Tag Archives: John the Baptist

First to Believe in Jesus!

How would you feel if I said to you, “You’re very ordinary. There’s nothing special about you,” how would you feel? Would you take it as an insult or encouragement, a blessing or belittlement, a compliment or criticism? There’s no question about it in this culture, is there? Calling somebody ordinary is about the meanest things you can say to them. After all, what do we tell our children from Day 1? We’re all special. Everybody is a winner! You all deserve a trophy! So we give everybody an award just for taking part. We promote kids to the next level even if they aren’t ready for it. And I understand at many sporting events for children, they don’t even keep score anymore lest someone feel bad about it. And I get it! We’re trying to compensate for the dog-eat-dog cruelty that’s in the world, which is fine as long as we realize that none of this is true.

11The fact is there’s only One Special Person in this universe according to the Bible, and that’s the Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Unique Son of God! But as for the rest of us, 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 says, “Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many… influential; not many… of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise… the weak things of the world to shame the strong… the lowly things of this world… to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before Him… Therefore, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’”

They say the truth hurts, and sometimes it does. And in our case, the truth is this: None of us is special. We’re all just ordinary people. But then that’s OK because in the hands of Jesus, that which is ordinary can turn into something extraordinary for His purposes. They don’t start out that way. Moses had a rod. David had a sling. Jael had a nail. But in the hands of God, that which was once ordinary became something of miraculous value and use. And we’re going to find the same thing in our study for today, if you’ll open your Bible to John chapter 1, starting at verse 35.

The BibleHere Jesus begins to gather His first disciples and what’s amazing is that not one of them is special in any way. Not one of them is a priest, a Sadducee, a scribe, a rabbi, or a Pharisee. They’re just ordinary people like you and I. Yet by the amazing grace and power of Jesus Christ they become the first witnesses, first preachers, and first missionaries of a movement that turns the world upside down by their influence. In fact, one of the ways you can tell it’s a God-thing is that Jesus doesn’t have to put hardly any effort into it, which is what you have to do if you’re trying to get your will rather than God’s will done. Instead of scouring the countryside to find the best man in each town or village, He’s able to take half a dozen ordinary guys who’ve followed John the Baptist and makes them disciples of His own. And that makes them special. The fact that they’re followers of John means they are also true believers who have repented of their sins and are waiting for the promised Messiah to appear.

But now He’s here! That was John’s message on Day 1: “Messiah is here! Christ has come!” Then on Day 2 it was: “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” But now it’s Day 3 and John, who has no ego or ambitions of his own except to make Jesus known to the world, directs two of his two best men to Jesus, knowing that once he does, he will have turned a corner in his ministry. Jesus will begin to increase, and he will begin to decrease. But he’s OK with that, for that’s why God sent him—to reveal Christ known to the world.

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Let me remind  that was also John’s reason for writing this Gospel. He says in John 20:31—“These things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that believing you may have life in His name.” Because it is only by believing in Jesus that you receive the eternal life He offers! So like a brilliant defense attorney, John begins to call witness after witness to prove his case. Last week we heard from his first and greatest witness, John the Baptist. But this week it’s the first six disciples of Jesus who by the providence of God are already best friends and ready to be turned into the greatest men who ever lived. Let’s see how it happened to them and how it can happen to us as well. That’s my outline for our study: three ways that meeting Jesus can change us from ordinary to extraordinary people.

Change #1: You Become A Believer.

Jesus has just endured 40 days of temptation in the wilderness. But now He’s back filled with the power of the Holy Spirit and ready to begin His ministry, having defeated the devil at every turn. And it’s at this point on Day 3 that John the Baptist says to two of his disciples, “Behold that Lamb of God!” In other words, that’s the Messiah I told you about, and it’s time for you to follow Him. How do I know that’s what he meant by what he said? Because that’s what they begin to do!

stdas0374Verse 35 says: “The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as He walked by and said, Behold, the Lamb of God!’ The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.” (See I told you that’s what he meant!) Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, ‘What are you seeking?’” That’s the question of our lifetimes, isn’t it? What are you seeking? The Kingdom of God and His righteousness—is that the most important thing in your life? Or are you pursuing the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life? But that’s too big a question to answer in passing. They need time to sit down and talk and ask Him questions.

