Darrell is an author and teacher who reminds Kep of his late father. Join Kep as he bounces several topics off Darrell Johnson as they talk about end times, the church and a few other topics.
Bio: Darrell Johnson has been preaching Jesus Christ and His Gospel for over 50 years. He has served a number of Presbyterian congregations in California, Union Church of Manila in the Philippines, and the historic First Baptist Church in the heart of Vancouver, Canada. He has taught preaching for Fuller College in Vancouver. He has authored many books and is currently serving as Scholar-in-Residence for the Way Church and Canadian Church Leaders Network, and still serves Regent College part-time as Teaching Fellow. He and his wife Sharon have been married for more than 50 years. Together they have raised four children adopted from four different countries of the world, and now enjoy loving 11 active grandchildren!
Show Note Links:
“Discipleship On The Edge” by Darrell Johnson
Kep Crabb: Welcome everyone to Relational Spirituality, a Larger Story podcast where you can belong, you can become, and you can be known in the story that’s going on right now. A story that we know how the story ends. I’m your host today, Kep Crabb.
When I was a young boy in the early 70s, I got a chance to see a couple of movies. The movies are called A Thief in the Night and A Distant Thunder. Some of you may remember those movies. They weren’t exactly the Hollywood productions that we’re used to today, but the simple premise of the two movies; A Thief in the Night was the rapture when Jesus comes back to get us. The second movie, A Distant Thunder, was what happens after the rapture: the tribulation. Some of you may disagree with the theology of the movies as to when Jesus is coming, but they left a lasting impact on me and they encouraged me really to dive into some of the books in the Bible that really talked about the end times; books like Daniel, Ezekiel, Isaiah, and the last book of the Bible, Revelation. I was fascinated and honestly frightened a little bit by the end times.
I’m honored today to be joined by someone who my late father, Larry Crabb, greatly admired and really enjoyed his thought provoking books. He’s a husband of more than 50 years. He and his wife, Sharon, have four adopted children from different countries, and now they have 11 grandchildren. I guess we could probably sit and talk about the grandchildren, because I’m expecting my first grandchild in December, so that could be a full episode for us if we wanted to, but maybe that’s for another time. We could also talk about some of the books that he’s written, like Experiencing the Trinity, Fifty-Seven Words that Change the World, and a book on story, The Story That Makes Sense Of Our Stories. Here at Larger Story, we call that our smaller story, how that fits into His Larger Story. He also has come out with a new book on Ephesians, which I just got a copy of and cannot wait to dive into that. But that’s not what we’re going to be talking about today either.
Today we’re going to be chatting about his book, Discipleship on the Edge. This book was published in 2004. This book is about the apocalypse of Jesus Christ, the revelation of Jesus Christ to John on the island of Patmos. It’s the last book of the Bible. I am super excited today to have Darrell Johnson with us. Darrell, thank you for joining me today. How are you?
Darrell Johnson: Welcome. I’m very pleased to join you and to get to meet you. I knew your father’s books over the years and I wish that I can connect with him through you and through your ministry, so it’s a joy to be with you today.
Kep Crabb: Thank you so much. I know my brother had a chance to reach out to you a little bit ago just to tell you how much you meant to Dad, and you responded graciously to him. That’s when I started thinking, Hey, maybe if I invite this guy to do a podcast with me, it could work out. It’s exciting. Like I said to you earlier, since Dad’s been gone now, or he passed through here about two and a half years ago, I only have about four or five hours of questions for you today since I don’t have him around anymore. I hope you’re ready to strap in.
Darrell Johnson: I’ll do the best I can. Lord help me.
Kep Crabb: I appreciate it. It’s interesting because you and he have so many similarities, Darrell. Aside from the number of books that you’ve written, both of you are prolific writers. The way you talk, the way you look, the way you dress – I don’t know if that’s the quintessential professor’s uniform or not – but the biggest similarity and common thing that I think you guys really had and have is your love for the Word and your love for His church. It comes through in your writings. I’ve had a chance to see some of your videos and it’s just clear as crystal.
Just to tell you a little bit about my background, obviously you knew my dad a little bit, or maybe read some of his books. Three years ago, my wife was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. It was a blow. She was given about a 20 percent chance to live five years. Then shortly after that, Dad passed away and that has changed my life. I am an absolutely different person because of this. My focus now has really been on heaven and the second coming. And so in preparation for what we were going to talk about today, obviously I re-read your book, Discipleship on the Edge, which I would encourage those of you who have not read that to do that.
I also had a chance to go through Dad’s book just real briefly, which was 66 Love Letters. I don’t know, Darrell, if you had a chance to read this, but he wrote this book years ago. What he’s doing is he’s having a conversation with God in this book about, why did you write Genesis? Why did you write the book of Obadiah? Why did you write the book of Malachi? And then he strings together the whole story. Kierkegaard, as you might know, referred to the scriptures as 66 love letters. Each book of the Bible was a love letter to us. And so Dad titled it 66 Love Letters. I’m just going to read a quick excerpt from the final chapter of his book, which obviously is the 66th Book of the Bible, Revelation.
