Hervey Bay Presbyterian Church

Why does Christ need to reveal Himself, and how does it happen?

Scripture Readings

  • 1 John 4:7-16
  • John 14:15-31

Introduction

Dear friends in the Lord,

One of the pleasures in our advanced digital society is to talk to robots when you ring enquiries of some more significant enterprises. It sometimes takes many minutes, and many entries into the keypad to get to the right department— if you are fortunate. But it’s only about then when the testing of your civility is really put to the test. Here’s the problem: many companies outsource their support departments to outfits overseas. The issue quickly explodes when the person who is supposed to help you speaks in an accent you really can’t understand. It takes multiple times of asking, and numerous times of explaining before you finally realise life is better living with the problem, rather than trying to fix it.

It is undoubtedly exceedingly difficult to explain something if you don’t really know the technical terms to describe your problem, and the situation is compounded if the person you asked don’t understand your question, and you, then, in exchange have no idea what he meant.
Let’s keep this in mind as we approach the sermon today. The question is, “Why does God reveal Himself only to his own, and how?

Let’s begin at the beginning.

Darkness, unbelief, no knowledge

John begins his Gospel and sketches the picture for us. God created the world in the beginning. Christ was the agent through which God created the universe. He is called the Word.

Through Him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. (John 1:3–4, NIV)

Between creation and the Gospel of John, something terrible happened: The world was plunged in spiritual darkness. Although the world was made through Christ, the people of the world did not know it. Although it belonged to Him, they, in unbelief, did not receive Him.
There were darkness, unbelief and no knowledge. Sin caused mankind to be spiritually blind. They did not speak the language of God, and they could not understand God. What they understood well, was darkness and the voice of the prince of darkness.

For them, and us, to hear God, to understand Him, see Him and receive Him, was not possible. We did not speak the same language, we did not have any communication. There is no option for us—we didn’t need to do anything to become sinners and be separated from God, we were born sinners. We had no choice between light and darkness, we were born into darkness. We are not born into a state of somewhere between darkness and light, so that by our choosing we slide one way or the other. We are born on the wrong side. Isaiah describes it in these terms:

But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear. So justice is far from us, and righteousness does not reach us. We look for light, but all is darkness; for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows. Like the blind we grope along the wall, feeling our way like people without eyes. At midday we stumble as if it were twilight; among the strong, we are like the dead. (Isaiah 59:2, 9–10, NIV)

How do we get out of this mess?

There is good news:

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. (John 1:14, NIV)

The author of Hebrews puts it this way:

In the past, God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. (Hebrews 1:1–2, NIV)

Jesus Christ is the One who communicates between the Father and us. He is God’s Word.

To become children of God, we need a few things to happen: we need revelation, we need light, we need a new life, we need faith.

Revelation

Judas, not Iscariot, asked Jesus while they were still in the Upper Room with Christ in the night before Christ was arrested to be crucified the next morning,

“But, Lord, why do You intend to show Yourself to us and not to the world?” (John 14:22, NIV)

This question follows the disclosure of Christ in the previous verse where He said:

Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.” (John 14:21, NIV)

The expression “has my commands” is synonymous with “receive”, and it takes us back to the statement in the beginning: those in darkness did not receive Him. Light did not receive Him. Jesus said:

The world cannot accept Him (the Holy Spirit), because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you know Him, for He lives with you and will be in you. (John 14:17, NIV)

So, what happens between living in darkness and receiving light? Quite a lot. The eyes of our heart open when the Holy Spirit gives us a new life. The Bible calls it “the birth from above”, to be born again. Then alone can we see and understand. John the Baptist said,

“A person can receive only what is given them from heaven. (John 3:27, NIV)

What was the mission of Christ? The woman at the well  answers, 

“I know that Messiah (called Christ) is coming. When he comes, He will explain everything to us.” (John 4:25, NIV)

Indeed!  He makes Himself known.  He declares Himself.

“Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. (John 5:24, NIV)

When our Lord answered Judas when he asked why He is going to reveal Himself to them and not to the world, He actually wanted them to know that without his revelation no sinner would not understand. Christ is the Word of God. Christ came into the world and became one of us. He speaks our language, and He understands our need.

But He has to stir our hearts out of death to understand who He really us, and to understand our need for salvation.  When He does it, He plants faith, life, light and the ability to receive the grace of God.

What is very critical to understand is that not all people receive the grace of God. Jesus said: “The world hates Me”. (John 7:7) Further into the same chapter we read that some  received Christ, and others were divided about Him. The leaders even insisted that He is devil-possessed. They wanted to kill Him. Why? Christ made it clear to them: they are born of darkness, born into darkness, and they served the prince of darkness.

Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” (John 8:43 47, NIV)

Does it take you back to the telephone conversation where it seems no one understands no one?

