John 16:23-33: In Jesus’ Name I Pray….

Read: John 16:23-33

Jesus in a short passage tells the disciples to ask for anything in his name and it shall be given to them. Jesus says this is to make their joy complete and he is able to because he is of the Father. It would seem that Jesus is telling the disciples that their lives were going to be easy, filled with abundance beyond measure because they could have anything they ask for in Jesus name, but Jesus ends this by telling them that they will have trouble in the world. Earlier, Jesus told them that they would be persecuted for his name sake (John 15:18-27). Persecution is almost a certain guarantee (2 Timothy 2:13). Knowing this, it would seem that asking for something in Jesus’ name does not mean that God is a cosmic genie that wants one to have all the good things the world has to offer, but something else.

Jesus intersperses comments about speaking in figures of speech to the disciples too. Jesus had used numerous figures of speech throughout his ministry to help explain the things of God to many different people. John records many of these saying that one must be “born again”, Jesus is the road, the sheep door, the bread of life, living water, among other things such as this. Jesus says that he will discontinue the use of figures of speech and speak straight about the Father. This way they will know directly about the Father and will be able to ask the Father for themselves rather that Jesus asking for them. In this manner, Jesus connects knowing the Father directly with asking things of the Father.

Asking things of the Father in Jesus name then entails asking for it in accordance with how Jesus lived with the Father and what taught about the Father. This, therefore, requires knowledge about what is consistent with Jesus’ teachings. Christians can know the things of Jesus by listening to the Holy Spirit, whose role is to remind and teach Christians of the things that Jesus taught (John 14:26, John 16:3). The early Christians faithfully preserved teachings of Jesus and these have been handed down to Christians today in the form of the Bible (2 Timothy 3:14-17, Romans 15:4, 2 Peter 1:19-21). A few things the Bible teaches that one can are for are asking for his kingdom to come, his will, for provisions for the day, for forgiveness (Matthew 6:9-13) and wisdom (James 1:5). Paul encourages Christians to make one’s anxieties known to God (Philippians 4:6). And one should always offer thanks in everything (1 Thessalonians 5:18). When praying, these one should be mindful of these things, and the Spirit will also prompt one to pray in accordance to these things too. And in this manner, when one says “In Jesus’ name I pray” and one can pray and mean it. And because Jesus has overcome the world, believers need not fear the world’s persecution either because of the confidence of what has been done and what will be done in Jesus’ name!

Lord, help me to pray in Jesus’ name according to what is in Jesus’ name!

John 15:26-16:15: The Holy Spirit is a Friend

Read: John 15:26-16:15

After Jesus’ departure, Jesus cites do witnesses that will be present in the world: the disciples and the Holy Spirit. Jesus is sending the Holy Spirit into the world to be a “helper”. The Greek word for helper is “παρακλητος” and is used by John to describe the nature of the Holy Spirit. John uses this word 3 times in John (John 14:16, John 15:26, and John 16:7) and in 1 John 2:1 to describe the Spirit as a testifier of truth, one who convicts sin, and one who is an advocate with the Father, a teacher, and a revealer of truth. The word is the noun form of the Greek verb “παρακαλεω” which is translated numerous ways, including “entreat”, “beseech”, “exhort”, “comfort”, “pray”, “aid”, “help” and “plead”. All these verbs among others are how the Spirit works on the behalf of the believer.

Jesus speaks of the promise of the Spirit and the predictions of persecution to “keep them from stumbling”. In other words, they would not be caught off guard when these things happen. The ones persecuting them will believe they are also doing the work of God, but they are not because they do not know Jesus or the Father. Jesus had already spoken about the coming persecution (John 15:18-26) and here he gives some details to this, saying that they would be kicked out of the synagogue. One man was put out of the synagogue because he testified to Jesus (John 9:52) and the Pharisees were scared they would be put out of the synagogues if they believed in Jesus (John 12:42). Most certainly the disciples would be. Paul experienced this when he was teaching about Jesus (Acts 13:14-48).

Jesus had reserved the promise of the Spirit and the predictions of persecution until this point because he had been with them, but now they would appear to be on their own because Jesus was going away. Jesus says this is to their advantage though. The Spirit that proceeds from God is effectively taking on the role that Jesus had been fulfilling while he was on earth. In the same manner that Jesus spoke truth, convicted people of sin, disclosed things of the Father, and possessed of the Father. In effect, the Spirit was coequal with Jesus and as much a part of the Father as Jesus was. By implication, this would mean that the Spirit is God too. The advantage of the Spirit in their lives was not because the Spirit was better than Jesus, as they are one of the same. It was expedient for Jesus to go away because unless Jesus died and was resurrected from the dead and thus glorified, the Spirit would not come (John 7:39). What that meant for the disciples was a glorified Jesus and a living Spirit who makes his abode in the life of the disciples.

