New Hope Unplugged
Had hoped to have a recording of this message from Sunday. But the electrical power failed us. Ah, but the real power didn't and never will. This is not a transcription, nor is it the notes I used Sunday, since I don't preach from notes. I won't remember everything I said that day, and I will add some things today I couldn't remember then. So be it. But here's what I want you to know - You can know God. You can know God personally through His Son Jesus Christ. He is actively seeking to form a relationship with you. You have questions, doubts. You cannot understand or deal well with what you see as inconsistencies in the Bible or what seem to be incredibly cruel acts by God. Friends, after 37 years as a Christian and more hours than I could ever count in prayer and Bible study, I still have questions, still wonder about certain things, and still get frustrated at times. But one thing I know beyond all doubt, all fears, all questions.
Jesus loves me. He will never leave me or forsake me. He has made me right with God through His sacrificial death. He has assured me of life eternal with Him through His resurrection. He will walk with me through the fiercest trials and darkest nights. He is my Savior, He is my God, and He is my friend.
So as we begin this study of John during this Lenten season, understand this please. Everything I am doing is to convince you that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and is offering you LIFE TO THE MAX!
And so I am beginning by introducing Jesus.
Put yourself for a minute in John the apostle's shoes - okay, sandals.
You are an old man who has lived 2/3 of your life or more since the three years that you walked over Galilee and Judea with Jesus. Those three years changed EVERYTHING. They reset your compass. Your priorities changed. Your value system changed. Your understanding of who you are and why you were alive changed. And your simple life became a world-changing one. All because of Jesus.
As you pick up the stylus, all the other "gospels" (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) have been "put to bed." They've each told their stories to everyone who would give them an ear. But you are driven to write a different narrative - one in which the scenes you choose to include are not selected because they are chronologically correct - but like a great director - God is guiding you to tell a Story of who Jesus is.
Every time I think about the magnitude of John's task, I am amazed at how he even got started. I used a slide of great opening lines in books to sort of plant the idea that those first few seconds of entry into a story matters. Some of the books that make up the classics though, don't have first lines that are memorable. Many begin quietly and it's in the introduction and fleshing out of the characters that the story takes on life for the reader.
Not John. He begins with a theological statement that changes everything. I likened it to someone raised in a cave who on one clear winter's night is taken outside and asked to look into the sky and sees the slide from the Hubble telescope. Breathtaking in scope. Awe-inspiring in depth. Incomprehensible at first glance. But so "Other" that it tugs at the mind and the soul for if that is reality, then it changes everything.
"The Word that John speaks of is uncreated. There has never been a time when it was not. Here is existence beyond time, that which was when time and finite being began its course." All of us are mortal. We have a beginning and an end. This week begins the season of Lent and millions of our fellow believers will kneel before a priest or pastor who will take the ashes of palm fronds used last year during the Palm Sunday celebration and dipping his thumb in them, will make the sign of a cross on each person's forehead while saying "From dust you came, to dust you will return." A very solemn act of worship that reminds us that our time on earth is very short. Contrast that to John's description of Jesus - the "Word" made flesh - and you begin to understand that knowing Jesus is more... much more than the flippant cultural Christianity or virtuous veneer many practice.
John uses the Greek word "logos" in his opening statement and it is translated "Word" for us. We'll have to unpack the meaning of that into our language and context or we'll walk out of here glazed. He's hitting a theme that will play on both sides of the cultural divide in the early church and society - Jews and Gentiles. Certain themes can serve as a bridge for us. We know that. Music and TV does that around the world. Bunny and I are trying to listen to some of the newer music because it carries cultural messages and darn it because we don't want to miss out on the joy that music has always been for us. So we're turning over to channel 20 on our XM radio and trying. But you know we keep coming back to the "language" we know - that we grew up with. There are songs that we all know - like the opening refrain of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, or Bach's Toccata and Fugue. Oh, you would know them if you heard them. OK, here's one "Come sit right back and you'll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip..." (motions to congregation to continue) See - we just know because even though there are three or four generations in here, we've been exposed to that.
Well the Hebrews would have understood the idea of "the Word" because in their culture of less than 10,000 words - words meant things. They were tied to actions, and once a word was spoken the event was unstoppable. When God spoke, creation happened. When Issac mistakenly blessed Jacob instead of Esau, he couldn't take it back. The people of Israel during the Exodus went out to Sinai to meet with the "Word."
The Greeks on the other hand saw the "logos" almost like George Lucas's "force". It was the causative agent in all of nature - the First Cause, the Prime Mover, the world-soul. But neither party would have imagined that the "logos" was a person. They'd have been glad to talk philosophy with John - both the scribes and the Greek philosophers would have relished that. But believing in a God who became a man?
John starts out by expanding reality for them.
You know that the Bible talks many times about the world which is seen and the unseen world. And I've always wondered about that unseen world. This past week I was reading about a teacher who took her class to visit the home of a botanist. As you can imagine, his yard was filled with all sorts of interesting plants. The kids just drank it all in, turning this way and that and "ooh-ing and ah-ing" at what they saw. And yet, they didn't see everything that was there. When the botanist looked at the same plants he saw not only the exterior, but he knew and "saw" the processes going on inside each of them. He could gauge their maturity and their health. Both the kids and the botanist saw pretty flowers, but only the botanist saw the things unseen.
Physicists studying the atom know that there are forces yet unexplained that hold each atom together. One is called the (for lack of a better term) the "strong force" and without it, all what you and I see and think of as solid, as real, as matter would instantly cease to exist and become simply energy.
John is making a case here, along with other New Testament writers, that everything was created by Jesus and that everything has its origin in Him and nothing exists that He hasn't caused to be. Other writers will elaborate, but John starts the expansion of what we know of as "real" by introducing Jesus as Source.
In this world, with our natural eyes we are limited too. And the unseen is all around us. John is speaking of a Person in Jesus who is more than we can see with our eyes. He is the "First Cause" but beyond that since He exists outside of time. And yet, He is the "Word made flesh" who came as a baby, grew up through childhood and teen years, and became a man - tested and tempted in every way - but without a fault or sin went to the cross and made everyone who believes in Him right with God.
So John is presenting Jesus as Creator, as Sustainer, and now as Redeemer. As the power beyond anything we can even imagine. Limitless.
So let me stop for a moment and ask you this - Why do you think that Jesus isn't able to supply everything you need? Why do you NOT let Jesus handle your doubts, your questions, your fears, your worries and anxieties? Isn't He BIG enough? Isn't he POWERFUL enough? Or is it that you can't see? Listen, Jesus brought "light" into our darkness and you know in your gut and by your experience that darkness cannot win if you have a light. Light comes, darkness ends. True then. True now.
See friends you may look on these few verses as just words, but right here and right now I am here to tell you that THIS IS THE THEOLOGY OF HOPE. THIS IS GOD'S LOVE FOR YOU, FOR ME, IN THE PERSON OF JESUS.
John, who never names himself in this book, simply refers to himself as "the disciple that Jesus loved." Now you can choose to think that he was a self-promoter by doing that. That he was lifting John up at the expense of the other disciples, but I don't think you'd be right.
I think that John could never get past the fact that God, in the person of Jesus - LOVED HIM. As I said, it changed everything for him. John would tell you this morning that you need to put smaller things aside and plant your life in Jesus Christ. Give Him the allegiance of your heart, mind, and soul. Jesus is so much more than we can even see. John wants you to believe in Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior, Sustainer, and Redeemer.
Look. I know this has stretched you some if you've tried at all to follow it. Imagine John again, writing it with God giving him the words. Really it boils down to this. Who do you believe Jesus is?