Thursday, December 29, 2011

 

Do You Hear What I Hear? John 1:14-18

The following are notes from a Christmas sermon I delivered at Leesville Road Baptist Church on December 18, 2011. Feel free to leave some comments. I hope it is a blessing to you!

Do You Hear What I Hear?
John 1:14-18

Introduction
What’s the good word?
Our world seems obsessed with communication. We have phones that are not for making calls only, but are also used to surf the internet, to send text messages, to even read books and watch movies!
All around us we are bombarded by some sort of communication—billboards, text messages, commercials, even pop up ads on-line.
We are a people drowning in information who at times seem to be longing for meaningful communication.
We want to hear a “good word,” something that is helpful or communicates hope. We want to hear some good news.
Have you ever noticed how often “words” play a role in Scripture?
1. In the beginning, God “said” and there was
2. God spoke to Adam and Eve in the morning
3. God spoke the Law to Moses
4. God spoke to the Jews through prophets (Heb 1)
5. On the first Christmas, God spoke through dreams and angels
6. God speaks to us today through his Son the Word and through his written Word Scripture
Whenever God wants to make something known, he speaks
God likes to communicate, he wants us to know what is going on
Three elements in communication—the speaker, the message, the hearer
For good communication to happen, all three have to function properly
What happens when God communicates?
God is the speaker, and he reveals himself to us by his message (i.e., his Word)
God is infallible, and his Word is perfect, so that puts the emphasis on the hearers
God speaks, but are we listening?
This Christmas, God offers us a Word—that Word is his self-disclosure, his speaking of himself through his Son
When God speaks, we should listen
Do you hear what I hear?
John 1:14-18
In this passage I hear God saying three things. Let’s see if we hear the same thing.
1. I hear that the Word is among us, vv. 14, 18 (The Word Among Us)
a. The Word became “flesh”—when God spoke, it was personal and a bit messy. God spoke in these last days to us through his Son (Heb. 1:1-3), This “Word” takes on flesh (Romans 8:3). The word “flesh” here is not a pretty word. God doesn’t say that his “Word” became simply “human.” No, Jesus became “flesh,” he took on our situation, he identified with us, he was tempted like us (yet without sin—cf. Heb. 2:14-18; 4:14-16; 2 Cor. 5:20-21). Jesus got involved in our messy existence and by doing so offered a means to clean up our mess. By being one of us, Jesus healed and redeemed our situation. Do you hear what I hear?
b. The Word dwelt among us (tabernacle)—When God spoke, he didn’t do it from a distance. He came among us. In the OT, God’s presence among his people was signified by the tabernacle and its three chambers. The inner chamber (where God’s glory dwelt) was only accessible once a year by one person on the Day of Atonement. Jesus coming as God’s Word makes that glory accessible to all of us by pitching his tent (taking up his dwelling place) among us. He lives with us, he lives among us. He has not left us nor forsaken us. Do you hear what I hear?
c. The Word is full of glory—When God spoke, he made his glory known. When Jesus came, we saw God’s glory. In the OT, God’s glory was hidden (remember Moses and the Tabernacle), but with the birth of Jesus God’s glory now becomes obvious to all. God makes himself known in Jesus. Do you hear what I hear?
d. This Word was never seen before, but now we see him—That which was invisible has now become visible (Colossians 1:15-17; cf. Rom. 1:18-20). In Jesus we see the invisible attributes of God. Jesus makes God visible and known. Do you hear what I hear?
e. The Word has explained God—Jesus showed the way to God, he exegeted God. He explained God. Jesus made God understandable. What was inexplicable now is explained. What was inscrutable is now “scrutable.” In Jesus God is capable of being understood. Do you hear what I hear?
f. When God speaks, we should listen
g. Do you hear what I hear?
h. When God “spoke” in Jesus, he became one of us (flesh), he pitched his tent among us (tabernacle), he made visible his invisible glory (we saw his glory, that which no one had seen), he offered an explanation of God’s grace and truth, and our response is to witness his glory and proclaim it to others
2. I hear that The Word is Before Us, v. 15 (The World Before Us)
a. He is superior to us because he existed before us (John 1:1-3; Phil 2:5-8)
i. Jesus’ superiority is explained in detail in the letter to the Hebrews
ii. Although the author of that letter dwells on Jesus’ superiority to many things and people (i.e., angels, Moses, Aaron, the Levites, the sacrifices, etc.), he also goes out of his way to remind us that Jesus is one of us (cf. Heb. 2:14-18; 4:14-16). He is not an alien. He is superior, yes, but in his humanity the child in the manger brings God’s glory to all people (remember the angels, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased."—Luke 2:14)
iii. Jesus is “before” us
iv. Do you hear what I hear?
b. Because of his position, we are called to testify of his superiority and glory (this is what John does here)
c. But Jesus also lives “before” us in the idea of being right in front of our eyes. God is not hidden, he is in our midst. Jesus is known to us. Remember, what was unseen is now visible. The babe in the manger makes the glory of God known to all humanity. Jesus’ very existence has explained God to us all. He is right in front of us. Will we pay attention?
d. When God speaks, we should listen
e. Do you hear what I hear?
f. When God reveals himself, he sometimes uses the testimony of others (John), he reveals his superior nature (he is before us and existed without us), as a result he is worthy of our worship and our testimony
3. I hear that The Word is full of Grace, vv. 16-17 (The Word of Grace)
a. We have all received from his fullness (full of grace and truth—cf. John 1:14; Col. 1:5-6)
i. Jesus is the fullness of God (Col 2:9-10)
ii. Christ is the ultimate expression of grace and truth
1. He is grace in that he was freely given for us all (John 3:16; 1 John 2:1-2)
2. He is truth in that he reveals clearly who God is and how to get to God (John 14:6)
b. Grace stacked up on grace (cf. Heb. 4:16)
i. The idea here is an endless supply of grace
ii. Like a warehouse with an unending supply of boxes stacked up against each other, so Jesus offers an ongoing and never exhaustible warehouse of grace
iii. He is grace beyond measure, He is grace yesterday, today, and forever
iv. His grace is never shallow and is trustworthy
c. Law reveals God, but Jesus brings grace and truth to reality (grace and truth “became” through Jesus, same word as “became” flesh)
d. We all receive his grace
i. 1 John 2:1-2 reminds us that Jesus is the propitiation for the sins even of the whole world (i.e., in 1 John 5, the “whole world” is described as those in the hands of the devil)
ii. The grace of God is available to all people by means of the incarnation as Jesus reveals and explains God’s grace
iii. The grace of God is effective in the crucifixion as the blood of Jesus is applied to the sins of humans
iv. The grace of God is sealed by the resurrection in which God declares his work completed and finished
e. When God speaks, we should listen
f. Do you hear what I hear?
g. When God “spoke” the word of grace, he provided an unlimited storehouse of the gift of grace, he made it available to all (we “all” received it), and he makes grace and truth a reality in Jesus, our response is to live God’s grace and truth as a tangible example of God’s Word spoken to us—we “incarnate” God’s grace and truth in our own lives
4. Application/Conclusion
a. Are we listening to God during this Christmas season? Are we paying attention to the “Word” he speaks in Jesus and the Incarnation? Do people see his “grace and truth” in how we live in response to God’s Word?
b. Have you experienced his grace? What a Christmas gift you could receive today if you yield yourself to God and receive his grace in Jesus Christ. John 1:11-13 reminds us that to those who receive him (i.e., put their trust in him) he gives authority to be called the children of God. (Give an overview of Gospel here, offer salvation to all).
c. For those of us who have experienced this wonderful gift, how can we respond to this “word” from God? Do you hear what I hear? If so, here are some suggestions for you:
i. This Christmas, testify of his glory in the “baby Jesus”
ii. Speak of his superiority
iii. Speak of his grace and truth
iv. Take opportunity to share the truth of God’s Incarnation during the Christmas season
When God speaks, people ought to listen
Do you hear what I hear?
Thanks for reading!