Now that Christ has been glorified and the Spirit lives in the lives of all that believe, there is a mass of testimonies of the life-changing work of Jesus in the lives of all that believe. The disciples testified to Jesus, and so can the believers too with the help of the Holy Spirit. The disciples were kicked out of synagogues, and it is certain that believers will be rejected for testifying about Jesus. But in any case, the Holy Spirit is there to serve as a comforter and an encourager in the same manner as a friend would do. Knowing that Jesus was the friend of the disciples, so the Holy Spirit is the friend of all who believe in Jesus, helping them along the way even in the hard times.

Lord, thank you for being as a friend to me through the Holy Spirit!

John 15:1-11: Abiding in Christ

Read: John 15:1-11

Jesus wants the joy of his disciples to be complete – that is perfected, lacking in nothing such that there is no wanting for more joy than they could possibly find in anything else other than Jesus. Before declaring that Jesus wants their joy to be complete though, he tells them how to make their joy complete, and it is found in nothing other than abiding in Jesus.

The night before Jesus was sent to the cross Jesus was spending time with the ones that were closest to him, the disciples. The disciples had just spent the last three years of their lives living, eating, working, and being with Jesus practically all the time. In this time, Jesus taught them numerous things and undoubtedly had grown close to all them. When Jesus tells them that he is going away to be with the Father, their hearts are grieved. To console them Jesus tells them among many things that he goes to prepare a place for them, that he will return (John 14:1-6), that he will be with them by way of the Holy Spirit (John 14:16-26), and that they would be able to do great things in his name (John 14:7-15). After he departed from that room where they were, Jesus tells them that they must abide him because he is the vine and they are the branches, and that the one who abides in the branches bears much fruit.  Interestingly, the emphasis is not on bearing fruit, rather on abiding in the vine, and it is through abiding the disciples were to bear fruit (John 15:1-17). The Bible mentions several two kinds of fruits: the harvest of souls (Matthew 13:1-23) and the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). The harvest of souls is the spiritual progeny that comes from sharing the gospel and fruit of the Spirit is moral purity that comes from living according to God’s standards. These things, however, are not the result of the efforts of man, but the works of God working in his Spirit through man. More often than not, Christians get caught so caught up in in trying to bear fruit that we forget to abide in the vine and such people wither in the same manner as a branch disconnected from the vine, which cannot bear fruit. The responsibility of Christians is to stay connected to the vine so that he may bear fruit, but the one who attempts to bear fruit without abiding in the vine will accomplish nothing.

The Greek word translated “abide” is “μείνατε” which by itself means carries the implication of remaining and dwelling. Also it is in the aorist imperative tense, meaning that the disciples were being commanded to currently and continuously abide in the Christ. Given this and the fact the Jesus repeated it over and over gives one the impression that this was really important! Abiding in Christ is a quintessential part of the life of every Christian. To continuously abide in Christ, one needs to be in a constant relationship with Christ, speaking to and hearing from hear. Jesus speaks through his word and we speak to him through prayer and we show that we love him by doing what he tells us to do in his word (John 14:15)!

Lord, help me to abide in you every day all the time!

John 14:16-26

Read: John 14:16-26

Jesus’ time on earth was only for a short while, and while he was with the disciples, he instructed them on how they should live out their lives in accordance to his commands. And now that it was time for Jesus to depart and return to the Father, he was going to ask the Father to send another permanent helper to them, namely the Holy Spirit. For the disciples, this again probably did not make a whole lot of sense either considering the that Jesus said that he and the Father were one in the same but somehow separated in location, and that Jesus was going away to be with the Father. Here, Jesus said that he is going away, yet he is coming to them and will live inside of them. He also says in the same manner as that the Father is in Jesus, so will Jesus be in them. And he says in response to Judas’ question that he who hears Jesus’ commands hear not Jesus’ commands, but the commands of the Father. These things are only possible if Jesus is the Father and the Spirit too: that is all three of them, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are God.

