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letthewordreveal

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us….

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December 2015

One True Light. John 1:1-14

With all the activity that Christmas brings, we can easily forget about Jesus.

We’re so busy shopping, decorating, eating, drinking, spending time with family, doing all sorts of festive activities!

If you’re like me, you think it’s ok to listen to Christmas music and carols all year round , or maybe you’re a little less enthusiastic about the season, for many and varied reasons, and carols are old the first time you hear them!

Christmas holds many good and pleasant memories for me, but that isn’t always the case for all.

I grieve over the commercialisation of Christmas as much as the next person, but I also revel in one of the only times of year where I have an opportunity to give, to receive, but mostly to remember and share the good news of peace on earth coming in the form of God in a manger.

In John’s version of the Christmas story there are no stables, donkeys, stars, shepherds, wise men or mangers. John’s focus, as he starts his Gospel, is the same as he has all the way through the rest of it – Jesus, the Son of God, becoming man.

1 – Starting From the Very Beginning v.1a

Where would you start your life story?

Most biographies start with the generations before. Parents, grandparents, great-grandparents and the various impacts that they had.

When we see John’s opening to his account of Jesus’ life, we see something very unique. We immediately see that this is not an ordinary story about an ordinary person.

‘In the beginning…’ is not just the start of one person’s life, this is the real “In the beginning…”. It is the start of all life, where all life as we know it began. This is the story of Creation, and it echoes Genesis 1:1.

John is retelling the story of Creation, with Jesus the Word at the centre.

The story of every person hinges on the facts of the story of this One person we are about to be introduced to.

Genesis’ account climaxed with the creation of the first human being, the first Adam. John’s account of creation will climax also with man taking on human flesh, the last and true Adam. Not just an updated, improved Adam, but this person, although very human, has a very different introduction to life in this world than most humans have.

The story of Jesus does not begin with His human conception. He was born in our world, as a real human being, but that’s not where His story started. His story doesn’t even start at the only reference point we have so far as our concept of time goes, ‘in the beginning’.
2- The Eternal Word v. 1-4

John will go on to say that Jesus already “was” in the beginning. His story had no beginning, for He was in eternity.

At the council of Nicea in 325AD, there was a bishop from Myra who had been called, along with many other church leaders of the time to hear and respond to the teaching of a man named Arius, who was claiming that Jesus was a created being and not eternal.

The bishop from Myra listened politely for some time to Arius’ arguments, but after a while, he could take it no longer. He walked across the room and slapped Arius in the face.

The bishop’s name was Nicholas, we would later receive sainthood for his acts of charity, which are remembered in various ways today. Perhaps the best way of observing Christmas would be to punch heretics rather than exchange presents, but it is what it is!

This point has been a matter of vital importance for all true believers. If Jesus Christ is not the eternal Son of God, we would have nothing to believe in.

John dismisses anything else as being possible.

The Word was!

John goes on to say something even more staggering. The Word was, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.

He is not talking about two separate “Words”, but One, Who is One with God. Separate, yet at the same time, completely the same.

“Rachel is with my wife” and “Rachel is my wife” makes no sense unless there are two Rachels! It makes little sense to us to say the Word that is with God IS God, but we are not dealing with a natural being. This is God. It’s more than just metaphysical wordplay. It is a supernatural reality that God is Three Persons in One Being.

The Word is with God because the Word John is speaking of is Jesus, the Son of God, part of the divine Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

God as Triune is not a topic we can get our heads around easily, but until we at least grasp the fact that Jesus is the Eternal Son of God, none of the rest of the Gospel story will make any sense to us, and our story will always have a bit missing also.
3- The One True Light v. 4-9

Stumbling around in a dark room can be a dangerous exercise! Finding the light switch, or trying not to wake others, you can soon be disorientated.

In v4 John moves to the point of where this is meant to make us sit up and take notice. Mankind has entered his story, and what John says about our origin and meaning for life should make all pay close attention.

