What are you looking for?

 

Going on in the book of John, chapter 1, we are in verse 35.

The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!”  The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “Where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour.

Here is John the Baptist, again, with two of his disciples. And this is where the author John makes his entrance, only without being named. He is one of the two disciples. The other’s name is Andrew. John, the Author, is relaying information only he or Andrew could have known- that John the Baptist said this about Jesus.

And then John the author and Andrew both leave John the Baptist and follow Jesus.

Do you think this was hard for John? If it was, he knew it was right. He knew he was there to prepare the hearts for Christ. I don’t think John was perfect, he might have been disappointed or sad to see followers go. It’s never easy to watch people leave, it feels like rejection. But sometimes you have to let people go so they can find Jesus for themselves, and not just follow you.

At any rate, when they caught up to Jesus, he turned and looked at them, and asked them a fascinating question.

“What are you seeking?”

Some translations say it other ways. “What are you looking for?” “What do you want?”

But Jesus looked at them, saw them coming after him, and asked it.

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You’re going after Jesus right now- by reading this, by reading the book of John- you’re following on his trail. And I think that Jesus does the same thing with you. He knows you’re there, and he turns, looks you in the face, and asks,

“What are you looking for?”

Why do you go after Jesus? Why wonder at all about God? Why seek Him? Why do you care? What is in your heart that you think he will meet?

Is it questions? Is it enlightenment and personal development? Is it the mysteries of the universe? The meaning of life? Do you go after him for comfort and acceptance, for something to ease the pain of life?

Already in my writing I’ve begged you to come after him with promises. I’ve told you of the hope I’ve found in Him… has this caught your ear at all? Before you read any further, sit back, close yourself from my words, and answer this yourself.

What are you looking for?

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The disciples do not answer directly. I think, if I understand the historical context at all, that these were looking for the Messiah, the Christ, as John the Baptist said, “The lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” Many have postulated that the disciples were a group of revolutionaries who were looking for a leader to overthrow their occupying government- the Romans. Others have said that they were looking for the heir to David’s throne- a Hebrew King who would bring peace to their nation.

But I think it’s interesting that John the Baptist preached a repentance of sins, and then when he told his two disciples that this man “took away the sins of the world,” the two disciples immediately turned to follow him. This suggests to me that these two, at least, John and Andrew, were concerned with their sins. And this is as it should be.

 

We have to have a knowledge of our sins before we can come to him, really. Or at least, when we look at Jesus, and his role as the lamb of God, we need to stop and search ourselves and our position regarding sin.

You know, sin is the wicked thing we inherit since the Garden of Eden. It is not just a word that is a noun, meaning a wicked deed that is done, it is an abstract thing that is stuck to us, deep inside of us, that causes us to do those wicked things.

Sin is nebulous. It is both evil and lack of good. It is both hatred and withholding of love. It is both violent and stingy. Sin is falling short of God’s perfection. He is loving and kind and good to everyone, and whenever we aren’t, we show our sin.

 

I’ve heard people say that because there is goodness in people, that there can’t be sin. I’ve also heard people say that there’s no possible way to be good without God. I don’t know that either of these are true. I think that there is a measure of goodness in all of us while we are here on earth, because we are God’s creation. We were intended to belong to Him, and he put good gifts in all of us. It is not that we do good that proves that we are without sin, but that we cannot NOT do wrong that proves there is sin in us.

 

It’s true, this sin is what makes us human. None of us are perfect. At least, on this side of the Garden. And you might say, “I’m not that bad.” You might think that compared to some, you’re mostly a saint.

And this is where Jesus looks at you and says, “What do you want?”

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If you come to Jesus because you’re curious, but you’re satisfied with yourself, and the world around you, and you see nothing you want that you cannot get yourself, you will likely meet him and walk away.

There is a story in the bible of a man coming to Jesus, and asking him, “How do I live forever?”

It’s a funny question. No one can live forever. But this man, who the bible calls “rich, young, and a ruler,” was looking for something. He had riches, he had youth, and he had position. What more can you want in life? Maybe love or meaning… perhaps he had those. But he was still unsatisfied. Maybe he feared death. Maybe he had recently had a brush with it. At any rate, he wants to know, “Jesus, what do I have to do to have eternal life?”

I think that deep inside, he could still see that something was missing. Riches, youth, position and honor didn’t do it.

I’ve heard that there is a high rate of depression and suicide attempts in lottery winners, because the money reveals that the problems in their lives were more than just money problems. Maybe this is what the rich young ruler was experiencing. Money didn’t solve everything.

If you come to Jesus, knowing that you’re seeking something- knowing that on your own, you aren’t enough, you will find the answer to what your heart wants.

He is the ultimate satisfier of needs. He is the author and finisher of you, his creation. He is the lover of your soul.

