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John 3:31-4:3, NIV
31 " . . . ; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all. 32 He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no-one accepts his testimony.
33 The man who has accepted it has certified that God is truthful. 34 For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit.
35 The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him."
1 The Pharisees heard that Jesus was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John, 2 although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized but his disciples. 3 When the Lord learned of this, he left Judea . . .
January 3, 2011
I just taught an adult Sunday School lesson yesterday from the book of Isaiah which contains many verses about the anger of God. That's not a subject I care to focus on. But the prophecies of Isaiah are about50% on the compassion and grace of God and 50% on the consequences of sin and God's wrath. So the subject can't be avoided.
I began the class by asking what are some things that children do which anger their parents. There were many responses, most of which had something to do with lack of respect--for authority, for others, for themselves, in their speech, in their attitudes and behavior. We also talked about shirking responsibilities, rebellion, laziness, half-hearted efforts, and the rush to conform and do what everyone else is doing. Also mentioned were the amount of time spent texting and other activities which distract and side-track from their higher goals.
It was not difficult then to see how Christians, as well as the people living in Isaiah's day, are/were guilty of missing the mark by not meeting the standards which our loving heavenly Father had in mind for us. We understand the anger which parents can feel toward their children. And that compels each of us to look at our behavior and try to understand how our own actions and attitudes look from God's perspective. We can identify with the disappointment, grief and tears of our heavenly Father. And yes even the anger God feels when we waste our time, talents and energy, when we fight with each other, ignore his grace and loving kindness, try his patience, neglect the disciplines of prayer and opportunities to read and learn and practice the ancient words of Scripture which are forever new for each generation.
God has every right to get angry! It was pure grace that sent his only beloved Son into this world to reveal the true nature of God, to show us the way of everlasting life, to be light in our darkness and bread for the journey, to redeem our losses, heal our sicknesses, give peace to the frightened, freedom to captives and wings for our souls, and at the end of the day bring us all home to our loving Father.
And what does God receive in return? Disrespect, rebellion, neglect, downright rejection! We think we're so smart and capable--we don't need the old man!
But to those who look up from what they are doing, who take time to ponder the precious gift of the Father, who believe and love Jesus, to them God has given eternal life.
More journal entries
August 23, 1982John the Baptist believed Jesus to be God's Son, come to us from heaven. Christians have duel citizenship; born naturally to this earth; adopted by faith into God's kingdom. We can speak the language of the earth, but also the language of the Spirit.
I remember alluding to this in Jesus' discourse with Nicodemus. We have earthly feet and heavenly wings. One visible; one unseen. One apparent; the other apparent only when it's missing, like salt.So I have earthly feet but heavenly wings--how will that make my life different today! Certainly an added resource. Like the movie character E.T, I can fly when necessary and call home because prayer is the telephone connecting me to my heavenly Father.
August 24, 1982The One from heaven, above all others, bears witness to what he knows of that spiritual realm, but few, hardly anyone, believes and accepts his testimony. How infuriating--to know something is true yet others don't see it. What shattering disappointment--after hopes are high and all the accompanying excitement, and then to realize hardly anyone is on board, and few lives have changed. Imagine someone coming from Almighty God to save us from ourselves, and the masses rejecting him with disbelief.
No one accepted his testimony. To be delivered, people must believe in their Deliverer. What sorrowful words these are. Yet just a few verses ago John was talking about the bridegroom and the groom's friend whose happiness was complete. Joy and sorrow striking together again. Never one without the other it seems.
Yet if/when a person does accept. . . There's always that ray of hope. Always a remnant. Always someone who sees with different eyes, spiritual eyes.
August 31, 1982Verse 36 repeats and reinforces what Jesus told Nicodemus--accept, believe, and receive eternal life. Acknowledging that God is true--is that an intellectual or experiential process? God is true--what does that mean? Loyal in the sense of faithfulness, being true to his word? Maybe it's a reference to something you can only know by faith, and you can believe it with confidence, knowing you are not believing a lie. It exists; it's not a delusion.
God's truth cannot be measured on a scale. Daring faith discovers God. Trusting faith can discover God today, in my life, as I experience my family and preserve those pears and get ready for our vacation trip tomorrow. Loving faith can accept, believe and receive eternal life.
September 3, 1982A description of Jesus: speaks the words of God accurately; measureless Spirit; loved by the Father; power over everything; knows and can give eternal life; those who reject him, receive God's anger.
For God so loved the world . . . . In this passage, the Father loves the Son. Two loves--yet one would die. The death and destruction of the world would mean overwhelming grief to God; the death of the Son meant the same, but also life for the world.
November 26, 2001 John was saying: I appear great in your eyes. But now someone much greater is in your midst. I am from earth, he is from heaven. That's how much greater he is than I am. He will tell you the words of God, what he has seen and heard and knows. God has placed everything in his hands. Whoever believes in the Son of God will have eternal life. Whoever rejects him incurs God wrath. So go to him and live.
November 28, 2001 Jesus' disciples were baptizing. Did John's disciples baptize also? If so, then Andrew had experience. Peter the fisherman and Nathanael, the one without guile, most likely became baptizers. Sacred, serious work.
The Pharisees were religious leaders and were very interested in what John was doing. Then Jesus became even more interesting because he was gaining more followers than John. When Jesus learned that people were watching all this baptizing as a contest, which he was winning, Jesus left the Jordan to John and decided it was time to go back to Galilee.
They say if you're going to start a controversy, make sure the fight is worth fighting-- Jesus decided this was not the controversy he wanted to be known for. His fight with the Pharisees would not be over baptism and who does it, or who baptizes more people than some else.
The Gospel writer refers to Jesus as "the Lord" in 4:3; this is another new image John uses to help us understand who Jesus is. The Word, the Life-Light, the Lamb of God, the Son of God, God's One and Only, and now, the Lord.
September 9, 1982Jesus departed from a controversial situation. His presence was creating problems for others, so he moved on. There was no point in fighting with or struggling against the divisive talk of the Pharisees!
Transitions are times for changing course, making new plans, abandoning old ways. Controversy caused Jesus to move ahead. This may not have been something he necessarily wanted to do, but circumstances necessitated decisive action.
Transitions can be a time of hope or fear, because we are forced to branch out and meet new people in unfamiliar places. In her role as a peer counselor, my daughter said most of the transfer students she talked to at school yesterday were there because of their parents' divorce. Their lives may be more fear than hope for a while. Jesus wants the opposite for us--more hope than fear.