December 18, 2016
A New Look at Christmas
Pastor Philip De Courcy
John 1:1-18

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A New Look at Christmas will help Believers regain the wonder of the Christmas season and provide encouragement to proclaim Christ-the One Who is the irresistible Light of God, granting eternal life to those that believe.

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Well, let’s take our Bibles and turn to John chapter one. This morning we want to look at John chapter one, verses one through eighteen. A message I’ve entitled, A new look at Christmas. A new look at Christmas. We want to regain the wonder of this season, the marvelous miracle of the virgin birth, and coming of the Lord Jesus Christ to display and commend God’s love to the world. Sometimes we’ve gone through so many Christmas seasons and so many Christmas sermons, we can lose something of the wonder of it. And I think John gives us a new look at Christmas.So let’s stand in honor of God’s Word. John chapter one verse one. And follow along as we read through to verse 18, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him and without him nothing was made that was made. In him was life and the life was the light of man and the light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not comprehend it.”
Your translation might have, “Did not overcome it.” Which is probably a better translation. Verse 6, “There was a man sent from God whose name was John. This man came for a witness to bear witness of the light that all through him might believe. He was not that light, but he was sent to bear witness of that light that was the true light which gives light to every man coming into the world. 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 His own did not receive him, but as many as received him to them gave he the right to become the children of God. 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. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father full of grace and truth.
John bore witness of him and cried out saying this was he of whom I said, he comes after me, is preferred before me, for he was before me. Of his fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time. The only-begotten son who is in the bosom of the Father, he has declared him.” So reads God’s Word and you may be seated. John one verses one through 18, a new look at Christmas. A couple of years back, my daughter Angela and myself enjoyed a couple of days in New York. We had actually gone there to catch up with my other daughter, Laura, who was on tour with the Gettys and they were playing at Carnegie Hall.
And so we got to enjoy a Getty concert at Carnegie Hall. But while we were there, we got a double scoop of entertainment and enjoyment, because a friend of ours who lives part of the year in New York got us tickets for Les Miserable. And we went to Broadway and watched that wonderful show. In fact, this particular friend of mine, a man who had a friend who was a cast member in the performance, and so not only did we get to see the performance, which was something in and of itself, at the end of the performance, Angela and I went out to the side of the theater and this cast member came and greeted us with our friend and we got inside, we got backstage passes. And after the performance was done, this cast member just told us about the play, the performance, and we saw all that goes on behind the scenes.
Very insightful. Very, very, very interesting. Kind of added to the experience. We got to see, not only the foreground but the background, got a complete picture, got a new perspective. And as we come to John chapter one this morning, John takes us backstage to Bethlehem. He gives us a new perspective on the Christmas story or as I’ve entitled the sermon, he gives us a new look at Christmas. He wants us to have a theology of Christmas. He wants us to have a Christian Christmas where Christ is dead center of our celebration and commemoration. In fact, this was brought home to me in a comment made by an English pastor by the name of Tim Chester. In a book, the One True Light, he says this, “John’s version of the Christmas story is not the Christmas story we’ve come to expect. There’s no stable, no donkey, no star, there are no angels, no shepherds, and no wise man, even Mary and Joseph don’t get a look in.
Instead, the focus is entirely on Jesus, the God who became man. This is Christmas stripped bear and all that’s left is Jesus.” That’s quite a statement. That’s worth pondering. When you come to John’s gospel, when you come to the beginning of his gospel, no stars, no singing angels, no stable, no shepherds. Even Joseph and Mary are conspicuously absent. It’s Christmas stripped bear, it’s Christmas retold theologically. It’s a backstage to Bethlehem where we get to see that the one lying in the manger wrapped in swaddling clothes is none other than the Word who was with God and was God, and nothing was made that he didn’t make, yet he himself was made flesh. He wants us to ponder that. He wants us to regain the wonder of the season and the wonder of its significance. So let’s come to John chapter one. Let’s take a new look at Christmas, and there’s three things that I think the text presents to us.
