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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson

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Daily Devotional thoughts by Stephen Thompson

John 16:25-33: On top of the world!

John 16:25-33: On top of the world!

“25 ‘Though I have been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language but will tell you plainly about my Father. 26 In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. 27 No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. 28 I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.’29 Then Jesus’ disciples said, ‘Now you are speaking clearly and without figures of speech. 30 Now we can see that you know all things and that you do not even need to have anyone ask you questions. This makes us believe that you came from God.’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.’ NIV

Here is a truth you will discover sooner or later if you haven’t already done so: people can be fickle. You will probably, in the course of your lifetime, be wounded, and feel let down by and disappointed in people who you thought were your friends. You loved them, and served them; you treated them kindly and courteously, and then one day you find yourself bleeding copiously from a ‘knife wound’ they inflicted on you. And it hurts so much. Sometimes the cut goes that deep you feel you will never recover. At least, you can’t imagine the scar fading.

Many years ago, as a rather naive eighteen year old, I asked a Ugandan student in Bible College how he found people in the UK. His deadpan response was, ”People are people brother.” As someone said, ”The best of men are men at best.” We are all fallen, flawed and frail and capable of damaging as well as being damaged. ”People are people”.

In this world Jesus had trouble – terrible trouble. He soaked up the hatred and violence of His enemies. But He was also badly let down, when ‘push came to shove’, by his closest friends. He had spent around three years with these men, and poured His life and love into them. He had given Himself unstintingly to them. Even as they were telling Him that they were beginning to ‘get it’; that they were starting to understand His specialness, His uniqueness, He knew that they were about to let Him down big time.

”Do you finally believe? In fact, you’re about to make a run for it – saving your own skins and abandoning me.” The Message.

Like Jesus we will have trouble in this world. It will come predominantly from an antagonistic culture. But probably too much will come our way from fellow disciples who ought to know better. (Yet, knowing the worst about ourselves, we are not surprised, even if we are saddened.) How do you deal with this? Jesus points the way by example and word:

  1. Remember you are never alone. The Father will not abandon His beloved child.
  2. Recognise that in Jesus, the ‘Prince of Peace’ there is peace. ‘He is our peace’. In this world we will have trouble. But there’s a deeper reality: first and foremost we are in Jesus
  3. Realise that Christ is the Victor and we share in His victory. I believe that in one version Jesus, having spelled out that in the world His disciples will have trouble, goes on to say, ”But cheer up. I’m on top of it.” That’s important to remember. In fact, never let it out of your sight.

John 16: 17-22: Any Answers?

John 16: 17-22: Any Answers?

“17 At this, some of his disciples said to one another, ‘What does he mean by saying, “In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me,” and “Because I am going to the Father”?’ 18 They kept asking, ‘What does he mean by “a little while”? We don’t understand what he is saying.’19 Jesus saw that they wanted to ask him about this, so he said to them, ‘Are you asking one another what I meant when I said, “In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me”? 20 Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. 21 A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. 22 So with you: now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.” NIV

”Are you trying to figure out among yourselves what I meant when I said…?” (19) The Message.

Questions, questions, questions! It is not wrong to ask questions. Rather it is natural and normal to have them. Life throws up scores of questions.

It’s not wrong either to talk with fellow disciples about our questions. The essence of fellowship is ‘sharing’, and we can and should open up our hearts, our thoughts to one another. We really can help each other.

Neither is it wrong to try to ”figure” out what Jesus means. God has given you a wonderful brain. It is a remarkable gift. We are told that we don’t come anywhere close to fully utilising its capacity. So, by all means, please use the grey stuff between your ears. Be a thinking Christian…

…but do this PRAYERFULLY.

It is a big mistake to ask questions that pertain to Jesus, His Word and His work, and not ask Him WHEN HE IS WITH US. It is sad when we run the church by committee meetings and brainstorming sessions and good ideas, but do not pray – or, at least, pray only perfunctorily:

”If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5).

Sometimes we just don’t do the obvious:

”Jesus knew they were dying to ask him what he meant…” (19) The Message.

So why don’t we?  Is it that we think the Lord might ‘find fault’ with us; might scold us for our stupidity or ignorance? Might be somewhat annoyed or irritated? 

Jesus is willing to explain to us as much as He wants us to know. He doesn’t unveil every mystery of course, but He is alive, and He speaks to His followers. I thought about entitling this piece ‘Any questions?’, but in the end I went for ‘Any answers?’ His answers are far more important than our questions. We will not always find what He says to us easy to bear, but we can trust Him to be truthful. Whatever pain may lie in the short term, over the long haul the outlook is glorious. The Christian story is a ”happy ever after” story.

And a day is coming when we will have all the answers we need.