The title of this chapter is “Reign with the Lamb now and you will sing when the lion roars.” Dad opens up the chapter with a quote from Francis Schaeffer where Schaeffer says, People often cry out for the work of the Holy Spirit. And yet forget that when the Holy Spirit works, there’s always a tremendous cost to the people of God, weariness, tears, battles.
Then Dad says to the Father, these words encourage me, Father, after talking through the first 65 of your love letters. I still feel tired at times, more than ever in both soul and body, and I find that deep tears come more easily than deep laughter, especially when something touches me in a tender spot and the battle rages in me and around me. It doesn’t seem to be letting up. If anything, it’s getting more intense. Is this really the work of your Spirit? Is this part of maturing? Is this one stretch of the narrow road to life? Then the Father responds to Dad by saying, I love this. When my Son’s kingdom breaks into yours, expect a collision. When His ways of relating confronts the world’s ways of relating, including yours, all heaven and hell break loose. The battle is on; a battle to the death and to life. The side that appears to be losing is winning and will soon win visibly and decisively. My Son will see to that and the side that seems to now have the edge, the side whose godless agenda is growing in worldwide support loses forever.
I just love that. So encouraging to me. It reminds me of the story that you opened up your book with: a group of seminary students were using a room in a local high school where the custodian was allowing them to do that. And they gave him a Bible as a kind of a thank you for letting them do that. And one night after a study session, they came out and they saw him reading the Bible. One of the students walks up to the custodian and says, I see you’re reading the Bible. What are you reading? He said I’m reading the last book of the Bible, the book of Revelation. He said, Oh, that’s a challenging book. There’s been a lot of people who have studied that in depth and a lot of differing opinions. And he said, Oh, I think I get it. The seminary student stepped back and said, what are you talking about? And he says, Oh yeah, Jesus wins.
I love the fact that we know the end of the story. That to me is just so encouraging as we try to battle and make our way through this world.
But I have a question for you as we get started here.
Darrell Johnson: First of all, I need to get a copy of those 66 love letters.
Kep Crabb: You will get one. One will be in the mail to you tomorrow, sir. Guaranteed.
Darrell Johnson: Thank you. Just the way you read that to me reminds me of one of the things I always admired about your dad and it’s just almost brutal honesty. There’s no game playing on Spirituality. This is real life. This is a real God. I’m a real person. We’re facing real stuff. And he just would name it. I want to read all 66 love letters then see how he worked through them. I want to check out that book right away.
Kep Crabb: I remember I had a chance to take all of my dad’s chicken scratch notes that were his writing. He always wrote every book he ever wrote with a pen and a paper. I did all of the transcriptions from the book SoulTalk onward.
This book was birthed out of him one night where he just sat down and said, why did you write the book of Genesis? And he would just write a sentence. He did that all the way through the book. Then he said, man, this could be a fun book. Talked to Harper Collins about it, they said, great. And it took him four and a half years to write. I said, if you’re going to be speaking for God, the Father, you better have your ducks in a row Dad. So he talked to theologians all over the world and read every commentary on every book of the Bible you could think of. So you can imagine the challenging task that was, but it really is, I believe, his Magnum Opus. I think that you will enjoy it. It’s him having a conversation with God about every book of the Bible. And the last piece of the book is where he strings through the entire message and how it just leads to Jesus all the way through. It’s amazing. I think it’s one of his best.
I read your bio a little bit. You’ve pastored all over the world. I’ve traveled a little bit but most of my barometer for the church is coming from the West, which I know is incredibly limited. But where do you see the church going these days?
Darrell Johnson: My goodness.
Kep Crabb: I’m not trying to get heavy on you right off the bat here, but…
Darrell Johnson: Yeah, you went right to it, though.
Kep Crabb: I did. I did.
Darrell Johnson: Of course, now when we say the church, and we think worldwide, it’s going to be different in different places. Right off, we know that the center of gravity for the church right now worldwide is Africa where it’s just going so fast and with the emergence of African theologians. Ironically, the first great theologians, Augustine and company, were Africans. I don’t know Africa enough to say where the church is going there. I did live in Manila for four years and then I’ve been to Korea many times and been to Hong Kong. And of course now all three of those cities are facing different dynamics and who knows how the church is going to spread in those places.
