Traditions or Transformation

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, April 30, 2020

As the Apostle John introduces us to Christ, he uses the testimony of the forerunner of Christ, John the Baptizer, to reveal a significant and vital truth for us to grasp. It is a truth that will be carried throughout the Gospel.

Religious tradition means nothing without spiritual transformation.

Look at the testimony of John the Baptizer as he responds to the religious establishment’s questions.

John 1:26,33  John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know…I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’

Religion is all about outward appearances. Jesus is all about spiritual transformation.

If you are trusting in what your religion can do to give you the appearance of righteousness, but have never had your heart and mind transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit, then you have misplaced your faith on what cannot save you.

Later in the Gospel, overthrows religious traditions in the temple. Jesus will make bold statements about those who trust in religious laws, declaring they are sons of their father the Devil. In one of the other Gospels Jesus declares that those who put on the appearance of righteousness are like whitewashed tombs – clean on the outside but inside full of dead men’s bones.

My friend, in what are you trusting for your righteousness before God? Obedience to the law doesn’t grant righteousness, for none of us has ever in the past, nor can we ever from this point forward, keep the law completely. That fact makes us unrighteous. Conformity to religious ritual does not bring the righteousness of God. Those who declared and promoted such thinking were specifically judged by Jesus as dead in their sin.

Dear Friend, there is only one Hope for us. Jesus died on the cross to pay for our sin. He rose from the dead to provide eternal life for us. Put your faith in Jesus to make you righteous before God. At the moment of repentance from your old beliefs, and placing your trust in Jesus to save you, you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit and be made a new creation in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17). The Holy Spirit transforms you from the inside out. Every other option starts from the outside, and Jesus said that all such outside options are thieves and robbers seeking to destroy you.

Today, let go of your confidence in religion and its traditions. Grab hold of Jesus. Your life will be transformed.

Pastor John

A Humble Voice

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Humility is a challenge. In fact, apart from the Holy Spirit, it is impossible. That’s why Scripture declares that from before his birth, while in his mother’s womb, John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit. I am challenged by the humility of John the Baptizer.

  • Humility was modeled by his parents, who were not envious of Mary carrying the Messiah in her womb, but were satisfied and thrilled with the purpose God had chosen for their son.
    • Personal Application – Be humble by not comparing your child’s abilities and desires to anyone else. Be satisfied with God’s design of them and His purpose for them.
  • John lived his entire life committed to God’s purpose, and was never distracted by the lure of worldly pleasure, treasure, or fame.
    • Personal Application – Be humble by staying focused on God’s purpose for your life, and trusting that He will provide everything you need to accomplish His mission. The world has nothing that can supplement what God will give you.
  • Even when fame came, John continually pointed to Jesus.
    • Personal Application – be humble and never draw attention to yourself or your accomplishments. ALWAYS point to Jesus

John’s life constantly pointed to Jesus. Even when asked by authorities who he was, he pointed to Jesus. Even in the face pf persecution and certain death by beheading, he pointed to Jesus. John was simply and humbly a voice pointing people to Jesus.

John 1:23  He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”

Will you be such a voice?

Pastor John

Keep Working

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

It was my first mission trip to the Philippines. It was before Facebook or any kind of video calling existed. When I landed in Davao, I had no idea how to recognize the people from the Bible College. I knew them by name, but I wasn’t about to shout names out in an airport.

As I exited the terminal and saw the crowd of people, it was immediately obvious who my contacts were. There in front of me was a group of 15 people, some holding the ends of a six-foot banner and others carrying small signs and leis. The banner read, in bi bold letters, WELCOME PASTOR JOHN VAN GORKOM.

Of course, they knew me right away because I was the only American in the airport. They surrounded me, placed the floral leis around my neck, and began a celebration of my arrival.

John the Baptist was in the same predicament when Jesus arrived on the scene. He was obeying God’s call to the mission of preaching repentance so people were prepared for the arrival of the Messiah. He was convinced that Messiah was coming, but he had no idea who the Messiah was.

John 1:31-34  “I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him.  I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.  And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”

Twice John the Baptizer admits that he was not able to identify the Messiah. I see a problem. I think it’s a common problem for many of us. We choose not to move ahead with things until we have all the answers. We stay where we are, doing what we are doing, but avoid stepping out in faith until everything has been revealed.

John says two important things about how we proceed when we are not fully in the know.

