10 Facts About Jesus From John 1:1-18

As we move into the Christmas season, it is critically important to remember what Christmas is all about. Many people would acknowledge that this season is about celebrating the birth of Christ, but how many of those same people truly know the Christ of Christmas? The prologue to John’s gospel is an excellent place to start when it comes to understanding who Jesus is and what He came to do. What follows is an outline of a message I preached at a local community event this past Sunday.

  1. Jesus is eternal

“In the beginning was the Word…He was in the beginning with God.” (John 1:1-2)

  1. Jesus was (and is) the Creator

“All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.” (John 1:3, cf: John 1:9, Col. 1:16)

  1. Jesus was (and is) God

“and the Word was God.” (John 1:1 cf: John 10:30 and Titus 2:13)

  1. Jesus is the life giver

“In him was life, and the life was the light of men.” (John 1:4 cf: John 14:6)

  1. John the Baptist bore witness concerning Jesus

“There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light.” (John 1:6-7)

  1. Jesus was rejected by the Jews and by the world

“He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.” (John 1:10-11)

  1. You can become a child of God by believing in Jesus’ name

“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become 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.” (John 1:12-13)

  1. Jesus became a man

“And 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.” (John 1:14 cf: John 1:9)

  1. Jesus came into the world to give and to bear witness to the truth

“For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:16-17 cf: John 18:37)

10.  Jesus reveals the Father to us

“No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known (John 1:18 cf: John 10:30, 14:9, 17:26)

No Room For Jesus

A sermon from Luke 2:1-7

Two thousand years ago, the most powerful man in the world was Caesar Augustus and Caesar made a decree that everyone within the Roman Empire had to be registered. In order to register, however, you had to return to your hometown. Joseph, the man engaged to Mary, lived in the region Galilee and the town of Nazareth, which was over 60 miles from his hometown of Bethlehem. Even though his wife was pregnant and in need of care, there would be no exceptions to be made in his circumstances. Joseph would have to make the trip south to Bethlehem in order to be registered and his wife would have to come along with him.

Now, for those of you who are familiar with the story of David, you will know that he grew up in Bethlehem – which is why Luke calls it “the city of David.” But don’t be fooled by that terminology – Bethlehem was not some thriving metropolis. Our largest cities grow by tens of thousands of people every year, but Bethlehem, 1000 years after the time of David, was still just a modest city. It was into this modest locale that the Son of God would enter into the world. The amazing thing about this was that it was all part of God’s marvelous plan. Centuries earlier, this had been prophesied. “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.” Micah 5:2

As these events unfolded, they were not by random chance. They were all part of God’s sovereign plan right from the beginning. The world is constantly telling us that everything happens by chance, including life itself. We are simply the product of random mutations that have evolved for billions of years. But everything in the natural world sends us a very different message. As we look around us, we see order and design. We see creativity and magnificent beauty. The only reasonable explanation is that what we see is God’s handy-work – His remarkable creation. And we clearly see His sovereignty in the Nativity story. It was God’s plan all along that His Son, the Savior of the world, would be born in Bethlehem – the city of David.

It is likely that there were a large number of people who were in the same situation as Joseph. At one time, perhaps they had lived in Bethlehem or had family there, but for whatever reason, they moved away and now would have to return. After Caesar issued this decree, the town activity would have picked up considerably. With all these people returning in order to register, it was not surprising that Mary and Joseph could not find any room at the Inn. You might be wondering, what about Joseph’s family and relatives? Surely they could house them or find a place for them? But such a scenario was not meant to be – there was simply no room, especially for a family of modest means.

The situation was further complicated when Mary’s pregnancy moved along so fast that the time came for her to give birth. There would be no place for pickiness – they would have to find a place and find it fast and it would have to be a non-conventional place. The place they found is probably the last place in the world that you or I would think of – baby Jesus was born in an animal stable. We are not specifically told that in the text, but we can infer it from Luke’s use of the word “manger.” A manger was a trough – the place that the animals drank from. Let’s think about this for a moment – the birth of the Son of God – the Savior of the world – the birth of the most important person in history, took place in the most humble setting imaginable.

