April 29, 2018
On April 16-17 some 50 Evangelical leaders met at Wheaton College. The purpose was to discuss the state of Evangelicalism in these contentious days. In his opening address, Dr. Labberton, president of Fuller Seminary, noted that instead of sounding like good news, our proclamation of the gospel has begun to sound like fake news. He says this because he believes our presentation of the gospel has been overshadowed by our coveting political power. Instead of focusing on the gospel it appears that our real agenda is to have power.
Now regardless of our political persuasions, we all agree that the gospel is good news. And we don’t want to put up any barriers that would hinder others hearing the good news. But what is the good news? That’s what I want us to think about this morning. The presence of Jesus in the world enables all to have abundant life with God.
I. JESUS ENABLES US TO KNOW GOD. Jn.1:1-14
John 1:1 begins exactly like Gen.1:1 which says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” In Jn.1:1 we read, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John alludes to Gen.1:1 because John is writing about another significant beginning. John identifies a person whom he refers to as “the Word.” He tells us that the Word already existed in the beginning, the Word was both with God and was God,” at one in the same time. And this is an amazing statement that baffles the mind.
John goes on to explain that this one who is the Word, who is both with God and is God, created all things. What is more, he tells us in v.4 that in him was life. The life that is in him is so intense and powerful that it is the light of men. Of course we all know that light enables us to see. In v.5 this light is shining in the darkness, and in fact, overpowers the darkness. In v.9 we read that this light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. In v.14 we read that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” And finally, in v.18 we read, “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known.” This is the Prologue of John’s gospel. And there is no question but that John is referring to Jesus Christ. Jesus is the living Word of God. He is God in the flesh.
A central teaching of the Bible concerns the presence of God. From Genesis to Revelation we see that God makes himself present and desires for men and women to live and walk in his presence. God has been revealing himself since the very beginning of creation. In Heb.1:1-3, we read, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” Jesus reveals God. He is God with us. In Jn.14:9, Jesus says, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” In Jn.10:30, Jesus says, “I and the Father are one.” Jesus is God with us.
And just to complete this thought, on that first Easter Sunday when Jesus appeared to his disciples, we read, “And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit.” In Jn.16:7, Jesus says, “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” Jesus is referring to his ascension and to his sending of the Holy Spirit to dwell in every believer. In Jn.14:26, Jesus says, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” The Holy Spirit seeks to ground us in the life and teachings of Jesus. God causes his presence to actually dwell in each of us who have embraced Christ by faith.
Out of love for each of us, God sent his Son, Jesus. The good news here is that by looking to Jesus we come to know what God is like. It is difficult for me to think that a person could read the gospels and come away with a negative impression about Jesus and the God he reveals. Jesus embodies the kind of justice we all desire. Jesus embodies the kindness that we want to receive and show to others. Jesus embodies the goodness and wisdom we all aspire to. Jesus embodies a loving heart that seeks to serve others and ultimately Jesus died in our place on the cross, bearing the guilt of our sins so that our sins could be forgiven. I mean, even if you don’t believe Jesus ever existed, you would have to conclude that if the Jesus of the gospels did exist that would be special. The good news is that through faith in Jesus Christ we come to know our creator God relationally and experientially. Through the Holy Spirit, God comes to live in us. This is amazing news that ought not to be taken for granted.
II. JESUS ENABLES US TO BE PART OF GOD’S FAMILY. Jn.1:9-12
The assumption made by many today is that we are all God’s children. And that is true in the sense that God created each one of us. Paul spoke of this when he gave his defense at the Areopagus in Athens. He said, “for in him [God] we live and move and have our being'; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are indeed his offspring.” But in John’s gospel and throughout the New Testament the phrase, “children of God” refers to those who have come to know God through faith in Jesus.
Jesus was Jewish and he came to the Jewish people calling them to enter into the kingdom of God by becoming followers or disciples of Jesus. But we learn in v.10-11 that while Jesus was in the world, the world did not know him. In fact, he came to his own people, the Jews, and they did not receive him. This tells us that the basic posture of the people of this world, both religious and non-religious, is not inclined towards Jesus. When you stop to think about this it becomes clear that in seeking to reveal himself to humanity, God has a hill to climb. The people of the world are not particularly interested in God. And we learn why in v.12.
In v.12 it says, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” To receive Jesus, to believe in his name, is to embrace him and all he says as the truth. It is to entrust one’s life and eternity into the hands of Jesus. It is to give complete allegiance to Jesus. Most people are not interested in yielding control of their life over to someone else, even someone like Jesus.
Everyone who is in the world belongs to a family and people group at least at the beginning of their life. Ideally, when you belong to a family you enjoy the privileges, mutual care and love between family members. Of course, there are a lot of broken families that bring much emotional destruction and pain.
Many people are drawn to watch the show, “This Is Us.” I don’t watch it because I can’t take the drama. But the show tries to portray the realities of family life. In the show we see how a family tries very hard to figure out how to get along with and love each other despite the hurts and disappointments of life.