Number one, the Word. Number two, the witness. And number three, the welcome. The Word, the witness, the welcome. Let’s jump right in. The Word. John speaks about the Word in verses one through five and in verses 14 through 18. See, the interesting thing about John’s gospel, John’s retelling of the Christmas story is where he begins. There’s no manger, no stable, no shepherds, no wise men, no Joseph, no Mary. No, he begins his story at the beginning of creation. He takes us beyond time to a time without time. And it’s all intentional because he wants to give us the story behind the Christmas story, and he wants us to know it’s a big one. He wants us to appreciate the one who lies on that bed of straw, the eternal Word, born in time, the one who made all things him self-made flesh. You remember the lines from that old hymn, “Who is he in yonder stall at whose feet the shepherds fall, tis the Lord, the king of glory. Tis the Lord o wondrous story. At his feet we humbly fall and crown him, crown him Lord of all.”
That’s what John wants us to get. You understand who lies in yonder stall. Tis the Lord the king of glory or as one other carol, hymn writer would put it, “Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, hail incarnate deity.” John gives us a theology of Christmas, a new look at Christmas. He wants us to have a spiritual Christmas, not a sentimental Christmas. Now as we come to consider the Word introduced here by John in the prologue to his gospel, there are several big things that he tells us about the Word. Number one, the Word has eternally existed. Look at verse one. In the beginning was the Word. The Word was in the beginning. It doesn’t say in the beginning the Word became or in the beginning the Word came to be.
In fact, the construction of the Greek is always was. It’s an imperfect tense Greek statement and it means the idea of continuance. The beginning of creation was not the genesis of the one who made all creation. And so the point is here that the Lord Jesus Christ already existed before anything existed. In fact, he’s the cause of all that exists. He was at the beginning. In fact, he is the beginning. Revelation 1:8, right? Who’s Jesus Christ? The Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. We need to get a new look at Christmas. We need to hear John as he retells it theologically. Christmas stripped bear where you only have Jesus left. And look at who Jesus is. He’s the Word that has eternally existed. Christ was uncreated, Christ was uncaused. Secondly, the Word has eternally existed with God. In the beginning was the Word. In the beginning, the Word always was, and the Word was with God.
Literally toward. A.T. Robertson, the great Southern Baptist linguist said, You could translate it face to face. “In the beginning the Word always was, and the Word who always was, was always face to face with God.” Wow. This is the one who lies in the manger. Oh, the wonder of it all. This speaks of intimacy with the Father, this speaks of communion within the Trinity. We believe in one God existing in three persons. One what, three whos. Father, Son, Spirit, co-equal, co-essential, co-eternal. And Jesus Christ is the eternal Word. Jesus Christ is the Son, the second person within the trinity. And look at verse 18. He existed in the bosom of the Father. That’s an endearing term that speaks of intimacy and love between Son and Father. Several big things here about the Word, the Word has existed eternally. The Word has eternally existed with God.
The Word has eternally existed as God. John isn’t done. And the Word was with God and the Word was God. If you wanted to translate that from the Greek, the Word God is actually before the Word Word. The Greek reads God was the Word. The Word who was with God was God the Word. And here we have a confession of Jesus’ deity. This book begins with a confession of Jesus’ deity and divinity. This book will end with Thomas saying to Jesus Christ, “My Lord and my God.” The gospel writers are not ashamed to declare their view that Jesus Christ was nothing less and nothing more other than God himself in essence and expression, fully and wholly God. Paul would say in him dwelt the fullness of the Godhead bodily. In fact, let me reinforce this idea of Jesus’ deity. Look at the wording of verse one.
In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. Does that kind of have an echo? Does that ring a bell? In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. John purposefully writes with language akin to Genesis one verse one. And if you read about Genesis one, we read that God says and speaks the creation into existence. Ten times the Word of God brings about the creation. But here’s the point I want us to get. John places Jesus where you expect to find God. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God because the Word was God, God the Word. So here we have this wonderful confession of Jesus deity, here we have a high Christology, come let us adore him because this is the eternal Word.