Jesus is the source of life, and any light in the life is only found in Him. (John 1:4). In Him we live and move and have our being, Paul would later say in Acts (17:28), stating what is stated here.

Even the darkest things of this world, the hearts of the darkest men and women, cannot overcome the light that Jesus gives.

In a dark world, a shining light gives us something to move towards. Like moths to a flame. At least that’s how is should be.In a world with many false hopes, false promises, false messiahs, false lights, we are told that Jesus is the one true light (v9) Who has come to enlighten everyone, yet so often we get caught up with false lights. We chase shadows while the real things beckons us to Himself.

There is no doubt that humanity is confused about life, God, identity, truth and future. We’re confused because we’re creatures with limited understanding, and we’re confused because we’re sinners with depraved minds and hearts.

At the first Christmas, the Word, the the logos, entered our world. It was far more than words alone. It was word with power, absolute power. It was a pure word. The logos was reason, a word we derive our word ‘logic’ from. John is effectively saying, ‘Only because Jesus came can everything now make sense.’

4 – The Revealed Word v. 9-14

Jesus would call Himself the Light of the World ( John 8:12), but of course, not all would accept His light or hear His Word He bought.

Even His own people didn’t receive Him.

Thank God for ‘buts’ in the bible – “but to all who did receive Him, who believed on His name, He gave them the right to be called the children of God.”

Thank God that He has intervened in our history to tell His-story with His Word. He stepped in, literally. He put Himself into the story not just so we could feel special and cozy once a year at Christmas, but so we could know Him.

We know the value and meaning of words. They can heal or destroy. Encourage or disappoint. We use words to communicate, and language is the one of the single defining features of being human. We know the power that words can have.

We get that sense of importance of language from God Himself. From the Old Testament, we see Him again and again reveal Himself through His word.

God’s Word is such a complete revelation of Himself that it is Himself. God’s Word conveys Who He is and it does so perfectly.

God’s written word matters as much today as the day He first moved men to write it. His Word is important because it means that God can communicate in a way that is sure, true, and understandable to us. When we hear God’s Word, we don’t just hear a second-hand report about God, we are hearing God Himself.

Hebrews 1:1-2 tells us that God has spoken to us through His Son.

Even His birth speaks us to us so clearly of what God intends for us. A humble birth. A manger throne.

The Son of God becoming man, putting on our flesh and living among us so he could die for us. That is the only reason Immortality would put on mortality. To die for the mortal.

This is Christmas as it is meant to be. When you take away everything, even Mary and Joseph, you are left not with an empty season, but a meaningful eternity, if you believe the account that John gives.

By all means, celebrate Christmas. Give, receive, attend family functions, enjoy the season, the festivity, enjoy the tree, the lights, the pageantry, the carols, the special events, but don’t focus on the to-do list, join John in focussing on Jesus, the one true light.

There are many ways we can do that as believers in a culture that has hijacked and commercialised what we can freely celebrate.

The Christmas tree can remind us of the one who trusts The Lord. The one who puts roots down deep, and bears fruit that is beautiful and brings glory to God.

The lights can remind us if that bright and shining star that brings people from all over the world to worship Jesus.

The gifts of Christmastime of course remind us of the unspeakable gift that God has given us, and the call for us to gives ourselves back.

Don’t exchange the priceless gift of Jesus this Christmas for something temporary and cheap either. He is so much better than anything we could ask or imagine. He’s the true joy all the joys we have in this life are pointing to. He’s the true gift that all other gifts allude to.

“Christ, by highest heaven adored
Christ, the everlasting Lord;
Late in time,behold Him come,
Offspring of a virgin’s womb
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail the incarnate Deity,
Pleased as man with man to dwell,
Jesus, our Emmanuel.”

 

( credit also to resource “One True Light” by Tim Chester, Advent readings that my wife & I have used this last month a highly recommend it!!)

 

 

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“Getting What You Want Out of Life”…Psalm 37 & The Will of God for my life..

