Tag Archives: born again

THE ORIGINAL “NICK AT NIGHT”

1Have you ever stopped to consider the things that God cannot do? Let me suggest a few. The first thing He can’t do is lie. Number 23:19 explains: “God is not man, that He should lie, or a son of man, that He should change His mind. Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not fulfill it?” God cannot lie, for that would be a violation of His own holy character.

That’s why many of the questions posed by skeptics are often just plain silly, like this. Have you ever come across this one? They ask, “If your God is all-powerful and able to do anything, then let’s see Him create a rock that is too big for Him to lift!” But then that’s  just double talk, for what they’re trying to do is to pit God’s creative power against His power to do miracles, asking Him to violate His own Almighty character, something He said He will not and cannot ever do. God cannot lie, nor will He ever contradict His own holy character.

One more question while I’m at it! Are there are sins God can’t forgive? Only one! Am I right? And that’s rejecting Jesus as Lord, for other than that one unpardonable sin, He died for every sin and blasphemy we have committed or ever will commit, which means if you worship Jesus as Lord, your every sin has been forgiven—past, present, and future! But “unless you believe that I AM,” Jesus warned, “you will die in your sins.” For He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, your and my Only Savior and Hope of Salvation! But except for these few things, Jesus said, “Nothing shall be impossible for God!”

1

Now let’s talk about ourselves. Is there anything we can’t do if we put our minds to it? “Absolutely not!” the New Agers, the humanists, and the followers of the cults will tell you. “You can do anything if you just learn to believe in yourself!” Fools! The list of what we can’t do is absolutely endless. But the one that tops the list is the one before us tonight—the impossibility of being born again!

Let me remind you, as we get started, where we left off last week. We were in Jerusalem following the Passover where Jesus performed a countless number of miracles for over a year, proving that He’s God with hundreds of people coming up to Him and saying, “I believe in you, Jesus, I believe you’re the Messiah!” We saw that in John 2:23 – “Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many were believing (The word is pisteuo meaning to believe in someone.) in His name when they saw the signs He was doing.   But verse 24 adds, “Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them.” (That’s the same word pisteuo.) In other words, they were believing in Jesus, but He wasn’t believing in them! Why not? John says, “He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man.” And what He knows us isn’t good! For as the Bible says about us in many places, “In me, that is, in my flesh dwells no good thing.” The only good thing about you, if your faith is genuine, is that Jesus now lives in your heart and has changed your fundamental nature.

That brings us to chapter 3 where we meet a man from Jerusalem who has seen the miracles of Jesus and concluded, “This is a man sent by God!” By the way, do you think that’s a coincidence, that John immediately introduces us to someone who pictures what he’s just told us at the end of chapter 2? Of course not! John is a fisherman, and if anyone knows how to tell a story, it’s a fisherman. Except in this case, it’s true and inspired by the Holy Spirit who, Jesus said, is the Spirit of truth, which means whatever you find in this Book, you can trust. Unfortunately for this man, he isn’t a true believer because, he doesn’t yet have the right kind of belief. That’s something John warns us again and again in this book, that there is a belief which is not a belief because it’s a belief that’s superficial, self-serving, and stubbornly refuses to give Jesus the glory He deserves as God the Son.

1
Open your Bible with me, then, to John chapter 3 where we’re going to meet “The Original Nick at Night,” and therein discover both what it means and why it’s imperative to be “born from above.” My outline for our study has 3 parts: the Sinner’s Crisis, the Savior’s Counsel, and the Spirit’s Conversion.

(To listen to or download the audio version of this message, click on Audio Message. And if it would be helpful to a friend to hear it, please pass it on!)

1. The Sinner’s Crisis

John 3:1 says, “Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, ‘Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.’” By the way, did you know that no one ever doubted Jesus’ power to do miracles? His enemies certainly didn’t. Instead, what did they say the reason was that He could do miracles, so they wouldn’t have to bow to His Lordship? They said His power to do miracles came from the devil, thereby blaspheming the Holy Spirit and committing the one sin that can’t be forgiven – the sin of rejecting the Lordship of Jesus. In fact, it’s only twenty centuries later that skeptics and liberals are so wise in their own eyes that they set aside the testimony of eyewitnesses, comforting themselves with the thought that “those ancient people weren’t smart enough to know what I know today!”

