Tag Archives: Son of God

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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 (Click here for Audio Message. Click here for Written Message. Then pass the message or the link on to a friend who needs Jesus. God bless!)

A Question that Will Determine Your Eternity: Who Is Jesus?

Who is Jesus to you? According to a recent Rasmussen poll, 84% of our fellow Americans believe in Jesus. That’s good news until you press them on what they mean by that. Then the answers get a little sketchy.

One author, for example, set out to discover what his fellow Portlanders believe about Jesus. The results were disturbing for while most of them claim to believe in Jesus, the Jesus they believe in is very different from the Jesus of the Bible which makes him, in the author’s words, an “Imaginary Jesus.” To name just a few, there is Legalist Jesus who has a rule for everything; Televangelist Jesus who says if you have enough faith, you need never get sick again; Social Services Jesus whose priority is that everybody’s creature comforts are met; Bargain Jesus who will answer your prayers if the price is right; and Hippy Jesus who wants us all to just chill out and learn to live together in peace.

3But then this is nothing new! Down through the centuries there have been countless “Jesus’s” who fall far short of what the Bible says about Him—Islamic Jesus who was just one in a long line of prophets; Buddhist Jesus who was a great enlightened master; Mormon Jesus who is the good Son of Elohim and brother of Lucifer; and New Age Jesus who is a wonderful spiritual guide and guru.

The truth is almost everyone believes in “a Jesus.” But the danger of believing in the wrong Jesus is it brings the same eternal penalty as believing in no Jesus at all! Using the same name by which God revealed Himself to Moses in the burning bush, Jesus said of Himself in John 8:24, “Unless you believe that I AM, you will die in your sins.” What does it mean to die in your sins? It means to die without forgiveness, condemned to an eternity apart from the God who loves you.

Picture4So this is one question we don’t want to get wrong. That’s why I took time last week to introduce you to a new study that I want to continue today. It’s a study of the Gospel written by John who left no doubt about why he wrote it. His goal and the key verse are found in John 20:31, “These things have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”

Open your Bible, then, to John chapter 1, the first 5 verses where John clarifies what he means by “the Son of God.” The truth is mind-boggling! What he insists is that Jesus and the Father are One God who created all that there is expecting us His creatures to love and honor Him. To see that, let me highlight 3 key facts about Him, which John MacArthur first identified in his study. They are : 1) His pre-existence; 2) His co-existence; 3) His self-existence with God the Father.

  1. His Pre-Existence

John’s Gospel opens with these words: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The first question that begs to be answered is: What beginning is John talking about? Lacking any clarification on John’s part, we have to assume he’s talking about the same beginning as Genesis 1:1—“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

That’s important because it means at the point creation began, Jesus the Son of God already existed. For if John had wanted to say that Jesus was part of God’s creation, he would have written, “From the beginning was the Word.” But that isn’t what he said. He said, “In the beginning was the Word.” In other words, before time and space began and the world was created, Jesus already existed.

Picture5To make that even more explicit, notice what He adds in verse 3. First, he gives the positive: “All things came into being through Him,” followed by the flipside, “And apart from Him (literally in Greek.) “not one thing came into being that has come into being.” Consequently, if He made everything there is and all things came from Him, He couldn’t possibly have been created. He must be eternal, existing with the Father forever before time began.

That’s why John repeats the word “was” 3 times in verse 1. By the way, when you see repetition like that in the Bible, it’s always for emphasis. He says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

3Last week I introduced you to a little Greek, the language in which the New Testament was originally written. I did that explaining that the word “was” (ἦν in the Greek) is a key word here because of its tense. It is in the imperfect tense describing ongoing action. It isn’t just that the Word existed in the beginning; it’s that He existed continuously before time and space began. Time and space are a creation of God. So if Jesus the Son of God existed before time and space began, it means He isn’t a created being; He is eternal, which means He must be God, for God is the only Eternal and Uncreated Being there is!

