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

 

Advertisements

Who are You, Jesus?

Bible Readings

Isaiah 49:1-7, John 8:12-27

Introduction

The renowned artist Paul Gustave Dore once lost his passport. When he came to a border crossing, he explained his predicament to one of the guards. Giving his name to the official, Dore hoped he would be recognised and allowed to pass. The guard, however, said that  many people attempted to cross the border by claiming to be  persons they were not. Dore insisted that he was the man he claimed to be. “All right,” said the official, “we’ll give you a test, and if you pass it we’ll allow you to go through.” Handing him a pencil and a sheet of paper, he told the artist to sketch some people standing nearby. Dore did it so quickly and skilfully that the guard was convinced he was indeed who he claimed to be. His work confirmed his word!

We ask this question, “Who are you, Jesus?”  Is He who He claims to be, and if so, what implications does it have for us?

“I am the light of the world”

More than once did the Pharisees and other religious leaders try to question Jesus Christ.  “What sign do you show us for doing these things,” they asked when He cleansed the temple.  “Is He not the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?”  “How can this man teach so well without any learning?”  “By what authority do you do these things?”

People in the crowd had different opinions.  “He is the prophet.”  “He is the Christ”, others said.  No, He is from Galilee and the Messiah will must be from Bethlehem.  Others thought He was demon-possessed and wanted to arrest Him.

There are many opinions about who Jesus is, even in our day.  Some say He is a lunatic, others say He was the perfect and moral exception to sinful man.  Some say He was a great teacher, and even Islam thinks He was a great prophet (however not the Son of God.)

What to do say about Jesus?  What would you answer your neighbours going home today if they want to know about Jesus Christ whom you worship?  Even more so, if you told them in communion your celebrated his death and his resurrection?  This is a very critical question:  who is Jesus?

Our Lord announced that He is the light of the world.  Why is He the light?  Why does the word need light?

We have to go back to chapter 1.  In verse 3-5 we read:

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. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:3–5, NIV)

Add to this verse 9:

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. (John 1:9, NIV)

From this we understand that between creation (and God declared it to be good), which happened right at the beginning and the coming of Christ, something happened which spiritually, ethically, cosmologically and sociologically plunged God’s creation into darkness.  We only need to read through the first few chapters in the Bible to understand that man’s rebellion – which the Bible calls sin – was the cause.  After sin death, rebellion, pestilence, sickness, pain and sorrow entered into our lives.  And every human being born into this world carries the cancer of sin within him or her.  In Romans 5:12 Paul states it clearly,

“… sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned…” (Romans 5:12, NIV)  

Logically Paul also concludes,

“… all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (Romans 3:23, NIV)

God, although He could do so if He wanted, did not leave us in this hopeless dark state of lostness;  He loved the world, and gave his only Son, Jesus Christ so that whoever believes in Him will not not perish but have eternal life.  This is why Jesus came; He could proclaim, “I am the light of the world”.

Let’s see how our Lord expressed this.  Three very important truths stand out – and we need to understand this very clearly.

Sinners have one home, and Christ another  

We read verse 21:

“I am going away, and you will look for me, and you will die in your sin. Where I go, you cannot come.” (John 8:21, NIV)

The way we are born – rebellious sinners – means we cannot go to where Jesus has gone if it depends on us.

Sinners can only judge by human standards

Jesus said to the Pharisees:

“You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. 

Without Christ sinners remain dead

I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins.” (John 8:23–24, NIV)

To become fit for heaven, the eternal home of God, we need a new nature; we need to be washed from our sins and be born from above: our darkness need to become light.  This is what Jesus meant when He said He is the light of the world:  He is the one who came into the dark world of sinners, He died for sinners (yet He Himself never sinned), He took their sins away, and gave them eternal life, which is the light of life.

Before you cannot confess these things about who Jesus is, and how He his act of mercy changed your life, you would not be able to tell your neighbours who Jesus is.

Is this your experience?  Is this what you believe about Jesus Christ?  Is this what you know about our Lord?

“I am not alone”

The next thing Jesus said about Himself is that He did not act of his own accord.  In verse 16 He declared,

I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me. (John 8:16, NIV)

This is crucial about Jesus.  Any so-called modern-day prophet who calls himself/herself a prophet cannot claim the same as Christ did.  There are indeed many prophets – false prophets – in our day.  Our Lord warned his church,

“Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. (Matthew 24:4–5, NIV)

But the real Messiah was the One sent by the Father.  Apart from the fact that John the Baptist was the fulfilment of Old Testament prophecy about the one who would prepare the way of the Messiah, there was the audible voice from heaven declaring Jesus Christ as the Son of God when John baptised Him.  No other prophet could claim this.  Add to this all the prophecies about the Messiah – the place of his birth, his family line, the place where He would minister predominantly, the names the angel gave Mary to give him, and much more – and we know He was the Messiah who was with God in the beginning and Who was sent be God to be the atonement for the sins of many.

Isn’t it just marvellous to know that Jesus Christ is not acting on his own accord; He is not alone.  John said,

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)

My dear friend, if this was not so, we would have wasted our time being here today; you could ask your collection back; we would need to call missionaries back from the mission field; we can sell this property; we would need to publicly admit that all is just one big lie.

But it’s not!  His Name was Immanuel – God with us.

“I am from above”

Verse 23 teaches us,

“You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. (John 8:23, NIV)

Once again, what marvellous message is these words of our Lord to the ear of the believer.  There is no saviour from amongst us.  We try our best, but we cannot attain the righteousness which would satisfy the Father.  We might look around and search for the best human being we know and ask him/her to stand in our place to atone for our sins before the Father, and we will not find anyone.

Even if we had big men like Moses or Abraham or David with us, they would not do.  Moses fell short and could not enter the Promised Land; Abraham, although mighty in faith, gave his wife away to another – twice: he failed.  David, although a man after God’s own heart, lied, killed, stole and committed adultery.

But there was this night when all was calm and the shepherds were minding their sheep when the heavens opened with angel voices singing a message of good joy:

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; He is the Messiah, the Lord. (Luke 2:10–11, NIV)

Paul puts this in another perspective,

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:6–8, NIV)

Who are You, Jesus?  I am from above, from heaven, to prepare a people for God, and then take them to heaven.

“I am”

One last about word Jesus, as He declared Himself.  Verse 28:

“When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am [he] and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught Me. (John 8:28, NIV)

English cannot express what the Greek literally says in this verse.  There it just says “I am”.  When Jesus Christ did what God sent Him to do – after the cross and his resurrection – the people would know one thing:  He is what He proclaimed He was.  Does it ring a bell?  “I am!”  He also said that He and his Father are one.  His Father said about Himself “I am”.

Who are you, Jesus?  Like the Father, “I am”.  He is God.

Go, tell your neighbour you worship Jesus Christ who is God.

Conclusion

Jesus, who are You?  He answers,

  • “I am the light of the world” – I take the darkness of sin away and give eternal light
  • “I am not alone” – I am one with the Father, working on his behalf.
  • “I am from above” – I am from eternity, and give eternal life
  • “I am” – I am God, one with the Father.

Him, my dear brother and sister, we worship as our Lord, our Saviour, our Mediator and our God.  Amen.

Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 4 December 2016