I’m like you, I’m more in touch with the West. Canada is different than the United States. I’m a dual citizen so I know both sides of the border. Very different. Where do I see the church going? We’re in for a ride. We’re in for a very challenging time. The way I put it with young pastors, it’s almost a sense in which we’re returning to the beginning. The early churches, the letters that Paul writes are all to early churches, they’re all new church plants. The seven churches of Asia Minor in Revelation, they’re all young churches. They were facing a similar situation in that they had no political support. No political party – there weren’t parties, there were just dictators – didn’t support the church, didn’t name the name of Jesus, and they had no cultural support, there’s no precedent for it. So they had to learn to follow Jesus, how to be the church without the support of the government and without support from the culture. And it seems to me we’re in a similar place, especially in Canada. We have no support from the government. As such in fact, contrary in some ways, and then the culture has drifted in such a de-Christianized, almost neo-pagan direction, so we have no support there. We are at a place of great dependency. If the Spirit of God does not move, none of our technology and tricks are going to work. It just isn’t going to work. The Spirit is the one who makes Jesus real. He’s the one who convicts people. He’s the one who opens hearts. He’s the one who empowers ministry on and on. You know the drill: Not by power nor by might, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord. Nothing we can do except cooperate and participate with the Holy Spirit.
I think we’re moving into a time when we’re going to have more courage and more conviction. As I am rereading so much of the New Testament, I tell my wife regularly – I did this morning – I know I’ve read this a lot of times, that I’ve even taught on this, but it’s like I just read it for the first time in some of the warning passages. You’re not going to be liked by everybody. Not everyone is going to embrace your agenda. You’re not of the world. You’re speaking a different language. You’re talking about a different reality. So don’t be surprised if you get some pushback. And of course, that’s my language. He says, don’t be surprised if you’re actually hated on account of me. So we’re moving into a time where it’s going to demand courage and conviction, perspective and a deep relationship with Jesus so that we can hang in there and keep our balance.
Kep Crabb: Yeah. I love that whole notion of hanging in there. Because what comes to my mind is the whole notion of finishing well.
Scripture talks about it all the time. I think it’s because the hardest part of the race is at the end. I was so fortunate to see my father finish well, as towards the end of his life, the only time he would weep was when he was going to see Jesus. I love to think of Revelation 4 and 5 now, because that’s where he’s at; in a place that’s existed before time, whatever that means. It just brings. chills to my neck as I think, what does my dad look like now as he’s staring at the Lamb on the throne and worshiping always. It just, to me, is so beautiful. It just drives me. The biggest thing for me that I’ve taken away from your book in some respect is, what does it mean to have an eternal perspective? Because that’s changed my life. I used to think, if I knew I was going to die tomorrow, how would that change how I live today? Probably wouldn’t want to start a fight with my wife.
Darrell Johnson: I would recommend against that.
Kep Crabb: I probably wouldn’t watch the local sports game. Not very interested in that. I would probably want to make sure my kids and hopefully my grandson is here and I get a chance to pour into them. Because one of the things that I’ve seen and I’ve taken from your writings is your love of the Word.
There’s a story Dad used to tell, you may remember The Red Skelton Show from back in the day.
Darrell Johnson: Yes. Oh boy does that date us.
Kep Crabb: He and his father would traditionally every week, watch that show. One day, I guess the show was getting ready to come on and Dad is a young boy – six, seven, eight years old – went looking for his father and his dad was sitting in the living room with his Bible open in front of the fireplace and said Larry not today. I’m into something here that I need to continue with. Dad was like, what’s more important than us watching The Red Skelton Show? And he went and looked at my grandfather, his father, who was sitting there reading the book. Ironically, he was reading the book of Leviticus and the love of the Word that my grandfather passed on to my dad and my dad has passed that on to my brother and myself. I’m so grateful that I think I’ve passed that on to my children. I can’t wait to start passing that on to my grandchild. That sounds so fun.
Darrell Johnson: You’re in for a ride, by the way.
Kep Crabb: Tell me about it.
Darrell Johnson: Your life is on a scale of one to 10. When you get married, it changes to, I don’t know, eight, maybe. And then you have children and it changes to about a 15 out of 10. And then grandkids. Oh man, it’s off the charts.
Kep Crabb: Yeah. That’s so fun, man. I cannot wait.
Darrell Johnson: It is very fun. Back to your emphasis on your dad and grandfather, in terms of the Word.
I think that is a critical thing for Disciples generally, but those in pastoral ministry specifically right now, we don’t have enough time in the Word. I’m afraid that too many of us go to the Word to get a word for Sunday or for whatever we’re going to teach. But living in the Word. If people ask me, where do you live? I want to be able to consistently say, in the Word. Sadly, there’s some days when it’s probably in the web, and if I’m living in the web, I’m not going to be able to make it in our time, but I’ve got to be in the Word more just to be in the Word. And then if I have something to preach, all the more that all the better, but that’s not the goal, right? That’s not the goal of living in the Word. You live in the Word so you know the Word Himself, the Word made flesh.