But for today, what pressing, burning questions do you need to lay at Jesus’ feet? Come – He bids you, and at His door you will see the ‘welcome’ mat.

PRAYER: Thank you Lord Jesus that you speak to your disciples still today, and that you are willing to help. Please forgive me for the many times I try to work through stuff on my own. I ask today for your wisdom with regard to…(fill in the blanks yourself), and I trust that I will be given help and understanding. Thank you Lord.

John 16:5-11: The Supreme Counsel for the prosecution.

John 16:5-11: The Supreme Counsel for the prosecution.

“5 but now I am going to him who sent me. None of you asks me, “Where are you going?” Rather, you are filled with grief because I have said these things. But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because people do not believe in me; 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11 and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.” NIV

I believe I once read somewhere that the great and effective Victorian preacher, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, used to say to himself,every time he was entering the pulpit, ”I believe in the Holy Ghost.” He knew where his strength lay.

Today’s passage says at least three things to us:

  1. Have confidence in the Holy Spirit. He has a job to do, and He will do it. You can be sure of that: ”When he comes, he’ll expose the error of the godless world’s view of sin, righteousness, and judgment: He’ll show them that their refusal to believe in me is their basic sin; that righteousness comes from above, where I am with the Father, out of their sight and control; that judgment takes place as the ruler of this godless world is brought to trial and convicted.” (The Message) He causes people to see fundamental spiritual realities. Believe in His presence and activity in the world, even though you do not see Him. He is at work. You may or may not be a preacher, but every Christian should share Spurgeon’s confidence in the Holy Spirit.
  2. Don’t confuse your role with that of the Holy Spirit. It is not your work to change people. Some  folks seem to see it as their life’s assignment to put everybody else right. If that’s you, you are wrong! Christian wife, you are not asked to do the Holy Spirit’s work with reference to your unconverted husband. And to any Christian husbands with unregenerate spouses, it’s exactly the same message to you. Christian parents, much as you love your children and want to see them in God’s Kingdom, you can’t push them in by force. You can’t badger and bully them into submission. This is not the God appointed way. Please get this: it is not your job to bring another human being under conviction of sin. This task is definitely the domain of the third Person of the Trinity. It’s not the case that we have nothing to do. We have already seen the ‘double testimony’ in (15:26, 27). Jesus said about the Spirit, ”he will testify about me”. But He went on to say, ”you also must testify…” We do have to co-operate with the Holy Spirit in pointing to Jesus, but He is supremely ‘the Counsel for the prosecution.’ Spirit-filled witness is your job; conviction of sin is His unique work.
  3. Look for what the Holy Spirit is doing in every situation you find yourself in. He is working in people and situations where it may appear to the outward eye that nothing promising is happening. Only this morning, I heard a testimony given by a highly influential pastor. He told a story of how as a youth he was totally reprobate. He said he loved his sin. But then his life began to cave in. A friend invited him to a Christian meeting. After attending for a while he bought himself a Bible (‘The Authorised Version’, because that was the one in use in that particular church!) and it began to come alive to him. He was soundly converted. Again, as you read the Book of ‘Acts’, you get the impression time after time that the church is playing ‘catch up’ with the Holy Spirit. They are discovering what He is doing, and joining Him in it. That makes for effective mission. As someone said, the Holy Spirit is ”President” and not just ”resident”.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, as I understand you here, I believe you are saying that I; that we who make up your church today, are in a more advantaged position than were the disciples who lived with you during your earthly life. This is a remarkable, mysterious truth, but we have your Holy Spirit within us. How wonderful. Thank you Lord for your abundant provision.

John 16:1-4:Loving honesty.

John 16:1-4:Loving honesty.

“‘All this I have told you so that you will not fall away. They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. I have told you this, so that when their time comes you will remember that I warned you about them. I did not tell you this from the beginning because I was with you,” NIV

In order to help people, you can’t always tell them what they want to hear. There are times when the only way to protect is by proffering loving honesty. Jesus knows what His disciples need to hear and WHEN they need to hear it (4). You can feel Jesus’ love for His disciples in the content and timing of these words.God has a way of preparing our hearts for times of trouble ahead. I’ve heard people say that they can cope with bad news better when they know precisely what the diagnosis and prognosis are; when they can look what they are facing squarely in the eye. When there’s a vague sense of threat hanging in the air it’s much harder to deal with.

When ”the time comes” they will remember that Jesus knew all about it and prepared them in advance (4). This will strengthen their confidence in Him. It points to the Lordship of Jesus. He (and they) may be under threat, but He is definitely in control.