  1. I am going to fulfill my purpose even if I can’t see how it turns out. God told John to baptize people with water, and by doing so the Messiah would be revealed. He didn’t understand it, but he obeyed.
  2. God said to John that someone he baptizes would have the Spirit of God descend on Him and remain on Him, and that would identify Him as the Messiah.

Imagine what it must have been like for John the Baptizer. Every day he is preaching repentance, and people are coming forward to identify with his message by being baptized. With every baptism, as the person rises from the water, John looks to see if the Holy Spirit is descending.

I wonder how many days ended with disappointment for him? I wonder how many mornings he questioned his motivation to keep going? Or did the certainty of God’s words to him fill him with anticipation that this could be the day? Was he so driven by the purpose God had given him that he would not be discouraged or distracted from doing God’s will until his work was done?

Good questions for each of us to ponder today.

Pastor John

Be a Way-Maker

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, April 27, 2020

If you were able to join us in person or online, you heard that Jesus is the Way-Maker. He has provided the one and only way to eternal life and eternal relationship with God as His children.

In our study of the Gospel of John for this week, we discover that there was a way-maker for the Way-Maker. His name was John the Baptist, or his better name, John the Baptizer.

John was preaching in the wilderness along the Jordan River, near Bethany. His message was one of repentance and forgiveness. The religious leaders of the day, convinced that the law was the way to God, came to question him about who he was.

John 1:19-23 And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”

After stating that he was not the Christ, John said that he was also not Elijah or the promised Prophet. When they pressed him to declare who he was, John replied, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”

John the Baptizer quoted Isaiah 40:3-5.

A voice cries: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

John said, in essence, “I am the way-maker for the Way-Maker. I am preparing the hearts of people to see the arrival of the Lord.”

As we start this week of study of John 1:19-34 in preparation for next Sunday, let me ask one penetrating question for you to consider today.

In the wilderness of the world, where people wander without direction or hope, how does your life prepare the way for them to meet Jesus?

My prayer is that the Holy Spirit will open our eyes to the truth that God has placed us in this current wilderness so that we can be way-makers for people to meet the Way-Maker.

Pastor John

Reject or Receive?

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, April 24, 2020

This is our final devotional before we meet for drive-in church on Sunday. Each day this week we have dug out some nuggets of truth from the first 18 verses of the Gospel of John in preparation for the Sunday sermon. There’s one more nugget to be examined, and it’s in verse 15.

John 1:15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”)

The Apostle John has just revealed to us that the Word became one with humanity. God dwelt among us as one of us. Jesus is God’s glory veiled in human flesh (verse 14).

Then John adds credibility to his revelation of the nature of Jesus. He uses John the Baptist as his primary witness. John the Baptist’s testimony of his firsthand experience with Jesus is this: “I told you who Jesus is. Even though I came before Him, He is greater than I am, because He actually existed before me.”

What an incredible declaration of belief in the deity of Jesus Christ. John the Baptist, conceived in Elizabeth’s womb six months before Jesus, obviously preexisted Jesus from a human perspective. But John sees the eternal perspective, and declares that Jesus preexisted himself. There is only one possible explanation: Jesus is the eternal God.

Many of us would skip right over this verse. After all, it is in parenthesis. What value can it have? Yet here in this one sentence, we see John the Baptist boldly and loudly making a public declaration that Jesus is God.

Matthew adds even more details of what John the Baptist said.

Matthew 3:11-12 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

Only God is mightier than people. Only God is worthy of worship. Only God is worthy of our service. Only God can grant the presence of the Holy Spirit. Only God can declare eternal judgment on people. Yet every one of these descriptions of God is made about Jesus. At the risk of his own life, John the Baptist declared Jesus to be God in human flesh.

Why is this so important? Because it is the only way to be born again and delivered from sin and death. If God himself did not pay for the judgment of sin, then there could be no forgiveness. May we never minimize the significance of the Apostle John’s opening words, nor the witness of those who knew Jesus. Jesus is God, and He is the only solution to mankind’s sin.

We have two choices of how to respond.

  1. Reject Jesus – He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.” (John 1:11)
  2. Receive Jesus – But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13)

Won’t you be one of those who believes and is saved?

Pastor John

Grace Conquers the Law

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Until Jesus came, it is likely that the predominate view of God was that He was a harsh law-giver who demanded perfection and declared judgment on those who didn’t measure up. I think that is Satan’s biggest weapon against us today, even against those of us who believe in the Gospel of grace. There is a consistent temptation to believe that we must somehow measure up to God’s standards or we will be punished.