E. Stanley Jones is a Methodist missionary to India of the last century. I’ve counted him as a mentor. I’ve never met him yet but I’ve read just about everything he’s written. He has this saying, he goes to the Gospels in particular, and he says to them, Have you seen Him whom my soul loves? And he says the words, “take me by the hand and lead me to the Word.” And I’ve hung onto that, that when we open the book, yes, we’re seeing words, but those words are taking us to the Word Himself, where we find life and hope and joy. So how then are we going to, in this time of supposed small attention spans and people bombarded by words, how are we going to really build solid disciples who live in the Word, who look at the world through the Word? That’s the challenge that I think is a fundamental challenge before us. Maybe that’s the next book, how to live in the Word.
Kep Crabb: How to live in the Word, that’s it. My dad would say to me many times, I have to spend time in the Word like I have to eat, and like I have to breathe. I’m now getting an understanding of that.
Darrell Johnson: The Word may flesh is the one who says, Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. How to do that is the challenge.
Kep Crabb: Yeah, the questions that come to mind as we think about this is, I saw something that you said a while ago about six boxes that you put together on how to hear the voice of the Lord. Dad used to talk to me about them. Someone would come to him and say, Larry, I’ve got a word for you from the Spirit. How did that impact you, Dad? And he said sometimes it means something to me. Sometimes it doesn’t. I said, how do you know that you’re getting a word from the Spirit?
He said there’s three things and you actually have six in a different way, but I think they’re all still in the same category. He said, scriptures, the first spending time in the Word. The second piece is community, spending time in community. And the last piece is prayer. These are the three legs to the stool.
I thought, okay a lot of people spend time in the Word regularly and they’re disciplined well in that respect. I don’t know many people that have had a community that’s been really effective in respect to touching them. Some have. But most small groups don’t end very well. Dad said that the Trinity is the only small group that’s actually gotten along well in the history of time.
Darrell Johnson: That’s good. That’s his line. I’m good. I’m going to use that.
Kep Crabb: You use it, please. And then the one that is most challenging is prayer. Dad wrote a book years ago called The PAPA Prayer. And the Word PAPA stands for four acronyms. It’s present, attend, purge and approach.
We’re actually doing a series on that in this podcast, this last quarter, on prayer, because it seems to be so weak in so many people’s lives. I’ve seen just in my own life, in the last year or so that when I do present myself honestly to the Lord and attend to where I’m at and purge what’s going on in my soul and approach him as my deepest desire, the Spirit opens up doors that I never saw coming in my own prayer life. I don’t want to say it’s all the time because that’s not it, that’s for sure. But it’s been powerful, Darrell. And it’s been something that makes me want more. How is your prayer life?
Darrell Johnson: I would say a better way to answer that would be, how do I do the prayer life? Because the quality of a prayer life, that’s up and down, partly circumstantial, partly what’s going on in our own lives. It’s hard to register, but I can say that the last few years in particular, probably since 1989. I received a book by Eugene Peterson, Answering God, on the Psalms, and if you know that book, he says that the Psalms are prayers that tutor us in prayer. And he says the program is very simple. Just do it. Start with Psalm 1, go to 2, and keep going. So I’ve been doing that every day since my birthday in 1989. I do not know where I’d be without the Psalms. That has become the place where the Spirit of God enables me to approach the Father in the name of Jesus in very honest, full range, deep ways.
I can tell you that I can be really weary. I can be overloaded, but sitting in my chair in my study and just praying a Psalm every day has made all the difference in the world. If you read my book on Ephesians, Paul’s prayers, my goodness. Where did he learn to pray like that?
I think Paul learned to pray through the Psalms and then also through Jesus, watching Jesus pray and John 17. But Paul’s prayers have shaped my prayer life more. So the point you see what’s going there is my prayer life is shaped by the Word too. It’s not like there’s Word and prayer. There’s a word that teaches us to pray and as we pray, the Word becomes more alive and there’s a back and forthness to that so you can’t separate prayer and the Word. For the last decades that has been what sustains me in prayer.
I find more and more that if there’s a group meeting or a gathering of some sort and someone asks me to pray, I’m just going to whip out the book. I know the Psalms well enough that I know the Psalm that we’re going to pray. That’d be my response to prayer life.
Kep Crabb: And that’s what the disciples asked of Jesus. Teach us how to pray.
Darrell Johnson: They didn’t ask anything else that we have a record of. They may have said, teach us to preach like you preach, but there’s no record like that. No. Teach us to cast out demons. Nope. Teach us to pray. Because they could see that the essence of Jesus’ life and ministry was the relationship with the Father and the nature of that relationship.
He’s constantly slipping away. Sharon and I watched one of the episodes of The Chosen last night. It is so fun. You have to live with “what if,” it’s not always super accurate, but boy, I think they’re in touch with the dynamics of that. There’s a scene where Jesus has been in ministry with the disciples and they’re all having a good time and He starts to leave and they say, Where are you going? He goes, I’ll be back. I just need to go away alone. That was really powerful. Of course, they followed him out there, so he couldn’t be alone. But at any rate…
Kep Crabb: I love how that show fills in some of the gaps in some of the ways that we would have anticipated perhaps that those would have happened, but that aren’t necessarily in scripture.
