If you know anything about church work, you’ve heard of the name George Barna. Mr. Barna does research for various companies and organizations, including Visa, Disney World, state governments, etc. He’s also a born-again believer who is always interested in the church. At the end of every year, he does a year in review. He published something this year that just really caught my attention. I focused in and began to think about what he was talking about. He said that we look at the world and we think the world’s not interested in spiritual things. Eighty-eight percent of Americans say that spiritual matters are very, very, very, very important to them. Don’t think that the world does not have, or Americans don’t have, this understanding or these belief systems. We tend to think that people in the world just don’t have a belief system. In fact, he says that we have a full system of beliefs. But the thing is, they’re not Biblical. Those people that have these beliefs do not want their beliefs challenged. They’re not interested in you challenging their belief system, nor are they interested in changing their belief system.
What caught my attention was the following statement. Do you know when this is all settled in a person’s mind? It happens in adolescence. In fact, Barna says by the time most Americans reach the age of 13 or 14, they think they pretty well know what’s in the Bible and what the Bible teaches and they’re no longer interested in learning more spiritual content. Neither are people open to being proven wrong or learning new spiritual insights. I found that fascinating because it says an awful lot that we need to hear. It tells us why we’re losing young people when they go off to college. In fact, it tells us we’re losing young people before they go to college. We’re losing them about the time they’re 13 or 14 years of age. It tells us a lot of things about people in the church and that a lot of what we believe is not Biblical.
I’m reading a book right now on resurrection, death, and the afterlife by an English theologian that is just absolutely riveting to me. A lot of things we believe in the church are not necessarily tied to Scripture. They are not necessarily in the Bible. We fight tooth and nail over it, but you can’t find it anywhere in the Word of God. It’s kind of interesting because we don’t want to be changed. We don’t want to be challenged. I’ve had people tell me, “Well, I’m not really sure I like your preaching because you’re so direct.” Well, forgive me! I kind of thought that’s what God called me to do! To be direct with the Word of God! As if Homer Lindsay was not direct? I guarantee you got the direct Gospel when he preached! It kind of tells us that we don’t want to be challenged. That’s why some of us don’t want to be in Sunday School because we don’t really want to have our belief system challenged. We don’t want to get into application groups because in an application group somebody is liable to make me give a defense for the hope that is within me and I really can’t give a defense. Many of us are not real sure why we believe what we believe, but we believe it and we just don’t want to be challenged about it. We get uncomfortable with our spiritual beliefs.
Now, I want you to hold that thought over here and I want you to listen to something out of C.S. Lewis. Parents, if you’ve never bought your kids The Chronicles of Narnia, you ought to rush out tomorrow and purchase the series. The books are great material for kids to be reading. That’s what they should be reading and it’s a lot better than Harry Potter, I can assure you. Get them on The Chronicles of Narnia. In The Chronicles of Narnia, you’ve got this great figure called Aslan. He’s the lion and he is the Christ figure in The Chronicles of Narnia. There is a conversation that takes place between little Lucy (Lucy is the little girl who is growing up) and Aslan in the forest. She’s seen him before, but now she sees him again. Aslan speaks to her and says, “Welcome, little child.”
“Aslan!” says Lucy, “you’re bigger!”
“That’s because you’re older, little one,” answered he.
“Not because you are?” she asks.
“I am not, but every year you grow, you will find me bigger.”
All right, I want to just give you a little bit of logic. Don’t anybody answer because I want you just to think about this. I want you to think a little bit logically about God. Can God get bigger? Can God grow greater? Can God become more powerful? No! He’s God! You don’t get bigger than that! You don’t get greater than that! You don’t get more powerful! He is all-powerful! He is all-great! He is all-sovereign! He is God! But as you grow spiritually, you see more of the greatness of God! You want to know why God isn’t great to a lot of you folks? Because you haven’t grown spiritually! That’s being direct! Do you want to know why God isn’t so great to the thousands on the rolls of this church who aren’t impressed enough with God to show up at His house today? Because they have not grown spiritually! My job is to preach to you directly the Word of God and grow you. As you grow, you will discover how great a God you really have!
I want you to take your copy of God’s Word and I want you to look with me at John’s Gospel, chapter one. I’m going to begin a series this morning out of this wonderful Gospel. I want you to look at this because in John’s Gospel you’re going to get the answer to the question, “Who is Jesus?” When you go to John’s Gospel, you’ll see it is the fourth Gospel. You may begin to wonder, “Well, why are there four Gospels?” Folks, I’ve got so much introduction I’d love to give you, but time is just fleeing from me. Let me just tell you why there are four Gospels.
