Journey Toward Christmas: Jesus – The Hope of the World
There was nothing peculiar about the birth of Jesus. He was not God incarnate and no Virgin Mother bore him. The Church in its ancient zeal fathered a myth and became bound to it as dogma. Since Christians largely continue to suppose that their faith stands or falls by the doctrine of the deity of Christ the dogma goes on being sustained to the detriment of what is really significant about the person and contribution of Jesus. It is pathetic to have theologians, whether orthodox or liberal, trying to save themselves and the credit of the Church's teaching by questing for terms which enable them to retain what they should have outgrown.
These sentiments are of course, not mine. They are taken from Hugh Schonfield's book, The Passover Plot. His words are testimony that unbelief, disbelief and heresy are still enemies of the truth and that the church must be vigilant.
What is shocking to me, is that an increasing number of Christian theologians agree with him. A significant number of liberal New Testament scholars openly deny the validity of the miraculous associated with the life of Jesus. They explain that we really can’t trust the Bible to tell us the true story about Jesus.
It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that if you dismiss the miraculous you deny the divinity of Jesus. Once you deny the divinity of Jesus, He becomes merely a Jewish peasant who entertains visions of grandeur, is motivated by political passion, becomes swept up into the ‘Kingdom Movement’ of John that Baptist, and is ultimately killed by the Romans as a nuisance.
Some of you may remember an ABC special that was televised in 2006. It was entitled, The Search for Jesus and was billed as “ ... a journalist’s exploration of the historical figure of Jesus of Nazareth.” That journalist was Peter Jennings. In his opening monologue, Jennings tells us, “Jesus has had and continues to have an extraordinary influence in people’s lives.” He concludes by saying, “The search for Jesus is an irresistible story.”
The only problem was that this highly-hyped show shed precious little light on the person and nature of Jesus of Nazareth. Jenning’s ultimate conclusion? “All we really know about Jesus is that he was Jewish and that he was born during a turbulent time.”
It’s hard to imagine how the Jesus that Jennings portrayed could have an “extraordinary influence” on anyone.
Actually, we know much about the life of Jesus. It merely depends on what sources we choose to accept and believe. The bottom line is this: If we accept the conclusions of today’s liberal scholars and their presuppositions concerning the Gospel accounts, then indeed there is not much we can know about Jesus since most liberal scholars view the Gospels as historically unreliable accounts of the life of Jesus.
If, however, we accept God’s truth as revealed in the Scriptures—assuming the Gospels to be authoritative, and historically reliable—then there is a great deal that we can know about Jesus. In fact we can know Him personally!
There is noting more incredible that we are asked to believe about Jesus than is found here in the prologue to John’s gospel. He maintains that the eternal God of the universe, the Creator and Sustainer of all things, the Ancient of Days, willingly gave up His heavenly status, taking the form of a man, and became subject to the death of the cross! How incredible!
I. THE LIVING WORD IS THE ETERNAL SON OF GOD
- the Christmas story does not begin with a birth in Bethlehem, but in the eternalness of God
- John 1:1 "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."
- the gospel of John opens with a magnificent statement
- its theological sweep and grandeur is breathtaking: In the beginning was the Word; And the Word was with God; And the Word was God;
- it begins by portraying the life of Jesus—whom he calls The Word—with the heavenly Father in eternity before the world began
- this must never be forgotten
- the first three Gospels begin by placing Jesus within a historical setting
- Matthew begins with the genealogy of Jesus that connects Him to David and Abraham
- Mark starts with the preaching of John the Baptist
- Luke has a dedication of his work to Theophilus and follows that with a prediction of the birth of John the Baptist
- but John begins with a theological prologue that takes us into the infinity of eternity
- it is almost as if John had said, “I want you to consider Jesus in His teaching and deeds. But you will not understand the good news of Jesus in its fullest sense unless you view Him from this point of view. Jesus is God manifest in the flesh, and His words and deeds are those of the God-Man.”