John and Andrew answer his question strangely. They don’t answer it at all. They just ask, “Teacher, where are you staying?”

And Jesus replies, “Come and see.” Then see what happens.

So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ).

 

I think that what happened was that they followed him, and when they were with him, they found the answer to the questions in their hearts.

John, the Author, doesn’t say what happened that day. He doesn’t tell about their conversation or what happened at all back at the house, where he was staying. But at the end of the day, he goes and finds his brother, and says this telling thing: We have found the Messiah.

As in- we have found what we’ve been looking for.

This is what happens. We go after Him who created our hearts, and we find what our hearts want the most.

So… what are you looking for?

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The book of John (1)

This post is part of a series going through the book of
John. If you’d like to follow along, you can subscribe or head to the lead page and go at your own pace. Just click here

Like a Dove

 

Before we go any farther, I want you to know that this John, the Baptist, is not the same John that the book is named for. I know, it’s confusing. So many biblical names are hard to pronounce, or similar to other names. But the writer of the book of John is John, one of Jesus’ disciples, or followers. He’s going to come into the story in a little bit, but so far he’s been talking about a different John. The one we call John the Baptist. Let’s keep going, because John the Baptist has a little more to say about Jesus before the story shifts to Jesus himself for the rest of the time.

Starting in verse 29, Chapter 1, in the book of John.

The next day he (John) saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”

 

Here John is talking to some of his followers. Back then, there were few books and no internet, and if you had the desire, and the time, and the resources to learn, you would find a person you considered wise, and go to them and ask to learn from them, or be their student. Like an apprentice. The word for this student was disciple. And the word for teacher was Rabbi. There’s a lot more to know about that, but that’s enough for now.

John the Baptist is with his disciples, and he teaches them these things about Christ. And the reason why we know what he taught is because John, the writer of this book, was one of John the Baptist’s disciples. So here he writes what was actually taught to him. John the Baptist taught that Jesus was before him, and ranks before him, and not because Jesus was born first, because he wasn’t. But because Jesus existed from the beginning, which John the Baptist knew because John the Baptist was filled with the Spirit of God.

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And here he talks more about this Spirit. How he saw the Spirit descend like dove onto Jesus, and remain on him. And also, how “He who sent me to baptize…” Who was this “He?” God, and probably through the Spirit.

 

So much here about the Spirit of God, the invisible, mysterious, confusing, beautiful person of the Trinity, who descends like a dove.

 

And even more- that Jesus will baptize with the Spirit. What does this even mean? How can you wash with the spirit? Or be immersed in the Spirit?

Who is this Spirit?

 

Let me tell you what I know of Him.

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The Spirit of God is the still, small voice that leads you to the Lord. Many people call it their conscience, but it is not only that. 

The Spirit of God is a distinct person from you. He has his own voice, His own knowledge, His own will.

Before you are a child of God, the Spirit does interact with you some. He leads you to God. And I have heard of people being protected and encouraged by the Spirit even before they knew who He was. 

But once you have turned to Christ, and submitted your heart to Him as Lord of it, the Spirit is so much more. The Bible tells us that one who has been washed from the sins and become a child of God is marked with the seal of the Holy Spirit, as a deposit. Every believer has the Holy Spirit. He is her constant companion, and He is the presence of the Lord to her, as well. He reveals the Lord and his will to us, just as he did for John. He told John to baptize- and He told John who the Christ was. He does the same thing for us.

 

In my own life, my relationship with the Spirit began with long walks in the woods. I remember thinking of bible stories where people heard from God, and asking Him if I could hear him, too. The voice I heard in response was not  booming voice from the clouds, but instead, I can only describe it as bubbling up responses to my questions, within my own thoughts, but that answered my thoughts. Sometimes, it would be a Scripture quotation, but other times I heard distinct, first person answers to things I asked of the Lord.

 

I asked my pastor at that time, if that was normal. If everyone could hear the Lord like this. He answered me very diplomatically, by saying that there must be some, for many love the old hymn, “In the Garden.”

 

“I come to the garden alone,

While the dew is still on the roses,

And the voice I hear, falling on my ear,

The Son of God discloses…

And He walks with me, and He talks with me,

And He tells me I am His own,

And the joy we share as we tarry there,

None other has ever known. “

 

Even the end of that hymn suggests the same question I had- Do others hear this voice? It is rarely spoken of. It’s such an intimate, personal thing, this conversation with God. I think we hesitate to speak of it because it seems prideful to suggest that we can personally hear the voice of the Lord. It also seems, from a worldly point of view, crazy. Like some split personality thing or something.

 

And so over the years I have shut out the voice in doubt or confusion, or I have cultivated it in times of distress and need. Sometimes people have encouraged me in it, and sometimes I have been taught that it is imaginary, or even evil.

 

For most of my life, I have been quiet about it except among those who I know also embrace it.

