Sometimes I know exactly what I want to study when I lead a Life Group. And sometimes, I really have no idea. We discussed reading a book. We discussed doing the sermon series. We discussed doing a serious study. And all of these are good ideas, but none of them jumped out and said, "Pick me!"
And then the group grew. Really big. And we wanted to choose something that everyone could do. So that everyone could participate and share.
And so we decided on a novel idea. We're going to study the Bible.
I'm the leader so I picked the book of John. One of my favorite books. (I understand the power of collaboration, but unfortunately, I had focused on planning my curriculum at SDSU instead of collaborating with the group.)
I chose the book of John because the knowing Jesus is essential to following Christ. Sometimes we take for granted that we know the stories in the gospels, but we forget to look closely to Jesus, listen to him speak through the books, and to hear him as if he is speaking to us. And so I wanted to choose a Gospel. And John is my favorite.
Our goal is to know Jesus. Not just know about him, but to know him. To trust him. To learn to listen to his voice, to love him, and to follow him.
In John 10, Jesus compares himself to a shepherd. He says the shepherd calls his sheep by name and leads them out, and when he brings them all of the pen, he goes on ahead of him, but his sheep follow him because they know his voice.
We want to know Jesus’ voice.
Why? So we can follow him. No matter how many distractions we have in our lives.
Jesus is God, and that’s why we must pay very careful attention to what he says. Hebrews 2 tells us, “We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.” So that we don't lose our passion, our focus, our desire to serve him and obey him.
We think we won’t, but we do.
When we’re not worshiping God on a regular basis, when we’re not spending time in our faith community, when we’re not reading the Word of God, when we’re not talking to God, our passion for God wanes. And we begin to put other things ahead of following Jesus.
And over time, we don’t even recognize Jesus voice. And if we don’t recognize his voice, we won’t even know how to follow him.
John 3 tells us that God sent Jesus, and that the “one whom God has sent speaks the words of God.” This is the reason we need to listen carefully. This is the reason why we want to pay careful attention to the Word of God through Jesus.
When we hear the term "Word of God," we tend to think of the written Bible. But for the people of the first century, “word” was much more auditory. They associated “word” and “voice” with hearing and not reading.
So when John writes, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us," the people he is writing to think of the words of the prophets they hear in the synagogue and commit to memory. Jesus embodies the spoken word of God. They can see those words. They can watch those words move and act and respond with love.
They can see God' glory, "the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth,” and for the first time, they can really know God.
Of course, we can't "see" Jesus physically, but as we read, as we meditate on God's Word, as we discuss it with each other, we will begin to recognize God's glory, his power, his love, and we will increasingly recognize his voice as he speaks to us.
We will benefit in other ways as well.
In Psalm 119, the phrase "God’s Word" is used interchangeably with the words "law," "precepts," and "commands." The psalmist tells us that God's Word
- Keeps us from sin
- Preserves our life
- Strengthens us
- Can be trusted
- Gives light
- Gives understanding
In Psalm 19, David reminds us that God's Word
- Revives the soul
- Makes wise the simple
- Gives joy to the heart
- Gives light to the eyes
- Is more precious than gold, sweeter than honey
As so my prayer, as we read through John, is that we will long for Jesus, that we will recognize his voice and follow him, that we will say with the psalmist, "My soul faints with longing for your word . . ."