Then, to leave no doubt about it, he adds at the end of verse 1: “The Word was with God, and the Word was God!” That phrase has been a source of debate by some over the years who say that instead of translating it “God,” it ought to be translated “a god.” So I’ve put the phrase on the screen so you can see it for yourself. Don’t worry! I’m not going to bog you down with a lot of Greek. But you’re smart people and it’s important for you to see it with your very own eyes instead of accepting what somebody else says about it.

5The phrase contains 5 words in Greek just as it does in English which, if you translate it word-for-word, what does it say? καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος—“And God was the Word!” Notice there’s also no article “a” before the word θεὸς, which means you can translate it “a god” if you don’t believe Jesus is Lord. But that wouldn’t be the usual way of translating it. The usual way is to translate it the way 99% of the versions do—“And the Word was God.”

By the way, in case you’re wondering why John flips the word order around and puts θεὸς (“God) at the beginning of the sentence, he does it to emphasize the Deity of Christ, that He is by very nature God. That’s why the only valid way of translating it is not “a god” or “the God” (which would eliminate God the Father), but simply “God,” emphasizing the Deity of Christ which is taught everywhere in the New Testament—like Philippians 2:6 which says of Him, “Who being by very nature God did not regard equality with God a thing to grasped, but made Himself nothing taking the form of a bond-servant and being made in the likeness of men.” Colossians 2:9 confirms that adding, “In Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form.”

But it especially taught in the Gospel of John where we hear Jesus claim again and again to be co-equal with the Father, using titles that belong to God alone like: “I AM the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep;” “Before Abraham was, I AM;” and “Unless you believe that I AM, you will die in your sins.” Furthermore, not only has He lived forever as the Son of God; He has also enjoyed perfect love, joy, and unity with God the Father from eternity past.

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  1. His Co-Existence

Listen again to verses 1 and 2. John says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.” Twice in two verses, John says, “the Word was with God.” So now we know something else about Him—not only is He God, He was also with God. But if He was both God and with God, that means there must be Two Persons who are God. Exactly! That’s the very point John is making. Not only is Jesus the eternal God, He is also distinct from the eternal God. Who, then, is the Second Person He was with who is called God?” The Father, of course!

“Huh?” you say. “That doesn’t make sense!” Maybe not; nevertheless it’s true even if you aren’t able to understand it, for John is now leading us into a realm where human reason is of no help and introducing us to a concept which the finite human mind simply cannot understand. He’s revealing that within the Essence of the One True God is a plurality—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!

Picture7“But that’s heresy, isn’t it?” you worry, “and the very thing for which the people of Israel were punished again and again—worshiping other gods in addition to the One True God?” For example, it wasn’t but days after receiving the Ten Commandments that they coerced Aaron into making a golden calf, which they proceeded to worship, bringing the wrath of God down upon themselves.

But as it turns out, you don’t need to worry, for Jesus said it is neither a heresy nor disloyal to the Father for us to worship the Son. For never has there been a twinge of jealousy or rivalry between Them. On the contrary, Jesus said it is rebellion and disloyalty not to give the Son the same honor we give the Father.

For example, on the last night before His death, He actually commanded His disciples to believe in Him just as we are to believe in the Father.  “Let not your heart be troubled,” He said. “You believe in God. Believe also in Me.” Phillip felt he needed more, however, so he asked Him, “Lord, show us the Father and it is enough for us.” To which Jesus responded, “Phillip, have I been with you so long and still you do not know Me? He who has seen Me has seen the Father!”

Picture9Talk about claiming to be equal with God! But that’s what Jesus does in this Gospel again and again. In fact, at one point He comes right out and says it.  John 10:30—“I and My Father are One.” Not only is that “off the charts” in arrogance if Jesus isn’t God; the Old Testament says it was also grounds for the death penalty, which is why His enemies immediately picked up stones to kill Him.

But the truth is Jesus is equal with God. That’s John’s point in verses 1 and 2. You see the phrase “with God?”  The word in the original means face-to-face with someone. And nobody can do that but Jesus alone. Angels don’t stand face-to-face with God. Nor do human beings! Instead, what do human beings do when they come face-to-face with God? They fall on their faces in worship, lest they see the face of God and die. But not Jesus, for Jesus is equal with the Father from eternity past.

