Friday, January 31, 2014

The Philosophy of Jesus Christ

Unity in diversity.  Out of the many, one.  A statement on every dollar bill in existence "E pluribus unum."  It's the motto on the seal of the United States itself.  This is our starting point, because it's important we understand just what we're looking for in a philosophy. 

When I think about the perfect philosophy, I want it to be beautiful.  It should explain reality accurately and coherently.  It should show justice.  It must be absolutely true (this is the one we skip in modern times because we prefer a buffet style.)  Oh and love would be nice.

And what about practical application? 

There is philosophy of government, economics, ethics, religion and so on.  In the struggle of man kind to survive on this dust ball, what is the primary purpose behind all the philosophies of the world past and present? 

Discovering the unifying thread in the ultimate diversity of cultures and ideas on the planet. 

To date the idea has been to embrace contradictions in ideas, to allow for some sort of unity in diversity.

Unfortunately if person A wants a ham sandwich and person B wants to kill person A, they can't both be right and still survive in harmonious unifying diversity.  Person A goes to get a ham sandwich and is in the process murdered by person B. 

If Jesus Christ teaches that my sins separate me from God, there is one piece of truth.

Then Buddha teaches that there is no god and my desires must be removed, there is another piece of truth.

Obviously they can't both be right.  It doesn't make sense.  One wants the removal of doing wrong, but fully supports doing right, and claims a God governing the universe.  The other wants the removal of all desire, good or bad, and claims no god at all. 

So truth is by it's very nature exclusive.  There is a correct answer, and an incorrect answer.  There is objective truth.  There is a God.  These are things I will not be trying to prove in this piece. 

My desire here is to point out the superior teaching and life philosophies lived and spoken by Jesus Christ.  I won't be comparing the lifestyle of Jesus Christ to other "great teachers" of the various world religions.  Instead I will be comparing the philosophies of Jesus Christ to modern mindsets and ideas on morality, right and wrong, and so on. 

Jesus Christ lived the philosophy of a wider context.  His life was the example of one lived with eyes set on eternity.  He was God become man.  He was the infinite God and maker of all things.  Yet when he lived on Earth, he lived to make the required impact.  He lived not as a God on Earth, but as a humble servant with a set amount of time. 

Much philosophy on Earth is written one could say for a man who is to live forever in his present body.  This is not the case.  The average man or woman will live about 70 years.  If you're very lucky (or unlucky based on your perspective) you'll get 100 years.  It's amazing how that simple fact is ejected entirely from the modern mindset.  Modern man refuses to face the grim facts of history and of his impending expiration date.   We tend to have such an ignorant view on just how limited we are.  We don't want to be limited, so we divorce ourselves from our limits and pretend we are limitless.

What was the essential teaching of Jesus Christ? When asked a similar question, what is the most important commandment, he said:

Luke 10:27 (NIV) He answered, "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"

Love God, love people.  Very simple.  Definitely works in practice too.  

Jesus washed the feet of his disciples in John chapter 13.  He set the example, that if God comes in a human body, God himself, and humbly serves his people, that's the way a Christian should live. Humbly serving.

Luke 22:46 (NIV) "Why are you sleeping?" he asked them. "Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation."

Jesus urged his disciples to pray against temptation.  Yeah, so what?  The "so what" is Jesus knew the problem.  The problem isn't an invading army, a corrupt government, or a depraved media.  The enemy is temptation, the enemy is sin, and the enemy is the forces of evil that manipulate the worldly powers and media corporations.  

In modern psychology and self help, I'm my greatest asset.  Truthfully, I'm my biggest problem. Jesus knew that.  

Luke 15:3-7 (NIV) Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

Jesus Christ provides a powerful philosophy of life time and again.  He goes after the lost sheep, leaving the safety of the flock.  This makes no sense mathematically.  But it does make sense morally.  Once I stopped repeatedly turning my nose up at any mention of Christ, and actually read the Bible, I saw it made more sense than what I wanted to see or know.  

GK Chesterton said that the virtues of Christianity are great when packaged together, but the problem is that they don't function well separated.  He suggests in his book "Orthodoxy" that a scientist can be greatly interested in truth, but not at all interested in pity.  A man can love wisdom, but entirely reject compassion.  A religion like New Age can entirely embrace the principle of love but then reject objective truth or reason.  Napoleon or Hitler, a great genius mind, unfettered with morality or love.  Ideals are wonderful things, but we see empirically that they do not function apart from each other.  So we try to find a unity of ideals, a perfect unity of ideals, unity in diversity that functions for the well being of prosperity of mankind.

