JohnBlog 1:9

True light brings enlightenment

Consume:

“There is the true light, which coming into the world, enlightens every man.” (Jn 1:9)

Consider:

 1. There is the true light. By implication there must also be false light. There is undoubtedly also varying shades of true light. Jesus is the only true light because he is the only one to have been with God from the beginning. How could anyone match that as a source of wisdom? Historic and contemporary prophets and teachers who are in touch with the teachings, spirit and influence of Jesus may succeed in conveying aspects of, or shades of, or selected wavelengths of, the true light. The closer their spirit is to the spirit of Jesus, the brighter the illumination. John Baptist was dubbed by Jesus ‘the greatest of the (old testament Jewish) prophets’. He was pretty close to the light. But he wasn’t the true light. He preached only four main points. Very monochrome. But very effective. All human knowledge, understanding, wisdom, experience and communication is flawed, filtered or otherwise partial. One wonderful thing about Jesus is that he promised to transplant the source of true light directly into everyone who accepts him. This is a huge relief to those who have become used to shades of grey, thick theological filters and the dulling and enslaving effects of religious legalism. There is the true light and he enlightens every man. Direct, personal, empowering, life-changing illumination.

2. Which coming into the world, enlightens every man. There are two senses in which this is so.

(a) First, the coming of the eternal light into the world literally made the world and everyone in it, that much brighter. Like radiation coming into the earth’s atmosphere and being trapped by greenhouse gases. Everything warms up as a result. Good ideas catch on and truth has a habit of establishing itself over time. It would be impossible to track the billions of pathways in which the ‘true light coming into the world’ infected the world for good. But it must have. Else it was not true light. Pick an example close to you to convince yourself of how this is happening all the time. Everyone can think of someone who has been influenced for good by being confronted with some aspect of truth. Good has a habit of infecting bad, light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot extinguish it. Many of the great breakthroughs in modern medicine and other sciences came from people searching for order in the material world because they believed that there was an orderly mind behind it. Economies work better where there is more trust. Countries with cultures that are low on trust have difficulties with economic growth and stability. Mangers perform better when they praise, encourage and thank their workers. Societies work better when there is more respect of others. Mental health and happiness is better when there is forgiveness. Contentment is greater when there is less materialism and greed. No one need defend the true light. The true light coming into the world is like a drop of dye dropped into a glass of water – it colours everything differently. The sun and the rain fall equally on the good and the bad, the believing and the unbelieving, the just and the unjust. The influences of Jesus’ life and teaching fall equally on the good and the bad, the receptive and the unreceptive. Under the influence of Jesus, an Act of parliament was passed in 19th century Britain to outlaw child factory labour. The earliest recorded formal English edict against slave trading was made at the Westminster (church) Synod in 1104, which pronounced a rule against ‘that wicked’ practice of selling serfs (bonded labourers) in London. The action seems to have arisen as a result of a disgust with the practice of treating men ‘like beasts’. The amount of compassion, wisdom, love and truth in the world is greater as a result of the coming of the true light.

(b) Which coming into the world, enlightens every man (who receives and submits to that light). This is the second meaning. The message of Jesus is a personal one. It works without religious infrastructure and encumbrances.  It is a liberating message. Receive the revelations of Jesus and your world will blaze with light. Like a blind person suddenly seeing or a prisoner walking free from a dark cell into the bright light of day. Each individual living with a spirit infused with the spirit of Jesus can change the world, their world, because Jesus is the source of all intelligence and order in the created world and he lives in side them, bringing light to all men.

3. To extend the thought, if Jesus is the true light that came into the world, then what of all the many other prophets who claim to bring light? What of the world’s religions? There is a simple and a more complicated way of answering this question. Here’s the simple one. Truth does not need to be proven by argument. Certainly not by conflict and warfare. It simply is. Truth prevails. Wins out. Light triumphs over darkness. So we should not concern ourselves too much with what others do or do not believe. We should be more concerned with living in the light. A simple life lived humbly, empowered by the indwelling spirit of Jesus to love and forgive, may win over the greatest atheistic mind or the most ardent anti-Christian. A single act of compassion can turn a violent enemy into a friend. The ability to truly forgive is so difficult for a person that it may not be an exaggeration to call it supernatural. Anyone who genuinely hungers and thirsts after righteousness (goodness, Godliness, kindness, truthfulness), will be drawn to the truth when they see it. Particularly, they will be drawn to the power to love and forgive. We do not, generally, have to worry about what people do not have in their religion. We should pray they receive light. Pray, as Jesus did, that all would come to the light, from whatever starting point, gender, age, cultural, social, economic or religious background. Light is light. Truth is truth. We don’t have to defend it. We just have to receive it, live it, propagate it. In that way, Jesus draws all men to himself.

