It's Possible with God
I was eighteen years old when I first encountered Jesus. I remember distinctly a conversation I had with a Christian leader shortly afterwards. I said how glad I was that I had not become a Christian earlier, since I had been able to experience the difference between life without God and life with God. He pointed out the fallacy of this way of thinking and suggested that the sooner we experience life with God, the better.
Looking back on my life now, I see the wisdom of his words. I am so grateful to God that our children can look back on their own lives and say that there has never been a time in their life when they were ‘without God’.
Over the years, I have interviewed hundreds of people who have encountered Jesus on Alpha. They contrast their life without God and their life with God. There is a sense of great joy and relief, and often regret that they did not begin their life with God earlier.
You are created to live in a relationship with God. Without that, life will never really make sense. Being with God is even more important than what you do for God. With God, everything is possible.
5 Save us and help us with your right hand,
that those you love may be delivered.
11 Give us aid against the enemy,
for human help is worthless.
12 With God we shall gain the victory,
and he will trample down our enemies.
Gain the victory
Compared with God’s help, human help is worthless. ‘With God’, David says, ‘we shall gain the victory’ (v.12). He was speaking about physical battles. The apostle Paul writes that our main battles are not physical. They are not ‘against flesh and blood, but… against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms’ (Ephesians 6:12).
David prays, ‘Save us and help us with your right hand, that those you love may be delivered… Give us aid against the enemy, for human help is worthless. With God we shall gain the victory’ (Psalm 60:5,11–12a).
12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
13 The Pharisees challenged him, “Here you are, appearing as your own witness; your testimony is not valid.”
14 Jesus answered, “Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid, for I know where I came from and where I am going. But you have no idea where I come from or where I am going. 15 You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one. 16 But if I do judge, my decisions are true, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me.
27 They did not understand that he was telling them about his Father. 28 So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. 29 The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.”
30 Even as he spoke, many believed in him.
Give God pleasure
Do you realise that you can give God pleasure? Jesus says, ‘I always do what pleases him’ (v.29). This should be your aim in life – to please God.
Jesus models for us a life with God. He says, ‘I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me’ (v.16). He says, ‘The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone’ (v.29a). Throughout this passage, we discover something about Jesus’ relationship with his Father.
Jesus says, ‘I know where I came from and where I am going’ (v.14). So many people struggle in life because they don’t know where they came from or where they are heading. They struggle with a lack of purpose and direction in their lives. In a close relationship with God, you can know where you came from and ultimately where you are heading.
Jesus’ relationship with the Father was also the source of his purpose and direction day by day. He says, ‘I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me’ (v.28). He says, ‘The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone’ (v.29a).
This is the model for us. God was with Jesus. Jesus knew he was never alone. There was not a single thing he did without God. At every moment his desire is to please God: ‘I always do what pleases him’ (v.29b). This is what gave his life such power and effectiveness. ‘Even as he spoke, many put their faith in him’ (v.30).
Not only was Jesus with God, he was God.
Twice in today’s passage Jesus says, ‘I am he’ (8:24,28). The words translated ‘I am he’ are the same words that are used in the Greek translation of Exodus 3:14–16. There, God revealed himself to Moses as ‘I AM WHO I AM’. This name came to express both the identity of God and the closeness of God to his people.
Jesus uses this name himself. We do not possess existence. We are born and we die. We receive our existence. Jesus is existence. He is telling the people that God has once again come near to them in him. Jesus is Immanuel, God with us.
It is as you look to the cross that Jesus says you have the clearest demonstration of his identity: ‘So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am the one I claim to be.”’ (John 8:28).
Jesus had complete confidence in his own identity. The key to Jesus’ confidence and identity lay in his relationship with the Father. The same will also be true for you. As you spend time with the Father in prayer, in worship and in reading the Scriptures, your sense of identity and confidence in who you are in God will grow. You can know where you have come from and where you are heading.
No matter what people say about you, you can walk confidently with head held high. Your identity is in Christ. It is rooted in what he says about you and his presence with you.
In those days Israel had no king.
Shine God’s light
The shocking atrocities committed by Isis – beheading and crucifixion of innocent victims, widespread abuse of children, the terrible evil of human trafficking and modern-day slavery – we live in a dark world. But we are not without hope. With God, light can drive out darkness.
Israel was in a dark period of its history. The people were called to walk in a close relationship with God – under the direct rule and reign of God as their King. Had they lived like this they would not have needed a human king.
However, they were now living in the worst possible scenario. They were not living under the kingship of the Lord, and did not even have a human king to keep order and restrain the chaos.
These were bleak days. ‘In those days Israel had no king’ (18:1; 19:1). They turned to idol worship (chapter 18). We read a terrible and distressing account of the evil excesses of a lawless land. The appalling rape, abuse and dissection of a woman caused everyone who saw it to say, ‘Such a thing has never been seen or done, not since the day the Israelites came up out of Egypt. Think about it! Consider it! Tell us what to do!’ (19:30). This was a time of utter darkness, of life without God.
Terrible as this atrocity was, it is not unique in the history of the world. Appalling atrocities can happen when a society rejects God and his laws: it sometimes descends into utter chaos.
Lt Gen Romeo Dallaire, who, in 1994, was part of the UN mission to Rwanda and witnessed the genocide, was asked how he could still believe in God. He replied: ‘I know there is a God because in Rwanda I shook hands with the devil. I have seen him, I have smelled him and I have touched him. I know the devil exists, and therefore I know that there is a God.’
In biblical language, ‘darkness’ is not only the night but also the forces of evil that can seduce us and lead us away from walking in the right direction, towards the light of life – Jesus who brings light into this dark world.
In a staggering claim, Jesus naturally puts himself in the place of God, and says that he is ‘the light of the world’ (John 8:12). A world without God is a world of darkness. Yet Jesus said, ‘Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life’ (v.12).
When you turn to Jesus you come out of the darkness of life without God into the light of life with him. He leads us out of darkness, conflict and death into the light of life and love. He gives meaning and direction to your life. Not only that, but as you live with God, seeking to please him, you embody together with other believers the ‘light of life’ to bring light into our dark world.
You really can make a difference to the world around you. Your life, in Christ, can shine like light in the spiritual darkness in the world around you. As Martin Luther King put it, ‘Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.’
I am appalled by the way women were treated in the Old Testament (and still are in some parts of the world today). Thankfully, when Jesus came he restored women’s dignity and broke the gender barriers of the day.
Verse of the Day
‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life’
Thought for the Day
So many people struggle in life because they don’t know where they came from or where they are heading. They struggle with a lack of purpose and direction in their lives. In a close relationship with God, you can know where you came from and ultimately where you are heading.
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Martin Luther King Jr, Strength to Love (Fortress Press, 2010 gift edition), p.47
Romeo Dallaire, Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda (Random House 2003), Preface xviii.
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.
Scripture quotations marked (AMP) taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org)