PORTRAITS OF JESUS – I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.
This is the last ‘I am’ statement that Jesus makes in John, and this time the metaphor turns agricultural:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.”John 15:1
In the Old Testament the nation of Israel was often referred to as a vine. In fact coins from one of the periods of their history have a picture of a vine on it, and the magnificent temple that Herod built for them had a massive gold vine on the front of it.
The story went something like this: Israel was a vine growing in a desert, in Egypt, suffering. God then uprooted them, cleared a space in a fertile land, and then transplanted them. He watered them, watched them grow and gave them life.
As beautiful as that picture is, this metaphor had a negative slant to it: Israel became a wild and sour vine, which was a reference to their Idol worship. It often came with a warning of judgment, that they would lose their covenant blessings if they continued in their disobedience.
When Jesus then comes and says ‘I am true vine’ he is therefore making a beautiful Gospel statement: I will be your obedience and righteousness, so that the covenant blessings can be made available to you! Everything we could not do, Jesus does for us, so that ‘in him’ we have access to all that God intended for us.
Jesus goes on to warn us however, that the means of growth, or accessing these covenant blessings, will not be easy!
“Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”John 15:2
Pruning is an act of love. It shows the care of the gardener, the desire for growth, for protection.
But it’s still a cut! It hurts!
I wonder if this coronavirus season is a season of pruning? A difficult time, but a time where God is loving us and helping us grow?
What do we focus on in this difficult pruning season then? Jesus goes on to tell us, and it’s just one thing: continue to ‘abide’ in him:
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.John 15:4-5
Let’s not miss the opportunity that this difficult pruning season brings: a chance to focus on abiding in Christ, so that the pruning process will have its full effect, so that we can experience the fulness of being in the New Covenant with Jesus.
PORTRAITS OF JESUS – I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.
Greetings to you and welcome to another installment of our devotionals looking at the “7 I AM” statements recorded in the Gospel according to John. Today we will reflect on the statement that I think is both profound and provocative. Please turn to John 14 and we will read vv1-6 Jesus said:
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”John 14:1-6
What makes me think that the statement is profound and at the same time provocative, is because here, Jesus clearly and unequivocally proclaim his nature, his identity, and the human predicament. And then sets out his ultimate mission. Effectually, in this few words, he is saying, “I and I alone can accomplish this task God the Father has assigned me! Bringing humanity to glory.
In this passage we meet the troubled and perturbed, anxiety-filled disciples. They were in this state because Judas was going to betray him, Peter was going to deny him and more seriously, Jesus was going to leave them – you could say, he was going to be isolated from them.
There is a sense in which many of us, today, share the same feelings like the disciples then. And Jesus stands in our midst and says: Let not your hearts be troubled, or agitated, anxious, edgy, bordered. Do not be disturbed, or apprehensive, fearful, distressed, nervous or worried sick. Have faith in Jesus, believe in God.
We may not know what is going to happen beyond COVID-19 pandemic. From the look of things, life is going to be hard for many of us. Jobs are threatened, our health system is challenged, and the economy is under duress. The nation is in distress! It is under this kind of circumstances we are called to look to Jesus and see him as the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
When life here on earth deals us a bad hand, Jesus is the Way – he does not merely show us the way; he himself is the way to God – through him we have access to all that his Father offers. He leads the way, he guides us as we follow him and has dedicated for us a new and a living way.
The human predicament I alluded to earlier is that we are lost, that is the starting point of our reality. As a matter of fact we, are on a way to destruction. In Proverbs 14:12, the writer says:
“There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.”Proverbs 14:12
But our faith in him shatters the barriers of sin and death, and blasts open the road to eternal life of the kingdom of God. He is that path that leads to life. Jesus is the only way for any person to have a relationship with God. Not only did Jesus said He is the way. Jesus also said He is the truth.
No one expresses it better than the Psalmist when he says: Teach me your way, O Lord that I may live according to your truth (86:11 NLT). Jesus Christ is the very embodiment of the truth. He is the truth in person; and the reality and truth of God are incarnated in him. All that we need to know and believe about God is found in him.
We live in a generation where truth is relative. Your truth is your truth – believe and believe in whatever suits you. In other words, there are no absolutes in this system of thinking. Because Jesus is the Truth, we can know God and experience him intimately and personally.
Jesus is the Truth because he is the dependable source of the redemptive revelation – he is the word that became flesh, with view to reveal God to humanity.
Lastly, Jesus is the Life – he’s the source and giver for all who trust in him. Remember, the Devil has come to kill, steal and destroy, but Jesus came so that we have life and have it in abundance.
