"The Gospel of Belief"
Perhaps you have heard the phrase "seeing is believing." We understand what that means. We are not going to believe something until we see it with our own eyes. I remember when someone told me about a huge hole in the ground, less than 30 minutes from where I live. I did not believe it; then, I went to see it. Sure enough, it was true. The hole was massive. It was a canyon. In fact, it is the second largest canyon in the United States. It was, and still is, very impressive. Oh, there are some things in life that are hard to believe, unless we see it for ourselves. It might even be hard for some to believe in Jesus because they have never seen Him before. Yet, that is the purpose of the fourth Gospel, called John. This follower of Jesus was one of His closest friends. John walked with Him, prayed with Him, and even stood by His mother when He was crucified. One can just imagine all the things John could write about Jesus; yet, we do not have to because it is right here in his gospel account. There is one primary reason why he wrote what he did, so we can believe without seeing. We can trust John to be our eyes and our ears. We can rely on him to give us the story about Jesus and who He is. Most of all, we can read his gospel and believe for ourselves that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. That is what we will do for the next few minutes. We will come to believe in Jesus through the words of John, as he writes. That belief will lead us to eternal life. Let us now look at John's story and prepare to believe.
On a previous "Key to the Kingdom" lesson, we studied from the Gospel of Luke. In that gospel, Luke gives us the purpose for why he writes his story about Jesus; and, that's good to know where he is headed in his gospel message. Well, the gospel of John does basically the very same thing. The difference is, however, John writes the purpose for his story about Jesus toward the end of his gospel; and yet, that's not a problem. For if we read the first 20 chapters or so of John's gospel, we know why he is writing what he does. It is to create faith and belief in Jesus Christ. The word believe, or something like that, is found almost 100 times in the Gospel of John, and that is why he wrote. He wanted to create belief in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and also as the Son of Man. And when we believe that, when that belief changes and transforms us, it is then that we can experience eternal life. Now, all of that is found in John's purpose statement. Listen to what he writes in chapter 20, verses 30 and 31. <Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.> John wrote his evangelistic message about Jesus Christ to encourage his readers, both the Jews and the Gentiles, to believe in Jesus Christ. Yes, he lets the whole world know of God's love and God's salvation that has been brought down to mankind through His son, Jesus. Over 90% of John's Gospel is not found in the other three Gospels; Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Those three Gospels are called the synoptic Gospels. And that simply means that when they are laid alongside each other, they look very similar. They pull from the same sources. They share some of the same stories and miracles and parables that Jesus taught and did throughout His ministry. Yet, John takes a different approach. He records five miracles, or signs, which the other gospel writers do not. He records only two miracles that are found in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Perhaps most interestingly, John does not even include any of Jesus' parables. Yes, John writes for a different purpose. He has a different idea in mind when he tells his story about Jesus Christ. Written some 30 years after Matthew and Luke wrote their Gospels, John stresses a different aspect about Jesus. He was a close friend of Jesus. In fact, there is a phrase that is found in John's Gospel which goes something like this, "the one whom Jesus loved." Some believe that referred to John himself. Yes, he had a very close friendship and connection with Jesus Christ, and he highlights His activity in and around the city of Jerusalem. Now, here is what John does. He focuses on two things; number one, he focuses on Jesus as the Son of God; that, Jesus is the one and only Son of God, and he focuses on that relationship with His Heavenly Father. For John, Jesus was nothing less than God. He possessed many of the same qualities. He was His Father's messenger to the people living here upon the Earth. Jesus fulfilled Old Testament prophecy and He also fulfilled the hopes and the dreams of those who were looking for the Messiah. Yes, John focused on the fact that Jesus was the Son of God. Secondly, John focused on the fact that Jesus was the Son of Man. Jesus came not to just visit here upon the Earth, but He came to live upon it. He came to relate to mankind, and to minister and serve the people that were put into His life. The most common phrase Jesus makes of himself is "the Son of Man," and we find that twelve times here in the Gospel of John. Indeed, Jesus is the Son of Man, as He relates to mankind and He blesses and ministers to those people. And that is the second reason why John wrote his gospel, to identify Jesus as the Son of God, and the Son of Man. As we go through the Gospel of John, today, I want us to see how that plays out in John's story. First of all we think about a passage that's found in chapter 1 verse 29. John records these words: <The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!"> John the Baptist recognized Jesus was someone special. He recognized that He was the Lamb of God and He had come to take away the sin of mankind. That's what Jesus did when He died upon the cross, was buried in a tomb, and then He rose up from the grave. Jesus eliminated mankind's sin problem. And yet, He was the only one who could do that because He came from the Heavenly Father. Yes, John recognized that Jesus was someone special, as the Lamb of God. In the Old Testament, lambs were sometimes used for certain offerings or sacrifices, and John recognizes that Jesus is the offering, or sacrifice, that would be far greater than all other sacrifices that had been used up to that point in time; that, He would be far greater, He would do far more than they could ever accomplish on their own. John also recognizes that Jesus' sacrifice is far greater than any other sacrifice that would ever come in the future. Yes, the sacrifice Jesus made by giving himself upon the cross was sufficient, once and for all time. Here's another passage of Scripture. It helps us to understand Jesus. It's found in the 1st chapter, verses 49 and 50. Jesus has a conversation with one of His followers by the name of Nathanael. Notice what Nathaniel says: <Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.” Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than that.”> Yes, Nathanael also recognized Jesus was someone special, He was a Rabbi or a teacher. In fact, Jesus was the greatest teacher who ever lived on the face of this Earth. He also noticed that Jesus was the Son of God and the King of Israel. He was highly exalted above all other kings; that, He had come from God himself and He represented the Father here upon this Earth. When Nahtanael said that, Jesus said, "That's good. I'm glad you believe. I'm glad you recognize who I am, but you will see even greater things." No doubt, he did. As Jesus continued to work and to minister among people, Nathanael saw, also, that Jesus was the Son of Man. Another passage that helps us understand Jesus is found in chapter 6, verse 35. These words are spoken by Jesus himself: <“I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me will never go hungry, and he who believes in Me will never be thirsty."> This is what we might call an "I am" passage, or an "I am" statement. Seven times in John's Gospel, John records Jesus saying something similar. Jesus states, "I am," and then He fills in the blank with something that relates to people. I am the bread of life, here on this particular occasion, refers to the fact that Jesus is the spiritual food people need in order to have that right relationship with God. Not long ago on "Key to the Kingdom," we focused on all seven of those "I am" statements, statements like, "I am the way, the truth, and the life;" "I am the good shepherd;" "I am the light of the world." In making such statements, Jesus lets it be known that indeed He has come to provide what is needed in the lives of so many people. Another passage of Scripture that helps us identify with Jesus and to put our belief in Him is in John chapter 13. In the 13th chapter, we find a beautiful story of Jesus and His disciples sharing a meal together. After that meal, Jesus gets up, He takes off the towel that is around His waist and He gets a bucket of water. He then gets on His hands and His knees and He goes from one disciple to the next and washes their feet. I want you to think about that for just a moment. In that day and time, the people did not wear shoes and socks. They did not ride in automobiles. Their mode of transportation, for the most part, was walking wherever they went. You can just imagine how dirty those feet must have been, without any shoes or socks, and the dust and the dirt, perhaps the mud that was on the feet of those disciples. And yet, Jesus, in a tremendous act of humility and service, gets before them and He washes their feet. And that was a task that was reserved for the lowest of all slaves or servants, and yet, Jesus took it upon himself to do that. Some readily accepted that service, while others wanted to say, "No Jesus, don't wash me." But Jesus said, afterward, "What I have done to you, so you do to other people." Oh, not necessarily to wash the feet of everybody you meet, but rather serve the people that God puts into your life. What a beautiful picture that we have from John of Jesus being that humble servant. Here's one more thing I want us to think about from John's Gospel. It's found in chapter 17. In the 17th chapter, we have the longest recorded prayer that Jesus offers to His Heavenly Father. He prays, in verses 1 through 3, that His Father would be glorified in all that He has done. He prays in the next section for His current disciples, that God would not save them from the problems and persecution they would face but rather He would protect them in the midst of those problems. In the last part of His prayer, He then prays for other followers who will come later. He prays for you and me. And in the midst of that prayer, He prays that we will be one, that we will find unity and oneness in our belief and our relationship with one another and with our Heavenly Father. Oh, throughout his message, John presents Jesus in various ways to help us understand that He is the Son of God and the Son of Man. He does all of this so that we will come to believe in Jesus Christ. Yes, John wants everyone to know who Jesus is and what He came to Earth to do. He wants people to believe in Jesus as the Messiah and the great teacher who has come from God. He wants people to know that Jesus is the only way to God, that's the only way that we can have a relationship with Him. He invites us to believe Jesus has all power and is the King of Israel. John wants us to know Jesus fulfills the Old Testament and is the greatest Prophet of all. John writes so we believe that Jesus is the Savior of the world, He is the Giver of eternal life, and He is the only one who sets people free from sin. Yes, Jesus is the Light of the world and the Good Shepherd, and the Resurrection and the Life. Oh, all of the statements which John records, and which John records that Jesus made himself, teach us to believe in Him. Believing in Jesus is so much more than just knowing a few facts about Him. It is so much more than believing Jesus was born of a virgin, Mary, in the little village of Bethlehem. It is so much more than believing that Jesus lived in Nazareth and never traveled more than 100 miles from His home. Yes, those things are important, yet, let us know this: believing in Jesus is walking with Him every day. It is depending upon Him in every situation in life. And, having that kind of faith in Jesus says He is the only way that I can experience a right relationship with my Heavenly Father. From individuals to large groups of people, many believed. Jesus' followers and His disciples, royal officials and Samaritan women, Jewish leaders and Jesus' mother all believed that Jesus was special, He had come from God, and He had come to relate to mankind. An interesting statement is found in chapter 20 of John's Gospel. The scene is Jesus appears to one of His disciples named Thomas, one of His closest disciples, the apostle. Other apostles had already seen Jesus after He had risen from the dead, but Thomas had not and he wanted to see what the other disciples had already seen, so Jesus appeared to him. Thomas had the opportunity to touch the scars in Jesus' hands and feet, and the side, where that spear had taken His life. After that, Jesus then said, <"You believe because you see Me. What great blessings there are for the people who believe without seeing Me."