And we wonder: how could this be? How could God’s very own Son, be born in an animal stable? Why didn’t they make room for Mary and Joseph someplace else? From our human perspective these are legitimate questions. But if we take a quick history tour over the past 2000 years, we would see that seldom has there ever been room for Jesus in the world. Over the past 2000 years, mankind has been doing its best to push Jesus out of everything – the result is that we have no room for Jesus anywhere. Let’s take a quick tour of our current situation.

There is no room for Jesus in the courts today. We have determined that there is no need for the Divine law in our justice systems. We are rational beings, so we think, and therefore, God has been left out of the law courts. What is the result? The result is little, if any regard for human life or morality. We have killed millions and millions of babies and called it “choice.”

There is no room for Jesus in our schools today. Our children are taught to be suspicious of anyone who claims to know “the truth.” Any professor that goes against the theory of Darwinian evolution puts their career in jeopardy. And there is little room for the very name “Jesus” in any educational curriculum across our land.

There is no room for Jesus in our government today. Aside from trying to get a few votes from the evangelical demographic, our government officials show no regard for the Son of God. They govern in a godless, immoral way, and constantly invite God’s judgment.

There is no room for Jesus even at Christmas. Ironic as it is, the celebration of the birth of our Savior takes second place to a fictional character that wears a red suit and has a long beard and gives kids whatever they want. We don’t say Merry Christmas anymore – we say “happy holidays.”

There is no room for Jesus in our families today. Instead of valuing this God-ordained institution, our society has placed its emphasis elsewhere – primarily on “the self.” As a result, the family unit has broken down and our whole society is suffering, as a result. The single parent has almost become the norm and the nuclear family has become a novel idea from long days past.

There is no room for Jesus in our conversation today. The mere mention of his name brings feelings of hatred to some, but indifference to most. He might have been a good moral teacher centuries ago, they say, but certainly not the Son of God. We often hesitate to bring Jesus up in our conversations for fear of “offending” someone.

There is no room for Jesus in our busy lives today. We have things to do, people to meet, and places to see. How could we possibly fit Jesus into all that? If we do have a little extra time here and there, we might be able to fit him in, but it had better not inconvenience us, or so we reason.

Finally, there is no room for Jesus in our churches today. Rather than affirm and teach the exclusivity of Jesus Christ – that He is the way, the truth, and the life and the only way to God, we dumb down the teaching of the bible.

So you see, this world that we live in, is not much different than Bethlehem at the time of Christ. We have pushed Jesus out of our country, our families, our churches, and our lives. As you know the results have been devastating. But let me put it to you – is there room in your heart for Jesus? Is there room in your heart for Son of God? Just because the world has pushed Jesus aside, does not mean that you must do the same. You might be wondering; how can I make room in my heart for Jesus. Perhaps your heart is filled with anger, despair, shame and sufferings from long past. How can I make room for Jesus when I am so broken, you ask? Well, I can assure that there is always room for Jesus. No matter where you’ve been or what you’ve done, Jesus can forgive you and make you whole again.

Let me share with you the gospel. The word gospel means “good news” and the gospel is the greatest news in the world. This news is nothing like the news we watch on TV or read about on the internet. This news is actually “good news.” But before we get to the good news, we must understand the bad news first.

You and me and everyone on planet earth is a sinner. We have fallen short of God’s perfect law and now the wrath of God is upon us. So even if you think you are a good person, you are really not. The Bible says that no one is good but God alone. The Bible also teaches that the wages of sin is death. So the result of our sin is certain death and ultimate separation from God. With that in mind, let’s get to the good news part.

God is love. And God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son, Jesus Christ. The nativity story tells how Jesus was brought in the world. We sometimes call this the incarnation – how God became flesh and dwelt among us. But there is more to it than that – Jesus grew up and became a man and was ultimately crucified on a cross. You ask, how could the Son of God be crucified? The answer is that God the Father actually “gave” God the Son, over to death. Why would God the Father do such a thing? The answer lies in His love. God knew that because we were dead in our trespasses and sins, the only way to bring life to us was through His Son. So Jesus took our place on the cross and by his blood sacrifice, we have forgiveness of sins.

The only way to explain this is grace – amazing grace. There is nothing that you can do to save yourself. The bible says that it is by grace that we are saved. It is not by good deeds or by our good works. Rather, it is by grace, through faith and the message of the gospel is the greatest news you will ever hear. But how can I receive that forgiveness, you might be wondering?