I leave you with this quote said so beautifully by Thomas à Kempis,
“I am the way, the truth, and the life. Without the way there is no going; without the truth there is no knowing; without the life there is no living. I am the way which thou should pursue; the truth which thou should believe; the life which thou should hope for.” will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”Thomas á Kempis
God bless you and if we can help, please be in touch with us and use the contact details on the screen.
PORTRAITS OF JESUS – I am the Good Shepherd
Today we come across an ‘I am’ metaphor by Jesus that describes the whole christian life:
“ I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.”John 10:14-16
The Christian journey from beginning to finish is described here (and through the extended metaphor from v1-18).
The Start: Jesus repeats the phrase ‘lay down my life for the sheep’ five times! This is the beginning of the Christian journey: receiving by faith the sacrificial death of Jesus that was on our behalf.
The End: The end is described in a little more cryptic terms when Jesus speaks of sheep who are ‘not (yet) of the fold’. This has echoes of Jesus’ statement in Matthew 24:
“And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”Matthew 24:14
Therefore, once the sheep that are not yet of his fold hear the proclamation of the gospel, then Jesus will return!
The Middle: Jesus describes the start and the end of the journey, but what of the middle? What do we do now? This is the substance of the metaphor.
Put simply, the Christian journey between start and finish involves following Jesus! This means learning to recognise his voice, listening to what he says, and following him by obeying his voice.
Four times in this passage Jesus repeats the concept of his sheep knowing him, knowing his voice, and following him. It’s a rich metaphor describing the basis of our discipleship journey.
This particular metaphor is based on middle-eastern traditional shepherding, where sheep would have an enclosure where they would sleep at night, perhaps with a watchman if they were rich, where sometimes the shepherds themselves would be the gates (see the devotion on ‘I am the Door’).
In some villages it made more sense to have one big enclosure for all the flocks of sheep belonging to the different owners, and hire a watchman to watch over all of them. This made economical sense, but the obvious question then arises: how do you tellwhich sheep belong to which shepherd?
The answer is quite simple: in the morning each shepherd would have a turn to stand outside the fold and call out to his sheep. The sheep belonging to that shepherd would recognise the voice of their shepherd, listen to him, then follow his voice and come out to him.
This is exactly what Jesus is describing for us! We, his sheep, learn to recognise the voice of our master. We then listen out for his voice, and then follow when he speaks. That’s the basis of the Christian journey: learning to recognise, listen to, and follow the voice of Jesus.
PORTRAITS OF JESUS – I am the resurrection and the life
Today we come to John 11:25 where we learn about another I am statement of Jesus.
“ Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”John 10:25
Now, this statement we have just read was a conversation between Jesus and Martha. This took place after the death of Lazarus. He had been buried for 4 days and his body was starting to rot. So Martha is having this conversation with Jesus upon hearing that he is town. Jesus gave Martha this assurance, “Your brother will rise again”. Martha said she believes that her brother will rise again in the final resurrection. What Martha didn’t know was that Jesus was referring to something he is about to do. Jesus was to raise Lazarus from the dead. So in the later verses of chapter eleven we learn about Lazarus’ resurrection. In fact, the gospels record accounts of Jesus raising people to life (e.g. Luke 7:11-17). We also learn about Jesus’ own resurrection. So what does it mean when Jesus said he is the resurrection and the life? There are a couple of things we learn from Scripture about resurrection:
1.We learn that Jesus brings resurrection
Jesus is the one who raised people from the dead. He brought people to life.
2. Jesus is the cause of resurrection
Jesus is the one who caused people to be raised again. Nothing else or no else He spoke and people were resurrected.
3. Jesus is the resurrection and the life
In other words, resurrection from the dead and genuine eternal life in fellowship with God are so closely tied with Jesus that they are embodied in Jesus and can be found in relationship with Jesus. We can only have eternal life through Him. We can only experience the words of Jesus to Martha only through a relationship with Jesus.
Jesus’ resurrection has implications for humanity. We know that Jesus was raised to life and we recently celebrated that on Easter Sunday (Resurrection Sunday). He is Risen. And that carries with it certain implications that I would like for you to reflect on today:
- We are alive through Christ – those who believe in inherit eternal life (Eph. 2:5).
- Death has been swallowed up in victory – the hold that death had on humanity, is no longer there for those who believe in Jesus (1 Cor. 15:54). Remember inherently humanity is separated from God because of sin.