If I took any four of you and asked you to write me an account of World War II and all four of you were in the army or the air force or navy or whatever, you would give me four different accounts because the account would come through your eyes.
Matthew writes for the Jew. Matthew writes from a decidedly Jewish point of view to show the Jew that the King has come. He starts with a genealogy that goes all the way back to Abraham because he wants you to see “Here is the One to whom God promised that through Him all the nations would be blessed. Here is your King!” That’s why you would look at Matthew and you could write beside Matthew--Behold your King!
Then you come to Mark’s Gospel. Mark writes no genealogy because his Gospel is essentially presenting Jesus as the servant. He is the great servant who serves. He comes to serve the purposes of the Father. He comes and He serves the disciples. He tells them “I did not come to be served. I came to serve.” Mark’s Gospel says--Behold, your servant! No genealogy because servants had no genealogy. He writes this mainly for the Roman world to read.
Luke’s Gospel comes next and Luke presents Jesus to the Greek as the perfect man. The Greeks were always looking for the perfect man! He had to have mental ability. He had to have physical ability. He had to have this spiritual dimension of the soul. The Greeks were constantly looking for the perfect man in mind, body and spirit. So Luke comes and he says, “Here is the perfect human!” He starts his genealogy back with David. Here is the lineage. He comes from great stock! Here is the perfect man! Luke’s Gospel says--Behold the man!
John’s Gospel is one of the last books written in the New Testament. We just finished studying James, which was one of the first epistles written. John is one of the last. We’ve gone from James, one of the first written, to the Gospel of John, probably one of the last three. He wrote John somewhere around 85-90 A.D. He wrote First, Second and Third John around 90-91 A.D. Then, he wrote the book of Revelation around 90-91, 92, 93, 94 A.D. and dies. John writes for the church. Whereas Matthew writes for the Jew and Mark for the Roman and Luke for the Greek, John writes the Gospel to the church. This is your discipline manual right here! He comes and he says, “This is how you grow in the things of God.” What is the purpose of this Gospel? Well, if I were grading John, I would mark him off because it’s poor English literature to save your thesis statement until the end of the paper. It may be poor English, but it’s good Greek. He comes to John 20:31 and says “but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ.” Who is this Jesus? He’s the Christ! The Son of God! “…and that believing, you may have life in Him.”
This is one pure piece of evangelicalism! This is pure evangelism. He writes this Gospel to show you who Jesus is so that you might believe on him and have eternal life. Now, that’s John’s Gospel. Boy, I wish I could give you a lot more on that, but I’ve got to take you to the text because my time’s running out. You’ve got about 20 more minutes of attention span and that’s it!
So, who is this Jesus? Watch as John presents Him beginning in verse 1. He’s going to introduce Him. We are introduced to Him as “The Word.” Now these are some of the simplest words in all of literature. That is, they’re written on a third-grade level. If you were first semester Greek students, I would challenge you to try and translate the first couple of verses of John out of the Greek by the end of the semester. You could probably do it. It is so simple! However, these, to me, are the most profound words in all of literature.
1 "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God and all things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life and the life was the light of men and the light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not comprehend it.”
Now let me tell you something. Shakespeare, Milton, Poe, Pope--none of them capture anything like that right there! Look at the economy of language and the absolute profoundness of thought! John comes and he introduces Him as “The Word.” “In the beginning was the Word...”
Well, what is the word? It’s not a what. It’s a He! Verse 2 tells us it is a singular, personal pronoun. He! It’s a person! And who is the person? “In the beginning was the Word...”
It’s Jesus Christ! You know who it is! Why does he use “The Word?” He uses it for two reasons, I think. First, he uses it for the Jew. The Jew would understand this. You read the words, “In the beginning...” Don’t you think any Jew would pick up on something? He’s going back to Genesis. He’s going back to the very beginning of everything and he says, “In the beginning...” Every Jew would pick up on this. How did God create the heavens and the earth? By the spoken word! He spoke and worlds flew into existence! He spoke and light sprang into existence. It was through the Word! How did God communicate to Abraham to get him out of Ur and into the land of Canaan? Through a word! What did God do to Moses out of the burning bush? He spoke words to Moses. All through the Old Testament you read these words. Dabar Yahweh. Dabar Yahweh. Dabar Yahweh. The Word of God. And the Word of God said. And the Word of God came. And the Word of the Lord was revealed. These Jews would understand immediately what was being said when John wrote “The Word.” But he also wrote it for the Greek. It’s interesting.
