Signs of Life
This morning, I have to admit that I am very intimidated. As most of you know, I am deeply committed to what can be called systematic consecutive expository preaching. Preaching is expository when it actually preaches the text instead of jumping from it. It exposes the true and accurate meaning of the text as God inspired it to be written. Then it applies that meaning to our lives so that we are challenged to be molded and changed and bent by Scripture rather than the other way around. I try to do that as faithfully as I know how and pray that God blesses His Word in spite of my shortcomings. But I’m not only committed to expository preaching, I’m committed to systematic consecutive expository preaching. According to Scripture in Ephesians 4, the job of the pastor/teacher is, “For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” That word “perfecting” there carries the meaning of equipping. In other words, as a pastor, God has called me to equip you for the work of the ministry. It is my pastoral calling to edify the church by teaching you how to correctly handle and understand and apply the Word of God. And the Lord has convicted me that the most effective way to do that is to systematically preach through the individual books of His Word, verse by verse. By doing that, I trust that you are able to see how Scripture fits together as a whole. And also by doing that, I trust that you will be protected from the wolves that will come in with false teachings that they base on individual verses pulled out of context. We are standing on the threshold of a time of great apostasy and falling away. And that time of great apostasy and falling away will be ushered in by well-intentioned church members who have fallen for good-sounding but false teaching. Because God has called me to equip and edify you… And because I don’t want you to fall for the lies that are leading many astray… I will continue to preach systematically, consecutively. And that’s what leads me to the feeling of intimidation and inadequacy I feel this morning. Because in seeking the Lord’s direction in the next book to preach through, He has led me here. He has led me to the Gospel of John. And as I have been reading and studying the book for the past several weeks in preparation, it is overwhelming. I feel as if we are standing at the bottom of Mount Everest this morning. Not as tourists, but as climbers. As we look up at the summit 5 ½ miles above us, I am in awe of the sheer immensity of the task before us. But no one has ever climbed a mountain in one step. And we won’t climb this mountain in one step. We’ll simply take it one step at a time. I don’t have any idea how long it’s going to take. I know that it took the great expository preacher, James Montgomery Boice, 270 sermons before he finished. I doubt it will take us that many. But even if it does, the journey will be well worth it.
Now, since I said all that about systematic, consecutive expository preaching, the place we’re going to begin is at the beginning, right? Not really. We’ll be in chapter 1 next week. But this morning, we need to understand why the Lord has called us to study this book. Why did God lead us here? Why did God lead John to write it in the first place? What is its purpose and why does that matter to us? And the wonderful thing is, God didn’t leave it for us to have to figure out. He told us in our passage this morning. In these two verses, He told us the nature of the book, the person of the book and the purpose of the book. The first thing he tells us is the nature of the book.
I’m sure if we were to take a survey in here this morning, many of you would say that the Gospel of John is your favorite book of the Bible. For many of us, it was the first book of the Bible we read all the way through. It contains the most widely memorized verse in the Bible and is beloved by Bible scholars and children alike. In his commentary, Leon Morris compared the Gospel of John to a pool of water. But not just any old pool of water. He said that John is like a pool of water that is shallow enough for a child to feel comfortable wading in. But it’s also deep enough that an elephant can swim in it. In other words, it is both simple and profound. It is perfect for the newest beginner and for the deepest scholar and most mature Christian. For that reason, many people consider John’s Gospel to be one of the most amazing books ever written. That shouldn’t surprise us either. Because the Apostle John wrote it as he was carried along by the Holy Spirit of God. But what is it? We know it’s an amazing, beloved book, but what kind of book is it? What is its nature? That’s where a lot of people get confused. They think that John wrote it as a biography. Since in many ways it is so different than the other three Gospels, some people think that John was trying to correct them or interpret them or replace them or add to them. That’s not the case. Because the other three Gospel writers were carried along by the Spirit of God as well. As simply as I can state this, John wrote this Gospel because God told him to. He didn’t write it to correct anything, because nothing in God’s Word needs to be corrected. He didn’t write it to give us a complete historical biography of Jesus life either. He clears that up in verse 30. He tells us that there were a whole bunch of things that Jesus did that he didn’t include. As a matter of fact, in the last verse of the Gospel John says, “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.” So, he tells us that he has no intention of giving us a completely exhaustive account of the life of Jesus. As a matter of fact, there are some pretty significant holes. He doesn’t do anything to clear up the biggest historical hole in the life of Jesus. The biggest historical gap in the life of Jesus is His childhood. And John says less about that than the others do. Instead of focusing on a historical biography, the Holy Spirit is writing through the Apostle John with a purpose. He focuses on a limited collection of the miraculous signs performed by Jesus. Once again, not all of them. But a limited number of them that would highlight certain aspects of Jesus nature. And that takes us to the person of the book.