First off, you must believe that Jesus is who He said He was – the Son of God. This is what is called “faith.” Second, you must trust Him for your salvation. Along with that, you must repent and turn from your sins, and follow Jesus. Perhaps at this point in your life, you feel like you have tried everything. You’ve tried to be a good person, you’ve tried to live a good life, but you’ve never truly been satisfied. You feel like your life is empty and without meaning. If that’s where you’re at, you are actually in a great position because you know that you are helpless in your own strength and in great need of Christ.

I want to assure you that there is room at the foot of the cross for you. Don’t be like the rest of the world – they have no place for Jesus. But is there room in your heart for Jesus? I can assure you that if you take this step of faith, the road ahead will not be easy, but it will be entirely worth it. Is there room in your heart for Jesus?

I preached this sermon December 24, 2013, at our Christmas Eve service. It was inspired in part by a sermon Charles Spurgeon preached December 21, 1862, at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London.

What Is So Great About Being Weak?

2 Corinthians 11:30 “If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.”

 

The Christian life offers many paradoxes, one of which is the paradox of weakness. The Bible tells us that being weak is actually a good thing. Ironically, we all want to be strong. We want to be strong physically, mentally, emotionally, and in virtually every other way. But if we were honest with ourselves, we would admit we are not. We struggle to keep things together on a daily basis. For the Christian, however, being weak is a good thing. Let me give you six reasons as to why weakness is not the bad thing we often think it to be.

 

  1. Being weak reminds us that we can’t take any of the credit. Remarkably, God chooses to use His people to accomplish His purposes. But anything of lasting value that is done in our lives only happens through God’s strength and power. Paul reminds some of his fellow believers of this reality in 1 Corinthians 1:26-31: 26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” Like the apostle Paul, when we are used of God, we can’t take any of the credit. We are just ordinary men and women, being used by a very gracious God.

 

  1. Being used of God also points the world to Christ. Obviously, this second reason compliments the first. God chooses to use His people to accomplish extraordinary things, not so they can take the credit, but so that God will gain the glory. God does this to point the world to Him. I am reminded of Acts 4:13, where we read, “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.” Peter and John were not impressive by the world’s standards. They were just ordinary fishermen. But having “been with Jesus,” they were a force to be reckoned with and people could not help but notice these “common men.”

 

  1. Being weak makes us long for heaven where we will be given new bodies. The Bible tells us, “For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality (1 Corinthians 15:53). You don’t have to be a Christian to know that slowly (sometimes not so slowly) your body is breaking down. The older you get, the weaker you get. Yet again, this is a good thing because it makes us long for something more. For the Christian, that “something more” will one day be granted to us in the form a new glorified body.

 

  1. Being weak keeps us from making our bodies an idol. This is a big temptation, especially in our modern world where health and wellness are a huge focus. Safe to say that for many people, their body is their god. They are so focused and consumed with taking care of their bodies that little else matters. And granted that “while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:8). As Christians, we want to invest ourselves in “the life to come” over and above everything else.

 

  1. Being weak helps us keep things in perspective. Yet again, this complements the previous point. Paul writes, “Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8). There is infinite value and worth in knowing Christ while any value that the world offers is continually diminishing. The reason why we need to keep things in perspective is because we are constantly being told just the opposite. When we remember our own weakness, however, investing in this world and the “glories” that are offered is not such a temptation. I will never be a “mover and a shaker” in this world and I am glad for that. Jesus said, “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the Kingdom of God” (Luke 18:24). Jesus didn’t say it is impossible, but He did say it is hard. The reason is simple – strength and riches tempt us to keep investing in this world. Weakness, on the other hand, is a continual reminder to invest in the world to come.

 

  1. Being weak is a sign of our identifying with Christ. Paul writes, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). Through His death on the cross, Christ humbled himself in the ultimate way. And now, Christ is inviting us to walk the Calvary road with Him by taking up our cross and following Him. In so doing, we are forsaking the way of the world, and embracing the way of weakness. The believer now lives “by faith in the Son of God” and daily relies upon His strength and not our own.