When God gave the law to Moses, His intention, according to Paul’s letter to the church in Galatia, was to show us that we can never measure up to the divine standard of holiness. When we finally admit that, and see ourselves as undeserving of anything from God, then Jesus brings life to us through grace. When Jesus appeared, He showed us the nature of God and the path to God, and both are the same – grace and truth.

John 1:14-18 “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.”

In Jesus, the consequences of falling short of the demands of the law are fully covered by grace. In Jesus, we have received grace upon grace, which means that nothing we do or desire to do to earn the favor of God is ever considered by God to be of any value. We do not come to Christ for salvation by grace, but then keep ourselves saved by obedience. We are kept safe in Christ by grace alone.

Today is the day to quit trying so hard to please God. In Jesus, you are fully accepted by God, and qualified to be His son or daughter, with full rights to share in the inheritance of glory with Jesus.

In Jesus, we have seen God the way we must see Him to have a relationship with Him. He is the God of grace, in He revealed himself to us in His One and Only Son, Jesus, who is the fullness of God’s grace and truth. Repent of your wrong view of God as a harsh law-giver and judge. Receive the grace of God through belief in Jesus Christ, and you will be saved for all eternity. Quit trying so hard to measure up. Don’t trust in what you can do for God, but trust in what Jesus did for you to bring you to God based on His merit, not yours.

Pastor John

Point to the Light

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

I don’t remember the specific first time I heard it, but I remember hearing it frequently back in my youth. Perhaps it was a teacher in school, or maybe one of my memorable Sunday School teachers. I do remember that the first time I heard it said to me it made perfect sense, and the explanation that followed helped me understand what was confusing me at the time.

“Let me shed some light on that.”

The idiom “shed some light” originated in Europe sometime before the invention of electricity. Before this modern invention, people would use light from candles to see around their homes in the dark. This became known as “shedding light.” The light from the candle provided a way for them to see clearly in the dark.

John 1:6-8 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.”

Every day we are bombarded with messages from social media, news media, politicians, economists, doctors, and many more. Each messenger claims to have light to shed on an important subject. But if it were real light, wouldn’t what is revealed by the light be consistent? Does the light they shed really clear up the darkness and confusion?

Are we ready to admit that the “light” most of us want to shed on the subjects of life are primarily influenced by personal experience and personal preference, rather than truth? The things we want to say are meant to influence others to agree with our position.

Not so with John the Baptist, described as a witness in the Scripture passage above. Notice two absolutely crucial truths:

  1. John the Baptist was NOT the light.
  2. John the Baptist was a witness to the light, and shifted the focus from himself to the ONE who was the Light.

Today, in this world of darkness, with many witnesses to what they think is light, we are called to shed light on the Light. Not many, if any, are qualified to shed true light on the darkness around us, and even if we believe we are qualified, the light we attempt to shed tainted by the pride we carry.

We, as disciples of Jesus Christ, are called to point all the attention to the True Light – Jesus. Every piece of information we share about what is happening in the world should carry the Light of Jesus in it.

We are not the Light. But we are able to bear witness about the Light. It’s the only way the Light will be seen in the darkness around us. Point people to Jesus. Let His life bring light to their darkness.

Pastor John

The Life That Brings Light

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Are you afraid of the dark? Maybe a better question is, are you afraid of what might be sneaking up on you in the dark? Children and adults alike need a nightlight on so we can have a connection to life. Even then, the darkness can overwhelm us and we hide in fear.

In the beginning, according to Genesis 1 in the Bible, when God created the heavens and the earth, darkness covered everything like a blanket pulled over the head of a scared child. Then God said, “Let there be light.”  No sun yet. No moon. Just light, emanating from the nature of God. God created the physical scientific phenomenon of light within the context of creation so His eternal light could be seen. Light was needed so life could be seen.

Some four thousand years later, John writes that Jesus is God (John 1:1 the WORD was God), and that He created all things (verse 3). Then John states that In Jesus is live, and His life is the light of all mankind.

John 1:4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men.

Fascinating. At creation, God, in Jesus Christ, created light so we could see His life. Now, in His incarnation, Jesus brings life so we can see the light of God’s glory. In the physical realm, light makes life possible. In the spiritual realm, life makes light possible.

Do you remember a time when you were afraid of the dark, and you cried out to Mommy to conquer your fear? I do. I remember early on when Mom would open the bedroom door and let the hallway light filter into the room, and she would say, it’s okay John, I’m here.

