Sunday, August 06, 2023

“That You May Believe” [Matt's Messages]

“That You May Believe”
Life in Jesus’ Name - The Gospel of John
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
August 6, 2023 :: John 20:30-31

The Gospel of John is one of the most beloved books in the whole Bible.

My guess is that it is the favorite gospel of many of you and the favorite book of the whole Bible for many of you.

Let’s take a quick poll:

I’m going to ask you to raise your hand to tell me which is your favorite of the four gospels that tell the story of the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

I know that’s a little like asking a parent of multiples, “Which one is your favorite child?” But I’m not asking which gospel is the best (They are all God’s Word!), but which is your most beloved gospel right now.

How many for Matthew? I think that’s my all time favorite, but maybe because it was the last one I preached. The theological biography of Jesus to help us follow Him as His disciples (2017-2020).

How many for Mark? Short and sweet and action-packed Mark? We studied that introduction to Jesus in 2005 and 2006.

How many for Dr. Luke? Luke the historian who helped us become certain of Jesus in 2009-2011?  

And how many for John? How many for I don’t know which one?! How many think of John as your favorite book of the Bible, not just favorite gospel!

John is beloved and rightly so. It is deep and sweet and simple and profound all at once.

I have preached all the way through the Gospel of John once before, but it was a quarter of century ago. I was finished with it before Robin was born. I started preaching through John just a few months after coming here to be your pastor in 1998. 

So as I’m now your “refurbished” pastor starting up again, I thought it would be good to start over again in the Gospel of John. 

Back to basics.
Back to the deepest truths in the whole world.
Back to Jesus. It’s the whole point of our church.

You have already received some great teaching from John the Son of Zebedee (whom I think is the author of this gospel, already) this year from the other elders.

Remember a few weeks ago when Joel preached through 1 John? A lot of the same key words popped up there. Simple words but fathomlessly deep:


And Cody, just a couple of weeks ago, was in the Gospel of John. I have listened to Joel’s, but I haven’t gotten up to Cody’s yet. So thankful that we record them.

And here’s why we’re going to study The Gospel of John together, not just because it’s beloved, but because of why it’s beloved.

And because of why it was written in the first place.

To know that, we need to start at the end. Next week, we’ll jump into chapter 1, Lord-willing, where John started writing, but today I want us to look at the two verses near the end of the book where he tells us why he wrote it in the first place. Do you have chapter 20 open in front of you?

Spoiler alert if you’ve never read it before. Chapter 20 is the climax of the whole book. The hero Jesus comes back from the dead! 

And He appears to His disciples, to Mary Magdalene, to the disciples behind locked doors, and to “doubting” Thomas to whom He said, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.  Thomas said to him, ‘My Lord and my God!’” (Jn. 20:27-28 NIVO).

Can you imagine?!!! What a moment!

And right then, if this was a movie, all the action would pause or fade to black and John, the Beloved Disciple, would step forward and talk right into the camera. He “breaks the fourth wall.”

Because in verses 30 and 31, John talks directly to his readers, to you and me.

And he says: “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.”

And that “you” there is you! And it’s me.

John says that he was selective in what he chose to include in his gospel. There were lots of others stories that he could have told. In the next chapter, he guesses that there probably wouldn’t be enough room in the whole world for the books that could be written about Jesus (21:25)!

So he had to choose. And he chose many different things than did Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Those three are remarkably similar compared to John. They all fit together, of course, to give us exactly what we need as a composite picture of Jesus. But John chooses many different stories and many different teachings for his book.

John says Jesus did many other “miraculous signs” that are not written down here. [He knows! He was an eyewitness!] John does include a lot of miracles (at least 7 major ones), and he loves to call them “signs.” We’re going to see that again and again as we study this book. “Signs” are a great word for them because they aren’t just miracles; they point to something. They point to Who Jesus is. The signs are signposts to point us to Jesus.

And there is no greater sign than Jesus’ rising from the dead.

See how John carefully chose these particular signs and these particular things about Jesus (21 chapters-worth) to share with us for two main purposes. And they are the same reasons why we should read his book today.


Look at verse 31:

“But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God...”

John wrote this book to help people believe.

Joel Michaels made this very point in the spring. The Gospel of John is evangelistic in nature. It’s here for unbelievers to read and find out Who Jesus really is and put their trust in Him.

Notice that’s there is a specific thing to believe. This is not just a yard sign that says “BELIEVE” and doesn’t tell you what to believe. This isn’t just a generic, “Have faith.”