In summary, we can be content to be weak and satisfied to let Christ’s power flow through us. Turning once again to the apostle Paul, he writes, “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10). Weaknesses and everything else that Paul experienced were actually for the good because it forced Him to trust His Savior. Do you have that perspective today, in your own life?

 

Thus, the reason why weakness is a good thing for the Christian is because it compels us to turn to Christ. It forces us to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). And it brings glory to God in extraordinary ways.

Have you met the Man who does all things well?

“He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.” Mark 6:37

 

I have never met a man who does “all things well.” We have a lot of men in our church that could be classified as “Jack of all trades” because they are gifted in so many different ways, but I have never met a man or woman who did all things well. That is, until I met Jesus. The man Jesus Christ is unique in all of world history. There is no one else like him. He is Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer of all things and He wants to rescue your life from the pit.

 

Friend, have you met this man who does all things well? Let me tell you right now that when you meet this man, you won’t be able to stop blabbing about him. You will be like the people in Mark 7 – you won’t be able to shut up. You will be telling all your friends and neighbors and family about Jesus. Like the woman at the well in John 4, you will say, “come meet a man who told me everything I ever did” (John 4:29). He is the Christ, the Son of God, and the Savior of the world.

 

Our greatest need as human beings is to be forgiven of our sin. I guess you could say that goes along with knowing Jesus. Until we meet this Man who does all things well, we tend to think highly of ourselves. We tend to compare ourselves with others and when we do that we end up looking pretty good. But when we encounter the Light, as He is in the light, we are exposed. We end up seeing how wretched and sinful we really are, as we stand before a just and holy God.

 

But let me tell you what Jesus will do for you. He will take your wretchedness and your sinfulness and cover you with the garments of salvation. He will take your ugly, messed up life and make you beautiful. How? By giving you His own righteousness. “Though your sins be like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” (Isaiah 1:18) This is the most amazing transaction in the world, and God will do it for you.

 

So what must you do to be saved? “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 16:31), repent of your sins and trust Him for your salvation. Then, having met this Man, you too will say, “He has done all things well.”

The Difference Between Disciples and Apostles

“We read in the New Testament about disciples and apostles, and we tend to think that the two words are synonymous. They are not. A disciple is a learner, a student. An apostle is one who is commissioned by his master with the master’s own authority, then sent out in the master’s name. That distinction is critically important for us because the New Testament tells us that the prophets and the Apostles are the foundation of the church (Ephesians 2:20). That means the apostles had what we call “apostolic authority” over the church of all ages, which authority they were given by the One who sent them.

The first Apostle in the New Testament, the Apostle par excellence, was Jesus. He said, “I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent ME gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak” (John 12:49). Our Lord Himself is the supreme Apostle of the Father, for He carries in His ministry nothing less than the authority of the Father. The twelve, however, were Jesus’ Apostles, having been chosen from the much larger group of disciples who followed Jesus (see Luke 6:13). Thus, Jesus gave to them His own authority.”

Copied from pages 122-123 of R.C. Sproul’s commentary, Mark: He Taught Them As One Who Had Authority.

Comparing the Appearances of Moses and Jesus

I’m going to do something in this post that most people are pretty good at – comparing. Even as Christians we tend to do this, and typically, it is not to our benefit. When we compare ourselves to someone else, we often end up breaking the 10th commandment, which deals with coveting (Exodus 20:17). Let me encourage you to guard your heart from this tendency which only works to hinder your walk with the Lord. However, I think we can benefit from comparing the appearances of two well-know biblical characters – Moses and Jesus.

You will remember that when Moses was born, there was something immediately recognizable about him. As it is rendered in Exodus 2:2, “He was a fine child.” Jumping ahead to the New Testament, Stephen adds, “At this time Moses was born and was beautiful in God’s sight” (Acts 7:20). This tells us that not only was Moses a stand out in appearance, but also that God looked with favor upon him. The author of Hebrews summarizes this in saying, “By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful” (Hebrews 11:24). Not only did his family recognize this, but so too the Pharaoh’s daughter who took him and raised him as her own. We could go on to take an in depth look at all of the aspects of his greatness, but that is not my intention in this post. I would simply posit that Moses was a beautiful baby and we have no reason to think that his physical attractiveness diminished when he was fully grown. Even as he was about to die, he still had great strength (see Deuteronomy 34:7).

