautifully paves the path to the core of Christian belief.
* * *
In what ways do you find it significant that the opening verses of Genesis 1 and John 1 are written in such similar fashion?
What does it mean to you that Jesus is the logic and light holding together everything in your life today?
* * *
Dear Father of light in whom there is no night, this is the day You have made. I receive it with rejoicing and I ask You to guide my steps by Your light. You are my beginning and I praise You that I will never end, because You created my never-ending soul. I know You had something in mind when You created me and put Your light inside of me—the Holy Spirit, my constant companion, tells me it's so.
I submit all of me to You, my Creator. Let me be a light-bearer to a dark and dreary world. May I be a part of Your redemptive light that shines best in dark places. May I never lose confidence in You, my Creator, my Redeemer, and my reason to shine.CHAPTER 2
THE COST OF ADMISSION IS ADMISSION
"He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God."
* * *
Where was the welcoming committee when King Jesus came on the scene? It wasn't like the prophets had been silent about the circumstances of His arrival (Isaiah 42). He wasn't trying to start a new religious movement. He didn't sound or act like one of the other power-hungry egomaniacs roaming the landscape in the first century.
Jesus was the creation's Creator come to claim His property. After thousands of years of waiting, hope had arrived and the fulfillment of God's promise to Abraham was at hand (Genesis 17). This was the Messiah, the God-man come down to make His dwelling among His people. Finally God had shown up and all things would be made right—or would they?
How could it be that Jesus' own creation either failed or refused to recognize Him? How insulting that the very world He held together (Colossians 1:16) failed to recognize and acknowledge Him. The power behind their very existence stood right in front of them, a humble servant ready to pay their ransom.
Even more tragic was that the Jews and their religious leaders stood deaf and mute in the presence of the Messiah they had prayed and pleaded for God to send. Not only did the Jews, the chosen people (Matthew 15:24), fail to receive their Messiah; but in a wider sense the whole world joined in the rebellion of the created over its Creator. There could be no sadder story told of advantage squandered and privilege wasted.
How did Jesus respond to this scandal? He turned to the Gentiles, the outsiders of the faith, and gave them the right to become what they could have never hoped for on their own—children of God. Yes, Jesus gave them both the power and authority to have a legitimate standing in God's new kingdom.
Jesus didn't come to make us a better class of sinners. He came to make us true children of God in the spiritual sense. For us mere mortals, Jesus offers full regeneration (John 3:3). But this miracle is not accomplished by works or even family history. It is achieved by believing and receiving, which is to say, trusting that Jesus is who He says He is and that He can do what He says He can do.
John uses the word "believe" almost one hundred times in his gospel. To repeat an idea this many times means that it is important. Believing is the key that unlocks the mystery of our new birth in Christ. When you believe who Jesus is and you receive into your heart what Christ has done, the resulting transformation is supernatural. This new life is not created by the union of a man to a woman but by the heart of God in Christ causing the dead heart in man to bring about a new life that can never die.
If you're ever tempted to feel like a nobody, read and remember that you are a child of God not by birth but by special invitation. God made a decision in a moment in time that you are valuable enough to Him to be invited into His covenant life!
Those who should've welcomed Jesus, worshipped Jesus, and offered Him to the world as the promised Messiah, judged Him a phony. So what did God do when Israel rejected their own Messiah? Did He throw a fit? Did He retract His promises? No. He simply turned to the outsiders—the Gentiles. To the "nobodies," He gave the special invitation that then gave them the right, the privilege, the place of highest honor: to be called a King's kid.
We cannot claim class or privilege. Our choice position was not earned and is not deserved, but it is to be received with contagious joy and great gratitude.
* * *
When did you trust Jesus to be the Messiah and Lord of your life?
What are your rights, privileges, and responsibilities as a child of God?
* * *
Dear Father, thank You for choosing me, for loving me with Your generous and gracious heart. Thank You for the opportunity to stand in a place of privilege and be called a child of God. Today, when I am tempted to feel like I am king of the world, remind me who's in charge. May arrogance and pride find no footing in my soul!
Help me, too, when I'm tempted in the next minute to feel like I am a "nobody" to remember that Your love for me and Your choice of me makes me a "somebody." May I find my rest in You. Remind me that I have been granted the greatest privilege any human being can be given—to be adopted into and included in Your family.CHAPTER 3
THE CORE CLAIM OF CHRISTIANITY
"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, 'This is the one I spoke about when I said, "He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me."') Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ."
* * *
Jesus comes from God? How dare John say such a thing! Is he delusional or is he just a reckless heretic? Was John using hyperbole or did he intend for us to take his words literally? Has God, the one and only God, torn the veil between heaven and earth to become one of His own creation? Even if it could happen, why would God go to such extremes?
John wants us to believe that God took on "flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood" (1:14 MSG). Some scholars interpret the phrase "made his dwelling" to mean that Jesus "pitched his tent." Our infinite Creator God has "humbled himself" (Philippians 2:8) to become as one of His frail, limited human creatures. What a scandal of love and sacrifice. Yet as outrageous as John's words were at the time, they must have had a familiar ring to them.