If you’ve got your Bibles, put your finger in John, chapter one. Go with me to Acts chapter 17 for just a second. In Acts 17, Paul is in the great ancient city of Athens, the intellectual capitol of the world. It was where great education took place, kind of like Clemson, South Carolina. If you’ve been to Athens with me, I stand you up on Mars Hill. It’s an outcropping of rock about the size of this whole platform right here. It’s just a big outcropping of rock. It’s at the base of the Acropolis where the Parthenon sits on top. You come down from there and you’re on level ground. If you climb up on Mars Hill, you can look down into the agora. Now, the agora was a street, a long street. It was kind of like St. Johns. You’ve got that one, long street and you had shops on either side. People were there worshipping, just like they go to St. Johns and worship today. And you had temples, you know, on either side. There were temples to this god and temples to that god and a statue to that god. Well, Paul’s walking through and he sees this statue. Listen to what he says in verse 22. He comes back up to Mars Hill out of the marketplace, off of that street, and he says,
“Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects, for while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription to an unknown god.”
They knew that there was a God. They knew that there was a God that was out there, that gave life, that gave personality, that animated the world, but they didn’t have a clue. Socrates talked about Him! He was the ideal! It was out there somewhere, but he had no word for Him. He had no name for Him. Socrates referred to Him. Plato had a little different thought. Aristotle, still a little different thought, but even their poets wrote about him. Look at verse 28. “For in Him we live and move...” This God that you know exists, but you don’t have a name for. “...as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children.’”
They knew that they had come from this God, but they had no name! They had a statue, an idol with no name. Paul comes and he says, “I’ve come to tell you who that is”! Now, do you know what the Greeks called Him? You know what their name was for this God they knew existed? They called Him The Word. The logos. So John comes and he writes this and they know exactly what he is saying. They can identify. Those that were lost in Judaism, those that were lost as Greeks, they would understand. He’s that you need to understand in the beginning. In other words, the Greek literally says, “Before there was a beginning this Word existed!” This God existed! Jesus Christ existed.
Now, I’m going to make much of that because two weeks ago I was on vacation and we went to a little church that day. I got up early like I normally do and I listened to somebody on television. An older man was teaching and I thought to myself, “How many of my people listen to this guy on TV?” Now, I’m not going to tell you who it is, so don’t try to figure it out. I don’t want to criticize TV preachers because I am one! But I want to tell you something. I listened and he was just going through something and answering a question somebody submitted. He made the statement that Jesus Christ had been created and he just kind of continued. He said that the Jesus Christ part of creation just kind of goes on and I thought to myself, “How many people at First Baptist Church of Jacksonville are listening to this and makes this part of their theology?” It is so wrong! It is so errant! It is so terrible that I have to help them understand. Jesus Christ was not created! Jesus Christ is the Creator! He existed before anything else. There’s never been a time when Jesus Christ did not exist! He has always been. He is the uncreated Creator! If He was not in existence before all things, if He was created, then if He died on that cross, his death for your sins does not count. It was the eternal God that went to that cross that died for your sins!
Now John takes another step. He says, “And the Word was with God.”
Let me tell you what that is right there. In the Greek, it’s this: Prosopon-. Toward the God. Now if I brought Debbie up here and I got face to face with her, that would illustrate the implication. That’s what the word pros- is. It means to be face to face. Nose to nose. Do you see what that’s implying? If I’m face to face, then I’m nose to nose. There’s an intimacy there. I know. When I’m intimate, I know. Here is God the Father, face to face with God the Son, and there is a knowledge of each other. There is an intimacy between one another. There is a conversation and a fellowship that takes place.
By the way, one of the critically wrong things to say is this: God created man because God was lonely. God did not create man because He was lonely. He had perfect fellowship with the Son and with the Spirit. Now that leads me to this: Modalism. It was a heresy in the ancient world. It’s still a heresy today. Modalism essentially says that God the Father kind of changed and became God the Son, and after a little while, God the Son changed and became God the Holy Spirit. No, He did not! What John tells you right here is that God the Father existed with God the Son and God the Holy Spirit and there was a fellowship, a knowledge, an intimacy that was there. How do you explain it? You can’t. You know why? Because He’s God! I can explain the other stuff! You can know something of the nature of God, but let me tell you something. You can’t begin in your little finite brain to know half of what God is all about.