This is the son of the living God, the one who was at the beginning. But he existed before the beginning because he is the beginning of all living things. He was face-to-face with the Father. He is God himself and he has come in flesh. John, I think, he’s beginning to address the inroads of early gnosticism. Early gnosticism taught that the Lord Jesus Christ was an emanation from God, a kind of spiritual avatar, a mediator, a created being, a divine being but not God himself. One created by God to be his agent. And John is saying no, he was face-to-face with the Father. He was in the bosom with the Father. He created all things, but he himself is uncreated because he was with God and he was God. And John is trying to remind you and I not to let the sight of a baby in a manger, lying on straw in a smelly stable in a hickey little town called Bethlehem fool you, because that scene has God in human form at the center of it. Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man.
In fact, to quote Tim Chester again in his book, he told an interesting story. I don’t know if you know who the original Santa Claus was, let me tell you who he was. He was a man by the name of Saint Nicholas. He was a saint. He was a bishop in the early church, and he attended the council of Nicea in AD 325. And that council was brought about to declare that Jesus Christ was fully God and fully man, because there were those who were denying Jesus deity. They acknowledged his humanity but they denied his deity. They didn’t agree that he was uncreated and uncaused. They believe he was created and was the agent of creation. And the man who spotted that was a moment in the name of Arias, and his descendants to dare the Jehovah witnesses. And at that council he stands up and he denies the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ.
And you know what? St. Nicholas was listening quietly, the first Santa Claus. And he was listening to the arguments of Arias, and he put up with it for a while and he couldn’t stand it any longer. And according to the story I read, he gets up, goes across the room and just smacks the guy right on his mouth. It’s true Bill, I don’t know what we do with that. Maybe we should punch heretics at Christmas rather than exchange gifts. That’s what the first Santa Claus did. Now I’m not sure we want to go that far, but the point is this, Saint Nicholas stood up and said, “You’re not going to strip my Lord Jesus of his deity. You’re not going to demote him to a creature.” No, the one who came that first Christmas was in the beginning with God and he was God. He had no beginning, and nothing was made that he didn’t make and you’re not going to unmake him.
And I trust as we take a new look at Christmas that you and I will commit ourselves a fresh as a church to have a robust, wonderful, glorious doctrine of the Lord Jesus Christ and be unashamed of him and the claims of the gospels that we read and we believe. Here’s another thing we learned about the Word, the Word who has eternally existed with and as God brought all things into existence. Look at verse three. “All things were made through him and without him nothing was made that was made.” It’s an amazing statement. Look at verse 10. “He was in the world and the world was made through him and the world did not know him.” The Word who has eternally existed with God and as God is the agent of creation. Go back to Genesis one and you’ll see that God spoke the worlds into existence.
The free, as God said, is there 10 times. The world was created by God, but John is telling us, through the agency of the Word, Jesus Christ the Son. You want an explanation of creation? Doesn’t lie in physics, it lies in a person. The Lord Jesus Christ. Paul bears that up, doesn’t he? Colossians chapter one, verses 15 through 17, Paul will remind us of that which John speaks here. “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation for by him all things were created that are in heaven and in earth, visible and invisible, thrones or dominions, principalities or powers. All things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things and in him all things consist.” All things find their center. All things find their cohesion. Read the writings of men like Stephen Hawking and they’ll tell you, the eventual goal of science is to provide a single theory that describes the whole universe. Folks look no further, Jesus Christ is the singular theory presented in the Word of God that explains the whole universe.
That’s why we have a Son centered world as Christians. Not S-U-N, S-O-N. A Son centered universe. In him all things cohere, consists, all things find their center. Here’s one other thing brings us to the heart of this passage. The Word who has eternally existed was born in time, and the Word who made all things was made flesh. That’s amazing, isn’t it? Verse 14, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” That’s the staggering, surprising centerpiece of this passage. The reality that the eternal God was born in time, that he who is the source of life itself hangs on the breast of a teenage mother. He who was the creator has took to himself creatureliness. He who was the sovereign is now the servant. He who is the prince is now the pauper. It’s amazing. God has added to his deity, humanity. This is a new look at Christmas. This is Christmas retold theologically. This is Christmas stripped bear where all you have left as Jesus. But he’s enough to capture our attention.