But who was Nicodemus? He had a Greek name as many of the Jews did at that time. Nico means conquer and Demus means people. So put it together, and what do you get? Nicodemus, “victor over the people.” Now don’t read too much into that. It was just a name. Nor should you read a lot into the fact that he came to Jesus by night. I don’t think, as some preachers suggest, that “night” is a metaphor for the darkness of his soul. He just hadn’t made up his mind about Jesus yet and was being careful because he knew the Pharisees were opposed to Him. Instead, what we need to understand about him are these three facts:

phylactery-brainport02

1) He himself was a Pharisee. The word means “separated one.” These were the ultra-conservative, Bible believers of Israel who interpreted the Bible literally. They believed in angels, devils, miracles, the six days of creation, heaven, hell – all of which made Nicodemus anxious because he knew he wasn’t ready to stand before God in judgment. They were also conservative in lifestyle. You know the ultra-orthodox, Hasidic branch of Judaism? These were its founders, and they were absolutely rabid about keeping the Law, not only priding themselves in the fact that they kept all 613 commandments of the Old Testament (Remember the rich young ruler? “All these things I have kept from my youth!”), but they had also come up with over a thousand laws or mitzvot of their own, just to make sure they never came close to crossing over the line.

For example, one thing a Pharisees would never do, or let his wife do, was look in a mirror on the Sabbath. Why not? Because she might find a gray hair and be tempted to pluck it, which was considered working on the Sabbath! On the other hand, a Pharisee could eat an egg laid on the Sabbath, but only if he killed the hen that laid it for working on the Sabbath. That’s how ridiculous it got. And all for nothing! Because as holy as they thought they were and seemed to be on the surface (We’re good at fooling ourselves and others, aren’t we?), Jesus called them whitewashed tombs who looked beautiful on the outside, but on the inside were full of dead men’s bones and every kind of uncleanness.

By the way, based on everything that’s said about the Pharisees in the Gospels, you might think they were a large group. Not so! There were only 6,000 of them in all Israel at the time. But then it doesn’t take a large group to change the world for good or for ill, does it, just a highly dedicated group? That’s what they were! The Pharisees believed if they could get the entire nation to keep the Law for one day, the Kingdom would come. “But now, with this carpenter from Galilee defying our laws and challenging our authority, the Kingdom will never come!” No wonder they were of all Jesus’ enemies the most rabid. They hated Him so much that only one Pharisee in the Bible, other than Nicodemus, ever came to Him. You know who that was? The Apostle Paul who would have never bowed to the Lordship of Jesus if He hadn’t been struck him blind on the Damascus road! Later he said this of his life as a Pharisee. Philippians 3:6, “I was a Hebrew of Hebrews, as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless! But whatever things were gain to me…I now count as rubbish in order that I may gain Christ.”

1

2) He was a ruler of the Jews, meaning he was a member of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish High Council made up of its 70 most powerful leaders, plus the high priest, and comprising what was in essence the Congress and Supreme Court of Israel—which means Nicodemus was a very powerful man. Church tradition says he was also one of the three wealthiest men in Jerusalem at the time.

3) He was, according to verse 10, not just a teacher, but “the teacher of Israel.” Jesus uses the definite article indicating that of all the rabbis in Israel at the time, Nicodemus was the best and brightest of them. As such, he would have been like a walking Bible dictionary, able to quote the entire Old Testament by memory. That means when talking to him, all Jesus had to do was mention a topic and every verse on that subject would have immediately come to his mind.

But above all things, he was a lost and desperate soul. After all, what do you do when you’ve spent your whole life scaling the ladder of self-righteousness and reached the pinnacle of your religion only to discover that it’s all been in vain? The only thing left to do is to turn to Jesus! So that’s what he did. He comes to Jesus lost, fearful, and wondering how to be saved. That’s the sinner’s crisis. Now look with me at the Savior’s counsel for sinners like you and me.

