Introduction: A Life Worth Living
These chapters are meant to be an invitation to a life that is really worth living. Hopefully there is something here for everybody, whether you are searching for meaning and purpose in life, or have found that purpose but want to deepen your relationship with God.
As they are meant to unpack John’s message, they follow verse by verse through John’s Gospel. However, they are not meant to be a comprehensive commentary on the book of John. There are many others more skilled and qualified to do that. It is, however, an attempt to get to the heart of this gospel.
The purpose for writing is twofold. Firstly I am writing, as was the Apostle John, out of a pastors heart. Put simply, that means out of a heart of love and care for people, a heart that wants to see family, friends and neighbours healthy and flourishing in life. Secondly, this is a prophetic hearts cry. After over thirty years of living and serving in the church, both as a volunteer and as a paid staff member, I believe that there is more that God has for us and that the keys to that “more” are hidden in plain sight for us here in John’s Gospel. So, like a prophet, these chapters are meant to awaken and inspire people to the fulness of life that God has for them.
It is a pastoral encouragement because John’s gospel was such a huge encouragement to me during a dark and difficult time of my life and I want to pass on that encouragement to others. It was John’s gospel that brought me out of my darkness. I spent months reading and meditating on the first chapter alone. This was partly because I could only read small amounts at a time. But it was also because each verse had so much meaning for me.
It is a prophetic hearts cry because I believe the message of this gospel needs to be understood and embraced afresh in our days if we are to experience the fullness of the life that God wants to give to each of us as His children.
It is a mistake to believe that John wrote the gospel simply to convince people of who Jesus is, so that they may be “saved”. The Holy Spirit, through John, is offering us so much more than just having our sins washed away (although that would be wonderful if it was all the gospel promised us). The heart of God beats through these chapters as it does through the apostle of love who wrote them and He is offering us much more than salvation from sins, He is offering us life. Life in all it’s fulness.
John 20:30-31 “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”
The word “life” (Greek “zoe”) in all its contexts appears in Matthew’s Gospel 7 times, Mark’s Gospel 4 times and Luke’s Gospel 5 times. But John uses the word 36 times throughout his Gospel. He uses it 24 times between chapters three to six alone. That’s how important it is to him.
He wants us to know not only that real life is available in Jesus but what that life looks like. He wants us to know that this life is not an individual life. We cannot experience the fullness of what He has to give us just by ourselves. That is why John’s gospel account from beginning to end is not just about Jesus (though He is the central and all encompassing theme that holds it all together) but it is also about people, very real people. Failing disciples, earnest Pharisees, broken Samaritans and blind beggars, close friends and strangers from other lands, all opportunities to experience and share in the fulness of God’s life that is offered to us through Jesus. His life brings light to everyone, even those like Pilate who weren’t ready to receive Him.
The gospel ends with some beautiful insights into the lives of the people who were closest to Him. The life that they had through Jesus was experienced in real life with each other too.
If we read any of John’s New Testament writings and come away in love and relationship with Jesus, that is a primary objective in writing them. If we come out of reading these books not growing in deep loving relationships with real people (churched and unchurched) then we are not getting the point. Love for Jesus is meant to be fully experienced in loving relationships with others.
These relationships are not just an end in themselves, but they are brought together by God for a purpose. Again, we can’t fully live out our life’s purpose on our own. God has hand crafted each one of us for a reason and He wants us to work out and walk out His will for our lives in relationships with those He joins us to.
This is John’s purpose. He is offering us life, life in all it’s fulness. That life is worked out in Christ-centred relationships on Christ-like mission together. The world needs to see this life. But many in the church also need to see this life. There is more life available to us than most of us in the Western Church are probably experiencing. John’s gospel is as relevant now as it was to the early Christians, maybe more so because of the splintered history of the last 2000 years of the church.
It is a message that we need to grasp afresh and practically work out where we live, if the world is to see all that there is in Jesus for them. It is vital for the cause of world mission.
That is why these chapters are a prophetic heart’s cry as well as a pastoral encouragement. May the Lord use it to reveal more of who He is for us to wonder at and more of His ways for us to walk in.
It all starts with God. It always does.