Jesus says that the Holy Spirit will teach them all things and remind the disciples of the things that Jesus had taught too. The work of the Holy Spirit is to provide illumination and instruction on the things of God (also in John 16:13). Jesus talks about the role of the Spirit in John 3:1-13 when he is talking to Nicodemus. The spiritual truth that Jesus was speaking into Nicodemus’ life was only comprehensible when the Spirit was there to help him understand. (Paul expounds on this more in 1 Corinthians 2:1-16.) On the same token, the Spirit also compels worshipers in truth when they worship. Jesus compares the Holy Spirit to a spring of water welling up inside of someone rather than a well, which required one to labor to get the water out of (John 4:24). The Spirit does other things too: convicts Christians of sin (John 16:8) and intercede for Christians (Romans 8:26-27).

The Holy Spirit is God living in inside – that is making his abode – in every believer. In the same manner in which Jesus was in sync with the Father, so should Christians be in sync with God too. While the oneness of Jesus, God, and the Spirit is not entirely comprehensible, there can be some understanding of it in the manner in which the Spirit indwells every believer. The same functions the Spirit played in the lives of the disciples are the same functions that the Spirit plays in the lives of believers today. The Spirit brings one into a close relationship with God, teaches and reminds believers of the truths of God, convicts the believer of sin, and makes intercessions on the part of the believer. Increasingly, as a Christian mature, he or she becomes more in tune with the Spirit in one’s life. While Christians are not God, they can enjoy a close relationship with God in a similar manner in which the members of the Godhead share with God abiding in the life of the believer!

Lord, you have never left me or forsaken me because your Spirit lives inside of me!

Help me to recognize the work of the Spirit in my life so I can be in a close relationship with you!

John 5:30-47

Read: John 5:30-47

Jesus, after laying his claims for equality with God, Jesus says that if he testifies about himself, then his testimony is not true, but if there is another witness, then the testimony is true.  In the Jewish legal system, truth was not established by a single witness, but my two (or more) witnesses (Deuteronomy 17:6, Deuteronomy 19:15). Jesus then gives 5 other witnesses to the veracity of his testimony: the Spirit, the witness of John the Baptist, the witness of works, the witness of the Father, and the witness of Scripture.

The Spirit (John 5:32):  The “another” is uncertain, but given that Jesus testifies about the Father later on, it seems that Jesus is alluding to the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the one who speaks truth into the lives of believers (John 14:17, John 15:26, John 16:13, Romans 9:1, 1 John 5:6, 1 Corinthians 2:10-16). The Spirit here is testifying about Jesus and Jesus, being one with God and the Spirit, knows that the testimony is true.

John the Baptist (John 5:33-35) John the Baptist gave a testimony about Jesus, calling him the Lamb of God and the one who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:19-36, John 3:22-36, Mark 1:1-13). Jesus calls him a “lamp” – a light bearer as described in John 1:6-8. John made the way for Jesus, pointing people to Christ so that they would not only have Jesus’ testimony, but also the witness of another.

Works (John 5:36): Jesus claims that his works were a sign from God that his testimony is true (John 7:31, John 10:24-38). John the Apostle recorded many of the signs in his gospel to that people might believe in Jesus too (John 20:30-31). The ultimate work of Jesus was his death, burial, and resurrection on which the Christian faith stands or falls (1 Corinthians 15:11-19).

The Father (John 5:37-38):  Matthew 3:17 and Matthew 17:5 speaks of a voice from heaven calling Jesus “My son”. Peter recalls the transfiguration of Jesus in 2 Peter 1:16-21. Perhaps Jesus is talking about the voice from heaven, although they may have audibly heard it, they did understand it because it was not abiding in their hearts. This is the condition described in Isaiah 6:10 where the ears are receiving sound, but is not received. The Father’s words abiding in one’s heart should compel them to believe in the Father, the one who sent Jesus.

The Scriptures (John 5:39-47): Moses wrote about Jesus (Genesis 3:15, Genesis 12:3, Genesis 18:18, Genesis 49:10, Numbers 21:8-9, Numbers 24:17-18, Deuteronomy 18:18-19). The scriptures for the Jews in New Testament times varied depending on the sect, but they all agreed that the writings of Moses were scripture. Jesus reasons that if they believed the scriptures they would believe in him. They do not believe in him, so they do not believe the scriptures. The reason Jesus gives is that they seek glory from one another rather than God – perhaps they were looking to make themselves the prophets the scripture spoke of rather than Jesus. In that matter, they were abusing scripture. In any case, if one does not believe scriptures, they cannot believe Jesus.