24_jesus-teaches-of-being-born-again_900x600_72dpi_3

2. The Savior’s Counsel

Nicodemus says to Jesus, “Rabbi” meaning “teacher.” That was something Nicodemus was called every day of his life, for of all the teachers in Israel, he was the most respected. But now his soul is in trouble and he’s desperate for help! So he turns to a Teacher who surpasses him in every way saying, “Rabbi, we know that You’re a teacher from God, for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” How does Jesus answer? “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Sounds like a non sequitur, doesn’t it? In other words, how did what you said have anything to do with what I said? Ever had a conversation like that with somebody? But that isn’t how Nicodemus takes it. He realizes that what Jesus has just done is read his mind. He knows his guilt and his fears, and He knows yours too!

Nicodemus has heard Jesus preach several times by now. So he’s aware how superficial his righteousness is. That’s something every hypocrite knows in his heart. He knows he’s a hypocrite. And the Pharisees were hypocrites—every one of them! How can I say that? Because that’s what Jesus said 5 times in Matthew 23 alone: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” Then He adds, “You travel over land and sea to make one convert, and when you finally win him, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves!” Nicodemus was a Pharisee, a hypocrite, and a son of hell! And he was well aware of it!

24_jesus-teaches-of-being-born-again_1800x1200_300dpi_2

So what does Jesus do? He ignores the compliment and goes straight to the heart of his problem. “Truly, truly, I say to you.” That means He’s about to correct a false teaching Nicodemus was guilty of. What false teaching was that? The false teaching of apostate Judaism that you can earn God’s favor by your good works and self-righteousness! Jesus corrects that saying to him not once, but 5 times in 8 verses, “You must be born again!” Jimmy Carter made that a household term when he ran for president and claimed to be a born again Christian. Since then it has been misapplied to everything from born-again athletic careers to second-hand books and used cars. So here’s a suggestion when talking to someone about your faith. Use the second, not the first meaning, of the word. What do I mean? The word anothen can actually be translated two different ways—“born again” or “born from above.” And the second meaning is what Jesus is really saying – without receiving new life from above, you’ll never see the Kingdom of God.

The analogy of birth is also the best way to explain salvation to someone like Nicodemus who is self-righteous. Because just as an unborn baby is helpless to contribute anything to his own birth, in the same way you and I are helpless to contribute anything to our salvation. Religion is useless, no matter what group you belong to or how sincere you are, because everything you do is corrupted by your sinful nature. Isaiah 64:6 says, “We are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousness is like a filthy rag.” Consequently, what you need if we want to enter God’s Kingdom is the new life which only Jesus can give you. Remember what John said in John 1:12? “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the power to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” So don’t waste your time looking for any books telling you how to be born again. Sometimes you’ll hear that. Here are four steps to being born again. But that contradicts the very thing Jesus is teaching us here. His point is that there’s absolutely nothing you can do to save yourself, except to throw yourself on His mercy and ask Him to give you new life, and He will.

nicodemus laurence

Nicodemus gets that better than most Bible-believing Christians. He knows he’s helpless to save himself. But still, like most of us, he’s thinking, “If I understood all of this just a little bit better, it’d be so much easier to believe.” You can see that in verse 9 where he wonders, “How can these things be?” But that’s not how it works. Understanding doesn’t come before believing. On the contrary, there are many things about Jesus you’ll never understand until you believe in Him. So Jesus corrects him again, “Are you the teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?” You see in his case, his lack of understanding was due to his lack of belief, not a lack of information! After all, this was the teacher of Israel who had the entire Old Testament hidden in his heart! Read on and you’ll see that yourself. Jesus continues, “Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. (Remember receiving is another word for believing!) If I have told you earthly things, and you do not believe, (Unbelief was his problem!) how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” His problem is he’s an unbeliever – his mind blinded by the devil, his will enslaved to sin, and his affections corrupted by the world. So he’s going to need help if he’s to believe.