- Through the resurrection of Jesus, he brings an end to the chasm that exists between humanity and God. So for those that will believe in Jesus, they can be reconciled to the father. They can have a relationship with the Father. That is the core message of the gospel. That if you believe in Jesus, though you die, you shall live. Even for the loved ones who have fallen asleep in the Lord, we can grieve them with the hope of the statement that Jesus is the resurrection and the life. We shall see them again for they live.
And that is what it means that Jesus is the Resurrection and the life!
PORTRAITS OF JESUS – I am the Door
In John 10 Jesus describes himself as a door:
“ So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. “John 10:7-9
We would use a door for three main purposes:
- To grant access.
- To restrict access.
- To provide passage from one space to another.
When Jesus says: “I am the door” he means these three things at least.
Just as a door provides a means of access, so Jesus is the means of access to God. In a few days time we’ll hear Jesus saying something similar when he says “I am the way, the truth and the life, and no-one comes to the father but through me” (John 14:6).
There is only one way that we as broken people can have access to God, and that is through Jesus! That’s what Jesus means when he says ‘If anyone enters by me he will be saved…’, he means restored back in relationship with God!
Just as door grants access it also restricts access! We close our doors and lock them in order to protect our homes from unwelcome intruders.
Jesus certainly has this in mind since he refers to the presence of ‘thieves and robbers’ who ‘steal, kill and destroy’. When Jesus says ‘I am the door’ what he also means is that he is our protection.
This had even more significance in Jesus’ time, where shepherds slept at the entrance to the sheepfold at night, so that any intruder literally had to go through them! Jesus means to comfort us the same way by saying that he protects his own, and will even lie down in the doorway to ensure our security.
Lastly, a doorway connects us to a new room. Jesus must have this in mind since he talks about ‘going in and coming our and finding pasture’. Not only is he our salvation and our protection, but also our provision.
If you think about it, the human heart wants infinitely more than safety. Safety is certainly a basic necessity, but we crave more than mere life, we crave abundant life. We don’t just want to survive but to thrive. This is what Jesus promises: passageway to an abundant, overflowing, purposeful life.
May you step over the threshold into the salvation, protection and provision that only Jesus Christ offers.
PORTRAITS OF JESUS – The Light of the World
We are continuing our devotional series on the 7 “I AM” sayings that Jesus uttered. We come to the next “I AM” saying in John 8:12:
“ When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.“John 8:12
When Jesus said this, he was in the temple courts during the Jewish festival called: the Feast of Tabernacles. One of the rituals associated with this celebration was the lighting of four really tall stands that each held four golden bowls that were filled with oil and a wick. Each night a priest would climb a tall ladder to reach the top of these 4 stands. He would then light the 16 bowls of oil. The rabbis used to say that once these bowls were lit the whole of Jerusalem was illuminated!! In a world that did not have public lighting at night this light shining from the temple in Jerusalem must have been a wonder to behold!
Now imagine the scene! In this very temple court where the lighting ceremony was taking place each night, Jesus says that he is not only the true light of Jerusalem – he says: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Without Jesus in your life you are in spiritual darkness. Wandering without guidance, without hope, blind to the reality of who you are; blind to who Jesus is; blind to your hopeless condition!
Think of what light symbolises:
Light brings hope – when you’re lost in the darkness, seeing light in the distance brings hope. Isaiah said of Christ’s coming into the world: on the people living in darkness a light has dawned.
- Light brings comfort and warmth
- Light casts out fear – all the scary shadows disappear
- Light brings clarity – the Psalmist said that: in your light we see light! Light lets us see reality as it was meant to be seen
- Light exposes – it shows us that we are sinners in need of a Saviour – if Christ had not come to die on the cross, we would never have known we needed saving!Light brings guidance – think of lighthouses, the sun, the moon, the stars – Jesus brings purpose and meaning to life
- Light brings joy – in John chapter 9, the very next chapter, Jesus heals a blind man – the ability to see physically and the ability to see spiritually brings joy – when you come to see Jesus your entire life is changed – the lights go on and you are filled with a deep and inexpressible joy.
Do you know Christ or are you still in spiritual darkness? People who love darkness don’t want to come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But it is actually a liberating thing to step into the light and realise that Christ sees all of your sin and yet He willingly died on the cross. Repent of your sins and step into the light – pray & receive Christ and you will never walk in darkness again!
And if you do know Him, are you basking in the light of Christ? Or have your eyes so adjusted to His light that you take Him for granted? Are you enjoying the truth of God’s Word which is a lamp unto your feet and a light unto your path? Ask Jesus to shine His light into your life and you will experience hope, comfort, clarity, guidance, and joy.