If you are anything like me, you may well find yourself at times in almost a permanent state of paralysed indecision and handwringing about what your next move should be.The future is daunting, scary even, and we don’t want to put a foot wrong. We want to please God, He doesn’t give us explicit instructions about what to do in every situation though.

We’re also frustrated by the way others seem to get by with so much success while paying no attention to the will of God for their lives.

“ Fretting is a common activity of our age. It is composed of worry, resentment, jealousy, and self-pity…It chews us up inside while accomplishing nothing.” – Tim Keller

So how do we get out of this dilemma? The Psalmist gives some wonderful insight in how we can live anxiety free. David writes in his old age (v25), and he has wisdom to share with those on the path he has been on.

1 – A Timely Reminder v 1-2

Some of us may identify with the problem of short-term memory loss. Walking into a room and forgetting why you came in. Misplacing your keys, your charger, your car…

What we don’t realise often enough is that as believers in God, we neglect the discipline of remembering our future. We forget what lies ahead, and when we do that, we worry. We will worry not only about our own future, but we will also worry about those around us who love evil and seem to be prospering.

When we worry about the evil in the world, and get obsessed over who is doing the evil, we are not only forgetting our end, but we are forgetting theirs.

We get fearful when we look around.On top of our fear, there is a bitterness and envy. We want impunity. We want to do what we want and have no one correct us.

Self-pity as defining characteristic is in no way a compliment to the one who is seeking to please God. Self-pity will leave you compromised. You are not exactly the most objective judge when it comes to other’s sins being worse than your own, or that you deserve more than others seem to be getting.

David has a timely reminder, this life is temporary.

“Look forward – those whose main happiness is found in this world are living on borrowed time.” – Tim Keller

2 – A Godward Perspective v 3-6

Trusting that God has our best in mind while we watch the godless prosper in this world can be a hard thing, but this is what we are called to again and again.

To trust in Him, delight in Him, commit to His way, be still before Him, wait for Him. These are just a few of the confronting yet familiar truths echoed in this Psalm.

“Waiting on God requires the willingness to bear uncertainty, to carry within oneself the unanswered question, lifting the heart to God about it whenever it intrudes upon one’s thoughts.” – Elisabeth Elliot 

While worry gets us distracted with what is happening around us, having a preoccupation with discovering more of God will distract in us in positive way.

It certainly doesn’t mean we ‘stuff’ our frustrations, but by turning to God when we are fearful, we can vent our worries, unload them on One Who can bear them.

Instead of directing all our attention on what others are doing and how it might affect us, we should redirect our attention and focus on what God will do, and when we see what He will  do ( v1-2) we will see glimpses of what He is currently doing (v5b).

Our default response when something goes wrong is hand-wringing or finger pointing. Blame and worry. But when we trust in God, these moments of blame and worry can be turned into moments of praise and delight.

Focussing on God also frees us to see we don’t have to figure it all out!

Our salvation is His work, and as we commit to Him, He will act. (v5b).

He will bring forth our righteousness, there is no need for us to save ourselves or manufacture our own justice ( v6) .

What seems hidden to us now, He will reveal. What is unfair now, will be put right for all to see. There will be no hiding from God’s justice, and there is no hiding the righteousness that He gives us.

3 – A Friendship that Lasts v3

There is the release of a burden in saying that God is the One Who acts to save, but we shouldn’t think we then have licence to live how we wish or spurn His faithfulness by being unfaithful ourselves.

Verse 3 gives another instruction also, to ‘do good’, it’s repeated in v27, but it challenges us again, not to get so caught up in what is happening around us that we don’t get involved in what God has called us to.

We are to do good by dwelling in the land that God has placed us, cultivating the environment we are in to grow faithfulness, or to feed on faithfulness, or ‘befriend faithfulness’.

Blooming where you are planted is a familiar saying, and it is a visual lesson in fruitful faithfulness.

We should get to know what faithfulness looks like.

Cultivating faithfulness is hard work. You have to plough hard, sometimes rocky and dry ground.

Cultivating unfaithfulness is much easier. That we can do. We like to dig up dirt about others and shake off the dust in their faces. Fretting about our plans for the world and purposes we have for ourselves rather than what God has in store.

