These Things Are Written

The Bible is not a questionable biography about our God laced with inaccuracies. The apostle John tells us in John 20:30-31 that "These Things Are Written," that you may believe and have life in Jesus' name. April 11, 2010.

            The phone rings, and the caller says, “I’m a professional writer, and I’ve been commissioned by your relatives to write your biography.”  So you set up an appointment.  The writer comes over for an interview, takes notes, pages through a photo album or two, and leaves.  How accurate a biography do you think will be written?  The writer may have recorded who you are and captured some of your personality, but there may be some distortions and inaccuracies.

            The library has all sorts of biographies about people who made a big name for themselves.  Of course, some people have had biographies written which aren’t too flattering.  Maybe that’s why others have authored or co-authored their own biography. People like Chuck Yaeger (pilot), Jerry Seinfeld (comedian), David Beckham (soccer star), and Sarah Palin (politician) have written autobiographies so that people can know who they are and what they are like.  Even then, they may not be one hundred percent pleased if a co-author changed a few details for drama or shifted some sentences to give an impression that isn’t completely accurate.

            The Bible is not a questionable biography about our God laced with inaccuracies.  Nor is it an autobiography co-authored by God and his chosen penmen dotted with minor errors.  Don’t you think that the God who created human beings and created human language can cause his chosen Bible writers to write the exact thoughts and words he wanted recorded so that we might know who he is and what he has done for us?  Of course!  The apostle John tells us at the end of the gospel for this day that These Things Are Written.

That you may believe in Jesus’ name

              When a famous person writes an autobiography, the book might start off with a preface, “You may have seen me on TV or in the movies.  You may have read about me in the tabloids.  But I have written this book because I want to reveal who I really am and what I’m really like.”  After reading a book like that, we may feel as though we know that person personally.  His or her name would mean something more to us than before.  We would hear the name and recognize it not so much as an identifying label but think of that person’s personality, characteristics, and what he or she has done.

            The disciples certainly knew who Jesus was and what he was like.  He told them, “I am the Bread of life” (John 6:35).  “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12).  I am the Good Shepherd” (John 10:11).  “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:26).  “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6).  “I am the vine” (John 15:5).  He not only revealed himself by his words but also by his actions.  They saw him change water into wine, multiply bread and fish, calm storms, give sight to the blind, heal the sick, and, after watching him suffer and die, they became witnesses of the great Easter miracle.  Jesus came back from the dead.  With all those miracles which backed up his words, isn’t it interesting to hear, “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book.”  But how would other people learn who Jesus is and what he is like after he had removed his visible presence and after his disciples had died?  The Lord took care of that.  These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.”  God caused all the thoughts and words of the Holy Scriptures to be written so that we would not just recognize Jesus’ name as an identifying label but think of his personality, characteristics, and what he has done.

            For example, did you notice three names for the Savior are used by John?  He is called the Son of God – holy, almighty, all-knowing, eternal, of one being with the Father.  By him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.  He is before all things and in him all things hold together (Colossians 1:16-17).  He is called Jesus – born of the virgin Mary, a real human being with flesh and blood, the perfect God-man and our substitute who fulfilled all the promises God had ever made since the beginning of time regarding a Savior from sin.  He is also called the Christ – the great Prophet who proclaims the truth about what God is like and what he thinks about us, the great Priest who sacrificed himself for us, and the great King, who marched out to defeat Satan and now rules in our hearts.  All of that is wrapped up in Jesus’ name and is revealed to us in the Holy Scriptures.  Why is that such a big deal?  These things are writtenthat you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.