He’s the Word who spoke the worlds into existence, who has always existed, who was face to face with the Father, who was worshiped by angels, who was God himself. But as Paul will say, “He didn’t hold on to that all. He didn’t grasp that, but he made himself of no reputation, took on the likeness of man, came in the form of a servant.” That’s amazing. Jesus Christ became something he never was, a man. But I need to say this, he never ceased to be what he always was. See when we talk about the Lord Jesus, we’re talking about one person with two natures. He’s unique. He’s God and he’s man. He’s not half God and half man. He’s not all God and no man, all man and no God. He’s God and man, he’s the God man. One person, two natures, and we need to marvel at it and we need to worship in the light of it. Jesus Christ added humanity to his deity. By the way, forever. He carried our humanity to the heights of the throne.
There’s a man in heaven today who is God and man, the Lord Jesus Christ, who’s a wonderful high priest, who’s touched with the feelings of our weakness because he himself added our weakness to his omnipotence. And he’s a wonderful representative for us before the face of God. Jesus, the Word, didn’t commit divine suicide when he was made flesh, but the marvel of it is that he who brought all things into existence became a two celled human being in the belly of a teenage girl. It’s an amazing statement. In fact, words don’t communicate it well enough. But I came across this quote by Peter Lewis, a pastor in England who I think makes a good stab at trying to summarize what we’re talking about here, “What no gentile philosopher would have believed and what no Jewish theologian would have conceived, God did. The Word became flesh, the highest being became a lowly creature.
The source of life became a dying man. The ultimate fact became a commonplace feature. While philosophers and mystics were seeking to escape the flesh and free themselves from the spirit, God who is spirit became flesh.” It’s amazing. Gives us a new look at Christmas. Reminds us of the wonder of this season, and it puts Christianity into a category all of its own. This is something that Islam denies. Islam believes that Jesus Christ was a prophet but was not God incarnate. In fact, to call Jesus Christ God’s son is blasphemy within Islam. In Hinduism you have many and multiple incarnations, emanations of god’s from the one supreme being. In Buddhism, there’s nothing close to this. Buddha did not claim to be divine, and the unique thing about him was not him. It was his teaching. But the unique thing about Christianity is him. Him who was the Word, who in the beginning was the beginning of all things, and he was face-to-face with the Father who was fully God but added to his deity, humanity.
Was made flesh so that someday on a cross as Paul would say, “He who knew no sin would be made sin for us so that we who are sinful might be made the righteousness of God by putting our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.” Christianity is in a category all of its own. In fact, I was reading a quote from a convert to Christianity from Islam this week. Listen to these words. “It was the fact of the incarnation which made me fall in love with Christianity. God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself. To a Muslim the very idea of God becoming man is blasphemous, but it was this blasphemy that saved me from unbelief. To me it came to be the most natural thing.” It’s not blasphemy. It’s beautiful that God would be in Christ reconciling the world to himself. There’s two things here we don’t want to go running past.
I just want to drill down into some of the stuff I’ve been talking about, but as we look at the Word, the Word who was eternally existing before anything existed, who was face to face with the Father who was God himself, who became flesh, became man, took to himself a human body, human psychology and human physiology. Amazing miracle, an amazing marvel and he did it without dilution of who he already was. There was no corruption or compromise between him being God and him being man. One person, two natures in wonderful harmony. And Jesus Christ the Word came to reveal God and to redeem mankind. He came to reveal God. That’s one of the great purposes of the incarnation. Look at verse 14, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld his glory.” Now remembered verse 18, no man has seen God at any time.
The heavens have declared his glory. And at times God’s presence in glorious concentrated form was to be found in the tabernacle and the temple. And one time Moses hid in the cleft of a rock as God passed by, but he saw the backside of God. No man has seen God at any time. But we beheld his glory in the person and figure of Jesus Christ. That’s what Jesus Christ came to do. He came to reveal God. And that’s an amazing statement. Look at verse 18. “No man has seen God in any time the only-begotten son who is in the bosom of the Father. He has declared him.” Interesting word, guys. It’s a preacher’s word. It means to exegete. If you’ve gone to hermeneutics class or taken one of our KU classes and get into that. Hermaneutics is the science of interpretation, leading to faithful correct exposition, exegesis of the text.