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Sunday, December 18, 2011

 

My Annual Christmas Post--the Mystery of Christmas

Hey y'all:

Since I started this blog about 7 years ago, I have posted a piece I wrote around Christmas 2003. It kind of sums up for me what is the "Mystery of Christmas" as I meditated on the Incarnation and its implications for humanity (and for God!). The very idea of God becoming "one of us among us" (Immanuel, anyone?) still fascinates and overwhelms me. God, the creator of all things, entered his own creation so as to renew and redeem us (and, ultimately, all of creation as well). God, the Creator of all things, became flesh so that he might be the perfect sacrifice for our sins. The God who never knew death would die for us. The God who never knew sin would become sin for us. What amazing love! Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift! As you celebrate the first coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, I hope you enjoy this rerun. Feel free to make comments if you'd like.

A little over 2000 years ago, a tiny child was born in some pretty bleak conditions. Oh, he wasn’t the only one born in a bad state. In fact, in some ways, he was one of the lucky ones. He and his mother actually survived childbirth and thrived. Still, this story is unique and amazing on several levels.

First, this child would literally change the way time is reckoned in the world. His life and abilities would so impress generations of others that a brand new movement would be created, one that would radically change the very face of the earth (sometimes for good, sometimes for bad). His name would become recognized among the names of the greatest of humans, yet he never forgot his humble beginnings or lost a sense of who he was.

The second thing about this child is tied to the first in that this baby, this helpless lad full of spittle and mush, was born as the very Son of God. When Mary held his little head to her breast, he drank human milk. Yet, he was (and is) the God of the universe. Can you picture this simply ridiculous, yet somehow poetic scene? God, who calls the stars by name, pressed to the human breast for sustenance. Humble, yet almighty, is how most folks would no doubt recall this child.

A little over 2000 years ago, God proposed that the only remedy for the human condition of sin would be if he humbled himself, stepped out of eternity and into human flesh, and suckled at Mary’s breast in preparation for the greatest, most impressive conversion of all. God, in Mary’s arms, toddling around Joseph’s shop, learning to talk, learning to walk, tasting and touching things with human hands! As the Psalmist says in Psalm 139, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for us, we cannot contain it!”

God knew that the only way to redeem us was if he did it himself. Haven’t you ever had that thought? You know, the one where you say, “If I want something done right, I’ll just have to do it myself?” Imagine God having that thought about bringing us to proper relationship with him. Imagine again that the only way he knew he could do that is if he came to earth as a baby. Think of it—-how vulnerable the almighty God was at that moment, how paradoxical that the God of all creation had to learn to walk! And why did he put himself in this situation? Out of his divine sense of justice and righteousness, out of his inexpressible love for each of us he acted in this manner.

In a sense, he became insane that we may be sane. He became flesh so that we might walk in the Spirit. He became sin that we might be righteous. He became poor so that we might be rich. He who had the reputation of Creator became a humble servant with no reputation. He became a toddling, dribbling, helpless babe so that we could become mature humans in the image of the almighty God. What wondrous love! What humility and service! How then can anything he asks of us be too difficult?

Lord, in this Christmas season, remind me of your sacrifice and love so that I might be a light shining in darkness to others. Teach me to live a life of humble service like your Son did on my behalf so many years ago. As I celebrate the babe in the manger, may the glory he revealed in his life shine through me towards others that they may know God. May the grace of God and the peace of Christ rule in my family and my life.

Thanks for reading!

Merry Christmas!

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