Lets shift gears – what do we know about what Jesus looked like? Answer: not a whole lot. The gospel writers are concerned to describe his humanity (think: fully God, fully man), but they are not nearly as concerned to describe specific details of what he looked like. Perhaps our best clue comes from the Suffering Servant passage of Isaiah 53.  We read in verse 2, “he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.” The reader can immediately spot a contrast between Jesus and Moses. One was beautiful, and One was not. Safe to say – people didn’t follow Jesus because of his looks. And while it would be unwise to say he was “ugly”, it would be more accurate to say he was a typical, ordinary man.

Perhaps a fitting way to conclude is by looking at 1 Samuel 16:6-7. “When they (David’s brothers) came, he looked on Eliab and thought, Surely the Lord’s anointed is before him. But the Lord said to Samuel, Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” Thank God today for the body he has given you, and resist the temptation to compare.

Special thanks to my friend John Sensenig for these insights.

Christ’s Heavenly Session

Our twin daughters love “baby Jesus.” Before Christmas, we went to a parade in our community and one of the girls said, “I don’t want to see Santa Claus, I just want to see baby Jesus!” As Christian parents, Steph and I are glad for this, however, we have also tried to explain to our kids that Jesus did not stay a baby. The gospel writer Luke tells us that as a boy, “Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52). At age 30 he began his ministry, which lasted for about 3 years. According to the plan of God, He was crucified and buried, but He rose again on the third day. For forty days, Jesus showed Himself to hundreds of people through various post-resurrection appearances (1 Corinthians 15:5-8). Then Jesus culminated his earthly life with His ascension to heaven. “And when He had said these things, as they were looking on, He was lifted up, and a cloud took Him out of their sight” (Acts 1:9).

A Definition

The ascension is one of the most overlooked doctrines in Christian theology. It is important because it helps answer the question – where is Jesus now and what is He doing? As 1 Peter 3:21b-22 tells us: “through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.” This verse describes what is sometimes called “Christ’s heavenly session.” In case you were wondering, the word session comes from a Latin word that simply means, “sitting.” The Bible tells us that Jesus Christ is sitting (and reigning) at the right hand of God the Father. This is His heavenly session.

Another helpful verse is Hebrews 1:3. “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.” This is what we might call “session” language. Literally, the author of Hebrews writes, “He sat down at the right hand” of God. With the work of redemption accomplished, Christ could now return to his throne on high to reign and have dominion. And as Christ reigns, God works to accomplish all of his cosmic purposes. “The Lord said to my Lord: Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool” (Psalm 110:1).

J.I. Packer puts it this way: “Christ’s session will continue until all his and our enemies, including death, are brought to nothing. The last enemy of death will cease to be when Christ at his appearing raises the dead for judgment (John 5:28-29). Once judgment has been executed, the work of the mediatorial kingdom will be over, and Christ will triumphantly deliver the kingdom to the Father.” (Check out 1 Corinthians 15:22-28 for more on this).

Three Applications

So why does all this matter? First and foremost, we must remember that Jesus Christ is alive and well. The resurrection wasn’t just a hoax concocted by the disciples. Jesus Christ was truly raised to life and is alive and well even to this day. He conquered death and set the captives free. This gives us hope! As one hymn puts it, “because He lives, I can face tomorrow.” Or, because He lives, we as Christians can live. Praise God!

Secondly, we can take comfort in the fact that Jesus is interceding for us. “Christ Jesus is the one who died – more than that, who was raised – who is at the right hand of God, who is interceding for us” (Romans 8:34). This should be both exciting and comforting to the believer. In our weakness and in our times of need, our precious Savior is interceding on our behalf.

Lastly, we can know that everything is under the rule and authority of Christ. Whether it be angels, authorities, or powers. There is no realm of this universe that does not fall under the reign and rule and dominion of Christ. As Ephesians 1:20-21 reminds us, God raised Christ “from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but in the one to come.”

In short, Christ reigns and rules on high. There is no earthly power or kingdom that can compare with the rule of Christ. So when you watch the nightly news, or read on the internet about wars and rumors of wars, and government shutdowns, and corrupt leadership, and the national debt, and immorality, and whatever kind of news you encounter, just remember that Jesus reigns. He reigns and rules on high and is seated at the right hand of God the Father!