Undressing God [Part 2]

John 1:4-18 | February 11, 2018 


Jesus is the light of the world that shined at creation, in Israel and when the word became flesh.
Those who received that light became children of God.

Undressing God [Part 2]

John 1:4-18
February 11, 2018

Imagine you are lost. It’s night. It’s jet black—so dark that you can’t see your own hands. You look forward but you can’t see what’s in front of you. You look back, but you can’t see what’s behind you. But then, in your mind’s eye, in the midst of the surrounding darkness, you see a light off in the distance, and everything changes. You’re not alone. For in the darkness a light is shining for you.

 

That is a little picture, an image, of the salvation that Jesus brings each of us who believe in him. For if you believe in Jesus, someone pointed you to Jesus as “the light of the world”. Jesus Christ is the light that each of us desperately needs, and that light has been shining from since before the beginning of time.

 

The Light For All Mankind Shines (vv. 4-5)

 

They say that the sun has been shedding its light for nearly 4.6 billion years. But “the light of world” has shined for all eternity. The same light shone at the beginning of creation when God said, “Let there be light, and there was light”.

 

Jesus is the light of the world. He was born into the world that he had made. He is like a beam of light that has been traveling towards us for billions of years, getting closer and closer as the time approached for him to be born of woman, and to become human. So we read in John 1:4-5:

 

In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (NIV)

 

The Word shines in the darkness on the first day of the creation week, and the word of God put the darkness in its place. The Word also shined in the darkness of Israel’s spiritual blindness. And the Word shines right now in the darkness of the human heart. The verdict is the same. John 1:5 again:

 

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it [or ‘understood’ it].

 

The darkness could not overcome it, nor did it understand it. John here uses a word that has a double meaning, and he intends us to see that the way he uses the word encompasses both meanings. The darkness could not understand the light, but neither could it overcome the light. The darkness could not overcome the light: it rejected the light, but it could not destroy the light.

 

Turn on the light and see what happens most of the time. The critters that love the darkness flee the light. Similarly, mention the name of Jesus—the light of the world—and watch people cringe and turn away from light, and find a dark corner to hide. Mention sin and watch them change the topic. Mention hell and watch them run, because the light reveals. Jesus the light of the world reveals who we are and who God is.

 

I was talking to a close relative from a religious home who had become a Christian. She said to me, “Why is it, Ray, that if I talk about ‘God’, it’s ok, but if I mention the name of ‘Jesus’, the family gets upset? My relative forgot that she was doing the same thing for years—getting upset at the mention of Jesus.

 

The light of Jesus, the light of the world, cannot be stopped, snuffed out, or extinguished. They say that the sun has another five billion years to go, but then after that its light will end and it will shine no more. But the light of the world, Jesus Christ, will never come to an end.

 

‘John the Witness’ Testifies to the Light (vv. 6-8, 15)

 

The “light of the world” has not come into the world unannounced. Verses 6 to 8:

 

There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. (NIV)

 

Every human king has a trumpet blast to announce his coming. Every performer has an MC to introduce the main act. So it is with Jesus. John the Baptist’s job was to introduce Jesus onto the world stage.

 

In the Gospel of John, ‘John the Baptist’ is more accurately described as ‘John the Witness’. For John’s Gospel does not let us make any mistake about what was John the Baptist’s mission—it was to point out who is ‘the light of the world’ and who isn’t the light of the world. And we see him doing this very thing in verse 15:

 

John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ ” (NIV)

 

John also witnesses to Jesus later in this chapter, in verse 29:

 

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (NIV)

 

John’s mission is our mission, which is to point people to Jesus Christ, by our words and actions. How are you going with the nine word challenge, “Would you like to read the bible with me”? Our job is to point people to the light, and allow the light to shine from John’s Gospel into dark hearts. John preached with purpose in verse 8:

 

He [John] came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. (NIV)

 

The purpose of every ‘Jesus’ conversation is ultimately faith and repentance. That is why, when appropriate, it’s good to ask, “What is stopping you from becoming a Christian?” I think that was one of Dave Jensen’s gifts to us: he helped people cross the line.

 

This week a young woman did just that: she crossed the line, and became a sister in Christ. Jesus shone his light into her heart, and she said ‘yes’ to Jesus.

 

The Rejection of the Light (v. 10)

 

One of the great surprises and sadnesses of this section of the prologue to John’s Gospel is how “the light of the world” is received by the world that he had made. Verse 10:

 

He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. (NIV)

 

There is a double kick in the guts for the “light of the world” here. He came to a world that he had created, but that world did not recognize him. Jesus was no alien visitor, arriving on a planet he had never heard of. Jesus was born into the world that he himself had made. That world in fact rejected him.

 

Steve Jobs, the co-founder of the Apple computer company, was fired from Apple—the very company that he had created. Jesus came to his own people Israel, but they didn’t want a bar of him.