That’s the point of verse 4. “How can a man be born when he’s old? He can’t enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” Nicodemus isn’t dumb. Nor is he challenging Jesus at this point. Then what’s he doing? He’s asking for a clue, which Jesus graciously proceeds to give him. We’ve seen the sinner’s crisis and the Savior’s counsel. Now notice the Spirit’s conversion.

pregnancy-labor

3.  The Spirit’s Conversion

The first clue Jesus gives him is in verse 5: “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’” Spirit, of course, refers to the Holy Spirit. But what does it mean to “born of water”? Some say it refers to baptism. But how can that be true? Baptism does not save us. Baptism is a testimony that we’ve already been born from above. Others say it refers to the waters of birth. But that can’t be right either. First century Jews weren’t yet aware of the role amniotic fluid plays in the birth of a child. Nor did Nicodemus have to be told that you have to be born the first time before he could be born the second time.

So what was Jesus referring to? Remember Nicodemus was an Old Testament scholar whose mind would have immediately tracked with Jesus, taking him to passages like Ezekiel 36 where God promised His people, “I will…sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleanness…and I will give you a new heart and…put my Spirit within you and make you walk in My statutes and be careful to obey My rules.” Jesus was talking about the New Covenant that was about to come true in His blood, a promise that Nicodemus had known since he was a boy. But like all the religious leaders of Israel, he was an apostate Jew who, because he hadn’t experienced the miracle of new life himself, had given up on God’s promise. And once you do that, what do you next? You reject what the Bible says about sin and that we aren’t all “good kids” with good hearts. The fact is there’s not one good person among us. Because if you admit that, that we all deserve eternal punishment in hell, how do you cope with the fear? Answer: You ask God for the gift of faith to believe His promises of new life and forgiveness!

1

The second clue is in verse 8. Jesus continues, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Ever done that? Stood outside surrounded by the beauty of God’s creation and heard His wind roaring through the trees? I did that the other night. I was outside watering the flowers when I suddenly heard and felt a cool summer’s breeze blowing past me. And I thought, “What a perfect way to describe the power and refreshment of the Holy Spirit!” I didn’t know where it came from or where it was going. Nor could I control it! Ever tried to get the wind to blow when you want to fly a kite? But I felt the results of it! And you can see the results when the Holy Spirit touches someone’s life, for what happens? Just as the dead man heard Jesus shout, “Lazarus, come forth!” I heard a voice – not audibly, but just as real – saying, “Gary, believe!” And for the first time I believed in Jesus, and my spirit, which had been dead for so long, came to life, and I’ve been following Him ever since.

But what about Nicodemus? Was he ever born from above? John doesn’t say. He fades from the scene in verse 21, and we don’t hear from him again until chapter 7 where his colleagues on the Council decide that Jesus has to go. So he takes issue with them on a point of Law. John 7:50—“Nicodemus, who had gone to Him before and was one of them, said to them, ‘Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what He does?’” So he hasn’t taken a public stand for Him yet, but I’m feeling better about him. Aren’t you?

James_Tissot_Jesus_Carried_to_the_Tomb_400

And the last we hear of him is John 19:38 following the crucifixion. He and a rich friend by the name of Joseph of Arimathea summon up the courage to ask Pilate for the body of Jesus, so they can prepare it for burial and lay it in a new tomb that belongs to Joseph. And now I’m starting to love this guy because of his love and loyalty to Jesus! But that’s all the Bible says about him.

Thankfully, church tradition fills in the rest of the details. It reports, for example, that Nicodemus was the only person who stood up for Jesus at His trial, that he was baptized after the Resurrection by Peter and John, and that his preaching of Christ was so powerful that the Sanhedrin he served removed him from his position as teacher, confiscated his property, and banished him from Israel subjecting his wife and children to abject poverty. His daughter was so poor it’s said she had to dig through the dung piles to find a few pieces of grain to eat. A rabbi saw her doing so and took pity on her. “Who are you?” he asked. “I am the daughter of Nicodemus.” “Whatever happened to him?” he asked. “He became a follower of Jesus and was banished from Israel.” So the rabbi refused to help her. And as for Nicodemus himself, he became one of the first martyrs of the church, beaten to death by a mob for preaching in the name of Jesus.