As time went on, and I learned to trust that she was there, the times of fear were conquered with a simple statement from her from the hallway without the door being opened. The light of her life was enough to calm me, even though the darkness in the room remained.

John 1:5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

The life of Jesus shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it. When you see the life of Jesus, you have experienced the light of God that removes all fear. His life is the light you desire, and when you have His life, you are always in the light.

Here’s how the Apostle John further explains this in his first letter to Christians.

1 John 1:1-7 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us—that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

Seek the life of Jesus, and you will discover light in the darkness.

Pastor John


LifeLink Devotional

Monday, April 20,2020

As we dive into our study of the Gospel of John, let me forewarn you that there is a lot to consider, and that these brief devotional thoughts are meant to stimulate your own study, not to completely unpack every subject. It is my desire each day to bring you one trickle of truth that will spring forth into streams of living water, like an artesian well in your mind.

You have heard it said that “actions speak louder than words.” However, actions alone are not able to define a person unless words have been spoken to which the actions can be compared. When actions alone are considered, there can be no context of motivation or purpose, and the potential for false assumptions is high.

When the world was created, everything in it declared the glory of God.

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” (Psalm 19:1)

However, man’s observations of the activity of God were not sufficient to understand the His relational attributes, and without such understanding man made false assumptions about God and became lost in sin.

“For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.” (Romans 1:19-20,28)

By simply seeing the activity of God’s power and Deity in creation, mankind was not sufficiently informed about God to become believers in God. Instead, people became gods unto themselves. It was vital that God reveal Himself fully to mankind. He needed to speak to us in a way that would reveal who He is.

John 1:1 “In the beginning was the WORD, and the WORD was with God, and the WORD was God.”

John identifies Jesus as the WORD. According to the author of Hebrews, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.” (Hebrews 1:1-3a)

Jesus is God’s spoken WORD to us. He is the One who reveals to us the fullness of God. He is the exact representation of God’s nature so that we can know God and relate to Him. When God wanted to speak to us, He gave us His WORD.

People desire to know God, and God has made it possible by revealing himself to us in His eternal Son Jesus. When the activity of God became visible in the WORD of God, then we were privileged to see the fullness of God.

In Christ Jesus, the Word of God and the activity of God are always in agreement. God always says what He means, and does what He says. Sounds like a good goal for our lives.

Pastor John


LifeLink Devotional

Friday, April 17,2020

Do you have a nickname? I have had several. They ranged from fun to hurtful. I have been called Skinny (that was a long time ago), Gork, Trumpet (based on the disproportionate size of my nose when I was skinny), Honey, PJ, Old Man, and most recently, Boomer. I have forgiven those who gave me the hurtful ones.

Nicknames are generally given because they describe some characteristic or quality of a person’s life.

When the Apostle John and his brother James began to follow Jesus, they were given a nickname by Christ. Boanerges, or in English, the Sons of Thunder. This name did not describe their father, but it described the two of them.

The word Boanerges is translated as commotion. These two young disciples were identified by Jesus as brothers who caused a commotion.

Two things strike me right away. First, John was the Apostle that Jesus loved and with whom He had an intimate, heart-level relationship. That gives hope to all of us who stir up commotion. Second, there must be a way to channel commotion into a positive outcome.

Commotion doesn’t necessarily have to always be a negative. Sometimes it’s good to stir the pot. James and John were apparently at the front of the line when it came time to stir. We generally designate Peter as that guy, but James and John were the ones Jesus identified with the qualities of thunder.

There is evidence in the Gospel of Luke that these two brothers were the instigators of getting things done.

Luke 9:51-56 When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make preparations for him. But the people did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” But he turned and rebuked them. And they went on to another village.

The Sons of Thunder were ready to call down fire from heaven to punish those who rejected Jesus. Jesus rebukes them, but behind their impulsiveness is great faith. They believed in what Jesus was doing. They believed in His power. They were ready to take action based on their beliefs. They just needed direction in doing it correctly.

I wonder how many Sons of Thunder we have raised as Sons of Compliance? I wonder if at times our own God-given strengths of initiative and risk-taking are suppressed by social norms? I wonder if the Thunder has been replaced with snowflakes?

Jesus acknowledged the strengths of James and John, and then, without breaking their spirits, directed their strengths to serve a higher purpose.

Don’t minimize the strengths God has given you because you are trying to fit into culture. Rather, use your strengths for the cause of Christ. Honor Jesus with them. Become identified by the name Jesus has given you.

Pastor John