Gk Chesterton said something absolutely stunning in Orthodoxy, something that applies today in a way that I never realized.  He said that a generation of thinkers and philosophers could stop generations after from thinking and philosophizing by claiming all knowledge as useless.  Orthodoxy was published in 1908.  I realized today that is most certainly happening.  The post-modernists claim everything is relative.  Nothing can be known for certain.  The ultimate religion of atheism at hand.  Don't be fooled, these ideas do pervade the minds of students on college campuses.  All is relative is a dead end for knowledge, it is essentially calling an end to philosophy, knowledge, wisdom of any kind.  Very dangerous.

The solution is not an end to knowledge.  Unity in diversity is in fact already found.  It had been found before I was born.  I could just not see it or get on board with it.

Christianity is the perfect binding of all great principles in the perfect amounts.

There is great mercy and forgiveness in the Cross of Jesus Christ.  The clean slate, the fresh start, for whosoever might receive it.

There is great justice in the punishment of sin.  When we see on the news a pedophile or rapist who is thrown into prison, most if not all rejoice in their heart that justice was done.  When one is murdered, the victim receives at least a measure of justice when the murderer is sentenced to prison or death.  Justice is an ideal we love seen done to those who commit crimes around us, yet when it comes to ourselves we demand unconditional forgiveness.  It's the philosophy of Jesus Christ, of the Bible, that cuts through these obvious contradictions in modern thought.

There is great love in the God who calls us by name.  A God who pursues humanity as it flees from him.

There is great pity and compassion in the God who comes to Earth to save his people.  Free will has it's draw backs, but those are the rules, that is the set up. 

There is great beauty in the stars and the sunsets and the green forests and blue oceans crafted by the architect of all life.

There is incredible rational law and mathematical genius in the workings of the universe and the laws that govern it's functions.  Built by the genius mind of our maker.

I could go on and on.  It all comes together.

Christianity is willing to face the hard truth about the planet.  The idea that pervades universities is that somehow, everything is getting better.  Despite the evidence.  Mention the two world wars, and they get a little nervous.  Or Africa.  Mention the conflict in the middle east.  Start to talk about all the corruption just beneath the surface.. oh boy, now we're in trouble. 

The Bible says that the Earth is a broken creation destined for renewal by the architect of all life.

The Bible says man kind is beset by sin and lawlessness of all kind. 

The Bible says there is an enemy, an evil one who seeks to draw man into all manner of evil and away from God.

The empirical, historical evidence is powerful on this topic.  As much as any secular atheist or new ager wants to claim how wonderfully loving humans are, and how things are getting better everyday, the evidence points in the opposite direction.

Ironically the view of many New Age mystics is that the problem of evil and death and hatred will all go away by ignoring them. 

And more ironically still, the Christian is so often labeled by the culture as the ignorant simpleton, refusing to see the truths of science and progress right in front of them.  The Christian is pictured as the fool with his hands over his eyes, when in fact the opposite seems to so often be true.  Just one of many generalizations and stereotypes placed on Christians.

There is a generalization for every topic from religion to war, and the truth in the facts behind such generalizations rarely match with the table talk.

History is where I found so much hidden truth.  And books, imagine that.  Instead of believing a generalization, read a book, and suddenly it's seeming quite to the contrary. 

It's just incredible.  The kind of lies that pervade every level of culture, thinking, even science, literature, and places like philosophy and even the classroom itself.

But I'm a child of the American middle class suburbs.  All the debates and philosophical discussions really had little bearing on my life.  But you know what did?  Materialism.  The heartless tyranny of the bureaucratic red light green light of modern American living.  The awful evil of the chase for wealth and prestige, the esteem of neighbors and friends.  Such was my nightmare growing up. 

Materialism is possibly the most limiting and imprisoning of all philosophies I could imagine. Probably because I've experienced it first hand.

When anything but tangible evidence is dismissed and skeptically shunned, one is limited to the bottom line, the profit engine of society, the get rich quick self help tapes, the stern talking to's, the indiscriminate 9 to 5 chain gang lifestyle.