What is exegesis? It’s uncovering and bringing out and disclosing and putting before people the meaning of the text. And that’s what Jesus Christ did for us. He exegeted God, the God who was hidden, the God whom no man has seen. Jesus Christ disclosed him, uncovered for us, in understandable terms, the character of God, the love of God, the grace of God, the will of God, the purposes of God. That’s what Jesus Christ did. In fact, if you were to add another thought to this, this whole concept of the Word has occupied the minds of the greatest theologians, and much ink has been spelt, but I’m just going to summarize my own understanding of it. Some have seen a connection with Greek philosophy. My intuition would put it with Hebrew theology. John’s very construction of this verse has an echo of Genesis one where God said, and it was so, where God spoke in the world come into existence. And I think just as with us, as our words give self-expression of us and an extension of us.
What’s the Word? I think the simplest way to put it, to borrow a free is from D.A. Carson in his commentary in John, “The Word is the self-expression of God.” That’s who Jesus Christ is. He’s the self-expression of God. What a marvelous thing. Jesus is the Word that explains God. You say, “Pastor, what is God like? Where can I find him? Can you know him? Can you have a relationship with him?” These are the questions that religion seeks to answer. But the Bible has a final and full answer regarding what is God like. He’s like Jesus Christ, because Jesus Christ was God, and he had been face to face with the Father as the Son. And he was uncreated and uncaused, and he made all things and yet he came and was made flesh. And as Jesus said to his own disciples, “When you saw me, you saw the Father.”
In fact, that phrase, we beheld his glory, is terminology from the book of Exodus and speaks about the glory of God in the tabernacle, or speaks about Moses encounter with God on the mountain. And you know what? If you look at verse 14, the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, tabernacled among us would be a good translation. It’s a throwback to the tabernacle, the tent of meeting, the temple to come where God’s glory could be found and God’s presence could be encountered. And that’s what we have in the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Word that explains God. God is not a mystery. God is a man who was one with us so that we might be once again one with him through faith in the one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus. Isn’t it a wonderful thing to know this morning God has revealed himself to us?
You see, only God can reveal himself. And God has revealed himself in the self-expression of the Word, the Son, who was God and was with God. And not only is it a wonderful thing to know this Christmas that God has revealed himself because God wants us to know him, God knows us and knows everything about the life we live. Oh, the Greek deities, they would never dirty their hands with human experience. To other religions, it’s an inconceivable thought that God the Spirit would add to himself human flesh. But the uniqueness of Christianity is that’s exactly what God did. And God knows us this morning, and he knows about the life we live and the temptations we face and the heartaches we encounter. In fact, in my reading this week, I came across a quote from an English pastor by the name of Paul Mallard.
His wife has got MS. It has had disabling effects on her, but both of them have found comfort in the incarnation. Listen to his Words. “I love the doctrine of the incarnation. I love the fact that it is true. I love the fact that it’s mysterious and awesome. I love the fact that it assures me that Christ knows and understands my deepest distresses.” He does. There’s a man in glory. The Word was made flesh and has remained so. He has added humanity to himself forever, and it has qualified him to be a great high priest according to Hebrews two and Hebrews four. In his commentary on John, [inaudible 00:31:12] tells the story, and I’ve told you it before, of Charles Steinmetz, a mechanical genius, a friend of Henry Ford who built one of the great plants there in Detroit for the Ford Motor Company. And one particular day the assembly line plant broke down and so Ford calls Steinmetz, asks them to come over and he comes over and for a few minutes he tinkers around, throws a switch and boom, it’s all working again.
A few days later Ford receives a bill from Steinmetz to the tune of $10,000. It’s quite a bit of money back then. Big bucks. Ford’s a little taken back, so he sends the bill back with this footnote, “Charlie, don’t you think your bill is a little high for just a little tinkering?” Steinmetz sent back a revised bill, itemized, tinkering $10. Knowing where to tinker, $9,990. And [inaudible 00:32:08] says this and it packs quite a wallop. Only Jesus knows where the tinkering should be done in our lives. He knows how to keep us in perfect running order. Christ always knows which screw to turn, which belt to loosen and the most beneficial octane, because you see, what does Paul say? All things what cohere in him. He’s at the center of creation. He’s the Lord of glory. My friend, you can’t be fully alive if you’re not alive to the reality of Jesus Christ.