- this is still true—you will never understand the man named Jesus—until by faith you see Him as the Christ, the Son of the Living God who taketh the way the sins of the world
- it is central in the New Testament witness
A. THE LIVING WORD IS ONE WITH THE HEAVENLY FATHER
- "In the beginning" – these words are suggestive of the opening words of Genesis
- Genesis begins with the foundation of the world and tells us of God's creative efforts
- in John 1:1, the apostle goes behind the creation account into eternity itself and tells us the story behind the story
- that story is of an eternal Christ in glory with the Father, high and lifted up and on his throne
- Jesus is the "Word"
- words are used to convey the meaning of our thoughts and intents
- Jesus Christ—as the Word—is the living expression of God's thoughts and intents toward us
- it's one thing to say, "I love you"
- it's another altogether to "inflesh" our love through personal direct action
- ILLUS. Linda and I were still newlyweds while in college at Southwest Baptist University. One evening I came home from working at the local grocery store. Linda was sitting at the counter top, busy doing something. I took my coat off, put my arms around her waist, kissed her on the back of the neck and said, “I love you.” Without missing a beat, she said, “Yea? Then please take out the garbage and do the dishes for me!”
- three times in the first verse John uses the word "was"
- for those of you who may be interested the word "was" is the imperfect form of the verb "to be"
- we have no real translation for the verb in the English
- in the original language of the N.T. it's a word which expresses timelessness
- thus, we might read the verse like this: "In the beginning always was the Word, and the Word always was with God, and the Word always was God."
- before time was created, Jesus existed - Gen. 1:26
- v. 1 ". . . the Word was with God . . ."
- the nature of Christ has been at issue since the earliest days of the Church
- some have maintained that Jesus was merely human and had great wisdom and spiritual insight
- some have believed that he was "adopted" by God at his baptism and was divine only until abandoned by God at his crucifixion
- a few have advanced the idea that Jesus is divine, but not on equal footing with the Father—in other words he is God, but not as god and God is
- that Jesus was not created is evident in the second phrase of the verse
- the verse literally says the Jesus was "face to face" or "eyeball to eyeball" with God
- the idea is that of complete equality
- v. 1 ". . . and the Word was God . . ."
- how can the apostle surmise that Jesus has equality with the Heavenly Father?
- because Jesus is God
- a more accurate translation of that third phrase of the 1st verse would read: ?"And the Word was God Himself"/
- in His incarnation, Jesus did not cease to be God
- Jesus said of himself: "I and the Father are one." - (John 10:30)
- if you want to know what God is like, then you have to look at the portraits of Christ painted of Him with words in the N.T.
- to know Jesus personally is to know God
- ILLUS. Shortly before his arrest and crucifixion, Jesus is attempting to prepare his disciples for the events which are about to take place. In John 14:7 he tells them, "If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well . . ." The apostle Philip says, "Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us." Jesus responds – almost hurt I think – in 14:9, "Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father . . ."
B. THE LIVING WORD IS CREATOR OF THE WHOLE WORLD
- John 1:3 "Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made."
- the world Jesus came to redeem is a world he created
- apart from him there came into being not one thing which has come into being and still exists
- Col. 1:16-17 "For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together."
- Prov. 8:27-30 "When He [God] prepared the heavens, I was there; when he set a compass upon the face of the depth; When he established the clouds above; when he strengthened the fountains of the deep; When he gave to the sea its decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment; when he appointed the foundations of the earth, Then I was by him, as one brought up with him; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him."
- ILLUS. Long before Jesus learned the carpenter's trade he was a master craftsman. His work is not a copy, but an original. From his fruitful imagination, He painstakingly brings to light his creation. It is perfect in every detail. His effort is a labor of love. When the beauty of that creation is marred by vandals, he does not abandon the work for another, but seeks to restore the creation by repairing the damage that was done.
- we are the vandals that have marred his creation, including ourselves, through our disobedience and sin
- Jesus comes and offers restoration
C. THE LIVING WORD ILLUMINATES MAN'S REAL NEED
- John 1:4-5 "In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehends it not."
- man's greatest need is not immortality—all men are immortal
- man's greatest need is for "life"—eternal life as compared to eternal damnation
- you don't have to do noth'n to have immortality in hell
- you do have to do something to have eternal life in heaven
- in the word's of our spiritual forefathers, you've got to "see the light"
- that "light" is Jesus
- the light of Christ will always shine, no matter the depths of darkness man's sin may plunge the world or the individual soul
- the light of God’s truth and holiness and righteousness—as expressed in the life of the Son—illuminates the darkness of our sin and the depth of our spiritual need for the salvation he offers
- in Christ is there is life and light
- the darkness of our sin and the blackness of our unbelief can never overcome the light—it will always shine and waits to be embraced
II. THE LIVING WORD CAME IN THE FLESH TO REVEAL GOD TO MEN
- John 1:14 "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth."