For me Christianity was the shattering of a lie, a glass house prison where everyone was telling me what you see is what you get! Work, school, job, marriage, make money, die. For me, it was the most liberating and freeing moment of my life. Because while materialism had all the benefits of rationally appearing to be true, it was at the same time the most diabolical lie, by exclusion. The elephant in the room was God. Everything in my head was screaming foul, but at the desk, whether school desk or work desk, they could shame me and describe with such precision the bottom line of materialism, the profit motive, that I felt guilty for even asking why.

But while they claimed to explain 99.99% of everything with daily materialism, they had in fact missed 99.99% while explaining the 00.01% with horrifying precision.

The religion of the American suburbs had really conformed itself to practical materialism as I grew up. You'd go to the church an hour on Sunday to play holier-than-thou. It was a sort of get together to act as if for a while. It was great for networking clients and job connections in the city. It was tradition, you know. A sort of vacant ceremonial religiosity conformed entirely to the will of a self-serving material job-oriented populous.

Do you understand the damage in that? Not only is the entire mindset around the child about wealth and personal merit, but the only true escape hatch from that organized insanity appears at face value to be yet another dead end!

Christianity is not the dead end it is so often made out to be. The lies about Christianity are as pervasive as the lies on any other subject in modern thought. Probably more so. The mainstream media sees only the evil Christianity does, and never magnifies the good.

Christ is hidden in plain sight today. That is a fact. It is the great agonizing fact. The lies in this country are incredibly powerful. The distractions are devastating. The addictions and compulsions extensive. It's amazing anyone survives it at all. In that, is the mercy of God, who draws us to his son.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Jesus: The God who Came

John 13:2-5 (NIV) The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

Jesus Christ is the God who washed the feet of his own children, as a metaphoric representation of keeping believers clean until they come to the next life.  It wasn't enough that Jesus Christ would die on the cross for our sins.  He would pledged to live within us.  

Baptism is the symbolic event of being washed clean from all sin.  The washing of the feet of the disciples is the symbolic representation of how each day as believers walk through this world they still sin, but are washed clean daily by Jesus Christ as they confess those sins and mature as a believer.

Do you know of any other god in any other world religion that shows such a humble act as to wash the feet of humans?  Krishna didn't do this.  Buddha didn't do this.  Muhammad didn't do this.  Only Jesus.  

Jesus does this.  Then he says this:

John 13:34-35 (NIV) 34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Love one another!  What a zealot huh?  Oh please.  People can attack the Bible, they can misquote and misrepresent scripture, they can claim an all encompassing love for all religions, they can question and claim and argue, and mock, but what does Jesus say bottom line, "love one another." 

This is a very dark time in scripture.  Jesus has washed the feet of the disciples and encouraged them to love one another.  But then Jesus reveals that he will be betrayed.  He walks over to Judas and whispers to him "What you're doing, do quickly."  And Judas leaves.  

Then Jesus reveals to Peter, the man who will be instrumental in spreading the gospel, his close friend, that he will say three times that he doesn't know Jesus.  To protect his own life.  Which is an act of public denial against his friend.  

Jesus is going to the cross soon.  But what does he do?  He comforts his friends.  

John 14: 1-4 (NIV) “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God[a]; 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.”

One of the disciples questions Jesus, saying that they don't know the way to where he is going.  Then we see one of my favorite verses in scripture.  

John 14:6-7 (NIV) Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know[b] my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

This verse also utterly crushes the contention of New Age all inclusive religions of the idea of "all paths to the same summit."  No one comes to the Father except through me.  The New Agers want to claim that Jesus, Krishna, Buddha and so on are all roads to the same summit, all manifestations of the same "christ-like" entity.  But this is not the case.  In fact how could it be, because they all taught such different ideologies?  With Buddha there is no god, and it's all about getting rid of all desires and achieving a sort of nirvana of non-desire.  With Hindu beliefs there are hundreds of gods and godesses.  With Taoism, it's all about karma, being reborn endless times trying to pay off debt with good deeds for your bad deeds in previous lives.  

For a good cross-reference, Acts 4:12 (NIV) says "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved."