 

Confess

 

The Eternal Father:

My daughter, why do you live in shadows when I give you the light of the World?

 

The disciple:

It is true. Rarely do I awake eagerly to the bright dawn of day, seeking more often to keep the curtains closed or even draw them tighter. The light you bring is sometimes too bright for me, exposing things I am ashamed of but not ready to give up; or pointing a way that is too big, too unknown, too full of uncertainty and risk, too beyond my horizon. Forgive me, Eternal Light, for not yielding to your beckoning. Your enlightenment is sufficient for me. I will adventure into the light without fear and throw away the love of shadows.

johnBlog1.6

  

The warm-up act

Jn(1: 6-8, 23)

Consume:

There came a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came for a witness, that he might bear witness of the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came that he might bear witness of the light. (6-8)

 He (John) said, “I am a voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord’, as Isaiah the prophet said” (23)

 

Consider: Why a warm-up act?

 Jesus was 30 years in preparation for stepping out onto the public stage and allowing his true identity to be declared. So with the Light of the World already infiltrated into  created order; in place as an adult member of Homo sapiens (Latin for ‘wise man‘) and ready to do whatever God has for him to do, why does God choose to send a warm-up act?

 

The most obvious answer is to grab peoples’ attention. Warm-up acts have been common for public events of all types throughout recorded history, indicating that there is something about human behaviour that requires this before being confronted with something important. So kings have their heralds to theatricise their importance and create a sense of awe and wonder. Bill-topping bands, and now even comedians, do the same, via minor acts, partly for similar reasons.  A warm-up act stirs  appetite and expectation, focuses the mind, creates space, removes distractive thoughts, unclutters…’prepares the way’.

 

More than this, though, John the Baptist (JB) was a spiritual warm-up act. He was sent to stir spiritual hunger. ‘Preparing the way of the Lord’, meant calling people to repentance. His message was simple and he seems to have been a man of few words. In fact, as far as history records, before Jesus entered the public stage on one dramatic day by the edge of a river where JB was full-on in  warming-up mode, JB seems to have made only 5 main points as he preached to the spiritually hungry crowds  flocking to him in the desert:

 

  • Repent (meaning, ‘turn around’, ‘live differently’, ‘come back to God’)
  • The kingdom of heaven is upon us (‘is near’, ‘is about to come’)
  • He who comes after me is greater than me (‘surpasses me’)
  • He who comes after me was before me
  • I baptise with water but he who comes after me will baptise with the Holy Spirit.

 

In this way, JB warmed up the people of first century Palestine for the arrival of the creator Word of God, who had been living on earth in secret for 30 years, making his own preparations for what he would be asked to do. The Word was back here on earth once again, as he had been once before, when the first modern humans  were in-breathed by the Spirit of God to make them more than animals – making them ‘wise men’. And JB had been given the job of warming up the crowds to receive their returned creator.

 

JB was an incredibly successful warm-up act. So much so that he almost stole the show and had to keep telling people that he was not the main attraction – some-one greater was coming next. To do his job with the conviction and success that he did, JB had been given some prophetic insights from God, which empowered him in what he did. God did not pick just anyone to perform this, the most important warm-up act in all history (‘John was the greatest among the prophets’). JB had been prepared from birth. He was Jesus’ cousin. I’ll suggest in johnBlog1.15 why I think God organised events this way.

 

Converse:

 

  1. Imagine yourself living an equivalent life to your current one back in the time when JB was preaching (before Jesus had entered the public stage). You are hungry for something different, tired of religion and those who propagate it for their own good, thirsty for new life, sensing that something wonderful is about to happen, intrigued by what you have heard is happening beyond the River Jordan. All these things are in and on your mind because the Spirit of God moving around you (but not yet in you – discussed in a later johnBlog) is stirring your heart in preparation. Just as he is stirring the heart of others who believe in God and believe that God blesses those who seek him.  Just as he has been stirring the heart of the prophet who they call John the Baptist.
  2. Try spending time today in the spaces and in time you make especially (decide not to do something your were going to do which is not that important), ‘preparing the way’ for Jesus to enter centre stage in your own life.
  3. Are you being convicted about something you need to repent of? Is there something you need to stop doing? Do you need to about-turn from something and march-off, in freedom, in the other direction?
  4. Enjoy some space simply ‘de-cluttering’ before God.
  5. Enjoy some space simply ‘listnening’ to JB’s announcement “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!”  Go over this in your mind, sensing the anticipation of the message. (More on what the Kingdom of Heaven is in a later johnBlog.) If you get it already, and have got it already, bask in the wonder of it. Spend a half hour or more doing nothing but thanking God for the Kingdom in your life and your life in the Kingdom. If you don’t really get it and/or haven’t really got it, ask for illumination from the Light of the World. Ask him to explain in one or two simple but empowering light-bulb-moment thoughts, what the Kingdom of God is and how you can slip further into it. Or into it for the first time.