But Jesus Christ not only came to reveal God, he came to redeem mankind. Christ coming at Christmas was a revelation of God’s love for the world. John tells us that, and that’s expressed no better than in chapter three, verse 16 and 17, right? “For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten son, the whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.” Jesus Christ came to rescue. Jesus Christ came to redeem. He came to rescue man from the consequences and the cost of his disobedience towards God because the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through the Lord Jesus Christ.
And so Jesus Christ comes through his birth to give us a new birth. And as we trust what he did on the cross, where he paid for our sin, and if we embrace the truth that he has vanquished death in his resurrection, and death will not have the final say in life or our lives, you and I can enjoy a new life. But he not only came to give new birth to people, he came to bring a new beginning to the creation. Because it’s interesting to me in John chapter one that the Lord Jesus Christ is described as the Word who was in the beginning, the Word who was with God and the Word who was God. He was in the beginning with God and all things were made through him. But when he comes at Christmas, we see in his miracles acts of recreation, where death and darkness and despair are dispelled. The sick are healed, the dead are raised. Because you see his life and his light, according to verses four and five, and in these actions he’s telegraphing and he’s promising that indeed the curse will be reversed.
That the creation that is now spoiled by the fall of man, in disobedience to God, resulting in death and disease and despair, well he has come to recreate and reorder, and he will do that in his death and he will do that in his resurrection. In fact, when you read John in the book of the Revelation, where does he sign off close to the end? “And he makes all things new.” That’s what he came to do, to make all things new. And it starts with a new creation, the church, and it will end with another new creation, a world made new where there’s no more sickness, no more death. That’s why Jesus Christ came. He came to reverse the curse and the consequences of sin. Let’s move on to the last two thoughts. Do these very quickly. The Word, the witness. The apostle John tells us that there’s someone who spoke about the Word before the Word spoke. We read in verse six, there was a man sent from God, his name was John, and he came to bear witness to the light, right?
He’s not the light. Verse eight, “But he was sent to bear witness to the light, the true light that gives light to every man coming into the world.” So you’ve got the Word and you’ve got this figure, John, who’s a witness to the Word. He speaks of the Word before the Word speaks. And then when the Word turns up, the baptism, John, he decreases and Jesus Christ increases. You’ll notice his authority was from God, verse five. You’ll notice his message was one of grace, verse 16 and 17. Of his fullness, we have received grace, for grace, the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by the Lord Jesus Christ. The goal was to see people saved, verse seven. That’s the point I really want to underscore. This man came for a witness to bear witness of the light. Now, he wasn’t the light, but he was sent to bear witness of the light. And look at the phrase at the end of verse seven, “That all through him,” that’s John, “might believe.” Do remember Acts one verse eight, “You are my witnesses.”
So I hope this Christmas season in the hubbub of all that goes on in your home and outside your home, that you will not forget that you too have been commissioned by the Lord Jesus Christ to be his witness. You have an authority from God. Your message is one of grace, and your goal is this season to lead someone to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. That was John’s mission, that was John’s goal that indeed all through him might believe. What’s this Gospel of John all about? It’s all about awakening faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. In John 20 verse 31, we read, “These things are written that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ.” John wants people to believe. That’s John the beloved disciple. And John the Baptist wants people to believe and that’s why he prepared a way for the Lord. That’s why he came preaching repentance.
Would you be Christ’s witness this season? This is a little sermon in itself, but as I was studying this week, I just wrote down an acrostic of the word witness and I come up with several words to go with it that would challenge you. W, watchful, be a watchful witness. Look for opportunities to share the gospel. They’re all around you. I, be intentional. Be praying about it. Be looking for it. Have a plan. Think about what you might say given an opportunity to say it. Have a tract in your purse. Have something you can give. Grab a CD, be intentional. Be watchful. T, be tactful. You’re going to share the gospel about the one who came bearing God’s grace. Be graceful, tactful, winsome. N, be natural. Be natural. What’s a witness? A witness is someone who talks about what they have seen and what they have heard.