People don't like it when Christians claim exclusivity in regard to salvation, but it's black and white in our book.  We believe in non-contradiction when it comes to truth.  All religions can't be true.  It doesn't make any sense.  It's like if someone asked me how to get from here in Wisconsin to Miami, Florida.  I wouldn't say well all roads lead to the same place.  Because they don't!  If they went north they would end up in Canada.  West and they're out in California.  East and they're in Virginia.  There is one precise route which arrives at the correct destination.  It is the same way with eternal life, there is one way to have that, and that is through Jesus Christ and believing his words.  Truth is by it's very nature exclusive, not inclusive.  

John 15:9-17 (NIV) “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other."

Jesus leaves many instructions with his disciples before he goes to the cross.  In Verse 11 Jesus tells us he has taught us these words so we will have joy.  

Joy is in all believers.  Joy is a result of being loved by Jesus Christ!

In verse 16 Jesus gives a wonderful reminder to his disciples, and to us.  You didn't choose Jesus, he chose you.  Believe it.  If you're reading these words, you didn't just up and decide to search our Jesus.  He chose you from those who dying to live.  Congratulations ;)  

This isn't a buffet.  There is only one truth, despite whatever we'd want or desire to believe as people of this planet.  And my goodness, great is the joy of the man chosen by Jesus Christ to live with him forever.  It's a very, very big deal.  

In fact, what could be more important?  Nothing else matters at all to me anymore.  Nothing at all.  

John 15:1-4 (NIV) “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me."

It is wise to remain in the love and fellowship of God.  This is done by having a personal relationship with God.  It means praying/talking to him daily.  It means reading the Bible.  It means spending time with other believers.  And the more "good fruit" or good things you do with Jesus, the more people who aren't with Jesus are going to dislike you.  Eventually they'll hate you.  Maybe that's a turn off to being a Christian, but to me, it's a bonus.  Because I've always particularly disliked the ways of this planet.  It's a big mess.  I knew it was doing it all wrong.  Now I understand why.

John 15:18-19 (NIV) 18 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you."

Do you understand?  The Christian worldview is the truth.  Why?  Because it is about love, but it also will not deny evil, but call it out.  It calls for change.  The Prophets of the Christian faith came to warn us about our sins, of which we are so very good at hiding from.  But we know, deep down we do.  So Christianity provides the call for an end to evil ways.  But it can't stop there, because a person alone can't end sin in their own life.  So the Holy Spirit, the second person of the Christian Trinity exists to help us defeat sin in our lives.  Personally I have seen victory after victory in my life due to the work of the Holy Spirit in my person and in my prayers.  Drugs, gone.  Alcohol, gone.  Cigarettes, gone.  I'm not some super achiever where I muscled my way past those things.  No, they had made by the neck.  I was all up in chains, but escape was provided by the Holy Spirit.  

I know I just mentioned the Trinity, which is a doctrine that helps represent the three offices of God in his interaction with humanity.  Allow to explain just quickly what that means.  

One God, three offices of interaction.  God the Father is the office of universal command, you might say.  Jesus Christ is the office of the son, who comes to Earth to pay a substitutionary death for the sins of man kind.  Thus man is absolved of all sin, and the way is provided to eternal life.  See God is not only loving and merciful, but he is a God of justice.  There had to be a price paid for the sins of man kind, otherwise there was injustice in the universe.  So God settled the score with the office of Jesus Christ, God himself died to set justice right in the universe.  The 3rd office is Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit comes because without it, no one would even feel guilty for their sins.  And the Holy Spirit also provides wisdom as we read our Bible, and comes on us when we pray.  It's the mechanism for helping humans become Holy.     

Obviously, when a worldview like Christianity tells a depraved world that it's ways are bad, people are going to hate that way.  Just like here in the United States.  Americans, full of all manner of sin and evil, basically do a little projecting on Christianity.  They love to point out the evils of religion, of Christianity, of the corrupt followers of Christianity.  But why?  And why do atheists fight so hard against a God who they claim does not exist?  

The Bible is going to piss people off because it tells us how we're suppose to be.  We're supposed to Holy, good people.  But we're not.  We're sexually immoral, porn addicted, videogamers and party sluts at best.  So we try to change the rules, so everything is relative and what is moral is what I decide.  How convenient.  But truth is still truth.  Even when the entire culture, the whole planet even, embraces lies.

John 16:31-33 (NIV)31 “Do you now believe?” Jesus replied. 32 “A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.
33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

We see here another instruction from Jesus Christ.  First he told us that our joy will be complete when we do things he likes us to do in the world, now he says he will be with us, and because of that we will be at peace.  I like joy and peace.  