Darrell Johnson: That’s right. Like the woman at the well when she presses him back. What do you mean? You don’t have a bucket. You’re going to get water. When I watched that I thought, okay, I pray, Lord, is that how that could have happened? And I had the peace of saying, it might have. It sure made it real.
Kep Crabb: Yeah, exactly right. It’s interesting because you said sometime I heard where you talk about the work of the Spirit and that’s been something that I’ve been really obsessed with lately, Darrell. How do you know the work of the Spirit’s going on? How do you know I’m getting a word from the Spirit? How do I know the Spirit’s hiding me? You made a comment that the Spirit works very slowly until He doesn’t anymore. And I think I’ve experienced some of that. Can you unpack that a little bit?
Darrell Johnson: Ordinarily – not always ordinarily, as someone said – the Spirit is a gentleman who comes at us mostly through a whisper, mostly in the quiet. If we listen. then He speaks more, and if we listen, He gets clearer, and if we listen more, there’s more direct leading. If, at the beginning, we hear, and then we back off a bit, and don’t listen, and back off a bit, and don’t listen, He doesn’t waste His breath. Just waits. Are you ready to hear or not?
Now, thankfully, there are times when He just takes charge, all right, I’ve had it with your hardened heart, Darrell, I’m going to barge in here. But ordinarily those whispers, that’s where the discipline for me comes.I’ve got to act on that right away. I said, I don’t want to miss the next thing He’s going to communicate. I think that’s what was behind that sentence.
Kep Crabb: When you mentioned earlier as we were chatting that our only real role is to cooperate and invite as the Spirit moves into our lives, Lord, there’s nothing that we can do, but as we invite the Spirit to move through us, and now the Spirit has an opportunity to connect with you, or iron sharpens iron, that people who don’t have the Spirit don’t have that opportunity. It just breaks my heart and it makes me feel like the house is on fire and there’s a baby in there that we have to go get. I don’t know.
I’ve been feeling the work of the Spirit in my own life. I told you a little bit about my story with my wife, which was a blow, but I’ve looked at it now after three years of, What a gift God has given us in respect to taking our eyes off of this world and putting our eyes on the next.
Darrell Johnson: So your wife had, did she die of cancer then?
Kep Crabb: She’s alive. She was diagnosed June, September 8th of 2020. She went in to have the left lower lobe of her lung removed. They found a tumor in there. It was stage one at the time when they opened her up, they said, it’s now gone to stage four, which meant it had metastasized to the pleura of the lung, but it had not gone to the brain. I just said, Lord, this is so unfair. This is a woman who doesn’t smoke, eats well, takes care of herself, all the stuff. This is not fair. And God just says, I’m doing this for you. I could hear it. It’s been an amazing journey since then, which has changed my perspective in every way and how I live. Cause I know that I probably won’t have her for much longer, but God’s in it. I’m ready for it.
Darrell Johnson: Bless you. Bless you, Kep.
Kep Crabb: It’s good, but it’s hard, but that’s where God said, I’m not moving slowly anymore with you. I’m moving quickly now because it’s time. That kind of brings me back to our topic today on Revelation. I know this has been true since Jesus ascended, but I feel the Lord’s coming back soon. I think this world is in a place that seems to be setting up for things that I see of Him coming back to take us. Where are your thoughts on some of that, Darrell? Because I noticed you didn’t go into any of your own positions in this book, which I thought was brilliant.
Darrell Johnson: Let me back up just a second and say something more about apocalyptic literature. Can I do that for a moment? And then we set that other question in context, anywhere you want to go. Okay. Apocalyptic literature. That’s what we’re dealing with is, the first line of the book is the apocalypse of Jesus Christ.
As I say in the book and as I preach on that, when most people hear the word apocalypse, they go, Oh no, something really bad is about to happen. You can regularly hear the news media describing the war in Ukraine or other kinds of tragedies. We warn you, you’re going to see some apocalyptic images, right? That’s a wrong use of the word apocalyptic. You’re going to see some horrific images. You’re going to see some cataclysmic and catastrophic images, but those are not necessarily apocalyptic. Apocalypse simply means, breaking through from hiddenness. Apocalypse: lift the cover off of a box, the cover page of a book, pull back a curtain. In the first century when people heard “apocalypse,” they went, Oh wow, something wonderful is about to happen. Do it. Pull back the screen. So apocalyptic literature functions in that way to reveal what is ordinarily hidden. Now it does this in two ways, and has two pastoral purposes.