There is specific content that John wants people to put their faith in, specifically that Jesus is the Christ (the Messiah), the Son of God. That’s the whole point of why John wrote what John wrote.

He’s trying to make the case. He’s trying to persuade those who are not yet followers of Jesus to become followers of Jesus. He’s trying to awaken faith in those who have not yet placed their faith in Jesus Christ.

That’s why the Gospel of John is a great book to share with others. It’s a great book to hand to someone to read or to offer to read with someone.

How about identifying someone in your life who is not yet a follower of Jesus and invite them to read the Gospel of John with you in the next few months?

I’m hoping that this sermon series will be a good one for all of us to invite our friends and family to come listen to. 

Come listen to what John says about Who Jesus is.

And believe.

But the Gospel of John is not just for un-believers, is it? It’s also for you and me who are already believers, as well. To feed our faith.

Interestingly, there is a reading of verse 31 that could be translated, “that you may continue to believe.”

We don’t stop reading the Gospel John once we’re convinced. We keep coming back to it again and again and again to remind ourselves of Who Jesus is.

Jesus is the Christ. He is the Messiah promised in the Old Testament. Remember all of those things we learned about the Messiah to come as we read through the Book of Jeremiah? 

Like chapter 23? “‘The days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: The LORD Our Righteousness’” (Jer. 23:5-6 NIVO).

In his own way, John aims to show that Jesus is the fulfillment of all of those great and precious promises. And we need to hear that again and again and again.

Some of this will be really familiar. Just a reminder to many of you. For some of you it will be fresh and new. All of us need to hear it.

Jesus is the Christ. Jesus is the Son of God.

As we study the Gospel of John, we’re going to learn about the deepest truth in the universe, that God is triune. That God has a Son. The Son of God who is God the Son. We’re going to see that mind-blowing relationship in the very first chapter next week.
There is only One God! And yet that One God is both God the Father and God the Son for all eternity. 

And by the time we’re done with John, we’ll find out God is Three in One. We’ll learn about God the Spirit. 

What simple words! Father, Son, Spirit, God. But how deep are their meanings!!! How profound. Simple but not simplistic in the slightest. The deepest truth in world.

And John wrote this all down so that we might BELIEVE it.

John uses the Greek word translated here “believe” nearly a hundred times in his gospel.

Do you believe? Do you believe that Jesus is the Christ? 

And only Jesus is? We are so tempted to put our faith in other people and other things instead of in Jesus alone. John says, “Jesus is the Christ” and nobody else is our Messiah. Don’t put your faith in me or some politician or some guru or some celebrity. Jesus is the Christ. Jesus is the Savior.

And Jesus is the Son of God. Do you believe that? That is dangerous to believe. In some parts of the world, that will get you killed. In some places, like social media, it will get you “canceled” or at least ridiculed. I don’t know about you, but I need to come back to this again and again so that my faith grows stronger and stronger in Jesus.

“O for grace to trust Him more.”’s the result. The second reason why John wrote this gospel is that when you and I do the first thing, believe, it leads to this second thing, which is so awesome! Look what he says at the end of verse 31.

“...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.”


It doesn’t get any better than that, brothers and sisters and friends. “By believing you may have life in his name.” 

Belief leads to life.

So that’s going to be the name of our series on the Gospel of John, “Life in Jesus’ Name.” 

What kind of life is that? Well, John is going to teach us that it is eternal life. Life that starts now and goes on for all eternity. It’s not just biological life, though it will be physical in the resurrection.

It’s spiritual life, and it is forever life. Imagine that. Forever life.

But he’s not just talking about after-life here. He’s talking about a life that starts right now when we believe. Jesus will call it “abundant life” or “life to the fullest.” When we believe in Jesus, there is a new quality of life that is birthed in us that changes everything for us now and forever.

It doesn’t mean that we’re happy all the time and everything always works out for us. Far from it. But it does mean that we have been invited to share in the very life of God. And we are like happy contented sheep who are well-fed and all-cared for and safe–ultimately safe from the world, the flesh, and the devil.

Jesus says in chapter 10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (Jn. 10:10 NIVO).

That’s why I want us to study the Gospel of John right now; so that we experience that kind of life in 2023. And rest in it and revel in it and rejoice in it.

Each and every week, I hope that the message is life-giving as we go deeper together into the gospel of Jesus Christ in the gospel of John.