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But I am writing about it now because the Spirit himself has told me to. In the past, I have been afraid of rejection, especially from other believers that I think will condemn me as a heretic, or as a fool.

But I believe the Spirit wants to speak to His people, and I’m writing to you, now, beloved, to say that He wants you to hear Him. I know now what it sounds like, I know it to be true what it says in John 10, that…

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me…”

I am learning it, anyway. I am learning to recognize it, and not shrink away.

Hearing the Voice of the Lord through the Spirit is the single most rewarding, beautiful part of Christianity to me, and I feel actual sorrow for the believers who reject this experience and blessing. I see so many believers who lovingly run to the fountain of salvation, but shy away from this intimate, powerful, actual experiential way of knowing the Lord. I believe that embracing the Spirit of the Lord is the only way to see true abundant life, as Jesus promised, and that by quenching the spirit, by holding your hands up in fear of this strange, mysterious spiritual experience, you deny yourself the inheritance that the Lord has promised you and live as though you had no living God at all, only a written history of what he used to do for other people. 

This is strong language, but I have been in so many groups of Christians- and I tell you, it breaks my heart to see people who say they are believers but they miss this most wonderful blessing that comes from believing.

 

And so I give you my testimony- that I love the voice of the Lord, and I wish for you to know it and be blessed by it, too. And if you have any doubts or hesitations, I ask you to consider this verse, and to take its advice.

“This is what the Lord says, he who made the earth, the Lord who formed it and established it—the Lord is his name: ‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”

 

I have much love and affection for you as you seek the Lord in this matter, and I know He will be faithful to answer you. 

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This post is part of a seriesThe book of John (1) going through the book of
John. If you’d like to follow along, you can subscribe or head to the lead page and go at your own pace. Just click here

 

 

 

The Baptist

This post and series is now a podcast! You can listen instead of reading by just clicking here. 

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There came a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify about the light, so that through him everyone might believe. He was not the light, but he came to bear witness concerning the light…

Let’s talk more about John for just a few minutes. . Let’s skip forward a few verses, to 19.

And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, “‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”

He came baptizing people for repentance. There’s more about him in other places in the Bible. He was the son of an older couple who had been infertile for a long time. The book of Luke says his father was visited by the angel Gabriel and told that he would be born, and named John- in fact, Gabriel said more than that. He said, “

“…he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.  And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”

After John was born, his own father was filled with the Spirit and prophesied, which means, he spoke God’s words, and said this…

“…you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
   for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
to give knowledge of salvation to his people
   in the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the tender mercy of our God,
   whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
   to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

And he was. John came before Jesus, he was born only months before Jesus was. The book of Matthew says he acted like a prophet- not like a normal man. He wore strange clothes like the prophets from the old Testament did. He went out to the wilderness of Judea, and he ate locusts and wild honey. And people went out from the town to hear what he had to say, and this is what he told them:

Repent!

Repent. It’s a word that means many things. In the Greek, it’s “metaneo,” which means to “change one’s mind for the better, to reconsider,” which is how we usually think of it. We usually translate it to mean, “Hey! Admit you’re wrong and change!”

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But in the Hebrew language, the word is nacham, or nichuwm, which is sometimes translated “comfort.” In the way of “to sigh, to be sorry, to pity, to console, to ease, to comfort.” In fact, it’s similar to a word that means, “God comforts us.” There is even a verse that says,

“Comfort, comfort my people,” says the Lord. “Speak comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned…”

And John came saying, “Repent! Prepare the way for the Lord!”

Was he saying, “Turn from your sins and be better!” Or was he saying, “Take heart! The sin-conqueror is coming!”?

Maybe both.

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I think of John coming ahead of Jesus, and getting people in the mood for the real thing.

He was like an appetizer, opening up people’s hearts and minds and saying, “Get ready! It’s about time!”

He baptized people in water for the repentance of sins. Baptism was a ceremonial washing that usually signified conversion- like when a person wasn’t Jewish, and they wanted to be. They were fully immersed, and cleansed. But there were other times to wash- like the priests, before they went into the temple to meet with God. Or normal people, when it was about time to give their gifts to God or celebrate Him. They washed fully to clean themselves and get themselves ready for God, because he’s holy.

So John came washing people, and getting them ready to meet Jesus, who was holy.

And the story goes on- the religious rulers have more to ask him.

(Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.) They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.”
And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”
The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!”

And John did just what he was supposed to do. He pointed to Jesus. 

This is what I want to do. In these posts, I want to point to Jesus. I want to call out to you, to everyone, and say, “Hey! There is comfort! Turn and come see Jesus, he’s the BEST!”

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The book of John (1)
This post is part of a series going through the book of
John. If you’d like to follow along, you can subscribe or head to the lead page and go at your own pace. Just click here