Claiming equality with God would require extraordinary witnesses, but Jesus nevertheless had the witnesses he need to prove his case. Christians today, perhaps, have even more of a witness concerning Jesus. Not only do Christians have the five aforementioned witnesses, Christians have the message fully revealed and expounded on by the New Testament writers and the Holy Spirit living within. Christians have a personal testimony to share and they can also point skeptics to the veracity of scriptures that have been verified as accurate and reliable. One does not have to affirm some pie-in-the-sky claim concerning what he or she believes, but have evaluate it based on real history and verifiable facts.

Lord, your testimony is true. Help me to point others to the truth!

John 5:16-24

Read John 5:16-24

The Jews wanted to kill Jesus not only because he was working on the Sabbath, but that he claimed equality with God (John 5:16-18). In spite of this, Jesus launches into a dialogue about himself concerning his oneness with the Father. Jesus claimed among other things that he did the work of the Father. When Jesus says that he is doing the work of the Father, he sees God working and works in the same manner, not of himself. In a manner of speaking, Jesus says that he is working harmoniously with the father as two professional dancers work together as one. It is apparent that the Father is leading the Son and the Son is completely in step with the Father because the Father is showing him everything.

Because Jesus is in step with the Father and in response to the action that Jesus performed, Jesus says that he gives life as the Father gives life, and should the Father heal, The Son heals also. The term translated “judge” and its kin “judgment” are translated from the Greek words “κρινω “ and “κρισις” respectively (John 5:22, also in John 5:29). These words not only carry a legal meaning, but also a carry common usage as well in terms of discernment, approval and opinion. In manner of speaking, the Father and the Son share a common opinion about matter on how they act – there is no deliberation or disagreement. God does this for Jesus so the people will regard Jesus in the same way that they regard the Father. Jesus chose to heal the man at the Pool of Bethesda, and the Father was at work right alongside him and in complete agreement with the actions Jesus was taking.

Jesus makes a peculiar remark that on face would seem contradictory to the statements concerning salvation in John 3:16 and John 3:36 – that is salvation comes by faith in Son. Jesus says in John 5:24 that the ones who hear Jesus’ word and believes “he that sent him”, namely the Father, have eternal life. It would stand to reason that Jesus was contradicting himself unless to believe the Father is not different than to believe in Jesus, which is only possible if Jesus and God are one and the same. John 1:1 declares that Jesus was God and Jesus himself says in John 10:30 that he and the Father are one. For this reason, one cannot affirm just any god for salvation, but have faith in the God who is Jesus. Even more so, this underscores the oneness of Jesus as God.

The oneness with the Father that Jesus had can never fully be understood by human minds, but this relationship is reflected in the relationship God has with his people when he indwells them with the Holy Spirit. John 14:16-26 describes this relationship. The Father loves the Son, and the two are harmonious in all they do. Likewise, Jesus loves his people and his people should love him, and for this reason his people too should be harmonious in all that they do. Jesus says that he would be with them in the form of the Holy Spirit and that one of the Spirit’s roles was to teach and remind people of what Jesus said. The ones who love Jesus will act in accordance with his will by obeying his commandments (John 14:15) and the Spirit will be there to teach and guide believers along the way.

Jesus is still sending his Helper into the lives of believers today. The ones who have the Spirit today are the ones who have life. While Christians have righteousness by faith, Christians still sin and these two competing wills causes disharmony between God and believers, disrupting the oneness. Paul commands believers to consider themselves dead to sin because Jesus died to sin (Romans 6:10-18). Because believers are dead to sin, they should not obey the passions of the mortal body but be instruments of righteousness.

Lord, live in me and help me put off sin so that I may have oneness with you!

John 3:1-13: Illumination

Read: John 3:1-13

Nicodemus was a Pharisee, a Jewish sect in New Testament times that were zealous about the law such that they made the law stricter than it already was to ensure they wouldn’t break it in the first place. Nicodemus himself was a “ruler” among the Jews as he sat on the Sanhedrin, a council that handled religious law and affairs alongside the civil government of the Romans. John records a few acts of Nicodemus his gospel. Nicodemus gives defense to Jesus in John 7:51-52 and brought embalming supplies in John 19:39. Not much is said about Nicodemus, but much is implied by his actions. He was apparently open to what Jesus had to say and came to him inquiring about Jesus. Also, what Jesus had said to him did not make an enemy of him, but rather a friend. His generous donation of embalming supplies for his burial was something of note. Nicodemus was apparently an educated man too as Jesus notes this based on Jesus statement in John 3:10 and his seat on the Sanhedrin.