 

Look at how Isaiah describes the way the light of truth was treated throughout the Old Testament. Isaiah 65:2-3:

 

All day long I have held out my hands to an obstinate people, who walk in ways not good, pursuing their own imaginations—a people who continually provoke me to my very face. (NIV)

 

Throughout the Old Testament, God’s light was shining, revealing, probing, and exposing. And God’s people were hiding, resisting, hating, and running from God’s light. So what did God do? After so much rejection, he revealed even more of himself.

 

The Word Became Flesh—God Revealing Himself (v. 14)

 

God wants to be known. God also wants us to know him. He comes in the flesh into our world. Verse 14:

 

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (NIV)

 

Seriously, when you have been rejected, hurt, or wounded by another person—even if only in a slight way—every self-preserving instinct in you wants to withdraw, to hide, build up walls, engage in passive aggression, cut ties, pay back, or slag off on facebook. But that’s not how our God responds when he was rejected by the world he created and his people whom he loved. For then God comes in person and in the flesh into that world. For when the Word became flesh, the fullness of God himself came into our world, and the splendor of God’s grace and the majesty of God’s faithfulness was made known.

 

Up until this point, it could not be said that any human had ever seen God. The two reasons for this are, firstly that God, being spirit, is invisible, and secondly, God is holy and we are sinners. With the coming of Jesus these two problems have been overcome. Firstly, Jesus makes the invisible God visible. He is God with skin, he became meat, flesh, truly human—and so the glory of God in the face of Christ became visible to other flesh and blood humans. And secondly, we may be sinners, but Jesus is the lamb of God who takes away the sin of world (v. 29). God humbled himself, and got down on his knees to become one of us, like us in every way except sin. This is as up close and personal as it gets.

 

We may well at times be ashamed of him—to our own shame—but Jesus is not ashamed to call us who believe brothers and sisters.

 

The light could not have shined brighter for us, because we live in a world into which God has sent his one and only Son. That is why it is impossible to now say, “I love God”, and to not love his Son, Jesus Christ. This can be expressed as an equation:

 

God – Jesus = Nothing

 

God minus Jesus equals nothing. “The Word became flesh” and literally ‘pitched his tent’ with us rebels, so that we could become children of God.

 

In the Old Testament, God dwelt with his people in a portable temple, called a ‘tabernacle’. It was a tent. This tent was a symbol of God’s presence in the middle of his people. God allowed ‘his name’ to dwell in Israel, symbolized by the tabernacle. But God was so close and yet he was still so far away. God dwelt with his people Israel, but only Israel’s high priest, one man, could enter into the inner room that was the heart of the tabernacle, and only once a year, and with the blood of sacrifices. But now and for us God has done so much more. Now God has become flesh and has tabernacled among us. The apostles and others were able to see, hear, and even touch him. He, God the one and only Son, became like us in every way except sin.

 

Jesus is truly God and truly human. Jesus is not two persons with two natures. Jesus is not two persons with one nature. Jesus is one person with two natures. Jesus is not God hiding in a human skin, pretending to be human. Jesus is not a mixture of God and man. It is not as if Jesus is part God and part man like Robocop is part man and part machine. Jesus is one person with two natures. He is truly God and truly human.

 

That is why Jesus Christ alone is the one mediator between God and humanity—because he is both truly God and truly man. Jesus being fully God and fully man explains why as a human he can fall sleep on a boat because he is worn out and tired (he is really human), and then the next moment can be woken up and calm the raging sea with a word (he is really God). The real Jesus did each of these things.

 

In the incarnation of Jesus Christ, God got on his knees for us.

 

I am not a natural father. I never found it easy entering into the world of my kids when they were young. I just can’t get off on singing ‘Old Macdonald Had a Farm’ four hundred times. But I know that when I was putting them first, I would get down on my knees and entered their world. I remember sitting in class with Amy as the teacher, and I was her student. And she is now a real teacher! I remember sitting in Maddy’s kitchen being served cups of tea. I remember how I would say to James, “Shall we go to the park”, and he would say, “mmm, good idea Daddy.” The more I did it, the more they loved it. “More Daddy, more!”, they would say.

 

God got on his knees and entered into our world. God has permanently sided with us. “The Word became flesh”. But the response of the world to the Word entering into our world was quite different to my children’s response to me. Instead of wanting to kiss him, they wanted to kill him. But God has always kept a people for himself.

 

The Receiving of the Light, Becoming Children of God (vv. 12-13, cf. v. 16)

 

12Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—13children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

 

Jesus has his quota of those who will accept him, both now and back then. In the last Australian Government census, 30% of the population ticked the ‘no religion’ box. That as a proportion of the population is now larger than Roman Catholics. We might be discouraged by that, but don’t forget that under an atheist government that has tried to snuff out the light of Jesus Christ for 66 years, China has become the country with the third largest number of Christians on earth. But the promise of Jesus Christ through John’s Gospel still stands: to those who receive Jesus Christ and believe in his name—to that group and only to that group—God gives the right, the authority, the power, to become and be called children of God.