The first is to set the present moment. In all of its chaos and ambiguity in light of the unseen realities of the future. Because if you can see the future for just a moment, it changes the way you see the present, and it can change the way you live the present. You’ve been hinting at that all the way along here today. Set the present moment in light of the unseen realities of the future. We can’t see the future with our unaided senses. The future is, Jesus is coming with a new heaven and a new earth. I love the image right there in chapter 21 of Revelation, and He will wipe away all their tears. I’ve preached, there will be no more tears. But lately I’ve been captured by that tender image. He himself will wipe away all those tears. There’s a lot of tears to wipe away and He’s going to do it. So the future, but the other function of apocalyptic literature and actually the more primary one is to set the present moment in light of the unseen realities of the present because we don’t see all that’s going on in the present moment. There is more to reality than what we can see with our eyes and hear with our ears and touch with our hands, smell with our nose, et cetera. The role of apocalyptic literature is then to open up that more.
You’ve read into the book far enough to know what I’m going to say, the greatest unseen reality of the present moment is a person. Jesus himself. And that’s the job of the last book of the Bible. Both of those, but primarily the second, because in order to operate in this present moment, we need to know the full reality of the present moment. And most of us do not. We don’t pay attention to the fact that, for instance, there are angelic forces, principalities and powers, all of which we don’t take into consideration. But primarily, we don’t take into consideration that the one who is coming is present, even now, with us. And if we can see Him it can change the present. There are two commands in the last book of the Bible. You saw me pause because the title is not Revelation, but the Revelation of Jesus Christ, a whole mouthful. You have to say it because it’s revealing Him.
There are two primary commands in the book. The first is do not be afraid. I forgot how many times it occurs. Do not be afraid. Do not be afraid. And the second command is behold. Behold or look, not all translations keep that behold or look anymore. It’s an imperative. It’s really critical. So you want to have a version of the Bible that keeps the word behold or look. Jesus says, do not be afraid, look, and it turns out that we obey the first command, do not be afraid by obeying the second command, look, which is a way of saying that we’re so afraid right now in 2023 because we’re not looking at Him.
We’re looking at all the economic factors. We’re looking at all the political factors that are scary. I was just in the States last week, speaking at a conference with pastors and pastors are really trembling about how they’re going to handle the next few months. The political situation we’re looking at the rise of militant terrorism and all those other kinds of things we’re looking at, but we’re not seeing Jesus. So as long as we look at those things, we’re going to be afraid. But once we see Jesus in the midst of it and begin to understand what He might be doing with all of that, then we can breathe, we can hold our own, we can keep our balance, even though it might be frightening, and it may require all kinds of courage, as I said earlier.
So I think that’s why Jesus gave the revelation to John on the prison island. If you can see me, and see who I am, I have the keys. I am ruler of the kings of the earth right now. I am stronger than the dragon and the two beasts. If we can see that, we’ll make it. If we don’t, we’ll compromise, which of course we see happening in many places.
Kep Crabb: All over the place. How do you keep your eyes focused on Jesus?
Darrell Johnson: I’d say that’s the number one question.
Kep Crabb: I think of Peter as he’s getting out of the boat to walk across the water. I’ve been through some deep waters and I know you have too. This life, I love to say, is just not set up to work. I’m in my mid fifties now, and I’m not what I was when I was 35 years old. My body hurts more and it’s just set up to fail because of the fall. And so in the midst of the broken world, in the midst of this broken world when it really does oftentimes seem that Satan is winning, how do we keep our eyes firmly fixed on Jesus?
Darrell Johnson: Very good question. I’m going to give an answer. We’ve probably talked, we’ve talked about before already in this podcast. For the listeners, believe me, I don’t mean this piously. I don’t mean this naively. There’s only one way to fix your eyes on Jesus, and that’s living in the Word. It’s the only way. I recently put it this way. See if you agree with me, Kep. A person can be in relationship with Jesus without spending time in scripture. That’s because Jesus has gotten a hold of us, right? He took a hold of me. He initiated that relationship. Paul says, He seized me. And now I want to seize the reason He seized me. I can be in relationship, but not know Him. Look at marriages. They’re in relationship, but they gave up getting to know each other, and the only way in a marriage you can know the other is the other has to reveal herself or himself to the other. So in this relationship with Jesus, I can’t know Him unless I listen to Him, reveal Himself to me. And we’re stuck. There’s only one place we get the living, breathing Word.
Kep Crabb: Is that most of Christians today, Darrell? Is that the majority of Christians today? That just don’t spend time in the Word and don’t know Jesus in the way that He wants?
Darrell Johnson: I don’t know about the majority, how to answer that specifically. Yes, I think that’s the crisis right now. For pastors who are listening in on us today, I would say that’s the crisis in the church. Our people who might love Jesus and have good feelings toward Him and really want to follow Him don’t have enough time in the place where He actually meets us to actually know His character. And that’s why we can get snookered by the enemy. Because we don’t know the real thing well enough.
The story about how FBI agents are trained to spot counterfeit money is that they’re never shown counterfeit money. They know the real money so well that the counterfeit comes and they go, that’s bogus. You can throw that right away. So the only way we’re going to be able to stand against the lies all around us right now is we have to know Him who is the truth and the only way to do that is in the Word.
