New Creation Project
I still have my first Bible: a large print, red letter New Testament and Psalms. It was given to me by my grandparents when I first learned to read.
Inside it, my father wrote an inscription: “To Steven from Grandma & Grandpa – October 21, 1966,” accompanied by my name, phone, and address on 9th Ave in Phoenix.
Immediately after he signed it for me, I laid down in the living room to begin reading it. What should I read first? I opened it to the Gospel of John and began: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
It was a good place to start. Whenever I talk to people who are exploring Christianity, I recommend they start where I began: Read the Gospel of John.
One of the unique features of John is that it is filled with one-on-one encounters with Jesus. It challenges us with this truth: Jesus is not merely a subject to study; Jesus is a person to know.
In fact, perhaps the most important question in all the world is this: “Who Is Jesus, and How will I respond to him?” Like it or not, it is a question every one of us must answer.
Who is Jesus? Was he, as the Scriptures teach, God in the Flesh? Or was he merely a gifted teacher, a failed revolutionary, a religious impostor, or something else?
And if he was “God in the Flesh,” will I acknowledge him as such and bow my knee to him? Will I say, as I should, “I trust you with my life, and will follow you — no matter what you ask, no matter whereto lead?” Or will I delude myself into thinking that Jesus makes no such claim on my allegiance?
In virtually every chapter of John’s gospel, we discover various dimensions of this question. From the famous prologue with which it opens (1:1-18), all the way through its closing epilogue (ch. 21), people of every life situation are challenged to respond personally to Jesus Christ.
John tells us from the start what he believes about Jesus, and the claim he makes on every human being: “He is the Word of God made Flesh,” and those who “receive him … become children of God” (1:1, 12, 14).
We’ve hardly begun, and John is already telling us what we must do to be part of God’s family: “Receive him.”
And he closes his book with the stirring challenge to Peter: “What is that to you? You follow me!” (21:22). Due to his fears and self-doubt, Peter had tried to evade Jesus’ invitation to follow him. But Jesus would not let him (and us) off the hook. “You follow me!”
Just in case we were in danger of missing the point, John tells us the purpose of the whole book: “These are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (20:31).
Which brings us again to the central question at hand: What about you? Will you receive Jesus and become part of God’s family (1:12)? Will you follow Jesus no matter what anyone else does or says (21:22)? Will you receive the life that Jesus offers by trusting your life to him (20:31)?
If you do, you will become a part of God’s family. If you don’t you will miss out on the life God offers. It’s that simple.
Perhaps you are still unsure. If so, take a deep dive into the book. Inside it you will see Jesus in personal conversations with all kinds of people:
Perhaps you will see yourself in one of these encounters. I hope you do. I certainly find myself in them. As you read this book, I hope you come to love it as much as I do, and that you will meet Jesus in it, just as I have.
In fact, just for old times’ sake, I think I’ll read it this time in that raggedy New Testament my grandparents gave to me fifty years ago. Its large print, like Goldilocks’ porridge, is now “just right.”
“Lord Jesus, help me to have a personal encounter with you as I read the gospel of John. As I read it, help me to see you more clearly, love you more dearly, and follow you more nearly — day by day.”