The Apostle John

by: Pastor Mark Driscoll on Apr 24, 2012

The Apostle John is a towering figure in the Bible.

As one of Jesus’ closest friends, the Bible describes John as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23; 20:2; 21:7; 21:20). He is one of the twelve disciples of Jesus, among the three who witnessed Jesus’ transfiguration (Mark 9:2–13, Matt. 17:1–13), and the author of the Gospel of John, and 1, 2, and 3 John, and the book of Revelation, whose first three chapters we’re studying in our sermon series the Seven.

Prior to preaching through the Gospel of John nearly 12 years ago, I took time to introduce the church to the man John. Taking the time then and now to reflect upon his life and ministry has influenced me greatly.

After spending so much time studying the life of John, in which he tirelessly served and led the early church, was boiled alive in oil (and survived!), and finally banished to the island of Patmos, where he wrote Revelation, the following are four lessons I’ve come away with from observing his life.

1. Humility: The True Path Greatness

As a young man, John was a zealous individual. He wanted power and longed for authority. Along with his brother James, Jesus nicknamed him Boanerges, which means “sons of thunder” (Mark 3:17). What this name suggests about John’s personality is that he was “loud” and even “hot-tempered.” You don’t have to look far and wide throughout the Bible for examples either.

From ticking off the other disciples by asking Jesus for a privileged seat in his kingdom (Mark 10:35–37, 41), asking to pray for fire to descend from heaven to destroy a town (Luke 9:51–55), to even attempting to stop someone casting out demons in the name of Jesus because that person wasn’t a part of their group (Luke 9:49–50), it’s clear that John wasn’t a meek and mild young man.

Amazingly enough, Jesus didn’t squash John’s zeal. Instead, he lovingly redirected it through teaching and modeling humble service (Mark 19:42-45). As I’ve said before, there’s nothing wrong with pursuing greatness, but the reason why you crave it or the way in which you go about attaining it can be sinful.

As John matured in Christ, he became a loving and humble leader, who wrote toward the end of his life, “By this we know love, that [Jesus] laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. . . . Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:16–18).

2. Build Your Identity on Jesus’ Love for You

John loved Jesus, and Jesus loved John. Jesus’ love for John was the foundation for John’s identity.

Even though John could have easily built his identity upon his ability to write, preach, or even the fact that he was considered a “pillar” of the church (Gal. 2:9), it was Jesus’ love for him that served as the foundation for who he was. John says as much in 1 John, writing:

Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world.

Do you find that your identity—your value and worth as a human being—is based upon how well you do at work, how good your grades are, or how well you perform in athletics? Does the size of your bank account, the newness of your car, or possessing the latest gadgets give you a sense of self-worth?  To build your life on anything other than Jesus and his love for you is like building a house on sand.

The things of this world are fading sources of hope and satisfaction. Like John, trust in and love Jesus. He will never leave you or forsake you (Heb. 13:5).

3. Love God and Others

When you read through John’s writings, you’ll easily see that he had a tremendous pastor’s heart. He writes often about God’s love, encouraging others to love one another and to love God. He writes so much about love that many even call him the “apostle of love.”

Even when writing to a church that was struggling against false teaching, John tempered his love for the truth with his love of Jesus and others. He addressed the recipients of his second letter as those he loves “in truth” (2 John 1:1), and even commends them to love each other by walking “according to his commandments” (2 John 1:5–6). Notice that John didn’t come out swinging with a verbal barrage, but rather a loving and affirmative tone.

When discussing right doctrine with people, we can learn much from John. He was the type of person who was more interested in making a difference in the lives of others than in making a point and winning an argument.  What type of person are you? Are you the type of person that simply wants to make a point or a difference? Or are you a person who wants to make a difference in others’ lives because you love them and want them to love Jesus?

In your zeal for truth, be sure that you don’t win an argument at the sake of losing the person. Our zeal for truth should be softened by our love for God and people.

4. Eagerly Follow Jesus

John eagerly followed Jesus, with his life at Jesus’ call.

From leaving his family and financial livelihood behind (Mark 1:19–20), to taking in Jesus’ mother Mary (John 19:25–27), to suffering greatly for the sake of the gospel, John was willing to follow Jesus and trust Jesus with his life. 

I encourage you to also follow Jesus with your life. Don’t leave anything on the table. Give your all to following his call and commands upon your life. In doing so, the level of joy you experience in life will be great and complete—and nothing else will be able to compare (John 15:11).

Are You Peculiar?

My wife sent me this devotion from worshipfilms.com entitled “Are We Peculiar at All?”

In Titus, it says that God sent Jesus to “purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” The word for peculiar in the Greek literally means His own possession. What is being communicated is that we are peculiar, and we act peculiarly because God owns us, we belong to Him. So, the question for us to consider is: are we actually peculiar? As a Christian, does my life stand in significant contrast to the rest of the world? And in what ways should we be peculiar?

Let me give you 5:

 1. Our love for one another.You might say “There are people at church that I am close to and love, I would do just about anything for them.” That is awesome. But it’s not peculiar. You could go to a Jewish synagogue or a Muslim mosque or an Elks Lodge and probably find people that would say those same words.

