One Comment to “Light and Life”

  1. Donald McMahon
    December 31, 2018

    “Light and Life” (John 1:1–18)(12.3018)
    John 1:1–18 (NIV84)
    1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning.
    3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.
    6 There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. 9 The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.
    10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
    14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
    15 John testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ ” 16 From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.
    The word of God for the people of God.
    Title: Light and Life
    This morning I am going to ask you for a little leeway. Keep listening without becoming discouraged. If I am going to speak about Light and Life, I must also speak about death and darkness. Let us commence on our walk through the valley of the shadow of death.
    This past Friday night, Carol and I were watching the news. A segment came on that is common this time of year. It was a 2018 memorial for those that had died. Of course, the list consisted of prominent people; famous people; celebrities; politicians; musicians; actors & actresses; writers; cartoonists; and, even Billy Graham. But, millions died without a mention in the news. And, each year it is the same. Death is a part of life.
    Several of you lost loved ones in the last year or so. Many in this congregation are coping with grief; especially in this Christmas season which evokes deep emotional responses.
    My biological father died in May. He believed in God; just not the God of the Bible. He would be the person that would tell you they are spiritual, but not religious. My father knew about Jesus, but didn’t know Jesus.
    The Bible tells us that if we are “not alive with Christ” then we are dead in our transgressions and sins. My friends, I suggest to you that there are degrees of darkness and death. My father battled alcoholism his whole life. Now, he was sober the last 40 years, but he had no victory. His fear of falling back into a dungeon of drink and drunkenness kept him in a prison of his own making. Mostly, he stayed hidden in his tiny house having very little contact with the outside world.
    If what we mean by being religious is adhering to rituals, then it is dead religion. If what we mean by being religious is being legalistic, then it is a dead religion. Too often, Christians are seen as people who are just trying to impose their sense of morality onto others. If this is so, it is a dead religion. As followers of Jesus the Christ, we are to transcend the law; we are to transcend conscription to human morality. Why? Because, we are dead to sin; but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
    Today’s scripture is often read during the Advent and Christmas season. It speaks about one of the great mysteries of life. The supreme God of the universe, who has always existed, who created all things, condescended to take on human flesh and made his dwelling among us.
    I don’t know how many times I have read it; but this time verse four jumped off the page: In him was life. This rolled around in my mind: In him was life. How can we grasp the fullness of this brief sentence? In him was life. And, THAT LIFE was the light of men.
    If you are on social media you might have seen this thought expressed in different ways: “Science says that we need at least four basic elements to survive: water, air, food, and light.” The Bible records that Jesus said, “I am the Living Water. I am the Breath of Life. I am the bread of Life. And, I am the Light of the World. Science is right; we need Jesus to live.
    This life I speak about is not merely eating, drinking, breathing, and watching the sun rise each day. That is not life. That is existing. At the same time, when we recognize that these are gifts from God; when they inspire in us a sense of gratitude; when they cause us to respond with love for God our Father; these things are transformed from mundane to sublime.
    On Christmas Eve, I preached about Jesus coming to feed us. He was placed in a manger, in a feeding trough. John the Baptist told us that Jesus is the perfect Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. Jesus said that unless we eat his flesh and drink his blood, we have no life in us. Now, this is not simply referring to a reenactment of the Last Supper and Holy Communion. It is about finding our sustenance for life in the Lord Jesus.
    In John 10:10 (NIV84) Jesus says, ”The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” This is the contrast between death and darkness versus life and light. Do not miss that it is not “mere life” that Jesus provides, but fullness of life. Often, professing Christians are nowhere near a full life in Christ.
    This does not deny the difficulties that exist. Many of you are in the midst of hard times. Sometimes we are victims of sin in others. Sometimes we suffer for our own sins. We make choices and must live with the results. It may be that we are being brought through a refining fire to purify us. It may be that the Lord is exercising our faith muscles for the next life challenge.
    At other times we seem caught up in things that seem random at best or orchestrated by malevolent forces at worst. We look at the volcanic eruption this week that created a deadly tsunami in Indonesia, where hundreds died. We want to question God and His goodness about these catastrophes. God’s question to us is how are we going to respond to the heartache and brokenness when death and darkness loom?
    The crackdown on religious groups continued this week in China. Not just Christians, but other faiths are being oppressed too. The lead pastor in the Early Rain Covenant Christian Church is publicly thanking God for the persecution of the Church. Pastor Wang Li vows to continue to defy the Chinese government. He says, “The goal of disobedience is not to change the world but to testify about another world.”
    The Bible clearly teaches that there are two stages of life. Paul tells Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:8 (NIV84), For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. How we live this life gives evidence of how we will be living our next life.
