Summary: The Gospel of John contains many short stories showing responses we have when we encounter Jesus Christ; some are positive and preferred while some are not. This sermon is an introduction to the series.
When my son was right out of college he worked for an electronics manufacturer that sent him to China to learn how their production process functioned. While there, Craig did what all tourists do … he shopped. To his amusement he saw many products being sold on the street that he knew were knockoffs. But, sometimes you have to buy one just for the novelty of it.
One of the most popular knockoffs available on the street was the ten-dollar Rolex watch. It seemed that all tourists would take at least one home with them. They look real, so long as you don’t look too closely, but don’t rely on one to keep accurate time. As far as watches go, they aren’t even worth the ten dollars you pay for them. These fake Rolexes (Fauxlexes!) exist because somewhere there are real Rolexes. If it weren’t for the real thing, there wouldn’t be a market for the pretenders.
Today we begin a sermon series from John’s Gospel. The crux of the series, and the book, is to illustrate in short stories what real faith looks like … what a real Savior can do. There are many “fauxlexes” that claim to be the bread of life, living water, and the Way but, when you look close they fail the claim. We will discover that Jesus does not and what a proper response to the “Truth” looks like.
Let’s pray together.
ENCOUNTERS WITH JESUS
Wanna hear a story?
People are interested in other people’s lives and like to hear their stories. The appeal of a good novel, movie or biography is that it draws one into the story so that we identify with one or more of the characters or experiences.
The apostle John understood this. He tells some good stories and we can identify with many of the characters. John deliberately puts various characters on the stage; all of who interact with Jesus. They produce an array of belief responses. John tells us very clearly that this (believing in Jesus) is why he wrote the book and the characters presented are intended to challenge us to evaluate our own personal response to Him.
You see, Jesus is the central figure in human history and he came into the world to provide everlasting life and to reveal God. Few books in the Bible make this clearer than the Gospel of John.
John chapter 1 is emphatic about this:
John 1:4 says, “In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.”
John 1:16-17 says, “Out of his fullness we have all received grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”
Nothing could be clearer that John’s own statement for the writing of the book. In 20: 31 we read, “These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”
John’s gospel gives story after story of people who encountered Jesus. In each case we see a response and that response determines that person’s role throughout the rest of the book. On more than one occasion these characters re-emerge later and reinforce their previous responses. So … these responses deserve our attention. You see, they reveal how Christ-followers are supposed to respond or, in some cases, what a deficient response entails.
People who encounter Jesus respond by either accepting or rejecting his offer of life. And there is one word that is used over and over in the book to describe that response.
The Greek word for belief has noun and verb forms. It is can be translated as “believe”, “trust”, “faith”, and even “confidence.” But, make no mistake about it, there is a concrete and clear understanding of what this belief entails … what it looks like in real life and in real lives.
We will discover that belief and knowledge are not the same thing too. Some in the book have great knowledge but do not “know God” (do not believe) while others know very little about God but trust and, thus, experience God’s life. This is Good News! You see our knowledge can be imperfect (even flawed) and our faith (belief) may grow and strengthen over time, but these are qualities in degree; in every case the simple act of faith (imperfect as it may be) trumps knowledge and escorts us into life ever-lasting.
In fact, Jesus says this is the basic task that we are called to. In chapter 6 the disciples ask “What must we do to do the works God requires?” and Jesus responds by saying “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent” (John 6:28-29).