What had Jesus already told His disciples to keep them ‘on the straight and narrow’?    Here are a few things:

  1. They will be hated (15:18). They are to expect animosity, violence and even death itself. Look how that theme continues here (2);
  2. They will be hated because of their relationship to Jesus (15:18, 20, 21). But the hatred of Jesus, and His church, is irrational (15:25). It is also inexcusable (15:22);
  3. This hatred springs from spiritual ignorance (15:21; 16:3);
  4. In the face of hatred and danger, they ”must” testify to Jesus (15:27). But they are not alone (15:26). The Holy Spirit will do the work. So there is a balanced picture of warning and encouragement. Some people did wholeheartedly obey Jesus’ teaching (20b) so they could anticipate some degree of success.

Let’s be careful to spell out the cost of discipleship to potential (and actual) followers and ask them to count it. And don’t be surprised if you find the Christian life hard; if you find yourself and your message opposed; if you should be socially ostracised. Expect it. If it’s not your experience now, it no doubt will be at some point. Keep going, trusting in the reality of the Holy Spirit. Remember, Jesus knows, and He is in charge of all things.

John 15:26-27: The evangelistic imperative.

John 15:26-27: The evangelistic imperative.

“26 ‘When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father – the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father – he will testify about me. 27 And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.” NIV

”And you also must testify…”

It is an imperative for a disciple of Christ to ”testify” to Him. We who have been called into relationship with Jesus; who know Him; who spend time with Him – we are to testify to Him.

But the testimony spoken of here is a double testimony. It is the witness of the Holy Spirit and that of the disciple. In fact, the Holy Spirit is the primary witness. His testimony is mentioned first.

In the first place He testifies about Jesus to us, so that we may know Him more and more.

But, secondly, He testifies about Jesus through us. He is the great evangelist in our world; the foremost missionary and witness to Christ. Without Him all our efforts to spread the gospel will fail.

I like to think, as an illustration, of a gloved hand. To the outward eye it looks like the glove is moving, touching, picking things up.But in reality it is the hand in the glove doing the work. The hand and glove have become as one.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, I pray that the Holy Spirit will so fill my life that I become a powerful witness to Jesus. I ask in Christ’s own Name.

John 15:18-25: On persecution.

John 15:18-25: On persecution.

“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.” If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21 They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father as well. 24 If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. 25 But this is to fulfil what is written in their Law: “They hated me without reason.” NIV

If the last section in John was about love, this next one turns to the theme of hate – the hatred of the world (”the moral order apart from God” D. Guthrie) for Christ, for His Father, and for the church (18, 19, 23, 24). At one level it is an inexplicable hatred because it is ”without reason” (25; see Psalm 25:19; 69:4). Why would ”the world” hate the God who ”so” loves it (John 3:16). It doesn’t make any sense naturally speaking. But we are not ‘naturally speaking’. We live and serve in war time realities (Ephesians 6:10-20).

Here are four observations from the passage:

  1. The persecution of Christians is indissolubly linked to the persecution of Jesus (18, 20, 21). The Lord had previously enunciated the principle found in (20) back in (13:16): ”No servant is greater than his master.” There it related to the need for humility. Here it has to do with how the world will treat them. If Jesus was hated by the world they will be. But some did respond warmly and positively to the teaching of Jesus and we will find this too. The picture is not totally bleak.
  2. Christians are persecuted because they do not belong to the world (19). We belong to another country, a better land, a different commonwealth, a greater kingdom: ”But our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20). We have been born from above. We don’t belong in this world. It’s been said that the principle here is that like attracts like but repels opposites. It’s like when birds turn on other birds of a different plumage and want to kill them.
  3. Persecution has its origin in ignorance of God (21). People who truly know God would not hound other lovers of God. They just wouldn’t.
  4. Persecution may be understandable, but it is nevertheless inexcusable (22,24). The preaching and miracles of Jesus left them without excuse. Brilliant light had shone in their darkness. They allowed their day of opportunity to pass them by.

I applaud every sincere attempt to befriend people who are not Christians. Jesus was the Friend of sinners, and I want to follow in His steps. But if we offer that friendship without compromise, we will find that there will be many who do not wish to return it. Don’t be surprised if you are often rejected, ostracised and even hated. Don’t let it be because you are offensive, or unwise in your behaviour. But you must be prepared for it. That’s how things are. That’s how Jesus said it would be.

I heard that a new Christian said to Charles Spurgeon: ”Mr. Spurgeon, now that I am a Christian, how much of the world must I give up?” Spurgeon replied, ”Young man, don’t worry. The world will give you up.”

PRAYER: ”Lord Jesus, in the face of hostility, help me to not be surprised, and fill me with courage to still stand by your Cross.

John 13:6-11: Dirty feet.

John 13:6-11: Dirty feet.