Now John takes it a step further. Who is this Jesus? He was the uncreated Creator, in the beginning, before there was a beginning. He is The Word that was with God face to face. And the Word was God. Jesus Christ is God! You don’t have to speculate! You don’t have to wonder! You don’t have to struggle! You don’t have to go to seminary to figure this out! All you have to do is read something on a third-grade level that is so profound you can barely explain it! “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” We’re introduced to Him as the Word.
Now look at verse 3. Let me move you through this. We’re introduced to Him as Creator.
“All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.”
Now I want to tell you something. What you just read is what’s called Hebrew parallelism. Now if you wrote that in English it would not be a very good statement grammatically. But, it is a great statement theologically. It’s like John is saying, “I’m going to tell you this one way and then I’m going to turn around and tell you this in another way because that is the emphasis.” You also find that in Hebrew wisdom literature when you read the Psalms, the Proverbs, and when you go back and read Genesis, chapters one and two. You have Hebrew parallelism. A Hebrew had no exclamation point, so this is what he would do. He would tell you something and then he would turn around and tell you the same thing in a different way. What he’s saying right here is that Jesus Christ created everything that there is and nothing exists that He did not create!
As you may know, I’m kind of on a news fast. I’m trying to stay away from the news so I can have a happy life. But when you get on the internet, all these little tidbit things pop up. For instance, you see Colt McCoy over here crying, bless his heart, and Nick Saban is over here rejoicing, and then you’ve got a picture of something that they found off the coast of Taiwan. I want you to look at this. Do you know what that is? They’ve discovered this off the coast of Taiwan. It’s called a strawberry crab. Does that not look good? There’s another picture of it! Look at that! That just looks, oh, so lunchy! Just some drawn butter and that thing has got to be incredible! It’s pretty, isn’t it? That’s what I thought when I saw it! You know what? Jesus Christ made it! Man just found it, but Jesus Christ created it! He’s the Creator!
Now, point number three. We’re introduced to Him as life. Listen to what he says in the first four words of verse 4. “In Him was life...” It doesn’t say life came through Him. It doesn’t say that He channels life or funnels life. That’s too weak! It says, “In Him was life...” In other words, He is the life giver! He spoke and the air was filled with living birds. He spoke and the seas were filled with living creatures! He spoke and the land was filled with living mammals! He spoke on the outside of a tomb, “Lazarus!” And out of that tomb came a man that had been dead four days! He touched the side of a coffin and spoke to a boy of a widowed woman and the boy sat up! He grabbed the hand of a little 12-year-old girl locked in the grip of death and she sits up and gets up and walks! He is the life-giver! Who is this Jesus? Have you ever wondered? Is He getting bigger to you? Is He growing? Do you see the greatness of God? I’m going to tell you something. If you all were Pentecostals, you would be rolling in the aisle right now!
Now back to verse four. He’s presented to us as light. “...and the Life...” That is, Jesus Christ “...was the Light of men.”
You know, I went to see a movie. All my kids went to see it. They said, “Daddy, you’ve got to go see this movie.” I want to tell you, with the exception of four words, it is a good movie. It’s a great story. It’s called The Blind Side. But in the middle of this movie comes this lady. I don’t know what her name is. She’s the spookiest woman in movies that I know. She’s the one that hit that guy on the ankles. Oh, my stars! Misery! She’s the scariest woman that there is on TV. She appeared and I jumped out of my seat. She makes this statement and I said this a few weeks ago because I keep hearing this come up. This has become a mantra. Now, I want you to listen to me. She says, “Oh, I’m not religious. I’m spiritual.” Now, I keep coming back to this because I’m going to get this point across to you. You can be religious, but you cannot be spiritual apart from Jesus Christ. Apart from Jesus Christ, your spirit is dead. You’re in spiritual darkness. That’s what he’s saying right here. He’s saying in verse 5, “The Light shines in the darkness...”