This wasn't the first time God had pitched His tent among the people of Israel. Surely the Jews would remember the stories their ancestors told of the days when God's shekinah glory would dwell in another tent they called the tabernacle. It was a temporary dwelling for God's glory, much as Jesus' earthly body was a temporary dwelling place for Him.
John masterfully anchors his incarnation claim in Jewish history by linking Jesus to Moses. He further bolsters his case by inserting John the Baptist's own assertion that this Jesus is the one whom he himself was sent to proclaim as Messiah. Jesus has come to fulfill what Moses started. So what is Moses best known for among the Jews? He was the human instrument God used to give the Law, the Ten Commandments—those ten undoable moral "musts" that no one has been able to keep from then until now.
Here John makes yet another radical claim that when God gave the Law, He was giving us grace! The Law is the verbal expression of the true nature of our Creator and remains the true standard by which all of mankind will receive justice.
The grace of the Law was the promise of the Messiah who would provide the grace essential for bridging the gap between the demands of God's truth and the failure of mankind to measure up.
Into a world already sustained by God's mercy and grace comes the One who adds a better kind of grace. Grace is a word used by Paul in abundance, but John uses the word sparingly. Only here does it appear in his gospel. Salvation comes through Jesus, the God-man. And that salvation is provided by grace—God's unearned, unmerited love and favor. All people, from all time, are only made right with God through Christ alone, by grace alone. This formula became the motto of the Protestant Reformation: Solus Christus. Sola gratia.
Simply put, Moses got the ball rolling with the giving of the Law, and then Jesus completed God's plan to rescue mankind as the long-awaited Messiah who by His incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection accomplished God's purposes. From the beginning, God promised to redeem, reconcile, and restore all things that have gone so terribly wrong to His original intent. Not only would creation be made right again, but so would all who come to God through the Messiah-Savior Jesus.
Jesus, being fully God and at the same time fully man, offers us a grace that is only possible because He became one of us. Because He lived, died, and was resurrected, we have a better kind of grace. Jesus was and is the merciful, majestic marriage of both truth and grace. His grace is not just a saving grace, but it is a living grace and a dying grace. That's why God could tell Paul that His grace is sufficient for every conceivable circumstance (2 Corinthians 12:9). This is the good news of Christianity: people are justified by grace, not by works.
Excerpted from Praying the Gospel of John by David Foster, Brett Burleson. Copyright © 2012 Worthy Media, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of WORTHY PUBLISHING.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Experience 1: The Light Always Wins!,
Experience 2: The Cost of Admission Is Admission,
Experience 3: The Core Claim of Christianity,
Experience 4: Finally, Someone Worth Following,
Experience 5: Celebrating the Miracle in the Mundane,
Experience 6: A Beautiful Anger against Profane Profits,
Experience 7: More Than a Sin Management Program,
Experience 8: The Bible in a Verse, the Cure in a Sentence,
Experience 9: Rushing to the Back of the Line,
Experience 10: Do You Want an Argument or a Solution?,
Experience 11: Trust Me, Test Me, Take Me at My Word,
Experience 12: Missing the Meaning,
Experience 13: Food for Free Forever,
Experience 14: Never Going to Let You Go,
Experience 15: We Follow the Guy Who Is God,
Experience 16: Truth Always Trumps Tradition,
Experience 17: The Comforter Is on His Way,
Experience 18: Getting Caught in Your Own Trap,
Experience 19: Free Your Soul and the Rest Will Follow,
Experience 20: Developing a Longer Look-Ability,
Experience 21: How Big Is Your God Box?,
Experience 22: Abundance Becomes You,
Experience 23: This Shepherd Won't Run,
Experience 24: Here's Your Ironclad Guarantee,
Experience 25: It's Not the End; It's the Beginning,
Experience 26: Not Dying Is Now an Option,
Experience 27: What Not to Wear at a Party,
Experience 28: Finding What We're Looking For,
Experience 29: Smelling the Stench through the Perfume,
Experience 30: Convinced by Life,
Experience 31: Sensing That God Is Here,
Experience 32: Something Bigger Than Me,
Experience 33: Looking for Light,
Experience 34: Strong Enough to Look Weak,
Experience 35: When Something Old Is Something New,
Experience 36: Wherever He Leads I'll Go,
Experience 37: Healing the Orphan Wound,
Experience 38: Believing to Become to Follow,
Experience 39: The Right Root and the Right Fruit,
Experience 40: Tough Love,
Experience 41: Using Trouble As a Trigger,
Experience 42: The Glorious Nature of Finishing,
Experience 43: What Jesus Wants Enough to Pray For,
Experience 44: Some Like It Hot; Some Like It Cold,
Experience 45: When Truth Is Right in Front of You,
Experience 46: When Losing Control Is a Good Thing,
Experience 47: The Good, the Bad, and the Perfect,
Experience 48: The Bold and the Beautiful,
Experience 49: Running the Right Way,
Experience 50: Your Mission, Should You Choose to Accept It,
Experience 51: The Promise in an Empty Net,
Experience 52: Dawn of a New Day,