Some people can hear the Gospel of Christ a thousand times preached in simple language and still walk away untouched. See, not all people are going to heaven. Some inevitably will end up in hell. Jesus said:

“For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.” (John 9:39, NIV)

Another verse:

Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. (John 3:18–19, NIV)

So, my friend, you might sit next to Judas asking why and how is Christ is revealing Himself to you today? The answer to the “why” is this:

“Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching.” (John 14:23)

By this, you will know if you belong to Him. “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:8, NIV) That’s the test. Are you a child of God? You will know if you love Him. And you will love Him because He loved you first. Here’s the test:

Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. (John 14:24, NIV)

There is a simple, but glorious, answer to the “how”:

My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. (John 14:23, NIV)

Think about it: the Creator of the universe pours his love out on sinners, on me, on you. Both He and the Son make their home in us. Your life should be the throne of the eternal, loving, saving God who made a claim on your life through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

How does He live in us? By his Holy Spirit.

This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. (1 John 4:13, NIV)

The ministry of the Spirit is to teach us to understand who Christ is, and more about the love of the Father.

What is the result? We have peace.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27, NIV)

Is there more? Sure! Joy.

I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. (John 15:11, NIV)

But there’s more! Jesus declared:

I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me… (John 14:30, NIV)

That’s why our Lord can give us this assurance:

I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. (John 10:28–29, NIV)

We need revelation, we need light, we need a new life, we need faith. Where does it come from? It comes through the words of Jesus Christ:

These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. All this I have spoken while still with you. (John 14:24–25, NIV)

Conclusion

Why does God reveal Himself only to his own, and how?

The Word answers:

  • We are all born in darkness and need light. We are all in need of faith to see and receive Christ.
  • Not all who hear the word will believe, but those whom the Father has given to his Son will listen to his voice and follow Him.
  • Christ makes Himself known to us to enable us to receive Him as Lord and Saviour.

How does He do it?

  • He lays down his life for the sheep.
  • He gives us his Word
  • He gives us his Holy Spirit.

Can you be sure that you are a child of God? Yes, listen to his voice, receive Him because

…to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— (John 1:12, NIV)

Do you want to go home today with peace and joy in your heart? Take this assurance with you:  If Christ is your Saviour, no-one can snatch you out of his hand. Above all, if you know Christ as the truth, the truth will set you free, and if He sets you free, you will be free indeed.

Amen.

Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 20 January 2019

 

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Grace, forgiveness, restoration

Bible Readings

  • 1John 1:5-2:6
  • 1Samuel 12:6-25

Introduction

Dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,

Of all the parables of our Lord Jesus Christ I relate very well to the one of the wayward son.  This parable is about four lost things:  a coin, a sheep, and  two sons.  The headings added by some translators are missing the point:  it’s not about the lost coin, or the lost sheep, and even one son—the last it about two wayward sons, but surely not a prodigal son.  To be “prodigal”is to be wasteful, especially with one’s money—and the parable has nothing to say about being wasteful.

Although the father pleaded with the elder son and assured him of his love, the hardness of his heart resisted the restoring love of the father. That’s why he too was lost.

What the parables want to bring home is that the coin, the sheep and the younger son were found by the owner who cared. That’s the point! And over and over our Lord repeats:

I tell you, in the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:10, CSB)

And this aspect of grace keeps knocking me over every time I think about it. In our sinfulness we walk away from God, we want to do our own thing, we then fall in a heap, but the cords of love we enjoyed in the presence of our Father, draw us back.  In his faithfulness and mercy, God forgives and restores.  This is the message of all Scripture: the holy God who bows down to an underserving and sinful world, and then provides a way out if this sinful mess in and through the sacrifice of his Son Jesus Christ.

Grace

According to 1 Samuel 12 he is now and old man, grey, about to hang up the boots.  He calls the people to bring charges against him, if they have any, before he hands over.  Has he taken anything from anyone unlawfully?  (“Taken” in this context stands against the charges brought against the sons of Eli who “took” what be longed to the Lord, and also stole what did not belong to them.  The future king would also “take”, and even Samuel’s own sons “took” bribes.)

Has Samuel defrauded anyone?  Was anyone oppressed?  Was anyone bribed?  No!  Can you hear these words echoed in the words of Paul?

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. There is reserved for me in the future the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me, but to all those who have loved His appearing. (2 Timothy 4:7–8, CSB)

Samuel had been faithful and true to the God who appointed him. But he was not sinless; he too needed a sacrifice and atonement blood to be forgiven.  More later.

Our High Priest and Prophet, Jesus Christ, superseded and was far more superior to Samuel.  He never sinned in any way.  Yes, He only gave.  He did not come to be served, but to serve.  He knelt and washed the feet of his own.  The only thing He took was our trespasses to become sin for us, in order that we might in Him become the righteousness of God (2Corinthians 5:21).  Him we worship as our perfect High Priest. The writer of Hebrews helps us to understand the superiority of Christ.  A human high priest “… is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he is also subject to weakness. Because of this, he must make a sin offering for himself as well as for the people.” (Hebrews 5:2–3, CSB) But of Christ he writes:

“… though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him, called by God as High Priest “according to the order of Melchizedek, …” (Hebrews 5:8–10, NKJV)

Call to life

Samuel used the last opportunity to address the people to plead for the people before God.

