Maybe you’re familiar with the game “Truth or Dare.” It’s a silly game that pits truth-telling against some kind of “dare.” Well, we can think of the Gospel of John as containing both truth and dares. John draws out the truth about Jesus and dares us to live in response. That’s the purpose of John’s Gospel.
Today we kick off a new series on John’s Gospel entitled “Daring Faith.” But we will begin with the end in mind. Rather than opening up to John 1, I want us to fast forward to the end of John’s Gospel.
Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
John writes with a clearly stated purpose: belief. We could safely assume that the other Gospel writers share this same objective, but John is the only one to state it so explicitly. John records the miraculous signs Jesus performed over the course of his ministry and he has this end in mind: he writes to help unbelievers believe and believers to continue believing. But the ultimate goal is to connect with the source of life: Jesus Christ.
I don’t know where you are in your spiritual life but I believe this: no matter where we might be right now, John has a Word for each of us. Maybe you’ve never made a faith commitment to Jesus. If that’s you, then you’ll hear Jesus say in John 1:39, “Come and see.” It’s a simple invitation for us to walk with Jesus for a while, to see what He’s all about. Maybe you’ve been walking with Jesus for a long time. Maybe, like Simon Peter, there’s a lot of “water under the bridge” between you and Jesus. Even so, know this: you’ll hear Jesus call you with the same consistent invitation you responded to all those years ago: Follow me (John 21:19). No matter where we are spiritually, the Word will be speaking to us in the Gospel of John.
And The Word will be calling us to a place of greater belief.
We need to spend some time parsing this out. When we talk about “belief” today, we tend to speak of an intellectual endeavor. Prior to the Super Bowl, the talking heads offered up their opinions (beliefs) about the big game: who would win, keys to the game, etc. Leading up to the game, ESPN’s John Clayton wrote that Tom Brady was the greatest quarterback of all time. Clayton supported his claim with statistical data comparing Brady to Joe Montana, Peyton Manning, and Brett Favre. Clayton examined regular season records, regular season MVPs, career numbers and, of course, Super Bowl titles. (Of course, given Brady’s historic comeback victory, the case is probably closed.) In essence, Clayton was saying, “Here’s my belief and here’s my intellectual reasoning to support my claim.”
Last year, the shepherds of our church put together a document entitled “Core Beliefs.” These core beliefs emphasize the fundamental truths of scripture and, as a church family we give mental assent to these doctrinal concepts. Each statement contained a footnote of Biblical references, enabling the reader to see the clearly stated belief and the undergirding scriptures to support the claim. After reading that document, we could say, “Here are our beliefs and here are the biblical references in support of this reasoning.”
There’s nothing wrong with any of this; in fact, I believe that’s what is required of us when we live in obedience to the command to “love the Lord your God with all of your mind.” But we need to add an important point here, too. In the NT, belief is not abstract. It is not merely the domain of the intellect and mental assent. Rather, belief is active. To put it differently, belief is not something you have, it’s something that you do.
Some English words have both noun and verb form. For example, we say things like, “I dreamed a dream, I ironed with the iron, etc.” But not all English words have a verb and noun form. Faith would be one such word. In English we use faith as a noun, but it doesn’t correspond in verb form. Instead, what we say for the verb faith is, “I believe.” Here’s the reason this is important: in Greek (the language of the Gospel of John), the noun and verb form of faith are essentially the same. To “believe” something is to “faith” it. Again, faith is more than something you possess; it’s something you do.
The noun for faith does not occur anywhere in John’s twenty-one chapters. Nowhere does he use the noun faith. But the verb form is used throughout John’s Gospel. In English, this gets translated as “believe.” But “I believe” could also be translated as “I faith.”
Here’s the point of all this grammar talk: In John’s Gospel, faith is a verb. It’s more than intellectual assent or mental agreement. As an active verb, faith is a state of being. Faith = movement. I know I’m being repetitive here, but the point is an important one. Faith is something you do. In John’s Gospel, the crucial question is not, “Do you believe something is true?” The crucial question is, “Will you faith Jesus or not?”
I want to suggest that we begin to think of faith as trusting obedience. To say “I faith Jesus” or “I believe Jesus” is to say, “I trust and obey Jesus.” I align myself to live in a relationship of obedient trust because Jesus is Lord.
As we journey through John together, we’ll come face-to-face with the Truth. And that’s important because belief is always rooted in a concept of truth. We believe in that which we assume to be true. Again, I’m back to ESPN’s John Clayton using statistics to argue for Tom Brady as the greatest of all time. The subjective belief claim (Brady as GOAT) is supported by objective data (touchdown passes, QB rating, Super Bowl victories, etc.). The truth of those statistics undergirds the belief claim.
And that has everything to do with the way we read John’s Gospel, because John goes to great lengths to demonstrate truth not as an abstract concept, but as a person. It is only in John’s Gospel that Jesus makes this claim: I am the way and the truth and the life, (John 14:6). Belief in Jesus isn’t undergirded by the truth about Jesus; it is undergirded by the truth of Jesus. Because Jesus IS truth.
We live in trusting obedience to Jesus because Jesus is the Truth.
This is underscored in the encounter between Pilate and Jesus in John 18. Jesus says, Everyone on the side of truth listens to me, (John 18:37). Of course they do. Those on the side of truth listen to Jesus because He IS Truth, truth in the flesh. But Pilate misses the point. He responds, “What is truth?” (John 18:38). Truth is not abstract (a “what”) but it is personal (a “who”).
John would have us “faith” in Jesus because Jesus IS Truth.
That’s why John’s Gospel shows Jesus employing a different teaching style. Unlike the Synoptic Gospels, John contains no parables. Instead, Jesus uses metaphors, saying things like, “I am the bread of life.” Instead of parable stories, Jesus presents himself as the living parable. “I am living water. I am the good shepherd. I am the true vine.” In reading John’s Gospel, we don’t walk away asking ourselves, “What was the meaning of that particular parable / teaching / story?” Instead, we are forced to ask ourselves, “Who is Jesus?”
And that question — “Who is Jesus?” — has greater implications for our state of being — what we do — than any other question.
So as we journey through the Gospel of John together, we’ll encounter the Truth – in the person of Jesus. And with that Truth, comes a dare. Each week, I’d like to dare us to do something in light of the Truth about Jesus. Again, we’re thinking of the Gospel of John as a word of both truth and dares.
So this week, the dare is simple. Would you read through the Gospel of John this week? Maybe a better way to put it is this: would you make the time to read through the Gospel of John this week? Based on the average person’s reading speed and the number of words in the Gospel of John, it should take you 63 minutes to read the Gospel of John from start to finish.
After the first quarter of 2016, Facebook reported that globally people spend more than 50 minutes a day across Facebook’s suite of mobile apps (Facebook, Instagram, Messenger). So again, the question is this: will we make the time to read through the Gospel of John this week?
Here is the big question I’m asking you to consider as we go through this study. What are you doing by faith? This is an altogether different question from “What do you believe?” I hope that our time studying John’s Gospel will help clarify and reinforce your belief. I hope that we will continue to grow in our understanding of what we believe and why we believe it.
But the primary question I want to keep before you through this study will be this one: What are you doing by faith? What is your trusting obedience leading you to do?
This is a question that I’ve been asking myself as I prepare for this series. What am I doing by faith? James tells us that we shouldn’t just be hearers of the Word; we should be doers. As we walk with Jesus through the Gospel of John, I hope we’ll be inspired to do faith.
Let’s do more than simply “believe in” Jesus.
Let’s “faith” Jesus.
What is your faith daring you to do?