Jesus came to this earth in order to make it possible for people to enter into God’s eternal family. In this family, God has covenanted to care for his children. Jesus is called God’s first born Son in the sense that he holds the position of honor, privilege, and inheritance that a first born son would have in that day. When a person receives Jesus they are brought into the family of God. According to Heb.2:11, Jesus is not just our Savior, He is our brother. And if Jesus is our brother then each of us are brothers and sisters in Christ. We receive the privileges, care, and love that are found in God’s family. The family of God is seen in the church of Jesus Christ. We who know Christ belong to each other.
Men and Women, the good news of the gospel is that all who receive him, become part of the family of God. We are brought into his family through faith in Jesus Christ. We are the recipients of his love, grace and mercy. Through faith in Christ, we are home and look forward to being with the Lord in the new heaven and earth. Jesus enables us to be part of God’s family. That is amazing, good news.
III. JESUS ENABLES US TO HAVE ETERNAL LIVING. Jn.1:13
Verse 13 refers to, “children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” Here John introduces the idea of the new birth, being born from above as we saw in Jn.3.
John makes it clear that this new birth is not something that comes about by physical means. We are not talking about physical birth here. We are talking about a spiritual birth. No race of people have an advantage over any other race of people when it comes to experiencing the new birth. While Jews were in a place of privilege as God’s chosen people, the Jewish people largely rejected Christ.
No, we are talking about receiving, through Jesus, a new life from above. It is an eternal kind life. It is not a life that begins when we die. It is a life that begins the moment we receive Jesus, believing in his name.
As we read through the gospel of John the nature of the life that we receive from God is fleshed out for us. In Jn.3, Nicodemus, who was confident of his religious standing, learned that even he had to be born again. It is the Holy Spirit of God who regenerates or makes us alive in Christ. In Jn.4, the Samaritan women who met Jesus at the well of Sychar, discovered that Jesus gives living water that quenches the inner thirst for love and acceptance and forgiveness. Again in Jn.4 we saw how Jesus healed the deathly ill son of a synagogue official. The son was some 20 miles away from Jesus. Not only that, but it says that this official and his household believed in Jesus. He put his faith in Jesus even though he was not in close proximity to Jesus. A person can enter into this new life from anywhere because God is present everywhere.
In Jn.5 we read about a man who had been paralyzed for 38 years. His was a hopeless case. But Jesus healed him with a word. Jesus went around doing good, giving new life. In Jn.8 we saw the pitiful situation of a woman caught in adultery and treated badly by the religious leaders. They cared nothing about the woman. Jesus forgave her sin and treated her with the kindness of God, giving her a new life. In Jn.9 Jesus cured a man who had been blind from birth. Not only did he open the man’s physical eyes, but he opened his spiritual eyes and that man worshiped Jesus, having received a new life. And on and on we could go.
The good news of Jesus is that it is by faith in Jesus that we receive new eternal living through a relationship with God. In Jn.17 Jesus is praying. In his prayer he says, “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” Eternal life in being in a relationship with God. Jesus makes this possible through his life, death and resurrection. This is good news. No other religion has this kind of good news in which eternal living is received by believing on the name of Jesus. This life is a gift from God through Jesus. And if you don’t know God through faith in Jesus I want to invite you to turn to him today.
But I want to make a transition here in order to introduce a series of messages about life with Christ. When God in all of his love and goodness came in the flesh to dwell with us in Jesus Christ, things did not go well for Jesus. When light comes into a dark world, the world doesn’t like the light. And so Jesus was rejected, mistreated, and eventually crucified. The good news that we have been talking about promises eternal living while we are still living in this world.
Through faith in Christ we receive his resurrection life. We live as followers of Jesus seeking to be the light of Jesus in this dark world. Well, this has serious implications for those who know Jesus. I want to read Lk.14:28-32. “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, 'This man began to build and was not able to finish.' Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace.”
I only want to point out that when Jesus offered to give forgiveness of sins and eternal life, he also called people to consider the cost of being his follower in this world. Because living in the way of Jesus is out of sync with the ways of this world, followers of Jesus can expect to be treated like Jesus was treated. In other words, there is some fine print that we ought to read before giving ourselves to Christ. That’s what we are going to be looking at in weeks to come. What is the fine print that we need to know? Amen
The gospel of Jesus Christ is indeed, good news. It is true news that is life changing. This past week I participated with a group of NAB pastors called, “Blue Ocean” (I can explain later). I met a pastor from Edmonton who told me how he came to Christ. He was an atheist. One day while sitting in his college Physics class, the professor was explaining how energy from space is bombarding the earth, but because of the atmosphere, only a small amount of energy actually reaches the earth. The energy that reaches the earth is just the right amount to sustain life. If it were more or less life could not exist. David started to think about that and he asked the professor, “So are you saying that the exact amount of energy needed to sustain life on earth is just by chance? She said, “Yes.” That is when David’s mind and heart was awakened to the existence of God. He didn’t know Christ but he came to believe in God and then did come to Christ. But as we will see, knowing Christ in this world is costly. Just as the gospel cost Jesus his very life, so it calls us to surrender our life and there is a cost. We must count the cost involved in following Jesus. Amen