Jesus gave his final teachings to the disciples, then he prayed to God the Father on three different issues.  First he prayed to be glorified.  Then he prayed for his disciples.  Then he prayed for all believers, for us.

John 17:13-18 (NIV)13 “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. 14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by[d] the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified."

Perhaps the words of Jesus Christ touch me because of the Holy Spirit working as I read them.  Perhaps unbelievers cannot and will not believe because they cannot see.  Perhaps, because they have been blinded by the god of this world.  

2 Corinthians 4:4 (NIV) The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

That is a hard teaching to hear.  The god of this world is the former-angel named Satan, the evil one.  He has great power here.  Jesus Christ provided victory on the cross, and in his resurrection.  But Satan still works to block as many humans as possible from receiving eternal life.

We are children of that victory to this very day.  John 17 said that we are no longer of this world.  In a very real way Christians become very different people than who they had been.  They start to look like something not of this world, in their actions, their voices, their eyes." 

Two thousand years ago Jesus prayed to be glorified, then he prayed for the disciples in the room with him, then he prayed for you and I:

John 17:20-23 (NIV) “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me."

Through their message.  Which they wrote down, the gospels, the Bible itself, we today believe.  Jesus mentions something intriguing, the idea of "unity."  So first joy, then peace, and now unity.  God lives in Jesus, and then Jesus lives in us.  I think it means that as we mature as Christian believers, more and more we look like the image of Jesus.  We act as Jesus would.  Unity is the idea of having an active connection to God through Jesus Christ.   

Then Jesus prayed:

John 17:24-26 (NIV) “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.
25 “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. 26 I have made you[e] known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”

Jesus was God in person.  He lived perfectly.  He spoke the perfect truth.  Then he went and died the perfect death.  Next week we'll discuss his death and resurrection.

Take care and God bless you!


Friday, January 24, 2014

Why is Jesus the perfect example to follow?

Three Important Questions about Jesus Christ:
1. Why is the Life of Jesus the perfect example to follow?
2. Why is the philosophy Jesus teaches perfectly truthful and practical?
3. How did Jesus show perfect love and compassion?

We'll be looking at three foundational questions to the ministry of Jesus Christ for the next few sermons.  I'd like to look almost entirely to the Gospel of John for our answers, which is often referred to as the passion of Jesus Christ.  

Three important questions, on the example Jesus set with his actions, the philosophy Jesus expounded with his words in comparison to other philosophies in the world today, and finally on the love, passion, and mercy of Jesus and how he showed it.  

Today we'll look at the physical example Jesus Christ set for us, and specifically how we can mimic that example in our lives on Earth.  Let's jump in:

John 1:9-13 (NIV) The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

Scripture says that everything in the world was made by Jesus Christ, and for Jesus Christ.  We don't belong to ourselves, but we belong to him. The true light became manifest into the body of a human, and came into the world.  God came into the world, himself.  

We look to Jesus Christ as the example of how to live in this broken world.  His life is the perfect example to us.  And if we live like Jesus did, we can expect the end that he displayed.  Jesus' own life is a living parable to us.  

But why is Jesus' life the perfect example to us Christians two thousand years later?

Do you know what's interesting?  After two thousand years, very little has changed.  Then as today, if we choose to live the Way Jesus did, we will be persecuted for it.  We will be hated for it.

John 15:18-20 (NIV) 18 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20 Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’[a] If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.

Of the twelve apostles, ten were murdered for their faith.  One betrayed Jesus and his guts spilled out onto the ground before he could hang himself over the incredible guilt he felt.  The ten others were killed because they simply would not shut up about Jesus Christ.  John, the writer of the book of John, was the only one who wasn't murdered for this faith.  But they did try to poison him.  It just didn't kill him.  Perhaps because he was the only apostle to stay with Jesus through the crucifixion.  However, John had his life attempted on, and when they couldn't kill him they exiled him to the island of Patmos, a rocky hell hole to die slowly, alone with nothing.  The point?  It's tough out there.

Romans 12:12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 

Ironically, there is the greatest joy in being a Jesus follower.  There is the greatest happiness.  There is an incredible loyalty in my heart to my maker.  I sincerely love Jesus Christ.  And I didn't think I could love anymore, not after all I'd seen and been through.  I was scared for my first year as a Christian, I often prayed "Father, please teach me how to love." 

