I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the many people who have influenced my ministry over the years. Some were mentors, but most were simply contributors. One such man was Dr. Bowens. He was an ordained Baptist minister who taught Social Studies at Western Branch High School in Tidewater, Virginia, back in the 1970s. Prior to 1971 I had never attended a school where a minister was on the faculty. What’s more, I had never attended a school with African American students or teachers, and he was African American. And by the end of the first week of class, any racial prejudice I may have harbored against him vanished. Dr. Bowens taught me a lot of what I’ve never forgotten - including this gem: All of creation testifies to truth, therefore no Christian should cede any area of human endeavor to the devil; no art, no science, no philosophy, no human enterprise.
Twenty years later a man in California wrote one of my favorite songs of all time. Here it is on Vimeo – “Heart of the Matter”. The reason this Don Henley song grabs me is because of the truth of his claim. Forgiveness is the heart of the matter! Forgiveness is at the heart of the heart of God and no gospel writer knows that as well as John.
One time Donald Grey Barnhouse was asked how long it took him to write a sermon. His answer was instructive: “Two days and 24 years.” That’s what Don Henley said about the song, “The Heart of the Matter”. He said, “It took me 42 years to write and four minutes to sing.” For John it took 3 years with Jesus, a cross, and an empty tomb to write chapters 20 and 21.
These chapters are arguably the two most important chapters in the Bible for the Christian not just because they detail and confirm the resurrection; but because they detail and confirm our resurrection. Not just our resurrection at the end of our lives, but in the midst of them. They confirm that the words of Paul in II Corinthians 5:17 are existentially true for every believer. But how? How are you a new creation? What’s the proof of it? Are you less sinful than you used to be? Are you more holy than you used to be?
Now some appeal to our position in Christ. They speak of our being clothed in the righteousness of Christ. They talk of Christ’s merits being imputed to us. And while that is absolutely true, there’s a very practical and demonstrative change the Holy Spirit brings to every Christian life that is lived under His sway and John alone among the gospel writers speaks of it. He underscores it in both chapters 20 and 21. But most miss it!
This Sunday and next we will zero in on it. This week in a message entitled, “Two Men and Two Boats” from John 21:1-14, we will examine the heart of the matter. In preparation you may wish to consider the following:
- When do you think the disciples became Christians?
- What marks their regeneration?
- What’s the purpose of their regeneration?
- Do you see any parallels with Matthew 16:1-19?
- What is the significance of Luke 5:1-11 in understanding John 21:1-14?
- Why are the two big catches at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and at the end?
- Why the two different reactions of Peter in Luke 5 and John 21?
- Why does Jesus come to the beach that morning?
- Why have the disciples gone fishing?
- How does Jesus’ behavior in chapter 21 mirror His words in John 20:22-23?