We have just returned from a week’s vacation in the Lake District. The beauty of the landscape, the great lakes, the mountain top panoramas and the winding valleys always surprise me; always take my breath away. These climbs are special moments for me. This year we managed to climb 1000ft on all the days we were out there. Even our five year old son managed the long treks uphill with his little strides! Persevering to the summit always gives me a sense of achievement, thrill and refreshment. Also the ‘Coffee and Cake Stop’ reward at the end of the hike is a light at the end of the tunnel!
While I was away, I read the Gospel of John again from start to finish. What an amazing God-breathed part of Scripture this is. I think it was the great reformation preacher Martin Luther who said if all the books of the bible were lost and only Romans and John’s Gospel were left, then this would suffice. Big claim!
Jubilee, that’s where we are heading over the coming months. I am so excited about our next mountain trek sermon series - The Gospel of John: Who is He?
As I read it through, what really struck me was how so many people were offended by the words and actions of Jesus. He offended so many people. He even offended his own disciples many times, in fact so much so that one of them plotted to betray Him. Jesus, in John’s Gospel, is teaching his followers how to preach the Gospel to the World! He tells them God deliberately sets out to offend….not a palatable message in our day!
We don't like this, do we? We live in an all-encompassing world that shies away from offence altogether. We fear how others will hear what Jesus really has to say. We try and decorate and polish Jesus’s words so much so that they lose his true message. We are so engulfed in our culture of tolerance and acceptance that it becomes invisible to us and we create a Jesus that is a cardboard cut-out rather than the life changing ‘Aslan Lion’ he truly is!
Smith Wigglesworth the 19th century Yorkshire evangelist taught his apprentices:
‘If you leave people as you found them, God is not speaking by you. If you're not making people mad or glad, there is something amiss in your ministry. If there is not a war on, it’s a bad job for you.’
The Gospel of John is a unique book. It has insights in it that the other Gospels just don't have. It was probably the last Gospel to be written by a man who knew Jesus, saw His death and resurrection first- hand and also outlived all the twelve closest to Him. Through John’s reflections we see the uncut Jesus, we see a Jesus who is deliberately setting out to offend us. Not because he wants to be awkward! That’s not His intention. Jesus clarifies that ‘crystally’! No, Jesus wants to find the areas in our hearts where we are the least surrendered to His will. He wants to launch full-scale attacks on our cherished views that are not in keeping with His. His offence simply reveals where God’s Word crosses our own thinking. It is only when God offends us that we discover the true shape of our hearts - in fact it’s His way of showing His grace and care for us - His loving invitation to surrender further! That’s what Jesus is all about. That’s how the God, the Holy Spirit, will challenge and mould you over the months to come. It is only at the end of ourselves that we meet Him most vividly.
So this is what we hope John’s Gospel will ‘do to you’! As you see the living God come alive in stories, teaching, explanations and conversations, get vulnerable with your Lord and Saviour behind and in amongst all of them.
The 19th century Baptist preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon famously said:
‘There seems to me to have been twice as much done in some ages in defending the Bible as in expounding it, but if the whole of our strength shall henceforth go to the exposition and spreading of it, we may leave it pretty much to defend itself. I do not know whether you see that lion - it is very distinctly before my eyes; a number of persons advance to attack Him, while a host of us would defend [Him]….Pardon me if I offer a quiet suggestion. Open the door and let the lion out; He will take care of Himself. Why, they are gone! He no sooner goes forth in His strength that His assailants flee. The way to meet infidelity is to spread the Bible. The answer to every objection against the Bible is the Bible.’
Over the coming months, let’s persevere together up the mountain sides, across the ridges and down into the valleys. Let’s put on our hiking gear and tread through tough tracks. Let’s sweat and toil together. Let's lift each other up. Let’s embark of a life changing journey to discover the real person of Jesus. Let’s pay the price which has to be paid to call the world to look at Jesus and see the Living God!
Happy Birthday Jubilee! And thank you for your continued trust in God, faith in action, and grace filled generosity! Let’s start our third decade with Jesus!
Watching my children sing and dance along to their favourite worship song taught me a couple of lessons about joy and faith. Jesus also had a lot of say about having childlike fath when teaching his disciples in Luke 18.
This will be the first Easter in three years that we’re able in Jubilee to gather together to celebrate, and the Easter message is still as powerful as it was 2,000 years ago!
Starting on Tuesday 15th March we are committing a whole month to prayer. Prayer has always been the bedrock of a Christian life with God. Prayer is what unites us to God in the here and now. Through prayer we experience the friendship and lordship of God through His Word and Spirit. In prayer we come to all three persons of our One Majestic God.