David says we should feed on things that cause us to delight in God. Getting to know faithfulness like friend. A friend that sometimes that speaks truth with love, showing you how far you have to go, but reminds you constantly of what God has done, is doing and will do to bring you lasting peace.

4 – A Desire That’s Sure to be Met. v 4

Verse 4 is one of those ‘coffee-mug verses’. It is certainly inspirational and fills us with hope, we like the last part especially!

We like the idea of getting what we want in life. We don’t like the idea of having to jump through hoops to figure out how to get it though.

But this is not a hoop to jump through in order to have a blank cheque for life. By taking pleasure in God, delighting in Him, the next natural step is that God will give you a great reward – more of Himself.

When you delight in Him and delight to please Him, committing to Him and trusting in Him when life throws curve balls is not burdensome, but rather, His law becomes a delight. His law becomes our reward. ( Psalm 119:24).

His desires become our desires, and we get what we want when we want Him.

When we seek Him with our whole heart, we will find Him.

That should fill us with hope and joy. In a world that craves happiness and pleasure, we have something that will outlast these temporary and fickle things. We have a God Who is not only our hope of future vindication in the face of our current problems, He is the God Who is committed to giving us a purpose.

Our purpose is glorify Him and enjoy Him forever, and as we do this, we see more and more of His plan unfolding. We see more and more how our desires fade and His desires for us replace them.

What are some of the things you want in life, but don’t know how to get?

We want relationships that don’t fail.

We want jobs that don’t drain our creativity.

We want a bank account that is always full.

We want to be completely healthy.

These are all good desires, and the fact that we miss out on some of them can be a genuine cause for grief, and to grieve over losses in life is not sinful. But if these desires outshine, outlast and outplay your desire to please God first, you will always be lacking the ‘one thing’ of treasure in Heaven ( Mark 10:21).

Verse 37 hints at what it would take to have a future of peace.

Be blameless.

Be upright.

This may seem to lead us back to where we started – not wanting to do anything for fear of wrong motives, and not wanting to just ‘go through the motions’ or ‘tick the boxes’ in order to get our way. We also know we cannot be completely blameless or upright…It seems like a dead end.

But it’s not!

This where we remember we get our righteousness from God. He acts. He makes us blameless and upright, not by our own actions, but by His, in His Son.

But our commitment, our trust in God, our stillness in His presence, our waiting on Him are not passive acts on our part.

We are to be actively seeking God. As we desire Him, we can be sure we are in His will, we will be in His will when our faith and trust is in Him. Even if that faith is small, weak, and falters from time to time.

We want many things, and God has promised us much, but the greatest of His promises is that salvation is His idea – it belongs to Him, and if He gives us that,if He gives us Christ,  He will freely give us all things. ( Romans 8:31-32).

If you have a restless mind, heart, soul then set your mind on Christ. Gain life and freedom by releasing your burden and taking up the cross.

The best way you can delight in God and know His will is to reflect on His Son. If you are burdened and troubled, there is no cure but the Cross.

The Cross held our Saviour as He died for our peace. So we could have that righteousness that God has promised.

The empty tomb, though, holds much more than grave clothes. It it is our hope. Because He lives – I can face tomorrow!

Make friends with faithfulness. You don’t know how long God will have you in the place you are, but you know He has you there. Do good while you’re there. 

Make sure your desires are Godly desires. Don’t desire selfish things. Don’t desire what the world desires. Desire what God has designed you for. If what you desire doesn’t come your way, trust that God has an even better plan and purpose in store. Ask Him to do something better for you than you ask or imagine. That’s one prayer that will always be answered. 

Don’t get worked up about wickedness. Be aware, but don’t be afraid.

Admit you don’t know it all. That’s humbling, but true humility is incredibly relaxing. Rest in God. Be still and know that He is God and you are not!

God has given you a life to live, a land to live in, and a path to walk. Watch your steps, see how He is at work in establishing them ( v23-24).

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