- this reality is surely one of the most profound statements in all the Scriptures
- the Infinite became finite
- the Eternal was conformed to time
- the Invisible became visible
- the Supernatural One reduced Himself to the natural
- and yet He never ceased to be God
A. HE DWELT AMONG US
- verse fourteen makes a unique and interesting statement
- it literally says that Jesus "tabernacled" among us
- John's Jewish readers knew immediately that the apostle was referring to the tent of the Tabernacle which served as the Israelite's temple during their wilderness wanderings
- to paraphrase what the apostle John is saying, we could translate the verse as: "The physical presence of God—manifested in the person of Jesus Christ—pitched His tent among us."
- it's as if God moved in next door!
- I like that
- it tells me that I have a Heavenly Father who took the initiative to come and experience life as I do in order that He might judge me more fairly and provide me with what I need most—the opportunity to get to know Him personally
A. GOD COMMISSIONS MEN WHO KNOW HIM TO BE LIGHT BEARERS
- John 1:6-8 "There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light."
- God has chosen to work through saved men to evangelize lost men
- ILLUS. Like the chemical phosphorous, we have no light of our own, but let light come in contact with it and it is activated and gives off an illumination from within for all to see. When the illumination runs low it just needs another dose of light.
- maybe you need a fresh dose of His light!
- in our day, we’ve come to associate martyrs with those extraordinary believers who live by great faith, are noble witnesses, and ultimately are willing to die for the cause of Christ
- to be a martyr does indeed require death—but a death to self and one’s own agendas
- Mark 8:35-37 “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 ““For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? 37 ““For what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (NASB95)
III. THE LIVING WORD IS GOD'S HOPE FOR A DYING WORLD
- the living Word—Jesus Christ—is the only hope for the lost sinner
- He provides spiritual light, which illuminates the hearts and minds of men as to their spiritual poverty without him
- once a man has received that spiritual illumination he has a choice as to how he will respond
A. MANY WILL BE CONDEMNED BECAUSE THEY SIMPLY IGNORE HIM
- v. 10 "He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not."
- to them the light is an inconvenience which only momentarily distracts them from their own efforts and pursuits
- to them the light of Christ is like a flash bulb
- it's momentarily bright and attracts our attention, but only for a moment
- the great majority of the world’s population is on the broad road that leads toward destruction not because they have openly rejected the Lord of Glory, but because they are indifferent to Him
B. SOME WILL OPENLY REJECT HIM
- v. 11 "He came unto his own, and his own received him not."
- this is one of the saddest verses in all of the Scriptures
- Jesus, born into the Jewish nation—God’s original chosen people—to become the fulfillment of all that God had ever promised them through the Patriarchs and the Prophets
- but they categorically rejected Him—‘but they received Him not’
- the verb in this passage means that it was decisive act
C. A FEW WILL ENTHUSIASTICALLY RECEIVE HIM
- John 1:12 "But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name"
- some will openly embrace the light, they will come to it and joyfully receive the one who shines his light upon them
- those who do will become the sons of God
- to believe on the name of Jesus means to accept who and what He is—it means to be persuaded that He is exactly who the Scriptures paint Him to be—and to place your confidence in and full reliance upon Him
- being a child of God does not come about by human physical descent, nor is it attributed to human volition or the action of men
- it is the sovereign work of God that provides for and accomplishes our salvation
- regeneration is the supernatural work of God in our lives
- we then asked to respond in faith and obedience to the call and work of the Holy Spirit in our lives
Some of you here this evening may need to experience the New Birth. It is not a physical birth. According to John, being born again is not something you can accomplish of your own will and desire. The new birth is entirely of God. This new birth is made possible because "the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us." Jesus Christ is the living Word. He came into the world to experience life as you do, to know the hurts and pains and temptations we all go through. He came to bring you light and life.