Does the Word Find Place in You (John 8:37)?
A major theme in John’s Gospel is Jesus revealing the Father to us through the words that the Father taught the Son (8:28) and what the Son has heard (8:26) from the Father. This was Jesus’ response. What John is inviting the reader to consider is one’s response to God’s word.
The religious leaders grumbled, muttered and disputed amongst themselves (6:41, 52). Even more startling is that many of Jesus’ followers had the same response (6:61). In John 8 we see the remarkable movement of those who “believed” in 8:30 picking up stones to kill him by 8:59 after having their faith challenged by Jesus. Initially there was a receptive response, later Jesus’ words were rejected.
Jesus says he knows his Father and keeps his Father’s word (8:55; 14:31; 15:9,10). Implication, will you and I?
Responding to the W0rd
John 8 uses a string of pictorial statements regarding a proper receptivity and responsiveness to the Word. I provide the Greek meaning in italics following each verse:
- “Abide in my word” 8:31 to keep, remain, hold to
- “My word finds no place in you” (stated in the negative, but very instructive to us) 8:37 to enter, to hold, have place, to receive (“find place” is one word in Greek)
- “Bear to hear my word” 8:43 ability to hear, to attend to, consider, perceive, to give ear, appropriation of what is heard (“bear to hear” is one word in Greek)
- “Stand in truth” 8:44 figurative use of this word; remain, abide
- “Hears the word of God 8:47 same as verse 43
- “Keeps my word” 8:51 to protect, guard
Tying all this together gives us a very rich picture. The Father has taught and spoken to the Son. He has sent the Son to speak to us. The question is, how will we respond to this revelation.
Persevering in the Word
A mark of Christ-followership is that we hear his word, make space for his word in our hearts, trust his word, follow his instruction (obedience), and keep on keeping on in his word. God has promised that he is watching over his word to do its work (Jeremiah 1:12). Indeed, “If anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” The Word retained brings life. The Word rejected bring judgement. God’s word will do its work.
This has at least two huge implications for both our faith journey and our shepherding.
Implication #1: Exposure to the Word in our Personal Lives
Deep, lingering study of the word can be hard work. I major thief of this necessity is busyness. But our schedules and our organizations are not to blame. We are not helpless victims. We can prioritize, we can learn study and reflection skills, and we can protect our heart-minds and faith by nurturing ourselves in the Word. Be encouraged to constantly make time for the Word over the duration of your life journey.
Implication #2: Word-Saturated Ministry in Our Shepherding
Shepherds must teach the word – not dabble in it or merely refer to it. The Word of God is a primary stream of nourishment God provides for us. Everywhere I go I run into a famine of the Word. When I am with people, teams, and gatherings, people are starving for good, solid teaching of the word. The goal is not knowledge accession or mere doctrinal exactness, it is to allow the word to be a springboard for personal engagement with God. It is possible for our personal lives to be so saturated in the word that regardless of the context we find ourselves in – whether public speaking or coffee shop conversation – the word can flow out of us in normal everyday language.
How has God done his word’s work in you life and ministry of late?
After PTM I spent weeks in John, absorbing Jesus’ relationship with the Father. It was a very meaningful time! I deeply appreciate your reminders to keep my relationship with God ahead of the work I am doing for him.
We, too, see the famine of the Word as we minister to the people God sends to us. Sometimes what we think is just a drop of water is a live-giving stream to someone. So encouraging to see God work using his words to heal people!
Irene – So good to hear from you. I am so excited to hear of the impact of your study in John. I too keep going back and back to that. It helps me understand my own adoption as a son of God and what that relationship does and can look like.
Be encouraged as you bring the Person of Christ to many around the world. Thanks for the encouraging word – it means much to me. SS