So they say to Him, “Rabbi, where are you staying?” The Bible doesn’t tell us where He was staying. It could have been in a tent or a cave out in the wilderness or at a friend’s home in Bethany near where John was baptizing. But wherever He was, that’s where they wanted to be! Is that true of you? That’s my testimony and how I first knew I was born again. Wherever Jesus is, that’s where I want to be forever. They also call Him “Rabbi,” a term of great respect in Hebrew culture. Here it’s translated “teacher,” but it meant far more than that. It not only meant someone you learned from, it meant someone you followed and obeyed. In effect, then, what they’re saying is: “We trust John’s testimony and we’re ready to follow you whatever you say and wherever you lead.”

SimonZelotesLast week we learned who the first two disciples were. But let me repeat it for anyone who may not have been here. Verse 40 says, “One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.” You’ve heard of Peter, I’m sure, but you probably don’t know as much about Andrew. And yet, as you’ll see in a moment, if not for Andrew, you wouldn’t have heard of Peter either.

The name of the second disciple, on the other hand, isn’t mentioned here. But that’s actually the best clue to his identity because who’s the one disciple John never names in his Gospel? John! Out of humility, John never names himself. But you can tell it’s him because of how accurate he is about his meeting with Jesus. They ask Him in verse 39, “Where are you staying, Rabbi?” Right away He invites them, “Come and see?” Not once in all the Gospels, by the way, will you see Jesus turn somebody away because He’s too busy! Nor will He turn you away. Instead, He invites them, “Come and see!” So John says, “They came and saw where He was staying, and they stayed with Him that day, for it was about the tenth hour.” The tenth hour was 4 o’clock in the afternoon, too late and dark on a winter’s day to start the long walk home. So they stay the night with Jesus.

Jesus-and-PeterThe point is if it were someone other than John, he wouldn’t have mentioned the exact hour. But this was the great turning point in his life, and he could never forget it. So they spend the night with Jesus, and that’s all it takes to convince Andrew. That’s why I call him the first believer in Jesus. Because what does he do first thing the next morning? That’s the second change that takes place. The first thing that happens when you meet Jesus is you become a believer. The second change is—

Change #2: You Become An Inviter.

JesusConsider Andrew first. Verse 40 says, “One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah,’ which means Christ. He brought him to Jesus.” As I suggested a moment ago, there isn’t a lot written about Andrew in the New Testament. His name is found in the list of the apostles. But whenever he’s mentioned, it’s always as Simon Peter’s brother, and whenever their names are listed together, Peter always gets top billing except here in John’s Gospel. Here John, who was Andrew’s fishing partner, highlights him three different times. Here in chapter 1 bringing his brother Peter to Jesus, later in chapter 6 bringing a little boy to Jesus who has picnic lunch that will turn out to feed a whole multitude, and finally in chapter 12 where he brings a group of Greek worshipers to meet Jesus.

Andrew, then, was a bringer, an inviter, an introducer of people to Jesus. So are some of you! Some of you are very comfortable inviting others to meet Jesus or come to The Gathering. But like Andrew, you don’t get a lot of credit for it. But I notice it. More importantly, Jesus recognizes it and will reward you greatly for it one day, for just as important as Peter are the Andrews among us who invite others to meet Jesus. Imagine what the world would be like today if not for the Sunday school teacher who led Billy Graham to Christ or Andrew who led his brother Peter to Jesus. Tradition says that Andrew, whose name means “brave,” also spent the last twenty years of his life preaching the Gospel in Romania, Russia, and the Ukraine where he was crucified on an X-shaped cross, which has been known as Saint Andrew’s cross ever since.

1.jpgBut here it’s Peter he brings to the Lord. Verse 41 says, “He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah!’” Then he brought him to Jesus.” This is joy unbounded and unspeakable—joy beyond joy! “We’ve found the Messiah!” No doubt, no hesitation, no equivocation on Andrew’s part! One night with Jesus and he’s convinced, “We’ve found the Christ!” By the way, the words “Messiah” and “Christ” aren’t part of Jesus’ name, they’re titles. “Messiah” is the Hebrew word meaning “anointed,” which was how a king or priest was officially welcomed to office, whereas “Christ” is the Greek translation of the word “Messiah.” Andrew brought his brother to Jesus, and that’s how the kingdom always advances, isn’t it? One beggar telling another beggar where he found bread and bringing him to Jesus!