Verse 31, “that by believing you may have life in his name.”

We must believe. The stakes are high. This life only comes through believing in Jesus. In His name.

Like Joel preached from 1 John chapter 5, this summer: “And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.  He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 Jn. 5:11-13 NIVO).

Or as it says in this book, chapter 3, verse 16, “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (Jn. 3:16 NIVO).

Do you believe in Him? If you have not yet put your faith and trust in Jesus, then I urge you to do so today. And I’ll urge you to do so next week and the week after that. If they come. Because we don’t know if we have next week or the week after that. We do know that if we believe, then we will have life and have life in His name.

We’re going to learn a lot more about “His name.” In the Bible, your name is more than just what they call you. It’s Who you are. It’s your identity, your character, your position, your authority, your Person.

And we’re going to learn lots about Who Jesus is, the name of Jesus. It’s the Gospel of John that has the seven “I Am” statements in it. Do you know what I mean?

Jesus says, “I am __________”

"I am the bread of life.
I am the light of the world.
I am the door of the sheep.
I am the good shepherd.
I am the resurrection and the life.
I am the way, the truth, and the life.
I am the true vine."

That’s all what John means by “in His name.” 

That and more! The Christ, the Son of God.

If Jesus is all that, then we get all of that when trust in Him.

Do you believe? John wrote this to you. That “you” in verse 31 is actually you, and it is me. If you don’t yet believe, then I encourage you to open up the Gospel of John and read it. Most of you could easily read it this week. Start today and read three chapters. Do that every day this week, and you’ll have the whole thing under your belt before we meet again.

Do you believe? John wrote this to you. That “you” in verse 31 is actually you, and it is actually me. If we do believe, then we have life in His name. Live that life. Live into that life. Live your life for Jesus and in Jesus and through Jesus. Both now and forever. Amen.

Worship at the Lord's Table

I was thinking about that phrase, “life in his name” for communion this week and about an experience we had at the Palace of Westminster in London a couple of weeks ago. That’s this building attached to this famous clock you may have heard of. Big Ben.

Actually, Big Ben is the largest of the bells in that clock that chime. But the clock goes by that name because of its most famous bell.

The big building attached to Big Ben is the Palace of Westminster where the Parliament of the United Kingdom meets. Here’s a couple of pictures we took when we got to ride a boat down the Thames and from another angle.

Here’s the thing. Heather and I got to go inside of that building. Do you know how we did it?

Here’s some proof. Here’s a picture I took inside of Westminster Hall.

Here’s a plaque on the floor to commemorate where Queen Elizabeth’s body lay in state last year after she died and before her funeral. If you saw the 10 mile long queue? This is where it ended.

But Heather and I got to go even deeper into that place. Past the guards. Past security. Into the Seat of Parliament where they all meet and yell at each other (if you’ve seen it on television), the green benches. And where they take their votes. You aren’t allowed to take pictures in there. You’ll have to take my word for it that we made it in there. But we did.

Do you know how we got in there?

We didn’t storm the gate. We didn’t knock down the doors or come up with some tricky heist thing like in a movie. We walked up to the guards and said, “We are Matt and Heather Mitchell from Pennsylvania, and we demand that you let us enter based on our names!”

Do you think we did that? No, we did not. It would not have worked. Massive security! The door was actually hundreds of yards away from the actual building. Across the street! You don’t get in there if they don’t want you to.

But we got in there because we knew somebody named Graeme. Actually, we knew somebody named Malcolm and Alison who had a daughter named Caitlin who had a co-worker named Graeme.

And Graeme had a passcard. His name would give you entrance into Westminster Palace. And if you were with Graeme, you could go places that most other people could not go, not on their own names.

Graeme took us one place in the basement that other even other official tour groups don’t go to!

We got in, not because of our names, but because of his. Doors opened for Graeme because he works for one of the members of parliament. Doors opened for Graeme’s name, not for ours.

You can see where I’m going with this, right? We have life, not in our own names, but in the name of Jesus.  Jesus Christ died on the Cross paying the debt for our sins that we could not pay. And He came back to life to give us the life that we do not deserve. 

You and I do not deserve to eat and drink at this Table. But Jesus does, and we come in His name. We come to the Father, we come to salvation, in His name. Jesus said He is the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father except through Him (14:6). But all who come through Him reach the Father!

The Gospel of John was written that you and I may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing we may have life in his name.