 

It’s one thing for sinners to be forgiven by God. It’s quite another to be brought into God’s family and to be given the right to become children of God. No wonder John says that Jesus brings “grace instead of grace”, in verse 16, “Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace”. It’s an interesting and unusual phrase—grace on top of already given grace, grace instead of, and overflowing upon grace, grace from beginning to end. And the abundance of grace is shown in our being given the right to become children of God with the coming of Jesus Christ.

 

God is referred to as ‘Father’ on only 14 occasions in the Old Testament, and mostly it is only in a general sense. With the coming of Jesus Christ, and the incarnation of the Word, God the Father is mentioned 136 times in John’s Gospel alone. The big shift that happens when we move from the Old Testament to the New Testament—when the light shines brightest and when the Word became flesh and takes away the sins of the world—is that we get to call God our heavenly ‘Dad’.

 

One lady at MBM wrote this email to me. I read it out last year, but it’s so helpful that I want to do it again. She says:

 

I used to almost always pray to ‘the Lord’. I knew in my head that God was my Father, but I didn’t really believe it. A sister in Christ from MBM always prayed ‘Father’ and even ‘Daddy’ sometimes. It really bugged me until I asked myself, “Why it was so hard for me to refer to God as my Father?”. I realized that I didn’t really believe that he loved me—felt sorry for me, yes, saved me, yes, but actually loved me, no! Relating to God as my Father has made a difference in my walk with him. He is Lord, Saviour, Counselor, and Father. I recently talked to a brother in Christ who is battling with the wounds of his own father. I said to him to “let that pain drive you to your perfect Father”. We left praying to our heavenly Dad about the pain from our earthly fathers.

 

Our God and Father has urged us to cast all our cares on him. Do you suffer from low self-esteem? It’s time for you to go looking for ‘God-esteem’, and to see yourself in his eyes. Does your boss make you feel useless? Remember that Jesus is your boss, and he delights in every good work. Does your dad make you feel like you’re never good enough? The heavenly Father has lavished his love on you. Do you walk around as though you’re a nothing and worthless? You matter to God. Praise God for that. Brothers and sisters, tell your heavenly Dad you love him. Praise his name for adopting you into his family.

 

Have you ever wished that you belonged to another family? Of course you have. In some way, you have been embarrassed, disappointed, and wounded by your human family.

 

Well, the good news is that you’re in the best family in the western suburbs of Sydney. You’re in the best family in Australia. You’re in the best family in world. And I can say this because you are in God’s family, and he is your perfect Dad.

 

So whose decision was it for us to believe in Christ. Clearly it was ours, for it says “to those who received him” and “to those who believed in his name”. The decision to believe and receive Jesus Christ is a human decision here. It’s as clear as a bell. The word ‘believe’ is mentioned almost 100 times in John’s Gospel (94 to be precise), and it is never used as the noun ‘faith’ but it is always used in the form of the verb, ‘to believe’. It’s a doing word. It’s an active action word. We trust and keep on trusting.

 

But to believe is not just our decision. So verses 12-13:

 

Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

 

I remember one Bible study group I was in. We played “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” with the Bible study questions. And one of our number was going for the million dollars. The contestant was asked, “Without looking at the Bible, whose decision was it for you to be a child of God, based only on verse 13?” Was it: (a) Your father’s decision; (b) Your decision; (c) You were born a child of God; (d) God’s decision?

 

The contestant was unsure. She ‘phoned a friend’, and her friend said that it was her decision. And based on verse 12, that would have been a good answer, but the question was “whose decision was it” from verse 13. So she chose to take the option of ‘50/50’. This option cuts out two of the wrong answers in the multiple choice. So her decision was reduced to choosing between “(b) Your decision” and “(d) God’s decision”. She stuck to her guns and went for ‘(d)’. That is the correct but surprising answer. We are born of God, and God gave birth to our faith.

 

But how do I know that I am born of God? That’s easy! The question is answered in verses 12 and 13. The questions “have I received Jesus and believed in him?” (v. 12) and “am I born of God?” (v. 13) are in fact two sides of the same question. If you trust Jesus, then you are born of God and you are a child of God. And there is no greater blessing than to be adopted as a child of God. Let’s praise God for it.

 

Dear Father, we praise your name that your light has pierced the darkness of this world, and also into our hearts. You have made it possible for us to receive Jesus. You have given us the privilege of becoming children of God. There is no end to your blessings. Amen.

More from this series




John 4:27-54 | April 15, 2018 
Deeper Faith


John 4:1-26 | April 8, 2018 
True Worship On God’s Terms


John 2:23-3:15 | March 25, 2018 
You Must Be Born Again (PM)


John 2:13-22 | March 18, 2018 
Jesus The True Temple


John 2:1-12 | March 4, 2018 
Let’s Party – The Messiah Has Come


John 1:35-51 | February 25, 2018 
The Many Witnesses Of Jesus


John 1:19-34 | February 18, 2018 
Confessing Christ


John 1:4-18 | February 11, 2018 
Undressing God [Part 2]


John 1:1-3, 18 | February 4, 2018 
Undressing God [Part 1]