And do you see the word “first” here in verse 41? “He first found his own brother.” It doesn’t mean “first thing in the morning,” though that’s probably when he did it. It means “first compared to John,” that even before John could find his brother James, Andrew found his brother Peter. But both of them brought their brothers to the Lord. But in keeping with his customary humility, John doesn’t take credit for it. But we know he did it because James is also listed among the apostles and always before John. When you see their names together, it’s always “James and John,” because he was the oldest, whereas John was the youngest of all the disciples and became more prominent than James after Herod beheaded him in Acts chapter 12.

Peter-and-JesusNotice also a few things about Peter. First, he too had to be a disciple of John the Baptist because Andrew found him right away. So he couldn’t have been home in Galilee. He had to be nearby, and the only thing going on nearby was John baptizing people in the Jordan River. So he too was a true Israelite who’d repented of his sins and been baptized by John. And what does Jesus say to him when they meet in verse 42? “Jesus looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon the son of John.’” That had to surprise him. “After all, how do you know who my father is?” Answer is: He knows everything about you and me, even the number of hairs on our heads.

He continues, “You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter).” Isn’t that amazing? In His first sentence to Peter, Jesus not only tells him who he is but also who he’ll become—a rock on whose testimony Jesus will build His church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. It won’t be easy getting there. Peter is going to stumble and fall many times before he gets to that point. But what Jesus says always happens, for not only does He have the supernatural knowledge to tell us what we’ll become; He also has the supernatural power to make us that. Remember that when like Peter you fall into sin. Remember His promise in Philippians 1:6, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” So we expect great things of ourselves not because we’re special, but because He’s infinitely special, gracious, kind, wise, good, great, and powerful!

1 Now onto Day 4 and two more disciples: On Day 3 it was Andrew, Peter, James, and John. Verse 43 now adds, “The next day He purposed to go into Galilee, and He found Philip. And Jesus said to him, “Follow Me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, of the city of Andrew and Peter.” Did you catch that? All five men—Peter, James, John, Andrew, and Philip (and in a moment, Jesus will add a sixth to the group)—are from the same village, Bethsaida meaning “house of fishing.” Any guess what they did for a living?. Bethsaida rested on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee and had a population of maybe 300 people at the time. So they knew each other. They shopped at the same market, worshiped in the same synagogue, attended the same synagogue school growing up, and then went into business together as fishing partners!

So Jesus heads to Bethsaida for two reasons: First, He is going to find a fifth disciple He wants. Jesus didn’t go after Philip out of pity; He went out of him out of desire. Jesus is a jealous Lord who wanted Philip for Himself. And that’s the same reason He has gone after you. He has loved you with an everlasting love and wants you for His own. Second, He is going to attend a wedding feast in Cana of Galilee where something wonderful is about to happen. But that’s Day 5. This is Day 4 and they need to hurry, because Bethsaida is 25 miles north of where John is baptizing. But they can make it by midday if they start early—let’s say 6 o’clock in the morning—and if they hurry.

1ABut then these guys know how to walk, and besides that’ll give them 5 more hours with Jesus! Why do I assume He’s taking them along! Because they’re all with Him the next day at the feast! Cana is just 10 miles from Bethsaida, so it’s possible that a few of them may also know the bride or groom, though five hungry and uninvited wedding guests could put a drain on the food and wine. And when He finds Philip, He says to him, “Follow me!” That’s a command Jesus will issue twenty times in this book, and never as a trial offer to see if you like following Him. After all, this isn’t Burger King taking orders. This is the King of Kings giving orders!

How does Philip respond? Just like Andrew! He immediately finds his buddy Nathanael and says to Him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph!” Nathanael, who is part skeptic, part wiseacre, asks, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?”

PP-PhillipAndNathanael_JS_0032And with good reason! Nazareth was a Podunk village with mud streets, a few small businesses, and a few hundred people at best. So it was only natural for him to be skeptical about it! But Philip is a skilled fisherman and a quick study who knows how to reel in a fish. Don’t you love it? Instead of getting tangled up in an argument about possibilities and trying to wrestle him into the boat, he repeats the same simple invitation Jesus gave in verse 39. He says, “Come and see.” And it works!