By the way, this is also a great verse for Father’s Day, for it gives us a perfect model for the way fathers and sons ought to relate to one another.  John says that Jesus and the Father have forever lived in perfect face-to-face, eye-to-eye fellowship with Each Other, never wavering in their love and respect for One Another.

Picture11You can see a hint of this as far back as Deuteronomy 6:4 where we find the great Shema Israel, which faithful Jews still recite every morning and evening. Here the Lord emphasizes that He, Jehovah, is One God, so we’re to have no other gods besides Him. “Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God is One!” But what you may not realize unless you’ve studied this passage is that the word “One” doesn’t mean “one in number.” It means “one in unity.”

I say that because you know where else we find this word? It’s used in Genesis 2:24 where the Lord says to Adam and Eve, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” Two persons but one flesh!  That’s the same idea when it comes to the Trinity. There are Three Eternal Persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – who are together One God in essence and unity.

8In fact, the more you study it, the more you realize that the reason God forbade the making of images  to represent Him in the Old Testament is because He was reserving that holy spot for His Son who, according to Colossians 1:15 and other passages in the New Testament, is “the image of the Invisible God,” so that those who have seen Him have seen the Father. We’ll see that again when we study John 1:18 which says, “No one has seen God at any time; the only Begotten God  who is in the bosom of the Father, He has made Him known.”

The truth is God is different from every other Being who has ever existed. Does that surprise you? For example, when it comes to people, how many persons has He allotted to each human being? Just one, right? But that isn’t true of God. In God’s case, there are Three Persons who share the One Essence which is God. This also means that God has never been alone or lonely, but has always enjoyed perfect, fulfilling fellowship together—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

9I emphasize all of this because there are all sorts of heresies today which deny and distort the doctrine of the Trinity. One of the most prominent that’s been going around for centuries and is very popular again today is called “oneness theology.”  There is nothing new under the sun!  This is one of the core beliefs of the United Pentecostal Church which numbers 25 million members worldwide. But it is very different from mainstream Pentecostalism. Many of you have a Pentecostal background, as do I.  I was led to Christ by Pentecostal believers and spent the first part of my Christian life worshiping in a Foursquare Church. But the UPC is very different from mainstream Pentecostalism.

For one thing, they deny the Trinity and teach in its place something called Modalism. It’s the belief that God has at times taken on different modes. For example, in the Old Testament, He was God the Father; in the Gospels, He was Jesus the Son; whereas today He’s at work in the world as the Holy Spirit. But He is not all Three at once. That’s a heresy which, unless a person repents of it, will lead to an eternity apart from Christ. As Augustine first warned, “He who tries to explain the Trinity will lose his mind. He who explains it away will lose his soul.”

Picture12So let me say it one more time to make sure no one is confused about what the Bible teaches. John is saying that Jesus Christ is God, co-equal and co-eternal with the Father, enjoying a glory from eternity past that belongs to God alone.

  1. His Self-Existence

36 times in his Gospel John uses the word “life.” But verse 3 is the first where he says of Jesus, “All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life.”  Let’s stop there for a moment and think about what that means. It means that everything came from Christ but that He, the Creator of all things, didn’t come from anyone or anything.  Nobody had to give Him life, because as He Himself later says, “I AM the Way, the Truth, and the Life,” and “I AM the Resurrection and the Life.”

Picture14By the way, the word for life here is not bios referring to physical life, but Zoe referring to the source of life on which every living creature depends, from the simplest one-celled organism to human beings, the most complex creatures God made. Of Him, Paul says in Acts 17:24, “The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands, nor is He served by human hands as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things.”

That’s the God Jesus claimed to be—the God who has life in Himself and share it with every other living creature. John 5:25 is one example.  Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For just as the Father has life in himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself.”

Picture15Do you know what an amazing statement that is! It takes our finite minds to truths we cannot hope to understand. Try that as you’re trying to fall asleep tonight. Start thinking about God the Father and God the Son being eternally alive together – never a moment when they didn’t exist – and you’ll find it’s more than your feeble mind can take in—trying to grasp the eternity of God.