And, "Father, please change my heart."  

Most certainly that has happened.  God answers prayers.  And ironically, I do absolutely say being a Christian is a better life.  Things don't go better.  But obviously, it's a much, much, much, much, much, better life.  Why?  Because I never knew the truth until now.  And I love truth.  And because, I'm loved by the architect of the universe.  Also, because I'm being taught how to love.  Really, it can't be explained.  It's an entire reframing of everything.  Of course it's better.  Much, much better.  Materially, no.  But materials never mattered anyway.  It was always about what was unseen.

So when Pastors and preachers say Christianity isn't about prosperity, I disagree.  It's all about prosperity, prosperity of the spirit, of the soul, the pouring of sweet nectar into the spirit.  But people talk about it like, well thats not "really" prosperity, the only way to apply prosperity is to material success.  But honestly I never wanted that, it never enticed me in the least, and that is not prosperity, it leaves us empty very quickly, almost before even starting down that path, it's emptiness.  So prosperity is of the mind for the Christian, a prosperity of the unseen, the spirit. 

Jesus Christ gives us a perfect picture of a life focused on the unseen.  But why?  How did Jesus really live?  I always hear about what a great teacher Jesus was, but how did he really live?  For that purpose, we'll turn to the book of John.  John focuses heavily on the actions of Jesus, rather than his vocal teachings.

In John Chapter 2 is Jesus first miracle.  At a banquet for a wedding, they ran out of wine.  So Jesus changed water into wine.  

John 2:7-10 (NIV)
Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim.
Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”
They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside 10 and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”

This is a living message in and of itself.  Jesus Christ himself represents the best wine.  Inspired by God, the master spoke a representation of how from the dawn of time in Genesis to their current time, the world had not tasted the best wine, but now it had.  Jesus Christ is the very best wine, saved until this point in history. 

But to me it also says, Jesus Christ loved his friends and family.  They had run out of wine for the get together, so he provided more for them.  Jesus Christ was not a strict mean spirited guy.  He loved his friends, and he loved his family.  He endorsed banquets, weddings, and family get togethers.  He loved sitting down for those sort of hearty social endeavors.  
John 2:13-17 (NIV)
13 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. 15 So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” 17 His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”[c]
 Jesus stood for what he believed in.  He cleared the temple of banksters and business men.  He did so with passion.  Jesus went to the temple, the church of that day, and cleared the criminals out of it.  Once again this is a living parable, that Jesus came to set things straight in the places of worship.  So maybe you and I need to make a whip from cords and clear out some mega-churches.  To me, obeying this example is ensuring corruption, legalism, and God-forbid faith for profit is kept out of my church, and all Bible following churches. 

In John chapter 3 we see Jesus teaching a religious leader by the name of Nicodemus.  They met together, one on one to discuss issues paramount to the faith.  Then we see one of the most popular verses in scripture.

John 3:16-21 (NIV)
16 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. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

Foundational to the entire life of a Christian is the life of Jesus Christ.  We believe in Jesus Christ, and we are born again, just as Jesus taught Nicodemus.  As followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to teach of what we learn from the Bible.  And not just to try and teach non-believers, but to teach and train up those who love Jesus as well.

John 4:7-14 (NIV)
When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)
The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.[a])
10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”
13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
 Jesus Christ shared his message of eternal life.  He was evangelical at the well.  This is once again a living parable.  Samaritans were hated by Jews.  Jews wouldn't even eat or drink out of the same cups or bowls that Samaritans used.  Jesus was a Jew.  Oh, and what did Jesus teach about enemies?  He taught to love your enemies.  More importantly, what did Jesus do?  He loved those who were considered his enemies.  

In Chapter 5 Jesus healed the child of a Roman soldier, from a distance.  How can we obey this example?  We can pray for people in other states, other parts of the country, or other parts of the world.  We can pray for healing for children around the globe.  See?  It's not so hard.

In Chapter 6 Jesus feeds five thousand people.  There is much symbolism, but there is also the reality of Jesus feeding the poor.  We can do the same today, by donating to food drives or pantries.  Every little bit helps.