2

That’s the story of Nick at night. He had everything and then gave up everything to gain what the world can never take away. So even though John doesn’t give us the details, we have our answer: His sins were washed away and he was given new life from above. For so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.

(To download a written copy of this message, click on Written Message. And if you think it would be helpful to someone you know, please pass it on!)

Let Christ the Light Shine!

1It was August 11, 1999. We were living in Romania and our girls, who were in high school at the time, were in Timisoara with friends, giving us our first taste of “the empty nest.” So we made it a date. We packed a lunch, grabbed some protective eyewear, and headed for a mountainside just outside of Sibiu to witness something neither of us had ever seen—a total eclipse of the sun.

What a spooky, once-in-a-lifetime experience it was! Slowly the moon crept up on the sun until it was totally obscured and it became night in the middle of the day. So there we sat eating our picnic lunch in the moon shadow, waiting for the sun to return. Raised in the scientific age, we were never really afraid but I could imagine how people in the ancient world might take it as harbinger of evil things to come praying for the light to shine on them again.

1But then, as modern as you and I may be, the fact is that we too suffer from a fear of the darkness—perhaps not in a physical sense, but definitely in a spiritual sense. We see the ever-increasing immorality, violence, and anti-God spirit of the age, and we worry: “How long can we hold it together?” The answer: Not one second apart from the grace of Jesus Christ who, Colossians 1:15 says, “is the image of the invisible God,” which is why Jehovah also outlawed the making of graven images in the Old Testament. He was saving that sacred role for His only begotten (born not created, mind you)…His only begotten Son “by whom all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth.” Consequently, means, if He is the Creator of all things, He wasn’t created! He’s eternal!

For it wasn’t from the beginning that He was with God. It was “in the beginning” before the time-space continuum began. And if He existed before time and space were created, then He’s eternal and co-equal with the Father from eternity past. That’s the meaning of “oneness” in the Old Testament, by the say. It doesn’t mean singleness. It means unity, so that just as two can become one flesh in marriage, so the Father and Son have been One God from eternity past.

8

Furthermore, Colossians 1:17 says, “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together,” which means it isn’t you or me or the government who is holding everything together. We couldn’t do that even if we tried. It is Christ, the Creator and Sustainer of all things. He is the One who is holding this world, this nation, your marriage, your health, and your finances together by His gracious power. So let’s be sure to give Him the praise that is due Him!

3That’s where we left off last week—with John 1:4, which says, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it! In fact, John later encourages us in his epistle to the churches, “The darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining.” So that’s where I want to pick up this study, asking you the question I ended with last week: Have you seen the Light and put your faith in Jesus?

For remember what we learned! Jesus said we’re to give the same degree of honor to Him that we give to the Father, and that just as we’ve learned to trust in God, we’re to put that same kind of faith in Jesus. For He said, “Let not your hearts be troubled. You believe in God. Believe also in Me!”

To see how and why we’re to do that, I want to introduce you to 3 players in the drama—the Witness, the Light, and the First Responders. But before I do, take a moment to read the passage. It says,, “There came a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light. There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”

2

  1. The Witness

John has introduced us in the first 5 verses to the Eternal and Uncreated Word of God. But now he seems to be changing subjects, introducing us to a man named John. By the way, wherever you see the name John in this Gospel, it refers to John the Baptist or on a few occasions to the father of Peter, but never to the Apostle John who wrote this book. He preferred to remain anonymous and simply called himself “the disciple Jesus loved,” so the glory would go to Jesus and not to him.