Jesus said in Matthew 5:46, “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?”

What IS peculiar is when you can be around that person in the church that has talked bad about you behind your back, and love them the same as you do your close friend. It gets peculiar when you can love the brother that has done you wrong in a business deal that way. It’s peculiar when you genuinely love and spend time with that person that everyone thinks is really hard to be around, or the person that’s boring, or the person that smells bad.

2. Our ability to forgive. A forgiving spirit is not something that we get naturally. It does not come from our human nature. The ability to truly forgive people on a consistent basis for wrongs they have done is peculiar, and it is one evidence that God owns us, that we are His possession.

Forgiving people is not easy. It is the grace of God that enables us to do it. But we have to do it. Jesus said in Matthew 6: “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” That’s one of those verses that we like to water down, but Jesus meant what He said. Personally, I have found that it is a lot easier to forgive people that have hurt me, than it is to forgive people that have hurt my kids or my wife. But we don’t get a free pass on any of it. We have to lean into God’s grace until we get there and fully forgive.

How do we know we have really forgiven? I heard Joy Dawson say one time that we know we have forgiven when we no longer feel the need to tell someone else about the wrong done to us.

3. The way we spend our money. You might say “I give some money to the church, and if a friend of mine is really hurting, I try to help them out when I can.” Great, but it’s not peculiar. The Jewish guy gives to his synagogue, the atheist gives to United Way. Is there are sharp contrast between the way we allocate our resources and the way our non-Christian neighbors allocate theirs?

You might be thinking, “You are focusing on an external thing. Stuff like that has to come as a fruit of our internal relationship with God.” And that is absolutely true. But it is also true that we have a tendency to ignore the whispers of the Holy Spirit when it involves things that cost us something. The Holy Spirit is not going to force His way. You can resist and He will leave you alone. A lot of times we use logic and our own reasoning to talk ourselves out of being obedient to God. And when we do that, we miss out on the chance to be peculiar, to act in a way that demonstrates God’s ownership over our lives.

4. The way we use our time. Think through your calendar for a typical week. Then take a best guess at what one of your non-Christian neighbor’s calendars looks like. If the main difference is that we go to church while they go to the Moose lodge, and we go to life group while they go to book club, and we play church league ball while they play city league, and everything else is pretty much the same, that is not peculiar.

There should be a major lifestyle difference between us because our lives are focused on those things that God says are important to Him. Of course, we have to provide for our families. Of course, we have to invest time in our children and each other. But let me say this clearly: if we have been a Christian for years, and our lifestyle is completely focused on our family unit and getting our needs and wants met, something is wrong – that is not New Testament Christianity.

Donald Miller said, “The most difficult lie I have ever contended with is this: life is a story about me.” We should be living a lifestyle that spends a substantial amount of time reaching out to others. Maybe that takes the form of taking time to have coffee or lunch with a friend who doesn’t know Jesus. Maybe it takes the form of investing time and energy to raise money so that someone you have never met can have a place to live. Maybe it means investing time in kids that don’t have a dad or mom in their life. God may call you in any number of things. But the bottom line is that our calendars should look peculiar, they should be in sharp contrast to those of unbelievers. It’s like the old saying “If you were on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?”

5. The way we handle adversity. These are tough times for most people. And I believe that it is God’s desire that we be a source of strength, steadiness, and encouragement to our non-Christian neighbors. If we can lean into God ourselves, and draw on the strength and peace He gives us, then we will be peculiar in a time when people are overwhelmed and lost.

Let’s live our lives in such a way that without any words, everyone around us knows that we are God’s peculiar possession, that He owns us.

God’s Timing

For most of us, when we are trying to make a difficult decision we immediately go to the Lord in prayer. We want to know His plan for our life as well as His timing. I could give you several examples of my impatience rushing ahead of God to do what I thought was best. If I had just waited until I had a fresh word, assignment, and direction from Jesus the end result would have been much more satisfying.

Here is today’s In Touch devotional encouraging us to “Follow God’s Schedule.”

Read Romans 11:33-36

Most of us enjoy feeling in control of our own schedule and grow  frustrated when things  don’t go according to plan. Yet if we truly desire to walk in the center of  God’s perfect will, we must become willing to cooperate with His time frame.

Consider how you pray about situations in your life. Without  realizing it, you may be demanding that God follow the schedule you’ve  constructed according to your very limited human wisdom. Yet if we believe He  is who He says He is, how can surrendering to His way not be to our benefit?  Think about His unique, praiseworthy qualities:

  • His all-encompassing knowledge. Unlike us,  the Lord has complete awareness about our world and the details of every  individual life–past, present, and future.
  • His complete wisdom. God understands man’s every motive, whereas  none of us are able to  accurately discern people’s intentions. We make choices based on partial  information, whereas He has the wisdom to take action based on truth.
  • His unconditional love. Our Creator is always  motivated by love and constantly has our best in mind. Unless we trust His  heart, our view of reality will be distorted.
  • His perfect sufficiency. At just the right time, God will  provide us with everything we need to carry out His plan.