First, Nicodemus acknowledges him as a rabbi, a religious teacher. Next, Nicodemus says that Jesus is of God based on the signs he is performing. While the observation of Nicodemus is not incorrect, Jesus says that one cannot see the kingdom of God unless he is “born again”. This phrase obviously confuses Nicodemus as he takes it literally, but Jesus was speaking metaphorically about spiritual things. Jesus describes a contrast between that that which is born of the flesh and born of Spirit, and what Jesus was saying was something of the Spirit. One of the roles of the Spirit in the lives of Christians is to teach (John 14:26, John 16:13). Apparently, Nicodemus had not received the Spirit or any illumination from the Spirit to understand heavenly matters (1 Corinthians 2:1-16, particularly v. 12 and 13). The contrast between earthly things and heavenly things is made apparent here, and Jesus says that no man to reach heaven accept one who descends from heaven, namely the Son of Man which is a reference to himself. Jesus is saying the same sort of things that Paul is saying in 1 Corinthians 2 which, which is that heavenly wisdom can only be revealed by that which is heavenly – which is God himself. God is manifested as Jesus in John 3 and elsewhere as the Holy Spirit.

Nicodemus had not received the testimony that Jesus had given and it does not appear that Nicodemus is obstinate to the testimony. But because the Spirit has not illuminated his mind, he could understand even with all his education and knowledge. Faith comes by hearing the word of God, but without the Holy Spirit there to illuminate one’s mind, testimonies pointing to Jesus will fall on deaf ears. This can be disheartening for those who share with loved ones and friends who have not yet believed. This does not mean one should stop sharing or stop witnessing. As Jesus says, the Spirit is like the wind. It comes and goes, and nobody knows where it comes from or where it goes. When the Spirit works in one’s life, nobody can know this. All we can do is pray for wind and be faithful to witness, and when the spirit comes, say, “It’s windy.”

Lord, help me to understand heavenly matters by the illumination of the Holy Spirit so that I might know and believe.

John 1:30-34: A Testimony About Jesus

Read: John 1:29-34

The next day, Jesus comes and John announces to the world that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world and reveals that his purpose was to reveal Jesus answering the investigators question. John gives the testimony to Jesus talking about the Spirit coming down and resting on Jesus. Jesus said to John that the one on whom the Spirit remains is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit, and that person was Jesus the Son of God. John witnessed this all when he baptized Jesus. (Matthew 3:13-17, Mark 1:9-11)

Baptism in New Testament times was a common practice that was often used as a rite in conversion to Judaism or a cleansing ritual performed by the Essene community. Given this, what John was doing was not something out of the ordinary, but perhaps something the people were used to seeing or at least had heard about. A baptism of repentance and forgiveness was somewhat of an anomaly because forgiveness of sin was something was seen as only coming through sacrifice at the temple. While water baptism was something that was common, Jesus’ baptism of the Spirit was something unique. The Bible asserts John baptized with water, but Jesus baptized with the Holy Spirit (Mark 1:8, Luke 3:16, Acts 1:5, Acts 11:15-16, Acts 19:2-9) differentiating these two, Acts 19:2-9 in particular. Some people in Ephesus had heard about John and were baptized for repentance, but were rebaptized in the name of Jesus at which they received the Holy Spirit.

While it is clear that Baptism of the Holy Spirit (that is, receiving the Holy Spirit) is distinct from water baptism, but this does not diminish the importance of water baptism for its symbolism. Romans 6:3-8 sees baptism as a picture of the death, burial and resurrection believers go through with Jesus for new life. Baptism is also a symbol of unity among believers that all baptized believers can identify with, no matter who they are or where they come from (1 Corinthians 12:13, Galatians 3:27-29, Ephesians 4:5). Given this, it is important that believers who identify with Christ undergo baptism in his name.

The testimony of John to surrounding Jesus’ baptism, John’s baptism of repentance, and water baptism in general were all given to point people towards belief in Jesus. The common rite is given new meaning under Jesus such that it unifies us around Jesus and testifies to what he did for us. When we think about our own lives, do we consider our lives a worthy testimony that would point people to Christ or turn them away? Is there blatant sin that needs confessing and repentance that needs to be administered? In any case, we need constant washing and renewal that only comes from Jesus whose grace is sufficient!

Lord, help me have a testimony that points people to you!

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