That’s what we find here. John isn’t changing subjects. He’s taking us into the courtroom, asking us to listen to the first witness Jehovah has prepared to testify to the Deity of His Son. In fact, that’s something he does throughout this book—calls witness after witness to testify to the Deity of Christ—the 11 disciples; 5,000 who were fed; a man born blind; Mary, Martha, and Lazarus who was raised from the dead; but the first and greatest witness is John who comes preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, saying: “Prepare ye the way of the Lord!” It says in verse 6, “There came a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him.”

You might want to underline the phrase “sent from God” because I’d remind you this was the first prophet to appear in Israel in over 400 years. The last prophet was Malachi who was followed by 400 years of silence as a way of accentuating John’s ministry and preparing the people for the coming of the Lord.

3I’d also remind you of his special birth. His father Zacharias, who was a priest, and his mother Elizabeth, who was the cousin of Mary, the mother of Jesus, mother, were both elderly and childless. So when the Angel Gabriel appeared to him in the Temple announcing that his wife was going to bear a son, he doubted the angel’s word and was struck dumb until the day of John’s circumcision when he was asked, “What do you want to call him?” And the Bible says the moment he wrote the name “John,” meaning “Jehovah is gracious,” his tongue was loosened, and he went on prophesy that his son would be called “the prophet of the Most High” and go on before His face to “prepare the way of the Lord.”

He also enjoyed a special preparation. Luke says he was filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb, raised in the wilderness where he wore a garment of camel’s hair, ate locusts and wild honey, and at the age of 30 began preaching in the wilderness saying, “Prepare the way of the Lord! Make His paths straight.” The results were miraculous! John never had to do any marketing. And yet, Mark 1:5 says “all the country of Judea and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to see him, being baptized in the Jordan River and confessing their sins—which tells us two things: 1) If we’re faithful to do God’s will in the way He wants us to do it, we don’t have to worry about the results. All we have to do is be faithful, and God will take care of the rest. And believe me, John was faithful—so faithful it cost him his life.

2) We’re to make Jesus the focal point of all we say and do. For like John, that is our mission. Jesus said in Acts 1:8, “Be witnesses unto Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth.” All you have to do is read the rest of chapter 1, and you’ll see how faithfully John shifted the focus away from himself to Jesus. In verse 15, he says to those being baptized by him, “He who comes after me is greater than I am, because He existed before me.” In verse 25, he denies being the Christ insisting that he isn’t worthy to untie the sandals of the One coming after him. In verse 29, he says to the crowd after Jesus’ baptism, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Then in verse 35, he encourages two of his own disciples (Andrew and John) to follow Jesus, pointing to Him and saying, “Behold the Lamb of God.”

And finally, later in chapter 3, when his ministry begins to wane because everybody is following Jesus instead of him, he’s perfectly OK with that, because he knows his work is now. So he says to his disciples who are worried about his declining popularity, “A man can receive nothing unless it’s been given him from heaven. You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’  but, I have been sent ahead of Him.’…He must increase, but I must decrease.”’ Talk about humble, faithful witnesses! What do you think? Did God pick the right man? I’ll say. In fact, we’ll see in a later study that Jesus said of him, “No greater man has arisen among men than John the Baptist.” Talk about high praise!

4

And that’s what we ought to live for—not the praise of men, but God’s pleasure in seeing people believe in Christ through our witness for Him. Look one more time at verse 8, and you’ll see that’s what John was all about. It says, “He was not the Light, but came to give testimony to the Light, that all might believe through him.” Believe by taking somebody else’s word for it? Absolutely! That’s been God’s plan from the beginning—to spread the good news of Christ’s love by one hungry beggar telling another where he found food. C.S. Lewis called it “the good infection.” By the way, the plan has been wildly successful, for not only are there millions and billions in heaven today who have believed because one follower of Jesus told another, but there are still hundreds of thousands being won to Christ that way every day! That’s our job! Not to be religious counselors, spiritual gurus, or Christian life coaches. Our job is to be witnesses to the glory and Deity of Jesus Christ. John was the witness, but Jesus is the Light.