 

JohnBlog1.5

 

Light and Dark

Read

The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it

(Jn 1:5)

 

 

Bathe

1.  Darkness is not equal to light. It is the absence of light. Light is not the absence of darkness. Visible light (electromagnetic radiation) has measurable physical properties: mysteriously it is has both wave and particle properties. Physical darkness is the absence of electromagnetic waves in the visible spectrum. Spiritual darkness is the absence of the personal essence at the heart of all created things. The absence of the Spirit of the Christ. The absence of the communication of God.

2.  The spiritual Light that shines in the darkness, in this sense, is a metaphor (a picture). On the other hand, it is as real as physical light. You don’t need scientific experiments to reveal the empirical effects of spiritual Light (though they could be and have been conducted). Relationships, families, businesses, societies and economies work better – are happier, more productive and more sustainable – when truth, trust, kindness and forgiveness tend to prevail as core values. Modern management science tells a follower of Christ the obvious – high-powered leadership-training workshops I have been on have been full of encouragements to behave like Christ. The trainers don’t see it this way of course – but that’s the wonder of it: in searching scientifically for ways of making human society and collective activity more efficient and enjoyable, management scientists, psychologists and organisational gurus tap down into the behavioural DNA of the human being and naturally find God principles at work.

3.  Physical light is in one sense, therefore, a metaphor of spiritual light. But which came first? In the beginning was the Word. All things were created by Him. The (spiritual) Light shone into the darkness. Could it be that physical light is a metaphor, a physical model if you like, for the eternal spiritual light that dwells forever in God? Just as human beings are metaphors, models of, God – created matter shaped into the image of God. Electromagnetic waves: created matter, shaped into the image of some profound aspect of the energising God who warms, brings light to, bathes all that is within His infinite domain?

4.  The eternal Light of the World, defines the absolutes that keep mankind spiritually alive. Whatever words you want to choose, absolutes are ultimately defined by the character of God communicated in Christ. You want to be righteousness? (to do the right thing): let the light of Christ’s life bathe you and infuse you. You want to be good? Embrace the heart of Jesus. You want to acquire wisdom? Ask Jesus to replace your own with His. You want true knowledge? Study the teachings of the incarnate Prophet of God. What is sin? A rejection of the light that shines into the world from the heart of God. What is immorality? Actions involving ourselves and others that damage the image of God in us and that can’t exist in the light without guilt. What is truth? Anything consistent with the light of God shining into His creation. What is error? Anything that grates with, sits awkwardly with, or outright contradicts, the teachings and life and implications of Christ.

5.  How can darkness overcome light if it is merely the absence of light? By nature, evil and darkness, wrongs, hatred, selfishness, anxiety, self-righteousness, impatience, pride, self-importance, spitefulness, revenge, manipulation, disrespect and hopelessness, are lesser than light: lesser in substance, than goodness, righteousness, love, hope, meekness, joy. The latter are abiding qualities. To the degree that a person is plugged into the Light, these qualities are resilient, unassailable, powerful, affective, lasting – everlasting even. The qualities of darkness can be assailed in a moment: some of their effects might remain as wounds, but their power can be gone in an instance.

6.  The Greek word translated ‘overcome’ has the sense of ‘taking something by force in an aggressive manner’. No one can rob you of light if you continue walking in the Light. Nothing – not sickness nor suffering; not prison nor pain; depression nor disaster; failures nor floods can separate you from the love of God found in Jesus. A person filled with the Spirit of Jesus is invincible!

7.  While it cannot be overcome by darkness, Light can be obscured – by an object placed in front of it. Darkness may come to a man because his life is cluttered with objects that block the energising waves of God. Whole cultures and peoples may be darkened as, over decades, centuries and millennia, beliefs, practices and attitudes cumulatively and currently block understanding and enlightenment. The Light can find a way through, but there are more obstructions to be removed in some cultures, nations, tribes (ancient and modern), religions, church denominations, families and individuals, and particular parts of an individual’s life, than in others. That does not make the world unfair, it is an inevitable result of the gift of choice given by God to all homo sapiens. Our choices affect ourselves, our fellow travellers, and our progeny. It has nothing to do with fairness since one single obstacle can keep a person from bathing in the Light and someone from a darkly evil sub-culture can be freed from multiple obstacles in an instance. To grow in the image of Jesus, it helps to understand what blockages to the Light are hiding in our lives.