John 6:16-21 (NIV) 16 When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake, 17 where they got into a boat and set off across the lake for Capernaum. By now it was dark, and Jesus had not yet joined them. 18 A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough. 19 When they had rowed about three or four miles,[b] they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were frightened. 20 But he said to them, “It is I; don’t be afraid.” 21 Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading.

This is a beautiful metaphor, and one of my favorite parts in the Bible.  If you've ever seen the movie "The Gospel of John" they portray this scene in scripture wonderfully.  It's a sort of living parable for humanity.  Humanity is lost in their sins, in a storm of sin on the corrupt Earth, struggling, afraid, doomed, and then Jesus, God himself, comes to save humanity, walking out across the water to save them.  Humanity welcomes God onto the boat, within their hearts, and by this, they are saved.  Absolutely beautiful.

How can we obey it?  Often, I can be a picture of Jesus in the world.  For someone struggling, I can be a picture of what Jesus would do.  I can't walk on water.  But when on Christmas eve this year, the temperature -5 degrees, I saw a woman laying against the front of the closed library doors, I could be a picture of help and support from God to man.  I welcomed her into my car, cared for her, talked to her, and encouraged her.  Believe me, in this world you will have many opportunities to be the living helping hand of God.  

Just after this event, a crowd stalked Jesus, the same crowd of thousands that had eaten the bread and fish he'd provided:

 John 6:25-27 (NIV) 25 When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”
26 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. 27 Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”

And just as Jesus Christ had people come to him who truly wanted him and needed help, so he also had people who came to him to use him.  I've spoken to the Pastor at my home church, as well as others, and they often have people approach them seeking to prey on the charity and generosity of their hearts.  It happened to Jesus, so it will happen to us.  

So if you've been used, stolen from, abused, or hurt by people you were trying to help, don't worry, you're in good company.  And I want to tell you something right now, if that's happened to you, don't give up.  Just refuse to give up.  Did Jesus quit after 6:25-27?  Is that where the book of John ends?  Did Jesus get back in his boat and sail back to heaven?  No, Jesus used the opportunity to try and teach the people about himself, even though they were just looking for something to eat.  Keep trying, fight the desire to close off your heart.  Remain compassionate. Many will abuse you, and use you, and abandon you.  But a few will receive your blessing, and be saved.  That makes it all worth it.

Jesus taught the plain truth.  A truth often hard to understand it.  But he never wavered from the truth.

John 6:60-69 (NIV) 60 On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”
61 Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! 63 The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit[e] and life. 64 Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. 65 He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.”
66 From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.
67 “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.
68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”

God himself is walking the Earth, the perfect teacher with the perfect message.  Yet still we see John 6:66, that many disciples turned away and no longer followed him.  This is the greatest teacher in the universe, this is Immanuel, God himself, and still many turned away.  If it happened to God, it's gonna happen to us.  Assuming we endure sound teaching, many will not like it.  So be encouraged, if people have fallen away from your church, your bible study, your group, you're in good company, assuming your teaching right doctrine.  Many will turn away, but the true believers will stay.

Jesus and his followers then went to the festival of tabernacles, a yearly festival taking place in Jerusalem.  It was the most important festival of the year for the Jews.  They would spend seven days in tents or what they called booths, to remind them of how God had cared for them during their departure from Egypt and their time in the wilderness.

John 7:16-19 (NIV)16 Jesus answered, “My teaching is not my own. It comes from the one who sent me. 17 Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own. 18 Whoever speaks on their own does so to gain personal glory, but he who seeks the glory of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him. 19 Has not Moses given you the law? Yet not one of you keeps the law. Why are you trying to kill me?” 
Jesus showed up halfway through the festival and began teaching.  Notice his wording, "my teaching is not my own."  Why not?  If he's God, he could very well teach on his own.  

But Jesus set a humble example for us to follow.  I'm not called to teach anything but the Bible.  I certainly need to teach and translate it into applicable situations and practicality.  But still, the principles are there within the Bible.  And so we must all teach humbly, and more so, teach for the purpose of glorifying God.  All else is worthless, useless manure.  