You need to do that. Tell someone about what the Lord Jesus has done for you. What the Lord Jesus means for you. E, be eager. Be an eager witness. Be one who’s got a passion to lead people to Christ. S, scriptural. Be assured [inaudible 00:39:13] in the Word of God as it’s echoed in your own experience. And S, be spirit filled. Because you see, people, if they’re to come to faith in the Lord Jesus, according to verse 13, must be born of God. It’s the spirit’s job to convince man of sin, righteousness and judgment. It’s the spirit’s passion to point people to the Lord Jesus Christ. And so you need to be filled by him if you’re going to be an effective witness. Be watchful, intentional, tactful, natural, eager, scriptural, spirit filled. Let me finish with this story and get to the last point. Mark Hitchcock, my friend in Oklahoma, sent me this story of a monk in a monastery in Germany who was scared to death about preaching class.
And he went into the monsignor and he shared with the monsignor, “You know what? Why don’t you get me double duty cleaning the toilets or scrubbing the floors, but don’t ask me to preach.” Monsignor said, “We can’t do that.” And he says, “In fact, you’re best, facing your fears, you’re up tomorrow in chapel.” So the fateful day came, and according to the story, this nervous monk stands up and he starts the sermon by saying, “Brothers, do you know what I’m going to say?” Then they all shook their heads in the negative, to which he replied, “Neither do I. Let’s stand for the benediction. Peace beyond to you.” Well, the monsignor’s fuming. He says, “You’re not getting away with that. You’re up tomorrow.” Next day he stands up, begins the sermon, “Brothers, you know what I’m going to say?” This time the all nod in the affirmative. To which he says, “Since you already know what I’m going to say, there’s no point saying it. Let’s stand for the benediction. Peace beyond to you.”
Well, this did it. The monsignor’s livid. He’s not going to let him off. And he says, “You’re not getting off tomorrow, and if you don’t deliver tomorrow, you’re in the sin bin.” So tomorrow comes and he stands up and he says, “Brothers, do you know what I’m going to say?” Well, by this stage they are all in complete confusion. So some of them nod their head in the affirmative, some shake their head in the negative, to which he replies, “Well then let those who know, tell those who don’t. Let’s stand for the benediction.” I like the story. According to Mark the point of the story is this, “Let those who know, tell those who don’t.” That’s what we’re called to do. You know what? People all around us will see some nativity scene, they’ll hear a Christmas carol in the background at the mall or whatever, but they don’t have the foggiest idea that we’re actually singing about and talking about the Word who was in the beginning, and who was face to face with the Father, and who was God, and who made all things.
Nothing was made that he didn’t make. And the amazing thing he was made flesh. That he might be made sin on the cross. That we might be made right with God through faith and what he has done on our behalf. Which closes us with the welcome. The welcome. This would be verses nine through 13. You see the intent of the gospel is to see people believe in Jesus. So it shouldn’t be any surprise, should it, that John opens the door of the Gospel of John with an invitation right away, right at the beginning of the book, to put your faith in the Lord Jesus. Look at verses 11 and 12, especially. “He that is the Word came to his own in the flesh and his own did not receive him, but as many as receive him to them he gives the right to become the children of God to those who believe in his name.”
Right out the gate John swings the door open. He’s talked about the Word and he’s talked about the witness to the Word, and now he issues a welcome. He wants those that read his gospel to believe and receive the son of God, and receiving the son of God, they will be conferred the right to be God’s children. It’s wonderful. So wonderful that John will write later, “Behold, what manner of love that is being bestowed upon us that we should be called the sons of God. And it does not yet appear what we shall be, but when he shall appear, we’ll be like him.” John softens the sweeping rejection of the Messiah by stressing a believing remnant. “But as many as received him to them gave he the power to become the sons of God.” That’s a staggering truth, isn’t it? That the creator became one of us, that we might be one with him. That we might be part of his family. That we might be friends with his son. That we might have a home in heaven forever.