Jesus is the Light of the World! There isn’t a dark place anywhere in your world that you can’t experience Jesus. What a wonder to behold Jesus – the Light of Life! The Light of the World!
PORTRAITS OF JESUS – The Bread of Life
Welcome to our new series of devotionals. As you have heard already, we will be focusing our thoughts on the seven beautiful and powerful statements uttered by Jesus Christ as he introduced himself to the hearers, particularly the skeptical and unbelieving Jewish community. So, today we kick off with the first of the seven “I AM” statements.
Remember, these statements are given as a sign for the listeners to respond with belief in the Lord Jesus Christ, that he was the Son of God and the promised Messiah, and truly God incarnate. To appreciate the context of the drama, let us turn to John 6 and here we read that Jesus had performed a miracle, he fed over 5 thousand people with five loaves and two small fish. The people started fool owing him in numbers.
One of the things Jesus did was to confront them and challenge them not just to look for bread, but to do the will of God – by that he meant, to believe in him as one sent by God to redeem them from sin. But, in order to believe, they asked him for a sign – something they can see, that would validate and authenticate his claims. They asked for bread, like their forefathers in the desert.
Although they longed for the physical bread, yet Jesus looked beyond the physical and saw their deepest spiritual need. So, this brings us to our key verse: John 6:35, which reads:
“Then Jesus declared: I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.“John 6:35
What did Jesus mean when he said: “I am the bread of life?” At the face value, bread sustains life. It is so common to us, and has become our staple food, and that without it life cannot go on. But then what is life? Clearly, life meant something more than mere physical existence.
Real life is having a new relationship with God, and that relationship is based on trust and obedience; faith and love. That relationship is made only possible through Jesus Christ alone. Apart from him there is no life to live, no truth to believe and no way to God.
How do we respond to this truth about Jesus, being the Bread of life? As a matter of fact, our verse tells us that Jesus offers the invitation to “whosoever” The first thing we must do is to simply see and recognise Jesus as the life-giving Saviour of the world. Jesus can be found and be known, primarily, in the passages of the scriptures and having seen him, we come to him.
Secondly, to come to Jesus means to receive and believe in him. That is to say, we accept him as Lord and Saviour and submit our will by faith seeking to follow in his example as we live the Christian life. In John 1:12, we are told:
“…to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.“John 1:12
The third thing to note is the promise given: that, those who come to Jesus, those who approach with a believing heart, will in no way get hungry nor get thirsty – meaning that such a person will receive complete and enduring spiritual satisfaction, perfect peace of mind and rest for their soul.
So I invite you as a believing Christian, to ask Jesus to be your daily bread, to feed on Jesus and every word from his mouth; humbly acknowledge him as the sole giver of all we need in order to live day by day, one step at a time. Exercise simple faith in him, he will provide just what we need, when we need it – especially as we face these difficulty and challenging times during and beyond the corona virus.
But, if you do not have a relationship with Jesus, I urge to consider inviting him in your life. Acknowledge him as Lord, confess your sin and repent. Appropriate his forgiveness and begin to live a new life. We would like to help you, please be in touch with us and use the contact details on the screen.
God bless and sustain you all!
PORTRAITS OF JESUS – Jesus here and now
We are starting a brand new daily devotional series where we will be looking at the seven ‘I am’ statements that Jesus makes in the book of John.
These are rich metaphors that Jesus uses to describe himself, and his purpose on earth. They are unique to John, but the synoptic Gospels would of course include similar teachings of Jesus, but through more fully developed parables.
These statements are particularly important to us right now for the following reasons:
- They describe God!
When Jesus says the two words ‘I am’, followed by the metaphor, it’s no secret that he is alluding to the self-disclosure of God’s name in the Old Testament (Exodus 3:13-14). As Jesus repeats this statement he is therefore connecting himself to God the father.
That means that these metaphors describe the very essence of God to us, through Jesus. We know this is somewhat how the trinity works in that Jesus is the ‘image of the invisible God’ (Colossians 1:15).
2. They describe God, in the present tense!
‘I am’ is very much a present tense statement. Jesus is not just describing what God was like, or what God will be like, or what God may be like. They are very definitive, present tense statements! This is what God is like for us now!
At times like this it would be incredibly beneficial for us to recall who God is, and what he is like, right now!
3. They describe God, in the present tense, in the context of our everyday lives!
To take this one step further, they not only describe God in a generic present tense sense, but in the context of our everyday lives. We know this because Jesus employs ordinary, familiar metaphors, like ‘bread’ and ‘doors’ and even plants!