8.  Some Bibles translate this verse “the Light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not understood (or comprehended) it”. Since this is a meditation not a theology blog, that discussion can be left to others. But if this is its originally intended meaning, then how does it magnify Christ? (The single most important question to dwell on when reading the Bible for meditational purposes). Jesus, eternal communication of the Father God of the universe, came to His own and His own did not receive Him. This was true in respect of his immediate family, his home town, the Jewish people and their leaders, the Jewish religion at the time, the rulers of the then known world (Imperial Romans) and true of humankind who He had created. How could the source of eternal Life and created order have come to His creation and not be recognised? Because most men and women at the time, as now, were wrapped up, to distraction, enjoying the beautiful gifts that Jesus had given them: beauty, scintillating senses of touch, taste, smell, hearing, sight, being and the autonomy to think and act, to pro-create, shape, make and destroy, bring order, correct, invent, explore, excite. It is not so much that people enjoy the darkness. Few people I have met seem to enjoy evil. Enjoy hating and hurting. Most of the world spends its life doing what Jesus originally invited humans to do: be fruitful, multiply, bring order to the Earth. Enjoy! But in taking their eyes off the source of Life; in looking down at the dust and atoms of the earth from which, metaphorically and scientifically, they were formed, they have lost their way. Lost the plot. Become less like God and more like the animal kingdom that they were raised from by the breath of God. So individual hopes and desires, lifestyles and longings and those of whole cultures, become dominated by the consumption of the good things Jesus created for us – food, beauty, sex, autonomy, power, knowledge, influence. In time these things become idols – things that block the Light of Jesus that shines in the darkness.

9.  But not all the people in first century Palestine failed to understand the Light that shone in the darkness: to those who came to Him, He gave the right to become children of God. Or in terms of the big picture over the course of humanity’s history: He restored to them the right originally given to mankind – to walk the Earth in the image of God, enlivened and enlightened with the living Word of God, enjoying God and His beautiful creation with the dignity, wisdom, kindness and mind of God rather than with the indignity, ignorance and selfishness of a mere animal; a mere sub-human hominid. Jesus shone in the darkness to once again make us children of God – people walking in God’s image, imbued with His character, aligned with His desires and purposes.

 

 

Sun-bathing tips

  • After re-reading this amazingly powerful one-liner, try sitting for 15 minutes doing nothing but imagining the Light of God shining into your life. To help, let your mind move to and fro on the Light’s qualities: love, joy, peace, self control, kindness, meekness, forgivingness, patience. If you feel purer and less cluttered and more peaceful as a result, try continuing for another 30 minutes. Make a practice of it. Make space in the diary and try spending the whole of a Saturday morning doing it in your most comfortable private place.
  • Thank God that no-one and nothing – not life nor death, nor the active forces of evil in the spiritual world that I shall come to later in JohnBolg – can take the Light of Jesus away from you.
  • Reflect on the areas in your life where you feel there is still darkness and shadows. You know where they are: you don’t feel so at peace when thoughts move there; or forthright guilt tells you something’s up; or you are ashamed – before others or before yourself. Or you are anxious about something; or struggling with greed, pride, lust, unforgiveness. Decide you want the blockage removed, confess that it is there and that you have, perhaps, enjoyed its presence and ask the Light of Jesus to come and blast it away.

JohnBlog1.4

 

Read

In Him was life and that life was the light of men

(Jn 1:4)

 

 

Study, ponder and speculate

There is more enlightenment in these first few opening verses of John’s account of Jesus than in the entire content of the world’s philosophical libraries. One simple truth can turn the world upside down. In verses 1-4 we have at least three: A first century Jewish craftsman who turned out to be a prophet of mysterious birth, was with God at the beginning; more than that, he somehow had a mysterious part in speaking everything into existence. Now we have another: In Him alone can human beings find true vitality, life, meaning, purpose. In Him alone are men, women and children truly alive. Without Him, a human being, a member of the species Homo Sapiens Sapiens is less than he or she is meant to be. Without being connected to the eternal Word, man reverts to the flesh. He slips from being made in the image of God to being made in the image of the animal world. He is spiritually dead. Not only did the Word make us, but He made us to carry His spiritual DNA. Without it we are less than alive.

 

 

Study note: The life that is said to be in the Word (in Jesus), in the original ancient Greek language that the New Testament was written in is Zoe – a world that means vibrancy, animation, life++. There are three main Greek words translated as life in the New Testament: zoe, pneuma and psuche. Psuche is used to refer to life in the sense of not being dead: mere animal sentience. Plants and animals and indeed men can be alive (psuche) but be dead (without zoe). Although zoe can be used of plants and animals as well as humans in referring to something more than just not being dead, in the Bible, zoe is almost always used with a spiritual connotation (‘You refuse to come to me to have zoe’, Jn 5:40; ‘The Spirit gives zoe, the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are zoe’, Jn 6:63). So you can have psuche but not zoe. And how do you get the true and satisfying and everlasting zoe? By pneuma. Pneuma means spirit and carries the connotation of a sudden infilling of breath.