Now therefore, stand still [maybe,“be quiet”], that I may reason with you before the Lord concerning all the righteous acts of the Lord which He did to you and your fathers: (1 Samuel 12:7, NKJV)

Moses used the same word and command of Moses in Exodus 14:13 when the Israelites were in a panic with the army of the pharaoh behind them and the mighty waters of the Red Sea in front of them. Moses said to the people,

“Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. (Exodus 14:13, NKJV)

Now Samuel connects these events and applied it to the people who away turned from God, and rejected his Kingship by asking for a king so that they could be like the nations around them.  In essence they formally walked away from God in rebellion.  Do you see the attitude of the younger son of the parable?

What Samuel said was to remind them of God’s love and how He compassion on his people.  Samuel recalls God’s acts of rescuing his people from slavery out of Egypt, and later out the clutches of Sisera, and again from the commander of Hazor’s army, and out of the oppression of the Philistines too.  He gave them leaders like Gideon, Barak and Jephthah, and even Samuel himself.

Samuel preached about the God’s great act of salvation, pleading with them to worship God.  This “plead” is a word used in legal sense.  An advocate pleads on behalf of his client, or brings charges against a perpetrator.  Samuel did both:  he charged the people with their sins, but he also pleaded for them before God.

Samuel hammered in the fact that they sinned by asking for a king, and pointed to Saul, “Look at him, God answered your prayers.”

Is it all over now?  Will God forsake you and leave you in the hands of this feeble man?  Have they missed the boat?

Has the lost son forfeited everything, even the love of his father?  No!  There is still opportunity for grace, forgiveness and restoration.

If you fear the Lord and serve Him and obey His voice, and do not rebel against the commandment of the Lord, then both you and the king who reigns over you will continue following the Lord your God. (1 Samuel 12:14, NKJV)

The next verse spells out the opposite, “the hand of the Lord will be against you!” And it is a dreadful thing to fall in the hands of the living God!

The prophet then called upon God to do an extraordinary thing:  to send thunder and rain upon the grain which was ready for harvest.  Why?  It was to illustrate to them that their actions were a mirror of the disruption of the God-ordained pattern of relationship that should be between them and the Lord. Israel moved out of its proper relationship with the Lord; now Lord ordained that nature would move out of its proper pattern with the people. This terrified the Israelites, for they understood that it could point to more severe disturbances as God spelled in the his Covenant with them.

Repentance and forgiveness

They then begged Samuel to pray for them, to intercede so that they would not die.  They realised they had made an enemy of the living God.  They begged:

“Pray to the Lord your God for your servants so that we will not die, for we have added to all our other sins the evil of asking for a king.” (1 Samuel 12:19, NIV)

They needed some to intercede for them.  Samuel did!

Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you. (1 Samuel 12:23, NKJV)

This is the amazing aspect of grace. Then Samuel said to the people,

“Do not fear. You have done all this wickedness; yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. And do not turn aside; for then you would go after empty things which cannot profit or deliver, for they are nothing. (1 Samuel 12:20–21, NKJV)

Why?  “For the Lord will not forsake His people, for His great name’s sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you His people.” (1 Samuel 12:22, NKJV)

Restoration

The younger son went after all the empty things which profited him nothing and could not deliver what he craved for: he dreamed of freedom, but ended up in slavery.  At that point the loving care of his father overcame him.

“I will go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. (Luke 15:18, NIV)

Like Samuel, and more than Samuel, our Lord, our Mediator, stood before God.  He,

During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, [he] offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the One who could save Him from death, and He was heard because of his reverent submission. (Hebrews 5:7, NIV)

God heard the cry of his Son, not only for Himself, but for those He came to set free.  Samuel said if he would not intercede for the people he would sin.  But he stressed upon them “to fear the Lord and serve Him faithfully with all your heart” and to “consider what great things He has done for you.”  (1Samuel 13:24)

Jesus is still doing it. That’s our verse from 1 John this morning:

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:1–2, NIV)

More than Samuel, Christ pleads for us:  He is our righteous advocate before the Father; his plea rests upon his atoning sacrifice.

Conclusion

What is so amazing about grace?  Ask the younger son of the parable: in spite of his rebellion, his father restored him as his son.

Ask the Israelites as they gathered to hear Samuel’s farewell speech and heard the thunder and saw the lightning!  They found out that the same God who rescued their forefathers stood ready to destroy them if they did not repent; but He also stood ready to forgive and restore if they turned from their wicked ways and serve Him with all their heart.

What’s so amazing about grace?  There’s forgiveness and restoration for every rebellious sinner in and through the work of Jesus Christ, our High Priest.

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. (Hebrews 4:14–15, NIV)

He is our atonement.  He intercedes for us.  He calls sinners home to freely forgive and give assurance of restoration.

He is our King.  Saul, the king, is dead, but Jesus Christ our King lives forever. Fall down and worship Him as Lord. Do as the younger son did:

I will go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ (Luke 15:18–19, NIV)

What you will hear is the welcoming voice of the Father:

This son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.  (Luke 15:24, NIV)

Amen.

Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on 20 August 2017