            Did you hear it?  That you may believe.  It’s a matter of faith.  God wants us to have faith in him, in what he has promised us.  Why?  Because faith is the only rope, the only chain, the only link we have with God.  Without that rope, that chain, that link, we’ll be plunging off the cliff of life into the pit of hell.  Do you see the urgency?  The absolute necessity of having a connection with God drives us to ask, “How can I preserve the link?  How can I have more faith?”  That becomes even more urgent when we take an honest look at our faith, at our believing, and realize that we are no better than Jesus’ first disciples.  I counted six times in the gospel accounts when Jesus chided them for having little faith – like the time Peter saw Jesus walking on water and climbed out of the boat to meet him.  Peter started to walk on water, but as soon as he took his eyes off of Jesus, his trust in Jesus sank, and so did he.  Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him, “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”(Matthew 14:31).  Why do you doubt?   Why do I?  Because just like Peter we take our eyes off of Jesus and look at ourselves, our abilities, our skills, our money, our homes, our relationships.  If things are going OK, we get comfortable.  We even fall into that old pet sin again, get sort of used to it.  But then sin’s consequences jump up to bite us, and we realize, “Oh, no!  My faith has been on a roller coaster!  Way up after worship on Easter or the Sunday after Easter, but on Monday – splat – my faith is in free fall!”  How do we remedy that?  We stop looking inside of ourselves and start looking at the promises of God in Scripture.  We look at Jesus’ and recall his name, his personality, characteristics, and what he has done – and here’s the kicker – what he has done for us.  We could go through life without reading Chuck Yaeger’s autobiography or Seinfeld’s and never be the worse off for it.  But that is not the case with the Bible which reveals the name – the personality and characteristics of Jesus and what he has done for us, blood splattered to pay for all our sins so we are connected to God.  Let’s put our noses back into the Bible because these things are written that you may believe in Jesus’ name.

That you may have life in Jesus’ name

            Some autobiographies may go beyond the stated purpose of the author, not only letting us in on the character and personality of the person, but also showing us how he or she has changed our lives.  For example, what if Thomas Edison wrote the story of his own life?  I don’t think he did, but let’s pretend that he did.  You could read about his early life in Port Huron, Michigan, and his schooling, and you would also recognize that his invention of the light bulb has had a tremendous effect on our lives.  But think of this.  If you were reading the autobiography of Thomas Edison, and the power went out, that book would not make the lights go on any more than Chuck Yaeger’s autobiography could make you capable of flying a jet or Seinfeld’s turn you into a comedian.

            Three times the disciples saw Jesus raise corpses back to life.  They also witnessed the Savior create spiritual life in the heart of a spiritually dead Samaritan woman who left her loose living and became an outstanding spokesperson for Jesus and in the heart of Zacchaeus who stopped cheating and, grateful to Jesus, shared his wealth with the poor.  But how would other people benefit from Jesus’ life-changing power after he had removed his visible presence and after his disciples had died?  The Lord took care of that.  These things are writtenthat you may believe and … have life in Jesus’ name.  The Bible is different from any human autobiography.  It has life-changing power.  The words of God have the power to create spiritual life in the hearts of spiritually dead sinners and give us power to live that life for Jesus.

            Have you heard arguments about quality of life?  Some have suggested that if there are abnormalities detected in a pre-born baby, the pregnancy should be terminated.  But ask a mommy and daddy, cuddling their handicapped child and knowing that at baptism God adopted that little one into his eternal family, if it’s worth it.  Some have suggested that as the elderly become weak and infirm, someone ought to assist them with suicide.  But ask caregivers and family members who see the contentment and confident trust in Jesus in the eyes of the dying whether it’s worth it.  I have visited hundreds of elderly people, and I can’t tell you the number of times an elderly person asked me, “Pastor, why does God keep me on earth this long?”  I have answered, “Because God has mercy on me and has allowed me to meet you and see the hope and the joy that the promises of Jesus’ love mean for you, for me, and for everyone else whom I tell about you.”

            Those are beginning and end of life issues.  There’s a whole lot more in between for most of us, and we struggle every day for the energy and patience to put up with everything from paper-cuts to gossipy co-workers, from pesky spring time allergies to guilty consciences.  How can we cope and go on?  The promises of Jesus’ mercy in Holy Scripture give us a clean slate every day and the power to live on.  Go to your God and his words, and see what he has to say for you.  It will change your life into real living because these things are writtenthat you … may have life in Jesus’ name.

            The phone rings.  The caller says, “I’m a professional writer, and I’ve been commissioned by your relatives to write your biography.”  If that happens to you, here’s what you can say.  “Don’t bother coming over.  I’ve already written my autobiography, and I’ll read it to you.  It won’t take long.  It’s only one sentence.  Here it is – Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”   Amen.

Preached at Grace Lutheran Church, Milwaukee, WI (www.gracedowntown.org) on April 11, 2010

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