 

Consider the following thoughts arising from John 1:4:

First, in Jesus is found the true vitality that every human being hungers and thirsts for whether they realise the source of their hunger or not. In Him is the answer to the human question. In Him is the fulfilment of the human soul; the satisfaction of the human heart’s longing. In Him is the only source of sustainable personal energy for living. In Him is the spark that lights the human flame. In Him, mere hominids (the biological family of man) become alive in a new and wonderful sense. The life that satisfies us and makes us truly alive has been in existence since the beginning. It is the life that characterises the living eternal, creative Word of God. We are meant to be, and were made to be, sons of God made after the image of Jesus, the one who has been with God from the beginning and was the one who imagined us into being. Becoming a Christian is a home-coming; a re-discovery of one’s roots.

 

Second, only in Jesus, the manifested image of God, do we see things as they really are. The life was the light of men. Meaning literally, the life illuminates men as with the rays coming from a candle or the sun. An adulterous thought may be a pleasant secret with the light switched off. Switch it on and the thought is seen for what it is: a tragic step that leads to pain, sadness and regret and is self-destructive, ultimately leading to ‘death’: loss of zoe, the human vitality that comes through being ‘alive in Christ’. A self-centred life driven by ambition and self-aggrandizement may seem perfectly normal with the light off. Bring in the candle of the words of Jesus and it is seen for what it really is: abnormal, a twisted version of what a man or woman is meant to be – life lived in humble submission to the father-hearted God of the universe.

 

Third, the light of men is a person. The light of men is the life of the eternal Word of God. To become supremely enlightened, you have to receive a person: Jesus. Mere intellectual understanding may get you so far, but if you study the teachings of history’s wisest men (including the writers of the Bible) and do not meet Jesus, you are still in darkness. If you follow a religious system more ardently than even its founders, even a Christian religious system, you may still fail to find true and everlasting zoe (life) if you miss embracing the person of Jesus. The common criminal who died on the next cross to Jesus’ got it. He was suddenly enlightened, seeing the person of Christ and reaching out for the life that he had caught a glimpse of. Judas Iscariot spent three years working with Jesus but hadn’t received Him and the Jewish leaders who made a life of fastidious religious observance in line with their understanding of the Jewish scriptures, Jesus called whitewashed tombs – dead on the inside. No everlasting zoe. Message not received. Eyes shut to the light. Jesus, manifestation of God and source of life, not received. Dead.

 

Flashback: On some distant pre-historic occasion, the pre-incarnate Word of God walked among men in Eden (Genesis Chapter 1). At first, for a blissful period of time – how long it lasted we don’t know – there was no separation between God and men. The Word was in them. DNA of God implanted and active. Jesus in harmony with His created children. Life in fullness. Zoe (only that’s a Greek not Hebrew word). You know what followed. The Word rejected. Men and women found irresistible the desire to use their God-like qualities to become Gods unto themselves. Life became lesser. God left them to it but waited in the wings like a patient father, giving them time individually and as a race, to discover their poverty. The poverty of living in the flesh: living like a mere animal, when you are designed to live like God. He waited a long time. When the time was right, the Word came again. The Word became flesh. This time to interact with His creation in a way that would change its spiritual DNA forever.

 

 

Speculative thought 1: There are two creation accounts in Genesis chapter 1. The first is the seven-day account, ending with the creation of mankind. The second is the account of the Garden of Eden and tells us that God breathed life into the man that He had created out of the dust from the ground (Genesis chapter 2 verse 7). The word for life in the Hebrew is pronounced chay and has a similar meaning to the Greek word zoe – life with animation and abundance and vibrancy. Could it be that in this small verse in this ancient document, we have recorded the idea that homo sapiens sapiens became enlivened with the Word of God. Animated to be more than mere animals by an infusion of the Word’s spiritual DNA? In the Genesis chapter 1 creation account, man is said to have been made in the image of God. Perhaps this refers to the wider group of hominids that are now extinct – including Neanderthal man. Even the recently discovered diminutive ‘Hobbit-man’ of East Malaysia. Made in God’s image, man and women, in the sense, perhaps, of having dominium over the earth, subduing it and ‘ruling over the fish of the sea and the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth’ (Genesis chapter 1). But not yet filled with the breath of God to become children of God (Genesis chapter 2). Perhaps there were two stages to the creation of mankind: first the pinnacle of the animal kingdom, given intelligence, personality, spirit and the ability to make moral decisions – and given the task of ruling over the rest of creation. In the image of God. Then in Genesis 2: God ‘breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being’. A cave was recently discovered in Central Europe containing the remains of several species of hominid all buried together, challenging scientists’ belief in a long evolutionary path from ancient to modern man. What an awesome thought that different species of man lived side by side at some stage in pre-history and into one of these, in a special place somewhere, later called Eden, God breathed into one member of homo sapiens sapiens the breath of life. The Word. Raising Him up above the animal kingdom. Knowing that he would struggle with this split identity and knowing too that he (and the woman given to make him complete and also in-breathed with the spirit of the Word) would make a choice to try going it alone. But knowing that this was all part of the plan to create a people for himself who voluntarily choose to be filled by and live by the Word and the Spirit because they have sensed the vulnerability and emptiness of living like animals when they are in fact, made to be children of God.