    Our pew Bibles, the NIV, uses the word life 593 times. In my Lexham Theological Wordbook, being alphabetical, has life and light as consecutive entries. Here is the opening sentences of the “Life” entry: Life, both physical and spiritual, originates from God. Physical life is the time between one’s birth and death. Spiritual life is communion with God. Physical and spiritual life flourish when one is in communion with God.
    In the Bible, light frequently indicates people or things are righteous, pure, godly, or good. Darkness indicates the opposite—wickedness, impurity, immorality, and evil. Light is associated with life, especially a life of blessing and prosperity; darkness is associated with suffering, death, and decay.
    Psalm 36:9 (NIV84) For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.
    Psalm 56:13 (NIV84) For you have delivered me from death and my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before God in the light of life.
    How are we to understand that in Jesus is life? All other life has a beginning, but in the beginning, the Word, God, already existed. All life is dependent upon something outside of itself for existence. Not so in Jesus because He is the very life-force upon which all other life depends. Through Him all things were made and nothing was made that was not made through Him. All created life has limitations, but in Jesus there is life without limitations.
    We are called to find our life in Jesus. Galatians 2:20 (NIV84) I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. John 17:3 (NIV84) Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. Colossians 3:4 (NIV84) When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
    To the sleeping soul that knows not Christ, this is beyond comprehension. As the baby in the womb is equipped with a body for which the child knows no apparent use, so we are equipped in this life with a spirit which does not appear useful. A baby in the womb sucks their thumb and has no knowledge that there is any other potential for that thumb. Are you like that baby?
    This life in Christ is not a solitary life. Romans 14:7 (NIV84) For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. We are born into a family. We are part of a community. Think about all those that have invested a portion of themselves into your life. That is one of the problems with darkness, it isolates and tells us we are alone. God the Father and God the Son reassure us that they will never leave us or forsake us; that they will be with us always. And, faithful followers of Jesus are the Temple of God the Holy Spirit.
    As part of the Church, the Body of Christ, we are inexorably linked to each other. Whatever we do affects others within our community. We influence those around us for better or for worse.
    This identification of Jesus with life reframes our understanding of existence. By denying this crucial truth, the culture opens Pandora’s box of horrors. Too many take natural life for granted. They think of it as human in origin. Parents having children one generation after the next. Scripture says otherwise with several examples.
    Last Sunday, we read the account of Mary meeting her Aunt Elizabeth when both were miraculously pregnant. John the Baptist was six month’s in his mother’s womb when he leapt within her at the sound of Mary’s voice. The baby Jesus had only been conceived days or at the most a few weeks and yet Elizabeth identified Him as my Lord. By attributing human life to an accident of conception between humans, the culture has undermined an appreciation of life and of children…leading to the plague of abortion.
    We have been told that we are in a post-Christian era here in America. It is an age of postmodernism. It is an age of pluralism. It is an age of nihilism. Satan surely chuckles as false gods and idols populate our world. While we look down on past generations as being intellectually inferior to us, King Solomon, the wisest of all men, said in Ecclesiastes 1:9 (NIV84)
    9 What has been will be again,
    what has been done will be done again;
    there is nothing new under the sun.
    Does this seem abstract? Are you wondering, so what? How can I apply this in my daily life? In this day and age, we have made ourselves big and God small. Anxiety, worry, depression, and stress are the normal human condition. People try to escape with drugs, alcohol, or entertainment. Suicide rates are climbing. We have lost our anchor and we helplessly bob on the roiling seas of life. Conflict and criticism disrupt a sense of community.
    Certainly, there is a knowledge outside of our reach. There is a mystery beyond our understanding. We cannot reason all the puzzle pieces into a defining picture for we have not seen the Almighty’s vision. At best, we see through a glass darkly.
    In Jesus is life, and that life is the light of men. And, though the world was made through him, the world does not recognize him. We stumble around looking for the meaning of life, but outside of God it is not possible. Only Jesus, the One and Only has ever seen God. “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being.” It is in the Son that we will find meaning.
    1. Love divine, all loves excelling,
    joy of heaven, to earth come down;
    fix in us thy humble dwelling;
    all thy faithful mercies crown!
    Jesus thou art all compassion,
    pure, unbounded love thou art;
    visit us with thy salvation;
    enter every trembling heart.

    2. Breathe, O breathe thy loving Spirit
    into every troubled breast!
    Let us all in thee inherit;
    let us find that second rest.
    Take away our bent to sinning;
    Alpha and Omega be;
    end of faith, as its beginning,
    set our hearts at liberty.

    3. Come, Almighty to deliver,
    let us all thy life receive;
    suddenly return and never,
    nevermore thy temples leave.
    Thee we would be always blessing,
    serve thee as thy hosts above,
    pray and praise thee without ceasing,
    glory in thy perfect love.

    4. Finish, then, thy new creation;
    pure and spotless let us be.
    Let us see thy great salvation
    perfectly restored in thee;
    changed from glory into glory,
    till in heaven we take our place,
    till we cast our crowns before thee,
    lost in wonder, love, and praise.
    The Apostle Paul proclaims in Colossians 1:27 (NIV84)
    To [us] God has chosen to make known the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

    Amen and amen. Let us pray.


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