The gospel of John consistently associated Jesus with the concept of life. The gospel opened with that emphasis. In 1:1-5 the preexistent Jesus was the Word who was God's creative agent. The Word was involved in bringing original life into existence on this earth. John said, "In him was life, and the life was the light of men." In chapter 3 Jesus talked to Nicodemus about the new birth--life! In chapter 4 he told the Samaritan woman that he could provide her with "living water"--just as water was essential to life, what he provided was essential to spiritual life. The gospel begins with a definite link between Jesus and life--creative life, life for the seekers, and life for those in need.
The emphasis on the link between Jesus and life is stressed throughout the writing. Jesus is the source of eternal life (3:15 and many other statements); is the means of passing from death to life (5:24); can give life to those who come to him (5:40); is the bread of life (6:35, 48, 51); has words that are spirit and life (6:63); is the Light of life (8:12); came that people might have abundant life (10:10); and is the resurrection and the life (11:25). Obviously, the author wanted the original readers of this gospel to associate Jesus with life.
It is critical that those who place their trust in God see God as the source of life. It is critical that those who place their trust in God see Jesus as God's revelation of life. God sent Jesus to give us life! If people do not find life in Jesus, one of God's ultimate blessings will not be experienced in those believers.
Two challenges are common to human existence in all cultures: (1) correctly identifying the source of life, and (2) understanding the correct lifestyle [existence] to pursue.
Commonly, people misperceive the source of life. There are numerous variations of the suggested basic assumptions. Yet, the variations commonly stem from the same basic assumptions. Commonly, if in the person's opportunity, he or she is convinced that the "life worth living" is found in one or a combination of these basic assumptions.
Assumption # 1: the source of "life worth living" is accessed by possessing things. Frequently we refer to this as materialism. It is the conviction that if I own or have access to the right possessions [in the American culture/society one may acquire access to things by abusing credit], that is the primary route to the "good life." Materialism can be pursued through many variations--winning the lottery, acquiring an unexpected inheritance, becoming a successful entrepreneur, making successful investments, having a successful savings program, being financially successful in business, having more than people around me, etc. It is not possessions that are deceiving. It is the motivation for possessing that is deceiving. One who has nothing can be as materialistic as one who possesses many things. Poverty of itself is not proof that a person is not materialistic. Possessions of themselves are not proof that a person is materialistic. A person can measure life in terms of possessions regardless of what he/she actually has.
Jesus declared material pursuits are not the source of life. Consider Matthew 6:19-34.
Assumption # 2: the source of the "life worth living" is accessed by pleasure. Likely this is one of the more perplexing assumptions to a distinct group in the American society/culture. Many older Americans endured hard times and privation before they entered an easier existence. They are perplexed by the attitudes of many younger Americans who conclude the purpose of life is "having fun." There is a definable segment of Americans who declare "having fun" to be life's purpose. One goes to college first to "have fun" and second to pursue the training that can provide a lifestyle of "having fun" after college. Some endure their jobs during the week in order to "have fun" on the weekend. Voluntary commitments are assumed when "having fun" is the objective. Contracts [including marriage vows or parenting responsibilities] are valid as long as one is "having fun." If "having fun" vanishes, the contract is canceled or deserted.
Frequently, in this assumption, "having fun" centers in indulging physical desires. It may be an adrenaline rush; it may be an escape; it may be an indulgence producing a pleasurable response; it may be a thrill. Whatever form of physical desire is satiated, the common denominator is selfishness. Even in a pleasure focus, too often there is little consideration given to "how much pleasure am I giving you," and a lot of consideration given to "how much pleasure you provide me." When a person becomes inwardly focused on his/her own physical desires, he/she easily views others as objects to be used instead of persons of value and worth.
Jesus said pleasurable indulgence is not the source of life. Consider Luke 16:19-31.
Assumption # 3: the source of the "life worth living" is accessed by status. A person is convinced that life is empowered to achieve its fullness and potential by occupying a position which declares, "I am better than you, superior to all, or above others." This pursuit encourages attitudes that even most people seeking status resent in others: arrogance, vanity, elitism, shallowness, untrustworthiness, selfishness, etc. Those who make status life's priority frequently are people who (a) possess poor relationship skills or (b) sacrifice relationships on the altar of status. Commonly, to these people things or power are more important than others. When sacrifices must be made, and the choice is between a person [or persons] and a thing, or a person [or persons] and power, or a person [or persons] and opportunity, the person [or persons] lose. People are sacrificed for things, or power, or opportunity.
Jesus said status is not the source of life. Consider John 13:5-20 or Luke 10:30-37.
Jesus said he is the source of life. How can that be? (a) In his blood is redemption. (b) In his resurrection is hope. (c) Through him we can see and can come to God.
We surely need someone to teach us how to live! America offers the greatest freedoms, the greatest human rights, the greatest prosperity, and the greatest opportunities to the greatest segment of its society in any nation. In offerings to its total population, no nation is a close second. Yet, look at depression in America, suicide in America, addictions in America, divorce in America, abandoned people in America, abuse in America, or inferior family relationships/bonds in America. We have so much! Yet, we do not know how to live.
Note each of the assumptions and read Jesus' statements/parables in Matthew 6:19-34. Luke 16:19-31, John 13:5-20, and Luke 10:30-37. Discuss this question: Why is it so easy to see materialism, pleasure, or status as life's source instead of seeing Jesus as life's source?
Link to Teacher's Guide Lesson 12
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