Now remember, this whole first, second, and third chapter of John is a re-creation. He begins with “In the beginning.” Now we’ve got a new beginning in Jesus Christ. There is a re-creation of man. Just as God spoke into the darkness of the void that was there before creation, God now speaks into the darkness of the human soul that is dark because of sin! And Light appears! And the Light is Jesus Christ. Now I’m giving you fuel to debate with tomorrow at the water cooler, folks. I’m trying to teach you something because people want to know. Why do you believe in this Jesus? Because apart from Jesus, Paul says that the god of this world has blinded our eyes and there is nothing but spiritual darkness. God spoke into the darkness of my spiritual darkness and all of a sudden the Light came on and the Light was Jesus Christ. Do you see that? Do you grasp this? There is no spiritual life or light apart from Jesus Christ. For those in Islam, their eyes have been blinded by the god of his world and they grope in darkness. You say, “Aren’t you afraid to say that?” Listen! Let me tell you! A thousand times, no! What do you mean, afraid to say it? There’s coming a day, quickly, quickly when we’re going to have to stand for Jesus or you’re going to fall for everything else! I’m going to stand for Jesus! If all of you leave me, I’m going to stand for Jesus! Those in Hinduism, we love ‘em, we care, we send the Gospel to ‘em, we take up money so that we can send missionaries, but they’re blinded by the god of this world and they’re groping in spiritual darkness. There is no light apart from Jesus Christ! You say, “They’re liable to blow it up!” Well, blow it up! We’ll build it back! Who cares? It’s just building and mortar anyway. Some of you all need to get over being so afraid and I’m going to show you why. Now look at Scripture. It says in verse 5 “…and the darkness did not comprehend it.”
The word there is katalambano in the Greek. Kata- is a prefix meaning down. -Lambano means to grab, to seize, or to grasp. It has a number of meanings. If you’ve got the New American Standard, the King James, or the New King James, it all translates it as comprehend. That’s one of the translations of it. We would say, “Have you seized down the mathematical problem?” In other words, have you grasped this mathematical equation? That’s what he’s saying right here or that’s what is translated right here. The darkness could not see, could not comprehend, and could not understand the Light. Is that true? Absolutely! If you’re here this morning and you’re in spiritual darkness apart from Jesus Christ, you may understand certain things that I’m saying, but you can’t read the Word of God and understand it fully apart from the illumination of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. See also I Corinthians chapter three. Now let me tell you what I think the Word is saying. It not only means to comprehend, but it’s a word that was used of a warrior. It also means to overpower, to overcome, to seize down on an enemy, or to grasp an enemy and hold them down. John translates it that way in John 12:35. Jesus is speaking, so listen to what Jesus says. “’For a little while longer the Light is among you. Walk while you have the Light so that darkness will not overtake you.’”
It means to seize you down or overpower you. Now, if you’ve got a Bible that has a margin with some footnotes in it, like the Ryrie New American Standard, the W.A. Criswell King James, or the W.A. Criswell New King James (you can’t get anymore conservative than all of that), it has the word overpower in the margin. That’s because the word can mean overpower. I think that’s what He’s saying and that’s what A.T. Robertson, the great Greek scholar of Southern Baptists, who taught at Southern, thinks as well. I want you to understand what He’s saying here. Can it not comprehend it? No! That’s exactly right! But neither can it overpower it.
Now listen to this and I’m through. John is using a historic aorist tense to mean there was a point in time where this took place--when Jesus Christ came and went to that cross and died and was resurrected. In that point in time, the Light overpowered the darkness and darkness can never, never, never, never, never overpower the Light! I don’t know what this year holds! I talked about this last week. You don’t either! We don’t have a clue what Congress is going to do. I can tell you this, though. Congress doesn’t have a clue what they’re going to do! If they’d stay on Christmas vacation, we’d be much better off. We have no leadership. We have no direction. We don’t know what’s going to happen to us governmentally, nationally, or economically. They’re saying that after the first quarter of this year, there’s going to be a horrible double-digit recession. Who knows? Who knows? But John says in the thing that counts the most in life--no matter if you lose your job, no matter if you lose your retirement, no matter what attacks take place on this country, no matter what the government does--you need to understand that Jesus Christ is the Light of your life and darkness will never overpower that! There is nothing in darkness that could ever overshadow the light of Jesus Christ. That is who Jesus is and that is reason for you to be positive and rejoice. We’ve got hope that in the midst of this darkness, Light has exploded. That Light is Jesus Christ and the darkness has no power over the Light!
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