 

[Health warning – although, as far as I can see, this view is consistent with the Biblical text and is not inconsistent with any crucial part of accepted Christian belief, this is a speculative idea. If it doesn’t help and if it detracts from your view of God or in any other way causes you a problem, please ignore it.]

 

 

Speculative thought 2: What about the millions of people over the millennia since those early times, who haven’t heard about the Word or understand little about Him or have a distorted historical account of Jesus? The message of Christianity is extreme but simple. There is only one source of true life, meaning and fulfilment. Jesus the eternal Word of God. If you receive Him, you find life. Do you have to know much about him to receive Him? No. Could it be possible for someone to find Him through another religion or through honest spiritual searching and pursuit of goodness and wisdom? Personally I would like to think so. Abraham pleased God with just two qualities: he believed God existed and believed that He rewards those who seek after Him. The Wise Men from the East found their way to Jesus. God presumably spoke to them in their own spiritual language. To the extent that a religion is man-made and open to evil and fleshly influence it is likely to obscure the light of Jesus. That does not mean to say, however, that someone from that religious tradition who hungers and thirsts after righteousness and seeks after truth, is immune to the influence of the Spirit of Jesus wooing all men and women to Himself.

 

 

Pondering tips

 

  • Spend a week on and off thinking about the different words for life used in the Bible and reflecting on their significance.
  • Look at the night sky and try to imaging the spiritual DNA of the Word, containing the life and goodness and personhood of Jesus, bonded to every atom in the universe.
  • Make a commitment to find time in the next year to read through the Beatitudes part of Jesus’ teaching (“blessed are the…”) and spend time meditating on them. Doing so will help you tap into the spiritual DNA of Jesus.
  • Ask God to show you parts of your life – actions, thoughts, beliefs, attitudes and emotions – that remain in a darkened room. Ask Him to switch on the light. Be prepared for what you see. Be prepared to change what you do, they way you think, what you believe.
  • Every morning when you wake up, tell God that you want to be illuminated by the light of the world.

 

 

 

JohnBlog1.3

 

Read

 

Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made

(Jn 1:3)

 

 

 

Reflect 

Here the idea of Jesus, the Word of God, is developed further in an astounding way: He is introduced as the source of all created things. To emphasise, the proposition is repeated in the negative: without Him nothing that was made has been made.

Astounding.  Several thoughts flow from this:

 

First, if  Jesus the Word of God is intrinsically communicative, then creation is a purposeful communication. All things that have been made by the Word are, by implication, a communication from God. Look around; read God’s character. Like pieces of art, the gaseous clusters in distant galaxies, Himalayan peaks, cephalopods (squid), catwalk models, sidewalk beggars, pain and happiness all communicate something of the nature, heart and purpose of God.

 

Second, Jesus is the agency in creation. Once again, there is a hint of plurality, order and hierarchy in the Godhead: all things were made through the Word. Not by the Word but through. Quite how this works we shall maybe one day find out but for now it is a delightful mystery. God the Father initiator. Jesus the communication, the channel. The hands. The creative mind. The master artist, scientist, inventor, builder, gardener, conductor. Singing out the beauty of God into a four dimensional void (3D + time) and bringing fourth atoms and Higgs-Boson particles shaped into mineral, animal and vegetable matter enlivened by spirit.

 

Third, In Jesus, all knowledge exists and all mysteries are resolved. The most advanced scientific breakthrough is breaking-through towards an understanding of something that Jesus imagined and called into material existence.  So science without moral restraint turns into horror; and art without goodness is repulsive. Science and art, culture and civilisation have all blossomed in periods of history when humanity has believed in and sought after deeper order. Even the ancient Greeks created a pantheon of deities that mirrored material and human order and used it to guide their pursuit of knowledge. Many of the great pioneers of the philosophical, scientific and technological enlightenment that gave rise to modern civilisation were motivated by a belief in an underlying order in creation associated with a creator God. Take that belief away and intellectual pursuits are more likely to go astray, producing pseudo-scientific paradigms, plain absurdities and fanciful theories that are of limited use in guiding the development of useful knowledge (such ideas fill modern universities and are the modern equivalent to the false prophets of old).

