Upward, Inward, Outward (John 1:15)

Read: Genesis 28:6 – 30:24

John testified about him when he shouted to the crowds, “This is the one I was talking about when I said,
‘Someone is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.’”
(John 1:15)

Upward, Inward, Outward

Relate: Almost every time I am preaching or teaching on a scripture I do my best to interact with it in three ways. For these devotionals I call it relate, react, and respond because ultimately I want myself, and anyone reading, to ultimately turn our attention to God. When I am publicly preaching it is reversed because I want to prepare people to enter their world. So I call it upward, inward, outward. The upward (respond) is a time of allowing the scripture to teach us about God. What does this show me of how great, or loving, or just, or holy, or true our God is? The inward (react) is a time of allowing the scripture to impact who I am. What does this Word from God teach me about who I am or what about me needs to change or what God desires me to become? The outward, (relate) is a time for the scripture to impact how I see my world. What does this show me about God’s heart for others? What can I learn about or how should I interact with others because of what this scripture says?

John had this balance down really well. Upward: John testified about Him Outwardwhen he shouted to the crowds Inward[Jesus] is far greater than I am. He is often viewed as a crazy radical. He was probably considered an eccentric, a lunatic, or possibly an extremist. He was a prophet who could be put right up there with Ezekiel for doing some crazy things. But where it counted John’s life was perfectly balanced. He knew his God, he knew his audience, and he knew his place.

React: Often it is when we get out of balance that we find ourselves getting into trouble. I don’t think it is possible to become too focused upward. When we are truly looking to God He will always reveal to us his heart for us and the world. Just look at what Isaiah ended up saying when he had his vision of God on the throne. (Isaiah 6) “I am doomed, for I am a sinful man…” (6:5) and then a short time later, “Here I am, send me.” (6:8) So it is impossible for us to get too focused solely on God, but sometimes I position myself so others might think that of me. It is then that they might say, “He is so heavenly minded that he is no earthly good.”

The other two are much easier to get out of balance. Whether a person is an extrovert or an introvert it is possible to get to focused inward. For the extrovert we call this narcissism. For the introvert it tends toward brooding. In the same way there are two ways we can become unbalanced looking outward. We can get so caught up hating the evil in our culture that we fall into what I call the Westboro trap. We are against this and boycotting that and protesting this and world looks at us and rightly accuses us of being angry, bigoted, hate mongers. Or we can go to the other extreme and love the world so much and embrace the “culture and methodology” so fully that the world looks and wonders why should they bother becoming a Christian. We are no different than they are.

So how do we keep ourselves in balance? Follow John’s example. He might have preached to the crowds but he had eyes only for Jesus. When we continually and constantly refocus our attention upward, back on our God, the rest will take care of itself.


God, it is so easy to get my life out of balance. I admit it. I have wandering eyes. Sometimes I get so focused on myself that I lose sight of both You and Your calling. I get selfish and proud. I grow depressed. I brood. I brag. The world becomes all about me. When these moments come, help me to turn my attention back to You. Other times I get too focused outward. I begin to rage so much about a wrong or an injustice in society that I forget Your love for Your people who have not come to know You yet. Or I might get so caught up in becoming like my world that I forget Your holiness and Your calling for me to be set apart. When these moments come, help me to turn my attention back to You. In all four ways I feel like I am guilty on an almost daily basis. Forgive me. And help me to ever turn my attention back to You. 


14 thoughts on “Upward, Inward, Outward (John 1:15)

  1. Focus. Psalm 105:4: Seek the Lord and His strength. Seek His face continually. It is all about Him and we are the recipient of blessings when we let it be all about Him. I like your outline for Bible study. I think I will try it. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Great points and a great reminder. Part of your post reminded me of this quote: “The continual grubbing on the inside to see whether we are what we ought to be generates a self-centered, morbid type of Christianity, not the robust, simple life of the child of God.” —A. Gene Veal

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