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TEXT: John 1:1-13
SUBJECT: The Word of God
Today is the first Sunday of Advent, the time of year when we turn our attention to the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
His birth is hinted at in the Old Testament and referred to in the Epistles of Peter, Paul, and John. But the Story itself is told in the Gospels, in Matthew, Luke, and John. Why Mark didn't tell the Story, we don't know, but we know he didn't and we leave that decision with the Holy Spirit who inspired him to tell His Story the way He wanted it told.
In telling the story of a child's birth, you'd expect a writer to start there--with his birth, maybe his conception, or even his parents are near ancestors. Matthew, Luke, and John don't do that. Matthew starts with Abraham, who lived two thousand years before Jesus was born. Luke 'one ups' his friend by beginning with Adam, the first man. But, when it comes to providing the back drop of a story, nobody compares to John! He begins the story of our Lord's birth...in Eternity!
Why there and not somewhere closer in time, say the First Century? Because that's where God's plan for saving a Fallen World began.
This is why John begins the Nativity story with a quote from the Old Testament, Genesis 1:1--
In the beginning.
What did God do in the beginning? He created the world, and He created it very good. But something happened to the world: it fell into sin and ruin. Adam and Eve were made in the likeness and image of God and were meant to rule and care for the world in His Name. But they didn't do that. What they did is choose the devil's word over the Word of God, and, in making that choice, they brought themselves down, and all the world with them.
This is the world you and I were born into, the only world we've known: it's a broken world. We have broken with our Maker, with each other, and with ourselves.
We're supposed to be integrated, whole persons, but we're not. Our good selves are stymied by our bad selves. We want to do the right thing, but there's a power in us that keeps us from doing it, and sometimes the power is so strong that we don't even want to do the right thing!
What's true in every heart is also true in our relationships. Men and women 'fit' together, but how many marriages are a bad fit? Instead of loving their wives, men ignore them and abuse them. In stead of submitting to their husbands, women despise them and dispute everything they say. These things make both husbands and wives miserable, but they won't give them up. They're squeezing a cactus in their hands, and all they've got to do is let go of it, but something inside of them prevents them from letting go.
Quarrels in the home broaden out into the world, as strong nations, who could serve others in love, use their money and power to force other nations to serve them.
The conflict in the soul, and between men and nations is also active in the non-human parts of the world. Nature--the poet Tennyson reminds us, is--red in tooth and claw.
Even the dirt and the skies are sometimes against us. Seventy five years ago, my family left the South because, the topsoil blew away, and the living they had made on farms for generations were not there for them anymore. Then we think of the enormous damage the sun can do, turning once-fertile ground into deserts and making skin cancer one of the leading causes of death.
The earth itself seems cruel. Think of the earthquakes, the volcanoes, the tidal waves and other disasters we call 'natural', but are, in fact, unnatural--not the way things are supposed to be.
We all know these things; they're in the newspapers every day. But there's something going on behind the scenes that won't show up in the papers or even on the internet: it's a spiritual warfare, what Paul calls powers and principalities setting themselves against God, hell bent to thwart His saving plans for the world.
This is what the heavens and the earth God created in the beginning have come to!
Nobody likes the way things are, but we've made peace with them. Since we can't do anything about them, we might as well accept them and muddle through somehow. This is what we do.
But not God! He has not accepted things the way they are, and He won't He make peace with a world that does not match the model He had in mind when He started. He's going to fix things, and more than 'fix' them, He's going to make them better.
Preachers and private Christians often speak of the world being made 'perfect'. If by 'perfect', they mean, 'without sin', they're right. But that's not usually what they mean? They mean the world of Genesis 1 could not be improved upon.
This is badly mistaken. That world can be improved on, and in God's power and wisdom and love, it will be! This is His plan, and unlike our plans, His will be carried out in full, Psalm 33:11--
The counsel of the Lord stands forever,
the thoughts of His heart to all generations!
HOW THE PLAN WILL BE CARRIED OUT
How will God carry out His plan? We don't have to guess; He's going to do it in and through and by--
That is, the Word of God is going to set things right. On this point, John was in complete agreement with the rabbis of Israel. They were careful readers of the Bible, and they noticed that the chaos of Genesis 1:2 was dispelled and the order of Genesis 1:31 was established by ten commands of God. The world begins--
Null and void (with) darkness covering the face of the deep.
But by the end of the chapter, it's a fit place for man to live and love and have children and to worship the Lord. What brought light and order to the world? The Word of God--
And God said, 'Let there be light'. And there was light.