Now, here’s the caveat or not caveat that application. Different people learn in different ways. Different people read in different ways. So the job of the leaders is to find out the different personality types and the different learning types. How do we help them get in the Word? For some, it’s going to be listening to the Word orally. Get that iPod, get that iPhone on, go for a walk and just plug that in for 40 minutes and listen to the gospel of John. If that’s how you learn. Others, it’s reading. Others, it would be through film. Now that’s where it’s a little dicey because you want to make sure the film is doing a good job. Others it’s through teaching, you or I communicating with people. There’s going to be different ways, but all but the final analysis is that it’s the Word. Remember the Richard scary pop up books? Remember those at all?
Kep Crabb: I do, vaguely.
Darrell Johnson: Yeah, so you open the book and then there’s a three dimensional picture that emerges. I think of scripture that way. You open the book and Jesus pops out and that’s where you meet Him. That’s where He tells you His character. And the more I can do that, the more I spot the counterfeit instantaneously. Again, I keep using this word, I get my balance again, get perspective and I can keep going.
I lament the… I don’t like to use the phrase biblical illiteracy. That sounds like someone intentionally didn’t want to know. But the lack of the Word. Now that’s a lifetime of discipline. I’m going to turn 76 in a few weeks, so I’ve got a few years on you. I can tell you right now that scripture has never been as alive for me as it is right now. I said earlier that I said to my wife this morning, I know I read that. I think if she were here, she’d say, you tell me that every day, because it’s getting richer and richer and richer and bigger and better and more massive. And I want everybody to have that experience. So the older you get, the more He meets you in the Word.
Kep Crabb: That is so encouraging. Yeah. I’m in a life group with two other guys that are your age and what I’ve come to realize in chatting with these guys weekly for the last year and a half now is it doesn’t get any easier. This life gets harder in respect to even relational challenges, obviously physical challenges. But I love what you said. The Word is coming alive in a new way, a different way to you now, even after having spent a half a century immersed in it because it continues to talk. I got a chance to watch one of your messages on the distinctions between Isaiah 6 and Revelation 4 and 5, and I just loved it. I loved it so much because the difference is Jesus, the Lamb. That now has opened up the throne room to all of us where He’s sitting in the middle. I just continue to think that’s where my dad is. Now he’s one of those 24 thrones around the big throne who’s just worshiping the King, who’s a Lamb sitting in the middle. It just brings goosebumps to my body thinking that’s where my dad is right now. I can’t get over it. It’s just so powerful.
Darrell Johnson: No, yeah, we lost a son. That’s where our son is. And my mom and dad and my two brothers and all the dear friends, all the dear people I’ve served over the years and done funerals for. They’re there and they’re fine. More than fine.
I’d like to think – I think we have biblical justification for it, like in Revelation 7 and then in 12 – they’re praying for us. I don’t know that they can see through that thin veil between the two worlds, we’re probably going to be heretics if we try to talk about that any further, but I think there is a sense in which they are aware we’re not there. They may not experience the pain that we have, the pain of the loss of them. They may not have that same pain, but they’re aware. Your dad’s aware you’re not there and he’s praying for you and your brother and your family. And man and boy, do they know how to pray in that world because they know what it’s going to be like and more importantly, back to revelation again, they know what it’s really like, even now. I would like to think that your dad’s praying, Oh, Lord, help Kep see. Help him see the full present right now. Give him a glimpse of the future, but help him know what’s really going on in the future and the present that Jesus is really there for him and with him.
Kep Crabb: It brings tears to my eyes. I’d love to think of the fact that my father is no longer living with faith or living with hope. He’s just living in love, no more faith and hope. Because the greatest of these is love. Because at some point, faith and hope end when you’re sitting there looking at Jesus. Now he sees Jesus. I would often say to my brother, If Dad were to come back and write a book, that would be a book I would buy after what he’s had a chance to see for the last two and a half years as he’s in the presence of Jesus and just worshiping.
I love your notion on worship too. And that it’s something that’s happened before time. I used to have a chance to lead worship at various churches and I hate saying leading worship, you’re leading the music part of a worship of a church. Worship doesn’t ever start or stop. Okay. It’s time to start worshiping now, everybody. And okay, we’re done worshiping. And now if someone’s going to, I never understood that. I always think I’m just hopefully bringing you to the throne room and this is where you want to live. And it’s just so exciting to have heaven on the forefront of our minds. I love to think about that. And that’s where the book of Revelation, the Revelation of Jesus Christ, is something that changes the way I live right now, as I think about heaven.
I think that the biggest job that we’re doing with Larger Story and why I created this ministry was when my dad passed, I thought this is not going to be good. If what he talked about then, what does it mean to represent Jesus now to others relationally? If that were to die with him, I said, that would not be good. I don’t want that. I want that to continue to live. And our focus is to really, what does it mean to to cross generationally disciple people?
