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I’ve recently been blown away reading John’s Gospel and chewing it over in preparation for River’s new teaching series.  The more I think about it, the more convinced I become that John was labouring to convey the gospel in a way that the church hasn’t picked up on.  What is more, this could be just the story that our generation needs and will respond to!  If that sounds exciting, I hope you’ll enjoy reading on.
He builds his gospel around two essential facts:

  • God is love
  • God’s creation is being made new, or complete, as Jesus secures our partnership 

For God so loved the world, he sent Jesus to make it new so that we won’t perish!  (3:16) Or to use another well-known saying in John, “Behold Jesus, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (1:29)  In other words, this is Jesus who completes, or puts right, all the ways in which the world falls short of God’s calling and intention.  So often, we have reduced this phrase to a pagan-like notion of a blood sacrifice which transfers God’s anger at sin from us to Jesus so we can be accepted.  The truth is, God has always been willing to accept us, but, like the Prodigal Son, we need to come to our senses and realise being with him is the best place to live.  That is the nub, salvation for creation only happens as we trust God, as we believe in him, or have faith in him, which is why Jesus must win our hearts back to the Father.
He came that those who believe may have eternal life (back to 3:16).  It’s the way Jesus lived and died, and that fact he rose from the dead, that wins our hearts and draws us into trusting him.  The good news is that those who choose to trust Jesus live in eternal life now!  We can experience the fullness of life Jesus promised now (10:10). John’s is not just a gospel for life after death, but life before death.  The kind of abundant life most can only envisage in eternity, we can live now!  This full-to-overflowing life comes from knowing who we are, that we are loved, that we are safe and that will always have enough, so we can focus on helping our Dad do beautiful things for others!  Incidentally, when we understand this, the Lord’s Prayer takes on a new level of meaning and looks like a genius idea for Jesus to place at the heart of our faith.  Like a ticking time-bomb it is only a matter of time before this prayer blows up the foundations of all religion (yes, I used the present tense regarding religion as there is still way too much of it in Christianity).

Our Need
The Lord's Prayer
Desired Outcome
To know who we are Our Father… We know we’re his beloved children
To know we'll have enough Give us today… We no longer grab what we need
To know we are safe Deliver us… We no longer fight to defend ourselves
To be forgiven …as we forgive those We extend the grace we’ve received
To have meaning Your kingdom come We partner with him in doing good

How do we get to this ‘new’ gospel message from John, when so many have settled for a poor imitation?  Well firstly, let’s look at the poor imitation.  It is often summarised by these four words: Creation, Fall, Redemption and Restoration.  It leaves us with a sense that something was lost that needs to be recovered, that it’s about getting back somewhere we used to be… not very exciting.  It is also sin-centric.  It revolves around Eden and is about undoing the damage caused by Adam & Eve’s choice not to trust God.  John repeatedly undermines the notion that sin is central.  When the religious leaders bring the lady caught in adultery for him to judge her for her sin, Jesus refuses and says, “Neither do I condemn you” (8:11).  He then makes the enigmatic statement that he is the light of the world (8:12).  The young woman would not sin again, if she walked in the light of the life he lived.  We see another example in the next chapter when Jesus heals the man born blind.  It is his disciples, this time, who are concerned about sin and want to know whose sin caused the blindness, the man’s or his parents (9:2).  Jesus says, “Neither”, and then says, “but I must do the works of him who sent me whilst it is light” (9:4) and again declares that he is the light (9:5).  In fact, you could construe that Jesus wants there to be more sin (please don’t take that too seriously), because he says that if he hadn’t done the miracles he did and taught what he taught, those who heard and saw would have no sin!  (John 15:22-24).  It would appear that sin is not the primary issue, so what is?
The story that John tells goes further back than Genesis 3 and we can see that in his first chapter.  He calls us back to the dawn of creation, to Genesis 1 and “In the beginning” (1:1).  He writes of Jesus being with God in the beginning, and Jesus being God.  He then says that Jesus is the light of humanity (1:4).  This is another clear allusion to Genesis 1 and Jesus being the one who would drive out the darkness (Gen 1:2).  The darkness was not declared good, only the light (1:4), because we get lost in the darkness, danger lurks there and we hide there.  Later in Chapter 1, John says that the Word (Jesus), became flesh and blood and lived among us (1:14).  That is a clear reference to Day 2 of creation, the only day of creation not declared good.  On Day 2, the heavens were separated from the earth, God’s dwelling place removed from ours, and God could not declare this good as he longs to live with us.  Of course, it had to be so because he is love and he would not force himself upon us… he still won’t!  So, Jesus is the undoing of all that was wrong, or the completing of all that was not finished, in creation.  New Creation was inherent in, and the completion of, Creation.  As an old man and whilst a prisoner on Patmos, John has a vision of New Creation where there is no night (Rev 21:25) and God dwells with us (Rev 21:4), when we are finally United with Jesus as a bride to her husband.  The darkness needs driving out and God and man need to live together.  This all happens in Jesus!
We don’t forget Eden, it’s just not the main problem.  Adam and Eve’s choice flowed from the fact darkness was already present, they didn’t fully know God.  Yes, their choice meant they became orphans and we are all subsequently born orphans, not really knowing who we are or why we’re here.  Yes, it meant things got worse than they might have, or even should have, but it was a secondary problem flowing from their ignorance of God and that they weren’t living with him.  You see, holiness, isn’t something we aim for in itself, it is something that arises from our desire to be like him.  Holiness is a result of living with him in the light.  Jesus is the light of the world, the lamb of God who laid down his life that we might trust him and work with him to bring to completion all that was inherently unfinished in creation.  Wow!  What a glorious gospel we have!

Colin Barnes - Leader in Theology and Evangelism

Colin Barnes, 04/02/2021