In summary, these seven statements are concrete expressions of the very nature of God, applied to us in the present tense context of our ordinary lives.
In fact, we are hardly living in ‘ordinary’ times, which means these revelations of God to us in the present tense even more important, because he doesn’t change!
ARMOUR OF GOD – Praying at all times
Today we finish our devotional series through the armour of God, with a surprising additional piece of equipment:
“Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.”Ephesians 6:14-20
The list of armour, which starts with a ‘belt’ and ends with a ‘sword’, continues into a discussion on prayer. Notice that ‘praying’ continues the sentence which includes specific pieces of armour!
It’s for this reason that some call prayer the seventh piece of armour, which may in fact be the most important! The emphasis on prayer is the climax of this list, and in fact could be the climax of the whole book.
This is not just due to placement, the call to pray is repeated four times, and each time the qualifier ‘all’ is added.
Sometimes when my wife and I are having an argument we might say ‘You always..’ or ‘You never..’. Of course we don’t use this strong language in a literal sense, but to add emphasis. That is certainly the case here: a very strong emphasis on prayer at the end of this list.
Charles Spurgeon puts this in context by saying:
“When you cannot use your sword, and even when you can hardly grasp your shield, you can pray. The weapon of ‘all prayer’ is the handiest kind, because it can be turned in any and every direction.”C.H. Spurgeon
The four ‘alls’ divide into two main instructions regarding prayer:
1. Praying at all times in the Spirit
“praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.”Ephesians 6:18a
I sometimes feel inadequate when I read instructions like this in scripture. Does it literally mean at all times? Like even now while I’m writing? Of course it functions primarily as an emphasis, but I do believe we are being pushed to engage with God in prayer further than just a morning & evening prayer, or perhaps grace at the dinner table.
I heard one Pastor say that perhaps prayer is simply inviting Jesus into the conversation in your head. You know, the constant thoughts we have while we’re driving, in the shower etc. Perhaps this kind of ‘praying at all times’ is simply that: inviting Jesus into the everyday circumstances off our lives.
I believe this is what Paul means by praying ‘in the Spirit’. I don’t think that refers to a specific kind of praying, like in tongues or things like that (that’s another whole discussion topic!). I believe it’s simply this: engaging with Jesus and the Holy Spirit in the concrete circumstances of our lives.
2. Making supplication for the saints
“To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel.”Ephesians 6:18b-19
It’s amazing that apostle Paul repeatedly asks for prayer at end of his letters, and almost always, with the exception of 1 Thessalonians, it was specifically for the advancement of gospel.
This is an appropriate place to wind down this series through the armour of God: a call to pray for the advancement of the gospel, particularly in these tough times.
As you go about your day ‘praying at all times’ be sure to ‘make supplication for all the saints’, specifically that the Kingdom would advance through the proclamation of the gospel. Remember, this is not just a prayer for preachers, its for ‘ALL the saints’! Lets pray for each other ‘boldly proclaim the mystery of the gospel’
Activity for kids
(Click on the bold, underlined text in the activities below to go to the online link.)
1. The Lord’s prayer, prayer stations:
Set up interactive stations around your home and pray through the Lord’s Prayer as a family (Matthew 6:9-13). You can set up stations in any way you like, but here are some ideas:
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name – God is our Father in heaven, who cares about us and loves us a lot. He is also holy and worthy of all our praise. Write or draw what it means to be God’s beloved child, and what you are praising God for today.
Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven – Build with playdough all the ways you would love to see God’s kingdom on earth. What would you like God to restore?
Give us this day our daily bread – Break a piece of bread from a loaf. As you eat it, remember God’s past faithfulness and thank him. Then, bring your needs before him and ask God for his provision.
And forgive us our debts, as we have also forgiven our debtors – Using sticks, break one and pray about your own sin. As you mend the pieces together with a plaster, thank God for how he has forgiven you and fixed your broken relationship with him through Jesus. Break a couple more sticks, praying about ways you have been hurt by others. Mend the broken pieces together as you ask God to help you forgive others.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil – Paint or decorate a rock or smaller stone/pebble. Ask God to help you live in obedience to him and walk closely to him. Ask that he may protect you against temptation. Ask God to help you be like the wise builder in Matthew 7:24-27, so that you will hear God’s word and put it into practice.
2. Prayer box/journal:
Decorate a box to place prayers in, or write them in a notebook – be creative and have fun with this! Spend time as a family filling the box / journal with prayers and perhaps make this a weekly habit. Look back at your prayers after a period of time to see how God answered them.