5

  1. The Light

John continues, “There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.” Who does John mean when he says, “The True Light?” He is talking about Jesus the Word of God in whom is life and whose life, he said in verse 3, “is the light of men.” John heard that from Jesus’ very own lips when He said in John 8:12, “I am the Light of the Word. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness but shall have the Light of Life.”

That represents either the most arrogant and blasphemous statement ever made or the most hopeful and life-giving. Psalm 27:1 says, “The LORD is my Light and my Salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the Strength of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?” That’s something on which all the Old Testaments prophets agree. Jehovah is the One True Light of the World. So how can John say that Jesus is the One True Light and how could Jesus dare to say it about Himself unless it’s true—that He and the Father are One God, just as two are one flesh in marriage? You see there’s really no alternative. As C.S. Lewis put it, either Jesus was a liar inspired by the devil, a lunatic who thought He was God but wasn’t, or He is who He claimed to be—my Lord, my Light, and my Great Salvation!

7Last week we saw two things the Light does for us. 1) It gives us power, for that’s what light is. Light is energy. Physicists define it as radiant, electromagnetic, and corpuscular energy traveling in waves at 186,000 miles per second, stimulating our retinas, and giving us the power to see. The fact that it’s corpuscular means it is also a quantum phenomenon and that the source of its power is unknown to modern science. But not to us! We know who it is. It isn’t a thing. It’s a Person—the Lord Jesus Christ who created all things by the Word of His power and lives to give new life to everyone who believes in Him. Lest you doubt that, John is going to prove it again and again in this Gospel.

In it, we’ll see Jesus, who the Bible calls the wisdom and power of God, turning water to wine, creating new eyes for a blind man, creating new limbs for a lame man, calming a storm, feeding 5,000 with two loaves of bread, and raising His friend Lazarus from the dead. The good news is: He hasn’t lost a watt of energy since then! So here’s what you do. Think of one thing you know God wants to do in your life, something you could never do for yourself, and start asking and trusting Him this very moment to do it for you in His goodness and grace. Let’s see how many prayers He answers for us in the next few weeks together!62) It reveals the truth to us. That’s why John calls Jesus the True Light. The word is aleithenos referring to that which is genuine and pure. John is contrasting it with all the false sources of light in the world. Did you know, for example, that the Bible says that Satan can disguise himself as an angel of light in his efforts to lead you astray? Which means you can’t trust your own reasoning powers to ferret out the truth about God. The only thing you can trust is the Word of God which isn’t just a written thing. John says the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, so we’d no longer have any confusion as to what God is like. That’s his point later in verse 18:  “No one has seen God at any time; they only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has revealed Him.”

So Jesus you can trust—not only what He says about God but also what He says about you. That’s why people are careful to avoid Him. Have you noticed that? You can talk to people about God or church but the moment you mention Jesus, they get nervous. Why? Because He’s so bright! Like the lights of an Operating Room, He exposes our every spiritual blemish, and that’s embarrassing.

It isn’t that they’re unaware of the Light. Verse 9 says the True Light enlightens every person who comes into the world. If you doubt that, ask a little child, “Do you believe in God?” She’ll say without hesitation, “Of course I do, silly! Don’t you?” I mean how could you not? He became a man at Bethlehem but verse 10 is clear. He’s been in this world from the beginning—making it, maintaining it, ministering to His creatures needs. Even the sparrows know that! So Paul says in Romans 1:19, “What may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that they are without excuse.”

You see, it isn’t that they don’t know about God. It’s that once sin gets ahold of us, we hide from Him and stop acknowledging Him as God. That’s what “know” means in verse 10. The word is ginosko meaning to acknowledge someone.