1Verse 47 continues, “Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and exclaimed, ‘Look, a true Israelite in whom there is no deceit!’” Nathanael is known by two names in the Gospels—Nathanael, his first or given name, and Bartholomew, his family name which means “son of Ptolemy.” And the moment Jesus meets him He pays him a huge compliment probably with a smile on His face. After all, Nathanael has just dissed his hometown and called his stepfather a “nobody” from a dead-end village. But then I like people who are upfront with me (Don’t you?), even if I don’t enjoy what they say, rather than a sneak who masks his feelings and stabs me in the back! Jesus must prefer that too because listen to what He says about him. “A true Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” What does that mean? What does it mean to be a true Israelite? Paul defines it in Romans 2:29 as someone who worships God in spirit and in truth rather than relying on his religion or good works to save him. In other words, what Jesus recognizes in this one phrase is that Nathanael is real and loves the Lord just as he claims.

2But to appreciate the second thing He says, “an Israelite in whom there is no deceit,” you have to remember who Israel was. He was the father of the Jewish nation, originally named Jacob meaning “a supplanter” or “someone who steals another’s place by scheming,” a trait he passed on to his progeny. But Jesus says, “You’re an exception to the rule. You’re an Israelite in whom there is no deceit, no trickery, no scheming! When people meet you, they get just they see.” Of course, Nathanael is surprised by this and wants to know how He knows him.” Jesus explains, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” And that blows Nathanael’s mind! “After all, how could you know where I was and what I was doing when Philip found me!”

prcas1312I’m not the first to suggest this, but do you know why I believe Nathanael was so overcome by what Jesus said? One of the favorite spots for Jewish believers to pray and meditate on God’s Word at that time was their garden under the shade of a favorite tree! Maybe you like to do that too. Furthermore, when a true Israelite prayed, what did he almost always pray for, especially when times were tough? The Messiah to come, just like we do today! “Come, Lord Jesus, come!” Amen! That’s what I believe Nathanael was doing under the fig tree. He was praying for Messiah to come. So when Philip shows up saying he’s found the Messiah, and Jesus seems to know everything about him, even where and what he was praying, what does Nathanael say? That’s my final point. Meeting Jesus makes you a believer; it turns you into an inviter; and—

Change #3: You Become A Worshiper.

1Nathanael asks Him in verse 48, “How do you know me?” And when Jesus explains, “Before Philip called you when you were under the fig tree, I saw you,” he explodes with praise, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel!’” I’d call that a change of heart, wouldn’t you? In just minutes, he goes from “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” to “Rabbi” (a term of deep respect), “You are the (He uses the definite article to emphasize He’s not just a son of God like you or I) …You are the Son of God (meaning He shares the very essence of God with His Father)… You are the King of Israel!” (i.e., “You’re the One who’s going to bring the Kingdom of God to earth and rule over it forever and ever!”) That’s what you call true worship, and that’s what happens to you when you meet the real Jesus. The moment Nathanael meets Jesus it turns him into a true worshiper of both God the Father and God the Son.

It also blesses Jesus who says to him, “Because I said to you I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” And then again He takes him back to Jacob saying, “Truly, truly (a guarantee that what He says will come true) you will see the heavens opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” What does that have to do with Jacob?

1When Jacob left home, you’ll remember, he did so for fear that his brother Esau would kill him because of the way he cheated him. But then God appeared to him in a dream in which he saw a ladder reaching to heaven with the angels of God ascending and descending on it and from the top of the ladder God promised to bless him and keep him and give his family the land of Israel forever. So when he awoke, Jacob believed God’s promise, set up an altar to worship the Lord, and called that place Bethel meaning “house of God.”

The point is obvious, isn’t it? Jesus was saying to him and to us, “I am Jacob’s Ladder. I am the Way to Heaven! So believe in Me, worship Me, and invite others to believe in Me too!” And then He adds, “You will see greater things than these.” What sorts of things? “Miracle after miracle after miracle after miracle, every day you’re with Me, starting tomorrow in Cana of Galilee!”

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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.

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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.”

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  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!

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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.

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  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 –

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  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?)