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Seeing God

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JOHN 1:18

Do you ever wonder what it must be like to see God?  I’ve heard it said that for us to try to see God in His fullness and completely describe Him would be like a germ trying to describe the universe.  In and of Himself, God is completely incomprehensible to man.  In His eternal three-in-one existence, He is completely self-sufficient.  He lacks nothing.  The eternal relationship between the Father, the Son and the Spirit gives God everything He ever needs.  But God’s love is so immense.  And His desire for His glory is so vast, that He wasn’t satisfied.  Somewhere in His eternal councils, God desired to reveal Himself.  He desired to be seen.  He desired to be seen and magnified and glorified and praised for who He is.  That’s what our passage is about this morning.  In 18 short verses, this passage provides an overview of God’s self-revelation.  These 18 verses serve as the prologue to John’s Gospel.  A prologue is a complete overview of the theme of the book.  It lays out the major theme that the whole book is going to expand on.  So, do you know what the major theme of the Gospel of John is?  Seeing God.  Seeing the One Moses was only allowed to see the backside of His glory.  Seeing the One Isaiah saw high and lifted up.  Seeing the One Ezekiel saw the appearance of the likeness of the glory of, and fell on his face.  You know that a few weeks ago, I broke my old glasses.  When I went to replace them, my prescription had expired so I had to get a new eye exam.  I think the best part of getting an eye exam is when they put the big lens machine in front of your face.  The doctor sticks it up there and tells you to let him know when the letters become more clear.  The first try is very blurry.  You can hardly make out anything.  You can tell there is something out there, but you have no idea what it is.  Then the doctor flips the lenses.  Wow!  That makes things a lot clearer.  You still can’t exactly read the letters, but you can tell that they are letters.  You might be able to get a few of them right.  But for the most part, you still can’t read them.  If it was a sentence given for instruction, you wouldn’t be able to read it enough to follow it.  Finally comes the wonderful time when he gets the lenses exactly right.  You can finally see.  You can read every letter perfectly and clearly.  Each detail of each letter is crystal clear.  That is the same flow that we see in this passage.  It shows the historical flow of how God has chosen to reveal Himself.  As we move through this historical flow with John we see in the first 5 verses that God reveals Himself transcendently.  Look with me at 1:1-5

JOHN 1:1-5

Since we’re talking about a blurry revelation of God, it only makes sense that I use a really blurry word to describe it.  God reveals Himself transcendently.  That’s a big word that simply means that God is completely outside of and beyond the world as we know it.  He is without bounds or limits.  He is outside of time and space.  He is completely incomprehensible in His glory and beauty and power and goodness.  God’s transcendence is something our minds can’t get a grasp on.  When we think of God in this way, only one word comes to mind—awe.  All throughout Isaiah 40, the prophet captures this idea.  In verse 13 and 14, he says, “Who hath directed the Spirit of the LORD, or being his counsellor hath taught him?  With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and shewed to him the way of understanding?”  In verse 18 he says, “To whom then will ye liken God? or what likeness will ye compare unto him?”  God is God and we’re not.  Unless, as a sovereign act of His divine will, He willingly chose to reveal Himself, we could never know Him.  But in order that He might be glorified, He chose to reveal Himself—in the beginning.  Before the foundations of the world, in the eternal councils of the Father, Son and Spirit, God purposed to reveal Himself in a creative act of the Son. Colossians 1:16 tells us that, “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:”  This One who created, who in the eternal councils of God chose to reveal God in creation is the One who John calls the Word in these verses.  When we see the word “word”, a different thought comes to our mind than John intended.  When we see it, we think of a word on a piece of paper or a spoken word—a piece of language.  In the Greek language that John was writing in, “word” meant so much more.  It was a philosophical word that was huge in meaning.  It was big enough to contain all reason and all thought and all language.  It was big enough to be the essence of all being.  Ultimate reality.  To the Greek, “word” was the answer to life’s ultimate question—“What is the reality behind all reality?”  John takes their philosophical word and tells us who the Word is.  He is above all and behind all.  He created all and sustains all.  If He had not chosen to, nothing would exist except Himself.  All life is because of Him.  And all light is because of Him.  Even the light that shows His creation that there is a creator.  Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.”  Creation exists as an undeniable testimony to the existence of God.  For thousands of years man has tried to deny it.  He has tried to rationalize it.  He has tried to give everything else in the world credit for creation other than God.  But God’s creation points to God.  Paul put it this way in Romans 1:20: “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.”  But what is it exactly that creation shows us about God?  It shows us that we are not Him.  It shows us that He is far above us.  It shows us that we can never be Him or hope to attain a relationship with Him.  It shows us His transcendence.  And look in verse 5 what happens when we are faced with God’s transcendence—we don’t comprehend it.  When we try to figure out the vastness of God.  When we try to grasp His power and His might.  When we try to comprehend God just by looking at His creation, we can’t.  we can’t even fully comprehend God’s creation, much less creation’s God.  God is not clearly revealed in His transcendence.  It is a very blurry picture.  All His transcendence does is to simply serve to remove our excuses.  It simply serves to show us how far short we fall from His glory.  And God didn’t want to leave us in that helplessly hopelessly lost state.  So not only did God reveal Himself transcendently, He chose to reveal Himself immanently.  Look at verses 6-13:

JOHN 1:6-13

Well, here I go again with another big blurry theological word.  But the picture is still blurry.  John, our spiritual eye doctor has just put a less-blurry lens up to our eye.  God is seen in a real blurry and fuzzy way in His creation.  That’s His transcendence.  But, He’s also seen in a less blurry way in His Old Testament laws and prophets.  That’s His immanence.  Immanence is very different than transcendence.  Where transcendence means that God is above all and outside of all… immanence means that God is deeply involved in all.  He didn’t just build creation, wind it up and walk off.  He is intimately involved in every aspect of His creation.  But there is only one way that we could really know that.  We can look at creation and know that there had to be a creator.  We can even look at creation and know that someone has to be keeping it all together.  But there is no way we can know how it’s done or why it’s done or who is the One who’s doing it.  Unless He tells us.  And He did.  He testified as to who He is and what He’s done and what He’s going to do.  And He did it through people.  Hebrews 1:1 says, “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets.”  In these verses we just read, one of those prophets was named John.  Not John the Apostle who wrote this Gospel.  The John we see here is the one we know of as John the Baptist.  As a matter of fact, he was the last of the Old Testament type prophets.  But even though the writer brings him up here, he’s not really the focus.  At least the person of John the Baptist isn’t really the focus.  His role is.  God sent John the Baptist as a forerunner of Jesus.  He sent him to be a witness.  He sent him to be the same kind of witness that the Old Testament was supposed to have been to the Jews.  Just like John the Baptist, the Old Testament laws weren’t the light.  The Law wasn’t ever intended to bring salvation.  It wasn’t intended to bring salvation because it wasn’t capable of bringing salvation.  Hebrews 10:1 says, “For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect.”  Not only was the Law not the light, the Old Testament sacrifices weren’t the light.  They weren’t the light because they couldn’t bring salvation either.  Hebrews 10:4 says, “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.”  John the Baptist wasn’t the light.  The other Old Testament prophets weren’t the light.  The Old Testament Laws weren’t the light.  Those thing weren’t the light, they were witnesses to the Light.  God used those things to reveal Himself to His creation.  The Law, the Prophets—they all serve to do one thing.  They show us who God is and show us who we are in light of who He is.  Galatians 3:24 tells us clearly what the role of the Old Testament law is.  “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.”  God revealed Himself in His creation.  That picture is enough to condemn us, but it’s not enough to let us know Him.  So He chose to make the image clearer.  He gave us the Law and the prophets.  He gave us witnesses to bear witness of the Light, so that we might believe.  But look what happened in verse 10 and 11.  He—God—was in the world that He had made and the world didn’t know Him.  He came to the people that He had created and given the Law and the prophets to.  And what did they do with everything He had given them?  They ignored it.  All the witnesses that God had given to testify of Him were ignored.  He came unto His own and His own received Him not.  Now, the Apostle John gives us a wonderful aside here to tell us that everybody didn’t ignore the Old Testament revelation.  But many did.  God transcendently revealed Himself in creation.  What happened?  His creation didn’t understand.  God immanently revealed Himself in the Law and the Prophets.  What happened?  The people He came to rejected Him.  God’s self revelation went from really blurry and not understood… to more focused and rejected.  But God’s desire is for His people to know Him.  Not just know him as a distant creator.  Not just know him as a lawgiver and judge.  But know Him as personally present.  Yes, God reveals Himself transcendently in His creation.  Yes, God reveals Himself immanently through the Law and the Prophets.  But thank God that He reveals Himself personally in His Son.  Look at verses 14-17:

JOHN 1:14-17

This is where the view becomes crystal clear.  God moves from revealing Himself transcendently… to revealing Himself immanently… to revealing Himself personally.  He moves from the eternal creator Word—that wasn’t comprehended… to the Light that was testified of by John the Baptist and the Old Testament Law and Prophets—that was not received… to the Word that was made flesh.  To the Word that lived among us.  To the Lord of Glory who stepped down from His eternal throne.  Who came in the flesh, who was born of a virgin, who lived a perfect sinless life for 33 years on earth, and who died a cruel death at the hands of the ones He created.  It is in this One that God is perfectly and completely revealed to His creation.  Hebrews 1:1-2 says, “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds.”  God loved you so much that He created you.  Before the foundations of the world, He knew who you would be and He created you anyway.  But He didn’t just create you to live your life the best you can and hope for the best.  He didn’t just create you to live and work and marry and raise kids and retire and die.  He gave you His Word to show you there’s so much more to life than that.  But the problem is, when you read the Bible, it shows you a whole bunch of things that God expects from you that you aren’t doing.  As a matter of fact, it shows you some things that you aren’t capable of doing.  Like the part where it says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your mind and all your soul and all your strength.”  And the part where it says, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  And the part where Jesus says in Matthew 5:48, “Be perfect just like your Father in Heaven is perfect.”  I’ve got news for you.  You aren’t perfect.  And neither am I.  That is why the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.  That’s why verse 17 says that the law was given by Moses, but GRACE and TRUTH came by Jesus Christ.  God knows that we cannot comprehend His transcendence that He reveals in His creation.  He knows that we will reject His immanence that He reveals in the Law and the Prophets.  That’s why He sent His Son.  “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”  Jesus is the perfect, complete revelation of God’s love to you.  He created you because He loves you.  He showed you how far short you fall from God’s glory because He loves you.  And He came in the flesh and died in your place to have a relationship with you because He loves you.  God has done everything that could possibly ever be done to reveal Himself to you.  You don’t have to understand everything there is to know about creation.  You can’t anyway.  You don’t have to fulfill all the Law and the Prophets.  You can’t anyway.  All you have to do is receive the fullness of Jesus by His grace.  Confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus Christ and believe in your heart that God hath raised Him from the dead and you will be saved.  Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.  Are you ready to trust His grace this morning?  Are you ready to claim His truth this morning?  If you are, I urge you to come and publicly profess Him as your Lord and Savior this morning.

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