If ten commands brought order out of chaos in the natural world--the rabbis were sure--the Ten Commandments would bring order to the human race. Some day, under God's Law, the world would be as it should be, with soldiers--
Beating their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.
Devout Jews had the highest respect for the Word of God. You know, they didn't have the same kind of paper we do: they used scrolls that were often several yards long. If a scribe made a single mistake--no matter how minor--he didn't let it go, or ink it out. He threw it away and started over.
Why did they feel this way about the Word of God? Because it shares in the character and work of God Himself.
If God is Infinite, Eternal and Unchangeable, so is the Word of God. If God creates, heals, judges, and saves, His Word does too. God and the Word were so closely linked in the minds of Israel that their Bible readers in synagogue, not daring to take His Name in vain, would sometime say, 'Word' when the Law said, '.Yahwheh'.
John fully shares their conviction. If God is eternal, the Word is by Him in the beginning. If God is the Creator, nothing that is made was made without the Word. If God is Light, the Word brings light to every man who comes into the world. What puzzles unbelievers and makes Christians think hard, presented no problem to the pious Jew--
And the Word was God.
WHAT THE WORD IS
Up to now, John is 'preaching to the synagogue'. The worst enemy of Jesus would have agreed with him to this point. Of course, God has a plan to save the world, and He's going to do by the same Word that made the world in the first place.
But then John breaks with the synagogue. Not because he thinks less of the Bible than they did, but because He saw there was more to God's Word than the Law, the Psalms, and the prophets.
V.14 has got to be the most surprising verse in the Bible; shocking to the people who first read or heard it, and--when we're at our best--no less shocking--and wonderful to us--
And the Word became flesh.
Human flesh, no different than yours or mine. At times, in the past, God wanted to become visible, and He did in what scholars call Theophanies. The appearances were not always the same, but they were always awesome! He came to Abraham as a fire; He came to Job as a whirlwind; Moses saw only His 'back parts' and the glory made his face shine with a blinding radiance.
The appearances told some truth about God. They said He is glorious and powerful and dangerous; that He's Lordly. All they said about Him was true.
But it wasn't the whole truth. When God wanted to show us His Word, to reveal His whole character and all His works, He showed them to us as a man, as Jesus of Nazareth, an ordinary looking fellow, but if you saw Him, you also--
Saw the Father. In all His glory.
And so, the rabbis were both right and wrong. Right in thinking the world would be re-made by the Word of God, but wrong in equating that 'Word' with the Law of Moses.
Is the Law Inspired of God, true in every part, and good for us? Of course it is! But for all it's goodness, there's one thing it cannot do: It cannot re-make us into God's Image, and if it can't do that, it cannot set the world right (because we're what's wrong with it). If you want to know what's wrong with the world, look in the mirror: what's wrong with the world is you and me and all of us!
And the Law cannot change us! Not because there's something wrong with the Law, but because there's something wrong with us. To become new creatures, we've got to be forgiven--and the Law cannot do that. To become new creatures we have to love and keep the Law--but the Law can't make us that way.
But the Word of God--who is Jesus--can do these things and He has done them! By dying for us on the cross, He took our sins away; by rising from the dead, He poured out His Spirit who makes us willing; by coming again, He raises the body and finishes the job He planned before there was a world.
How is the re-making power of Christ gotten from Him to us? It is through faith in Jesus. He came to His own, but His own did not receive Him--they didn't welcome Him--and they got none of what He had for them, the new life He would have gladly given them if only they had opened their hearts to Him.
But some did open their hearts--they received Him, welcomed Him--and to them--
He gave the right to be called children of God,
who were born, not of bloods, nor of the will of
the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God!
This is what Christmas means! It means in Jesus the Messiah. God is re-making the world, and all who want a part in the re-making can have it through faith alone in Christ alone.
Do you believe this? Not everyone here does, I know you don't. Some have sat in church for years--decades--heard it all, but taken none of it to heart. But, for God's sake, receive the Good News today! The world you're a part of is passing away, and you'll pass away with it.
But you can be part of a world that does not pass away--not a world like this one. Who'd want to live forever in the world as it currently is? You can be part of the New Creation, a world without sin and sorrow and death. A world at peace with God and itself.
By His Gospel, God offers this world to you. He urges you to take it.
And not just once and on a theoretical plane. He wants all His people to keep on believing, to set their minds of things above, and to live in hope of the New World that will come as surely as Jesus rose from the dead. Amen.
Praise the Lord!
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