11Jesus explained it in John 3:19. “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved darkness (sin, Satan, and all he offers) rather than the Light.” Why! “Because,” He says, “their deeds are evil! For example, I used to have a problem with anger and depression, but do you think I let anybody know it? Of course not! It’s embarrassing to admit you have a problem with your temper, your tongue, your appetite, your spending, or any other sins of the flesh. And yet, as Rick Warren says, “We’re only as sick as our secrets.” So don’t hide from Him a moment longer. Step into the Light and let Doctor Jesus treat you, and He’ll heal you of that thing forever! I know because He did it for me. I might add, He also has the best bedside manner of any doctor in the world. The witness was John. The Light is Jesus. Finally, notice one more thing –

9

 

 

  1. The First Responders

Verse 11 continues, “He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.” Who is John talking about here? He’s talking about the people of Israel who God calls “My people” over 100 times in the Old Testament, starting with Pharaoh in Egypt to whom He says, “Let My people go!” Again He says through Solomon, “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves and pray…then will I hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land.” These are the people to whom God gave the Law, the Land, the Prophets, and through them the Scriptures and the Savior of the world.  And yet, when He finally came to earth, how did they respond? They called for His crucifixion, the most horrific crime in all of history! But then it wasn’t the Jews only who rejected Him. The Romans did too! And so would you, if not for the amazing grace of God!

The good news is God has always saved a remnant out of the world—Noah and his family from the Flood, Abraham and his family in the days of idolatry after the Flood, 11 disciples who left everything to follow Him, and 120 praying in an upper room after His ascension into heaven, a number that has grown to millions and billions in heaven and on earth who love Him today. For though His own did not receive Him, verse 12 says as many as did receive Him, “to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.”

14Imagine that you’re 6 years old again—an orphan with no family of your own. A friend invites you home after school, and you think to yourself, “If only I had a family like this!” Then his father surprises you with a question, “Do you like it here?” “Sure!” you say. “Then why don’t you stay and be a part of our family?” What do you have to do to make it happen? Take his father at his word and stay. That’s what Jesus invites you to do—to come home and be a part of His family. All you have to do is say “yes” and stay. That’ll involve some changes in your attitude and behavior. You can’t join a family without it changing how you live. But that’s all there is to it from the human side. Believe and receive. They are one and the same thing. To receive is to believe and to believe is to receive. A simple act of the will leading to irrevocable membership in the family of God!

But we’re not merely adopted into God’s family.  John says we’re born into it. This is a mystery and miracle we cannot see with our eyes. Verse 13 gives us the divine side—“who were born” (2 Peter says we actually become “partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption which is in the world through lust.”)…born not of blood (It isn’t your family connections that earn God’s favor. God has no spiritual grandchildren.)…nor of the will of the flesh (Trying harder and doing all sorts of good works won’t get you into God’s kingdom.)…nor of the will of man (No human organization can stamp your passport to heaven.)…but of God.” To escape the flames of hell and be welcomed into heaven, you have to be born of God. And yet, this is one thing in life you have no control over! You have no more ability to be born again than when you were born the first time. You had no say in whose DNA you inherited or whose family you were born into.

But you say, “If this is what decides my eternity, there must be something I can do!” Only one thing! You can ask. Ask Jesus to do it for you. For John says He is the One who gives us power to become children of God! And listen! Jesus says, “Whoever comes to Me, I will never cast out!” So stop trying to believe or be good enough to be saved! You can’t do it! I tried for years and it did no good. What you can do is call upon the name of Jesus in helpless childlike faith, and the Bible promises, “Whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.”

13So I ask you as we finish. Have you seen the Light and received Him into your life? If you have, give God the glory for it because, like the Apostle Paul, if He hadn’t opened your eyes by His grace, you’d still be on the wrong road. On the other hand, if you’re just beginning to see the Light, don’t hide from it. That’s how everyone reacts at first. When Peter first realized who Jesus is, He said, “Depart from Me, for I am a sinful man.” But thank God He hasn’t answered that prayer! He’s still reaching out to you, inviting you to stay and be a part of His family. He won’t force you to do that. You can resist Him if you like. But why do that? My prayer is that you’ll receive Him this very moment in prayer.

(To listen to or download the audio version of this message, click Audio. To download the written message, click Written.  P.S. Feel free to send the links to this message to a friend who needs Jesus.  For we all need Him, don’t we?)