Because Jesus will say later in this gospel, “I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go away, I will come again and receive you onto myself. Now, if you receive me on earth, I’m going to receive you in heaven. I’m the son who has come to make you a son or daughter of God.” That’s a marvelous truth. “I was made flesh so that on a cross I might be made sin so that through faith in me you might be made right with God.” My friend, you need to believe in him, you need to receive him. As the team comes up, I’ll tell you a wonderful story associated with a preaching professor from a seminary who is traveling through Tennessee with his wife, and they pull into a little diner and they just want to sit and enjoy some privacy and some downtime. But they notice there’s a bit of a hubbub around the restaurant because this man’s going from table to table, introducing himself and getting into all kinds of conversations with the clientele.
And this professor keeps his head down. He’s not really there for a conversation. He wants a little bit of quietness and privacy, but before he knows it, this particular man’s standing at the end of his table. Well, he says, “Sir, who are you?” And reluctantly, Fred Craddock says, “Well, I’m Fred Craddock and this is my wife.” And he says, “Well, what brings you to these parts?” Tells him, “Well, we’re having a little bit of a vacation and down time.” He says, “Well sir, what do you do?” Fred says, “Well, I’m actually a professor at a theological school.” And this man says, “You mind if I sit down? I have a preacher’s story.” At this stage he’s kind of given in and surrendered. And so he allows them on to sit down, intrude upon their lunch. And the man points out the window, he said, “You see those mountains?
I grew up in those mountains. I was born into a home with a single mother, didn’t have a father. Didn’t even know my father. Now, way back then, you know what? That was a scourge. As I went about the town I could tell people were looking through me, and in school the kids teased me about my illegitimacy.” He says, “Until one day,” he said, “you know, there was a lot of hubbub about the town because a new preacher had come to the church. And everybody was going to church, people that didn’t even go to church. I didn’t go to church, but I heard the preacher was good, so I went to church with everybody else who was going to church.” He says, “Although I intended to slip into the back and make a quick getaway because you know what, I’m the illegitimate son without a father, wouldn’t be right for church folks to see me.”
And he says, “That day,” he says, “I couldn’t get out because the place is packed. Before I got out, that preacher had his hand on my shoulder and he said, well son, what’s your name? Before I answered that question, he asked me another question, and who’s your father?” He says, “He couldn’t have asked me a worst question in a company like that.” He says, “I wanted to put my head down. I didn’t know what to say. Before I even answered that question, he answered it for me. He says, you know what son? I’ll tell you who your father is. He says, your father’s God in heaven. You’re his child through faith in his son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Now go and claim your inheritance.” And he said, “I want skipping out of that church. And that little statement changed my life. You’re God’s son, now go claim your inheritance.”
He says, “That’s a good preacher’s story. You should use that some day.” Then he gets up and leaves. After a few moments, a waitress comes by picking up the bill said, “You know who you were talking to?” Fred Craddock says, “No.” She said, “You were talking to Ben Hooper, two time governor of the state of Tennessee. Born into a single mother’s home. No father. Mocked as an illegitimate child in the community, but a gospel preacher reminded him one day, but as many as receive him, to them gives he the power, the authority, to be called the children of God.” That changed Ben Hooper’s life. My friend, it can change yours. Let’s pray.
Lord, we thank you for this passage, Christmas stripped bear. Thank you that John leaves us with nothing and no one but Jesus, the one who was in the beginning with God, and the one who was God, the one who made all living things, but he himself was made flesh and moved into our neighborhood, lived the life we could not live, died a death we could not die. The sinless Son of God bearing our sin. And if we’ll receive him, he’ll reorder our lives. He’ll give us a new life and the promise of a new world. Because he was the creator of all things, he’s come to recreate that which is broken, spoiled, and damaged by sin and man’s foolishness and man’s wickedness. So Lord, help us today to have a Ben Hooper experience, to encounter the great truth of the gospel, and the wonder of that first Christmas. For we ask and pray it all in Jesus’ name. Amen.