> That includes you and me, doesn't it! Thomas and the other apostles had the opportunity to see with their own eyes the resurrected Christ. You and I have not had that privilege or opportunity. And yet, Jesus states, "There are great blessings waiting for those who believe in Me even though they have not actually seen Me." That's good to know, isn't it? Great blessings await us who believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and as the Son of Man even though we have not seen Him with our own eyes. In some way almost each and every day, we are invited to believe in someone or something. As we drive down the highways and see the billboards, the advertisement asks us to try this product, or to go on this trip, or to experience these things in this world; and if we do that, if we believe enough to believe in that person or to go on that trip that we will experience some great blessings and great benefits and our life will be better. We turn on the television and watch those commercials, and we are invited to try those products saying that your life will be so much better if you do. Or, we go to the Internet and we see those advertisements offering this or suggesting that, and we try those things, we experience that; and indeed, our life might be better for a period of time, or maybe even for a long time. But I would encourage us to know that everything we need in life comes from Jesus Christ. And when we believe in Him, when we put our faith in Him, without any doubting, we know that He will provide for us everything we need. In chapter 6 we find an interesting story. Many people were turning away from following after Jesus. There was controversy surrounding who He was and what He was doing and there was political pressure and all kinds of opposition. So many people were following Jesus, at that time, but they chose to no longer do so and they went away. Oh, how that must have disheartened Jesus. He then said to His disciples, He said, "Will you also go away?" And it was Peter who said, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know You are the holy one from God." Oh, what a great statement. And that is the question, perhaps, Jesus asks us today. With all kinds of controversy and confusion and uncertainty in the world in which we live, Jesus says, "Who are you going to follow? Will you believe in and follow the things of this world, or will you believe in and follow Me as the only source to eternal life?" Oh, in these 21 chapters, John shares who Jesus is and what He came to do; and, He simply invites us to believe in Him. Perhaps the most familiar words in John's Gospel are these, from chapter 3, verse 16 and following: <For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.> Oh, Jesus does not want us to go back and forth in regards to our belief in Him. He wants us to know for sure. He wants us to put our faith and our belief in Him and the salvation He offers. Eternal life and continual fellowship with God is wonderful. When we believe in Jesus, we become God's children. There is so much more John could have included in his gospel story about Jesus. In fact he writes at the very end of his story, the world would not even be able to hold all of the books that are written about Jesus and the things He did, and yet these are sufficient. As we read and study through the Gospel of John, perhaps here is the one final question that we are to personally consider and ask of our selves: Do I believe in Jesus? I invite you, today, to believe in Jesus, to recognize the eternal life and the salvation that He offers to you. Put your faith and your obedience in the Son of God, and the Son of Man.
The gospel of John focuses on one person, Jesus Christ. John paints a beautiful portrait of Jesus as both the Son of God and the Son of Man. Through a series of statements and events, Jesus reveals himself as the Creator of the universe, the Savior of the world, and even as God himself. John takes a different approach to the story than the other three gospel writers. He skips over His background, His genealogy, as well as many of His parables and miracles. John simply tells us what Jesus is like and he convinces us that He is one whom we can put our trust and hope. Yes, John is the gospel of belief. And when we do believe in Jesus, it leads to eternal life.
Thank you for tuning in to today's program. I trust this message from John's gospel helped you believe even more in God's son, Jesus Christ. This lesson, entitled "The Gospel of Belief," is on our website, keytothekingdom.com. If you would like to hear it again, feel free to download it without any cost or obligation. Other lessons are also available and we hope you will take a few minutes to access those that are of interest. The website is user-friendly and offers a number of teaching materials. A six lesson Bible study is highlighted and can be studied at your convenience, online. The study is designed to give you an overview of the Bible's message, and it focuses on God's love for mankind. I also hope you will find and "like" us on Facebook. The number on the screen offers a way to receive the free Bible study by mail. Leave your name and address and we will be happy to send it to you. There is also no cost or obligation for this study. We simply want you to have it as our gift for watching today's program. At "Key to the Kingdom," we want you to know more and more about God's love for you and the free gift of salvation He offers through His son, Jesus Christ. We broadcast every week on this same channel and at this same time. I invite you to join us. Thank you for being with us today. I look forward to the next time we can study the Bible on "Key to the Kingdom."