“6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”“Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”10 Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.” NIV

You have to smile at Peter, don’t you? I know that in smiling at him we are regularly smiling at ourselves, but I have to admit he makes me smile. You see the contours of a real, larger than life character appearing on the page. The Biblical portrait of Peter bursts out in vivid, flawed realism.

Initially, Peter was resistant to having his feet washed by Jesus (6, 8a). It didn’t seem fitting and proper to let the Master be the slave in these circumstances. He wasn’t having that.

Jesus’ words of reply (7) to Peter’s initial shocked question (6) apply to many circumstances in life. I remember someone sending a bereavement card to my family after my mum died in her early 50’s. It made reference to this verse. Life throws up many mysteries.

After Jesus had corrected Peter’s faulty thinking (8b), typically the disciple was enthusiastically ‘all or nothing ‘ in his response; wanting to do the right thing: ”Then…not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” (9). But  in the East in those days, a person might bathe in the morning. When they arrived at a home where they were visiting they wouldn’t need a bath. It’s just that their feet would have got dusty and dirty on those hot, dry roads (10a). Jesus reminded Peter about this.

When someone becomes a Christian they ‘have a bath’, you might say. They are thoroughly washed and cleansed by Jesus. But on this Christian ‘walk’ our ‘feet’ get dirty. They need regular washing. We must learn to ‘keep short accounts’ with God (1 John 1;6-10). We are truly grateful for the once-for-all bath, but we will keep offering our ‘feet’ to Jesus for His cleansing work: ”…what we need day by day is the regular washing of those parts of ourselves, our personalities and bodies, which get dusty and dirty. When Peter objects to Jesus washing him, this reflects his objection (in Mark 8.32 and elsewhere) to Jesus going to the cross. Neither he nor the others have yet understood what it is that Jesus has to do, and why.” (Tom Wright: ‘John for everyone’,pp.45, 46.)

John 13:1-5; 12a: The drama of salvation.

John 13:1-5; 12a: The drama of salvation.

“It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.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.He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”“Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”10 Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them.” NIV

Many years ago, I read in a book by the leading evangelical Anglican rector, John Stott, that there is a strong parallel with Philippians 2:5-11 at this point in John 13. Jesus ”got up from the meal”, just as He got up from His heavenly throne. He ”took off his outer clothing”, just as He divested Himself of His heavenly glory. Then He ”wrapped a towel round 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 round him.” This reminds us how Jesus, the second Person of the Godhead, ”emptied himself”; He made himself of ”no reputation”. He took ”the very nature of a servant” and ”humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!” He did all this to wash our souls, to cleanse us from sin. ”This is our God, the servant King.” This is what God is like, and ‘He calls us now to follow him; to bring our lives as a daily offering, of service to the                        servant King’ (12-17).

So the drama of salvation is beautifully painted in this breathtaking scene, including His exaltation to the highest place (12/ Philippians 2:9-11).

If we cannot marvel at these truths, I wonder if anything will ever cause us to wonder. But we must go beyond standing and staring at the glory. This has to make a difference in our daily lives and relationships (12-17). We are called by Jesus to emulate Jesus, and we need to believe that anything He asks of us He will also enable. Such a life may seem beyond you. In fact, if you feel that, you probably do have some understanding of what the Master is requiring. But you also need to be sure that He will equip you to follow in His steps.

Whatever the truth you are being shown, it is in the doing of it that you will find the blessing (17).

”So let us learn how to serve, and in our lives enthrone him; each other’s needs to prefer, for it is Christ we’re serving.’ Graham Kendrick.

John 13:2, 10,11: One step ahead.

John 13:2, 10,11: One step ahead.

 “It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.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.He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”“Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”10 Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.” NIV

It is impossible to make sense of the evil in the world without reference to that malevolent personality we call the devil. He is not merely an influence; a force for badness. He is a real, intelligent being who can ‘prompt’ people to do wrong (2). Even though he is unseen, his presence cannot be always hidden.

”The devil had already put the idea of betraying him into the heart of Judas…” (Tom Wright). 

Wright says Judas allowed ”the devil’s whispered suggestion to gain a foothold in his imagination…notice how evil creeps in between the cracks at the very moment when love is going to the limit.” ‘John for everyone’, p.45.

You may be aware of ‘ideas’ planted in your heart by the arch-imposter – things you are thinking and feeling that you know to be wrong. Don’t play with them. Don’t toy with them. Declare war on them in the Name of Jesus. Nail them to the cross. Do it to them before they do it to you! Don’t allow sinful thoughts to nest in your soul and hatch their poisonous eggs.

Take heart though. Whatever Satan plans to do, Jesus is one step ahead of him. He knows what is going to happen, and what He permits He uses for His glory.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, help me when I see things inside me I should not tolerate. Enable me to be ruthless in identifying and rooting out those ‘seeds’ planted by the evil one.

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