 

Fourth, the idea that the Word is the creative source of all things made, adds a fascinating twist to the idea of the incarnational cycle (see JohnBlog1.1). Now we have: Jesus, the Word, was with God from the beginning; while with God in the beginning He made all things; He came to the world He had made to enlighten it; He returned to God to empower the world He had made; and will one day return to lovingly rule the world he has made.

 

Let me introduce a speculative but rather wonderful thought here. Imagine that the incarnational cycle is a continuation of the creation process by which God, through Jesus the Word is crafting a perfect material expression of God.

 

In Moses’ creation poem recorded in first book of the Jewish Torah and Christian Bible, Genesis chapter 1, there are six cycles of creation, ending with a rest. Six days followed by a Sabbath rest. Sabbath, in the ancient Hebrew, implies rest not finishing. The ‘days’ that precede the rest period are evening/morning cycles. Six of them. After the sixth evening/morning cycle God (through Jesus the Word, as we now know) is described in the poem as stopping what He had done, admiring it with pleasure and resting. The seventh day is referred to as a rest period (day) but there is no seventh evening/morning cycle mentioned. Omissions in the Bible are usually as important as what is there. Where is the seventh evening/morning cycle? Fast-forward perhaps to the last book in the Bible, the Revelation of Jesus the Word, communicated to John, writer of the Gospel, imprisoned at the time on a small Greek Island off the coast of Turkey. In the Revelation, Jesus Word of God, gives John a graphic glimpse of the wrapping up of the current created era. The old Earth and Heaven (sky) will pass away and a new one will take its place. Whether that’s on a cleansed and renewed planet Earth, moving to a planet in some other corner of the universe, or in a parallel or subsequent universe, the meaning is clear: there is another stage of creation yet to come! The most exciting stage. Jesus’ creative work done. Creation completely completed. The missing 7th evening/morning cycle from the Genesis poem perhaps, closing the curtain on the eve of present time and ushering in the dawn of a new era in which Jesus Word of God will reign with and amongst the people He has drawn to Himself on the new Earth (wherever that is!).

 

So the material universe was made through Jesus. Then Jesus, creator, came to inhabit that universe as the ultimate communication from God. The Word made flesh. God inhabiting human form. Our ultimate role model. Doing what the Father wants, to the point of death, then passing through death to life and in so doing disempowering fear and death. The object of our worship, who we become like as we give our lives to that worship.  Then returning to God so that He can be poured into all who will receive Him, giving them power to live and power to conquer their animal instincts and the evil spiritual influences that try to raise the animal in them above the God in them. And by the poured-out Spirit of Jesus, created man is freed.

 

He came from God, first in the flesh, then in the Spirit, then will come back again in the flesh to resurrect and receive all those who have been changed into his likeness, receiving the eternal Word of God. In pouring out Himself first in life and death and then in multiplying and amplifying this pouring-out through His Spirit , the Word, the Logos, entered the World, injecting it, infecting it and enlivening it with the essence of God. Redeeming it and in so doing, completing the process of creation.  At the end of time when He comes again, it will be said of Him again, and with additional meaning, ‘Through Him all things were made’.

 

 

 

Chewing tips

 

  • Picture Jesus and try thanking Him that He made all things
  • Try asking Him to reveal to you some new insight about what that means
  • Try apologising for not fully believing that this world, with all its suffering, natural and man-made disasters as well as all its beauty, is in His infinitely wise hands.
  • Ask the Word that was with God in the beginning and was God, to transform your view of His world. Ask Him to transform, deepen, correct and enrich your understanding of your own domain of interest, knowledge, skill, work. Try apologising for not always subjecting your knowledge, understanding and actions to His creator’s wisdom.
  • Thank Him for the redemptive, creative and re-creative work of the Spirit of Jesus at work in the world.
  • Commit to aligning yourself to that work not resisting it or being indifferent to it.
  • Look around you. Read God. Worship.

JohnBlog1.1

 

 

Read:

In the Beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.

(Jn 1:1-2)

 

 

Reflect:

The opening to the most important gospel (written by the closest friend of the incarnated God, and the Gospel with most propositional insights into the person and purpose of Jesus) has four simple interrelated ideas that are unpacked later in the book.

 

First, Jesus is the communication of God personified. Like a living, breathing letter, an acted out treatise or a cradle-to-grave piece of performance art. The Word. The Logos in Greek. The one who was with God from the beginning is Jesus, the man who John, author of this document, saw, befriended, ate-with, questioned, touched, loved. The Word, ‘God spoken out’, is also God lived out, God expressed in full humanity. Jesus’ life is meant to be read. In reading it we see God. In seeing God, we become like Jesus.

 

Second, God is intrinsically communicative. This living letter, the personification of God, this accessible, approachable, understandable expression of God was there with God from the beginning. Jesus was with God from the beginning but at one point in the history of the universe was born as a human on planet Earth. He must have had some pre-incarnate form. God is intrinsically communicative. Jesus is also intrinsically communicative. In pre-, during and post- incarnational form, Jesus oozes the essence of God. It is what he does. The everlasting Word.