Furthermore, John adds, contained within His eternity are the power, hope, and understanding that we need as creatures. Verse 4 continues, “In Him was Life, and the Life was the Light of men, and the Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.”

Darkness refers to Satan, his demonic army, and the kingdom of darkness he’s created in this world. That’s why John says, first of all, that the darkness did not “comprehend” the light. The devil has blinded their minds of those who do not believe, so they can’t possibly appreciate the new life we have in Christ. Like bugs scurrying for a hiding place when the light is turned on, they flee from the truth, so their sins won’t be discovered.  Jesus said, “And this is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than the light because their deeds are evil.”

But that’s what we used to be like too! You and I used to live in the darkness. But no longer! Isaiah 9 says of us, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; and those who lived in a land of deep darkness, on them the light has shined,” so that we now love the Light and the new insights it gives us.

Picture16Furthermore, John says the Light is powerful. Physicists still have a hard time defining light. After all, it can’t be matter since it has no mass and travels at a speed of 186,000 miles per second. And yet, it also occupies space and can be reflected, absorbed, and produce great heat. So what is it? The best stab science is able to make at it is to say that it’s energy—electromagnetic, radiant energy which, when it hits the retina of our eyes, stimulates our sense of sight.

That’s what Jesus does for us spiritually. 1 Corinthians 1:24 says, “To those who are called, Christ is the wisdom of God and the power of God.” He gives us a new understanding of the truth as well as the power to overcome the darkness when it presses in upon us. Some of you will see in the margin of your Bible that there is an alternate reading for verse 5, and that the word “comprehend” can be translated “overcome.” “The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” That’s the best translation of this word katalambano, which means to “take something down” just like a wrestler might take down his opponent. However, in this case, I think it is one of those unusual verses where the author may have both concepts in mind. Jesus gives us a new understanding of the truth as well as power to keep from being overwhelmed by the darkness.

I’m sure you have felt that way at times—discouraged by all the evil around us and wondering if there’s any hope left in the world. But then the Light breaks in upon you, and suddenly you find yourself with new power and understanding.

It makes me think of my friend Bob who is hiking through Ape Caves with his kids today. Ape Caves is a 2-mile long network of caverns just below Mt. Saint Helens. I’ve been there twice, years ago now. It’s one of those dark places where if you turn off your lantern, you can’t see your hand in front of your face. So you immediately turn it back on, and the darkness quickly flees away.

Anzelina-Coodey_Pacific-Northwest-12-1200x856That’s what John is saying here. “The Light of Christ is so strong that no matter how hard the darkness tries—and believe me, the devil has been trying to put out the Light of Christ from the  moment He entered this world—without success! First, it was Herod slaughtering the babies in Bethlehem and its vicinity. Next it was his temptation in the wilderness, then his attack on Jesus in the Garden, trying to keep Him from going to the Cross, and finally the crucifixion and the devil’s premature celebration that he’d put an end to the Son of God. But guess what! The Light is still shining! In fact, it’s been shining for a long time now—almost 2,000 years, and there’s no sign of it going out.

But then that’s what Jesus promised, and His promises cannot be broken. He said in John 8:12, “I AM the Light of the World. He who follows Me will not walk in darkness, but shall have the Light of Life.”Picture17In fact, His Light isn’t just holding its own against the darkness; it’s actually winning the battle despite our fears. In 1 John 2:8, John assures us further, “The darkness is passing away, and the True Light is already shining.”  Colossians 1:17 says something similar. Paul reminds us that Christ is not only the Creator who gives life to all things, He’s also the One who holds all things together by His power. So be not afraid, little children, it isn’t the government that will save us; or the church or angels of God that will keep the evil of this world in check; it’s Jesus Christ who is not only the Maker of all things, He is also the Sustainer of all things who is this very moment holding all things—this world, your life, your marriage, your finances—together by His gracious and almighty power.

So let me ask you as I bring this study to a close. Have you seen the Light? If not, open your heart and believe today! Accept what God says about His Son in His Word—that He is co-eternal and co-equal with the Father.  Consequently, the only way to honor the Father is by giving to His Son Jesus the same love, worship, reverence, and honor that you give to God the Father.

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