Submitting to God’s timetable requires faith and courage. Believe in the  goodness of His heart and His plans–and determine to wait until He gives the  signal to move forward. Then, as you follow His schedule, you’ll experience the  joy of watching Him make all things beautiful in His timing.

Chuck Colson Remembered

Evangelical Christianity lost one of its most eloquent and influential voices this past weekend with the death of Charles W. “Chuck” Colson. The Prison Fellowship and Colson Center for Christian Worldview founder died at 3:12 p.m. ET Saturday, April 21 at the age of 80. After a brief illness, Colson passed away at a Northern Virginia hospital with his wife, Patty, and family at his bedside.
On March 30, Colson became ill while speaking at a Colson Center for Christian Worldview conference in Lansdowne. The following morning he had surgery to remove a pool of clotted blood on the surface of his brain, and doctors determined he had suffered an intracerebral hemorrhage. Though Colson remained in intensive care, doctors and family were optimistic for a recovery as he showed some signs of improvement. However, Tuesday (April 17) Colson became gravely ill when further complications developed.

A Watergate figure who emerged from the country’s worst political scandal, a vocal Christian leader and a champion for prison ministry, Colson spent the last years of his life in the dual role of leading Prison Fellowship, the world’s largest outreach to prisoners, ex-prisoners and their families, and the Colson Center, a research and training center focused on Christian worldview teaching.

Colson has been a central figure in the evangelical Christian community since he shocked the Washington establishment in 1973 by revealing his new Christian commitment in the midst of the Watergate inquiry. In later years Colson would say that because he was known primarily as Nixon’s “Hatchet Man,” the declaration that ” ‘I’ve been born again and given my life to Jesus Christ’ kept the political cartoonists of America clothed and fed for a solid month.” It also gave new visibility to the emerging movement of “born-again” Christians.

The following statement has been issued by the Colson family:
“Patty Colson and the entire Colson family would like to thank the many people around the world who lifted up Chuck and us in prayer. We so appreciate the love and encouragement.”

This article is from Churchleaders.com

The Highway of Holiness

The wilderness and the desert will be glad, And the Arabah will rejoice and blossom; Like the crocus It will blossom profusely And rejoice with rejoicing and shout of joy. The glory of Lebanon will be given to it, The majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They will see the glory of the LORD, The majesty of our God. Encourage the exhausted, and strengthen the feeble. Say to those with anxious heart, “Take courage, fear not. Behold, your God will come with vengeance; The recompense of God will come, But He will save you.” Then the eyes of the blind will be opened And the ears of the deaf will be unstopped. Then the lame will leap like a deer, And the tongue of the mute will shout for joy. For waters will break forth in the wilderness And streams in the Arabah. The scorched land will become a pool And the thirsty ground springs of water; In the haunt of jackals, its resting place, Grass becomes reeds and rushes. A highway will be there, a roadway, And it will be called the Highway of Holiness. The unclean will not travel on it, But it will be for him who walks that way, And fools will not wander on it. No lion will be there, Nor will any vicious beast go up on it; These will not be found there. But the redeemed will walk there, And the ransomed of the LORD will return And come with joyful shouting to Zion, With everlasting joy upon their heads. They will find gladness and joy, And sorrow and sighing will flee away. (Isaiah 35.1-10 NASB)

Signs of Life

Signs of Life” is a forty day devotional by Dr. David Jeremiah. In the book we are given daily examples of the signs of life that should be found in an authentic Christian. It is a powerful study which reminds us that Christianity is not just about attending church. Christians are a new creation, a new life, a bright light, and an example of Jesus to the rest of the world. “Signs of Life” gives us explicit reminders of what this new Christian life is supposed to look like. After all, most people can tell when someone is physically alive or dead; so doesn’t it stand to reason that they can tell when a person is showing signs of the Christian life or not?

Each day the book starts out with a short thought. Day seven begins with these words, “We don’t stay on earth forever; but after we’re gone, our imprint remains.” Then, on day thirteen we read, “If you were a walking advertisement for the Lord, what would people learn about Him?” These two thoughts together can be very convicting depending on what it is you are advertising every day. Are we a commercial for Jesus Christ which demonstrates the reality of this new life? Is our new life influencing others toward Christ? How large of an imprint are we leaving? Will those who come behind us find us faithful?

Sunday morning we will be looking at the life of a man who left a giant-sized imprint on the landscape of his time. In fact, his advertisement for Christ was so large that we are still following his example today.

Saul of Tarsus was a man who hated the blasphemous, demon-possessed, false teacher Jesus of Nazareth. His hatred was so great, he set out to find, arrest, try, convict, and then kill anyone who would not recant their faith in the man who had died by hanging on the cross.

I would like to invite you to Living Oaks Baptist Church as we look at this man’s life. We will see why he had such a passionate determination to destroy the followers of the Way. Then we will witness the miracle of his life being turned completely around. What could possibly make so drastic a change in someone’s life? Be sure to attend LOBC at 10:45 tomorrow morning to find the answer.