 

Third, this communicative expression of God is personal. He, was with God. In the starry swirls of the astronomers’ glimpses into the distant past and the primeval dinosaur-inhabited planet, there is a personal God with personality and purpose. We should never imagine any part of, or stage of development of, the earth or the created universe without a personal communicating loving Jesus-like intelligence at work sustaining it and communicating the essential nature of God.

 

Fourth, the Word is God but the Word was with God. Jesus is of the essence of God but is not identical to God. There is order here, differentiation, hierarchy even. In revealing God to the world, Jesus did not claim equality with God but acted with God’s authority as one who has been with God since the beginning. This, I think, is the key sense in which Jesus is God. He co-existed with God from the beginning as the Word. We may debate theologically and abstractly what this means or does not mean. But what Jesus asks us to believe is actually quite simple: that He, Jesus the Word, the envoy, the open book of life, the person embodied within the first century Jewish prophet, was with God from the beginning. This is His credential. This is where His wisdom comes from.

 

This sets the theme of the whole of John’s account of Jesus. If you read closely in what follows, there is an overarching emphasis in Jesus’s own interpretation of his incarnation as he comes to terms with who He is and communicates this to others: ‘I came from God and will return to God’.

 

This is the gospel in essence.  Remarkably, it is all anyone has to believe in to have eternal life. Jesus was with God in the beginning. He came to do a job – to show us what God is like and empower us to be transformed to that likeness. He went back to God. He came back to us in Spirit to complete His work on Earth. He will come again in body to set up a new Earth inhabited by those who have accepted the person, wisdom and Lordship of the one who has been with God from the beginning. The Word was with God. Came to speak God to his creation. Returned to God to empower us through His poured out Spirit. Will come again to dwell with us forever. The eternal Word.

 

Imitating Christ

The disciple:

Jesus who has become my daily companion: it is hard for me to grasp that you were with God at the beginning and at all times between then and now. Transform my view of history and of science, that I may see all that has ever been, in the light of your love. In the light of your presence – the spoken and demonstrated word of God. In the light of your companionship. You smiled and loved as the stars were formed, as rocks hardened around fossils. You laughed with God at the oversized and impossibly ugly creatures you had experimented with, which were, of course so beautiful to you. You held you breath as you made a man and woman. Then you breathed spiritual life into them and sang your love over them. Your holy purpose is written through the fabric of the entire universe.

 

Jesus:

More than you can imagine, my son. And my purpose comes to rest upon you, you who have chosen to embrace me. You will sing with me for eternity as we tend creation together, exploring beauty too extreme for words. Beauty wrapped in love, tended and enjoyed as worship to God. This is our future together my friend, my loyal disciple.

 

The disciple:

 

Now I understand a little more clearly: you were with God from the beginning; you came from God; dwelt among us; went back to God; came back in Spirit; will one day return in person. The incarnational cycle. Too wonderful for words that this is my inheritance: to join you in your state of eternal oneness with God but in a created environment where I am at home.

 

I will open my mind to the knowledge imparted by the only man to have walked this earth having come from God, and who had been with God ‘from the beginning’.

 

That is good enough reason to submit to your wisdom and devote my whole life and energies to you.

 

But beyond that wonder, another and even greater, if that is possible: the Word of God, with God from the beginning, comes and joins his spirit with mine.  This is indeed a precious pearl worth selling everything for.

 

And yet there is something even more precious: the knowledge that at some glorious future point in history, eternity will come to earth and remain there.

The Word was with God in heaven in the beginning becomes: God is with the Word on the Earth in the end. All despair withers in the light of this hope.

 

How trivial and untrusting that I worry about the state of your handiwork in the light of this great eternal story.

 

 

Letter from father to daughter

 

 

JohnBlog is an ongoing letter from a father to his daughter, introduction her to Christian meditation.

In 2010, this father spent four days in a coma following a cardiac arrest. He awoke from the coma in a state of deep peace that has not left him.

The peace was not so much found in the other-worldly experience (where was he for 4 days?) as in the 30 year period prior to the near-death event spent meditating on the person of Jesus, particularly in the writings of the apostle John in the Bible: the Gospel, three ancient letters and the Revelation.

Coming close to death and returning was not so much a mystical experience as a confirmation of the spiritual hypothesis that he had been testing in thoughts and actions for over three decades.

He had been to the very end-point of life and found beyond personal doubt that Jesus is the light of the world.

So when he moved job to a city half way round the world and was asked by his  daughter, at university in London, to coach her spiritually, he knew of no better method than to introduce her to a life of meditating on Christ through the insights of John, Jesus’ closest friend on earth.

a Christian Meditation resource