Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name. – John 20:30-31
… one of the most fundamental and pervasive flaws among those who identify as Christians is that many of us do not invest in getting to know Jesus well.
This week, I am using this space to invite my readers to join us, at Imani, for a ten-week study of the Gospel of John. It will be led by our own Rev. Annie Ross during our Wednesday evening Bible/book study. I am really looking forward to this study! I don’t think there is a book of the Bible that is better than John for the purpose of getting to know Jesus. I do think that one of the most fundamental and pervasive flaws among those who identify as Christians is that many of us do not invest in getting to know Jesus well. That is the only explanation I can come up with for such oxymoronic characters as “racist Christians,” “misogynistic Christians,” “homophobic Christians,” etc. These and other selective-neighbor-loving Christians may believe in Jesus and, as far as I can tell, are sincere in their belief that they are following him. But I do not think they know him very well.
It takes time to get to know someone. It takes a long time to get to know someone very well. Intimate relationship must be cultivated and nurtured; and even after that has been done, sustaining it requires ongoing intention and attention. That’s the whole idea behind “date night” in long-term intimate relationships. Life keep us busy and is full of distractions. It is easy to find ourselves living with, even sleeping beside, someone with a slow but steadily increasing distance growing between us. Our relationships can be reduced to habits and routines, devoid of the intimate connection we once had. The good news is that, if both people want it and are willing to work at it, they can usually turn it around by setting aside time to re-connect.
It is just as easy for us to lapse into habit and routine in our relationship with Jesus. Whether it’s going to church on Sundays, or making sure that we watch, at least, one televised worship service each week, or whatever our church-substitute may be - it all can become little more than habitual ritual unless we stay connected in vibrant and intimate relationship with Jesus.
… selective-neighbor-loving Christians may believe in Jesus and, as far as I can tell, are sincere in their belief that they are following him. But I do not think they know him very well.
Reading the Gospel of John is a great tool for deepening our knowledge of Jesus. Please note that I say “knowledge of,” not just knowledge about Jesus. I know the Bible to be a Living Word; meaning I don’t just read it, I hear the Spirit speak to me through it. I call that reading while listening for the Word in the words. And that is based on John 1:1 and 1:14 - “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God ... And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us ...” When we read the Bible looking and listening for the Word in the words, Spirit speaks and we get insights and understandings not explicitly present in the words. We get to know the Word, which is Jesus.
In the small group setting - which is what our Bible/book studies are - we engage in mutual ministry; asking our questions, sharing our insights, each one enriching the experience for the others. Inevitably, we all get more from our study together than we would get from studying alone.
Then we have the opportunity to take what we hear in the group back to our private space; our “just-Jesus-and-me” space. And we can talk to him more intimately than before; with a deeper understanding of who he is. We can tell him those things we couldn’t (or wouldn’t) say to the group. And he will minister to us - Spirit to spirit. And that is how we get to know him better; that is when we realize that we have grown in intimate relationship with him.
Ten weeks! Imani is spending most of this summer jump-starting our relationships with Jesus - individually and corporately. All of our friends are welcome to join us Wednesday evenings at 7:00 pm at our ministry center. Please think about it, if you’ve been running on the “fumes” of your last revival. This study can be a revival of your intimate relationship with Jesus. Or, for some, it may be the beginning of it. Either way, I’m going into it looking for transformative blessings for all who attend.
May it be so, in Jesus’ name.