How do I talk to my daughter who’s 26 today and my son who’s 23, and how do I talk to them in a way that gets them hungry and thirsty for the Lord? How do I let them know that this life and the things that the world is trying to tell you is life actually, those are the things that I’m thinking about now.
Darrell Johnson: Yeah, we’re living in a time when a lot of what’s being said is death. They don’t see it now, but they’re going to see it. I’m working with a young church here, Sharon and I. I’ve always served churches that have been at least 60 years old. Wonderful opportunities, but as if you serve a church that’s been around a while, you’ll hear a lot of, we don’t do it that way, or we’ve never done it that way, or that sort of thing. Bless their hearts, as they say in the South, just bless their hearts. So it’s great to be part of a church where it’s not been around long enough for anybody to say that, so we can experiment, but I can tell you, I’m the oldest person in the building every Sunday. I’m preaching this next Sunday, but I’m the oldest person there. Hundreds of these young people, they are so hungry. I don’t remember being that hungry. When I was in university, I knew I was hungry. I knew I loved Jesus. I knew I wanted to know Him and follow Him, but my goodness, they’re really alive right now. And I asked them, where’s this hunger come from? And they’ll say, because it’s not working, nothing’s working for us right now. So this may be for a while, the first generation that at a young age is not buying into the illusion that we can make the world work. So they’re hungering for more and then they hear the story and the story pointing to Jesus. And I go, where did this come from? How come I didn’t know this before? I could tell you all kinds of stories. I even heard this morning reported from Sunday. So it’s a great generation. Your kids are in that.
One of the things I discovered, Kep, that I think is a key, is that your age and my age especially, I wonder if our posture needs to be more, a posture of listening than telling. We’ll get a chance to tell only if they feel we’ve listened and their questions are very different than the ones I had. I went to university 65 to 69, and that was a whole different world. We had questions, but not like now. And so I think that the younger generation is looking for people like you and me who will just listen. And then they finally say, so what do you think?
Kep Crabb: Dad used to call that the art of curiosity. That’s good. What does it mean to be curious? I’ve said that too, Darrell. I’ve sensed that as well, that the younger generation is hungry for something. They’re thirsty for something because they’re seeing such a distinction in respect to the direction that some of these places are going, that they’re like that’s not the direction I want to go. That goes back to our first question of the day, where’s the church going? I think there’s some real hope for what’s happening. I think there’s some real struggle and it’s going to be challenging, but boy, there’s some people out there. Younger generations, younger kids.
My son is one of them as well, who I just had a conversation with a few weeks ago for about an hour and a half of where he’s at, where’s his red dot. That’s what we call it. Where are you at? It’s when you walk into the mall and you say, here’s where I’m at, but I want to go here, so I need to go this way, and then I need to go this way. And he was just unloading on me in some ways that just made my heart sing because the Lord’s grabbing hold of his life. This is a 23 year old boy who’s making his way now and finished college and deciding whether or not he wants to get married and he’s got himself a girl and when he is going to do that thing and who knows. It just made my heart sing. I think he’s indicative of a lot of these kids nowadays that are hungry. I think you’re spot on as we have two ears and one mouth. I want to know what makes you guys click and I want to know what your struggles are.
Darrell Johnson: Yeah. Where are you afraid? What are you longing for? What are you hoping for? Where do you find any hope? Many in this generation say, I don’t, it’s hopeless. Here, let me give you a possible hope. Hope has a name.
Kep Crabb: And He’s sitting on the throne.
Darrell Johnson: And he’s going to win.
Kep Crabb: He’s going to win. Jesus wins. Oh Darrell, He already has. We know how the story ends.
Darrell Johnson: We had Good Friday. He won already. We know how He’s going to pull it all together.
Kep Crabb: Darrell, this is so encouraging to chat with you. I just really appreciate your time and just taking an hour out of your day to chat with me. It means the world. I’ve read a number of your books. I’ve been an admirer of your work for years. My father has as well, and that was largely through him. But it was just so encouraging to chat with you today. I’m hoping that the Spirit can take this and do with it what He chooses.
Darrell Johnson: I do too. It’s a joy to meet you. It’s a real joy.
Kep Crabb: I hope we can do this again sometime. Maybe if we get our glitches worked out, we can get this figured out.
I have really enjoyed chatting with you. Again, you remind me of my dad, the way you look, the way you speak and your love for the Word. I think similar to Dad, you’re not pulling any punches. This is where life is and life’s hard, but Jesus wins. And I think that’s a great place for us to wrap today.
So folks, I just appreciate you joining us today on behalf of Darrell. I’m Kep Crabb. Join us every Tuesday here on Relational Spirituality, where you can belong, you can be known, and you can become who God wants us to be. I pray that the Lord will use this in your lives today.
Darrell, thank you so much for joining me and God bless you, Sharon, your children, your 11 grandchildren.
I just really am grateful for this time.
Darrell Johnson: Bless you. This is pure joy.
Kep Crabb: Thanks.