In verse 31, John gives us the reason that he focused on those particular signs. He said, “But these [signs] are written that ye might believe.” But he doesn’t leave it off there. There were many in John’s day who believed in Jesus. As we will see when we go through this book, there were multitudes that believed in Jesus. There are many people today who believe in Jesus. As a matter of fact, I would say that most people you meet will say that they believe in Jesus. But what is it that they believe? They believe that Jesus was a great teacher. They believe that Jesus was a prophet. They believe that Jesus was a religious leader or was leading a revolution or was a martyr. Some even believe more about Jesus. They believe that Jesus can help them. They might even believe He is a healer. They might believe He is a comforter or a friend or a spiritual guide. Most people, whether in John’s day or in our day, want to believe in Jesus for the things He can do for them. But that wasn’t what John was interested in. He wrote down the things that Jesus did in order that people would believe in who He really is. These signs are written that you might believe—that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Yes, Jesus does wonderful things. He works miracles. He heals. As we go through the Gospel, we’ll see how Jesus changes water into wine. We’ll see how Jesus heals a boy who is far away from Him. We’ll see how Jesus heals a man who had been diseased for 38 years. We’ll see how Jesus fed the five thousand with 5 loves and 2 fish. We’ll see Jesus walking on the water, healing a man born blind and raising Lazarus from the dead. Jesus did all those amazing, wonderful, powerful things. Powerful things that attracted multitudes of people. But we will see that as He taught, people left. They said, “Your teachings are difficult, who can listen to them.” It even got to the point where Jesus asked the 12 disciples, “Will you also go away?” People today are still attracted to the things that Jesus can do. They want Jesus to make them healthy and wealthy and prosperous. They want Him to take away all the difficulties and troubles in their lives. They will believe in Jesus for what He will do for them. They will even believe in Jesus as a way to get rid of their guilty feelings. They will even believe in Jesus as an insurance policy to keep them out of hell. But is that belief? John had seen that kind of belief. He had seen the kind of belief that only believes in what Jesus can do. And he saw how those who only held that kind of belief, as he wrote in 6:66, “Went back and walked no more with Him.” John wasn’t interested in that kind of belief in Jesus. He was only interested in true saving belief in Jesus. The kind that is not rooted in only what Jesus can do. But the kind that’s rooted in who Jesus is. In verse 31, he said that he wrote about the miracles that you might believe. Believe what? That Jesus will do things for you? No—believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. He is the Christ, the Messiah, the chosen One of Israel, the fulfillment of all prophesy. The image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. He is the Son of God. God incarnate. God in the flesh. Immanuel, God with us. He is before all things and in Him all things consist. Hebrews 1:3 describes Jesus as, “the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power.” That is the kind of belief that John is looking for. Belief in who Jesus is and not just in what He does. Yes, Jesus works miracles. And those signs are for one purpose and one purpose only. They are to show us who He really is. To wake us up out of our self-sufficient slumber and show us who He really is. And when John wrote down these signs to show us who Jesus really is, he did it for a purpose. And he tells us that purpose in the rest of verse 31.
The purpose of this book is, “that believing ye might have life through His name.” See, it’s not enough to know about Jesus. It’s not enough to know that He can do some really powerful stuff. It’s not enough to call on Him to give you things or to heal you or to somehow make your life better. It’s not enough to tack Jesus on to your existing life. You can’t just carry Jesus around like a bumper sticker on the suitcase you carry all your excess baggage around in. It’s easy to make Jesus a slogan. It’s easy to make Him a wish granter. It’s easy to make Him a buddy. But Jesus won’t be any of those. He will either be your Lord of all, or He won’t be your Lord at all. The whole purpose of this book is so that you might believe. And that believing, you might have life. See, there are different kinds of belief. There is the kind of belief that the multitudes had during the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. That’s the kind of belief that believes Jesus has got a good thing going. Jesus is good to have on my team. Jesus is good to be co-pilots with. I believe that He can do good things for me like make me healthy and keep me out of hell. But live like Him? Have a life that’s filled with Him? I don’t know about that. James talked about that kind of belief. In James 2:19, he said, “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” The purpose of this Gospel is that you might believe in Jesus. Not just believe in what Jesus can do. Not just believe in the signs. But believe in Jesus as the Lord of your life. And that with that kind of belief, you might have life abundant and life eternal.
How do you see Jesus this morning? Is He just a source for signs to you? Is He just your get out of Hell free card? Is He just your fire insurance? Is the only time you call on Him when you’re in trouble or sick or need something? Or is His presence the absolute delight of your being? Yes, the signs are wonderful things. But the signs of life are just like road signs. The only reason they’re there is to point you to your destination. They aren’t supposed to be the focus. Your destination is. Where are you heading this morning? Are you heading where all the signs are pointing you? Or are you making up your own way? All the signs are pointing you to a deep, full and abiding relationship with Jesus. A relationship with Jesus as your Savior. A relationship with Jesus as your Lord. A relationship fully submitted to the creator and sustainer of the universe. A relationship He paid for with the ultimate sign of sacrifice, substitution and atonement. The sign of the cross. A relationship that He not only died to make a way for, a relationship that He lives to bring to pass. The question is, will you follow the signs? Will you trust what they say? Will you do as Romans 10:9 says, and “confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead”? If you will do that today, Scripture says that you will be saved today. Because Romans 10:10 says, “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” This is not some type of easy-believism. That’s the kind of belief that even the demons have. This is believing unto righteousness. This is believing that Jesus not only saves, but you trust Him enough to rule your life. Will you confess that type of belief today? If you will, the altar will be open in a few minutes so you can confess that openly and boldly. Your Savior died for you openly, He asks that you confess Him openly as well. If you have trusted Jesus in the past as your Savior, but haven’t been living with Him as your Lord, the altar is open for you as well. It’s time for you to come home. It’s time for you to claim the name of Jesus once again and let Him live His life through you. Nothing seals that kind of a decision like a public commitment. Come and let me pray with you. Come and let us pray with you. If you are in need of a church home and feel this is the place where God would have you serve… how long will you halt between two opinions… come and let us welcome you into our local body of Christ. Whatever commitment you need to make, however the Spirit is leading you this morning, respond to His calling. Don’t put Him off. Don’t rebel against His drawing. Come today.