The church leaders of that day did not like Jesus.  He kept pissing them off and teaching stuff they didn't like.  So they started conspiring against him.  Then they tried to trap him into incriminating himself:

John 8:3-11 (NIV) The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
11 “No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

Your enemies in this life, generally people who are profiting from lies while you tell the truth, will try to trap you.  They will try to set you up, they will try to put you in jail.  And if you're engaged in missionary work in countries hostile to the Bible, they will try to kill you.  The Pharisees did this to try and trap Jesus, so they could accuse him.  What did Jesus do?  Did he call them out on it? No.  Did he condemn them?  No.  But he did manage to lay out the total truth of the situation, and at the same time show ultimate mercy to a prostitute.  

And who is that prostitute?  Is that some woman two thousand years ago?  No.  That prostitute is me.  I've engaged in sexual immorality.  Sex outside marriage.  And what about you?  Is that woman just some woman, or is it you as well?  And cast down on the ground by religious leaders we would all expect to be condemned by God, at least with most people and their vague conception of religion.  We would expect to be condemned by God, and ridiculed and thrown out of town, even stoned.  But that is the lie, the generalization, what in fact does God, Jesus do?  He reminds the crowd that they are all sinners, puts the religious leaders to shame, and forgives you, setting you free from sin.  

And I just shine with pride in Jesus Christ, my God, and who he is and what he stands for.  He is truly loving, and truly merciful.  And so we should be as well.

Later in Chapter 8, Jesus spoke to a crowd regarding the truth.  Naturally, they didn't like it very much.

John 8:31-38 (NIV)31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
33 They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”
34 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37 I know that you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are looking for a way to kill me, because you have no room for my word. 38 I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you are doing what you have heard from your father.[b]
Remember something very important, that when you go about your work: the truth is always your greatest ally.  Especially when you think it is your worst enemy.  When it would be so easy to lie, to sneak out of something, tell the truth instead.  Remember it's not between you and that person.  It never was.  It's not even between you and the possible consequences of speaking truth.  It's between you and God.   Yep, sometimes it will cost you dearly, but do it anyway.  Uncompromising.  

A few verses later in Chapter 8 Jesus calls this crowd hes speaking to "children of your father the devil."  And they try to stone him.  

Jesus made waves.  He spoke the truth, did the truth, lived the truth.  Maybe that's the secret to freedom in Christ.  The freedom to ignore all social standards, taboo topics, and unspoken rules for the outright raw free expression of truth.  That's what it seems to me, true freedom is all about.  Truth is not binding, not at all, it's the lies that are all surrounding and suffocating in our society that are the chains that bind us.  

In Chapter 9 Jesus heals a man born blind.  In Chapter 11 Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead.  Continuously Jesus taught to crowds and within the crowds there was always great division.  Some received his truth, others rejected it.  We often wonder today, why doesn't God just come out and prove himself to us?  Two thousand years ago when God walked the Earth, he did miracles right in front of people's eyes.  They still refused to believe in him, or justified it away by saying he was a demon.  When Father God spoke to Jesus, the people who overheard it said it was just thunder!  There is documentation of a Roman official in his diaries having witnessed the crucifixion of Christ, whom he referred to in his journals as "Christos."  He explains that the whole sky darkened when Jesus died.  Then he tries to explain away the sky darkening by trying to claim an eclipse of the sun.  

I imagine today, should God come out and say hello, everyone would have it explained away in a few months via the latest scientific fad or that it was by the power of the human mind that some sort of mass delusion was created.  In the final analysis the truth seems to matter less to us than what we want to believe about the world around us.  

In Chapter 12 is my favorite part in the Gospel of John.  It's commonly referred to as the triumphal entry.  

John 12:12-15 (NIV)12 The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. 13 They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting,
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”[e]
“Blessed is the king of Israel!”
14 Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, as it is written:
15 “Do not be afraid, Daughter Zion;
    see, your king is coming,
    seated on a donkey’s colt.”[f]

It gives me chills to picture this scene in history.  Jesus Christ, God himself, riding a donkey into the city of his people, Jerusalem, the people shouting and praising the true God, thousands waving palm branches.  And just as it ought to be.  The Pharisees could not keep him down, they could not hide him.  Here he comes, and thousands praise him and call him Lord.  I just love that.

We can have great victories like that in our lives, if we live like Jesus did.  From his teaching, to his humble nature, Jesus Christ is the perfect example of how to live on Earth.  

In the next entry we'll go into the second half of John's gospel, looking at how Jesus finished his ministry.  We'll look at his character, how he lived, and how we can live the same way, and what the end result is.  

Thank you for reading :)